Manual Atheism and Theism

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What the atheist can reasonably claim is that there is no evidence that there is a God, and against that background he may very well be justified in asserting that there is no God. It has been argued, however, that it is simply dogmatic for an atheist to assert that no possible evidence could ever give one grounds for believing in God. Instead, atheists should justify their unbelief by showing if they can how the assertion is well-taken that there is no evidence that would warrant a belief in God.

If atheism is justified, the atheist will have shown that in fact there is no adequate evidence for the belief that God exists, but it should not be part of his task to try to show that there could not be any evidence for the existence of God. Still, he would not have been unjustified, in the light of the evidence available to him during his earthly life, in believing as he did. Not having any such postmortem experiences of the presence of God assuming that he could have them , what he should say, as things stand and in the face of the evidence he actually has and is likely to be able to get, is that it is false that God exists.

Every time one legitimately asserts that a proposition is false one need not be certain that it is false. The claim is that this tentative posture is the reasonable position for the atheist to take. An atheist who argues in this manner may also make a distinctive burden-of-proof argument. Given what God must be, if there is a God, the theist needs to present the evidence, for such a very strange reality. He needs to show that there is more in the world than is disclosed by common experience. The empirical method, and the empirical method alone, such an atheist asserts, affords a reliable method for establishing what is in fact the case.

It will, however, be argued by such atheists, against what they take to be dogmatic aprioristic atheists, that the atheist should be a fallibilist and remain open-minded about what the future may bring. There may, after all, be such transcendent facts, such metaphysical realities. It is not that such a fallibilistic atheist is really an agnostic who believes that he is not justified in either asserting that God exists or denying that he exists and that what he must reasonably do is suspend belief. On the contrary, such an atheist believes that he has very good grounds indeed, as things stand, for denying the existence of God.

But he will, on the second conceptualization of what it is to be an atheist, not deny that things could be otherwise and that, if they were, he would be justified in believing in God or at least would no longer be justified in asserting that it is false that there is a God.

Theism and atheism: a personal view

Using reliable empirical techniques, proven methods for establishing matters of fact, the fallibilistic atheist has found nothing in the universe to make a belief that God exists justifiable or even, everything considered, the most rational option of the various options. He therefore draws the atheistical conclusion also keeping in mind his burden-of-proof argument that God does not exist.

But he does not dogmatically in a priori fashion deny the existence of God. He remains a thorough and consistent fallibilist. Article Media. Info Print Print. Table Of Contents. Science: Theism. Science: Atheism. Theories of Religion: Theism. Theories of Religion: Atheism. Final Reckonings: Theism. Final Reckonings: Atheism. Philosophy: Mind is composed of nineteen chapters covering such topics as the self, free will, consciousness, perception, memory, emotions, and artificial intelligence.

Chapters are written by eminent scholars, are peer reviewed, and offer bibliographies to encourage further exploration. Photos and line art help illuminate the text. The volume concludes with a glossary and a comprehensive index. Philosophy: Religion is composed of twenty-five chapters covering such topics as miracles, evil, theism, science and religion, dualism, resurrection, reincarnation, near-death experience, and religious terrorism. Philosophy: Technology is composed of fifteen chapters covering such topics as cyber warfare, designing children, video games and virtual reality, nanotechnology, and technology and the environment.

Professor of Philosophy in the School of Philosophical, Historical, and International Studies at Monash and Chair of Council of the Australasian Association of Philosophy, Graham has written widely on philosophy of religion, and has also published on metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of science, and philosophy of language. Associate Professor of Philosophy and Editor-in-Chief of International Philosophical Quarterly, Father Joseph has written widely on the topics of metaphysics, ethics, and the history of medieval philosophy.

About Overview Theism and Atheism: Opposing Arguments in Philosophy is a peer-reviewed, academic volume that has two separate editors in chief, with their respective editorial boards. Features and Benefits Introduces complex philosophical concepts from atheistic and theistic perspectives. Uses a dual editorial board: one board devoted to the atheistic perspective and the other to the theistic perspective. Each side atheist and theist debates the same set of 20 topics. Peer-reviewed signed chapters are written by eminent scholars. Includes key concepts, brief overviews, bibliographies of works cited and suggestions for further reading, and an index.

