Tillich Definition of Religion in Religion as a Dimension in Man’s Spiritual Life

In his article, Religion as a dimension in Man’s Spiritual Life, Tillich, attempts to define religion in terms of a human spirit. In other words, the author attempts to evaluate whether there is some religiosity in man’s spirit. Tillich presents two lines of thoughts which seek to argue for or against the claim that religion is a deeply rooted concept in human’s spirit. The theologian criticism, argues that religion is a divinely-gifted concept emanating from the Holy Spirit rather the conception of human spirit. The opposing criticism, the scientific perspective, argues that religion was once created during the mythological stage and since the stage is passed, the creation of religion by the human spirit is obsolete. Tillich argues that “religion is not a special function of the human spirit” (Tillich, 1959: 6). By so claiming, Tillich demonstrates that religion is a scientific concept which has no place in the contemporary society. This paper argues for this perspective by providing detailed descriptions and short excerpts from Tillich’s text.

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Religion, as a human creation is obsolete as it is most likely to have occurred during the mythological stage. According to Tillich, scientists, the likes of Comte who came up with the law of the three stages, posit that religion is synonymous with the mythological stage. Simply, Tillich reports that religion “has no place in the scientific stage in which we are living” (Tillich, 1959: 4). Hence, religion might have been essential during the mythological stage but not in the scientific stage.

Bearing that religion was essential in the mythological stage and not in the scientific; one can argue that religion is certainly not a key quality of the human spirit. Tillich expresses this sentiment in the last sentence of the second paragraph on the fourth page of his article. Also, the author explicitly states of the unimportant nature of religion in the human spirit when he shows that it is of “no special function” (Tillich, 1959: 6). The claim of the unimportance of religion in human life supports the argument that religion is not an everlasting functionality in the human spirit. Also, its lack of place proves of the unimportance of religion. Why else would such a vital function as religion lack a place in human spirit and human history as well?

On numerous occasions, religion is rejected as it maneuvers from one spiritual function to another. Tillich shows that when religion moves from spiritual function to the moral function, it is partially accepted. The extent with which the religion is received depends on the extent to which religion serves the interests of morality. In other words, morality is accepted on the condition that it serves the good of various members of the family. Nonetheless, religion lacks a place when it attempts to introduce its claims rather instilling the concepts of morality.

After rejection by the moral function, religion searches for the cognitive and then the aesthetic functions. Again, religion is partially accepted up until knowledge declares its supremacy over religion. At such a point, religion is kicked out and has to look for another function. The aesthetic function accommodates religion, and this time, religion dissociates from this relationship after it assesses its prior relationships with the functions of the human spirit. Again, the aesthetic function embraces art and reality whereas religion is supposed to transform reality (Tillich, 1959: 7). The two functions are just incompatible. The cycle continues, and at the end of it all, religion lacks a home in any single human function. Such a lack is evidence of religion’s absenteeism and inapplicability in modern times.


Works cited

Tillich, Paul. Theology of Culture. New York: Harper and Row, 1959.