Kant's criticism of atheism

Kant Studien 94 (2):198-219 (2003)
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Although Kant argues that morality is prior to and independent of religion, Kant nevertheless claims that religion of a certain sort (“moral theism”) follows from morality, and that atheism poses threats to morality. Kant criticizes atheism as morally problematic in four ways: atheism robs the atheist of springs for moral action, leads the atheist to moral despair, corrupts the atheist’s moral character, and has a pernicious influence on the atheist’s community. I argue that Kant is right to say that moral theism can help support morality, and that (for some people), morality leads to religion. But I also argue that one may refrain from accepting the existence of God and still act from respect for the moral law, resist despair, cultivate and retain a virtuous character, and pose no moral threat to one’s community. Indeed, theism, even moral theism, raises moral risks of its own. This article includes discussions of different versions of the highest good, and of two main types of atheism (skeptical and dogmatic)



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Lara Denis
Agnes Scott College

Citations of this work

Autonomy and the highest good.Lara Denis - 2005 - Kantian Review 10:33-59.
Realism and anti-realism in Kant's second critique.Patrick Kain - 2006 - Philosophy Compass 1 (5):449–465.
The Moral Argument for the Existence of God and Immortality.Roe Fremstedal - 2013 - Journal of Religious Ethics 41 (1):50-78.
Morality and religion.Tim Mawson - 2009 - Philosophy Compass 4 (6):1033-1043.
Is the Universe Moral?William Large - 2022 - Journal for Continental Philosophy of Religion 4 (1):68-89.

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