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Thomas Schärtl

The Rationality of Religious Beliefs


From: Stimmen der Zeit, 4/2009, P. 257-271
webmaster's own, not authorized translation


    In the discussion about the various forms of the "new atheism" the rationality of religious beliefs is primarily under the microscope. THOMAS SCHÄRTL, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Augsburg, examines the atheistic criticism of religion of some prominent authors and considers the rationality of their arguments.


The truce between religion and criticism of religion seems to be revoked. An overview of a wave of publications on the so-called "new atheism" sufficiently proves {1} that theology has anew to deal with atheistic inquiries {2}. The debate is by no means limited to English-speaking countries, even though the climate of a determined Kulturkampf developed there; it is also noticeable in the German-speaking countries - albeit with some peculiarities: For his "Manifesto of Evolutionary Humanism" Michael Schmidt-Salomon has gathered an astonishing number of scholars, especially scientists, but also philosophers and lawyers, and so you could get the impression that in Germany just the intellectual circles are critical of the religions and churches. Can we as intelligent and enlightened people no (longer) be religious?

Such questions are as such not new - theologians can tell you a thing or two about the way in which they are treated by the university management, i.e. how much some Rectorships reflect the prejudice that theology was only a Christian prayer school and had actually no business in the house of the University. But new is the atmospheric charging of the current criticism of religion through a "theory of everything", which was, as one assumed, found in the theory of evolution. In this context Richard Dawkins is only the propagandist of a movement that clearly rejects the monotheistic religions. In view of the fact that one could not deny the rather haphazard evolution of life, the belief in a good Creator God who acts with foresight is not only superfluous but even impossible. The belief in God, the Father, was therefore nothing else but the devotion to a kind of "cuddly-toy", to which adults who remained childish were still attached, because they can hope for comfort in any situation from it.

Bernulf Kanitscheider, German natural philosopher and avowed atheist, takes a further step and advertises ethics without theological premise - ethics of desire and of the moment, which divides the great questions about the meaning of life asked by the religions into smaller experiences of sense and contents itself with that {3}. It is a different question that does not need to be taken as theme here whether such ethics can only be realized if you're in a privileged middle-class position, if you - in other words - can afford it to enjoy the pleasures of the moment.



Kanitscheider represents - the present impression could be summarized this way - a very special European form of the new atheism: On behalf of the scientific world-view the religious point of view is rejected and one comes up with a substitute for religion significantly differing from the ideals of a rational religion (as it was e.g. propagated by the European Enlightenment), because nothing of this matter is any longer religious. What matters is that one makes at home in this world, answers only worldly instances for one's doings, and is content with the short-lived small bubble of consciousness in a guileless material universe.


In Search for Strategies

The slogan which the new atheism could coin should read, "Anyone who thinks scientifically cannot be religious." As Alister McGrath {4} and John Haught {5} have shown in various publications, one can quite legitimately doubt whether this slogan is valid. Why should the theory of evolution be contradictory to the Christian faith is God? That would be only the case if all Christians were hardened creationists. A glance at modern drafts of the theological doctrine of creation resp. the dialogue between Darwinism and theology shows {6} that an evolutionary world-view is not only not in contradiction to the Christian creed but can perhaps even help to deepen the Christian conception of God {7}.

It is true though that the dispute about the correct conception of God is only one of several topics in the current debate between theism and atheism. Although the clarification of the conception of God can considerably contribute to clear up the partly legitimate partly exaggerated concerns of the new atheism, the actual problem is the question of the rationality of religious beliefs. Against the background of the supposedly absolutely scientific rationality of scientific procedures religious convictions seem to have an almost inferior status. In the performance of their explanations they seem not only to be inferior to the scientific theories; in some areas it might even be the case that religious ideas have been replaced by scientific hypotheses. Who does, for example, still believe that God was responsible for thunderstorms or that the world has been created in seven days and that the age of the earth therefore could only be about 5000 years? In confrontation with the scientific findings religions were forced to modify and partly to give up certain theories. Does this not speak for the methodological ideal of the natural sciences and against the rationality of religious beliefs?



