A large chorus of voices has grown around the claim that theistic belief is epistemically suspect since, as some cognitive scientists have hypothesized, such beliefs are a byproduct of cognitive mechanisms which evolved for rather different adaptive purposes. This paper begins with an overview of the pertinent cognitive science followed by a short discussion of some relevant epistemic concepts. Working from within a largely Williamsonian framework, we then present two different ways in which this research can be formulated into an (...) argument against theistic belief. We argue that neither version works. (shrink)
This chapter contains sections titled: * Introduction * The Cognitive Science of Religion * The Internal Witness: The Sensus Divinitatis * Reformed Epistemology * Reformed Epistemology and Cognitive Science * Obstinacy in Belief * The External Witness: The Order of the Cosmos * The External Witness and the Cognitive Science of Religion * Conclusion * Notes * Bibliography.
A fundamental question in philosophy of religion is whether religious belief must be based on evidence in order to be properly held. In recent years two prominent positions on this issue have been staked out: evidentialism, which claims that proper religious belief requires evidence; and Reformed epistemology, which claims that it does not. Evidence and Religious Belief contains eleven chapters by prominent philosophers which push the discussion in new directions. The volume has three parts. The first part explores the demand (...) for evidence: some chapters object to it while others seek to restate it or find space for compromise between Reformed epistemology and evidentialism. The second part explores ways in which beliefs are related to evidence; that is, ways in which the evidence for or against religious belief that is available to a person can depend on that person's background beliefs and other circumstances. The third part contains chapters that discuss actual evidence for and against religious belief. Evidence for belief in God includes the so-called common consent of the human race and the way that such belief makes sense of the moral life; evidence against it includes profound puzzles about divine freedom which suggest that it is impossible for a being to be morally perfect. (shrink)
Medieval views of both divine goodness and the doctrine of hell are examined and shown to be incompatible with our best understandings of goodness. The only manner in which God could be good to those in hell – by permitting their continued existence – is not sufficient to outweigh ‘the dreadful pains of eternal fire’. One might claim that God is good to them in the retributive sense; but I argue that retributive punishment is inadequate justification of eternal torment. The (...) medieval notions of goodness and hell seem to make God more a sadistic torturer than a caring parent. Eleonore Stump, accepting the medievals' axiology, ameliorates the doctrine of hell. However, I argue that her Dantean version of hell fails because not to be in certain circumstances is rationally preferable to continued existence. In addition, life under those conditions would result in frustration, not fulfilment, of one's second nature and would result in a progressive loss of being. Indeed, it seems more reasonable to reject the identity of being and goodness which both the medievals and Stump embrace or to accept being as a prima facie good that is defeasible in the face of eternal damnation. (shrink)
In May 2010, philosophers, family and friends gathered at the University of Notre Dame to celebrate the career and retirement of Alvin Plantinga, widely recognized as one of the world's leading figures in metaphysics, epistemology, and the philosophy of religion. Plantinga has earned particular respect within the community of Christian philosophers for the pivotal role that he played in the recent renewal and development of philosophy of religion and philosophical theology. Each of the essays in this volume engages with some (...) particular aspect of Plantinga's views on metaphysics, epistemology, or philosophy of religion. Contributors include Michael Bergman, Ernest Sosa, Trenton Merricks, Richard Otte, Peter VanInwagen, Thomas P. Flint, Eleonore Stump, Dean Zimmerman and Nicholas Wolterstorff. The volume also includes responses to each essay by Bas van Fraassen, Stephen Wykstra, David VanderLaan, Robin Collins, Raymond VanArragon, E. J. Coffman, Thomas Crisp, and Donald Smith. (shrink)
This chapter contains sections titled: * Introduction * The Demand for Evidence * Belief Begins with Trust * Reid on Human Cognitive Faculties * Reid and Rationality * The God Faculty * Reason and Belief in God * Conclusion * Notes * Bibliography.
