Here’s a brief excerpt:
belief, James Carse, theology
From Salon.com’s interview with James Carse
I think the vast majority of people would say belief is at the very core of religion. How can you say religion does not involve belief?
It’s an odd thing. Scholars of religion are perfectly aware that belief and religion don’t perfectly overlap. It’s not that they’re completely indifferent to each other, but you can be religious without being a believer. And you can be a believer who’s not religious. Let’s say you want to know what it means to be Jewish. So you draw up a list of beliefs that you think Jews hold. You go down that list and say, “I think I believe all of these.” But does that make you a Jew? Obviously not. Being Jewish is far more and far richer than agreeing to a certain list of beliefs. Now, it is the case that Christians in particular are interested in proper belief and what they call orthodoxy. However, there’s a very uneven track of orthodoxy when you look at the history of Christianity. It’s not at all clear what exactly one should believe.
. . .
Are you religious yourself?
I would say yes, but in the sense that I am endlessly fascinated with the unknowability of what it means to be human, to exist at all. Or as Martin Heidegger asked, why is there something rather than nothing? There’s no answer to that. And yet it hovers behind all of our other answers as an enduring question. For me, it puts a kind of miraculous glow on the world and my experience of the world. So in that sense, I am religious.
What about God? If God is defined as some sort of transcendent reality, do you think God exists?
[Laughs] Frankly, no. But there are so many different conceptions of God. Take, for example, the medieval Christian, Jewish and Islamic mystics. It’s a very rich period from the 12th to the 15th centuries. They began to realize that in each of their traditions, it was impossible to say exactly who God was and what he wants and what he’s doing. In fact, human intelligence has a certain limitation that keeps it from being able to embrace the infinite or the whole. Therefore, every one of our statements about God and the universe is tinged with a degree of ignorance. I would say that I am deeply moved by the thought of an unnameable mystery. If you then ask me, exactly which mystery are you then referring to? I can’t answer. That’s as far as I can go. But it’s got its grip on me, for sure.