For religious believers the aforementioned examples are mostly marginalia. Nowadays many (at least European-minded) religious people would emphasize that the age of the earth cannot be the subject of religious beliefs and that the Bible is certainly not a book that presents scientific hypotheses. Religious beliefs, so one could simply say, are concerned with other, with "higher" things. But about what things is it now exactly? Is it here about a special perspective on the world - a conception of the world under the perspective of eternity? And does this special consideration then lead to an understanding of religious beliefs which distinguishes them from the traditional scientific theories? And finally, how does an adequate understanding of religious beliefs affect the rationality of religious beliefs?

There are, theoretically, three different options {8} to answer the questions mentioned above {9}: 1. Religious beliefs fundamentally differ from traditional beliefs. They cannot be oriented towards the standard of scientific rationality 2. Religious beliefs are, like all beliefs subjected to one and the same standards of rationality. With regard to the justification of religious beliefs the same standards are in force. 3. Religious beliefs have a special character. But there can be drawn analogies with other beliefs that could help us to clarify and explain the rationality of religious beliefs.


Totally Different Worlds of Meaning?

The first strategy can be interpreted in different ways. A possible view that was quite reasonably presented in the early phase of analytic philosophy of religion says that religious beliefs are only looking like beliefs which are concerned with propositions, but in reality they have not any cognitive value; they express a fundamental view on life or make possible the illustrative expression and the communication of ethical standards. Richard Bevan Braithwaite (1900-1990), for example, represented the latter view {10}.

Now it is undoubtedly true that religious beliefs are closely linked with moral beliefs and that they - as fundamental beliefs of any kind - express a basic attitude to life; on the other hand, many people who have religious beliefs will also claim that quite specific assertions of existence are associated with them: For example, the assertion that God exists, that Jesus Christ existed and has risen from the dead, that there is an eternal life, etc. Braithwaite's position can even then gain some meaning from religious beliefs,



if the aforementioned assertions of existence would turn out to be meaningless or incorrect. But the religious point of view does just not reckon with this possibility and is not characterized by it. On the contrary, the seriousness of the religious viewpoint includes the aforementioned assertions of existence and supposes their truth and their meaning.

A possible variant of this strategy can look like the one which was philosophically represented by Dewi Z. Phillips (1934-2006) and his teacher and mentor Rush Rhees (1905-1989). Both became known as prominent British philosophers who felt obliged to the legacy of Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951). It remains, however, controversial in detail whether Wittgenstein really represented that religio-philosophical view ascribed to him by Rhees {11} and Phillips {12}.

Rhees and Phillips stress the incommensurability between religious world-view and scientific rationality. Religion and science were concerned with completely different matters. Religious assertions of existence would therefore completely differ from scientific assertions of existence, and so all theological attempts to adopt some scientifically acting methodological ideal - as e.g. the proofs of God's existence in their classical and modern formulation as typical attempts to present the assertions of existence of the religious world-view as reasonable at least in parts - turn out to be hopeless. Opponents repeatedly reproached Rhees and especially Phillips with fideism - an accusation actually stating that in the end only the blind leap into faith remained where the path is blocked for reason {13}. However, this accusation is only a caricature of the claims of real fideists. They are asking for a reason that is in agreement with religion so that it can understand religion {14}.

Although this strategy, which is interpreted as incommensurability thesis, has an undeniable charm since it lets many atheist inquiries into religion appear as irrelevant, it nevertheless has an enormously high price. In the tradition of Augustine of Hippo (354-430), Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109) and Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) reason and faith remain in a relationship of tension. This tradition seems to be abandoned in the first strategy. The aforementioned tension can be interpreted differently, but the relationship includes that religion cannot be excluded from any claim to reason, even though the religious faith extends the activity of reason and opens it to new horizons {15}.



Reasons for the Religious Belief

The second strategy treats religious beliefs more or less like all other beliefs as well. Among today's renowned philosophers of religion particularly Richard Swinburne (born in 1934) holds this view. According to his opinion there are enough reasons that can justify the religious beliefs and the assertions of existence associated with them before the forum of reason. Swinburne adjusts the conception of faith to probabilistic-logical considerations {16} and tries, in the context of his revitalization of the proofs of God's existence, to demonstrate that the existence of the universe which has produced beings who have consciousness, morality and religious experiences is more probable under the hypothesis that God exists than under the opposite assumption {17}.