The focus of this paper is the social trinitarian account in Richard Swinburne's "The Christian God." After setting out the route Swinburne follows in reaching his conclusions about the Godhead, I endeavour to show two things: (i) that his account does not avoid the charge of tritheism and thus is not faithful to key elements in the Christian creeds; (ii) the philosophical moves behind his conclusions are not compelling if, as we can, we challenge his assumptions about divine necessity. A (...) better account of divine necessity takes us away from Swinburne's version of trinitarianism/tritheism. (shrink)
Two pressures toward religious pluralism are the variety of religious traditions which seem equally successful in the transformation of human lives and that apparently sincere and equally capable truth-seekers reach divergent conclusions about the nature of ultimate reality. I discuss Hick’s Kantian explanation of these phenomena. I argue that his account is: neither the only nor the best account; furthermore that more reasonable accounts allow for the members of competing traditions to affirm the truth of their religious beliefs; and if (...) Hick’s explanation were accepted it would undermine the salvific power of the respective religious traditions. (shrink)
While the cognitive science of religion is well-trodden ground, atheism has been considerably less scrutinized. Recent psychological studies associate atheism with an intellectual virtue, inferentiality. Theism, on the other hand, is associated with an intellectual “vice”, intuitive thinking. While atheism is allied with the attendant claim that atheism is the result of careful rational assessment of the relevant evidence, theism is considered the result of a lack of reflection on the relevant evidence. Atheism, then, is rational, but theism, then, is (...) irrational. In this essay, we will assess the import of these studies and the attendant claims that these differences in thinking styles entail differences in rationality. (shrink)
The theist affirms God's paternal care and his unsurpassable ability. If God is Father, he is obliged to prevent harms in a manner similar to earthly fathers; but he has not. This essay refutes the claim that God has obligations closely analogous to those of earthly parents. The essay is a conceptual analysis of what the father/ child relationship entails with respect to moral obligations and permissions. The dissimilarities between the divine and human parent create differences in obligation so great (...) as to nullify judgments that the atheologian makes about what is to believe about the obligations and goodness of God. (shrink)
In Branden Thornhill-Miller and Peter Millican’s challenging and provocative essay, we hear a considerably longer, more scholarly and less melodic rendition of John Lennon’s catchy tune—without religion, or at least without first-order supernaturalisms, there’d be significantly less intra-group violence. First-order supernaturalist beliefs, as defined by Thornhill-Miller and Peter Millican, are “beliefs that claim unique authority for some particular religious tradition in preference to all others”. According to M&M, first-order supernaturalist beliefs are exclusivist, dogmatic, empirically unsupported, and irrational. Moreover, again according (...) to M&M, we have perfectly natural explanations of the causes that underlie such beliefs. They then make a case for second-order supernaturalism, “which maintains that the universe in general, and the religious sensitivities of humanity in particular, have been formed by supernatural powers working through natural processes”. Second-order supernaturalism is a kind of theism, more closely akin to deism than, say, Christianity or Buddhism. It is, as such, universal, empirically supported, and beneficial. With respect to its pragmatic value, second-order supernaturalism, according to M&M, gets the good of religion without its bad. Second-order supernaturalism is thus rational and inconducive to violence. In this paper, I will examine just one small but important part of M&M’s argument: the claim that religion is a primary motivator of violence and that its elimination would eliminate or curtail a great deal of violence in the world. Imagine, they say, no religion, too. Janusz Salamon offers a friendly extension or clarification of M&M’s second-order theism, one that I think, with emendations, has promise. He argues that the core of first-order religions, the belief that Ultimate Reality is the Ultimate Good, is rational and, if widely conceded and endorsed by adherents of first-order religions, would reduce conflict in the world. While I favor the virtue of intellectual humility endorsed in both papers, I will argue contra M&M that belief in first-order religion is not a primary motivator of conflict and violence. Second, partly contra Salamon, who I think is half right, I will argue that the religious resources for compassion can and should come from within both the particular and the universal aspects of religious beliefs. Finally, I will argue that both are guilty, as I am, of the philosopher’s obsession with belief. (shrink)
A recent development in the philosophy of religion has been the attempt to justify belief in God using Bayesian confirmation theory. My dissertation critically discusses two prominent spokesmen for this approach--Richard Swinburne and J. L. Mackie. Using probabilistic confirmation theory, these philosophers come to wildly divergent conclusions with respect to the hypothesis of theism; Swinburne contends that the evidence raises the overall probability of the hypothesis of theism, whereas Mackie argues that the evidence disconfirms the existence of God. After a (...) careful analysis of the individual authors, this dissertation critically examines the assumptions of the project. The authors consider arguments for the existence of God separately--the cosmological argument, the argument from design, apparent miracles, the problem of evil, and arguments from religious experience--and then conjoin them to assess the cumulative effect of the arguments. The assumptions are that the probability calculus may be interpreted for a successful inductive argument for or against the existence of God, that inference to best explanation is applicable to the justification of religious belief, that the justification of belief in God is analogous to the justification of a scientific theory, and that a classical foundationalist conception of rationality is correct. It is the contention of this dissertation that all of these assumptions are incorrect. All of the major interpretations of the probability calculus are examined and it is argued that there are either no interpretations for the probability assignments or no interpretations which will advance an argument for or against the existence of God. It is also argued that the usual methods for interpreting the explanatory power of theism will not determine any non-zero probabilities; however, density measuring will provide a non-zero interpretation. In the final chapter it is argued that a subjective Bayesian conception of rationality is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition of rationality and that classical foundationalism is self-referentially inconsistent. An alternative approach to the rationality of religious belief is offered that proceeds along Reidian and Plantingan lines, belief in God is properly basic. (shrink)
This anthology contains the best of both classical and contemporary sources, offering a balanced historical approach to the philosophy of religion while reflecting the latest developments in the field. The included readings grapple with issues that are existentially compelling and provocative regardless of one’s religious leanings. Topics are covered in a point–counterpoint manner designed to foster deep reflection. This third edition contains an entirely new section on early Chinese religion as well as new essays on religious language, feminism, and the (...) cognitive science of religion. (shrink)