Science, Art and Religion
Volume 1 | Issue 2-4 | Year 2022

Religious Dilemmas

Anto Mišić1, Ivan Šestak2

1,2Faculty of Philosophy and Religious Studies, University of Zagreb, Zagreb, Croatia

Corresponding Author: Anto Mišić, Faculty of Philosophy and Religious Studies, University of Zagreb, Zagreb, Croatia, e-mail:


Man as an animal rationale et religiosum approaches reality in two ways: rationally—using concepts, and religiously—using myths, symbols, and rituals. Ever since man was sapiens, there have been speech and dilemmas about God, which man, according to his metaphysical intuition, has always posed. Philosophical discourse on God begins with reflections on the nature and value of religion. Dilemmas are possible in religious (philosophical) speech, but they are not possible in religious (faithful) speech. The philosopher seeks the truth, the believer seeks salvation, and they differ significantly in this. It is impossible to avoid that religion encounters philosophical thought because religion, like philosophy, is a “human event” as one of the forms of human life and existence, and everything that “happens” to man is always the subject of his reflection. That is why one can and must constantly ask oneself what religion is, and especially what my religion is, which determines the form of my life.

Because of his spiritual powers (reason and will), which form the essential part of the human being, man will always think and strive for truth (be a philosopher), just as he will always strive for freedom, goodness, and salvation (be a believer). Although there will always be people who are not philosophers and who are not believers. Just as it is not possible to separate man from his rationality, so it is not possible to separate him from his religiosity. And the dilemma from the title of this symposium: “Faith in God, unites or divides” should be changed into the statement: faith in God unites, not divides.


Čovjek kao animal rationale et treligiosum pristupa stvarnosti na dva načina: razumski – koristeći se pojmovima, i religiozno (vjernički) – koristeći se mitom, simbolima i obredima. Otkada je čovjek sapiens postoje i govor i dileme o Bogu, koje je čovjek po svojoj metafizičkoj intuiciji uvijek postavljao. Filozofski govor o Bogu započinje razmišljanjem o Božjoj naravi i vrijednosti religije. U religijskom (filozofskom) govoru moguće su dileme, njih pak nema u religioznom (vjerničkom) govoru. Filozof traži istinu, vjernik pak spasenje i u tome se bitno razlikuju. Nije moguće izbjeći da se religija ne susreće s filozofskim mišljenjem zato što je religija kao i filozofija “ljudsko događanje,” kao jedna od formi ljudskoga življenja i opstojanja, a sve ono što se čovjeku “događa,” uvijek je i predmet njegova promišljanja. Zato se čovjek može i mora stalno pitati što je religija, a posebno što je moja religija, koja određuje formu mojega života.

Zbog svojih duhovnih moći (razuma i volje), koje sačinjavaju bitni dio ljudskog bića, čovjek će uvijek razmišljati i težiti za istinom (biti filozof), kao što će uvijek težiti za slobodom, dobrotom i spasenjem (biti vjernik). Premda će uvijek biti ljudi koji nisu filozofi i koji nisu vjernici. Kao što nije moguće čovjeka odvojiti od njegove racionalnosti, isto tako nije ga moguće odvojiti ni od njegove religioznosti. A dilemu iz naslova ovog simpozija: “Vjera u Boga, spaja ili dijeli,” valja promijeniti u tvrdnju: “Vjera u Boga spaja, a ne dijeli.”

How to cite this article: Mišić A, Šestak I. Religious Dilemmas. Sci Arts Relig 2022;1(2-4):186-194.

Source of support: Nil

Conflict of interest: None

Keywords: Dilemma, Faith, Philosophy, Religion, Religious, Salvation, Truth.


Ever since man has been a rational being, he has been manifesting his rationality in relation to reality in a religious and rational way, which is why man can be defined as animal religiosum and animal metaphysicum. Homo sapiens talks about reality in a religious way, using myth (mythos) and symbols (symbolon), and in a rational way, using concepts (logos). Man talks about reality in a religious way since the dawn of his existence, interpreting cosmological beginnings of the world, as well as his own, and circumstances in which he has been living. The rational approach occurs much later in ancient Greece, the cradle of philosophy, where they attempted to interpret reality by the power of the mind (logic). That is when the first attempts to rationally interpret religion and religious phenomena appeared. Thus the foundations of the philosophy of religion were laid and many dilemmas were brought about. It was specifically in the attempt of rationalizing religion that different religious dilemmas, as well as philosophical (rational) problems, arose, while such dilemmas simply do not exist within a religion. In other words, there are religious dilemmas, but not dilemmas (uncertainties) within religion. And ever since, religion and philosophy (metaphysics) simultaneously, yet differently, discuss the same questions. Science comes out of philosophy, which brings about the separation of philosophy (of science) and religion, and the number of religious dilemmas grows. Kantian crisis of metaphysics prompted the division of the philosophy of religion into several forms of the science of religion, such as the phenomenology of religion, the sociology of religion, the psychology of religion, …which in turn further produced numerous new dilemmas. The process eventually led us to organize the studies of religious sciences, along with independent interdisciplinary field within the humanistic area. Just like in other areas of human contemplation, asking questions and searching for answers, religious area too has many dilemmas, unresolved and unasked questions. The very existence of dilemmas (doubts) often encourages further reflection and seeking new solutions. Ever since religion became the subject of philosophical thought there have been many dilemmas. For the philosopher, as opposed to the believer, a dilemma is a constituent part of the methodical search for the solution.a The title of our symposium is formulated as a dilemma: “Faith in God, unites or divides.” This article presents only a few religious dilemmas, that may be neither the most frequent nor the most important, however, we consider them paradigmatic: (1) Is man by his nature a religious being? (2) Philosophy and/or religion? (3) Should religion be discarded?


