Getting Things Less Wrong: Religion and the Role of Communities in Successfully Transmitting Beliefs

Res Philosophica 93 (3):621-636 (2016)

Abstract

I use the case of religious belief to argue that communal institutions are crucial to successfully transmitting knowledge to a broad public. The transmission of maximally counterintuitive religious concepts can only be explained by reference to the communities that sustain and pass them on. The shared life and vision of such communities allows believers to trust their fellow adherents. Repeated religious practices provide reinforced exposure while the comprehensive and structured nature of religious worldviews helps to limit distortion. I argue that the phenomenon of theological incorrectness noted by many cognitive scientists of religion is not as worrisome as it may appear. Believers may be employing models that are good enough for practical knowledge, as much of the relevant sociological evidence suggests. Further, communities can help us both in acquiring our initial beliefs and in correcting our errors.

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Caleb Cohoe
Metropolitan State University of Denver

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