PART II Theoretical Perspectives
Jef f Astley 5 Can We Choose our Beliefs? A Philosophical Question for Religious Education Abstract In this chapter Astley first distinguishes a freedom for religious belief from a deeper freedom of belief, in the sense of an ‘inner freedom’ of human beings to control their religious states of mind, heart and spirit. There is a considerable literature in philosophy and the philosophy of religion devoted to the issue of the role of the will in belief; and the topic has also been of historical concern to Christian theologians. In exploring these ideas, Astley argues against certain assumptions that are widespread in the debates concerning religious education, especially those that utilize the concepts of intellectual autonomy, decision and choice in ways that imply or directly assert a radical freedom of belief. By contrast, he develops the claim that we possess no more than an indirect freedom in our believ- ing, and that the employment of the language of choice is often mislead- ing as we can only exercise choice at the level of choosing to examine the grounds for our beliefs. We may choose our path to belief; but we cannot directly choose our beliefs. The implications of these claims for both non-confessional and con- fessional religious education are discussed. 82 Jef f Astley Freedom ‘for’ and freedom ‘of ’ belief In considering the relationship between freedom, on the one hand, and reli- gious beliefs, on the other, discussion normally centres on what I would call freedom for belief. This...
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