Bernard Bosanquet and the Nature of Religious Belief(1)

William Sweet, St Francis Xavier University,

Antigonish, NS B2G 2W5 Canada

One of the central debates in the philosophical discussion of religion is whether religious belief is rational.. This matter has generally been taken to hinge on whether it can be proven or demonstrated, but it also depends on what one takes 'religion' or 'religious belief' to be. Indeed, if one looks at recent Anglo-American philosophy of religion, it is clear that there is a recognition of the importance of this latter issue, and a reduced emphasis on the former and, thus, on such classical concerns as proofs or disproofs of the existence of God.

Yet this recent discussion largely continues controversies of a century and more before, and the work of nineteenth-century authors such as William Clifford, John Henry Newman, and William James is still frequently cited. In this paper, I want to look at one often overlooked position that also appeared in the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century--a position held by (though not unique to) Bernard Bosanquet. Although Bosanquet's views on the nature of religious belief are relatively little known, they are of interest, first, because they represent an alternative to the views on the topic of some of his contemporaries and, second, because they reflect an approach to the nature of religious belief that in several respects anticipates more modern accounts and yet may also avoid some of the problems alleged of them.


A good many authors--both religious believers and sceptics alike--have claimed that, if religious belief is to be rational, it must be to some extent demonstrable. Now, this view presupposes, at the very least, something about the character of religious belief--that it involves adherence or assent to a set of particular religious beliefs, that these particular beliefs are propositional in form and cognitive in character, and that, to be known to be meaningful and, further, true, at least some such propositions must be able to be established with certainty by reference to propositions which all intellectually mature human beings would accept. In short, this view not only affirms the cognitivity of religious belief, but provides a standard for rationality and makes a moral claim about when one is justified in saying that one knows--i.e., evidentialism. Evidentialism asserts that belief--including theistic belief--"is rationally acceptable only if there is sufficient evidence for it,"(2) and that "[i]t is wrong always, everywhere and for any one, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence."(3) Among the influential exponents of this view are Clifford and the nineteenth-century logician, Richard Whately.(4)

There were, however, other--less extreme--responses to the question of the reasonability of holding religious belief. Some (such as William James(5) and J.H. Newman(6)) maintained that the 'evidentialist' analysis is unacceptable and that we can know religion to be reasonable--or, at least, we can be reasonable in holding religious beliefs--independently of our ability to provide sufficient evidence for them. Still, their respective accounts of the character of religious belief--that it is, at least in part, propositional, descriptive and cognitive--are much the same as those of their predecessors.

Yet there was another important response on this issue--one that, though now less known than it once was, is an alternative to the preceding accounts of the nature, meaning and rationality of religious belief. We find this in the work of Bernard Bosanquet.(7) Although Bosanquet's analysis of religion reflects a major current in religious thought in Britain in the 19th and early 20th centuries, it is distinctive. Bosanquet's views are not as psychologistic and as prone to subjectivism as those which one finds in James, nor is he committed to the defense of religious dogma, like Newman. And while, in some respects, his analysis reflects the 'rationalism' of enlightenment and nineteenth century evidentialism--there is, for example, no obvious conflict with Clifford's and Whately's view concerning the criteria required for the establishment of individual religious beliefs--still, Bosanquet would disagree with the evidentialist understanding of religious belief as a whole. In fact, in many ways, Bosanquet's account is not far from that found in the more recent work of R.B. Braithwaite,(8) R.M. Hare,(9) W. Cantwell Smith,(10) D.Z. Phillips,(11) and Hendrik Hart,(12) and there are even some parallels with views expressed in today's 'Sea of Faith' movement, articulated by Don Cupitt.(13)

Much like Braithwaite, Hare, Cantwell Smith, and Phillips, the central issue in Bosanquet's discussion of religious belief is not the demonstrability but the character of such belief. To fully appreciate the value of his analysis, however, a number of issues must be addressed: what religious belief is, what religious beliefs mean, how we can find out whether such beliefs are true, and whether religious belief can be demonstrated.


Bosanquet's account of religious belief

a. The character of religious belief

Bosanquet does not employ the term 'religious belief;' he speaks instead of 'religion,' which he uses more or less synonymously with "faith," "religious conviction" (ER 436), and "religious consciousness" (VDI 18ff). All this is, however, quite different from theology and 'creeds'; these, Bosanquet claims, come into the world much later than religion (B 454; see ER 443). We have here, then, a distinction between what one might call religious belief 'as a whole' and particular religious beliefs (such as 'There is a future life in Paradise' [NT 142]).

How does Bosanquet understand the term 'religion'--what I will call here 'religious belief as a whole'? He means "that set of objects, habits, and convictions, whatever it might prove to be, which [one] would rather die for than abandon, or at least would feel himself excommunicated from humanity if he did abandon"--and this, Bosanquet adds, could well differ from one's "nominal creed" (B 456; see WRI 5, VDI 235). Thus, 'religious belief' is an individual's commitment to something, which is a part of one's sense of oneself as a human being, and which she considers more important than her own private interests and desires

Though religious belief or faith is not reducible to and is independent of church and creed, Bosanquet suggests that its fundamental character is exemplified in St Paul's notion of "justification by faith."

According to Bosanquet, for Paul, 'faith' is a belief in the risen Christ and his divinity--"a spiritual oneness of all believers in and with Christ" (NT 151). Belief in Christ is "[b]eing one in the risen Christ" (NT 151), and this implies, Bosanquet says, a spiritual unity or a society of believers who, together, constitute the body of Christ. People are with Christ or partake in this unity by "putting away their bad will and submitting themselves entirely to the good will, that is, the mind of Christ" (NT 151). Faith, then, essentially involves other persons.

This "spiritual oneness" that is the hallmark of faith or religious belief reflects what Bosanquet calls elsewhere "a trust or confidence in the divine which excludes or abolishes all choice" (B 456). He does not elaborate what (if any) epistemological consequences this trust or confidence may have (e.g., how it might affect one's understanding of the world), but it seems that one's coming to have such a trust is not the product of any argument. Indeed, he describes religious belief as "a kind of feeling" (B 456) and appears to regard it as the product of a natural impulse (SS 178); he writes that "I do not believe that a human being can be wholly without [religious experience]" (WRI 5; see VDI 236).