Swinburne assumes that his starting-point, the probability theory, could be plausible also to non-theistic scientists as soon as one had reached agreement about this rational basis {18}. But would a naturalistically arguing atheist like Dawkins really agree to this proposal? Would he not regard the shape of the whole universe as a much too vague data pool? Would he not try to explain those events which Swinburne regards as unlikely by a gradual accumulation of unlikely events? {19} It is already here visible that both sides do probably not use the same concept in explaining those events. What is sufficient as an explanation for the scientist may as explanation not at all satisfy the philosopher {20}. The great philosophical and theological questions begin only to gnaw when the scientific facts are available. This is the starting-point of the third strategy.


Faith as Certainty

This strategy would object to Swinburne and to an orientation of the rationality of religious beliefs towards quasi-scientific standards that God is not a hypothesis. Religious faith has to do with certainty (and not with relative probability), even if this certainty does differ from the certainty of knowledge {21}. In addition, many religious people would emphasize that one more or less can't help but believe in God when we find ourselves compelled to give meaning to certain fundamental experiences in life. Moreover, every however superficial analysis of the phenomenon of religious experience shows that one here - differently to science - can certainly no longer remain neutral. It is typical of the religious experience, of the act of faith and - in a derivative form - also of the justification of faith that people are involved from the perspective of the first person singular {22}.



With regard to its estimations this strategy can partly refer to William James (1842-1910) and Ludwig Wittgenstein {23}. It would therefore also speak of an analogous concept of rationality which on the one hand does not keep clear of the fundamental commitment to rationality but on the other hand tries to differentiate the rationality of religion from scientific rationality. As regards the phenomenon religion very much speaks for this third strategy, because it recognizes the religious certainty as an occurrence sui generis which differs from the certainties of scientific procedures and of course must be different from them. The belief in God, so runs the slogan of this strategy, is not a hypothesis. For we do not base our life on hypotheses; the language games of scientific procedures rather suggest to us that we should be sceptical about hypotheses and adjust them to all imaginable possibilities of falsification. But in the context of religious faith we behave differently. Are we therefore irrational? Or can we - as this strategy suggests - argue that rationality in religion and science each mean something different?


Basic Beliefs

What the third strategy mentioned above is asking for is a right of its own and the inherent dynamism of religious beliefs. This does not exclude their comparability with other beliefs. But first it is essential to clarify carefully their special status. This has to be done from two viewpoints. On the one hand one can ask, "How are religious beliefs actually established as beliefs and what are they?" On the other hand it has to be clarified what the attribute "religious" means, and in what way this addition assists and backs the aforementioned and favoured third strategy {24}.

A listing of various religious beliefs could very quickly show that it is here about fundamental beliefs. It is typical for such beliefs that they represent the framework of my conception of the world. This world-view is, as it were, the rhyme which I see in the world and in its phenomena. It therefore contains not only assertions of existence which are for me a matter of course but also value-judgments and ethical basic attitudes. My world-view is so closely connected with my life that it moulds the way of life that is moulding me {25}. From simple beliefs the problems of which can be expounded basic beliefs differ just by the fact that I cannot easily give up them, because I see connected with them my own identity and all that for which I would take responsibility. With beliefs the problems of which can be expounded it is different. If I am convinced that it is snowing in Washington at the inauguration of the new president, then this is probably of no great importance for my way of life (unless I'm, if I may put it this way, a kind of schaman



who would make the fate of the discharge of the president's office and his own weal and woe dependent on the weather situation on the day of the inauguration). If I had to abandon this conviction this may perhaps be annoying or shameful but it does not make collapse my world-view.

It is different with fundamental beliefs, as e.g. that God has promised eternal life to people. On the one hand it is not so easy to define in detail what was able to make me give up this belief. But on the other hand - should I give up this belief - this loss will make me a different man (on the condition of course that I have once seriously stood by it). The serious commitment that affects my identity distinguishes fundamental convictions from convictions the problems of which can be expounded {26}.

