I would like to begin by expressing my gratitude to Dr Chappell
encomia he has so kindly included in his notice of my book. It was especially
kind of him to include them when we appear to disagree so fundamentally
on the two issues he has chosen to discuss. First, he does not think, as
that the world is religiously ambiguous. Second, he thinks that religious
beliefs can be, and are, chosen, and I do not.
Before beginning, I should perhaps say that I do not see the book as
attempt to steer a middle course between literalist and anti-realist extremes.
From the outset I assume, with believers and their critics, that faith
is, at the
core, a matter of having certain beliefs about the cosmos and our relationship
to it, and that it is especially controversial because the way in which
beliefs are held by those who have them does not seem to conform to the
standards of rationality that both groups agree in applying to other beliefs.
I think the words ‘literalist’ and ‘realist’ are
enough to apply to this assumption. I also happen to think that anti-realist
philosophers of religion like Cupitt and Phillips have responded to the
that faith has generated by trying to replace its cognitive core of belief
elements, like serenity or personal liberation, that are in actual faith
with it. The book presents no arguments for this opinion, but I would
be distressed if anything I have said in it savours of an attempt to lean
towards an anti-realist view.