Religious preference & too many gods

The great sociologist of religion Peter Berger comments on the project of Andrew Bowen, who in 2011 practiced a different religion each month—Hindu in January, Baha’i in February, Zoroastrian in March, etc.  Religion today, he says, is no longer a matter of personal identity, history, or belief.  Rather, it is a voluntary association:

In the pluralistic situation every religious institution, which it likes this or not, becomes a voluntary association. Max Weber, one of the fathers of the sociology of religion, distinguished between two institutional forms of religion—the “church”, into which one is born, and the “sect”, which one joins as an adult. The historian Richard Niebuhr suggested that American history has created (presumably inadvertently) a third form of religious institution—the “denomination”, which in many ways looks like a “church”, but which one nevertheless freely joins and belongs to, and which is in competition with other religious bodies. On the level of consciousness, religion loses its taken-for-granted quality, instead becomes a matter of individual decision. The peculiarly American term “religious preference” nicely catches both levels. Put differently, the challenge of secularity, where it exists (it does in some places, notably in Europe), is that there is an absence of gods; the challenge of plurality is that there are too many gods.

When there is a combination of religious plurality with a political system which guarantees freedom of religion, what comes about is, precisely, Niebuhr’s denominationalism. For well-known historical reasons, America has been in the vanguard of such a development. Its emergence in many parts of the world today has usually little to do with American influences, but is the result of the above-mentioned combination of a social and a political fact. Andrew Bowen has, in exemplary fashion, re-enacted this historical drama.

In the pluralistic situation every religion becomes a denomination—even Judaism, which is both a religion and a people, into which, by definition, one is born. In America Judaism has been born again (I choose the phrase deliberately) in at least three denominations.

via If it’s December, I’m Presbyterian | Religion and Other Curiosities.

HT:  Matthew Schmitz

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Michael B.

    I don’t know about association, but one’s religion is mainly a function of what religion one was brought up with.

  • Michael B.

    I don’t know about association, but one’s religion is mainly a function of what religion one was brought up with.

  • #4 Kitty

    @Michael B.
    True but the religion one is brought up in is mainly a function of where one is raised .

  • #4 Kitty

    @Michael B.
    True but the religion one is brought up in is mainly a function of where one is raised .

  • fws

    Lutherans say that no one can make the decision to become a christian.

    if this is true then how does becoming a christian happen? how could their even be a christian church in that case. IF that is true…

  • fws

    Lutherans say that no one can make the decision to become a christian.

    if this is true then how does becoming a christian happen? how could their even be a christian church in that case. IF that is true…

  • fws

    In fact Lutherans say that, using their reason and will, NO ONE would ever chose to become a christian, and , infact EVERYONE would choose NOT to become a christian.

  • fws

    In fact Lutherans say that, using their reason and will, NO ONE would ever chose to become a christian, and , infact EVERYONE would choose NOT to become a christian.

  • Michael B.

    @#4 Kitty
    “True but the religion one is brought up in is mainly a function of where one is raised .”

    Hogwash. If I were born to Muslim parents in Iran, I assure you I’d still be Christian. :)

  • Michael B.

    @#4 Kitty
    “True but the religion one is brought up in is mainly a function of where one is raised .”

    Hogwash. If I were born to Muslim parents in Iran, I assure you I’d still be Christian. :)

  • Dan Kempin

    So what he is saying, if I am getting it, is that the presence and social tolerance of so many religions (the freedom to choose them) has sociologically created a pantheon, not of gods, but of “denominations” (in Niebuhr’s sense). Is that about right? The embedded social structure is that personal religious choice is a part of the larger pantheon of denominations, and so the differences are subsumed as variance within the same whole. Thus we can hold to denominations that are completely contradictory, but still process that into the conclusion that we are both “spiritual.”

    That kind of makes sense to me.

  • Dan Kempin

    So what he is saying, if I am getting it, is that the presence and social tolerance of so many religions (the freedom to choose them) has sociologically created a pantheon, not of gods, but of “denominations” (in Niebuhr’s sense). Is that about right? The embedded social structure is that personal religious choice is a part of the larger pantheon of denominations, and so the differences are subsumed as variance within the same whole. Thus we can hold to denominations that are completely contradictory, but still process that into the conclusion that we are both “spiritual.”

    That kind of makes sense to me.

  • http://theoldadam.com/ Steve Martin

    “too many gods.”

