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April 10, 2009


Luis Enrique

Is the conclusion (should it be reached) that religion is an irrationality that does (for many) enrich our lives, satisfactory? There are many delusions that may enrich lives - do the religious want to think of themselves as advantageously deluded?

I'm not sure what you are doing with the word 'wisdom' here - knowing how to cook is just knowinng how to cook, it's not wisdom. Is deriving pleasure (enrichment) from music or cooking 'wisdom'? Perhaps so, but if so, how about attending NASCAR races, accompanied by a giant foam hand and airhorn, or having somebody go at your penis with a cheesegrater? Each to their own, after all, why privilage music and cooking?

Gerard O'Neill

You might be interest in Nassim Nicholas Taleb's recent assertions that religion has a rational value in that its advice is mostly negative ('thou shalt not'): which is why it has survived so long - providing a healthy societal antidote to the various world-improvers who come along from time-to-time (new atheists?)

See his footnote 113: http://www.fooledbyrandomness.com/notebook.htm

Dan | thesamovar

Presumably the conclusion then is that we should be judging religion using the Pragmatic method of William James? i.e. does engaging in the practice benefit us? Well, for some people it does, but for others it doesn't. Seems to me that these days it's pretty much neutral in a country like the UK, and slightly harmful in a country like the US (but not terribly, people can be homophobic, anti-abortionist, etc. without religion).

Another issue, it seems that religious belief in ordinary people rather than in theologists requires belief that God is a fact, and not an obscure name for a practice. Does the fact that people are confusing their tacit and explicit knowledge lead to long term detrimental effects, distorting their ability to utilise both types of knowledge properly?

I would say yes, but it's small potatoes in comparison to all of the other major problems society faces.


Religions, at least monotheistic ones, are not irrational but non-rational. (I am the pedant philosopher and I claim my £5).


If you think about it the universe as a whole is irrational. How can this something be born out of nothing? surely the nothing must be something? The real surprising thing is that this time/space stuff exists at all.

Materialism hey, what a silly idea :0)


Thought you might be interested in this:



There is another point.
There isn't any rational base for giving prime value to rationality.

Mr. Divine

I think sean hit the nail on the head here. How can something come from nothing? I look up in the stars and I try to see space, infinite space.. I can't see the end. I try to imagine time backwards and I can't find the start. It's hopeless I can't grasp it. What's rationality got to do with any of it?

I've no idea what rational or irrational thoughts are when it comes to God. At times I say I believe. I imagine the very start from a being. It settles my mind. I feel safe when I think like this. I'm protected from death.

For me I am Jewish, Muslim and Christain. Yet I don't need to believe any of the holy books or their prescriptions for I am the first seal (the Lamb) in the Book of Revelation. I am the first shepherd of the third kingdom. Time will reveal all.

Eric Dewey, Portland, Oregon

Late to the ball (as usual) - but happy to have found such a sensible essay on this controversial subject.

One thought, however, is that using a definition such as "beliefs being proportionate to the evidence" doesn't get you all the way out of the normative trap - it simply raises the epistemological question of what qualifies as "evidence".

An interesting corollary question is whether "tradition and practice" may at some level be a crude precursor to carefully tested empirical evidence - which of course is the original foundation of the scientific method.

Ultimately, it seems that, like all human constructs, religion is a tool that is only as helpful or effective as the individual who wields it. In the hands of zealots, it is dangerous, while in the hands of those with a less rigid perspective, it can be a source of deep wisdom.

The fault, to paraphrase the master, lies not in our tools but in ourselves...


I think it is damaging that all mainstream religions (some protestant sects as honourable exceptions) teach that women are subservient in the church hierarchy and usually by extension in the home and everywhere else.

It is deeply concerning that other commenters are so used to this aspect of the world that they totally overlook it.

Tag Heuer

And a lot of it reflects a switch from bank deposits to securities; foreigners “other investments” in the UK, http://www.watchgy.com/ mostly bank deposits, fell by £143.2bn in Q1. And of course there’s no guarantee such buying will continue.

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