chapter  4
11 Pages

Naïve Religion and Philosophical Critique

If you are uncertain or do not know something, you should seek out new information. In trying to discover the truth of religion, you must explore the world’s religions. However, such an exploration brings home an important point: religion is often not about truth at all. Instead, religion is a set of shared practices, rituals, and ceremonies that occur in specific places, that are performed by specific individuals, and that form the basis of sustained social life. Religions are narrative traditions. Religion involves story-telling and repetition of narrative: this often has little to do with an inquiry into truth. While there are truths implicit in these narratives, and explanations of the activities of religious ritual-and while explicit affirmations of truthclaims form part of religion and theology-religious activities and stories have a life of their own that is not merely about truth. To put this point differently, we might say that religion is as much art as it is science. The arts-painting, sculpture, music, theater, poetry, and story-telling-disclose things and make claims. But art is not science: its primary function is not to present a singular truth about the way the world is. Religion can be like that: a way of disclosing hopes, dreams, fears, and wonders that is not merely a declaration of truth. Like art, religion also demands a momentary suspension of disbelief that occurs and is reinforced within a community of participants. When we go to the theater or enter a museum, we put ourselves into a certain frame of receptivity, along with the others in the building, who share certain expectations of a kind of experience to be enjoyed in this space. The same is true of those who enter a religious space together: a socially constructed and mutually supportive form of experience is created through the rituals that unfold within the sacred space. It is easy to step outside of this and see it as silly, contrived, and superficial make-believe. And from a certain vantage point, this is the truth of religion and of art: it is a contrivance and a game of make-believe.