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Uses extensive academic research. Table of Contents Preface. Price: Sign in for price. Meet the Author Author Bio Graham Oppy Professor of Philosophy in the School of Philosophical, Historical, and International Studies at Monash and Chair of Council of the Australasian Association of Philosophy, Graham has written widely on philosophy of religion, and has also published on metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of science, and philosophy of language. Sometimes physicists do speak of a yet to be discovered Theory of Everything T. For example, in the most promising candidates for a T.

M-Theory simply substitutes geometrical fine-tuning for fine-tuning of forces. Furthermore, it seems likely that any attempt to significantly reduce fine-tuning will itself turn out to involve fine-tuning. This has certainly been the pattern in the past. In light of the specificity and number of instances of fine-tuning, it is unlikely to disappear with the further advance of physical theory.

What, then, of the alternative of chance? Teleologists seek to eliminate this hypothesis either by appealing to the specified complexity of cosmic fine-tuning a statistical approach to design inference or by arguing that the fine-tuning is significantly more probable on design theism than on the chance hypothesis atheism a Bayesian approach. Common to both approaches is the claim that the universe's being life-permitting is highly improbable.

In order to save the hypothesis of chance, defenders of that alternative have increasingly recurred to the Many Worlds Hypothesis, according to which a World Ensemble of concrete universes exists, thereby multiplying one's probabilistic resources. In order to guarantee that by chance alone a universe like ours will appear somewhere in the Ensemble, an actually infinite number of such universes is usually postulated.

But that is not enough; one must also stipulate that these worlds are randomly ordered with respect to the values of their constants and quantities, lest they be of insufficient variety to include a life-permitting universe. It seems doubtful. In the first place, as a metaphysical hypothesis, the Many Worlds Hypothesis is arguably inferior to the Design Hypothesis because the latter is simpler.

According to Ockham's Razor, we should not multiply causes beyond what is necessary to explain the effect. But it is simpler to postulate one Cosmic Designer to explain our universe than to postulate the infinitely bloated and contrived ontology of the Many Worlds Hypothesis. Only if the Many Worlds theorist could show that there exists a single, comparably simple mechanism for generating a World Ensemble of randomly varied universes would he be able to elude this difficulty.

Second, there is no known way of generating a World Ensemble. No one has been able to explain how or why such a collection of varied universes should exist. Some proposals, like Lee Smolin's cosmic evolutionary scenario, actually served to weed out life-permitting universes, while others, like Andre Linde's chaotic inflationary scenario, turned out to require fine-tuning themselves.

Third, there is no evidence for the existence of a World Ensemble apart from the fine-tuning itself. But the fine-tuning is equally evidence for a Cosmic Designer.

Indeed, the hypothesis of a Cosmic Designer is again the better explanation because we have independent evidence of the existence of such a being in the other theistic arguments. Fourth, if our universe is but one member of an infinite World Ensemble of randomly varying universes, then it is overwhelmingly more probable that we should be observing a much different universe than that which we in fact observe. Roger Penrose calculates that the odds of our universe's low entropy condition obtaining by chance alone are on the order of 10 , an inconceivable number. By contrast, the odds of our solar system's being formed instantly by random collisions of particles is, according to Penrose, about 10 60 , a vast number, but inconceivably smaller than 10 10 If our universe were but one member of a collection of randomly ordered worlds, then it is vastly more probable that we should be observing a much smaller universe.

Adopting the Many Worlds Hypothesis to explain away fine-tuning would thus result in a bizarre illusionism: it is far more probable that all our astronomical, geological, and biological estimates of age are wrong and that the appearance of our large and old universe is a massive illusion.

Or again, if our universe is but one member of a World Ensemble, then we ought to be observing highly extraordinary events, like horses' popping into and out of existence by random collisions, or perpetual motion machines, since these are vastly more probable than all of nature's constants and quantities falling by chance into the virtually infinitesimal life-permitting range.

Observable universes like those are much more plenteous in the ensemble of universes than worlds like ours and, therefore, ought to be observed by us if the universe were but one member of an ensemble of worlds. Since we do not have such observations, that fact strongly disconfirms the multiverse hypothesis. On atheism, at least, it is therefore highly probable that there is no World Ensemble. Penrose concludes that anthropic explanations are so "impotent" that it is actually "misconceived" to appeal to them to explain the special features of the universe.

