What Is Religious Belief?

Sunday, May 5, 2019

What Is It

Many people profess to believe in an all-powerful, all-knowing, benevolent God. Yet psychological data shows that people often think and reason about God in ways contrary to their professed religious beliefs. So, are these so-called religious beliefs genuinely held? Or are “believers” just playing an elaborate game of pretense? Is there a difference between ordinary factual belief and religious belief? And what role do people's religious creedences play in shaping their social identities? Josh and Ken get real with Neil van Leeuwen from Georgia State University, author of Religion as Make-Believe (forthcoming).


Comments (3)

Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Monday, April 15, 2019 -- 10:35 AM

Just a few musings on the

Just a few musings on the matter of belief, generally. Belief is a bit like the opinion side of the old philosophical dualism, opinion and knowledge. (It might also be paired with 'appearance', in appearance and reality.) John Dewey had two short descriptions of belief: 1. "Hug some special belief and one fears knowledge" and, 2. "Beliefs are personal affairs; personal affairs are adventures; and, adventures are, if you please, shady."
Neuman's Corollaries are, 1. Belief is what someone said that someone said, in some other place and time. It may remain relevant, but I would not count on that. 2. Faith is for skydivers, bungee jumpers and kindred souls possessing only a dubious reverence for life; or those who feel they need it, just to get past another day (and are worse off than they thought).

Dewey, James, Rorty and other pragmatists were atheists before it was fashionable to be so. Religion, to them, was not one of the things which hang together (see: Sellars). Still, it has been around a long time and has led to both good and bad acts behaviors, creeds and decisions(the ABCDs of human existence). Blaise Pascal made his wager and I must seriously doubt that his sitting on the fence got him any points---but I could be wrong. This is not something in the realm of 'know-ability'--- many faiths stress the unknow-ability of God and that such is merely an ineffable fact of life. We pragmatists find such unknow-ability disturbing, if not downright absurd. But, yes---we could be wrong...

fjwilson's picture


Wednesday, May 8, 2019 -- 9:27 PM

proselytize, which it would

Regarding whether belief is voluntary: Many religious people obviously think it is because they proselytize, which it would not be rational to do unless they believed that their targets could voluntarily change their beliefs. They are the experts regarding religion, so I guess it must be voluntary.

Some of the comments in the broadcast seemed to not recognize the difference between coerced behavior and belief. One may be coerced into going to church, espousing belief, etc., but, since no one but oneself knows what one actually believes, one is free to believe whatever one believes.

detail's picture


Tuesday, May 14, 2019 -- 7:46 AM

At least a religious belief

At least a religious belief is a claim that something does exist , hidden from our direct proof. What should be interesting is, if this belief itself can fit into a doxastic logic formulation. Doxastic logic is the abstract logic formulation of belief. Which of Raymond Smullyan's categorizations of believer is a believer in religion ?
The modest reasoner , the stable reasoner ,the timid ? We should use abstract logic to formulate this , aristotle told us that logic is directly connected to metaphysical questions as dialectics , in the book of topos. In todays philosophy this viewpoint is lesser emphasized as i could wish for.