(Sample Material) UPSC Mains Philosophy (Optional) Study Kit "Philosophy of Religion (Philosophy, Religion, Theology and Philosophy of Religion)"

Sample Material of UPSC Mains Philosophy (Optional) Study Kit

Topic: Philosophy of Religion (Philosophy, Religion, Theology and Philosophy of Religion)

“While the salvation of the soul is the end of religion, the discovery of truth is the object of philosophy- - S. Radha Krishnan

In order to understand philosophy of religion and its significance we have to study primarily the definitions and ideas of philosophy and religion.


The word ‘philosophy’ is derived from the Greek words ‘Philos’ (love) and ‘sophia’ (wisdom), which etymologically means the love of wisdom or pursuit of knowledge. It is an tempt to arrive at a rational conception of the reality as a whole. It enquires into the nature of the universe in which* live, the nature of the human soul, and its destiny, and ‘the nature of God or the Absolute, and their relation to one another. It enquires into the nature of matter, time, space, causality, evolution, life, and mind, and their relation to one another. It is ht art of thinking all things logically systematically and persistenly.

The word “rational” is important. It emphasizes that philosophy, more obviously than other disciplines, rejects and condemns all foams of superstition, dogmatism, and uncritical opinion, and seeks to replace them with concepts that are born of hard and coherent thinking. Philosophy is, in this broad sense of the word, rationalistic; its principal tool is reason and its business is reflection, both critical and constructive, analytic (it takes’ ideas apart) and synthetic (it puts them back together). In short, the philosopher believes with Socrates that an unexamined life is not worth living.

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The encompassing scope of the philosopher’s interest is suggested in Immanuel Kant’s three questions reflecting the theoretical, practical, and personal dimensions of philosophical thought

What may I know?
What must I do?
What may I hope?

In a sense all other inquiries can be construed as subfields of philosophy inasmuch as they all contribute, ultimately, to answering the questions that philosophers ask, questions concerning the nature of knowledge, of value, of meaning, and of reality itself.

Actually philosophy can be approached or defined from a number of different points of view. For example -

(1) Philosophy is a personal attitude toward life and the universe
(2) Philosophy is a method of reflective thinking and reasoned inquire
(3) Philosophy is an attempt to gain a view of the whole.
(4) Philosophy is the logical analysis of language and the clarification of the meaning of words and concepts.
(5) Philosophy is a group of problems as well as theories about the solution of these problems

The idea of philosophy in West has not been parallel to that in India. The Sanskrit word usually translated as ‘philosophy’ is Darshanam which literally means ,‘seeing’ the Indian systems start neither from a priori principle nor from the observed facts, as is usually understood, but from sane transcendental experience in which the truth about the nature of the universe is directly perceived.

According to S. Radhakrishnan - “While the Salvation of the Soul is the end of religion, the discovery of truth is the object of Philosophy “


Religion is a system of lived experiences in terms of self-involvement and full conunitment for the object of religious devotion and focal orientation. There is no one essential religion in general, but there are religions.
Along with philosophy, religion has been dominant concern of mankind It is very difficult to define or describe religion because it is a growing„ dynamic thing, elemental, personal and broad in scope.

The word Religionis derived from the latin verb religare which meant to the bind up to fasten to moor. Literally speaking religion is a prionciple of unification and harmonisaton. Any discipline which binds us all together in a wholesome way is religion. It is not mere belief but behavior, not mere conviction but conduct; not mere faith out function. In religion, the whole of human being’s personality in involved. According to Kant “Religion is the recognition of all our duties as divine commandments-. it is a matter of the will, it being understood and identified with practical reason, that is to say certain acts ought to be done or that certain attitudes ought to be adopted. Hotlfoding defines religion as, “the conservation of values.” According to Hegel “Religion is the knowledge possessed by finite mind of its nature as absolute mind.” -

According to Max Muller, “Religion is a mental faculty of disposition which enables man to apprehend the infinite.” According to E.B.Tyler, “Religion is the belief in spiritual being.” According to Herbert Spencer, “Religion is the recognition that all things are manifestations of a power which transcends our knowledge”.