It therefore seems that the fine-tuning of the universe is plausibly due neither to physical necessity nor to chance. Unless the design hypothesis can be shown to be even more implausible that its competitors, it follows that the fine-tuning is due to design. Moral Argument. Theists have presented a wide variety of moral justifications for belief in a Deity.

One such argument may be formulated as follows:. Consider premiss 1. Many theists and atheists alike agree that if God does not exist, then moral values and duties are not objective in this sense. For if God does not exist, then what is the foundation for moral values? More particularly, what is the basis for the value of human beings? If God does not exist, then it is difficult to see any reason to think that human beings are special or that their morality is objectively valid.

Moreover, why think that we have any moral obligations to do anything? Who or what imposes any moral duties upon us? As a result of socio-biological pressures, there has evolved among homo sapiens a sort of "herd morality" which functions well in the perpetuation of our species in the struggle for survival. But there does not seem to be anything about homo sapiens that makes this morality objectively binding. If the film of evolutionary history were rewound and shot anew, very different creatures with a very different set of values might well have evolved.

By what right do we regard our morality as objective rather than theirs? As the humanist philosopher Paul Kurtz puts it, "The central question about moral and ethical principles concerns this ontological foundation. If they are neither derived from God nor anchored in some transcendent ground, are they purely ephemeral? Some philosophers, equally averse to transcendently existing moral values as to theism, try to maintain the existence of objective moral principles or supervenient moral properties in the context of a naturalistic worldview. But the advocates of such theories are typically at a loss to justify their starting point.

If there is no God, then it is hard to see any ground for thinking that the herd morality evolved by homo sapiens is objectively true or moral goodness supervenes on certain natural states of such creatures. Crudely put, on the atheistic view humans are just animals; and animals are not moral agents. If our approach to meta-ethical theory is to be serious metaphysics rather than just a "shopping list" approach, whereby one simply helps oneself to the supervenient moral properties or principles needed to do the job, then some sort of explanation is required for why moral properties supervene on certain natural states or why such principles are true.

We therefore need to ask whether moral values and duties can be plausibly anchored in some transcendent, non-theistic ground. Let us call this view Atheistic Moral Realism. Atheistic moral realists affirm that objective moral values and duties do exist and are not dependent upon evolution or human opinion, but they insist that they are not grounded in God. Indeed, moral values have no further foundation. They just exist. It is difficult, however, even to comprehend this view.

What does it mean to say, for example, that the moral value Justice just exists? It is hard to know what to make of this. It is clear what is meant when it is said that a person is just; but it is bewildering when it is said that in the absence of any people, Justice itself exists. Second, the nature of moral obligation seems incompatible with Atheistic Moral Realism. Suppose that values like Mercy , Justice , Forbearance , and the like just exist.

How does that result in any moral obligations for me? Why would I have a moral duty, say, to be merciful? Who or what lays such an obligation on me? On this view moral vices such as Greed, Hatred, and Selfishness also presumably exist as abstract objects, too. Why am I obligated to align my life with one set of these abstractly existing objects rather than any other?

In contrast with the atheist, the theist can make sense of moral obligation because God's commands can be viewed as constitutive of our moral duties. Thirdly, it is fantastically improbable that just that sort of creatures would emerge from the blind evolutionary process who correspond to the abstractly existing realm of moral values.

This seems to be an utterly incredible coincidence when one thinks about it. It is almost as though the moral realm knew that we were coming. It is far more plausible to regard both the natural realm and the moral realm as under the hegemony of a divine Creator and Lawgiver than to think that these two entirely independent orders of reality just happened to mesh.

Although theistic meta-ethics assumes a rich variety of forms, there has been in recent years a resurgence of interest in Divine Command Morality, which understands our moral duties as our obligations to God in light of His moral commands, for example, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," and so on.

Our moral duties are constituted by the commands of an impartial and loving God. For any action A and moral agent S , we can explicate the notions of moral requirement, permission, and forbiddenness of A for S :.


A is required of S iff an impartial and loving God commands S to do A. A is permitted for S iff an impartial and loving God does not command S not to do A. A is forbidden to S iff an impartial and loving God commands S not to do A. Since our moral duties are grounded in the divine commands, they are not independent of God nor is God bound by moral duties, since He does not issue commands to Himself. Neither are God's commands arbitrary, since they are necessary expressions of His nature.

The question might be pressed as to why God's nature should be taken to be definitive of goodness. But unless we are nihilists, we have to recognize some ultimate standard of value, and God seems to be the least arbitrary stopping point. Moreover, God's nature is singularly appropriate to serve as such a standard.