People have fundamental beliefs not only in religious matters. In everyday life political views sometimes bring home to us what fundamental convictions are and how difficult it can be to make people give up basic beliefs or to persuade them to take over certain fundamental beliefs. Even the metaphysical beliefs of our journey through life are fundamental beliefs, which can admittedly be in a strange osmotic relationship with scientific world-views: The fact that objects do not every five minutes disappear and then spontaneously come into existence again, that material objects are localized in space and time, that forces must be measurable, that artificial objects such as tables or chairs have no soul - all this is part of our world-view and is based on fundamental beliefs. This does not make them blind to the so-called scientific findings, but scientific findings direct our fundamental beliefs only insofar as they can sometimes force us to change our actions and our behaviour, even our attitudes towards certain phenomena. The influence on the way of life moulding us is the crucial (but complex) interface. For fundamental beliefs are not the direct result of specific individual experiences and individual knowledge.


Religious Beliefs

What now makes religious beliefs to religious beliefs? The discussion of this answer could fill volumes, because some people nowadays shrink from normatively defining religion, i.e. from presenting criteria for a concept of religion that could help us to distinguish religion (let's take Christianity or Islam as concrete example) from quasi-religion (let's think of the ritual elements of a football match of Schalke 04 and the occasional incantation or denigration of the football god).



Nonetheless, it has to be tried to give a definition of this type, at least as a working hypothesis, so that we understand at least to some extent about what we are talking when we speak of religion.

Friedrich Schleiermacher's (1768-1834) concept of religion is perhaps still useful in this context {27}. According to Schleiermacher's view one can understand religion as looking at the universe from the perspective of the infinite {28}. It is the dimension of the infinite or absolute that makes religious beliefs religious beliefs. This distinguishes the religious one from other areas to which fundamental beliefs also relate (such as metaphysics and ethics), but on the other hand it also associates it with them. Wherever in ethics and metaphysics the Unconditional becomes the topic, a religious subtext becomes noticeable. In so far as one can say with Schleiermacher and the idealist tradition that religion substantially belongs to the activities of human reason, that it has its origin in it or is at least in an organic accord with it, one will not - as it were in opposition to the verdicts of David Hume (1711-1776) {29} which have been taken up again in outline by the new atheism - regard the occurrence of religious beliefs as problem or disturbance. But this does justify them only in a very vague and broad sense (as you can, e.g. justify the occurrence of forms of artistic expression or opinions on taste without justifying the forms or opinions themselves).

To show that the occurrence of religious beliefs is legitimate, because religious beliefs take as a theme something that is the object and the tendency of human reason itself (namely its extending to infinity or its becoming aware of the unconditional in its many shades), is already an important move in the discussion with those who - as it were in the wake of Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) and Dawkins - regard religion as a sign of degeneration, as illness or delusion, provided that they do not want straight away to hold people's gullibility and stupidity responsible for the emergence of religious beliefs. But, as already indicated, this move does not yet deal with what we understand as justification in the specific sense. We want to know whether it is true that God exists, that there is life after death, that God has revealed Himself in Jesus of Nazareth.


Justification of Religious Beliefs?

With religious beliefs this urge to orient their justification towards knowledge meets with all sorts of difficulties: On the one hand applies - and this is almost trivial - that belief is not knowledge. One of the reasons for this view, which belongs to the tradition and which can, in the context of contemporary debates about proving the truth of statements of belief {30}, be found in the concept of eschatological verification,



is the idea that we can see God face to face only at the end of time, since then our earthly pilgrimage will be completed and everything that may have prevented us from a perfect encounter with God will be swept away. But as long as we are still on our earthly pilgrimage we are dependent on the interpretation of events, though we are aware of the fact that we cannot achieve clarity while we are "on the way". Our interpretations depend in some way on our attitudes and prejudices, and so we see certain events in their light - and not the other way round (but that does not mean that we are allowed to apply any interpretation to any event).

