Friday, June 22, 2007

It was Hegel who established philosophy of religion as a discipline

It was Hegel who established philosophy of religion as a discipline in his Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion. Hegel rightly saw that history and religion are closely connected, but within his system of thought non-Western cultures presented a philosophical challenge as they appeared religious, but could not be placed within history. For history was properly Occidental and had not yet happened in places like India or China. To solve this problem Hegel defined religion thus: ‘Religion (is) defined generally as the consciousness of God, of God the absolute object […].’
Now Hegel was able to examine the religions of the world and decide which were closer to this definition. This is, in the realm of philosophy of religion, pure theological determination. For if religion is generally the consciousness of God that makes the thinking of God, and particularly the right thinking [orthodoxy] of God central to a religion. In this way a culture could be judged to be more or less truly religious on the basis of their ability to think the ontological proof for the existence of God – or by how much thought and reality were one in a religion.
From such a position he was able to judge the various world religions as either primitive or advanced, in bondage or free. As Arvind-Pal S. Mandair says, ‘It was now possible to classify Hinduism under the category ‘religion’ (the idea of divinity was clearly there) but still outside history. The Hindu idea of divinity was as yet ‘confused’, ‘monstrous’, ‘terrifying’, idolatrous’, ‘absurd’, ‘erroneous’, clear evidence for Hegel that Hindu thinking was limited to thinking nothingness.’
Though, because the ontological argument is concerned with the connection of thought and reality, this is arguably an immanent move, it is an immanence subordinate to the judgment of transcendence. His thought is then transcendent and theologically determinate by its making reality relative to a history subtracted from all that doesn’t accord with his narrative of Spirit. Ultimately, for Hegel, religion has a ‘highest’ type.
As luck may have it for dear old Hegel the religion that constitutes the final telos of all religion was found in the particularly Protestant variety of Germany Christianity. Hegel calls Christianity the “consummate religion” and defines it “as the [religion] in which the concept of religion has become objective to itself”. For Hegel Protestant Christianity’s highest concern lay with the ontological proof of God and not with responding to suffering, to crying out violence, to the life as constituted in the liturgical act of the Eucharistic meal. Posted by Anthony Paul Smith Filed in philosophy, politics, religion June 22nd, 2007 An und für sich “Integrity through hypocrisy.”

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