Philosophy of Religion/Why think about religion?
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The question is not, "Why think about my religion?" Obviously, if you dedicate yourself to a belief, you will think about it. The question is, "Why think about religion in general?" or "Why think about the nature of all religions?"
Paul Tillich defined religion as "our ultimate concern for the Ultimate," and although it's too broad a definition for purposes of this work, it underscores a commonality in all religions. What sort of questions do religions answer?
Where do I come from? What is my essential nature? What is my ultimate relationship to the universe? What is the origin of the universe? Is there any real reason for my existence or am I simply an accidental product of nature? Is there a reason to do what I do and is there a reason for abstaining from doing things that I feel that I should not do? Do I cease my existence at some point in the future and, if not, what happens to me when I die?
Are these questions relevant to people and should they consider them? Obvious extensions of the above questions present themselves and indicate that a religion should be of interest to anyone:
If there is a purpose to my life, what is it and what should I do about it? If I continue after I die, how should I approach the situation as to improve the condition that I will be in at that time?
Martin Jaffee reminds us that our world view is not the only one and that a consideration of other people's world view reminds us of how precarious our idea of "what ultimately is" is. Therefore a study of religion results in a healthy humility that somewhat protects us from fanaticism.
Robert Odem, in his lecture series on comparative religion emphasizes two reasons to consider religion in its generality. The first is that, like Mount Everest, "it is", meaning that it is an important part of the lives of people around you and to understand them, you really must understand their religious beliefs.
His second point is that religion is an inextricable part of world affairs. You cannot understand the condition of the Middle East without understanding the religions of the Middle East. You cannot understand world art and architecture without understanding the religious sentiments of the artists. You certainly cannot, for example, understand Bach's achievements without understanding his religious views and his position in the church. Protestantism had a lot to do with the growth of capitalism and the work ethic in America.
To really understand world affairs you cannot dismiss the role and importance of religion.
Oden, Robert (1998) "Why Nothing is as Intriguing as the Study of Religion", in God and Mankind: Comparative Religions (lecture series). The Teaching Company: Chantilly, VA
Jaffee, Martin, & Alfred Benney () Why Religion Matters (Video) http://jsis.washington.edu/religion/CRP_Jaffee_video.shtml