    That is our problem in a nutshell. I’m suprised there aren’t 7 million more religious denominations than there already are.

  • http://theoldadam.com/ Steve Martin

    “too many gods.”

    That is our problem in a nutshell. I’m suprised there aren’t 7 million more religious denominations than there already are.

  • Gary

    Not quite addressing the topic of pluralism, but I wish American Christians understood how the concept of denominations is thoroughly our own invention. It irks me when Lutherans speak of belonging to a Lutheran denomination, and in most cases it happens entirely out of ignorance. Folks haven’t been taught to think in terms of being joined together by a common Lutheran _confession_, from which arises a particular _communion_. When I’m speaking, I usually try to be careful about this, and hence make references to “the Roman communion” and the “Anglican communion,” “the Lutheran communion” and the “Methodist communion,” etc.

    Of course then my own church body undermines me by carrying out business for the most part as if we _are_ merely a denomination. Sigh.

  • Gary

    Not quite addressing the topic of pluralism, but I wish American Christians understood how the concept of denominations is thoroughly our own invention. It irks me when Lutherans speak of belonging to a Lutheran denomination, and in most cases it happens entirely out of ignorance. Folks haven’t been taught to think in terms of being joined together by a common Lutheran _confession_, from which arises a particular _communion_. When I’m speaking, I usually try to be careful about this, and hence make references to “the Roman communion” and the “Anglican communion,” “the Lutheran communion” and the “Methodist communion,” etc.

    Of course then my own church body undermines me by carrying out business for the most part as if we _are_ merely a denomination. Sigh.

  • http://www.redeemedrambling.blogspot.com John

    I think there is a distinction between Bowen “practicing” a different religion each month and actually being religious. If he were a believer, he couldn’t, as a matter of conscience, swap between religions like that. If true, that would mean that he is mistakenly presuming that the people he is worshiping with are like him, when in fact many of them might not be.

  • http://www.redeemedrambling.blogspot.com John

    I think there is a distinction between Bowen “practicing” a different religion each month and actually being religious. If he were a believer, he couldn’t, as a matter of conscience, swap between religions like that. If true, that would mean that he is mistakenly presuming that the people he is worshiping with are like him, when in fact many of them might not be.

  • fws

    John @ 9

    no john, Only christianity is uniquely about orthodoxy, right teaching.

    ALL other religions are about Orthopraxy, right practice.

    There is no such think as a practicing christian. There is only such a thing as a practicing member of any other religion, including the jewish one, that you can name. when christianity becomes about orthopraxy it ceases, right exactly at that point, to be christian.

    christianity is alone, about hiding all our works in the Works of Another by faith alone.

  • fws

    John @ 9

    no john, Only christianity is uniquely about orthodoxy, right teaching.

    ALL other religions are about Orthopraxy, right practice.

    There is no such think as a practicing christian. There is only such a thing as a practicing member of any other religion, including the jewish one, that you can name. when christianity becomes about orthopraxy it ceases, right exactly at that point, to be christian.

    christianity is alone, about hiding all our works in the Works of Another by faith alone.

  • Abby

    Michael @5: AMEN! God finds and rescues His own — anywhere!

  • Abby

    Michael @5: AMEN! God finds and rescues His own — anywhere!

  • HistoryProfBrad

    @ #4 Kitty….if what you say is true, how do you explain your own beliefs? Is there a continent or world region missing from the globe?

  • HistoryProfBrad

    @ #4 Kitty….if what you say is true, how do you explain your own beliefs? Is there a continent or world region missing from the globe?

  • larry

    “Only christianity is uniquely about orthodoxy, right teaching.

    ALL other religions are about Orthopraxy, right practice.”

    Nice turn of words Frank, very nice!

  • larry

    “Only christianity is uniquely about orthodoxy, right teaching.

    ALL other religions are about Orthopraxy, right practice.”

    Nice turn of words Frank, very nice!

  • #4 Kitty

    @HistoryProfBrad

    I stated that the religion one is brought up in is a function of where they were raised. I was born and raised in the middle of the country and so it is no surprise that I was brought up as a protestant (LCMS).

  • #4 Kitty

    @HistoryProfBrad

    I stated that the religion one is brought up in is a function of where they were raised. I was born and raised in the middle of the country and so it is no surprise that I was brought up as a protestant (LCMS).

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Kitty (@14), taking your assertion for granted, then, well, so what? Why is that statistic meaningful to you?

