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In Indian philosophical discourses, monotheism was defended by Hindu philosophers particularly the Nyaya school , while Buddhist thinkers argued against their conception of a Creator God Sanskrit: Ishvara. Though Advaitins do believe in the usual Hindu gods, their view of ultimate reality is a radically monistic oneness Brahman without qualities and anything which appears like persons and gods is illusory maya.

For most of these non-theistic traditions, the path to ultimate reality includes various spiritual practices such as yoga and meditation. It is important to note that the above philosophical views do not necessarily entail atheism. Traditionally, Jains and Buddhists did not rule out the existence of limited deities or divine beings, they only rejected the idea of a single all powerful creator God or First cause posited by monotheists.

All religious traditions make knowledge claims which they argue are central to religious practice and to the ultimate solution to the main problem of human life. Evidentialism is the position that may be characterized as "a belief is rationally justified only if there is sufficient evidence for it". One of the strongest positions of evidentialism is that by William Kingdon Clifford who wrote: "It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence".

Both of them rely on the Ockhamist view that in the absence of evidence for X, belief in X is not justified. Many modern Thomists are also evidentialists in that they hold they can demonstrate there is evidence for the belief in God. Another move is to argue in a Bayesian way for the probability of a religious truth like God, not for total conclusive evidence. Some philosophers however, argue that religious belief is warranted without evidence and hence are sometimes called non-evidentialists. They include fideists and reformed epistemologists. Alvin Plantinga and other reformed epistemologists are examples of philosophers who argue that religious beliefs are "properly basic beliefs" and that it is not irrational to hold them even though they are not supported by any evidence.

This is qualified by the proviso that they can be defended against objections this differentiates this view from fideism. A properly basic belief is a belief that one can reasonably hold without evidence, such as a memory, a basic sensation or a perception. Plantinga's argument is that belief in God is of this type, because within every human mind there is a natural awareness of divinity. William James in his essay " The Will to Believe " argues for a pragmatic conception of religious belief. For James, religious belief is justified if one is presented with a question which is rationally undecidable and if one is presented with genuine and live options which are relevant for the individual.

Some work in recent epistemology of religion goes beyond debates over evidentialism, fideism, and reformed epistemology to consider contemporary issues deriving from new ideas about knowledge-how and practical skill; how practical factors can affect whether one could know whether theism is true; from formal epistemology's use of probability theory; or from social epistemology particularly the epistemology of testimony, or the epistemology of disagreement. For example, an important topic in the epistemology of religion is that of religious disagreement, and the issue of what it means for intelligent individuals of the same epistemic parity to disagree about religious issues.

Religious disagreement has been seen as possibly posing first-order or higher-order problems for religious belief. A first order problem refers to whether that evidence directly applies to the truth of any religious proposition, while a higher order problem instead applies to whether one has rationally assessed the first order evidence.

Higher order discussions focus on whether religious disagreement with epistemic peers someone whose epistemic ability is equal to our own demands us to adopt a skeptical or agnostic stance or whether to reduce or change our religious beliefs. While religions resort to rational arguments to attempt to establish their views, they also claim that religious belief is at least partially to be accepted through faith , confidence or trust in one's religious belief.

There are also different positions on how faith relates to reason. One example is the belief that faith and reason are compatible and work together, which is the view of Thomas Aquinas and the orthodox view of Catholic natural theology. According to this view, reason establishes certain religious truths and faith guided by reason gives us access to truths about the divine which, according to Aquinas, "exceed all the ability of human reason. Another position on is Fideism , the view that faith is "in some sense independent of, if not outright adversarial toward, reason.

Modern philosophers such as Kierkegaard , William James , and Wittgenstein have been associated with this label. Kierkegaard in particular, argued for the necessity of the religious to take a non-rational leap of faith to bridge the gulf between man and God. Wittgensteinian fideism meanwhile sees religious language games as being incommensurate with scientific and metaphysical language games, and that they are autonomous and thus may only be judged on their own standards. The obvious criticism to this is that many religions clearly put forth metaphysical claims.

