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Philosophy of Religion
Posted: 27 December 2011 07:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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Dom1978 - 26 December 2011 09:49 PM

As for the various evils and horrors of life, the Christian philosopher will say that the meaning of life is not to have a nice comfortable life without suffering or tragedy. Rather the meaning of life is to know God and to love and worship Him. This is why he created the universe. And this is so valuable that it somehow makes up for all of life’s horrors. Swinburne seems to think that you can’t have free beings with real choices and not also have all of the horrors. The Christian thinks it’s worth it, and other people disagree, but it’s hard to see how you could settle this question.   

Incidentally, you should all listen to the episode of ‘Unbelievable’ (a UK Christian radio show) where Richard Swinburne and Bart Ehrman go head to head on the problem of evil. It is embarrassing and painful to listen to. Personally I think Swinburne is an absolute disgrace. Bart Ehrman tried his best not to lose his cool, but it’s very difficult listening to a cold and unfeeling ivory-tower Christian philosopher talking about recent floods and earthquakes and so on. Bart almost certainly wanted to punch him, and so did I. But again, as to the question of whether philosophy can settle any of this, I don’t think it can. Swinburne, Plantinga and their many followers will continue putting out this stuff, and Christian philosophy will probably go from strength to strength.

When I say that Swinburne (and Plantinga, et al) are interesting and at times persuasive, I’m clearly not talking about this feature of their views, which I find as you say disgraceful.

Incidentally the issue of free will is a red herring in this regard. Putting aside the fact that libertarian free will is incoherent, God could have allowed the choices and mitigated their evil effects. Putting that aside, none of this approaches the so-called “natural evils” of floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, volcanoes, viruses, cancers, etc. In a particularly disgraceful footnote in one of his most famous books, Plantinga blames all that on demonic forces, as though the existence of such forces would get an omniscient, omnipotent and perfectly good God off the hook somehow.

All that said, I can’t fathom why you would say that such a clearly broken philosophical enterprise should be described as going “from strength to strength”! Certainly in philosophy departments worldwide it is not. Christian philosophy is pretty much risible in all but the most theologically oriented departments, and apart from a handful of people like Swinburne and Plantinga there are very few believing philosophers. (I suppose most of them will end up in theology departments anyway).

You say you don’t think philosophy can settle any of this. To repeat my final point, if you think that you haven’t been paying attention. smile Philosophy has settled it. These folks are the philosophical equivalents of creationists, at least when it comes to theological issues.

[ Edited: 27 December 2011 07:25 AM by dougsmith ]
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Posted: 28 December 2011 06:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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Thanks Doug. I hope you’re right. 

By the way, if, as you suggest, the argument is settled, then why do we still have philosophy of religion?

[ Edited: 28 December 2011 09:02 PM by Dom1978 ]
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Posted: 29 December 2011 06:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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Dom1978 - 28 December 2011 06:56 PM

By the way, if, as you suggest, the argument is settled, then why do we still have philosophy of religion?

smile

Well, Darwinian evolution is settled and we still have biology classes. Partly they exist to teach people what’s been settled and how, partly they exist because new material comes up for discussion all the time (there is always room for more theory). Of course, there are also people at the fringe who disagree that it’s been settled (indeed, pretty much all of theology is predicated on its being settled a different way), so the arguments won’t go away anytime soon ...

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Posted: 29 December 2011 11:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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Great thread. Thanks for your insights doug

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Posted: 18 June 2012 09:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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Dom1978 - 24 December 2011 09:20 PM

For some time now I’ve been asking myself whether there’s really any value in doing philosophy of religion at all. It seems that these people believe what they do for emotional, social and psychological reasons, and they then just do philosophy of religion in order to get clear about their world view and about various concepts. The greatest proof of the pointlessness of it all is that these people rarely if ever change their minds about anything! They go in as atheists and they remain atheists, and they go in as Chrsitians and they remain Christians. This contrasts with things like Biblical criticism and evolutionary theory, which do sometimes have the power to change hearts and minds. Philosophy of religion just goes on and on about the same old things like the problem of evil and Pascal’s wager and seems to go nowhere.

So, am I wrong in thinking the whole enterprise might be a waste of time? Is there any value in it?

So true.

You can even provide proof that God exists, such as the proof found at http://www.outersecrets.com/real/biblecode2a.htm ,
yet people still choose to stick to their beliefs or disbeliefs, and thus as usual they have absolutely no interest at all in actual truths.

