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Philosophy of Religion and Intuitions
Posted: 09 June 2013 03:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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Also, it’s almost impossible to imagine a professor of Anthropology of Religion or Sociology of Religion being a fundamentalist. The reason for this is that these people simply know too much. They spend their entire lives studying religions all over the world, often living with people from many different religions. This deep understanding of other religions is certainly compatible with liberal Christianity, but it’s hard to imagine how these anthropologists and sociologists could remain fundamentalist Christians. People in POR, however, find it relatively easy to continue with their fundamentalism, and this is a very sad indictment of the whole field. The only positive here is that most people on the street couldn’t care less about what philosophers think anyway, so it’s not as if these guys are going to have a big impact in society.

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Posted: 09 June 2013 12:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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Dom, here are a couple of my issues:

- I don’t think fundamentalists fear other religions as much as they fear that some of their own religion is questionable.  Once the faithful start to question they tend to question more and more.

- Is POR really supposed to determine if particular religions are true as opposed to simply defining common religious concepts?

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Posted: 09 June 2013 05:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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ufo-buff - 09 June 2013 12:42 PM

Dom, here are a couple of my issues:

- I don’t think fundamentalists fear other religions as much as they fear that some of their own religion is questionable.  Once the faithful start to question they tend to question more and more.

- Is POR really supposed to determine if particular religions are true as opposed to simply defining common religious concepts?

 

My argument is that they fear knowledge of other religions because of what that knowledge tells them about their own religion. It’s part of the fundamentalist mindset to believe that while other people’s religions can be understood and explained in social scientific and historical terms, their own religion is just the truth. This may also explain why fundamentalists don’t like using the word ‘religion’ for their own religion, but only for other people’s. 

So the first stage is to recognize that your religion is just one of many, and to understand this in a deep way and not just to pay lip service to the idea. The second stage is to go back and get to grips with the history of your own religion and its sacred texts. 

So what actually is the point of POR? This is a really difficult question. However, I don’t think it’s just about clarifying the meaning of various religious concepts and theories. Philosophers are argumentative people, and people in POR certainly seem to spend a lot of their time arguing with each other. Most of these people got into POR in the first place because they have strong views about these issues, and I can’t imagine that conceptual analysis would be enough for them.

But yes, after Plantinga, philosophers today would be reluctant to try to make philosophical arguments for the truth of Christianity. Plantinga has argued quite forcefully that there are no good philosophical arguments for the truth of Christianity (and of course he also thinks the same about atheism and naturalism, so we have a kind of parity). But even if Plantinga is right about this, it doesn’t mean that it’s perfectly OK for philosophers to go on believing in fundamentalist Christianity. There are very good reasons to reject fundamentalist Christianity; it’s just that these reasons come from other disciplines and not from philosophy.

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Posted: 09 June 2013 09:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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Does Plantinga think that there are any strong philosphical arguments for any view of reality?

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As a fabrication of our own consciousness, our assignations of meaning are no less “real”, but since humans and the fabrications of our consciousness are routinely fraught with error, it makes sense, to me, to, sometimes, question such fabrications.

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Posted: 09 June 2013 11:53 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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TimB - 09 June 2013 09:48 PM

Does Plantinga think that there are any strong philosphical arguments for any view of reality?

 

I’m not sure really. I’m no expert on Plantinga, or on POR in general, but it does seem that the recent revival of Christian philosophy in the US has an awful lot to do with Plantinga. He’s the one who really made it respectable again to be a Christian philosopher.         

But I did listen to an interview with him a couple of months back on a Christian apologetics show, and it was here that he admitted that all the traditional arguments for the existence of God were pretty poor, but he reckons he’s still perfectly rational to go on believing in Christianity since no atheistic philosophers have been able to put forward any tight logical arguments showing that Christianity is false. This sounds to me like saying that it’s perfectly rational for me to go on believing that Obama is a shape-shifting alien, since no philosophers have been able to show that it’s false. It’s just a totally bizarre way of thinking. Given everything we know about the world, there’s just no good reason to believe that these things are true in the first place. So it comes back to that old skeptical slogan: the burden of proof is on the person making the claim. If you want to argue that Christianity is uniquely true, and that all other religions are man-made to serve various social, political and psychological needs, then you need to prove it.               

