Article Title

Kant on Prayer


After establishing an ethical religion of his own, Kant explores the functions of different aspects of traditional or “historical” religions. Since the moral religion takes priority over any other historical religion, dogmatic beliefs and practices could possibly undermine Kant’s true ethical aim of religion. Prayer and other similar rituals, not a part of “true religion”, represent mankind’s feebleness in seeking out moral conceptions. Although Kant claims prayer can serve as a useful element in his greater theology, I argue that his analysis offers little to pure religion and only accounts for the prevalence of prayer historically. The psychological phenomenon Kant deems a weakness in man requires some worldly manifestation in order to actualize moral duty. Ritualistic practices fulfill this requirement yet also have the ability to mislead one away from their true moral obligations. One must tread lightly when performing such rituals and not lose focus on moral growth. So, all of the traditional practices of religion such as scriptural interpretation and intercessory prayer must only act as a means toward the actualization of moral imperatives. I conduct an analysis of these means to conclude that they are unnecessary in Kant’s pure, self-evident, religion. Further, I critique Stephen R. Palmquist’s argument for the apparent usefulness of prayer as a way of becoming worthy of God’s goodness.