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Religion, critique of

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-K111-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved April 24, 2024, from

Article Summary

During the Enlightenment a new philosophy of religion arose, one which was not connected with metaphysics or philosophical theology. It asked to what extent religion could be legitimated philosophically, to what extent it could be shown to be reasonable.

The reasonableness of religion was taken to be significant for the political as well as the confessional clash between Christian denominations in Europe, all of which tried to justify their conflicting religious doctrines by reference to a supernatural revelation. The philosophical debate that began in the Enlightenment with regard to the criteria and arguments for a religion connected either to human nature or to public reason can be called a ‘critique of religion’ (Religionskritik), although the expression is not common before the critical philosophy of Kant and his school. Hegel followed the programme of Kant’s philosophy, maintaining a philosophical concept of religion as falling ‘within the limits of reason alone’. The radical left-wing school of Hegelianism transformed Hegel’s approach, which was a critical legitimation of religion, into its destruction. Presupposing materialism in ontology and atheism, Feuerbach held that religion should be interpreted as a kind of anthropology. Marx claimed that religion is an expression of a certain sort of ideology and a necessary illusion within a class-structured society.

In twentieth-century philosophy, the critique of religion can be found in two positions. The first is a rational reconstruction of the practical intentions or semantic content of religious belief; the second is a continuation of the interpretation of religion as ideological or illusory. In addition, we can identify certain other varieties of the critique of religion, including the theological critique of religion (found, for example, in the work of Barth and Bonhoeffer) and the philosophical critique of particular religious traditions (found, for example, in the romantic and postmodern rejections of Christian monotheism by Hölderlin, Nietzsche, Klages and Heidegger).

Citing this article:
Lutz-Bachmann, Matthias. Religion, critique of, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-K111-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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