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October 19 2014 21:20 PDT

Religious ceremonies and customs
	of Tajiks. Interior of the mosqaue of Kok Gumbaz in Ura Tiube. 
	Library of Congress LC-DIG-ppmsca-12199.

Mosque of Kok Gumbaz in Ura Tiube

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Philosophy of Religion

Abstract: Topics in the philosophy of religion including arguments for God's existence amd the problem of evil are outlined with reference to the classic papers on the subject.

In order to determine a meaning for our lives, the question of the existence of God is a vitally important concern.

Thus, in this part of the course we consider whether philosophy can shed any meaningful light on the traditional arguments for the existence of God.

If no deductive proof is achieved, then, how is philosophical reasoning relevant in determining how we ought to live?

Online Notes in this Section:

Introduction to Philosophy of Religion. Philosophy of religion is breifly characterized, and natural and deductive theology are defined.

Existence is Not a Predicate. Immanuel Kant agures that existence is not an additional quality of a thing, and so concepts cannot imply existence.

The Ontological Argument. Anselm's a priori argument based on the definition of God as a being than which no greater can be conceived is analyzed.

The Cosmological Argument. Thomas Aquinas' Five Ways, a posteriori proofs for God's existence, together with some objections to those proofs, are surveyed.

  • The Argument from Motion. Thomas' argument that since everything that moves is moved by another, there must thereby exist an Unmoved Mover is outlined and explained. Objections to that argument are also briefly examined.
  • The Argument from Efficient Cause. Thomas' First Cause Argument for the existence of God is outlined and briefly clarified. Some standard objections to that argument are listed.
  • The Argument to a Necessary Being. Thomas' Argument from Necessity is outlined and explained. He argues that since all existent things depend upon other things for their existence, there must exist at least one thing that is a Necessary Being. Some standard objections to that argument are also briefly discussed.
  • The Argument from Gradation. Thomas' Argument from Gradation for the existence of God is outlined and briefly clarified. Some standard objections to that argument are listed.
  • The Argument from Design. Thomas Aquinas' Argument from Design and objections to that argument are outlined and discussed. Thomas argues the intricate complexity and order in the universe can only be explained through the existence of a Great Designer.

The Teleological Argument. William Paley's famous Watch Argument, a version of the teleological argument for God's existence, is briefly analyzed.

Design Argument: A Critique David Hume relates a number of fundamental objections to the argument to God's existence for the natural order of the universe.

Pascal's Wager. The argument we have everything to gain and nothing to lose by believing is offered; two well-known, substantial objections are described.

Can God's Existence Be Proved? Søren Kierkegaard's insights that existence cannot be proved but must be assumed are discussed.

The Problem of Evil. Fyodor Dostoevsky's Ivan from the novel Brothers Karamazov ponders how to account for the death of an innocent child.

Evil Can Be Allowed. John Hick accounts for some of the questions surrounding the problems of moral and nonmoral evil.

Truth as Subjectivity Kierkegaard's life and works are briefly outlined with emphasis first on the dialectic of stages on life's way and second on truth as subjectivity.

Further Reading:
  • Ars Disputandi. An online journal for the philosophy of religion consisting of short peer review articles, discussion, and book reviews hosted by Utrecht University>
  • AS Philosophy: Philosophy of Religion. Topical summaries and articles on the important topic in the philosophy of religion including religious language, existence arguments, the problem of evil and the question of miracles from Stephen A. Richards.
  • Internet Encyclopedia of Religion. Useful articles, definitions, and short entries compiled from authoritative sources in religion, philosophy, and history— entries are somewhat limited in number and scope.
  • Michael Sudduth's Natural Theology Website: Various readings, links, and papers on natural theology are made available on this useful site. Classic readings linked from other sites are listed as well. Handouts from Michael Suddeth's course in Religious Epistemology are well worth a look also.
  • Notes on the Existence of God. Developed, well-balanced lecture notes from Don Mannison on the traditional areguments for God's existence and the problems arising from the language, science, and free will.
  • Philosophy of Religion. An introductory and interesting survey including the arguments for God's existence, arguments for agnosticism and atheism, Christian ethics, and a brief summary of conclusions on these issues by Tim Holt.
  • Religion Facts. An academic presentation of the tenets of major and minor religions, both ancient and modern.
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“The moral sentiment is … the source … of sneers and jokes of common people, who feel that the forms and dogmas are not true for them, though they do not see where the error lies. The religion of one age is the literary entertainment of the next.” Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Character,” in The Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson, (London: George Bell and Sons, 1905), Vol. IV, 315.

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