Several contemporary New Atheist writers which are hostile to religion hold a related view which says that religious claims and scientific claims are opposed to each other, and that therefore religions are false. The Protestant theologian Karl Barth — argued that religious believers have no need to prove their beliefs through reason and thus rejected the project of natural theology.

According to Barth, human reason is corrupt and God is utterly different from his creatures, thus we can only rely on God's own revelation for religious knowledge. Barth's view has been termed Neo-orthodoxy. Phillips argues that God is not intelligible through reason or evidence because God is not an empirical object or a 'being among beings'. As Brian Davies points out, the problem with positions like Barth's is that they do not help us in deciding between inconsistent and competing revelations of the different religions.

The topic of whether religious beliefs are compatible with science and in what way is also another important topic in the philosophy of religion as well as in theology. This field draws the historical study of their interactions and conflicts, such as the debates in the United States over the teaching of evolution and creationism. The field also draws the scientific study of religion, particularly by psychologists and sociologists as well as cognitive scientists. Various theories about religion have arisen from these various disciplines.

One example is the various evolutionary theories of religion which see the phenomenon as either adaptive or a by-product. Another can be seen in the various theories put forth by the Cognitive science of religion.

These personal experiences tend to be highly important to the individuals who undergo them. One could interpret these experiences either veridically, neutrally or as delusions. Both monotheistic and non-monotheistic religious thinkers and mystics have appealed to religious experiences as evidence for their claims about ultimate reality. Philosophers such as Richard Swinburne and William Alston have compared religious experiences to everyday perceptions, that is, both are noetic and have a perceptual object, and thus religious experiences could logically be veridical unless we have a good reason to disbelieve them.

According to Brian Davies common objections against the veridical force of religious experiences include the fact that experience is frequently deceptive and that people who claim an experience of a god may be "mistakenly identifying an object of their experience", or be insane or hallucinating. Indeed, a drunken or hallucinating person could still perceive things correctly, therefore these objections cannot be said to necessarily disprove all religious experiences. According to C. Martin, "there are no tests agreed upon to establish genuine experience of God and distinguish it decisively from the ungenuine", and therefore all that religious experiences can establish is the reality of these psychological states.

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Theology and religious studies

Naturalistic explanations for religious experiences are often seen as undermining their epistemic value. Explanations such as the fear of death , suggestion , infantile regression , sexual frustration , neurological anomalies "it's all in the head" as well as the socio-political power that having such experiences might grant to a mystic have been put forward. Each is in an abnormal physical condition, and therefore has abnormal perceptions. Rowe notes:. The hidden assumption in Russell's argument is that bodily and mental states that interfere with reliable perceptions of the physical world also interfere with reliable perceptions of a spiritual world beyond the physical, if there is such a spiritual world to be perceived.

Perhaps this assumption is reasonable, but it certainly is not obviously true.

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In other words, as argued by C. Broad , "one might need to be slightly 'cracked'" or at least appear to be mentally and physically abnormal in order to perceive the supranormal spiritual world. William James meanwhile takes a middle course between accepting mystical experiences as veridical or seeing them as delusional.

He argues that for the individual who experiences them, they are authoritative and they break down the authority of the rational mind. Not only that, but according to James, the mystic is justified in this. But when it comes to the non-mystic, the outside observer, they have no reason to regard them as either veridical nor delusive.

The study of religious experiences from the perspective of the field of phenomenology has also been a feature of the philosophy of religion. Just like there are different religions, there are different forms of religious experience. Indian texts like the Bhagavad Gita also contain theophanic events. The diversity sometimes to the point of contradiction of religious experiences has also been used as an argument against their veridical nature, and as evidence that they are a purely subjective psychological phenomenon. In Western thought, religious experience mainly a theistic one has been described by the likes of Friedrich Schleiermacher , Rudolf Otto and William James.

