Challenges to Religious and Moral Belief: Disagreement and Evolution

Purdue University, September 6-8, 2012

Scholars in several fields have recently been examining challenges of various kinds to both religious and moral belief. Philosophers have been working on the problems of moral disagreement and religious disagreement; theologians have been thinking about how to integrate religious sources for moral belief with secular sources for moral belief; and psychologists and cognitive scientists have been offering evolutionary accounts of the origins of our moral beliefs and of our religious beliefs. One way to advance these investigations is to bring these disciplines together by gathering investigators and topics from each into a single conference. By considering these questions about both religious and moral belief from the perspective of a variety of disciplines, individual researchers can gain insights that are easily missed within a single discipline or when focusing on only one set of problems.

With this in mind, Michael Bergmann and Patrick Kain of the Department of Philosophy at Purdue University have secured a grant from the John Templeton Foundation in support of a project entitled "Knowing in Religion and Morality". As a part of this project, they organized and hosted an interdisciplinary conference critically evaluating the following three challenges to religious and moral belief:

  • Widespread interpersonal disagreement among intellectual peers on religious and on moral topics provides reason to doubt these beliefs;
  • Belief-source disagreement on moral issues between commonsense moral intuitions and religious belief sources raises doubts about both methods of belief formation;
  • Evolutionary accounts of the origins of our religious and moral beliefs create doubts about these beliefs by undermining our confidence in the reliability of their sources.

The conference was held at Purdue University on September 6-8, 2012. The papers from the conference have been collected together in a volume entitled "Challenges to Moral and Religious Belief: Disagreement and Evolution" (Oxford, 2014) edited by Bergmann and Kain.