A number of comments concerning this account of the character of religious belief might be made here. First, religious belief is identified primarily with a commitment to something. Thus, it does not demand assent, in the sense of the affirmation of particular dogmas but, rather, "demands rightness of heart and character as the only law" (NT 145). Second, religious belief or faith is an activity and involves action. It is not merely a state to be reached or a goal to be achieved (as in 'having faith'), but 'putting away one's bad or selfish will' and 'being in unity' (NT 144) and "co-operating for a social good" (KG 344). Third, it is an activity that is both 'spiritual' and social--though it is distinct from ritual and rite; Bosanquet says that "a spiritual religioncan make no truce with idle forms and ceremonies, or with the orthodoxy of a priestly caste" (NT 145).(14) It is, instead, what exists "[w]hen a man is in his will and heart at one with something above him, with a social group in which he has 'his station and its duties,' or with a spirit which he divines in the universe" (SS 100). (It is clear, therefore, that while faith or religious belief is fundamentally personal, it is not private or subjective.) Fourth, Bosanquet says that such faith is not creedal. Although, in his discussion of Paul, the social unity that is present in Christian religious belief is described as 'being under the control of "the mind of Christ",' for Bosanquet the expression "mind of Christ" implies neither a specific creed nor a set of religious dogmas nor even particular faithfulness to the New Testament account of the words of Jesus.(15) In fact, Bosanquet says that the "mind of Christ" can be understood as (simply) "the general will or spirit of united humanity" (CC 95). Bosanquet does not, admittedly, say what this 'general will' or 'spirit of social unity' amounts to. Given, however, what we know of his analysis of consciousness(16) and, particularly, of the description of social relations that he gives in his political philosophy, what he is undoubtedly thinking of when he speaks of a unity 'under the mind of Christ,' is of a relation among individuals at the level of mind or spirit under the control of certain ideas dominant in consciousness, and that these 'ideas' make concerted, coordinated action among persons possible.(17) Indeed, it is the presence of such ideas in moral and social action that Bosanquet means when he uses another Pauline expression--'justification by faith.'

Although Bosanquet makes a number of allusions to or draws on metaphors arising out of Christianity, he would argue that the account of religion that he is giving is not one that is primarily or exclusively Christian, or even theistic. Indeed, the attributes of religious belief, outlined above, are, he would say, present (in some degree) in all those who have a 'whole-hearted' attitude or commitment to something which is greater than themselves (VDI 235, n. 2).

Still, this is not to say that all 'religions' are on a par. Bosanquet recognises that there are "false religions, conflicting religions, partial and hesitating religions" (VDI 235-236), and sees religious belief or religious consciousness as something that has evolved. Christianity (as a religion where we find divinity "progressively revealing itself" [ER 443] and where there is "a true sense of 'unity between object and subject'" [ER 436]) is a progress over earlier stages of religion (such as "fetichism," totemism, ancestor worship [ER 438] and that which 'deifies a power beyond the world of separate objects [ER 441]). But Christianity must itself in turn evolve, so that "man more fully apprehends his true humanity and his oneness with the spirit which is in the world" (ER 444). Thus, while the properties noted earlier are found throughout the different "phases of the religious consciousness" (ER 437), they are more and more present in religious belief as it moves towards its highest or most developed form--what Bosanquet, following Edward Caird, called "Absolute Religion" (ER 442ff.).

One should note at this point that, though in many respects similar to it(18), Bosanquet's approach is not the same as that of his idealist confrère, F.H. Bradley. For Bradley, 'faith' in general is "the non-logical overcoming from within of doubt as to an idea"(19) and "religious faith" or belief is "the identification of my will with a certain object. It essentially is practical and must necessarily be exercised in conduct" (ETR 24)--and elsewhere he seems to take it to be the same as a "creed."(20) But Bradley says little of the social character or dimension of such belief. Bosanquet, however, would hold that religious belief is properly understood as a relation between oneself and others (and, hence, as under the influence of 'the good will'), rather than simply as the 'indwelling' of the "supreme Will for good" in one's own will (ETR 435). Moreover, although Bosanquet emphasises that religious belief is an 'activity', it is not obviously "more a matter of conduct than belief"(21) as it is in Bradley (cf. ETR 428)(22). While religious belief is not just a matter of assenting to particular propositions, Bosanquet would point out that one cannot separate conduct from commitment, or commitment from what it is--i.e., the object and beliefs--that one is committed to. (Bosanquet thus seems to have a clearer view on the role of belief in the believer's understanding of the world.) And finally--and, perhaps, most importantly--the unity or the spiritual oneness that Bosanquet says is characteristic of religious consciousness is not consistent with pantheism (cf ETR 436) or panentheism, as it is in Bradley.(23)

To sum up, then, on Bosanquet's account, religious belief is not primarily, or tied essentially to, ritual practices(24) or adherence or assent to a set of propositions--and particularly not to a set of propositions focusing on beings or events in the history of a community of believers, or on creeds or dogmas. And in this respect, Bosanquet's view is quite far from that where religious belief is said to have an importantly propositional, descriptive and cognitive character. It is, to repeat, a commitment to something and also a relation that exists among believers.

Still, if religious belief or faith is something that exists at the level of mind or consciousness, reason must have some role in judging the appropriateness of particular religious beliefs. And even though religious belief is personal, "a kind of feeling," "a trust or confidence," and not based on argument, this does not mean that it is something that can go unexamined. At the very least, to the extent that one's religious belief is connected with certain doctrines, creeds, or stories in religious texts--that is, with certain particular religious beliefs--Bosanquet holds that we are to be rigorous in our rational examination and evaluation of them.

b. The meaning and truth of religious belief

How, then, is one to go about examining and evaluating his or her religious belief? How can believers say that religious belief or a particular religious belief (e.g., a dogma or an item from a creed) is true or reasonable? This requires being able to determine what religious belief--and particular religious beliefs--mean.

Concerning the meaning of particular religious beliefs, Bosanquet notes that "here as elsewhere rationalism, curiosity, metaphor, and deduction from metaphor, operate by way of distortion" (WRI 68). He holds that many of these religious dogmas that may constitute a large part of one's particular religious beliefs are simply interpretations of Biblical texts by groups such as "the Church" in order, for example, to avoid "wild theorizing" about them by believers (NT 157). Moreover, Bosanquet is rather doubtful whether "[h]istories and letters which are used as the sacred books of a Church can [ever] be understood in their actual meaning" (NT 132). In any event, the successive interpretations, theological ideas, and the development of creeds and the like, he suggests, have contributed to a 'diminished understanding' (NT 136) of "the grand and simple sentiments that influenced the Apostolic age" (NT 132). Many particular religious beliefs, then, are distortions of an original religious experience or insight.

It is, however, important for believers to come to understand what exactly it is they do believe when they employ such particular beliefs and, thus, Bosanquet advises the reader of religious texts such as the New Testament to engage in a hermeneutical enterprise--to 'learn to interpret' them (NT 159)--giving priority to the central (earlier?) texts, and taking into account such things as the order and dates of composition, literary and biblical criticism, problems in translation and the gradual accretions of supplemental meanings of terms (see NT 158-161). One must also look at the general view of the author (NT 151). Bosanquet does seem to think that one can at least approximate 'the meaning' of the writers (NT 159). Still, this is a procedure that each individual reader is to carry out for him or herself; one is not to acquiesce to an 'official' interpretation. Bosanquet is clearly opposed to treating religious texts as infallibly true (NT 146), and he decries the "intellectual evasion" involved in twisting "the meaning [of a passage in such texts] to make it come right" (NT 159).

The meaning of one's religious beliefs, or of the statements appearing in the religious texts one studies, is likely not what one might first think. Bosanquet maintains that, to the extent that they are intelligible or true, particular religious beliefs turn out not to be about some 'supernatural' or transcendent realm, "understood as something abnormal sometimes intruding into daily life."(25) For example, he says that "[w]e must clear away from our minds all such ideas as that the kingdom of heaven means a future life in Paradise, that salvation means being saved from eternal punishment, that eternal life means living forever in another world. [T]he world to come does not mean a life in heaven; it means the whole good time which had begun with Christ's first coming" (NT 142-143; see KG 338-339, 345, 350-351). Ideas of everlasting "compensation, rewards and punishments" are "all fancies" which have been "invented" (KG 338).(26) Finally, Bosanquet would suggest that one be cautious about how to understand what is involved in the (particular) belief that God exists. He says that to attribute 'infinity' to a being would deny "every predicate which we attach to personality" (TC 325); there could not be a being with an infinite personality. If by 'God' we mean an infinite and ultimate reality, then we are not talking about a person at all.

