Philosophy of Religion
Philosophy of Religion
The philosophical study of religion is primary
focused upon three areas:
• The existence of God
• Rationality and of Religious Belief
• The Problem of Evil.
Existence of God
• St. Anselm- Ontological Argument
• Gaunilo- Anti Ontological Argument
• St. Thomas Aquinas- 5 Proofs
• William Paley- Watch on Beach
• David Hume- Weak Analogy
St. Anselm (1033- 1109)
• St. Anselm argues for the necessary
existence of a perfect being.
• His argument is a priori in nature.
• It is based upon the meaning of certain
terms, and does not rely upon empirical a
• His argument, sometimes called the
ontological argument, because it is based
upon the nature of being.
• Anselm says that if we imagine two
objects, both identical, but one exist and
the other does not, then the one that exist
is more perfect.
Can Perfection be More Perfect?
• If something is already perfect, how can it
be more perfect?
• Anslem, argues that perfection can not be
more perfect, so by it’s very nature it must
exist in order to be deemed perfect.
St. Anselm: Imagine the greatest
1. The greatest possible being is Perfect. It
is All powerful, All knowing, All good.
2. In order to be the perfect being,
IT must exist.
3. Because if you did not exist, then it would
not be the greatest or most perfect thing)
4. Therefore the greatest possible being
must necessarily exist!
• A French monk argues that existence
does not make something more perfect.
• He employs a reductio argument.
• The idea is that if Anselm is correct in his
assertion regarding God's necessary
existence, then the same would be true for
a perfect island.
• He ask us to imagine
the perfect island,
yet to exist in reality
is more perfect than
to simply exist in the
• So in order to be
perfect, it must exist
Reductio ad um Serdum
• Believing in the perfect Island makes it
• This is absurd
• Just as it is an absurdity to conclude that
God necessary exist simply because we
can conceive of him.
Island, No. God, Yes!
• Anselm agrees that it is absurd to
conclude that the perfect island exist just
because you think of it!
• But God is a different matter all together.
• His existence is guaranteed by his
St. Thomas Aquinas
• Gave 5 proofs
• The first 4
ways fail but
• Efficient Cause
• POSSIBILITY AND NECESSITY
• DEGREES OF PERFECTION
St. Thomas Aquinas (1224- 1274)
• Wants to give a posteriori arguments for
the existence of God. He wants to go from
things that we see in our everyday
experience and draw conclusions from
these regarding the nature of reality. In
the Summa Theologica he gives the Five
Ways that God's existence can be proven
by empirical means.
St. Thomas Aquinas-Motion
1) Objects are in motion
2) If something is in motion, then it must be set into
motion by something outside of itself
3) There can not be an infinite chain of movers,
4) So, there is a first, unmoved mover that sets the
world into motion.
5)Hence God exist and is the first unmoved mover.
St. Thomas Aquinas
1) Some events cause other events.
2) If an event happens, then it must be caused by
some prior event outside of itself.
3) There cannot be an infinite causal chain of
cause an effect
4) So, there must be a first, efficient cause,
5) Hence, God is this first cause and exist.
St. Thomas Aquinas
POSSIBILITY AND NECESSITY
1) Contingent things exist.
2) Each contingent thing has a time when it
fails to exist (Aquinas assumes
contingent objects are not eternal)
3) So, if everything were contingent, then
there would be a time in the past when
nothing existed. A time of complete
POSSIBILITY AND NECESSITY
4) That time of complete emptiness would have been in the
5) If nothing existed in the past, then nothing would exist
now, since something cannot come from nothing.
6) So, if everything were contingent, nothing would exist
(But clearly things do exist now, the world is not empty.)
7) Therefore a being exist that is not contingent.
8) Hence, God is this necessary being and he exist.
St. Thomas Aquinas
DEGREES OF PERFECTION
1) Objects have properties to greater or
2) If an object has a property to a lesser
extent, then there must be an object that
has it to the maximum extent.
3) So there is a being that has all properties
to the greatest possible degree
4) Hence this being is God and he exist
St. Thomas Aquinas
1) Among objects that have goals or purpose, some
have minds and others do not.
2) An object that has a goal, but does not have a
mind, must have been designed by a being that
had a mind.
3) So there exists a being with a mind who designed
all of the mindless objects that act for ends.
4) Hence this Being is God and he does exist.
William Paley (1743- 1805)
• Paley's Watch-
• Imagine you are walking on a
beach and you see a rock…
• How did it come to be there?
• The question seems absurd.
• For all you know it has been
Paley, find a watch on the beach
• Now imagine you find a watch on the
• How did it get there?
