Religious belief or religious belief?

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By David K. Johnson, Ph.D., King’s College

Scientists who claim to be religious are in a difficult position. Religion requires belief in acts that science declares impossible, such as the resurrection from the dead. But if you believe in religion at the expense of science, it will be hypocritical of you to criticize others for their unscientific beliefs. So what’s the exit?

Many scientists have strong religious beliefs that may appear to conflict with scientific facts, but there are some ways that religion and science can coexist. (Image: Dean Drobot / Shutterstock)

Religion as the only ethics

Consider New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman. His work responds to the scientific consensus that the biblical gospels are not historically accurate. Although he defends the historic existence of a man named Jesus to skeptics, he agrees with the consensus that this man probably did not perform miracles, did not rise from the dead. or didn’t say much of what the gospels say he said. But, Ehrman argues, recognize that that doesn’t have to stop someone from being a Christian.

Although he too is an agnostic, Ehrman argues that one can – and indeed many of his fellow Christians who agree with him – have what one might call a “mythical faith.” They recognize that the gospels are not literally true. These are myths. But they still “believe” in them, they think they contain real moral lessons. You can still be a follower of the Jesus of the Gospels, even if the story does not contain someone exactly like him.

After all, what does it matter that the Gospels are literally true? If the Jesus they describe speaks words of wisdom and his teachings are morally sound, what does it matter if he does what the Gospels say? Or if it even existed? What is important is that we follow the teaching. Maybe the words are more important than the man.

This is a transcript of the video series Sci-Phi: science fiction as philosophy. Look at him now, Wondrium.

The fictional belief in God

Some scholars even take this approach with God. They are called novelists, and they agree that God does not exist but still claim that he exists. This could include living by God’s commandments, praising God for fortune, praying when needed, going to church, reading the scriptures, while believing that God does not exist.

Fictionalists include Jean Kazez who practices his Jewish faith even though she doesn’t believe, and John Caputo, who says God doesn’t exist, he “insists”. Now what does this mean?

The image shows the hands of a person holding a burning candle.
Fictionalism is when you believe that God does not exist but behave as if he exists. (Image: Stanislav71 / Shutterstock)

Unlike Nietzsche, an atheist who said that even the mere idea of ​​God has become irrelevant, Caputo suggests that although God does not exist, the concept of God is still relevant: he “calls us, draws us in, attracts us. urges ”to act. somehow. He says:

God’s insistence means that God’s name is the name of something that unconditionally claims us, as a promise of things that [the] the eye has not seen, nor the ears have heard, but without the strength to be, the power, [or] sovereignty and omnipotence.

Now, to some, like Kazez, the romanticism seems voluntary – she chooses to act as if God exists. For Caputo, this may be unintentional – he can’t help but feel the insistence of the concept of God and act on it. Either way, we are forced to ask ourselves whether novelists, or those with “mythical faith”, are really, really, believers.

Learn more about the Gospel of Peter.

The “Aliéfers”

The philosopher Tamar Szabó Gendler could say that they do not have religious beliefs, but religious “aliefs”. Alienation is a belief-like attitude that one adopts, knowing that it is in fact false.

The perfect example is the attitude you adopt when watching your favorite sci-fi movie. You are emotionally enveloped, and even cry, when, say, Spock sacrifices himself to save the Business in Star Trek II– yet all this time you know that none of this is real. But it helps us to formulate an objection to “mythical faith” and fictionalism.

Spock’s Church

Consider Spock Church, a true congregation in Lynchburg, Va. That revere the character of Leonard Nimoy from Star Trek, and tries to emulate his logical, emotionless approach to life. Now, the church members obviously don’t really believe Spock is real — they do. They suspend disbelief. They know Spock doesn’t really exist, but consider words more important than humans.

But we don’t think Spock’s Church is a true religion, do we? Of course, there is nothing wrong with belonging – but even if it had millions of adherents, we wouldn’t put it in the same category as the great religions of the world, would we. Why? It can’t be because they don’t believe in the supernatural. Neither Buddhists nor Confucians do this.

No, it’s because Church members in Spock don’t really believe their stories, they believe them. It is a philosophy of life, like Stoicism, not a religion. Indeed, Gene Roddenberry modeled Spock on his inaccurate view of what the Stoics look like.

Learn more about the theory of the multiverse in the Star Trek.

Maybe mythical faith is for academics

But isn’t that exactly what those who embrace mythical faith and romanticism do? How can you take someone’s claim to be a Christian seriously if they think the story of Jesus is as fictional as Spock’s? These stories also contain real moral lessons.

If that’s all it takes, you could turn anything into a religion. Honestly, what if a pastor confessed from the pulpit to be a novelist? “I don’t really believe that God exists; I act like him. Do you think he would still have work next Sunday? Mythical Faith seems to be just a way for academics to say they believe something they know they don’t.

Common questions about mythical faith and fictionalism

Q: What does Bart Ehrman’s book on the New Testament say?

Bart Ehrman addresses the scientific consensus that the biblical gospels are not historically accurate. Although he defends the historical existence of a man named Jesus, he agrees with the consensus that this man probably did not perform miracles, rose from the dead, or did not. didn’t say much of what the gospels say he said. But, Ehrman argues, recognize that that doesn’t have to stop someone from being a Christian.

Q: What position can be called “mythical faith”?

Some people have ‘mythical faith‘. They recognize that the gospels are not literally true. These are myths. But they still “believe” in them, they think they contain real moral lessons. You can still be a follower of the Jesus of the Gospels, even if the story does not contain someone exactly like him.

Q: What is an alief?

According to Tamar Szabó Gendler, a alienation is an attitude of belief that one takes, knowing that it is in fact false.

Keep reading
The treatment of Jews in early medieval Europe
Apocrypha: The Wisdom of Jesus Christ
The scientific method: procedure, creativity and blunders


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