According to Edger S. Brightman, “Religion is a concerned about experiences as a supreme values; developing towards a power or purpose believed to originate, increase and conserve these values and some suitable expression of this concern and devotion, whether through symbolic rites or through other individual and social conduct”

According to Max Mullar, “Religion is man’s belief in a being or beings, mightier than himself and inaccessible to this sense but not indifferent to his sentiments and actions, with the feeling and practices which flow from such beliefs”. According to George Galloway religions mans faith in a power beyond himself whereby be seeks to satisfy emotional needs and gain stability of lige, and which be expressed in acts of worship and service.
Although different definitions are given to explain philosophy and religion, basically they do not contradict each-other. Philosophy and religion may differ to some extent but in fact they are complementary to each other. Ultimately both philosophy and religion raise the life of man and society to a higher a nobler level, A man needs a better philosophy and a better religion. Philosophy and religion both deal often with the same ideas, such as soul, its origin and destiny, God and creation. At all events we see that the relation between religion and philosophy is moat intimate. Religion offers comfort in sorrow, hope in dealt, courage in danger, and spiritual joy in the midst of despair.


‘Dharma’ is derived from the Sanskrit root— ‘dhr’ to and is defined as follows in. the Mahabaharata; Dharant dharamam ityahuh. It is the all-supporting principle makinkfor integrity and harmony in every context. The term Dharma is used in the sense of moralduty, social and ethical values, etc. According to Gita each individual has its specified duty (varna-dhorma) in the society. Dharma as duty is the ‘svadharma’ of the individual according to his stage of life and status’ in society. It is specific for every individual. Where religion is concern ,Mostly with the supernatural matters, , with this worldly prosperity. It is said “Yato dlhyuadaya nihsreyasah siddhr a dharmah” (Vaisesika Dam’*uan).meaning that which gives both the prosperity (in this world) and spinal upliftment is dhama. In other words, ‘Dharma is that which leads to man’s material well-being (abhyudaya) as well as spiritual freedom (nihsreyas). On this view, to pursue the purusarthas viz, dharma, artha, kama, and moksa is to do ones dharma

In Manusmriti the ten virtues that go to make our social life happy are called dharma, they being pardon, couraga, intelligence, learning, self-control, not -getting angry, non-stealing, purity organconquest.


Philosophical thinking about religion is called Philosophy of Religion. It is an attempt to find he truth about religion in its relation to life, and to organize that knowledge into a systematic whole. It is an intellectual and logical interpretation of religious experience. It is an inquiry into the general subject of religion from the philosophical point of view, i.e. an inquiry employing the accepted tools of critical analysis and evaluation without a predisposition to defend or reject the claims of any particular religion. It is an antidote to all the dogmatism, irrationalism and superstitions in religion. Philosophical thought is alway rational and very deeply intellectual. It is a rational analysis of religious experience. All its problems - God, faith, worship, prayer, tradition, revelation and immortality - are the determining factors of the religious experience. However, religious experience cannot be explained by intellect without the use of fig* =, symbols and analogies.

The philosophy of religion is not an organ of religious teaching. Religious practices, rituals, worships, payer etc., need not be undertaken from the standpoint of philosophy, of religion. All these are the activities of religion like the religious teaching, but in philosophy’ of religion we have to observe the philosophical aspects of all these organs of religion. The philosophy of religion is not a branch of theology, the theory of religious belief, but ,branch of philosophy. However, it studies the concepts propositions and arguments of theologians. In other words, it studies the concepts and belief systems of the religions as well as the prior phenomena of religious experience and the activities of worship and meditation on which these belief systems rest and out of which they have arisen.

Philosophy of religion is thus a second-order activity, standing apart from its subject matter. It is not itself a part of the religious realm but is related to it.

According to Galloway, “The relation of the Philosophy of Religion to Philosophy is rather one of interaction, and co-operation than of a complete logical dependence. In practice at all events this is so and it cannot be otherwise; since the idea of a complete philosophical system remains ideal.”

In the final and constructive effort the Philosophy of Religion merges in philosophy in general. For the truth of religion cannot be essentially different from the truth as the objects of the philosophical inquiry generally.

Definitions of Philosophy of Religion

According to Brightman, “Philosophy of Religion is an attempt to discover, by rational interpretation of religion and its relation to other types of experiences, the truth of religious belief and the value of religious attitude and practices.”

