By Adrian Bardon In the early 5th century BCE a group of philosophers from the Greek colony of Elea formed a school of thought devoted to the notion that sense perception — as opposed to reason — is a poor guide to reality. The leader of this school was known as Parmenides.
On the one hand, religions express perennial human impulses and aspirations that cannot plausibly be rejected out of hand as foolish or delusional. The idea that there is simply nothing worthwhile in religion is as unlikely as the idea that there is nothing worthwhile in poetry, art, philosophy or science. On the other hand, taken at their literal word, many religious claims are at best unjustified and at worst absurd or repugnant. There may be deep truths in religions, but these may well not be the truths that the religions themselves officially proclaim. To borrow a term Jürgen Habermas employs in a different context, religions may suffer from a “self-misunderstanding” of their own significance.