The Religious Case Against Belief

James P. Carse, Author
James P. Carse, Author Penguin $24.95 (227p) ISBN 978-1-59420-169-1
Reviewed on: 04/21/2008
Release date: 06/01/2008

While it seems paradoxical to oppose religion to belief—religions, after all, are systems of beliefs; and belief in deities, ritual practices and scriptures combine to form religions—Carse convincingly demonstrates that belief and religion are too often falsely linked. Belief, he suggests, is a response to ignorance. Carse examines three kinds of ignorance: “ordinary” ignorance is simply lack of knowledge of some kind, such as the weather in Africa. “Willful” ignorance purposefully avoids clear and available knowledge, such as Creationists acting as if they know nothing of evolution. The tenacious beliefs that grow out of willful ignorance often result in bloody religious conflicts. Finally, what Carse calls “higher” ignorance accepts the fact that no matter how many truths we accumulate, our knowledge falls infinitely short of the truth. Individuals acting in higher ignorance can recognize the many truths that religious traditions can offer. Seen in Carse’s provocative way, religion transcends the narrow boundaries established by beliefs, and transforms our ways of thinking about the world. (June 2)

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