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I begin by retracing an argument from Aristotle for final causes in science. Then, I advance this ancient thought, and defend an argument for a stronger conclusion: that no scientific explanation can succeed, if Naturalism is true. The argument goes like this: (1) Any scientific explanation can be successful only if it crucially involves a natural regularity. Next, I argue that (2) any explanation can be successful only if it crucially involves no element that calls out for explanation but lacks one. From (1) and (2) it follows that (3) a scientific explanation can be successful only if it crucially involves a natural regularity, and this regularity does not call out for explanation while lacking one. I then argue that (4) if Naturalism is true, then all every natural regularity calls out for explanation but lacks one. From (3) and (4) it follows that (5) if Naturalism is true, then no scientific explanation can be successful. If you believe that scientific explanation can be (indeed, often has been) successful, as I do, then this is a reason to reject Naturalism.
This article presents an argument for atheism that contains a premise stated from the first-person perspective and that is intended to rationally persuade people who satisfy certain conditions. The argument also contains a premise about what God would do, if God existed, that is acceptable to theists and is affirmed in some major monotheistic religious traditions. This article explains how the argument differs from some other familiar arguments for atheism and then discusses some critical responses to it.
Religion is relevant to all of us, whether we are believers or not. This book concerns two interrelated topics. First, how probable is God's existence? Should we not conclude that all divinities are human inventions? Second, what are the mental and social functions of endorsing religious beliefs? The answers to these questions are interdependent. If a religious belief were true, the fact that humans hold it might be explained by describing how its truth was discovered. If all religious beliefs are false, a different explanation is required. In this provocative book Herman Philipse combines philosophical investigations concerning the truth of religious convictions with empirical research on the origins and functions of religious beliefs. Numerous topics are discussed, such as the historical genesis of monotheisms out of polytheisms, how to explain Saul's conversion to Jesus, and whether any apologetic strategy of Christian philosophers is convincing. Universal atheism is the final conclusion.
Toleration of suicide and the campaign to legalize euthanasia, this article shows, are historically separate developments. From the early 1880s to the 1900s the American press featured moral discussions of suicide alongside gloomy roll calls and expressions of anxiety about an alleged increase in suicide. Focusing on an extensive discussion in the San Francisco Call in 1896, the article shows that Robert G. Ingersoll’s liberal individualist toleration of suicide clearly resonated with many Americans at the time. I trace the rise of suicide from private tragedy to public issue in the United States. Perhaps surprisingly, there was no crossover with euthanasia and no call whatever for assistance with suicide, despite the frequent employment of the plight of the terminally ill in the discussion. Finally, the article shows that those who called for euthanasia thought of it as a human utility and not a right.
This chapter returns to the start of Bayle’s publishing career, and the famous argument for the possibility of virtuous atheism in the Pensées diverses. Bayle’s sources and modes of argumentation are identified. Ultimately, the work was a relatively trivial piece of haute vulgarisation; to the extent that the book had an underlying message, it was to outline an anti-Pelagian anthropology. The book proved entirely uncontroversial until it was incorporated into the anti-Bayle campaign waged by Jurieu in the early 1690s. Only at this point did Bayle come up with the elaborate historicisation already discussed in II.1, which also served to expand greatly the canon of (moral) ancient and Asian atheists. But this argument also served another purpose: to further elaborate Bayle’s case for toleration, based on the rights of the errant conscience. This involved Bayle in the theological controversy over ‘philosophic sin’ that had been stirred up by Antoine Arnauld. It led him to develop his mature position. Philosophy had historically been valuable in morality, but disastrous when it came to conceptualising the divine. Christianity had resolved the situation by providing solutions to otherwise insoluble theological problems via its doctrine of creation ex nihilo by a transcendent creator deity (rather than a metaphysical first principle), and by supplying the common people with a set of moral doctrines clearer than those of any philosopher.
Existentialism is often seen and at times parodied as the philosophy of individuality, authenticity, despair, and defiance in a godless world. However, it cannot be understood without reference to religion, and in particular the monotheism of Christianity. Even the existentialist slogan, 'existence precedes essence', is formulated in relation to monotheism. This Element will show that monotheism and existentialism are intertwined: they react to each other, and share content and concerns. This Element will set out a genealogy of existentialist thought; explore key atheistic and theistic existentialists; and argue that there are productive conversations to be had as regards key concepts such as freedom and authenticity, relationality, and ethics.
The politicization of religion is the result of the competition over loyalties between the nation-state and religious groups. The state regulates the immanent and the transcendent. Allegiance to the state transcends the allegiance to God on the Chinese territory. The genealogy of this habitus is traced back to the Jesuit mission to China in the 16th century through the rise of the Communist Party and the current mode of regulation/repression of religion by the state, especially the Muslims in the Xinjiang province.
