on faith, practice, and social goods

It should be a fundamental principle that belief is predicated on truth, not pragmatism. That being said, it is certainly the case that belief and practice that are aligned with truth will be pragmatic, in the sense that long-term success and flourishing will be inevitably undermined when thought and practice are based upon falsehoods.

That is preliminary to reflecting on this brief memoir in the New York Times on the divergence between white working class people and genuine engagement in religious faith, especially evangelical faith and practice. The author notes not only the benefits to himself of his evangelical faith when he was growing up, he refers to research regarding the positive correlations of religious engagement and social outcomes.

We always need to be sure not to suggest faith because of what someone can gain from it; that’s not actually faith. It does seem worth considering, though, whether the research demonstrating the improved life conditions of the faithful should play any role in the consideration of questions of faith. The benefits are not exclusive to Christian faith, it seems, so it wouldn’t settle any question between faiths. For the broader question of the nature of the universe we inhabit, whether it is strictly mechanistic as atheism would have it, or whether it is in fact a universe that includes a personal spiritual element, there would seem to be important knowledge to be explored.

h/t MereOrthodoxy.com for the link to the essay.

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