I quite often get asked why I am interested in the philosophy of religion, and the answer may surprise you, especially after releasing a lengthy philosophy of religion article recently: ‘Why Do I Believe No Gods Exist?‘. In short, I’m not.
However, as with most answers in philosophy, it’s a bit more complicated than that.
I enjoy philosophy in general and, as a layperson, I’m lucky to have folks like Dave with a couple of degrees and a lot of knowledge on the topic, as well as being able to feed off of a wealth of information provided by YT channels and podcasts such as (but not limited to) Real Atheology, Philosophize This!, Kane B, Emerson Green, and I’ve enjoyed reading books by folks like Stephen Law and Simon Blackburn.
Ethics & Morality
Ethics is probably my favourite topic, and not just for the ethical content, but the fact it crosses over into epistemology, logic, metaphysics, and religion, and has some very real-world implications and applications. Of any topic, it has changed the way I behave and continue to make myself behave better and be a better human. (And I still have a long way to go.)
It’s through learning more about this topic that there was a wealth of misconceptions and bad arguments we atheists have about not only ethics but philosophy in general.
This turned my head to the philosophy of religion. There’s a wealth of information and a number of great arguments for and against the existence of gods.
Philosophy of Religion
Philosophy of religion, or PoR, resembled ethics in the way it has these cross overs into other topics that interest me, and again, has some real-world implications.
What I found, again, was many atheists have bad takes on a lot of these arguments, misunderstanding both the philosophical and theological side of things and actually, due to having such aversion to both philosophy and religion, were willing to take the time to understand them nor listen to where they were going wrong.
What I enjoyed was continuing to learn something new and the discussions that followed. Many atheists who claimed to dislike philosophy spent a lot of time discussing philosophical topics, like morality, and due to their aversion to philosophy were getting some things seriously wrong.
Conversations typically went one of two ways. Either I was othered by the atheist making out that I was some sort of theist troll, crypto theist, undercover apologist, or some other form of ‘enemy’ because I didn’t adhere to their dogmatic approach to their meme-based learning, or I had a productive respectful conversation that may not have resulted in an agreement but did result in understanding.
I should note, that it wasn’t entirely their fault in some cases. I don’t want the above to seem like I am putting all the blame on others for bad interactions. There have been many times when I should have disengaged sooner, was too hot-headed, or approached the conversation differently. There may not have been much of a different outcome in most cases, but time and energy would have been saved and sometimes there are barriers that are hard to overcome without trying to communicate in other ways.
Those in the second camp, the productive respectful conversation, often had their interest piqued and found themselves more willing to look into philosophy having realised it’s more than just opinions.
This made me realise the philosophy of religion is an “in” with the atheists that are true to what they say about being sceptics and rational thinkers and could open their minds to other philosophical concepts as well. I mean, what are scepticism and rationality without the philosophy that explains them in more detail? That’s like having science without the scientific method or any form of testing.
I personally enjoy philosophical discussion and, as I mentioned, the philosophy of religion crosses over into other topics I enjoy which I can address through that medium.
Not only that, but I got to learn more about these atheists themselves. Their experiences with religion, their previous denomination, what they believed, how it differed from other denominations of the same religion and again, opened a wealth of new discussion for me.
So, when I say I’m not interested in Philosophy of Religion, that’s more on a relativistic scale to other parts of philosophy. The reason I get involved in PoR is that it does have those crossovers and not only have met some really great atheists, but also a number of great theists and other forms of non-theist.
I’ve come to realise that this is something I love. The interaction with people. Learning about them, the person they are the experiences they’ve had and doing my best to understand them. It has made me realise that we humans have way more similarities than we do differences and that we should focus on those similarities instead of being so divisive.
One of my favourite people I’ve met online is a YEC. He’s fully aware of how I view YEC but, other than the obvious, we agree on pretty much everything else.
Equally, I do see the harm caused by certain religious practices and beliefs, and whilst I generally don’t care what someone does or does not believe, I do care about harm being caused. So, again, PoR gives me a way to address these harms.
Philosophy of religion, as with other areas of philosophy, gives me a chance to refine my thoughts and arguments. It allows me to test out different ways of communicating with people to help me have better conversations. It provides the opportunity to enhance my knowledge and execution of Reason and the Reasoning Process and build a rapport with people that might be interested in other areas of philosophy too.
Along with others I have mentioned, I am grateful that philosophy of religion has brought me closer to (or at least in contact with) folks such as: Philip Müller, Bearded Heretic, Rev N. Fidel, LoneWolfUsul, Claire, Craig Reed, GodlessGranny, Geoff Breeze (Godless Scummer), Emerson Green, Benjamin Blake Speed Watkins, MathPig, Danish Debater, FaithlessPheasant, Opie, Silenced Swordsman, Dan Kelly, ‘Brina Ryce, Nathan Ormond, Ἴκαρος ☾, Tyler, Jared Nel, Segmentation Fault, Chris.. ᚳ ᚺ ᚱ ᛁ ᛊ ᛏ ᛁ ᚨ ᚾ, Evans Murphy, John Buck, Tim O’Neill, Josh Searching, Honestly Atheist, Per, 3Vikings1Naturalist, Kevin Laprise.
They are not all atheists or even non-theists but are definitely worth a follow. I also am sorry to those that I’ve left off the list, it’s not intentional but it took me forever to remember this list as it was. I’ve never been particularly good with names.
So, whilst my “I’m not” might have surprised you at the beginning, you can understand that I just meant there are other areas of philosophy that I am more interested in. That said, I will still keep engaging in the philosophy of religion due to all the reasons I mentioned above, especially the people.
I’m Joe. I write under the name Davidian, not only because it is a Machine Head song I enjoy but because it was a game character I used to role-play that was always looking to better himself.
This is one of many things I hope to do with Answers In Reason.
I run our Twitter and IG accounts, as well as share responsibility for our FB group and page, and maintain the site, whilst writing articles, DJing, Podcasting (and producing), keeping fit and more.
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