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Posted: 19 June 2012 08:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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SeanJesuis - 18 June 2012 09:50 PM

You can even provide proof that God exists, such as the proof found at http://www.outersecrets.com/real/biblecode2a.htm ,
yet people still choose to stick to their beliefs or disbeliefs, and thus as usual they have absolutely no interest at all in actual truths.

This is a joke, right?  You’re joking?  Please tell me you’re joking.

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Posted: 19 June 2012 10:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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Austin Harper - 19 June 2012 08:26 AM
SeanJesuis - 18 June 2012 09:50 PM

You can even provide proof that God exists, such as the proof found at http://www.outersecrets.com/real/biblecode2a.htm ,
yet people still choose to stick to their beliefs or disbeliefs, and thus as usual they have absolutely no interest at all in actual truths.

This is a joke, right?  You’re joking?  Please tell me you’re joking.

No, I think the poster is just a right wing/conservative christian lurker.  They do it all the time on forums, blogs, wiki, etc.

On another note, I thought this old thread was very interesting.  I have a degree in Philosophy and even went to a very high ranking school for grad school (way way back).  I dropped out for the very reason the original poster mentioned in one of his posts… I really came to believe that philosophy is just a bunch of smart people restating their personal opinions in ways that don’t *appear* personal and subjective.  Or I could have been a dumbsh%% smile

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Posted: 14 July 2012 11:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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CuthbertJ - 19 June 2012 10:15 AM
Austin Harper - 19 June 2012 08:26 AM
SeanJesuis - 18 June 2012 09:50 PM

You can even provide proof that God exists, such as the proof found at http://www.outersecrets.com/real/biblecode2a.htm ,
yet people still choose to stick to their beliefs or disbeliefs, and thus as usual they have absolutely no interest at all in actual truths.

This is a joke, right?  You’re joking?  Please tell me you’re joking.

No, I think the poster is just a right wing/conservative christian lurker.  They do it all the time on forums, blogs, wiki, etc.

On another note, I thought this old thread was very interesting.  I have a degree in Philosophy and even went to a very high ranking school for grad school (way way back).  I dropped out for the very reason the original poster mentioned in one of his posts… I really came to believe that philosophy is just a bunch of smart people restating their personal opinions in ways that don’t *appear* personal and subjective.  Or I could have been a dumbsh%% smile

Personally I would rather listen to smart people trying to analyze and state their opinions logically from which I may actually learn something, than some dumb people trying to convert me to theism, which is a complete waste of time.

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Posted: 16 August 2012 08:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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dougsmith - 25 December 2011 06:55 AM

Oh, I think of all the philosophy courses that are most applicable to everyday life, philosophy of religion is right up there, given how many people are unthinkingly religious.

Dougsmith, about your interesting comment, “unthinkingly religious” just caught my attention: I agree. I also agree when you ask

Where else will one encounter rational argumentation about religious topics like God, reincarnation, the afterlife, etc. if not in philosophy of religion?

Will Durant said: “Every science begins as philosophy and ends as art”. I think he also said,“Science gives us knowledge, but only philosophy can give us wisdom”. For info and interesting quotes, check out http://en.thinkexist.com/ 

Sure, some theology professors may be secular in their outlook, but I’d wager most are not. Philosophy of religion, as opposed to theology, does not take religious dogma or the existence of God as a given.

I agree.

As for its potential to change minds, I’ll only say that I went into my first philosophy of religion class an agnostic and came out an atheist, so at least it changed one mind! smile

Me? As a very curious student, beginning in 1947, I went into the philosophy and psychology of religion with all kinds of questions. Over the years, at the following schools:  http://www.mta.ca —New Brunswick http://www.astheology.ns.ca—Nova Scotia & at http://www.bu.edu/sth/ —Boston University I found   many secular-minded and universalistic professors. They inspired me to explore theology and religion in a new way—without feeling feeling the need to remain trapped by the traditions, dogmas and rituals of any religion.

Philosophy courses don’t often change minds, though.

The ones I took did encourage us to think creatively. As you put it

What they do is to sharpen one’s ability to analyse and take apart arguments, finding their assumptions and potential weaknesses. If someone is determined that X is true, they can find a way to argue such that X is true, though along the way they may have to swallow some strange or absurd corollaries. Philosophy courses also clarify the relevant issues, and if appropriately taught, work to clear out a lot of obscurantist underbrush. (E.g., God is love, God exists but is unknowable, all religions pray to the same God, etc.)

You mention much about which to philosophise—something which I enjoy doing.