Religion, as man’s relationship to God or the Sacred, had existed even before philosophy. Philosophy is not the creator of religion. Religion is the subject of philosophical reflection independent of man. In order for religion to be properly analyzed, it is necessary to question over and over again what man is, who God is, and what the relationship is between them. In other words, religion must be viewed in its entirety. Since it is a question of the relationship of man and God, it is important to bear in mind that the way man lives and exists is reflected, and not the way man thinks. The spiritual space of the relationship between God and man is called religion. Religious people behave in a very specific—religious (faithful) way, while the philosopher thinks about religion in a religious (philosophical) way. The term religious (faithful) belongs to the realm of the personal, the emotional, the cult, and the sacred, as opposed to the religious (philosophical), which refers to logical and dialectical thinking about religion. Religiosity (faithfulness) is the subjective and free attitude of the believer, as opposed to the objective, religious (philosophical) attitude of one who studies religion and religious phenomena with the power of his mind. In the religious (faithful) relationship, initiative is on God’s side, and the mutual relationship between God and man (religion) is one of the essential and unavoidable ways of human existence. Starting from God, man’s survival is defined as religious (faithful). With this in mind, the task of philosophy in religious analysis is not originally man but God (divine, sacred), who is the foundation of religious (faithful) existence, that is, religion. Religious speech must therefore be directed primarily toward God (divine and sacred—theodicy), and only secondarily toward man’s religious behavior. The believer does not need philosophy to be a believer, the philosopher on the contrary needs faith as a subject of study, although he does not have to be a believer at the same time.

Given the importance of religion in human life, believers are convinced that religion is important for individuals and societies (nations) because it gives full and complete meaning to everything; gives answers to life’s questions that philosophy and science are not capable of providing (in despair and fear, in the face of death). In addition, religion provides the individual with the assurance that he is not alone even when everyone and everything leaves him, it supports in man the hope of eternal life. Religion is important in historical terms because without it there would not be great civilizations such as: Indian, Egyptian, Roman, European, Arab... Great works of art and literature, codes of ethics … have religious inspiration.1 Religion is a typical human characteristic or property (proprium), it is not found in any other being on earth. This fact was acknowledged by Feuerbach himself,2 and long before him by Cicero, who says: “Itaque ex tot generibus nullum est animal praeter hominem quod habeat notitiam aliquam dei, ipsisque in hominibus nulla gens est neque tam mansueta neque tam fera, quae non, etiamsi ignoret qualem haberi deum deceat, tamen habendum sciat.” (De leg., I, 24, 25). History, archeology, ethnology, and anthropology testify that man has been religious (faithful) since the earliest emergence in history and that all nations, regardless of culture and level of civilization, had some form of religiosity (faith) or religion.b,3 From the beginning, religion gave man the meaning of life, and encouraged him to explore nature and what is above it. Together with philosophy (science) and art, religion is the highest form of human creativity, the guardian of tradition, morality, and the teacher of wisdom, the key to history as Dawson claimed: “We cannot understand the inner form of a society unless we understand its religion. We cannot understand its cultural achievements unless we understand the religious beliefs that lie behind them. In all ages the first creative works of a culture are due to a religious inspiration and dedicated to a religious end. The temples of the gods are the most enduring works of man. Region stands at the threshold of all the great literatures of the world. Philosophy is its offspring and is a child which constantly returns to its parent.”4 Regardless of the fact that in modern times religion is experiencing a crisis, it is unacceptable to devalue man’s religiosity (faithfulness), which belongs to his essence or humanity. Just as it can be said that man is loquens, ludens, faber – although some do not speak, play, or work – so man is ens religiosum, a religious being—although there are those who are not religious. Rationality and religiosity belong to human nature: to be religious is as natural as to be rational. Although not all people are religious (faithful), religiosity (faithfulness) is of course a human trait, so religion and religious topics will remain a permanent subject of interest in many sciences, especially philosophy—the philosophy of religion. We are witnessing that the thesis of the “extinction of religion” proved to be illusory. In order for that to really happen, human nature would have to change!