    Sexual orientation also correlates with location, too. And?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Kitty (@14), taking your assertion for granted, then, well, so what? Why is that statistic meaningful to you?

    Sexual orientation also correlates with location, too. And?

  • #4 Kitty

    @tODD@15
    It goes without saying that if we were born in Saudi Arabia, we would be Sunni Muslims right now. If we were born in Iran, we’d be Shi’a Muslims. If we were born in India, we’d be Hindus. If we were born in Japan, we’d be Shintoists, etc., etc. Therefore, Since one’s system of belief is almost always an accident of birth, then, one should be highly skeptical about whether one’s faith is correct.

  • #4 Kitty

    @tODD@15
    It goes without saying that if we were born in Saudi Arabia, we would be Sunni Muslims right now. If we were born in Iran, we’d be Shi’a Muslims. If we were born in India, we’d be Hindus. If we were born in Japan, we’d be Shintoists, etc., etc. Therefore, Since one’s system of belief is almost always an accident of birth, then, one should be highly skeptical about whether one’s faith is correct.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    But Kitty (@16), you’re not examining (or even stating) what appears to be your underlying thesis. You appear to be assuming that belief systems should be distributed randomly across the globe. But why?

    Furthermore, I’ll note that your particular belief about religious demographics appears to be a function of the particular country you’ve grown up in. And, as such — per your argument — you should be highly skeptical of it.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    But Kitty (@16), you’re not examining (or even stating) what appears to be your underlying thesis. You appear to be assuming that belief systems should be distributed randomly across the globe. But why?

    Furthermore, I’ll note that your particular belief about religious demographics appears to be a function of the particular country you’ve grown up in. And, as such — per your argument — you should be highly skeptical of it.

  • Michael B.

    @Todd

    “I’ll note that your particular belief about religious demographics appears to be a function of the particular country you’ve grown up in. And, as such — per your argument — you should be highly skeptical of it.”

    Kitty doesn’t need to have faith to back up her assertion. If someone disagrees with her assertion that religious belief is largely a function of where and when one is born, then he’s a moron (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religions_by_country). On the other hand, religion requires faith. And so Kitty’s post is interesting. She is basically asking, “what are the odds that you just happened to have been born into the correct faith?” Let’s just imagine it’s God’s little multiple-choice question. The odds are really stacked against you.

  • Michael B.

    @Todd

    “I’ll note that your particular belief about religious demographics appears to be a function of the particular country you’ve grown up in. And, as such — per your argument — you should be highly skeptical of it.”

    Kitty doesn’t need to have faith to back up her assertion. If someone disagrees with her assertion that religious belief is largely a function of where and when one is born, then he’s a moron (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religions_by_country). On the other hand, religion requires faith. And so Kitty’s post is interesting. She is basically asking, “what are the odds that you just happened to have been born into the correct faith?” Let’s just imagine it’s God’s little multiple-choice question. The odds are really stacked against you.

  • http://koivwvia.wordpress.com jb

    Man is, by his very nature, religious. That is perhaps the most “provable” thing there is in the world.

    Every man has “his god.”

    Brother Gene – would you be upset if I said “Denominationalism be damned?

    There are but, truly, as Pieper said, only two religions in the world – that of the Law, and that of the Gospel.”

    Despite some points of disagreement, the Orthodox/Catholic/Lutheran/Catholic (us) and Anglicans hold to the faith once delivered to all. The Calvinists/Arminians/Methodists and all their cousins, despite their many protestations, do not.

    That is without question to the serious student.

    To those outside the essential fraternity of faith, the multiplicity of “gods” is a necessary expectation. They invent one a week, or day, or hour. Doing so is of no count in Yahweh’s reality, but nonetheless, it is true. It is impossible for me to consider any kind of fellowship with the a-catholic denominations, because there simply is no common ground – either with regard to the nature of Christ, or worship and the Blessed Sacraments He Himself established. To pretend otherwise is preposterous.

    Frank – I would motion both “orthodoxy” and “ortho-praxis” are critical to the One Holy Faith – lacking either, one cannot know the One Holy, and this day and age (post-Christian) ought to scream out loud that fact to all of us.

    Michael B./Kitty – what you both assert is true on one hand, and monumentally false on the other. The radical (nature of the faith) intervention of the Christ upsets all presupposed notions of matters “religious” – and turns our sights to the matters of Heaven and eternity.

