plantinga on religion

i got through most of plantinga’s essay and was disappointingly not surprised. He duly compares religion to science and at least tries to give all sides of the issue their say. However, all sides of the issue sadly agree in demoting religion to an epistemological endeavour. The entire essay assumes that science and religion are both interested in about the same thing, namely making true statements about the world. That is actually more what philosophy is about than either science or religion, though it does fit better with science than with religion.

Religion is not primarily concerned with true statements about the way the world is, nor has it ever been. Religion makes such statements, but they are only a means to a more important end, namely, binding people together and helping them relate to the world. And even if religion makes statements about what is ultimately true,  those statements have little in common with similar statements made by science. Theologians don’t go about trying to think up experiments that would prove there are 3 and not 4 persons in the godhead. Religious truth is not experimentally verifiable, nor need it be. Religious truth is not an end in itself and that fact drastically changes its nature.

Science works the other way around. Scientists have the goal of coming up with true statements or theories about the way the world is, and they use the structure of the scientific community as a means towards that goal. Scientists get together to produce true statements. Religious people produce true statements to get people to come together.

Trying to prove, as plantinga does, that religious statements about god(s) are compatible with scientific theories, makes religion into a type of science. Religion is a very different type of endeavour than science is; and inasmuch as their respective ways of talking about the world serve very different purposes, these languages should be kept separate. Scientists do not need a gods in their theories. That does not, however, mean that no one ever needs them.

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6 Responses to “plantinga on religion”

  1. I wrote a lengthy comment on your observations here.

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