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What Is the Relationship between Metaphysics and Religion?

Daniel Liden
Daniel Liden

Metaphysics is a broad area of study in philosophy that seeks to understand and classify the deepest nature of existence. Most major religions, similarly, attempt to offer an explanation of how and why anything at all, and people in particular, exist in the world. Metaphysics and religion are related, therefore, because religion often attempts to provide a metaphysical understanding of existence. Other questions important to both metaphysics and religion include the nature of the human mind, free will, and the existence and role of God.

The single factor that unifies metaphysics and religion the most is the nature of existence at a fundamental level. A materialist, for instance, holds the metaphysical view that all things can be understood materially without turning to any supernatural forces. Religious believers, on the other hand, tend to believe that the world exists because of a God or gods. A pantheistic view of metaphysics and religion states that there is no real difference between the ideas of "God" and "the world."

Woman standing behind a stack of books
Woman standing behind a stack of books

Another major issue addressed by both concepts is that of free will. It is not known with scientific certainty whether or not people actually have complete control over their actions and decisions. Metaphysicians seek to study and understand what is meant by "free will" as opposed to determinism and if the two can be reconciled. They also seek to provide rational arguments, sometimes drawing from modern science, for or against free will. Various religions, on the other hand, rely on either free will or determinism as a foundational point in their ethical systems.

Theology is a subsection of philosophy interested in examining God and the divine. As such, it invites contributions from both metaphysics and religion. Important questions in theology include the existence of God, the possibility of knowing God, and the role of God in creating and directing the universe. Some metaphysicians, for instance, argue that there is no God or that the idea of a "god" refers only to an impersonal creator. Religious theologians, on the other hand, often argue for a personal God or for the theological views presented by their specific religions.

How these concepts are studied is based on many different factors, many drawn from philosophy, history, and religion. Some religions, for instance, discourage the questioning of religious doctrines and encourage dogmatic rather than critical metaphysics. Academic philosophers, on the other hand, tend to believe that any questions in metaphysics and religion can and should be studied.

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Discussion Comments


The book "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" by Robert Pirsig explores a very interesting philosophy called the Metaphysics of Quality. People are naturally motivated to seek out higher quality whenever they are given a choice. This can be as simple as choosing a ribeye steak over a plain hamburger, or as complex as choosing to live a good life instead of an evil one.

The Metaphysics of Quality is too complicated to explain in a single reply, but the idea is that "good" (or Good) is a noun as well as an adjective. Everything we do in life is either going to bring us closer to Good or not. We think we're making our own decisions, but in a metaphysical sense a lot of decisions are being made for us by the presence of Good. This is one concept where metaphysics and religion find common ground. In religion, if a person follows the teachings of a "good" deity, he or she will move towards a higher quality of existence. This is the same thing as seeking out Good in the Metaphysics of Quality.

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