To Evaluate or Not
Stage Styles and Criteria for Belief
Evaluating Three Kinds of Religious Truth-Claims
Four Types of Defenses Against Rationalistic Skepticism
Again the Tension of the Human Quest
TO EVALUATE OR NOT
Any academic discipline, including religious studies, involves some degree of
evaluation and analysis. Many people, however, consider religion to be solely a
personal decision and argue that it is better not to engage in
critical evaluation of religious truth claims or values. Yet failing to evaluate religion can
allow harmful human interpretations to become an unquestioned part of a
Any academic evaluation tries to compensate for individual bias by using rules similar to the scientific
method. This requires public
argumentation and openness to further challenge. Careful evaluation of specific styles of belief can provide
useful insight into the process of religious faith and thought. Four
major criteria religious people may use to justify belief can include a) the
vividness of images or ideas, b) the authority of a community, c) the power of a
grand narrative, and d) the force of reason -- or some combination of
Evaluating Three Kinds of
claims about miracles, the origin and purpose of the universe, and the
existence of an Ultimate. While occurrences of miracles and
questions of the purposes of the universe can be evaluated using empirical
standards, the nature the Ultimate cannot be tested using observational methods.
Four Types of Defenses
Against Critical Evaluations of Religion
Religious thinkers have developed four
defenses of religion that seek to exempt religion from outside critical evaluation.
Postmodernists argue that there are no universally valid standards for
judging a community's beliefs and practices. Others claim that religion is
a unique (sui generis) mode of experience that science cannot empirically study.
Still others argue that religions should be studied only to be appreciated, not to
be criticized. Finally, some sharply divide the sciences from the humanities. This division insulates religious
study from scientific reductionism and skepticism.
CURRENT OPTIONS AND THE
TENSIONS OF THE HUMAN QUEST
People have different reasons for being religious.
The tension between the need to reflect critically and the need for a
secure identity and values will continue Religion will remain part
of life in the presence of mystery.
End of notes to Epilogue
This page last changed
Monday March 29, 2004