Important contemporary questions about religion relate to its origins and nature. In other words, the dilemma could be formulated in the question: did God make man and teach him religion, or did man perhaps create God and invent himself religion? The fact confirmed by history, cultural anthropology, and archeology has already been pointed out when they cite undoubted data from the past that prove that man, since he has become man (homo sapiens) is at the same time a religious (faithful) being (homo religiosus). However, there is no clear answer to the question why man is a religious being. Whether religion belongs to the very nature of the human being or is it just an indicator of human impotence, a cultural experiment, a sign of immaturity, which will one day disappear completely in the future. Only man (animal rationale) is religious – animals are not – which means that religion and religious activities should be connected with man’s rational and spiritual structure or nature. It is thanks to his rationality that man establishes relationships that animals cannot establish: relationships of cognition, evaluation, assessment, calculation … In religion, man establishes relationships that are unthinkable in the animal world, and these are acts of worship, adoration, trust, and a relationship with the sacred and the divine. Religious (faithful) experience is different from all other human experiences. In it, namely, a relationship with transcendence is established! We return again to the question of the origin and purpose of religion: where does religion come from and why is man a religious being? The fact is that every human action has its own, independent object: sight—color, hearing—sound, sense of smell—smell, science—nature, desires—objects of desire … No activity: sensory, rational, or willing, creates the object to which they are directed. Does the same rule apply to religion? Does man invent the object of his religious activity (prayer, worship, sacrifice, myth,…) or is there a reality that encourages man’s religious (faithful) activity? It opposes common sense (ratio recta) that man prays, invokes, worships, adores … his own fantasies, ambitions, and utopias... It seems unconvincing that for centuries man would pay, and continues to pay, a price for something divine that could be described as a mere illusion or a stupid utopia. It is reasonable to conclude that man is as religious (faithful) as he is reasonable, free, social, communicative (…). Religiosity is part of his nature, in modern vocabulary—religion (religiosity) is inscribed in the human genome! Man is, therefore, religious (faithful), he has a natural ability to establish a relationship with the sacred and the transcendent, which animals and other living beings do not have.

But just as it is not enough to have the natural ability to see (healthy eyes) to see a tree, for example, a tree must also exist, so too in order for man to give a religious answer to a transcendent reality, that reality has to exist. In other words, for religion to exist, it is necessary for God to exist. If there were no God, there would be neither religion nor man as a religious (faithful) being. Just as without the stars there would be no astronomy, without the plants no botany, without the animals no zoology … For a religious man, that is, a man-believer, the existence of God is an indisputable fact, without any dilemmas. God is an integral part of his life, he talks to him confidentially, he prays to him, he rebels against his commands … God is the only unshakable security for man. This is the basis of the claim that dilemmas are possible only in philosophy (religious dilemmas), but not in faith (faith-based dilemmas). Religion has no foundation other than God. It is part of elementary religious logic. Religion comes from God and religious (faith-based) consciousness has an intuitive, immediate, and direct consciousness. When homo sapiens subjects religion to the court of reason (dialectics), dilemmas (doubts) are very possible. Therefore, in order to prove the reasonableness of religion, it is necessary to rationally prove that God exists, which would also be a rational foundation of religion. If there is no such evidence, then religion is in danger of falling into blind fideism and empty sentimentality. After Kant’s critique of metaphysics, there are fewer and fewer philosophers who metaphysically seek to establish religion, and religious scholars offer some other solutions, especially linking religion and mysticism. Philosophers are more concerned with the nature of religious expression than the foundations of religion and its nature. The content of religious experience is discussed more, emphasizing that feelings and mystical intuition are its main content. Theologians and philosophers of religion argue that religion has its foundation more in feelings and mystical experience than in reason. However, it should not be overlooked that a person, in addition to having feelings and intuition, also has a mind with which he must verify the authenticity and truthfulness of his own intuition and feelings. Philosophy and theology do not create this rationality in a religious man, but he must presuppose it.


A man who thinks independently of everything is a philosopher, and every man is a philosopher as long as thinks independently. Philosophy is an integral part of thinking, not some acquired knowledge of philosophical questions and solutions that are transferred into books. If we understand philosophy and philosophizing in this way, we can safely conclude that it is a distinctly human activity by which man freely and with his own strength seeks to understand what he thinks about in order to reach the truth. With freedom, he must resist everything that is imposed on him from the outside as the truth, thus confirming his independence. Independent thinking is a sign of freedom, and philosophy is a clear form of human freedom.5 Philosophical thinking must not be confined to human subjectivity, it must be an encounter and openness to the world that approaches it in a significant way, seeking answers. If we start from the metaphysical claim about the truth of being (omne ens est verum—ontic truth), philosophical thinking must start from the thing it thinks and to which that thought must correspond (adequacy—logical truth). Every thought (philosophical and scientific), if it wants to be true, must be focused on real(ity). If, therefore, one intends to reach the truth, one must get out of the rotation of the “thinking circle” of the thinker himself and focus on the object of thought, and that is the essence and being of things. All this is made possible by the human mind, which contemplates the essence and being of the world—and itself, and only then can we talk about philosophy. This is the essential difference between philosophy and experimental (exact) sciences. Philosophy is interested in essence and being, the truth of the being who thinks, while scientific thinking determines the facts, that something is one way or another (…), without wondering whether what is determined is also what is important. Knowledge of facts is not a philosophy, nor does it lead to it. “Im Bereich der Religion würde ein solches Denken zur Religionswissenschaft führen. Für die Religionsphilosophie wird es immer nützlih, ja unerlässlich sein, diese im Auge zu behalten. Aber Religionsphilosophie als Philosophie ist doch wieder etwas anderes.”5 The essence and Being of being are an inexhaustible source of human cognition, and therefore philosophical thought can never be completed, and this incompleteness is by no means a sign of the weakness of philosophical thought. The possibility of perfecting (growing) cognition belongs to the very essence of philosophical thinking. What has been achieved is limited, the possibilities that the Being of being opens up are unlimited.

