Talk:Philosophy of religion

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Opening comments[edit]

Hi Larry

The way you approach "philosophy of religion" is traditional, I know. It's really a series of reflections on (Christian) theology. But might this not be a good opportunity to break out of that shell and start on something more appropriate for the 21st century, a "philophy of religions" with the emphasis on that last s.

Arguments for the existence of God were not only made by dusty Christian monks in medieval Europe, but also by dusty Hindu monks in India. And they were shouted down <g> not only by French philosophes, but also by Buddhists and Confucianists.

I'll probably end up putting all this stuff in the religion section as time goes by, but I think a clearer link with philosophy would be A Good Thing (tm).

OTOH, It's one in the morning and I may be talking nonsense ... See you all tomorrow -- clasqm

If you decide to add something to the article, please make sure it is something that is well-researched. If Eastern reflections about the divine are dealt with in the field that is called "philosophy of religion" (that's the subject of this article, after all), then by all means they should be included. If not, we should have a comment to that effect, with a pointer to Eastern philosophy, Eastern religion, Eastern conceptions of the divine, or something like that. (I have no idea what specifically would be appropriate because I don't know enough about Eastern philosophy and religion.) --LMS

I think there is enough modern work in the field of philosophy of religion which isn't limited to the issues surrounding theism to make it worthwhile to offer definitions of "God" which are promulgated by Polytheists (though this group is the less well represented philosophically speaking), and Pantheists, as well as those offered by Theists, Deists, so I've added sections for these defs, and have generally tried to open up the text a bit, so that they can be included. (Certainly pantheism should be included as it is embraced by many neo-Platonists, as well as the likes of Spinoza, and Hegel)

I've also removed first and second person references, and all references to the progression of lectures... It's still rough draft, but it isn't as narrow as before, and I think it is a little easier to see out how to add more and move on from here than it was before. MRC

I found this on the main page, which seems to be some person's idiosyncratic thoughts about the philosophy of religion. If you wrote this, please study Wikipedia policy generally.

We haven't yet discussed the rationality of believing in the existance of God. The meaning of life is yet to be discovered without a shadow of a doubt (as far as I know) but so far, we can conjecture what it might be or at least the tasks that will lead up to the meaning. This ties in closely to my original point. If we look to the animals, for we are merely animals, we see tendencies to survive and most importantly, insure the survival of their spieces. Survival is something we easily do now, but how often do we insure the continued existance of man and to what extent? If we look at the three levels of physcology, intellectual, emotional and physical, we see three ways to continue ourseleves. The most obivious, physically we can reproduce ourselves. Intellectually, we have extended our lives and have countlessly insured the continued existance of several human beings. Emotionally, morale. A strong moral for ourself and for others (I'm not really clear on this one.) In order to excell at either of these three (which most people only look toward one, maybe two), we need to care, to care about everything and not give up. Unfortunately, religion has been our anchor. Humans don't need to care about alot of things, concepts, ideas and questions because of the idea about God and the established religions. Certain religions don't permit certain questions or merely provide unclear answers. We are taught not to investigate and merely accept that we are imperfect, will never be perfect and must spend valuable time carrying out tasks associated with religion. This is hindering out ability to do the, or find out the true, meaning of life, or at least our meaning. Technology useful to all of humankind has been developing at a faster rate than before, consistent with the number of questioners of religion.
Personally, I've danced around being Atheist, Agnostic and a Realist but at current I have no label, no set of consistent beliefs to that of any current religion.

The following--the original version of the article I inputted--might or might not contain content that was ruthlessly hacked away from the current version. I'm saving it here so that the content can be incorporated, if necessary:

"Philosophy of religion" means "the study of the meaning and justification of fundamental religious claims, particularly about the nature and existence of God." Philosophy of religion is classically regarded as part of metaphysics, since according to most conceptions of God, if God exists he's in an important category of being different from the rest of the universe. Right? God isn't a body and he isn't any ordinary sort of mind. Moreover, remember that metaphysics concerns basic beliefs which underlie many other philosophical beliefs -- and well, religious claims, as we all know, often underlie views about what we can know, how we can get knowledge, and how we should live. So all that is why philosophy of religion has been, traditionally, regarded as a branch of metaphysics. But more recently the philosophy of religion has been instead regarded as a subject unto itself.

There are a lot of philosophical questions that can be asked about religious beliefs. But there are two central questions in this field. They are: (1) What is God, i.e., what is the meaning of the word, "God"? (2) Do we have any good reason to think that God exists, or to think that God does not exist? Still, there are other questions studied in the philosophy of religion. For example: What, if anything, would be good reason to believe that a miracle has occurred? Or: What is the relationship between the thing we call "Faith" and the thing we call "Reason"? Or: What might it mean for God to be exist as a trinity, that is as the "Father, Son, and Holy Ghost" of Christian theology? These questions all related to the original two fundamental questions, insofar as the other they either contribute to answering one or the other or both of the fundamental questions, or else they are relatively unimportant.

So let's examine the two questions in a bit more depth.