Atheism and Agnosticism (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

For by definition, God is the greatest conceivable being, and it is greater to be the paradigm of moral value than merely to conform to such a standard. More specifically, God is by definition a being worthy of worship. And only a being which is the locus and source of all value is worthy of worship. Traditional arguments for God's existence such as the above, not to mention creative new arguments, are alive and well on the contemporary scene in Anglo-American philosophy. Together with the failure of anti-theistic arguments, they help to explain the renaissance of interest in theism.

Adam Morton and Stephen P. Stich Oxford: Blackwell: , p. The change has not gone unnoticed even in popular culture. In Time magazine ran major story entitled "Modernizing the Case for God" in which it described the movement among contemporary philosophers to refurbish the traditional arguments for God's existence. Time marveled, "In a quiet revolution in thought and argument that hardly anybody could have foreseen only two decades ago, God is making a comeback.

Most intriguingly, this is happening not among theologians or ordinary believers, but in the crisp intellectual circles of academic philosophers, where the consensus had long banished the Almighty from fruitful discourse" "Modernizing the Case for God," Time [7 April ], pp. The article cites the late Roderick Chisholm to the effect that the reason that atheism was so influential a generation ago is that the brightest philosophers were atheists; but today, in his opinion, many of the brightest philosophers are theists, using a tough-minded intellectualism in defense of that belief that was formerly lacking on their side of the debate.

A sign of the times: Philo itself, unable to succeed as a secular organ, has now become a journal for general philosophy of religion. One of the most significant developments in contemporary Religious Epistemology has been so-called Reformed Epistemology, spearheaded and developed by Alvin Plantinga, which directly assaults the evidentialist construal of rationality.

With respect to the belief that God exists, Plantinga holds that God has so constituted us that we naturally form this belief under certain circumstances; since the belief is thus formed by properly functioning cognitive faculties in an appropriate environment, it is warranted for us, and, insofar as our faculties are not disrupted by the noetic effects of sin, we shall believe this proposition deeply and firmly, so that we can be said, in virtue of the great warrant accruing to this belief for us, to know that God exists.

On Jesus' resurrection see N. Wright, C hristian Origins and the Question of God , vol. Daniel Howard-Snyder Bloomington, Ind. The Christian theist will therefore insist that in assessing the external problem of evil we consider, not just the evil in the world, but all the evidence relevant to God's existence, including the contingency argument for a Sufficient Reason why something exists rather than nothing, the cosmological argument for a Creator of the universe, the teleological argument for an intelligent Designer of the cosmos, the axiological argument for an ultimate, personally-embodied Good, the no-logical argument for an ultimate Mind, the epistemological argument for a Designer of our truth-directed cognitive faculties, the ontological argument for a Maximally Great Being, as well as evidence concerning the person of Christ, the historicity of the resurrection, the existence of miracles, and, in addition, existential and religious experience.

Walls Oxford: Oxford University Press, forthcoming. Corradini, S. Galvan, and J. Lowe London: Routledge, Knopf, , pp.

Agnostic theism

Some philosophers seem to suppose that moral truths, being necessarily true, cannot have an explanation of their truth. The crucial presupposition that necessary truths cannot stand in relations of explanatory priority to one another is not merely not evidently true, but seems plainly false. For example, the proposition A plurality of persons exists is necessarily true in a broadly logical sense because God exists is necessarily true and God is essentially a Trinity. Or again, No event precedes itself is necessarily true because Temporal becoming is an essential and objective feature of time is necessarily true.

It would be utterly implausible to suggest that the relation of explanatory priority obtaining between the relevant propositions is symmetrical. Summary An account of the resurgence of philosophical theism in our time, including a brief survey of prominent anti-theistic arguments such as the presumption of atheism, the incoherence of theism, and the problem of evil, along with a defense of theistic arguments like the contingency argument, the cosmological argument, the teleological argument, and the moral argument.

Introduction The last half-century has witnessed a veritable revolution in Anglo-American philosophy. If God exists, gratuitous evil does not exist. Gratuitous evil exists. Therefore, God does not exist. God exists. Therefore, gratuitous evil does not exist. If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God. The universe exists.

Therefore the explanation of the existence of the universe is God. Whatever begins to exist has a cause. The universe began to exist.