Belief and Make Believe: Critical Reflections on the Sources of Credulity
In this book, Professor Wells, one of the leading freethinkers of our time, addresses the question of why so many people believe and adopt the doctrines of religion. The work opens with a new attempt to analyze the nature of belief, developing the theoretical approach of the late F.R.H. Englefield. Wells rejects the view that an idea is a definite image, and distinguishes between general and abstract ideas. An account of the evidence for reasoning in non-human animals rebuts the frequently-heard claim that language is intrinsic to thinking, and a discussion of fairytales and primitive thinking concludes that these are closer to modern modes of thought than some philosphers have maintained. Moving to a consideration of the Bible as a basis for religious belief, Professor Wells describes the Bible’s contradictory views of the person of Jesus, and presents an account of the traditional Muslim theory that Jesus was in fact saved by God from crucifixion. Wells also appraises the significance of various modern attempts to rethink the significance of the New Testament (Schweitzer, Hoskyns and Davey, Sanders and Davies), and reviews Charlesworth’s attempt to salvage some historical evidence for Jesus from the Christian interpolation in Josephus. “Belief and Make-Believe” also contains explorations of conceptual difficulties in the New Testament view of man, with special attention to bodily resurrection, predestination, and eternal punishment, and analyzes recent attempts to defend the Christian message by restating it in more abstract terms. Finally, Professor Wells investigates the links between poetry, arts, and religion and the prevalence of make-believe in the arts and artistic criticism.