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 hat 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, ut 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 hat 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, hen 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 he 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, here 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 y 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 vidence 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 world. While they didn’t believe in a God, per say, their One is in the same spirit as Western religions’ God. That most everything, natural or manmade has some intrinsic beauty is not in dispute. But is an ugly object evil, from Satan or some other corollary of God? This, unfortunately, Trueblood doesn’t delve nto. Historical and religious experience is another vast factor in the philosophy of religion. To quote Martin Buber, “All religion is history” With only very minor exceptions, most historical manuscripts have been written, preserved, etc. y religious characters. As far back as the Sumerian civilizations, it was the priests who recorded everything. In the Middle Ages of Europe, were it not for monks, all of the Greek and Roman manuscripts would have been lost, and no new records would have come about. Coincidentally, many of the religious leaders of the Middle Ages were philosophers, such as St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Augustine, etc. Only in the Renascence did the fields of History, Religion, and Philosophy once again diverge, yet to this day, their paths cross more often than not. The Holy Bible, in many places is just a collection of ancient history, and reads like a lecture.
Only the prophecies and slanted views found in it prevent it from being the first history textbook. The codependency of separate religions and history is also illustrated by the Hebrew and Christian faiths: The Christian faith has developed largely at the expense of the Hebrew faith, and has no independent oundation, and the Hebrew faith is stagnate, with no definitive end. The Christians even registered the Hebrew Canon as part of the Bible, providing the faith with some tenuous roots, although the true development of Christianity is somewhat vague.
The next two sections of Philosophy of Religion deal with problems encountered by those attempting to be faithful to a religion. Trueblood considers Dialectical Materialism, i. e. Marxism to be one of the greatest challenges. Marxism and the Nazi movement of the 1930s and ’40s are both, technically, religions, but they act as a severe detriment to Christianity or ther theistic beliefs. Both of these movements are atheistic, embracing manmade values, mainly economic: although the similarities stop there. Another challenge pointed out in this section is That of Freudian psychology.
Trueblood considers this a threat almost as severe as the aforementioned blight of Dialectical materialism. Freud and others like him, including Ludwig Feuerbach, consider the idea of Gods to be nothing more than personified wishes. Feuerbach contends that each segment of belief is an attempt to objectify the thinker’s wish. Freud himself felt that the Christian God was the manifestation of man’s desire for a ather figure to be feared, and depended upon, thus we view natural occurrences as coming from a central parent.
I personally don’t agree with Trueblood on this point: many people see Freud’s views as anachronistic, not a viable explanation of man’s desire for God, and certainly not a challenge to religious faith. The third challenge to religious faith, according to Trueblood, is Logical Positivism. While Marxism and Nazis point-blankly scoff the idea of God, and Freud writes it off to psychological instability, this third attack simply views religion and metaphysics as “worthless and idle undertakings. ” Positivism restricts knowledge and fact as sense experiences, basic definitions only elaborated on as the subject of personal whims.
Positivists feel there is a definitive answer to every question, and only one answer, is right. It is a very dogmatic and intolerable school of philosophy. I fully agree with Trueblood that this is a serious challenge to religious faith, perhaps more so than dialectical materialism. With no room for opinion, there can be no room for free-thinking, thus no expansion of religious thought. Indeed, this attitude is a threat to not only religious freedom, but to intellectual expansion. Should logical positivism ever come into widespread acceptance, than the world would take on an Orwellian shape, with all religions a thing of the past.
There are many enduring problems that religion faces, that don’t come and go like political fads or philosophical sects. The central of these problems is science vs. religion. It is impossible, as mentioned at the beginning of this paper to compartmentalize the two. As fast as one theologist finds a new biblical text proving creation, geologists pull up a fossil of man a few more hundred thousand years older. Fortunately, however he Genises/geology dogmatism has relaxed, with both sides able to find a happy median.
But the great strides in medicine have sparked an enormous amount of confrontation, with people unsure of where science and chance ends, and miracles begin. Of course, what is miracle? Could not have God influenced the doctor, pulling his hand in the right way as the delicate incision was made? There are a million what-ifs in medicine, and one must draw the line, and have faith in his fellow man instead of chalking every successful recover up to divine intervention. If everyone waited for a miracle, nothing would ever get done, and hen the need for miracles would be even greater, according to Trueblood.
I fully agree with Trueblood on this point. The remainder of Philosophy of Religion deals with such topics as evil, God himself (or her/its self), freedom, and immortality. I didn’t feel these topics are necessarily an important part of the book. They are impossible to validate, and Trueblood gives them a slanted approach. He only spends two pages on the religious significance of freedom, and doesn’t even mention the value of the freedom of religion. I didn’t agree or disagree with anything in the last section of the book; I just felt it was redundant.
As a whole, Trueblood has done a very good job with Philosophy of Religion and I truly enjoyed reading it. It is very unique, the first book I’ve ever seen that strictly explains the motives and processes behind religious thought, without attempting to justify one sect, or judge, positively or otherwise a personal religious belief. It was very insightful, and has helped to clear up questions I’ve had about religious thought. Perhaps if more religious leaders understood the why’s of their beliefs, there would be less intolerance and fanaticism, and religions could cohabitate in the world they feel they are protecting from evil.