Philosophy of religion

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The philosophy of religion is a philosophical discipline that deals with the manifestations and theoretical content of religion or religions. It tries to give systematic and rational answers to questions about the reasonableness of religious statements, about the nature and forms of religions and their practical significance in human life. It can also manifest itself as a criticism of religion or as a linguistic-philosophical analysis of the form of religious languages.

The priorities of the historically developed philosophies of religion are different. Some pursue a hermeneutical goal and want to make understandable what is peculiar to religion. They start from the observation of a certain religion, which they try to adequately grasp from an internal perspective. Other approaches focus on checking the validity claims made by religion. They check whether any meaningful claims are made with religious statements and whether these can be justified. Reductionist approaches try to interpret religion as a product of external factors (will to live, drive conflicts, evolutionary biological mechanisms, etc.). Such approaches are closely related to the criticism of religion, since they assume that religious validity claims cannot be redeemed as such and that religion can in principle be replaced.

To what extent it can be the goal of the philosophy of religion to arrive at general statements is controversial. So called Ludwig Wittgenstein "the pursuit of community" among the diseases of the mind, the cause lies "our preoccupation with the scientific method". William James speaks of the "diversity of religious experience"; it corresponds to a variety of ways of reflecting on it.

Philosophy of religion

Differentiation from other disciplines

Neighboring disciplines of the philosophy of religion
├── historischer Teil: Religionsgeschichte
└── systematischer Teil
    ├── Religionspsychologie
    └── Religionssoziologie
├── historischer Teil: Kirchen-, Dogmen-, 
│                      Theologiegeschichte 
└── systematischer Teil
    ├── Dogmatik
    ├── Moraltheologie
    └── Fundamentaltheologie

Like the philosophy of religion, the two scientific disciplines of religious studies and theology deal with religions, religious statements and phenomena.

The Religious Studies is a historical and empirical discipline. It describes and explains religious beliefs, but leaves the question open whether they are correct. In its historical part, the history of religion examines the development, content and appearance of the individual religions as well as the influences of different religions on one another. In her systematic part she is concerned with general religious phenomena and their connections, with the essence of religion in general and types of religions, religious experiences and practices. She also discusses the question of whether there are general laws or tendencies for the development of religions. Systematic religious studies also include theories about the emergence of religious beliefs and their dependence on psychological, social and economic conditions. The psychology of religion and the sociology of religion can be viewed as sub-disciplines of systematic religious studies . While the psychology of religion deals with the psychological side of religious life and experience and their conditions, the sociology of religion deals with the social factors of the development of religions, their interrelationships with social forms of life and the structure of religious communities and institutions.

In contrast to religious studies, there are many theologies . A theology always relates to a particular religion. The theologian not only describes, explains and systematizes the beliefs of the religion in question like the religious scholar, but also represents them and makes religious statements himself. The task of a theology is to illuminate and develop the beliefs of the religion in question. She strives for a conceptual clarification and definition of beliefs and uses scientific methods. In its scientific form it is above all a manifestation of Christianity , which developed in the examination of philosophy and science. There are also systematic and historical sub-disciplines in theology. Historical theology deals with the texts and the theological content of biblical writings, with the history of the church, dogma and theology and, like historical science, works with the historical-critical method . It moves in the area of ​​descriptive statements and is therefore close to historical religious studies. The disciplines of systematic theology include dogmatics , moral theology and fundamental theology .

Unlike religious studies, the philosophy of religion is not a purely empirical discipline. Rather, one of their most important questions is that of the reasonableness of religion and belief. In contrast to theology, for them the answer to this question is basically open. Fundamental theology also strives for a rational penetration of faith, but it does so in the form of a justification. In contrast to the philosophy of religion, in theology, in the last instance, faith and not reason is always viewed as the measure of what is to be believed.

Types of Philosophy of Religion

According to Winfried Löffler, the historically represented philosophies of religion can be classified into five basic types, whereby in fact many authors use motifs from several of these types:

  1. Analysis and articulation of religious sensitivities (e.g. Schleiermacher , Wittgenstein): the special kind of feeling for life and the world that is characteristic of a particular religion is examined
  2. Question about the nature of religion (e.g. Otto , Hegel , Heidegger ): an attempt is made to understand the complexity of the phenomenon of religion and to work out a kind of "essence"
  3. Analysis of religious language: investigation of the peculiarities of religious language and its differences from other ways of using language
  4. Clarification of the relationship between religious and other explanations (e.g. Swinburne , Wittgenstein): the peculiarity of religious explanations and their similarities and differences to other modes of explanation are worked out in more detail
  5. Defense of the reasonableness or unreasonableness of religion: the question of the reasonableness of religious explanations is examined. Positions that deny this are often summarized under the keyword "criticism of religion". The classical themes here include the evidence of God and the theodicy question .


Definition problems

To define the term “religion” and related terms, a distinction can be made between essentialist and functionalist approaches. Essentialist attempts at definition assume that something like a common “ essence ” of religion exists. One such being has been suggested, among others:

  • the reference to a god or gods (Lanczkowski)
  • the belief in spiritual, superhuman beings ( Tylor , Spiro )
  • a sacred or sacred sphere, whereby the sacred is also accessible in some form by experience ( Söderblom , Otto , Mensching )

Essentialist attempts at definition are usually based on Western concepts of religion. However, it is controversial whether these can be generalized for all religions. This applies e.g. B. for the idea of ​​a God as a transcendent counterpart or for religious practices such as prayer . If you only refer to the phenomena that are actually common to all religions, you get a concept of religion that is too abstract and can hardly be used for analyzes of the philosophy of religion.

Functionalist attempts at definition seek to avoid the danger of such narrowing. These do not ask about the “essence” of religions, but rather what function they have in the life of individuals and human communities. Above all, psychological and social stabilization functions are mentioned as examples ( Marx , Durkheim , Malinowski , Parsons etc.). Critics accuse such conceptions that they often contradict experience, since religions can also have markedly destabilizing and harmonic effects.

Characteristics of religions

According to Franz von Kutschera , “religion” can be understood as “a complex of doctrines and views, norms, attitudes and practices, of emotional attitudes, linguistic forms of expression, symbols and signs that determine the life of a community and are expressed in institutions”. The common point of reference of this “complex” is the transcendent.

Religious beliefs

The most important component of a religion are religious beliefs . Kutschera divides these into assumptions and perspectives. Assumptions represent the objective side of an opinion. B. in the central formulas of the creed or in theological doctrines - statements about the subject formulated.

Perspectives, on the other hand, determine an object under subjective aspects. They are ways of experiencing it that can be circumscribed in words, but cannot be fully understood. A point of view is always associated with an interpretation; It also includes certain assumptions about the objects, and vice versa, assumptions also arise from perspectives.

Religious beliefs are characterized by the fact that the empirical world and human life are seen in the context of an encompassing, larger reality. This is assigned a higher degree of reality, which is why it is seen as the ultimate decisive reality for all phenomena of human life, history and nature.

Religious views basically have a revelatory character . The transcendent is indeed experienced by the believer, but this experience only receives a definite content in the light of faith. Only through the revelation of the transcendent can he learn anything reliable about it. Revelation can - in personal religions - be understood as the historical action of a god, or - as in non-personal religions - as eternal truth that is seen by seers . The conviction of the reliability of the revelation finds support in its common recognition within the religious community. This testifies to the reality of the divine she reveres through the commonality of their views in the cult. Religions also show a way to salvation . This can be understood as liberation from concrete earthly needs or as redemption from guilt and overcoming the distance from God.

Norms and attitudes

The recognition of a transcendent reality is always expressed in norms and attitudes that relate to the transcendent and man's relationship to him. The transcendent reality is encountered in worship, humility, obedience, love or fear. His will is accepted as a measure of his own behavior. Furthermore, every religion contains a more or less explicit moral code that defines how people should treat each other and, in some cases, how they should treat nature.

Attitudes and attitudes are more important than explicitly formulated behavioral norms. Because in religious ethics it is not only a question of fulfilling religious regulations, but of doing justice to the will or holiness of God and of having the right attitude. In Christianity, for example, the attitude of charity is more fundamental than the commandments not to kill, cheat or steal, since such an attitude can also determine behavior that cannot be grasped by general rules.

Feelings and attitudes

Because of its paramount importance for human life, the transcendent is also always the subject of religious feelings - such as love, awe, trust, shyness or fear. Conversely, the emotional relationship to the divine also has an influence on people's self-esteem. You can e.g. B. be shaped by feelings of nothingness, powerlessness or guilt. Religious feelings also relate to human life as a whole and, in the positive case, can express themselves as a general confidence in life.

Religious language

The beliefs, attitudes and emotional attitudes of a religion are expressed in a language that often contains specific vocabulary, expressions, formulas and symbols. A general peculiarity of religious statements is that they describe the transcendent less than make it clear in terms of experience. Religious language does not aim at conceptual accuracy, but wants to clarify what it is talking about in its meaning for our life - to bring it closer to our experience and feeling, not just to our thinking. As in the language of poetry, metaphors, images and similes play a major role in it. Analogous to poetry, the real meaning of religious statements often lies not in what they say in their literal sense, but in the way in which they show us something.


Religion includes forms of worship and of dealing with the transcendent, cult . Faith is expressed in him in his views, practical attitudes and emotional attitudes. Each religion develops its specific forms of cult. Old forms that no longer fully correspond to current views can also be kept in it.

An important function of the cult is to reassure believers of the nearness and reality of the divine. Religious cults can be commemorative celebrations, but they can also serve to repeat holy events in which their effectiveness is to be renewed.

The cult is carried out by the religious community in precisely defined words and actions. A characteristic basic form of religious cult is sacrifice , in which the deity is offered a blessing gift. Furthermore, the great events in life such as birth, acceptance into the community of adults, marriage and harvest are often celebrated in a common cult.

Community and institutions

Religion is a social phenomenon; it only ever exists within a community. The believer finds a religion as a tradition of a community into which he is born or which he joins. The community is organized in institutions. Religious duties also include duties towards the community and its institutions.

Due to their always existing community reference, the private practice of a religion is not fully possible. In a private setting, only religious views and attitudes can be cultivated, but these generally only represent modifications of those of the religious community.

Approaches to the transcendent

Immanence and transcendence

Religions distinguish two areas or aspects in or in the overall reality that are contrasted with one another as immanent and transcendent . The boundaries between the immanent and the transcendent are drawn very differently in the various conceptions, so that what is transcendent according to one conception is viewed as immanent according to another. In general, that which is accessible to us in everyday experience is considered immanent: man and nature in their normal appearances. However, not everything that is accessible to external or internal experience is already regarded as immanent (such as the daily rise of the sun, which can appear as a miracle that is always renewed).

The immanent is not viewed as an autonomous, self-contained part of total reality, but as dependent on the transcendent and its manifestations. The transcendent is understood in religions as the greater reality: it is the unconditioned, the ultimate, highest reality, the ultimate ground of immanent appearances. It is only partially and only partially accessible to our normal experience and our understanding and always remains the more or less incomprehensible. Therefore, despite possible (e.g. magical) influencing possibilities, it eludes human control.

Answer to existential questions

Religious questions arise today mainly in the practical area, where it comes to values , norms, goals and questions of meaning. Religion has largely lost its theoretical relevance. These practical questions cannot be decided on the basis of empirical observations and rational arguments. They aim beyond immanent reality and, in order to answer them, require recourse to something that transcends possible experience. The transcendent thus appears primarily as a source of unconditional values ​​and as a larger horizon in which human life receives a meaning that it cannot find in the empirical realm.
Central questions of this kind concern the reconciliation of interests and morals, the ontological foundation of norms and values, and the meaning of individual life and history.

  1. Reconciliation of interests and morals
    On the one hand, we have a legitimate interest in a fulfilled, happy life; on the other hand, we are often required to act against our legitimate interests for moral reasons. From the fact that the pursuit of happiness and the demands of morality diverge in this life, the postulates of immortality and the existence of God arise for Kant . Only God is able to create a state in which people not only want and do good, but also enjoy bliss appropriate to their moral worthiness .
  2. Ontological foundation of norms and values
    If evaluations had no objective basis, but were derived from subjective preferences, the binding character of moral norms would disappear, since own preferences or those of other people do not oblige. The recognition of moral duties therefore requires anchoring in a transcendent reality that appears to be valuable.
  3. Meaning of individual life and history
    The question of the meaning of life leads to the question of the meaning of suffering and failure. We ask ourselves whether, contrary to all appearances, what prevents us from a fulfilled life does not have some positive function in a larger context.
    The same applies to the sense of the story. It appears as a "slaughter [...] on which the happiness of peoples, the wisdom of states and the virtue of individuals were sacrificed". The question arises whether these sacrifices have a meaning, so that "the offense is necessary for the creation of something greater". However, such a meaning cannot be determined empirically, since in immanent consideration the historical developments result solely from the immense number of decisions made by individual individuals. The question of meaning goes beyond an immanent consideration and focuses on the value of life and history in a larger context.

Attributes of God in the theistic tradition

God as Creator

In the theistic traditions the world is referred to as the “creation” of God. In a second meaning, “creation” is also understood to mean the act of bringing about the world. There are essentially three levels of meaning that can be distinguished:

  • as the temporal beginning of the world. In Christian creation theology , this act is understood as creatio originans or creatio ex nihilo .
  • as the basis of all reality: the world is understood as something that is preserved in existence by God from one moment to the next ( creatio continua ).
  • as the creation of something qualitatively new from what is already there ( creatio evolutiva ): this creative activity primarily affects the transitions from inanimate to animate matter, from life to consciousness and self-confidence.

These levels of meaning are supplemented in Christian theology by the concept of creatio nova , which is understood there as the renewal and perfection of the already existing reality.

Creatio originans

The first meaning of creation relates to the beginning of the universe in time. According to the prevailing tradition in Christianity, Judaism and Islam, God created the universe out of nothing , either in a beginningless time or together with time. Everything that exists apart from God was either directly called into being by God or indirectly owes its existence to this initial act of creation of God. God is thus understood as “the direct or indirect cause of all that exists”.

Creatio continua

The concept of creatio continua expresses that the world is continuously preserved by God in being. The creatio continua plays the key role in many theological approaches, so that creation is no longer associated with a possible beginning of the universe, but exclusively with its preservation. It is presupposed that beings have a certain tendency to dissolve again into nothing. Only because and as long as God counteracts this tendency in a “sustaining manner” does there exist at all.

Creatio evolutiva

The idea of creatio evolutiva came up with the realization that all macroscopic systems only developed over a long period of time; otherwise these systems could no longer be understood as being created by God. According to this concept, the creation of new forms of being - as a supplement or alternative to the concept of “creatio ex nihilo” - is to be understood as a divine formation of an already existing “material” and not as an original act of creation. This concept of creation is widespread in the history of religion. One of their most influential representatives in the history of ideas was Plato with his conception of the creator of the world ( demiurge ), who shaped uncreated primordial matter according to the archetype of eternal ideas. In the 20th century, Alfred N. Whitehead resorted to this idea and propagated it as an alternative to the traditional Christian doctrine of creation. The creatio evolutiva corresponds to the current Darwinian standard theory for the explanation of life and consciousness. It is disputed whether the Darwinian principles are sufficient to explain evolution. A classic theistic concept for this is the doctrine of God's work through two causes, according to which God intervenes in the world by means of worldly causes and enabled the creatures to develop and “surpass” themselves.

Creatio nova

The doctrine of creatio nova is characterized in Christian theology as the renewal and completion of the world. According to Christian ideas, it is not only about the final perfection of the individual person at the resurrection of the dead on Judgment Day or the last perfection of the world as a whole at the second coming of Christ at the end of time, but about an event that already occurs in the midst of The life of the individual can begin and has already begun in the history of the world.


The conviction that God surpasses all creation in power is at the core of all theistic traditions.

Paradox of omnipotence

In a first approximation, “omnipotence” can be understood as the ability to do absolutely anything you want to do. However, this view of the omnipotence of God leads to the so-called “paradox of omnipotence”. Then conditions can be formulated which, if God can bring about them, undermine God's omnipotence. The classic example of this is the question of whether God can create a stone that is so heavy that He cannot lift it. If God could not create such a stone, according to the original conception, he would not be omnipotent. If he could, he would not be omnipotent either, because then there would be a stone that he could not lift. The standard solution to this aporia is to restrict the class of states that God can update to the class of states that can be described without contradiction. God in his omnipotence can realize all states, unless they are contradicting themselves and thus logically impossible. In addition to the logically impossible, that which contradicts his divine essence is often excluded from God's omnipotence. According to this, God cannot bring about conditions that contradict his own divine being. He can z. B. do nothing morally bad if moral perfection belongs to his being or he cannot dissolve himself into nothing if his being is defined by being himself (Thomas Aquinas).

God's work in the world

The following models basically exist for the question of how God's almighty work in the world can be thought of:

  1. According to the model of the sole causation of God , everything that happens in the world is caused by God alone. Everything that occurs in the world is positively willed by God and is brought about by God alone and without mediation, that is, without mediation by worldly causes (secondary causes). God thus exercises his omnipotence by bringing about everything that happens in the world alone.
  2. According to the interventionist model , the inner-worldly sequence of events usually proceeds according to world-immanent laws. But God has the power to intervene directly in world events at any time and does so occasionally. Divine intervention is to be understood as an activity of God in the world that is not mediated by any inner-worldly secondary causes, i.e. that represents a completely unmediated direct activity of God in the world. Miracles are traditionally considered candidates for such intervention by God . They are extraordinary events that humans cannot explain with natural causes.
  3. From a process theological point of view , God never exerts coercion in his work in the world. This is justified by the fact that God cannot exercise this compulsion at all, since he did not create the world out of nothing and cannot change its basic metaphysical nature either. Rather, the world has existed for eternity and is therefore given to God. If God works in the world, he is therefore dependent on the cooperation of creatures. Furthermore, from a process theological point of view, love, not power, is in the foreground in God's work. The hallmark of love, however, is not to work through coercion, but through conviction or persuasion. God therefore acts permanently in the world by persuasion. Its influence consists in the fact that it "persuades" or "lures" the creatures to behave according to the will of God.
  4. The position of the so-called “Open View of God” (also “Open Theism”) seeks a compromise between traditional theism and process theology. According to this, the world is not metaphysically necessary, but created by God in freedom from nothing. God's power therefore includes the possibility of determining the course of worldly events in an interventionist or unilateral manner. However, God usually gives preference to action through “persuasion”, even if action through “coercion” always remains possible for him and is sometimes also realized. While, according to process theological interpretation, God cannot act otherwise than persuasively, according to the “open view”, divine love is a free or gracious gift, insofar as it is based on a voluntary self-limitation of divine omnipotence.
  5. According to the theory of mediation through secondary causes, God works not only predominantly, but exclusively through the mediation of created causes, the so-called secondary causes, in the world. God basically created the world as an independent one and can no longer take this independence back without acting contrary to his own original intention. For this reason God cannot unilaterally intervene in the world and force it, but only work together with it. The creation of an autonomous world therefore represents a voluntary but fundamental self-limitation of God's omnipotence.


The attribute of omniscience follows from the omnipotence of God. An omnipotent being can know everything it wants to know. Omniscience of God can be formally described as follows: For every truthful sentence p, it applies that God knows whether p is true or false. It is disputed whether it is appropriate to designate the knowledge of God as a sentence-like or propositional knowledge, or whether it should not rather be understood as intuitive and immediate. The problem with the concept of omniscience is the compatibility of divine omniscience and creaturely free will. Since the concept of omniscience also includes future events, God also knows about the future actions of a person P. But if God already knows today how P will decide tomorrow, then P does not seem to have any more possibility of making another decision tomorrow, since otherwise God would have made a mistake, which is excluded by the omniscience of God. The following basic attempts to solve this problem exist:

Boethian solution

The classic solution was developed by Boethius . According to this, God exists outside of time. There is no past or future for God; he sees everything from the perspective of his eternal presence. Therefore the expression “foreknowledge” cannot actually be applied to God, because from his eternal, timeless perspective, God recognizes everything “simultaneously” as present.

Molinist solution

The Spanish Jesuit Luis de Molina developed a solution to the problem in the context of the late scholastic dispute over grace in the 16th century, which made school under the designation "middle knowledge" ( scientia media ) and sparked a long-lasting controversy within the Catholic tradition. In the recent past Molina's idea has been taken up again in analytical philosophy.

Molina distinguishes three forms of divine knowledge:

  1. a natural knowledge ( scientia naturalis ), in which God knows about all necessary truths, but also about all pure possibilities. God knows all possible worlds he could create and he knows how all possible free persons could behave in all possible situations;
  2. a free knowledge ( scientia libera ), which includes everything that depends on the divine will to create: all facts of the world that have ever existed, exist and will exist. The free knowledge of God thus also includes all future free decisions and actions of creatures that will one day be real;
  3. a middle knowledge ( scientia media ) with which God knows not only how every free creature could decide in all possible situations (scientia naturalis), but also how it would decide if it were in a certain situation. The creatures themselves remain the authors of their decisions. However, if God updates the conditions in question, then creatures will decide according to his knowledge.

God can thus control the actual course of events in the world according to his will and exercise his providence without causing it directly and without abolishing the freedom of creatures.

Compatible solution

According to compatibilism , God's omniscience is based on the causal determination of everything that happens in the world. For classical compatibilism, as advocated by David Hume , for example , complete determinism does not exclude freedom insofar as freedom is not constituted by the absence of necessity, but by the absence of coercion. An action can be determined by whatever causes, it is free if the agent can act as he wants to act. Occasionally this form of freedom is also defined as freedom of action and distinguished from free will .

Solution of the open future

The model of the open future is mainly represented by supporters of "Open View Theism" but also by supporters of the theory of two causes. It is based on really free human decisions in the world. Because man can make really free decisions at least at some points in his life, the future is also open to God in a certain sense. He does not know all events in the world in advance, nor can he control all events in the world. The omniscience of God is restricted by what is logically possible to recognize. But it is logically impossible for God to know the contingent future with certainty. According to the model of the open future, however, the future of the world is in a certain sense open to God. The knowledge of God changes with the free decisions of people in the world. There is therefore not a completely one-sided, but a reciprocal causal relationship between God and the world.


God's relationship to space has traditionally been described with the predicate of omnipresence . Basically, the omnipresence of God can be thought of in three ways:

  1. In principle, God can be localized in space. He is assigned an excellent place, or at least an excellent relation to a place in cosmic space, in which he is present in a somehow special way despite his omnipresence.
  2. God pervades the entire cosmic space, or at least is present in it in a mysterious way.
  3. No spatial associations or properties are ascribed to God; it is immaterial, purely spiritual. Its form of existence can be compared in a certain way with that of abstract entities (not spatial and not temporal) or that of qualia (not spatial).


God's relationship to time has traditionally been described with the predicate of eternity . There are two basic concepts of God's eternity.

  1. According to the temporalist understanding, God is changeable in certain respects. He recognizes different events at different times and performs different actions at different times. As a temporal being, God exists in a present from which he looks back at the past and looks ahead to the future.
  2. According to the eternalistic understanding, on the other hand, God exists timelessly or outside of time. It has no internal temporal relations, ie it does not know any past or future inside. It has no external temporal relations, ie it does not exist before, after or at the same time as any other entity. The eternalistic understanding implies the absolute immutability of God, which is understood as perfection.

The term "belief"

“Faith” can mean both the act or state of belief (“subjective belief”: fides, qua creditur ) - as well as its content, the facts that are believed (“objective belief”: fides, quae creditur ).

Linguistically, the verb "to believe" is used in three forms:

  • Someone thinks something is the case (1)
  • Someone believes someone or an allegation or assurance from someone (2)
  • Someone believes in someone or something (3)

Form (1) is a doxastic belief ; "Believe" here expresses an assumption that is true. A person a believes that a state of affairs p exists. It does so in the strong sense if it is convinced of the existence of p or assigns it the subjective probability of 1. In a weaker sense, corresponding to the meaning of the verb “suspect”, one says that a believes that p, if a assigns a higher subjective probability to the state of affairs p than non-p.

Forms (2) and (3) express a fiducial belief . Person a believes in person b because a has reasonable faith in b. The fiducial belief implies a doxastic belief: the person a considers the statements and assurances presented by person b to be true (2) or is generally convinced of the person a - his character, his loyalty etc. (3). This belief is generally based on the authority of person b; the cognitive ability of b has been tested by others and there are no circumstances that speak for a lie or an error of b. The statements made by b must also be logical or possible in themselves, since otherwise they cannot be believed.

Fiducial belief is characterized by the fact that it is generally oriented towards the future: the trust we place in people or institutions applies to their future behavior or performance. In contrast to doxastic belief, fiducial belief has no primarily descriptive meaning. The statement “I believe in God” has a performative character: the speaker expresses an affective attitude towards God; he confesses his decision to believe and commits himself to certain behavior.

Religious belief has a fiducial character. It is based on the doxastic belief in the existence of God; but its real content consists in the trust in God, his righteousness, goodness or providence.

For Kutschera, the fiducial belief is justified in the fact that an exclusive orientation of our assumptions to objective facts as a general rule would be impracticable and therefore also unreasonable. So our assumptions about nature and other people depend to a large extent on the information we receive from others. We often have to trust such information as we cannot always check its accuracy ourselves.

Foundations of Faith

Cognitive Beliefs

Typology of Arguments for the Reasonability of Religious Beliefs
Argumente für die theoretische Vernünftigkeit
├── Verweis auf Tradition und Autorität
├── Behauptung des nicht bestehenden
│   Rechtfertigungsbedarfes
├── Metaphysische Argumente für die Existenz Gottes
│   („Gottesbeweise“)
└── Erkenntnistheoretische Argumente für die Existenz Gottes
    ├── außergewöhnliche religiöse Erfahrungen
    ├── gewöhnliche, aber religiös gedeutete Erfahrungen
    ├── Religiöse Überzeugungen als beste Erklärung der
    │   Gesamterfahrung
    └── Transzendenzerfahrung
Argumente für die praktische Vernünftigkeit
├── Theistische Postulate als
│   sittliche Verstehbarkeitsbedingung
├── Verweis auf die „jenseitige“ Nützlichkeit der Religion
└── Verweis auf die „diesseitige“ Nützlichkeit der Religion


Theoretical reasonableness

A common pattern used to defend the theoretical reasonableness of religious beliefs is to refer to tradition and its authority . Religious ways of life exist in the various social communities into which one was born and socialized . They would have proven themselves over a long period of time and therefore at least could not be completely unreasonable.

Other defenders of the reasonableness of religious beliefs argue that they belong to the class of beliefs for which further justification is neither necessary nor possible. Religious beliefs are a question of trust , their justification for genuine religiosity is rather detrimental.

A prominent form of justification for religious beliefs invokes the fact that there are a number of philosophical arguments for the existence of a first ground of all reality. They are often summarized under the name “ proofs of God ”.

The reasonableness of religious beliefs is often justified with reference to certain experiences . In many religions there are individuals who report extraordinary internal or external experiences that, from their point of view, exceed the realm of the everyday and have a religious reference character. In addition, many people associate experiences from “ordinary” experiences (interpersonal encounters, nature experiences, etc.) with their religion and attach a special interpretation to these experiences.

Many believers not only rely on individual experiences as the basis of their faith, but rather connect their faith with the totality of their experiences. For these, religious belief offers them orientation aid on the one hand, but also the best "overall explanation" on the other.

A special form of this religious interpretation of the overall experience is sometimes referred to as " transcendental experience " or " transcendental experience called". This is to express that behind the superficial experience of one's own precarious and contingent existence in the world, something is also contained that one experiences as dependent and supported.

Practical reasonableness

In addition to the theoretical justifications that are based on explanations of the given world, there are also a number of justifications that appeal to the practical advantages of religion and consider religious action from the perspective of prudence .

A justification for the practical reasonableness of religious convictions that is prominent in the history of philosophy comes from Immanuel Kant . Accordingly, the demands of morality can only be understood if one postulates the existence of God and our continued existence beyond death as a guarantee of compensatory justice .

The argument goes back to Blaise Pascal that if God exists, there is a survival after death and religious people are rewarded, it is practically sensible to lead a religious life and to assume the existence of God (see Pascal's bet ).

A general core idea of ​​religions is that a religious life promises practical advantages on average, even in this world. Religion helps in coping with crises and stresses, which enables the individual to have a better and happier life. With regard to our coexistence, too, religious belief grants practical advantages, for example by motivating behavior in solidarity.

Evidence of God

Ontological argument

The ontological argument for the existence of God goes back to Anselm of Canterbury . It is based on considerations about the term “God”, from which its existence is to be derived.

With Anselm, the argument essentially consists of two sub-arguments. First, he tries to show that God exists in the mind. For Anselm, “God” is “that beyond which greater things cannot be thought”. In the second step he deduces from this that God also exists in reality. For Anselm, "existence" is a predicate that adds some perfection to its object: if a thing exists in the mind and in reality, it is "larger" or more perfect than if it only exists in the mind. So for him his existence also follows from the term “God”.

The decisive objection to the ontological argument goes back to Immanuel Kant . “Being” is not a real predicate and therefore cannot add anything to an object (Immanuel Kant: AA III, 401). For Kant, “to be” rather describes the mere presence of a thing without any content-related aspects - comparable to the existential quantifier in logic . This criticism was later joined by Gottlob Frege , Bertrand Russell and many other philosophers. However, the question of whether the terms “being” or “existence” could not be used to describe a content-related property has not been fully discussed to this day - especially among logicians. Individual authors ( Charles Hartshorne , Kurt Gödel , Alvin Plantinga and others) tried in the 20th century to reconstruct ontological arguments using the means of modern modal logic .

Cosmological arguments

“Cosmological arguments” is a vague collective term for various arguments that agree that an extra-worldly cause can be inferred from the existence of the world or certain of its phenomena. Their basic ideas go back to Plato and Aristotle and were best known in the "Five Ways" ( Quinquae viae ) of Thomas Aquinas , of which the first three represent variants of the cosmological argument. The question is B. according to the cause of causal chains in general or according to the reason for the existence of the universe as a whole.

The very different arguments have in common that they are based on the following premises, the validity of which is usually tacitly assumed:

  1. Philosophical framework of the question: When explaining physical phenomena, a switch is made to another form of explanation that is intended to provide the larger framework of the phenomena to be explained
  2. Exclusion of infinite recourse : For the series of effective causes, for example, it is required that they come to an end and to a final cause.
  3. Principle of uniqueness: It is assumed that there can only be a single ultimate cause or reason.
  4. Equation of the first cause with God: This last cause is equated with the concept of God in religion.
  5. Principle of sufficient reason : the things in our world and their processes of change do not carry the explanation of their existence within themselves, but have a reason that lies beyond themselves.

The main objections to the cosmological arguments relate to these very premises. For example, some philosophers are of the opinion that questions of religion and ideology cannot fundamentally be the subject of reasonable discussion (re 1). Against this objection, however, speaks that all great philosophers and polymaths in world history spoke or wrote about the question of God. It is sometimes objected that the principle of the excluded infinite recourse is not a valid requirement. In some natural sciences in particular, the incalculable long return in the explanatory chain is even the rule (re 2). The objection is that philosophical questions cannot be solved using scientific methods. Furthermore, some reject the principle of uniqueness and call the conclusion from “every chain of causes has a beginning” to “there is a beginning of all chains of causes” a fallacy (re 3). On the other hand, defenders of the proofs of God argue that the uniqueness or uniqueness of God can be shown from his absoluteness and perfection. Critics also question the equation of the ultimate cause with God. Even if there were a necessarily existing cause of the world, this would not yet be equated with the God of religion (to 4). Proponents of natural theology , on the other hand, hold that it does not carry out any equation, but rather brings forward arguments such as the omnipotence, spirituality, timelessness, omniscience etc. resulting from the evidence, which result in a very good agreement with the religious statements of the monotheistic religions. Against the principle of sufficient reason, empiricists such as David Hume raised the fundamental objection that the continuous causal order of the world could in truth only be the result of our conscious activity. Perception only shows that there is a regular sequence of states; But to understand this as a cause-effect relationship is an ingredient of our consciousness (to 5). Against the basic statement of empiricism (only empirical knowledge is true) or sensualism (everything are only sensory impressions) speaks, however, that these cannot be gained through so many experiences or sensory impressions.

Teleological argument

The starting point of the “teleological” argument is the fact that some structures and processes in the world appear as if they were set up by an intelligent planner. In the current discussion, the argument is also called the “ design argument ”.

In the teleological argument it is generally assumed that various natural phenomena can only be explained if they are viewed as the result of intelligent planning. However, this points to a planning intelligence that cannot lie in these phenomena themselves. So there has to be a planning intelligence outside of these phenomena. This is to be equated with God.

A typical representative of the teleological argument is the fifth way of the " Quinque viae " of Thomas Aquinas ( ex gubernatione rerum ). A modern version of the teleological argument is the fine tuning argument from the universe . It is based on the scientific knowledge that the universe only exists because of an extremely "finely tuned" constellation that is extremely improbable. So was z. For example, the initial speed of the universe is “just right” to prevent its immediate re-collapse as well as its rapid expansion without the formation of structures.

The assumption that the development of organisms is generally purposeful was shaken by the emergence of the evolution theory in the 19th and 20th centuries. The development of the organisms could now be explained as development without a goal, due to the mechanisms of mutation and selection . This made it possible to do without the assumption of an intelligent planner to explain natural development.

The central objection to the modern variant of the teleological argument, the "fine tuning argument", is directed against the assessability of the probabilities in question: We cannot know whether there are other constellations of the fundamental properties of the universe and whether the constellation actually realized is extremely improbable is.

Religious experiences


In numerous religious traditions there are accounts of miraculous occurrences to which religious significance is ascribed. Miracles were traditionally referred to as events that break the natural course of things or violate at least one law of nature.

An alternative definition, which assumes that natural laws by definition do not allow exceptions, defines miracles as events that do not break any natural laws, but allow causal interventions, where the natural laws leave open spaces, ie have no validity.

All positions that assume the existence of miracles presuppose at least that not every event in the world has to have a natural explanation that can be described by the laws of nature. Furthermore, the classic concept of causation is reinterpreted. Causation is not necessary - as has been common since Hume and Kant - to be seen as a regular sequence of events, but can also be understood as a punctual intervention.

The classic objection to the rationality of belief in miracles goes back to David Hume. It goes against the standard definition of miracle. In view of the overwhelming majority of evidence for the unexceptional validity of the laws of nature, there can be no empirical material that justifies the belief in miracles as a breach of the laws of nature. The probability of error and deception is always greater than that of miracle.

Another general objection is directed against interpreting inexplicable events as miracles. Rather, they should be understood as an indication that we have not yet recognized certain natural laws and relationships or that we have erred in our previous assumptions about the laws of nature.

Furthermore, it is problematic in the eyes of critics to justify certain religious beliefs with miracles. The conclusion from the existence of miraculous events to the existence of God is the result of a religious interpretation of the viewer and presupposes a number of assumptions about the nature of God, which in turn first have to be justified.

Ordinary experiences interpreted religiously

In the more recent philosophy of religion - especially by the so-called Reformed epistemic theorists around their most prominent representative Alvin Plantinga - ordinary experiences as the basis of religious convictions have increasingly been discussed. These are impressive or drastic experiences that can be made by all people: nature experiences, religious celebrations or moving interpersonal experiences such as love, birth, illness and death etc. Such experiences have the peculiarity that they - in contrast to Miracles - are basically repeatable, but the religious significance of the situation cannot be “enforced” and is not necessarily accessible to all those involved.

The Reformed epistemology takes the view that ordinary experiences interpreted religiously are similarly reliable as e.g. B. the perception of objects. The epistemological background of this view is based on the assumption that there are so-called " basic beliefs " that do not themselves require further justification. These are opinions in which chains of reasons may or must have a break point and which in turn can justify other opinions.

According to the Reformed epistemology, basic opinions are the rule and not the exception. B. Our perceptions and communications from other people, we almost constantly form basic opinions of various content and usually rely on them. Nevertheless, they are neither error-resistant nor uncorrectable.

According to Plantinga, no other standards may be applied to justify religious opinions than those relating to other opinions (parity argument). Religious opinions can also be basic. For this, however, less theoretical claims such as “God exists” come into consideration, but so-called “ manifestation beliefs ”. These are opinions that believers form spontaneously in certain situations and in which they are convinced that God's work is manifested.

William Alston already had extreme doubts as to whether everyday experiences (such as looking at a mountain panorama) alone can really be a sufficient reason for religious manifestation opinions (such as "God created this"). A number of unspoken assumptions went into such opinions, such as: B. the cognitive practice of a religious community.

Philip Quinn asked whether religious opinions could really still be called basal today in view of a centuries-old tradition of criticism of religion. Positions critical of religion are now at least as strongly propagated in the educated public as religious ones.

Overall experience

In the German-speaking world, Wolfhart Pannenberg and Karl Rahner achieved greater fame with their approach of using not only particularly conspicuous individual experiences, but the entirety of our experiences as a starting point for an argument in favor of the rationality of religious convictions.

Rahner starts from the ability of the human mind to recognize individual objects of experience on the one hand, but on the other always to go beyond them (e.g. by recognizing unity in our perception or the limitation of our own knowledge). According to Rahner, this dynamic of our cognitive faculties even forms a “condition of the possibility” of every cognition. It is given in each of our acts of knowledge and is to be understood as a tacit "anticipation of being ".

The ultimate fulfillment of this cognitive dynamic cannot be any inner-worldly object, because this would always be surpassable through our striving for knowledge. Rather, the appropriate correlate can only be found in the absolute being of God, which transcends all inner-worldly limitations. In this sense, according to Rahner, the existence of God is implicitly recognized in every act of knowledge, who, as it were, forms the horizon of all our knowledge.

In his later writings, Rahner developed this idea of ​​“anticipation of being” in the direction of a “ transcendental experience ” in which he sees a form of experience of God.

Rahner's God argument was also criticized by Christian philosophers with regard to two assumptions. On the one hand, Rahner assumes that the dynamics of human knowledge are fundamentally given as a natural fact, which already presupposes God's existence. On the other hand, it does not follow from the existence of a striving that the aim of the striving really has to exist. The fact that striving for nature cannot lead to void is "not guaranteed without the assumption of a good and wise Creator who directs the striving towards possible fulfillment". Such an argument in turn amounts to the tacit assumption of the existence of God.

Cumulative empirical arguments

Some philosophers such as Frederick Robert Tennant , Basil Mitchell and Richard Swinburne have suggested combining some of these arguments into a cumulative case for the existence of God in the face of a multitude of arguments that are not generally convincing but also not entirely implausible . The currently most influential variant is that of Richard Swinburne.

Swinburne regards the existence of God as an uncertain scientific hypothesis , the likelihood of which can be assessed in the light of various empirical evidence. Even if viewed in isolation some of the traditional arguments for the existence of God are very weak, when combined they would give a probability of greater than 0.5 for the existence of God. It is therefore not unreasonable to believe in God, even if the contents of the faith cannot necessarily be derived.

For Swinburne, the following indications are extremely unlikely in and of themselves and can best be explained by assuming the existence of God:

  • the existence of a complex physical universe
  • the recognizable order in the universe
  • the existence of beings gifted with consciousness
  • the correspondence between human and animal needs on the one hand and environmental conditions on the other
  • the (possibly) occurrence of miracles
  • the fine-tuning of fundamental fundamental constants

The key objection to Swinburne's argument is against his probability assignments. The judgment that the observable phenomena are more likely when God exists is speculative and influenced by ideological and religious background assumptions.

Practical postulates

In addition to arguments that seek to derive the existence of God conceptually or from experience, there are “moral” arguments that “postulate” the existence of God based on the demands of morality .

The best-known argument comes from Immanuel Kant. From practical reason it must be assumed that happiness and happiness ultimately coincide. This is the “ highest good ” and striving for it is the decisive task of man. In our world of experience, however, the highest good is not realized, which is due to certain empirical circumstances that prevent the coincidence of worthiness and happiness. It must therefore be "postulated" that there is a guarantor who ensures that these circumstances ultimately cease to exist. The guarantor for this balancing justice is God.

Critics of the Kantian postulate of God start from the fact that the coincidence of worthiness and happiness is an ideal that must first of all be justified. Furthermore, equating the guarantor of the highest good with God is problematic.

Practical cleverness

A classic argument which again increased in recent decades, philosophical attention has attracted, is the so-called betting argument of Blaise Pascal . For Pascal, it's not actually about a bet, but about betting on a religious life option out of practical wisdom.

According to Pascal, reason cannot answer the question of whether God exists or not. A risk assessment must therefore be made for which two factors must be taken into account:

  • the size of the expected good or evil (profit and loss)
  • the probability with which the good or evil will occur

Since for Pascal the probability that God exists is just as high as that that he does not exist, only the question of gain and loss is relevant. The following scenarios result for the two decision options:

  • If I bet God exists, I have won the bet if he exists and lost if he doesn't. My gain, if it exists, is "everything" - the truth and the greatest good. My loss if I lose the bet is out of proportion to it.
  • If I bet that God doesn't exist, then I've won the bet if he doesn't and lost if he does. My gain, if it does not exist, are certain goods in life that I would have to forego if I believed that it existed. My loss, if it exists, is the truth and the greatest good; after this life, eternal misery awaits me instead of the highest good.

For Pascal it follows that the risk is lowest and the chances of winning the highest, if I bet on the existence of God.

The fundamental objection raised against Pascal's betting argument is that a conscious change in belief due to practical wisdom is epistemologically questionable. A belief that is not based on sufficient evidence of experience, but on a mere decision, is problematic. In addition, a belief that arose out of self-interest is alien to a religious attitude, which includes trustworthy certainty and love of God.

Non-cognitive foundations of belief


Many justifications of belief are based on a concept of revelation . Central beliefs in Christian theology are viewed as revelations, the truth of which cannot be proven in a purely rational way.

“Revelation” stands for both the act of revealing and the revealed content. In Christian theology, a distinction is made between natural revelations and supernatural revelations that cannot be recognized naturally.

Revelations are related to a divine reality. The acceptance of a revelation does not happen on the basis of one's own insight, but in trust in the divine which is revealed. This can also be revealed in texts, which are then viewed as self-manifestations of the divine. In the scriptural religions, for example, there is a canon of holy scriptures that are assigned the character of revelation. Traditionally, these are understood in the sense of inspiration theory, which assumes that the sacred texts were created through divine inspiration from their authors. A distinction is made between verbal inspiration , which also includes the wording, and “real inspiration”, in which only the meaning of the statements is viewed as inspired.

The goal of the doctrine of inspiration is to mark the scriptures as an unmistakable basis for faith. For this purpose, the original text must be clearly identifiable, which leads to the subsequent assumption that God - especially in the case of verbal inspiration - also ensured that the text was transmitted correctly.

In the eyes of critics, concepts of revelation cannot generally justify beliefs. A basic problem is z. B. that different religions and denominations sometimes declare very different texts or traditions as revelations. The distinction between “real” and “false” revelations presupposes a criterion, which lies beyond these revelations. These could only be criteria of reason.

Non-cognitive interpretations of religious statements

Some authors of the philosophy of religion start from the assumption that religious statements have no cognitive content, but without interpreting them critically. JE McTaggart suggests an emotive interpretation of religious statements. For him, religious statements are expressions of feelings. Alfred Jules Ayer , Charles Kay Ogden and IA Richards take a similar approach . Other authors such as Charles W. Morris , Kenneth Burke and PF Schmidt advocate an evocative interpretation according to which we do not express our feelings with religious statements, but rather appeal to the listener to adopt certain attitudes.

Richard Bevan Braithwaite presented a detailed non-cognitive interpretation of religious statements . For him, religious statements are moral statements that he interprets as non-cognitive. In his view, a religion primarily defines policies of behavior . These are usually not formulated explicitly, but shown by examples. In addition to the behavior maxims religions also contain "stories" ( stories ). These stories need not be accepted literally as true by believers. Their only function is to evoke the behavior required by practical maxims. For Braithwaite, moral statements do not mean accepting the truth, but rather a commitment to practical maxims. By uttering a moral maxim such as “One should do F” or “It is necessary to do F”, the speaker expresses his own intention to do F. Religious belief consists in the intention to fulfill the maxims of a religion.

Critics of Braithwaite's interpretation of moral statements object that the interpretation of a religion or its statements as a system of behavior maxims underlaid with "stories" is shortened. There are also statements on the truth of which the validity of practical maxims depends. A religion interprets the world and says z. B. say something about the meaning and purpose of human life and history.

Religion as a language game

The starting point of the language game theory introduced by Ludwig Wittgenstein in the Philosophical Investigations is the conception of speaking as an activity that takes place in a non-linguistic action context and can therefore only be understood against its background. A language is always part of a form of life and different forms of life belong to different language games, ie systems of rules for the use of language from which the meaning of the linguistic expressions results. Words and sentences can have completely different functions in different language games. The different forms of life also include different procedures for justifying and distinguishing between what needs justification and what does not. Wittgenstein sees religion as an independent language game and advocates a non-cognitive interpretation of religious statements. Specific terms and modes of expression that cannot be criticized from outside belong to the language game of a religion.

The language game thesis is criticized for the fact that religion is not a language game that is differentiated from others. The believer moves not only in this language game, but also in that of normal everyday life, science, technology, law, etc. and in principle use the same language. The same words and sentences would not have fundamentally different meanings in these language games. The importance of religion for life is precisely that it is not a language game that is isolated from the rest of life. The statements of religion are also important for the actions and thoughts of people in everyday life.

Not a rational decision

The classic example of a decisionist justification of faith was given by Sören Kierkegaard - v. a. in his final unscientific postscript to the 'Philosophical Brocken' (1846) - developed. He emphasizes there that for a religious belief decision, not factual knowledge, but the "infinite, passionate interest in eternal bliss" is decisive. Kierkegaard rejects all metaphysical as well as historical arguments for the truth of the Christian faith. For him, a decision of faith is not just a decision under uncertainty, but a decision against all reason. For him, the central message of the Christian faith is God's incarnation in Jesus , which for him is paradoxical and contradicts reason. For Kierkegaard, faith is a “farewell to the mind”. For him it is a matter of “passion” and “the highest strength of inwardness”. All attempts to justify it or even to understand it failed it.

The objection of critics of Kierkegaard aims at the fact that the decision to believe does not necessarily imply that one ignores emerging doubts about the contents of the belief and adheres to the belief at all costs. From the fact that not only rational reasons are decisive for the decision to believe and to adhere to it, it does not follow that these are completely irrelevant for the faith: “Faith is a risk, and that means that the decision for him is wrong can prove that there is a possibility that one day we will have to admit our failure ”.

Criticism of religion

According to Löffler - following Rudolf Carnap - the arguments against the rationality of religious convictions can be divided as follows:

  1. Arguments trying to show that religious beliefs have no cognitive sense at all
  2. Arguments that try to prove religious beliefs to be false, but not pointless
  3. Arguments that seek to prove poorly founded religious beliefs
  4. Arguments that want to show that religious beliefs are based on disturbed cognitive relationships
  5. Arguments that reject religious beliefs because of their harmfulness

Cognitive futility

A very basic objection to religion starts with religious language. From the 1930s to the 1960s, it played a major role in debates on the philosophy of religion. The objection basically assumes that sentences only have meaning if they can be verified or falsified on the basis of empirical facts. Since this is difficult to do with religious sentences, they are generally suspected of being meaningless.

Rudolf Carnap and most of the members of the Vienna Circle advocated the so-called empirical verification principle as a criterion for the meaning of sentences until the mid-1930s . In addition to the propositions of logic that say nothing about the world, only those propositions are meaningful for which a method can be given for empirically verifying them. In his programmatic writing Overcoming Metaphysics through Logical Analysis of Language , which is also concerned with religious language , Carnap traces metaphysics back to two errors. On the one hand, words would be used in it in a way that violates the logical syntax - e.g. B. in the nouns of “being” and “nothing”. On the other hand, the terms she uses have no empirically definable meaning. So it is not clear when sentences containing the word “God” are true, since it cannot be stated with which observational sentences such sentences would be compatible.

Antony Flew is aiming in a similar direction . However, Flew does not consider the verifiability, but the falsifiability of an assertion as a condition for its meaningfulness. Statements such as those in religious language, in which claims are made that cannot be shaken by any facts, are therefore pointless.

Carnap's strict verification criteria are now largely considered obsolete. Even Karl Popper had rejected the principle on the grounds that otherwise even the simplest laws of nature would be pointless, since generalizations were never verified.

Furthermore, most philosophers of science today assume that “there are also sentences in scientific language that cannot be confirmed by experience because they describe the conditions on the background of which all our theories work, but still have a clearly definable meaning ". Willard Van Orman Quine compared our language and the beliefs behind it with a network in which there are regions that are further away from experience and closer to experience and that is only fixed at the edges through observation. Quine calls this the "underdetermination ( underdetermination ) of a system through experience" ( Quine-Duhem thesis ).


Objections that assert the falseness of religious beliefs can basically be divided into a logical type, which proceeds from the contradictions of the traditional concept of God, and an empirical type, which declares the existence of God to be incompatible with the properties of the world.

Ontological non-existence proof

The objections raised to the concept of God are structurally similar to the ontological argument. So contrasts z. B. John N. Findlay's argument against the existence of God with Anselm's ontological argument. It is therefore called "ontological disproof" by some interpreters and has the following structure:

  • God must not exist by chance, but must necessarily exist
  • There is no necessary existence, only logical necessity. Statements about necessity only express logical-conceptual connections
  • So there cannot be a necessarily existing being like God

Findlay's argument is based on an understanding of the modalities (the concepts of possibility, necessity, etc.) as it was represented in the first half of the 20th century, especially in the philosophy of logical positivism . In the philosophy of the present, the skepticism about necessities lying beyond the logical necessity has meanwhile decreased.

Theodicy problem

The best known and existentially most relevant objection to religious beliefs is the problem of evil , often referred to as the theodicy problem . A distinction is usually made between physical and moral evils.

Physical evils exist without any morally relevant human intervention (natural disasters, diseases, suffering, etc.); Moral evils, on the other hand, go back to morally relevant human behavior (e.g. the deliberate or negligent infliction of physical or emotional pain). An intermediate position is taken by physical evils that have arisen as a result of moral evils - e.g. B. the harm to people through bad economic decisions and the destruction of nature. A distinction is also made between necessary evils, which are accepted for the sake of a greater good, and senseless evils for which no such connection can be recognized.

The views that develop an objection to the rationality of religious convictions from the fact of the evil differ in whether they are based on the fundamental fact that there is evil at all or on the concrete extent of the evil. Furthermore, they develop their objection to the rationality of religious convictions in different ways from the fact of the evil. The strongest thesis held is that of the incompatibility of the existence of evil with the existence of a benevolent God. According to this view, it is impossible that there could be any good reasons for the evil compatible with God's existence.

The attempts at solving the problem of the evil differ according to the strength of the argumentation goals:

  • The most defensive strategy of argument only aims at the fundamental compatibility of the existence of God with the existence of evil. In this context, it is argued that with the divine creation of free action subjects, they would also have the possibility of causing suffering and injustice ( free will defense ).
  • But there are also positive reasons given that the evil has a certain meaning or purpose. These attempts are also called "theodices". It is argued, among other things, that evil is the divine appropriate punishment for sin, that real freedom presupposes a certain degree of physical evil, or that evil is an opportunity to improve our character.
  • Finally, the position is taken that the meaning of the evil must remain inexplicable for man because he does not have the knowledge of God.

Naturalistic Explanations of Religion

Objections critical of religion often start with the origins of religious beliefs. It is often said that religions are products of fear and therefore naturally explainable. Newer naturalistic variants tie in with the theory of evolution, which they also extend to language, culture and religion.

Another naturalistic way of explaining religion is based on the neurosciences . It should be noted that imaging studies of people meditating have shown evidence that religious activity is correlated with certain characteristic brain activity patterns. Some interpreters conclude from this that religious perceptions can be reduced entirely to their neural basis and that they have no real content.

What is seen as problematic about these positions critical of religion is that they represent forms of a genetic fallacy: from the natural explainability of the origin of a belief, it is concluded that it is falsehood. Neither from the usefulness nor from the evolutionary history of a belief, however, follows anything about its truth or falsehood.

Inadequate justification

Some arguments critical of religion do not claim that religious beliefs are demonstrably false, but they want to show them as poorly justified or as in principle not justifiable.

Bertrand Russell , for example, cited the lack of clear empirical evidence as a major reason for his criticism of religious beliefs. Antony Flew followed suit and claimed that whoever makes religious statements and claims the existence of God has the burden of proof. First of all, we should start from the assumption that we neither know anything about the existence of God nor his properties ( Presumption of Atheism ). A radicalized version of this criticism is attributed to William K. Clifford , who for moral reasons categorically refuses to ever believe anything without sufficient reason.

The objection raised against these positions is that the “presumption of atheism” itself represents a strong prerequisite that can be disputed in view of the widespread phenomenon of religion and the numerous historically presented arguments for the existence of God. Peter van Inwagen , William P. Alston and Alvin Plantinga have pointed out that different standards are established for the justification of religious beliefs compared to other ideological beliefs. Religious beliefs, however, do not differ fundamentally from other components of our worldview with regard to the status of their justification. Like religious beliefs, the most fundamental beliefs in our everyday life and the most important decisions in our lives are not based on scientific justification - nevertheless, we would not have the feeling that we were acting unreasonably.

Disturbed cognitive relationships

An essential strand of tradition in modern criticism of religion is based on the fact that religious beliefs go back to disturbed human knowledge.

For Ludwig Feuerbach , for example, the misunderstood religion - its "false essence" - is the projection of human ideals into a fictitious, otherworldly subject area. In the detour via God, man believes that he is coming to the fulfillment of his inner-worldly unattainable desires and ideals. The “true essence” of religion, however, consists in the knowledge that the human species is itself divine and worthy of worship.

For Marx and Engels , religion is above all a social phenomenon. It is part of the ideological superstructure and as such a product of social and ultimately economic conditions. In religion the people, alienated from economic conditions, find those comforting illusions that make their wretched lot bearable for them. As the economic situation improves, religion will die out on its own. Efficient criticism of religion therefore consists in changing the prevailing economic conditions.

In Sigmund Freud's psychoanalytic theory, religion is a product of unconscious psychological mechanisms that lead to the idea of ​​God as a superfather due to the relationship to one's own father, which fluctuates between rivalry and admiration. Following Sigmund Freud, religion is often viewed in the psychoanalytic tradition as a product of human desires, longings, fears and mechanisms of repression.

Critics see the blending of "questions of origin with questions of truth or the justification of beliefs" as a fundamental problem of these projection theories. From the fact that there are “natural” explanations for a belief, it does not follow either that this belief is false or that it is not adequately justified. "If one were to use projection theories as an argument against the truth of religious convictions, one would commit the argumentation error of the petitio principii ".


Arguments critical of religion that aim at the harmfulness of religious convictions are mostly based on a certain ideal of a successful individual or social life, the achievement of which is made more difficult if religious convictions are held.

For example, it is criticized that religions stir up fear of damnation, restrict personal freedoms and promote morality hostile to life. Other objections see a social and cultural harmfulness of religion in the foreground and criticize, for example, cruel religious practices, religious wars , violent proselytizing and religiously motivated terrorism. It is also criticized that religions have hindered scientific progress or that governments have presented criticism as God's will. Since Hume in particular, the monotheistic religions have repeatedly been accused of promoting a spirit of intolerance and a willingness to oppress others.

Against these arguments, the legitimacy of coupling the truth of a conviction with its usefulness is fundamentally questioned. Furthermore, it is objected that the allegations of harmfulness amount to a hardly decidable empirical discussion, since an overall benefit balance of a religion can only be ascertained with difficulty. In defense of religions, reference is often made in this context to their cultural achievements, the humanitarian commitment of religious people, the stimulating effect of religions on scientific progress, their influence on the development of human rights and the stabilizing function of religion for the individual and society.

See also


Philosophy bibliography : Philosophy of Religion - Additional references on the topic

Introductions and manuals

  • Hans Peter Balmer : What the divine name stands for. Religious philosophical experiments. readbox unipress, Münster 2017, ISBN 978-3-95925-040-5 .
  • Paul Copan, Chad Meister (Ed.): Philosophy of Religion. Classic and Contemporary Issues, VCH Wiley 2007, ISBN 978-1-4051-3989-2 . Chapter on religious experience; Religion and (natural) science; Reformed Epistemology; Religious theological pluralism; God proof types; Naturalism; Divine qualities; Freedom; Concealment of God; Brief overviews of continental, eastern, feminist religious philosophy.
  • William Lane Craig (Ed.): Philosophy of Religion. A Reader and Guide. Rutgers UP, New Brunswick, NJ 2002. Exemplary essays, most of which are standard reading, by leading experts v. a. analytical philosophy of religion on topics of religious epistemology, natural theology (especially types of proof of God), coherence of theistic basic assumptions (omniscience etc.), problem of evil, soul and eternal life, topics of Christian theology (trinity, hell, prayer, etc.).
  • Brian Davies (Ed.): An introduction to the philosophy of religion. 3. Edition. Oxford Univ. Press, Oxford et al. a. 2004, ISBN 0-19-926347-7 . Collection of classic texts, e.g. B. by Plato, Anselm of Canterbury, Thomas Aquinas, Immanuel Kant and others. a. m., as well as classics of analytical religious philosophy, z. B. Flew, Ayer, Swinburne, Mackie, Plantinga and the like. a. m., sorted by topics such as philosophy and religious beliefs, talk of God, evidence of God, divine properties, problem of evil, morality and religion, eternal life.
  • Hermann Deuser : Philosophy of Religion. Walter de Gruyter, Berlin 2009, ISBN 978-3-11-016190-8 .
  • Peter Fischer: Philosophy of Religion. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2007, ISBN 978-3-8252-2887-3 .
  • Armin Kreiner : The true face of God - or what we mean when we say God , Herder, Freiburg i. Br. 2006
  • Franz von Kutschera : Reason and Faith , de Gruyter, Berlin 1991.
  • Winfried Löffler : Introduction to the philosophy of religion. WBG 2006, ISBN 3-534-15471-1 .
  • William E. Mann (Ed.): The Blackwell guide to the philosophy of religion. Blackwell Pub., Oxford u. a. 2005, ISBN 0-631-22129-8 . (Blackwell philosophy guides; 17)
  • Michael Joseph Murray, Michael C. Rea: An introduction to the philosophy of religion. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge u. a. 2008. (Cambridge introductions to philosophy)
  • Willi Oelmüller , Ruth Dölle-Oelmüller: Basic course in philosophy of religion. W. Fink, Munich 1997.
  • Michael L. Peterson et al. a .: Philosophy of religion. Selected readings. Oxford Univ. Press, NY 1996, ISBN 0-19-508909-X .
  • Louis P. Pojman: Philosophy of religion: An anthology. Wadsworth, Belmont 1986.
  • Philip Quinn; Charles Taliaferro (Ed.): A Companion to Philosophy of Religion. Oxford 1999, ISBN 0-631-19153-4 .
  • Friedo Ricken : Philosophy of Religion . Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 2003, ISBN 3-17-011568-5 .
  • William Wainwright J. (Ed.): The Oxford handbook of philosophy of religion. Oxford Univ. Press, Oxford et al. a. 2005, ISBN 0-19-513809-0 . (Oxford handbooks in philosophy)
  • Keith E. Yandell: Philosophy of religion: a contemporary introduction. Routledge, London a. a. 1999, ISBN 0-415-13213-4 . (Routledge contemporary introductions to philosophy)

Trade journals

see list of philosophy journals # Religionsphilosophie

Web links

Wiktionary: Philosophy of religion  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Societies and organizations


