Our lives are shot through with contingency – where, when, and into what circumstances we are born is largely a matter of chance. And yet those features play determining roles in our lives. The languages we speak, the customs we practice, as well as our tastes and ambitions, all seem to depend largely on luck. In many cases, this is also true of our religious convictions. Hence a puzzle: it is common for religious convictions strike us as deeply personal and formative, and those who have them also see their religious beliefs as true, while regarding the religious beliefs of others as false, and perhaps worse. And yet once it is conceded that a person’s religious conviction is largely a product of circumstance, this common way of understanding religious conviction from the inside as it were begins to look strange.
In Problems of Religious Luck: Assessing the Limits of Reasonable Religious Disagreement (Lexington, 2019), Guy Axtell explores the implications of the realization that luck is an inexorable feature of our doxastic lives. He argues that a proper understanding of the impact of luck on our conviction can help us to navigate religious disagreement.
Robert Talisse is the W. Alton Jones Professor of Philosophy at Vanderbilt University.