Philosophy and Religion
What is Philosophy?
Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. It is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational argument.
What is Religion?
Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values.
What is Philosophy of religion?
Philosophy of religion is a branch of philosophy concerned with questions regarding religion, including the nature and existence of God, the examination of religious experience, analysis of religious language and texts, and the relationship of religion and science. It is an ancient discipline, being found in the earliest known manuscripts concerning philosophy, and relates to many other branches of philosophy and general thought, including metaphysics, logic, and history.
Philosophy of religion is the philosophical examination of the central themes and concepts involved in religious traditions. It involves all the main areas of philosophy: metaphysics, epistemology, logic, ethics and value theory, the philosophy of language, philosophy of science, law, sociology, politics, history, and so on. Philosophy of religion also includes an investigation into the religious significance of historical events (e.g., the Holocaust) and general features of the cosmos (e.g., laws of nature, the emergence of conscious life, widespread testimony of religious significance, and so on). Section one offers an overview of the field and its significance, with subsequent sections covering developments in the field since the mid-twentieth century. These sections will address philosophy of religion as studied primarily in analytic departments of philosophy and religious studies in English speaking countries.
The philosophical exploration of religious beliefs and practices is evident in the earliest recorded philosophy, east and west. In the west, throughout Greco-Roman philosophy and the Medieval era, philosophical reflection on God, or gods, reason and faith, the soul, afterlife, and so on were not considered to be a sub-discipline called “philosophy of religion.”
Differentiate Between Philosophy and Religion
What is the character and general structures of the universe in which we live? Is there a permanent element in the constitution of this universe? How are we related to it? What place do we occupy in it, and what is the kind of conduct that benefits the place we occupy? These questions are common to religion and philosophy.
Is religion just a type of philosophy? Is philosophy a religious activity? There seems to be some confusion at times over just whether and how religion and philosophy should be distinguished from each other — this confusion is not unjustified because there are some very strong similarities between the two.
The questions discussed in both religion and philosophy tends to be very much alike. Both religion and philosophy wrestle with problems like: What is good? What does it mean to live a good life? What is the nature of reality? Why are we here and what should we be doing? How should we treat each other? What is really most important in life?
Clearly, then, there are enough similarities that religions can be philosophical (but need not be) and philosophies can be religious (but again need not be). Does this mean that we simply have two different words for the same fundamental concept? No; there are some real differences between religion and philosophy which warrant considering them to be two different types of systems even though they overlap in places.
To begin with, of the two only religions have rituals. In religions, there are ceremonies for important life events (birth, death, marriage, etc.) and for important times of the year (days commemorating spring, harvest, etc.). Philosophies, however, do not have their adherents engage in ritualistic actions. Students do not have to ritually wash their hands before studying Hegel and professors do not celebrate a “Utilitarian Day” every year.
Another difference is the fact that philosophy tends to emphasize just the use of reason and critical thinking whereas religions may make use of reason, but at the very least they also rely on faith, or even use faith to the exclusion of reason. Granted, there are any number of philosophers who have argued that reason alone cannot discover truth or who have tried to describe the limitations of reason in some manner — but that isn’t the quite the same thing.
You won’t find Hegel, Kant or Russell saying that their philosophies are revelations from a god or that their work should be taken on faith. Instead, they base their philosophies on rational arguments — those arguments may not also prove valid or successful, but it is the effort which differentiates their work from religion. In religion, and even in religious philosophy, reasoned arguments are ultimately traced back to some basic faith in God, gods, or religious principles which have been discovered in some revelation.
A separation between the sacred and the profane is something else lacking in philosophy. Certainly philosophers discuss the phenomena of religious awe, feelings of mystery, and the importance of sacred objects, but that is very different from having feelings of awe and mystery around such objects within philosophy. Many religions teach adherents to
revere sacred scriptures, but no one teaches students to revere the collected notes of William James.
Finally, most religions tend to include some sort of belief in what can only be described as the “miraculous” — events which either defy normal explanation or which are, in principal, outside the boundaries of what should occur in our universe. Miracles may not play a very large role in every religion, but they are a common feature which you don’t find in philosophy. Nietzsche wasn’t born of a virgin, no angels appeared to announce the conception of Sartre, and Hume didn’t make the lame walk again.
The fact that religion and philosophy are distinct does not mean that they are entirely separate. Because they both address many of the same issues, it isn’t uncommon for a person to be engaged in both religion and philosophy simultaneously. They may refer to their activity with only one term and their choice of which term to use may reveal quite a lot about their individual perspective on life; nevertheless, it is important to keep their distinctness in mind when considering them.