Despite this, Bosanquet says that we are aware of the infinite in our lives just as "a nation that is conscious of its unity and general will [.] or the religious community with its conviction of an indwelling Deity" (TC 327), and that art is "an embodiment of the Divine nature, that is to say, of the fundamental purpose which reveals itself in the history of the human spirit" (TC 332). In these and in similar cases, however, Bosanquet would argue that this 'deity' or 'divine nature' is not a personal being at all, but what he calls 'the Absolute.'(27) Though some might say--as some idealists (e.g., Hastings Rashdall, Andrew Seth Pringle-Pattison, and Henry Jones) did--that 'the Absolute' is God, Bosanquet holds that philosophical examination reveals that "the conception of the Supreme Being [is one that] passes from that of a person outside the forces of nature to that of an intelligence which is one with the forces of nature" (AD 123).

One might wonder whether any particular religious beliefs are left, once they have been subjected to such reexamination and interpretation. Although Bosanquet would not speak about the existence of an intelligent designer (AD 123), it does not follow that there is no teleology; he holds that there is (to use a term employed in his metaphysics) a 'nisus towards a whole' (PIV xx), and that this is something for which we can have (empirical) evidence. Again, even if there is not an afterlife where divine justice is meted out--a future place of reward or punishment--but only this life, Bosanquet would maintain that this should not affect the truth of the ethical principles that such beliefs were "invented" to support (cf KG 349). Finally, such beliefs as that of the divinity of Jesus are not, Bosanquet would assert, to inform us of the character of particular persons or the occurrence of specific events, but are, rather, to remind us of the spark of the 'divine' that is in every person (see ER 443 and TC 331). In short, what we get from Bosanquet's analysis of particular religious beliefs is a largely immanentist interpretation, but this does not mean that these beliefs are any less 'religious.' And, in coming to understand the meaning of many of these religious beliefs, we recognise that they have an ethical or practical, rather than an eschatological or transcendent, focus.

Religious beliefs, therefore, have meaning, but the critical reading of religious texts and the analysis of particular religious beliefs reveal that, taken too literally, many may prove to be problematic, incoherent or false. And so, while Bosanquet does not say explicitly that certain principal religious beliefs, such as the existence of a Divine creator, are false, he suggests that, to the extent that such notions might make sense as they stand and could be literally true, they would still be unnecessary or insufficient to describe completely the character and functioning of reality.(28) In fact, we find that, despite appearances, and to the extent that they can be true, particular religious beliefs do not deal with a world or a being separate or distinct from the one in which we live, though they may deal with the world as it is and as it ought to be, or as it will in time become.

But if both religious belief as a whole and particular religious beliefs have an ethical rather than an eschatological focus, does it follow that religious beliefs should be seen as moral beliefs with a religious story 'attached,' as R.B. Braithwaite suggests?(29) Admittedly, Bosanquet certainly held that "religion and morality [are] the same in principle. The duties of religion are the same as the duties of morality" (KG 346). Similarly, when it comes to activities such as worship and prayer, he suggests that they are good only "in the sense of meditation [. and] if they help us to do our real duties" (KG 346; see VDI 26). Still, Bosanquet writes that religion is a "supersocial" activity (PIV 379, n. 1) and that it is "not specially moulded to the promotion of social ends" (PIV 316).

The difference between these perspectives is, however, more apparent than real. If one thinks of morality in the sense of Kant's individualistic Moralität,(30) the demands of morality and the demands of religion are clearly not the same. But it should be remembered that when Bosanquet discusses morality and religion, particularly in his early essays, he sees 'morality' as Hegel's Sittlichkeit.(31) It is in this way that the duties of religion and morality can be taken as much the same. Nevertheless, religion is more than Sittlichkeit; it supplies a motive and a ground for overcoming evil and an assurance that evil is overcome (see SS 96-97). Thus, one needs religion--'religious consciousness'--for morality (PIV 275; VDI 237). Bosanquet expresses this in a Christian idiom by his insistence that 'justification by faith' is necessary for atonement--self-sacrifice--to be meaningful.(32) Religion, then, is not reducible to the ethical--nor should it be--and it is not just a set of stories combined or associated with moral practice.

Bosanquet's opposition to seeing religion or religious belief as a faith in something 'outside' of the world or 'supernatural' is not to be confused with a denial of the existence of the spiritual or with taking reality simply 'wie er geht und steht' (PIV 269; VDI 11). The key to understanding his view is what is meant by such terms as 'natural' and 'experience.' For Bosanquet, when we speak of the 'nature' of a thing, it is important that we think of what that thing is 'born for,' rather than simply what it is at some particular moment. Nature's highest development is at the level of mind or spirit, and is not limited--as we have seen--to what physically exists at an isolated point in time. Now, if the 'supernatural' is understood as something that is not part of nature, but exists separately and independently of it--i.e., "remote from nature and outside it, if also above it" (ER 443)--it is not at all clear to Bosanquet what, if anything, this could be. But if, by 'supernatural,' one means to refer simply to the presence of the 'destiny' of nature in nature--the highest development of nature at the level of spirit--then Bosanquet could accept the notion. It is with this latter sense of the word in mind that the content of Bosanquet's own views of religion must be understood. (In this respect, then, his position plausibly reflects a similar kind of the "refined supernaturalism" that one finds in F.H. Bradley--a 'supernaturalism' that has not to do with the existence of another world beyond the natural, but with the spiritual or supra-sensible character of this world--that is, one that indicates a spiritualising of nature.(33)) In fact, because he holds just such a view concerning the character and destiny of the material, Bosanquet says he is not an "agnostic" (CC 153).

In light of the preceding account, it is clear that Bosanquet would hold that particular religious beliefs express claims that purport to be about the world, that they are cognitive, that many have to be 'reinterpreted' to be properly understood, and that others should be rejected as incoherent, incomplete descriptions of reality, or sometimes simply false. But what are the standards to be employed to assess the truth of religious beliefs? Bosanquet's answer is that they are much the same as those we use to assess the truth of any particular belief whatever--namely, coherence.

