The four issues of this chapter are: (1) religion and the nature of human beings, (2) understanding Christian doctrines, (3) the co-ordination of religious and scientific world views, and (4) religious development; this each time from an RCR perspective. The first section applies RCR afresh to a particular domain of the science–religion debate. It is therefore comparable to the exercise in chapter 6, but focused yet more narrowly.
Religion and the nature of human beings
Religion and its truth claims
Across the ages there have been human groups on our planet without agriculture, without the wheel, without writing, without formal laws, but ‘neither history nor anthropology knows of societies from which religion has been totally absent’ (Rappaport quoted by Burkert 1996/1998, p. 1). Palaeolithic sacrificial rituals existed more than 20,000 years ago (ibid., p. 39) and traces of ritual burials are even older.
This is not the place to discuss the origins of religion (e.g., Burkert 1996/1998), nor its diversity within and across various cultures (e.g., Wulff 1997), its psychological multidimensionality (e.g., Hood, Spilka, Hunsberger, and Gorsuch 1996, pp. 8–12), or its possible role for human development (e.g., Peck 1997, especially pp. 241–306).
The assessment of a transcendent religious ‘reality’ is a great cognitive challenge (in particular when only formal binary logic is admitted for a reality check) – cf. Vardy 1990/1997. Among others, two authors of encompassing works have set themselves that task: the Christian theologian Hans Küng (, 1994) with his Does God exist? and the self-declared atheist Michael Shermer (1999) with his How we believe.