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Philosophy of religion

(philosophyreligion,philosophy religion)

Philosophy of religion is the rational study of the meaning and justification of fundamental religiousclaims, particularly about the nature and existence of God (or gods, or the divine).


Philosophy of religion as part of metaphysics

Philosophy of religion was classically regarded as part of metaphysics , after Aristotle , amongstwhose writings was a piece that later editors identified as The Metaphysics. Aristotle there described firstcauses as one of the subjects of his investigation. For Aristotle, God was the first cause, the Unmoved Mover . Philosophy of religionas a branch of metaphysics later came to be called naturaltheology by rationalist philosophers of the seventeenth and eighteenthcenturies . In the twentieth century , philosophers have adopted the term"philosophy of religion" for the subject, and typically it is regarded as a separate field of specialization, though it is alsostill treated by some, particularly Catholic philosophers , as a part of metaphysics.

It can be argued that to nearly anyone capable of understanding the issues, it should be clear why considerations of the divine have been regarded as metaphysical. God, according to most conceptions of God asdivine, would be in an important category: that of beings different from the rest of the universe. That is, God is typicallyconceived as not having a body, and the "mind" of the divine is not typically regarded as anything very like an ordinary humanmind. Metaphysics, and in particular ontology , is concerned with the most basic categories of existence, those types of existence that cannot beexplained as any other type of existence. By taking this view, the very notion of God (the gods, the divine) cannot be reduced tohuman concepts of mind or body; God is, on such a view, a suigeneris entity, an entity in a category all of its own.

The questions asked by the philosophy of religion

There are a lot of philosophical questions that can be asked about religious beliefs. But there are two centralquestions in this field. They are:

  1. What is God, that is, 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. What, if anything, would be good reason tobelieve that a miracle has occurred? What is the relationship between faith and reason? What might it mean for God to exist as atrinity, that is as the "Father, Son, and Holy Ghost" of Christian theology?

What is God?

The question "What is God?" is sometimes also phrased as "What is the meaning of the word, God?" Most philosophersexpect some sort of definition as an answer to this question, but they are not content simply to describe the way the word isused, they want to know the essence of what it means to be God. Western philosophers typically concern themselves withthe God of monotheistic religions (see the nature of God in Western theology ), but discussions also concern themselves withother conceptions of the divine.

Indeed, before attempting a definition of a term it is essential to know what sense of the term is to be defined. Inthis case, this is particularly important because there are a number of widely different senses of the word 'God'. The term is ambiguous : it is used in different ways by different people. So before we try toanswer the question "What is God?" by giving a definition, first we have to get clear on which conception of God we are trying todefine. Among those people who believe in supernatural beings, some believe there is just one God ( monotheism See also monotheistic religion .), while others, in the greatest numbers Hindus , believe in many different gods. ( polytheism Seealso polytheistic religion .) Buddhists generally do not believe in a personal God similar to that of the Abrahamic religions but directattenion to a more undefined state of being called Nirvana .

Within these two broad categories there is a huge variety of possible beliefs--although there are relatively fewpopular ways of believing. For example, among the monotheists there have been those who believe that the one God is likea watchmaker who wound up the universe and now does not intervene in the universe at all; this view is deism . By contrast, the view that God continues to be active in the universe is called theism .

There is also another viewpoint that due to so many different concepts of God, that the definition is best left to theindividual to evaluate. An example is what the Scientologists have stated in their belief system: Beliefnet

With so many different spiritual routes that claim to bring one to a higher understanding of God, in whatever form he isconceived, their are also many more definitions. See below.

Monotheistic definitions

Traditionally philosophers of religion, at least in Europe, were interested in finding out what the word "God" might refer to,in the sense in which it is used by theists. Again, theism, can be defined as the view that exactly one God exists, whois an eternally existent spirit, that exists apart from space and time, which has created the universe out of nothing, and istherefore all-powerful; and usually this being is also thought to be all-knowing and all-loving. Even once the word "God" isdefined in this sense, there are still many difficult questions to be asked about what this means. For example, what does it meanfor a spirit to create anything? What does "all-powerful" mean?

Polytheistic definitions:

Pantheistic definitions:

Panentheistic definitions:

Rationality of belief

The second question: "Do we have any good reason to think that God exists, or to think that God does not exist?" is equallyimportant in the philosophy of religion. Since Plato and Aristotle, philosophers and theologians have offered arguments andcounterarguments for the existence of God.

Judaism , Christianity and Islam all have developed religious world views based on, or incorporating philosophy.There are separate entries on: Jewish philosophy , Christian philosophy , and Islamic philosophy

Major philosophers of religion: Thomas Aquinas -- Duns Scotus -- SaintAugustine -- Saint Anselm -- Samuel Clarke -- ImmanuelKant -- Baruch Spinoza -- Soren Kierkegaard -- Maimonides -- Max Weber -- René Descartes -- -- Abraham Joshua Heschel -- David Hume -- Anicius Manlius Severinus Boëthius -- Charles Hartshorne -- John Hick -- J. L. Mackie -- Rudolf Otto -- Alvin Plantinga -- Richard Swinburne -- Peter van Inwagen

See also theology , natural theology , Arguments for the existence of God and arguments against the existence ofGod .

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