Notes on the key concepts and philosophers in Westphal’s extract

Hegel complained that we can know God and not just religion like others suggested. To him religion must be the knowledge of God. His central thesis was that religion and philosophy are the same but differ in form – only philosophy has the concepts for true knowledge need to reinterpret the concepts of ‘idea’ and ‘spirit’. As a form of Spinozism it seeks to ‘articulate and defend itself’ in philosophical argument not hide in ‘feeling.’

Kant had helped Hume destroy the traditional purely reason arguments for the existence of God so no knowledge of God through purely theoretical reason but through practical reason i.e. through religious experience. A key proponent of the enlightenment new religion in which he believed there could be found a universal reason and universal morality he wanted to separate religion and morality. He felt firstly that religion didn’t need morality; secondly that morality leads automatically to religion and thirdly that religion is simply a recognition that all duties are divinely commanded anyway and therefore religion is unnecessary to a moral life. The true church, an ethical commonwealth, can only be created on earth by moral self-improvement of humanity. This is like…

Pelagius who believed that mankind can make it to heaven on our own merits not by the gift of God in Jesus Christ.

Scholasticism was the school of philosophy that thought that faith and reason are harmonious. Whereas…

Deism was the school of philosophy that thought that they needed separating – as in husk and kernel. The core from the trappings…

Enlightenment rationalism was the attempt to heal the breaches between the different religious faiths by concentrating on what they had in common. Rather than their specific claims to authority or salvation their overall message would be available to all.

Hume combined with Kant to temporarily dismiss the traditional arguments for the existence for God (i.e. cosmological, teleological, onto arguments) hence he concentrated on the philosophers interpretation of religious life and practices to the conclusion that these were based on false premises anyway and self-deceiving.

Schleiermacher posited that the kernel needs the husk although it can do without it but we as experients need more than just the immediacy of religious experience and its feelings, but to anchor it in life through rituals and practices. He felt that all people who had these experiences belonged together what he called finding the ‘religion in the religions’ and felt that religious experience was more pantheistic i.e. the divine spirit was in all features of the world and therefore God would not be experienced personally since he was not a personal being but could be experienced in e.g. a sunset etc. These experiences would unite us all. This is similar to…

Spinoza who believed that God was in all things and that god and nature were but two words for the same thing.

Marx’s change in perspective was to blame religion for the oppression of people and explained that to his mind religion had basically been invented as a tool to dupe the masses into believing that they could endure oppression and exploitation in this life so long as there would be a better life after this one.

And Nietzsche went a stage further to criticise religion for its generation of a slave morality i.e. one which meant that oppressed people let the oppressors take responsibility for their behaviour which meant that they were not guilty of their own sin, the masters were. Both these philosophers believed that religion had stunted mankind’s growth and that now was the time to start taking responsibility for it ourselves. Hence Nietzsche’s claim ‘God is dead’ meaning we no longer need the crutch of religion and should have grown up enough to stand on our own feet.

Finally Kierkegaard criticised bourgeois Christianity because it said we are living in the Kingdom of God on earth (when we’re not) and that all that was needed to belong to this k was to be good people. The need for Christ’s sacrifice was gone as were God’s gifts of grace and mercy.

