This paper examines the aspect of realism in religion. This paper appreciates the coexistence of realists and non realists with respect to their entitled views. However, this tries to examine the aspects of religion that makes it real. These aspects are explained in a way to help one understand the realism in religion. Therefore, this paper in its findings tries to answer the question: Should we be realists or non-realists about religious claims?
This paper is guided by the following questions: does realism in religion exist? How can we prove that realism exists in religion? Why should we accept realism in religious claims? This therefore paper sets a debating context in realism of religion. It traces ideas which form the core of its arguments from books. It is possible to counter contrasting arguments in this papers (very rare though); this is due to the nature of philosophy and religion which this paper fully attributes to.
The debate about religious realism/non-realism has been existence for quite some time. This majorly concerns questions about the existence of God and His independence from the human beings. It also concerns the nature of truth of religion and the accessibility of this truth. Though theologians and philosophers have really explored this topic, some issues akin to the some found in the realists field e.g. ethics and the philosophy of science have been found comparable over time.
Lastly, though people are independent, we know that their perceptions can be changed by arguments. This paper exposes facts that should convince you to believe in the religious claims. The reality comes in that religion proclaims what is happening in the universe, not what is not.
Realism in the philosophical realms refers believing that our reality or part of it is independent ontologically of the perceptions, practices, beliefs, concepts, etc.
Realism refers to the visible world being so independent in its existence. It holds that the truth lies in the minds correspondence to reality. Realists believe that in our beliefs we approximate the reality and daily observations moves us closer to the reality and its understanding. ( Lovin, 14)
Arguments whether we should believe in the realists views of religion have been very contentious and sometimes aspects of science are brought in to help justify whether realism or non realism should carry the day.non realists in religion argue that religion is a false tool that people use in search of the meaning of life. The non realists also believe that the theories in religion and religious doctrines only make phenomenal claims and claims that metaphysical should be abandoned since nobody has the access to what we cannot observe. Hence they argue that what exists is what is observable and not the observable. However, religious realism argues that despite religion being a sociological and psychological phenomena, it makes true claims about the reality especially with respect to the unobservable. Religious realism also argue that just like in science where theories are understood in form of models, its theories can also be also be understood better by modeling them. So, the topic whether we should be realists or non realists in respect to religious claims is a heated debate that needs a sober understanding.
Believing in religion is an individual’s choice that should be guided by logic and faith. As I have already hinted, it is not easy to take position. However, I believe that we should believe in religious realism. This is because I believe that God exists. If God exists the way I believe, then even his properties exist. This therefore means that realism in religion in regards to the existence of God and his properties is a reality that should not be refuted. However, religion is all about God and if we can accept the existence of God, why can’t we refuse his existence in our lives? How could it happen that human beings have created the universe? God is the creator of the universe and even us, we just find ourselves as part of this universe. And, since we believe in the existence of God, His properties and creation, even our reality has an origin. This origin (God) is the centre of religion. For He exists in reality, we cannot refute the reality of religion (Lovin, 27)
Secondly, we can also believe in religious realism is a very broad aspect that does not encompass on what can be seen. Realism is very dynamic in itself and there many kinds of realism are inexistence. We have ethical realism which is all about ethics. However, ethics is a very significant aspect of religion. The normative claims and terms used in ethics only find their actual meanings from in the realms of morality which is also another religious aspect. Ethics is used ethic to mean that we are referring to things the way they structurally seen. Moreover, subjectivity which is also found in realism realms refers to normative claims as people’s feelings of private preferences. Terms like right or wrong are only sentiment used for approval and disapproval. If ethical realism can be accepted and used in the world of realism, then why should the broader aspect of religious realism be discarded? However much non realists try to argue against realism in religion, there are aspects of religion, if not all, that makes it fit in the realists’ perspective (Peter, 5)
Also, it is accepted that religion is an essential social phenomenon. In the societies, religion is at the centre of people lives and especially their interactions. In essence religion has been used to convince people and comply. Can this be metaphysical? How can convincing people be metaphysical? Anyway, in my judgment, there is no metaphysical side in religion. Religion is a natural phenomenon and not supernatural as people claim. So, by religion being a natural occurrence, we cannot factor in the claims by the non realist about the metaphysical aspect being abandoned. Religion, just like any other human creation, has been made by human beings for themselves. Religion is just being used by human beings for their own good. Therefore religion should be well structured to help in the social discipline. It is therefore a reality (Blackburn, 270).
At the centre of religion is belief. However, not all beliefs are religious; it cuts also cuts into the realists’ realms. How can define belief without involving an aspect of religion? But, how many times have you heard that even realists believe in realism? Do people believe in religion? Is belief visible? If belief is such an essential part in realism, why can’t religion be realistic? After all, like the religious knowledge which is fully on belief and cannot be completely be described and fully understood but makes reality in us, scientific knowledge is just asset of metaphors that makes reality known to people but cannot be fully understood and described. If truly, there is realism, I find it difficult to understand what makes the non realists not to realize religion. (Lovin, 23)
Reality in religion avails itself in our environment. Considering the position of deep ecology, it is true that the human order is not different from the natural order in which the sacredness of life is evident. In fact, it is also in agreement with realists’ animism which claims that there is a ‘listening neighbourliness’ and orderliness amongst the species in existence. This proves that religion does not exist in an empty space and is only a depiction of what is happening in the universe. Thinking of detaching religion from the reality is not possible.
Lastly, the term “realism” is a philosophical term but in its use, we find that our language and our tools “transitive aspects” (i.e. contingent and therefore socially emergent). As tools, they can be used in an inquiry where one gets to know the intransitive realities existing outside the inquiries. However, for one to inquire there must be existence of the study. In relation to this, religion is part of the socially emergent and contingent theoretical apparatus that can use by scholars in studying behavioral patterns in our world (Reinhold, 79).
Realism in religion is a fact which should not be refuted. There is no reason accepting that God really exists and that, he created the universe then refusing to acknowledge the reality of religion. However, it is very difficult to convince atheists for from the very basis of the argument, they will fall out.
In being real in religion, we accept and acknowledge that God and His properties exist. We also acknowledge the coexistence of religion and science. Without religion, some aspects of realism cannot be understood and thus, the essence of realism. With us being part of the universe, we cannot claim to have created the universe. However, science cannot explain this core question in understanding the existence of the universe and all in it. This is enough to prove that religion must coexist with science for full understanding of the meaning of life (Blackburn, 276).
Lastly, the question about ‘us’ accepting the religious claims need an individual answer. However, according to me, we should accept these claims for they give an understanding to our lives. Secondly, understanding that religion is for man, made by man makes us realize its essence.
Blackburn, S. Truth: A Guide. Oxford University Press, Inc., 2005.
Lovin, R. Christian Realism. New York City: Cambridge University Press, 1995.
Peter, K. Nature of Religion. California: Valley College Press, 2006,
Reinhold, N. Christian Realism and Political Problems. New York City: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1993.