Philosophy of Religion

Chapter  1. OVERVIEW

Section  3. What is Philosophy of Religion?


Philosophy is the most critical and comprehensive thought process developed by human beings. It is quite different from religion in that where Philosophy is both critical and comprehensive, Religion is comprehensive but not necessarily critical.  Religion attempts to offer a view of all of life and the universe and to offer answers to most , if not all, of the most basic and important questions which occur to humans all over the planet.  The answers offered by Religion are not often subject to the careful scrutiny of reason and logic.  Indeed many religious beliefs defy logic and seem to be unreasonable.  Religion has its basis in belief.  Philosophy , on the other hand, is a critic of belief and belief systems.  Philosophy subjects what some would be satisfied in believing to severe examination.  Philosophy looks for rational explications and justifications for beliefs.  Philosophy has its basis in reason.

Theology deals with thinking about religious beliefs in a rational manner but it presumes faith.  Theologians employ reason to make their beliefs appear more clearly and to wherever possible have beliefs satisfy the dictates of reason.  Theologians begin with a set of beliefs as foundational or fundamental and in some sense not subject to possible disbelief or to truly critical analysis.  Philosophers examine, indeed they look for, all assumptions and suppositions of any system of thought or belief.  For philosophers there are no ideas to be accepted on faith.

Philosophy of Religion is rational thought about religious issues and concerns without a presumption of the existence of a deity or reliance on acts of faith.

Philosophers examine the nature of religion and religious beliefs.  Philosophers in the West have focused on ideas related to the existence and nature of the deity because that idea is central to the religions of the West.  Western Philosophy of Religion has centered on arguments or proofs for the existence of god and explications of apparent inconsistencies in the description of the nature of god.

In the last century philosophers around the world have refocused their examinations onto the nature of religious beliefs, religious language and the religious mindset.  Indeed, some philosophers have entered into critical reflection and dialogue on the nature or essence of religion itself.  This text will approach religion in both the traditional manner and in the more contemporary fashion as well.  It will examine the issues related to the existence and nature of the deity and it will consider the nature of religious belief.  This study will also take note of the findings of modern and contemporary science in its examination into religious phenomena.  in the end it is hoped that awareness of the productions of scientists and philosophers will put the reader in a better position to understand the nature of religion, its essence.

Philosophy is about thinking critically about religion in all of its aspects.  Thinking critically about religious beliefs might indicate that they are flawed in a number of ways:

inconsistent, contradictory, without evidence to support the basic claims

This does not mean that philosophy attempts to disprove religious beliefs. Philosophy has come to reveal that religious beliefs are just that beliefs and not empirical claims. Religious language is not ordinary language and certainly not scientific language. Philosophy helps us to understand this.

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Copyright Philip A. Pecorino 2001. All Rights reserved.

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