Logical possibility is not the issue here. The question is, if a reasonable person looks around at all the religions in the world, and reads up on the history, sociology and anthropology of religion, is she really likely to believe that one of them is true and all the others man-made? I would argue that the only kind of religion she’d be likely to accept would be some kind of Karen Armstrong type thing where all the religions are trying to get at some divine truth, but they’re all flawed and imperfect in various ways. Fundamentalism just wouldn’t seem at all plausible.   

Some time ago, I read some articles by Christian philosophers (including Plantinga) talking about how the fact of religious pluralism is really not a big deal for the fundamentalist Christian philosopher. The is just typical of everything that’s wrong with POR. You have a bunch of fundamentalist Christian philosophers who all work at Christian universities, and they’re saying that there’s really no problem here. But anybody who actually has friends and colleagues from other religions, and who has a deep ‘lived’ understanding of them, will find it extremely difficult psychologically to accept that these people have no chance of salvation. But the Christian philosophers will counter, “Yeah, but that’s just emotional and psychological stuff, and what we’re interested in here is logic!”

Again, the whole thing is bizarre. Nobody denies that there’s a chance that fundamentalist Christianity could actually turn out to be true, and that the universe is in fact a complete madhouse. We can’t rule it out. It is a logical possibility. But what we really want to know is what is the most reasonable position to take given all the evidence.               

Anyway, if you want to know more about Plantinga’s thoughts on world views, see his article “Religion and Science” in the Stanford Enyclopedia of Philosophy here: 

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/religion-science/

[ Edited: 10 June 2013 03:11 AM by Dom1978 ]
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Posted: 10 June 2013 08:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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I think the cognitive dissonance problem is not unique to POR.  Most Christians believe their salvation depends on believing, so there is a powerful incentive to deny the obvious.  Even after a Christian admits the obvious, the lifelong brainwashing is difficult to break.  Also most Christians can point to some spiritual experience that keeps them believing.

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Posted: 10 June 2013 05:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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To understand fundamentalism, we really need to understand the social aspects of the phenomenon. There’s a sense in which they live in their own little world, and outside that world there are ‘others’, and these others can be liberals, feminists, socialists, atheists, people from other religions, people who are out to destroy the family and ‘traditional’ values, etc. Even the smartest fundamentalists like Plantinga still think in this kind of way, and indeed they need to think like this in order to be able to dismiss biblical criticism, anthropology and comparative religion. They pretty much have to say that these disciplines are biased and ideological if they want to hang on to their fundamentalism.     


By the way, there’s an important critique of Plantinga here from Gericke. The paper is called “Fundamentalism on Stilts”.   

http://www.ve.org.za/index.php/VE/article/download/90/275‎     

I think Gericke sums it up nicely in this passage: 

This is why Plantinga will not be taken seriously by mainstream biblical theologians. He is always arguing on a meta-level, merely aghast at the revolutionary findings without ever really coming to grips with the details of the research that led to those findings in the first place. Like most fundamentalists, Plantinga has a very distorted and oversimplified view of critical biblical scholarship, assuming all those practising it to conform to the demonised profile of the critical scholar he has constructed from a combination of isolated individuals and out of a paranoia concerning anything approaching ‘liberalism’. The lack of understanding in this regard is not a virtue and from the perspective of biblical theologians is simply doing major damage to his philosophical claims.

[ Edited: 10 June 2013 05:14 PM by Dom1978 ]
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Posted: 10 June 2013 10:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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I hear ya, fundamentalist are DUMBA**S when it comes to religion. I don’t think it’s a secret.
And I can vouch for that, I was once one and a lot of my friends still are.
Back then I probably spent less than 100th of 1% of 1% of my awakened hours thinking about religion. Isn’t that about what you should expect? I bet I was more the norm in America.

