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Introduction to philosophy of religion
 9781138465183, 1138465186

Table of contents :
Cover
Title
Dedication
Copyright
Contents
Preface
About the Author
Introduction: Philosophy and Religion
Chapter 1 Religions of the World
Hinduism
Buddhism
Judaism
Christianity
Islam
Other Religious Forms
Chapter 2 Proving God's Existence
The Main Argument for God's Existence
The Ontological Argument
Criticisms of the Ontological Argument
The Cosmological Argument
Criticisms of the Cosmological Argument
The Teleological Argument
Criticisms of the Teleological Argument
Summing Up and Going Further
Questions for Chapter 2
Chapter 3 Religious Faith and Proving God's Existence
Two Questions about Proving God's Existence
The Relevance for Faith of the Arguments for God's Existence
Summing Up and Going Further
Questions for Chapter 3
Chapter 4 Is Religious Belief Reasonable?
Faith and Reason
Blaise Pascal and the Reasonableness of Faith
Criticisms of Pascal's Account
William James and the Right to Believe
Criticisms of James's Account
Contemporary Concerns about "Evidentialism"
Alvin Plantinga and the Rationality of Religious Belief
Criticisms of Plantinga's Account
William Alston and the Reliability of Religious Belief Formation
Criticisms of Alston's Account
Summing Up and Going Further
Questions for Chapter 4
Chapter 5 Religious Discovery: Is the Discovery of God Possible?
Religious Experience and Discovery
Kinds of Discoveries
The Religious Sensibility of the Psalms
Why Doesn't Everyone Realize God's Presence?
Is a Realization-Discovery of God's Presence Possible?
Criticisms of This Account
Summing Up and Going Further
Questions for Chapter 5
Chapter 6 The Religious Problem of Evil
Problems of Evil
The Personal Nature of the Religious Problem of Evil
The Religious Problem of Evil and Faith in God
Evil and God's Goodness and Power
Moral Evil and Natural Evil
Some Religious Answers
The Free Will Theodicy
Criticisms of The Free Will Theodicy
The Best of All Possible Worlds Theodicy
Criticisms of the Best of All Possible Worlds Theodicy
The Irenaean Theodicy
Criticisms of The Irenaean Theodicy
When the Religious Problem of Evil Is Not a Problem
Back to the Practical Problem of Evil
Summing Up and Going Further
Questions for Chapter 6
Chapter 7 Miracles
Miracles in Religious Traditions
Intervention Miracles
Contingency Miracles
Natural Miracles
Summing Up and Going Further
Questions for Chapter 7
Chapter 8 Religion and Morality
Two Preliminary Questions
How Close Is Religious Morality to Secular or Nonreligious Morality?
Is Religious Morality the Same from Religion to Religion?
The Question of the Relationship between Religion and Morality: Three Views
Morality Independent of Religion
Critical Examination of the First View
Divine Command Morality
Critical Examination of Divine Command Morality
Divine Action as the Foundation of Morality
The Natural Law Form of the Third View
Critical Examination of the Third View in its Natural Law Form
The Relationships Form of the Third View
Critical Examination of the Third View in its Relationships Form
Summing Up and Going Further
Questions for Chapter 8
Chapter 9 Religious Language, Metaphor, and Gender
Issues of Religious Language
Does Religious Language Have Factual Meaning?
Metaphor
The Gender Issue
How Should God Be Conceived?
How Should God Be Imaged?
Summing Up and Going Further
Questions for Chapter 9
Chapter 10 Religious Realism and the Meaning of God
The Issue of Religious Realism and Questions about the Meaning of God
The Perspective of Non-realism
The Perspective of Realism
Critical Examination of Realism and Non-realism
Summing Up and Going Further
Questions for Chapter 10
Chapter 11 Religious Plurality: The Mutual-Opposition View, Exclusivism, Inclusivism, and Pluralism
The Undeniable Phenomenon of Religious Plurality
The Mutual-Opposition View
Exclusivism
Critical Examination of Exclusivism
Inclusivism
Critical Examination of Inclusivism
Pluralism
Critical Examination of Pluralism
Summing Up and Going Further
Questions for Chapter 11
Chapter 12 Other Ways of Understanding Religious Plurality
The Different Aspects Approach
Critical Examination of the Different Aspects Approach
The Common Core Approach
Critical Examination of the Common Core Approach
The Indeterminacy Approach
Critical Examination of the Indeterminacy Approach
The Relationships Approach
Critical Examination of the Relationships Approach
Summing Up and Going Further
Questions for Chapter 12
Glossary
Index

Citation preview

Introduction to Philosophy of Religion James Kellenberger

To Anne

First published 2007 by Pearson Education, Inc. Published 2016 by Routledge 711 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017, USA 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN First issued in hardback 2017 Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business Copyright © Taylor & Francis, 2007 All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to infringe. Credits and acknowledgments borrowed from other sources and reproduced, with permission, in this textbook appear on appropriate page within text. Art Director, Cover: Jayne Conte Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Introduction to philosophy of religion / edited by J. Kellenberger. — 1st ed. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN-13: 978-0-13-151761-5 (alk. paper) ISBN-10: 0-13-151761-9 (alk. paper) 1. Religion-Philosophy. 2. Religions. I. Kellenberger, James. II. Title. BL51.1658 2007 210-dc22 2006020022 ISBN 13: 978-0-1315-1761-5 (pbk)

ISBN 13: 978-1-1384-6518-3 (hbk)

Contents Preface Introduction: Philosophy and Religion Chapter 1 Religions of the World Hinduism Buddhism Judaism Christianity Islam Other Religious Forms Chapter 2 Proving God's Existence The Main Argument for God's Existence The Ontological Argument Criticisms of the Ontological Argument The Cosmological Argument Criticisms of the Cosmological Argument The Teleological Argument Criticisms of the Teleological Argument Summing Up and Going Further Questions for Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Religious Faith and Proving God's Existence Two Questions about Proving God's Existence The Relevance for Faith of the Arguments for God's Existence Summing Up and Going Further Questions for Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Is Religious Belief Reasonable?

Faith and Reason Blaise Pascal and the Reasonableness of Faith Criticisms of Pascal's Account William James and the Right to Believe Criticisms of James's Account Contemporary Concerns about "Evidentialism" Alvin Plantinga and the Rationality of Religious Belief Criticisms of Plantinga's Account William Alston and the Reliability of Religious Belief Formation Criticisms of Alston's Account Summing Up and Going Further Questions for Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Religious Discovery: Is the Discovery of God Possible? Religious Experience and Discovery Kinds of Discoveries The Religious Sensibility of the Psalms Why Doesn't Everyone Realize God's Presence? Is a Realization-Discovery of God's Presence Possible? Criticisms of This Account Summing Up and Going Further Questions for Chapter 5 Chapter 6 The Religious Problem of Evil Problems of Evil The Personal Nature of the Religious Problem of Evil The Religious Problem of Evil and Faith in God Evil and God's Goodness and Power Moral Evil and Natural Evil

Some Religious Answers The Free Will Theodicy Criticisms of The Free Will Theodicy The Best of All Possible Worlds Theodicy Criticisms of the Best of All Possible Worlds Theodicy The Irenaean Theodicy Criticisms of The Irenaean Theodicy When the Religious Problem of Evil Is Not a Problem Back to the Practical Problem of Evil Summing Up and Going Further Questions for Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Miracles Miracles in Religious Traditions Intervention Miracles Contingency Miracles Natural Miracles Summing Up and Going Further Questions for Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Religion and Morality Two Preliminary Questions How Close Is Religious Morality to Secular or Nonreligious Morality? Is Religious Morality the Same from Religion to Religion? The Question of the Relationship between Religion and Morality: Three Views Morality Independent of Religion Critical Examination of the First View Divine Command Morality Critical Examination of Divine Command Morality Divine Action as the Foundation of Morality The Natural Law Form of the Third View

Critical Examination of the Third View in its Natural Law Form The Relationships Form of the Third View Critical Examination of the Third View in its Relationships Form Summing Up and Going Further Questions for Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Religious Language, Metaphor, and Gender Issues of Religious Language Does Religious Language Have Factual Meaning? Metaphor The Gender Issue How Should God Be Conceived? How Should God Be Imaged? Summing Up and Going Further Questions for Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Religious Realism and the Meaning of God The Issue of Religious Realism and Questions about the Meaning of God The Perspective of Non-realism The Perspective of Realism Critical Examination of Realism and Non-realism Summing Up and Going Further Questions for Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Religious Plurality: The Mutual-Opposition View, Exclusivism, Inclusivism, and Pluralism The Undeniable Phenomenon of Religious Plurality The Mutual-Opposition View Exclusivism Critical Examination of Exclusivism Inclusivism

Critical Examination of Inclusivism Pluralism Critical Examination of Pluralism Summing Up and Going Further Questions for Chapter 11 Chapter 12 Other Ways of Understanding Religious Plurality The Different Aspects Approach Critical Examination of the Different Aspects Approach The Common Core Approach Critical Examination of the Common Core Approach The Indeterminacy Approach Critical Examination of the Indeterminacy Approach The Relationships Approach Critical Examination of the Relationships Approach Summing Up and Going Further Questions for Chapter 12 Glossary Index

Preface Some of us who come to a study of philosophy of religion are already acquainted with one religious tradition or another. However, not all of us have religious backgrounds, and not all of us who are religious have a background in the same religious tradition. This introductory text takes this lack of shared background into account. The first chapter provides at least a basic overview of several religious traditions. It is a background chapter on those religions considered world religions, with sections on the history, belief, and practice of the five major world religions. One of the issues treated by this book is that of religious plurality or diversity: How should we understand the relationship between the various religions of the world? Chapter 1 provides a useful background for a discussion of this issue. Moreover, it helps students understand aspects of other issues. For instance, a familiarity with the theistic religions helps students assess the role of arguments for the existence of God in those religions, and an acquaintance with the range of theistic and non-theistic religions is pertinent to understanding the scope or applicability of the traditional problem of evil to religion. The chapters of this introductory text cover several traditional issues in the philosophy of religion; however, some are devoted to topics that are not usually covered in introductions to philosophy of religion. Whereas one chapter covers the logic of the familiar arguments for the existence of God, another chapter brings forward and discusses views on the relevance of these arguments for religious faith. One chapter focuses on the concern with the reasonableness of religious belief by examining such well-recognized approaches as William James’ argument for the right to believe, Alvin Plantinga’s theory of proper basic beliefs, and William Alston’s reliabilism; another chapter examines the possibility of a religious discovery of God. The one chapter examines the attempt to show that religion is reasonable in the light of epistemological theories that can be applied to religion. The other chapter examines the credentials of an epistemological model implicit in a strain of religious sensibility. There is a chapter on the issue of religious realism— that is, whether all that is essential to religion, or theistic religion, is retained in the absence of belief in a transcendent “metaphysical” God. And the text ends with two chapters on the contemporary issue of religious plurality. Though the main focus of the text is on philosophical discussions of the issues, various religious sensibilities are consulted to help frame several of the issues discussed. This is true of the chapter on the relevance for faith of the arguments for the existence of God, in which we find that competing religious sensibilities diverge. And it is true of the chapter on religious discovery. Religious sensibilities are also consulted in the discussion of more traditional issues in philosophy of religion. In its treatment of the problem of evil, the text does not focus exclusively on arguments relating to the adequacy of proposed theodicies, but also on the way that religious sensibilities explain why there is a problem and how those sensibilities relate to

proposed solutions. In the same way, in its discussion of miracles, the text not only considers the problems Hume raised about violations of the laws of nature and the occurrence of intervention miracles, but it brings into consideration two other conceptions of miracle that are recognizable in strains of religious sensibility. In addition to utilizing a variety of religious sensibilities to frame different issues, the text also incorporates a range of philosophical and religious perspectives into its discussion, including the theological perspectives of St. Thomas Aquinas, John Calvin, and Karl Rahner; the analytic perspectives of Alvin Plantinga and William Alston; the modern perspectives of Blaise Pascal, William James, and W. K. Clifford; the contemporary perspectives of John Hick and Don Cupitt; the continental perspectives of Søren Kierkegaard and Friedrich Nietzsche; and the feminist/theological perspectives of Sally McFague and Rosemary Reuther. This text includes a glossary of terms that may be unfamiliar to students; glossary terms are in bold in the various chapters. At the end of each issue chapter there are factual questions and interpretive and evaluative questions. This book can be used with Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, edited by the author. Chapters in that collection are coordinated with the chapters of this text. The two books, however, can be used independently. Chapter 6, “The Religious Problem of Evil,” incorporates material from my “God’s Goodness and God’s Evil,” Religious Studies 41 (2005); it is used by permission of Cambridge University Press. Chapter 7, “Miracles,” incorporates material from my “Miracles,” International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 10 (1979): 145-162; it is used with the kind permission of Springer Science and Business Media. Chapter 10, “Religious Realism and the Meaning of God,” incorporates material from my “Spirit and Truth” in Language and Spirit, ed. D. Z. Phillips and Mario von der Ruhr (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004); it is used with the permission of Palgrave Macmillan. Chapter 12, “Other Ways of Understanding Religious Plurality,” incorporates material from Chapters 3 and 4 of my God-Relationships With and Without God (London: Macmillan, 1989); it is used with the permission of Palgrave Macmillan. Among the people at Prentice Hall who helped in the production of this book I am particularly indebted to Mical Moser and Carla Worner. Carla Worner’s unflagging support over the years in which this book was written is especially appreciated. I wish to thank the reviewers of this book Edward Wierenga, University of Rochester; Lauress L. Wilkins, Regis College; Laur Duhan Kaplan, University of North Carolina at Charlotte. I also wish to thank Karpagam Jagadeesan for her careful copyediting of this book. J. Kellenberger

About the Author James Kellenberger is the author of several books in philosophy of religion and philosophy of ethics. He is Professor of Philosophy at California State University, Northridge, and has taught courses in philosophy of religion for many years.

Introduction: Philosophy and Religion Most of us are in some way acquainted with religion. Some of us may be practicing Christians. Some of us may be observant Jews. Some of us may be committed Muslims. Some of us may belong to other religions. Some of us may not be committed to any religion. We may have overtly and consciously rejected all religion, including the religion of our parents. Or we or our family may have just slipped away from being religious, so that now religion seems to have nothing to say to us. We may be nonbelievers because we are agnostic, an agnostic being one who does not assert that there is no God but holds that we humans do not, or cannot, know whether God exists and refrains from either believing that there is a God or believing that there is no God. Or we may be nonbelievers because we are dedicated atheists, an atheist being one who unequivocally believes that there is no God. In some way, whether we are religiously committed or have rejected religion, most of us are at least acquainted with some religious tradition. (Words in bold type are also in the Glossary.) Some of us may also be acquainted with philosophy and philosophical reflection. Philosophical reflection at the most fundamental level is directed to the nature of things we take as commonplace. For instance, philosophical reflection may be directed to the nature of knowledge or of moral rightness or of love. Sometimes philosophical reflection arises in response to a sense of awe before the world. It was a philosopher, Immanuel Kant, who said that “two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and awe . . .: the starry heavens above and the moral law within.”1 Very often philosophical reflection pursues some basic question that is relevant to us by virtue of some aspect of our humanity. The issues to be addressed by this book are religious and philosophical, arising where religion and philosophy meet; however, more basically, they are human issues. They arise from our human condition, as do all the original questions of philosophy. Philosophical issues, or the original ones, arise because we humans encounter a problem or question in our living (e.g., we thought we knew some important truth, but it turns out that we did not know it at all, and so we begin to reflect on just what constitutes knowledge; or a loved one dies, and we begin to wonder if there is or can be life after our bodily death); or a philosophical issue arises because we experience a tension between different aspects of our life (e.g., science seems to tell us that what we do, as well as what we are, like everything else, is governed by unyielding scientific laws, and so “set” in advance; but our sense of ourselves from the “inside” tells us that we are free to choose to do one thing or another). The problems of religion that philosophy reflects on are not different. They too arise from our human condition. They relate to us whether we are religious or not.

How can this be? Consider one of the fundamental issues that arises regarding religion: the question of whether religion is in any way reasonable or grounded in reality. If I am religious, I will want to believe that yes, it is; or if I say that no, it is not, but still I believe, then I will have to compartmentalize my life in an arbitrary way, putting my religion into a compartment where I do not have to be reasonable, while in the other areas of my life I feel I should be reasonable. If, in contrast, I reject religion because it is unreasonable or not grounded in reality, then I had better be confident that it truly is not reasonable. So whether I am religious or not, it is important for me to think about this issue and know why I think what I do. Over the centuries those who have offered arguments for God’s existence have done so in order to establish that belief in God’s existence is reasonable. (An argument in this context is a piece of reasoning designed to support or prove a claim that is made, such as that God exists.) As discussed in Chapter 2, there are several traditional arguments, or proposed proofs, for the existence of God. There are, however, two important questions to be asked about them: (1) Do they in fact prove the existence of God (the concern of Chapter 2)? and (2) Are these arguments relevant for religious belief (a question that we can ask even if we become convinced that one or more of the arguments for God’s existence work)? This question is the concern of Chapter 3. But finding a proof for the existence of God is not the only way to make religion reasonable. In Chapter 4 we discuss other ways that religious belief might be shown to be reasonable, and in Chapter 5 we focus on the possibility that religion is reasonable because it has a basis in a kind of experience that is open to human beings. The religious issues covered in the other chapters of this book also relate to all of us, whether we are religious or not. This holds for the issue taken up in Chapter 6, the Religious Problem of Evil. The Problem of Evil is a problem that arises within religions where there is a belief in God and God is believed to be all-good and all-powerful, as in traditional Christianity and Judaism. Evil here refers to natural events that cause suffering, like terrible earthquakes, and the occurrence of diseases like malaria, cancer and AIDS; and it also refers to the moral evil that human beings inflict on one another, including rape, murder, and genocide. The Religious Problem of Evil can be stated this way: If God is all-good and all-powerful, how can there be such a God when that God allows such evils in the world to exist? It is evident that this can be a problem for traditional believers, for traditional Christians and Jews and those in other religions who believe in God. However, the problem relates to nonbelievers as well; it does so for the same kind of reason the issue of religion’s reasonableness relates to nonbelievers. Say that I am a nonbeliever and reject belief in God because I judge that there is just no way that an all-powerful God who is good could allow such great suffering in the world. If I think this, then I must be confident that all the efforts to explain how God could allow there to be evils in the world fail to provide a real explanation and that there can be no reason an all-good and all-powerful God could have for allowing evil. But to have this confidence I should be able to think about and think through the Religious Problem of Evil.

Something similar can be said about the issue of miracles, the subject of Chapter 7. Roughly, a miracle—in the religious traditions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—is an act of God, something that God does in our world. This means that if there are miracles in this religious sense, then there must be a God who performs them. If I am a religious believer in God, I may believe that miracles have occurred. If I am a Jew or Christian, I may believe that a miracle occurred when God spoke to Moses out of the burning bush, as is reported in the Bible (Exodus 3:1–6).2 But the question I face is this: Why do I think that this report, or any report, of a miracle is true—and more fundamentally, why do I think miracles are even possible? (i.e., Why do I think this aside from my acceptance of the authority of the Bible? Do I have an independent reason that does not rely on my prior belief in God?) If I am a nonbeliever, then I should not and cannot recognize anything as a true miracle (for that would be to concede that God exists). So the question for me is this: Why do I think that nothing could possibly be a miracle? (i.e., Why do I think this aside from my believing there is no God? Do I have an independent reason that does not rely on my prior belief that there is no God?) In this way the issue of miracles relates to both believers and nonbelievers. As is shown in Chapter 7, there are several questions packed into the issue of miracles, and there are different concepts of miracle, although they all, in concept, are things God does in the world. Chapter 8 takes us into the issue of how religion and morality are related. Although not all of us are religious, all of us are moral in the sense that we operate in the sphere of morality. That we do so is indicated by our, at times, thinking about what we ought to do and our, at times, feeling bad when we look back on things we judge we should not have done. What is the relationship between religion and morality? Various religions put forward “precepts” or rules, such as “Do not lie.” How do these rules relate to moral rules? Would there be morality if there were no religion? Chapter 9 addresses questions that have to do with “religious language,” in particular language about God. Religious believers, to the extent they have beliefs about God—such as that God is merciful or caring—must be able to say (or think) things about God. But can we say anything about God in a literal sense? Or, at best, can we only metaphorically speak of God’s mercy? Related is the gender issue. If God is a loving Father, is God a male or masculine? Can God just as well be conceived of or imaged as a loving Mother? Next we consider what is called the issue of Religious Realism, covered in Chapter 10. This issue requires more of an initial explanation than the others. “Realism,” unlike miracles and the existence of God, is not a part of our shared conceptual vocabulary. Still, the essence of the issue can be expressed fairly simply: Does the religious meaning of God require that God be a transcendent being that exists independently of religious and spiritual practice? A transcendent God is a God that transcends or exists beyond our everyday world of experience, including our human religious practice and the religious belief of us humans. Realism answers this question by saying that yes, God must be understood as having a “real”

existence over and above the practice and belief of those who are religious. Those who think that Realism is misconceived say that it is time for a new meaning of God (or sometimes they say a return to the original meaning) that does not require any reference to a transcendent being. Those who say Realism regarding God is wrong do not want to throw out the word God. Rather, they argue that the realist meaning used by those who try to prove the existence of a transcendent God and needed in the Problem of Evil—the meaning that many traditional believers have presupposed—is not necessary for religious spirituality. The issue, then, is about the meaning of God (or of the word God, some would say). Does the religious meaning of God have to be realist for the spiritual practices of religion to be coherent, or can the “traditional” realist meaning be replaced with a new meaning that keeps the essence of religion in place? This is a relevant issue for practicing Christians and Jews and others in religions in which there is belief in God, for it is a question about what their own religious practice requires. But, again, even though this issue is pursued within religion, it is also an issue for those who reject religion. For example, say that the nonrealists are right. If they are, then one can be religious without believing in a transcendent God, and if one rejects religion because belief in a transcendent God seems unreasonable or impossible, that objection is answered. Finally, consider the issue of religious plurality, arising from the fact that there are many different religions in the world. How should we understand there being many, diverse religions in the world? Again this is a question for the religious and nonreligious alike. If I am religious—a Muslim, say—I will ask how my religion, Islam, relates to other religions, like Judaism and Christianity. If I am not religious, I still may wonder how the different religions relate to one another. For that matter, if I am religious, I too may ask not only how my religion relates to others, but how the various religions relate to one another. But why would someone ask this question if she or he is not religious? Because, for one thing, whether we are religious or not, we all live in the same world, and in that world various religions exist side by side. If we are going to understand one another, we should understand the religious commitment of others, even if it is not our own commitment. This reason becomes more pressing as cultures and religions increasingly intermingle and geographical isolation becomes a thing of the past. In the American multicultural society, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam exist side by side, so that in many of its cities one can find near one another Christian churches, Jewish temples, and Islamic mosques. These three religions—Christianity, Judaism, and Islam— are Western religions that are theistic, which means that their followers believe in God. Theism can mean (1) belief in one god or several gods, but also it can mean (2) specifically belief in one God. Belief in several gods is polytheism, and belief in one God is monotheism. Each of these three religious traditions is theistic in the sense that it is monotheistic, for each proclaims and believes in one God (even if they conceive of the one God differently). Today in our world, and in American society, we also find religions that are polytheistic, as is the case

with some forms of Hinduism. Moreover, some of the other non-Western religious traditions that are well represented in contemporary American society are non-theistic, which means that their followers do not believe in God or gods as the supreme reality. Many traditional Buddhists, following the teachings of Gautama Buddha, the historical founder of Buddhism, seek religious enlightenment without belief in God. Similarly, there are forms of Hinduism that are non-theistic. All of these religious traditions are represented in the world and in the larger American society. How do they relate to one another? Can they all be true? If one is true, must all the others be false? These questions are explored in Chapters 11 and 12. However, before we take up the questions and concerns of Chapter 2 through Chapter 12, in Chapter 1 we present a brief overview of five major religious traditions, starting with Hinduism and ending with Islam. For each, we look at the history of the religion as well as its practice and beliefs. Some of us may have a personal acquaintance with one or more of these traditions, but very few will have personal experience of all five of these religious traditions. Chapter 1 provides a shared background of information that will help us in understanding the philosophical/religious issues of the succeeding chapters, especially the issue of Chapters 11 and Chapter 12, the issue of religious plurality, but not that issue alone. This introduction would not be complete if I did not say something about the approach of this book. In the various chapters we look carefully and critically at the problems and issues we consider, as well as carefully and critically at proposed solutions. In this regard our discussion utilizes the traditional virtues of philosophy, including clarity and balance. However the approach of this book has another dimension that is sometimes lacking in philosophical discussions of issues in religion. Throughout the book our effort will be to let religious sensibilities inform the discussion. By a religious sensibility I mean a sense of what is religiously appropriate that is grounded in and formed by a religious tradition or some strain of a religious tradition. We will not bring in religious sensibilities to settle issues, but to shed light on the issues and to anchor them in the religious background that gives them life in the first place. Sometimes the religious sensibilities we consult will open a new way (or an old way) of thinking about an issue, as they do for the issue of the reasonableness of religious belief. Other times religious sensibilities will suggest a topic of discussion that traditional philosophical discussions slight, as religious sensibilities do in raising the question of the religious relevance of the proofs or arguments for the existence of God, one of the questions about the arguments that we will pursue. The religious sensibilities that will come into our discussion are various, for even within a single religious tradition, like Christianity, there are different sensibilities. Moreover, some of the sensibilities that will be given voice are religious only in the sense that they are in reaction against religion. They too will be heard, for they too have a contribution to make to a greater understanding of a philosophical treatment of religious issues. In this way religion will speak to philosophy, just as philosophy will speak to religion.

Notes 1. Immanuel Kant, an eighteenth century German philosopher, made this comment in the conclusion of his Critique of Practical Reason, translated by T. K. Abbott (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 1996) p. 191 (emphasis in the text). We will have occasion to consult Kant’s thinking on other matters as well. 2. All references to the Bible are to the Revised Standard Version unless otherwise indicated.

Chapter 1 Religions of the World This chapter is designed to provide a background acquaintance with at least some of the religions of the world. In the next chapter we begin to discuss issues in philosophy of religion proper. By providing a description of some of the various religions of the world, this chapter gives us a common background for our discussion of the problems and issues addressed by philosophy of religion. Many of us are familiar with some religion, as many of us belong to some particular religion. Some of us may be acquainted with two religions because members of our family belong to different religions. Probably most of us have little acquaintance with more than one religion. And some of us may be unacquainted with any religion at a personal level. A good portion of our discussion in this book addresses those religions in which belief in God is central, the theistic religions, though the book is not limited to that area. In fact, our understanding of how some of the issues in philosophy of religion relate differently to different religions will enhance our understanding of these issues, and at least one of the issues discussed—the issue of the relationship between religions—requires us to bring into relief contrasting features of the religions of the world. There are many religions in the world. Even if we acknowledge the impossibility of giving a strict or essentialist definition of religion (as we should), this plurality of religions is indisputable. Many of the religions are considered world religions, or religions that have millions of followers and are represented throughout the world on several if not all the inhabited continents. Not all religions are designated as such, however, as they are more limited in the number of adherents they have and in their geographic extension. We do not undertake to provide an in-depth comparative study of the world’s religions; that is beyond our scope and more than we need for this book’s purposes. We instead present a synopsis of five world religions and then, in a final section of this chapter, say a word about other religions and certain forms of nonreligion or alternatives to traditional religion. Keep in mind that each of the world religions presented here is not monolithic. Each takes several forms, and each over time has to some degree evolved; in other words, there are different forms of religious sensibility. We start with one of the oldest religious traditions.1

Hinduism Hinduism is the main religion of the Indian subcontinent, although many today who can properly be classed as Hindu would not use either Hinduism or Hindu to label themselves.

This is because the name Hinduism was created in the nineteenth century by Western scholars and the word Hindu, though older than Hinduism, is of Persian origin, like the word India. Some writers in the tradition called Hinduism prefer the name “eternal dharma,” or “eternal teaching.” Still, the name Hinduism has become established, and we use it here. Hinduism is, even more than other religions, less a unified and organized entity and more a loose system of overlapping religious practices, traditions, and beliefs. There is no required creed recited by all Hindus, and there is no Hindu analogue to the Roman Catholic Pope. Around the world there are many millions who follow the tradition of Hinduism. By different estimates, there are from 640 million to 800 million Hindus in India. In addition, there are perhaps 20 million more Hindus in the rest of the world. Many of these 20 million are in South Asia, though a considerable number of Hindus live in Africa, the West Indies, North America, and Europe. Hinduism is unlike Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam in that it has no single founder. It therefore does not date from the lifetime of a single individual, as do Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam. The origins of Hinduism lie in oral traditions that are quite ancient. Although the broad religious tradition that is Hinduism has developed on the Indian subcontinent for 3,000 years, the thousand years between 500 B.C.E. and 500 C.E. constitute an important period in the formation of Hinduism. (B.C.E. means “before the Common Era” and C.E. means “Common Era.” The Common Era corresponds to the Christian Era. However, B.C.E. and C.E. are the modern abbreviations that are most often used in discussions of religion in place of B.C. and A.D.) The oldest textual source of Hinduism is the Rig Veda. Dating from 1400 to 1000 B.C.E., the Rig Veda is the oldest of four Vedas, which are taken as shruti, or revealed. The Rig Veda contains poetry and hymns of praise to various gods and goddesses. In this way the Rig Veda is definitely polytheistic, with an array of gods and goddesses that is often compared to the ancient Greek pantheon of gods and goddesses. Many of the gods of the Vedic pantheon faded from Hindu worship, and two comparatively insignificant gods in the Rig Veda, Vishnu and Shiva, came into prominence in later Hinduism. The term Veda (Sanskrit for knowledge) is given to the body of writings, taken as revealed, that starts with the four Vedas, about 1400 B.C.E., and ends with the Upanishads, 700–400 B.C.E. The Upanishads, the completion of the revealed Vedic literature, contain speculations and teachings about ultimate reality. In the older Upanishads, there is speculation about the soul being related to an impersonal highest Reality. In the later Upanishads, in contrast, the ultimate reality is conceived as a personal God. These two opposed doctrines have existed side by side in the broader Hindu tradition for centuries. Writings later than the Vedic literature are significant for Hinduism but are not regarded as revealed. Nevertheless, they still have a special authority in the tradition. Notable are the epic tales Mahabharata and Ramayana, dating from 500 B.C.E. to 400 C.E. The eighteen-book Mahabharata, written in Sanskrit, probably between 200 B.C.E. and 200 C.E., is the longest

poem in the world. In its main story line it tells the epic story of the struggle for the throne of a kingdom in India and the great civil war that ensued. On one side are five brothers, the Pandavas, the rightful heirs to the throne, and on the other side are one hundred brothers, the Kauravas, who wrongly seek to retain power. For a time the five brothers wander about as soldiers of fortune. They marry in common the Princess Draupadi, and they meet Krishna, who becomes their divine friend and helper. Krishna is Lord Krishna, an avatar, or incarnation, of the god Vishnu (avatara means “descent,” as into a worldly form). Krishna encourages the Pandavas in their struggle and in the great battle between their army and the army of the Kauravas and their allies. After eighteen days of fighting, only the five brothers and Krishna are left alive. The throne passes to the grandson of Arjuna, one of the five brothers; and the five brothers and their wife at the end of the poem set out for the Himalayas, where they enter the blissful City of the Gods. The Mahabharata is a great source of Hindu values, theology, and even statecraft. Theology is the study of God and God’s relation to humanity and the universe, or, for Hinduism, the gods and their relation to humanity and the universe. The influence of the Mahabharata on Hindu religion and culture has been such that it is regarded as a “fifth Veda.” A short but very important part of the Mahabharata is the Bhagavad Gita. In the Bhagavad Gita2 the Lord Krishna both gives spiritual advice to Arjuna regarding his duty (dharma) to fight on behalf of his cause and teaches as his supreme word the way of devotion and worship of himself as personal Lord. The Bhagavad Gita makes up a short book, which stands alone and is often read by itself by Hindus and others. It has often been translated and many commentaries have been written on it. After the Vedic period, several manuals or codes came into prominence, such as the Code of Manu, probably composed between 200 B.C.E. and 200 C.E. They give specific moral guidance and, like the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, are not regarded as shruti or revealed, but only as smriti or “remembered.” Not being revealed they are not scriptural or canonical; that is, they are not recognized as having the special religious authority of what is revealed. But they still have some religious authority. Some Hindus more often read the manuals than the revealed Vedas. All these writings, from the canonical Vedas to the noncanonical epics and manuals, are sources of various forms of Hindu religious sensibilities and practice, even if for many Hindus only indirectly. Popular Hindu practice includes worship of Vishnu or other Hindu gods or goddesses and pilgrimages to caves, mountains, and other places sacred to one deity or another. Hindus journey to India’s many holy rivers, the Ganges being the most holy, to bathe and participate in religious rites. Reverence for cows, along with their protection, is deeply grounded in Hindu tradition. Some Hindus are strict vegetarians, although many are not. Throughout India, in different localities, there are various festivals honoring one Hindu deity or another. A nearly universal Hindu belief is the belief in reincarnation or a karmic cycle of rebirth.

Karma is action, and it is believed that the actions of our present and past lives determine our rebirth in our next life. Salvation or liberation (or moksha) is the release from the karmic cycle of rebirth. This belief (though not limited to Hinduism) is near the center of Hindu sensibility. In any effort to understand and appreciate Hinduism, it must be kept firmly in mind that Hinduism embraces several forms and practices, and these forms and practices, expressed in different sensibilities, are sometimes very different from one another. In the complex of religious practice and belief that is Hinduism, there are three different margas, or paths to moksha: the path of devotion, the path of action, and the path of knowledge. They can be combined or one can be emphasized. The path of devotion (bhakti), with its various forms of worship, has had a wider appeal than the more austere ways of knowledge and action. It is the way of bhakti or devotion that Krishna recommends in the Bhagavad Gita. Many different gods may be worshipped, such as Ganesha the elephant god, Kama the god of love, or the mother goddess in various forms, including the fierce Kali or the gracious and kind Parvati. Hindus may worship the three gods of the Trimurti: Brahma the creator, Shiva the destroyer, and Vishnu the preserver. Both Shiva and Vishnu have many devotees in India. Brahma the creator has no cult of devotees, although he has several temples and is important in Hindu art. Also important religiously, and from a devotional standpoint, are the avatars of Vishnu, especially Krishna, who, since the Bhagavad Gita, has been regarded as a deity in his own right. The birthday of Lord Krishna is celebrated throughout India. Another of Vishnu’s avatars, Rama, the hero of the Ramayana, is also considered a god in his own right. There are nine main avatars of Vishnu, Krishna being the eighth and Rama the seventh, but in addition there are innumerable other avatars of Vishnu claimed by his followers. The devotional form of Hinduism allows the worship of the one God through the worship of any of several gods, and often this is done quite consciously. This practice is a form of henotheism, devotion to one God while accepting the existence of other gods. Henotheism is distinguished from unqualified polytheism. Contrasting with devotional Hinduism is the Vedanta, or “end of the Vedas,” teaching of Shankara. In the eighth or early ninth century of the Common Era, Shankara provided a systematic treatment of the Upanishadic teaching that the highest reality is an impersonal Absolute. Shankara’s teaching, called advaita, is monistic or nondualistic. In this teaching all is one, so that there ultimately is no distinction between this and that, between knower and known, between Brahman, the impersonal Absolute, and atman, the soul of the individual. For this strain of Hinduism, moksha, is attained not through worship and devotion, but through overcoming the illusion of diversity, which is done through the practice of piety, virtue, and meditation. Finally, the layers of illusion, built up by the karma of this life or earlier lives, are shed and true Being, Consciousness, and Bliss (sat-chit-ananda) is attained. The dharma of Hinduism provides a moral and social order. This is done in great part by the

caste system, for specific duties are associated with specific castes. Historically there are four main castes: the priests or Brahmans, the noblemen or warriors, the merchants, and menials and laborers. These castes form a hierarchy (the Brahmans being in the highest caste). Different duties and rights (dharma) pertain for different castes. Brahmans study and recite the Vedas, though this would be very wrong for those in a low caste. Those in a low caste may drink liquor, though Brahmans may not. There are four main castes, but hundreds even thousands of subcastes developed over time. Today the caste system is being broken down in India, at least in the cities of India. Hinduism today, as in the past, can take different forms. Some Hindus are in the tradition of Hinduism by virtue of their worship of Vishnu; others are by virtue of their worship of Shiva or Kali; still others, by virtue of their worship of the one God through their worship of Vishnu or another god of the Hindu pantheon; and yet others are in the tradition of Hinduism by virtue of their meditative approach to the impersonal reality of Brahman.

Buddhism Buddhism has taken many forms over the centuries, interacting with various cultures as it spread from India over Southeast Asia to China and Japan. There are today perhaps 300 million–400 million Buddhists in the world. Although the name Buddhism was created by Westerners fairly recently, the complex religious tradition of Buddhism can be traced to a single founder, who is recognized as such by all those who follow some form of the Buddhist tradition. Buddhism originated on the Indian subcontinent in the fifth century B.C.E. The founder of Buddhism is Siddhartha Gautama, who lived from about 560 B.C.E. to about 480 B.C.E. In the traditional account of Siddhartha’s life, he was born into the noble or warrior caste in northern India or present day Nepal on the slopes of the Himalayas. Prince Siddhartha was raised in luxury in anticipation of his assuming his father’s throne as the successor. He married his cousin and they had a son. Siddhartha, however, was not at ease in his princely life. At age twenty-nine he saw the “four passing signs” that astrologers had prophesied at his birth: a sick man, an old man, a dead man, and a monk. The first three represented the misery of human existence, but the fourth expressed emancipation from that misery. These sights triggered a resolve in Siddhartha. With a servant he departed the city and began his quest. Out of the city, he shed his royal clothes, cut his hair, and took the robe of an ascetic. This in the Buddhist tradition is known as the “Great Renunciation.” He followed his quest for seven years. In pursuit of his goal of salvation or liberation Siddhartha sought instruction from those versed in the way of severe ascetic renunciation and

from those versed in the way of Brahmanic thought, as well as from others. He then took up a life of extreme asceticism in his quest. One day, famished, he passed out from hunger. When he revived he begged for food. Now thirty-five, he abandoned extreme asceticism and sought a new way. He sat down under a pipal tree (known thereafter as the Bo Tree or Bodhi Tree, i.e., the wisdom tree) and for forty-nine days he meditated. On the forty-ninth day, according to Buddhist tradition, he experienced the “Great Awakening” or “Great Enlightenment” and, in attaining enlightenment, became the Buddha, the Enlightened One, who has overcome the ignorance that binds beings to the suffering of the world. The Buddha arose and walked to the Deer Park near Benaras. There he preached his first sermon to five ascetics, with whom he had formally practiced asceticism. This sermon is known in the Buddhist tradition as the first “turning of the wheel of the Dharma” (a wheel, the wheel of the Dharma, is often used as the visual symbol of Buddhism). In his sermon the Buddha taught the “Four Noble Truths.” The first is that all existence is misery. The second is that the cause of misery is ignorant craving. The third is that this craving and the misery it causes can be overcome. And the fourth is that this can be done by following the Noble Eightfold Path. The Noble Eightfold Path addresses both exterior and interior action and defines the “Middle Way” between extreme asceticism and indulgence. It consists of: (1) right understanding, (2) right-mindedness, (3) right speech, (4) right action, (5) right livelihood, (6) right effort, (7) right mediation, and (8) right mental absorption. By following these steps with great dedication, one may begin to approach Nirvana, the “blowing out” of the flame of passion and craving and the attainment of Buddhahood. The ascetics to whom the Buddha preached his first sermon became his followers and so there began the Sangha, or Buddhist monastic order. More were converted, and the Buddha sent them out to teach the new Buddhist way. For the rest of his life, until he was eighty, the Buddha traveled from place to place preaching and discoursing. Many heard his sayings and discourses, and though they were retained and passed on in an oral tradition, they were not written down for four centuries. When the Buddha knew that his life was ending he lay down between two trees. He died surrounded by his followers, and by tradition at his death he entered parinirvana, full realization and the cessation of rebirth. In the Buddhist tradition there is a chapter in the Buddha’s formation that precedes his birth as Siddhartha. In the Jataka (or birth) tales there are stories of the Buddha’s previous lives that exhibit his virtue. In one he is a monkey who makes a bridge of his body to save other monkeys; in another he is a deer who sacrifices himself to save the herd. In these stories the founder’s previous lives are filled with generosity and self-sacrifice. In many Buddhist societies these birth tales continue to be taken as models for behavior and moral instruction. During the lifetime of the Buddha—the historical Buddha, Guatama Buddha— and in the centuries after his death, many became Buddhist monks by taking the traditional vow “I take

refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha.” Many women became nuns, and many more men and women became followers as laymen and laywomen. In the third century B.C.E. King Ashoka, whose empire covered most of India, became a patron of Buddhism. While Ashoka’s rule was tolerant of all religious sects in his realm, he built shrines at the Buddha’s birthplace and place of enlightenment; and he encouraged pilgrimages to these and other sacred sites. In succeeding centuries other kings were protectors of Buddhist monasteries. Monks acted as missionaries, and Buddhism was brought to Nepal in the fifth century B.C.E. It was introduced into Sri Lanka (Ceylon) in the third century B.C.E., and spread from there to Southeast Asia. In the second century of the Common Era it reached China; in the fourth century it came to Korea, and in the sixth and seventh centuries it reached Japan and Tibet (although some of these dates are approximate). Buddhism became the established religion of Burma (Myanmar) in the eleventh century of the Common Era and of Thailand in the fourteenth century. Buddhism reached Japan between 550 and 600 from Korea, and many different forms developed in Japan between 1150 and 1300. Although in the twelfth century of the Common Era Buddhism ceased to be a major religion in India, the land of its origin, in the past two centuries it has come to have a presence beyond Asia in North America and Europe. In the modern period two prominent Buddhists, the Dalai Lama of Tibet and Aun San Suu Kyi of Burma have received the Nobel Peace Prize. There are three major schools of Buddhism. The first, Theravada, is the prominent form of Buddhism in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia. The second, Mahayana, is the main form of Buddhism in China, Korea, and Japan. The third, Vajrayana, is found in Nepal, Bhutan, and Tibet, and is the main form of Buddhism in the Himalayan region. Theravada is “the way of the elders.” It is the oldest school of Buddhism and sees itself as the guardian of the original teaching of the Buddha. Mahayana Buddhism developed in India in the first two centuries B.C.E., about three hundred years after the death of Gautama Buddha, the founder. It was a reform movement within the Buddhist tradition and sought to bring a new vision to Buddhism. Called the “Great Vehicle,” Mahayana offers a way to the other shore of Nirvana that will carry many, whereas, from the standpoint of Mahayana, Theravada offers a way only for the few. In Mahayana there is a shift from the solitary seeking of Nirvana or personal enlightenment and release to the ideal of the bodhisattva. In Theravada a bodhisattva is a candidate for Buddhahood. In Mahayana, however, a bodhisattva is a savior figure who, at the brink of Nirvana, holds back from enlightenment out of compassion for other sentient beings. There are many bodhisattvas in the Mahayana tradition. In Mahayana an important celestial bodhisattva is Avalokiteshvara (“The Lord Who Looks Down”). Avalokiteshvara, or Lord Avalokita, is the great bodhisattva of compassion, who, like other celestial bodhisattvas, is deemed worthy of worship. He is manifested in different incarnations in different Buddhist traditions. In Tibet’s Vajrayana Buddhism he is manifested in the Dalai Lamas and in China in the female form of Kuan-yin, the mother of compassion. In

Mahayana Buddhism, in addition to the worship of bodhisattvas, there is worship of celestial Buddhas, bodhisattvas who have attained Nirvana. Beyond the historical Buddha, Guatama Buddha, several, sometimes many, other Buddhas are recognized in different forms of Buddhism. One celestial Buddha is Amitabha, known in Japan as Amida Buddha. However, the bodhisattvas are deemed as worthy of worship as the Buddhas. In Mahayana the teaching is to follow the bodhisattva path rather than following the solitary quest for personal Buddhahood. But Buddhism can take very different forms and hence can embody different religious sensibilities. Contemporaneously with the worship of celestial bodhi-sattvas and Buddhas, in other strains of Buddhism in both Mahayana and Teravada, the historical Buddha (Gautama Buddha) faded and was replaced by the transcendent Buddha-nature or Dharmakaya. In Zen Buddhism, imported from China over several centuries starting at the end of the twelfth century C.E., the emphasis came to be on meditation in the pursuit of satori, the direct experience of awakening. Satori in Zen is understood as an experience that transcends rationality and cannot be expressed in literal language. Zen accepts the Mahayana doctrine of sunyata or “emptiness,” according to which the nature of all things is their emptiness, and nondualistically, ultimately there is no difference between any two things. The latter is taken to mean that all things are connected and have the Buddha-nature. This idea that all things are connected nourishes the Mahayana commitment to compassion, or karuna (“feeling with others”). Karuna is compassion for fellow human beings but also and equally for nonhuman animals. In fact, Buddhism traces the ideal of “infinite compassion” back to its founder. In its radiation over the centuries from the Indian subcontinent Buddhism has shown an extraordinary capacity to adapt to and blend with different cultures. Its development has yielded many different forms of Buddhism. Yet Buddhism in all its forms in some way traces itself back to the founder, Siddhartha or Gautama Buddha. From the time of its founder traditional Buddhism has accepted the prevalent Indian belief in reincarnation and karmic rebirth. In classical Buddhism a human being or a “sentient being” goes through a series of rebirths at one level of existence or another, as determined by the merit or demerit of his or her actions. In this transmigration, one may ascend as high as the gods in heaven or as low as the animals or even the lowest hell. Gods in traditional Buddhism are still involved in the karmic cycle. However, Buddhism, since the time of the founder, has rejected the caste system. The Sutta Nipata of Theravada Buddhism says that a Brahman and an outcast (one in the lowest caste) are such by deeds, not birth. Buddhist worship can be of celestial bodhisattvas or of celestial Buddhas, as noted previously. It can take other forms as well. Buddhist worship can be focused on shrines or on a great variety of sacred objects. It can take place in a historical shrine, such as that at the place Gautama Buddha preached his first sermon, or in one of the great temples in the Buddhist

world, or in a simple shrine in one’s office or home. Offerings of flowers, incense, candles, and/or prayers may be made, and the goal of such worship could be the accumulation of merit, gaining good luck for a business venture, or the experience of detachment associated with the seeking of Nirvana. Buddhist devotion takes the form of meditation rather than prayer or worship understood as communion with God. It may take the form of saying a mantra, or sacred formula, such as “O, the jewel of the lotus” (a mantra used by worshippers of Avalokitaeshvara, the meaning of which is in the saying of the phrase, not in affirming a creedal description of the bodhisattva). Or Buddhist meditation can take the more concentrated form of Zen meditation with no object or nameable focus. Buddhists can follow the Buddhist path, or a form of it, in other ways too. From the earliest days of Buddhism, laymen and laywomen have been encouraged to accumulate merit by following the Noble Eightfold Path and Buddhist precepts associated with it. The historical Buddha, as Siddhartha and as the Buddha, is a man, not a god. In any case, Buddhist gods are just one kind of being (as opposed to the monotheistic God of the Western theistic traditions, for which God traditionally is the supreme being and creator of the world). Nirvana is the ultimate goal of virtually all Buddhism, a “blowing out” of desire or craving; a realization and overcoming of ignorance that releases one from the karmic cycle of rebirth. Even Mahayana bodhisattvas, who out of compassion do not enter Nirvana, are on the path to Nirvana. Buddhism is a way or path to Nirvana; it is not a faith in a deity or a seeking of a faith-relationship to a deity. All humans and all sentient beings are potential Buddhas, and for Buddhism all are on the journey to the final realization of their Buddhahood.

