“What Is Philosophy of Religion” by Charles Taliaferro— An Examination

Taliaferro, Charles. “What is Philosophy of Religion?”, Polity, 2019.

An Examination

Amos Lassen

“Philosophy of religion is the philosophical examination of the themes and concepts involved in religious traditions as well as the broader philosophical task of reflecting on matters of religious significance including the nature of religion itself, alternative concepts of God or ultimate reality, and the religious significance of general features of the cosmos (e.g., the laws of nature, the emergence of consciousness) and of historical events (e.g., the 1755 Lisbon Earthquake, the Holocaust).” It also includes the investigation and assessment of worldviews (such as secular naturalism) that are alternatives to religious worldviews. Philosophy of religion involves all the main areas of philosophy including metaphysics, epistemology, value theory (moral theory and applied ethics), philosophy of language, science, history, politics, art, and so on.

We get here an overview of the field and its significance and read about developments in the field since the mid-twentieth century. These sections address philosophy of religion as practiced primarily (but not exclusively) in departments of philosophy and religious studies that are in the broadly analytic tradition. We now have an increasing breadth of the field, as more traditions outside the Abrahamic faiths (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) have become the focus of important philosophical work.

An important part of philosophy is concerned with religious questions. What is the meaning of life, and how might religious faith or doubt impact such meaning? What is the evidence for the existence of God? Is evidence essential for religious faith? What is the relationship between science and religion? What is the relationship between religions? How can or should one assess virtues and vices, right and wrong, from a religious versus a secular point of view?

Writer and philosopher Charles Taliaferro addresses these and other important questions involved in philosophy of religion. He challenges the negative, often complacent attitudes towards religion as being dangerous or merely superstitious, arguing instead for a healthy pluralism and respect between persons of faith and secular inquirers.

The book is a practical, question-based approach to the subject, inviting the reader to engage in a down-to-earth way. There is a great deal of stimulus and guidance here.

Many of the terms and themes of philosophy of religion today were introduced by the group of philosophers who were the first to consistently contribute to philosophy in English. From them we get terms like ‘theism,’ ‘consciousness,’ (possibly also ‘naturalism’ and ‘materialism’) and the beginning of a debate leading up to the present about how the existence of consciousness may provide a clue to the ultimate meaning and constitution of the cosmos, and we also find a serious effort to advance the cause of religious tolerance and to take stock of the importance of atheism and the need to address its philosophical cogency.

Leave a Reply