Notes on the paragraphs of Westphal

Westphal extract

1 explains that from the time of Hume and Kant to that of Nietzsche the focus shifted from philosophising about God (i.e. about his nature and what he is like) to philosophising about religion (and its nature and practices) from philosophical theology to philosophy of religion
2 Hegel‘s complaint is that since the assumption was that we do not know God we talk about religion instead.
3 It is to Hegel that we should be grateful that the philosophy of religion came to be recognised as a branch of philosophy in its own right.
4 Westphal explains that pre-Kant there were two schools of philosophical theology: scholastic and deistic. Both attempt to explore knowledge of God through reason rather than revelation. However the Scholastic follows Augustine in viewing reason as going hand in hand with faith and the two as complementary. Deistic by contrast seeks to separate the two not just distinguish between them. Both wish to bring religion within the ‘limits of reason alone,’ to separate the rational kernel from the irrational husk ie to demythologise religious faith and practice. [Albert Schweitzer and his Quest for the Historical Jesus and Rudolph Bultmann and his work on Form Criticism (ie the investigation into the sources and original forms and influences of the gospels)] [Isn’t this what Ayer would have agreed with?]
5 Deism he goes on was the religion of the Enlightenment, when after the horrors of religious warfare and persecution enlightened thinkers sought a way to make religion foster moral unity rather than hatred toward anyone of another faith or society. [To prevent it happening again!]
6 These thinkers believed that a non-violent religion could only occur once unique specific religious claims were sublimated to the ‘universality of reason.’ Indeed religious claims had to be limited (whether claimed through logic and argument or through experience) to those which were available to ‘all people at all times and in all places.’ What this meant was that individual claims by individual religions were rejected and only those which were non-specific e.g. didn’t rely on salvation by faith in Christ or Mohammad, or by virtue of birth as a Jew for example, were acceptable.
7 Continuing his explanation of the roots of modern philosophy Westphal says that the deist project was motivated by three primary concerns: first for the autonomy (i.e. the independent authority) of human reason; second for religious tolerance (they wanted no more wars or crusades in the name of religion; third an anti- (as he calls it) clericalism meaning wherein no single religious body has supreme power or unique claim to knowledge or to being right. [Donovan links?] It was confident that all we need to know about God could be known through ‘unaided human reason.’ The thrust of deism was to discuss the human aspects of religion and the effects of it on society. As he says at the end the project aimed less to try and prove God’s existence than to try and urge the precedence of religious morality (in other words it’s the human twisting of religious dogma which ends up being perverted and used to sanction war and other atrocities.) The philosophy of religion then became much more concerned with religion’s impact on human society than on discussing the actual nature and existence of God.
8 Moving on to Hume and Kant, Westphal comments that their criticism of the standard a priori and a posteriori arguments (that’s the cosmo, teleological, and onto arguments) for the existence of God succeeded in undermining them (you would need to know how – see specimen essay) and that subsequently it seemed as if philosophy could only make relevant discussion about the impact of religion on human life.
9 Hume and Kant now suggested new directions for philosophy.
10 “Deism is a religious and philosophical belief that a supreme natural God exists and created the physical universe, and that religious truths can be arrived at by the application of reason and observation of the natural world. Deists generally reject the notion of supernatural revelation, miracles etc. as a basis of truth or religious dogma. These views contrast with the dependence on divine revelation found in many Christian,[1]
Islamic and Judaic teachings.” Kant, attributed with having demolished the rational arguments on which deism was based and yet being a deist still, now sought to rescue it.
11 Kant’s contribution to the debate amounted to his claim that though we cannot know God purely through ‘theoretical’ reason we can know him through ‘practical’ reason; what he means by this is that we can see the existence of God through the actions of humans, in their worship and through their interactions with each other. He thus developed what are known as his arguments from morality (i.e. that there is a Categorical imperative based on the concept of duty) and from immortality (if there is a future world what actions are needed to ensure a place in it) to replace the ones he had demolished.
12 Kant in his book Religion clearly separates religion from morality in 3 principles: ‘morality does not need religion’, ‘morality leads inevitably to religion’ and ‘religion is the recognition of all duties as divine commands.’ And though it can aid the moral life it isn’t essential to it.