While it’s true that any given student can be hard-headed about any given belief, this is an issue that generalizes to all rational inquiry and has nothing to do with philosophy classes specifically. A creationist determined to remain a creationist can do so even after a doctorate in biology, as some (few) have.

The background issue is whether it’s the point of a philosophy course to change minds, or of a philosophy of religion course to make everyone into atheists. I don’t think either of those are true. What they should do is to make one into a more sophisticated, clear and careful expositor of your own point of view on the subject.

Sounds like a good philosophy, to me.

[ Edited: 16 August 2012 08:23 PM by RevLGKing ]
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Posted: 18 August 2012 08:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
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I think of philosophy as what we all are doing here. Any education is just a subset of divisions of philosophy. The advantage to learning about religion is that it belongs to all our early origins of science, history, culture, and education.

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Posted: 25 August 2012 10:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]
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Scott Mayers - 18 August 2012 08:00 PM

I think of philosophy as what we all are doing here. Any education is just a subset of divisions of philosophy. The advantage to learning about religion is that it belongs to all our early origins of science, history, culture, and education.

I agree. As I said above

Will Durant said: “Every science begins as philosophy and ends as art”. I think he also said,“Science gives us knowledge, but only philosophy can give us wisdom”. For info and interesting quotes, check out http://en.thinkexist.com/

BTW, Scott, reading your profile, I noticed that you are from Saskatoon,  Saskatchewan. In the summer of 1950—as a student-minister from http://www.mta.ca  (I was 20. I majored in philosophy/psychology)—I spent a summer in Dundurn, 25 miles from your city. I well remember my first funeral. It was the funeral of an octogenarian in his mid-eighties ( I am now 82). On a visit to him just before he died, he told me that when he was 16 he and his father were members of Jesse James gang. His father was killed in a robbery, but he survived by escaping to Sask. where he bought a farm and lived, and was well respected, for the rest of his life. Quite a story. Needless to say. The church was filled for that famous funeral. Later, I had another funeral. It was that of a Sioux woman from the reserve, nearby. Her father was at the battle of Little Big Horn.

[ Edited: 25 August 2012 10:08 AM by RevLGKing ]
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Posted: 05 September 2012 05:49 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]
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Scott Mayers - 18 August 2012 08:00 PM

I think of philosophy as what we all are doing here. Any education is just a subset of divisions of philosophy. The advantage to learning about religion is that it belongs to all our early origins of science, history, culture, and education.

Scott, have you checked the recent post that I sent?

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Posted: 06 September 2012 04:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]
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Yes, I haven’t been on for a while…busy.

I actually spent time in Dundurn myself…training at the base there in 1984. Speaking of which, when I was in training, the military required us to go to church (albeit only once) and we had to choose either Catholic or Protestant. We were not allowed to opt out if you were non-religious or a believer of another faith! I don’t know if things have changed since then or not.

As for philosophy,

I think that philosophy itself is an essential study since it’s usual first attention is given to argumentation, reasoning, logic, and rhetoric, the means of the way we communicate ideas and understand our world. This is the first step in proper education that gets missed in our systems due to political and economic pressures to subdue the intellect or prevent too much skepticism on the present powers. Contemporary technologies are enabling an information freedom that i[s] harder to control now, but it still leaves individuals up to their own devices to then learn the ruses, tricks, and lies of social realities foisted on them that an education system could mandatorily provide.

Learning how the various philosophies separate into certain arguments gives you a clearer overall picture of how all the studies, and in essence, all areas of life (social, cultural/religious , educational/scientific, economic, and political), fit together.

As for religious philosophy,

Because the origins of our early past was imbued with records, manuscripts, and other archeology that is mostly been evolved into what has become what we refer to as today’s religions, it is important that to understand history, society, people, and psychology, a philosophy that restricts itself to the study of religion is a seriously wise choice. Whether it’s discussion on how the origins of religion may have originated, or the psychology of Charles Manson, religious philosophy can cover a large range of necessary discussions and be a helpful source to aid in many different fields of studies whether it be political, social, economic or artistic.


I’m not sure if some are against philosophy unless they think it is something it is not. Everyone here is a philosopher in action because they are acting in a way to share ideas that concern communicating the improvement of ideas, knowledge itself.

edit: mispelled “is” as “in”; corrected.

[ Edited: 06 September 2012 02:05 PM by Scott Mayers ]
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Posted: 06 September 2012 01:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]
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Thanks for the update!

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Posted: 06 September 2012 03:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]
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It just occurred to me; isn’t the title of this thread an oxymoron?  LOL

Occam

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