Judaism Judaism is the religion of the Jewish people. There are different forms of Judaism and different ways of being Jewish, expressing different religious sensibilities. But all those who follow some form of Judaism make up the Jewish community. There are 13 million–14 million in the Jewish community worldwide. Nearly half live in North America, almost two million live in Europe and Russia, and almost five million live in the state of Israel. There are also smaller Jewish communities in Africa, South America, and elsewhere around the world.3 Although Judaism is not as populous as other world religions, perhaps because it has not sought converts (except for short periods, as in the first century C.E.), it is nevertheless a world religion. Judaism is one of the three Abrahamic religions whose heritages traditionally reach back to Abraham (Christianity and Islam being the other two). In the Jewish tradition, as the story of Abraham is told in Genesis in the Tanakh4 or Jewish Bible (which corresponds to the Christian Old Testament), God makes a covenant with Abraham. Abraham and his wife Sarah

have a son, Isaac, and through him God renews his covenant for all his descendants. Isaac and his wife Rebekah in turn have a son, Jacob (in the Judaic and Christian traditions God is sometimes referred to as “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob”). In the traditional story in Genesis, Jacob and his two wives, Leah and Rachel, have twelve sons and a daughter, and God gives Jacob the new name of “Israel.” Jacob’s, or Israel’s, sons multiply and the house of Israel becomes the “Children of Israel.” Judah and Benjamin are two of Jacob’s sons, and in time the tribes of Judah and Benjamin form the powerful Kingdom of Judah (hence the name Judaism). In the tenth century B.C.E. David became the second King of Judah and all Israel and captured Jerusalem, which became the City of David. Known as “the Psalmist,” David is traditionally regarded as the author of many of the psalms in the Bible’s Book of Psalms. However, in traditional Jewish belief hundreds of years before the Kingdom of Judah was formed, there was an event that is of great significance for Judaism: Moses led the Israelites out of Egyptian bondage to the land promised to them by God. Moses is for orthodox Jews the author of the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Jewish Bible (and of the Christian Bible). The Five Books of Moses constitute the Torah. (Torah means “teaching.” Although Torah applies specifically to the Five Books of Moses, the name can be used more widely to mean the entire Tanakh or even the spiritual tradition of Judaism.) Torah, as the Five Books of Moses, tells the story of Moses’ leading the people of Israel—the Children of Israel—out of Egyptian bondage and to deliverance. As Moses is the founder of Judaism, this great event, which occurred about 1280 B.C.E., is looked upon as the founding event of Judaism. The journey of the Israelites through the desert to the promised land lasted many years. In traditional belief during this time Moses received from God the 613 commandments about how the people of Israel are to walk in God’s way. Hence the Torah contains both the story of Moses’ leading the Israelites out of Egypt to God’s promised land and God’s law and instruction for the people of Israel. The Torah was canonized about 400 B.C.E. The Jewish canon consists of those books officially accepted as part of the Bible or Tanakh. In 586 B.C.E. another significant event in Jewish history occurred: Babylonia (an ancient empire that overlapped much of present-day Syria and Iraq) conquered the Kingdom of Judah and destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem (regarded as the special house of God). The Jewish population was sent into exile to Babylon, and so began the Jewish Diaspora, or Dispersion. Babylonia was itself defeated by the Persians in 539 B.C.E., and the Jews were allowed to return to their homeland. Many did, but many stayed in Babylonia, and many dispersed to other lands, including Egypt. In the centuries that followed, into the Common Era, the Diaspora continued and Jewish communities were established in Alexandria, Rome, and other urban centers in the ancient world, as well as provinces of the Roman Empire as distant as Germany. It was in the period after the destruction of the Temple, during the Babylonian exile, that there emerged the synagogue, as a local gathering place for worship and the reading of the Torah. It was also at this time that there developed the kind of religious service found in

synagogues (and in churches) to this day, marked by scripture readings, sermon, prayers, and hymns. During the Babylonian exile rabbis (as they came to be called), or teachers, as opposed to priests or prophets, came to the fore in Jewish religious life. Since the first centuries of the Common Era the rabbi has been the spiritual leader of a congregation and an authority on the interpretation of Torah. After the return from Babylon around 539 B.C.E., both the Torah, as a source of history and law, and Mitzvah were reaffirmed. Mitzvot (plural of Mitzvah) are commandments of God implying action that fulfills duties to God and to people. During this period and over several centuries, the Talmud (compendium of learning) was developed. It had its beginning in the tradition of the Oral Torah, in which rabbis discussed and interpreted the Torah. Two contributors to this oral tradition in the first century B.C.E. were Hillel and Shammai, whose teachings were presented as pairs of opposing views. Generally, the teaching of Hillel is accepted as the better view (on university campuses around the United States there are centers for Jewish students called Hillel Houses). The teachings of the rabbis were edited and arranged in a written form as the Mishnah (review or study) about 200 C.E.by Rabbi Judah, called “the Prince.” Over the next several centuries rabbis studied and further discussed the Mishnah. Their discussions formed the Gemara (addition or completion). The rabbis who contributed to the Gemara met for their scholarly discussions in two centers of learning: the Jerusalem academies and the Babylonian academies. The Jerusalem Talmud was given written form in the fifth century C.E. and the Babylonian Talmud was given written form in the sixth century C.E. Generally, the Babylonian Talmud, which was written down later, is given preference. The Talmud is a seminal rabbinic discussion of Jewish law, and it provides discussion and interpretation of how to understand God’s law in terms of specific cases, of how to “walk” with God, this aspect of the Talmud being halakhah (literally “walk”). In addition there is the Bible, the Holy Scriptures of the Jewish people. The Bible of the Jewish people or Tanakh consists of the Torah (the Five Books of Moses, beginning with Genesis) the books of prophets (such as Isaiah), the Psalms, and other books. The canon of the Jewish Bible was fixed around the beginning of the Common Era. In the Diaspora the Jewish people experienced and interacted with other, non-Jewish cultures. Although to a great extent they maintained their Jewish identity and religion, they did take on the ways of these other cultures and assimilated their ideas. So it was that many Jews in Egypt and elsewhere came to be Greek-speaking and lost any facility with Hebrew. In the third century B.C.E. the Jewish Bible, or Tanakh, was translated into Greek in Alexandria, Egypt. Called the Septuagint because it was, according to tradition or legend, translated by seventy scholars, it gave access to Torah to many Jews in the Diaspora. Two significant Jewish thinkers who were a part of the Diaspora were Philo of Alexandria and Moses Maimonides, although their lives were separated by a thousand years. Philo Judaeus, or Philo of Alexandria, lived from 20 B.C.E. to 50 C.E.in Alexandria, a major port in

Egypt at the tip of the Nile River delta. There he was a leader of the Jewish community, but also a student of Greek philosophy. He saw a similarity between the thought of the Greek philosopher Plato and the teachings of Moses and sought to blend the two. It was Philo who presented the idea of the Logos, or Divine Reason, which he understood as both God’s creative force and the rational structure of the universe. In this way Philo’s thinking was an early effort to address the question of the relation between faith and reason, or the issue of the tension between Jerusalem and Athens, as it is sometimes put (which is covered in Chapter 4). Moses Maimonides is better known in the broader Jewish tradition than Philo. Maimonides was born in Cordova, Spain, in 1135 C.E. Though Babylonia with its respected academies was the dominant center of Jewish learning in the fourth and fifth centuries and on into the medieval period, there were large Jewish communities elsewhere. One was in Cordova. In the tenth century a Jewish academy was established in Cordova, and other schools flourished in other cities in Islamic Spain in the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth centuries. Maimonides lived in Cordova for more than two decades. However, in the twelfth century less sympathetic Muslims gained power in Spain. In 1159, when he was twenty-four, Maimonides and his family left Spain for North Africa. He settled in Egypt in North Africa, which was under another form of Muslim rule, and lived much of his life in Cairo. A physician, he wrote several medical treatises, but he also wrote a digest of the Torah and Talmud called Misneh Torah and a philosophical work titled The Guide for the Perplexed, addressed to those firm in belief but “perplexed” by the collision with their religious belief that they were brought to by their philosophical studies. Maimonides, like Philo, sought honestly to resolve the tension between Jewish religious belief and Greek reason. He wrote in Arabic, the language of the culture around him, although the Guide was in his lifetime translated into Hebrew. Maimonides is regarded as the greatest Jewish scholar in medieval Europe, and his thought influenced other thinkers, Jewish, Christian, and Islamic. Over the past two millennia there were times Jews were well received in non-Jewish cultures, as in Islamic Spain, but there have also been times when they encountered antiSemitism, as in Rome in the first centuries of the Common Era and later in Christian Europe and in Islamic areas. In part this was because committed Jews, like committed believers in other faiths, refused to convert and be assimilated into the main culture and belief. It may have been that observant Jews had very different ways from the wider culture; for instance, they observed strict dietary laws as required by Mitzvah. Nevertheless from the time of the Babylonian exile to the present Judaism has survived and flourished, sometimes incorporating ideas from the surrounding cultures and relating them to the basic beliefs of Judaism. Within Judaism different forms or traditions have developed over the centuries. One of these is the Kabbalah (literally, tradition; i.e., the esoteric tradition of mysticism). Religious mysticism is a form of religious expression and sensibility that is found in most religious traditions; it typically stresses feeling and experience. Jewish mysticism is

traditionally claimed to be as old as the prophets. A main text of the kabbalistic movement is the Zohar (the Book of Splendor), published in 1285. It was, it seems, written by the Spanish kabbalist Moses de Leon; in the kabbalistic tradition, however, it was attributed to Rabbi Simeon bar Yohai, a famous third century rabbi. In this tradition the Ein Soph is the ultimate reality of God beyond all specification and differentiation, that from which all creation emanates. The Zohar in the sixteenth century came to have wide acceptance within the Jewish community and exerted influence on Christian thought.5 In the eighteenth century there developed in Poland and Russia another mystical Jewish movement called Hasidism (hasidim means “pious ones”). Its founder, born about 1700, is the Baal Shem Tov (Master of the Good Name). The Baal Shem Tov was not given to Talmudic study. He was more inclined to wander in the countryside, finding God in nature. He sought God in the events of ordinary life, and he taught that even simple things like eating and drinking could be performed joyfully as ways of communing with God. Although Hasidism was rejected by orthodox Judaism in Europe, it gained numerous followers in Russia and Poland. Later, many followers of Hasidism emigrated to the United States and to the state of Israel. Today there is a continuing Hasidic presence in Judaism. In the nineteenth century, in reaction to undying anti-Semitism, several Jewish leaders in Europe urged a return to the traditional homeland in Palestine. This movement is Zionism. Zion is the City of David, Jerusalem, or, sometimes, the hill in Jerusalem on which the Temple was built; in any case it is a symbol of the center of Jewish life. Zionism took both a cultural and a political form, the first looking to a restored center of Jewish cultural life and the second looking to the establishment of a Jewish state. Toward the end of the nineteenth century anti-Semitism took a vicious and deadly form in Russia. Starting in 1881 there were pogroms against the Jewish people, sanctioned by the Russian Czar. (This is the period in which Fiddler on the Roof is set.) This persecution spurred migration, especially to the United States, as the nineteenth century drew to a close. Then, in the first half of the twentieth century, during the Nazi regime, persecution of the Jewish people came to a culmination in the death-camp policies of Adolph Hitler. About 6.5 million Jews lost their lives in the Nazi death camps in the Holocaust. Elie Wiesel, who has written about the Holocaust and his experiences in the Nazi death camps during World War II, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986. In 1800 more than 80 percent of the world’s Jewish population was in Europe and Russia. By the late 1990s about half the world’s Jewish population was in North America, and more than one-third was in the state of Israel. In traditional Judaism there are several elements of belief and practice. One element is belief in the Messiah, the “Anointed One,” who will bring rescue and return to the Jewish people. Another is the importance of the promised land, the land of Israel to which Moses led the Israelites, from which they were exiled by Babylon and from which they were dispersed in the Diaspora. Other elements are the Jewish people as a community; the Children of Israel as

the Household of Israel; Torah and God’s instruction; the covenant with God; belief in God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; action as the performance of Mitzvot; the observance of the Sabbath each week and of the religious holidays, which include Hanukkah (an eight-day commemoration of the reconsecration of the Temple in 167 B.C.E.), Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year), Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), and Pessah, or Passover (celebrated with the Seder ceremony in Jewish families). Although today many of Jewish heritage are not observant Jews (who do not strictly follow the religious practices of Judaism), there are many Jews who are observant. In America and around the world, observant Jews practice their religion in four main forms of Judaism. Orthodox Judaism requires study of the Torah and careful performance of Mitzvot, which for Orthodox Judaism will allow the observant Jew to show a world estranged from God the way back to God. Set apart by performance of Mitzvot, the Orthodox Jew otherwise participates in the surrounding culture. Orthodox Judaism, in accord with the older tradition, desires and expects a personal Messiah. Reform Judaism, dating from the middle of the nineteenth century, made an effort to accommodate a scientific approach to religion. Doing so, it rejected Torah as God’s revelation but continued to see it as a source of ethics. It rejected belief in a Messiah who will lead the Jewish people back to the promised land in Palestine; rather, the messianic age was regarded as one in which all human beings will be united in a spirit of brotherhood. It also rejected the authority of the Talmud. Reform Judaism sees Judaism as having an unlimited possibility of development, but not in the light of God’s special revelation to the Jewish people. Conservative Judaism regards Reform Judaism as too extreme. It regards the Torah as an authoritative source that constantly needs interpretation by the Jewish people, so that Torah is gradually adjusted to the changing conditions of life, and it sees the Talmud as a primary example of this adjustment. Reconstructionist Judaism, or Reconstructionism, dates from the 1930s. It regards belief in God as traditionally important but not essential to Judaism as a religious culture. In America there are Orthodox, Reform, Conservative, and Reconstructionist temples, or synagogues, although by far most Jews affiliated with a synagogue are either Reform or Conservative. Judaism, then, accommodates a range of religious sensibilities. In the contemporary world, it is not a single unified system of belief and practice. In some forms there may be a stress on the scholarly study of Torah and the Talmud. In other forms there may be a stress on the community of Jewish people. Some of the elements of traditional Judaism, such as the dietary laws, may not be followed by Jews. In some Reform Temples there may be members who do not believe in God. When the stress is on Mitzvah, it can be observance of the duties to God in the Torah, including the dietary laws, or it can be the pursuit of social justice for the larger community of human beings, including both Jews and non-Jews or Gentiles. In this way both

observant Jews and Jews who are not religiously observant—who do not keep Jewish religious holidays, observe the dietary laws, or belong to a temple, and are “secular” in this sense—can yet follow the tradition of Mitzvah. There are many ways to participate in the life of Judaism.6

Christianity Christianity is the largest of the world religions, with an estimated 1.5 billion followers in Europe, North and South America, Africa, and throughout the world. The founder of Christianity is Jesus of Nazareth, who for traditional Christians is Jesus Christ. (Christ is the Greek word for Messiah.) Jesus was a Jew who began his ministry among the Children of Israel in Palestine, as the land of his birth has been called since Roman times. However, his message in the Christian tradition is not for Jews alone but for all men and women. For traditional Christians Jesus is the Messiah and Savior for all the world. The central belief of Christians is not so much in a doctrine as a belief in Jesus Christ as the Savior. Although the Common Era is also known as the Christian Era, Jesus was born a few years before the beginning of the Common Era. In traditional Christian belief, Jesus was conceived in his mother Mary by the Holy Spirit while she was a virgin. He was born in Bethlehem and grew up in Nazareth, about sixty miles north of Jerusalem, and so is known as Jesus of Nazareth. Almost all that is known about the life of Jesus has its source in the four Gospels, the first four books of the New Testament. (The Christian Bible consists of the Old Testament, corresponding to the Jewish Bible, and the New Testament.7) Although the Gospels do not agree in every particular, taken together they present the story of Jesus’ life. In the traditional story presented in the Gospels account, when Jesus was around thirty years old, he was baptized in the River Jordan by John the Baptist, a preacher who foretold the coming of the Kingdom of God or the age of the Messiah. John taught and used baptism as a spiritual cleansing preparatory to the coming of the Kingdom of God. After his baptism, in the traditional account, Jesus saw the heavens open, and the Spirit of God descended upon him in the form of a dove. A voice from heaven then said “Thou art my beloved son, with thee I am well pleased.” After this Jesus went into the wilderness for forty days. When he returned he began to preach publicly in the area of the Sea of Galilee in the towns near Nazareth. He healed the sick, and he called his twelve disciples to follow him. At one point he asked his disciples who men said he was. They said that some said he was Elijah (an Old Testament prophet), and some said he was John the Baptist (who had been executed). Jesus then asked of his disciples who they said he was, and one disciple, Peter, replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” From this time on, at least among his disciples, Jesus is seen as the Messiah. After a short time Jesus, with Peter and two other disciples, ascended a high mountain, and

there Jesus was transfigured. In the Gospel account, his face and garments shone with light, and Moses and Elijah appeared and talked with Jesus. In the time that followed Jesus continued healing the infirm and teaching, often in parables. He taught love of neighbor and love of God as the two basic commandments. He taught following the will of God and not one’s own will, turning the other cheek in the avoidance of violence, and love of one’s enemies. In about 31 to 33 C.E. he made his way to Jerusalem with his disciples and entered the city riding a donkey. He was received jubilantly by his followers, who spread palm fronds before him, an event celebrated by Christians as Palm Sunday. While in Jerusalem he went to the Temple and preached on the Temple porches. There he discussed and argued with other rabbis. ( Jesus, as a teacher, was a rabbi.) Jesus was in Jerusalem for Pessah or Passover, and Jesus had the Passover meal with his twelve disciples. In the Gospel narrative, during the meal, called the Last Supper, Jesus took bread from the table and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take, eat; this is my body.” Then he took the cup of wine and said to his disciples, “Drink of it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” The covenant, for Christians, is the new covenant, patterned after the old covenant with the Children of Israel, but offering the forgiveness of sins and new life for many, Jew and Gentile alike. Christians commemorate the Last Supper in the sacrament of Holy Communion or the Eucharist. After the meal Jesus went into the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. There a mob, led by Judas, the disciple who betrayed him, took him prisoner. They took him to the house of the High Priest, Caiaphas, where he was tried by an illegal council and found guilty of blasphemy. He was then taken before Pontius Pilate, the Roman procurator (or territorial governor), and after another trial, this time for sedition, Jesus was officially condemned to death. In the first century C.E. the form of execution was crucifixion, and Jesus was crucified with two robbers. In the account of the Gospels, on the third day Jesus rose from the dead, and in time appeared to his disciples and instructed them to preach repentance and forgiveness of sins in his name to all the nations. After forty days, in the New Testament account (in the Book of Acts 1.3–9), he ascended into heaven. The members of the earliest Christian community were practicing Jews in good standing, except that they believed the Messiah had come in the person of Jesus. Early Christianity was a movement within Judaism, and Christians in Palestine still regarded themselves as Jews. The leaders of the early church were the disciples of Jesus and were called apostles. Apostles in the fledgling church were those who had seen the risen Christ, as, in the account of the Gospels and the New Testament, the disciples had done when Jesus appeared to them after his resurrection. In the Jewish congregation of the early church in Palestine there were two factions. One insisted on a strict adherence to the law in the Torah; the other did not. Peter, one of the original disciples and now an apostolic leader of the early church, deliberately did not follow the dietary laws of the Torah, and he baptized a Gentile, admitting into the early