Spinoza responds to the charge of atheism and the accompanying insinuation that his philosophy is irreligious by arguing that philosophy are theology distinct and autonomous practices. Each operates in accordance with its own epistemological standards and neither is the handmaid of the other. However, many of his readers have found his defense of this position unconvincing. Spinoza, they have claimed, awards priority to philosophy by endowing it with the authority to judge religion. In this chapter, I examine Spinoza’s response to their accusation. Religion, as he portrays it, can take various forms, of which the religion revealed in Scripture is one, and Spinozist philosophy is another. The shift from a theological to a philosophical mode of enquiry is not a move from a religious to a non-religious outlook, but a transition from one form of religious practice to another. This conclusion may disappoint critics who regard Spinoza as a predominantly secular philosopher, but I argue that they misidentify the nature of his radicalism. Spinoza undoubtedly aims to challenge the dominant religions of his time; but he also aspires to illuminate a form of religion that does justice to a philosophical understanding of God.
Chapter 5 is dedicated to a study of Hegel’s controversial student Bruno Bauer. An account is given of Bauer’s life and his relations with Hegel, Marx, Engels, and others. The chapter gives a close reading of Bauer’s Christianity Exposed. This work was immediately banned by the Prussian government, which confiscated the book from the bookstores and tried to destroy the entire print run. Bauer explains that the work is about the atheistic Enlightenment of the eighteenth century, which, he claims, has recently seen a revival. Bauer explains his idea of “modern criticism,” by which he means that the proper philosophical view should not just be critical of specific things but rather should issue a universal criticism, sparing nothing, regardless of how sacred it might be. Bauer argues that alienation is a necessary feature of religion. He holds Christianity responsible for the undermining of freedom, equality, and love. Bauer notes that religious sects must also persecute any form of critical or independent thinking. Religion thus demands that individuals sacrifice their faculty of reason, which amounts to their very humanity.
Stressing that fully declared atheism was illegal throughout the Romantic period and beyond, the chapter gives a brief survey of some philosophical Enlightenment ‘isms’ which could sometimes be seen as connected to it, such as materialism, pantheism, necessitarianism, idealism, scepticism, and deism. It then moves from such abstractions into the world of active, sometimes dangerous debates about atheism itself, focusing on specific clashes between such figures as Joseph Priestley, Edward Gibbon, Thomas Paine, Richard Carlile, C. F. Volney, Erasmus Darwin, and their critics. The final section looks more closely at ways in which the atheism debate impinged on some of the period’s canonical poets, particularly the anxiously Christian Samuel Taylor Coleridge and the firmly atheist Percy Bysshe Shelley.
Theism is the view that God exists; naturalism is the view that there are no supernatural beings, processes, mechanisms, or forces. This Element explores whether things are better, worse, or neither on theism relative to naturalism. It introduces readers to the central philosophical issues that bear on this question, and it distinguishes a wide range of ways it can be answered. It critically examines four views, three of which hold (in various ways) that things are better on theism than on naturalism, and one of which holds just the opposite.
Nagasawa has argued that the suffering associated with evolution presents a greater challenge to atheism than to theism because that evil is incompatible with ‘existential optimism’ about the world – with seeing the world as an overall good place, and being thankful that we exist. I argue that even if atheism was incompatible with existential optimism in this way, this presents no threat to atheism. Moreover, it is unclear how the suffering associated with evolution could on its own undermine existential optimism. Links between Nagasawa's argument and the current debate about the axiology of (a)theism are also explored.
Prior to Hegel’s portrayal of the French Revolution’s “fanaticism for destruction,” F. H. Jacobi criticized the impoverished, abstract conception of reason that he sees realized in the politics, philosophy, and broader intellectual culture of the era. Inaugurating a tradition of reflection in German thought, Jacobi labels this conception “nihilism.” While Jacobi identifies and analyzes both the theoretical and the practical sides of nihilism, its basic sense is practical. Practical nihilism equates ideal rationality with the realization of a pure form, minus the “way of sensing [Sinnesart]” that allows us to see what is at stake in any situation. Jacobi further argues that one’s “way of sensing” is the source of individuality and so of one’s irreplaceable value as a person. For Jacobi, the otherwise diverse group including the French philosophes, Kant, and Fichte all exemplify practical nihilism in some manner or other. This account starts from Jacobi’s initial reactions to the French Revolution, eventually captured by the letter “To Erhard O.” (1792). This discussion establishes the core of Jacobi’s objection to his era’s dominant conception of rationality. The open letter “To Fichte” (1799) in which the charge of nihilism first appears is explicable against this decades-old concern on Jacobi’s part.
