Do We Need Philosophy of Religion Anymore?

There has been some blogging recently about whether philosophy of religion should still be taught. The recent discussion appears to have been sparked by an interview that a blogger known as the Godless Skeptic conducted with Graham Oppy (Monash) about his recent book, Reinventing Philosophy of Religionin which he objects to the homogeneity of the field, which is composed mainly of Christian theists, and dominated by questions relevant to Christianity (see Helen De Cruz’s study here, which, I would guess, underreports the prevalence of Christianity in the field as a whole).  Atheist author John Loftus then responded to the interview, “calling for an end of the philosophy of religion as a discipline in secular universities.” To this, Matt DeStefano, a PhD student at Arizona, disagreed, arguing that philosophy of religion should not be eliminated, but improved, basing his suggestions on the very interesting article, “Diagnosing Bias in Philosophy of Religion,” by Paul Draper (Purdue) and Ryan Nichols (CSU Fullerton), that appeared in The Monist last year. They write:

The practical importance of philosophy of religion, the intense interest of non-philosophers and students of philosophy in the subject, and the central role that topics in philosophy of religion play in the history of philosophy all strongly suggest that philosophy of religion is a vital part of the discipline of philosophy, worth saving.

That seems correct, even if atheism seems correct, too. Of course, there is the question of whether philosophy of religion can be saved. The main worry seems to be that it is a cover for Christian apologetics, owing to entrenched social factors and biases. I personally do not know enough about the field to know whether that is a fair characterization. For a few reasons, it is not a sociologically surprising fact that most philosophy of religion in the West today is conducted by Christian theists. But it is certainly philosophically surprising (bordering on philosophically suspect) that, of all the possible options for religious belief (which include not just actual religions), only a narrow slice of them are taken seriously by philosophers of religion. I invite others to chime in here, particularly those working in or more familiar with philosophy of religion.

UPDATE: The site, Philosophy of Religion, has a series of guest posts taking up the question “What is philosophy of religion?” Thanks to Paul Draper for pointing this out in the comments.

UPDATE (7/30/14): From a gem of a comment by John Schellenberg: “Atheism, as I see it, therefore marks not the end of philosophy of religion but is something more like its beginning. Of course, if one is suffering from such common afflictions as the assumption that there are no real intellectual options in this realm other than traditional theism and metaphysical naturalism, or the virus that subtly turns one’s mind from a love of truth to an activist orientation, then one cannot be expected to make much sense of this. But philosophy is supposed to deliver us from such afflictions.”

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