Religion Is Not About Beliefs—Stephen Asma on Why We Need Religion [#4]

“There is a general … misconception, among both believers and critics … that religion is really about beliefs.”

When I first heard someone say, “Religion is not about beliefs,” I had absolutely no idea what they were talking about. It seemed obvious to me that religion was about beliefs: beliefs about how we got here, beliefs about where we’re going, and so on.

When finally figured out what that phrase meant, the debate around religion became much more interesting—there’s a whole layer of detail to the religion debate that many of us are missing.

On this episode of the podcast, I am joined by Stephen Asma, a professor of philosophy at Columbia College Chicago. Stephen’s work has appeared regularly in the New York Times, the Chronicle of Higher Education, and Skeptic magazine.

Stephen self-identifies as an agnostic, yet the title of his newest and tenth book is Why We Need Religion

On the podcast, we talk about:

  • Why religion is not about beliefs
  • Why it’s important to separate what a religion says from what a religion does
  • The role religion plays in managing emotions
  • The “adaptive” role that darker, more negative emotions play
  • Horror stories and their connection with human vulnerability
  • How intense emotional experiences and/or trauma may change your opinion about the value of religion(s)
  • Secular Buddhism vs Buddhism in Asia

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Books mentioned: