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1. Write a note on the Sociological theory of Origin of Religion.
Ans. Sociology of religion is the study of the beliefs, practices and organizational forms of religion using the tools and methods of the discipline of sociology. This objective investigation may include the use both of quantitative methods (surveys, polls, demographic and census analysis) and of qualitative approaches (such as participant observation, interviewing, and analysis of archival, historical and documentary materials)
Modern sociology as an academic discipline began with the analysis of religion in Émile Durkheim’s 1897 study of suicide rates among Catholic and Protestant populations, a foundational work of social research which served to distinguish sociology from other disciplines, such as psychology. The works of Karl Marx (1818-1883) and Max Weber (1864-1920) emphasized the relationship between religion and the economic or social structure of society. Contemporary debates have centered on issues such as secularization, civil religion, and the cohesiveness of religion in the context of globalization and multiculturalism. Contemporary sociology of religion may also encompass the sociology of irreligion (for instance, in the analysis of secular-humanist belief systems).
The sociology of religion is distinguished from the philosophy of religion in that it does not set out to assess the validity of religious beliefs. The process of comparing multiple conflicting dogmas may require what Peter L. Berger has described as inherent “methodological atheism”. Whereas the sociology of religion broadly differs from theology in assuming indifference to the supernatural, theorists tend to acknowledge socio-cultural reification of religious practice.
Classical, seminal sociological theorists of the late 19th and early 20th century such as Émile Durkheim, Max Weber, and Karl Marx were greatly interested in religion and its effects on society. Like those of Plato and Aristotle from ancient Greece, and Enlightenment philosophers from the 17th through 19th centuries, the ideas posited by these sociologists continue to be examined today. Durkheim, Marx, and Weber had very complex and developed theories about the nature and effects of religion. Of these, Durkheim and Weber are often more difficult to understand, especially in light of the lack of context and examples in their primary texts. Religion was considered to be an extremely important social variable in the work of all three.
According to Kevin J. Christiano et al., “Marx was the product of the Enlightenment, embracing its call to replace faith by reason and religion by science.” But he “did not believe in science for science’s sake … he believed that he was also advancing a theory that would … be a useful tool … in effecting a revolutionary upheaval of the capitalist system in favor of socialism.” As such, the crux of his arguments was that humans are best guided by reason. Religion, Marx held, was a significant hindrance to reason, inherently masking the truth and misguiding followers. Marx viewed alienation as the heart of social inequality. The antithesis to this alienation is freedom. Thus, to propagate freedom means to present individuals with the truth and give them a choice to accept or deny it. In this, “Marx never suggested that religion ought to be prohibited.”
Central to Marx’s theories was the oppressive economic situation in which he dwelt. With the rise of European industrialism, Marx and his colleague Friedrich Engels witnessed and responded to the growth of what he called “surplus value”. Marx’s view of capitalism saw rich capitalists getting richer and their workers getting poorer (the gap, the exploitation, was the “surplus value”). Not only were workers getting exploited, but in the process they were being further detached from the products they helped create. By simply selling their work for wages, “workers simultaneously lose connection with the object of labor and become objects themselves. Workers are devalued to the level of a commodity – a thing …”From this objectification comes alienation. The common worker is led to believe that he or she is a replaceable tool, and is alienated to the point of extreme discontent. Here, in Marx’s eyes, religion enters. Capitalism utilizes our tendency towards religion as a tool or ideological state apparatus to justify this alienation. Christianity teaches that those who gather up riches and power in this life will almost certainly not be rewarded in the next “it is harder for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven than it is for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle ” while those who suffer oppression and poverty in this life while cultivating their spiritual wealth will be rewarded in the Kingdom of God. Hence Marx’s famous line – “religion is the opium of the people”, as it soothes them and dulls their senses to the pain of oppression. Some scholars have recently noted that this is a contradictory (or dialectical) metaphor, referring to religion as both an expression of suffering and a protest against suffering.