Religion is the subject of philosophy’s thinking with which it wants to explain the essence and ways of Being. Dealing with religion, philosophy wants to answer the question of what religion is, without going into its various phenomena. Approaching religion as the object of its thought, the first thing that philosophy must acknowledge is that religion exists independently of philosophy, that it existed before philosophy, that it is not philosophy, and that it is only an object given to philosophy for reflection. Religion is only one of the subjects of thought in philosophy. One can justifiably ask whether religion is dangerous and superfluous for philosophy and philosophy for religion. Many opponents of religion believe that it is a human product and that it is only the fruit of human thought. At least the religions of the Abrahamic tradition can be said to have no philosophical roots. For example, Christianity has no philosophy at its roots. Jesus was not a philosopher; his teaching was not philosophical but religious—told in parables and symbols. In addition, historically, religion originated long before philosophy. It should also be noted that it is not possible for philosophy and religion not to meet: both are an integral part of “human events,” and both are ways of human life and existence. And everything that happens to a man is also the subject of his thinking (philosophy): “Macht der Mensch von seinem Selbst- und Seinsverständnis Gebrauch, dann fragt er: Was ist das, Religion?, und er geht denkend der Frage nach. Solch fragendes Denken über das Sein der Sache der Religion ist aber philosophisches Denken. Aus diesem Grunde ist philosophisches Denken über die Religion immer möglich dort, wo Religion von Menschen, in welcher Weise auch immer, verstanden wird.”5

Religion is expressed in language and categories of thought, so it lives in the form in which human life takes place. For this reason, religion has always influenced human history and man’s understanding of himself and all that is human. That is why one can and must constantly ask oneself what religion is, and especially what “my religion” is, which determines the form of life of the individual and the community. According to its structure, it is a philosophical question. The existence of religion shows that it is a real being, as a being it is the subject of metaphysical thinking about Being, and the essence of that being, and thus the subject of free human thinking, which takes its systematic form in the philosophy of religion. Therefore, the philosophy of religion is justified and grounded like other philosophical disciplines (ontology, anthropology, philosophy of cognition, theodicy, cosmology…). The existence and meaning of the philosophy of religion depend on religion as an object of thought, however, religion does not depend at all on philosophy (philosophical thinking). History testifies that religion independently shaped its life before and beyond philosophy and that its existence in no way depends on philosophy. However, the fact that in recent times there are more and more people who are not religious, that religion is losing the power of “entelechy” in people’s lives and in society, and that it is even not publicly discussed—this is why questions about the essence of religion, what it is and how to define it. If there is no God or Sacred, then what is the differentia specifica of religion with regard to other human “inventions.” If there is no God or he is dead, religion is meaningless. However, the question of God’s existence remains unresolved and unresolvable.

Although Nietzsche long ago declared that “God is dead,” and Marxist Vítezslav Gardavský put it more modestly in his book Gott ist nicht ganz tot, this is no reason not to think about religion and God’s existence. Fewer and fewer are convinced that religion will die and disappear. On the contrary, it is still present, in old and new forms, and the interest in the sacred, the mystical, and the transcendent is intensifying. Religion will continue to play an important role in human life and in the world, which is why it is necessary to intensify and reinforce thinking about the essence of religion. The importance of religions in consolidating peace in the world was pointed out by the Swiss theologian Hans Küng with his project “Weltethos.”6 Religiology and religious sciences certainly have a future. It is also justified to ask the question whether philosophy is dangerous for religion and religion for philosophy, about the relationship between philosophy and religion (science and religion). That danger depends on how philosophy deals with religion. If it seeks to truly explain the essence and being of religion, then there is no danger. Philosophy must start from the fact that religion is independent of philosophy. For philosophy, religion is only an independent object to which it directs its intellectual attention. Philosophy can only reveal but not determine the essence of religion. Religion, on the contrary, must be aware of and recognize the independence of philosophy (science), and its diversity in method and purpose. Philosophy and religion are different, but not adversaries. As collaborators, they could bring greater benefits to all of humanity.

Religion is a layered and complex phenomenon; it is easier to describe it than to define it. Philosophy seeks to define phenomena (concepts) by determining their essence, for example, that a triangle is a geometric figure with three angles and three sides. Religion is not such a simple term that is easy to determine its class and specific difference. Another difficulty is the fact that religion is a set of many different activities within the sacred and the divine, something very different from any other human activity or which can be reduced to dialectical analysis. And while other human activities have a clear object and goal, for example, medicine health, politics the common good, economics profit, philosophy truth…, religion affects the whole human being, spirit, and body, it is all-pervading and all-encompassing—as Guardini says.c,7 With his religiosity, man responds to God and not to the reason (philosophy), which in turn means that these answers are neither subject to the laws of logic nor are they expressed by dialectical rules, but through symbols, rites, laws, and institutions... And while the goal of philosophizing is to discover the truth, religion offers salvation. The means by which they reach the goal are different: philosophy by the power of logic (comprehension, judgment, inference); religion through internal means (virtue, humility, obedience, trust, hope, surrender, love, worship…) and external (symbols, rituals, myths, legends, intuition). It is through the power of intuition that man reaches out to God, the object of his orientation.

