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Clifford's "ethics of belief" is a set of issues based on four main concepts: psychology, philosophy of mind, ethics, and epistemology. Clifford argued that “it is wrong...to accept... inadequate evidence” in these tenets (Clifford 139). His argument was that people had a moral duty to question their convictions and find facts to back them up. He bases his claims on a story he wrote about a ship owner who, despite knowing that his ship is old and poorly constructed, sends it out to sea on an immigrant voyage. The ship has made many voyages and weathered through the storms, so he believed that like those other voyages the ship will still make it in its deplorable condition. However, this does not hold as the ship sinks killing all onboard. Clifford holds the owner of the ship as the person responsible the deaths because his failure to search for evidence from the beliefs ends up killing people.
Clifford believed that no beliefs are private since almost everything people do affects others directly or indirectly. He rejects the moral subjectivism which assumes that knowledge is found within self through self-experiences. Therefore, he favors objectivism through objective verification of truth and not just holding a belief without questioning the rationale behind that truth. He concludes that though verification of truth people can avert biased arguments and thoughts that they hold as the truth. But without having rationale for every belief held, then people became liable for any mistake that might arise from misjudgment or their actions.
Anselms, “the ontological argument”; Thomas Aquinas, “five ways”; Paley, “the watch and the watchmaker” Collins, “a scientific argument for the existence of God”
The ontological argument is founded on what Anselm purports to be an a priori proof of God’s existence (Oppy 197). The conclusion that God exists is formed from the observations of the world such as from the reason alone. St. Anselm argues God’s existence from what he terms as “which no greater can be conceived.” His arguments rely on the empirical tenet that experiences should not be used for justification and expect a logical conclusion in suggesting that God exists. Anselm argues that such combination is unstable and anyone who understands God exists can only do so through believing at the greater course that has caused the existence of other things in the universe.
Aquinas, on the other hand, discusses the existence of God from five rationales: change of motion, cause and effect, contingency, perfection, and purpose. From the surroundings of humans or the universe, the five ways hold a connection of existence of God. They in many ways show that things do not just exist without a purpose or a creator who influenced their own existence.
The watch and the watchmaker by William Paley pose an old question: could there be a watch without its maker? Through this question, Paley questions the existence of the universe without its make or in other words the universe could not just exist without a God who made it. Thus, the reasoning behind God’s existence is based on the realization that the universe had its beginning and its creator is the God.
In trying to unravel the mystery behind the existence of God, the scientific argument holds that mars fully functional biosphere like other planets shows some specific designs that did just happen without a purpose or without a cause. There must have been an intelligent being who created them in perfect harmony. The universe such a biosphere fundamentally proves that they did not just come into existence but were created by God in a certain fashion. The conclusion from the above philosophers is that God existence and the natural occurrence of the universe proves how God created everything in line with how he intended them to exist.
Mackie “evil and omnipotence”; Plantinga “the free will defense” Hick “evil and soul-making
According to Mackie the problem of evil is that God is omnipotent and there is no limit to what he can do. He is wholly good and is opposed to evil. Evil exists, and so does God. In this light, evil exists to counter what is good but evil does not always come from the human free will but also from other natural occurrences that are deemed as evil. However, the existence of evil contradicts the perfect God who has all knowledge and ability to stop the evil from happening but still allows to happen. The logical thing would be to let the stop evil before it happens and let only the perfect good to exist in the society. Plantinga counters Mackie’s argument that the resources of logic alone in God’s existence do not enable people to deduce and contradictions from their formal conjunction. To Plantinga God is wholly good and he creates free people with an ability to make choices on what is morally right or wrong. In his account, Plantinga proves that “... God’s... create ... moral good ...moral evil” (Plantinga 54). Therefore, moral evil must exist since God has created a world with moral good. It is upon the free will of the people to chose either moral good or moral evil because they have the freedom to chose.
John Hick, on the other hand, attempts to reconcile the philosophical issues regarding the existence of God and evil and why God does not stop evil from happening. In his examination of theodicy in contemporary time, he discusses Christian theology and also touches on the sensitive issues of biology and evolutionism as he takes different theories into account. He reconciles sin and suffering with the perfect love of God who allows people to make free judgments but bear the repercussions of their actions.
Pascal “The Wager”; James, “Will to Believe”, Bergmann, “Rational Religious”
Pascal Blaise offers a pragmatic reason for believing in God even when many thinkers try to refute the assumption that God exists. His argument is not based on rationale expected to prove that God really exists but the potential benefits of believing in God. According to Pascal’s theory if people do not know if God exists then it is better to play safe and believe in him rather than risk being sorry. He presents three arguments “Wager”: the use of the concept of infinity, the justification of theism, and probability/ decision theory. In his perspective, one cannot come to know God’s existence just through reason alone thus it is better to live a life as though God exists since there is nothing to lose, but there is some to gain if God does exits. On his side, William James believed that, despites the lack of rationality of faith it is an important thing in human lives. To James, there was a psychological necessity to believe, but there was also the philosophical appropriateness of willingness to believe. He further immerses himself in explaining the willingness to believe and the religious beliefs. Accordingly, the religious belief or believing in God is a sign of good faith.
