Final Essay on Religious Philosophy by Rev. Justin M. Oles
Initially, I was shocked to discover that, relatively speaking, the study of the Philosophy of Religion was a fairly new idea. The ancient Athenian Greeks were known to have philosophical ideas about just about everything; from love and war, to life and death and even to the soul and afterlife. The idea that they never thought to think of religion in the same way was odd. But then again, hindsight being what it is, it makes sense. It wasn't until about the same time that religious philosophy first appeared that religions really found others to compete with. Not to say that they never crossed paths before, but frequently they were similar in form, and if not similar one was virtually always drastically smaller, outlawed, or viewed as a cult, if not all three. Also prior to this time, religion was a part of life so ingrained into our being that it was more a way of life than a part of it.
That aside, it never made sense before to question why people had a religion or what it brought to them. We have seen through various lessons in the course that religion fulfills a certain niche in our lives and that even those who claim to have no religion still fill that gap with something similar to a religious belief structure. Whether it be Taoists, Druids, Christians, Catholics, Jews, or any other group, religion provides answers to questions like, "why are we here?", "where are we going?", "how are we to live this life?", "what happens after life?", and gives us a moral compass to find our way along. Very few people actually go through life believing that there is nothing beyond human existence on earth. In fact, it could be said that some atheists fill it with non-mainstream ideas about aliens and such. That's not to say that there are no people with out any religious ideas, or ways of answering the "big questions", they are just the outliers. There is always something that doesn't fall exactly within the natural order of the universe.
Another good point in this course is the attempted distinction between religions and cults. Often you will hear a religious group call another a cult, a word having a negative connotation, simply because it disagrees with the ideas of said religion. By allowing for the definition and sorting of what is and is not a cult, we are better able to analyze the religions or the world. The course also provides a definition of religion, which is equally helpful as certain groups prefer to call their ideals a belief structure and not a religion. Buddhists are as good example as they can hardly be said to worship through Buddha, venerate yes, but not worship. Lack of worship however does not make Buddhism any less of a religion.
In all, this course provides, as philosophical courses do, very few hard answers. Not often than not it simply gives you a guide with which to analyze the world in which we life and the cacophony of religions within it.
Rev. Justin Oles
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