Christian community a non-Jew. The two primary leaders of the early church in the first century were Peter and Paul. Paul, as Saul of Tarsus, began as a suppressor of Christians. He was a traditionally educated Jew who regarded Christians as Jews who violated their faith. In the narrative of the New Testament (in the Book of Acts) Saul on the road to Damascus experienced a miraculous conversion through the intervention of Christ. Henceforth he was Paul, the apostle Paul, who became a leader of the church. It is Paul who became the apostle to the Gentiles, teaching that men and women are justified by faith alone and following the law of the Torah is not necessary (as in his Letter to the Galatians 2.13–21). In this way Paul’s teaching sets up the contrast between faith and works and raises the question for Christians of how important each is religiously. Paul was not the first Christian missionary to the Gentiles, but he was preeminent among the first-century missionaries to Gentile populations. He traveled far outside Palestine seeking converts; he traveled to Ephesus (in present day Turkey) and to Rome and to cities in Greece, establishing churches. The letters he wrote to the fledgling churches in these places are a part of the New Testament and have done much to shape Christian understanding and sensibility, as when he tells the Corinthians (in his First Letter to the Corinthians 13.13) that faith, hope, and love abide, but the greatest of these is love. By the end of the first century of the Common Era Christianity had traveled throughout the ancient Greco-Roman world, although for most of the first four centuries Christians were, to a greater or lesser extent, persecuted by Roman authorities. Christians often would not perform the rites to Caesar, and they were regarded as atheists because they did not recognize the ancient Roman gods. In the fourth century, however, Rome’s attitude toward Christianity changed. In the early part of the fourth century there was a struggle for Rome’s imperial throne. One of the chief contenders was Constantine, who was sympathetic toward Christianity. Before a decisive battle in 312 he (in one account) had a dream or vision of a flaming cross with the words “In this sign you shall conquer.” He adopted the cross and went into battle with it. His victory was decisive, and his position as one of the two emperors of Rome was established. Later, in 324, he became the sole emperor. Until the time of his death in 337 he was a supporter of Christianity and issued several edicts that made Christianity legal and ever preferred. In the early days of the church the teachings of Jesus were orally transmitted. By the end of the second century most churches had accepted a canon that included the four Gospels, and in the fourth century the New Testament with its twenty-seven books was accepted as canonical. For early Christianity in the decades following Jesus’ crucifixion there were several significant beliefs. There was the belief that Jesus had been resurrected, that he had indeed risen from the dead, and there was the belief in the immanent coming of the Kingdom of God. With the passage of decades and then centuries, many Christians came to accept it that the Kingdom of God might not come in their lifetime. In the first five centuries Christians began to address

other theological questions about their faith. In the developing church there were controversies over the relationship of Jesus to God the Father and over the nature of Jesus Christ. What was the relation of the Son of God to God, and was Jesus a man or God? The issue of Jesus’ relation to God the Father was resolved by what is known as the doctrine of the Trinity: there is one God (one “sub-stance”), but three “persons”: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. The resolution of the issue of Jesus’ nature, accepted by the developing Christian church, was that Jesus had a dual nature: he was fully human and also fully divine. These issues were resolved at general councils attended by church leaders. The first council, which resolved the first issue, was called by Constantine and met at Nicaea in 325. It resulted in the Nicene Creed, used in Christian churches to this day. The second issue was resolved at the Council of Chalcedon in 451. Ever since these early councils various denominations of the Christian Church have held councils to address and resolve issues, as well as to reaffirm held beliefs. Over time in the early church orthodox (officially sanctioned, proper) Christian belief was defined, and beliefs that were not orthodox were condemned as heresies (or unorthodox). At first in the early church, though there were leaders, there were no officially designated clergy. During its first centuries of existence, as the church developed, local leaders were recognized as bishops. Bishops then (as now in some Christian bodies) claimed apostolic succession (so that they could trace back the lineage of their authority to the apostles of Jesus). Bishops were at a different level from the members of the congregation, and in this way the difference between laity and clergy evolved. As time passed the church became more hierarchical. By the fifth century Christianity, recognized and supported by the Roman Empire, had communities throughout the Empire. Between the fifth century and the present day, many developments in the historical evolution of the Christian church took place. From an early time various Christians had sought to “renounce the world” through an ascetic life, and in the fifth century Benedict began a monastic order (the Benedictine order) in which men could lead a cloistered life dedicated to God. In the fifth century missionary efforts continued as monks became missionaries to Germany and Ireland. While there were many bishops, the bishops of Rome were pre-eminent, and from the fifth century they affirmed they were in a succession from Peter, whom they regarded as the primary apostle. In this way, from the fifth century, the bishop of Rome took the position of pope. However, the bishops of the East, in presentday Turkey, the Balkans, and Asia Minor were reluctant to accept the authority of the pope. In the eleventh century there was a final break between West and East. The Western Church followed Rome and the authority of the pope, and the Eastern Church followed the authority of the Patriarch of Constantinople (present-day Istanbul). The split between the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church exists to this day. In the Middle Ages (about 450 to 1450) in Europe there were several noteworthy developments in European Christianity. One was the development of urban centers, which

supported the creation of large cathedrals. Those who could not read the written word could read biblical stories and lessons in the sculptures that adorned the exteriors and interiors of the great cathedrals. Also in the Middle Ages, several religious orders for men and for women were formed, thus allowing both men and women the opportunity to retreat from the world and lead a dedicated religious life of prayer and self-denial. During this time monasteries maintained libraries, and philosophy was kept alive by thinkers who were monks in monastic orders or friars who were in nonmonastic religious orders. Usually philosophy was pursued in the service of theological concerns. One eleventh-century Benedictine monk who was a great philosopher and theologian was St. Anselm of Canterbury. St. Thomas Aquinas, a thirteenth century friar in the Dominican order, is widely regarded as having even greater philosophical and theological stature. Anselm formulated an argument designed to prove that God must exist. Aquinas also formulated such an argument. Both tried to show that reason sanctioned what Christians accepted on faith about God’s existence and God’s nature, although Aquinas more than Anselm addressed the full issue of the relation between faith and reason. Aquinas’ theological concerns touched upon very nearly every theological question, and he wrote a massive work, addressing questions ranging from God’s existence to the nature of faith, called the Summa Theologica. In the sixteenth century a great split occurred in Western Christianity. In 1517 Martin Luther tacked 95 propositions to a Church door in Wittenberg, Germany. This event is traditionally regarded as the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. It had been brewing for some time in Europe, and its causes were many, including concern about corruption in the clergy and opposition to church power being concentrated in Rome. Luther, going back to the teaching of Paul, proclaimed that faith alone brought individual salvation, and Christians could read the Bible for themselves without priestly intervention. What Luther taught denied the authority of the pope, and ultimately, when Luther would not relent, he was expelled from the Church of Rome (excommunicated). Luther formed his own religious community, and so Lutheranism was founded. Others (who, with Luther, are called Reformers) broke with the Church of Rome and founded other Protestant denominations. One was John Calvin, who greatly influenced Reformed denominations. Over time various other Protestant denominations were founded. Christianity, since its inception 2,000 years ago has grown from a minor sect to the most populous world religion. In today’s world Christianity is split into many bodies and denominations. Yet all Christians share a common history and heritage, and all are united in their belief in Jesus Christ. It should be borne in mind that Christianity has its historical roots in Judaism and so shares much with Judaism. Jesus was a Jew and in Nazareth in the first century C.E. he would have received a traditional Jewish education and would have learned the Torah. That he knew and could cite the Torah is clear in the Gospels. In one of the Gospels he is referred to as rabbi. Jesus’ message shares covenantal language with the Torah, and the ten commandments that

Jesus cites are those given in the Torah, as are the two greatest commandments: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and mind and strength, and you shall love your neighbor as yourself. But in contrast to Judaism, Jesus regarded his teaching as the “fulfillment” of the Prophets and the Torah. While Christianity recognizes as God’s commandments the Ten Commandments as they are expressed in the Torah, when Christians try to obey the Ten Commandments, and the two great commandments, they look to the life and teachings of Jesus for guidance. In Christianity from the earliest time there has been the tradition of imitating Christ in one’s life, and this is so even though different eras and generations have understood the model of Jesus’ life differently. The celebration of the Eucharist (or Holy Communion) is done regularly in Christian churches, and for Christians is a renewal through a symbolic reenactment of the Last Supper. A distinctly Christian rite is baptism, an initiation rite for Christians, inspired by Jesus’ being baptized by John the Baptist. For Christians it symbolizes a spiritual rebirth. The two holiest days in Christianity are Christmas, which celebrates the birth of Christ, and Easter, which commemorates the resurrection of Christ three days after his crucifixion. Beyond these distinctly Christian rituals, what is unique to Christianity and distinguishes it from Judaism, and from all other religions, is belief in Jesus Christ. The central belief in Christianity is in Jesus as the Christ, as Savior and Redeemer. For Christians he is the Messiah, not for the Jewish people alone, but for humankind universally, and he is the Messiah in a spiritual sense, as the forgiveness of sins for all in all the nations and the promise of eternal life and resurrection in a life to come. Moreover, for Christians, Jesus is not merely a man, like the Prophets. He is the Son of God.

Islam The name Islam means “submission,” submission to the will of God or Allah. (Allah is the Arabic word for God.) Followers of Islam are called Muslims, and the central confession of Islamic faith made by Muslims is contained in the shahada: “There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his Prophet.” There is one God, Allah, and to be a Muslim is to submit to, to follow, the will of Allah in all of one’s life. Muhammad is the founder of Islam, but Islam, unlike Christianity, is not named after its founder, even though Muhammad is deeply revered as the final Prophet. “Mohammedanism” is rejected in favor of “Islam” to emphasize the monotheistic focus of the religion on Allah and following the will of Allah. Islam is the youngest of the world religions, having been founded in the seventh century of the Common Era. It is also the youngest of the three Abrahamic religions, the other two being Judaism and Christianity. All three religions claim Abraham as a part of their religious

heritage, although they understand Abraham’s religious significance in different ways. Abraham in the biblical story in Genesis had a son Isaac by his wife Sarah, and, earlier, he had a son Ismael by Hagar, Sarah’s maid. In the Judaic and Christian traditions Isaac is the more important son, but in the Islamic tradition Ismael is the more important son. In traditional Islamic belief, the descendants of Ismael are regarded as the founders of the Quaysh tribe, the tribe of Muhammad. In Mecca, near the Sacred Mosque, stands a cubical structure called the Ka’ba. In orthodox Islamic belief it was first erected by angels, and over time was rebuilt ten times. The fourth rebuilding in orthodox belief was done by Abraham and Ismael. It is estimated that worldwide there are about 1.2 billion Muslims. Although several Arab countries in North Africa and the Persian Gulf area are primarily Islamic, most Muslims are not Arab. In 1984 there were about 137 million Arab Muslims. An Asian country, Indonesia, with 160 million–170 million Muslims, was the largest Islamic country in the 1990s. Islam is one of the fastest growing religions in Asia and Africa. Today there are large populations in Africa and Asia, with Islamic communities in European countries and in North America. Islam is predicted to become the second largest religion in North America (behind Christianity and ahead of Judaism) early in the twenty-first century. Like Christianity and Buddhism, and unlike Judaism, Islam is a missionary religion that seeks converts. The founder of Islam is Muhammad, the Prophet of Allah. Muhammad was born in 570. As a young man, he was a shepherd and camel driver. Later he went to work for a rich widow named Khadijah. He did well in her employ, managing caravans. They were attracted to each other and in time were married and had several children. While Muhammad later would have several wives, he took no other wife while Khadijah was alive. During the time of his marriage to Khadijah, Muhammad’s faith in the one God deepened and for several years he would leave Mecca and take solitary month-long retreats in a cave on nearby Mount Hira. In 610 there occurred what in the Islamic tradition is called the Night of Power and Glory. The angel Gabriel appeared to Muhammad and summoned him to be the messenger of Allah. This occurrence distressed Muhammad, but outside the cave he heard the same Voice telling him, “O Muhammad, you are Allah’s messenger.” Muhammad returned home and told Khadijah of his experience, and the two of them consulted her elderly cousin, who knew the Jewish and Christian scriptures. Khadijah’s cousin reassured Muhammad and, according to tradition, told him that his experience must be the beginning of prophecy and there would come to him the Great Law, as it had come to Moses. In the time that followed Muhammad received other messages from the Voice, and he came to accept himself as Prophet and Apostle, as the Voice proclaimed. In this way the Qur’an (or Koran),8 the sacred book of Islam, was revealed to Muhammad. The messages that constitute the Qur’an came to Muhammad over most of his life in Mecca and Medina. At first passages were memorized by the Prophet’s hearers, and those who could write wrote them down on what was available. In 651–52, twenty years after Muhammad’s

death, a written Qur’an was put into canonical form, with 114 suras (sections or chapters). In its entirety the Qur’an is about the length of the Christian New Testament. Strictly it exists only in Arabic. The Qur’an cannot be translated into other languages, and in this it is unlike the Christian Bible and the Jewish Bible (although there is some controversy about translating the Hebrew Bible). Still the Qur’an has been put into English and other languages because many Muslims do not speak or read Arabic. In addition to the Qur’an there is the Sunnah (the way the Prophet lived his life) and hadith (the words and deeds of the Prophet transmitted on his authority). By the ninth century there were many thousands of ahadith (the plural of hadith) recounted, and several collections were written down. The Sunnah and the ahadith of Muhammad are for Muslims further sources of understanding of the teachings of the Prophet. Islam, it should be appreciated, does not regard Muhammad as the sole prophet. In the Qur’an twenty-eight prophets are mentioned by name, including Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. Jesus’ virgin birth is affirmed, but Jesus is not regarded as divine. Muhammad is in the succession of the prophets, and like them is not divine but human. However, for Islam his place in the succession is special. He is the Seal of the Prophets, the final prophet with the final message from God. In the time following the Night of Power and Glory, as the divine Voice had directed him, Muhammad began to preach and to make a few converts. A great part of his message was the impending judgment that each person must face. His central message was that there is one God, Allah, and polytheistic belief must be renounced. Many in Mecca scorned this new teaching and were afraid it would affect the lucrative pilgrimage trade (for there were pilgrimages to Mecca before Islam). Muhammad and his followers began to be harassed and persecuted in Mecca. In 619 a delegation from another city, Yathrib, visited Muhammad and invited him to come to their city and take charge of it. Two larger delegations from Yathrib came over the next two years. They confessed their allegiance to Islam and urged Muhammad to come to their city. In 622 Muhammad and a few followers left Mecca and made the Hegira (withdrawal) to Yathrib, some 300 miles away. There they established a new political, social, and religious order; and Yathrib was renamed Medina (the city). It was in Medina that Muhammad built the first Islamic house of worship or mosque. The new order established by Muhammad in Medina is regarded by Muslims as the ideal order for a state. From the time before the Hegira the Prophet had augmented his preaching with political and even military planning. In Medina he made treaties and organized an army. Muhammad proved to be an able military leader in battles fought in defense of Medina. When the Meccans intercepted Medina’s caravans Muhammad negotiated a truce. (The Qur’an deprecates war and violence.) Only when the truce was violated did Muhammad mount a military effort against Mecca. The city was captured in 630. Muhammad opened the pilgrimage to Mecca to all who would accept Islam and gave pagan tribes a grace period in which to accept Islam. If,

however, they did not accept Islam they were regarded as enemies. The Prophet died in 632 and a successor (or caliph) had to be named. The first Caliph was a companion of Muhammad, Abu Bekr, under whom the army brought other Arab tribes under Islamic control. Upon his death in 634 Umar, another companion of the Prophet, became the second Caliph. During his ten-year rule the Qur’an was given its canonical form and Islamic armies conquered first Damascus and then the rest of Syria, and in 639 Jerusalem. After Umar’s death the Islamic expansion continued. Egypt was conquered and Islam spread across North Africa and into Spain in the eighth century. Islam also expanded east to Iraq, Iran, and on to India and parts of Asia in the eighth and ninth centuries. Later the Ottoman Empire (centered in present-day Turkey) would bring Islam north to Constantinople and farther north into the Balkans in Europe. With the expansion of Islam there was a cultural flowering in different urban centers, as in Cordova in Spain. The greatest, however, was in Baghdad. From the eighth to the thirteenth centuries, while learning was to a great extent eclipsed in Europe, Baghdad was the center of culture and learning. During these centuries Islamic thinkers were better acquainted with the Greek philosophical tradition than Europeans, and a number of them were influenced by Greek philosophy. Two notable Islamic scholars influenced by Greek philosophy were Ibn Sina, known in Europe as Avicenna (who died in 1037), and Ibn Rushd, known as Europe as Averroes (who died in 1198). Avicenna was influenced by Greek philosophy in his looking for a rationalistic expression of his own mystical leanings. Averroes, who also gave great importance to Greek reason, read and commented on the Greek philosopher Aristotle. By looking favorably to the Greek tradition with its elevation of reason these Islamic philosophers, as a group, to some extent ran counter to traditional Islamic sensibilities. Yet their general conclusion was that finally, with proper understanding, there was no conflict between reason and the revelation of the Qur’an. In the thirteenth century both Averroes and Avicenna were cited and appealed to by Aquinas in the Summa Theologica. Aquinas referred to Averroes as “the Commentator,” in recognition of his commentary on Aristotle. Averroes’s influence on Christian medieval thought was even greater than on Islamic theological reflection. In later centuries Islamic empires arose: the Ottoman Empire, the Iranian Empire, and the Mughul Empire in India. Wherever the Islamic expansion reached converts were made. Muhammad required pagans to accept Islam, but he allowed Jews and Christians, who were “People of the Book,” to retain their religions if they would pay a tax and submit to an Islamic government. Although Moses and Jesus were recognized as prophets, for Islam, their message was not the final message. Important for Islam is sharia, Islamic religious law expressing the will of Allah in accord with the Qur’an, applied to the varied circumstances of life. Different systems of interpretation of what Islamic religious law requires exist, however, and have existed from very early in the

history of Islam. These different systems at times rendered different judgments on theological and moral matters (or matters of proper behavior). For instance, a dispute arose over whether the judgment of whether a believer has been faithful must, or need not, wait until the Last Judgment, over whether only Allah knows who is a good Muslim and who is an infidel (one outside the Islamic faith). In the Islamic tradition modesty is a requirement, but what it requires in a woman’s attire and mode of behavior is open to a degree of interpretation. In some Islamic societies women are required to wear a black body-and-head-covering, called abbaya, or a hijab (headscarf), and in others a burqua, which covers the entire body including the face. Whether the Qur’an requires any of these is a matter of contention within Islam. In a similar way there are different interpretations of jihad. Jihad in its basic meaning is “struggle” or “effort.” In the time of Islam’s expansion jihad was understood as Holy War against infidels. But in the Islamic tradition it also means an “inner jihad,” meaning that the struggle is within Islamic society, to bring the community more into accord with the true demands of Islam. It would be wrong to think that Islam is a single monolithic religion. Like the other world religions, Islam has developed into different forms. The two major forms of Islam are the form consisting of the Sunnis and that consisting of the Shi’ites, or the Shi’a. What primarily divides them is a controversy over the line of succession following the death of the Prophet. Historically the fourth Caliph was Ali, the Prophet’s son-in-law and cousin. For Shi’ites Ali was the first true Caliph and is regarded as Iman, or divinely appointed leader, while this view is rejected by the Sunni. These two parties or forms of Islam exist today, although the Sunni is the majority party with 85% of Muslims throughout the world. Moreover, both forms have interacted with the different cultures and countries where they have taken hold, and each form has some followers who are more fundamentalist or literalist and some followers who are more liberal. There are other forms of Islam as well. One is Sufism, which is a form of mysticism. A Sufi of great influence was Abu Hamid al-Ghazali. Born in Persia (Iran) in 1058, twenty-one years after the death of Avicenna, he gained repute for his learning and brilliance in law and theology, which led to his appointment to the University of Baghdad (in the time of Baghdad’s ascendancy). However, al-Ghazali went through a period of struggle with skepticism. Turning from intellectual theology, he took up Sufi mysticism with its emphasis on feeling and experience. He is credited with reinvigorating Islamic orthodoxy with a new vitality.9 In addition to these forms of Islam, and its various expressions due to cultural interaction, there are many movements within Islam. There is, for instance, the Wahhabi movement, founded in the eighteenth century. One of its mottos is “Back to the Qur’an,” and in its effort to rid Muslim society of what it regards as un-Islamic the Wahhabi movement has attacked Shi’a sacred sites and destroyed the shrines of Sufi saints. By way of contrast, in the twentieth century in Turkey, what Turkish Muslims call a Muslim reformation occurred that today continues to seek ways of more liberally accommodating the requirements of Islam to modern

life. All Muslims respect what has been called the “Five Pillars of Islam.” The first pillar is confession. Traditionally, a Muslim’s confession of faith takes the form of reciting the shahada: “There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his Prophet.” Importantly involved is the affirmation of tawhid (divine unity, the oneness of God). For Islam there is one God, and allegiance to the one God, Allah, requires the rejection of any other god and of the slightest idea that the one unique God is “associated” with anything earthly. Such an idea constitutes shirk (association), an unforgivable sin for Islam. For Muslims, allowing the divinity of Jesus Christ would amount to shirk. The second pillar is prayer. Devout Muslims pray five times a day, facing the Ka’ba in Mecca. If there is a mosque in the community, a muezzin will call the devout to prayer from one of the mosque’s high spires, called minarets. In today’s world a loudspeaker may be used. However, Muslims who are far from a mosque are expected to keep their obligation to pray during the day. In addition, there are public prayers at the mosque on Friday and required prayers for births, weddings, and funerals. Third, there is the pillar of fasting. During the sacred month of Ramadan, commemorating the practice of the Prophet when he retreated to Mount Hira, devout Muslims take no water or food and abstain from sex from early daybreak until dusk or late evening. Fourth is the pillar of almsgiving. Normally devout Muslims are called upon to give one fortieth of their income for support of the poor (and in the past for the freeing of slaves). In the early days of Islam a tax was collected for the almsgiving amount. Today it is a matter of personal obligation, and in some forms of Islam the fourth pillar is understood to extend to social welfare. The fifth pillar is pilgrimage. Devout Muslims are expected to make at least one pilgrimage to Mecca, or hajj, before they die. Several ceremonies are participated in over several days in Mecca, including circumambulating, or walking around, the Ka’ba seven times. In today’s world, most Muslims live in rural settings, for many Islamic countries are among the lesser developed countries of the world. But 30 percent of Muslims live in urban environments in Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Indonesia, and in European and North American cities. Although there are many differences among forms of Islam, and the extent to which modernity has been accommodated, all Muslims are unified in an essential faith in Allah, in following the will of Allah, and in reverence for Muhammad, the Prophet of Allah.

