New Podcast: Agustín Fuentes | To Believe is Human

The question, “what does it mean to be human,” demands answers from many fields of study. Agustín Fuentes has looked to anthropology for answers to this question but the answers he has found speak to something that is bigger than science. He proposes that one of the things that make us human is our ability to believe.

Interests: Cultural evolution, anthropology, why we believe, religiosity


I enjoyed this podcast. As with almost all “Language of God” podcasts, @jstump draws out deep thoughts that I have to go back to read again (it helps to have the transcript; thanks!).


Thanks @Randy!


Me too, Randy. I’ve just been reading through the transcript but must wait to finish it. Would love to listen to it.

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Finally got the time to listen straight through and it is interesting. I’d pulled a few different passages but in the end the question of how to apply the Bali example to our case brings up a bigger worry for me.

In most of the world, someone’s faith tradition, the way in which they experience the world is part and parcel of their day to day reality. Here in the United States, and in much of the Western world, we have this weird thing between secular and religious, like we divide out like, well, I’m religious on Sunday, but the rest of the time I’m secular. That’s absurd. That’s not the way belief works, right? In that case, it’s not actually belief, it’s something else. So if we recognize that what people believe, and let’s use, you know, faith traditions here in this context, or who they are in the world, how they see and feel and interpret and perceive the world for real, then connecting those interpretations, those experiences and thinking through them with scientific data, or other kinds of insights or information, and finding places where they join and touch and shape one another, that’s powerful.

What I worry is that our numbers create real problems of scale for working to address real and present problems such as what we are experiencing in trying to address this pandemic. It doesn’t seem that our common values and understandings are all that common or all that compelling across the population. Even within just the Christian population of this country there are so many schisms not only denominationally but also in terms of degree to which faith commitments are something which only bear on ones life on Sundays while secular options vary widely.

Early on in the conversation I was interested to know how what I had just read last night in McGilchrist’s The Master and His Emissary about human belief would mesh with what the guest had to say. But I guess really comparing the two was beyond me even though both are thought provoking in their own way. There again the search for a common understanding comes up short at least for me.


I’m resurrecting this thread because I totally missed this episode of The Language of God in Dec. 2020. (I was too freaked out by Covid and a peaceful transfer of power to think about much else.)

I don’t have a problem with the Bali Hindu example. It was simply connecting their beliefs about the harmony of life to the death of their sacred forest. This is what stuck out more to me:

So it’s not—for example, if you understand the processes and patterns of evolution over the course of life on the planet, it doesn’t matter whether you accept it or not, it’s ongoing. But how does it fit with your understanding of the world? How does it connect and make sense in the particular way in which you are in the world. And I think that’s really important. And I think the real benefit of a project like BioLogos, is to illustrate how the complexities of diverse theological interpretations, readings, experiences can connect with the patterns of processes emerging from scientific research, and create an opportunity for communities of faith, and others, to engage in dialogue that moves us all towards a better understanding of the world.

Fuentes is specifically talking about how to reach diverse communities of faith. I guess I could say my own (never-ending) project is to see the connections between the theological and the scientific ways of being in the world. Just trying to make sense of it all, like most folks.