13 In advocating a ‘universal religion’ Kant explains that we can do nothing for God, ordinary church based rituals like baptism and communion are what he calls ‘fetish-faith’ and he places as supreme, love of fellow humans as a way of acting out love of God, sort of reversing Jesus’ supreme commandment ‘love God and love each other’ to be ‘love each other to show you love God.’ Rituals can be nothing more than aids to living a moral life.
14 In Kant’s view the perfect religion is an ethical commonwealth of humans desiring moral self-improvement and Christ is only relevant as some sort of ideal example of moral perfection.
15 Lessing suggests that rational knowledge of God cannot be dependent on anything historical contingencies (ifs and possibilities) and traditional Christian themes need demythologising e.g. then, if the church is teaching the importance of the virgin birth it must be subject to scrutiny to remove any possible elements of myth to leave only historical or factual truth.
16 Schleiermacher adds his rather more empathetic view; he separates religion into its husk (anything metaphysical – which he dismisses) and its kernel (anything to do with feelings of the infinite through e.g. religious experience – which is its importance) [link to Donovan and intuition]
17 Schleiermacher moves away from the idea of a personal god separate from the created world to one implicitly bound up in creation and whom we can know through our feelings of oneness with creation.
18 To Schleiermacher anyone who recognised this feeling of unity with the Infinite and Eternal could belong to this one true religion. He calls this a ‘church’ an association of likeminded people who are seeking the true religion, the ‘true church.’ Yet acknowledges that true religion can be discovered through the religions which are like pale shadows compared to it. [Like Plato’s ideal forms?]
19 Still in Schleiermacher’s view this religious feeling needs to be understood within a particular religious context i.e. with the rituals and practices like baptism etc. but which are still not essential for true piety. What he is saying here is that we understand and categorise our experiences through religious rituals but you don’t have to have rituals to have the experiences.
20 While Kant reduced religion to morality and Schleiermacher reduced it to a feeling of the Infinite, Hegel regards knowledge of God as in need of a conceptual framework which needs to be ‘articulated and defended.’ [Religious language ]
21 Hegel decides that religion and philosophy are the same but only philosophy has the necessary conceptual framework to explain it while religion places too much emphasis on feeling and the senses and historical narratives. [R L]
22 Thus Hegel’s is a philosophy of the idea in that it places great importance on the ability to ‘articulate and defend’ itself. [R L]
23 While Kant found that understanding or reason is incapable of knowing God, Hegel doesn’t so much separate God and the world as rank God or the infinite spirit as higher than the world or nature or the finite spirit.
24 Religion is the raising of the finite spirit to the infinite level, literally consciousness raising, often apparently misinterpreted as a religious experience or encounter with Someone Other [Otto’s wholly other?] and the discovery of the highest form of human self-awareness being full self-knowledge.
25 He calls Christianity the supreme religious example because Jesus is the embodiment of the concept that the human is divine.
26 Hume – Modern philosophy grew out of dissatisfaction with historic Christianity. Hume and his followers looked to see if the problem lay in the kernel of religion i.e. in its heart, not in its ‘disposable husks.’
27 Hume suggested that we should be suspicious when asking what the underlying ‘motives are for religious beliefs and practices and what functions they play.’ Religion has become nothing more than a flattering of ‘gods’ in return for favours and that self-interest causes self-deception, for believers cannot accept that what is regarded as sacred is nothing more than a means to an end! (We pray to pass our driving test – we pass – we are pleased for we have gained!) He calls this ‘instrumental religion.’
28 Marx is more concerned with function. Historically societies survive on exploitation and religion becomes the tool to enforce and encourage cooperation. As he puts it ‘religion is a matter of social privilege seeking legitimisation and of the oppressed seeking consolation.’ Or the shorter form religion becomes the opium of the people encouraging them to maintain the status quo.
29 For Nietzsche religion makes the strong feel guilty and God is defined as one who will punish the enemies. He based his observation on slaves and their desire less for consolation than for revenge and religion fulfilled that function as the priests became accessories to the depiction of the oppressors as evil. Slaves thus became morally superior! If nothing else!
30 Kierkegaard criticised what he called bourgeois Christianity; its ‘double ideological function’ in that Christianity equates the present social order with the kingdom of god therefore confusing this unequal and ‘unfinished’ world with the perfect one to come and by suggesting that to gain access to the ultimate kingdom we must be good citizens in this society.