Religion without God

Religion without God

Religion without God

Religion without God


This criticism of theism, especially monotheism, questions the assumption that rejecting God means rejecting religion. Drawing on Western philosophical critiques of religion and non-theistic Eastern religions, Ray Billington shows how a religion without God could work.The concept of religion without God has informed not only the theories of Nietzsche, Kant and Spinoza, but also expressions of belief in Indian and Chinese religions-Hinduism, Theravada Buddhism Zen and Taoism. Concluding with a look at the "the future of faith," this is a wide ranging and lucidly-written look at what it means to "have faith" and how this is distinct from religious belief.Ray Billington is an experienced and respected author on Eastern religion and philosophy. His books include Understanding Eastern Philospophy , Living Philosophy and East of Existentialism , all published by Routledge. He also writes occasional journalism most notably as a contributor to The Guardian's 'Face to Faith' column. An ex-Methodist minister and onetime chaplain with the SAS, he has now retired from his post as Principal Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of the West of England.


In his introduction to the Salvation Army hymnbook, in which many hymns were set to the music of popular songs, William Booth asked rhetor-ically, ‘Why should the devil have all the good tunes?’ I wish in what follows to approach the situation in reverse: why should Christianity, Judaism or Islam lay sole claim to the transcendental? By what right are representatives of these three expressions of theism allowed to hold the stage whenever the need is felt to refer to what John Hick describes as ‘the fifth dimension’?

And hold the stage they do, both in situations with which few are involved and those which, potentially, draw everybody in. The House of Commons begins each day with prayers conducted by a Church of England chaplain from across the road in Westminster Abbey. ‘Thought for the Day’ on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme is almost invariably given by a spokesperson for the theistic view of life. Bishops play a leading part in determining the law of the land through their seats in the British Upper House. Religious education is still a compulsory subject in state schools, and as I write the government has announced increased aid (paid for by every-body’s taxes) to church schools, where theistic beliefs can be freely broadcast without fear of contradiction.

The assumption behind all these practices is that when it comes to religion one must turn for guidance to those who proclaim the fact of God and are experts in interpreting his will. The more frequently people are reminded of him, it is assumed, the more willingly they are likely to accept whatever frustrations life brings them and live as his obedient servants; and the sooner this message is instilled in children, the better for all.

What has to be challenged is the assumption that only theists have anything authoritative to say on the fundamental nature of being, the purposiveness or otherwise of life, human nature and human destiny. Others to whom I refer from time to time are, happily, in the process of making this challenge publicly, and I simply offer my voice in support, without further pursuing that particular aspect of the situation. Those in situ must continue the fight, for example to have religious instruction removed from its status

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