  1. Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Blue Book. In: Ludwig Wittgenstein: work edition, vol. 5, Frankfurt a. M. 1984, p. 37.
  2. Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Blue Book. In: Ludwig Wittgenstein: work edition, vol. 5, Frankfurt a. M. 1984, p. 39.
  3. ^ Ricken, Friedo (2003): Philosophy of Religion. Kohlhammer (p. 17) ISBN 978-3-17-011568-2 .
  4. For the following cf. Franz von Kutschera: Reason and Faith. Pp. 2-16.
  5. Cf. Winfried Löffler: Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion. Pp. 25-27.
  6. ^ Schleiermacher: The Christian Faith , Berlin 1984 (1811/22)
  7. Wittgenstein's remarks on the philosophy of religion are scattered in many of his works. See: Andreas Koritensky: Wittgenstein's Phenomenology of Religion , Stuttgart 2002
  8. ^ Rudolf Otto: Das Heilige , Munich 2004 (1917)
  9. ^ Hegel: Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion (held 1821-1831, first posthumous publications 1832 and 1840), Frankfurt 1986
  10. Heidegger: Phenomenology of Religious Life (Complete Edition Volume 60), Frankfurt 1995
  11. Swinburne: The Existence of God , Stuttgart 1987 ( The Existence of God , 1979, 2nd revised edition 2004)
  12. ^ Günter Lanczkowski: Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion , Darmstadt 1980
  13. Cf. Winfried Löffler: Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion. P. 12ff.
  14. Cf. Winfried Löffler: Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion. P. 13.
  15. Franz von Kutschera: Reason and Faith. P. 212.
  16. Franz von Kutschera: Reason and Faith. P. 212ff.
  17. Cf. Franz von Kutschera: Reason and Faith. P. 214f.
  18. Cf. Franz von Kutschera: Reason and Faith. P. 215.
  19. Cf. Franz von Kutschera: Reason and Faith. P. 81ff.
  20. Cf. Franz von Kutschera: Reason and Faith. P. 216f.
  21. Cf. Franz von Kutschera: Reason and Faith. P. 217f.
  22. Franz von Kutschera: Reason and Faith. P. 169f.
  23. For the following cf. Franz von Kutschera: Reason and Faith. Pp. 196-204.
  24. ^ Georg WF Hegel : Lectures on the philosophy of history. In: Works in 20 volumes (Suhrkamp), Frankfurt a. M. 1969ff, vol. 12, p. 35.
  25. Franz von Kutschera: Reason and Faith. P. 201.
  26. Armin Kreiner : The true face of God - or what we mean when we say God , Herder, Freiburg i. Br. 2006, p. 258
  27. See e.g. B. Keith Ward : Religion and Creation , p. 290
  28. See e.g. B. Reinhold R. Bernhardt's interpretation of Luther's theology of creation: What does "God's action" mean? : a reconstruction of the doctrine of providence , Gütersloh 1999. p. 84
  29. Cf. D. Evers: Raum - Materie - Zeit, p. 258
  30. Armin Kreiner: The true face of God - or what we mean when we say God , Herder, Freiburg i. Br. 2006, p. 261
  31. Plato: Timaeus, 28c-29c
  32. ^ Alfred N. Whitehead: Process and Reality, p. 611
  33. On the concept of surpassing oneself, see: Paul Overhage / Karl Rahner : The problem of hominization. On the biological origin of man 1961, 43-90; Béla Weissmahr : God's work in the world. A contribution to the discussion on the question of evolution and the miracle 1973, 20-39; Béla Weissmahr: Self-surrender and the evolution of the cosmos towards Christ , in: Harald Schöndorf (ed.): The philosophical sources of the theology of Karl Rahners 2005, 143-177.
  34. On creatio nova cf. Johannes Herzgsell: Christianity in the Concert of World Religions , Pustet Friedrich KG, Regensburg 2011, p. 316
  35. See e.g. B. Jesus' statement in Luke 11:20 that the kingdom of God has already come.
  36. On the traditional concepts of God's omnipotence cf. Armin Kreiner: The True Face of God , Freiburg i.Br. 2006, pp. 308-343.
  37. See ST Davis: Logic and the Nature of God , pp. 68f.
  38. See CW: Savage: The Paradox of the Stone , p. 76
  39. This position was in a sense represented in Christianity by Luther and Calvin. Traditions in Islam also tend towards this option
  40. This position may be a. represented by Clark Pinnock and others and is the subject of heated evangelical discussion
  41. This theory is based primarily on Karl Rahner (P. Overhage / K. Rahner: The problem of hominization. About the biological origin of humans , 1961, pp. 13–90) and Béla Weissmahr (Béla Weissmahr: God's work in the world A contribution to the discussion on the question of evolution and wonder , 1973).
  42. On the traditional concepts of God's omniscience, cf. Armin Kreiner: The true face of God. Freiburg i.Br. 2006, pp. 343-369.
  43. Boethius: Consolatio Philosophiae (Consolation of Philosophy) (study edition), 2004. Chap. V.
  44. See David Hume: An Inquiry into the Human Mind. Übers. Raoul Richter, ed. Jens Kulenkampff, 12th edition, Meiner, Hamburg 1993, p. 113
  45. Cf. Armin Kreiner: The True Face of God , Freiburg i.Br. 2006, pp. 385-389
  46. Cf. Armin Kreiner: The True Face of God , Freiburg i.Br. 2006, p. 387
  47. Cf. Armin Kreiner: The True Face of God , Freiburg i.Br. 2006, pp. 395-431
  48. For the following cf. Franz von Kutschera: Reason and Faith. Pp. 120-139.
  49. See WD Hudson: Wittgenstein and Religious Belief. London 1975, p. 176.
  50. Franz von Kutschera: Reason and Faith. P. 129.
  51. ^ After Winfried Löffler: Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion. P. 46f.
  52. On the subject of “Reasonableness of Religious Beliefs” cf. the overview by Winfried Löffler: Introduction to the philosophy of religion. Pp. 46-52.
  53. Immanuel Kant, Collected Writings. Ed .: Vol. 1-22 Prussian Academy of Sciences, Vol. 23 German Academy of Sciences in Berlin, from Vol. 24 Academy of Sciences in Göttingen, Berlin 1900ff., AA III, 401  / KrV B 626.
  54. See Barry Miller:  Existence. In: Edward N. Zalta (Ed.): Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy . , Edgar Morscher : Is existence still not a predicate? In: Philosophia naturalis . 19, 1982, pp. 163-199.
  55. For the following section cf. Winfried Löffler: Introduction to the philosophy of religion. Pp. 60-68.
  56. See e.g. B. Immanuel Kant: KrV B 631-641 and Eberhard Herrmann: Religion, Reality, and a Good Life . Tuebingen 2004
  57. Cf. Winfried Löffler: Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion. P. 71. For more information: Neil Manson (Ed.): God and Design: The Teleological Argument and Modern Science . London and New York 2003.
  58. David Hume: An Inquiry into the Human Mind. Cape. 10
  59. Winfried Löffler: Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion. P. 80.
  60. Cf. Winfried Löffler: Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion. P. 90f.
  61. ^ William Alston: Perceiving God. The Epistemology of Religious Experience. Ithaca and London 1991, p. 196.
  62. Philip Quinn: In search of the foundations of theism (American 1985, German by V. Müller). In: Christoph Jäger (Ed.): Analytical Philosophy of Religion , Paderborn a. a. 1998, pp. 331-353.
  63. ^ Wolfhart Pannenberg: Philosophy of Science and Theology. Frankfurt 1973; Karl Rahner: Hearer of the Word (1941), Freiburg a. a. 1997, Basic Course of Faith (1976), Freiburg 11th edition. 2005
  64. Cf. Karl Rahner: Basic Course of Faith. P. 31.
  65. Cf. Winfried Löffler: Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion. P. 101f.
  66. ^ After Winfried Löffler: Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion. P. 84.
  67. ^ Pascal: Pensées , fragment 233
  68. Cf. Winfried Löffler: Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion. P. 112.
  69. Cf. Franz von Kutschera: Reason and Faith. P. 88ff.
  70. On the non-cognitive interpretations of religious statements cf. RS Heimbeck: Theology and Meaning. London 1969
  71. ^ JE McTaggart: Some Dogmas of Religion. London 1906, p. 3.
  72. ^ Alfred Jules Ayer: Language, Truth and Logic. London 1936
  73. ^ Charles Kay Ogden and IA Richards: The Meaning of Meaning. London 1923
  74. ^ Charles W. Morris: Signs, Language and Behavior. New York 1946
  75. Kenneth Burke: The Rhetoric of Religion. Boston 1961
  76. ^ Schmidt, PF: Is there religious knowledge? Journal of Philosophy 55 (1958), 529-38
  77. ^ Richard Bevan Braithwaite: An Empiricist's View of the Nature of Religious Belief , Mitchell (1971), 72-91
  78. Cf. Franz von Kutschera: Reason and Faith. P. 102ff.
  79. On the critique of language game theory cf. Franz von Kutschera: Reason and Faith. P. 111ff.
  80. See e.g. B. Sören Kierkegaard: Collected works. ed. E. Hirsch et al. a., 36 sections in 26 volumes, Düsseldorf 1950-69, vol. 26, p. 136.
  81. See Sören Kierkegaard: Gesammelte Werke. Vol. 10, SS 56 and 58f
  82. See Sören Kierkegaard: Gesammelte Werke. Vol. 16/1, pp. 202f.
  83. For the following cf. Franz von Kutschera: Reason and Faith. P. 128.
  84. Cf. Winfried Löffler: Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion. P. 119.
  85. ^ Rudolf Carnap: Overcoming metaphysics through logical analysis of language. in knowledge 2 (1931/32), 219-241.
  86. ^ Rudolf Carnap: Overcoming metaphysics through logical analysis of language. in knowledge 2 (1931/32), 219-241
  87. ^ Antony Flew, Richard M. Hare , Basil Mitchell: Theory and Falsification. A symposium (English 1950/51 German by Ingolf U. Dalferth ). In: Ingolf U. Dalferth: Linguistic logic of faith . Munich 1974.
  88. See Karl Popper: Logic of Research (1934), 11th edition. 2005
  89. Winfried Löffler: Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion. P. 122.
  90. Willard Van Orman Quine: Two Dogmas of Empiricism , 1951, German: Two dogmas of empiricism. In: From a logical standpoint , translated by Peter Bosch, Frankfurt / Berlin / Vienna 1979
  91. ^ John Findlay: Can God's Existence be Disproved? In: Mind 57 (1948), pp. 176–183.
  92. See e.g. B. Alvin Plantinga: The Analytic Theist: An Alvin Plantinga Reader. Edited by JF Sennett. Grand Rapids 1998
  93. On this thesis cf. z. B. Stephen Wykstra: Daniel Howard-Snyder (Ed.): The Evidential Argument from Evil. Bloomington - Indianapolis 1996, pp. 127-150.
  94. See e.g. B. Richard Dawkins: The Blind Watchmaker. A new plea for Darwinism (English 1986, German by K. De Soudas Ferreira), Munich 1987; Daniel C. Dennett: Darwin's dangerous legacy (American 19956, German by S. Vogel). Hamburg 1997; Daniel C. Dennett: Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon. London 2006
  95. See e.g. B. Andrew Newberg, Eugene d'Aquili, Vince Rause: The God Thought . How belief arises in the brain (American 2001, German by H. Stadler). Munich u. a. 2003; Rhawn Joseph (Ed.): Neurotheology: Brain, Science, Spirituality, Religious Experience . San Jose 2002
  96. Cf. Winfried Löffler: Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion. P. 132f.
  97. Bertrand Russell: Why I am not a Christian (English 1957, German by M. Steipe). Munich 1963
  98. ^ Antony Flew: The Presumption of Atheism and Other Essays. London 1976
  99. ^ William K. Clifford: The Ethics of Belief. In: The Ethics of Belief & Other Essays . Edited by TH Madigan. Amherst 1999 (first printed in 1877).
  100. Cf. Winfried Löffler: Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion. P. 138.
  101. Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels: About religion. Berlin (East) 1958
  102. Winfried Löffler: Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion. P. 143.
  103. David Hume: The Natural History of Religion. About superstition and enthusiasm. About the immortality of the soul. About suicide. (Eng. 1757). Trans. U. ed. v. Lothar Kreimendahl , 2nd edition. Meiner, Hamburg 2000