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Faith, Probability and Infinite Passion:

Ramseyian Decision Theory and Kierkegaard's Account of the Christian Faith Faith and Philosophy 10

The logical treatment of the nature of religious belief (here I will concentrate on belief in Christianity) has been distorted by the acceptance of a false dilemma. On the one hand, many (e.g., Braithwaite, Hare) have placed the significance of religious belief entirely outside the realm of intellectual cognition. According to this view, religious statements do not express factual propositions: they are not made true or false by the ways things are. Religious belief consists in a certain attitude toward the world, life, or other human beings, or in what sorts of things one values. On the other hand, others (such as Swinburne, 1981, Chapters 1 and 4) have taken religious belief to include (at least) being certain of the truth of particular factual religious propositions. The strength of a person's religious belief is identified with his degree of confidence in the truth of those propositions, measured by the "subjective probability" which those propositions have for that person. I propose a third alternative, according to which, (1) contrary to the first view, religious belief does involve a relation to factual religious propositions, such as that God exists, that Jesus was God and man, etc., — propositions which are made true or false by the way things actually are — but, (2) contrary to the second view, the strength of religious belief is measured, not by the degree of one's confidence1 in the truth of these propositions, but rather by the way in which the value or desirability to oneself of the various ways the world could be is affected by their including or not including the truth of these religious propositions. Thus, religious belief does consist in what one values or prizes, not in what one takes to be probably true, and yet this does not deprive the distinctive propositions of theology of their factual significance.

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