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NMSU PHIL 201G - Commentary

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Module 5.1 CommentaryThis module looks at the philosophy of religion. Specifically, we will contemplate the basis of religious belief. That is, what forms the foundation for one’s belief in religion? Although religiousbeliefs are vastly varied around the world, this module looks at two views from Judeo-Christian thinkers. Since time constrains us to limit our study of religious belief, I encourage you to read the other selections that are in this chapter on your own. The philosophers I have chosen for Module 5.1 are Danish Christian writer Soren Kierkegaard and the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber. A few words about “The Faith of Abraham” by Soren Kierkegaard from Max O. Hallman, author is Traversing Philosophical Boundaries:Søren Kierkegaard describes Abraham, one of the patriarchs of Judaism, as the ideal religious hero. According to Kierkegaard, Abraham deserves this accolade because of his unswerving faith in God. In the story found in the Bible (Genesis 12:1-22:24), Abraham made a covenant with Yahweh or God in which he promised obedience to God, while God promised to make Abraham the father of a great nation. Many years passed during which Abraham remained loyalto his part of the covenant, even though God did not give Abraham the son that would have fulfilled God’s part of the agreement. Finally, after Abraham and his wife Sarah were believed tobe too old to conceive, Sarah became pregnant and bore Abraham a son that they named Isaac. However, when Isaac was still a young boy, God commanded Abraham to offer a human sacrifice of his son. Without questioning or arguing with God, Abraham prepared to sacrifice Isaac—indeed, he had raised the knife to kill him when an angel appeared and told Abraham that he could substitute a ram in place of Isaac. To Kierkegaard, Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his beloved son because of God’s command to do so represented the ultimate act of faith. And it is such acts of faith, according to Kierkegaard, that are the basis of true religious belief. One thing that is interesting to note, is that Kierkegaard’s writing is a response to philosophers who had written before him, such as Thomas Aquinas, who write that one could logically prove the existence of God. Kierkegaard’s view differs sharply with Aquinas because he states that no, belief in God is based on faith, such as the faith Abraham had when he was ready to obey God and sacrifice his son Isaac. To Kierkegaard, faith is based on a paradox. One cannot prove God’s existence, therefore, there is only faith on which to base belief. A few words about Martin Buber’s philosophy from Max O. Hallman, author is Traversing Philosophical Boundaries:Buber describes two essential ways that humans exist in the world—in the attitude of the I-It and in the attitude of the I-Thou. Although both modes of existence suggest that the I or self exists only in relation to something else, these ways of relating to the other are diametrically opposed. In the relationship of the I-It, the self is experienced as an internal object that stands in relation to external objects. It is a relationship of objectification, a relationship in which the other is experienced as a means of satisfying our desires, a relationship that is often essential toour continued survival. However, according to Buber, the I-It relationship cannot reveal the truenature of the self or the true nature of the other, and there is absolutely no possibility of discovering God within this relationship.In contrast to the I-It relationship, the I-Thou relationship allows us to transcend objectification and to establish mutual recognition between the self and the other to which it is related. The other person is no longer seen as a means through which we can satisfy our desires, but as a unique, all-consuming presence. At the same time that the I-Thou relationship allows us to transcend the objectification of the other, it allows us to transcend the objectification of our self. In this relationship we no longer see ourselves as a bundle of impressions or as a collectionof mental states, but we speak and act out of our whole being. Thus, Buber claims that in an I-Thou relationship two beings mutually embrace one another in the totality of their being. It is through such relationships, and not by means of a leap of faith, that one is first able to discern the traces of an eternal Thou or God. In Buber’s philosophy the key to belief in God can only happen in relationships humans have with one another, in I-Thou

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