Philosophy Index

Existentialism and Religion

Although the theme of humankind living in an indifferent or even hostile world is prevelant throughout existentialism, existentialism isn't necessarily atheist. Many people identify this philosophy as part of a turn away from religion, but this is not always the case. Some existentialists, such as Kierkegaard were religious themselves. An existentialist may still have religious beliefs, but does not rely on them. Consider this:

Let's compare the existentialist and the religious at the point when they are ready to leave home. Both may love their parents and have nothing but gratitude for the work they've done. The “religious”, in this comparison are the ones who visit their parents every weekend, and occasionally borrow money. The existentialists, however, are aware of the necessity of their independance. They may still visit their parents, but not with such routine or need. As British writer Anita Brookner put it:

Existentialism is about being a saint without God; being your own hero, without all the sanction and support of religion or society.

Existentialism can exist within and outside of religious context because it focuses on the individual within the concepts of human nature and the struggle for life. Aside, perhaps, from the idea of an indifferent world, existentialism is not (by itself) about making metaphysical claims. The focus of existential philosophy is to examine the individual in the world, rather than the world itself.

Hence, some philosophers, such as Gabriel Marcel developed their own breed of existentialism within the confines of their religion. Marcel, specifically, focused on the human-universe relationship side of existentialism, but from the perspective of his Roman-Catholic faith.

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