Ray Ingles on Religion
In response to my critique of David Eller’s woeful definition of religion Ray Ingles offers another. (Apparently he didn’t like my definition either.)
Here it is as linked from his website:
“So far as I’ve seen, there’s a single, very simple difference between a religious and a non-religious worldview. Religious worldviews include some concept of the supernatural, and non-religious ones don’t.”
And what, pray tell, does “supernatural” mean?
Ray goes on:
“The ‘supernatural’ is ‘incomprehensible’ – unknowable by humans – something forever beyond human ken, something we will never be capable of understanding.”
So if you believe that such unknowable things exist, you have a religion. If you don’t, you don’t have a religion.
Is this better than Eller’s view? Alas, it is not.
To begin with, there is another term that begs definition: “knowable/unknowable”. What does Ray mean when he says that the “supernatural” is something which is unknowable by human beings? After all, many Christians believe God is eminently knowable. He is knowable in terms of propositional knowledge because we know many propositions about him. But he is also knowable in terms of knowlege of acquaintance, because people can experience or be in relationship directly with him.
Perhaps by “unknowable” Ray means “cannot be fully understood.”
Assuming Ray means something like that it is true then that Christians are religious because we believe God cannot be fully understood. However, Ray now has a serious problem because there are many atheists who believe that many things in the universe cannot be fully understood. For example, Colin McGinn, one of the preeminent atheistic philosophers writing today, believes that there are many things which probably cannot be understood by human beings in principle and he puts the mind brain problem in that list (among others). According to the definition Ray offers, atheist Colin McGinn is actually religious because McGinn recognizes the existence of supernatural things (i.e. things we cannot understand fully) and this is necessary and sufficient to be religious.
Now let us have a little bit of fun. Imagine a highly rationalistic Christian called Dave who believes God could in principle be fully understood (whatever that might mean exactly). But beyond that rather idiosyncratic belief, Dave accepts all the doctrines of the faith including the Trinity, creation, incarnation, substitionary atonement, resurrection, the whole kit and kaboodle. He attends church regularly and worships God in church with tears streaming down his face. When he is not in church he is evangelizing at the nearby college campus.
According to the definition Ray provides, atheist philosopher Colin McGinn is religious but Christian evangelist Dave is not.
I would say that is a problem for this definition.