Volume 36, 1998
Philosophy of Religion
Philosophy’s Prejudice Towards Religion
Religion acquired a bad press in philosophical modernity after a rivalry developed between philosophy and theology, originating in philosophy’s adopting the role of our culture’s superjudge in all of morality and knowledge, and in faith’s coming to be seen as belief, that is, as assent to propositional content. Religion, no longer trust in the face of mystery, became a belief system. Reason as judge of propositional belief set up religion’s decline. But spirituality is on the rise, and favors trust over reason. Philosophy could make space for the spiritual by acknowledging a difference between belief as propositional assent and religious faith as trust, a distinction lost with the mixing of Greek philosophy and Christian faith. Artistic or religious truth disappeared as authentic forms of knowing. But Michael Polanyi reintroduced knowledge as more than can be thought. Also postmodern and feminist thought urge us to abandon autonomous reason as sole limit to knowledge. We have space again for philosophy to look at openness to the spiritual. If spirituality confronts us with the mystery of the existential boundary conditions, religion may be a form of relating to the mystery that confronts us from beyond the bounds of reason. That mystery demands our attention if we are to be fully in touch with perennial issues of human meaning.