Philosophy of religion/Talk

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Hi Larry

The way you approach "philosophy of religion" is traditional, I know. It's really a series of reflections on (Christian) theology. But might this not be a good opportunity to break out of that shell and start on something more appropriate for the 21st century, a "philophy of religions" with the emphasis on that last s.

Arguments for the existence of God were not only made by dusty Christian monks in medieval Europe, but also by dusty Hindu monks in India. And they were shouted down <g> not only by French philosophes, but also by Buddhists and Confucianists.

I'll probably end up putting all this stuff in the religion section as time goes by, but I think a clearer link with philosophy would be A Good Thing (tm).

OTOH, It's one in the morning and I may be talking nonsense ... See you all tomorrow -- clasqm


If you decide to add something to the article, please make sure it is something that is well-researched. If Eastern reflections about the divine are dealt with in the field that is called "philosophy of religion" (that's the subject of this article, after all), then by all means they should be included. If not, we should have a comment to that effect, with a pointer to Eastern philosophy, Eastern religion, Eastern conceptions of the divine, or something like that. (I have no idea what specifically would be appropriate because I don't know enough about Eastern philosophy and religion.) --LMS


I think there is enough modern work in the field of philosophy of religion which isn't limited to the issues surrounding theism to make it worthwhile to offer definitions of "God" which are promulgated by Polytheists (though this group is the less well represented philosophically speaking), and Pantheists, as well as those offered by Theists, Deists, so I've added sections for these defs, and have generally tried to open up the text a bit, so that they can be included. (Certainly pantheism should be included as it is embraced by many neo-Platonists, as well as the likes of Spinoza, and Hegel)

I've also removed first and second person references, and all references to the progression of lectures... It's still rough draft, but it isn't as narrow as before, and I think it is a little easier to see out how to add more and move on from here than it was before. MRC


I found this on the main page, which seems to be some person's idiosyncratic thoughts about the philosophy of religion. If you wrote this, please study Wikipedia policy generally.

We haven't yet discussed the rationality of believing in the existance of God. The meaning of life is yet to be discovered without a shadow of a doubt (as far as I know) but so far, we can conjecture what it might be or at least the tasks that will lead up to the meaning. This ties in closely to my original point. If we look to the animals, for we are merely animals, we see tendencies to survive and most importantly, insure the survival of their spieces. Survival is something we easily do now, but how often do we insure the continued existance of man and to what extent? If we look at the three levels of physcology, intellectual, emotional and physical, we see three ways to continue ourseleves. The most obivious, physically we can reproduce ourselves. Intellectually, we have extended our lives and have countlessly insured the continued existance of several human beings. Emotionally, morale. A strong moral for ourself and for others (I'm not really clear on this one.) In order to excell at either of these three (which most people only look toward one, maybe two), we need to care, to care about everything and not give up. Unfortunately, religion has been our anchor. Humans don't need to care about alot of things, concepts, ideas and questions because of the idea about God and the established religions. Certain religions don't permit certain questions or merely provide unclear answers. We are taught not to investigate and merely accept that we are imperfect, will never be perfect and must spend valuable time carrying out tasks associated with religion. This is hindering out ability to do the, or find out the true, meaning of life, or at least our meaning. Technology useful to all of humankind has been developing at a faster rate than before, consistent with the number of questioners of religion.
Personally, I've danced around being Atheist, Agnostic and a Realist but at current I have no label, no set of consistent beliefs to that of any current religion.

The following--the original version of the article I inputted--might or might not contain content that was ruthlessly hacked away from the current version. I'm saving it here so that the content can be incorporated, if necessary:

"Philosophy of religion" means "the study of the meaning and justification of fundamental religious claims, particularly about the nature and existence of God." Philosophy of religion is classically regarded as part of metaphysics, since according to most conceptions of God, if God exists he's in an important category of being different from the rest of the universe. Right? God isn't a body and he isn't any ordinary sort of mind. Moreover, remember that metaphysics concerns basic beliefs which underlie many other philosophical beliefs -- and well, religious claims, as we all know, often underlie views about what we can know, how we can get knowledge, and how we should live. So all that is why philosophy of religion has been, traditionally, regarded as a branch of metaphysics. But more recently the philosophy of religion has been instead regarded as a subject unto itself.

There are a lot of philosophical questions that can be asked about religious beliefs. But there are two central questions in this field. They are: (1) What is God, i.e., what is the meaning of the word, "God"? (2) Do we have any good reason to think that God exists, or to think that God does not exist? Still, there are other questions studied in the philosophy of religion. For example: What, if anything, would be good reason to believe that a miracle has occurred? Or: What is the relationship between the thing we call "Faith" and the thing we call "Reason"? Or: What might it mean for God to be exist as a trinity, that is as the "Father, Son, and Holy Ghost" of Christian theology? These questions all related to the original two fundamental questions, insofar as the other they either contribute to answering one or the other or both of the fundamental questions, or else they are relatively unimportant.


