On Religious Idealism

There must be a ‘greater’ being that encompasses all

Idealism is the belief that through the mind or spirit, we can discover ‘truths’ that are general, simple, and unchanging. By defining a set of ideas or understanding as ‘ideal’ we, of necessity, need to explain how our lived experiences don’t align with those ideals. We make those things we experience in our lives the ’non-ideal when we discuss our ‘mortal’ existence. Throughout philosophical and religious history, the ‘material’ and the ‘ideal’ have been set in contrast to each other.


In 360 B.C.E, Plato’s book The Republic explained that Good is the highest point of the world of ideas. All true knowledge is derived from this idea of Good. In contrast to the world of ideas, the world of matter is the world of sensory data, and it is always changing. The fact that change occurs means that the material cannot be trusted. To proceed toward the highest idea, the idea of Good, people must keep free from the material world.1 If a God exists, he must not be ‘material.’’ He must be ‘ideal.’ Around 400 AD, Saint Augustine of Hippo built on Plato’s division of the cosmos and the separation of God and Man into the world of matter and the world of ideas. Augustine described the universe as being split into the City of God (Ideal) and the City of Man (Material). While the senses controlled the City of Man, truth and goodness ruled the City of God.2


Under ‘Idealism’, truths, doctrines, laws, and God(s) exist without the necessity of the ‘material’ and are discovered by the mind or spirit. The spirit perceives those things that are general, simple, and unchanging.

  • General: These facts are ‘true’ in all situations. They are constant in all instances where they are applied and are perceived through the mind or spirit.
  • Simple: Not contained of parts or material. The most foundational causes.
  • Unchanging: From the concept of the general and the simple, then these ‘ideals’ are constant in all experiences and throughout time. Of note, they are often perceived as outside of time.


  1. https://www.iosrjournals.org/iosr-jhss/papers/Vol19-issue3/Version-5/E019352225.pdf↩︎

  2. https://www.studocu.com/in/document/jawaharlal-nehru-university/sociology/religious-idealism-augustine/32400359↩︎