A film sample may illustrate it. The thriller "The Game" (USA 1997, directed by David Fincher) tells of the rich financier Nicholas van Orton (played by Michael Douglas) who is acquainted by his brother with a game that is not specified in detail. Van Orton goes through various aptitude tests but is at first rejected as a candidate by the game company CRS. There are nevertheless numerous incidents (a harlequin doll appears on the doorstep of his villa, a news-reader who is talking with him from the TV screen gives him instructions, etc.) which cause van Orton to believe that he still participates in a sophisticated game. When the events become increasingly absurd and dangerous (a taxi driver scuttles his taxi and van Orton in the Pacific and by a happy coincidence van Orton can just escape, etc., he is dazed by the waitress who first avows friendship and brotherhood to him and wakes up in a Mexican cemetery) the main character must get the impression that he had been taken in by a gigantic deception which has the only purpose mentally to wear him down and then to take his fortune away from him. Only at the very end - in a thrilling showdown - it turns out that even the highly dangerous manoeuvres were still a part of a gigantic game worked out down to the smallest detail, which van Orton's brother had arranged with the support of a specialist firm for the main character in order to make him a "better" man.

Let's take a look at the epistemic-hermeneutical challenges that the plot illustrates. Most of the time the main character does not know whether he is in a game or in a trap. The competing options on interpreting the happenings even balance out for a long time. Events can be interpreted as part of the game and also as part of a gigantic bluff, although both interpretations cannot be true simultaneously. The progressive accumulation of events too does not lead to perfect clarity. It actually appears only at the end of the movie. In "The Game" two basic beliefs ("This is a game" - "This is a conspiracy") compete with each other. The main character sometimes even jumps from the one to the other perspective.



These jumps are not necessarily irrational, if one takes into consideration that it is not only important to sift through and to evaluate the events, but also to interpret them. Both perspectives seem in phases to be equally legitimate. And the predominance of a certain perspective can never be made to become unequivocal. Which perspective is now - from the perspective of the main character - actually more rational?

In its narrative the film shows that we, with regard to the rationality of certain interpretations, not seldom have to rely on an, as it were, eschatological perspective. Only from the end, when we have no longer to sift through and evaluate new events the interpretation perspective can be made stable and unambiguous. As long as we are still "in the middle of the action" the desired unambiguity remains a utopia. As the film sample can show, the problem of the eschatological perspective is of importance not only for religious beliefs but basically also wherever we are to look for "a reason" for a whole, even though we have not yet set eyes on the whole as a whole.


"To be Reasonable" in Religious Matters

Another problem behind the question of the justification of religious beliefs has to do with the concept of rationality. It is not that clear what "reasonable justification" exactly means. This is not just because the concept of rationality is possibly vague and insufficiently defined {31}, but also because the task "to be reasonable" involves, depending on the context, quite different requirements. In everyday life, for example, it is perfectly sensible to rely on the judgments of others. But in central questions of the scientific research it is more sensible to be sceptical in principle, because this kind of scepticism can lead to a competition of better methods. It may be wise for a spouse to pursue a contentious issue not up to the last argumentative corner, in order not to promote a possible alienation in the partnership. For a lawyer who has to assess the dependability of certain arguments it can be devastating if he gives in in the middle of proceedings and makes generous concessions to the other party.

What can be found as the hard core of being sensible is probably the simple fact that it is here about an attitude which admits the assessment of the reasons that a person presents when it is about performing an action of a particular type (in this context also opinions or beliefs held by people can be understood in a broader sense as action), and which consents to take part in the respective evaluation processes {32}.



To be sensible is, as it were, a practice based on an attitude. However, the assessments implied here are extremely context-related, as the aforementioned examples can prove.

How does "to be sensible" turn out in religious matters? It should be obvious that in religious beliefs other things and issues are at stake than in scientific theories. If "to be reasonable" is conditional on contexts and can only be explicated by analogy, then also religious beliefs are allowed to claim some right of their own. But - once again: How does 'to be sensible' turn out in religious contexts? Already for that reason the question cannot easily be answered, because our idea of 'being sensible' is contaminated by the political concept of the public sphere {33}, and so we are accustomed to think in categories of cost and benefit, of estimating the damage, and of private freedom. But is all this already reasonable what does not hurt and causes no damage in society as a whole? Or are only those things reasonable which can be done and represented also in the public eye? Or are just those things reasonable which demand general public recognition and approval and trigger no outrage?


