Philosophy vs Religion: Something to Believe

Funeral Industry News March 14, 2024
Philosopher statue

Philosophy vs Religion: Something to Believe

Nowadays, our memorial services and life celebrations are typically based on a framework of morality or belief. It’s by no means standard: while many such services may be religious in nature (like Judaism or Catholicism), others observe specific philosophical practices (like Buddhism, in which the idea of a Creator is not central). Others still may be more ‘general,’ without a specific focus on any particular type of value system.

But all such modes of thought have one big thing in common: they’re based on registers of values. Our remembrances reflect a widespread human tendency to seek meaning – and goodness – in each of our lives.

More Alike Than Different

These are murky waters to stir up: religion and philosophy, the ultimate nature/virtue of humanity. Discussion goes back millenia, and disagreement on ultimate truth is still the source of extreme conflict today.

Clearer, however, is the fact that these types of belief frameworks are prevalent among cultures the world over, particularly in contexts of mortality, such as a funeral or memorial service. And whether a memorial follows a religious format or not seems less important than the act of recognizing a person’s values and goodness in some practice, no matter what form that practice takes.

It appears to be an almost innate tendency, nearly instinctive to human character, to testify to the quality of a person’s life. How this is done is often secondary to the doing itself, and different regions have different culturally prevalent ideas about what matters or how it should be expressed, whether this importance comes from a religion, a lifestyle, or personal opinion.

Hot or Cold, but Not Lukewarm

A big difference between religion and the extraordinarily complex region of thought we know as philosophy is belief in God.  But God’s presence (contested or otherwise) isn’t the only difference, or even the most important feature. That distinction belongs to the act of belief itself.

Compare: religions of any stripe are based on an idea of a Creator, a God (or Gods) superior to humanity; humanity’s designer with superpowers. Philosophies, on the other hand, are commonly held to represent a fund of knowledge on a certain area of thought, based in reason or some other objective standard, like logic. Human ideas, underpinning an interpretation of how human society, in all of its complexities, might work.

That sounds complicated as it simultaneously simplifies things too much. But a larger-than-life common element stands out between these primary modes we use ritually to mark our lives: in all of our ways of coming at the problem of our human existence and meaning, in every single one of them, we posit the importance of our own belief.

Whether what we believe is right or wrong may be up for debate.  But there’s no question of the inviolable sanctity of belief’s role in our final appraisals of ourselves and the importance of our lives as a species, as well as how we mark their value.

And humans with the power to form a belief at our centers by which we orient all else, it looks like perhaps the human capacity to believe could itself be our superpower.