To have meaning and to be true, the (propositional) belief must have a function or place within an order of knowledge; "every term must acquire its meaning from its usage" (CC 145), and "truth," like reality, is "to be looked for in the whole of experience, taken as a system" (LSK(34) 101). Moreover, since "the actual facts of this world [not of natural objects, but (for example) morals, art and politics] do directly arise out of and are causally sustained by conscious intelligence" (TC 324), Bosanquet holds that so far as religious experience is the product of historical contingency and so far as the beliefs and dogmas to which it gives rise are the interpretations of human beings, these beliefs can be assessed by us. (Even the truth of the sayings attributed to Jesus may be subject to scrutiny and criticism [cf NT 146].) Particular religious beliefs are, therefore, open to assessment in light of such a coherence view, at the very least in the same way in which metaphysical beliefs--and, as appropriate, as empirical or moral beliefs--are. And it is because of this that Bosanquet is able to assess, and even reject, a number of beliefs that constitute part of the creeds or doctrines of religious groups. (Still, one should not conclude from Bosanquet's adoption of coherence theory that all 'truth'--and, hence, all 'religious truth'--is entirely subject to revision in light of future experience. Bosanquet writes that "I think the best is all around us and some of it is probably fact. I don't believe the centre of things is altering and making itself better."(35))

Although it is in the way described above that Bosanquet understands the meaning of particular religious beliefs and explains how they can be (known to be) true, he does not explicitly pursue the question whether religious belief 'as a whole' has meaning or is 'true.' Since religion is a 'cosmic emotion' (CC 13) and a 'commitment' or devotion to something that one would rather die for than abandon, such a question may not seem even to make sense. In any event, the canons or principles to which one would appeal in order to assess a set of particular beliefs are clearly different from those appropriate to assessing the legitimacy of a commitment. Still, Bosanquet does say that the importance of religious consciousness and religious belief is confirmed by experience--that, so far as it is indicative of 'the Absolute,' its existence "is a matter of everyday verification" (PIV 373), and religion, as a 'world of satisfaction' is at least prima facie open to assessment in terms of "the nature of satisfaction and the objective character which it involves, and which may be called satisfactoriness."(36)

All the same, Bosanquet seems somewhat reluctant to specify how--or, in the end, whether--religious belief as a whole can be examined and evaluated. He notes that "Science and Logic have their rights; but we must not confuse them with religion" (WRI 29). Again, while Bosanquet does refer, for example, to "Paul's doctrine" about the character of being under 'the mind of Christ' (NT 151; 150) (which clearly suggests certain principles about the nature of religion), yet we are not advised to challenge it in the way in which we are invited to examine 'particular' beliefs. Indeed, while not denying the importance of the intellect--which is certainly essential in coming to understand the meaning of religious texts--Bosanquet reminds us that we must keep ourselves free from "the vanity of learning" (though also free from "the vanity of resentment against learning" [WRI viii]). We must, he says repeatedly, approach religion with simplicity--"[a]s a little child"--and be "open. to experience" (WRI viii).(37)

Nevertheless, Bosanquet would hold that religious belief as a whole is, broadly speaking, true and not something unknowable, unnecessary, or ultimately superstitious. He writes that a sincere faith may be "the nearest thing to truth that [a person] can make his [or her] own" (WRI 30); here, 'truth' is presumably to be understood in the sense of 'having a reliable or coherent world view.' Thus, in the first place, religious belief can be said to be 'true' so far as it is an expression of coherence or a move to wholeness--of the "unity of will and belief in the supreme Good" (WRI 30). Again, one may say that it is 'true' to the extent that it reflects a fundamental insight into reality--an insight also found in Bosanquet's account of morality as Sittlichkeit. (There, he writes that, in moral life, one must 'die to live'(38)--that is, 'die' to one's purely self-interested desires in order to 'live' in a more fully human way; in his account of religious consciousness, he says the same thing. To be 'in faith' is to negate the private, selfish, bad will, and to put oneself under 'the mind of Christ.' Thus, "He that loseth his life shall find it" (NT 144)(39).) And, finally, religious belief can be said to be 'true'(40) so far as it reflects, and promotes, unity among persons (at the level of consciousness). But note that, here, religious belief is 'true' not because it fits or coheres with reality, but because it is the expression of reality as coherent; there is nothing 'outside' of it that makes it 'true.'

This view of particular religious beliefs and of religious belief as a whole is clearly quite distinct from that of not only Whately and Clifford, but Newman and James. And it is, no doubt in part, because of dissatisfaction with what he would consider to be the narrowness of such views--which would seem to him to confuse religion and theism, and not to grasp fully the character of religious consciousness--that Bosanquet elaborates a more comprehensive account of religion and religious belief. Even though Newman and James--and, perhaps, Whately--recognise that religious belief is not reducible to a set of particular religious beliefs, still (and here Whately and Clifford would certainly concur) such beliefs are held to constitute in large part one's religious belief as a whole. But this is not Bosanquet's view. Of course, Bosanquet recognises that those with religious belief have particular beliefs as well, and he would agree that if these beliefs have no meaning (e.g., are internally incoherent) or if they can be shown not to fit with reality or are inconsistent with one another, they should be abandoned. But, here too, Bosanquet would differ from these authors; he would challenge the standard of truth they employ and, in any case, would not allow one to extend a criterion appropriate to individual religious beliefs to religious belief as a whole.

To say more here, by way of contrast with these writers, is difficult. Admittedly, Bosanquet does not spell out clearly what the relation is between religious belief as a whole and particular religious beliefs. He holds that the latter are interpretations of the former, though he would surely admit that they are more than this. In religious belief, one not only shows a commitment or trust, but has a trust in something--and this involves at least some particular beliefs about that thing. Again, while religious belief is not just a set of particular religious beliefs, it would seem that there have to be some particular beliefs that follow from, or are presupposed by, religious belief as a whole. And so it would seem that, depending upon the outcome of the evaluation of these particular beliefs, the reasonability of the 'corresponding' religion as a whole can to some extent be assessed. Thus, while he does not provide us with clear criteria for assessing religious belief as a whole, the coherence and truth of particular religious beliefs could serve as a means by which Bosanquet could allow it to be evaluated. Indeed, it may be that, as this kind of activity takes place in consciousness, we have the 'evolution of religion.' But Bosanquet does not make any explicit pronouncement on this.

c. The demonstration of religious belief

It is one thing to say that religious belief--and religious beliefs--are 'true,' but another to say how they can be known to be so or how it is that one would be reasonable in believing this. For evidentialists, such as Whately and Clifford, the relation between demonstration and reasonable belief is very close--one cannot hold a belief is true unless one can demonstrate it. For Newman and James, the relation between 'reasonably holding a belief' and 'demonstration' is weaker, though still not altogether absent. But for Newman, some religious beliefs are clearly true, and it is reasonable to believe them even though they cannot be demonstrated,(41) and James notes that "we have the right [though, interestingly, not an obligation] to believe" certain propositions, whose truth cannot "be decided on intellectual grounds," when the case is a "forced, living and momentous" one.(42)

Bosanquet's position is, again, significantly different from these views.

To begin with, Bosanquet would say that one could not demonstrate the reasonability of religious belief as a whole or--what is the same--the necessity of religious consciousness. For, according to his logic, 'demonstration' would assume and require the existence of a relation between the 'premises' and the 'conclusion,' whereas philosophical argument (though it is "the theoretical interpretation" of religion) "is not necessary to religion, nor any component of it. The religious consciousness stands on its own foundation" (VDI 232).(43) For Bosanquet, what is important is the "experience of [the divine], not a proof of [it]" (VDI 256). The inappropriateness of demonstrating the necessity of religious consciousness lies in the character of religious consciousness itself, as being an 'expression' of the fundamental commitments that one has--commitments that would, by definition, set the standards for any proof that might be attempted. Thus, even though one might well say that, on Bosanquet's view, religion is reasonable in the sense that it is a manifestation of what he calls 'the nisus to coherence,' and that it can be open to some assessment so far as it is a 'world of satisfaction,' it is quite separate from demonstration.

