I. Introduction to Philosophy of Religion
A. The Fundamental Questions of Philosophy of Religion
Some Fundamental Questions of Philosophical Theology:
1. Do we have any reason to believe that God exists?
Do we have any reason to believe that God does not exist?
2. What is the nature of God?
3. What is nature and significance of religious experience and of faith?
How does faith relate to reason?
4. Is God's foreknowledge compatible with human freedom?
5. Can sense be made of certain problematic Christian doctrines, such as The Trinity, The Incarnation, The Resurrection of the Dead, and Transubstantiation?
6. The debate between evolution and creationism.
B. Clarifying the Question of Existence of God
1. Two Senses of 'reason to believe'
a. Pascal's Wager
Blaise Pascal (1623-1662)
- French philosopher, mathematician, and physicist
- inventor of the first mechanical adding machine
- developer of modern probability theory (with Fermat)
- discovered a basic theorem of projective geometry ("Pascal's Theorem") at age 16
- discovered a principle in fluid dynamics ("Pascal's Law") (states the fluid transmits pressure equally in all directions) (there's even a unit of measurement (of pressure, I think) named after him
- used argument from probability for belief in the existence of God
The expected utility of believing in God far outweighs the expected utility of not believing in God.
Therefore, everyone has a good reason to believe in God.
Rationale for premise 1:
Four possibilities: Total amt. of happiness for you
1. You believe. God exists . +1,000,000,000,000,000
2. You believe. God does not exist. -500
3. You don't believe. God exists. -1,000,000,000,000,000
4. You don't believe. God does not exists. +500
You have two choices: either believe or don't believe. It is clearly more in your interests to believe, as the table above shows. Therefore, you have a good reason to believe that God exists.
However, Pascal, whether he knew it or not, was not asking the same question we were. The word 'reason' is ambiguous:
- Prudential Reason: There is a prudential reason to believe p iff believing p would make you better off.
- Evidential Reason: There is an evidential reason to believe p iff there is evidence that p is actually true (i.e., a good argument for the conclusion that that p is true).
So prudential reasons are aimed at making you better off.
Evidential reasons are aimed at the truth.
So, we can disambiguate our question, to give us two questions:
(1e) Are there any evidential reasons to think that God exists.
(1p) Are there any prudential reasons to think that God exists.
Pascal has come up with a pretty cool argument to answer affirmative to 1p. But that is not our question. We're interested in knowing whether there are any evidential reasons for believing that God exists.
So Pascal's Wager, though interesting, is wholly irrelevant to our project.
2. A definition of 'God'
The other term of significance (other than 'reason to believe') in our question is 'God'. It is also very important the we get clear on what this word means as well.
a. God as Love
One Possible Definition of God: God is love.
If this is our definition, then there it is pretty clear that there are evidential reasons to believe in God: there is a pretty straightforward argument for the conclusion that God exists:
Argument from Love
1. I love my wife. [empirical fact]
2. If I love my wife, then love exits. [analytic truth]
3. Therefore, love exists. [1,2, MP lemma]
4. God is love. [definition of God]
5. Therefore, God exists. [4,5, sub. of identicals]
If we accept this definition of God, then we're done. But the thing is, this definition is defective. We all have some concept of God, and love simply doesn't fit the bill. This definition of God is defective. For example, God, if he exists, is thought to be a person (or at least have lots of traits persons have) -- he thinks, has intentions and desires, can take action and make things happen. But love is just a relation that obtains sometime between pairs of people. Love can't do these other things. God is also thought to have created the universe. Can answer prayers. Can punish people intentionally. Love can't do any of these things in any literal way.
We need a definition of God that captures
the debate between Theists and Atheists. Is God were love, then
no one would be an atheist. But there is a substantive debate
between Theists and Atheists. We need to capture what they are
b. God as The Supreme Being
A Better Definition of 'God': God as the Supreme Being:
God is the necessarily existing, all-powerful, all-knowing, and wholly good, creator of the universe.
x exists necessarily =df. x exists, and it would have been impossible for x not to exist.
This definition of God captures the debate between Theists and Atheists. The three major religions of this world see God in this way. People who call themselves atheists deny that there is any such being. This definition thus seems pretty good.
Thus, the first question we will be investigating is this:
Are there any evidential reasons to believe that a necessarily existing, all-powerful, all-knowing, and wholly good, creator of the universe exists.
C. Types of Argument for the Existence of God
1. Cosmological Arguments
(also called "Causal Arguments")
Arguments based on the idea that there must be an ultimate cause, or explanation, for everything that happens and exists.
2. Teleological Arguments
(also called "Arguments from Design")
Arguments based on the observation that the world, or things in the world, appear to be designed for a purpose by an intelligent designer.
3. Ontological Arguments
Arguments that identify something about the divine attributes themselves that allegedly guarantees that there must be something that has these attributes.