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Philosophy of Religion, by David Elton Trueblood is an attempt to fathom not

religion as a whole, but the thought processes that are the basis of modern

religious thought. The book makes no attempt to explain any individual religious

preferences or motifs, only to gauge the reasons for religion in its entirety.

While Trueblood doesn’t pass judgment on other religions, his personal beliefs

are apparent. He is a Protestant Christian, and has been writing books on

religion since 1935. Philosophy of Religion is in the spirit of his other books,

such as The Logic of Belief which merely serves to explain why persons believe

what they do believe. 1957, the year of publication, was exactly in the middle

of a period of great change in the world. The space age was developing, and new

scientific discoveries were turning many people away from theistic explanations

of everything from natural history to outer space. Communism was spreading over

Eastern Europe like a wildfire, sweeping up millions into the not-so-comforting

arms of spiritual agnosticism. I feel Trueblood has done an excellent job with

this book, and anyone interested in the "Why’s" of religion should

find it an interesting manuscript. Religion has reached a previously unheard-of

footing in this world, and it is impossible to simply ignore it. One is forced

to agree with or oppose with religions, which of course has led to a great deal

of friction, especially between radical sects. Unfortunately, many of the most

stringent followers as well as opposers of religions suffer from the same

malady: ignorance. The most devoted Islamic guerrilla may well be involved in an

anti-Semitic movement only because his father was. He may actually have the same

fundamental beliefs, i.e. the belief in one supreme God or Creator; as a Jew,

but is blinded by his cause and can’t see the similarities, or attempt to

cohabitate in the world with an opposer of his religion. In religion, there is

to much gray area for there to be just one possible solution. Even communism,

always considered the antithesis of religion may well be one of the most

dogmatic faiths in the world. The main fundamental in religion is commitment.

Most commonly it is the faith in God or other supreme being, but dialectical

materialism is most certainly built on total commitment . Another factor many

people fail to realize, but which Trueblood points out more than adequately is

that philosophy is not religion. Philosophy is the search for "knowledge

for the sake of understanding, while religion seeks knowledge for the sake of

worship." One may also be religious and scientific. While science has

redefined a good deal of the natural world, the supernatural is still unchanged;

more people are turning to a God for comfort and stability in a world of

constant flux. Quite possibly one of the most important factors in religion is

its reliance on faith. All religion is based on word of mouth, and there is no

way of proving its validity. If any part of a religion is ever proved false,

then the belief as a whole is thus untrue. One cannot maintain, or pretend to

maintain, a religion merely because it is comforting, socially proper, or

convenient. If there is no God, then to pray and worship is a waste of time,

according to Trueblood. Indeed, he considers a false religion to be inherently

evil! Of course, many people feel that something cannot be quantitatively evil,

unless there is a supreme Good to compare to and fight the evil, so this There

must be, then, room for ambiguity in religion, if not doubt. This requires the

argument for realism, which Trueblood sufficiently provides. Realism is a theory

that "holds that there are objects of knowledge which actually enjoy

independent existence." These objects of knowledge are assumed by most

religions to be the causation, directly or not, of all things. Their divinity or

plurality has been the subject of great debate between separate religions, and

religion as a whole and science. Platonists believe in a spontaneous, four-fold

causation, while most Western religions believe in a singular, omnipotent God.

Meanwhile, non-Theistic scientists feel that everything happens out of random

chance, with no higher goals or creator. The next major topic that Trueblood

explains is the nature of truth. Is something rendered true merely because it

hasn’t been disproved? Is positive evidence enough to classify something as

true, or proved? If A implies B, and B is true, does that mean A is true as

well? There is no definite answer to this, as Trueblood points out: If John was

in the wreck he must have bruises. John has bruises on his body Therefore, John

was in the wreck This same type of fallacy can easily be used to explain the

origins of the Earth, or the possibility of a creator. In the same section of

the book as the nature of truth, there is a discussion on the nature of

authority. Why are there certified geniuses in the fields of music, science and

philosophy, but religious greats, prophets and teachers are considered

illusionists, crackpots, or worse? Are these men and women misunderstood, or

underestimated: insane, or truly messengers from a higher level? Another

significant error about authority is that it conflicts with reason in the search

for the truth. Many books infer this, but Trueblood illustrates that authority

is dependent upon reason in the search for the truth. As previously mentioned,

there are many irrefutable scientific facts which tend to nullify traditional

fundamentalist beliefs. Trueblood devotes an entire chapter to this very

important topic, and attacks it in a very logical manner, that should hope to

pacify most readers, myself included. When most people are asked how they know

there is a God, they most always refer to nature and the world around them, and

how only a supernatural power is capable such creations. While this seems a

clear-cut, simple answer, that most people tend to agree with and use, Trueblood

sees this as a theological cop-out: there is to much evidence to be classified

by such a simple answer. The so-called natural order of things, and the fact

that it had been going on for quite awhile before Man came onto the scene is

perhaps the best evidence, along with the third law of thermodynamics: matter

cannot be created or destroyed. One must wonder, then how things can simply be

created out of nothing, as most Christian religions teach. Many people have

turned to a type of theological evolution to explain things: that God did in

fact set the world in motion somehow, long ago, and has let things continue on

their own natural evolutionary path. Next, Trueblood searches for positive

evidence of the existence of God. In his now-familiar, leave no stone unturned

method, he points to the existence of beauty and aesthetics in Nature and

elsewhere. This is a very good point that most theologians have never pointed

out. Socrates and Plato both felt that beauty was evidence of a supreme Good in

the world. While they didn’t believe in a God, per say, their One is in the same

spirit as Western religions’ God. That most everything, natural or manmade has

some intrinsic beauty is not in dispute. But is an ugly object evil, from Satan

or some other corollary of God? This, unfortunately, Trueblood doesn’t delve

into. Historical and religious experience is another vast factor in the

philosophy of religion. To quote Martin Buber, "All religion is

history" With only very minor exceptions, most historical manuscripts have

been written, preserved, etc. by religious characters. As far back as the

Sumerian civilizations, it was the priests who recorded everything. In the

Middle Ages of Europe, were it not for monks, all of the Greek and Roman

manuscripts would have been lost, and no new records would have come about.