If all these people who have all this knowledge of the POR were to disappear from earth today, what would it affect?

I opened up a day labor business in Southern California. And I was shocked by the number of workers with PhD’s in stuff I couldn’t even pronounce or spell.

And I do not think the fundamentalist are worried about any of these guys you talk about. I think they are more interested in who’s all showing up for church Bingo.

I look at it this way, where the hell was the POR and the fundis when they found Jesus’ bone box? Even the possibility of it being Jesus’ bones should have had overwhelming interest.  So explain that!  That happened when they found what could be the Ark?

Looks to me there is a lot of self serving going on.

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Posted: 10 June 2013 11:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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Mike Yohe - 10 June 2013 10:26 PM

I hear ya, fundamentalist are DUMBA**S when it comes to religion. I don’t think it’s a secret.
And I can vouch for that, I was once one and a lot of my friends still are.
Back then I probably spent less than 100th of 1% of 1% of my awakened hours thinking about religion. Isn’t that about what you should expect? I bet I was more the norm in America.

If all these people who have all this knowledge of the POR were to disappear from earth today, what would it affect?

I opened up a day labor business in Southern California. And I was shocked by the number of workers with PhD’s in stuff I couldn’t even pronounce or spell.

And I do not think the fundamentalist are worried about any of these guys you talk about. I think they are more interested in who’s all showing up for church Bingo.

I look at it this way, where the hell was the POR and the fundis when they found Jesus’ bone box? Even the possibility of it being Jesus’ bones should have had overwhelming interest.  So explain that!  That happened when they found what could be the Ark?

Looks to me there is a lot of self serving going on.

The top fundamentalist Christian philosophers of religion most certainly are not ‘dumb’! I really don’t want to use this kind of language. My whole point here is to try to understand how it is that extremely smart philosophers and logicians can believe something as crazy as fundamentalist Christianity. My argument is that it’s partly because they are ignorant or dismissive of disciplines such as comparative religion, biblical studies and the sociology/anthropology/history of religion, and because they are stuck in their own little fundamentalist Christian world and only deal with caricatures of opposing views. I have also argued that a broader Philosophy of Religion (ie one that works together with History and the social sciences) would make POR much less comfortable for fundamentalists.

The bottom line is this. You know there’s something deeply wrong with analytic philosophy when fundamentalist Christians are widely admired within the subject. You know that something has gone very wrong. It’s too narrow, or too divorced from the real world, or too something. Something has gone wrong with philosophy, and POR is probably one of the clearest examples of this. We’ve got to get out of the ivory tower and get together with social scientists and historians on these issues. And frankly, we’ve got to get together to try to show everybody how ridiculous religious fundamentalism is.

[ Edited: 10 June 2013 11:39 PM by Dom1978 ]
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Posted: 11 June 2013 05:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
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Dom1978 - 10 June 2013 11:31 PM
Mike Yohe - 10 June 2013 10:26 PM

I hear ya, fundamentalist are DUMBA**S when it comes to religion. I don’t think it’s a secret.
And I can vouch for that, I was once one and a lot of my friends still are.
Back then I probably spent less than 100th of 1% of 1% of my awakened hours thinking about religion. Isn’t that about what you should expect? I bet I was more the norm in America.

If all these people who have all this knowledge of the POR were to disappear from earth today, what would it affect?

I opened up a day labor business in Southern California. And I was shocked by the number of workers with PhD’s in stuff I couldn’t even pronounce or spell.

And I do not think the fundamentalist are worried about any of these guys you talk about. I think they are more interested in who’s all showing up for church Bingo.

I look at it this way, where the hell was the POR and the fundis when they found Jesus’ bone box? Even the possibility of it being Jesus’ bones should have had overwhelming interest.  So explain that!  That happened when they found what could be the Ark?