Of course, as we have seen, Bosanquet would be open to the view that at least some particular religious beliefs can be proven or demonstrated. Once we understand what a belief means, it can be judged to be coherent or consistent with other items of knowledge or beliefs we have. It is, as noted earlier, on just this basis that Bosanquet thinks we can come to reject certain religious beliefs.

Still, it is important to see what, in this latter case, the character or form of such a demonstration would be. If we want to speak of demonstration of particular religious beliefs, Bosanquet would argue that what we believe must cohere not only with other beliefs or propositions, but with experience itself as a whole. It is true that, on his view, all of this demonstration takes place within 'an order of knowledge'(44)--but this is not the same as saying (as some recent anti-foundationalists would) that such arguments are 'relative' to the discourse in which they appear, for there is no sharp difference or incommensurability between different 'orders of knowledge.' Even though 'knowledge' of what is 'true' is something that Bosanquet allows may be different at different points in time, 'demonstration' of beliefs is possible, and it makes sense to expect people to adopt, reexpress, modify or abandon particular religious beliefs, just as they would for metaphysical or ethical (or empirical) beliefs.

One must add, however, that while demonstration of particular religious beliefs is possible, Bosanquet does not show much interest in doing so. He rejects 'psychic' demonstrations as irrelevant to religious belief(45), and he seems to hold that more deductive proofs have a different focus than what one might think. Thus, although he allows that Anselm's argument does contain "substantial truth" (B 457), he maintains that this argument is not important as a rational demonstration of a (religious) proposition; rather, it attests to the claim that the divine being is "present and revealed in the life of nature and of mind" (B 457)(46). The closest one sees Bosanquet getting to a demonstration of religious belief is when he employs the argument a contingentia mundi. But even here, the argument is not (as one might first think) a proof for the existence of a necessary first being, but a support for the metaphysical claim that the world shows a 'nisus to coherence.'

In light of these views, it is not surprising that Bosanquet has little interest in traditional apologetics; he remarks that "the speculative interpretation and justification of religious faith is quite another matter than the apparently immediate feeling itself" (B 456), and that "in as far as the religious consciousness at its climax comes to include the vision of all that has value, united in a type of perfection, metaphysic comes to be little more than the theoretical interpretation of it alone" (VDI 230). Still, one should not take this as an abandonment of rationality and embracing some kind of mysticism. For religious belief as a whole can be known to be true and can be reasonably held because of its adequacy or satisfactoriness in how it presents reality, and it is this latter criterion that defines 'true' and 'false' religions, 'complete' and 'partial' religions (cf. VDI 235-236)--or, at least, more or less satisfactory religious belief.

As we saw at the beginning of this section, then, for Whately, Clifford, and (to a degree) Newman, if one is to be reasonable in believing, it is important that one be able to provide evidence or proof for what one believes. This is simply to follow the evidentialist model that, to be reasonable in holding a conclusion, one needs relevant and true premises and a logically strong argument form. But while this method may be central to establishing the reasonability and truth of beliefs within many 'orders of knowledge,' Bosanquet does not think that this is how we should look at religion. Since, on his view, religious belief is a commitment and a 'vision' or way of understanding reality that underlies our thought and action, it is unavoidable that a rational person be 'religious.' It is because of this, in part, that there is no question of demonstrating religion as one would demonstrate a proposition. Rather, Bosanquet would suggest that one should look at experience as pointing to or revealing the presence of a religious consciousness already present. Reason, of course, is central in this, for it examines experience according to the standards of coherence and completeness or satisfactoriness. Nevertheless, the distinctive character of religion explains why, at least in part, Bosanquet is not so much interested in demonstrating beliefs as in clarifying them, and why religious belief as a whole requires no demonstration.


The account of religious belief that Bosanquet presents is, then, noticeably different from those held by evidentialists, such as Whately and Clifford, and by non-evidentialists, such as James and Newman. It is not simply that, for Bosanquet, religious belief as a whole is not fundamentally descriptive and expressible in propositional form and that it is doubtful whether, on his view, one who claims to have religious belief actually need assent to any specific proposition. It is also that religious belief is not obviously something that requires a demonstration or justification, either on the basis of empirical or scientific evidence or (as James suggests) because of the importance that one must believe something.

I have argued that, for Bosanquet, religion or 'religious belief as a whole' is a commitment or trust where one is, with others, under the influence of a set of 'dominant ideas' that is the object of this trust. Given the breadth in how he understands the term 'religion,' it does not seem to be the kind of thing that one can choose or refuse to participate in or adopt. Religion is that which reflects whatever is more important to individuals than their very lives and is something essential to human personality. One's commitment to or trust in these 'dominant ideas' implies that one act on them--specifically, Bosanquet thinks, through a negating of one's selfish or bad 'private' will, and recognising the authority of something implied in one's particular identity, but which goes beyond it--the 'good will'. And so religion or religious belief is not something that can be demonstrated, for example, in a foundationalist sense, for there would be nothing 'outside' of it in terms of which it could be.

Particular religious beliefs are, Bosanquet would acknowledge, propositional in form, but what such beliefs mean is something that he thinks is best left to each person to investigate--though he does note that each person's view is not equally acceptable and that there are certain common procedures that people must undertake in order to uncover their meaning. Since it is the context of a belief (for language is sometimes metaphorical, sometimes not) that helps us discern this meaning, individuals must be 'open' to experience. Moreover, it is by appeal to coherence with other beliefs that we can determine whether religious beliefs are true. To be justified in holding such particular beliefs we must, Bosanquet would also insist, have sufficient evidence. Otherwise such beliefs run the risk of being mere 'superstitions.' (On this point, Bosanquet's views seem rather close to evidentialism.)

The account that Bosanquet provides is, in many respects, typical of the type of humanistic demythologising associated with many thinkers of the 19th and early 20th centuries(47) (e.g., David Strauss, Ferdinand Baur, Eduard Reuss and, more recently, Rudolf Bultmann), and he is clearly influenced by this work, particularly as it was elaborated by his Oxford teachers, Benjamin Jowett and Edward Caird(48). In the view of these authors, statements of religious belief are quite distinct from religious faith itself; dogmas, creeds, religious formulae--in a word, theology--are the product of an 'intellectualisation' and interpretation (usually by a less than impartial authority) of what Bosanquet believes to be a simple religious experience, and we are best served, he thinks, in attempting to focus on the experience itself. But this experience is not, as we have seen, something 'transcendent' or having its origins from another world. Though it has a strong spiritual character, it is immanent and "given in the real."

The uneasiness concerning theology and its alleged tendency to obscure religion is also found in the 'Evangelical' movement in the Church of England in the nineteenth century. Bosanquet, like many of his fellow idealists, was raised in an 'Evangelical' household, and his philosophical views, then, can plausibly be seen as a continuation, rather than an interruption or contradiction, of his original religious convictions. What is also interesting is that one sees a similar uneasiness with theology and dogma in such recent writers as D.Z. Phillips, Don Cupitt, Hendrik Hart, and Wilfred Cantwell Smith. Not surprisingly, perhaps, Bosanquet's positive account of religious belief has features that seem very much like the kinds of views these authors have proposed,(49) especially concerning how one is to understand the meaning of particular religious beliefs and the character of religious belief as a whole.

