Our Experience of God

Our Experience of God

Our Experience of God

Our Experience of God

Excerpt

In his recent book, My Philosophical Development, Bertrand Russell tells us that one of the two sources of his original interest in philosophy was his anxiety 'to discover whether philosophy would provide any defence for anything that could be called religious belief, however vague'. He soon concluded that philosophy could not do this and, as he also tells us, 'came to disbelieve first in free will, then in immortality, and finally in God'. My own experience, if I may compare my own case with that of an eminent philosopher, has been almost entirely the reverse. Religion had very little to do with my initial interest in philosophy. I was attracted to the subject at first by the clarity and neatness with which philosophical positions and arguments were presented to me by my first teachers in the subject, in whom I was singularly fortunate. Never have I listened to lectures which impressed me more by their elegance and clarity than those which the late Professor James Gibson delivered to his classes at Bangor, and I should like to take this opportunity of paying my tribute to the memory of that most learned and courteous gentleman.

In course of time, however, as I reached more advanced stages in the study of philosophy and became in turn a teacher of the subject myself, the bearing it had on my religious beliefs became more apparent and of more absorbing interest to me; and I am sure that I could not hold the faith which I now profess with the same firmness had I not had the good fortune to become a philosopher.

This is not at all because I found in philosophy a new and independent way of establishing religious truths, an alternative route to the one I had traversed before. It will be a major theme of this book that we cannot construct a religion for ourselves out of merely philosophical elements, and that the attempt to provide some philosophical or similar substitute for religion, as it normally presents itself, is misconceived. Perhaps Bertrand Russell and others have made the mistake of expecting philosophy to help in the way I disavow, and possibly much of their agnosticism may be traced to this source.

The place of philosophy in religion is not to provide proofs or supports for beliefs which are otherwise held on inadequate . . .

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