Other Religious Forms There are in today’s world many religions besides the five world religions briefly presented in

the preceding sections of this chapter. Before we end this chapter, we should at least note examples of these other religions, examples that may be familiar to some. This section also draws attention to one near-religious position and, as well, to positions that may proclaim themselves to be anti-religious, but which are also in a sense “religious” by virtue of their overt reaction against religious belief. Among the well-established religions not discussed there is Sikhism. Founded around 1500, Sikhism is a form of monotheism with a following of more than 20 million, by far most of whom are in northwest India. Another well-established religion is Zoroastrianism, founded, it is thought, in the seventh to sixth century B.C.E. Once the religion of the Persian Empire (more than ten centuries before the arrival of Islam), it now has only several thousand followers in Iran and 100,000 followers in India (where followers are known as Parsees). Confucianism and Taoism are religions of historical China, founded in the late Chou period (in the centuries just before the Common Era). Although they are not encouraged today on mainland China, their influence on Chinese culture has been very great. Shinto is a wellestablished religion in Japan, although there are many sects. Many Japanese are comfortable participating in both Shinto and Buddhist rituals. Other religions or religious movements are Bahai; Christian Science; The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (or Mormonism), with about 3 million followers; and Jehovah’s Witnesses, which is active in the United States and in almost every country of the world, seeking converts. In addition, there are religions that do not have a single unifying organization, such as the religion or spirituality of Native Americans. In Native American spirituality there is orenda (Iroquois), manitou (Algonquin), and wakan (Lakota Sioux). In Lakota, spirituality wakan or “energy” is pervasive. Animals and nonliving things may be wakan. Food, little children, and crazy people are wakan. Songs to the Wakanpi (spirits) are wakan. Wakan Tanka, or Grandfather or Great Spirit, is everywhere all the time, observing all and knowing even the thoughts of each person. Wakan Tanka governs all and makes his wishes known through visions or through a shaman, or medicine man (one able to communicate with the spirits).10 Similarly, Africa’s indigenous religion, animism, found in many places in Africa, has no unifying organization. Animism is the belief that natural objects, like trees and mountains, are animated by individual spirits. A comparatively new religion is Wicca. Formed in the nineteenth century in the United States, it is a “natural” religion. Wiccans believe in an immanent God (in nature) who is also transcendent. There is sympathy for “paganism” and recognition of polytheism, which relates to Wicca’s regarding both male god and female goddess images as presenting aspects of a greater unknowable divinity. Wicca is the religion of witchcraft, and Wiccans are selfproclaimed witches who follow the “Craft” in seeking personal spiritual development and a connection to nature. An important element of their ethic is doing harm to no one while

seeking a connection to nature. Wiccans worship in groups or solitarily, and some Wicca Churches have ordained clergy.11 Secular humanism may also be considered a religious or near-religious movement. Humanism can mean several things. A primary meaning is reverence for and celebration of humanity and the creative accomplishments of humanity. In this sense humanism has existed within such traditional religions as Christianity. However, there is also secular humanism. Secular humanism rejects religious belief in God and reveres most highly the achievements of human beings in the artistic and scientific realms. The introduction of this book mentions atheism and agnosticism. A few more words on these are necessary here. Some religions, or forms of religions, like Buddhism, may be atheistic in the sense in that they do not affirm that God is the highest reality. But generally, the term is reserved for those who reject the monotheistic religion of their culture by denying the existence of God. Typically, atheists are not atheists because they are good Buddhists, but because, standing outside all religions, they assert that there is no God. Agnosticism is a term that was coined by T. H. Huxley in the nineteenth century. Huxley participated in a society or discussion group in which the other participants had defined religious and theological positions. He alone had no label, no “ism,” with which to cover himself, he reflected. So he invented the term “agnosticism” for his own position of not knowing whether there is a God or not. But the position existed before the term, and many today may be agnostics without labeling themselves as such.12 Of the many religions in the world, some—like Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—have followers who believe in God as the highest reality and so are theistic (and monotheistic). Others, like Buddhism and some forms of Hinduism, have followers who conceive of the highest reality in a non-theistic way. Moreover, within each of the major religious traditions, including the five described in this chapter, there are various forms. These different forms can have different perceptions, concerns, and sensibilities. In our discussion of the various issues in philosophy of religion that follows we at times bring into the discussion different religious sensibilities when doing so can shed light on our understanding of the issue.

Notes 1. The following brief accounts of Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are drawn from four main sources: John A. Hutchinson, Paths of Faith (New York: McGraw Hill, 1969); The Concise Encyclopedia of Living Faiths, edited by R. C. Zaehner (London: Hutchinson, 1959); The HarperCollins Dictionary of Religion, edited by Jonathan Z. Smith (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1995), and World Religions, edited by Willard G. Oxtoby, 2 vols (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002). Helpful comments on all or part of this chapter were provided by Amir

Hussain and Jody Myers. 2. Selections from the Bhagavad-Gita are in James Kellenberger (editor), Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings (New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 2007), Chapter 1. 3. Population data from the World Jewish Congress (1998). 4. Selections from the Tanakh are in Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 1. 5. Selections from the Zohar are in Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 1. 6. This brief account of Judaism has drawn upon Leo Trepp’s Judaism: Development and Life (Belmont, CA: Dickenson, 1966), in addition to the four sources noted previously. 7. Selections from the New Testament are in Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 1. 8. Selections from the Qu’ran are in Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 1. 9. Selections from al-Ghazali’s The Revivification of Religion are in Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 5. 10. Native North American Spirituality of the Eastern Woodlands, ed. Elizabeth Tooker (New York and Toronto: Paulist Press, 1979), Introduction, and the Web site www.elexion.com. A statement on the wakan by Little Wound, a nineteenth century Lakota (or Sioux) chief and shaman, is in Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 5. 11. Information taken from www.wicca.org/Church and from www.cuew.org. 12. T. H. Huxley, “Agnosticism,” in Selections from the Essays of T.H. Huxley, ed. Albury Castell (New York: AppletonCentury-Crofts, 1948), pp. 87–88. Part of Huxley’s essay is in Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 3.

Chapter 2 Proving God's Existence The Main Argument for God's Existence There are two fundamental questions to be asked about the main arguments for the existence of God. One question is whether any of these arguments really prove the existence of God. The other question is about the relevance for religious belief of these arguments, even if one or more of them should turn out to prove that God exists. The first question is about the logical status of these arguments. The second is about their religious relevance. Both questions are important, and we address both, the first in this chapter and the second in the next chapter. Can God’s existence be proven by a logical “argument”? Can God’s existence be proven by logical reasoning that is boiled down and carefully stated in a written form? This is an old question. Directed to the main and traditional arguments for the existence of God, this is the question of the logical strength of those traditional arguments for the existence of God: Do any of them really prove the existence of God? This is a meaningful and serious question that many have tried to answer over the past thousand years, right up to the present day. In this chapter we look critically at the question of the logical strength of three traditional arguments for God’s existence. Each of these three arguments is an attempt to prove the existence of God using only human reason or what has been called natural reason, the ability to reason that human beings have as a natural capacity, as opposed to any supernatural revelation from God, including the authority of the Bible.1 Each of the three is a significant argument. Each has been strongly championed and strongly criticized. In the history of religious and philosophical thought, they are so familiar that they have been given agreedupon names: the Ontological Argument, the Cosmological Argument, and the Teleological Argument. Although the soundness of each has been under discussion for centuries, these three arguments for God’s existence were not given their enduring and best-known formulations at the same time. The Ontological Argument was formulated by St. Anselm of Canterbury, a Benedictine monk, about one thousand years ago in the Middle Ages. St Anselm’s argument for God’s existence is based on God’s being or nature (or the ontology of God, in the technical terms of philosophy). Anselm based his argument on the nature of God, on what God is, or on what we understand God to be by the very meaning of the word. As we might say, Anselm’s argument is based on the concept of God. About a century later Moses Maimonides, the great medieval Jewish thinker, argued that God’s existence was proven by certain indisputable facts about causation and change in the

world (facts about the “cosmos” or world, understood to be not only the earth, but the entire universe).2 In the next century—the 1200s— St. Thomas Aquinas said that God’s existence could be proven in “five ways,” and, drawing upon the thinking of Maimonides and others, he gave us five related arguments for the existence of God. All or most of Aquinas’s five ways are based on key basic facts about things in the world or cosmos, like causation and motion, and as such they are called Cosmological Arguments, or variants of the Cosmological Argument. In a period of less than two hundred years, these religious thinkers gave us formulations of two of the most significant and enduring arguments for God’s existence. Some centuries later, in the eighteenth century, another argument came into prominence. This was the “design argument,” as it is often called, or the Teleological Argument. The reasoning of this argument is that the design we find in the world shows that the world has a Designer, and that is God. The fact that there is a temporal progression in the emergence of these arguments does not in itself show that the last to emerge is the best. All are under contemporary discussion.3 Before we turn to a presentation and discussion of these three main arguments, we must clarify a few terms used in describing and evaluating arguments. An argument, as mentioned in the Introduction, is a piece of reasoning that is designed to support or prove a claim that is made. When we make a claim that something is true, we affirm a proposition, a proposition being anything we can think or say that is either true or false (as opposed to, say, questions we ask, or shouts like “Hooray!”). In every argument there is support offered for the truth of some proposition. That support is expressed in other, supporting propositions. Here, for the purpose of illustration, is an example of a simple argument with supporting propositions and a supported proposition: a. If trees exist, God exists. b. There are trees. c. So God exists.

(a), (b), and (c) are propositions. (a) and (b) are the supporting propositions and are called premises. They are offered in support of (c), which, as the proposition to be supported, is the conclusion of the argument. All arguments have this essential form: some propositions are offered in support of the truth of another proposition. Our illustrative example of an argument, moreover, is a special kind of argument. It is a deductive argument, which is to say that it will, if it is a logically good argument, demonstrate or show conclusively that its conclusion is true. For a deductive argument, like that in our example, to be a logically good argument it must be that (1) all its premises are true, and (2) when the premises are true, the conclusion must be true. When an argument meets the second condition it is said to be valid. In the strict logical sense, an argument is valid when if the premises are true it is impossible for the conclusion not

to be true. The argument used as our illustrative example is valid: if (a) and (b) are both true, then (c) must be true as well. But are (a) and (b) true? Specifically, is (a), “If trees exist, God exists,” true? For this argument to be logically good, the first condition for a good argument— that all the premises be true—must also be met. When both conditions are met by an argument, logicians say that the argument is sound. A sound argument, then, is a valid argument whose premises are all true. There is one other condition for arguments like the deductive argument in our example, and all arguments, to be logically good. They must avoid begging the question. An argument begs the question when it assumes as a premise what no one would accept unless he or she already accepts the conclusion. Our illustrative example of an argument begs the question by relying upon (a), “If trees exist, God exists,” as a premise. Many, if not all traditional religious believers in God would accept this as true (because they believe that everything was created by God and would not exist without there being a God); and, as far as the present point is concerned, we can allow that this premise may be true. The point to see here is not that the premise is not true. The point is that if we think it is true we must already accept it that God exists—and so the premise begs the question. The first two arguments for the existence of God discussed in this chapter, the Ontological and the Cosmological Arguments, are deductive arguments. The third, the Teleological Argument, however, is not a deductive argument in its traditional formulation. It is what is called an inductive argument, which means that it will, if it is a logically good argument, establish that its conclusion is probably true, that it is more probably true than not true. The degree of probability aimed at by an inductive argument may be a high degree of probability, but inductive arguments are not demonstrations, as deductive arguments are, or are attempts to be. Inductive arguments, in order to be logically good, must meet two conditions, and these conditions parallel those that good deductive arguments must meet. For an inductive argument to be logically good, (1) all its premises must be true, and (2) the premises must be relevant to and support the conclusion. And, of course, inductive arguments must avoid begging the question. With these points of logical terminology and evaluation in mind, we can now present, clarify, and discuss each of the three main traditional arguments for God’s existence.

The Ontological Argument Anselm’s Ontological Argument is contained in his Proslogion, which Anselm wrote toward the end of the eleventh century in 1077–78. A distinctive feature of Anselm’s argument is that

it uses a priori reasoning. This means that it uses ideas and principles that we know are true (or are supposed to know are true) before any experience of the world. Our knowledge of concepts (e.g., “circles conceptually do not have corners") and of mathematical truths (e.g., "2 + 2 = 4") is a priori. Our knowledge that a certain figure we see is a circle or that two oranges are on the table before us is not. It is empirical knowledge, gained through observation, using our five senses. Anselm wanted his Ontological Argument to be an a priori proof, not based on premises we know by observing anything, but on the basis of conceptual truths. Anselm's statement of the argument constitutes Chapter 2, "That God truly exists," the chapter and the argument it contains taking up a little less than a page.4 However, over the centuries that page has had a profound impact on the question of whether God's existence can be proven. Chapter 2 of the Proslogion begins with these words: Now, Lord, since it is you who gives understanding to faith, grant me to understand, as well as you think fit, that you exist as we believe, and that you are what we believe you to be.

The first thing to notice is that Anselm begins with a prayer: He asks God to grant him that he may, as much as God sees fit, come to understand that God exists, as he believes He does, and come to understand that God is what he believes Him to be. Anselm is asking God to give understanding to his faith, and, for Anselm, that understanding will come as the result of his use of reason to prove these things. As he does throughout the twenty-six chapters of the Proslogion, Anselm continues to address God in the remainder of Chapter 2, even as he unfolds the reasoning of the Ontological Argument: Anselm’s Ontological Argument is couched in the language of a meditative prayer. It is clear, then, that Anselm, before he completed his argument, already believed there is a God and already had beliefs about God’s nature or attributes. He is not holding back his faith until he has a proof. But he is seeking to prove these things so that he can understand to be true what he already believes. Anselm wants to prove that God exists and that God is as he believes, and as “we” believe, God to be. Before the Proslogion is through, Anselm will try to do both. In Chapter 5 he reasons that God as the Supreme Being is “just, truthful, happy, and whatever it is better to be than not to be. . . .” But before he shows that God is as we believe God to be, Anselm undertakes to prove that God exists. It is to this effort that Chapter 2 is dedicated. After asking God for understanding, Anselm continues: “We believe that you are that thing than which nothing greater can be thought.”

With these words Anselm begins the reasoning of the Ontological Argument. He starts with a definition. For Anselm, God is the Supreme Being (as he says in Chapter 5), and as the Supreme Being there can be none greater, and, moreover, there can be none greater of which we can conceive or think. God is, in Anselm’s phrase, “that-than-which-nothing-greater-canbe-thought.” Notice he is not saying that God can be fully conceived by us humans; in fact he

denies this in Chapter 15, where he says: “Lord, you are then not only that than which a greater cannot be thought; you are something greater than it is possible to think about.”

So one step or premise in his argument is: 1. God is by definition that-than-which-nothing-greater-can-be-thought. Anselm is not saying that this is the only concept of God, but he is saying that his reasoning will apply when what we mean by “God” is the Supreme Being, understood as that-thanwhich-nothing-greater-can-be-thought. Anselm is confident that this is what “we” believe God to be, that is, what those in Anselm’s Christian tradition, and in the broader Western theistic tradition, and perhaps not it alone, believe God to be. Moreover, in Anselm’s day, as in ours, it is not unnatural to think of God as the Supreme Being. Anselm wants us to appreciate that this is not only what believers mean by “God,” but what nonbelievers mean by “God,” and what even those who deny God’s existence, like the fool in the Psalms to whom Anselm refers, mean by “God.” Psalm 14 begins with: “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’”5 Anselm’s point is that those who say there is no God understand what God means, but, unlike religious believers, they say that God does not really exist; they have the concept of God in their minds or understanding, as Anselm says in Chapter 2, but believe that God exists in the mind alone and not in reality. We should also appreciate that Anselm is not saying that being that-than-which-nothing-greater-can-be-thought is all of the concept of God; it is just the part of it that he needs for his argument. So far there is nothing to object to in Anselm’s argument. No one who believes that what “we”—or some people—mean by “God” is the Supreme Being will object to this element, or premise, of Anselm’s argument. A second step in Anselm’s reasoning is this crucial premise, which Anselm takes to be selfevident: 2. That which exists in reality as well as in the understanding is greater than that which exists in the understanding alone. The third element in Anselm’s argument is Anselm’s use of reductio ad absurdum reasoning. The idea of reductio reasoning is in fact fairly simple and commonplace, even if it is rarely identified by its Latin name. We use reductio reasoning whenever we prove something is so by showing that if we try to deny it we end up with an obviously false absurdity. In more detail, reductio reasoning is employed when we (1) tentatively assume the opposite of what we want to prove, (2) deduce from that assumption, along with truths that are not in dispute, an absurdity, and then (3) conclude from this that the opposite of our assumption (what we wanted to prove) must be true. We see such a reductio movement in the last part of Anselm’s statement of his argument. In his words it is this: 3. “If that than which nothing greater can be thought exists in the understanding alone, then this thing than which nothing greater can be thought is something than which a greater can be

thought. And this is clearly impossible. Therefore there can be no doubt at all that something than which a greater cannot be thought exists both in the understanding and in reality.”6 As the initial “If” indicates, Anselm is tentatively assuming that God, the Supreme Being, or that-than-which-a-greater-cannot-be-thought, exists “in the understanding alone” and not in reality—which is the opposite of what he wants to prove. He then deduces an absurdity (a contradiction, the most serious kind of absurdity) from this assumption along with what Anselm takes to be an indisputable truth, namely that it is greater to exist in reality as well as in the understanding than it is to exist in the understanding alone (step 2 in his argument). And then, from this deduced absurdity, he concludes that his tentative assumption must be false and it must therefore be true that God exists not only in our understanding as a concept, but also in reality. In this way Anselm’s Ontological Argument concludes that, since God is the Supreme Being (a being than-which-a-greater-cannot-bethought), God must exist; otherwise there would be a yet greater being we could conceive of, namely one that did exist in reality. Ever since Anselm formulated this arresting line of reasoning it has had its critics and its supporters.

Criticisms of the Ontological Argument The first critic of the Ontological Argument was Anselm’s contemporary, Gaunilo, who was a Benedictine monk, like Anselm. Gaunilo, of course, believed in God, but he did not think that Anselm’s Ontological Argument proved God’s existence. And so Gaunilo wrote a reply, which, referring to the fool of the Psalms, he titled A Reply on Behalf of the Fool.7 In his reply Gaunilo constructs an argument parallel to Anselm’s, except it is about a “Lost Island.” Gaunilo imagines someone telling him about this island and telling him that it has all kinds of “riches and delights in abundance” and is “more excellent than all other lands.” Now, says Gaunilo, he has no trouble understanding this description of the Lost Island. But what if the person telling him about the island goes on to reason that this island must exist in reality, since it is the most excellent island, and it is more excellent to exist in reality as well as in the mind than in the mind alone? Well, says Gaunilo, he is not sure who the greater fool would be—he himself if he accepted this reasoning or the person making this Lost Island argument if he thought it really proved the existence of the Lost Island. Gaunilo’s criticism and counterargument against Anselm’s Ontological Argument may be put this way: Anselm’s Ontological Argument and the Lost Island Argument use the same reasoning, so that the first is valid only if the second is. But the reasoning obviously does not work in the Lost Island Argument. So it does not work in the Ontological Argument either, and that argument fails to prove that God exists in reality. God exists, Gaunilo believes, but the Ontological Argument does not prove it.

Anselm replied to Gaunilo by saying that, really, the two arguments are not parallel because there is a big difference—a big logical difference—between islands and God. That difference is that islands can be consistently thought not to exist (whether they exist or not); even if there is this Lost Island someplace we can coherently conceive of it (imagine it) as not existing. God is different. If we think that God might not exist, then we are not thinking of God. God must be thought of as existing. As this point is sometimes put, God has necessary existence. In fact, Anselm did say in Chapter 3 of the Proslogion that God cannot be thought not to exist, for that which “ it is not possible to think of as not existing . . . is greater than something that can be thought not to exist.” Very well, we might think: Anselm has an answer to Gaunilo’s criticism. But now this question comes up: How was the fool of the Psalms able to say in his heart that there is no God, when this cannot even be thought (and we will remember that Anselm himself in formulating the Ontological Argument referred to the fool and his doing this)? Anselm has an answer to this question as well, and he gives it in Chapter 4 of the Proslogion. The fool was able to think that God does not exist because he used only “the word that signifies” God; he was not thinking God does not exist “when the thing itself [God] is understood.” In short, Anselm does what philosophers and others often do when they are faced with what looks like an inconsistency: He draws or cites a distinction. This in itself is not illegitimate. However, the question does arise whether the distinction is a real distinction with application or one just made up to save an argument. Perhaps what Anselm is saying here is that the fool was able to think that God does not exist because he did not deeply enough understand the concept of God (that-than-which-a-greater-cannot-be-thought), although he had some understanding of it; if he had had a fuller understanding of it, he would not have been able to think that God does not or even might not exist. In the eighteenth century, Immanuel Kant provided what many see as the most penetrating criticism of the reasoning of the Ontological Argument.8 The Ontological Argument presupposes something that we have not clearly identified in our discussion to this point: that the term existence (or exists) is the kind of term that can add to or fill out a concept. As Kant put it; it presupposes that exists is a predicate, and that is not the case. Kant’s criticism may sound technical, but really all he means is that it does not fill out the concept of God, or any concept, as a property would. For example, the property of being a male adds to or fills out the concept of father when it is added to parent, so that parent plus male equals father, and “fathers are male” becomes necessarily true or true by definition. In the same way, Kant allowed, omnipotence (being all-powerful) is a predicate or property and fills out the concept of God; it is one of God’s properties (or attributes or perfections) and adds to the greatness and concept of God (as do being all-good, being all-powerful, being unfailingly loving, and the other traditional properties of God), so that God has these properties necessarily or by definition. But existence does not fill out the concept of God in this way, Kant argued. If we say that “God exists” (or “God exists in reality”), we are not saying something about God that

is true by definition, for existence is not another perfection or property that adds to the concept of God. Instead, Kant held, in saying that God exists, we are saying that the concept of God applies, that is, we are saying that the concept of God actually applies to something that exists. In the same way we are saying that the concept of father applies to some things if we say that some fathers exist. Kant’s basic criticism is that, whatever concept we have of God or of anything else, it will always be an open question whether that concept applies to anything. Kant’s predicate criticism of the Ontological Argument may be put this way: The Ontological Argument, in arguing that God exists by the very concept or definition of God, presupposes that exists is a predicate. But it is not. So the argument fails. Kant’s basic criticism points out something important. Put simply, it says that we cannot just define something into existence. Kant, however, went a little bit further. He said that if we are reasonable, we will not regard any statement that something exists as true by definition. Here he may have gone too far, but even if he did, his basic criticism of the Ontological Argument remains untouched. Let me explain. First, how did Kant go too far? He did in that he tried to rule out any coherent concept that includes existence, but there could be such a concept. And in fact the concept of God may be such a concept. As I observed, it is not unnatural to think of God as the Supreme Being, as Anselm does. In more detail, how is God to be conceived? In a part of their traditions shared by Jews and Christians, a primary source for understanding how God is to be thought of, or conceived, is the Bible. It is there that we find sources for the conception of God as all-powerful, all-good, and unfailingly loving. Particularly in the Psalms that praise God, we can find sources for the Jewish and Christian conceptions of God. Thus, in Psalm 103 we find God characterized as having a “steadfast love” that endures “from everlasting to everlasting.” In Psalm 90 we find “from everlasting to everlasting thou art God.” That is, God exists from everlasting to everlasting, or always.9 This last passage, then, can be read as filling in the concept of God with existence. If so, then God, by His nature or by the very concept of what God is, exists. Still, this does not help the Ontological Argument, as Kant’s basic criticism remains in place. To see why it does, imagine an atheist reading this very passage in Psalm 90. She or he might come to realize that in the Biblical conception of God, God exists as a part of His nature—that is how God is conceived in the religious tradition of the Bible. According to that tradition, our atheist appreciates, as it is true that God by the Biblical concept or definition is unfailingly loving, so it is true that God exists. But just what has our atheist come to see here? It is that as a definitional matter in a tradition shared by Jews and Christians, God by His nature exists. She or he has not thereby seen that the concept of God in that tradition actually applies to any being in the universe. She or he, as we might put it, has not seen that God really exists. (Although this way of putting it can be misleading, since it could be a part of the definition of God that God really exists. Perhaps the better way to put it is to just to say that our imagined atheist—in seeing that God exists, or really exists, as a definitional matter—has not thereby

seen that the concept of God applies.) To see that the concept of God applies and that God exists in an extra-definitional sense would require something more than seeing that the definition or concept of God includes existence. In this way, since the extra-definitional question of application has not been answered, our atheist can consistently remain an atheist. So Anselm may have been right that God as a part of His nature exists as “we” in his tradition understand God, but that does not allow him or anyone to conclude that the concept applies and God really—extra-definitionally—exists. And this point holds even if, as Anselm says in Chapter 3 of the Proslogion, that it is impossible to think of God as not existing, so that what is a part of the concept of God is not just existence, but necessary existence. In fact one twentieth-century defender of the Ontological Argument, Norman Malcolm, thought that Psalm 90 gave God necessary existence, not just existence.10 And he thought that the version of the argument that attributed necessary existence to God as a perfection was a valid argument, because he maintained that although existence was not a predicate or property, necessary existence was. But again, the application question would remain open even if we were to see that necessary existence is a part of the Judeo-Christian concept of God. And again, our atheist could consistently remain an atheist even after seeing that necessary existence is a part of the Biblical concept of God. Although Gaunilo’s and Kant’s are the major traditional criticisms of the Ontological Argument, there are others as well. In the thirteenth century, St. Thomas Aquinas argued that the Ontological Argument could not be used to prove God’s existence because it assumed that God’s existence is self-evident to us—and it is not. Aquinas thought that “God exists” is selfevident in itself, but it is not self-evident to us humans, because we do not know the essence of God. We will remember that Anselm insisted that God is greater than can be humanly thought, but he did believe that we could know the concept of God well enough to reason from it that God must exist. Aquinas in effect denied that we can know even this much of the concept, or essence, of God.11 Aquinas’ criticism, like Gaunilo’s, comes from within Anselm’s own religious tradition. But there are other kinds of criticisms as well. A Buddhist monk in discussion raised this question: Does the Ontological Argument rule out there being two or even more supreme beings thanwhich-a-greater-cannot-be-thought? Anselm, of course, thought that there could be but one Supreme Being. As a traditional Christian he, like traditional Jews and Muslims, would regard it as unthinkable that there could be more than one God or Supreme Being. In fact, later in the Proslogion, in Chapter 13, Anselm argues that God is unique because God alone exists “everywhere and always.” Even if this reasoning were added to the Ontological Argument, it may not answer the Buddhist monk’s criticism. Why, he could ask, can only one being exist everywhere and always? The Buddhist monk’s point is not to deny that Anselm and the broader theistic tradition in which he stands could be right that there is only one Supreme Being. (He himself would believe that there is but one transcendent Buddha-nature.) The

Buddhist monk’s question and implicit point are about what the argument proves and leaves open. His implicit point is this: Even if the argument is good, it does not show that there are not several supreme beings, for it leaves it open that there could be several equally supreme beings, several beings than-which-a-greater-cannot-be-thought. None would be greater than the others, but they all equally would be such that none greater could be thought.

