Atheism and the Benefits of Theistic Belief

In Jonathan Kvanvig (ed.), Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion. Oxford University Press. pp. 97-125 (2012)


Most atheists are error theorists about theists; they claim that theists have genuine beliefs about the existence and nature of a divine being, but as a matter of fact no such divine being exists. Thus on their view the relevant theistic beliefs are mistaken. As error theorists, then, atheists need to arrive at some answer to the question of what practical course of action the atheist should adopt towards the theistic beliefs held by committed theists. The most natural answer and the one that we see being implemented by many prominent atheists today, can be stated roughly as follows: (1) Theistic Eliminativism: Atheists should marshal the best arguments at their disposal and present them to theists in the hopes that theists will come to appreciate that their religious beliefs are systemically erroneous. Furthermore, on coming to this realization, a theist should abandon not just his specific religious beliefs, but also more generally his religious practices and theistic framework for viewing the world, and adopt a secular point of view instead. One of the main goals of this paper is to show that, despite its popularity, eliminativism is not the only option for the atheist to adopt. In order to do so, I draw on recent work in meta-ethics on moral error theories, work which has helped to outline a number of alterative courses of action that someone might take towards a group which is said to have widespread erroneous beliefs.

Download options


    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 72,743

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library


Added to PP

116 (#103,631)

6 months
1 (#387,390)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Christian Miller
Wake Forest University

References found in this work

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work

Religion for Naturalists.Natalja Deng - 2015 - International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 78 (2):195-214.
Skeptheism: Is Knowledge of God’s Existence Possible?Moti Mizrahi - 2017 - European Journal for Philosophy of Religion 9 (1):41-64.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Spirituality, Expertise, and Philosophers.Bryan Frances - 2008 - In Jon Kvanvig (ed.), Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion. Oxford University Press. pp. 44-81.
Sceptical Theism and Divine Lies.Erik J. Wielenberg - 2010 - Religious Studies 46 (4):509-523.
An Apology for the “New Atheism”.Andrew Johnson - 2013 - International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 73 (1):5-28.
Worshipworthiness and the Mormon Concept of God.Blake T. Ostler - 1997 - Religious Studies 33 (3):315-326.
Knowledge and the Objection to Religious Belief From Cognitive Science.Kelly James Clark & Dani Rabinowitz - 2011 - European Journal for Philosophy of Religion 3 (1):67 - 81.
Is God Good by Definition?Graham Oppy - 1992 - Religious Studies 28 (4):467 - 474.