William James 's View On Religion

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William James explains his position on religious belief by relating his idea to that of Pascal’s. He does think that is reasonable to believe in God without evidence, but not based on Pascal’s wager which is to base your belief on cost-benefit analysis; James thinks this is wrong because it is not live. James does think it is permissible to believe without evidence when we have a genuine option that cannot by its nature be decided on intellectual grounds. That is when our passional nature takes over and decides the matter. James states how when he is explaining passional nature he means “all factors of belief as ear and hope, prejudice and passion, imitation and partisanship, the circumpressure of our caste and set,” and then says that when we find ourselves believing we don’t know how or why. James begins his paper by explaining is stance on belief by writing that anything that may be proposed to our belief is a hypothesis. He goes on to explain that the decision of two hypotheses is an option. There are several options: living if both possibilities appeal as real possibilities for the agent, forced if it is unavoidable, and momentous if it is not trivial. He states that religion is a momentous option, and that “we are supposed to gain, even now, by our belief, and to lose by our non-belief, a certain vital good.” He then goes on to say that religion is also a forced option; we cannot remain skeptical and wait for a greater evidence to believe. However, he does say that
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