May 16, 2014

Sources and supplements of faith

Philip Kitcher, a philosopher of science and a "soft atheist," on the substance of theism and the sources of faith:
The 'soft atheism' I defend considers religion more extensively, sympathizes with the idea that secularists can learn from religious practices and recommends sometimes making common cause with religious movements for social justice . . .

As to theistic arguments, some of the world's religions have offered such arguments in support of their doctrines, although often different groups within a religious tradition will differ radically in judgments about the value of these exercises. Rational theology proceeds partly on the basis of principles also used in areas of rigorous inquiry (logical principles, for example) and partly on the basis of metaphysical additions, frequently varying across traditions. To my mind all these metaphysical add-ons are dubious. Indeed, many of them seem purpose-built to generate the desired conclusions. Concepts like that of a 'necessary being' are problematic outgrowths of particular parochial traditions. We should think of the arguments of rational theology as supplements to a faith whose sources lie elsewhere (as, I believe, many theologians have always taken them to be).