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According to Schleiermacher, the distinguishing feature of a religious experience is that "one is overcome by the feeling of absolute dependence. He described this as "non-rational, non-sensory experience or feeling whose primary and immediate object is outside the self" as well as having the qualities of being a mystery, terrifying and fascinating.

Rowe meanwhile defined a religious experience as "an experience in which one senses the immediate presence of the divine. Non-monotheistic religions meanwhile also report different experiences from theophany, such as non-dual experiences of oneness and deeply focused meditative states termed Samadhi in Indian religion as well as experiences of final enlightenment or liberation moksha , nirvana , kevala in Hinduism , Buddhism and Jainism respectively. Another typology, offered by Chad Meister, differentiates between three major experiences: [60]. Another debate on this topic is whether all religious cultures share common core mystical experiences Perennialism or whether these experiences are in some way socially and culturally constructed Constructivism or Contextualism.

According to Walter Stace all cultures share mystical experiences of oneness with the external world, as well as introverted "Pure Conscious Events" which is empty of all concepts, thoughts, qualities, etc. Perennialists tend to distinguish between the experience itself, and its post experience interpretation to make sense of the different views in world religions. Some constructivists like Steven T.

Katz meanwhile have argued against the common core thesis, and for either the view that every mystical experience contains at least some concepts soft constructivism or that they are strongly shaped and determined by one's religious ideas and culture hard constructivism. All religions argue for certain values and ideas of the moral Good. Non-monotheistic Indian traditions like Buddhism and Advaita Vedanta find the highest Good in nirvana or moksha which leads to release from suffering and the rounds of rebirth and morality is a means to achieve this, while for monotheistic traditions, God is the source or ground of all morality and heaven in the highest human good.

The world religions also offer different conceptions of the source of evil and suffering in the world, that is, what is wrong with human life and how to solve and free ourselves from these dilemmas. A general question which philosophy of religion asks is what is the relationship, if any, between morality and religion. Brian Davies outlines four possible theses: [62]. Another important topic which is widely discussed in Abrahamic monotheistic religious philosophy is the problem of human Free will and God's omniscience. God's omniscience could presumably include perfect knowledge of the future, leading to Theological determinism and thus possibly contradicting with human free will.

Belief in miracles and supernatural events or occurrences is common among world religions.


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A miracle is an event which cannot be explained by rational or scientific means. The Resurrection of Jesus and the Miracles of Muhammad are examples of miracles claimed by religions.

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Skepticism towards the supernatural can be found in early philosophical traditions like the Indian Carvaka school and Greco-Roman philosophers like Lucretius. David Hume , who defined a miracle as "a violation of the laws of nature", famously argued against miracles in Of Miracles , Section X of An Enquiry concerning Human Understanding For Hume, the probability that a miracle hasn't occurred is always greater than the probability that it has because "as a firm and unalterable experience has established these laws [of nature], the proof against a miracle, from the very nature of the fact, is as entire as any argument from experience can possibly be imagined" Enquiry.

According to Rowe, there are two weaknesses with Hume's argument. First, there could be other forms of indirect evidence for the occurrence of a miracle that does not include testimony of someone's direct experience of it. For example, it is important to work out what is really distinctive about each of these ways of inquiring about the world.

Is this different when it is religious knowledge? The first course in the Philosophy, Science and Religion series, 'Science and Philosophy' was launched early in and you can sign up to it at any time. Completing all three courses will give you a broader understanding of this fascinating topic. Very informative and Well designed course to dive into the field of Philosophy, Science and Religion.

Very intuitive to get to know the fundamentals of the Religions, Science and Philosophy.


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In this series of lectures Professor John Greco discusses the topic of religious disagreement. In these contexts, theists and atheists often accuse each other of irrationality. Even worse, each party of the debate explains that irrationality by positing some moral or intellectual flaw in the other.

