6.7 Conclusions: Philosophy of Religion and the Challenges of the Modern World

The 21st century finds traditional religious people and institutions facing a number of challenges. As it has so often in the past, philosophy can come to their aid by addressing many of these. Since the age of the Enlightenment, secularism has sought to limit the influence of religion in society. As a philosophy, secularism seeks to interpret life based on principles derived solely from the material world, without recourse to religion. It shifts the focus from religion toward “temporal” and material concerns. … In political terms, secularism is a movement toward the separation of religion and government (often termed the separation of church and state). This can refer to reducing ties between a government and a state religion, replacing laws based on scripture…with civil laws, and eliminating discrimination on the basis of religion.  Certainly, the materialism of modern science has played a part in this. Science seems to have answers for many of the questions religion once championed. The philosophy of religion can highlight the values of religious experience that secularism ignoresways of understanding God that transcend cultures; approaches to choosing faith despite uncertainties; sophisticated responses to the problem of evil that incorporate belief rather than rejecting it outright.

Another important challenge facing all religions in our ever-shrinking world is how to reconcile one’s own belief system with those of other people. The philosophy of religion can offer core principles and frameworks for inter-religious dialogue. At its best, the philosophy of religion can strengthen one’s own convictions in such a way that one can engage with different perspectives without fear of losing one’s beliefs. This kind of tolerance will be essential as we move forward into more and more inter-religious engagements.


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PPSC PHI 1011: The Philosopher's Quest by Daniel G. Shaw, Ph.D. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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