Schleiermacher argued that RE is the core of religion, and that feeling and experiencing God is the kernel. What Kant describes as ‘fetish faiths’ he views as a way of expressing your feelings about God through rituals such as prayer. There is an ‘immediate consciousness’ when one feels that God is there.The feeling of oneness of God is what makes someone religious. Tillich holds a similar view as ‘a symbol participates in that to which it points’ meaning to participate is the way in which we respond.
Kant further states that religion can be useful if unnecessary in helping someone to become good. Durkheim holds a similar view, as he described religion as ‘a means of social cohesion’, and that the community activity helps to strengthen society. Kant says the only way to way to love God is through human beings. Buber describes how humans can have two kinds of relationships; ‘I-it’ (objective, involving reason and analysis) and ‘I thou.’ ‘I thou relationships are more personal and profound’ and ‘in each thou, you address the eternal thou.’ Whilst Buber believes there is no need to justify whether you have had a RE or not, Donovan believes that further evidence is needed to back up experience claims. Overall Kant holds the view that it does not matter whether religion is true or false, it simply just provides a guidance for morality. Thus deists interpret Christianity is all symbolic, Randall agrees as he says God is a symbol, ‘a fleeting ripple of imagination.’
Westphal stated that Hegel was critical of Schleiermacher’s ‘immediate consciousness’ as it is too vague, and needs further explanation. Donovan explores RE is his article ‘Can we know God by experience’ he says that we should not disbelieve theists who say they have had an experience but rather ask for further evidence to be provided, thus he does not go for the ‘all or nothing’ account. Hegel distinguishes that religion has too many images and historical narratives to lead to truth but philosophy has the form that can lead to knowledge. However Ayer expresses that ‘the point which we wish to establish is that there cannot be any transcendent truths of religion.’ Using his weaker form of the verification principle, he argues that statements about God are cognitively meaningless as ‘the notion of a person whose essential attributes are non-empirical is not an intelligible notion at all.’ Hegel’s ideas were similar to Spinoza’s pantheism, where religion helps us to perceive that God is in everything. He was an idealist as he believed that ideas are more important than experiences. For Hegel; religion is when we have contact with God and in its philosophical form it’s when the human spirit realises that it is a finite form of the infinite spirit. Humans are finite, their aim is to become the ‘absolute geist.’Jesus should not be understood as one unique fully God and fully human, but as a symbol that the human spirit is divine.
Westphal later discussed the ‘hermeneutics of suspicion’ where suspicion arises not from where God exists but the motives of religion. He states that Hume analysed the function of religion in the lives of the believers; merely an instrument to self-interest. Out of selfish fears and hopes people flatter God. Dawkins would agree as his ‘meme’ idea expresses altruism as ‘selfish gene,’ where you only nice to someone to get something in return. Furthermore Freud’s projection of a father figure is used this to explain that religion is an illusion created to accept powerful and sexual emotion.
Marx has a similar way of thinking as he says religion is a tool for the powerful to dominate. For Marx religion is primarily a matter of social privilege ruling lower closures by persuading them that their position is ‘the will of God’ and they should hope for an illusory reward off heaven rather than fighting for justice in this world. He describes religion as ‘the most common mental illness’ and ‘the opium of people,’ thus proposing that religion should be removed for people to become truly aware of their situation.
For Nietzche ‘God is dead.’ He was an existentialist who said we don't need to believe in made up rules and can do what we want. Therefore religion is the revenge of the weak. The poor can never physically fight their oppressors but can take the moral high-ground (e.g Pacifism) with the ultimate victory thought to be judgement day.
Kierkegaard argues that it is a mistake to confuse the world we live in with heaven since our world is finite and heaven is infinite. He criticises what believers prioritise, thinking there is more to religious belief than being a respectable member of a community. ‘The biblical tension between Jesus and every established order is lost’ summarises his view that the functions of Christianity are flawed as religions seem to think that respectability and worship are all that matter.