(So, while both examples are not decisively ruled out as religions, it is perhaps understandable that in Germany, Scientology is labeled a “sect”, whereas in France it is classified as “a cult”.) For a discussion of other definitions of religion, see Taliaferro 2009, chapter one, and for a recent, different analysis, see Graham Oppy 2018, chapter three.The topic of defining religion is re-engaged below in the section 4, “Religion and Science”.
Given the pragmatic, open-ended use of the term “religion” the hope is to avoid beginning our inquiry with a procrustean bed.
Given the above, broad perspective of what counts as religion, the roots of what we call stretch back to the earliest forms of philosophy.
While from time to time in the Medieval era, some Jewish, Christian, and Islamic philosophers sought to demarcate philosophy from theology or religion, the evident role of philosophy of religion as a distinct field of philosophy does not seem apparent until the mid-twentieth century.
A case can be made, however, that there is some hint of the emergence of philosophy of religion in the seventeenth century philosophical movement Cambridge Platonism.
This way of delimiting a domain is sometimes described as employing a definition by examples (an ostensive definition) or making an appeal to a family resemblance between things.
It will also be assumed that Greco-Roman views of gods, rituals, the afterlife, the soul, are broadly “religious” or “religiously significant”.Oxford University Press published in 2009 in five volumes, with over 350 contributors from around the world, is scheduled for publication by 2021. Most social research on religion supports the view that the majority of the world’s population is either part of a religion or influenced by religion (see the Pew Research Center online).To engage in philosophy of religion is therefore to engage in a subject that affects actual people, rather than only tangentially touching on matters of present social concern.Ralph Cudworth (1617–1688), Henry More (1614–1687), and other members of this movement were the first philosophers to practice philosophy in English; they introduced in English many of the terms that are frequently employed in philosophy of religion today, including the term “philosophy of religion”, as well as “theism”, “consciousness”,and “materialism”.The Cambridge Platonists provided the first English versions of the cosmological, ontological, and teleological arguments, reflections on the relationship of faith and reason, and the case for tolerating different religions.[This is a slightly modified definition of the one for “Religion” in the This definition does not involve some obvious shortcomings such as only counting a tradition as religious if it involves belief in God or gods, as some recognized religions such as Buddhism (in its main forms) does not involve a belief in God or gods.Although controversial, the definition provides some reason for thinking Scientology and the Cargo cults are proto-religious insofar as these movements do not have a robust communal, transmittable body of teachings and meet the other conditions for being a religion.Philosophy of religion is the philosophical examination of the themes and concepts involved in religious traditions as well as the broader philosophical task of reflecting on matters of religious significance including the nature of religion itself, alternative concepts of God or ultimate reality, and the religious significance of general features of the cosmos (e.g., the laws of nature, the emergence of consciousness) and of historical events (e.g., the 1755 Lisbon Earthquake, the Holocaust).Philosophy of religion also includes the investigation and assessment of worldviews (such as secular naturalism) that are alternatives to religious worldviews.(For an earlier date, see James Collins’ stress on Hume, Kant and Hegel in , 1967.) Today, philosophy of religion is one of the most vibrant areas of philosophy.Articles in philosophy of religion appear in virtually all the main philosophical journals, while some journals (such as the , and others) are dedicated especially to philosophy of religion.