2. Write a note on the feminist approach to philosophy of religion.
Ans. Philosophical reflection on religion is as old as Greek questions about Hebrew stories. Feminist philosophy of religion is a more recent development within Western philosophy that poses feminist questions about religious texts, traditions, and practices, often with the aim of critiquing, redefining, or reconstructing the entire field in light of gender studies. Feminist philosophy of religion is important to feminist and nonfeminist philosophy alike for providing a critical understanding of various religious concepts, beliefs, and rituals, as well as of religion as a cultural institution that defines, sanctions, and sometimes challenges gender roles and gender-inflected representations. It is equally important for feminist theory, which frequently neglects the academic study of religion, as for analytic philosophy of religion, which seldom takes into account gender or race or class. This entry considers the work of both critique and reconstruction as it has developed in feminist philosophies of religion over the last several decades.
In the present situation, most practitioners of feminist philosophy of religion and of feminist theology are agreed that their discipline cannot be limited simply to a sociological assessment or confessional narrative of what a particular religious group believes to be true, without consideration of the difference that gender makes. Because feminist philosophy of religion is philosophical, it can take as primary neither the datum of scriptures believed to be revealed and self-authenticating nor the self-privileging endeavor of intratextual theologies. Because it is philosophy of religion, a subject matter that encompasses a broad array of cross-cultural material, it cannot be concerned simply with themes or questions drawn from the Christian religion alone And because it is feminist, it must promote the elimination of gender inequality and take into account the multiplicity of human bodies, desires, and differences that are mapped onto the site of religion. At the same time, it cannot presume that religion exists as some common universal underlying all the various traditions; only particular religions exist, and even the very concept of religion itself has come to be recognized as a modern and Western concept.
To date, a much larger literature exists under the rubric of feminist theology than of feminist philosophy of religion. Four main reasons have been suggested for this (Frankenberry and Thie 1994). First, from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century, the perspective of white European males dominated the formative period of philosophy of religion to such an extent that it was hard to see how the distortions of this long tradition might be overcome. Second, in the twentieth century, once philosophy of religion was professionalized and gerrymandered within Philosophy faculties at universities, it was insulated both from the old Theology faculties and the new Religious Studies faculties created in the 1960s and 1970s; therefore, feminists interested in pursuing a Ph.D. had to choose between Philosophy (where philosophy of religion was not regarded as “real” philosophy during the ascendancy of the analytic movement) or Religious Studies/Theology which took philosophical concerns seriously and thus provided a more welcoming location for feminist theorizing on religion. Third, many feminist philosophers themselves have harbored either a suspicion of religion or an impoverished understanding of it, and so have been slow to develop a significant body of scholarship in this area. Fourth, the entrenched bias and resistance to feminism within mainstream analytic philosophy of religion, combined with the myth that its methods, norms, and content are gender-neutral, has impeded recognition of the relevance of work appearing under the rubric of feminist philosophy of religion. Feminist theology, on the other hand, flourishes in an academic field that for nearly forty years has been hospitable to a variety of liberation theologies, death-of-god theologies, environmental theologies, and postcolonialist theologies.
3. Answer any two of the following questions in about 250 words each.
a) Write a note on the analogical way of religious language.
Ans. The principal aim of research on religious language is to give an account of the meaning of religious sentences and utterances. Religious sentences are generally taken to be have a religious subject matter; a religious utterance is the production in speech or writing of a token religious sentence. In principle, religious subject matters could encompass a variety of agents, states of affairs or properties—such as God, deities, angels, miracles, redemption, grace, holiness, sinfulness. Most attention, however, has been devoted to the meaning of what we say about God.
