Introducing the philosophy of religion
Introducing the philosophy of religion

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Introducing the philosophy of religion

Questions about religion and God: a survey

The philosophy of religion means asking philosophical questions about religion – about systems of belief in and worship of God such as Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, Sikhism, Jainism, and the like. We should add that philosophy of religion also means asking philosophical questions about God (or about the gods).

So what are the philosophical questions that are worth asking about religion and God?

Activity 2

Listen to the audio recording ‘Introducing the philosophy of religion’. In this recording, I introduce some of the themes of this course. (Note that the recording makes reference to ‘Book 2’, but you can ignore that for the purposes of this activity.)

In the middle of what I say, you will hear a number of people whom we stopped in the street to ask what big questions they had about God and religion.

If we’d asked you that question, what would you have said? Spend five minutes writing down the questions that you most want to ask about religion and God. What are the burning issues, for you? Be as frank as you like – no one else is going to see them!

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Transcript: Introducing the philosophy of religion

Winifred Robinson
Hello. I’m Winifred Robinson. Welcome to the audio recordings for Book 2. First, here’s Timothy Chappell, the author of Book 2.
Timothy Chappell
From the beginning of history, one way human beings have tried to make sense of the world around them and their own lives, is through religion. And religion is just as pervasive a force in the world today as at any other time in history.

Music

Timothy Chappell
There are lots of burning questions about religion and about God of course. Perhaps you have some of your own. ‘Does God exist?’ is the most basic one. Could there be any evidence showing that God exists? Why is there evil in the world? Here are some of these questions.

‘Yeah, I mean I suppose I do think about it. I mean is there any sort of evidence that God even exists? Shouldn’t we just have faith to believe in religion or do we need some kind of evidence I suppose?’

‘Yeah, probably. I mean if you’re not religious does that make you a bad person? Can you be a good person without being religious?’

‘What I can’t understand is why so many people around the world still believe in God when there is no evidence that he exists. And we are not just talking about ill-educated people believing. I mean look at America.’

‘Well, they all say that he’s – he will help the poor and that but, yeah, all this stuff that’s happening like there’s poverty, and all these wars going on, and there’s like tsunamis and that. And it doesn’t look like he’s helping. Actually you kind of want to think like is he really out there to help us?’

‘I guess one thing I’d question is the relationship between governments and societies like and should a particular government base their policies on a particular religion?’

‘Every day I read a newspaper. Every day is one of murder – teen-age murder – why? That’s my question. Why does God … against violent?’

‘Jews or Muslims basically they believe in one God but they still argue. They are still saying how their religion is even better even though they still believe in exactly the same thing, which is God basically.’

‘I’m a Hindu and I pray daily and I was just wondering if God is actually listening to what I’m asking or just thinking about it.’

Timothy Chappell
Some of the questions you’ve just heard are philosophical questions. Others are not philosophical in quite the same way. But many of these are questions that the greatest philosophers who ever lived devoted their attention to.
End transcript: Introducing the philosophy of religion
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Discussion

Here are some of the questions about religion and God that you might have found yourself writing down. (Don’t worry if you didn’t come up with just these questions – there isn’t a single right list here.)

  • A.Does religion only cause trouble in the world?
  • B.Does God exist?
  • C.Could the world exist if God didn’t exist?
  • D.If God is good, why is there so much evil in the world?
  • E.Does religion depend on fear and brainwashing?
  • F.Are all religious people hypocrites?
  • G.Were Gandhi, Mother Teresa and Martin Luther King hypocrites?
  • H.Can you be a good person without being religious?
  • I.What difference does it make whether or not there is a God?
  • J.Are all religions basically the same?
  • K.Is religion something you can argue about, or just a matter of blind faith?
  • L.Is the world designed? If so, does that mean it must have a designer?
  • M.Can miracles happen?
  • N.Can we experience God?

When you were listening to the audio, you might have noticed that I say that some of the questions that we got from people in the street ‘aren’t philosophical questions’.

What about the questions in the list (A –  N), or the questions you’ve just written down yourself? Are all of these philosophical questions about religion, or some other sort of question – historical, perhaps, or biographical, or statistical, or something like that?

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