The Encyclopedia of Philosophy of Religion

Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell (2021)
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Abstract

Why an encyclopedia of the philosophy of religion? Because human beings have been and continue to be religious. Indeed, if one thinks in terms of what it is to be human, what is the essence of a human being, one can reasonably hold that it includes the property of trying to make sense of things and events, and religion, in terms of both belief and practice, is a way of doing this. A religious response to this attempt at sense-making in no way implies that those who are not religious are not trying to make sense of things.They are, but conclude that the sought-after intelligibility, if it can be had, can be had without religion. So if one thinks of philosophy as, at least in part, a rational pursuit of intelligibility about things and events, then the philosophy of religion can plausibly be construed as the pursuit of this intelligibility in religious terms, and an encyclopedia of philosophy of religion as an orderly assemblage of entries about this rational undertaking. While the philosophy of religion has often been thought of as a "Western" activity which is engaged in by those in the Abrahamic faiths (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), from the inception of this project we have believed it is important to think globally in terms of the scope of entries included in the encyclopedia. Hence, there are not only numerous entries on topics and individuals within the Abrahamic religious traditions, but also equally numerous entries on issues and people in Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, and other religious traditions.We have sought to be diverse in terms of the inclusion of entries across the religious world, not because we believe diversity and inclusion are goods in their own right, but because they are instrumental to helping us think more clearly about the overall intellectual project of making sense of things in terms of religion. Some persons might object that because the idea of making sense of things is a rational notion and religion, when properly understood, is at its core a rejection of the notion that things and events are intelligible, the philosophy of religion is itself a deeply incoherent intellectual discipline. Indeed, if we assume a desire tomake sense of things, the attempt to fulfill this desire along with perhaps its eventual frustration is a source of suffering. And who wants to suffer? Thus religion at its core is about giving up on the attempt to make sense of things and to achieve a state of "mind" in which there is nothingness or oneness with all things and, as a result, nothing distinct from other things of which to make sense. While this point is well made and appreciated, it nevertheless is also a fact that anyone reading one or more of the entries in this encyclopedia of the philosophy of religion is a person who is seeking to learn about, and thus make sense of, something or someone related to a particular religion or religions. So at least to this degree the reader is an individual who is pursuing intelligibility about that which is religious, or related to what is religious, in nature. And an initial assumption that the attempt to satisfy the desire for intelligibility through religion must fail and produce suffering is at least questionable. Finally, because this is an encyclopedia of the philosophy of religion, there are many entries about views and peoplewho believe that there are good reasons to reject religion altogether. These entries are warranted because the issues and people they cover occupy an important place in the dialogue that takes place between individuals with differing views who live in a shared global space.

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Charles Taliaferro
St. Olaf College

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