Philosophy majors are having an increasingly more difficult time in protecting their major from scrutiny and outright vilification because philosophy is perceived as a useless endeavor that accomplishes nothing of value and provides nothing of value for others. Yet, a central issue that seems to remain unchallenged from those who attempt to remain politically correct, unlike the philosophers of old, is that the majority of people are led to believe that religion succeeds in fulfilling most of the ultimate questions about life. In fact, there are atheists who, despite breaking away from their religious orientation, believe that religious teachings are still a wonderful guide to live by because they presumably teach good morals.
Why don’t philosophy majors challenge these assumptions? How worthwhile can philosophy be perceived by the majority of people, if they implicitly believe that philosophy is secondary to religion in answering life’s most important questions? In fact, that’s exactly how religious recruiters try to convince people to join a specific religious faith. They promise to answer the most pertinent questions about life, morality, and meaning in life. Philosophy, a dynamic and broad subject matter, also tries to tackle these issues. How can it effectively do so when people are told that religion is all the understanding and meaning that they need in addressing such important questions?
I would argue that much of the backlash against philosophy is that philosophical questions too often tried to rationalize nonsensical religious assumptions and religious norms. It is religious teachings that gave philosophy a negative image and attempting to be complicit with these nonsensical religious values will result in philosophy’s self-immolation. Philosophy may become ridiculed until it no longer exists. And please consider this: the most famous philosophers were those that challenged religious norms and religious orthodoxy. Socrates in his apparent defiance of the Greek gods, Nietzsche for his challenge against Christian orthodoxy and values. and quite possibly the most successful philosopher of them all; the Buddha, for challenging the Caste system in ancient India. The Buddha was so successful that his philosophical underpinnings became both a religion and a philosophy. Philosophy, as an instrument of critical thinking and challenging life’s assumptions, must always bring an assault upon religious values to remain relevant to the public discourse. Those philosophers like Hobbes, Schopenhauer, and others that tried to rationalize religious values with philosophy formed idiotic concepts and systems that either had no basis in reality or led to logical extremes to stay consistent with worthless religious values. Ayn Rand is still celebrated by conservatives today; she was an atheist who denounced the belief in original sin as patently idiotic. Why do modern philosophers hesitate in continuing such traditions that make-up the backbone of philosophy?
Modern philosophers are simply being dishonest with themselves. Philosophical assaults upon religion, religious meaning and values, have produced the most intriguing and thought-provoking discussions on philosophy. It’s time to reignite that tradition!