To begin with the first: What is God, i.e., what is the meaning of the word, "God"? Now, what would count as an answer to this question? A definition, no doubt; maybe other sorts of answers would be acceptable, but what we would naturally expect is a definition. Now remember something from our discussion of definitions. Before we give a definition of a term we want to know what sense of the term we want to define. There are different senses of the word "God." Clearly, the word is used in different ways by different people. So before we try to answer the question, "What is God?" by giving a definition, first we have to get clear on which conception of "God" we are trying to define! Some people believe that there is more than one God. They are called polytheists. For example, the ancient Greeks were polytheists, officially anyway, polytheists. We aren't going to concern ourselves with the merits of polytheism. Some people believe there is only one God. That belief is called monotheism. But there is a huge number of different kinds of monotheism. Some people have the rather strange view that there is one God but God is simply everything that exists; in other words the whole universe is God. This view is called pantheism. Some people believe that only one God exists, but that God is like a watchmaker who wound up the universe and now does not intervene at all, not even to answer prayers: they are called deists. The old French Enlightenment philosophes, like Voltaire, were deists. OK, so where do ordinary Christians fit into this? They are theists proper. Theism is the view that exactly one God exists, which is an eternally existent spirit, which exists apart from space and time, and which is the creator of the world, and is therefore all-powerful; and usually this being is also thought to be all-knowing and all-loving.

So let us suppose that we decide we are interested in finding out what the word "God" might refer to, in the sense in which it is used by theists. In other words, we decide we are not interested in any polytheistic sorts of gods, or a pantheistic sort of god, or a deistic sort of god. What we want to get some grasp on is what the God of Abraham and Jesus is. And suppose we decide on the definition of "God" that informs the stated definition of theism. So we say that "God" means "an eternally existent spirit which exists apart from space and time, which is the creator of the world, and is therefore all-powerful, and which is also all-knowing and all-loving." But then there are a lot of questions to be answered about this definition. For example, what does it mean for a spirit to create anything? What does "all-powerful" mean? There is no shortage of questions that philosophers -- both believers and nonbelievers, mind you -- have about the very idea, the very concept, of the God in whose existence theists believe. We will discuss such questions in a little bit.

But first let me introduce the second question that I said was so fundamental in the philosophy of religion: Do we have any good reason to think that God exists, or to think that God does not exist? Now, what would count as an answer to this question? Well, of course, the words "Yes, we do" or "No, we don?t"; but then these words should be followed by supporting arguments, and the conclusions of the arguments would be either "God exists" or "God does not exist." We will discuss several arguments that God exists, and one major argument that God does not exist.

I?ve already introduced the names of different kinds of belief that God exists. We can give a general description of someone who does not believe that God exists -- we can say they are nonbelievers. Nonbelievers come in two varieties. Those who believe that God does not exist are atheists, and their view is called atheism, whereas those who believe neither that God exists nor that God does not exist are called agnostics, and their position is agnosticism. Some people who don?t think very much about the philosophy of religion tend to think that all nonbelievers are atheists, thus entirely ignoring a very importantly different position that some people take on the question of whether or not God exists, namely agnosticism. In its original sense, agnosticism is the view that we, humans, cannot know whether or not God exists. But there are some other views, which are not as extreme as that, which I am lumping in with agnosticism in that original sense. For example, if I say that I personally do not know, at present, whether or not God exists, then I am an "agnostic" in a looser sense of that word. I would even lump in with the agnostics those people who simply have no views about God, haven?t thought very much about it, and don?t care. I doubt there are very many such people these days, but those people too may be called "agnostics" in a loose sense of that term.

In the second part of our examination of the philosophy of religion, we are going to be considering the merits of theism, insofar we are going to evaluate some arguments for the existence of God, and of atheism, insofar as we are going to examine one important argument against the existence of God. But we are not going to be considering the merits of agnosticism. This is simply due to time constraints. But I can at least tell you what it would mean to consider the merits of agnosticism. Agnostics claim that the existence of God cannot be known; so to examine the merits of agnosticism would involve examining whether that claim have any good arguments in its favor. It might also involve examining whether one can be, in some sense, justified in not thinking about whether or not God exists. In other words, might we be justified in simply ignoring the issue of whether or not God exists? No doubt some theists would want to take some agnostics to task for not even thinking about whether or not God exists. And I?m sure you can imagine a debate, then, between them, where the theists on one side are saying that the agnostics really ought for the sake of their souls to be thinking about whether or not God really does exist, and the agnostics on the other side are saying that they are perfectly well justified in holding that thinking about it is a total waste of time. Well anyway, we are not going to listen in on that debate, however interesting it might be, because we have bigger philosophical fish to fry. And the first item on our menu, as I said, is the question of what God is.

Hi. Shouldn't there be only one amongst Philosophy of religion and Religious philosophy? --Alex.tan 05:42, 3 Aug 2003 (UTC)

The article on religious philosophy contained little more than links to articles on Christian, Judaic, and Islamic philosophies. I added these links to the end of the "philosophy of religion" article and made religious philosophy a redirect to this article.

This article talks about Hindus believing in many gods and mentions this as polytheism. I think this is incorrect. The many gods that Hindus believe in are but different aspects of the same Supreme Being. Hindus are not polytheists, as many Westerners (incorrectly) believe.

How about "What is religion?" Why has religious philosophy evolved in such a way that that is not the biggest question, for surely, if this is explored would everything else not fall into place?

Philosophy of Spirituality[edit]

This page discusses the Philosophy of Religion as the question of what is God and is there a God. Does the Philosophy of Religion answer or ask the question of whether there is another existence and what it is like? Tom 20:18, 6 Jul 2004 (UTC)

List of philosophers[edit]

