Religion vs Philosophy

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Hello, friends! This particular topic has come up in my life quite recently! I have found that it not only applies to our day-to-day lives but our efforts in worldbuilding! What is this topic, you say? Did you even bother to read the title? Well, my dears, I will be explaining the difference between religion (faith) and philosophy (logic) and how exactly they each can apply to the world that you may be building!

Disclaimer: I am not, nor have I ever been, an expert on these sort of things. But, I like to think I have a quick mind and a fashionable way of explaining concepts, so here it is!


Religion. It is a pervasive topic throughout society, and you can hardly avoid it unless you decide to live under a rock. But what exactly is it? Luckily, the official definition lays it out rather simply:

n. the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods
n. a particular system of faith and worship

However, as life usually turns out to be, religion is much more complex than its definition. Some religions demand absolute piety or risk expulsion (or excommunication) from the religion/heaven, as seen before in Roman Catholicism. Others, such as Shinto and Buddhism in Japan, are simply part of the culture for most practitioners; many may not even actually believe in the gods they profess to "worship."

So, when building a pantheon or a singular god/goddess, it is important to determine not only how people worship but why they worship. Is it simply because his father and his father's father, etc. did so? Or is it out of fervent belief and devotion? Furthermore, it is always important to remember that there will almost always be different interpretations and ideas applied to a particular religion; faith in a deity is hardly ever cut-and-dry even in a fictional world.

If you want to remain in the realm of semi-realism, draw inspiration from the religious schisms and conflicts that have occurred throughout history! Although you could say that your particular religion is militant or somehow an exception to the rule, it detaches from the fact that people are geared to think differently. Even when Mary, Queen of Scots, was burning Protestants at the stake, the ideas and doctrines survived--and now here we are with more Christian denominations than we can count (disregarding the "non-denominational" altogether). Even Islam--which is arguably more difficult to misinterpret--has the Sunnis and Shiites originally based on who rightfully succeeded Muhammed!

So, whatever you decide, keep in mind that people are diverse, even in small numbers. And it should reflect on your world's religious practices/doctrines. And now that I've explained all that ish, I'm turning the wheel a bit and delving lightly into philosophy and how it applies to worldbuilding, as well as why it is different than religion.


"It's our problem-free...philosophy! Hakuna Matata!"
Even if you have never seen the Lion King (if you haven't, why not?!), you have probably heard this said (or sung) at some point. And, if you haven't, it means no worries. ;)​

I often see philosophy and religion lumped together. While they can be similar, they have some distinct differences that are important to understand as it pertains to worldbuilding. But, first off, here is the formal definition of philosophy!

n. the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence, especially when considered as an academic discipline.

Now, you might be thinking, "Kim, that doesn't sound like religion at all, what is your point?" Well, if you compare the two closely, certain philosophies can take on the air of a religious doctrine, and vice versa. Furthermore, they both set out to make meaning of life, the world, basically everything there is to see around you.

The simplest difference between them, however, is that philosophy is based on pure intellect, while religion often combines intellect with pure faith. Furthermore, certain religions actually directly contradict the Laws of Philosophy, which I will explain in order to understand how to build philosophy in your world and how it affects religion.

First, there's the Law of Unaffirmability, which basically says that any statement that defeats itself is illogical and philosophically incorrect. For example, the statement "I cannot express myself in words" defeats itself because in order to say such a statement, you must express yourself in words. Therefore, it contradicts basic philosophy. Almost any statement containing "I cannot know" defeats itself philosophically because in order to say that you cannot know, you must know that you cannot know. It can be a bit confusing, so don't think on it too hard.

Second, we have the Law of Undeniability. It pertains to any statement, written or spoken, that cannot be denied. The most famous of these statements is by Rene Descartes: "I think; therefore, I am." In order to think, you must exist. Therefore, if you are able to think, then it is logical and philosophically correct to say that you must exist. This particular concept is probably the hardest to work around, as I don't think any of us are true philosophers. However, it helps to know what exactly philosophy is if you want to apply it to your world. :)

Third and last, we have the Law of Non-Contradiction. Basically, you cannot have contradictory qualities in a single entity. This is different from the first law because it pertains less to a particular statement and more of a concrete idea/object. For instance, a number can never be both even and odd because those two qualities directly contradict each other. Furthermore, a quality cannot both belong and not belong to an entity at the same time.

"Kim, why the hell am I reading this? This is confusing with big words, go away!" Now, hold on. I have a point to all this. When building your world, it is natural for logic and reason to play some part. Even if pigs fly and ice sinks in your world, there will be some measure of logic that is utilized beyond simple science and technology. While it may completely differ from our world's logic, you should know how and why it makes sense in your world. And that's where philosophy comes in and religion does not.

Now, don't get too worked up about this. No one expects you to spit out Aristotle-quality phrases of deep insight. This is your world, after all. It could be a complete gibberish statement to the rest of us, but it is important for it to make sense in the context of your world. Logic based on philosophy is just as important to your characters and your world as faith and science.


And that is all I have for now! Good luck in your endeavors, my dear friends, and I hope to begin writing content more often!