The Cosmological Argument Although Aquinas criticized the reasoning of the Ontological Argument and any effort to prove the existence of God from our understanding of God’s nature or essence, Aquinas did believe that God’s existence could be demonstrated, not a priori, but by “His effects,” which, for Aquinas, we can observe in the world about us, or the cosmos. In the thirteenth century Aquinas wrote the Summa Theologica, a massive work in which he addressed many of the theological and religious questions of Christianity. It is in this work that Aquinas criticizes the reasoning of the Ontological Argument and then almost immediately goes on to provide five related “ways” of proving God’s existence, each or most being a form of the Cosmological Argument.12 They all are based on what Aquinas thought were indisputable facts about the observable world. One proceeds from the observation that some things are in motion; one cites the fact that things are caused; another cites the fact that it is possible for things in nature not to exist; another cites the different degrees of certain properties or perfections in things (Aquinas names goodness, truth, nobility, “and the like”); and one is based on how natural objects act for some end (as Aquinas thought stones did when they were dropped and fall to earth). Some commentators suggest that the fourth way, which cites gradations in such “perfections” as goodness and nobility, is “not clearly cosmological,” and some commentators say that the fifth way is a version of the design argument, or “points forward” to it, as one has observed.13 There is a basic logical difference between Anselm’s argument and the five arguments of Aquinas: Anselm did not rely on observations about the world, but instead relied upon conceptual points that he thought were self-evident (before or independently of any observations), whereas Aquinas does cite and rely upon some basic observations about the world, such as that some things are in motion. If we look at his arguments, we can see that some of his basic facts are more questionable than others. For instance, in today’s scientific era many would deny that inanimate bodies like stones act for some end. However, some of the basic facts he relies upon in his arguments do seem to be beyond dispute, such as that some things are in motion and that some things cause other things. The main idea underlying Aquinas’ approach is that the world we live in and observe can be explained only by the existence of God. This underlying main idea is most clear in the first

three ways advanced by Aquinas the arguments from motion, the order of causes, and possibility and necessity. The “first and more manifest way,” says Aquinas, “is the argument from motion.” This way is “more manifest” for Aquinas apparently because, as he says, it “is certain and evident to our senses that in the world some things are in motion.” The first step or premise in the motion argument, then, is this: 1. In the world about us we see things in motion. By “motion” Aquinas means “the reduction of something from potentiality to actuality,” and his example is a fire, which is actually hot, making wood that is cold, and so only potentially hot, to become actually hot. But, Aquinas says, 2. Only something in a state of actuality can reduce, or “move,” something from a state of potentiality. However, nothing can be both in a state of actuality and a state of potentiality in the same respect, and so 3. Nothing can move itself. This means that 4. Whatever is moved is moved by another and that by yet another. However, 5. This series of movers cannot go on to infinity. So, Aquinas concludes, 6. We must arrive at an unmoved mover, “and this everyone understands to be God.” The second argument is similar. Aquinas begins by making this observation: “In the world of sensible things we find there is an order of efficient causes.” This first step in his reasoning appeals to the “evident” fact of causation that we see all around us. It can be expressed as follows: 1. In the world about us we see things causing other things, and what causes one thing being itself caused by something else. Aquinas next observes that nothing can be the cause of itself, for if something were the cause of itself, it would have to be “prior” to itself, which is impossible. This puts in place Aquinas’s second step or premise: 2. Nothing is the cause of itself. He continues as follows: As we observe the “order” of causation, we find series of causes (a is caused by b, b is caused by c, c is caused by d, and so on). But in causation (as with motion), there can be no infinite regress. Thus we have the following premise: 3. It is impossible to go on to infinity in a series of causes. And so Aquinas concludes: There must be a first cause, “to which everyone gives the name of God.” This first cause, as the first cause, would itself be uncaused, just as the unmoved mover would itself be unmoved by another. The third argument is from “possibility and necessity.” Some things—most of the common things we are acquainted with in the world—come into existence and go out of existence.

They can exist or they can not exist. As some have put it, they have contingent existence: Their existence is contingent on, or dependent on, certain things happening or not happening. Everything from people to mountains, from islands to cities, is contingent in this sense: Each of these things may or may not have existed, and each has an existence dependent on certain things happening or not happening. Aquinas’ third argument starts with the premise that some things in the world, or “nature,” are contingent: 1. In nature some things are possible to be and not to be. But, reasons Aquinas, it is impossible for contingent things to always exist, for “that which can not-be at some time is not.” And, Aquinas reasons, 2. So, if everything can not-be (is contingent), then “at one time there was nothing in existence.” Aquinas is here assuming infinite time, as one commentator, F. C. Copleston, has observed.14 And Aquinas is assuming that it reaches backward into the past, for he reasons that since nothing can come into existence except through what exists, if everything were contingent, nothing would now be in existence. Aquinas’s next premise, then, is as follows: 3. If everything can not-be (is contingent), then nothing would be in existence now. But, observes Aquinas, this is absurd. Consequently, he reasons, it cannot be 4. that there are only possible, or contingent, things. The next step in his reasoning, then, is this: 5. So there must exist something the existence of which is necessary. And, Aquinas continues, “it is impossible to go on to infinity in necessary things which have their necessity caused by another.” So, finally, he concludes: 6. There must be a necessary being that has its own necessity, and this “all men speak of as God.”

Criticisms of the Cosmological Argument One apparent problem with the cosmological argument has to do with Aquinas’s denial of the possibility of “going back to infinity,” or of an infinite regress, which is common to the first three arguments. Consider an infinite regress of efficient causes, which Aquinas denies in the second argument. Why is an infinite regress of causes impossible? Commentators on Aquinas’ five ways, however, observe that Aquinas is not denying the possibility of a temporal infinite regress of causes. As an example of a temporal causal series, we may think of a child being caused by his or her parents, and those parents being caused by their parents, and so on in a causal series reaching back in time. The temporal series we are imagining, according to these commentators, Aquinas would allow could possibly be infinite. Copleston calls such a series in

time a “horizontal series.” According to Copleston, the infinite regress that Aquinas is denying is an infinite regress in a “vertical series” of causes. What Copleston means by a vertical series is illustrated by the following example (which is taken from Copleston’s own): Consider a man walking along a street. His doing so depends on certain causal factors. There must be air for him to breath and there must be some hard surface for him to walk on. These “factors” are not temporally preceding events (and so are not in a “horizontal series”), but they are causal factors upon which the man’s walking is causally dependent. These particular factors in turn depend on other causal factors, and so on. This series of causal factors form a nontemporal “vertical series.” Aquinas’ point is that this causal series cannot be infinite.15 Can we ask, Why cannot this vertical series of causal factors be an infinite series? Perhaps we can. But we should not ask this question because we can imagine an infinite temporal series of causes. A second criticism of the Cosmological Argument, or the five arguments in Aquinas’s presentation, focuses on the formulation of Aquinas’s conclusions of the arguments. At the end of each of his five arguments Aquinas adds a phrase like “to which everyone gives the name of God” or “and this everyone understands to be God.” In each case, one might think, there is a question of whether the thing allegedly proven to exist corresponds to the personal loving God of the Bible. Take the second way. Aquinas concludes that there is a first cause, and, he says, to this first cause everyone gives the name of God. But is this so? Aquinas is trying to prove the existence of God, and not something else, and so it has to be, in order for his proof to prove that God exists, that this first cause is God. However, although the Biblical God, who is conceived in part as the creator of the universe, may be uncaused, the Biblical God is conceived to be much more, including unfailingly loving and merciful, the knower of our hearts, and a God who wants us to love our neighbors—in short, a personal God. Allowing that Aquinas has indeed proved the existence of a first cause, that is all he has proved; the argument does not itself prove the existence of the personal God of the Biblical tradition. This is a problem that Anselm did not have, for he starts with a conception of God as the Supreme Being, which is much closer to the Biblical conception of God. Furthermore, all of Aquinas’ five ways of proving God’s existence have this problem to a greater or lesser extent, because they all end with some such phrase as “to which everyone gives the name of God.” On this point, however, commentators like Copleston make a relevant observation: They draw to our attention that Aquinas’s original audience was very different from the group that makes up his contemporary readers. Aquinas’ audience consisted of religious believers who would find it natural to think that, of course, the unmoved mover or the first cause of Aquinas’ arguments had to be God, the God of the Bible. Moreover, as Copleston observes, immediately after presenting his five Cosmological Arguments, Aquinas goes on to argue that God is not a body, is not material. And Aquinas continues in the next sections of the Summa to argue that God is perfect, is the highest good, and in general has the traditional attributes of God.16 A third criticism challenges the underlying idea of the Cosmological Argument. That idea,

as mentioned previously, is that the world we live in and observe can be explained only by the existence of God. Only the existence of God can explain finite existence—the existence of motion and causation and of contingent things. All are in their way dependent on God, Aquinas argues. But what if there is no problem of finite existence? What if no explanation is required because the world is intelligible as it is? Aquinas believes that the finite world requires an explanation, and only the existence of God can provide that explanation, but to make the assumption that the world as it stands is not intelligible, that it is in need of explanation, is to beg the question when one argues against agnostics and atheists, it has been claimed.17 Admittedly Aquinas historically did not argue against either agnostics or atheists, but in the contemporary world, his arguments would address both. To see how the issue of the intelligibility of the world marks a divide between those with Aquinas’ intuitions and those with the intuitions of at least some contemporary agnostics and atheists, it is useful to consider an exchange between F. C. Copleston and Bertrand Russell.18 F. C. Copleston was a Jesuit priest, and Bertrand Russell was a well-known twentieth-century philosopher and a consistent critic of Christianity. Copleston in the exchange expresses a religious sensibility that is in sympathy with Aquinas’ intuition, and Russell expresses a very different sensibility. Copleston expresses the intuition that of course we can raise “the question of the existence of this sorry scheme of things—of the whole universe.” For Russell really all we can or should say is “that the universe is just there, and that’s all,” and, he says, “the notion of the world [or universe] having an explanation is a mistake.” Copleston backs up his viewpoint by referring to his and Aquinas’ distinction between a temporal “horizontal series” and a nontemporal “vertical series,” especially as it applies to Aquinas’ third way. Whether or not the horizontal series is infinite, Copleston argues, still we can ask of it as a whole—of the whole universe of contingent things—Why should it exist? Russell argues that a fallacy or mistake is involved, and he provides an analogy: Although every person has a mother, it is a mistake to think that therefore the human race has a mother, and similarly it is a mistake to reason that since everything in the universe has a cause, therefore the universe has a cause. If Copleston were reasoning this way, then, as he sees, he would be committing a fallacy. But he is not, he says. His reasoning is not that just as every contingent object in the horizontal series has a “phenomenal” cause so the whole series must have a phenomenal cause. It is that the horizontal series as a whole must have a “transcendent” or necessary cause, a vertical cause. Still, says Russell, it is misguided to think that the universe as a whole needs or has a cause. One thing to keep in mind here is that deep-running intuitions about the meaningfulness of a question divide these two thinkers. For Copleston it is meaningful to ask, Why is there anything, why is there a universe at all? For Russell there is no such meaningful question. The universe is sufficient unto itself. It “is just there,” as Russell says. It is intelligible as it is and requires no explanation. In fact, we might understand Copleston’s question as relating to both the horizontal (temporal) series and the vertical (nontemporal) series. In this way Copleston’s

question would not be asking if there is a “transcendent” or necessary cause of the phenomenal series alone, but if there is a cause of the entire universe including the horizontal series of causal “factors,” whether that series is infinite or not. These different intuitions about this question, furthermore, are connected to their different sensibilities. Say that the question is meaningful; then the only thing that will answer it is a necessary being in the sense that every contingent thing in the universe (ultimately) depends on it for its existence and it itself depends on nothing further for its existence. In short, if the question is meaningful, only a necessary being in the sense identified will answer the question. Copleston and Russell, interestingly, do not disagree about what would answer the question if it were meaningful. They disagree about the meaningfulness of the question. For Copleston, with his religious sensibilities, it is a meaningful question, and he is not discomfited that only God, or a necessary being, will answer it. For Russell, with his agnostic or atheistic sensibilities, the question is meaningless, as it must be, because if it were meaningful, only God, or a necessary being, would answer it. So, is this question a meaningful question? Whether it is, in the case of Copleston and Russell and for others as well (for this is an old question, asked by many), depends on the presence of a religious sensibility of a certain kind. Can we ask whether that religious sensibility is itself rightly oriented? Yes, we can, and we can even after we appreciate that it informs a religious tradition. For instance, if we had some independent reason to think that God exists, that would provide some support for Copleston’s religious intuitions, other things being equal. However, if we had some independent reason for thinking God does not exist, that would support Russell’s intuition. Two final points should be mentioned here. The first has to do with religious awe. It may well be that if the question Copleston raises is going to be asked, it must be asked with a sense of religious awe, that one must stand before the universe in a state of wonder and awe in order to ask this question. Without denying this point, we should note that awe is not enough to make us ask the question or to make the question meaningful. A philosopher like Russell could feel awe before the vastness of the universe and how much we do not understand about the universe without going on to ask Copleston’s question. Finally, we should make clear a point about the import of the question Copleston raises, even if it should be meaningful. Say that the question is meaningful and we answer it, and we must say that a necessary being exists—a being necessary for the existence of the universe and whose existence does not depend on anything else. But this being has not so far been seen to have the attributes of a personal God. We may believe that this being is God and has the attributes of the Biblical God—is merciful, loving, all-knowing, and more—but that is a further belief. It may be true that this necessary being is the personal God of the Bible, but to see whether that is true, we would have to go beyond asking and answering Copleston’s question.

The Teleological Argument The Teleological Argument is perhaps better known as the “design argument.” The essential idea of this argument is to argue for the existence of God on the basis of the design that we see in the world. It is also called the Teleological Argument because it appeals to purpose in nature, the purpose in individual natural objects (telos in Greek means end or purpose). The Teleological Argument, or the design argument, then, cites a design in the natural world that gives to elements of the design—natural objects—a purpose in the light of that design and argues for the existence of a Designer—God—on the basis of this observed design. Although it is older, this argument was strongly advocated in the eighteenth century. During this period it was easy to think that nature presented indisputable “evidences” of God. It was felt that the discoveries of science, made with the telescope or the microscope, only increase the evidence that there is order and design in the world at every level of observation. In England in the early nineteenth century it was still the case that university biologists and geologists were comfortable in their orthodox religious belief. Just after the close of the eighteenth century, in 1802, William Paley published his Natural Theology, in which there is an influential form of the Teleological Argument. Paley, who was a theologian and the Archdeacon of Carlisle (in the Church of England), called his work “natural theology” because (like Anselm and Aquinas) he set out to use only “natural” reason, or the reason that human beings naturally have, and because (like Aquinas) he appealed to what we can observe in nature. His argument and other versions of the Teleological Argument are like the forms of the Cosmological Argument in that they consult and reason from observations about the world. A main difference is that those who advance versions of the Teleological Argument cite a pervasive presence of design that they find throughout nature. Although the design argument for God’s existence could be put in a deductive form (and Aquinas’s fifth way, which is deductive, is sometimes said to be a form of the design argument, or to “point forward” to the design argument), the Teleological Argument as presented by Paley is an argument by analogy. It proceeds by identifying or drawing an analogy between two things: human creations and natural objects. The reasoning of the Teleological Argument is that since these two things are similar in one respect (they exhibit design), they are similar in another respect (they both are created by an intelligence). Arguments by analogy are not logically deficient in principle. Like other arguments, they can be good or bad. In fact, most of us use such arguments fairly often. For example, we reason by analogy when we reason that yesterday was cloudy and it rained, today is cloudy, so probably it will rain today. What makes an argument by analogy a good argument is the closeness of the similarity cited: In the cloud-argument it would weaken the argument if the clouds yesterday were low, dark clouds and the clouds today are high, wispy clouds. Also, the two

respects cited must be connected or relevant to each other: Cloudiness and rain are connected in our experience. Say someone reasoned that yesterday was a weekday and it rained; today is a weekday, so probably it will rain today. We quite properly would not be impressed, and we should not be because a day’s being a weekday is not relevant to whether it will rain. There is one other point to note about arguments by analogy in general and the Teleological Argument in particular. Successful arguments by analogy, as inductive arguments, establish their conclusions with only some degree of probability. They do not logically demonstrate the truth of their conclusions, as Anselm and Aquinas intended their deductive arguments to do. However, the degree of probability can be high, and a successful argument by analogy provides a proof in the sense of strong evidence. It is a proof in this sense that the Teleological Argument is intended to provide. The first step in the Teleological Argument is to draw attention to the design that is to be found in human creations (or artifacts or “contrivances” or “machines” made by human beings). Paley uses the example of a pocket watch to make this point, but any human contrivance, from a wagon wheel to a computer, would allow him to make his first point. The first step in Paley’s argument can be put this way: 1. When we examine a human artifact, like a watch, we find design—even if we do not know the function of every part of a watch and do not know exactly how it was assembled, we can still see that it was designed for a purpose—namely, the purpose of telling time. Next, Paley needs to affirm a similarity between human artifacts and natural objects regarding the presence of design and purpose. He observes the following: Every indication of contrivance, every manifestation of design, which existed in the watch exists in the works of nature with the difference on the side of nature of being greater and more, and that in a degree which exceeds all computation.

The next step in his argument, then, is this: 2. Natural objects, like the eye, similarly exhibit design directed toward the attainment of an end or purpose, except that the design in natural objects is far more subtle and exquisite than that in human artifacts.19 Paley devotes some attention to the eye and shows that the degree of design it exhibits far exceeds the degree of design in a telescope. His whole argument takes up a book with some twenty-seven chapters, and in more than a dozen of those chapters he multiplies biological examples, all of which exhibit design, he wants us to see. These range from the eye to the human skeleton, muscles, various bodily organs shared by humans and other animals, insects, and plants. He goes on in another chapter to consider the “elements” of air, water, fire, and light; and in another he considers astronomy. However, he maintains, each example stands on its own, and each is sufficient to show design in natural objects. “Were there no example in the world of contrivance except that of the eye, it would be alone sufficient to support the conclusion which we draw from it, as to the necessity of an intelligent Creator.”20 Paley’s

conclusion, then, is this: 3. So, as human artifacts have an intelligent designer, natural objects, like the eye and many others, have an intelligent Creator, God. At this point Paley has offered a proof for the existence of God as an “intelligent Creator,” but he goes on in the last chapters of his book to try to show that the design we observe in natural objects also establishes that God is a person, that God has the “natural attributes,” which include, among others, omnipotence (being all-powerful) and omniscience (being allknowing); and that God has unity (is one being) and has goodness. Unlike Anselm, who reasons from the concept of God as that-than-which-nothing-greater-can-be-thought, that God must have all the perfections, Paley seeks support for God’s attributes in what we can observe in the world.21 As discussed in the following section, this has implications for how he must understand the attributes of God.

Criticisms of the Teleological Argument If William Paley is the most famous advocate of the Teleological Argument, David Hume is its most famous critic. Hume’s criticism of the argument is contained in his Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, which was published in 1779, three years after Hume’s death.22 Hume was not addressing Paley, who published his Natural Theology in 1802, but he was addressing the reasoning in the Teleological Argument, which existed before Paley’s formulation. Paley, on his side, does not mention Hume, perhaps because he thought that Hume had been refuted by others.23 However that may be, Hume’s classic criticisms are generally thought to raise the most serious challenge to the argument’s logical strength. One problem that Hume sees relates to God’s infinity. Even if we grant that the Teleological Argument allows us to infer an intelligent Creator as the cause of order in the world, the argument does not justify us in inferring that this intelligent Creator is infinite in any of his attributes, and, as Hume appreciates, God in the Biblical tradition is infinite. Although the order in natural objects that we observe, including those in the heavens, is very great, it is still finite, and so allows us to infer only a great, but still finite, intelligence. “The cause ought only to be proportioned to the effect,” says Hume. We are not justified in reasoning to a cause greater than that required to account for the observed effect. Hume’s point applies to God’s “natural attributes,” as Paley calls them. Even if we can infer that God, as the intelligent Creator of the world, must have power and knowledge, we are not justified in inferring from the order we observe that God is all-powerful or all-knowing. Paley seems to appreciate this Humean point, for he says that the attributes of God “must be adequate to the magnitude, extent, and multiplicity of his operations.”24 Hume would add only that we are not justified in going beyond what is “adequate” to account for what is observed.

