Philosophy of religion is the philosophical examination of the central themes and concepts involved in religious traditions. For example, “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” (1). In a similar, albeit simpler, explanation Chad Meister informs us that “Philosophy of religion is the philosophical study of the meaning and nature of religion” (2). In contemporary circles the philosophy of religion is an active and robust field of philosophy. The importance of this field is due to the importance of its subject matter, for example, belief in God, alternative beliefs about God, varieties of religious experience, the relationship between science and religion and the relationship between religion and non-religious philosophies. These are undoubtedly, whether one is religious or not, significant questions about our place in the universe since “Religious belief or unbelief underpins the way that we live our lives” (3). The philosopher of religion also looks at the religious significance of certain past historical events. For example, the Holocaust and the split of the Israelites into Israel and Judah. He will also consider features within the universe such as the laws of nature, the emergence of conscious life, the near global testimony of religious significance, and so forth.
Very much central to the philosophy of religion is the concept of God. For example, here one focuses and expounds upon certain attributes given to God, such as God’s eternity, goodness and omniscience. How, for example, do the different religions view these characteristics? What would be the difference between the Christian and Islamic conceptions of God? Also important would be the proposed arguments for the existence of God such as the argument from a First Cause, the cosmological arguments and teleological arguments, and the argument from miracles. In opposition to these arguments for God’s existence are also arguments commonly forwarded against his existence. For example, the argument from the problem of evil and from the hiddenness of God, to name but a few. Philosophers also focus on other conceptions of God such as, for example, deism, henotheism, panentheism, and pantheism. Non-Religious beliefs and philosophies such as atheism and agnosticism also examined and expounded. Therefore, it is quite evident that the philosophy of religion is a lively field where many conceptions, beliefs, and philosophies are entertained.
Moreover, Religious pluralism receives much attention as the philosopher attempts to discern the philosophical and religious texts from India, China, Southeast Asia, and Africa. It is hopeful that such understanding nurtures cross-cultural philosophy of religion and religious dialogue. Some philosophers have also engaged and re-discovered medieval philosophy, especially through their new commentaries on medieval Christian, Jewish, and Islamic texts and figures. It is also the case that feminist philosophy of religion enjoys a healthy vitality, and is in certain ways the most current debate in the field. Meister closes by noting that “Philosophy of religion is a flourishing field… there are also a number of important currents emerging, including feminist and continental approaches, renewed interest in medieval philosophy of religion, and an emphasis on the environment, race and ethnicity, and science and faith” (4).
1. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 2007. Stanford Philosophy of Religion. Available.
2. Messier, C. Philosophy of Religion. Available.
3. Philosophy of Religion. Available.
4. Messier, C. Ibid.