Belief, faith, and acceptance

Publication Date



Belief is a central focus of inquiry in the philosophy of religion and indeed in the field of religion itself. No one conception of belief is central in all these cases, and sometimes the term ‘belief’ is used where ‘faith’ or ‘acceptance’ would better express what is intended. This paper sketches the major concepts in the philosophy of religion that are expressed by these three terms. In doing so, it distinguishes propositional belief (belief that) from both objectual belief (believing something to have a property) and, more importantly, belief in (a trusting attitude that is illustrated by at least many paradigm cases of belief in God). Faith is shown to have a similar complexity, and even propositional faith divides into importantly different categories. Acceptance differs from both belief and faith in that at least one kind of acceptance is behavioral in a way neither of the other two elements is. Acceptance of a proposition, it is argued, does not entail believing it, nor does believing entail acceptance in any distinctive sense of the latter term. In characterizing these three notions (and related ones), the paper provides some basic materials important both for understanding a person’s religious position and for appraising its rationality. The nature of religious faith and some of the conditions for its rationality, including some deriving from elements of an ethics of belief, are explored in some detail.

Document Type

Journal Article

Access Rights

ERA Access