The Religious Case Against Belief

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Overview

An insightful explanation for why belief-not religion-keeps us in a perilous state of willful ignorance

Through careful , creative analysis, James P. Carse's The Religious Case Against Belief reveals a surprising truth: What is currently criticized as religion is, in fact, the territory of belief. Looking to both historical and contemporary crises, Carse distinguishes religion from belief systems and pinpoints how the closed-mindedness and hostility of belief has corrupted ...

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The Religious Case Against Belief

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Overview

An insightful explanation for why belief-not religion-keeps us in a perilous state of willful ignorance

Through careful , creative analysis, James P. Carse's The Religious Case Against Belief reveals a surprising truth: What is currently criticized as religion is, in fact, the territory of belief. Looking to both historical and contemporary crises, Carse distinguishes religion from belief systems and pinpoints how the closed-mindedness and hostility of belief has corrupted religion and spawned violence the world over. Drawing on the lessons of Galileo, Martin Luther, Abraham Lincoln, and Jesus Christ, Carse creates his own brand of parable and establishes a new vocabulary with which to study conflict in the modern world. Carse uses his wide-ranging understanding of religion to find a viable and vital path away from what he calls the Age of Faith II and toward open-ended global dialogue.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

While it seems paradoxical to oppose religion to belief—religions, after all, are systems of beliefs; and belief in deities, ritual practices and scriptures combine to form religions—Carse convincingly demonstrates that belief and religion are too often falsely linked. Belief, he suggests, is a response to ignorance. Carse examines three kinds of ignorance: "ordinary" ignorance is simply lack of knowledge of some kind, such as the weather in Africa. "Willful" ignorance purposefully avoids clear and available knowledge, such as Creationists acting as if they know nothing of evolution. The tenacious beliefs that grow out of willful ignorance often result in bloody religious conflicts. Finally, what Carse calls "higher" ignorance accepts the fact that no matter how many truths we accumulate, our knowledge falls infinitely short of the truth. Individuals acting in higher ignorance can recognize the many truths that religious traditions can offer. Seen in Carse's provocative way, religion transcends the narrow boundaries established by beliefs, and transforms our ways of thinking about the world. (June 2)

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Library Journal

Addressing what he sees as the ignorance of humans attacking one another on the basis of "religious" belief, Carse (religion, emeritus, NYU; Finite and Infinite Games) here makes the case that belief and religion are in fact two different things. While belief systems offer a rational and consistent view of all things, religion, he argues, is full of inconsistency, paradox, and contradiction; like poetry, religion speaks of different things to people at various stages of their lives. Further, Carse writes, belief does not in and of itself make one religious, just as religiousness does not require belief. Using the stories of Galileo, Martin Luther, Jesus Christ, and others, he lays the groundwork for introducing three kinds of belief-based ignorance: ordinary, willful, and higher. Carse's comparison of poetry to religion as well as his description of the nature of belief make for an original, enjoyable read. In the end, he raises more questions than he answers, but (especially where religion is concerned) that may well be the point. For larger libraries and scholarly collections.
—Leo Kriz

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780143115441
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 5/26/2009
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 806,972
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

James Carse is Professor Emeritus of Religion at New York University where for thirty years he directed the Religious Studies Program. His previous books include The Silence of God, Finite and Infinite Games, and Breakfast at the Victory. He divides his time between New York City and Massachusetts.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 24, 2013

    An excellent book. Thoughtful and well-written. Primary thesis

    An excellent book. Thoughtful and well-written.
    Primary thesis is that religion involves searching for truth about God, and this search is an endless one, because God cannot be fully known. In Carse's view, seekers of this truth ("religious" people) recognize that their understanding is incomplete, and therefore appreciate the observations of other seekers. On the other hand, "belief" involves confidence that the answers are already known, having been discovered independently by the believer, or the believer's group.
    Carse writes of three types of ignorance: ordinary ignorance, higher ignorance, and what he calls "willful" ignorance. Ordinary ignorance is mere being unaware of certain facts (e.g. I don't know Ronald Reagan's birthday.) Higher ignorance (involved in what Carse considers "true religion") is an acknowledgement that many things are unknown, and are out there to be uncovered, and should be uncovered. "Willful" ignorance, in Carse's view, is the tendency of 'believers' to remain ignorant of certain facts that might challenge their beliefs. Thus the title of his book "The Religious Case Against Belief".
    Highly recommended.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 30, 2012

    Not as detailed as I would've liked, but grounded in good histor

    Not as detailed as I would've liked, but grounded in good history. Every self-identified Protestant needs to read this.

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    Posted February 14, 2013

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