Philosophy Of Religion Philosophy of Religion, by David Elton Trueblood is an attempt to fathom not religion as a whole, but the thought processes that are the basis of modern religious thought. The book makes no attempt to explain any individual religious preferences or motifs, only to gauge the reasons for religion in its entirety. While Trueblood doesn’t pass judgment on other religions, his personal beliefs are apparent. He is a Protestant Christian, and has been writing books on religion since 1935. Philosophy of Religion is in the spirit of his other books, such as The Logic of Belief which merely serves to explain why persons believe what they do believe.
1957, the year of publication, was exactly in the middle of a period of great change in the world. The space age was developing, and new scientific discoveries were turning many people away from theistic explanations of everything from natural history to outer space. Communism was spreading over Eastern Europe like a wildfire, sweeping up millions into the not-so-comforting arms of spiritual agnosticism. I feel Trueblood has done an excellent job with this book, and anyone interested in the “Why’s” of religion should find it an interesting manuscript. Religion has reached a previously unheard-of footing in this world, and it is impossible to simply ignore it.
One is forced to agree with or oppose with religions, which of course has led to a great deal of friction, especially between radical sects. Unfortunately, many of the most stringent followers as well as opposers of religions suffer from the same malady: ignorance. The most devoted Islamic guerrilla may well be involved in an anti-Semitic movement only because his father was. He may actually have the same fundamental beliefs, i.e. the belief in one supreme God or Creator; as a Jew, but is blinded by his cause and can’t see the similarities, or attempt to cohabitate in the world with an opposer of his religion. In religion, there is to much gray area for there to be just one possible solution.
Even communism, always considered the antithesis of religion may well be one of the most dogmatic faiths in the world. The main fundamental in religion is commitment. Most commonly it is the faith in God or other supreme being, but dialectical materialism is most certainly built on total commitment . Another factor many people fail to realize, but which Trueblood points out more than adequately is that philosophy is not religion. Philosophy is the search for “knowledge for the sake of understanding, while religion seeks knowledge for the sake of worship.” One may also be religious and scientific. While science has redefined a good deal of the natural world, the supernatural is still unchanged; more people are turning to a God for comfort and stability in a world of constant flux.
Quite possibly one of the most important factors in religion is its reliance on faith. All religion is based on word of mouth, and there is no way of proving its validity. If any part of a religion is ever proved false, then the belief as a whole is thus untrue. One cannot maintain, or pretend to maintain, a religion merely because it is comforting, socially proper, or convenient. If there is no God, then to pray and worship is a waste of time, according to Trueblood. Indeed, he considers a false religion to be inherently evil! Of course, many people feel that something cannot be quantitatively evil, unless there is a supreme Good to compare to and fight the evil, so this There must be, then, room for ambiguity in religion, if not doubt.
This requires the argument for realism, which Trueblood sufficiently provides. Realism is a theory that “holds that there are objects of knowledge which actually enjoy independent existence.” These objects of knowledge are assumed by most religions to be the causation, directly or not, of all things. Their divinity or plurality has been the subject of great debate between separate religions, and religion as a whole and science. Platonists believe in a spontaneous, four-fold causation, while most Western religions believe in a singular, omnipotent God. Meanwhile, non-Theistic scientists feel that everything happens out of random chance, with no higher goals or creator. The next major topic that Trueblood explains is the nature of truth.
Is something rendered true merely because it hasn’t been disproved? Is positive evidence enough to classify something as true, or proved? If A implies B, and B is true, does that mean A is true as well? There is no definite answer to this, as Trueblood points out: If John was in the wreck he must have bruises. John has bruises on his body Therefore, John was in the wreck This same type of fallacy can easily be used to explain the origins of the Earth, or the possibility of a creator. In the same section of the book as the nature of truth, there is a discussion on the nature of authority. Why are there certified geniuses in the fields of music, science and philosophy, but religious greats, prophets and teachers are considered illusionists, crackpots, or worse? Are these men and women misunderstood, or underestimated: insane, or truly messengers from a higher level? Another significant error about authority is that it conflicts with reason in the search for the truth. Many books infer this, but Trueblood illustrates that authority is dependent upon reason in the search for the truth. As previously mentioned, there are many irrefutable scientific facts which tend to nullify traditional fundamentalist beliefs.
Trueblood devotes an entire chapter to this very important topic, and attacks it in a very logical manner, that should hope to pacify most readers, myself included. When most people are asked how they know there is a God, they most always refer to nature and the world around them, and how only a supernatural power is capable such creations. While this seems a clear-cut, simple answer, that most people tend to agree with and use, Trueblood sees this as a theological cop-out: there is to much evidence to be classified by such a simple answer. The so-called natural order of things, and the fact that it had been going on for quite awhile before Man came onto the scene is perhaps the best evidence, along with the third law of thermodynamics: matter cannot be created or destroyed.
One must wonder, then how things can simply be created out of nothing, as most Christian religions teach. Many people have turned to a type of theological evolution to explain things: that God did in fact set the world in motion somehow, long ago, and has let things continue on their own natural evolutionary path. Next, Trueblood searches for positive evidence of the existence of God. In his now-familiar, leave no stone unturned method, he points to the existence of beauty and aesthetics in Nature and elsewhere.
This is a very good point that most theologians have never pointed out. Socrates and Plato both felt that beauty was evidence of a supreme Good in the worl …