  • I've just ordered the names alphabetically, and put them into list form; I hope that that's uncontroversial. I've also added a few names, most without Wikipedia articles yet (the most surprising omissions being Basil Mitchell and D.Z. Phillips), and taken out a few non-philosophers (theologians, sociologists, etc.). That might be more controversial, so discussion would be welcome. Mel Etitis (Μελ Ετητης) 11:35, 24 Jan 2005 (UTC)
  • I'm adding four names to the list: Guénon, Schuon, Nasr and Schelling. Guénon is the founder of the Sophia Perennis school of religious studies, with works on the metaphysics of Hinduism and Islam, being one of the main influences behind Mircea Eliade; Schuon is Guénon's main disciple, focusing more on the different aspects of religious practice and their relation to metaphysics; and Nasr, also a perennialist, is one of the leading contemporaneous exponents of traditional Islamic philosophy in USA. Schelling is well known for his idealist Philosophy, but he also developed many studies on the Philosophy of Religion later in his life, so I think including him is well deserved. --alexgieg 17:57, 27 September 2007 (UTC)
  • I'm looking at the list and it's quite long and bulky. Maybe splitting it into theist/atheist/agnostic categories would make it more approachable. —Preceding unsigned comment added by The other sid3 (talkcontribs) 22:38, 10 March 2009 (UTC)

I realized that someone has removed the names of several prominent people in this field. Namely, Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, and Sam Harris. All of these are outspoken atheists, and I'm concerned that may have been the motivation for their removal. If it was because Harris and Dawkins are technically scientists as oppossed to philosophers, then it seems there are other names that should be removed as well. In any case Dennett is one of the most popular contemporary philosophers publishing in this field, and I can see no reason why he would have been removed. Does anyone know why this happened? Matthewdisaacs (talk) 05:47, 15 November 2009 (UTC)

"What Is God"[edit]

Please check the external link under that text; I have examined it and I am very dubious about whether it's the sort of thing Wikipedia should link to. -- Antaeus Feldspar 08:40, 25 Jan 2005 (UTC)

Good grief, I hadn't looked at it before. Yes, it's not only slanted towards a certain (very non-standard) point of view, but it's fuzzy and ludicrously inaccurate. I'll take it upon myself to remove it, and look for a resource that's more appropriate. Mel Etitis (Μελ Ετητης) 09:52, 25 Jan 2005 (UTC)


I'm afraid that I've reverted most of your recent edits. Some (like 'among' for 'amongst') were just personal taste, and I'd have no more reverted them than I'd have bothered to make them, but a couple changed the meaning (for example, there's a difference between conceiving something as F and conceiving of something as F). I suspect that you didn't mean to change those meanings. If you did, could we talk about them? Mel Etitis (Μελ Ετητης) 22:32, 6 Mar 2005 (UTC)