Believe with a "Clear Conscience"

If we bracket these additional aspects, which at the same time also a little obscure the problem, then we would regard those people as sensible in religious matters who represent and are able to represent their religious beliefs with a "clear conscience". The expression "clear conscience" is as such at first a bit vague but it can be used as a net in order to capture some useful criteria. There are on the one hand negative criteria: Those who with a clear conscience stand by their religious beliefs cannot believe in some inconsistent matter and also not in something that fragments or undermines the inner architecture of their conception of the world. Someone can with a clear conscience stand by his religious beliefs, if he on the other hand does not close his eyes before the existence of alternative religious world-views but tries to find out why and how it came to the differences and the similarities regarding these world-views and from which standpoint he is allowed at all to form an opinion about these world-views.

But there are also positive criteria which can be the basis of an assessment: Those who with clear conscience stand by their religious beliefs must be interested in the truth of these beliefs, i.e. in the greatest possible coherence with other beliefs and with those convictions which in the course of time arise from the manifold experiences with the world. And those who with clear conscience stand by their religious beliefs must be able to show where and how these beliefs shape their lives



and how they in life prove to be "fruitful", to which existential questions they try to answer, how they set present the Infinite and Unconditional in a life lead in a rational, conscious way, and whether the instances on which the acquisition of certain beliefs depends are trustworthy for their part. Are these criteria which, so to speak, want to express an attitude of rationality in religious things already sufficient in order to classify people who have adopted these criteria as reasonable people?

One can quite reasonably answer with the question whether someone is reasonable in religious matters who insists on accepting only those things which he himself has directly experienced and only that knowledge about which he himself has certainty. Many would admit that this is the attitude of a sceptic - an attitude whose unsuitability for everyday life is proved and whose right of first refusal as regards the concept of rationality is by no means guaranteed. And one can further ask whether in religious contexts the rationality is dependent for better or worse on proving the truth of our beliefs - and "to prove the truth" means in this context nothing else but making our beliefs knowledge. Would such a standard not go too far? Would such a standard not have a disastrous effect on many other forms of fundamental beliefs?

To be sensible is primarily an attitude. An attitude can also then prove its worth when the conviction in question is as such not justified. There are areas (fundamental convictions regarding metaphysics, ethics, aesthetics but also religion) in which the standard of an absolutely reliable knowledge could seem too high or too exaggerated, or even inappropriate. We try nevertheless in these areas to distinguish reasonable from unreasonable views. And we are doing this by, as it were, setting the content of the beliefs in question off against the attitudes of those people who have these beliefs. It is certainly not unreasonable to do a thing like that.


Beliefs and Experience

An special problem of the justification of religious beliefs results from their character as fundamental beliefs. The one who gains an overview of fundamental beliefs in the religious or non-religious area will soon see that it is here not about the conditions of certainties and opinions directly resulting from certain empirical experiences or referring to propositions that could simply be valid a priory or by way of an analysis. Is there a way to base fundamental beliefs as e.g. the statement, "Artificial objects such as tables and chairs have no soul" on empirical sentences [Erfahrungssätze]? We would probably say that such beliefs cannot be derived from empirical sentences,



but that on the other hand experiences have formed them, as it were, "obtained" them. That they are obtained by experience can be seen from the fact that the convictions in question prove their worth in dealing with reality as it is has been or can be experienced. That does not yet make them knowledge - only on the basis of certain conviction can be ascertained how we gain knowledge, and so we cannot once again obtain fundamental convictions as knowledge - but it helps us when we critically evaluate basic beliefs: Empty beliefs are no longer affected by the experienced reality {34}.

This can also apply to religious beliefs. Provided that they are determining our discoveries and actions they can prove their worth in our experiences (experience is understood here in a broad sense). It may be that the obtaining of such insights by experience leads to a modification, to a reconstruction of the architecture or to a change in the network of fundamental religious beliefs. Events of that kind are complex, because the experiences must in a kind of sedimentary process become firmly established in order to have an effect on the convictions. On the other hand the "obtainability" [Erwirkbarkeit] is at least by way of a detour a fundamental criterion for proving the rationality of religious beliefs. Where the obtaining of insights through experience remains unclear or where just the opposite conviction is obtained through experience there the adherence to a particular conviction has become questionable. This criterion does admittedly not provide justification of basic beliefs, but it refers to a ground from which they feed their strength. As in other areas, also in the religious context "powerless" convictions are suspicious and empty because of their ineffectiveness.

