Philosophy of Religion


Religion has three components:

1. God/higher principle

2. Self/jiva

3. customs/rituals which link the two.



Intro: What is the core of religion is  a  question  which is addressed by many thinkers.


Religion and Magic.  In the ancient times, one finds  that often religion is associated  with  magic.   Doing  things differently than one could  understand  is  called  magic. Magic is opposed to scientific on the one hand, and  magic is opposed to rationality on the  other.   But  magic  has its own laws which can be considered  scientific,  partly, laws of nature and  partly,  laws  of  perception.   Faith healing is  magical,  not  in  the  sense  that  there  is something that happens in the world,  but  that  something definitely happens to the human mind. Religion and Rituals.  The  second  components  that  goes always with religion is the  rituals.   Some  philosophers go to the extent of saying rituals are the main source  of our culture.  What distinguishes humans  from  the  biests is the ritualism.  Ritual understood in these terms  is  a form of convention.   And  conventions  are  not  followed blindly.  That being so, there  lies  everything  valuable in a  culture  in  its  ritualism.   Therefore,  it  is  a possibility that one identifies culture with religion. Religion  and  Morality.   Those  who  do  not  make  fine distinction  between  religion  and  morality  find   that religion as the source  of  morality.   For  example,  the epics in  any  religion  suggests  the  moral  codes,  the churches and the temples are considered to be the seat  of morality.  Thus, the  moral  inspiration  is  sought  from religion and the basic message in  the  form  of  justice, equality  or  inequality  etc.  are  communicated  to  the followers in the form of religious  morality.   Therefore, there is a tendency to  identify  religion  with  that  of morality.




Theories of origin of religion:


(a)               Revelation Theory

(b)   Fear Theory

(c)               Totemism 

(d)               Ancestor Worship



Religion and Magic:


Religion and magic went together in many tribal religions. The  tantrism , which-craft etc. went well with religion. Diseases were cured by using magic. There were priests, godly men with magical power. Totem, which is worn on the body carried such magical powers.  Winning and loosing the battle too is attributed to magical powers.


Religion and Ethics:


All religions have certain code of conduct. Ethics emerges from a certain religious practices. For instance, ahimsa, satya, asteya, brahmacarya and aparigraha are values upheld by Jainism, Buddhism, Yoga and several other sects of Hinduism.


Religious Experience:


Several mystics have claimed that they had unique experience where they have interacted with God. They claim that their religious experience is special; the experience is not one like sense experience which needs sense object contact in addition to suitable condition of medium. There is experience but not the object of experience which can be inter-subjectively known.


Religious Language:


Several theories are propounded.

Anselm’s theory of analogy speaks of use of analogous language. Higher to lower analogy of a dog being faithful. Lower to higher analogy of God loving man.


Tillich’s Account:


The idea of symbols. A flag participates in the national ceremony. It creates a different level of reality. It has some beginning. Some end too.


Randall’s Account:


  1. They arouse emotions and stir people to actions.
  2. They stimulate co-operative actions and bring people to respond to common symbol.
  3. They are able to communicate quality experiences which cannot be expressed in literal manner.
  4. They evoke and serve to enhance and clarify what may be called “devine order”.


Braithwaite’s Account:


Religious symbols have primarily ethical function. The epics, the stories need not be true to communicate the messages. “Lying is wrong” means “I do not intend to lie”.


Wittgenstein’s Language Game:


Like games, there are several language games, cookery book, chess, colours, music, dance all of them have languages specific to them. In this manner, one can speak of languages that belong to religion. Religious languages do not intend to communicate anything literally, yet they attempt to communicate something on the analogy of cognitive language.