Saturday, September 27, 2014

Religion Is About Faith, Not Knowledge

The Be in Believe
by Rachel Hoyt

image by nuchylee via

There's no need to study -
Just pray and repeat.
The wavelengths are steady,
Listen to the beat.

You'll feel in your bones that
You now know it all,
Once ritual's rat-a-tat
Breaks down your heart's wall.

Copyright © 2014 Rachel Hoyt. All rights reserved.

about religions other than the one whose wisdom we choose to drink.

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  1. I think this is profoundly mistaken: there is an unavoidable cognitive dimension to religions even if that hardly exhausts what religion is all about. Faith to the exclusion of such a dimension is like compassion without wisdom: ineffective if not harmful. To be sure, many of the doctrinal elements of religions are not completely understood by reason unaided, as there is a point where rational thought gives way, so to speak, to faith, or to something non-rational or para-rational, what is sometimes characterized (not always helpfully) as "the mysterious." Pascal, for example, undoubtedly appreciated the role of faith, but notice he did not single it out so as to exclude reason: "The heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of... We know the truth not only by the reason, but by the heart." I prefer to think of the heart of religion itself as neither reason nor faith but praxis (as in 'pray and repeat'), in other words, those spiritual exercises (the terminology is Stoic in origin, but it makes references to various 'ascetic' practices found in most if not all of the major religions of the world) that discipline the ego, humble the will, and train the heart and mind for spiritual living. As a part-time academic, I could give references in support of the above comments, but perhaps in a forum such as this that is not necessary.

  2. I stand in total agreement with Patrick S. O'Donnell's statement.

  3. I actually do believe there is a profound value to spiritual rituals, i.e. pray and repeat. However, I'm exaggerating the opposing view because I found the survey results in the article I linked to quite interesting. Once we believe, it seems we lose our curiosity for cognitively knowable facts about others religions and sometimes even our own.

  4. First, I don't think "rituals" are quite the same thing as spiritual "exercises" in the sense I referred to above, for example, spiritual self-examination is not a ritual, although some of these exercises, like meditation, could be viewed in some sense as ritual or ritual-like practices. Rituals can be performed mindlessly or habitually in a pejorative sense, in other words, lose their religious meaning or function for those who perform them, which is not an intrinsic problem with spiritual exercises, correctly understood. And one should be careful not to generalize too much from one survey result: conclusions are not reliable until others (one's peers in the field) replicate the results with their own research. In any case, I suspect the phenomenon you refer to is in part an effect common to those of so-called Abrahamic traditions, namely, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, but especially Christianity, which puts a premium on specific beliefs (hence the Nicene Creed, etc.) and second, a question of education. Judaism, for example, and by comparison, has more of an emphasis on praxis and not beliefs as such, while Islam falls out somewhere in between the two. If we lack interest or curiosity in or about other religious worldviews it may reflect any number of causal reasons, including a false sense of confidence in our own beliefs (and not just religious ones), a lack of intellectual humility, or such psychological mechanisms as wishful thinking, self-deception, or states of denial. These may or may not be related to the actual belief systems we subscribe to (those systems may reinforce such phenomena or merely reflect such things in the first instance). If our beliefs have been forged in a crucible of practical experience with corresponding intellectual virtues: love of knowledge, courage, humility, autonomy, and practical wisdom, for instance, we will not rest content with absolute ignorance of or lack curiosity in the beliefs held by others, particularly insofar as we realize those (i.e., their) beliefs will invariably, directly or indirectly, have profound (obvious and hidden) effects and consequences on our lives or the lives we seek to lead.

  5. It still seems you think I am trying to attack believers when I'm not. Yes, this is just one study and I found the results interesting and worth drawing attention to... and, based on your comments, I'm still not sure you've read the article I linked to, which should help you understand why I wrote the poem.

  6. I did read the article, and I did not in fact state or imply that you were trying to "attack believers," so I'm puzzled as to how you arrived at that conclusion. And while I made inferences as to why you might have written the poem, I'm not sure they would be identical to the reasons you may have in fact had to write it. Best wishes.


Rhyming or not, I would like a lot to hear the thoughts my words brought...