In order to better understand the essence of religion, it must be placed in relation to philosophy (metaphysics) and to God (revelation). In addition to many significant differences, philosophy and religion have much in common. Both are interested in the same object: the sacred, the transcendent, the absolute, God. It is known in history that some people in philosophy found the way of salvation (σωτηρία), as an alternative to religion. Philosophy used to have the role that the New Age, Scientology, and other spiritual and para-religious movements play today. Philosophy and religion, however, differ significantly. Even when they deal with the same object, their approach is different. Thus, for example, God is seen in philosophy as the first cause of being, while religion sees God as a source of hope and salvation. The goal of religion is the salvation and worship of God, and the goal of philosophy is truth. In particular, they differ in the means by which they seek to achieve a goal. In religion, God has the initiative, man adheres to God with all his being, not speculatively, but through piety, cult, prayer … In philosophy, on the contrary, man has the initiative, he explores the causes and principles with the power of his mind, and only at the end of the research does he come to know the first cause, pure reality, an independent being … to what religion calls God. Philosophy comes to God rationally, religion intuitively. Philosophy expresses its knowledge in concepts, and religion in symbols. Although the object is the same (Absolute, Infinite), the experience is different. Philosophy tries to classify things according to the diversity of being, to explore reasons, and to determine necessities. In such series, the uniqueness and personal dimension of the experience of the Absolute are lost. Religion, on the contrary, has a completely different approach to God. It does not approach him by thinking but by free consent and emotion. It tries to enable a straightforward and direct relationship with God. Only religion gives man an authentic relationship with God, at the same time leaving him to exist in his infinity. A religious man in the finiteness of the world seeks to recognize the images, prints, and expressions of the Infinite. Schleichermacher was among the first to bring to light a clear distinction between philosophy and religion.8 And while he emphasizes a purely subjective level, reducing religions to feelings, Scheler believes that philosophy and religion differ on a subjective and objective level. On the subjective: “L’atto religioso accetta ciò che si rivela, ciò che manifesta se stesso; l'atto di conoscenza metafisica gli si pone spontaneamente di fronte in virtù di operazioni logiche. La relazione che consiste nel 'rivelarsi' è una relazione simbolica (…) Lo spirito la scorge soltanto nell'atto religioso. Da qui anche l'immensa differenza dal processo metafisico di pensiero, che guida al concetto di Ens a se, partendo indifferentemente da ogni ente contingente e relativo, mentre nella conoscenza religiosa di questa determinazione fondamentale del divino sono sempre determinatissime, uniche o almeno secondo la specie fortemente circoscritte cose concrete o avvenimenti, eventualmente anche esperienze psichiche, nella quali il divino si manifesta.”9 There are also great differences on an objective level in that philosophy (metaphysics) is capable of discovering the Being itself (ens per se) but gives it neither holiness nor personality, so the two essential marks that religion attaches to God (the Being itself): “La metafisica può tentare di mostrare questo concatenamento come logicamente necessario per molteplici vie di deduzione e dimostrazione (…) Qualunque cosa si concluda con la coerenza logica di tali deduzioni–è certo che la coscienza religiosa non giunge per questa strada all'idea di Dio santo. Che (poi) l’essere il quale possiede valore supremo, e lo possiede solo per sé e in sé, debba possedere anche l'esistenza–nonché’ l'ente assoluto sia necessariamente anche in se valore assoluto–per la coscienza religiosa è un assioma ontico sintetico” (Scheler, 1970, 281–283). An important difference between philosophy and religion is also manifested in the fact that philosophy (metaphysics) cannot replace religion, as some philosophers from Plato to Hegel thought. A philosopher can know God better than a believer, but he does not become homo religiosus. On the contrary, religion has the right to oppose philosophy when it proposes theories that destroy its foundations—such as God’s existence, transcendence, providence … From another point of view, philosophical knowledge of God in the light of religious experience may have new and greater importance. In conclusion, it could be said that philosophy (science) and religion are not mutually exclusive, but, while respecting mutual independence and uniqueness, complement and help each other. Therefore, in the relationship between philosophy and religion, the “either-or” formula is unacceptable and “both-and” is acceptable.


Deniers of God’s existence have been a huge exception for centuries. Even in the Old Testament Psalm we read: “The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God” (Psalm 53: 2). The theocentric image of the world, which interprets nature and society starting from God, is replaced in 17th and 18th century Europe by the spiritual and intellectual movement of the Enlightenment, which puts man at the center, promotes great confidence in the human mind, in its power to know and interpret nature and society. It was at that time, that a wider rejection of religion appeared as well as denial of God’s existence—atheism. In the second half of the 20th century, the rejection of religion became a mass movement. The answer to this phenomenon is given by philosophy, but also by other social sciences such as psychology, sociology, political science... There are several major causes for discarding religion: ignorance, indifference, agnosticism, secularization, and atheism.