• This question seems less absurd.
• Perhaps it was created randomly- by the
wave action and the sand on the beach.
Paley- random or designer?
• Or maybe it had a designer. Of those two
hypothesis which seems to be the most
• Paley thinks , just as you most probably
do, that it makes more sense to talk about
the watch having a designer.
Watch --- Natural creatures
• Paley wants to drawn an analogy
between the watch and nature.
• Look at the complexity of nature and
• Does it not make sense to conclude that
they have a designer?
• Paley thinks that the answer is obviously
Of the 2 choices one makes more
• H1- Random
• H2- Designer
• H3- ????
Problems with design argument
• It does not prove there is an interactive
• It does not prove there is only one
• It does not clearly show who is the
David Hume (1711- 1776)
• Argues that the design argument is really
a very weak analogy.
• It is one thing to talk about watches, it is
another to talk about living organisms and
still another to talk about the universe.
• He claims that the argument does not
make it rational to conclude that the
universe has a designer.
• If there is a
designer, who is the
• A higher being?
Which higher being?
• What are humans
Look who is playing God!
70% of our food is GE!
• Darwin’s Theory of
Evolution of Species.
• Charles Darwin
Published the Origin of
Species in 1859
Chimpanzee and human
ancestors may have interbred.
• Genetic analysis suggests a messy
split between the two lineages.
• The evolutionary split between humans
and our nearest evolutionary cousins,
chimpanzees, may have occurred more
recently than we thought, according to a
new comparison of the respective genetic
A Bizarre Love Triangle
• Our two sets of ancestors may have
interbred many thousands of years after
first parting company.
Our earliest ancestor?
• Previous estimates put the split at as
much as 7 million years ago — meaning
that Toumaï, a fossil dating from at least
6.5 million years ago in Chad and
assigned to the species Sahelanthropus
tchadensis, was hailed as the earliest-
known member of the line that gave rise to
Harvard Med says…
• Researchers led by David Reich of
Harvard Medical School in Boston,
Massachusetts, now calculate that the split
may have occurred no more than 6.3
million years ago, and possibly as recently
as 5.4 million. That would make Toumaï
older than the time of the split.
How do they know?
• The researchers make their claim after
comparing the genetic codes of humans,
chimpanzees, gorillas and other primates
in unprecedented detail — more than 20
million DNA 'letters' in all. By checking the
differences between different species'
DNA sequences, they were able to
estimate the time since they first diverged.
We share an X.
• Reich and his team explain in their study, published
online in Nature. Different sections of the genome differ
by different amounts, suggesting that they parted ways
at different times. The divorce period between the two
species, the data suggest, could have lasted a million
The region bearing the most similarity is the X
chromosome. This is exactly what one might expect if
the two lineages had continued to interbreed after first
starting to separate.
• If a hybrid population did exist, the
question remains as to whether it died out,
or whether modern humans or
chimpanzees (or both) are its
Who’s related to whom?
• It's very difficult to say, admits Reich.
• "The fossil data suggest, very tenuously,
that it may have been humans who are
descended from the hybrid population."
• “Human-like fossils far outnumber
chimpanzee-like ones in the fossil record,
making it difficult to see exactly who was
sleeping with whom at the time.” (Nature)
• Evolutionary theory is as true as any other
• Natural selection or survival of the fittest
has been confirmed by evidence from the
• It is a way of organizing our experiences of
the world, not unlike any other scientific
Poster boy atheism
• Who needs
• Explains the
Darwin is a Theist!
• “But with regard to the material world, we
ca at least go so far as this- we can
perceive that events are brought about not
by insulated interposition of Divine power,
exerted in each particular case, but by the
establishment of general laws”-
• Whewell: Bridgewater Treatise Prologue,
Darwin’s Origin of Species
• H1- Random
• H2- Designer
• H3- Evolution
• H4- Evolution + Designer
• Evolution does not rule out the possibility
of intelligent design for the universe.
Descartes 3 Proofs
(Contingent & Necessary Being)
Teleological Argument (Design)
We have the idea of God, perfection, in
order to have that idea of perfection, it
must have come from the perfect
I exist, but did not cause myself to exist,
therefore there must exist a necessary
being, God, which causes me (and the
rest of the world) to exist.
The purpose and harmony of nature. The
complexity of creatures; surely there is a
Kant argues against these
Ontological Argument- problem: Existence is
not a property of objects.
Cosmological Argument- problem: he claims
some contingent beings are necessary or
at least eternal.
