"Developing a Personal Religious Philosophy"
A Final Essay for the Master of Religious Philosophy Course
By Daniel Moore
Philosophy is the study of the questions of life like, "Who and I and what am I here for?" It helps a person do make sense of life. It considers what is ethical. It investigates what is knowable. It has many branches to include political philosophy, metaphysics, ethics, and religion. Religious philosophy takes the tools of philosophy and delves into the region of religion in its various forms.
This course does a thorough job of taking the tools and applying them not just to religion in general but moves into the various major (and some minor) religions of the world. It also covers a reasonable span of history. Also, the various regions of the world were also considered in evaluating religions so it was not limited to just religions/denominations but also the regional and cultural factors included.
One of the challenges facing any philosopher is how to classify the world's religions. I liked the instructor's three categories:
1. The Natural problem: How does man get along with the world?
2. The Social problem: How do we get along with each other?
3. The Psychological problem: How do we understand ourselves and our spirituality (if there is one)?
These are excellent categories. Further, the instructor noted how regions/religions tended to help in categorizing religions into the broad categories. And on the whole, it is a good starting point. I do not like generalities but it is a good place to start when considering a personal religious philosophy.
From the three questions noted above, it is important, I believe, that every student apply them to his or her faith or religious background. Though I have a Protestant Christian background which emphasizes the first category, I see that merely as a starting point. It does not negate the importance of the other two questions to be considered philosophically. Personally, all people need to ask themselves those three questions. Their religion (or personal belief system) should help them in guiding them to answer those in a way that enables them to live in this world.
A great strength of this course was the "food for thought" questions that I found to be challenging. It is good to strengthen one's mind and wrestle with the concepts given. The instructor is to be commended for these questions. He asks the tough questions that caused me to re-evaluate my belief systems. In some instances, I actually found my personal religious philosophy strengthened. In other instances, I had to go back and research the "why" of what I believed. These questions are not for the faint of heart.
This is a good course to complement the Master of Comparative Religion course for any ULC minister. It is not enough to know the facts of the various religions in the world. It is helpful to use the tools of religious philosophy to gain understanding to these religions as well. As for me, I found this to be an excellent course and recommend it to all.
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