The scope of religious language and discourse could be construed more widely. For instance, while The Song of Songs has little in the way of distinctively religious content, it could be included in the field because of its place within a religious canon. Alternatively, the field could be characterised pragmatically to include utterances which are used for religious purposes or in religious contexts
In practice, however, philosophical treatments have not extended so broadly, instead focusing on sentences and utterances with putatively religious content. This is partly because it is difficult to find a principled characterisation of a religious context that would delineate a philosophically interesting scope for the topic. When a church congregation is told “Please kneel”, this direction appears to be in a religious context and have a religious purpose but it is difficult to see how the analysis of the meaning of this instruction would informatively contribute to the topic. It is also because the most pressing questions about religious language seem to be those that come into alignment with questions in other areas of philosophy of religion. Is there anything distinctive about the meanings of what we say about God and other religious matters that are also the focus of metaphysical and epistemological discussion? If, in talking about God, speakers are not expressing propositions or not talking literally—to take a couple of the more radical proposals—that would accordingly require dramatic adjustments in approaching questions about knowledge of God or God’s existence.
Research in the field has a lengthy history, with sustained discussion of the meanings of religious expressions and utterances stretching back at least to the middle of antiquity.
b) How Rudolf Otto proves the validity of Religious experience? Briefly Discuss.
Ans. Various influences had played upon Otto’s reflections through the years, aiding him in reformulating the religious category that was to carry him beyond Schleiermacher. His early teacher at Göttingen, Albrecht Ritschl, had located religion in the realm of value judgments, whereas, more significantly, his theological colleague at Göttingen, Ernst Troeltsch, sought for a religious a priori as the ground of religious interpretation and judgment. Otto was impressed by William James’s shrewd insights in The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902), yet he found James’s empirical method inadequate for interpreting such phenomena. Otto was particularly attracted to the thought of J.F. Fries, already mentioned, whose notion of Ahndung (obsolete form of Ahnung; literally, “presentiment,” or “intuition”), a yearning that yields the feeling of truth, opened up to him a way of dealing with religious phenomena sensitively and appropriately. These “feelings of truth” Otto sought to schematize in his The Idea of the Holy.
In that work, however, Otto was conscious of moving beyond his previous efforts, exploring more specifically the nonrational aspect of the religious dimension, for which he coined the term numinous, from the Latin numen (“god,” “spirit,” or “divine”), on the analogy of “ominous” from “omen.
Otto’s concern with experiencing the numinous also gave rise to experimenting with new forms of liturgy designed to give urgency and vividness to such experiences in Protestant services of worship under critically controlled conditions. Here he employed a “Sacrament of Silence” as a culminating phase, a time of waiting comparable to the Quaker moment of silence, which he acknowledged to have been the stimulus to his own innovation.
Otto took all religions seriously as occasions to experience the holy and thus pressed beyond involvement in his own historical faith as a Christian to engage in frequent encounter with people of other religious traditions. He had much respect for the distinctive characteristics of the various religions and thus resisted universalizing religion in the sense of reducing all to the lowest common denominator. Yet he strongly argued for a lively exchange between representatives of the various religions.
4. Answer any four of the following questions in about 150 words each.
a) What are the basic problems with Naturalistic theory of origin of Religion?
Ans. In philosophy a naturalist is one who holds that there is nothing over and above nature. A naturalist is committed to rejecting traditional religion, which is based on beliefs in the supernatural. This does not necessarily carry with it a rejection of religion as such, however. Many naturalists envisage a substitute for traditional religion that will perform the typical functions of religion without making any claims beyond the natural world. We can best classify naturalistic forms of religion in terms of what they take God to be—that is, what they set up as an object of worship. In traditional religion the supernatural personal deity is worshiped because he is thought of as the zenith of both goodness and power. More generally, we can say that religious worship is accorded to any being because it is regarded as having a controlling voice in the course of events and at least potentially exercising that power for the good. This suggests that to find a focus for religious responses in the natural world, we should look for a basic natural source of value.
Ans. Religion has its basis in belief. Philosophy , on the other hand, is a critic of belief and belief systems. Philosophy subjects what some would be satisfied in believing to severe examination. Philosophy looks for rational explications and justifications for beliefs. Philosophy has its basis in reason.
Theology deals with thinking about religious beliefs in a rational manner but it presumes faith. Theologians employ reason to make their beliefs appear more clearly and to wherever possible have beliefs satisfy the dictates of reason. Theologians begin with a set of beliefs as foundational or fundamental and in some sense not subject to possible disbelief or to truly critical analysis. Philosophers examine, indeed they look for, all assumptions and suppositions of any system of thought or belief. For philosophers there are no ideas to be accepted on faith.
