Religious Minimalism

This is an interesting article that I find largely congenial:

I do wonder what the authors mean by “humility,” which is an attitude they recommend for both believers and non-believers. Humility is a Christian virtue, and it has its positives and negatives. On the positive side, a dose of humility can be a fine corrective for some of the overweening arrogance on display, for instance, among the “self-made men” of Wall Street and corporate boardrooms. There is no such thing as a self-made man. On the other hand, when I hear people advocating humility, I find that they generally mean “humility for thee, but not for me.” In short, it seems to me that humility unalloyed with hypocrisy is a very rare commodity.

The Christian virtue that has more to recommend it is charity. I see no reason to be particularly humble in my atheism. I think I am right and my reasons for my beliefs have been tempered in the fires of philosophical debate. I see no reason why, in appropriate circumstances, I should not speak up positively and forcefully for my beliefs. Yet I think that charity is the right attitude to have towards those otherwise persuaded. Yes, there are irrational theists–and irrational atheists. Yet is it clear to me that many theists and atheists have discharged their epistemic duties and have fairly placed their beliefs under scrutiny and openly offered them up for criticism. I think that John Hick is right in An Interpretation of Religion when he argues that reality plausibly admits of either a religious or a naturalistic interpretation, and that advocates of one view need not condemn the other as unreasonable. On that irenic and charitable note, happy holidays to all contributors and correspondents to Secular Outpost!

About Keith Parsons
  • Pete Hoge

    I think they use "humility" as a warning for anyone who wishes to
    be judgemental about another
    ideological system. We should be
    agnostic about a set of values
    which we cannot criticize from a
    position of authority.

  • Dianelos Georgoudis

    I don’t think that speaking up positively and forcefully for one’s belief is incompatible with humility. Humility is rather not to speak like, and indeed not to feel like, one is intrinsically superior to the other person.

    And that humility is taught by Christianity does not make it a Christian virtue. I think humility is a virtue simpliciter. And a very useful at that, because it makes discourse more effective.

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