Looks to me there is a lot of self serving going on.

The top fundamentalist Christian philosophers of religion most certainly are not ‘dumb’! I really don’t want to use this kind of language. My whole point here is to try to understand how it is that extremely smart philosophers and logicians can believe something as crazy as fundamentalist Christianity. My argument is that it’s partly because they are ignorant or dismissive of disciplines such as comparative religion, biblical studies and the sociology/anthropology/history of religion, and because they are stuck in their own little fundamentalist Christian world and only deal with caricatures of opposing views. I have also argued that a broader Philosophy of Religion (ie one that works together with History and the social sciences) would make POR much less comfortable for fundamentalists.

The bottom line is this. You know there’s something deeply wrong with analytic philosophy when fundamentalist Christians are widely admired within the subject. You know that something has gone very wrong. It’s too narrow, or too divorced from the real world, or too something. Something has gone wrong with philosophy, and POR is probably one of the clearest examples of this. We’ve got to get out of the ivory tower and get together with social scientists and historians on these issues. And frankly, we’ve got to get together to try to show everybody how ridiculous religious fundamentalism is.

Religion is different from almost anything else.  It is so intertwined in family and culture, able to instill and maintain unreasonable fear in people,  it makes it extremely difficult or impossible for some to ever view it objectively.  There is something going on with religion that contradicts every other thought process.  So, even well-educated, very bright people can’t seem to extricate temselves from its clutches. It has very little to do with intelligence.  It’s often the one area that certain people will never be able to view objectively.  They know it’s a contradiction, but they can’t intellectualize their way out of it.  Add to that the ostracism of society in general, and you have a very knotty problem indeed.  Some continue to believe because they can’t help it and they are able to find end runs and justifications around the contradictions. Others don’t actually believe but are loath to admit it even to themselves because of the family and societal conseqences that would ensue.  It’s a very difficult situation for anyone to be in.  I think it’s less a matter of self-serving than palpable fear.

Lois

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Posted: 11 June 2013 07:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]
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Dom1978 - 10 June 2013 11:31 PM

The top fundamentalist Christian philosophers of religion most certainly are not ‘dumb’! I really don’t want to use this kind of language. My whole point here is to try to understand how it is that extremely smart philosophers and logicians can believe something as crazy as fundamentalist Christianity. My argument is that it’s partly because they are ignorant or dismissive of disciplines such as comparative religion, biblical studies and the sociology/anthropology/history of religion, and because they are stuck in their own little fundamentalist Christian world and only deal with caricatures of opposing views. I have also argued that a broader Philosophy of Religion (ie one that works together with History and the social sciences) would make POR much less comfortable for fundamentalists.

The bottom line is this. You know there’s something deeply wrong with analytic philosophy when fundamentalist Christians are widely admired within the subject. You know that something has gone very wrong. It’s too narrow, or too divorced from the real world, or too something. Something has gone wrong with philosophy, and POR is probably one of the clearest examples of this. We’ve got to get out of the ivory tower and get together with social scientists and historians on these issues. And frankly, we’ve got to get together to try to show everybody how ridiculous religious fundamentalism is.

Hmmm. First of all, how many “fundamentalist” philosophers are we talking about? Not all philosophers of religion, not even all Christian philosophers of religion, are fundamentalists.

Secondly, I don’t see that any of this has anything to do with mainstream analytic philosophy. Theistic philosophy of religion is a fringe subject. I don’t know who you think “admires” Christian philosophy of religion, either. Analytic philosophers admire some of what folks like Plantinga or van Inwagen have written because it touches on issues of general interest, such as necessity, modality, or freedom of the will. And they admire them for being clear and concise, and even at times for advancing the discussion in ways that have nothing essential to do with Christian philosophy.

To put it another way, if a philosopher was only to admire those with whom they agreed on everything, they would admire virtually nobody, since there is so much debate on all topics. One can, however, find someone’s argument admirable even if one doesn’t agree with its conclusion. It can be admirable is when someone clarifies a complex topic, even if that clarity helps one to determine more quickly how false the idea actually is. To that end I view Plantinga as more admirable than many of the more obscurantist-minded theologians who argue in order to confuse and distract.

