The larger world of philosophy of religion

If you look through the philosophy of religion literature, you will probably notice that most of the papers have to do with either classical theism or naturalism. With theism, more specifically, you’ll notice that most of those papers are by Christian theists. But, I think there is a much larger world outside of theism vs. naturalism, Christian theism, etc.

For instance, not all atheists are naturalists. It is true that naturalism entails atheism, but it is not true that atheism entails naturalism. Moreover, if one looks at the survey results, they will find that a large chunk of atheists are not naturalists. Hence, we can already see a third option between naturalism and theism.

And what about theism? Well, in the literature one is usually referring to classical or traditional theism. That is, the belief that there exists an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent being. However, this doesn’t exhaust the options when speaking of theism. There is also deism, pantheism, panentheism, pandeism, henotheism, polytheism, and so on. Panentheism and process theism have gained traction in philosophy, especially starting in the 20th century. However, panentheism isn’t discussed anywhere near the same amount as bare bones theism or Christian theism.

It was noted earlier that a lot of the work done in philosophy of religion is done by Christian theists. Moreover, over 2/3 of the field is populated by theists. It seems to be odd that that field has so many theists compared to atheists, particularly when you compare those numbers to professional philosophers who are in other fields. Most philosophers are atheists, but most philosophers of religion are theists. Given this, I think philosophy of religion would greatly benefit if more atheists joined the field. For example, you could get more papers written on arguments against the existence of God. This is not to say that theists couldn’t conjure up arguments against God’s existence in their head, but it is to say that atheists are more likely to write out arguments against God’s existence and seek to get those papers published.

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