Despite all the efforts in the educational processes and the benefits of the means of communication, a great deal of religious ignorance about one’s own, and especially about other people’s religions, is widespread. It is easy to reject what is poorly known! Religious indifference shows indecision toward any form of religiosity. It is a state of mind that is indecisive and is shown in theory and/or practice. The indecisive do not feel any religious obligation and therefore perceive religion as useless rather than harmful. Agnosticism is a kind of intellectual laziness; it easily accepts the powerlessness of the mind in the face of transcendence. Agnostics believe that reason must be limited to earthly reality, phenomena, to what happens in time and space, while everything that transcends earthly reality is neither possible nor useful to think about. The power of the mind reduces itself to the realm of science and the negation of transcendence (God) and the realm of spirit (soul). Since agnosticism is originally a philosophical attitude, then the answer should be sought in philosophy and not in religion. We believe that agnosticism is not only harmful to religion but also to philosophy because it reduces reason to “instrumental reason,” slowly leading to its destruction. The best defense against agnosticism is to prove the mind’s ability to know the truth, and this is possible with Aristotle’s analysis of the first principles (especially of non-contradiction), Augustine’s principle si fallor sum, or Descartes’ cogito, ergo sum. Secularization also does not reject religion directly and straightly but seeks to reduce its influence by changing its role in the lives of individual and society. Secularization seeks to replace the “sacred” with the “profane.” And while in the field of social relations it can be positive, secularism, nevertheless, is an unacceptable ideology. Every ideology seeks to become a politics and wants to manage the lives of the individual and society on its own. The distinction between secularization and secularism was already exemplified by the evangelical theologian Friedrich Gogarten (1887–1967) in his work Verhängnis und Hoffnung der Neuzeit (1953), who characterized secularism as man’s maturity that makes him ready to take responsibility for his own life, and all this without denying God. He considered secularism useless and absurd because it sets secularism as the criterion of truth, the program of life, and the way of salvation—as an ideology. Secularization seeks to change the notion of the world and man and to turn their orientation toward transcendence into a horizontal and rational understanding, excluding the influence of religion and religious institutions. Secularization is an effort to narrow the space of the “sacred” as much as possible and replace it with the “profane.” However, this is by no means a simple or one-way process, and the border is shifting. The cause of this mobility and instability of the border between the sacred and the profane, God and man, is man himself, who wants to be the only judge of these relations: “La persona umana è il luogo centrale, irremovibile della lotta tra il movimento del mondo che si scosta da Dio e quello che a Die si accosta.”10 Secularity as abandoning the theocentric and accepting the secular and anthropocentric worldview is a hallmark of modern culture. As it is well known, the causes of secularism are numerous and multiple. They began in the late Middle Ages with the disintegration of the so-called res publica christiana and the creation of nation-states that emerged in protracted wars, which slowly led to the secularization of state and politics. Other important sources of secularization are: the development of natural sciences, especially physics, chemistry, and biology, and Descartes and his philosophical heirs (idealism, positivism, materialism, historicism, vitalism, pansexualism, existentialism, structuralism, pragmatism, etc.). The progenitors of these systems: Hegel, Comte, Marx, Nietzsche, Freud, Sartre, Heiedegger, and others, sought to completely exclude transcendence, the sacred and religion, and make it not only superfluous, unnecessary but also harmful. Secularization has affected all areas of culture, politics, philosophy, history, law, morals, pedagogy, anthropology, literature, art, theater, etc. Initially, it was accepted as a methodological instrument, but later it was increasingly turned into a criterion of truth. Thus, secularization turned into secularism and atheism.

In spite of all the announcements of the prophets of secularization that religion will die and disappear, religion and the sacred have not disappeared! It is not, of course, questionable that they are going through a period of crisis, that people are losing their sense of the sacred. That loss is a consequence of modernism, which manifests itself in many forms: immanentism, rationalism, anthropocentrism, subjectivism...11 It is not surprising that atheists are all the main representatives of the philosophical directions just listed. It is also obvious that modernism loses its power and influence, especially when post-modernism appears in the middle of the 20th century, in which religion, instead of disappearing, reverses: interest in the sacred and transcendence, and thus in religion, awakens, in which sacredness and transcendence are essential components.12 Secularization by no means implies the end of religion. And it has already been shown that even the militant secularism perpetrated by communist countries was incapable of destroying religion. We are convinced that human religiosity will never be destroyed because human nature itself would have to change. As long as a man is a man, he will remain an unsolvable secret to himself with many unsolvable dilemmas, even about himself. As Augustine would say: “Mihi magna quaestio factus sum” (Conf., 4, 4, 9). The unsolvability of mystery and the allure of mysticism will never be solved by the natural sciences, and the human need for the sacred remains permanent because man is the only being who is religious by his nature.

Regardless of man’s religious nature, in recent times atheism has become a mass phenomenon, and religious practice is declining to the same extent. In the early 1960s, Christian theologians even tried to develop a new theology of “without God” or the theology of “dead God” (Gott-ist-tot-Theologie, Theothanatologie). An encyclopedia of atheism has even been written! In the 1950s, it seemed as if people of Western European culture had turned their backs on God and religion. Apparently, the situation is changing at the beginning of the 21st century. The Austrian philosopher Coreth states: “Some signs of the times seem to herald change. In this secularization of the world, many, also new religious movements, are emerging. As much as they can be assessed pluralistically and differently, they nevertheless testify to man’s following God and finding the meaning of life in faith in God. Religious faith is admittedly suppressed, but it is by no means extinct, it proves to be ineradicable and is always revived because it is rooted in the human being.”13 Atheism is becoming less and less widespread and is becoming what it has always been in the past: the attitude of a relatively small number of people. Atheism occurs in many different forms in theory and practice. Some philosophers, such as Nietzsche, Feuerbach, Marx, Freud, Sartre … explicitly deny the reality of God, and some philosophical systems such as materialism, positivism and evolutionism, vitalism, and existentialism... imply atheism. Theoretical atheism, turned into ideology and then into politics, turned into militant atheism, which tried to destroy religion by violence, while creating a kind of para-religion by imitating religious rites in profane ones, and political rhetoric was similar to religious rhetoric. We remember a slogan like the one: “We are in Tito, Tito is in all of us.” Militant atheism was practiced by countries ruled by communism. Today, these regimes have largely failed and disappeared.

