Jan 27, 2020 in Research
The Difference between Religion and Philosophy of Religion


Religion and philosophy of religion are the planes that intersect in numerous points. In particular, both concepts refer to human's behavior and beliefs. Moreover, both of these philosophic matters serve to explore the surrounding world. Nevertheless, one should comprehend that religion and philosophy of religion differ in approaches to the cognition of the world.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this study is to discover the difference between the concepts of religion and philosophy of religion. Specifically, this paper will scrutinize the role of abstract and practical matters and approaches in frames of these philosophic categories. Besides, it will refer to the notions of uniformity and pluralism of religious ideas and views. Moreover, this study will define the difference between necessary and plausible existence of the Lord and observe how these peculiarities determine each of the discussed concepts.

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Academic level

Abstract versus Practical Notions

Striving to understand the difference between religion and philosophy of religion it is appropriate to point out that the subjects of religion are abstract. In contrast, philosophy of religion aims to study abstract and irrational matters applying to logical and practical approaches. For instance, "philosophy of religion addresses embedded social and personal practices". That is why, this philosophic subcategory is "relevant to practical concerns; its subject matter is not all abstract theory". Simultaneously, religious dogmas are often ambivalent, vague, and, thus, hardly understandable. Instead of being perceived with the help of practical methods (the use of sensations, cognitive processes) they must be adopted per se. The ability to absorb religious views and trust in their correctness unconditionally is known as faith. The notion of faith has little to do with practical approaches because it does not require cognitive processing of the obtained information.

The difference between abstract and practical can be best understood while referring to the language of religion and philosophy of religion. In this regard, one should accentuate the concept of logical positivism. Consider the rationale, "the practice of philosophy, especially in the analytic tradition, places emphasis on precision of terms and clarity of concepts and ideas". In contrast to philosophy, religion language is "imprecise and couched in mystery". Simply put, logical positivism is intrinsic for religion of philosophy; however, it is alien for religion language. This example depicts the difference between these philosophic categories, which can be presented as the abstract faith versus practical approaches towards the formation of human's schemata. In other words, both religion and philosophy of religion study the world's phenomena with the aim to explain the unknown, but meanwhile, the first appeals to unconditional faith, the second is based on the practical and rationale matters. Considering this insight, it is possible to suggest that the unconditional faith stipulates the adherence towards particular idea (s) without attempting to seek for alternative versions. As a result, religion inhibits the development of tolerance. Instead, it welcomes the uniformity of views. The next section is aimed at addressing the difference between religion and philosophy of religion in terms of uniformity and pluralism of the corresponding ideas.

Uniformity versus Pluralism

Philosophy of religion studies religious pluralism that presumes diverse views towards the same matters. At the same time, religion is earnest for the followers' loyalty. Thus, it neither explains, nor permits any plural views towards the same matters. This very peculiarity gives the rise to religious confrontations. Unlike religion, philosophy of religion aims to explain the biological, social, political, cultural and other backgrounds of social and personal practices. To a great extent, it is done to understand, anticipate and eliminate religion-based conflicts.

Specifically, philosophy of religion explores religious diversity with the purpose to comprehend the causal links between individuals' views and actions. It becomes clear that, whereas, a particular religion constructs and supports own dimensions and frameworks, in a global meaning, one can observe significant diversity in religious beliefs of various peoples. In these terms, one can rightfully deduce that philosophy of religion explores the world phenomena in a broader meaning and, thus, it is the plane that contains the subsets of various religions.

Furthermore, philosophy of religion suggests that "a person’s experiences, religious and non-religious, depend on the interpretive frameworks and concepts through which one’s mind structures and comprehends them". Religion implements unconditional faith as the approach and tool towards developing the consistent interpretive frameworks that a person may use to define good and evil and align own behaviors and attitudes in accordance with these beliefs. It means that every religion constructs unique interpretive frameworks that serve a person as a moral guide throughout the entire life. This rationale depicts the way in which religious uniformity is constructed within one religion, and how the philosophy of religion explains the pluralism of the diverse religious dogmas. Comprehending the concept of the religious interpretive frameworks one can link it to human's experiences that define the existence of God. Undoubtedly, both in terms, religion and philosophy of religion, the existence of deity(s) is an essential principle. Nevertheless, the difference is that religion takes the existence of the Lord for granted, that is, due to one's faith, the corresponding belief is set a priori. In contrast, philosophy of religion scrutinizes the plausibility of God's existence making it belong to the plane of possible existence rather than to the necessary existence. The next section aims at observing and discussing the above-mentioned difference.

The Possible Existence of God versus Necessary Existence

Religion considers that God must exist; he belongs to the set of necessary existence and is defined as the Supreme Being and, the only one who exists for its own sake. In this regard, philosophy aims to collect the evidence, scrutinize, prove, refute or presume the Lord's existence. Therefore, the philosophy of religion contains a number of approaches that are used to survey and appraise the probability of God's existence. For example, these are ontological arguments, cosmological arguments, and teleological arguments. To demonstrate the diverse views towards God's existence in terms of religion and philosophy it is possible to observe cosmological arguments. This set of causal connections suggests the following rationale. Everything that exists has the reason to exist; the universe exists and, thus, it has the cause of existence. Given that it does not exist for own sake, it exists for the sake of something else, this Supreme Being is God. Nonetheless, philosophy of religion considers the astronomic discoveries and presumes that the Lord does not necessarily exist, but his existence is plausible.


Summing up the above-mentioned, it is necessary to claim that religion and philosophy of religion serve to explore and understand the world; though to achieve this purpose they suggest different approaches. In particular, religion is based on the unconditional faith, which does not presume involvement of human's sensory organs or cognitive abilities. Unlike, religion, the philosophy of religion maintains analytical approaches towards learning the world's phenomena. The vivid example of the rational and practical approaches is language positivism that is untypical for religion, but typical for philosophy. It considers both a priori knowledge such as faith, and posteriori insights obtained thanks to empirical methods. In addition, religion is characterized with the uniformity when there is only one version or one explanation of the world's order, which leads to the development of intolerance. At the same time, philosophy of religion is the set that includes diverse religions and, thus, accepts the pluralism and diversity. What is more, religion educates that the existence of Gog belongs to the plane of necessary existence; whereas, philosophy of religion considers it to be in the set of possible existence.


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