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The Problem of (Some) Religions In Philosophy From a Functional Standpoint

Updated: Mar 28

In Islam, there is what is called "haram," or the ban on studying philosophy unless it is required for academic graduation. In some Jewish circles, there is, to this very day, a full rejection of the Jewish philosopher Spinoza, who rejected the biblical idea of God as a personal deity.

All of this makes at least me think, "What is the point of the philosophy of religion from a religious standpoint, when much of what philosophy is, is basically scepticism and free thinking?" If you, let's say, as a religious person, are not going to accept the orthodox principles of your god, and your religion prohibits doubting said god and said principles -- what then, is the point of religious philosophy?

The "problem" with religion from a functional standpoint is that many religions don't preach and even condemn, going against your own religion and its principles. Thus, some of them have prohibited or at least discouraged the practice of philosophy.

The reasoning for that comes from the fundamental declaration: that one's religion is the most correct one, if not the only correct one. Thus, one cannot philosophize about religion if it condemns or discourages free thinking.

Let's say you're a child, and you're hanging out with your friends at the local football field. However, one of the halves of the field is privately owned, so you can't play in teams, as there is only one gate to kick the ball in. If you try to play in the other half, then the private owner might get angry or even call the police. Therefore, you're confined to playing with one keeper and not two. A debate with only one side per se.

In other words, when you are confined to not coming to the belief that a condemning religion is wrong, then you have no actual point in philosophizing about it. That's because the core belief of a religion is that it's undoubtedly correct. It aspires to be indisputable. It tries to appear as such. When I can't talk about the Abrahamic God or any other god, then my range of philosophizing is limited, not by condemnation or discouragement.

Because of this limiting dysfunctionality I eventually abandoned the idea of religion as something that I am supposed to believe in; Judaism, in my case. If I grew up not in a secular family but in an ultra-orthodox one, I would've been condemned and even shunned for not believing in the Jewish version of God (or gods in general).

The reason for that is irrelevant as this is a matter of functionality. It is difficult for me to accept that "God exists and that's it" when my own logic doesn't say so. However, it may indeed be the case of some religious people, as believing in the local interpretation of a God is expected and even demanded.

That's the problem in religion from a philosophical standpoint -- that we're just supposed to assume and respect the notion that one side is correct without a portion of a doubt. Of course, that isn't true in all of religion, as that largely depends on the point of view of each movement of each religion, and each movement might hold different points of view.

That is the thing which circles back to the core belief that an X religion and an X God are supposed to be true, while in practice could be many interpretations of said religion and of said God, thus shaking the stability of such pretence of universal truth.

That is, in general, the point of philosophy -- an historic attempt at finding universal truths through logic by first admitting that one knows nothing, and when one admits so, how can one believe that he knows one God or another? When you begin in the Socratic principle, that you know nothing, then it would only be natural to doubt any form of religion, unless you are convinced that one god and religion are indeed true.

Some may refer to the importance of tradition in religion, but that is also problematic, since from a philosophical standpoint, even a religion that no longer has followers, like ancient Pegan religions and cults, could indeed be the correct one. The fact that you were born or believe in a religion that is thousands of years old and/or has a large following, doesn't mean that your religion is the most correct one, or the only correct one.

When you think about it, it's hard to choose a religion when you are forced from birth, sometimes, to believe that the specific religion you were born into is the most correct one. You could've been born somewhere else, and your perception of religion and god(s) would change as well.

The world is largely Abrahamic, theoretically, because of missionaries and former colonial empires. If it weren't for colonists who invaded the lands of others, from the Americas to the Oceanian continent, a very large portion of people wouldn't be Christians or Muslims.

Who knows, even the Japanese-oriented religion of Shintoism could be the most correct one. It is believed that the Japanese royal family, who still rule Japan as a constitutional monarchy, are descendants of the gods themselves! Imagine if the Japanese were still an empire to this day.

Perhaps more people today would have believed in Shintoism instead of their current beliefs. Should Japan not have been an isolated country for much of its history, unlike the European colonial powers, then perhaps the quantity of followers of certain religions would differ.

This is why, when it is assumed that a religion is the ultimate truth, you "can't" really dispute that when you are expected to believe that you, indeed, cannot. It's not that you can't, but in some locations, you might be condemned as a sinner, be threatened with hell, or be told that you're talking non-sense.

Hence the problem of some sects of religion from a purely functional standpoint. As long as your viewpoints are aligned with those of your local religion, you won't be condemned or shunned like Solomon Maimon and Baruch Spinoza were in their time, for example.

And you can think to yourself how severe it is to disagree, to think differently, and how you will theoretically be tortured or burned eternally because of that; because of being independent; of being a free thinker; of being a philosopher.

An Islamic speech on philosophy

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Tomasio A. Rubinshtein, Philosocom's Founder & Writer

I am a philosopher from Israel, author of several books in 2 languages, and Quora's Top Writer of the year 2018. I'm also a semi-hermit who has decided to dedicate his life to writing and sharing my articles across the globe. Several podcasts on me, as well as a radio interview, have been made since my career as a writer. More information about me can be found here.

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