Mel, your reversions have resulted in inconsistencies. While 'amongst' versus 'among' may be just a matter of taste, and not of stylistic felicity, there are now two instances of 'among' and one of 'amongst' in the article. If you think such things make no difference, why object to the work towards consistency done by someone who does think that they make a difference? You have restored inconsistent usage of italics after 'called': "called theism", "called Nirvana", but "called natural theology". You have restored a link (Catholic philosophers) that leads nowhere. You have damaged a link I supplied to 'Unmoved mover' that you claim to have retained. You have without explanation removed a clarification concerning categories, though I explained the change. You have removed a note about a term ("traditionally called impetratory prayer") which, because of your removal, is now to be found nowhere in Wikipedia. You have restored faulty punctuation ("What is God, that is, what is the meaning of the word, 'God'?)", while silently and without acknowledgement in your note above retaining the correction of incorrect double quotes. Nor do you acknowledge that you have retained my quite important clarification concerning the meanings of the term 'theism' ("Note that 'theism' is here used as a narrow and rather technical term, not as a broader term as it is below. For full discussion of these distinct meanings, refer to the article Theism."). You had left the separate meanings hanging, which could only confuse the hapless user. On another matter, why do you say that you suspect I didn't intend to "change meanings" (you give only one example)? Isn't it perfectly evident that I am acting wittingly? I now await your justification of your 'conceiving' as opposed to my 'conceiving of' in the present context.
Last time you rapidly reverted my edits (at the article William A. Dembski) you were shown to be in error (and then you compounded the error); and you agreed that you had acted in haste. You apologised, and I accepted your apology immediately and wished you all the best! But it also may be a good idea for you to gain from that experience. --Noetica 23:19, 6 Mar 2005 (UTC)
Well, 'among' vs 'amongst' is accounted a matter of taste in every reference book that I have to hand (in so far as there's a difference, Fowler prefers 'amongst' in this sort of context). My apologies for damaging the link; it came out looking very strange in my browser, and I was going to go back to it in order to sort it out. The term 'impetratory prayer' has long been ditched in favour of 'petitionary prayer', at least in the philosophy of religion books that I have to hand (which is a few hundred); '(which used to be called impetratory prayer)' would be OK, I suppose, though I don't really see the point of introducing needless theological jargon, even parenthetically. One shouldn't remove internal links unless one has good reason to suppose that there won't be a relevant article (and it seems likely to me that there will be one on Catholic philosophy).
With regard to existence, I agree that that section needs attention, but I don't see that your correction really helped (and might have made things more obscure for the general reader). Frankly, I don't think that the notion of types of existence (or categories of existence) makes much sense, but it would be interesting to discuss it.
I have to run now, but I'll come back to this tomorrow. Mel Etitis (Μελ Ετητης) 23:41, 6 Mar 2005 (UTC)
Mel, I look forward to your fuller explanation of your edits when you have the time, including those matters I mention that you have not addressed just now. I'll respond to the points you have made, though:
  • You do not address what I say above about 'among' and 'amongst' and consistency. Do address it, please. The main point was that, even if the inconsistency in question is something to which you are not sensitive (and indeed especially if that is the case), perhaps it is well to respect the changes made by others who are sensitive to that inconsistency.
  • Similarly, the mere fact that you don't see the point regarding 'impetratory' does not mean that there is no point. While Google searches don't settle such things, and can be misleading, such a search shows that the term is indeed in current use. A user may well look for it by searching Wikipedia. The way I had things, they would find it explained; the way you altered things, they would not find it at all!
  • With regard to categories in metaphysics, and all that, you are the one who had them there, and then shifted to another mode of explaining the thing. All I did was provide clarifying continuity, by expanding on the term 'basic category'. It is not I who introduced the awkwardness; I did something to ameliorate it. We both agree that the paragraph in question needs work; I acted conservatively, and (as I thought) with minimum disruption.
--Noetica 00:23, 7 Mar 2005 (UTC)
Mel, here are your points in reply, faithfully reproduced, but with my responses inserted after them:
1. I was wrong about the 'among/amongst' (in terms of the consistency); without reading through the whole article, of course, I couldn't tell that it was a matter of consistency. These things happen. Just reinstate the change and point out why in the edit (I have to do things like that all the time; it's part of the open-access way I'm afraid).
OK, I'll do that. Thanks for your honest retraction! --Noetica 11:49, 7 Mar 2005 (UTC)
2. The place to mention a rather obscure and jargony term is surely in the article on petitionary prayer (I know, there isn't one — but there will be, and then we can add the alternative term). In a casual mention of the problem, as here, I think that it adds needless complication, and interrupts the flow.
I have thought a lot about this one since my last entry here, and done some research (don't worry – not original research!). I understand your dislike of the word 'impetratory', and I'm no fan of it myself. But the plain facts are these:
  • It is a recognised, current English word.
  • It is (as I commented concerning my original edit) a traditional term of art in the area in question.
  • The term is still in scholarly use, often without glosses or explanation, in many current works, including several scholarly works on the web. (Look in Google, for example, for 'impetratory' and separately for 'petitionary'. Then do a search that excludes 'prayer' and also 'prayers', along with each of these. Then, doing the figures, one finds that Google gets about 6,600 hits for 'petitionary' and either 'prayer' or 'prayers'; but also about 5,000 for 'impetratory' and either 'prayer' or 'prayers'.)
  • The user looking for a gloss or explanation of it in Wikipedia will, if things are allowed to stand as they are, find it nowhere; and as things stand there is no better place for it than this article.
  • Wikipedia should not exclude terms simply because they are "jargony", especially if they are presented parenthetically to assist the user.
As a compromise, and motivated by these considerations, I shall restore my parenthetic remark about the term, perhaps re-wording it slightly. I shall consider that it should stay, until the article you propose is in place; and then I shall be happy to see it there instead. --Noetica 11:49, 7 Mar 2005 (UTC)
3. On existence, we seem simply to have a diferent view on what is more and what less clear. Again, it happens all the time; let's get together and try to find a third approach that satisfies both (and, with any luck, others).
Perhaps we do have a different view here, but perhaps not. We do agree that some work needs to be done for that paragraph. I sought only to patch what I regarded as unclear. I'd be happier to see the paragraph re-written. Would you like to have a go at drafting something for consideration here in Talk, or should I?
4. With regard to conceiving, why did you think that the article should talk about conceiving of god rather than about conceiving god? Mel Etitis (Μελ Ετητης) 10:11, 7 Mar 2005 (UTC)
Ha ha! I asked you first. ("I now await your justification of your 'conceiving' as opposed to my 'conceiving of' in the present context.") After you!
On other matters – concerning consistency and propriety of punctuation and such things – I see that you are silent. Does this mean that you don't care about such things, and are happy to leave things inconsistent and improper, as they are in your reverted version?
--Noetica 11:49, 7 Mar 2005 (UTC)
  1. Whichever of us gets to it first?
  2. My own view is that we're concerned here with conceiving (in the sense of perceiving a concept) rather than with conceiving of (as in thinking about something in a certain way, or as having a certain property).
  3. I'm not sure which you're referring to now; the only one that I remember was an n-dash that should have been an m-dash, and which I anyway changed to a comma. If I inadvertently reverted changes to corrected punctuation, I apologise. Mel Etitis (Μελ Ετητης) 12:01, 7 Mar 2005 (UTC)
  1. Fine.
  2. Fine.
  3. Fine.
  4. Well, I had thought that a conception rather than a concept (see Samuel Levin, Metaphoric Worlds, 1988) was more the thing, given that the object of our apprehension (to use what I hope is a neutral term) was essentially remote from ourselves, sui generis, and paradigmatically incapable of our conception proper. But I'll concede 'conceive' sans 'of', since OED considers them equivalent (for present purposes).
  5. One of my changes was to turn a doubled hyphen into an en dash (properly flanked by spaces). I don't like em dashes, and there are many others who feel the same way. See here, where I have added one or two observations. I made no judgement on whether any sort of dash was needed there, and I do not object to your comma. But there were other punctuation changes, like my deletion of the comma that you seemed to think obligatory before mention of the word 'God' (as just now). You had (and have now restored): "What is God, that is, what is the meaning of the word, 'God'?" I wanted: "What is God; that is, what is the meaning of the word 'God'?" Note the semicolon here too, which I also regard as more standard. (Another question mark would also be possible.) But there was more! I think it's best not to do block reverts when a sensitive editor has been at work, but only to revert what one has thought through. Anyway, we have made progress! I'll fix a couple of things along the lines mentioned above; and no doubt we'll talk again. --Noetica 12:37, 7 Mar 2005 (UTC)

I don't understand your point about dashes; the link you give is far from cleear (as with so much else in the MoS), and in so far as it is clear, it goes against normal rules of typesetting (though I accept that those are being increasingly ignored as publcishing is dumbed down and loses its skilled workers). I disagree with the semi-colon – it should be a colon, as it marks the introduction of an explanation – but in any case I hadn't noticed that, sorry. One probelm is that I'm overstretching myself, doing much too much, so fail to remember that a certain User (such as you) is more likely to make sensitive edits to English (especially as that puts you in a fairly small minority). I'll try both to reduce my activities, and to remember you... Mel Etitis (Μελ Ετητης) 13:01, 7 Mar 2005 (UTC)