It's true though that the criterion of "obtaining" by experience, which has here once again been specially explicated, shows us also that we should not expect a direct substantiation of fundamental beliefs through experience. This would not be fair - not only unfair to religious but also to ethical or metaphysical beliefs. The inherent dynamism leads purely rationalistic ideals of cognition, knowledge and science to their limits. On the other hand it does not encourage a pure fideism which has to exclude rational inquiries from religious beliefs.

What are the effects of this insight on the examination of the atheisms which had been taken as a theme at the beginning? Provided that the discussion is about rational standards one is allowed to regard the standards of a purely empirical-scientific rationality as unfair and excessive, precisely because they do not go far enough with fundamental beliefs of all kinds and are also unable to do so. Provided that it is about the predominance of a certain world-view - namely of the naturalist one - one can refer to the framework of convictions of a world-view by asking the question which experiences could have obtained a purely naturalistic world-view and how these experiences differ from the existential and religious experiences which have obtained the framework and the network of fundamentally religious beliefs.




{1} See especially R. Dawkins, Der Gotteswahn (Berlin 2007); Ch. Hitchens, Der Herr ist kein Hirte (München 2007); D. C. Dennett, Den Bann brechen. Religion als natürliches Phänomen (Frankfurt 2008); S. Harris, Das Ende des Glaubens (Winterthur 2007).

{2} About the theological discussion see, Wiederkehr des Atheismus? Fluch oder Segen für die Theologie, edited by M. Striet (Freiburg 2008); Th. Schärtl, Neuer Atheismus. Zwischen Argument, Anklage u. Anmaßung, in this journal 226 (2008) 147-161. About the philosophical discussion see, P. Strasser, Warum überhaupt Religion? Der Gott, der Richard Dawkins schuf (München 2008).

{3} See B. Kanitscheider, Auf der Suche nach dem Sinn (Frankfurt 1995); the same and B. Dessau, Von Lust u. Freude. Gedanken zu einer hedonistischen Lebensorientierung (Frankfurt 2000).

{4} See A. u. J. C. McGrath, Der Atheismus-Wahn. Eine Antwort auf Richard Dawkins u. den atheistischen Fundamentalismus (Asslar 2007).

{5} See J. F. Haught, God and the New Atheism. A Critical Response to Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens (Louisville 2008).

{6} See the same, Christianity and Science. Toward a Theology of Nature (Maryknoll 2007).

{7} See the dame, God after Darwin. A Theology of Evolution (Boulder 2000); the same: Deeper than Darwin. The Prospect of Religion in the Age of Evolution (Boulder 2003).

{8} About the parallel formulation of the question and about the positioning of these alternatives see F. Ricken, Von Hume zu Augustinus - Wege der analytischen Religionsphilosophie, in: Gottesglaube - Gotteserfahrung - Gotteserkenntnis. Begründungsformen religiöser Erfahrung in der Gegenwart, edited by G. Kruck (Mainz 2003) 177-195; see also A. Kreiner, Formen analytischer Rationalität, in: in the same place 197-212. About some historical and religio-philosophical details regarding these strategies see M. Laube, Im Bann der Sprache. Die analytische Religionsphilosophie im 20. Jahrhundert (Berlin 1999); see about a general overview A. Loichinger, Ist der Glaube vernünftig? Zur Frage nach der Rationalität in Philosophie u. Theologie, 2 partial volumes (Neuried 1999); W. Löffler, Einführung in die Religionsphilosophie (Darmstadt 2006).

{9} About a comparable division see Th. M. Schmidt, Objektivität u. Gewißheit. Vernunftmodelle u. Rationalitätstypen in der Religionsphilosophie der Gegenwart, in: Religiöse Überzeugungen u. öffentliche Vernunft. Zur Rolle des Christentums in der pluralistischen Gesellschaft, edited by E. J. Bormann u. B. Irlenborn (Freiburg 2008) 199-217.