On the other hand, Bergmann presents the essentials of reformed epistemology, along with replies to some of the most important objections (Bergmann 589). Furthermore, he tries to explain whether religious believers are indeed under a burden to defend with arguments the claim that their experiences are genuinely of God. To him, he believed that such argument/ claims or experiences are not truly from God since there is no single tangible evidence but only a matter of believing.
Kierkegaard, “Truth is Subjectivity”; Selections of Mystical Experiences, James, “Mysticism”, Alston, “Perceiving God”
Kierkegaard argues that all speculative philosophies whether idealistic or empirical are wrong in the way they have an abstract idea of the subjective self, which does not exist. To him, if we want to know the truth objectively, the subjective self is really a hindrance. In this light, the truth should be outside the subject to be objective. Therefore, to reach a conclusively objective knowledge then the logical solution would be suicide since it is only then that there would be no subjectivity. The he concludes that all speculative philosophies are wrong.
William James provides a description of mystical experiences in one his famous published lectures in 1902 as “The Varieties of Religious Experiences.” He uses four marks which when experience has them, then it qualifies to be mystical. They include ineffability, noetic quality, transiency, and passivity. The four tenets makeup group of consciousness unknown to an extent or earning the name mystery (Pojman, Louis and Rea 397). He points out that religion qualifies as part of mysticism because many of its facts cannot be traced but have to rely on mystic powers to explain them.
On the other hand, Alston in Perceiving God attempts to show that mystical perception is a source of epistemic justification for beliefs about the existence of God. Citing a number of reasons and examples from different literatures, he begins with a long account of nature of the mystical experiences (Alston, 67). He, therefore, believes that some mystical experiences ought to be viewed as the essence of God because they cannot be explained using physical traits or other aspects.
Dalai Lama, “Buddhism, Christianity, and Prospects for World Religion”; Hick, “Religious Pluralism and Ultimate Reality”
Dalai Lama was the spiritual and temporal head of Tibet China. When he was asked a question by Jose Ignacio Cabezon on the possibility of a religious integration between Christianity and Buddhism, he responded that he did not see any possibility of the two religions integrating. To him, there were unique features in these religions that could not be compromised without loss of identity which neither of the religion would accept. However, he still believed that all major religions have many factors in common. Their aim is one permanent goal which is the eternal happiness, and they all encourage moral integrity among their followers. Therefore, the commonalities of the religions should allow people in all faiths to find common ground in building a better world with peace and justice. But when asked about the existence of one creator God, he responds that Buddhist don’t believe that the universe has no first cause and hence no creator (Lama 538).
John Hick is a well-known advocate of religious pluralism in the contemporary west. Hick explains the pervasive religious diversity in the world as different ways of conceiving and experiencing the one ultimate divine reality. He explains that religions have been a virtually universal dimension of human life and that God revealed himself through various people in various situations but prevented revelation to all humanity. Accordingly, various personal experiences affected by cultural and ethnical elements are the manifestation of the power of a divine supreme being, and they all lead to one God. Thus, people respond to God through their cultural experiences.
Plantinga, “A Deferense of Religious Exclusivism”; Basinger, “Hick’s Religious Pluralism and ‘Reformed Epistemology’- A Middle Ground.”
Plantinga deals with the idea that one religious view such as Christianity could be believed to be true to the extent of exclusion of other religious views. He, however, warns that such exclusion does not mean irrational, egoistic, unwarranted, unjustified, or even oppressive and imperialistic point of views (Plantinga 1995). In his opening parts, it is almost seen as he intends to show that exclusivism is superior to pluralism in the religious aspects. However, a close look reveals that religious pluralism can serve to support or suppress religious exclusivism. As much religious pluralism is tolerated as time passes by the objections fails and exclusivism takes center stage though in an indirect way. The issue of intellectual dishonesty comes as challenges based on the facts that as cover-up, misrepresentation of truth, or suppression of critical information as a way of ensuring and preserving exclusivism takes a center stage In this light, religious exclusivism is based on factors that cannot be explained clearly because people have their views as to why they hold their beliefs. Thus, everyone has a right to their own opinion.
In the reformed epistemology, the central claim is that religious beliefs can be rational without any appeal to evidence or argument. The first reformed epistemology was articulated in a collection papers called Faith and Rationality that was edited by Alvin Plantinga and Nicholas Wolterstorff in 1983. Their view owes credit to many other thinkers who had contributed to the subject. For Basinger, the problem of religious diversity presents itself when the significant difference of opinion on religious matters arises between equally knowledgeable and sincere individuals conflict. He holds that religious exclusivism is a justified position to hold as long as the quest for truth is acknowledged as a basic epistemic duty. Therefore, the reformed epistemology works to unite the exclusivists in a bid to create a religious harmony.
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Clifford, William K. ―The Ethics of Belief.‖ Philosophy: The Quest for Truth. Ed. Louis
J. Christoff Pauw. Religious diversity: A philosophical assessment, Ars Disputandi. 2003. 3:1, 144-147.
Oppy, Graham. Ontological arguments and belief in God. Cambridge University Press, 2007.
Plantinga, Alvin. Pluralism: Defense of Religious Exclusivism. Calvin College, 1995.
Pojman and Lewis Vaughn. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010. 134-138. Print.
Pojman, Louis P, and Michael C. Rea. Philosophy of Religion: An Anthology. , 2014. Print.
Rea, Michael C., and Louis P. Pojman. Philosophy of religion: an anthology. Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning, 2015. Print.
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