RLG209H1: Justifying Religious Belief


Beliefs typically characterized as “religious” concern such things as the existence and nature of the deity, the afterlife, the soul, miracles, and the universe’s meaningfulness, ultimate purpose, or interest in the distribution and realization of justice. Common to these and other religious beliefs is that they lack empirical evidence to support them – at least so say religious skeptics. They insist that rational beliefs require justification and that justification comes from perceptions anyone could have or solid scientific reasoning. Anyone who harbors religious beliefs thus violates a basic epistemic responsibility. How might people who hold – and want to continue to hold – religious beliefs respond to these accusations and doubts?

The course examines these basic epistemological and moral challenges to religious belief as well as the various strategies available to religious believers who are confronted with such demands for justifications. By doing so, we will aim to understand better whether religious beliefs of various sorts could count as rational, whether reasonable people might disagree with each other about the very nature of reality and morality, and whether anyone who falls short of common intellectual and social ideals of rationality and reasonableness ought to be tolerated.

Thought, Belief and Behaviour (2)