Why Bill Maher Is Dangerously Misguided and Why It Matters: A Philosophical Exploration of the Religious Dimension of Human Existence
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Religion is a word that pervades popular discourse, however, it is frequently misunderstood, misinterpreted, and misconstrued by those who employ it. Often the conversation about religion presents it as a divisive force of extremism and violence, generalizing about its nature and those who identify with it. This paper explores religion beyond its commonly constructed representations by investigating important scholarly work in the philosophy of religion from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, including the work of William James, Rudolf Otto, Emile Durkheim, Mircea Eliade, Paul Tillich, W. C. Smith, and Mark Taylor, and attempts to synthesize aspects of their approaches to defining religion. The goal in doing so is to generate a new framework for understanding and discussing religion that allows for a more educated popular discourse and contributes to the overall academic study of religion. The paper explores the notion of religion as a process of centering, de-centering, and re-centering human life spatially, temporally, psychologically, and emotionally around that which is perceived to possess ultimate meaning. In recognizing religion as a dynamic, universal human phenomenon, this paper also challenges more narrow, conservative interpretations, acknowledging the inherent danger of certain forms of reductionism, like that of Bill Maher, in an increasingly globalized world where the need for mutual understanding and coexistence is of paramount importance.