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Since then Plantinga has turned his attention from justification to warrant "that property enough of which is what makes the difference between knowledge and mere true belief" — Plantinga , p. He has been arguing in his Warrant trilogy that a belief is warranted if it is produced by a cognitive mechanism functioning in accordance with its design plan.

It seems pretty likely that if God designed us then it is part of God's design plan that we believe in God, so belief in God is rational and warranted and, if true, knowledge. This, of course, will do little to convince the atheist, but this does not worry Plantinga unduly. He views his main tasks as being the exposition of the truth about the epistemic status of theistic belief and the defence thereof against attacks, rather than attempts to convert sceptics to his position.

In particular, if Plantinga is right, it shifts the burden of proof onto the atheist: if she or he wants to show that the theist is irrational then she or he will have to show that the theist has not been designed by God to believe in God. But this seems a very difficult thing to prove. A different attempt at justification has come from William Alston who taught Plantinga when Plantinga was a graduate student. Alston has worked on the nature of religious experience, producing his book Perceiving God In it he claims that "putative direct awareness of God can provide justification for certain kinds of beliefs about God.

Finally on this topic, Edinburgh University Press has now launched a series on religious epistemology called 'Reason and Religion'. Each volume in the series is an exploration of one of the ways of seeking justification for religious beliefs. Apart from the attempt to justify the claims of religion, the philosophy of religion has traditionally sought to understand and explain those claims.

The central claim of western religions is that there is a God, and so western analytical philosophers of religion have spent a lot of their time trying to analyse that claim. This enterprise is usually called philosophical theology, though it belongs as much to metaphysics as it does to theology. In particular, debate has focussed on four of God's attributes: omnipotence, omniscience, eternity, and goodness.

For each of these, discussion tends to involve puzzles, such as 'Can God create a stone too heavy for God to lift? Here debate has focussed around how to define omnipotence while solving the old chestnuts mentioned above, and also on the question of whether God's omnipotence means that he can make us freely do what he wants, with most philosophers thinking not. There is also debate about whether any realm is outside God's power: does God really create all the truths of mathematics, morals, and logic too?

Could he have created them differently? Debate about omniscience has revolved around the question of whether God can know now what we shall freely do tomorrow. The argument goes something like this:. This is the view that accepts the argument, saying that it is not possible that God know what we shall freely do tomorrow, and so we are not free.

God has determined our every move, including the evil ones that we make. This response is typically made by Reformed Calvinists. This is the view that rejects the argument. This view says that it is possible that God foreknow what we shall freely do tomorrow. Usually those that take this line reject premiss 5 : I cannot tomorrow bring it about that God believed something yesterday. They insist that we can bring it about that God believed things in the past.

Those that take this line hold on both to God's exhaustive and infallible foreknowledge on the one hand and to human freedom on the other. This view in fact subdivides into two sub-views:. Let us say that tomorrow I shall feel tired and therefore freely stay in bed. Let us further suppose that if I had not felt tired I should freely have decided to get up.

On the Molinist view God knows from all eternity the conditional propositional that if I were to feel tired tomorrow I'd freely stay in bed tomorrow and he knows from all eternity also the conditional proposition that if I were not to feel tired tomorrow then I should freely get up tomorrow. Furthermore, God knows that I shall in fact feel tired tomorrow.

There is no obvious reason why God should not know this, as this is not a proposition about a future free action. But then God can deduce from the true proposition that I shall feel tired tomorrow and the true proposition that if I were to feel tired tomorrow I'd freely stay in bed tomorrow the true proposition that I shall freely stay in bed tomorrow. So, God can have infallible and exhaustive foreknowledge of the future, including our free future actions, thanks to his knowledge of what we should freely do in certain circumstances.