In the same way we cannot conclude using the Teleological Argument that God has perfection, for we do not observe perfection in the workings of nature. Rather, for all we can tell, things sometimes go wrong, as when animals are born deformed.25 Nor can we infer that God has unity using the reasoning of the Teleological Argument. Granting that we can infer some great intelligence, nothing in what we observe rules out its being a collective intelligence belonging to a group of creators, “a numerous society of deities,” as Hume says; the order we observe in the world does not have a closer analogy to the order of a watch made by a single watchmaker than to a house built by a group of workers. Paley says, “Of the ‘unity of the Deity,’ the proof is the uniformity of plan observable in the universe.” Paley has in mind the “system” observed in the universe, in which “each part” depends on “other parts” or the parts are “connected.”26 It is not clear, however, why such uniformity could not be the product of a collection of intelligent creators working together, and in fact Paley concedes that his “argument for the divine unity goes no further than to a unity of counsel.” Another of God’s traditional attributes is goodness. Paley gives two reasons why the God inferred from the Teleological Argument is good. The first is “that in a vast plurality of instances in which contrivance is perceived [in nature] the design of the contrivance is beneficial.”27 Just here, though, Hume would draw attention to the great presence of “pain and misery” in the world, alongside what is beneficial, and say to anyone relying upon the Teleological Argument that he or she “must prove these pure, unmixt, and uncontrollable attributes [God’s infinite power and goodness] from the present mixed and confused phenomena, and from these alone.”28 Hume’s point is that if we are going to try to infer God’s goodness (and power) from the observed order of the world, and from that alone, then we must weigh both the positive evidence (what is beneficial) and the negative evidence (pain and misery). And if we do this, Hume is sure, we will not be able to infer, or prove, God’s goodness. Hume has other criticisms as well. The order we observe in the world is just as well explained by “an eternal inherent principle of order” in the world as by either “a numerous society of deities” or a single deity, and the Teleological Argument provides no logical reason to favor one explanation over the others. Indeed, for Hume, if we regard the world as a whole, it bears a much greater similarity to a plant or animal than to a human machine.29 At the end of Dialogues, Hume allows that, after all is said and done, “the cause or causes of order in the universe probably bear some remote analogy to human intelligence.”30 However, Hume is clear, the analogy is remote and “no inference that affects human life” can be made, and, beyond a remote analogy to human intelligence, no inference can be drawn as to any other attributes, such as the goodness or mercy, of the cause or causes of order in the universe. There is another problem with the argument that has to do with the concept of design. It is easy to think that, as Paley asserts, “Design must have had a designer,” and this seems to be a

tight logical inference.31 But what if we observe in the world, not design, but adaptation? Adaptation, as we have come to appreciate, does not similarly imply a designer, for it may be the product of a mechanism of selection. Although our observations support the existence of various patterns of order in the world—for example, in the eye, in anatomy—these patterns in the biological world may only reflect adaptation and not design. Paley, who wrote fifty years before Darwin, did not anticipate this possibility, although Hume may have come close to doing so (when he referred to an “eternal inherent principle of order [in] the world, though attended with great continual revolutions and alterations.”)32 Of course even if the eye and other biological features evolved into their present form, that does not show that there is no God. But it would mean that what Paley and others appeal to as design in the eye and in other biological features is only adaptation and as such would provide no basis for a Teleological Argument for God’s existence. Again, if what we observe as order in the nonbiological world of astronomy is a matter of nonbiological evolution, that order too would not provide a basis for an analogical Teleological Argument for God’s existence. Perhaps some would want to say that we must postulate God as the Creator of the order in nature that allows there to be any evolutionary process, whether biological, astronomical, or geological. Such reasoning is different from Paley’s analogical reasoning and would depend on the crucial premise that without God there would be no order in nature. Again, some might say that we need God for there to be any evolutionary process because we need God to explain the existence of the cosmos in all its aspects. But this is not Paley’s argument, and it takes us back to Aquinas’s thinking in the Cosmological Argument.

Summing Up and Going Further It is sometimes remarked that the Cosmological and Teleological Arguments are closer to religious—or to theistic religious—sensibilities and have more intuitive appeal to the religious than the Ontological Argument. It may well be true that if a general sampling of religious believers in God tried to prove the existence of God, most would come up with a version of the Cosmological or Teleological Argument. The Cosmological Argument, after all, relates closely to the religious belief that God created the universe. Similarly, the Teleological Argument relates closely to the religious belief that God, as the Creator of all that is, is the Creator of the intricate design we find throughout nature. It should be observed, however, that the Ontological Argument is also close to religious sensibility, as it relates closely to the fundamental religious belief that God is the Supreme Being. In this way it too is closely connected to religious belief and sensibility, even though the a priori and conceptual reasoning it employs is less likely to be anticipated by either the religious or the nonreligious.

The three arguments for God’s existence discussed here are traditional arguments, and as such, they have a history. Each had its time of prominence, but that is not to say that any of them totally disappeared from the religious and philosophical scene after its time of prominence. For instance, in the seventeenth century René Descartes, the first “modern philosopher,” used Anselm’s Ontological Argument in his own formulation.33 The story of the Ontological Argument continues to the present day. In the twentieth century, the argument in Norman Malcolm’s formulation reemerged, and not in his alone. Alvin Plantinga, a contemporary philosopher, offers his version of the Ontological Argument. Plantinga uses the concept of “maximal greatness” (or “unsurpassable greatness,” as he terms it in one place) in his version of the argument, rather than Anselm’s concept of a being than which nothing greater can be thought, but Plantinga is aware that his argument is a form of the Ontological Argument.34 Crucial to Plantinga’s version of the Ontological Argument is his concept of maximal greatness, and one other concept, maximal excellence. By maximal excellence Plantinga means the greatest degree of excellence, which, he says, entails or includes omnipotence (being all-powerful), omniscience (being all-knowing), and moral perfection. These are among the traditional properties or perfections of God. God in the traditional concept, then, has maximal excellence. This much is not controversial. Plantinga’s other concept is maximal greatness. Maximal excellence is a matter of the properties or perfections a being has. Maximal greatness is a matter of the range of possibilities in which a being has or would have maximal excellence. In Plantinga’s definition a being has maximal greatness only if it has maximal excellence in every possibility we can conceive of—in every possible state of affairs or every possible “world,” as Plantinga puts it. That is, according to Plantinga’s definition of maximal greatness, it is possible for a being to have maximal greatness in a given conceivable world only if that being has maximal excellence in every conceivable or possible world. Plantinga’s reasoning in his version of the Ontological Argument goes this way: We can conceive of the property of maximal greatness. Maximal greatness, by its very meaning (given Plantinga’s definition of it), entails maximal excellence in all the possibilities anyone can conceive of (or, as Plantinga puts it, “in every possible world”). Maximal excellence includes omnipotence, omniscience, and moral perfection (the traditional properties or excellences of God). Now it is at least possible that maximal greatness is “instantiated” (that is, possessed by some being). But, if so, then a maximally excellent being, God, exists in every possible world, including ours.

Essential to the argument is the proposition that if it is only possible that maximal greatness is possessed by some being, then there must be a maximally excellent being, God, in every possibility, in every possible world, including our world, the real world. The important question, put one way, is whether maximal greatness, using Plantinga’s definition, is possibly instantiated. Put another way, the important question is whether the concept of maximal greatness could actually apply to anything in any possible world. Plantinga appreciates that this is the crucial question regarding his argument. Though he believes it is possible for

maximal greatness to apply to a being, he knows that others will disagree. Finally, he allows, his Ontological Argument is not a proof of God’s existence, but he does think that it shows that belief in God is rationally acceptable. Today the Ontological Argument, in Plantinga’s version and in older versions, continues to be a subject of controversy.35 The Cosmological and Teleological Arguments too have their present-day proponents and detractors. In one contemporary variation, the Teleological Argument holds that certain scientific findings about the improbability of the emergence of life in the universe support the likelihood that “fine tuning” has been provided by God. Scientists have calculated that certain events had to occur in split seconds just after the “big bang” (the event that is postulated to have initiated our expanding universe) in order for the universe to have developed as it did. But just as Paley did not contemplate evolution and adaptation as an explanation of the order he observed, so it may be that future science will make it unnecessary to appeal to Divine activity. Whether or not this is so, Hume’s questions about the character, or attributes, of the intervening being would remain. There have been other noteworthy arguments for the existence of God. Immanuel Kant, who, as was seen in this chapter, was a critic of the Ontological Argument, offered a different kind of argument for God’s existence, the Moral Argument, as it is called.36 Kant thought that the existence of God had to be “postulated” if morality is to be rational, that is, in accord with the requirements of “practical [action-oriented] reason.” The requirement that Kant had in mind is that persons receive happiness in proportion to their moral goodness. Since morally good people often suffer more than morally bad people in this life, this requirement can be fulfilled only in a life after this life, and only God can guarantee such a fulfillment in a future life. If morality is to meet this requirement of practical reason, then we must postulate both immortality, a future life after death, and the existence of God. Again, some speak of an argument from religious experience for the existence of God. However, such an “argument,” when it is a first-person report of personal experience, is not really an argument in the sense that the Ontological, Cosmological, and Teleological Arguments are arguments. It is not a piece of logical reasoning that is boiled down and carefully stated in a written form, like these three traditional arguments. It is an argument only in the sense that a witness’s report of what she or he has seen or experienced is an argument. (As when I say, “I know Marta was there because I saw her.”) Such a report can be evidence, maybe decisive evidence, but if so it is because of the evidential weight of the report of religious experience. A subsequent chapter includes a discussion of one kind of religious experience. The question of whether any argument proves the existence of God remains a meaningful and serious question. Though the major arguments for God’s existence may not be in the headlines, in the quiet rooms of philosophical religious debate they are still discussed. If one thing is clear, it is that the question of the logical strength of any of the arguments for God’s

existence remains a question for continuing discussion. But the question of their logical strength is not the only question that can be asked about the traditional arguments for God’s existence, and it may not be the most important question to ask about them. In the next chapter we take up a different religious and philosophical question that raises a very different issue about the importance of these arguments.

Questions for Chapter 2 The questions for this chapter and for the following chapters are of two kinds: factual questions, the answers to which are found in the text of the chapter, and interpretive and evaluative questions, the answers to which require reflection on the discussion in the text and independent judgment.

Factual Questions 1. Why is Anselm’s Ontological Argument an a priori argument? 2. To what extent did Anselm think that we can conceive of God? 3. What is the main difference between Anselm’s Ontological Argument and Aquinas’ Cosmological Argument? 4. What is the main difference between the Ontological and the Cosmological Arguments, on the one hand, and the Teleological Argument, on the other hand?

Interpretive and Evaluative Questions 1. Why did Gaunilo think that Anselm’s argument failed to prove God’s existence? Was he right? 2. State in your own words Kant’s basic criticism of the Ontological Argument. Do you agree with it? Why? 3. Do you think it is meaningful to ask: Why is there anything at all? Why? 4. Do you think that there is design in the universe? If there is, what does it show?

Notes 1. The term “natural reason” has been used in this sense for many centuries. St. Thomas Aquinas in the thirteenth century refers to natural reason in his Summa Theologica, in the Second Part of the Second Part, question 2, article 3 (Summa Theologica II-II, q.2, a.3). 2. Moses Maimonides gives us several proofs or arguments for the existence of God in his The Guide for the Perplexed. 3. Although the Ontological, Cosmological, and Teleological Arguments were given their classical statements in the

chronological order indicated and during the periods indicated, earlier versions of the Cosmological and Teleological Arguments can be found in the writings of the Greek philosopher Plato in the fifth to fourth centuries B.C.E. John Hick refers to Plato’s early versions of the Cosmological and Teleological Arguments. John Hick, editor, The Existence of God (New York: Macmillan, 1964) pp. 71–72. 4. Chapters 2, 3, 4, 5, and 15 of the Proslogion are in the Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 2. 5. In the Revised Standard Version of the Bible Psalm 14 begins “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” In the Tanakh, Psalm 14 begins “The benighted man thinks, ‘God does not care.’” The literal Hebrew is “There is no God.” Psalm 14 is included in the selections from the Tanakh in Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 1. 6. The Prayers and Meditations of Saint Anselm with the Proslogion, translated by Sister Benedicta Ward, S. L. G. (Harmondsworth, England: Penguin Books and New York: Viking Penguin, 1973) p. 245. In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 2. 7. Gaunilo’s A Reply on Behalf of the Fool is in Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 2. 8. Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, 2nd edition, “The Impossibility of an Ontological Proof of the Existence of God.” In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 2. 9. In the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Psalm 90 says “from everlasting to everlasting thou art God.” In the Tanakh, Psalm 90 says, “from eternity to eternity You are God.” Psalm 90 is included in the selections from the Tanakh in Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 1. 10. Norman Malcolm, “Anselm’s Ontological Arguments” in Knowledge and Certainty (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1963). 11. Aquinas’ criticism is in Summa Theologica I, q.2, a.1. In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 2. 12. Aquinas’ five ways of proving God’s existence are found in Summa Theologica I, q.2, a.3. In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 2. 13. Donald F. Burrill suggests that the fourth way is “not clearly cosmological” in his Introduction to The Cosmological Argument, ed. Donald F. Burrill (Garden City, NY: Anchor Books, 1967), p. 2, footnote 2; John Hick observes that the fifth way “points forward” to the design argument in The Existence of God, p. 82. 14. F. C. Copleston observes that “Aquinas is clearly supposing for the sake of argument the hypothesis of infinite time” in Aquinas (Baltimore, MD: Penguin Books, 1955), p. 124. 15. Copleston makes this observation about a “vertical series” in Aquinas’s reasoning in Aquinas, p. 123. 16. Copleston points out that in the Summa, Aquinas immediately goes on to argue that God is not a body (not material) in A History of Philosophy, vol. II (New York: The Newman Press, 1950) p. 343. Aquinas does so in Summa Theologica I, q.3, a.1. Aquinas proceeds to argue that God has other traditional attributes in Summa Theologica, I, q.4–q.11. 17. Hick claims that the Cosmological Argument begs the question in this way in The Existence of God, pp. 67 and 81–82. 18. The exchange between Copleston and Russell was a radio debate, which was broadcast in Great Britain in 1948. It may

be found in Russell’s Why I Am Not a Christian (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1957), where the pertinent pages are pp. 144–55. It is reprinted in Hick’s The Existence of God, where the pertinent pages are pp. 167–78. In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 2. 19. William Paley’s Teleological Argument is developed over several chapters in his Natural Theology. These two steps in his argument are found in Chapters 1 and 3 of his Natural Theology. Chapters 1, 6, 24, and selections from Chapter 3 are in Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 2. 20. Paley, Natural Theology, Chapter 6. In the Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 2. 21. The full title of William Paley’s book is Natural Theology, or Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity Collected from the Appearances of Nature. 22. David Hume’s Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion is a dialogue with three participants: Demea, Cleanthes, and Philo. Philo is generally thought to speak for Hume himself. Parts II and V are in Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chap 2. 23. Frederick Ferré points out that many in Paley’s time thought that Hume had been refuted. William Paley, Natural Theology, edited by Frederick Ferré (New York and Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1963) Introduction, p. xi. 24. Paley, Natural Theology, Chapter 24. In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 2. 25. Animals being born deformed is my example. 26. Paley, Natural Theology, Chapter 25. 27. Paley, Natural Theology, Chapter 26. The second reason why God is good is “that the Deity has superadded pleasure to animal sensations beyond what was necessary for any other purpose, or when the purpose, so far as it was necessary, might have been effected by the operation of pain” (Paley’s emphasis). 28. Hume, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, Part X (Hume’s emphasis). 29. Hume, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, Parts VI and VII. 30. Hume, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, Part XII (Hume’s emphasis). 31. Paley, Natural Theology, Chapter 23. 32. Hume, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, Part VI. 33. René Descartes uses the Ontological Argument in the Fifth Meditation of his Meditations on First Philosophy. 34. Alvin Plantinga’s form of the Ontological Argument appears in his The Nature of Necessity (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1974), p. 216, and in his God, Freedom, and Evil (New York: Harper & Row, 1974), pp. 111–12. 35. In addition to the twentieth-century philosopher Norman Malcolm and the contemporary philosopher Alvin Plantinga, another twentieth-century philosopher who defended the Ontological Argument was Charles Hartshorne. 36. Kant’s Moral Argument is in his Critique of Practical Reason, Bk. II, Chapter 2, Sec. 5, “The Existence of God as a Postulate of Pure Practical Reason.” In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 2.

Chapter 3 Religious Faith and Proving God's Existence Two Questions about Proving God's Existence Whether the existence of God can be proven by logical reasoning is an old question. It is a meaningful and serious question that many have tried to answer over the past thousand years. Some who have tried to prove God’s existence were, like St. Anselm and St Thomas Aquinas, deeply religious individuals who have been recognized as saints. Others, like Gaunilo, have been critical of one or more of the arguments for God’s existence from a position within their religious tradition. Some standing outside religion, with a perspective closer to David Hume’s, have tried to show that God’s existence cannot be proven. The question of proving God’s existence has not been settled; it is alive and well even today. However, there is another question to be asked about proving God’s existence: What is its relevance for religious faith? Would such a proof be a great support for religion (or those religions that believe in God, the theistic religions)? Or would such a proof, if it were attained, actually be detrimental to religious faith and commitment? So there are two main questions that we can ask about the various arguments for God’s existence that have been proposed: (1) Does any of them in fact prove God’s existence? This is the question of logical strength. And (2) What would it mean for religious faith and commitment if God’s existence were proven? This is the question of relevance. Very often discussions of the arguments for God’s existence focus on the first question to the exclusion of the second. In the last chapter we discussed the logical strength of three traditional arguments for the existence of God. In this chapter we will focus on the question of relevance and explore four different answers that can be given to it. Say that some argument did indeed prove the existence of God. Just what is the relevance of such a proof for religious faith and commitment? Is such a proof needed by religion? Would such a proof bolster religious faith and make it stronger, or would it do just the reverse? We have seen enough of the history and character of the three major arguments for God’s existence to have some idea of what those arguments are and of the controversy that surrounds their logical status and soundness. It is time now to explore the very different question of their relevance for religious faith.

The Relevance for Faith of the Arguments for God's Existence

Over time four distinct answers to the relevance question have emerged. Each is significantly different from the others. Taken together they present us with a gamut of reactions. 1. A proof for the existence of God is relevant to religious faith in that there must be such a proof in order for faith in God to be proper. 2. A proof for the existence of God is in a way relevant to religious faith in that, though proper faith does not require a proof of God’s existence, such a proof is helpful to the religious and does not hurt depth in religion. 3. Proofs for the existence of God are irrelevant to religious faith and can be distracting to the religious. 4. A proof for the existence of God is relevant to religious faith in a negative way in that such a proof would destroy faith. Each of these four answers has seemed right to serious thinkers who have addressed this question, and many but not all of these thinkers have been committed religious individuals with distinctive religious sensibilities. All four answers have been fervently held because each answer has some kind of support. As we look at each in turn, keep in mind that in the context of our discussion a proof can be a conclusive argument or only very strong evidence for God’s existence.

1. A proof for the existence of God is relevant to religious faith in that there must be such a proof in order for faith in God to be proper. Many who advance this first answer do so on the grounds of our general responsibilities in the area of belief (sometimes these are called epistemic responsibilities or duties). In general we think that there is something irresponsible about people who believe just what they want to irrespective of the facts. Say that I cherish the belief that I am a really good basketball player, but in fact I am at best mediocre. I maintain my belief by systematically dismissing or reinterpreting all the indications that I am not much good. Now if I do this, and you know I do, you may not confront me with it. Perhaps you do not want to hurt my feelings. But you would recognize that something was not quite right about the way I hold this belief, and you yourself would not seek to form your own belief about my basketball abilities, or about your own, in the way I have formed mine. Those who advance the first answer to the relevance question say that the same basic point about responsibility in belief holds for religious faith: Such faith, to be proper, must be formed in a responsible way on the basis of some kind of supporting proof. This basic idea about proper belief is available to us pre-theoretically—that is, as a part of our intuitive understanding before we do any reading or thinking in a philosophy class. However, it has also been given expression by philosophers and writers.

David Hume in the eighteenth century said something relevant to this idea in his Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion regarding beliefs about “the Divine perfections” or God’s attributes. Hume allowed, as was mentioned in Chapter 2, that “the cause or causes of order in the universe bear some remote analogy to human intelligence,” but regarding the attributes of this “cause or causes” Hume recommended that we be “philosophical sceptics,” who “suspend or endeavor to suspend all judgment with regard to such sublime and such extraordinary subjects.” He even went on to say, “To be a philosophical sceptic is, in a man of letters, the first and foremost essential step towards being a sound, believing Christian.”1 Hume’s comment addresses beliefs concerning God’s attributes, not God’s existence, but others have applied the basic idea that proper belief requires support more generally. The nineteenth-century philosopher and mathematician W. K. Clifford put the basic idea categorically this way: “It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone to believe anything on insufficient evidence.”2 Clifford would say that to believe in God in a way that is not wrong one must have sufficient evidence, a proof in some form that God exists. And what should we do if we do not have sufficient evidence? Clifford would not say that we should believe there is no God—not unless we have sufficient evidence for the belief that God does not exist. For Clifford, if there is not sufficient evidence for God’s existence and not sufficient evidence against God’s existence, the morally proper course is to hold no belief about the existence of God, to reserve judgment. This in fact is what was done by T. H. Huxley, the friend of Charles Darwin and the great defender of Darwinism when it was first formulated. Huxley proclaimed himself to be an agnostic, one who does not know whether there is a God. (Agnosticism, as was noted in the Introduction, is the view of those who say that we do not, or cannot, know whether God exists and who refrain from believing that God exists and from believing that God does not exist, whereas atheism is the belief that there is no God.) In fact it was Huxley who coined the term agnostic, which is now used by many. A story is told about agnostics: A “celebrated philosopher” who was honored by a society of agnostics was asked what he would say if God suddenly appeared among them. The philosopher, the story goes, replied that he would say, “God, why did you make the evidence for your existence so inadequate?”3 Although the story has the air of whimsy and may be apocryphal, it has a point. For agnostics, the important thing is not to believe what by chance may turn out to be true. For them, the important thing is to believe only when sufficient evidence is there, and otherwise to reserve judgment—as responsibility in believing requires. Around the time of Darwin and Huxley there was a social cost to proclaiming oneself to be agnostic; today there is no social cost for being agnostic, and many hold this position of reserved judgment on religion. Agnostics like Clifford, Huxley and the “celebrated philosopher” in the story, we may think, really do not want to believe in God. They are quite happy that the evidence for God’s existence is not sufficient for belief. This may be true. Some agnostics, to be sure, do not want there to be a God. They are like the contemporary philosopher who said of himself, “I want

atheism to be true. . .. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I am right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.”4 But it is not only agnostics with a negative disposition toward religious belief who accept the first answer to the relevance question. Others have found in themselves a deep desire to believe in God, but in the face of their unresolved doubts have held back their belief. They are would-be believers who refuse to believe in God with a dishonest belief, as they might put it. Instead of suppressing their doubts and bringing to God a dishonest belief, they respect their honest doubts and deny themselves the religious belief they wish they could have. Such agnostics or nonbelievers are “devout skeptics.” Their position was captured in two lines of poetry written in the nineteenth century: There lives more faith in honest doubt, Believe me, than in half the creeds.5

The poet is Tennyson, and the idea he expressed has crystallized the reaction to religion of many who have lived with their unresolved personal religious doubts.

