Sunday, February 12, 2012



This is defined as philosophical exploration of religious beliefs and practices. Religion impinges on every area of human life, and it has to be investigated by all scholarly disciplines:
history/anthropology/sociology/psychology/philosophy of religion.

The basic science of studying this subject is phenomenology of religion; it gathers data from the religions, describing and explaining the phenomena (the technical term for the things in a religion), constructing typologies, and comparing (‘comparative religion’) the types of things across the range of religions, but without making value judgements.

Defining Religion
A system of symbols; a religion is like a language, which breaks up into dialects, or sects in the case of religions; these can become new religions.

Analysis of Religions
(A religion is a set of sacred beliefs, practices, objects, and persons)
Persons Traditions Writings Times Places Rites Objects Doctrines Rules

Philosophy of religion is where the question can be asked: Is it true?
But don’t expect a yes/no answer.

When logical positivism ruled philosophy, religious statements were judged to be non-sense, meaningless, and religious beliefs were absurd. When I had to study philosophy of religion in the 1960s, it was a battlefield, with A.J. Ayer and Antony Flew firing the cannons at me. The bombardment was eventually silenced, and the attacks *flew away into the*air.
Still, there were lessons learned about tidying up religious language.

Arguments for the existence of God.
Ontology (we have an idea of a perfect being, so it must exist; unicorns too?)
Cosmology (the universe exists, someone must have brought it into being)
Teleology (the marvellous universe must have a purpose and a maker)
Morality (based on commandments, so who gave these commands?)
Thaumatology (miracles show that God is there, and acting)
Experience (religious experiences, if you have them, put you in touch with God)

Defining Divinity (What is God?)
Monotheism (God is One; there is no God but God)
Polytheism (God is many; a multitude of deities)
Polymorphomonotheism (God is one, but in many forms; Trinity or 330 million)
[I made that word up; you might see it elsewhere as polymorphic monotheism]
Pantheism (God is all; everything together constitutes God)
Panentheism [God is the universe, and more; in it and beyond it)
[I usually take the most paradoxical option, but can not decide which]

Belief Positions
Theism (belief in Divinity; all the above 5 forms go under this heading)
Deism (God wound up the universe and lets it unwind with no interference)
Agnosticism (we do not know, can not know, whether God exists, but we care]
Atheism [to Hell with God, but actually neither of those concepts exist)

Divine Attributes
Omnipotence (God Almighty!) Omniscience (Big Know-all) Omnipresence (ubiquity)

God is SPIRIT (like wind, breath; but Mormons allow God to have a body) LOVE

I have no absolute fixed religious beliefs; but I am an advocate for everyone's religion (unless it includes female circumcision).

If anyone wants to take the label atheist, or theist, the qualification agnostic must precede it (Graham Greene was an agnostic Catholic, for example.) We must all be agnostics.

However, I accept that the universe is there (not an illusion), and that it is alive and kicking; and I want to have a loving relationship with it.

In the beginning God created humankind in the divine image.
Or: Humans created God in their own image?
(But remember: male and female he created them in his own image. (Genesis 1)
This is what really happened:
In the beginning humans created their mental image of God in their own image (male and female).

Brian Colless PhD ThD


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