Among the important causes of atheism are: immanentism, rationalism, secularization, modernism, the development of science, and the growth of prosperity. Yet it seems that the main sources of atheism should be sought in the Humanism and Renaissance of the 16th century, in the anthropological turn, shifting the center from God to man and accepting the process of secularization. At that time man slowly assumes the attributes of God (knowledge, power, creation, …), at the same time striving to eliminate every thought of the sacred and the divine. These attitudes will lead to the famous sentence of the father of atheism, Ludwig Feuerbach: “God did not create man, but man created God.” A kind of “official” entry of atheism into European civilization, however, occurred during the French Revolution.d,14

Atheism convinces people that outside this world there is nothing that would transcend man, some supreme being, creator and master of nature, source of values, moral and social laws. If man is by nature a religious being (as confirmed by the atheists Feuerbach, Sartre, Bloch...), then why does someone become an atheist? Why is religion discarded? Why has the denial of God’s existence become so widespread that we can speak of a time of “dead God?” The answer is neither easy nor simple because there are no generally accepted reasons that would apply to every individual. The Second Vatican Council cites a number of reasons for the emergence of atheism and religious indifference: “For while God is expressly denied by some, others believe that man can assert absolutely nothing about Him. Still others use such a method to scrutinize the question of God as to make it seem devoid of meaning. Many, unduly transgressing the limits of the positive sciences, contend that everything can be explained by this kind of scientific reasoning alone, or by contrast, they altogether disallow that there is any absolute truth” (Gaudium et spes, n. 19).e The negation of God is often fueled by an excessive elevation of dignity and faith in man. We should not ignore the distorted images of God and the strange religiosity that people have created throughout history, which can justifiably provoke resistance and protest. The denial of God has also been caused by terrible suffering and injustice in the history of mankind, especially in the 20th century – in our opinion – by almost all standards, the worst century in history! There are, however, many other arguments that atheists cite to justify their denial of God, and here we cite them only in hints. Undoubtedly, these are the great successes of science in objective cognition of the world, which at the same time excludes the mythological, religious, and metaphysical ones. There is also the existence of evil, which for many is incompatible with the concept of God as the omnibenevolent, omnipotent, and absolute being. It is worth remembering at this point the writer and philosopher A. Camus who often used the problem of evil as an argument for the negation of God. Let’s just remember his work The Plague! For many, like Nietzsche or Bakunin, man’s freedom and God’s existence are incompatible. It is often cited as an argument for rejecting God and a bad example of the faithful and the church hierarchy, so examples from history are cited: the Crusades, the Inquisition, the trial of Galileo, the burning of witches and heretics, the persecution of Jews, etc. These ad hominem arguments are often, however, the result of ideological views or falsifications of history. Technical progress has helped man to change his relationship with nature—from a subject to a master! Nature is no longer perceived as visible traces of God but as a “construction site” of human products. Technical progress has not only destroyed forests, polluted air and water, and eradicated many plant and animal species, but has also destroyed the sense of holiness and communication with God: “Il mondo e tutto ciò che in esso esiste è ora qualcosa, possiamo dire, di naturale. È soltanto mondo, mondo secolare.”15 Economic prosperity certainly favors the spread of atheism because it gives the illusion that one can live without God, and encourages religious indifference and practical atheism. Atheism has also benefitted from numerous prejudices about God and religion, such as that science will solve all life’s problems and dilemmas; and some schools of thought, for example, evolutionism, positivism, Freudian psychoanalysis, Marxism-Leninism, (…) which unjustifiably attribute a scientific character to themselves. Finally, let us mention the area of effect and passion that is often present in the denial of God, especially in the so-called “Promethean atheism” which sees in God an opponent, competitor, rival, strict judge, undesirable observer, and inconvenient witness to their actions … In such circumstances, it is “very convenient” to exclude or deny God. Atheistic attitudes can be answered by showing the unfoundedness with which atheism seeks to justify itself.


Ever since there was homo sapiens, there has been talk of God and religion. Man, by his metaphysical intuition, asks questions to which he answers first in a mythological (pre-philosophical) way, while much later he will begin a philosophical discourse on the divine nature and value of religion. Unlike philosophy, which is interested in the essence and Being of being (even the divine), religion is more interested in God’s action, which he speaks of in a mythological way, using images and symbols available to him in nature. Topics dealing with myths and religion are much more existential than ontological ones, and an attempt to replace religious (mythological) discourse on God with philosophical (rational) discourse is found in some Greek philosophers who seek to interpret polytheism monotheistically. Plato also spoke about the “supreme being,” about the identification of God with one of his archetypal ideas (goodness, unity, truth, being) and the attempt to prove God’s existence (The Laws, 886, a). Other philosophers also spoke not only of God’s action, but also of God’s essence and his existence. Thus, Aristotle points to an order in the world that requires a “supreme director,” and to a movement that presupposes a “first unmoved mover.” The Christian philosopher and theologian Augustine finds the argument for God’’s existence in the truth that exists in the human mind (De lib. arb., 2, 13–15). In later centuries this will be discussed by great minds like Anselm, Thomas, Descartes, Kant, all the way to atheist philosophers like J.-P. Sartre and some contemporary philosophers.

