Atheism: Our experience of evil argues against the existence of God • Reply 1: evil is simply the absence of the good or real: it follows from being imperfect (Augustine) • Response: why, then, does God create at all? • Reply 2: evil is defined from our perspective • Response: this makes evil (& good) unreal • Reply 3: evil is necessary to appreciate the good; it allows us to become moral beings • Response: why can’t God produce good without causing evil? Is evil then ultimately good? And why so much evil? What does a dying infant learn through suffering? • Reply 4: evil results from free choices • Response: this doesn’t explain natural evil (e.g., storms)
Agnosticism: We don’t know if God exists. So why do people believe in God? • Freud: religion provides us with the delusion of a father figure who protects us from the anxieties of life • Kant: morality requires the coincidence of virtue and happiness, which can be accomplished only by God • Marx: religionis our “opium” to com-pensate for socio-political alienation
Volitional Arguments for Religious Belief • William James: Our question should not be “is there a God?” but “should I believe in God?” Such belief does not depend on dispassionate reason but on the practical difference it makes in our life • We are justified in belief based on insufficient evidence only when options are genuine (forced, momentous, and live) • Pascal’s Wager: given the odds and rewards, it is more reasonable to believe Blaise Pascal (1623-62)
Religious Mysticism • The experience of the “numinous” (holy) is ineffable (cannot be expressed) though informative (noetic). In a mystical experience, a person is united with an Other in a feeling of bliss in which all sense of personal identity is lost St. Teresa of Avila (1515-82) Objections: How can finite beings experience an infinite God? and how do we know that such experiences are not simply wish fulfillments, illusions, or hallucinations?
Non-Traditional Religious Experience Tillich Kierkegaard • Radical Theology: religious life is based on a “leap of faith” (subjective experience), not knowledge of objective facts (Kierkegaard) or an all-knowing being who deprives us of subjectivity and meaning but the be-ing of our ultimate concern (Tillich) • Feminist Theology: the power/authority model of a male God should be replaced by either a Goddess of shared power & recog-nition (Daly) or a God with no gender Mary Daly
Eastern Religious Traditions • Hinduism: through meditation we learn that reality (Brahman) is one and all individuals are illusory. Enlightenment releases us from the cycle of rebirth regulated by the law of karma (reap what you sow) • Buddhism: inner peace (nirvana) and release from suffering are achieved by not craving to satisfy the self (which is a creation of desire) and not being judgmental, greedy, or fearful of losing things • Zen Buddhism: reality (the divine) is experienced in learning not to think (e.g., in subject-object or means-ends terms) but to know it not as different