(Contingent & Necessary Being)
Teleological Argument (Design)- problem:
he claims that at best there may be a
architect but not a interactive designer.
Kant argues we should all hope
• Kant claims that we should all hope that
God exist. In that way justice will be
served to those who have lived a wicked
and unjust life and yet prospered in this
• If you are a moral agent, then you must
assume the God’s existence in order to be
The Rationality of Belief
• John Henry Newman
• Soren Kierkegaard
• Blaise Pascal (1623- 1662)
• Julian of Norwich
• Codification of Bible
• William James
John Henry Newman
• Our feeling of conscience lead us to
knowledge of God. Our sense of
conscience emanated from a supreme
being that will judge our actions.
• True understanding of God is beyond our
• God is beyond time and space.
• Jesus became part of time part of space.
He became a contradiction, a paradox.
• Truth is subjective, truth is relative. Belief
in God is contradictory.
• Pascal thought
belief in God
• He proposed a
God Exist God Does Not Exist
You Infinite Bliss +/- 5
You Infinite Damnation +/- 5
A) If you believe in God, and he exist, then you are
going to heaven and are going to reap infinite
B) If you don't believe in God, and he does exist,
then you are going to hell and suffer infinite pain.
C) If you believe in God, and he does not exist,
you have wasted some small measure of
D) If you don't believe in God and he does not
exist, then you have saved some small measure
• James thinks that the existence of God
can not be proved or refuted by science.
• It is something that is open for us to
believe in even though there is not
sufficient evidence for it.
• We can “Will ourselves to believe” in God
How we believe…
• James defines a hypothesis as a proposed
• Such a hypothesis may be live or dead,
forced or avoidable, momentous or trivial.
• When a hypothesis is live, forced and
momentous then it is a genuine option for
us to choose to believe in it.
Faith versus Reason
• Reason seeks justification for our beliefs
• Faith needs no justification.
• Mystical or personal visions granted by
• Julian of Norwich, claimed to have
“showings” that came directly from God.
Gnosticism vs. Christianity
• What books belong in the Bible.
• For 300 years after the time of Jesus,
there were numerous books and religions
based upon his teachings.
• Gnostic teachings are books written at this
time, but that are not now part of the Bible.
Bible was codified in 325
• The First Council of Nicaea
• Under the leadership of the Roman
Emperor Constantine, the early church
was called to the city of Nicaea,
• First Ecumenical Council of the Catholic
Church, held in 325 AD on the occasion of
the heresy of Arius, Arianism.
Unified the Church
• The Council of Nicaea was historically
significant because it was the first effort to
attain consensus in the church through an
assembly representing all of Christendom.
• Believers should hold that the council was
divinely inspired to include the right books.
Council of Nicaea
• At the council of Nicaea the creation of the
Nicene Creed, a precedent was
established for subsequent general
councils to create a statement of belief
and canons which was intended to
become orthodox for all Christians.
All Holy Books…
• All believers in Holy Books and writing
should hold that those books are divinely
inspired. They are the word of god
transmitted to man.
• “God is Dead!”
• If you are intelligent, able to reason, you
understand that God is a fable, a fairy tale
used by the powerful to control the weak.
Sigmund Freud (1856- 1939)
• Freud divides the psyche
into three elements,
• The id- (the it),
• The ego, (the I)
• The super ego (super I).
• The id is the original core of our being. It
is directed by two instincts- sex and
• The id wants immediate gratification of its
• (Most men never out grow this- some
• The ego develops out of the id.
• It is aimed out satisfying our desires in a
more rational, and ultimately more
The Super Ego
• The super ego contains our moral
prohibitions and positive ideals.
• It develops from our parents, educators
• It is an over arching force within us that
directs the ego.
The Pleasure Principle
• According to Freud the ego is conscious
while the super ego and id or unconscious
parts of our psyche.
• Freud claims that our psyche acts from
one central purpose: to maximize
pleasure. As such, he is a psychological
• He calls this notion the Pleasure principle.
• The id is often direct by this principle.
• The ego, discovers that sometimes
greater pleasure can be achieved by
refraining for immediate gratification
• This realization by the ego is the reality
principle, since it takes into account the
structure of the real world.
The Future of an Illusion
• In the book, the Future of an Illusion Freud
applies his theory to religious belief.
• According to Freud most religious belief is
captured by the idea that there is a God,
who cares about us, and that will provide
us with a eternal happiness after this life.
• A Protective Father Figure.
• Freud argues that the origin of such a
belief, which is lacking almost any
empirical evidence, is wish fulfillment.
• It is the result of the psychological desire
for protection from a cold brutal reality.
