chapter 9: questions and answers
- Chapter 9
1. What is the characterization of religion?
Religion is an explanatorily intelligible account of both Cosmos and
itself. This means that the two explanations, the causal and the
intentional, fall together. The cause of the Cosmos is the Will of
God. All that was, is and will be is an expression of His Will. We
can know God's intentions by studying the Cosmos and His revelation.
This hypothesis has to pass certain adequacy tests, which are both
historical and phenomenological. Can the hypothesis explain
Christianity's inclination to religious rivalry and the mutual
misunderstanding between religions and heathen traditions
(historical)? Can the hypothesis explain the necessity of faith,
worship, truth (phenomenological)?
2. What is the relationship between religion and the meaning of life?
A religious person experiences the Cosmos as both a (causally)
explainable and an intelligible entity. Hence, he experiences his
life as a part of a bigger plan. To be religious means believing
that human life and death have a meaning and a purpose. Religion
makes it possible to ask these questions, but it does not provide
specific answers to them. Religion was not invented to answer
questions about the meaning and purpose of life, but these questions
come into being within the framework of religion. These problems do
not antedate religion, religion generates them.
3. What is the relation between faith and intolerance?
Having faith means accepting that one is part of the intentions of
God. Faith has two dimensions. Firstly, faith is internal to
religion. Believing (in God) implies a certain attitude of piety,
certain practices, a dedication and an understanding of what it
means to be a religious person. Within a religion, having faith
distinguishes the truly religious person from the person who merely
accepts God as an explanation for the creation of the cosmos and
adheres to religion's ethical rules. Secondly, faith sets the
boundaries between religion and other "religious" traditions. The
truth of the explanatory intelligible account that religion is
becomes important when religion finds itself confronted with other
traditions. Faith allows of a distinction between those who do and
do not adhere to the religious truth.
To have faith is to be `intolerant'. That is, the believer cannot
possibly accept that other religions are `equally true'. Of course,
this does not entail that a believer is either a missionary or a
persecutor. The link between faith and intolerance draws our
attention to the fact that these two are related to each other the
way two faces of a coin are related to each other.
4. What is the relation between faith and truth?
Faith and intolerance are two faces of the same coin only because
truth is so important to religion. Being an explanatory intelligible
account of the cosmos, religion has to be true and there can only
be one truth, hence its intolerance. Heathen traditions, on the
other hand, are neither true nor false. These notions do not apply
to them by virtue of being practical systems, developed and adopted
by men as means to the truth. Religious truth, though, is God-given.
This truth is not tentative, hypothetical, perspectival (as is human
knowledge) and has to be accepted independently of all the knowledge
we already have.
5. What is atheistic religiosity? Why would it be
possible/impossible for human beings?
Someone who claims to have religious experiences but denies the
existence of God can be called atheistically religious. Instead of
feeling completely dependent upon God, this person (for example)
could claim to feel dependent upon the Cosmos. Although atheistic
religiosity is not impossible, for human beings it is. For an
explanatory intelligible account to exist and thrive in a human
community, certain conditions must be met. How do human beings come
by such an account, how can it be transmitted uncorrupted? For more
than one reason, an entity such as God is necessary for an
explanatory intelligible account to exist in a human community.
Hence, the idea of atheistic religiosity harbours a linguistic
distortion. How can one feel dependent upon the cosmos i.e.
everything that ever was, is and shall be? How is it possible to
feel deeply dependent on the future? As an explanatory intelligible
account of the Cosmos, religion however, claims that we are all
dependent upon an entity that was, is and shall be and whose
intentions are embodied in the world. Hence, a religious experience
involves eschatology. Atheistic religiosity, therefore, is
impossible for us human beings.
6. What are the cognitive moments within religious conversion? What
is the fundamental mechanism for the spread of religion?
An individual within a tradition has no certainty that he is
continuing the tradition. In the first moment, religion strengthens
this notion of uncertainty: it refers to the inconsistent myths and
legends that surround the tradition. However, the individual does
not need these stories to continue the tradition: as a set of
practices, tradition does not ascribe to the predicates `true'
or `false.' As such, it is the other of religion. Religion, however,
offers theoretical foundations to the practice, excavated from the
set of stories that surround the practice. In the second moment,
religion transforms the tradition into a variant of itself; into
another religion, albeit it a false one. The falsity is expressed by
the false beliefs (the stories and legends) which the practices are
now said to express. In the third moment, not only one's own set of
practices is identified with the predicate `false' but other
traditions are also experienced as false. In order to recap:
religion spreads by effacing the otherness of the other. The other
is transformed into yet another religion.
7 Why is the heathen blind? How would he be able to see?
The heathen is blind to the truth. A religion is not just the
practice that is suited for a given people: religion is the divine
truth that God gave to humanity. Neither the Romans, nor the Indians
understood this notion and argued along the lines of tradition and
ancestral practices. Since religion generates an experience in which
the world is experienced as revealing that universal truth, the
heathen, outside the sphere of a religious world, cannot grasp this.
In other words, in a non-religious world, the world is not
experienced as explanatorily intelligible. The heathen, therefore,
could not grasp an EI-account of the Cosmos and of itself. By
entering the process of conversion, the otherness of other
traditions comes to be the same kind of anotherness he finally
recognises that his tradition or set of practices was an instance of
8. What are the contingent characteristics of religion? Why are they
Since for human beings, only accounts that appeal to reasons or
purposes can provide intelligibility, and since religion makes both
itself and the Cosmos intelligible, both need to embody the purposes
of some entity or Being. This is what is called `God.' Hence the
first contingent characteristic for religion in human societies:
God. Secondly, humanity is part of the purposes of God. Some claim
or the other must refer to those to whom God's message is addressed.
Thirdly, religion must postulate a relation between humanity and
God. In other words, the message has to tell humankind what God's
purpose is and hence, what the purpose of humanity is. Accepting
God's purpose lends explanatory intelligibility to human life.
Fourthly, an EI-account of the Cosmos must identify the manner in
which this goal can be achieved. An EI-account speaks of the
purposes of God and hence of the goal of humankind. This makes the
world of the believer explanatorily intelligible. In order to retain
this explanatorily intelligibility it must also refer to the means
in which it can retain this. All this results in the fifth property:
the doctrines in which all the above is expressed.
9. What is worship? Can we maintain that `the heathen bows down to
wood and stone '?
Worship is the means through which an EI-account retains its
character. That is, it sustains a particular experience of the
Cosmos. (It is also the manner in which faith is sustained.) To
suggest that `The heathen bows down to wood and stone ', we need to
believe that the heathen does really think that the particular idol,
the particular crow or cow, do make the cosmos (all that was, is and
shall be) intelligible. Of course, to believe this fantastic story,
we need more than the assurances of a hymn: we need to have an
explanation of `the' psychology of the heathens that tells us how
such a thing is psychologically possible. Until such stage, we
cannot plausibly maintain that the heathens bow down to wood and
stone, if by `bowing down', one means that heathens worship wood and