Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Religious People Functioning In A Secular World?

Steve Fuller, reviews Robert Wuthnow's "The God Problem: Expressing Faith and Being Reasonable":
The key finding is that people of faith understand exactly how their beliefs differ from those not of faith and can justify them in quite sophisticated ways, although typically without learned theological reference. Perhaps that refusal to invoke any academic authority for their beliefs contributes to the appearance of believers as naive or uninformed. But most of Wuthnow's accounts also suggest that people of faith really "mean" what they believe, and that secular people may believe something similar but talk about it differently. In the end, what is the difference between a believer's "openness to God" and a non-believer's "openness to the evidence"? The answer lies in judgement calls and how they are justified - but not the view that there are standards that transcend the mundanely human.
What may well be this book's most disturbing feature is a subterranean sense that one need not believe what one knows. Religious believers know how the secular world works, yet they openly reject its principles without compromising their ability to function within it. For example, contrary to popular secular opinion, an increasing number of religious believers around the world are moving into scientific fields, especially medicine and engineering. They learn the received wisdom of the scientific establishment about, say, evolutionary biology without necessarily having it affect their worldview. Given the strong division of labour in science, in which professionals are required to justify their findings only in terms of ongoing research in their fields, the strategy works perfectly well, escaping the muckrakers' gaze because science publishes only what can be defended, not what is believed
There is much to be said about religious people whose lives - at least on the surface - seem to ignore their beliefs (if not actually refute them).

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