Since philosophy is not limited to the field and topics of reflection, it also deals with the analysis of religion and religious phenomena. The dialectic of philosophical reasoning, because of its limitations, often ends in dilemma, aporia, and antinomy, without clear and generally accepted opinion. In thinking about religion, we first encounter the conceptual dilemma of religious (faithful) and religious (philosophical). The term religious (faithful) belongs to the realm of the personal, the emotional, the cult, and the sacred, as opposed to the religious (philosophical), which refers to logical and dialectical thinking about religion. A man can be religious (faithful), a believer. It is a matter of subjective and free attitude. The term religious (philosophical) denotes the result that is reached by objective reasoning with the power of the mind. Religious speech and behavior are about the relationship between God and man. Religious discourse is about the relationship between the cognitioner and the object of cognition. If the claim that man is by nature a religious (faithful) being is correct, then it is unacceptable to deny and devalue man’s religiosity, just as it would be inappropriate to deny and devalue his rationality or freedom—either in theory or in practice. History shows that there was an illusory expectation of the extinction of religion. Philosophy and religion are not mutually exclusive, a believer and an atheist should not be adversaries. A philosopher can know God better than a believer without becoming a believer, just as a believer can be involved in the rational exploration of the world without renouncing its creator. Philosophy and religion differ in many ways, but they are by no means mutually exclusive. With respect for mutual independence and uniqueness, they complement and help each other, so in the dilemma of the relationship between philosophy and religion, the formula “either-or” is unacceptable and “both-and” is acceptable. In modern society, and it is obvious that this will be the case in the future, the social community will be made up of believers and non-believers. There will always be “justified” reasons for someone to be an atheist or agnostic, to theoretically and practically reject religion; as will a person who will be a believer by free choice, for emotional, mystical, and many other reasons, although he will not always be able to rationally justify the content of his belief. Philosophy is the fruit of reason and religion of free will. Just as a man without reason and will would not be a “complete man,” so a human society without philosophy and religion would not be a truly human society. Therefore, we would change the dilemma from the title of this symposium: “Faith in God, unites or divides,” into a personal belief that “Faith in God unites, not divides!”


Anto Mišić

Ivan Šestak


a The term “dilemma” (from the Greek δίς = twice and λῆμμα = assertion) is a two-part assumption, in which the choice of one of two or more possibilities is imposed.

b So Aristotle claims: “” (Aristotle, De coelo et mundo, I, 3; 270 b 5-6). On this line in recent times, among many philosophers and phenomenologists of religion, H. Bergson makes a similar remark: “On trouve dans le passé, on trouverait même aujourd’hui des sociétés humaines qui n’ont ni science, ni art, ni philosophie. Mais il n’y a jamais eu de société sans religion” (Bergson, 1965, 105).

c “La realtà religiosa tocca il punto più vivo dell'uomo, il centro più sensibile del suo essere personale. Ridesta perciò affetti molto specifici che riguardano solo essa: una forma speciale di pudore, di reverenza, di timore, di desiderio, di amore, di zelo, di beatitudine, di fiducia. Essa però tocca anche il centro normativo dell'uomo: la 'coscienza morale'. Intendiamo con ciò, secondo un senso più largo, l'organo che apprende il valore. Il religioso tocca questa coscienza. Le pone le sue esigenze, e non con forza, ma attraverso il significato e il diritto. L'uomo deve: o fare o tralasciare qualcosa; orientare in un certo modo la sua vita. Egli non può contestare il diritto di questa esigenza che gli è posta, perché è evidente. Può solo respingerla, disubbidirle, eluderla (…) L'esperienza religiosa apre un 'mondo', intesa la parola in senso oggettivo e soggettivo; una coordinazione di cose e di fatti, di rapporti con gli uomini e le cose, di azioni e di opere, di esperienze e di situazioni: tutta un'altra 'esistenza“(Guardini, 1964, 244-245).

d “Le conseguenze di questo cambiamento di fede dovevano farsi sentire molto in fretta. Mentre i bagliori della Rivoluzione Francese passano fulminei attraverso il Vecchio e il Nuovo Mondo, non solo per i filosofi, i letterati, gli uomini politici ma anche per la gente comune, la religione diventa sempre più esplicitamente religione dell’uomo, religione della libertà e dell’eguaglianza, religione del progresso e del benessere, religione della bellezza, della salute e dell’efficienza. Così mentre da una parte la religione di Dio viene processata e condannata sotto varie imputazioni: illusione, alienazione, oppressione, risentimento, ignoranza, barbarie, oscurantismo, ecc.; dall’altra la religione dell’uomo raccoglie consensi sempre più vasti; e il vangelo dell’ateismo, sotto la spinta della secolarizzazione, del razionalismo, del progresso tecnico-scientifico, della pressione politica e del benessere si diffonde rapidamente ovunque, in tutti gli strati della società e in tutte le componenti e i settori della cultura, dando origine a quell’ateismo di massa di cui si è detto in precedenza” (Mondin, 2012, 87).

e In Summa theologiae, Thomas Aquinas gives two arguments that can lead reason not to acknowledge the existence of God and to advocate atheism: (1) evil: “Si ergo Deus esset, nullum malum inveniretur.”, for God is good; (2) the scientific law of simplicity, which prescribes that preference be given to a theory that postulates a smaller number of principles. “Sed videtur quod omnia quae apparent in mundo, possunt compleri per alia principia, supposito quod Deus non sit, quia ea quae sunt naturalia, reducuntur in principium quod est natura; ea vero quae sunt a proposito, reducuntur in principium quod est ratio humana vel voluntas. Nulla igitur necessitas est ponere Deum esse” (S. th. I, q. 2, a. 3 (obj. 1. et 2.).


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