    Christians are often myopic about the world – they live in it and fail to see what it is, all the while trying to prepare for the Kingdom to come in Jesus. We are called by Jesus to be wise as serpents and meek as doves. That is a task beyond all of us, were it not for Christ and the intervention of the Holy Spirit in Christ’s name.

    Yet . . . we are called so to be – ANYWAY!

    One of the failures of the Church is – not merely “adequately” – but in “totality” TO declare Christ, and our faithful devotion to the Christ, without qualification. That, we rarely do with anywhere near a united voice or faith. And yet . . .

    In every country and land throughout the world, the faithful worship Jesus – even in Saudi Arabia.

    We have “American” eyes. God shows no partiality to such nonsense. That offends our sensibilities, but then, not being able to eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge offended Eve’s sensibilities, and we all know where that led.

    Pause for thought . . . We are overwhelmed by the diversity of denominationalism – to the extent the devil himself might be losing track of the goings-on. We, as humans, have managed to attain the position of which Lewis spoke with extreme clarity:

    “Believing in nothing, we now believe in anything.”

    Gene – as an aside – we are ordering a copy of your Spirituality of the Cross for every member. In a very humble manner, much to your credit, you describe the journey of faith much in the manner Luther, with a beer in hand and a decent audience, would do. Thank you.

  • http://koivwvia.wordpress.com jb

    Man is, by his very nature, religious. That is perhaps the most “provable” thing there is in the world.

    Every man has “his god.”

    Brother Gene – would you be upset if I said “Denominationalism be damned?

    There are but, truly, as Pieper said, only two religions in the world – that of the Law, and that of the Gospel.”

    Despite some points of disagreement, the Orthodox/Catholic/Lutheran/Catholic (us) and Anglicans hold to the faith once delivered to all. The Calvinists/Arminians/Methodists and all their cousins, despite their many protestations, do not.

    That is without question to the serious student.

    To those outside the essential fraternity of faith, the multiplicity of “gods” is a necessary expectation. They invent one a week, or day, or hour. Doing so is of no count in Yahweh’s reality, but nonetheless, it is true. It is impossible for me to consider any kind of fellowship with the a-catholic denominations, because there simply is no common ground – either with regard to the nature of Christ, or worship and the Blessed Sacraments He Himself established. To pretend otherwise is preposterous.

    Frank – I would motion both “orthodoxy” and “ortho-praxis” are critical to the One Holy Faith – lacking either, one cannot know the One Holy, and this day and age (post-Christian) ought to scream out loud that fact to all of us.

    Michael B./Kitty – what you both assert is true on one hand, and monumentally false on the other. The radical (nature of the faith) intervention of the Christ upsets all presupposed notions of matters “religious” – and turns our sights to the matters of Heaven and eternity.

    Christians are often myopic about the world – they live in it and fail to see what it is, all the while trying to prepare for the Kingdom to come in Jesus. We are called by Jesus to be wise as serpents and meek as doves. That is a task beyond all of us, were it not for Christ and the intervention of the Holy Spirit in Christ’s name.

    Yet . . . we are called so to be – ANYWAY!

    One of the failures of the Church is – not merely “adequately” – but in “totality” TO declare Christ, and our faithful devotion to the Christ, without qualification. That, we rarely do with anywhere near a united voice or faith. And yet . . .

    In every country and land throughout the world, the faithful worship Jesus – even in Saudi Arabia.

    We have “American” eyes. God shows no partiality to such nonsense. That offends our sensibilities, but then, not being able to eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge offended Eve’s sensibilities, and we all know where that led.

    Pause for thought . . . We are overwhelmed by the diversity of denominationalism – to the extent the devil himself might be losing track of the goings-on. We, as humans, have managed to attain the position of which Lewis spoke with extreme clarity:

    “Believing in nothing, we now believe in anything.”

    Gene – as an aside – we are ordering a copy of your Spirituality of the Cross for every member. In a very humble manner, much to your credit, you describe the journey of faith much in the manner Luther, with a beer in hand and a decent audience, would do. Thank you.

  • formerly just steve

    Kitty, #16,

    Your assertion is blatantly false. Assuming you believe, say, evolution by natural selection is true, how did you come to that conclusion? Did you take your notepad to the Galapagos and postulate by the powers of your own observation and deductive reasoning? Or were you taught? If you were taught, would it be safe to assume you were taught in a setting where many others were being taught the same thing? And, since most people don’t move that far from home, would it be safe to say that, after time, there would be a lot of people holding to evolution as compared to areas of the world where those views are not taught? Does it naturally follow that I should be skeptical of evolution simply because of the number of people in my area who hold to it?

