Philosophy of Religion

Chapter 8  Religious Language World Views and Reason 

Section 8 Final Questions

 After examining religious language from a variety of perspectives and examining a variety of positions on the basic questions what questions are left unresolved? All the original issues and questions have been considered from a number of different perspectives and with a few different set of initial assumptions or worldviews and conceptual frameworks. What then is the result? The following questions remain as most important and, in some way, fundamental to understanding what religion is about :
  1. Are religious beliefs subject to rational analysis and evaluation?
  2. Are religious beliefs subject to scientific investigation for veracity?
  3. Must religious beliefs satisfy the criteria of reasoning?
  4. Is religious belief to be based upon a suspension of reasoning?
  5. Are religious beliefs above reason or at least separate from reason?
  6. If religious beliefs are not to be subject to reasoning or to scientific verification, how are humans who are rational beings to deal with them?

What are the possible positions that one can have on the issue of the relation of reason to faith?   There are several and they include these:

1. Commensurable: Religious beliefs can be subject to reason and if they are they will be found to be quite reasonable and the basic claims.

2. Incommenserable : Religious beliefs should not be subject to reason as they are not reasonable and they do not need to be.

A. Irrational (Hume, Kierkegaard)  It is NOT rational to believe in God, spirits and other religious claims. Faith is opposed to reason and is firmly in the realm of the irrational.

B.Transrational (Calvin, Barth) Religious faith is over and above reason and is not to be subject to criteria generally used by reasoning beings. To use reason on matters of faith is not only inappropriate but irreverent and faithless.

For many of those who hold the transrational position religious faith may be rested upon revelation which is self-authenticating.

3. Fideism: This is a view of religious belief that faith must be held without the use of reason or even against reason. Faith does not need reason. Faith creates its own justification. There are two possible variations of fideism.

    1. faith as against reason
    2. faith as above reason

4. Coherentist: There is a role for reason in relation to religious beliefs. It may be limited but there is a role.  Reason can not be used to determine the veracity of the reports and the veridical nature of accounts or to verify the claims made within the religious system.  Yet, sets of religious beliefs or religious belief systems are at least subject to the use of reason upon them to the extent that they can be critically examined for the degree to which they are coherent and avoid inconsistencies and contradictions.

Which position is the one that makes the most sense and is supported by reasoning and evidence?

Copyright Philip A. Pecorino 2001. All Rights reserved.

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