Religion and Philosophy
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Religion and philosophy are the areas of knowledge that have always been interesting for the researchers. Thanks to these sciences, mankind may answer the most valuable questions, which determine the sense of life and further development. However, many people do not realize the distinction between these disciplines. The work is aimed at deepening the knowledge about philosophy and religion and to compare Hinduism with philosophy.
In ancient times, the mankind’s mind was developing through the stages such as mythology, religion, and philosophy. Moreover, the researchers emphasize mythological, religious, philosophical, and scientific worldviews. The primal developed religious and philosophical systems were found in the first “cradle of civilization” – Mesopotamia divided into Sumer-Akad, Babylonia, and Assyria. As it was mentioned above, both religion and philosophy are different types of worldview; therefore, they cannot be considered similar. The religion is a belief in transcendent or supreme powers. However, there are more than 200 definitions of religion, because each researcher has his/her own considerations about this concept.
For example, Immanuel Kant wrote that the word “religion” may be interchanged with the words “faith”, “belief system” or sometimes “set of duties” (Religion and Rational Theology, 2001). The famous sociologist Emilee Durkheim assumed religion to be "something eminently social" as it is distinguished from personal belief system (The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life, 1915). Religious worldview means that supreme powers, which may have an impact on people’s destinies, are real. Philosophy has hundreds of definitions as well, but it should be regarded as something bigger than science. Philosophy is the type of thinking and world perception. To be a philosopher means not only to have the diploma of philosopher or be excellent in complicated concepts or definitions. The philosopher has philosophical consciousness, abstract thinking, and analyzing skills. According to Antony Quinton,
Philosophy is rationally critical thinking, of a more or less systematic kind about the general nature of the world (metaphysics or theory of existence), the justification of belief (epistemology or theory of knowledge), and the conduct of life (ethics or theory of value). Each of the three elements in this list has a non-philosophical counterpart, from which it is distinguished by its explicitly rational and critical way of proceeding and by its systematic nature. Everyone has some general conception of the nature of the world in which they live and of their place in it (The ethics of philosophical practice, 1995).
Thus, while religion is based on the principle of supreme powers’ existence, philosophy demands the evidence for such statements. Both philosophy and religion form the holistic worldview, which may be the key to a happy life. These branches are the attempts to understand the world and transform it into favorable system that is comfortable for living in. The basic principle of religion is believing while philosophical principle is doubting and thinking. These are the most popular types of worldviews; however, it is difficult to find common principles, which would connect philosophy and religion.
Religious beliefs played a crucial role in the early stages of human development which estimated the further steps of mankind’s elaboration. Religion has a number of functions which include not only spiritual but also pragmatic components. Religious assumptions remain a considerable element of human’s consciousness in the 21st century though they are under the pressure of scientific principles of cognition. Religion relies on faith and trust without logical background and doubts.
After the differences and similarities between philosophy and religion are stated, it is worth comparing Hinduism to the philosophy of Ancient East. It is difficult to identify the proper time and place, where Hinduism emerged, because it is based on ancient mythology. Hinduism is polytheistic religion of the Indians, though, nowadays Hinduism became the world religion. It is the religion, which cannot be separated from Ancient Eastern philosophy, because Hinduism was born from the “spirit” of the Indians. As religion was preceding philosophy, it is the source of the wisdom and knowledge for the Indians. The main Hinduism’s concepts, such as karma, samsara, moksha, and Atman, reflect the Eastern philosophy.
Furthermore, philosophy was grounded on the religious system, which includes complicated hierarchy of gods. Hindus believe in Atman that is an endless spirit who was not born and who never dies. Atman is not substantial subject, but a symbol of divinity in human’s heart and spirit. Samsara is an endless cycle of rebirths which last until a person achieves moksha, blessed condition, when there is no need to live another life. Karma is the cause and effect link between all the phenomena. The pantheon of gods, which reflect both natural elements and abstract concepts also evidences the philosophical views, which are based on eastern worldview and thinking.
Rituals are the component of religions, because they demonstrate mystique and magic, which form religion. Practicing of rituals is important, because it strengthens the followers’ faith and connects empirical world to spirituality. The main rituals for philosophies are reflecting and transcending, though these elements are the tools of philosophizing as well. Hinduism contains many rituals, which are aimed at improving the individual’s life. True Hindus cannot imagine their life without worshipping or spiritual practicing. For example, the rituals, which promote mental and spiritual development such as meditating or mantras repeating, are irreplaceable components of the Indians’ lives. Hindus are sure about the necessity of following rituals, because they are a form of praying to gods. The religion fills all the spheres of Hindus’ life, including some daily needs and actions. Furthermore, meditating or mantras repeating are the most widespread practices not only in the East, but also in western culture. For instance, Yoga is very popular in Europe, the USA, or Great Britain.
In conclusion, religion and philosophy cannot be considered similar. However, these concepts also should not be studied separately from each other, because they are the basis of the modern people’s worldview. Hinduism is the reflection of eastern thinking, while philosophy may clearly be studied within the religious system of a certain nation.