Sunday, January 30, 2011

Is "Belief" consonant with "Knowledge"?

My latest intellectual influence, Dr. Jerry Coyne, has another interesting blog post on the intersection of faith and science. He attended a dialogue on the subject of his book, "Why Evolution is True" where he spoke with some liberal Methodists in Chicago yesterday and it is worth reading (in fact, his blog is something I encourage all to follow - it isn't all New Atheist argument - he has a deep affection for kitty cats and features his variety of cowboy boots, he also has a great sense of humor).

The quote that interested me helps me frame my comprehension of some of my friends' faith claims in response to a question I posed on an earlier post.

Dr. Coyne reporting on his conversation with liberal Christians:
"The 'different ways of knowing' trope arose several times. One person compared religion to poetry (i.e., an emotional response to the world) and science to prose (a rational and empirical approach to the world). I mentioned (and this was difficult to say before such a group) that I didn't think that religion was a way of knowing anything: that different religions had different dogmas and different answers to questions like 'What is the proper place of a woman in society?' . . . what religion really helps us 'know', and how can Methodists be confident that what they 'know' is true and the different things 'known' by Muslims, Hindus, and Southern Baptists are wrong."
This follows my understanding of the nature of belief (it's commentary on reality doesn't extend beyond human facility for aesthetics).

How do you know that your belief is "knowledge"? What methods do you apply?


Gianni said...

Nice Chuck, read the Dr.'s blog too quite interesting. I think one of my main issues with religion is the exclusion of the beliefs of other religions as 'wrong' to over simplify the idea. The fact that a devout Christian is sure that a devout Muslim is going to hell or that I cannot be 'saved' until I accept some/any religious dogma. I don't believe exclusion is healthy in anything really be it country clubs or church pews.

Chuck said...

Well said John. The utility of religion is in its exclusivity but the selling strategy of this idea rests in its pleas towards universality. All can know god if only you agree with me. I said to Jackie the other day when she asked me what my goal is for my skepticism that there isn't one and that she is as skeptical as I am save one idea. She asked what I meant and I said, "Do you believe that Zeus has supernatural powers? Or any ancient gods? How about Allah?" and she said no. I simply said I've just gone one god farther and am still seeking after a useful morality.