Philosophy of Religion is rational thought about religious issues and concerns without a presumption of the existence of a deity or reliance on acts of faith.
Philosophers examine the nature of religion and religious beliefs. Philosophers in the West have focused on ideas related to the existence and nature of the deity because that idea is central to the religions of the West. Western Philosophy of Religion has centered on arguments or proofs for the existence of god and explications of apparent inconsistencies in the description of the nature of god.
In the last century philosophers around the world have refocused their examinations onto the nature of religious beliefs, religious language and the religious mindset. Indeed, some philosophers have entered into critical reflection and dialogue on the nature or essence of religion itself. This text will approach religion in both the traditional manner and in the more contemporary fashion as well. It will examine the issues related to the existence and nature of the deity and it will consider the nature of religious belief. This study will also take note of the findings of modern and contemporary science in its examination into religious phenomena. in the end it is hoped that awareness of the productions of scientists and philosophers will put the reader in a better position to understand the nature of religion, its essence.
c) Write a brief note on the Fine-tuning argument.
Ans. The term “fine-tuning” is used to characterize sensitive dependences of facts or properties on the values of certain parameters. Technological devices are paradigmatic examples of fine-tuning. Whether they function as intended depends sensitively on parameters that describe the shape, arrangement, and material properties of their constituents, e.g., the constituents’ conductivity, elasticity and thermal expansion coefficient. Technological devices are the products of actual “fine-tuners”—engineers and manufacturers who designed and built them—but for fine-tuning in the broad sense of this article to obtain, sensitivity with respect to the values of certain parameters is sufficient.
Philosophical debates in which “fine-tuning” appears are often about the universe’s fine-tuning for life: according to many physicists, the fact that the universe is able to support life depends delicately on various of its fundamental characteristics, notably on the form of the laws of nature, on the values of some constants of nature, and on aspects of the universe’s conditions in its very early stages. Various reactions to the universe’s fine-tuning for life have been proposed: that it is a lucky coincidence which we have to accept as a primitive given; that it will be avoided by future best theories of fundamental physics; that the universe was created by some divine designer who established life-friendly conditions; and that fine-tuning for life indicates the existence of multiple other universes with conditions very different from those in our own universe. Sections 1–4 of the present article review the case for this fine-tuning for life, the reactions to it, and major criticisms of these reactions. Section 5 turns from fine-tuning for life to the criterion of naturalness—a condition of no fine-tuning in a rather different sense which applies to theories in quantum field theory and plays a large role in contemporary particle physics and cosmology.
d) Write a note on the basic assumptions of Pantheism.
Ans. Pantheism is the view that the world is either identical to God, or an expression of God’s nature. It comes from ‘pan’ meaning all, and ‘theism,’ which means belief in God. So according to pantheism, “God is everything and everything is God.”
This may sound like a familiar Judeo-Christian concept, namely God’s immanence, which is the idea that God pervades or is ever-present throughout the universe. However, pantheism differs from traditional theistic religions in two important ways.
First, pantheism rejects the idea that God is transcendent. According to traditional Western conceptions of God, He is an entity that is above and beyond the universe. So, although God may be fully present in the universe, He is also outside of it. Simply put, He transcends the totality of objects in the world. When pantheists say that “God is everything and everything is God,” this is meant to capture that idea that God does not transcend the world.
A second important difference between pantheism and traditional theistic religions is that pantheists also reject the idea of God’s personhood. The pantheist God is not a personal God, the kind of entity that could have beliefs, desires, intentions, or agency. Unlike the traditional God of theism, the pantheistic God does not have a will and cannot act in or upon the universe. These are the kind of things that only a person, or a person-like entity, could do. For the pantheist, God is the non-personal divinity that pervades all existence. It is the divine Unity of the world.