What's not to understand about the question of dashes? The location I pointed you to makes things quite clear! (Apart from the oddity about semantics, which I'm not reponsible for.) As for "normal" rules of typesetting, there are competing modern practices that are equally well established, each with good rationale behind it. There is no single "normal" set of rules! And that includes rules about dashes, as any survey of the more modern books in your library will reveal. I note that you yourself have just used the very en dashes that you earlier seemed to deprecate! I understand your case in favour of a semicolon rather than a colon, but in this very particular context I disagree. Very often, in fact, the choice between such a colon and such a semicolon is subtle and difficult; and often in those cases, it luckily doesn't matter. If you are overstretched, I understand. Yes, please respect my careful work. And your implied general apology is once more explicitly accepted! --Noetica 13:22, 7 Mar 2005 (UTC)

I don't deprecate n-dashes; I use them for parentheses, for linking numbers in a range, etc. (I've checked all the sources that I can find, and they all agree on the use of different dashes (or rules); might this be a U.S.–U.K. difference, or somthing similar?)
I agree, though, about the difference between colons and semi-colons.
I'm happy to make the apology, if not general, then at least explicit. Mel Etitis (Μελ Ετητης) 16:18, 7 Mar 2005 (UTC)
Mel, I have done a global edit to reflect our determinations above. I have left the problematic paragraph as you had it, for now. Note especially that I have changed the names of centuries to conform to Wiki style, much as you and I might like to see them in words, not figures. I DO think there is work still to be done; but I have spent so much time in dialogue with you that I cannot justify doing more here myself, at this stage.
As for your attitude to en dashes, do I understand correctly that you use em dashes instead of them for non-parenthetic (colon-like) purposes? This is counter to all the canons of usage that I have come across, which at least implicitly have it that we choose just one style (en dash or em dash) for use in sentence punctuation (as opposed to en dashes in specifying ranges and the like). --Noetica 00:40, 8 Mar 2005 (UTC)
Just on the business of dashes, I don't have my books by me, but all the books that mentioned them, including two different 'rules for typesetters/compositors' agreed that m-dashes and n-dashes (or m-rules and n-rules to give them their proper names) are used for specific purposes. Each book went into more detail than we need here, but the pertinent rules (upon which they agreed) were roughly that m-dashes be used except for parentheses, marking ranges of numbers, and linking terms where a hyphen is inappropriate (as, for example, 'Einstein–Bhose'). I've never seen a suggestion that one kind of dash be used willy-nilly. I've often seen books & journals which ignore those rules, of course. Mel Etitis (Μελ Ετητης) 08:32, 8 Mar 2005 (UTC)

[Mel, I have transferred this discussion to your Talk page, since it is no longer relevant to this article--Noetica 10:59, 8 Mar 2005 (UTC)]


I made some recent changes to this article and Mel Etitis reversed every single change, as far as I can tell. I apologize for any deviations from the Manual of Style at Wikipedia. I admit I am new to editing. However, I think the content changes and additions I made should be considered a bit more before immediate deletion. Could I at least get a more detailed explanation, Mel?

In short, this article is not in keeping with the canon of philosophy of religion. It is missing many things in the canon of philosophy of religion and has things which are not even in it. I can see the point of adding new issues and expanding the canon, but at least mirror the canon and THEN expand on it. I think there should at least be a more detailed explanation of natural theology (i.e., the project) and some mention of the traditional positions in the philosophy of religion (especially theism, atheism, and agnosticism) and the traditional arguments for these positions (i.e., teleological, ontological, and cosmologcial)--even if they are merely introduced and then the reader referred to their respective articles elsewhere on Wikipedia. The link at the end of the article (An introduction to the Philosophy of Religion by Paul Newall) rightfully includes these things that I claim are missing from the article at Wikipedia.

Further, I think it is inaccurate to say that philosophy of religion is concerned with what the word 'God' means, because that is moving the discussion more in to philosophy of language. Traditionally, philosophy of religion is not so much concerned with what the word 'God' means, rather it is concerned with arguments for and against God's existence, given the attributes traditionally predicated of God. That is, given certain stipulations of what God might mean, can we form any good arguments for believing such a God exists? 06:16, 14 October 2005 (UTC)

It's not just a question of style; you need to read Wikipedia:No original research as well. I've reverted your changes for both reasons, though mainly for the latter, and because I think that in many cases you're wrong, and you've changed a clear and correct to an unclear and incorrect account. For example:
  1. most writers who discuss the issue refer to god as being a distinct category of being, not as being in such a category (which would imply the possibility of other members of the category)
  2. you claim that the philosophy of x is typically an enquiry into the foundations of x, but that's simply not the case (compare the philosophy of science, of mind, of language, of history, of logic, etc.)
  3. your musings on the nature of the philosophy of religion, while not wholly incorrect, are nevertheless speculative and not very helpful.
  4. I agree that the article could do with a little more content (though it has a link to Existence of god, which leads to articles on the different arguments); I disagree, however, with your version of that project. I'm more than happy to discuss it (though my side of the disucssion might be a little rushed and widely spaced, as this is a particularly busy term for me). --Mel Etitis (Μελ Ετητης) 14:35, 15 October 2005 (UTC)


I take it you are a professor of sorts or would like us to believe so. I am a graduate student myself in philosophy with philosophy of religion as a specialty (or so I like to think). But let's not throw credentials around. Your references to the style manual and policies of Wikipedia and your alleged knowledge about this subject are not sufficient justification for mass deletion. Why don't you revise some of my statements to make them more suitable to you? Further, I don't see any citations for your content. According to Wikipedia, that is the only way to know that it is not original research. My edits were far from original research. I would even suggest that your attempts to diverge from the canon on an encyclopedia article are clear indications of original research.

