Epistemic Arguments for Religious Tolerance
Annual Congress of the Canadian Philosophical Association, (Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences annual congress), Ryerson University, Toronto (Canada)
May 30, 2017
In 2008, James Kraft and David Basinger edited the book Religious Tolerance through Humility: Thinking with Philip Quinn. In a 2005 article, Quinn suggested that acknowledging religious diversity would uncover the weakness of the justification of religious beliefs. This lowering of justification may bring intolerant religious beliefs under the threshold of rational acceptability and, by doing so, foster religious tolerance. According to Quinn, no religion is in an epistemic position of making the demonstration in a non-question-begging-manner that its perspective is superior. Religions are in the epistemically humbling position of being epistemic peers.
David Basinger agrees for the most part with the idea of epistemic humility, but offers his own version of the argument. According to Basinger, there is no need of religious diversity to produce epistemic humility, insoluble disputes within religions are enough. Also, Basinger “see[s] no necessary epistemic connection between acknowledged diversity and justified personal commitment” (Kraft et Basinger 2008) meaning that, even though a person cannot demonstrate that her perspective is superior, she can still believe it is. But she would be required by rationality to reassess her beliefs in light of the diversity. That encounter with the other offers the possibility to acknowledge that her competitor is as justified and knowledgeable as she is or more than she thought him to be (and not ignorant or evil), and thus fostering tolerance.
William Lane Craig does not think that uncertainty is a sound foundation for religious toleration because it would undermine religious beliefs that foster religious tolerance. He also thinks religions are not epistemic peers and that Christianity is more justified than other religions. Arguments for toleration should come from moral traditions and since Christianity is the most justified, the more Christians there are, the more tolerant people are. Craig does not seem to think there are resources for tolerance in other religions. He also seems to think of intolerance only as violent persecutions.
Those arguments are constructed around the problem of justification of religious beliefs. I will argue for an epistemic argument based on the religious belief forming process inspired by John Locke and Pierre Bayle that will not be based on uncertainty, will not depend on religions being epistemic peers and that will foster a wider tolerance than the mere prohibition of violence. I will argue that from freedom of conscience comes an obligation of toleration because of the nature of the mind that cannot be coerced to believe. Also in and understanding of belief in fallibilist terms, we should encourage divergent opinions to be expressed to get closer to the truth.
This content has been updated on June 20th, 2017 at 18 h 17 min.