Sjolander Road Fellowship




Declaring the God of Unconditional Love

religion and philosophy

1/7/14

 

I well remember how some preachers I heard in my youth would contemptuously refer to what they like to call "foolosophy. In retrospect, I am not sure they could even spell philosophy, much less give a definition of the word. I know that at the time I couldn't have. Whatever the case, the clear implication of these derogatory comments was that philosophy was the thoughts of men and true religion, fundamentalist Christianity in this case, was divine wisdom. A second, unverbalized, but important assertion, was that the preachers are a whole lot smarter than philosophers. It never hurts to toot your own horn a bit, especially when you need to confirm your unassailable claim to be an essential instructor in righteousness.

 

Inherent in comments of this sort is the church's view that life is separated into two components, the religious and the secular. In their mind, the religious defines how we should relate to God, and the secular deals with how we relate to all else. In their minds philosophy deals with the all else and is therefore secular and not divine. In reality the essential distinction between religion and philosophy is religion's claim to speaking the wisdom of God. Both fields of thought deal with the source and nature of knowledge, logical reasoning, ethical standards, and human relationships. Religion, of course, addresses the divine also. Many in the church probably view philosophy as atheistic, though that is not necessarily the case.

 

I think the real distinction that the church likes to highlight between religion and philosophy is source of knowledge and the role of the human intellect in acquiring it. The church teaches a divine revelation as the source of ultimate truth and largely demands that human reasoning cannot question that truth regardless of how questionable it might seem.

 

Much less attention is focused by the church on the questions of ethics and human relationships, aside from those of a sexual nature. Thus we witness still today the church's longstanding obsession with sexual sins- adultery, fornication, abortion, homosexuality, bestiality etc. This obsession ignores the fact that the Bible says all sin is the same, and this emphasis conveniently diverts attention away from more frequent but less noted sins, leaving church members to feel comfortably superior to their secular neighbors.

 

The church's dismissal of philosophical thought as unimportant and actually detrimental suggests that all ethical standards developed outside the sphere of orthodox religion are false or at least inferior to those of the church. Ethical standards supposedly require a divine provision or they cannot exist or even be defined. The general universality of many ethical standards within diverse cultures and societies make such an assertion unsupportable. Both religion and philosophy deal with and develop such standards and arrive at similar conclusions for the most part. The only difference is the purported origin of these standards- divine revelation or human logic and contemplation. The one insists the human intellect is misguided and not to be trusted. The other uses that capability to evaluate and formulate standards which are supported logically based on observation.

 

The conflict between religion and philosophy is similar to the conflict between religion and science. Both conflicts involve different attitudes toward human reasoning and the correct means of determining truth.