At any rate insofar as philosophers (at least those of whom I’m aware) admire these folks it’s not because of their Christianity, fundamentalist or not. And it’s certainly not for their espousal for creationist junk science.

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Posted: 11 June 2013 07:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]
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Lois - 11 June 2013 05:38 AM

Religion is different from almost anything else.  It is so intertwined in family and culture, able to instill and maintain unreasonable fear in people,  it makes it extremely difficult or impossible for some to ever view it objectively.  There is something going on with religion that contradicts every other thought process.  So, even well-educated, very bright people can’t seem to extricate temselves from its clutches. It has very little to do with intelligence.  It’s often the one area that certain people will never be able to view objectively.  They know it’s a contradiction, but they can’t intellectualize their way out of it.  Add to that the ostracism of society in general, and you have a very knotty problem indeed.  Some continue to believe because they can’t help it and they are able to find end runs and justifications around the contradictions. Others don’t actually believe but are loath to admit it even to themselves because of the family and societal conseqences that would ensue.  It’s a very difficult situation for anyone to be in.  I think it’s less a matter of self-serving than palpable fear.

Lois

I agree with Lois.  Also, people’s minds contain multiple personalities with multiple beliefs.  For example, intellectually I can be thinking about the stupidity of Christian beliefs and suddenly realize that I’m uncosciously reciting a prayer.  It’s very obivous to me that our minds aren’t unified.

[ Edited: 11 June 2013 07:54 AM by ufo-buff ]
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Posted: 11 June 2013 08:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]
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Dom1978   Post #24
Sorry for using a word that most of main stream American’s uses and understand. Forgive me, I forgot that sites like this are off the beaten path and are not main stream. Please don’t get up set with the use of words that get to the point for the working man. I have been able to work with some top engineers and lawyers in America and they do not run around talking like they are on their high horse. I think I understand your point. And I can not help but think about the history of the Popes. I have read there are Popes that never believed in god. And one even said that the churches religion was the biggest fraud ever done on mankind. But none of them gave up the office.
You have organized education writing on these subjects, whole corporations (sort of to speak) of organized education, but where is organized religion?

You’re to young to been around in the fight of evolution vs. creation fifty years ago. Religion was organized in thought and power. And I will need your help in translating my thought. If you could, rewrite it in something that is acceptable today, I would appreciate it. The churches kicked the hell out of the atheist’s thinkers of the time. I mean they literally destroyed them in public view. The war looked like it would go on forever; new atheists would pick up the battle and keep fighting. The atheists need some extremely smart philosophers and to be organized to fight such an opposing force of thought. And that’s what you have today, the battle tanks and ships of the scientific facts ready to do battle. The superpower churches left the battle grounds and you now got a bunch of suicidal attacks from individual fundis. The superpower churches are still there, but instead of fighting the atheists they changed and are now involved in newer methods of total social control of the believer. And I feel that was a very smart move on their part. They brush off the atheist like its old stuff they don’t want to be bothered with.

The philosophers could publish a hundred books tomorrow and it would not hurt the churches one bit. What keeps controversy alive is the social rejects from the church way of control stepping over to the other side.

Back to the main subject, the philosophers. They have written everything that needs to be written. They are not going to get the fight from the super churches.  All they can do is try to move to higher levels of thought or dig into the past and analyze it.   

Lois in Post #25 has several very good points. And I agree.  I should make clear that when I said self-serving I was talking about the head of the snake. Like the popes and top preacher and why they do not get a job flipping burgers when they figure out their religious teachings are flawed.

