This chapter introduces the concept of evaluative judgment made from within a tradition in regard to quality of religious practice. The point is to gain a sense of the basis on which insiders discriminate between virtue and vice in religious practice, between practice that is worthy of esteem and respect, on the one hand, and practice that is not worthy and merits criticism or condemnation, on the other. Some judgments of this nature are based on criteria that are specific to a tradition (being uniquely specified by its authoritative sources) or to the general criterion of fidelity to those authoritative sources. Others are based on criteria of a commonsense nature that may or may not be specified by the tradition but in principle can be shared by members of other traditions. Interestingly, the latter criteria vary depending on the way of being religious under consideration. In other words, for each generic way of being religious, there appear to be commonsense generic virtues and generic vices that are recognizable within any tradition in which that way can be found (although they may not in fact be recognized by any given person).
Commonsense considerations regarding virtues and vices in the practice of each way of being religious in different traditions are not just a hodge-podge of maxims and rules of thumb. Many can be grouped around three basic parameters of assessment (sliding scales of qualitative variation): competence/incompetence; balance/imbalance of infinite, intangible, other-worldly aspects of the practice with finite, tangible, this-worldly aspects; and selflessness/egoism. Each of the three might be said to constitute a generic virtue/vice spectrum. What each of these parameters involves in a more concrete way becomes clear only when they are applied to each different way of being religious.
The second section of the chapter offers justification for the apparent shift from phenomenological description to evaluative judgment in this chapter. First, the suspension of judgment involved in a phenomenological approach to the study of religion is not an absolute; it is not incompatible with evaluative judgment. It is only a means for acquiring understandings that will be more just because they are empathetic. Second, objectivity, properly understood, does not forbid judgment; it may in fact call for it. Third, the criteria for the normative judgments here proposed are drawn not from mere factual, "objective" data, but from traditions of religious practice explored in an empathetic, dialogical way that seeks a meeting of minds across the boundaries of tradition.
In the third section, tables list specific qualities that characterize virtue and vice along each of the three parameters for each generic way of being religious. A growing familiarity with these qualities and how they differ from one way of being religious to the next will do much to fill out one's developing understanding of each of the ways. The point is to develop a sense for the capacity to discriminate quality of practice in each of these ways.