From beginner-friendly introductions to classic books on the philosophy of religion, this page features books to suit any learning style. It’s important to note that there is no single best book on the philosophy of religion. The best book for you will depend heavily on your preferred learning style and the amount of time/energy you’re willing to spend reading. For example, if you tend to find classic works of philosophy difficult to understand, you might want to start with a short, beginner-friendly introduction. If you prefer more depth, you can choose a more comprehensive introduction or pick up one of the classics.
It’s also worth noting that it is not a list of personal recommendations. Personal book recommendations tend to be highly subjective, idiosyncratic, and unreliable. This list is part of a collection of over 100 philosophy reading lists which aim to provide a central resource for philosophy book recommendations. These lists were created by searching through hundreds of university course syllabi, internet encyclopedia bibliographies, and community recommendations. Links to the syllabi and other sources used to create this list are at the end of the post. Following these links will help you quickly find a broader range of options if the listed books do not fit what you are looking for.
Here are the best books on the philosophy of religion in no particular order.
Publisher’s description: What is the philosophy of religion? How can we distinguish it from theology on the one hand and the psychology/sociology of religious belief on the other? What does it mean to describe God as “eternal”? And should religious people want there to be good arguments for the existence of God, or is religious belief only authentic in the absence of these good arguments?
In this Very Short Introduction Tim Bayne introduces the field of philosophy of religion, and engages with some of the most burning questions that philosophers discuss. Considering how “religion” should be defined, and whether we even need to be able to define it in order to engage in the philosophy of religion, he goes on to discuss whether the existence of God matters. Exploring the problem of evil, Bayne also debates the connection between faith and reason, and the related question of what role reason should play in religious contexts. Shedding light on the relationship between science and religion, Bayne finishes by considering the topics of reincarnation and the afterlife.
An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion – Brian Davies
Publisher’s description: The third edition of An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion provides a critical examination of some fundamental questions posed by religious belief: What does belief in God amount to? Can God’s existence be proved? Is there life after death?
Brian Davies considers these questions and many others, sometimes offering provocative answers of his own, but more often giving readers room to each independent conclusions. He explains how a range of thinkers have approached the subject — including Anselm, Aquinas, Descartes, Leibniz, Hume, and Kant — and also discusses how contemporary author now engage with the issues involved. Completely revised to cover the latest developments in the field, the new edition of this established textbook will prove the ideal introduction for all students of the philosophy of religion.
Philosophy of Religion: A Contemporary Introduction – Keith E. Yandell
Publisher’s description: Keith Yandell’s Philosophy of Religion: A Contemporary Introduction was one of the first textbooks to explore the philosophy of religion with reference to religions other than Christianity. This new, revised edition explores the logical validity and truth claims of several world religions―Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism―with updated, streamlined discussions on important topics in philosophy of religion such as:
- Religious pluralism
- Freedom and responsibility
- Evidentialist Moral Theism>
- Reformed Epistemology
- Doxastic Practice Epistemology
- The problem of evil
- Ontological and cosmological arguments
Philosophy of Religion: An Anthology – Pojman & Rea
Publisher’s description: Philosophy of Religion: AN Anthology uses a balanced blend of classic and contemporary articles to make the philosophy of religion easy to understand. This engaging textbook begins by outlining the traditional concepts of God, then moves into other interesting topics, such as the problem of evil, feminist perspectives of God, and mystical experiences. In addition, Philosophy of Religion: An Anthology presents readers with both the traditional proofs of God’s existence, and the counter arguments. This edition also discusses the interplay between religion and science, religion and faith, and religion and “knowing”.
The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Religion – William Wainwright
Publisher’s description: The philosophy of religion as a distinct discipline is an innovation of the last two hundred years, but its central topics–the existence and nature of the divine, humankind’s relation to it, the nature of religion and its place in human life–have been with us since the inception of philosophy. Philosophers have long critically examined the truth of (and rational justification for) religious claims, and have explored such philosophically interesting phenomena as faith, religious experience and the distinctive features of religious discourse. The second half of the twentieth-century has been an especially fruitful period, with philosophers using new developments in logic and epistemology to mount both sophisticated defenses of, and attacks on, religious claims. …
Theodicy: Essays on the Goodness of God, the Freedom of Man, and the Origin of Evil – Gottfried Leibniz
Publisher’s description: In order to be truly free, must you act arbitrarily? If an event did not happen, could it have happened? Since there is evil, and God could have made the world without evil, did God fail to pick the best course? Grappling with such simple–yet still intriguing–puzzles, Leibniz was able to present attractively his new theories of the real and the phenomenal, freewill and determinism, and the relation between minds and bodies. Theodicy was Leibniz’s only book-length work to be published in his lifetime, and for many years the work by which he was known to the world. Fully at home with the latest scientific advances, Leibniz ultimately rejected the new atomistic philosophies of Descartes, Gassendi, and Hobbes, and drew upon the old cosmology of Aristotelian scholasticism. There could be no conflict, he argued between faith and reason, freedom and necessity, natural and divine law. Ingeniously defending his postulate of pre-established harmony, Leibniz made important advances in the precise analysis of concepts.
Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion – David Hume
Publisher’s description: David Hume, the 18th century philosopher, economist, and historian, uses a lively Socratic discussion by three characters to explore the nature of religion and God, particularly whether and how one can know that God exists. Having been accused of heresy during his lifetime, Hume knew not to publish this book until after his death, so he bequeathed the manuscript, a few days before his death, to his printer, but if the printer didn’t publish it within 2 years, the manuscript would go to Hume’s nephew, also named David Hume, which it did and the nephew did publish it.
Religion within the Bounds of Bare Reason – Immanuel Kant
Publisher’s description: Werner S. Pluhar’s masterful rendering of Kant’s major work on religion is meticulously annotated and presented here with a selected bibliography, glossary, and generous index.
Stephen R. Palmquist’s engaging Introduction provides historical background, discusses Religion in the context of Kant’s philosophical system, elucidates Kant’s main arguments, and explores the implications and ongoing relevance of the work.
The following sources were used to build this list:
University Course Syllabi:
- Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion – Rutgers University
- The Philosophy of Religion – University of Pittsburgh
- Philosophy of Religion – Texas A&M University
- Philosophy of Religion – Carleton University
- Bibliography for the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on the Philosophy of Religion
- Bibliography for the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on the Philosophy of Religion
You might also be interested in the following reading lists:
- The Best Introductory Philosophy Books
- The Best Philosophy Books on the Existence of God
- The Best Philosophy Books on Atheism
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- Find the best philosophy books on a wide variety of topics with this collection of over 120 philosophy reading lists.
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A History of Western Philosophy in 500 Essential Quotations – Lennox Johnson
Category: Reference | Length: 145 pages | Published: 2019
Publisher’s Description: A History of Western Philosophy in 500 Essential Quotations is a collection of the greatest thoughts from history’s greatest thinkers. Featuring classic quotations by Aristotle, Epicurus, David Hume, Friedrich Nietzsche, Bertrand Russell, Michel Foucault, and many more, A History of Western Philosophy in 500 Essential Quotations is ideal for anyone looking to quickly understand the fundamental ideas that have shaped the modern world.