Does Cognitive Humility Lead to Religious Tolerance? Reflections on Craig versus Quinn

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Epistemology | Philosophy | Religion | Religious Thought, Theology and Philosophy of Religion


This article was published in the International Journal for Philosophy of Religion, a publication of SpringerLink.


We’ve all heard the familiar saying, “ignorance is bliss.” It may also be true that “ignorance is intolerant.” But it seems to be at least sometimes true that intolerance is produced by something else: overconfidence in the truthfulness of one’s own opinions. Awareness of and avoidance of such overconfidence may be a path towards tolerating those with whom one disagrees. And this could be true in religion as well as in other areas of belief. In his 2005 article “On Religious Diversity and Tolerance,” Philip L. Quinn argues that awareness of religious diversity, coupled with various other considerations, leads to a degree of modesty about the truth claims of one’s religion, and that such modesty leads to tolerance of other religions. However, in his 2007 paper “Is Uncertainty a Sound Foundation for Religious Tolerance,” William Lane Craig takes issue with Quinn’s position, arguing that Quinn’s “radical skepticism” about religious beliefs is not warranted and that “doubt” is not a sound foundation for tolerance. In this paper I contend that cognitive humility is warranted, that it is not a form of skepticism, that it does not entail doubt, and that it may contribute significantly to religious tolerance. I defend Quinn’s thesis by offering a version that is based on certain epistemic considerations that help the reader to see Quinn’s argument in a new and strengthened light. I then argue that Quinn’s approach to tolerance has at least one significant advantage over the approach proposed by Craig: acceptability to all religious traditions.