Philosophy of religion


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Beauty and aesthetics Bioethics Comparative philosophy Cosmopolitanism Death Ethics History of ideas Knowledge Logic and probability Meaning and the good life Metaphysics Philosophy of language Philosophy of mind Philosophy of religion Philosophy of science Political philosophy Thinkers and theories Values and beliefs Virtues and vices

Alan Watts: ‘Half monk and half racecourse operator.’ Illustration by Stephen Collins

Essay/
Consciousness and altered states
Off-beat Zen

How I found my way out of depression, thanks to the writings of the English priest who brought Buddhism to the West

Tim Lott

A reproduction detail of the Chauvet-Pont d’Arc cave painting believed to be around 36,000 years old. Photo by Patrick Aventurier/Getty Images

Essay/
Art
How wonder works

One emotion inspired our greatest achievements in science, art and religion. We can manipulate it – but why do we have it?

Jesse Prinz

Essay/
Philosophy of religion
Undercover atheists

Seduced by science and rationalism, yet tied to their families and communities, Hasidic atheists opt for a double life

Batya Ungar-Sargon

Lowlier than thou: ‘animals possess an unexamined wisdom where true belief is concerned.’ Photo by Christopher Anderson

Essay/
Philosophy of religion
The atheist paradox

Now that Christianity is the dominant religion on the planet, it is unbelievers who have most in common with Christ

Adam Roberts

Photo by Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

Essay/
Neuroscience
The god effect

Religion spawns both benevolent saints and murderous fanatics. Could dopamine levels in the brain drive that switch?

Patrick McNamara

A shaman-healer prepares for an Ayahuasca ceremony in La Calera, Cundinamarca. Photo by Eitan Abramovic/AFP/Getty

Essay/
Consciousness and altered states
Caves all the way down

Do psychedelics give access to a universal, mystical experience of reality, or is that just a culture-bound illusion?

Jules Evans

Passengers from ditched US Airways flight 1549 await rescue in a frigid Hudson River. The pilot, Chesley Sullenberger said later ‘One way of looking at this might be that for 42 years, I’ve been making small, regular deposits in this bank of experience, education and training. And on January 15 the balance was sufficient so that I could make a very large withdrawal.’ Photo by Eric Thayer/Reuters

Essay/
Ethics
Godless yet good

There’s something in religious tradition that helps people be ethical. But it isn’t actually their belief in God

Troy Jollimore

Charlton Heston as Moses in The Ten Commandments. Photo by J R Eyerman/Time Life Pictures/Getty

Essay/
Knowledge
A drop in the sea

What are the odds that Jesus rose or Moses parted the waves? Even with the best witnesses, vanishingly small

Lawrence Shapiro

Landscape with Charon Crossing the Styx by Joachim Patinir, c. 1515–1524. Museo del Prado, Madrid. Photo courtesy Wikimedia

Essay/
Philosophy of religion
Hell-bent

Younger Christians may be ditching doctrines of fire and brimstone – but will Christianity ever get rid of hell entirely?

Kathryn Gin Lum

Aldous Huxley in 1958. Photo by Philippe Halsman/Magnum

Essay/
Philosophy of religion
Perennial philosophy

Aldous Huxley argued that all religions in the world were underpinned by universal beliefs and experiences. Was he right?

Jules Evans

Thomas Jefferson’s copy of George Sale’s 1734 translation of the Quran is used in the swearing in ceremony of US Representative Keith Ellison at the United States Capitol in Washington, DC, on 4 January 2007. Photo by Getty

Idea/
Thinkers and theories
Muhammad: an anticlerical hero of the European Enlightenment

John Tolan

A Siberian Shaman. Photo by Alexander Nikolsky/The Siberian Times

Essay/
Philosophy of religion
Inside the mind of God

Punitive Big Brother; cosmic petty-thief-catcher; vigilant landlord. Why is God so interested in bad behaviour?

Benjamin Grant Purzycki

The Golden Rock at Shwe Pyi Daw, Kyaiktiyo, Burma (now Myanmar), in 1978. According to legend, the rock is balanced on a strand of Buddha’s hair. Photo by Hiroji Kubota/Magnum

Essay/
Philosophy of mind
Buddhism and self-deception

How can I logically manage to deceive myself? Buddhist thought offers a way out of the philosophical paradox

Katie Javanaud

Photo by Dennis Stock/Magnum

Essay/
Philosophy of religion
What is nirvana?

Liberating oneself from rebirths might seem irrelevant to the non-believer. But nirvana is also a profound psychological goal

Robert Wright

Photo by Paul Fusco/Magnum

Essay/
Cognition and intelligence
Immortality instinct

We have this powerful sense that death is a transition, not an end. Why can’t we imagine a world without us?

Natalie Emmons

Words of God. Father Lequeux, priest of Buc, Île-de-France, and his puzzled congregation photographed in 1958. Photo by Edouard Boubat/Gamma-Rapho/Getty

Essay/
History of ideas
Wittgenstein and religion

In the case atheists vs religious belief, Ludwig Wittgenstein is called to the stand. Whose side does his testimony serve?

Stephen Law

Detail of a miniature of Boethius lying in bed, with Philosophy standing beside him, from the beginning of Book I of The Consolation of Philosophy. Harley 4355 f.27. Courtesy the Trustees of the British Library

Essay/
Thinkers and theories
Why read Boethius today?

Written while awaiting execution, the Consolation of Philosophy poses questions about human reason that remain urgent today

John Marenbon

From the Great BIble, St Jerome edition, 1405-1415. Courtesy the British Library

Essay/
History of ideas
Can God lie?

Until the Scientific Revolution, God’s power included a licence to deceive. How did science make an honest man of Him?

Dallas G Denery II

Nursery school children pass in front of Italian citizen Alberto ‘Daijo’ Pitozzi, 42, currently under training as a novice zen monk at Soji-ji temple, Yokohama, Japan. Photo by Jeremie Souteyrat

Essay/
Religion
Religion without belief

Most Japanese reject religious belief while embracing multiple forms of ritual practice. Are they religious or secular?

Christopher Kavanagh

Departure of Special-attack Unit from Homeland Base by Sentaro Iwata, Japan 1940s. Public Domain image

Essay/
Philosophy of religion
Into nothingness

In the 1940s, Japan’s search for a national philosophy became a battle for existence. Did Zen ideas create the kamikaze?

Christopher Harding

A Boat in the Sea by Arkhip Kuindzhi, c.1875. Oil on canvas.

Essay/
Philosophy of religion
Zen freedom

Free will and fate are both illusions. The trick is learning to sail with the prevailing winds of life

Tim Lott

Astronomy and geometry from Le Livre et le vraye hystoire du bon roy Alixandre (c1420), Royal 20 B XX f3. Courtesy the British Library

Essay/
Religion
Science + religion

The science-versus-religion opposition is a barrier to thought. Each one is a gift, rather than a threat, to the other

Tom McLeish

Sister Catherine Thomas of the Dominican Sisters of Mary prays in the convents chapel. USA. Ann Arbor, MI. 2011. Photo by Peter van Agtmael/Magnum

Essay/
Philosophy of religion
Why pray?

Prayer occurs in many faiths. It stays recognisable despite its varied forms. It must be good for something – but what?

Benjamin Dueholm

Migrants rescued in the Mediterranean Sea on 20 October 2016. Photo by Yara Nardi/Italian Red Cross/Reuters

Essay/
Thinkers and theories
I and Thou

When we encounter another individual truly as a person, not as an object for use, we become fully human: Martin Buber

M M Owen