I am interested in the connection between religious faith and aesthetics, especially in how aesthetic considerations can play a pragmatic role in people’s attraction to a religious lifestyle. C.S. Lewis wrote eloquently about this in his Surprised by Joy and in his short sermon The Weight of Glory, where he identifies the desire for aesthetic experience as a desire for God. Augustine (Confessions) makes this identification as well. “My sin was this, that I looked for pleasure, beauty, and truth not in him but in myself and his other creatures, and the search led me instead to pain, confusion, and error.”
For me the aesthetic dimension has always been a strong motivating reason for adopting a religious lifestyle: the beauty and power of the words of Scripture, the drama of the liturgy, organ music and polyphonic hymns. I am interested in natural theology, but I do not go to evensong because I am convinced by natural theological arguments. It would be interesting to do a survey “What motivates you to attend religious services?” my hunch is aesthetic reasons would figure high up in the list.
Nevertheless, much analytic philosophy of religion portrays faith as a primarily doxastic attitude, as consisting of assent to propositions such as “God exists”. I know not all PoR authors do this – for instance, Audi’s recent book Rationality and Religious Commitment (2011) paints a richer picture. But it seems to me that most PoR does not pay much attention to the aesthetic, non-doxastic dimension of religious faith. Which prompts me to ask: can aesthetic reasons be sufficient pragmatic reasons for adopting a religious lifestyle? Can they also be sufficient for adopting a doxastic form of religious faith (e.g., theism)?
- Every attitude that humans take that cannot be constructed out of simpler attitudes is appropriate on some occasions. (Premise)
- There are properly religious attitudes that humans take that cannot be constructed out of simpler attitudes. (Premise)
- Therefore, some properly religious attitudes are appropriate on some occasions. (by 1 and 2)
- If a properly religious attitude is appropriate, then there is a numinous being. (Premise)
- If there is a numinous being, there is a supernatural and numinous being. (Premise)
- Thus, there is a supernatural and numinous being. (by 3-5)
The argument is valid, but has four premises, not one of which is uncontroversial. [The above has been edited: The first version of the argument had "holy" in place of "numinous" in 5, which mistake a sharp-eyed commenter pointed out. A typo was also fixed. – ARP]