Knowledge of this sort is called God's 'middle knowledge' because it comes between his knowledge of necessary truths and his free knowledge of what he has freely decided to do. It is also called 'Molinism' after Luis de Molina, who first came up with the view, though there appear to be examples of it in the Bible: 1 Samuel and Matthew This view holds that God knows our future free actions, but not by middle knowledge.

A frequent metaphor used here is that God has a 'time telescope' that enables him to look into far-off times just as a normal telescope helps one to look into far-off places. The idea is that God 'sees' the future just as one might see something happening a distance away; just as my seeing somebody performing an action some distance away doesn't prevent the person from performing it freely, so God's foresight of our actions doesn't prevent them from being performed freely.


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This is the view that accepts the argument, but, instead of rejecting human freedom as Calvinistic indeterminists do, it rejects the view that God knows today what we shall freely do tomorrow. This view denies that God has exhaustive and infallible foreknowledge of future free actions. This has recently been the subject of much controversy within the evangelical community. Eternity is also still a 'hot' issue, the question here being whether to understand God's eternity as timelessness, or as everlastingness in time.

There are two intervening views: the relative timelessness view, which holds that God exists in his own time, which is different from ours and which cannot be measured by ours, and, secondly, the view that God exists timelessly sans creation and in time when he has created it. Paternoster has recently published a book on this debate also, God and Time: Four Views , in which Paul Helm defends the view that God is absolutely outside time, Alan Padgett claims that God is relatively timeless, William Lane Craig suggests that God is timeless and temporal, and Nick Wolterstorff defends the view that God is unqualifiedly in time.

This debate has some implications for the debate about whether God knows the future too. As for divine goodness, apart from the issues raised by evil, the questions being widely discussed include whether God can really be praised for doing good if it is impossible for God to do evil. It is suggested by some that God cannot qualify as good unless it is possible for him to do wrong. Others resist this suggestion, though some think of God as being 'beyond morals', while others hold that perhaps God can, but does not, sin.

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Other traditional issues within the philosophy of religion such as the nature of religious language have been rather quiet lately perhaps because Alvin Plantinga hasn't written anything on them. The questions here concern whether language about God should be understood as literal or as in some way analogical or metaphorical. When one says that God is wise, does one mean by 'wise' what one means when we says that one's grandma is wise?

Or do we mean something totally different? William Alston has written some helpful essays on this, collected in his Divine Nature and Human Language The topic was very important when the logical positivists ruled philosophy because theists were busy trying to find a way of construing religious language that A. Ayer would declare meaningful. Now that this threat has been lifted, philosophers of religion feel free to say that they mean what they say and that they say what they mean.

Two growth areas for philosophy of religion at the moment are its expansion into other areas of philosophy, through what is sometimes called 'Christian Philosophy', and its expansion into other areas of theology. This is all due, of course, to Alvin Plantinga, who in his inaugural lecture at the University of Notre Dame, 'Advice to Christian Philosophers' , suggested that the people of his title shouldn't feel obliged to follow the current trends and interests in contemporary secular philosophy, but should instead fulfil their obligation to the Christian church by philosophizing about issues of importance to the church.

Alvin Plantinga suggested that Christian Philosophers should philosophise about issues of importance to the church. Plantinga also urged Christian philosophers not to forget their religious commitments when working in other branches of philosophy. Quite a few, particularly at Notre Dame, have taken up his challenge and one of the results is the book Christian Theism and the Problems of Philosophy In it Christian philosophers bring their faith to bear on several unlikely topics, such as the analysis of counterfactuals.

As for the first part of Plantinga's request, perhaps the most systematic treatment of issues arising from the Christian creeds is Richard Swinburne's tetralogy. The first volume of this is Responsibility and Atonement , which is about humankind's sinfulness, guilt, and God's salvation of humans by the atonement. The second volume, Revelation , discusses what it would be for a sacred book, such as the Bible, to be a revelation from God.

The fourth volume, Providence and the Problem of Evil , tries to explain why God allows suffering.