• Belief in God is simply wishful thinking
Belief in God is ignorance!
• "Ignorance is Ignorance; no right to believe
anything can be derived from [ignorance
or wishful thinking]…
• Scientific work is the only road which can
lead us to a knowledge of reality outside of
• The scientific reality is God does not exist.
• The Logical Positivist claimed that since
God is an unseen entity, one that cannot
be verified, then the term God is
meaningless, nonsensical and empty.
The Problem of Evil.
• Can an all knowing all powerful all good
being allow evil to exist?
• Why does Evil Exist in the world?
J. L. Mackie
• J. L. Mackie argues that if we consider the
notion of a 3 Omni being-
• He argues that an omni benevolent being
will attempt to stop all evil,
• That an all powerful being could stop all
• Therefore if such a being exist then evil
Logical Proof that God does not
• 1. If a being is omni benevolent, he will try to
stop all evil.
• 2. If a being is all powerful he can do anything,
(including stopping all evil)
• 3. If a being is all knowing, then he knows
everything (including every instance of evil)
• 4. So if such a being existed he would not permit
any evil; for such an omni benevolent being will
try to remove all evil from the world and an
omnipotent being can do anything.
• 5. Since evil exist a Three Omni God does not.
A limitation of God’s Power.
• Some argue that we need evil to know
good. But why should this be the case.
• Must we know and experience evil in order
to know good? How many rapes and
murders do we need before we all know
• This argument is a limitation upon God's
• Theologian respond in different ways.
Often they claim that evil is necessary or
that it is the result of human free will.
• Mackie argues that it should not be
necessary, and that humans could still
have free will even if God prevented us
from committing evils.
• Even if we grant that free will is
responsible for some evil, what about
• Evil or pain that results from natural
• If people are hurt or killed in an earth
quake isn't their pain and suffering an evil?
Why should God stand idly by and not
help those that are in need?
Do we need evil?
• If you are all powerful you don't need to
employ any particular means to your end.
• You don't need to use evil to show what
good is, your god, you can do it any way
that you want.
• So why choose a means that creates pain
• An Earth Quake in San Giuliano Italy
flattened the only school, killing at least
• Rescue workers were pulling the last
bodies out of the rubble when another
quake hit the region.
• One might argue that it was human freewill
that lead to this tragedy.
• Humans freely choose to build their school
at that location, freely sent their kids to
school that day, and were therefore
responsible for the tragedy.
Where is God?
• This has some plausibility,
• Imagine you see your neighbor digging a
hole, and you know he is a few inches
away from a natural gas pipeline.
• Should you just sit back and let him strike
the pipe and kill himself and perhaps you,
because it is his choice, his free will to
decide to did the hole there or not?
Knowingly let us die
• If you know tragedy is about to befall him,
should you not try to stop him, or at least
inform him of his impending doom?
• If you tell him, and he still chooses to dig,
then forget him,
• He is truly is exercising his freewill.
• The best of all
• God, being all
powerful, all knowing
and all good, created
the best of all worlds.
Principle of Sufficient Reason
• Principle of Sufficient Reason:
There is a reason why things are exactly as
they are and not some other way.
• Any event can be explained by referring to
a prior cause.
• But the prior cause itself must be
explained by a still earlier cause.
• If all the causes we refer to are alike in
that they must be caused, we could never
fully explain the reason for any event.
God is outside of Time
• In order to explain the world, there must
exist a being outside of the causal chain of
events, which gives purpose and meaning
to each event.
• That being is God.
• Let's consider three cases.
• Omni benevolent God
• Man does both good and bad.
• He commits evil in some instances and
attempts to stop it in others.
• For the most part his free will is the source
of a great amount of the evil in the world.
• Superman is omni benevolent.
• He is all good. (For the sake of argument.)
• He always does the right thing, and he
has a desire to relieve suffering and to
stop evil where ever he finds it.
• Yet, he is mortal, and his power and
knowledge are limited.
• He cannot be everywhere at every time,
and he does not know something bad is
going to happen before it actually does.
• Omni benevolent- All Good.
• Omniscient- All Knowing
• Omnipotent- All Powerful
• He is all good. He always does the right
thing, and he has a desire to relieve
suffering and to stop evil where ever he
• All knowing. Knowing all acts, events and
all of the laws that govern the universe.
An All Powerful God can do all
• God can stop all evil- that's what it means
to be all powerful, and God knows
whenever an evil thing is about to happen,
so God can prevent it.
Faces of the Disaster
Before and After
• John Hick argues that there are at least 2
ways to try to explain evil.
