What Do You Believe About Yourself?

Whereas Augustine believed that the prelapsarian state was one ofperfection, Irenaeus (second century) saw Adam and Eve prior to thefall as innocent, like children still in development. He believed thatthe fall frustrated, but did not obliterate God’s plans forhumans to gradually grow spiritually, and that the Incarnation wasGod’s way to help repair the damage.

"We are what we think," taught .

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"Change your thinking, change your life," said Ernest Holmes.

The lack of conflict between science and religion arises from a lackof overlap between their respective domains of professional expertise.(2001: 739)

You become what you believe you are.

This Wittgensteinian challenge, then, appears to place in check muchof the way philosophers in the west have approached religion. When,for example, Descartes, Locke, Leibniz, Berkeley, and Hume argued forand against the justification of belief in God, metaphysics was at theforefront. They were interested in the best possible arguments for andagainst God's existence. The same preoccupation with the truthor falsehood of religious belief is also central to ancient andmedieval philosophical reflection about the Divine. When Aristotle andThomas Aquinas articulated arguments for God's existence theywere engaged in full-fledged metaphysics.


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Objection: Reports of religious experience differ radically and thetestimony of one religious party neutralizes the testimony ofothers. The testimony of Hindus cancels out the testimony ofChristians. The testimony of atheists to experience God'sabsence cancels out the testimony of “believers.”

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Reply: As we learned from Descartes, all our experiences of externalobjects face a problem of uniqueness. It is possible in principle thatall our senses are mistaken and we do not have the public, embodiedlife we think we lead. We cannot step out of our own subjectivity tovindicate our ordinary perceptual beliefs any more than in thereligious case. (See the debate between William Alston and Evan Fales2004).

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He identified science’s areas of expertise as empiricalquestions about the constitution of the universe, and religion’sdomains of expertise as ethical values and spiritual meaning. NOMA isboth descriptive and normative: religious leaders should refrain frommaking factual claims about, for instance, evolutionary theory, justas scientists should not claim insight on moral matters. Gould heldthat there might be interactions at the borders of each magisterium,such as our responsibility toward other creatures. One obvious problemwith the independence model is that if religion were barred frommaking any statement of fact it would be difficult to justify theclaims of value and ethics, e.g., one could not argue that one shouldlove one’s neighbor because it pleases the creator (Worrall2004). Moreover, religions do seem to make empirical claims, forexample, that Jesus appeared after his death or that the early Hebrewspassed through the parted waters of the Red Sea.

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While non-realism might seem to lay the groundwork for greatertolerance between religions (and between religions and the secularworld) because it subverts the battle over which religion has a truepicture of the cosmos, critics have lamented the loss of a normativeway of choosing between religions, ways that seem to be used incommonplace philosophical reflection on the merits of religion. So,today it is still not at all unusual for people to claim they havechanged religions (or stayed with their own or abandoned all religionor converted to a religion), for reasons like the appeal to religiousexperience, answered or unanswered prayer, miracles or the lack ofthem, moral and cultural relativism, an overwhelming sense of thereality of good and evil, and so on.

The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)

Many of the limitations you face in life are self-imposed. What you believe about yourself can keep you locked behind your fears or thrust you forward into living your dreams.