{10} See R. B. Braithwaite, An Empiricists View on the Nature of Religious Belief (Folcroft 1977).

{11} See Rush Rhees on Religion and Philosophy, edited by D. Z. Phillips (Cambridge 1997); R. Rhees, Discussions of Wittgenstein (Bristol 1996).

{12} See D. Z. Phillips, Religion and Wittgenstein's Legacy (Aldershot 2005); the same, Religion and Understanding (Oxford 1967); the same, Religion Without Explanation (Oxford 1976); the same, Belief, Change, and Forms of Life (Basingstoke 1986).

{13} See the same and K. Nielsen, Wittgensteinain Fideism? (London 2005).

{14} See St. Evans, Faith Beyond Reason. A Kierkegaardian Account (Grand Rapids 1998).

{15} See P. Helm, Faith and Understanding (Grand Rapids 1997).

{16} See R. Swinburne, Faith and Reason (Oxford ²2005).

{17} See the same, Die Existenz Gottes (Stuttgart 1984); English: The Existence of God (Oxford ²2004).

{18} See the same, An Introduction to Confirmation Theory (London 1973).



{19} See R. Dawkins, Der blinde Uhrmacher: Warum die Erkenntnisse der Evolutionstheorie beweisen, daß das Universum nicht durch Design entstanden ist (München 2008).

{20} See P. Strasser, Theorie der Erlösung. Eine Einführung in die Religionsphilosophie (München 2006).

{21} See about it Th. Schärtl, Erfahrung, Exerzitium, Autorität u. Einsicht. Überlegungen zur rationalen Verantwortung für religiöse Überzeugungen, in: Religiöse Überzeugungen u. öffentliche Vernunft (note 9) 132-173,134f.

{22} For a deeper understanding see Th. Schärtl, Gotteserfahrung denken, in this journal 225 (2007) 444-456.

{23} See about it altogether, the same: Wahrheit u. Gewißheit. Zur Eigenart religiösen Glaubens (Kevelaer 2004).

{24} For a more detailed analysis see, Th. Schärtl, Was sind religiöse Überzeugungen?, in: Was sind religiöse Überzeugungen?, edited by H. Joas (Göttingen 2003) 11-46.

{25} See Th. Schärtl, Was heißt es, überzeugt zu sein? Anmerkungen zur rationalen Verantwortung für religiöse Überzeugungen, in: ThPh 79 (2004) 201-218.

{26} See the same (note 21) 143 et sequ.

{27} Even though dialectic theologies have critically shaken this concept, in the Protestant theology exist still views which friendly take in Schleiermacher and together with him a concept of religion that is idealistically impregnated. About the discussion see R. R. Niebuhr, Schleiermacher on Christ and Religion (London 1965); Karl Barth, The Theology of Schleiermacher. Lectures at Göttingen, Winter semester of 1923/24, ed. by D. Ritschl (Grand Rapids 1982). About taking up Schleiermacher and the idealistic tradition see U. Barth, Gott als Projekt der Vernunft (Tübingen 2005); the same: Religion in der Moderne (Tübingen 2003); G. Wenz, Religion. Aspekte ihres Begriffs u. ihrer Theorie in der Neuzeit (Göttingen 2005).

{28} See F. Schleiermacher, Über die Religion. Reden an die Gebildeten unter ihren Verächtern, edited by R. Otto (Göttingen 82002) 50-55.

{29} See Ricken (note 8) 177f.

{30} See especially J. Hick, Faith and Knowledge (London 1957) 177f.

{31} See about the formulation of this question F. Kambartel, Die Vernunft u. das Allgemeine. Zum Verständnis rationaler Sprache u. Praxis, in: Die eine Vernunft u. die vielen Rationalitäten, edited by K.-O. Apel u. M. Kettner (Frankfurt 1996) 58-72.

{32} See M. Kettner, Gute Gründe. Thesen zur diskursiven Vernunft, in: Die eine Vernunft (note 31) 424-464.

{33} About detailed analyses see the anthology Religion in der pluralistischen Öffentlichkeit, edited by Th. Schmidt (Würzburg 2008).

{34} See Schärtl (note 21) 154-160.


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