Over the last several hundred years there has been tremendous growth in scientific understanding of the world in such fields as biology, astronomy, physics, and geology. These advances have had considerable influence on religious belief.
When religious texts, such as the Bible, have been in conflict with science, the latter has generally been the winner in the debate ; religious beliefs have commonly given way to the power of the scientific method. It has seemed to some that modern science will be able to explain all of the fundamental questions of life with no remainder.
Given the advances of science and the retreat of religious beliefs, many in the latter half of the twentieth century agreed with the general Freudian view that a new era was on the horizon in which the infantile illusions, or perhaps delusions, of religion would soon go the way of the ancient Greek and Roman gods. With the onset of the twenty-first century, however, a new narrative has emerged. Religion has not fallen into oblivion, as many anticipated; in fact, religious belief is on the rise. Many factors account for this, including challenges to psychological and sociological theories which hold belief in God to be pathological or neurotic.
In recent decades these theories have themselves been challenged by medical and psychological research, being understood by many to be theories designed primarily to destroy belief in God. Another important factor is the increase in the number of believing and outspoken scientists, such as Francis Collins, the director of the human genome project. But despite this orchestrated opposition arguing the falsity and incoherence of theism, it has proved rather resilient.
Indeed, the twenty-first century is reflecting a renewed interest in philosophical theism. Philosophical challenges to theism have also included the claim that the very concept of God makes no sense—that the attributes ascribed to God are logically incoherent either individually or collectively. There are first-rate philosophers today who argue that theism is coherent and others of equal stature who argue that theism is incoherent.
The insights of Ezra Chitando provide some light on the possible future connection between Theology and Religious Studies. Problems of Religious Diversity. These developments have been characterized by a series of recurrent tensions, including the notion of divine or spiritual realities as being transcendent or immanent, organicism or mechanism, and of the natural world as including or excluding human beings. The majority of Iranian women were subject to traditional and religious restrictions whose authority rested with the family and religious leaders, not state laws Higgins, In general, the close ties that ecclesiae have to the state help ensure they will support state policies and practices. He then asks which is greater: to exist in the mind or in reality. Their suffering was real, but their explanation of it was false.
Much of the criticism of the concept of theism has focused on God as understood in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, but it is also relevant to the theistic elements found within Mahayana Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism, and certain forms of African and Native American religions. The question of whether theism is coherent is an important one, for if there is reason to believe that theism is incoherent, theistic belief is in an important sense undermined.
The logical consistency of each of the divine attributes of classical theism has been challenged by both adherents and non-adherents of theism. Consider the divine attribute of omniscience.
If God knows what you will freely do tomorrow, then it is the case now that you will indeed do that tomorrow. But how can you be free not to do that thing tomorrow if it is true now that you will in fact freely do that thing tomorrow? There is a vast array of replies to this puzzle, but some philosophers conclude that omniscience is incompatible with future free action and that, since there is future free action, God—if God exists—is not omniscient.
Another objection to the coherence of theism has to do with the divine attribute of omnipotence and is referred to as the stone paradox. An omnipotent being, as traditionally understood, is a being who can bring about anything. So, an omnipotent being could create a stone that was too heavy for such a being to lift.
But if he could not lift the stone, he would not be omnipotent, and if he could not make such a stone, he would not be omnipotent. Hence, no such being exists. A number of replies have been offered to this puzzle, but some philosophers conclude that the notion of omnipotence as traditionally defined is incoherent and must be redefined if the concept of God is to remain a plausible one.
Arguments for the incoherence of theism have been offered for each of the divine attributes.
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While there have been many challenges to the classical attributes of God, there are also contemporary philosophers and theologians who have defended each of them as traditionally understood. There is much lively discussion currently underway by those defending both the classical and neo-classical views of God.
go But not all theistic philosophers and theologians have believed that the truths of religious beliefs can be or even should be demonstrated or rationally justified. Perhaps the most compelling and noteworthy argument against theism is what is referred to as the problem of evil. Philosophers of the East and the West have long recognized that difficulties arise for one who affirms both the existence of an omnipotent and omnibenevolent God and the reality of evil. David Hume, quoting the ancient Greek thinker Epicurus — B. Is he [God] willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Is he able, but not willing? Is he both able and willing? There are different ways the problem of evil can be formulated.
One formulation is construed as a logical problem. For the logical problem of evil , it is asserted that the two claims, 1 an omnipotent and omnibenevolent God exists, and 2 evil exists, are logically incompatible.
Since evil ostensibly exists, the argument goes, God understood traditionally as being omnipotent and omnibenevolent must not exist. In the latter half of the twentieth century, the logical argument held sway.
But by the end of that century, it was widely acknowledged by philosophers of religion that the logical problem had been rebutted. One reason is that as claims 1 and 2 are not explicitly contradictory, there must be hidden premises or unstated assumptions which make them so. But what might those be? Given these claims, 1 and 2 would be logically incompatible.
However, it turns out that at least a may not be true, even on a classical theistic account.
It could be that a world with free agents is more valuable than a world with no free agents. Further, it could be that such free agents cannot be caused or determined to do only what is morally right and good, even by God. If this is so, in order for God to create agents who are capable of moral good, God had to create agents who are capable of moral evil as well. If this is a logical possibility, and it seems to be so, then premise a is not a necessary truth because God cannot create just any world.
In addition, premise b is not necessarily true either. For all we know, God could use evil to achieve some good end, such as bringing about the virtues of compassion and mercy.
As long as a and b are possibly false, the conclusion of the argument is no longer necessarily true, so it loses its deductive force. This response to the logical argument from evil is called a defense , which is distinguished from a theodicy. The aim of a defense is to demonstrate that the arguments from evil are unsuccessful given a possible scenario or set of scenarios, whereas a theodicy is an attempt to justify God and the ways of God given the evil and suffering in the world.
Both defenses and theodicies have been used by theists in responding to the various problems of evil. Evidential arguments attempt to demonstrate that the existence of evil in the world counts as inductive evidence against the claim that God exists. One form of the evidential argument from evil is based on the assumption, often agreed on by theists and atheists alike, that an omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent being would prevent the existence of significant amounts of gratuitous evil.
Since significant amounts of gratuitous evil seem to exist, God probably does not.
One influential approach, espoused by William Rowe , contends that many evils, such as the slow and agonizing death of a fawn burned in a forest fire ignited by lightning, appear to be gratuitous. However, an omnipotent and omniscient being could have prevented them from occurring, and an omnibenevolent being would have not allowed any significant pointless evils to occur if they could have been avoided.
So, the argument concludes, it is more reasonable to disbelieve that God exists. One way of responding to such arguments is to attempt to demonstrate that there is, after all, a point to each of the seemingly gratuitous evils. A solid case for even some examples would lower the probability of the evidential argument, and one could maintain that normal epistemic limitations restrict knowledge in many other examples. The theistic traditions historically have, in fact, affirmed the inscrutability of God and the ways of God. The skeptical theist has created a chasm between human and divine knowledge far beyond what theism has traditionally affirmed.
Another version of the evidential argument has been advanced by Paul Draper. On this hypothesis, the existence of sentient beings including their nature and their place is neither the result of a benevolent nor a malevolent nonhuman person. Contrast this with the theistic account in which, since God is morally perfect, there must be morally good reasons for allowing biologically useless pain, and there must be morally good reasons for producing pleasures even if such pleasures are not biologically useful.
But given our observations of the pains and pleasures experienced by sentient creatures, including their biologically gratuitous experiences such as those brought about by biological evolution , the hypothesis of indifference provides a more reasonable account than theism.