The fact of the matter is that this article is shameful. It has nearly nothing to do with philosophy of religion. The article "Existence of God" is much more in keeping with the canon of philosophy of religion. The problem is: philosophy of religion should have at least some of that content. Why? Because if someone is in a philosophy of religion class and wants to use Wikipedia to get a bit of an overview on the subject, they will unknowingly have to go to the "Existence of God" article to find what they want. Stupid them right, they will search under philosophy of religion and take their information from there! What nerve!

I think it is clear that your content is original research and/or simply a personal essay. (Notice I have not pompously deleted your content, but tried to compromise.) As such I am reverting back to the rightful version of the article. Please Mel, give us some citations and arguments showing that your content was not original research or personal essay. But I'm sure you have a busy term, so don't worry yourself with this article. 19:28, 15 October 2005 (UTC)

  1. I didn't revise your statements because it wasn't their style or presntation with which I disagreed, but with their content (the MoS issues mostly concerned changes that you made to the style of existing material).
  2. It's not my content; it's the article as it stands, contributed to by many editors (check the History for details).
  3. You make repeated references to the canon, but it's not at all clear what you mean by that. Not the set of all writings in the philosophy of religion, I assume, so how are you electing?
  4. Your aggressive and insulting approach really doesn't help (and wouldn't even if you used "pompous" correctly). --Mel Etitis (Μελ Ετητης) 13:34, 16 October 2005 (UTC)

Mel -

My sincerest apologies for misusing the word "pompous." You have successfully damaged my credibility in support of your conclusion. Your use of the ad hominem strategy of argument is quite telling that you are well-versed in philosophy. Nevertheless, your insulting approach really doesn't help this dialogue.

My use of the word "canon" was simply to mean the standard teaching of the material in philosophy of religion, especially at the introductory level. Even if taken to mean all the writings in the philosophy of religion, it would still make the point that the majority of those writings are not reflected in this article. So you disagree with this? You think that an article on philosophy of religion should not include the words 'cosmological,' 'teleological,' 'ontological,' 'problem of evil'?

The truth is that it should. As such, I am reverting the article back so that the content is more in keeping with what an encyclopedia entry on philosophy of religion should be. 04:22, 18 October 2005 (UTC)


Comments are solicited on the attempts by an anon editor to make substantial changes to the article:

I think the changes made by the anon, while controversial, should be kept, but edited. I have edited a couple things (on the current, anon-edited version) that I believed to impart insufficient information, and I believe that is the appropriate course of action to take. As it stands, some information the anon has added reads a bit POV, but not flagrantly so. I don't believe there is sufficient cause to simply revert the changes, but some things definitely need a bit of work. I think my working a bit on the definition of "atheism" (and the split between weak and strong versions thereof) was a decent start, at least. Also, I don't like pigeonholing the various views on religion into three (or, now, four) labels. In addition, someone more learned than I should add an "Arguments for Weak Atheism" section, if we're going to be pigeonholing in that fashion.
But certainly, the revert war needs to end. The anon (sorry to refer to you in such a fashion, if you're reading this, but it's the most descriptive term for you at this point) isn't going around violating Wikipedia policy willy-nilly, so I think everyone should work with the current text to make it completely inline with the NPOV policy and such. Perhaps even, if you still have major issues that can't be resolved without extensive editing, Mel, tagging the article as a violation thereof and seeing if we can't get some other editors in to shape it up. In short, I vote collaboration rather than revert after revert.
Also, Mr. Anon, I think we all would appreciate a more civil tone in the talk pages. There's no need to be hostile.
--BorgHunter (talk) 13:18, 18 October 2005 (UTC)

Thank you, Mr. BorgHunter, for being civil yourself. I do not agree with hostility here either. I simply felt that Mel's attitude and actions were quite hostile as well and I was returning hostility as a natural reaction.

The article is looking much better now. It is a good compromise. The "Positions" and "Natural Theology" sections are good to have in a philosophy of religion article. Also, placing a link to the "Existence of God" article at the top of the "Rationality of Beleif" section makes it clear that there is more to it. Good idea. I do think that the material in the "Existence of God" article belongs more properly in the phil of religion article (or entry, however you want to put it), but it is a good compromise as it stands.

Further, I agree that pigeonholing can be a bad thing. However, I do think that the frequent editors here should keep in mind that an encyclopedia entry should start with the core material of the area first (which will often seem too narrow, but that's the nature of presenting the core material) and then add more. (It's just something I think should be kept in mind.)

-Mr. Anon 21:07, 21 October 2005 (UTC)


I'm redirecting Philosophy and religion here, because it certainly needs to point somewhere. I'd prefer it if someone knowledgeable and NPOV could at some later date change it from a redirect here to an article on the historical connection and interaction between religion and philosophy. Thanks. KSchutte 08:31, 1 March 2006 (UTC)

I see that Philosophical Theology redirects to Natural theology Now, I always thought that philosophical theology was the same thing as philosophy of religion. Should we re-redirect it here? --Kalossoter 19:15, 30 June 2006 (UTC)

About the philosophers...[edit]

Im a little confused. Why is Descartes there? Descartes didnt really concern himself with god, as I understand him. Not until the late chapters of his philosophy when he sort of uses god as an escape route, which Pascal critisized. And not that it concerns me too much, but I noticed Mircea Eliade isnt on the list. Im studying him right now, so I noticed he wasnt on the list. - Mailrobot

Descartes almost certainly belongs as a philosopher of religion if for no other reason than for the impact that his ideas had on the immediate time periods after words (especially the work of Liebniz, Spinoza, etc). What precisely do you mean "not until the later chapters"? Much of Descartes philosophical writings are quite incomprehensible without the concept of God (that is, without God you get a very incomplete philosophy). Mircea Eliade, too, is a strange omission from the list, given the contents of his thought. However, in all fairness, he did describe himself solely as a historian of religion, not a philosopher. Ig0774 04:58, 17 April 2006 (UTC)
Why is Siddhartha Gautama on the list? Ig0774 17:07, 18 April 2006 (UTC)
Dunno, but I can certainly remove it due to the fact that Buddha was not actually a philosopher.