Coincidentally, many of the religious leaders of the Middle Ages were

philosophers, such as St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Augustine, etc. Only in the

Renascence did the fields of History, Religion, and Philosophy once again

diverge, yet to this day, their paths cross more often than not. The Holy Bible,

in many places is just a collection of ancient history, and reads like a

lecture. Only the prophecies and slanted views found in it prevent it from being

the first history textbook. The codependency of separate religions and history

is also illustrated by the Hebrew and Christian faiths: The Christian faith has

developed largely at the expense of the Hebrew faith, and has no independent

foundation, and the Hebrew faith is stagnate, with no definitive end. The

Christians even registered the Hebrew Canon as part of the Bible, providing the

faith with some tenuous roots, although the true development of Christianity is

somewhat vague. The next two sections of Philosophy of Religion deal with

problems encountered by those attempting to be faithful to a religion. Trueblood

considers Dialectical Materialism, i.e. Marxism to be one of the greatest

challenges. Marxism and the Nazi movement of the 1930s and ’40s are both,

technically, religions, but they act as a severe detriment to Christianity or

other theistic beliefs. Both of these movements are atheistic, embracing manmade

values, mainly economic: although the similarities stop there. Another challenge

pointed out in this section is That of Freudian psychology. Trueblood considers

this a threat almost as severe as the aforementioned blight of Dialectical

materialism. Freud and others like him, including Ludwig Feuerbach, consider the

idea of Gods to be nothing more than personified wishes. Feuerbach contends that

each segment of belief is an attempt to objectify the thinker’s wish. Freud

himself felt that the Christian God was the manifestation of man’s desire for a

father figure to be feared, and depended upon, thus we view natural occurrences

as coming from a central parent. I personally don’t agree with Trueblood on this

point: many people see Freud’s views as anachronistic, not a viable explanation

of man’s desire for God, and certainly not a challenge to religious faith. The

third challenge to religious faith, according to Trueblood, is Logical

Positivism. While Marxism and Nazis point-blankly scoff the idea of God, and

Freud writes it off to psychological instability, this third attack simply views

religion and metaphysics as "worthless and idle undertakings."

Positivism restricts knowledge and fact as sense experiences, basic definitions

only elaborated on as the subject of personal whims. Positivists feel there is a

definitive answer to every question, and only one answer, is right. It is a very

dogmatic and intolerable school of philosophy. I fully agree with Trueblood that

this is a serious challenge to religious faith, perhaps more so than dialectical

materialism. With no room for opinion, there can be no room for free-thinking,

thus no expansion of religious thought. Indeed, this attitude is a threat to not

only religious freedom, but to intellectual expansion. Should logical positivism

ever come into widespread acceptance, than the world would take on an Orwellian

shape, with all religions a thing of the past. There are many enduring problems

that religion faces, that don’t come and go like political fads or philosophical

sects. The central of these problems is science vs. religion. It is impossible,

as mentioned at the beginning of this paper to compartmentalize the two. As fast

as one theologist finds a new biblical text proving creation, geologists pull up

a fossil of man a few more hundred thousand years older. Fortunately, however

the Genises/geology dogmatism has relaxed, with both sides able to find a happy

median. But the great strides in medicine have sparked an enormous amount of

confrontation, with people unsure of where science and chance ends, and miracles

begin. Of course, what is miracle? Could not have God influenced the doctor,

pulling his hand in the right way as the delicate incision was made? There are a

million what-ifs in medicine, and one must draw the line, and have faith in his

fellow man instead of chalking every successful recover up to divine

intervention. If everyone waited for a miracle, nothing would ever get done, and

then the need for miracles would be even greater, according to Trueblood. I

fully agree with Trueblood on this point. The remainder of Philosophy of

Religion deals with such topics as evil, God himself (or her/its self), freedom,

and immortality. I didn’t feel these topics are necessarily an important part of

the book. They are impossible to validate, and Trueblood gives them a slanted

approach. He only spends two pages on the religious significance of freedom, and

doesn’t even mention the value of the freedom of religion. I didn’t agree or

disagree with anything in the last section of the book; I just felt it was

redundant. As a whole, Trueblood has done a very good job with Philosophy of

Religion and I truly enjoyed reading it. It is very unique, the first book I’ve

ever seen that strictly explains the motives and processes behind religious

thought, without attempting to justify one sect, or judge, positively or

otherwise a personal religious belief. It was very insightful, and has helped to

clear up questions I’ve had about religious thought. Perhaps if more religious

leaders understood the why’s of their beliefs, there would be less intolerance

and fanaticism, and religions could cohabitate in the world they feel they are

protecting from evil.

1) Stumpf, Samuel Enoch. Philosophy: History and Problems. New York:

McGraw-Hill, inc., 1971, 1994. 966 pp. 2) Trueblood, David Elton. Philosophy of

Religion. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1957. 324 pp. Note: all footnotes,

unless otherwise noted from Philosophy of Religion. Preface: xi-xv p. 11 William

Temple, as quoted, p.9 p. 33 p. 36 p. 63 von Hugel, as quoted p. 69 p. 71 p.

94-95, 102 pp. 118-119 as quoted p. 131 Stumpf : timeline p. 132 pp. 138-139 p.

162 p. 177 p. 179 p. 181 pp. 189-190 p. 192 p. 206 p. 209 pp. 209-210


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