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The Principle of Credultiy, the Will to Believe, and the Role of Rationality and Evidence in Religious Experience

analytical Essay
572 words
572 words
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The Principle of Credultiy, the Will to Believe, and the Role of Rationality and Evidence in Religious Experience

Explain the principle of credulity, the will to believe and the role of rationality and evidence in religious experience

The principle of credulity, the will to believe and the role of rationality and evidence all play crucial roles while attempting to explain religious experience. The principle of credulity states that religious experiences should be taken at their face value when we have no positive reason to doubt them. William James' The will to believe suggests that perhaps proof, rationality, and scientific investigation are not the appropriate or relevant methods for deciding issues raised by religious experience. Lastly, religious experience claims direct and immediate awareness that is not dependent on direct sense experience or on reason. We will take a closer look at each of these principles as illustrated by William James and Soren Kierkegaard, to see how these concepts effect our views of religious experience.

The thrust of William James' argument in The Will to Believe is captured in the following argument; "Our passional nature not only lawfully may, but must, decide an option between propositions, whenever it is a genuine option that cannot by its nature be decided on intellectual grounds; for to say, under such circumstances, "Do not decide, but leave the question open, " is itself a decision—just like deciding yes or no,--and is attended with the same risk of losing the truth." While not denying the importance of reasoning and evidence for many of our beliefs, James forsakes objective certainty. He claims that we can never be absolutely sure of anything except that consciousness exists. The belief in truth springs more from desire and feeling than from reason. James indicates that religious belief doesn't have to be based on evidence, it can be a personal decision made from the heart.

Central to Soren Kierkegaard's religious thought is his distinction between the objective and subjective thinker, which is essentially a distinction between reason and faith. The objective thinker strikes an intellectual, dispassionate, scientific posture toward life. In effect, the objective thinker adopts the view of an observer. In contrast, the subjective thinker is passionately and intensely involved with truth. Truth for the subjective thinker is not just a matter of accumulating evidence to establish a viewpoint, but something of profound personal concern.

In this essay, the author

  • Explains the principle of credulity, the will to believe, and the role of rationality and evidence in religious experience.
  • Analyzes the thrust of william james' argument in the will to believe: "our passional nature not only lawfully may, but must, decide an option between propositions."
  • Analyzes soren kierkegaard's distinction between the objective and subjective thinker, which is essentially a difference between reason and faith.
  • Analyzes how james and kirkegaard's eyes recognize the roles of emotions and spiritual feelings in our lives and the limitations of logic and rationality. religious experience cannot be quantified in objective terms.
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