Well, thi sis late, lol. What I meant by chapters is that I was taught that Descartes is divided into different periods, I think times of his life where he re examined his philosophy. I was taught that he used God as an escape route in the end. But, even so without God his philosophy/ metaphysics wouldnt work, his intent is not on explaining God. - Mailrobot

Shakyamuni Buddha had neither belief or non-belief in God. The goal of Buddhism was and continues to be the extinguishing of self, just as soon as that self is understood as an illusion. God is not involved in this. In fact, Buddha specifically defined this as a self-driven task. To look anywhere but within oneself is useless, hence, trying to ask some diety for help would be antithetical to Buddha's own teachings. And yes, he does belong amongst the philosophers of religion. Buddha said things about religion 2,500 years ago that Michel Foucaut (a major philosopher of religion) said 30 years ago. Please return Buddha to the list. MerricMaker 05:17, 29 July 2006 (UTC)

Oh well, shortlived edit. lol Monkey Brain(untalk) 06:01, 29 July 2006 (UTC)

Rationality of Belief: Positions[edit]

"However, this assumes that the existence of God can be debated and proved or disproved."

- I take exception to this statement. Examining which of a list of positions to take when one of those positions is Agnosticism does not assume that the existence of God can be debated and proved or disproved; if one makes that assumption, one explicitly rejects Agnosticism by definition. I think Pascal would also reject the notion that he needs to be able to prove that God exists in order to argue for the rationality of theism.

If there's no objection, I'd like to remove this sentence. Geoffspear 14:43, 23 May 2006 (UTC)

Removed. I also removed the sentence before this: "The majority of philosophy of religion involves determining which of these positions is most rational to take." This statement is simply untrue. The majority of Philosophy of Religion actually is, and always has been, preoccupied mainly with the classic debates between what is today regarded as deism, theism, pantheism, panentheism, etc. and the analysis/criticism/appreciation of various religious "positions", and not debate over whether it is more rational to be (1) theist, (2)agnostic, or (3) atheist weak or strong. Geoffspear, I appreciate your calling attention to it. ... Kenosis 03:08, 24 May 2006 (UTC)

Philosophy of religion vs. religous philosophy[edit]

The intro to Category:Religious philosophy and doctrine says:

Religious philosophy is the explanation of the meanings and justifications behind fundamental religious claims. It is particularly interested in the nature and existence of God (or gods, or the divine).
It should not be confused with the "philosophy of religion", which critically examines the religions of the world, their justifications, meanings, social purposes, and claims.

But "religious philosophy" is a redirect to "philosophy of religion". Is someone making a false distinction, or is this justified in the literature? -- Beland 15:23, 14 September 2006 (UTC)

The "Positions" Section is Biased[edit]

Setting out the "positions" the way the article currently does it biased. In particular, making the weak atheism/strong atheism distinction central to the "lay of the land" sets atheism up as the default position.

Traditionally, atheists where those who denied that God exists. Theists asserted that God exists and ggnostics didn't know either way (strong agnostics said it was unknowable). For about the 30 or 40 years, atheist have been trying to change the traditional terminology in order to change set up the "philosophy of religion game" in such a way that atheism wins by default. Atheism (weak atheism) is defined as a lack of belief, so as to make it the default position. The theist must then offer arguments to justify belief in God and the atheist can sit back and take pot shots at the theists arguments. Since it is always easier to attack a position than it is to set out and defend one, the atheist has a structural advantage. This structural advantage comes just by defining atheism a certain way.

(For more on the point I am making in the philosophical literature see Shalkowski, Scott. 1989. Atheological Apologetics. American Philosophical Quarterly 26:1-17.)

If one reads popular atheist literature it will seem like this definition of atheism is standard and fair. That may be true but only because setting the debate up this way by defining atheism as the lack of a belief has been the cornerstone of atheistic apologetics for decades. A neutral article should take into account theists and agnostics set the debate up not just adopt the atheist terms of the debate.

A fairer and more tradition lay of the land would look like this:

1. Theist is one who believes that God exists. 2. Agnostic is one who doesn't know whether or not God exists (either because he just doesn't know or because he thinks it is unknowable) 3. Atheist is one who believes that God does not exist.

Or alternatively:

1. Theist is one who believes that God exists. 2. Weak Agnostic is one who doesn't know whether or not God exists. 3. Strong Agnostic thinks that it is impossible to know whether or not God exists. 4. Atheist is one who believes that God does not exist.

