Maat - To know the history to create the future




The rational religion


Author: Kant was born in 1724. He was one of the main philosophers of all the history of philosophy. He published: Critique of pure reason (1781), Critique of practical reason (1788), Critique of judgment (1790), The religion within the limits of pure reason (1793). He died in 1804.

With the publication in 1793 of his work "Die Religion innerhalb der Grenzen der blossen Vernunft", Kant became involved in a dispute with Prussian authorities on the right to express religious opinions. The book was found to be too rationalistic for orthordox taste; he was required by the government not to lecture or write anything further on religious subjects.

Text: Extracts from "The religion within the limits of pure reason".

Locality: Konigsberg, Prussia (from 1946 Kaliningrad, Russia)

Age: 1724-1804


Religion and faith

There is only one (true) religion; but there can be faiths of several kinds. (Chapter III, First Part, V)

Church and revelead faith

... We have noted that a church dispenses with the most important mark of truth, namely, a rightful claim to universality, when it bases itself upon a revealed faith. For such a faith, being historical (even though it be far more widely disseminated and more completely secured for remotest posterity through the agency of scripture) can never be universally communicated so as to produce conviction. (Chapter III, First Part, VI)

Necessity of ecclesiastical faith

... Yet, because of the natural need and desire of all men for something sensibly tenable, and for a confirmation of some sort from experience of the highest concepts and grounds of reason (a need which really must be taken into account when the universal dissemination of a faith is contemplated), some historical ecclesiastical faith or other, usually to be found at hand, must be utilized. (Chapter III, First Part, VI)

... If such an empirical faith, which chance, it would seem, has tossed into our hands, is to be united with the basis of a moral faith (be the first an end or merely a means), an exposition of the revelation which has come into our possession is required, that is, a thorough-going interpretation of it in a sense agreeing with the universal practical rules of a religion of pure reason. (Chapter III, First Part, VI)

... The moral philosophers among the Greeks, and later among the Romans, did exactly this with the fabulous accounts of the gods. They were able in the end to interpret the grossest polytheism as mere symbolic representation of the attributes of the single divine Being, and to supply the various wicked actions [of the gods] and the wild yet lovely fancies of the poets with a mystical meaning which made a popular faith (which it would have been very inadvisable to destroy, since atheism, still more dangerous to the state, might perhaps have resulted) approach a moral doctrine intelligible to all men and wholly salutary. (Chapter III, First Part, VI)

... The later Judaism, and even Christianity itself, consist of such interpretations, often very forced, but in both instances for ends unquestionably good and needful for all men. The Mohammedans (as Reland1 shows) know very well how to ascribe a spiritual meaning to the description of their paradise, which is dedicated to sensuality of every kind; the Indians do exactly the same thing in the interpretation of their Vedas, at least for the enlightened portion of their people. (Chapter III, First Part, VI)

Original Jewish faith

... The Jewish faith was, in its original form, a collection of mere statutory laws upon which was established a political organization; for whatever moral additions were then or later appended to it in no way whatever belong to Judaism as such. Judaism is really not a religion at all but merely a union of a number of people who, since they belonged to a particular stock, formed themselves into a commonwealth under purely political laws, and not into a church. (Chapter III, Second Part)

Christianity and purely moral religion

... The pains which teachers of Christianity take now, and may have taken in the beginning, to join Judaism and Christianity with a connecting strand by trying to have men regard the new faith as a mere continuation of the old (which, they allege, contained in prefiguration all the events of the new)--these efforts reveal most clearly that their problem is and was merely the discovery of the most suitable means of introducing a purely moral religion in place of the old worship, to which the people were all too well habituated, without directly offending the people's prejudices. (Chapter III, Second Part)

The true religion

... it must be inculcated painstakingly and repeatedly that true religion is to consist not in the knowing or considering of what God does or has done for our salvation but in what we must do to become worthy of it. This last can never be anything but what possesses in itself undoubted and unconditional worth, what therefore can alone make us well-pleasing to God, and of whose necessity every man can become wholly certain without any Scriptural learning whatever. (Chapter III, Second Part)


Bibliographical references:

Kant E.
La religione nei limiti della semplice ragione