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“I Doubt. Therefore, I Believe”: Facing Uncertainty and Belief in the Making

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Chapter Summary

Human affairs are characterized by "isolated islands of certainty in an ocean of uncertainty". This chapter locates expressions of the relationship between belief and doubt in a pragmatist frame of "belief in the making". Combining pragmatist approaches with empirical research on various forms of lived religions in Western European contexts, it identifies three ideal-typical modalities of belief: believing as aspiration and trust, believing as self-discipline, and believing as an experience of being together. These modalities may practically alternate or combine within a given person. It is through observing the way people grapple with belief and doubt in ordinary, practical ways that one can shed light on the act of believing as a lived experience, rather than as a simple intellectual assent to religious or spiritual ideas. This more nuanced approach to belief is important for the study of religion in times of crisis.

Keywords: modalities of belief; pragmatist frame; religion; spiritual ideas; Western European contexts



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