Either of these two lay of the lands are less biased than the atheist default strategy expressed in the article as currently written. --GFrege 00:35, 23 January 2007 (UTC)

I completely disagree. There are several positions:
Each of them is a coherent and distinct position (although, as noted in the article, some can be held simultaneously such as agnostic theism or agnostic atheism). Wikipedia needs to not be a battle ground for yet another theist-atheist argument. Forcing this article to claim that 'atheist' only refers to those who positively assert God's nonexistence inaccurately represents the all people who claim to be atheists who accept only the weak claim and reject the strong claim. Perhaps we could include a reference in the Weak atheism article about the criticism of weak atheism from theistic scholars, but ignoring the viewpoint as a whole wouldn't be accurate. Ping me on my talk page if you'd like to work together on this perhaps. -SocratesJedi | Talk 10:07, 27 January 2007 (UTC)
The problem is that the way atheist set up the "game" is biased. They define atheism as a lack of a belief just to avoid having to make a positive case against God. The fact that many atheists, particularly in the last 30 years have tried to redefine the terms of the debate in such a way that they win by default doesn't mean the rest of us have to give up the more traditional way of describing the "positions."
What if theists started making a distinction between weak theists and strong theists. Weak theists lack the belief that God does not exist (i.e. they lack the belief that ~G) while strong theists believe that God exists (they lack the belief that ~G because they believe G). Suppose they argued this is the proper way to set up "the positions." Suppose further that they said the burden of proof is not on the weak theist because the weak theist merely lacks a belief.
This is EXACTLY what atheists are doing. Wikipedia is supposed to be neutral not define terms in a way that reflects that rhetorical strategy of one side or another in a debate. It just doesn't matter that atheists prefer this particular set up. It favors one side over another.--GFrege 21:55, 29 January 2007 (UTC)

Jan 24th[edit]

Peterdjones: I restored a revert you made becuase it removed some recent changes that had improved the article, as well as various spelling errors that have been corrected since the anon made the changes. I checked the history, and I believe the anon's edit was from last february, and that in reverting his edits to Metaphysics, you may have accidently erased the progress Philosophy of religion has seen for several months now. Anyhow, if I'm wrong, post back and we'll figure it out. Keep up the good work on Metaphysics! - Sam 05:07, 24 January 2007 (UTC)

Philosophy of religions????[edit]

What do you mean by philosophy of religions? The article seems to be talking about philosophy of God, right?

Also, Hinduism has much older and much better explaination of all mono, duo, trio or whatever classification of Gods. In so called "everything is God" (Pantheism) category, Hinduism is not mentioned at all, though before anybody in west could think so, Hindus have long regarded everything as part of infinite God.

Aside: Before we can think whether God exist or not, we should think if we exist or not, or more precisely what "existence" means? Again Hinduism seem to have excellent philosophical debates on that topic, which eventually end up saying that everything is "Maya" or the act of God and that nothing exist except illusion/observation. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Skant (talkcontribs)

Philosophy of religion is an academic discipline mostly concerned with the existence of God. Existential debates within religion are the topic of religious philosophy, which I thought was different, but it seems it redirects back to this article. So never mind me, Merzul (talk) 13:55, 22 May 2008 (UTC)
Anyway, I tried to resolve this in the lead. Merzul (talk) 14:14, 22 May 2008 (UTC)

Philosophy of religion as a part of metaphysics[edit]

What is the "first PO cause argument"? We need to be told Myrvin (talk) 20:27, 15 July 2009 (UTC)

Seconded by Cowtowne - that phrase is entirely OBSCURE as demonstrated by Mr Google here:

 http :// bit .ly /71I8Dq   Accept my apology, my prose is

jabbery. Maybe clever, or perhaps quite a brickhead... Initial theory is the two letters "PO" are spurious, typos, and stand for nothing. Why's this error unfixed for five months, when it is the leading sentence of a complex, erudite, pedantic synopsis.

 http :// /52yUhU  (redact teh spaces) 

==> revised theory; and a workable conclusion. "PO" has no context. Inclusion of undeclared abbreviations is surely ill-advised. Perhaps... PM =Prime Mover. Because this article appears to be unattended... it will get some TLC with this micro-tweak from me. ( sorry if this oversteps the protocol... alas, you are duly notified herein) So much for the 35minutes wasted upon this glimmer of incomplete scholarship which was confounding. Ciao from Cowe Cowtowne (talk) 04:22, 24 December 2009 (UTC)≈

Philosophical theology[edit]

There would seem to be a good deal of overlap with Philosophical theology William M. Connolley (talk) 23:20, 31 January 2011 (UTC)

DISTINCT from theology, or a variant of it?[edit]

Currently, part of the (unsourced, btw) text reads: "Theologians, distinct from philosophers of religion, often consider the existence of God as axiomatic or self-evident and explain, justify or support religious claims by rationalization or intuitive metaphors." However, looking at the list of philosophers of religion, a great deal of them are theologians - and famous ones at that. In other words: It appears fairly meaningless to try and make such a sharp division between theologians and philosophers of religion, unless you want to remove the designation of philosopher of religion from such characters as Augustine of Hippo or St. Thomas Aquinas, who may fit the category of philosophical theology anyway.Mojowiha (talk) 22:22, 12 November 2014 (UTC)

I could see this article being merged with theology, as the theology article notes "Richard Hooker defined 'theology' in English as 'the science of things divine,' [...] Theologians use various forms of analysis and argument [...] to help understand, explain, test, critique, defend or promote any of myriad religious topic" and that theology may "challenge (ex. biblical criticism) or oppose (ex. irreligion) a religious tradition or the religious world-view."
I could imagine a possible form of article that needs to remain separate, but the current form reads like a POV-fork of theology.
Ian.thomson (talk) 22:44, 12 November 2014 (UTC)
I am trying to rewrite this with refs. Myrvin (talk) 23:32, 12 November 2014 (UTC)

Copy or too-close paraphrase in /* Problem of Divine Hiddenness */[edit]

The text here seems too closely related to its single source, section 2 of Hiddenness of God at Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. — jmcgnh(talk) (contribs) 04:20, 19 March 2017 (UTC)