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On doubt and certainty

Summary

Craig Calhoun argues for the importance of humility in the public sphere.

Summary

Craig Calhoun argues for the importance of humility in the public sphere.

Transcript

One thing to think about when we consider religion in the public sphere is whether our experience of religion is dogmatic certainty or doubt, and hope that we’ll understand better. There are settings in which certain kinds of religious people – some very fundamentalist Christians, and atheists – both get along with each other and are more commonly represented. And the common denominator is certainty, so that atheists and fundamentalist religious people share an idea of absolute certainty.

But many religious people have an attitude of doubt, an attitude of desiring more confidence, of wanting to learn more deeply, and therefore a basic religious attitude of humility. I can’t understand everything that God is or wants, and therefore I can’t be absolutely dogmatically certain about anything. And I think this is often forgotten. But it’s basic to the public sphere, because the public sphere isn’t just people shouting from different positions of dogmatic certainty, it is people engaged in more nuanced conversations where each is humble enough to know that he or she doesn’t have the whole truth.