In my early church experience preachers were fond of ridiculing the influence of philosophy on our culture and moral attitudes. They routinely referred to it as “foolosophy” which was nothing more than the Devil’s tool to draw men’s attention away from God, the true source of wisdom and ethical guidance. Like a lot of religious rhetoric, it made good theater but not much good sense.
Philosophy and religion are logically intertwined. Both direct attention to the most basic of life issues: how to live appropriately, how to manage human relationships, how to achieve fulfillment and happiness, how to respond to our innate sense of something greater than ourselves, how to make meaning of all life experiences. Philosophy and religion both suggest that mankind has an inherent yearning for improvement or progress, both individually and collectively.
The basic difference between philosophy and religion lies in definition of that element outside ourselves which draws us upward to greater awareness, empathy, and the expectation of a better tomorrow. Philosophy unlike religion is not so convinced that the something greater is a supernatural being, particularly one with so many humanlike characteristics. Various philosophical views may or may not identify the divine as the source toward which mankind is being drawn under the human concept of progress or ultimate destiny.
In general philosophers are like scientists in the sense that they propose answers to what is real and true and then go about experimenting to see what actually works and therefore proves true. Of course, philosophy exists in different variants so what is judged to work is different from person to person. This also distinguishes philosophy from exclusive religion of the type which insists there is only one true way.
In the end, what separates religion and philosophy is the extent to which human reasoning is respected in the search for ultimate reality and life meaning. Religion often insists that reasonableness and personal effectiveness are not proper measures of religious truth. Philosophy on the other hand evolves from human thought and experience as it deals with the basic questions about life and humanity.
Religious truth may or may not be available to or actually work for everyone. Religious Truth, being beyond human reason, cannot be available to all nor can it be effective for all. Religious truth is managed and administered by human agents and cannot be accessed without their assistance.
In such a religious environment, many men are drawn to an alternative way to seek after ultimate truth, one without the limitations of exclusive religion. Philosophy offers different ways to address what is ultimately most real. In that way it offers the opportunity be both reasonable and yet seek after truth which may be simultaneously simple and profound, both rational and yet transcendent. An approach which affords an opportunity to be fully human.