Relationship between philosophy and religion

The relationship between philosophy and religion is so close that it is almost impossible to talk about one without bringing the other into a conversation.

education faculty
Friday, July 29, 2022

The relationship between philosophy and religion results from how these thoughts have developed throughout human history. For this reason, it is necessary to enter into context about how each of them were shaped. In general, among philosophers there is no disagreement about the authenticity of the religious experience in the human being. However, there are different ways of interpreting it:

  • The positive mode, i.e. the believer: believing in a spiritual being who is above all (God).
  • The negative mode, i.e. atheism: denying the existence of God. This belief in the existence of God is a natural part of the human being, while atheism is its negative part.

This indicates that human beings were religious for their philosophy and philosophers for their religion, and throughout history they have been mutually related. Since the emergence of human civilization, societies have clearly demonstrated their strong and close relationship with religion, since it was the ancient Eastern civilizations that facilitated and paved the way for the emergence of Greek philosophy, in its abstract sense, through their religions and ideals (Alshboul, 2005).

History of thought

In these ancient oriental civilizations, the priests were the ones who directed the religion, human thought and culture of that time. Their ideology was a mixture of religious postulates combined with philosophical and scientific approaches, something that was accepted by their disciples, who in turn established the foundations of what would become Greek philosophy, influenced by Eastern thought.

Philosophy in Greece had a religious character and its religion a philosophical character. An example of this is Pythagoras, who is credited with minting the concept of philosophy (Alshboul, 2005). As stated by Cheney (1974, p. 92), “he is the most religious Greek philosopher, and he is one of the most philosophized of the great Greek religious men”. Moreover, Pythagoras was the founder of the Pythagorean School of Philosophy, and leader of the revival of the ancient religion Orpheus (Shanar, 1988, p. 64). On the other hand, the different religions, and especially the most important ones, have never been absolutely against abstract theoretical thinking (Alshboul 2005).

In any case, it cannot be denied that at certain times there were disputes between the religious and the philosophers. The first of these occurred in the Christian Middle Ages; the priests oppressed and confiscated the freedom of opinion and writing from philosophers, putting on trial those who expressed new opinions. This dispute continued into the Renaissance and into the 18th century, with movements such as the Enlightenment and Liberalism, when this relationship changed.

On one hand, the Church lost religious power, while the philosophers’ idea was to consider that the church was no longer an obstacle, so they stopped challenging its rules. In the Islamic world, disputes were globalized in how the verses of the Koran were interpreted (Alshboul, 2005).

Separation of ideologies

There are notable differences between religion and philosophy. For religions, truth is dogmatic and absolute. It cannot be refuted. An absolute truth can exist on this plane of existence. For philosophies, on the contrary, no absolute truth can exist on this plane. Consequently, one can only speak of relative truths, and of an access to the true by a progressive ascent, through the awareness of one’s own ignorance.

On the other hand, the methodology of religion is based on belief, while philosophy does not accept this method (Alshboul 2005). Even so, the purpose that both share is to arrive at the truth. Religion represents one of the most complex phenomena for philosophy and for the human being himself. At present, it is not possible to speak of a radical separation between them; there are theories that link them, such as neothomism or Christian existentialism.

For its part, a branch of Philosophy called Philosophy of Religion, studies among other elements:

  • Principles, foundations, characteristics and types of religious beliefs.
  • Relations between religions and other types of beliefs.
  • The links between religions, ideologies and their cultural contexts.
  • The influence of religions on moral, aesthetic, etc. expressions.

Relationship between philosophy and catholic religion

The Church is not and cannot be a stranger to man’s search to understand his meaning and orient his realization. Among the means at man’s disposal in this search, philosophy stands out, which arises and develops when the person begins to question himself about the meaning and purpose of reality. Thus, understood as “love of wisdom”, philosophy is one of the noblest tasks of humanity (John Paul II, 1998).

From the beginning, the Church has affirmed its closeness to the philosophical search for wisdom, since reason does not oppose or contradict faith, but rather, both reinforce each other, since they are “the two wings with which the human spirit soars towards the contemplation of truth” (John Paul II, 1998).

Moreover, the Church “considers philosophy as an indispensable aid to deepen the understanding of faith and to communicate the truth of the Gospel to those who do not yet know it” (John Paul II, 1998). The Church cannot but be interested in philosophy.

Reasons of interest

  • In questioning access to the truth, new generations “are deprived of authentic points of reference”, of a “basis on which to build their personal and social existence” (John Paul II, 1998). Philosophy, whose vocation is to form thought through the search for truth, is responsible for this.
  • The encyclical Fides et Ratio (John Paul II, 1998), in a manner comparable to Aeterni Patris (Leo XIII, 1879), develops these teachings of the Second Vatican Council, insisting on the significance of philosophy for man and for the Christian faith, seeking to apply this teaching and to stimulate philosophical work, first of all, in the centers proper to the Church.
  • The study of philosophy is important for the formation centers themselves, since it is necessary to “face the demands of the contemporary world” (John Paul II, 1998), both in the pastoral task and in the effort to understand the faith.

In conclusion, in view of the demands of the life and mission of the Church in today’s world, in view of her need for the intelligence of faith, understanding and dialogue with contemporary man, the Encyclical considers it urgent to underline “the great interest that the Church has in philosophy; moreover, the intimate bond that unites theological work with the philosophical search for truth” (John Paul II, 1998).

The professional and his role in education

At TECH Technological University, each of the specializations are carefully designed by subject matter experts. For this reason, its Faculty of Education stands out with programs such as the Master’s Degree in Inclusive Education for Children and Teenagers at Risk of Social Exclusion and the Master’s Degree in International Cooperation for People Development. However, for those professionals who are clear that their approach must be linked to religion as a primary basis, the Master’s Degree in Catholic Education will certainly meet their expectations.

Related articles

1 /