on May 30, 2010
Schellenberg's Will to Imagine presents a very well argued and enormously rich and original contribution to the philosophy of religion. Although Schellenberg has previously given us powerful reasons for becoming religious skeptics - viz. doubters but not disbelievers about whether there is a religious reality of any sort - the Will to Imagine suggests and really fleshes out the claim that there is a form of religious faith (non-believing or non-doxastic faith), which is not only compatible with religious skepticism, but which is the most natural upshot of such skepticism. This faith is not directed toward any traditional, highly detailed religious outlook, but in a basic proposition central to the major traditions: namely, that there exists a divine realm that is ultimate in reality and value and which represents our greatest possible good.
Although talk of nonbelieving faith in something non-theistic will no doubt sound strange to those who think that faith entails belief or that the falsity of theism and traditional religion more generally is a vindication of naturalism, Schellenberg has already given us plenty of reasons to deny both assumptions in the previous two volumes of his trilogy. The Will to Imagine completes Schellenberg's way of understanding a new religious start, one that is rationally responsible, historically informed, and to those who are open to imagining new possibilities, religiously satisfying. Lastly, the Will to imagine explores important topics that should attract many traditional religious believers, for instance, the prospect of an afterlife, patterns of meaning within suffering, and practical dimensions of ultimistic faith.
In short: this is required reading for experts and students in philosophy of religion, and is highly recommended for all educated laypersons interested in the problem of faith and reason and in the evolutionary future of faith.
on February 28, 2010
Schellenberg has written three books prior to this. They were: Prolegomena to a Philosophy of Religion; Divine Hiddenness and Human Reason; and Wisdom to Doubt. The first two provided excellent arguments against conventional theism. In "Divine Hiddenness" he weaved his arguments against the existence of an all-loving god who hides himself from achieving a reciprocated love, the only "true form of love". However, from "The Wisdom to Doubt" he began a thesis of agnosticism, leaning heavily into religious belief in his latest book, "The Will to Imagine". "The Wisdom to Doubt" is still a reasonably clear book that provided a basis for withholding judgment as to the existence of a personal god that might save us in the afterlife. His thesis unfortunately wavered and meandered into mire when he tried to shoo his readers into what he called "skeptical religion" in "The Will to Imagine". It is interesting that the subtitle in "Wisdom" referred to "Religious Skepticism" which is not the same thing as "skeptical religion" which appeared in the subtitle of "Will". The inherent contradiction of reason and faith became a matter of confusion in the last book and readers will be left wondering what exactly was Schellenberg saying? Can we really have "faith without details"? What is the "religious possibility" that he has in mind? Theists will undoubtedly reject his denial of a theistic god, but agnostics will be left to exercise their own imagination in keeping the notion of a supernatural being alive - but for what purpose, one might ask, if there are no details? It might be best then for an agnostic to continue to behave as he has done, without expanding energy on an aimless exercise. "By activating the religious impulse we therefore acquire a reason to assume that each dimension of human life, to be fully satisfied, must embrace others. The goal to see things thus and act accordingly can indeed be seen as part of the religious closeness to the Divine" (p.250) sounded like the call of the high priest of a new religion; and, notwithstanding the author's claims to the unification of reason and faith, the author lost the claim to reason so assiduously established in his earlier books.