The Nature of both
Religion and philosophy are two different topics altogether. Religion is all about practices and customs whereas philosophy is all about metaphysics. But the kind of knowledge that poetic inspiration brings is essentially individual in its character; it is figurative, vague, and indefinite. Religion, in its more advanced forms, rises higher than poetry. It moves from individual to society. In its attitude towards the ultimate reality it is opposed to the limitations of man; it enlarges his claims and holds out the prospect of nothing less than a direct vision of Reality. Is it then possible to apply the purely rational method of philosophy to religion?
The Matrix, a wildly popular film that has been followed by an equally popular sequel, is often regarded (well, except for some critics) as a very “deep” film, tackling difficult subjects not commonly the focus of Hollywood’s efforts. Is it, however, also a religious film – a film embodying religious subjects and transcendental values?
The philosophical spirit
The spirit of philosophy is one of free inquiry. It suspects all authority. Its function is to trace the uncritical assumptions of human thought to their hiding places, and in this pursuit it may finally end in denial or a frank admission of the incapacity of pure reason to reach the ultimate reality.
Religion: The free bird
The essence of religion, on the other hand, is faith, and faith, like the bird, sees its ‘trackless way’ unattended by intellect which, in the great mystic poet of Islam, ‘ only way lays the living heart of man and robs it of the invisible lies within.’
Yet it cannot be denied that faith is mere feeling. It has something like a cognitive content, and the existence of rival parties- scholastics and mystics- in the history shows that idea
is a vital element in religion. Apart from this, religion on its doctrinal side, as defined by Professor Whitehead, is ‘ a system of general truths which have the effect of transforming character when they are sincerely held and vividly apprehended’. Now, since the transformation and guidance of man’s inner and outer life is the essential aim of religion, it is obvious that the general truths that it embodies must not remain unsettled.
Religion is a belief; it has a set of code of conduct, principles, ethics and morals to follow in one’s life. There are several religions in the world. It only means that people of the world follow different kinds of religion that frame different sets of principles, ethics, morals and codes of conduct to follow for the people that belong to them.
Thus you have Hinduism, Islam, Zoroastrianism, Christianity, Sikhism and Jewish to mention some of the religions of the world. Each of these religions prescribes a separate set of principles, ethics and morals along with customs to follow by the people of the particular religion.
Philosophy on the other hand speaks about the realization of the supreme truth. It deals with the topic of life after death. It speaks about the existence of the soul and life hereafter. Philosophy establishes the divine nature of man. It teaches the absolute truth that each soul is potentially divine.
Religion insists on the performance of rituals whereas philosophy does not emphasize the ritualistic aspect of life. Philosophy is in fact construed to be a way of thinking. This is the reason why philosophers are called as thinkers whereas propagators of religions are called leaders.
If you are philosophical then you need not perform rituals and other rites connected with religion, but on the other hand, if you are religious you cannot do away with the performance of rituals and rites. They become part and parcel of your life. This is the basic difference between religion and philosophy. Hence it can be said that religion and philosophy are mutually exclusive and they cannot co-exist.
Religion: more ambitious than philosophy.
Indeed, in view of its function, religion stands in greater need of a rational foundation of its ultimate principles than even the dogmas of science. Science may ignore a rational metaphysics; indeed, indeed it has ignored it so far. Religion can hardly afford to ignore the search for a reconciliation of the oppositions of experience and justification of the environment in which humanity fund itself. That is why Professor Whitehead has acutely remarked that ‘ the ages of faith are the ages of rationalism’.
But to rationalize faith is not to admit the superiority of philosophy over religion. Philosophy, no doubt, has jurisdiction to judge religion, but what is to be judged is such a nature that it will not submit to the jurisdiction of philosophy except on its on terms. While sitting in judgment of religion, philosophy cannot give religion an inferior place among its data. Religion is not a departmental affair; it is neither mere thought, nor mere feeling; it is an expression of the whole man.
The need to recognize each other
Thus, in the evaluation of religion, philosophy must recognize the central position of religion and has no other alternative but to admit it as something focal in the process of reflective synthesis. Nor is there any reason to suppose that thought and intuition are essentially opposed to each other. They spring up from the same root and complement each other.
Religion and Philosophy: Compare and contrast
The one grasp Reality piecemeal, the other grasps it in its wholeness. The one fixes its gaze on the eternal the other on the temporal aspect of Reality. The one is present enjoyment of the whole of Reality; the other aims at traversing the whole by slowly specifying and closing up the various regions of the whole for exclusive observation. Both are in need of each other for mutual rejuvenation. Both seek vision of the same reality, which reveals itself to them in accordance to the function of life. In fact, intuition, as Bergson rightly says, is only a higher kind of intellect.
Religion is a belief in a supreme power and worship of it as the creator and controller of the universe without reasoning whereas philosophy is a pursuit of wisdom by intellectual search and logical reasoning. Philosophy of religion questions the very existence of the supreme power.
Religions discipline the people through a set of code of conduct, principles and ethics whereas philosophy relies on the moral self-discipline.