  • formerly just steve

    Kitty, #16,

    Your assertion is blatantly false. Assuming you believe, say, evolution by natural selection is true, how did you come to that conclusion? Did you take your notepad to the Galapagos and postulate by the powers of your own observation and deductive reasoning? Or were you taught? If you were taught, would it be safe to assume you were taught in a setting where many others were being taught the same thing? And, since most people don’t move that far from home, would it be safe to say that, after time, there would be a lot of people holding to evolution as compared to areas of the world where those views are not taught? Does it naturally follow that I should be skeptical of evolution simply because of the number of people in my area who hold to it?

  • formerly just steve

    In other words, Kitty, you are putting forth an ad populum fallacy, albeit with a twist.

  • formerly just steve

    In other words, Kitty, you are putting forth an ad populum fallacy, albeit with a twist.

  • Dan Kempin

    One clarification about this discussion:

    I understood that Peter Berger was using the word “denomination” in a different sense than we typically understand. He is not talking about “denominationalism” as in “loyalty to your particular Christian identity above the whole Christian Church.” He speaks of denomination (well, quotes Niebuhr) in the same way that we would use the word “religion.” In America, we are free to choose our religion. We choose what we will be called. We choose our denomination. The very presupposition of choice precludes the supposition that there is an authoritative truth, except, perhaps, in the pantheon of denominations as a whole.

    . . . right?

    Kitty’s comment at #16 seems to illustrate what Peter Berger is talking about rather nicely.

  • Dan Kempin

    One clarification about this discussion:

    I understood that Peter Berger was using the word “denomination” in a different sense than we typically understand. He is not talking about “denominationalism” as in “loyalty to your particular Christian identity above the whole Christian Church.” He speaks of denomination (well, quotes Niebuhr) in the same way that we would use the word “religion.” In America, we are free to choose our religion. We choose what we will be called. We choose our denomination. The very presupposition of choice precludes the supposition that there is an authoritative truth, except, perhaps, in the pantheon of denominations as a whole.

    . . . right?

    Kitty’s comment at #16 seems to illustrate what Peter Berger is talking about rather nicely.

  • #4 Kitty

    @formerly just steve
    The theory of evolution is not a system of belief. It’s a model of the observable world which can be tested and falsified. Unlike one’s religion which is a result of where one is born, scientific theories are the product of logic, reason, and critical thinking. Therefore, if I were to produce a map showing the locations of scientists who believe in the theory of the big bang, or germ theory of disease, or of evolution then it would appear completely methodical and regular. I mean the notion of scientists in Australia believing disease is caused by demons while those in Chile believing it is the agent of germs is preposterous. However, for religious beliefs it is not.
    @tODD #17

    you’re not examining (or even stating) what appears to be your underlying thesis. You appear to be assuming that belief systems should be distributed randomly across the globe

    My underlying thesis is that one’s system of religious belief is an accident of birth. Therefore, any map detailing the geographic boundaries of belief should appear arbitrary and irregular.

  • #4 Kitty

    @formerly just steve
    The theory of evolution is not a system of belief. It’s a model of the observable world which can be tested and falsified. Unlike one’s religion which is a result of where one is born, scientific theories are the product of logic, reason, and critical thinking. Therefore, if I were to produce a map showing the locations of scientists who believe in the theory of the big bang, or germ theory of disease, or of evolution then it would appear completely methodical and regular. I mean the notion of scientists in Australia believing disease is caused by demons while those in Chile believing it is the agent of germs is preposterous. However, for religious beliefs it is not.
    @tODD #17

    you’re not examining (or even stating) what appears to be your underlying thesis. You appear to be assuming that belief systems should be distributed randomly across the globe

    My underlying thesis is that one’s system of religious belief is an accident of birth. Therefore, any map detailing the geographic boundaries of belief should appear arbitrary and irregular.

  • fws

    kitty @ 23

    I accept your premise. ALL men , even those who are christian, are born into the same identical natural religion that is based upon reason and the Law of God written in that reason . This is true all over the world.

    But I dont agree with your conclusions.

    The effect of this will be quite uniform. Ordinarily one would expect to find all men in any religion but christianity. All religions but christianity are all really just one and the same. They are about following some religious laws. they are about religious practice.

    furthermore: Christianity, visibly appears identical to this as well!

    but only in, with and under christianity are those who are truly in the Communion of Saints. there is simply no way you will be able to see and observe where those member of that church are Kitty.