So let's examine the two questions in a bit more depth.

To begin with the first: What is God, i.e., what is the meaning of the word, "God"? Now, what would count as an answer to this question? A definition, no doubt; maybe other sorts of answers would be acceptable, but what we would naturally expect is a definition. Now remember something from our discussion of definitions. Before we give a definition of a term we want to know what sense of the term we want to define. There are different senses of the word "God." Clearly, the word is used in different ways by different people. So before we try to answer the question, "What is God?" by giving a definition, first we have to get clear on which conception of "God" we are trying to define! Some people believe that there is more than one God. They are called polytheists. For example, the ancient Greeks were polytheists, officially anyway, polytheists. We aren't going to concern ourselves with the merits of polytheism. Some people believe there is only one God. That belief is called monotheism. But there is a huge number of different kinds of monotheism. Some people have the rather strange view that there is one God but God is simply everything that exists; in other words the whole universe is God. This view is called pantheism. Some people believe that only one God exists, but that God is like a watchmaker who wound up the universe and now does not intervene at all, not even to answer prayers: they are called deists. The old French Enlightenment philosophes, like Voltaire, were deists. OK, so where do ordinary Christians fit into this? They are theists proper. Theism is the view that exactly one God exists, which is an eternally existent spirit, which exists apart from space and time, and which is the creator of the world, and is therefore all-powerful; and usually this being is also thought to be all-knowing and all-loving.

So let us suppose that we decide we are interested in finding out what the word "God" might refer to, in the sense in which it is used by theists. In other words, we decide we are not interested in any polytheistic sorts of gods, or a pantheistic sort of god, or a deistic sort of god. What we want to get some grasp on is what the God of Abraham and Jesus is. And suppose we decide on the definition of "God" that informs the stated definition of theism. So we say that "God" means "an eternally existent spirit which exists apart from space and time, which is the creator of the world, and is therefore all-powerful, and which is also all-knowing and all-loving." But then there are a lot of questions to be answered about this definition. For example, what does it mean for a spirit to create anything? What does "all-powerful" mean? There is no shortage of questions that philosophers -- both believers and nonbelievers, mind you -- have about the very idea, the very concept, of the God in whose existence theists believe. We will discuss such questions in a little bit.

But first let me introduce the second question that I said was so fundamental in the philosophy of religion: Do we have any good reason to think that God exists, or to think that God does not exist? Now, what would count as an answer to this question? Well, of course, the words "Yes, we do" or "No, we don?t"; but then these words should be followed by supporting arguments, and the conclusions of the arguments would be either "God exists" or "God does not exist." We will discuss several arguments that God exists, and one major argument that God does not exist.

I?ve already introduced the names of different kinds of belief that God exists. We can give a general description of someone who does not believe that God exists -- we can say they are nonbelievers. Nonbelievers come in two varieties. Those who believe that God does not exist are atheists, and their view is called atheism, whereas those who believe neither that God exists nor that God does not exist are called agnostics, and their position is agnosticism. Some people who don?t think very much about the philosophy of religion tend to think that all nonbelievers are atheists, thus entirely ignoring a very importantly different position that some people take on the question of whether or not God exists, namely agnosticism. In its original sense, agnosticism is the view that we, humans, cannot know whether or not God exists. But there are some other views, which are not as extreme as that, which I am lumping in with agnosticism in that original sense. For example, if I say that I personally do not know, at present, whether or not God exists, then I am an "agnostic" in a looser sense of that word. I would even lump in with the agnostics those people who simply have no views about God, haven?t thought very much about it, and don?t care. I doubt there are very many such people these days, but those people too may be called "agnostics" in a loose sense of that term.

In the second part of our examination of the philosophy of religion, we are going to be considering the merits of theism, insofar we are going to evaluate some arguments for the existence of God, and of atheism, insofar as we are going to examine one important argument against the existence of God. But we are not going to be considering the merits of agnosticism. This is simply due to time constraints. But I can at least tell you what it would mean to consider the merits of agnosticism. Agnostics claim that the existence of God cannot be known; so to examine the merits of agnosticism would involve examining whether that claim have any good arguments in its favor. It might also involve examining whether one can be, in some sense, justified in not thinking about whether or not God exists. In other words, might we be justified in simply ignoring the issue of whether or not God exists? No doubt some theists would want to take some agnostics to task for not even thinking about whether or not God exists. And I?m sure you can imagine a debate, then, between them, where the theists on one side are saying that the agnostics really ought for the sake of their souls to be thinking about whether or not God really does exist, and the agnostics on the other side are saying that they are perfectly well justified in holding that thinking about it is a total waste of time. Well anyway, we are not going to listen in on that debate, however interesting it might be, because we have bigger philosophical fish to fry. And the first item on our menu, as I said, is the question of what God is.