Bosanquet would see his account of religion as an advance on earlier views in several respects. First, by distinguishing between 'religion' and 'giving (intellectual) assent to religious beliefs,' one is more attentive to the character of religious consciousness. This is not to say that Bosanquet thought that religious believers do not assent to propositions, but rather that this is not central to the nature of their belief. Thus he would argue against the Evidentialists--though with James and Newman--that one can reasonably hold religious belief as a whole without being able to demonstrate it. Second, Bosanquet emphasises that religious belief is belief about this world, not about a world in an indefinite future. But while he insists on finding a 'immanentist' meaning for particular religious beliefs, he does not think that everything about religion has a naturalistic explanation (in an empiricist sense of that term), nor would he claim that all religious beliefs can be reduced to statements expressing moral sentiments. (Bosanquet would point out that there are some distinctively religious (and, in that sense, non-natural) truths.) Finally, Bosanquet maintains that there can be a rational criticism of dogmas and creeds, without an attack on religious belief itself. Because religious belief (as distinct from particular religious beliefs) is not propositional or subject to direct demonstration, it is not something that can be undermined by evidentialist criticisms. But, in any event, as we have seen, Bosanquet holds that justifying or establishing the rationality of religious belief in general is not a particularly important part of arriving at an understanding of religious consciousness.

Yet despite the similarity of some of these characteristics to recent, 'non-cognitivist' or 'fideist' views, Bosanquet's account is importantly distinct from them, and thus may well avoid some of the criticisms often raised against them. As noted earlier, Bosanquet does not reduce religious belief (or particular religious beliefs), as R.B. Braithwaite later did and as some still do, to a set of moral claims or imperatives, incidentally attached to certain stories. Although moral duties are the same as religious duties, religion goes beyond morality to the 'spiritual (albeit in an admittedly immanentist sense). Nor does Bosanquet's view entail that religious beliefs are intelligible only within the epistemological context peculiar to believers (and, thus, are subject only to criteria generated within the believer's own system of belief), so that only those who share this context can be in a position to understand and assess them. So, despite his insistence on distinguishing 'religious belief' from 'science' and 'logic,' religion is not just one 'sphere of belief' or 'form of life' among--but ultimately separate from--others; the 'sphere' of religious belief must ultimately be coherent with other beliefs. Thus, given his view of meaning and truth, Bosanquet's position simply would not allow an incommensurability between religious and non-religious beliefs (as one finds in Hart and Phillips). Religious belief is, this far, intelligible to non-believers and the assertions of religious belief can be legitimately assessed by believers and non-believers alike. Bosanquet can therefore avoid the charge, raised against many contemporary non-cognitivist views, that an insistence on the special character of religious belief leads to a kind of cultural--or cultic--relativism; indeed, so far as it is not subject to such a criticism, one might well think that his account of religion is an advance over the recent descriptions of religious belief mentioned above. One cannot go into further detail on this matter here, but the potential advantages to Bosanquet's position are no doubt due to the fact that it remains--as he would have it--a 'rationalist' one, and one that emphasizes logical coherence, and is not to be reduced to a 'fideism' or a "logical mysticism."(50)

Bosanquet's analysis of religious belief is not without its difficulties, and some have seen it as presenting a kind of 'generic religion' that is, in the end, not much of a religion at all. Still, in spite of these and other charges, it is important to note that, unlike many, he recognised the necessity of providing an analysis of religious belief in dealing with the issue of whether religious belief is reasonable, and that his analysis not only provides an alternative to the evidentialist, quasi-evidentialist, and pragmatist views of his time--those of Whately, Clifford, James, and Newman--but may well provide an advance on more recent discussions of the character and reasonability of religious belief.


1. 1. I wish to acknowledge the University Council for Research, St Francis Xavier University, for its financial support. I would also like to express my appreciation to Timothy Sprigge, Stamatoula Panagakou, and Phillip MacEwan for discussions which, I hope, have enabled me to improve upon a previous version of this paper.

2. 2. This is Alvin Plantinga's formulation. See his "Is Belief in God Properly Basic?" Nous, 15 (1981), pp. 41-51, p. 41.

3. 3. William Kingdon Clifford, "The Ethics of Belief" in Lectures and Essays (1879), 3rd ed., Leslie Stephen and Sir Frederick Pollock (eds.), 2 vols., Vol. 2, London: Macmillan, 1901, pp. 161-205, p. 175.

4. 4. Whately, later Archbishop of Dublin, was an eminent logician and author of such books as Elements of Rhetoric--Comprising an Analysis of the Laws of Moral Evidence and of Persuasion with Rules for Argumentative Composition and Elocution (1828), 6th ed. revised, London: B. Fellowes, 1841, Historic Doubts Relative to Napoleon Buonaparte (1819), 8th ed., London: B. Fellowes, 1846, and Elements of Logic--Comprising the Substance of the Article in the Encyclopedia Metropolitana. With Additions, &c. (1826), 9th edition, Boston and Cambridge: James Munroe and Co., 1859. In his early years, he was a fellow of Oriel College, Oxford (1811-1821), de facto leader of the Noetic or Evidential school, and a major philosophical influence on John Henry Newman.

Clifford, an English mathematician and philosopher, was a fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge and later (1870) Professor of Applied Mathematics at University College, London. Clifford's analysis of, and challenge to, religious belief has influenced many sceptics. Bertrand Russell, for example, (in his Preface to Clifford's The Common Sense of the Exact Sciences [New York: Alfred Knopf, 1946]), seems implicitly to endorse Clifford's approach.

For a discussion of Whately's and Clifford's views on religious belief, see my "The Origins of Anglo-Saxon Evidentialism," in God and Argument / Dieu et l'argumentation philosophique, William Sweet (ed.), Ottawa, ON: University of Ottawa Press, 1999.

5. 5. See, especially, James' The Will to Believe and Other Essays in Popular Philosophy, New York: Longmans, Green and Co., 1897.

6. 6. See J.H. Newman, Fifteen Sermons Preached before the University of Oxford (1872), Longmans, Green, and Co., 1900, and An Essay in Aid of a Grammar of Assent (1870), C.F. Harrold (ed.), New York: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1947; see also Philosophical Readings in Cardinal Newman, James Collins, (ed.), Chicago: Henry Regnery, 1961.