    So where does that leave us in this discussion.

  • fws

    kitty @ 23

    I accept your premise. ALL men , even those who are christian, are born into the same identical natural religion that is based upon reason and the Law of God written in that reason . This is true all over the world.

    But I dont agree with your conclusions.

    The effect of this will be quite uniform. Ordinarily one would expect to find all men in any religion but christianity. All religions but christianity are all really just one and the same. They are about following some religious laws. they are about religious practice.

    furthermore: Christianity, visibly appears identical to this as well!

    but only in, with and under christianity are those who are truly in the Communion of Saints. there is simply no way you will be able to see and observe where those member of that church are Kitty.

    So where does that leave us in this discussion.

  • #4 Kitty

    @fws
    Ordinarily one would expect to find all men in any religion but christianity.
    That’s not true. In India you would *not* expect to find all men in any religion. You would expect to find mostly Hindus. In Japan you would expect to find mostly Shintos and Buddhists. In the United States you would expect to find Christians. Now, if we’re referring to Real Christians ~those truly in the “Communion of Saints” then I doubt we could find any at all. Can you name one? And how do you know?

  • #4 Kitty

    @fws
    Ordinarily one would expect to find all men in any religion but christianity.
    That’s not true. In India you would *not* expect to find all men in any religion. You would expect to find mostly Hindus. In Japan you would expect to find mostly Shintos and Buddhists. In the United States you would expect to find Christians. Now, if we’re referring to Real Christians ~those truly in the “Communion of Saints” then I doubt we could find any at all. Can you name one? And how do you know?

  • formerly just steve

    Kitty, that’s still an ad populum argument. Even 100 % of people can still be wrong about a subject–and probably are about a great many things, since our understanding is limited. It does not speak to the veracity of a proposition.

    Assuming for a moment that you believe there may be life on other planets, wouldn’t you say our views on the theory evolution would be an accident of our being born on earth? Shouldn’t we be skeptical that so many scientists hold to this theory?

  • formerly just steve

    Kitty, that’s still an ad populum argument. Even 100 % of people can still be wrong about a subject–and probably are about a great many things, since our understanding is limited. It does not speak to the veracity of a proposition.

    Assuming for a moment that you believe there may be life on other planets, wouldn’t you say our views on the theory evolution would be an accident of our being born on earth? Shouldn’t we be skeptical that so many scientists hold to this theory?

  • #4 Kitty

    Steve, the ad populum argument states, roughly, that just because an assertion is popular, it is therefore true. Scientific consensus is not guilty of this fallacy for a couple of reasons.

    First, scientific consensus doesn’t claim to be true, it claims to be our best understanding currently held by those who study the matter.
    And second, scientific consensus is built upon a logical foundation, the scientific method, rather than the dogma that is taught in a confirmation class. The consensus comes not from blindly agreeing with those in authority but from having their claims tested & falsified, duplicated, reviewed and criticised by their peers.
    The difference is in methods. How does one conclude that the current model of evolution is correct? You test it. How does one conclude that the Bible is the word of God?

  • #4 Kitty

    Steve, the ad populum argument states, roughly, that just because an assertion is popular, it is therefore true. Scientific consensus is not guilty of this fallacy for a couple of reasons.

    First, scientific consensus doesn’t claim to be true, it claims to be our best understanding currently held by those who study the matter.
    And second, scientific consensus is built upon a logical foundation, the scientific method, rather than the dogma that is taught in a confirmation class. The consensus comes not from blindly agreeing with those in authority but from having their claims tested & falsified, duplicated, reviewed and criticised by their peers.
    The difference is in methods. How does one conclude that the current model of evolution is correct? You test it. How does one conclude that the Bible is the word of God?

  • formerly just steve

    Kitty, you and I both know that “scientific consensus” is often times simply dogma dressed in a lab coat. Only a fraction of the people who believe the dogma know the science. Likewise, it could be said that only a fraction of the people who hold to religious dogma know the rationale behind the dogma. So, in my opinion, it’s often quite the same.

    You tell me that science “scientific theory doesn’t claim to be true”. Sure, technically. But if that’s the case, what does the “mostly believe in” in your map mean? What you state is just rhetoric but you know that people are people and when it comes down to it they will hold all of their scientific beliefs as stridently as any religious belief. The is where Christianity has a hand up, of sorts. It makes a specific truth claim but also claims this is understood by faith. Scientific theories makes no faith claim but most of their adherents take them on some level of faith.

