Contrast between Religious and Philosophical Worldviews
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There are numerous similarities between how religion and philosophy view the world. For instance, both areas of study deal with the nature of morality, the definition of ‘good’ and what it means to live a ‘good life’. Due to these numerous similarities, it is safe for one to say that religion can be philosophy (although not necessarily so) and philosophy can also be religious (again, not necessarily so). However, besides these numerous similarities between how philosophy and religion view the world, there are even more differences between the two. These differences are the subject of this article.
The first of these differences between how philosophy and religion view the world is in the rituals that are involved. In a nutshell, religion has rituals while philosophy does not have any of these. In Catholicism, rituals such as Mass and taking the sacrament are necessary. In Islam, taking ablution before observing the five daily prayers is mandatory. In Judaism, there are ceremonies to be observed such as Bar Mitzvah and Hanukah. However, in philosophy, there are absolutely no rituals. One needs not take of his or her shoes to study the works of Renes Descartes. A teacher in philosophy needs not to utter some words prior to teaching his or her students about John Stuart Mill.
The second difference is perhaps the most important difference between the two thoughts. This difference is in reasoning. Religion relies on reasoning to a lesser extent than philosophy does. Most of the world’s religions rely on faith more than they do on reason. There are some things in religion that may seem ‘unreasonable’ to a neutral observer. For instance, the very foundation of religion – the existence of a supernatural deity, can be termed ‘unreasonable’. In major religions such as Christianity, Islam and Judaism, this deity, God, is usually invisible. Some supernatural abilities are attributed to him such as the power to see everything (all seeing) and know everything (omnipotent).
To a philosopher, these views are unreasonable and can be termed unacceptable. The first question a philosopher may ask himself or herself about religion is, “How can one worship that which he has never laid eyes on?” Philosophy relies on empirical evidence, reasoning and arriving on conclusions this way, much like science does. This is where the clash between religion and philosophy arises. Many religions rely on faith without necessarily reasoning, like the existence of a hereafter and life after death. These are things that no one has experienced before and no test can be performed to determine their validity. It is for this reason that most of the world’s famous philosophers were atheists. This long list of atheist philosophers includes people like Karl Marx, Democritus, Bertrand Russell, Friedrich Nietzsche and Alexandr Zinvovyev among many others.
Another important difference between religion and philosophy is in miracles. Religions usually base some of their arguments on events and happenings that are out of the ordinary, events that cannot be explained scientifically. For instance, religion views the world as having started from absolutely nothing. Many religions claim that the world was started by the mere will of a deity. This is a claim that philosophy refutes. Philosophers do not believe in such things as virgin births and making the lame walk again, religious miracles such as dividing the water of the red sea and turning water into wine are not acceptable.
Even though religious views of the world and philosophical views of the world are different, they are not entirely independent. There are many similarities between the two as discussed in the first paragraph. There is such a thing in theory as ‘the God of the gaps’. This is a theory used by religious people to refute many philosophical claims about the non existence of a deity. The God of the gaps is described as the link between what philosophers and scientists cannot explain i.e. the gaps. For instance, philosophers claim that there is no such thing as God since he cannot be seen by the naked eye nor can his voice be heard by the ear. However, these same philosophers cannot explain what gives the human brain the power to reason and even though they believe in evolution, they cannot explain how the big bang started. These gaps are used by religious parties to advocate the existence of a supernatural being controlling such events.
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