This work will cover the many various topics that have played an important historical role in the development of the field of Philosophy of Religion, which, in the west, focuses on the Abrahamic God (the God of Abraham, the founder of the Jewish religion, that dominates Western conceptions of God), what he is like, and how we might show he does, indeed, exist. Believing in religion (or God) will have an impact on the individual and society, and the implications of belief permeate every article in this work. It is difficult to separate the idea of “religion” in general from specific religions, but that is the goal of this first Unit. In this Unit, there are readings that attempt to understand what a religion is, what constitutes religious belief, and examine the broader role that religion might play in our lives and society.
Chapter 1, Philosophy of Religion, God, and Theology, carves out the discipline of Philosophy of Religion and explains what its purposes are. Chapter 2, Cults, Extremism, and Fundamentalism, attempts to understand terms related to religion with the goal of obtaining a clearer picture of what makes up a religion (and why it is a distinct concept). Chapter 3, Science and Theology by Kenneth Cauthen, goes over some of the relationships between science and religion. Chapter 4, What Makes a Religion Special?, attempts to understand religions as a unique concept, apart from other beliefs or worldviews we hold. Chapter 5, The Ethics of Belief by W.K. Clifford, is a classic piece on illustrating the problems with holding incorrect beliefs. Chapter 6, The Will to Believe by William James, is another classic work that functions partially as a response to Clifford’s paper and defends religious beliefs. Chapter 7, What Does it Mean to Believe in God? taken from Common Sense by the 18th century Philosopher Baron d’Holbach, clarifies the various ways that people can believe in and relate to God and religion by means of criticism.