  • formerly just steve

    Kitty, you and I both know that “scientific consensus” is often times simply dogma dressed in a lab coat. Only a fraction of the people who believe the dogma know the science. Likewise, it could be said that only a fraction of the people who hold to religious dogma know the rationale behind the dogma. So, in my opinion, it’s often quite the same.

    You tell me that science “scientific theory doesn’t claim to be true”. Sure, technically. But if that’s the case, what does the “mostly believe in” in your map mean? What you state is just rhetoric but you know that people are people and when it comes down to it they will hold all of their scientific beliefs as stridently as any religious belief. The is where Christianity has a hand up, of sorts. It makes a specific truth claim but also claims this is understood by faith. Scientific theories makes no faith claim but most of their adherents take them on some level of faith.

  • Nathaniel Pullmann

    This whole thing assumes that *we* chose – that faith is a choice we make. Berger says “the “denomination”, which in many ways looks like a “church”, but which one nevertheless freely joins and belongs to, and which is in competition with other religious bodies.” The Church is not “in competition” with any one else. The victory is won. The game is over. The only question is whether or not we are picked to be on the side of the victor and that decision is not up to us. Denominations are not in charge of who is saved and who is not, God is and his Church will prevail.

    I suppose that since the Church is invisible, its members could belong to different denominations, but the point at which a denomination starts thinking that it needs to compete to have the most true Christians in it, it has failed. As FWS points out, it should be about proclaiming right doctrine (Christ and Him crucified), not worrying about how many of God’s elect are within its doors.

  • Nathaniel Pullmann

    This whole thing assumes that *we* chose – that faith is a choice we make. Berger says “the “denomination”, which in many ways looks like a “church”, but which one nevertheless freely joins and belongs to, and which is in competition with other religious bodies.” The Church is not “in competition” with any one else. The victory is won. The game is over. The only question is whether or not we are picked to be on the side of the victor and that decision is not up to us. Denominations are not in charge of who is saved and who is not, God is and his Church will prevail.

    I suppose that since the Church is invisible, its members could belong to different denominations, but the point at which a denomination starts thinking that it needs to compete to have the most true Christians in it, it has failed. As FWS points out, it should be about proclaiming right doctrine (Christ and Him crucified), not worrying about how many of God’s elect are within its doors.

  • Michael B.

    “Likewise, it could be said that only a fraction of the people who hold to religious dogma know the rationale behind the dogma. So, in my opinion, it’s often quite the same. ”

    No. Imagine the equation “E=MC Squared”. I don’t imagine any of us understand it, but we all agree it’s true. Why? Because as Kitty mentioned, it’s been peer-reviewed and agreed upon by a lot of smart people. You’ll get extremely consistent answers among all scientists about it.

    Now, take a religious claim, such as “Non Christians will go to hell”. Again you might not understand the theological reasoning, but you have faith, and you still believe it. Why is this different? Because there is absolutely no concept of peer-review. If I asked everyone to in detail define what makes a Christian, you’d get a conflicting answer for most posters. If you doubt this, just look at any thread on this forum that brings up baptism or homosexuality — everyone has got their own opinion on what God’s will is.

  • Michael B.

    “Likewise, it could be said that only a fraction of the people who hold to religious dogma know the rationale behind the dogma. So, in my opinion, it’s often quite the same. ”

    No. Imagine the equation “E=MC Squared”. I don’t imagine any of us understand it, but we all agree it’s true. Why? Because as Kitty mentioned, it’s been peer-reviewed and agreed upon by a lot of smart people. You’ll get extremely consistent answers among all scientists about it.

    Now, take a religious claim, such as “Non Christians will go to hell”. Again you might not understand the theological reasoning, but you have faith, and you still believe it. Why is this different? Because there is absolutely no concept of peer-review. If I asked everyone to in detail define what makes a Christian, you’d get a conflicting answer for most posters. If you doubt this, just look at any thread on this forum that brings up baptism or homosexuality — everyone has got their own opinion on what God’s will is.

  • http://koivwvia.wordpress.com jb

    Pity so few consider God’s opinion.

  • http://koivwvia.wordpress.com jb

    Pity so few consider God’s opinion.

  • http://www.cdbaski.com/ heroin

    In my opinion it is just a excellent 1 certain


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