Introduces some of the major traditional arguments for and Against the existence of God, as well as some less well-known, but thought-provoking arguments For the existence of God, and one of the most important new challenges to religious belief from the Cognitive Science of Religion. An introductory chapter traces the connection between philosophy and religion throughout Western history, and a final chapter addresses the place of non-Western and non-monotheistic religions within contemporary philosophy of religion.
Introduction to the Book:
This short book mostly covers some of the more influential, or just interesting, arguments for and against belief in God. There are many other interesting philosophical questions that arise in the context of specific theological commitments (some philosophers would categorize these arguments under the heading of “philosophical theology” rather than “philosophy of religion”). For example, is the specifically Christian doctrine of the Trinity (which says there is one God, but three divine persons) logically coherent? Is the specifically Islamic view of God’s providence and control over the universe compatible with free will, and moral responsibility along with it? Is the specifically Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura (“the Bible alone”) self-contradictory, if the Bible itself doesn’t explicitly teach it? Can we make coherent sense of the specifically Buddhist doctrine that, after death, the arhat or enlightened person, does not continue to exist, does not cease to exist, and does not do both or neither? And many more such philosophical puzzles about specific religious or theological doctrines could be asked. However, in this short introductory text, we are mostly introducing some general arguments about belief in God more broadly rather than delving into other, more specific religious doctrines. The first chapter clears up some misconceptions about the relation between philosophy and religion. The second and third chapters cover some influential arguments for belief in the existence of God, and the fourth and fifth cover some influential arguments against belief in the existence of God. The final chapter, on the other hand, questions how well this “general” approach to philosophy of religion accommodates various world religions, and critiques the very approach we are taking!
All of the books in the Introduction to Philosophy series are written specifically for an audience that has little to no previous exposure to philosophy. We have tried to steer clear of jargon as much as possible, and we hope you will find the language reasonably easy to follow and the arguments explained in ways that are as easy to follow as the subject matter permits. Almost every position or argument presented in this book is therefore, of necessity, presented on a basic level, and although various responses, objections and counterarguments are presented, there is in almost every instance a vast literature containing even more discussion on almost every point. What this book aims to do is only to give the reader a broad overview of the arguments presented. Each chapter then ends with a selection of Further Readings that have been chosen as being among the most beneficial places for novices to go for more information. Therefore, use a chapter in this book as a tool to help orient yourself to the topics, the “big picture” and the basic ideas that are in play, and then go to the Further Readings when you are ready to delve more deeply into a specific topic that has piqued your interest.
When it comes to religion, some readers will begin as firm believers in some religion, others staunch opponents of some religion, or of many, or of all religions. Some may be undecided, but curious to learn more. And after reading about some of the arguments in this book, some readers may change their minds, while others may become more firmly convinced of what they already suspected to be true. But regardless of what you believe when you begin your study of the philosophy of religion or when you end it, one thing is certain: you will have a richer life, and a better understanding of others around you, for having thought things through from various sides of the issues.