Philosophy Talk: The Blog: Self-Deception and the Problem with Religious Belief Formation
I have two comments on this posting.
First, unlike Mr Van Leeuwen, although I probably qualify as an unbeliever, I am not threatened by the admonition that the communicant “who eats the bread and drinks the cup with an unbelieving heart eats and drinks judgment upon himself.” Indeed if ‘God’ fails to cast judgement on such a hypocrite then I might be happy to step in as ‘his’ surrogate. But actually as I interpret the passage that won’t be necessary, because I suspect that the threat is correct in that the false communicant stands judged more in his own heart than by either ‘God’ or man.
Of course this is not to deny that the religious “belief formation process” is often tainted by threat – if not of damnation then at least of social penalties. And in fact that mechanism (of social pressure to engage in hypocritical behaviour which then brings moral pressure to rationalize belief with that behaviour) may be little more than a variation on the theme that is being put forward by Mr Van Leeuwen.
However, I do not believe it is fair to say that the religious belief formation process is *always* so tainted, and in fact, rather than use the means to unjustify the end, I would suggest that it is the end – namely beliefs that lack “Responsiveness to reality” which is the main problem.
And to that end, my second comment is perhaps more relevant.
Mr Van Leeuwen states that “We all have beliefs, which have to get there somehow.” But if by “beliefs” he means anything similar to religious beliefs in strength (and imperviousness to reality), then I believe (in the weaker sense) that he is wrong.