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Phil Rel 4th Feature

The fourth characteristic of R's prag phil of religion tells even more. He starts the discussion of the 4th feature by writing that the reason why people (who) think that religion, by which R must mean religious beliefs - is thought of as what he calls 'intellectually irresponsible' -- is that people are said to have a love of truth. Now this I find interesting. R appears to assume without argument that loving truth and holding religious beliefs as true are clearly incompatible, Luckily, says R, we do not have o worry about this if we are pragmatists, not because religion is or ever could be true, but solely because we do not have, in general, anything like a love for truth. If we did it would be all over for religion when it came to smart people having anything to do with it. But since we have no such love and the only solid criterion for X being true or for X being taken as true is that believing X is somehow good for us. So, under these circumstances a smart educated individual can actually assert religious beliefs, not, mind you, as if they were really really true and could be subjected to public testing by other smart people, but as if they were true in the way religious claims are true -- they make us feel good, they console us.

On another level, religious claims taken as true can also lead us to morally praiseworthy actions such as helping the poor or defending the helpless, much as devotion to other "deep" causes, such as human rights or the plight of the working person or feminism or gay rights activism, can move us to act selflessly for the benefit of deserving others. On this level religious belief can be a Good Thing.

Further, as a general 'take' on the universe, as a vague and general perception that the world makes sense or should be cared for or such, as, that is, a non-specific poetic insight about things in general, religion is at worst perfectly harmless and at best uplifting and ennobling. Religious beliefs as symbols for hope or good feelings or altruism are to be tolerated and even encouraged because they make people more responsible citizens.

But, God forbid that anyone maintain a detailed religious belief that they actually think describes something about reality! In another essay on romantic polytheism, an essay that focuses on showing up what R considers to be the shortcomings of James's position on God, R makes this warning explicit. Anything as concrete as, for example, the Catholic/Orthodox proposal that Jesus rose from the dead and then ascended to Heaven simply cannot ever become a candidate for public testing because in R's view no such belief could ever, under any conceivable circumstances, be true, even though in some way he would probably not understand, believing it to be true is very important to some religious people, and/or on a more sophisticated level that he might appreciate more, acting as if the belief were literally true, believing it as if one believed it, is at least equally important. Under this second description R might really have something: it is very important we as religious believers collectively act as if we believe and in acting that we do believe, in James's sense that we are willing ourselves to believe, and doing so as a collective.

But what about people who really really think that Jesus is Savior or that the class struggle dictates the shape of human history? I think that in R's eyes they are,on some level, demonstrating intellectual irresponsibility because he thinks there is no way that either evidence or experiment will bring us anywhere near verifying such beliefs no matter how much good they do us to believe them. .

My question: can one be a good philosopher and exclude the possibility that some large segment of the population really cannot be believing what they say they are believing or, even more radically, can one be a good philosopher and declare that what billions of people believe as true is just not that?

It is also, finally for now, interesting that after R has spent so much effort downplaying the philosophical issue of truth, he ends up telling us, in effect, that religious belief is disqualified as an option b ecause it is not true.

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