I was going to try and make a couple of posts that attempted to explain the difference between religious beliefs and philosophy of religion, but that just got too complicated and technical so I decided to keep it simple by just looking at examples. Let’s tackle some of the hardest philosophical questions first. Why not?
Is God Omnipotent?
Some religions, but not all hold on to the belief that God is omnipotent. Philosophers has a lot of difficult questions for that belief.
“Can God make a rock he can’t lift?”
If the answer to the above question is no, then God is not omnipotent. If the answer is yes, then God, is not omnipotent. These are the type of philosophical questions that challenge any religion that might hold God’s omnipotence. When it comes to Christianity the omnipotence of God is brought out in the Gospel of Matthew. Jesus said nothing is impossible for God.
When I gave this “rock” question to my wife she said “Why even think about that?” Even after 33 years of marriage, she still doesn’t understand I question everything and I don’t understand why everyone else doesn’t think the same way. 🙂
What About Evil??
Another similar question is how evil can exist in a world controlled by an omnipotent God. This question was put forward before many religions were established by the philosopher Epicurus (341–270 bce)
Epicurus provided a pithy formulation of the problem: Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then why is there evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?
I’m sure the existence of evil in the world as well as tragic, seemingly senseless deaths makes many question the very existence of God, or at least a god who supposedly watches out for each of us. The Abrahamic religions are the most ambivalent to philosophy, and given these types of questions I can see why.
How Many Different Religions Are There?
Changing subjects, they say that there are about 4200 different versions of religion in the world with Christianity and Islam being the two largest two and making up about half the world’s population. Many of the other religions are more philosophical in nature. The prominent ones being Buddhism, Hinduism, and Taoism. These religions seem to comfortably coexist with philosophy.
Some religions regard God as a unity, whereas others take God to be triune. Some religions take God to have been incarnated in human form, whereas others recoil in horror from any such suggestion. Some religions hold that there is but one God, whereas other religions are polytheistic, positing many gods, each with its own jurisdiction. Some religions conceive of God as a supernatural being—an entity that is distinct from cosmos, whereas others identify God with the totality of all that there is.
Source: Reference #1
I need to do some more study on those religions outside the number 1 and 2 spots to see why they handle philosophical questions so much better than Christianity, Islam, or Judiasm.
Next time I want to study some more about Hinduism, in particular Gandhi’s version. To whet your appetite here is a quote from him about religion:
“I believe in the fundamental Truth of all great religions of the world. And I believe that if only we could, all of us, read the scriptures of the different Faiths from the stand-point of the followers of those faiths, we should find that they were at the bottom, all one and were all helpful to one another”