chapter  21
12 Pages

Continuing the dialogue

ByANTHONY CARROLL, RICHARD NORMAN

One important theme to emerge is that a religious commitment is not simply a matter of theoretical beliefs. Religion is not best seen as a set of explanatory hypotheses about the nature and origin of the universe. Its practical dimension is vital, and that in turn means more than just providing ethical guidance. Commitment to a religion, with its practices and rituals and symbolism, furnishes a way of ‘being in the world’, making sense of one’s life and articulating one’s deepest emotions and experiences. We’ll refer to this as the ‘existential’ dimension. For this reason abandonment of a religious commitment would not simply be rejecting a set of beliefs but rather adopting a new way of life. This also poses a challenge to the nonreligious, to explore alternatives to religion at the existential level. We’ll come back to this later.