Wednesday, 16 January 2019

On the Relationship Between Religion and Philosophy

The School of Athens, by Raphael
We learn from the history of last 2500 years that philosophy and religion have mostly marched hand in hand. In the treatises of a good philosophy we usually find some theological components, and a good theological system always reveals some elements of sound philosophy. Almost all the great philosophers of the past, including Aristotle, were religious, they believed in some kind of divinity; some, like Thomas Aquinas, were theologians and had a completely religious worldview.

Religion and philosophy are so deeply integrated that whenever a philosophical movement tries to get rid of religion, it also loses its philosophy.

Etienne Gilson, in his book The Unity of Philosophical Experience, rightly says, “We gain nothing by destroying one in order to save another, for [philosophy and religion] stand and fall together. True mysticism is never found without some theology, and sound theology always seeks the support of some philosophy; but a philosophy that does not at least make room for theology is a short-sighted philosophy, and what shall we call a theology wherein no provision is made for at least the possibility of mystical experience?” (Page 36)

I am not saying that people ought to become religious or that philosophical movements ought to be dominated by theologians. There is no doubt that any good philosophy has to be secular and based on reason. But religion is a way of explaining the universe and man’s place in it—it’s essentially a form of philosophy. Therefore philosophical movements should not be contemptuous of religions—they should accord the theological doctrines the same consideration that they would accord to any other philosophical system.

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