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Table of contents

Phillips At least two reasons bolstered this philosophy of religion inspired by Wittgenstein. First, it seemed as though this methodology was more faithful to the practice of philosophy of religion being truly about the actual practice of religious persons themselves.

Second, while there has been a revival of philosophical arguments for and against theism and alternative concepts of God as will be noted in section 5 , significant numbers of philosophers from the mid-twentieth century onward have concluded that all the traditional arguments and counter-arguments about the metaphysical claims of religion are indecisive.

If that is the case, the Wittgenstein-inspired new philosophy of religion had the advantage of shifting ground to what might be a more promising area of agreement. While this non-realist approach to religion has its defenders today, especially in work by Howard Wettstein, many philosophers have contended that traditional and contemporary religious life rests on making claims about what is truly the case in a realist context.

It is hard to imagine why persons would pray to God if they, literally, thought there is no God of any kind. Interestingly, perhaps inheriting the Wittgenstein stress on practice, some philosophers working on religion today place greater stress on the meaning of religion in life, rather than seeing religious belief as primarily a matter of assessing an hypothesis see Cottingham Virtually all the extant and current methodologies in epistemology have been employed in assessing religious claims.

Some of these methods have been more rationalistic in the sense that they have involved reasoning from ostensibly self-evident truths e. Also, some have sought to be ahistorical not dependent upon historical revelation claims , while others are profoundly historical e. Over the past twenty years, there has been a growing literature on the nature of religious faith.

Among many philosophers in the analytical tradition, faith has often been treated as the propositional attitude belief, e.

The following examines first what is known as evidentialism and reformed epistemology and then a form of what is called volitional epistemology of religion. Evidentialism is the view that for a person to be justified in some belief, that person must have some awareness of the evidence for the belief. On this view, the belief in question must not be undermined or defeated by other, evident beliefs held by the person. Moreover, evidentialists often contend that the degree of confidence in a belief should be proportional to the evidence.

Evidentialism has been defended by representatives of all the different viewpoints in philosophy of religion: theism, atheism, advocates of non-theistic models of God, agnostics. Evidentialists have differed in terms of their accounts of evidence what weight might be given to phenomenology? Probably the most well known evidentialist in the field of philosophy of religion who advocates for theism is Richard Swinburne —.

Swinburne was and is the leading advocate of theistic natural theology since the early s. Swinburne has applied his considerable analytical skills in arguing for the coherence and cogency of theism, and the analysis and defense of specific Christian teachings about the trinity, incarnation, the resurrection of Christ, revelation, and more.

Taylor — , F. Tennant — , William Temple — , H. Lewis — , and A. Ewing — The positive philosophical case for theism has been met by work by many powerful philosophers, most recently Ronald Hepburn — , J. Schellenberg — , and Paul Draper —.

B o e k h a n d e l

There have been at least two interesting, recent developments in the philosophy of religion in the framework of evidentialism. Arguably, in the Christian understanding of values, an evident relationship with God is part of the highest human good, and if God were loving, God would bring about such a good. Because there is evidence that God does not make Godself available to earnest seekers of such a relationship, this is evidence that such a God does not exist.

The argument applies beyond Christian values and theism, and to any concept of God in which God is powerful and good and such that a relationship with such a good God would be fulfilling and good for creatures. It would not work with a concept of God as we find, for example, in the work of Aristotle in which God is not lovingly and providentially engaged in the world.

This line of reasoning is often referred to in terms of the hiddenness of God. Another interesting development has been advanced by Sandra Menssen and Thomas Sullivan. In philosophical reflection about God the tendency has been to give priority to what may be called bare theism assessing the plausibility of there being the God of theism rather than a more specific concept of God. This priority makes sense insofar as the plausibility of a general thesis there are mammals on the savanna will be greater than a more specific thesis there are 12, giraffes on the savanna.

In terms of the order of inquiry, it may be helpful at times, to consider more specific philosophical positions—for example, it may seem at first glance that materialism is hopeless until one engages the resources of some specific materialist account that involves functionalism—but, arguably, this does not alone offset the logical primacy of the more general thesis whether this is bare theism or bare materialism.