7. 7. See his articles "Religion (philosophy of)," in Dictionary of Philosophy and Psychology, J.M. Baldwin (ed.), Vol. II, New York: Macmillan, 1902, pp. 454-458 (cited in the text as B); "The Future of Religious Observance," [pp. 1-26], "Some Thoughts on the Transition from Paganism to Christianity" [pp. 27-62], "The Civilisation of Christendom" [pp. 63-99], "Old Problems under New Names" [pp. 100-126]; "Are We Agnostic? [pp. 127-159], in The Civilization of Christendom and other studies (CC), London: Sonnenschein, 1889; "How to Read the New Testament" (NT), in Essays and Addresses, 2nd. ed., London: Sonnenschein, 1891, pp. 131-161, "The Evolution of Religion" (ER), in International Journal of Ethics, Vol. V (1895): 432-444; "The Permanent Meaning of the Argument from Design" (AD), "On the True Conception of Another World" (TC), and "The Kingdom of God on Earth" (KG), in Science and Philosophy and Other Essays by the Late Bernard Bosanquet, J.H. Muirhead and R.C. Bosanquet (eds.), London: Allen and Unwin, 1927; his two Gifford Lectures--The Principle of Individuality and Value (PIV), London: Macmillan, 1912 and The Value and Destiny of the Individual (VDI), London, Macmillan, 1913--and his books Some Suggestions in Ethics (SS), London: Macmillan, 1918, What Religion Is (WRI), London: Macmillan, 1920, and The Meeting of Extremes in Contemporary Philosophy, London: Macmillan, 1921, especially Chapters VII and X. Some additional information is to be found in Bosanquet's exchange of letters with C.C.J. Webb, recorded in Bernard Bosanquet and his Friends, J.H. Muirhead (ed.), London: Allen and Unwin, 1935, pp. 237-247.

Hitherto, the most extensive discussions of Bosanquet's views on religion are Clement C.J. Webb, "Bernard Bosanquet's Philosophy of Religion," The Hibbert Journal, Vol. XXII, No. 1, October 1923, pp. 75-96; Divine Personality and Human Life, London: Allen and Unwin, 1920, Lecture IX; A Study of Religious Thought in England from 1850, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1933,"Mr Bosanquet on Contemporary Philosophy [a review of Bosanquet's The Meeting of Extremes in Contemporary Philosophy]," Church Quarterly Review, Vol. XCV, (1922-23): 160-165; Edward L. Schaub, "Bosanquet's Interpretation of Religious Experience," The Philosophical Review, XXXII (1923): 652-667; and François Houang, De l'humanisme à l'absolutisme: l'évolution de la pensée réligieuse du néo-hégélien Bernard Bosanquet, Paris: Vrin, 1954. See also Bernard Morris Garvin Reardon, From Coleridge to Gore: a century of religious thought in Britain, London: Longman's, 1971, pp. 303-312, and--albeit briefly--Alan P.F. Sell, Philosophical Idealism and Christian Belief, New York: St. Martin's Press, 1995. It might be noted that Houang and Sell largely follow Webb's reading of Bosanquet's philosophy of religion.

8. 8 See R.B. Braithwaite, An Empiricist's View of the Nature of Religious Belief, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1955 (Reprinted: Bristol, UK: Thoemmes Press, 1994).

9. 9 R.M. Hare, "Theology and Falsification: the University Symposium," in A. Flew and A. MacIntyre, (eds.), New Essays in Philosophical Theology, London: SCM Press, 1955.

10. 10 Wilfred Cantwell Smith, Belief and History, Charlottesville, 1977, and Faith and Belief, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1979.

11. 11. D.Z. Phillips, Belief, Change and Forms of Life, Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press International, 1986 and Faith After Foundationalism, London: Routledge, 1988.

12. 12 See his "Faith as Trust and Belief as Intellectual Credulity: A Response to William Sweet," in Philosophy and Theology, Vol. VIII, No. 3 (1994): pp.251-256; "The Articulation of Belief: A Link between Rationality and Commitment," in Rationality in the Calvinian Tradition, Hendrik Hart, Johan van der Hoeven and Nicholas Wolterstorff (eds.), Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1993: 209-52; "Commitment as a Foundation for Rational Belief," in Philosophy and Culture: Proceedings of the XVIIth World Congress of Philosophy (Montréal 1983), Venant Cauchy (ed.), Montréal: Éditions Montmorency, 1988, Vol. II, pp. 879-84; Search for Community in a Withering Tradition: Conversations between a Marxian Atheist and a Calvinian Christian, Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1990.

13. 13. See his Explorations in Theology, London: SCM Press, 1979, The Leap of Reason, London: Sheldon Press, 1976; 2nd. Ed., London: SCM Press, 1985, Taking Leave of God, London: SCM Press, 1980, and Radicals and the Future of the Church, London, SCM Press, 1989. In Taking Leave of God, for example, Cupitt argues for a 'nonrealist' and highly non-cognitivist view, maintaining that "an objective metaphysical God is no longer either intellectually secure nor even morally satisfactory as a basis for spiritual life." Given Cupitt's analysis of (institutional) faith as a (purely) 'human creation,' and of the notion of religious truth as highly 'naturalistic,' 'relativistic,' and 'individualistic,' his position ultimately remains to be distinguished from Bosanquet's.

14. 14. For Bosanquet's view that there is no need for ceremonies and religious observances for religious consciousness to flourish, see also "The Future of Religious Observance," in CC 1-26.

15. 15 He says, for example, that "Jesus may have had some ideas which we must pronounce quite unreasonable" [NT 142] and that, given his "warnings against worldliness [] Jesus had something to learn from Pericles" about the "life of dutiful citizenship" [NT 146].)

16. 16. See Bosanquet's Psychology of the Moral Self, London: Macmillan, 1897, especially Lecture IV.

17. 17 In KG, Bosanquet argues that "[w]e must know what is right, what we call God's will, by finding it in our own will. And we must do what is right, what we call God's will, because we find that it is our own will" (KG 339)--and this is something which is also "the common aim and spirit of society and of mankind" (KG 343). Bosanquet's account of the `good will,' then, is clearly the same as that of the `general' or `real' will developed in his political philosophy. (See PTS and "Les idées politiques de Rousseau," Revue de métaphysique et de morale, XX (1912): 321-340, and my Idealism and Rights, Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1997, ch. 3, section 3.)

18. 18. One such similarity can be found in Bradley's remark that "the object of religion is to realize in the fullest sense in my will the supremacy of goodness" ("On God and the Absolute," in Essays on Truth and Reality, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1914, [cited hereafter as ETR], pp. 428-459, p. 431).

19. 19. "Faith," in ETR, pp. 19-27, p. 20.

20. 20. Bradley writes: ".a religious belief founded otherwise than on metaphysics, and a metaphysics able in some way to justify that creed, seem to me what is required to fulfil our wishes" (ETR 446-447) (emphasis mine).

21. 21. T.L.S. Sprigge, "Refined and Crass Supernaturalism," in Philosophy, religion and the spiritual life, Michael McGhee (ed.), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992, pp. 105-126, at p. 123. For a general discussion of Bradley's views on religion, see W.J. Mander's "Bradley's Philosophy of Religion," Religious Studies, 31 (1995): 285-301.

22. 22 This is discussed by Mander on p. 288.

23. 23. François Houang (erroneously) sees Bosanquet as close to pantheism (De l'humanisme, pp. 116-117); see Bosanquet's own views on this in PIV 82, 362-363. While Bradley does not explicitly endorse panpsychism--a form of panentheism--his views seem certainly open to such a reading. See Appearance and Reality, Oxford, 1930, pp. 239-240 and 468, and my discussion of this in "F.H. Bradley and Bernard Bosanquet," in Philosophy after F.H. Bradley, James Bradley (ed.), Bristol, UK: Thoemmes Press, 1996, pp. 31-56, at p. 47 and in "'Absolute Idealism' and Finite Individuality," Indian Philosophical Quarterly, Vol. XXIV, No. 4 (1997): 431-462. Indeed, given the differences in Bosanquet's and Bradley's respective accounts of individuality and the Absolute, it seems likely that there are yet further contrasts in their views on religion.

