The Difference Between Philosophy and Religion
Why is There Something Rather than Nothing?
Humans are curious creatures, forever pondering the nature of existence and throwing up eternal questions such as why are we here?, is there a God? and why is there something rather than nothing?
We also spend a great deal of time and mental energy on considering moral questions, such as what is right and wrong? is there such a thing as an objective morality? and what is the best way to live?
Although we have science to help us understand the natural world, there are still many seemingly unanswerable questions about existence and morality that, as yet, science is not able to throw much light on. Philosophy and religion both attempt to answer some of these questions but the method of operation of these two perspectives is very different.
Reason Versus Assumption
The Western philosophical tradition, beginning with the philosophers of ancient Greece and eventually developing and spreading throughout many parts of the world, is underpinned by a rationalist tradition. That is, a philosopher must provide a reasoned justifcation for this or that philosophical position - it's not enough to say it just is. No-one is going to care a fig about a philosopher's theory unless they can back it up with some convincing, rational argument.
By contrast religion can and often does work on the just is principle.Theists may or may not attempt to make a reasoned case for a religious view but it's not a requirement of religion. Oftentimes, even before a theologian attempts to discuss this or that point of religion, certain assumptions have already been made and accepted as truths: for example, that God exists, and/or that one religion is the true religion. Wisdom is handed down by an accepted authority, in the form a Holy book or set of divine precepts and accepted on faith - no reason required.
Certainly there may be endless intellectual nitpicking, debates and inquiries about spiritual interpretations, meanings and discrepancies that require reasoned thought and argument but if these are all relying on a faith based premise to begin with, then they have no firm foundation on which to rest, at least in rational terms.
It's a common claim among certain religious thinkers that as science cannot give us answers to some of life's deepest mysteries, we have only religion to look to to glean meaning and knowledge about what science cannot tell us. However, as we also have philosophy, this isn't true! Philosophy can help us explore what it means to be human, consider meaning and moral questions from different points of view and help guide us in everyday living.
While it may not tell us why there is something rather than nothing?, neither does religion. It does not answer the question of why a God should exist? Where He came from? Or indeed why He should have created us and for what purpose? In addition, religious answers aren't so much answers as claims, without rational justification. We can choose to accept these claims as truths on faith but a philosopher versed in critical thinking might say, why should we...? What reason is there to?
If we're always guided by other people's thoughts, what's the point in having our own?~ Oscar Wilde
The essential difference between philosophy and religion is that one is bound by spiritual authority, the other is bound only by the limits of our own reasoning and while philosophers may look to other minds, past and present, for insight and knowledge, there is no compulsion to accept anything at all on faith. This is called free-thinking and with that, I'll leave you to ponder a provocative philosophical question - Religion creates sheep, philosophy creates thinkers...?
Should philosophy be taught in schools as an alternative to religious education?
- Truth and Religion
Only religion claims to be in possession of definitive, unique truth. Science on the other hand, only lays claim to provisional truths, ie; the most reasonable conclusion we can come to given the available evidence