• Augustinian theodicy
• Irenaean Theodicy
• One is the Augustinian theodicy which
tries to reconcile the existence of evil with
an all good being. St. Augustine argued
that evil was simply a privation- a lack of a
• A blind man simply lacks that what a man
with sight has.
• As such there is not an existing thing that
• Further , "All evil is either sin or
punishment for sin." Is his other
Punishment for sin
• St. Augustine- "All evil
is either sin or
punishment for sin." Is
his other explanation.
St Irenaeus (130-202 AD)
• St Irenaeus thought that the existence o
evil actually serves a purpose. From his
point of view, evil provides the necessary
problems through which we take part in
what he calls "soul-making". From this
point of view, evil is a means to an end in
as much as if it did not exist, there would
be no means of spiritual development.
• An Irenaean Theodicy maintains that
creation is a 2 step process. God first
made man in his image, as it is stated in
genesis and is now making us into his
No perfect creation
• According to this view, "God's purpose in
creation was not to make a perfectly
comfortable dwelling-place for fully formed
human beings, but to put rational
creatures with the potential for growth in
an imperfect environment where they
could, through their freely chosen
responses to difficulties they encounter,
If a 3 omni God existed…
• If there were a all powerful, all knowing all
good being, then he could do anything.
• The possibilities seem endless.
The possibilities are endless.
• What the world would be like with a 3 Omni god
around would be nearly unfathomable.
• Earth quakes would stop before they start.
Hurricanes would meander harmlessly over the
• Bullets would stop in midair,
• Infants falling out a 10 story high-rise would land
softly on the ground as those they had wings.
Not in this world.
• The point is that such a world does not
• Our existence is not one where we interact
with such a powerful deity.
• The three Omni god appears not to exist
because of the evil in the world.
The reality is that…
• God seems to lacks either omnipotence or
• In such a case, God cannot stamp out all
• In such a case, God would be is in the
same boat as Superman.
In the end,
• In the end, this topic is a matter of faith,
and faith does not need a rational
• In order to have faith, all you need to do it
Faith Vs. Reason
• Leo Tolstoy
• Tolstoy begins by considering life. He wishes to
know what science and rationality have to say
regarding the meaning of his life.
• What do they have to say? Nothing.
• They can tell him what he is- a collection of
atoms that are arranged in such a way that he is
"alive", they can explain the process of the
formation of the universe, but…
• Science cannot give meaning to our existence.
Life is meaningless
• He finds such a life to be unfulfilling and
• He feels that the stark reality of no afterlife
and of no meaning to be loathsome.
• "I could not attribute any rational meaning
to a single act, let alone my whole life. I
simply felt astonished that I had not
recognized this from the beginning. It had
all been common knowledge for such a
• Today or tomorrow sickness and death will
come (and they had already arrived) to
those dear to me, and to myself, and
nothing will remain other than stench and
worms. Sooner or later my deeds,
whatever they may have been, will be
forgotten and will no longer exist. What is
all the fuss about? How can a person carry
on living and fail to perceive this….“
A Stupid Trick
• In fact he contemplates suicide and
considers life to be nothing more than
"a stupid trick"- lacking meaning and
• He says, "philosophical knowledge denies
nothing but simply replies that it cannot
solve the question, and that as far as it is
concerned any resolution remains infinite.
• Having understood this, I realized that it
was impossible to search for an answer to
my questions in rational knowledge; …
rational knowledge had led me to
recognize that life is meaningless. My life
came to a halt and I wanted to kill myself.”
Humanity, the masses
• “It appeared that mankind, as a whole, had
some kind of comprehension of the meaning of
life that I did not acknowledge or derided.
• It followed that rational knowledge does not
provide the meaning of life, but excluded it; while
the meaning given to millions of people,
humanity as a whole, is founded on some sort of
knowledge that is despised and considered
Not as irrational
• “ A contradiction arose from which there
were two ways out: either that which I
called reasonable was not as reasonable
as I thought, or that which I thought was
irrational was not as irrational as I thought.
Living allows us to live…
• As I looked around at people, at humanity
as a whole, I saw that they lived and
affirmed that they knew the meaning of
life. I looked at myself, I had lived as long
as I knew the meaning of life.
• For me, as for others, faith provided the
meaning of life and the possibility of
Faith for meaning!
• “Thus in addition to rational knowledge,
which I had thought was the only kind of
knowledge, I was inevitably led to
acknowledge that there exist another kind
of knowledge- an irrational one-
possessed by humanity as a whole: faith,
which affords the possibility of living…
• Where there is life, there is faith!”