5. Write short notes on any five of the following in about 100 words each.
a) Reason as the source of ultimate knowledge
Ans. We all have many things going on in our minds, such as beliefs, desires, hopes, dreams, imaginary figures, knowledge, love, and hatred—to name a handful. Have you ever considered their source. How do they come to be part of the thinking process? How do they become ideas in our minds. Some philosophers attribute the source of our ideas to the senses, including the inward senses (such as emotions) and the five outward senses (sight, smell, hearing, taste, and touch). We might sense the world directly or indirectly through the thoughts of others. Some philosophers even claim that all our ideas must come from our senses. This claim holds that each of us is born with a mind that is like a tabula rasa (Latin for a “blank slate” or “blank tablet”) on which nothing is written and to which we add contents through experience as we become exposed to the world. Knowledge that is dependent on experience, or which arises after experience, is called a posteriori (Latin for “from the latter”). Since a posteriori knowledge is empirical (based on observation or experience), this view is called empiricism.
Opposed to empiricism is rationalism, the view that reason is the primary source of knowledge. Rationalists promote mathematical or logical knowledge as paradigm examples. Such knowledge can be grasped, they claim, through reason alone, without involving the senses directly.
Ans. Prayer isn’t just closing your eyes, folding your hands and speaking. Prayer is a much more meaningful part of religion. We all need to pray, God himself demands us to pray. Prayer is defined as an act of God, a god or another object of worship, such as in devotion, confession, praise, or thanksgiving. When most people pray, they just say the same prayer, like the Lord’s prayer for example. Saying the same prayer isn’t really such a bad thing, its more about the meaning and the time that you spend praying. Prayer shouldn’t just be looked at as a routine or habit, but as more of a love poem to express ones self to God.
Ans. A myth is a classic or legendary story that usually focuses on a particular hero or event, and explains mysteries of nature, existence, or the universe with no true basis in fact.
Myths exist in every culture; but the most well known in Western culture and literature are part of Greek and Roman mythology. The characters in myths—usually gods, goddesses, warriors, and heroes—are often responsible for the creation and maintenance of elements of nature, as well as physical, emotional, and practical aspects of human existence—for example Zeus; the god of the sky and the earth and father of gods and men, and Aphrodite; the goddess of love and fertility. A culture’s collective myths make up its mythology, a term that predates the word “myth” by centuries. The term myth stems from the ancient Greek muthos, meaning a speech, account, rumor, story, fable, etc. The terms myth and mythology as we understand them today arose in the English language in the 18th century.
Ans. Monotheism, belief in the existence of one god, or in the oneness of God. As such, it is distinguished from polytheism, the belief in the existence of many gods, from atheism, the belief that there is no god, and from agnosticism, the belief that the existence or nonexistence of a god or of gods is unknown or unknowable. Monotheism characterizes the traditions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and elements of the belief are discernible in numerous other religions.
Monotheism and polytheism are often thought of in rather simple terms—e.g., as merely a numerical contrast between the one and the many. The history of religions, however, indicates many phenomena and concepts that should warn against oversimplification in this matter. There is no valid reason to assume, for example, that monotheism is a later development in the history of religions than polytheism.
e) Best of Possible worlds Theodicy
Ans. Possible worlds, according to Leibniz’s theory, are combinations of beings which are possible together, that is, compossible.
A being is possible, for Leibniz, when it is logically possible, i.e., when its definition involves no contradiction. For example, a married bachelor is impossible because a “bachelor” is, by definition, an unmarried man, which contradicts “married”. But a unicorn, if defined as a horse with a horn, contains no contradiction, so that such a being is possible, even if none exist in the actual world.
Beings are possible together, in turn, when they do not enter into contradiction with each other. For instance, it is logically possible that a meteor might have fallen from the sky onto Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales’s head soon after he was born, killing him. But it is not logically possible that what happens in a given world (e.g. that Jimmy Wales founded Wikipedia) also does not happen in the same world (i.e. that Jimmy Wales did not found Wikipedia). While both of these events are logically possible in themselves, they are not logically possible together, or compossible – so, they cannot form part of the same possible world.
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