Perhaps the import of the Menssen-Sullivan proposal is that philosophers of religion need to enhance their critical assessment of general positions along with taking seriously more specific accounts about the data on hand e. Evidentialism has been challenged on many grounds. Some argue that it is too stringent; we have many evident beliefs that we would be at a loss to successfully justify. Instead of evidentialism, some philosophers adopt a form of reliabilism, according to which a person may be justified in a belief so long as the belief is produced by a reliable means, whether or not the person is aware of evidence that justifies the belief.

Two movements in philosophy of religion develop positions that are not in line with the traditional evidential tradition: reformed epistemology and volitional epistemology. Reformed epistemology has been championed by Alvin Plantinga — and Nicholas Wolterstorff — , among others. While this sense of God may not be apparent due to sin, it can reliably prompt persons to believe in God and support a life of Christian faith.

While this prompting may play an evidential role in terms of the experience or ostensible perception of God, it can also warrant Christian belief in the absence of evidence or argument see K. In the language Plantinga introduced, belief in God may be as properly basic as our ordinary beliefs about other persons and the world.

The framework of Reformed epistemology is conditional as it advances the thesis that if there is a God and if God has indeed created us with a sensus divinitatis that reliably leads us to believe truly that God exists, then such belief is warranted. There is a sense in which Reformed epistemology is more of a defensive strategy offering grounds for thinking that religious belief, if true, is warranted rather than providing a positive reason why persons who do not have or believe they have a sensus divinitatis should embrace Christian faith.

Plantinga has argued that at least one alternative to Christian faith, secular naturalism, is deeply problematic, if not self-refuting, but this position if cogent has been advanced more as a reason not to be a naturalist than as a reason for being a theist. Reformed epistemology is not ipso facto fideism. Fideism explicitly endorses the legitimacy of faith without the support, not just of propositional evidence, but also of reason MacSwain By contrast, Reformed epistemology offers a metaphysical and epistemological account of warrant according to which belief in God can be warranted even if it is not supported by evidence and it offers an account of properly basic belief according to which basic belief in God is on an epistemic par with our ordinary basic beliefs about the world and other minds which seem to be paradigmatically rational.

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Nonetheless, while Reformed epistemology is not necessarily fideistic, it shares with fideism the idea that a person may have a justified religious belief in the absence of evidence. Consider now what is called volitional epistemology in the philosophy of religion. Paul Moser has systematically argued for a profoundly different framework in which he contends that if the God of Christianity exists, this God would not be evident to inquirers who for example are curious about whether God exists.

This process might involve persons receiving accepting the revelation of Jesus Christ as redeemer and sanctifier who calls persons to a radical life of loving compassion, even the loving of our enemies. The terrain covered so far in this entry indicates considerable disagreement over epistemic justification and religious belief. If the experts disagree about such matters, what should non-experts think and do?


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Or, putting the question to the so-called experts, if you as a trained inquirer disagree about the above matters with those whom you regard as equally intelligent and sensitive to evidence, should that fact alone bring you to modify or even abandon the confidence you hold concerning your own beliefs? Some philosophers propose that in the case of disagreements among epistemic peers, one should seek some kind of account of the disagreement. For example, is there any reason to think that the evidence available to you and your peers differs or is conceived of differently.

Perhaps there are ways of explaining, for example, why Buddhists may claim not to observe themselves as substantial selves existing over time whereas a non-Buddhist might claim that self-observation provides grounds for believing that persons are substantial, enduring agents David Lund The non-Buddhist might need another reason to prefer her framework over the Buddhist one, but she would at least perhaps have found a way of accounting for why equally reasonable persons would come to different conclusions in the face of ostensibly identical evidence.

Assessing the significance of disagreement over religious belief is very different from assessing the significance of disagreement in domains where there are clearer, shared understandings of methodology and evidence. For example, if two equally proficient detectives examine the same evidence that Smith murdered Jones, their disagreement should other things being equal lead us to modify confidence that Smith is guilty, for the detectives may be presumed to use the same evidence and methods of investigation.