Why do we disagree? Ultimately, it comes down to faith. The Christianity Ruse is rejecting is the Christianity of Kierkegaard. Faith demands a leap into the absurd. Reason and evidence backing up the faith commitment would render it inauthentic. Believe without seeing the scars! Hence, for Ruse, given that he thinks this the only authentic Christianity, all attempts to make sense of Christianity are pointless. You are trying to square the circle. Davies is a committed Christian, a Roman Catholic philosopher, and theologian. For him, faith and reason do not clash; they are complementary. Hence, for Davies it is legitimate – demanded – that he bring reason to bear on his faith beliefs, for instance, concerning the Trinity and the Incarnation. In the end, although there is sympathy for the beliefs of the other and much respect, Michael Ruse and Brian Davies are on different tracks, and they do not run in parallel.
Is debate on issues related to faith and reason still possible when dialogue between believers and non-believers has collapsed? Taking God Seriously not only proves that it is possible, but also demonstrates that such dialogue produces fruitful results. Here, Brian Davies, a Dominican priest and leading scholar of Thomas Aquinas, and Michael Ruse, a philosopher of science and well-known non-believer, offer an extended discussion on the nature and plausibility of belief in God and Christianity. They explore key topics in the study of religion, notably the nature of faith, the place of reason in discussions about religion, proofs for the existence of God, the problem of evil, and the problem of multiple competing religious systems, as well as the core concepts of Christian belief including the Trinity and the justification of morality. Written in a jargon-free manner, avoiding the extremes of evangelical literalism and New Atheism prejudice, Taking God Seriously does not compromise integrity or shy from discussing important or difficult issues.
Uses a set of experiments to explore how voters react to political candidates who describe themselves with varying degrees of secularity, from a hard-edged version such as “atheist” to a softer statement like “I’m not particularly religious.” The results show that while voters are averse to candidates who express disbelief in God, they are open to candidates who describe their secularity in other ways.
American society is rapidly secularizing–a radical departure from its historically high level of religiosity–and politics is a big part of the reason. Just as, forty years ago, the Religious Right arose as a new political movement, today secularism is gaining traction as a distinct and politically energized identity. This book examines the political causes and political consequences of this secular surge, drawing on a wealth of original data. The authors show that secular identity is in part a reaction to the Religious Right. However, while the political impact of secularism is profound, there may not yet be a Secular Left to counterbalance the Religious Right. Secularism has introduced new tensions within the Democratic Party while adding oxygen to political polarization between Democrats and Republicans. Still there may be opportunities to reach common ground if politicians seek to forge coalitions that encompass both secular and religious Americans.
Demonstrates, with original data, that Americans are more secular than they appear. We do so by contrasting conventional measures of nonreligiosity (the absence of religion) with our new and novel measures of personal secularism – or a secular worldview. We use a variety of methods, quantitative and qualitative, to validate these measures, which are then employed throughout the book.
Locke’s doctrine of the fundamentals has important irenic implications. His omission of disputed doctrines from his account of Christianity implies toleration of all those accepting the Law of Faith. Moreover, his theological writings do not describe affiliation to a church as essential to salvation. This position implicitly makes denominationally uncommitted Christians tolerable. This is a step beyond the mere separation between the state and religious societies, which Locke affirmed in his “letters” on toleration. However, Locke argued that acceptance of the Law of Faith could lead not only to salvation, but also to properly comprehend and observe the divine law. This position is problematic, since Locke avoided extending toleration from competing conceptions of salvation to competing conceptions of the good. But, to Locke, those who believe in God, although rejecting the Law of Faith, are tolerable, because they acknowledge the divinely given Law of Nature and, thus, can meet at least minimally decent moral standards. This is why he did not exclude non-Christian believers from toleration, while he was intolerant of atheists and censured the immoral ideas held by Roman Catholics.
There is a common misconception that our genomes - all unique, except for those in identical twins - have the upper hand in controlling our destiny. The latest genetic discoveries, however, do not support that view. Although genetic variation does influence differences in various human behaviours to a greater or lesser degree, most of the time this does not undermine our genuine free will. Genetic determinism comes into play only in various medical conditions, notably some psychiatric syndromes. Denis Alexander here demonstrates that we are not slaves to our genes. He shows how a predisposition to behave in certain ways is influenced at a molecular level by particular genes. Yet a far greater influence on our behaviours is our world-views that lie beyond science - and that have an impact on how we think the latest genetic discoveries should, or should not, be applied. Written in an engaging style, Alexander's book offers tools for understanding and assessing the latest genetic discoveries critically.