According to D.M. Edwards, “Philosophy of Religion is a philosophical inquiry into the nature, function, value and truth of religious experience and into the adequacy of religion as an expression of the nature of ultimate reality.”

Relation between Theology and Philosophy of Religion

Theology concerned the knowledge of God. It is the study of the divine

(Theos God; logos - science or reasoned discourse).

Theology offers explanation of the nature of God, the creation and development of the world and the origin of man. It occupies a mediating position between faith on the one hand and reason on the other. Theology is an interpretation of religious experiences in terms of current concepts. However, the intellectual clarification is made in the interest of one’s religious commitment. Corresponding to various religions there are a number of theologies, with their different assumptions.

Galloway has defined Theology as a system which is created to religious beliefs and principle, which have been developed by from various historical religions like, Hinduism, Christianity, Islam etc. Thus Theology is the systematic formulation of religious beliefs and principles. Its aim is to establish the truth of a particular religion, directed and activated by its Theology. Theology believes in religious books and scriptures and is based on the faith and respect of these scriptures. It does not question its validity. ‘Theology also present solutions to the criticism raised against a particular religion.

Historically all the religions have divisions within itself and hence they have different theologies also within. For e.g. in Hinduism we have Saiva, Vaisnava, Saktas. In Islam we have Shia and Sunni, in Christianity Catholics and Protestants theologies. Theology is thus the study of God. Theology is the study of the divine.

There are two different kinds of theology : (i) Revealed Theology and (ii) Natural Theology. Revealed theology provides a supernatural knowledge of God. On the other hand or philiosophical natural theology ascends to a natural knowledge of God by way of the unaided intellect.

(1) The Philosophy of Religion is not tied to a particular religion or sect, but takes for its province religion as such, religion as universal in human experiences.

(2) Theologians are chiefly interested in the study of the particular religion to which they adhere and the beliefs connected with it (such as Christianity, Judaism) while the philosophy of religion concerns itself impartially with the more general principles that apply to all or many religions.

(3) The difference between theology and religious. philosophy is one of degree only : the one lays greater stress on-faith, the other on mason; but reason cannot work without faith, add faith has its proper ally in reason. Hence it is right to insist that any speculative treatment of theological doctrines really belong to the province of religious. philosophy and must be judged as such.

(4) In the Philosophy of Religion thinking is not only being done by a believer of a religion, rather all the men of faith, theists, atheists and agnostics are free to cast their thoughts on religious problems and, for sure they shall be included in the Philosophy of Religion where as, theology is used, with a particular religion and-its principles, which is related and based on the texts or the religions texts and scriptures.

(5) Philosophy of Religion is generally considered to be more comprehensive than Theology. It is the philosophical study of Religions irrespective of the fact, whether - is theistic or not i.e. it also pertains to include atheists quests and quarries and philosophical thought within its preview. while theology is simply the study of God - the study of divine. The non-Theistic religions are excluded from the sphere or realm of theology.

(6) It is also argued that Philosophy of Religion is not a part of theology but of philosophy. It studies the concepts and propositions of theology and the reasons of theologians. It is also concerned with prior religion experiences and the nature and activity of worship upon which theology ultimately rests and out of which it does arises. Hence, where as Philosophy or Religon is second order activity, theology is a first order activity.

(7) It is argued that Philosophy of Religion lies in between philosophy and theology. As a matter of fact Philosophy of Religion is the rational criticism and evaluation of religion and, the material is provided by theology. While theology for its own material depends upon some particular religion.

(8) Philosophy of Religion and theology are often, being used as inter-chargeable terms. However there is a strong objection against this. Philosophy of Religion uses various methods and techniques to critically examine and analyses religion. While theology uses the same in order to count the implications of the theological doctrines. Thus in a certain circle theology becomes the-subject mater for the Philosophy of Religion.

Problems of Theology

(1) Knowledge of God
(2) Immortality of Soul
(3) Faith and Power
(4) Human Reason and Religious Knowledge
(5) Evil
(6) Utility of God
(7) Nature and Value of Religion
(8) Relation -between Religion and Morality
(9) Prayer and Worship
(10) Revelation and Mysticsm

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