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Chapter 02

THE PHILOSOPHY OF RELIGION

Overview

A. Chapter Summary and Goals
B. Discussion Text

2.a Challenges to Religious Belief
2.b The Problem of Evil
2.c Mysticism and Religious Experience
2.d The Ontological Argument for God's Existence
2.e The Cosmological Argument for God's Existence
2.f The Design Argument for God's Existence
2.g Faith and Rationality

C. Discussion and Essay Questions
D. Topical Links, Web Links and Activities
E. Self-Test Questions and Answers
F. Suggestions for Further Reading

 

A. Chapter Summary and Goals

Summary: In this chapter we will look at the major issues surrounding the philosophy of religion. We will began by looking at major challenges to religious belief, such as attacks on the rationality of belief in miracles, the view that religion acts like a drug to keep the oppressed masses subservient, and that modern civilization has essentially killed the idea of God. One of the most longstanding attacks on religion, though, is based on "the problem of evil," which questions how an all-good, all-powerful, and all-knowing God could allow suffering in the world. In contrast to these attacks on religion, several arguments have been offered in proof of God's existence. Religious mysticism offers a direct empirical proof: we know that God exists because religious mystics have directly experienced him. A more formal proof for God's existence is the ontological argument, according to which "the greatest conceivable being" must exist since it is contradictory to suggest otherwise. The cosmological argument maintains that there must be a first cause at the head of the causal connections that we see in the world around us. The most influential theistic proof is probably the design argument, which maintains that the presence of natural design in the world around us implies the existence of some designer. The chapter concludes by considering whether belief in God should be grounded in faith rather than reason.

Goals:

  • Understand the challenges to religious belief
  • Understand the problem of evil and its solutions
  • Understand the problems behind mysticism and religious experience
  • Understand the ontological argument for God's existence and its criticisms
  • Understand the cosmological argument for God's existence and its criticisms
  • Understand the design argument for God's existence and its criticisms
  • Understand the tension between faith and rationality


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