24. 24 Since religious consciousness has no necessary relation to particular rituals or places, Bosanquet suggests that churches might come to be used for lectures "on the duties of citizenship, or on the significance of great movements" (CC 9). Nevertheless, one must not think that he was arguing for the establishment of a positivist or humanist religion (see SS 98), and he does see in some rituals and in the history surrounding many church buildings an expression or "sense of freedom and hope" (CC 49). Moreover, while Bosanquet sometimes refers to acts of worship as a kind of 'meditation' (KG 346), he also writes that the religious attitude is an attitude of worship (VDI 235). (In fact, he says that "we find the primary principle of religion, in devotion and worship, such that in them the self [.] passes beyond itself, [.] because of the supreme value which it attaches to the object which it desires and affirms its union" (VDI 26).) It is also interesting that Bosanquet saw the importance of ritual and place in his own life. His wife Helen records, for example, that during a cycling tour holiday in the south of England in early July (2-16) 1901, on July 5th at St Cross, they went "in the afternoon to service in Cathedral" and the next "morning to service in [Salisbury] Cathedral" [Bosanquet Papers, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, Trunk II K (2)].

25. 25. See Sprigge on this point, at p. 123.

26. 26. Bosanquet describes the traditional Christian view of religious belief as being just a set of "neo-Platonic or mediaeval doctrines" and "dead logomancies that can have no possible value for life or conduct" (TC 329), and that "much in the Christianity of many churches is no longer intelligible to us" (CC 71).

27. 27. Bosanquet writes: ".the God of religion [.] is an appearance of reality, as distinct from being the whole and ultimate reality; a rank which religion cannot consistently claim for the supreme being as it must conceive him" (VDI 255-256). Moreover, in a letter to C.C.J. Webb (20 April 1919; Muirhead (ed.), Friends, p. 212; see Sell, p. 145), he says: "Surely personal intercourse must be with what is one among others and ultimate reality must be what is all-inclusive". (Sell discusses this issue on pp. 119-120 and 144ff.) Though some idealists did want to identify God with the Absolute, Mander is perhaps going too far in supposing that Bosanquet was one of them (see Mander, p. 287), and early in his life, Bosanquet referred to the belief in "God in another world" as a "heathen" belief (CC 82).

28. 28. Admittedly, Bosanquet does say, concerning such orthodox Christian doctrines as "the resurrection of the body and the Divinity of Christ," that "We cannot believe these things" (NT 153). In the view of C.C.J. Webb and, most recently, Alan Sell, Bosanquet's own view of Christianity was rather 'attenuated' (Sell, p. 4); it is certainly true that his view was not "closely aligned to the main lines of Christian orthodoxy" (Sell, p. 5).

29. 29 See Braithwaite, op. cit., p. 32: "a religious belief is an intention [not an assertion] to behave in a certain way (a moral belief) together with the entertainment of certain stories associated with the intention in the mind of the believer."

30. 30. See SS 102, n. 1: ".'morality' in this sense [of Moralität .] is a thing of theory. It is not the moral world or total of observance and institutions in which man finds himself realised, and in some sense justified." See also Bosanquet's Logic, 2nd ed., 2 vols., Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1911, Vol. II, p. 222 note a, and Muirhead (ed.), Friends, pp. 238-239.

31. 31. Bosanquet describes Sittlichkeit as "a halfway house to Religion" and as "almost equivalent to a form of religion" (See Muirhead [ed.], Friends, pp. 238 and 241).

32. 32. In letters to C.C.J. Webb, Bosanquet writes that "the relation between religion and morality is surely settled once for all by the doctrine of Justification by Faith in relation to Works" (14 November 1922; Muirhead [ed.], Friends, p. 238), and that "you only get real and effective 'works'--social or historical progress--where you have religious faith" (15 January 1923; Muirhead [ed.], Friends, p. 242). See also Webb, "Philosophy of Religion," p. 80.

33. 33. For similar comments concerning Bradley, see Sprigge, pp. 113, 123-124.

34. 34 Bosanquet, "Logic as the Science of Knowledge," in Essays in Philosophical Criticism, A. Seth and R.B. Haldane (eds.), London: Longmans and Co., 1883, pp. 67-101.

35. 35. See his letter of 14 November 1922 to Webb in Muirhead (ed.), Friends, p. 239.

36. 36 See Bosanquet, "Science and Philosophy" in Science and Philosophy and other essays, J.H. Muirhead and R.C. Bosanquet (eds.), London: Allen and Unwin, 1927, pp. 18-19.

37. 37. As this and related remarks suggest, Bosanquet's idealism has a strong empirical character.

38. 38. This quotation and theme recurs throughout Bosanquet's work. See also, for example, SS 161.

39. 39. Once again, Bosanquet is alluding to the Christian tradition for an illustration of a general point about religion. See Mt 10:39, 16:35, and some four other places in the Gospels.

40. 40 Recall Bosanquet's comments on the 'Kingdom of God on earth' (note 20) and on role and value of worship and prayer (KG 346), cited above.

41. 41 Though he still acknowledges that "[i]f religion is consequent upon reason, and at the same time for all men, there must be reasons producible sufficient for the rational conviction of every individual" (Ms. January 5, 1860, quoted in Philosophical Readings in Cardinal Newman, James Collins (ed.), Chicago: Henry Regnery, 1961, p. 3).

42. 42 "The Will to Believe," pp. 29, 11, 3.

43. 43 See also VDI 256: "Religion [.] does not need to appeal to facts of separate being, or to endeavour to demonstrate them." As Mander points out, Bradley also distinguishes the sphere of philosophy from the sphere of religion (see Mander, p. 289), but there are (as we have seen) differences in their respective understandings of religion and, therefore, not surprisingly, differences in how they are to be seen with regard to one another.

44. 44. See Bosanquet's "Logic as the Science of Knowledge," op. cit.

45. 45 See Webb, "Philosophy of Religion," p. 92.

46. 46. Note that Bosanquet says that this leads us to the view that God depends on creation.

47. 47 See Bosanquet, Essays and Addresses, London: Sonnenschein, 1889, p. 113; see also Houang, De l'humanisme, p. 45.

48. 48 See Caird's The Evolution of Religion (The Gifford Lectures for 1890-91 and 1891-92), 2 vols., Glasgow: J. Maclehose, 1893.

49. 49. This point has also been noted by Timothy Sprigge (See Sprigge, p. 106).

50. 50 See Houang, De l'humanisme, pp. 116 ff. Houang argues that Bosanquet's philosophical reflexions on religion shifted from an early humanism based on Christianity (p. 50), to a later, anti-humanistic, "logical mysticism" (pp. 116 ff.). I would suggest that there is not as much of a change in Bosanquet's views as Houang alleges--that the early humanism was far from 'secular' or 'agnostic,' and that his later views were both humanistic and non-mystical. (See, on this, my "'Absolute Idealism' and Finite Individuality.")