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Posted: 11 June 2013 08:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]
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dougsmith - 11 June 2013 07:38 AM
Dom1978 - 10 June 2013 11:31 PM

The top fundamentalist Christian philosophers of religion most certainly are not ‘dumb’! I really don’t want to use this kind of language. My whole point here is to try to understand how it is that extremely smart philosophers and logicians can believe something as crazy as fundamentalist Christianity. My argument is that it’s partly because they are ignorant or dismissive of disciplines such as comparative religion, biblical studies and the sociology/anthropology/history of religion, and because they are stuck in their own little fundamentalist Christian world and only deal with caricatures of opposing views. I have also argued that a broader Philosophy of Religion (ie one that works together with History and the social sciences) would make POR much less comfortable for fundamentalists.

The bottom line is this. You know there’s something deeply wrong with analytic philosophy when fundamentalist Christians are widely admired within the subject. You know that something has gone very wrong. It’s too narrow, or too divorced from the real world, or too something. Something has gone wrong with philosophy, and POR is probably one of the clearest examples of this. We’ve got to get out of the ivory tower and get together with social scientists and historians on these issues. And frankly, we’ve got to get together to try to show everybody how ridiculous religious fundamentalism is.

Hmmm. First of all, how many “fundamentalist” philosophers are we talking about? Not all philosophers of religion, not even all Christian philosophers of religion, are fundamentalists.

Secondly, I don’t see that any of this has anything to do with mainstream analytic philosophy. Theistic philosophy of religion is a fringe subject. I don’t know who you think “admires” Christian philosophy of religion, either. Analytic philosophers admire some of what folks like Plantinga or van Inwagen have written because it touches on issues of general interest, such as necessity, modality, or freedom of the will. And they admire them for being clear and concise, and even at times for advancing the discussion in ways that have nothing essential to do with Christian philosophy.

To put it another way, if a philosopher was only to admire those with whom they agreed on everything, they would admire virtually nobody, since there is so much debate on all topics. One can, however, find someone’s argument admirable even if one doesn’t agree with its conclusion. It can be admirable is when someone clarifies a complex topic, even if that clarity helps one to determine more quickly how false the idea actually is. To that end I view Plantinga as more admirable than many of the more obscurantist-minded theologians who argue in order to confuse and distract.

At any rate insofar as philosophers (at least those of whom I’m aware) admire these folks it’s not because of their Christianity, fundamentalist or not. And it’s certainly not for their espousal for creationist junk science.


Haha. So now Philosophy of Religion is just a “fringe subject”, whereas you used to say that it was extremely important and something everybody should study. I take it this is because you now realize that the subject is being taken over by Christian philosophers from places like BIOLA university. 

The whole point of my post is that a really good Philosophy of Religion (i.e. one taking a broad perspective, informed by History and the social sciences) is something that everybody should study, but unfortunately Philosophy of Religion is now just a weird kind of logic-chopping ivory-tower scholasticism where people have neither the desire nor the expertise to discuss the really important questions about religions like Christianity, Islam and Judaism.

[ Edited: 11 June 2013 08:50 AM by Dom1978 ]
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Posted: 11 June 2013 09:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]
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Dom1978 - 11 June 2013 08:48 AM

Haha. So now Philosophy of Religion is just a “fringe subject”, whereas you used to say that it was extremely important and something everybody should study. I take it this is because you now realize that the subject is being taken over by Christian philosophers from places like BIOLA university. 

Sorry, I have no idea what you’re talking about. But please quote me correctly. What I said is “theistic philosophy of religion is a fringe subject”. In fact, philosophy of religion is rather fringe as well, but that is a separate issue.

And I don’t believe I ever said that “everybody should study philosophy of religion”. That would be an absurd claim. I do feel it is important within philosophy to clearly and carefully study contemporary issues such as religion. For one thing, this study will make clear the errors in a lot of religious and theistic arguments.

Neither have I heard that philosophy of religion is being “taken over” by folks from some university or other. Indeed, I have no idea what that would mean in the context of analytic philosophy. One only “takes over” a field by convincing others about the truth of a claim, and I very much doubt that Christian philosophers of religion are convincing anyone other than each other.

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