The Seriousness of Theology

"Theology and texts have far less power over shaping a religion’s lived experience than intellectuals would like to credit. This is a difficult issue to approach, because even believers who are vague on peculiarities of the details of theology (i.e., nearly all of them!) nevertheless espouse that theology as true....

This is the hard part for many intellectuals, religious or irreligious, to understand. For intellectuals ideas have consequences, and they shape their lives. Their religious world view is naturally inflected by this. And most importantly they confuse their own comprehension of religious life, the profession of creeds rationally understand and mystical reflection viscerally experienced, with modal religiosity....

The key insight of cognitive scientists is that for the vast majority of human beings religion is about psychological intuition and social identification, and not theology. A deductive theory of religion derived from axioms of creed fails in large part because there is no evidence that the vast majority of religious believers have internalized the sophisticated aspects of their theologies and scriptures in any deep and substantive sense. To give a concrete example, Sri Lankan Buddhists, Hindus, and Muslims can give explicit explanations to at least a rudimentary level as to the differences of their respective religious beliefs. But when prompted to explain their understanding of the supernatural in a manner which was unscripted, and which was not amenable to a fall back upon indoctrinated verbal formulas, their conceptions of god(s) were fundamentally the same!

And that is why one should always been cautious of taking theology, textual analysis, and intellectualism too seriously when it comes to religion.... 

Not only do I believe that the theologies of all religion are false, but I believe that they’re predominantly just intellectual foam generated from the churning of broader social and historical forces." (Author's emphasis)

Razib Khan, Against the seriousness of theology at Discover Magazine Blogs

This is all well and good, except that religious believers in general are markedly unconscious of this dynamic process, nor are they willing to accept it. They will consciously cling to and defend the theologies despite the fact that in reality their lived religious experience hardly depends on it. This makes any fruitful dialogue with believers extremely difficult. Yes, it's good for understanding religion in a more illuminating and, some would say, sympathetic way, but it doesn't take away the fact that religious believers will continue to espouse their theologies. 

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