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Religion within the Boundaries of Mere Reason

Immanuel Kant

Important Terms

General Summary

Philosophical Themes, Arguments, and Ideas

Church Invisible  -  A moral union of individuals who believe in acting in accordance with duty. Unlike existing churches, a church invisible has no membership requirements beyond moral behavior. In a church invisible, one need not participate in church services, express one's faith publicly, or join in communion. As long as the members earnestly follow the moral law, their membership is secure. The church invisible is a moral ideal that existing churches should emulate.
Ecclesiastical Faith  -  Kant contrasts his moral religion with ecclesiastical faith. Ecclesiastical faith emerges in a particular historical period, and therefore its beliefs and practices reflect the morality of that historical period. Kant objects to ecclesiastical faith because he thinks it confuses moral conduct with the performance of rituals, incantations, and the profession of faith. In order to provide sound moral guidance, Kant says, ecclesiastical faith must be reinterpreted.
Pure Moral Faith  -  Pure moral faith differs from ecclesiastical faith in three important respects. First, pure moral faith does not depend upon historical religious traditions. Any rational person can come to adopt a pure moral faith. Second, under moral faith, good moral conduct is far more important than ritual and public professions of faith. Third, pure moral faith is demanding for its practitioners, because it requires them to constantly evaluating their actions and make sure duty motivates them.
Religious Enthusiasm  -  The idea that we can force God to pardon us for the evil and immoral things we have done. Kant rejects religious enthusiasm because it implies that a simple profession of faith and sorrow will please God, and that an absolute devotion to moral conduct is not required. Kant rejects religious enthusiasm because it encourages us to shirk our moral responsibilities. Kant also points out the lack of evidence suggesting that our efforts will cause God to forgive our sins. Because we have no evidence, we should not assume that public religious practices have any effect on our moral standing in God's eyes.

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