What Is Religion?

The essence of religion consists solely in the answer to the question, 'Why do I live, and what is my relation to the infinite universe around me?' ... There is no religion from the most elevated to the coarsest that has not at its root this establishing of man's relation to the surrounding universe or to its first cause. There is no religious rite however coarse, nor any cult however refined, that has not this at its root. Every religious teaching is the expression which the founder of that religion has given of the relation he considered himself (and consequently all other people also) to occupy as a man towards the universe and it's origin and first cause.

- Leo Tolstoy, Religion and Morality

Podcast of the Day

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the areas of conflict and agreement between science and religion. What space should science leave to religion? What ground should religion give to science? Do they need to give ground to each other at all? The American palaeontologist Stephen Jay Gould tackles the old problem in his book Rocks of Ages: Science and Religion in the Fullness of Life. In it he writes: “Science tries to document the factual character of the natural world, and to develop theories that co-ordinate or explain these facts. Religion, on the other hand, operates in the equally important but utterly different realm of human purposes”. In other words ‘science studies how the heavens go, religion how to go to heaven’. But do the two realms really exclude each other? Can religion and science be so easily divided?

Listen to the In Our Time episode on Science and Religion

Video of the Day

Short Article of the Day

...Scientists, intellectuals and social scientists expected that the spread of modern science would drive secularisation – that science would be a secularising force. But that simply hasn’t been the case. If we look at those societies where religion remains vibrant, their key common features are less to do with science, and more to do with feelings of existential security and protection from some of the basic uncertainties of life in the form of public goods. A social safety net might be correlated with scientific advances but only loosely, and again the case of the US is instructive. The US is arguably the most scientifically and technologically advanced society in the world, and yet at the same time the most religious of Western societies. As the British sociologist David Martin concluded in The Future of Christianity (2011): ‘There is no consistent relation between the degree of scientific advance and a reduced profile of religious influence, belief and practice.’...

Continue reading Peter Harrison's article: Why religion is not going away and science will not destroy it

Further Reading

...Today philosophy of religion is a robust, intensely active area of philosophy. Almost without exception, any introduction to philosophy text in the Anglophone world includes some philosophy of religion. The importance of philosophy of religion is chiefly due to its subject matter: alternative beliefs about God, Brahman, the sacred, the varieties of religious experience, the interplay between science and religion, the challenge of non-religious philosophies, the nature and scope of good and evil, religious treatments of birth, history, and death, and other substantial terrain. A philosophical exploration of these topics involves fundamental questions about our place in the cosmos and about our relationship to what may transcend the cosmos. Such philosophical work requires an investigation into the nature and limit of human thought. Alongside these complex, ambitious projects, philosophy of religion has at least three factors that contribute to its importance for the overall enterprise of philosophy.

Philosophy of religion addresses embedded social and personal practices. Philosophy of religion is therefore relevant to practical concerns; its subject matter is not all abstract theory. Given the vast percentage of the world population that is either aligned with religion or affected by religion, philosophy of religion has a secure role in addressing people's actual values and commitments. A chief point of reference in much philosophy of religion is the shape and content of living traditions. In this way, philosophy of religion may be informed by the other disciplines that study religious life...

Continue reading the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on Philosophy of Religion by Charles Taliaferro

Leave a Reply