But in assessing the disagreements among philosophers over for example the coherence and plausibility of theism, philosophers today often rely on different methodologies phenomenology, empiricism, conceptual or linguistic analysis, structural theory, post-structuralism, psychoanalysis, and so on.

But what if a person accepts a given religion as reasonable and yet acknowledges that equally reasonable, mature, responsible inquirers adopt a different religion incompatible with her own and they all share a similar philosophical methodology? This situation is not an abstract thought experiment. One option would be to adopt an epistemological pluralism, according to which persons can be equally well justified in affirming incompatible beliefs.

This option would seem to provide some grounds for epistemic humility Audi ; Ward , , At the end of this section, two observations are also worth noting about epistemic disagreements. First, our beliefs and our confidence in the truth of our beliefs may not be under our voluntary control. Perhaps you form a belief of the truth of Buddhism based on what you take to be compelling evidence. Even if you are convinced that equally intelligent persons do not reach a similar conclusion, that alone may not empower you to deny what seems to you to be compelling.

Second, if the disagreement between experts gives you reason to abandon a position, then the very principle you are relying on one should abandon a belief that X if experts disagree about X would be undermined, for experts disagree about what one should do when experts disagree.

For overviews and explorations of relevant philosophical work in a pluralistic setting, see New Models of Religious Understanding edited by Fiona Ellis and Renewing Philosophy of Religion edited by Paul Draper and J. The relationship between religion and science has been an important topic in twentieth century philosophy of religion and it seems highly important today. This section begins by considering the National Academy of Sciences and Institute of Medicine now the National Academy of Medicine statement on the relationship between science and religion:.

1. Preliminaries: The Face Value Theory

Science and religion are based on different aspects of human experience. In science, explanations must be based on evidence drawn from examining the natural world. Scientifically based observations or experiments that conflict with an explanation eventually must lead to modification or even abandonment of that explanation. Religious faith, in contrast, does not depend only on empirical evidence, is not necessarily modified in the face of conflicting evidence, and typically involves supernatural forces or entities.

Because they are not a part of nature, supernatural entities cannot be investigated by science. In this sense, science and religion are separate and address aspects of human understanding in different ways. Attempts to pit science and religion against each other create controversy where none needs to exist. NASIM This view of science and religion seems promising on many fronts. Neither God nor Allah nor Brahman the divine as conceived of in Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism is a physical or material object or process.

It seems, then, that the divine or the sacred and many other elements in world religions meditation, prayer, sin and forgiveness, deliverance from craving can only be indirectly investigated scientifically. So, a neurologist can produce detailed studies of the brains of monks and nuns when they pray and meditate, and there can be comparative studies of the health of those who practice a religion and those who do not, but it is very hard to conceive of how to scientifically measure God or Allah or Brahman or the Dao, heaven, and so on. Despite the initial plausibility of the Academies stance, however, it may be problematic.

Kant's Philosophy of Religion (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy/Fall Edition)

The later are a panoply of what is commonly thought of as preposterous superstition. The similarity of the terms supernatural and superstitious may not be an accident. Moving beyond this minor point about terminology, religious beliefs have traditionally and today been thought of as subject to evidence.

Evidence for religious beliefs have included appeal to the contingency of the cosmos and principles of explanation, the ostensibly purposive nature of the cosmos, the emergence of consciousness, and so on.

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Evidence against religious belief have included appeal to the evident, quantity of evil in the cosmos, the success of the natural sciences, and so on. One reason, however, for supporting the Academies notion that religion and science do not overlap is the fact that in modern science there has been a bracketing of reference to minds and the mental. That is, the sciences have been concerned with a mind-independent physical world, whereas in religion this is chiefly a domain concerned with mind feelings, emotions, thoughts, ideas, and so on , created minds and in the case of some religions the mind of God.

The science of Kepler, Copernicus, Galileo, and Newton was carried out with an explicit study of the world without appeal to anything involving what today would be referred to as the psychological, the mind or the mental.