2. A proof for the existence of God is in a way relevant to religious faith in that, though proper faith does not require a proof of God's existence, such a proof is helpful to the religious and does not hurt depth religion. This is the viewpoint of many who have advanced an argument for God’s existence, including Anselm, Aquinas, and some contemporary philosophers as well. As was noted in Chapter 1, Anselm begins the chapter of the Proslogion in which he formulates the Ontological Argument with a prayer. He says, “Now, Lord, since it is you who gives understanding to faith, grant me to understand as well as you think fit, that you exist as we believe, and that you are what we believe you to be.” Before he has the Ontological Argument set out he addresses God in prayer and asks God to grant him understanding. Clearly, then, Anselm does not think that his belief or faith must wait upon the formulation of his proof. Another thing to notice is that, for Anselm, the “understanding” that he seeks will come by means of a proof, and the understanding a proof will give to his faith will enrich it. For Anselm, then, proving that God exists does not hurt depth in religion, for it deepens faith itself by giving it the dimension of understanding. Aquinas is in basic agreement with Anselm on the underlying point that a proof of God’s existence does not hurt depth in religion. However the details of his thinking about this point are a little different from Anselm’s. Aquinas distinguished between the “preambles” to faith and the “articles of faith.” The articles of faith relate to the mysteries of God (e.g., the Christian

belief in the Trinity: that the one God is a Trinity of three “Persons,” God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit). For Aquinas the articles of faith cannot be proven because, as mysteries, they are above reason. They must be accepted on faith. But he thought that the preambles were open to proof. The existence of God is such a preamble to faith, and, as we have seen, Aquinas thought that God’s existence could be proven by arguing from God’s clearly observable “effects” in the world. Other preambles have to do with God’s attributes, such as God’s perfection and that God is one. Aquinas did not think that everyone could master the proofs of the preambles. But some would be able to, and they would then attain scientia, or scientific knowledge, of the preambles. Aquinas did not mean by “scientific knowledge” the kind of knowledge we today associate with empirical sciences like chemistry and botany; he meant systematic knowledge gained by reasoning from principles that are “self-evident” or “evident to our senses” (like “some things are caused”), using “natural reason,” the reason human beings have by nature. However, Aquinas understood that most would not be intellectual enough to master the proofs and gain scientific knowledge. Still it would be open to them to accept the preambles on faith. So the preambles could be accepted on faith or they could be known to be true with scientific knowledge by a given individual. But if one attained scientific knowledge of a preamble, then one no longer accepted it on faith: Scientific knowledge ruled out faith. This was all right for Aquinas in that scientific knowledge did not weaken religious commitment. In this way, for Aquinas, at least one form of acceptance of the preambles to faith, either through scientific knowledge or by faith, was available to everyone, and neither form of acceptance was religiously hurtful.6 Aquinas went on to add that faith also provided the many believers who were unable to master the proofs with a kind of knowledge “free of doubt and uncertainty.”7 He used the Latin word cognitio to name this kind of knowledge (from which we get in English cognition). The contemporary philosopher Alvin Plantinga (who, as was noted in Chapter 2, has defended a version of the Ontological Argument) also believes that proving the existence of God is not hurtful to faith and has a religious value. Plantinga is clear that “the Christian does not need natural theology, either as the source of his confidence or to justify his belief. Furthermore,” Plantinga says, “the Christian ought not to believe on the basis of argument.” Nevertheless, Plantinga says, there is a religious value in proving that God exists. For one thing, if there are good arguments for the existence of God, this “would be a fact worth knowing in itself,” but also “natural theology could be useful in helping someone move from unbelief to belief.”8 Although an argument that proves God’s existence would not bring one to faith, it could at least remove an intellectual obstacle to belief and move one closer to religious belief in God. Plantinga’s thinking here about the religious value of proving God’s existence is different from that of Anselm or Aquinas. Anselm and Aquinas were not presenting their arguments for the existence of God to unbelievers. Aquinas’s Summa Theologica was addressed to Christians, and though he also wrote a Summa contra Gentiles, which was a

summary of the Catholic faith addressed to the “gentiles,” it was directed to Jews and Muslims, who already believed in God. Aquinas’s effort in the Summa contra Gentiles was to aid in converting Jews and Muslims to Christianity in thirteenth-century Spain. His effort was not to bring nonbelievers or unbelievers to belief in God. In the thirteenth century, there would have been very few unbelievers. In the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, however, the situation is very different, as Plantinga appreciates, and so he sees a religious value to proving the existence of God to unbelievers that neither Anselm nor Aquinas contemplated. So, for Aquinas—as for Anselm and many today, like Alvin Plantinga—proving that God exists (and is perfect and is one, and even more about God, such as God’s mercifulness) does not take away from religious depth and commitment. Even if, strictly, proving God exists rules out faith about God’s existence, as it does for Aquinas, for him it does not destroy serious religious acceptance of that “preamble to faith.” For Aquinas, proving all the preambles would still leave exclusively to faith the articles of faith, the mysteries, which would remain above reason and accessible only to faith for their acceptance.

3. Proofs for the existence of God are irrelevant to religious faith and can be distracting to the religious. Proofs for the existence of God have been thought to be irrelevant to religious faith for several different reasons. The basic idea here is not that proofs are unnecessary for faith or that there are no proofs in the Bible, but that they do not relate to religious faith and can even be distracting to a serious religious commitment. In the seventeenth century, Robert Boyle, the famous scientist who gave us Boyle’s Law about the volume of gases under pressure, established in his will an annual series of lectures for the defense of Christianity. Year after year lectures were given in support of Christian belief. In the eighteenth century these lectures were attended by the philosopher John Locke and his friend Anthony Collins. Collins made a remark worth noting: He said that if it were not for the annual efforts of the Boyle lecturers to prove God’s existence, few would have doubted it.9 Curiously, the Boyle Lectures had an effect just the opposite of what Boyle intended: They created doubts about what the lectures were supposed to “demonstrate,” the existence of God. Why try to prove it, Collins thought, unless it is doubtful? However, the suspicion voiced by Collins is only the tip of the iceberg that consists of deep religious reservations about the religious relevance of the proofs of God’s existence. The twentieth-century philosopher Norman Malcolm asked the question “Is it a religious belief that God exists?” His perhaps surprising answer was that no, it is not. Why would he say this? Because he was aware of a distinction between kinds of belief that many who are religious appreciate. On the one hand, there is belief that God exists, and on the other hand,

there is belief in God. And Malcolm said that the religious belief is the belief in God, not the belief that God exists. The belief that God exists all by itself is a belief that a proposition is true, that the proposition that God exists is true. Such a belief might be held nonreligiously, as a very interesting fact that does not call forth a religious response. The other kind of belief, belief in God, is another matter. It requires a response, especially a response of trust. (The same holds for belief in a person, like a friend. Say that your friend is accused of a crime. In order to believe in her, to have trust in her, you need to do more than believe that she exists.) What Malcolm saw is that a religious belief had to embody a religious response, and so it had to be a belief in God.10 But if Malcolm and others are right about this, why do we think that the difference between the religious and those who are not religious is that the religious believe there is a God and those who are not religious do not? The answer has to do with the ambiguity of the phrase “believe in.” Sometimes when we say people believe in X’s we mean only that they believe that X’s exist; other times, we mean that they believe in X’s in the sense that they trust in X’s. Often when we say of someone that he still believes in the tooth fairy, we mean only that he still believes the tooth fairy exists. Usually the context makes it clear which of the two senses of “believe in” is meant. Sometimes, though, the ambiguity can be used for special effect, such as in the following story about Samuel Taylor Coleridge: Coleridge was asked, “Do you believe in ghosts?” He replied, “I do not. I know them too well.” The humor of Coleridge’s response requires the shift in meaning allowed by the ambiguity of “believe in.” The asker meant by “believe in ghosts” believe that ghosts exist, but Coleridge in his reply meant believe in, trust in, ghosts. Another expression for “belief in” in its trust sense is “faith in,” we should notice; and “faith in” is not ambiguous in this way. If the question put to Coleridge had been “Do you have faith in ghosts?” his reply would not have shifted the meaning. If we understand “belief in God” to mean only belief that God exists (as we may since it is one of its meanings), then, even though we see that the religious believe in God and those who are not religious do not, we will see the difference between them as a difference about believing there is a God. The point that Malcolm helps us see is that the religious belief is belief in God understood as faith in God, not belief that God exists. Religious belief, we may say, involves a lot more than believing God exists. The distinction between belief in God, or faith in God, and belief that God exists did not originate with Norman Malcolm. H. H. Price, who like Malcolm was a twentieth-century philosopher, was aware of the distinction.11 In fact it has been understood in different religious traditions for many centuries. John Calvin in the sixteenth century comments on it. He says that we must keep it in mind that there are “two kinds of faith.” There is one kind when we believe that God exists or things about the life of Christ. This kind of faith is of “no importance,” says Calvin. For, Calvin observes, referring to a passage in the New Testament, this kind of faith—that God exists—is held in common with “the devils” (who are acutely

aware of God’s existence). The other kind of faith occurs when we “believe, not only that God and Christ exist, but also in God and Christ.”12 It requires in addition to the belief that God exists, the hope and trust of belief in, or faith in, God. Calvin, more than Malcolm, makes the point in distinctly Christian terms in his reference to Christ, and he speaks of two kinds of faith, whereas Malcolm distinguishes between two kinds of belief, but the distinction for each is essentially the same. And it could be drawn or identified in Islamic and Jewish traditions as well as in a Christian tradition. The way that the distinction between belief (or faith) that God exists and belief (or faith) in God relates to the idea that the proofs are irrelevant to religious belief is this: Proofs demonstrate that God exists and so would justify or lead to the belief that God exists, but they cannot establish the object of a trusting belief in God, which is not a proposition. Thus they at best lead to a religiously irrelevant belief about God’s existence, or to a kind of belief that is of “no importance,” as Calvin put it. Over the centuries, up to the present, there have been supporters of the traditional arguments for the existence of God. As was noted in Chapter 2, Norman Malcolm was one of those who defended the soundness of the Ontological Argument in one version. But how did he regard its religious significance? Consistent with the preceding discussion, he thought that one might follow the Ontological Argument intellectually, become convinced that it proved God’s existence, and yet be unmoved religiously.13 Interestingly something like this seems to have happened to the philosopher Bertrand Russell. Russell was most of his life either an agnostic or a frank atheist. However, early in his career he took the Ontological Argument seriously. He thought about it with great care. Then, he tells us, when he was a student at Cambridge University, one day “as I was walking along Trinity Lane . .. I saw in a flash (or thought I saw) that the ontological argument was valid.” He throws up in the air the tin of tobacco he had just bought and exclaims as he catches the tin, “Great God in boots! The ontological argument is sound.”14 Malcolm may or may not have had Russell in mind, but this episode from Russell’s life is a real-life example of Malcolm’s point that one might accept the Ontological Argument as a proof of God’s existence and not be moved religiously. Malcolm and Calvin, then, give us one reason why the proofs for God’s existence are irrelevant to religious belief. Others have provided other reasons. The Jewish thinker Martin Buber, who like Malcolm and Calvin appreciated that there are two kinds of belief or faith15 and also was suspicious of arguments for God’s existence, gives us a second reason, as he relates an experience he had when he gave a talk on religion in Germany many years ago: A man in the audience listened seriously to what Buber said, but when Buber had finished he spoke up and said slowly and deliberately that he did “not need this hypothesis ‘God’ in order to be quite at home in the world.” Buber recounts that he felt challenged by what this man said, and he replied to him by trying to show that he really needed God to be “at home in the world.” Buber gives him an argument. He argues that our world as we think of it is “the world

of the senses,” the world of colors and sounds and all the things we see about us, like chairs and trees. But the colors we see, and all the things we sense, are not “in” us, nor are they “out there”; they “flamed up” only when a perceiving eye and perception-causing “oscillation” come together. So there are really three worlds—the perceiving subject, the objects causing the perceptions, and the actual phenomena of perception—he argues. In short, Buber maintains that human perception is paradoxical: In the case of sight it involves an interior subjective seeing, a completely different exterior object (like a chair or tree) that causes the seeing, and, thirdly, a mysterious meeting of the two. In this way, Buber argues that the familiar world is really precarious and not one in which we should comfortably feel “at home”—without having God to hold it all together. Buber ends by asking the man where his security is, and his feeling “at home,” in such a universe of three worlds “divorced from one another.”16 We need not concern ourselves further with the details of Buber’s argument or with its questionable logical force, for Buber’s point and our concern lie elsewhere. Buber makes his argument persuasively. The man is convinced. He says, “You are right.” Now Buber comes to his point. “I sat in front of him dismayed,” Buber says. He is dismayed because with his argument Buber has opened for this man the way to a belief in the existence of “the God of the Philosophers.” He has not led him to the personal God of Religion, to whom one may say “Thou” and with whom one may enter into a trusting relationship. Buber is dismayed because his argument has “proven” the existence of a kind of Force that we must postulate as necessary to hold the “worlds” of perception together, but not the existence of the God of the Bible, the God of Judaism or of Christianity or of Islam, to whom one may react religiously with worship, devotion, and trust. Buber may have had several reasons for objecting to the arguments for the existence of God, but the one contained in this story about himself can be put this way: Arguments for the existence of God are irrelevant to religious faith because, even if they are sound, they may well prove the existence of the wrong thing: They might prove the existence of the God of the Philosophers—a postulated force or entity taken to be necessary to explain some phenomenon —not of the God of Religion—a personal God to whom one may respond with trust. The reason we found in Malcolm’s thinking is different. The reason Malcolm provides may be put this way: Even if an argument succeeds in proving the existence of the right thing, of the God of Religion, it still is irrelevant to religious belief because the belief it provides for is only a belief that the God of Religion exists. There is a third reason for thinking the arguments for God’s existence are irrelevant to religious faith. We find it in the writings of Søren Kierkegaard, the nineteenth century Danish philosopher who is sometimes called the “father of existentialism.” Kierkegaard wrote more than one book about the requirements of faith for the individual. In one book, Concluding Unscientific Postscript, Kierkegaard presented what might be called “the parable of the idolworshipper.” In this parable, Kierkegaard presents two individuals: One has the “true

conception of God” and goes to the “house of God, the house of the true God” but “prays in a false spirit.” The second individual does not have the true conception of God and does not go to “the house of the true God,” but prays in the right spirit. Where is there “most truth,” Kierkegaard asks? His implicit answer is that “most truth” is with the one who prays in the right spirit, despite a wrong conception of God, and the one who prays falsely, despite having the “true conception of God,” “worships in fact an idol.”17 Notice that Kierkegaard’s parable does not require us to say what the “true conception” of God is. Kierkegaard was a Christian and thought that the Christian conception of God was the true one, but a Muslim or an Orthodox Jew could just as well present Kierkegaard’s parable. Notice also that there are limits to how far wrong the conception of God can be. If praying in the right spirit requires trust in God, then God must at least be conceived as good. In Chapter 11 we examine further the requirements that trust in God creates for the way believers conceive of God. Although Kierkegaard was greatly concerned with the requirements of faith, he did not focus on faith in as a distinctive form of faith. In the parable of the idol worshipper, then, he is not trying to tell us something about religious faith in God as such, but still his parable can be used to bring out an important point about faith in God. Even though Kierkegaard does not put it this way, the first individual who prays in a false spirit does not have faith in God; the commitment of passion and trust are lacking. And the second individual, who prays with commitment and trust, does have faith in God even though she or he has the wrong conception of God. The important point that Kierkegaard brings to our attention is that a person can have true faith in God without having the right conception of God (just as one can have the true conception of God without having true faith in God). Faith in God does not absolutely require having the true conception of God. The general point here is about faith in, whether it is faith in God or faith in a person, and it seems to be right in both domains. Recall the example used previously of the friend that has been accused of a terrible crime. She asks you to believe in her, to have faith in her, which you will do if you trust her when she says she is innocent. She is your friend, and you have faith in her and her innocence. Later, after she is cleared of the charge, she thanks you for having had faith in her when so many doubted her. Some time later yet you learn some things about your friend that you did not know. You learn that she grew up in Idaho (not in California, as you thought), that she is married and separated (not single, as you thought), and that she was once in prison (which you had not known). In short you learn that your “conception” of your friend was not right. Does this mean that you did not really have faith in her and her innocence? It may be that you feel she should have told you these things about herself, and if you had known them perhaps you would have hesitated to have complete faith in her. But the bare fact that your conception of your friend was wrong does not in itself mean that you did not trust her and have faith in her. In fact, you did. So it seems that Kierkegaard’s implicit point about religious faith in God is right because it is right generally about faith in.

How does this point relate to the idea that the proofs for the existence of God are irrelevant to religious faith? It does in this way. If we want to prove that God exists, it is very important that we have the right concept of God, for otherwise we prove the existence of the wrong thing (e.g., Buber’s “God of the Philosophers”). But from the point just made with Kierkegaard’s help, it is not similarly essential to have the right concept of God to believe in or have faith in God. In this way, the relevance for religious faith of proving God exists in the true conception of God is further diminished. What could those who seek to prove God’s existence say to Malcolm, Buber, and Kierkegaard about the question of the relevance of the proofs for God’s existence? One thing they might say is that they too recognize that true religious belief is committed and trusting belief, belief in God and not merely belief that God exists. Aquinas, for instance, said that the act of faith by a believer “does not terminate in a proposition but in a thing,” that is, in God.18 But in order to have belief or faith in God, they could say, one must believe that the God believed in exists—and this is what the arguments are designed to prove. Although belief in God is more than belief that God exists, it presupposes belief that God exists. What might Malcolm and the others reply? Perhaps Malcolm would remind us of the person who follows the Ontological Argument, accepts it as valid, and comes to believe that God exists—but still is very far from having religious faith in God.

4. A proof for the existence of God is relevant to religious faith in a negative way in that such a proof would destroy faith. The Spanish existentialist philosopher Miguel de Unamuno said: “Those who believe in God without passion in their heart, without anguish of mind, without uncertainty, without doubt and even at times despair, believe only in the idea of God, not in God himself.”19 With these words Unamuno expresses the religious sensibility that underlies and inspires the fourth answer to the question of the relevance of the proofs of God’s existence for religious faith. At the heart of this sensibility is the perception that faith is a struggle. Faith is not easy and cannot be easy. It is a struggle to believe in the face of doubts that assail the believer. Indeed, as Unamuno says, without doubt and uncertainty there would be no faith or belief in God. Just as those who try to prove God’s existence stand in a religious tradition going back to Aquinas and Anselm, so Unamuno stands in an identifiable tradition of religious sensibility. Kierkegaard in a significant part of his writing also stands in that tradition.20 In fact, Kierkegaard precedes Unamuno. Unamuno, we are told, said that he learned Danish in order to read Henrik Ibsen’s plays and was rewarded by reading Kierkegaard.21 In the last section we drew upon Kierkegaard’s thinking for the “parable of the idol-worshipper.” Now, in this

section, we must turn to another and different aspect of his thinking. In the work in which we find the parable of the idol-worshipper, Kierkegaard goes on to develop a “definition” of faith, and that definition is informed by and sustains the different form of religious sensibility that underlies the fourth answer. Paraphrased, his definition of faith is that faith is the inward passion that arises from the constant struggle to hold fast in belief an "objective uncertainty," something that is uncertain. Without risk, Kierkegaard says, there is no faith. And risk requires uncertainty. (We do not have faith that 2+2=4.) Moreover, for Kierkegaard, the greater the risk, the greater the faith.22 The object of religious belief or faith is the greatest uncertainty there can be. Kierkegaard called it "the absurd." It is the "contradiction" that the eternal (which exists outside time and is timeless) became temporal (and so existed in time). For Kierkegaard the absurd that faith must hold fast is that the eternal truth entered into time and took on human form. Kierkegaard has in mind the Christian idea of the incarnation in which the eternal God became a temporal man, Jesus of Nazareth; and here again we see his distinctly Christian thinking. However, although he does not say so, this idea of the absurd applies to Judaism and Islam as well, for in both these religions the eternal God enters into time to interact with men and women. For Kierkegaard, because the absurd is the greatest possible uncertainty, the faith that embraces it in belief—religious faith—is the greatest possible faith. Kierkegaard is very clear that what is believed or accepted by faith cannot be known. For Kierkegaard, trying to know in advance what must be accepted on faith is trying to avoid faith. Seeking and finding evidence of any kind for religious belief lessens the uncertainty and so the faith, for Kierkegaard; and if one should somehow come to know the absurd is true, as one would by fully proving the absurd to be true, then, very far from faith being made secure, faith would be made impossible. Add to this Kierkegaard’s understanding of faith as the very heart of religion and the individual’s religious commitment to God, and we can see that for Kierkegaard, as for Unamuno, lesser proofs (some evidence) detracts from religion and a full proof of God’s existence (a full and conclusive demonstration) is the destruction of religion. Kierkegaard, someone might say, takes faith to be faith that, and wouldn’t Malcolm see a problem here? We should acknowledge that for Kierkegaard the object of faith, as the absurd, is that the eternal God entered into time and became temporal. What could Kierkegaard say here? He could say that faith in God requires us to believe that the absurd is true. Just as when you believe in, have faith in your friend who is accused of a crime, in order to believe in her you have to believe in her innocence (that she is innocent), so to believe in, have faith in God, you have to believe the absurd, Kierkegaard could say. Another question we might ask of Kierkegaard is whether a proof of God’s existence (even of an eternal God who enters into time) would still allow faith in God. Kierkegaard or those who follow his thinking might well reply that faith in God would also be ruled out because the proof of a God who entered time would also be a proof of an almighty and merciful God

who is perfectly trustworthy (these attributes are part of the traditional concept of God, as mentioned previously). If the existence of a perfectly trustworthy God were proven, then there would be no risk in trusting in God, and so faith in God would be made impossible. In this way Kierkegaard’s thinking about the requirements of faith extends to faith in God.

Summing Up and Going Further We have explored four different and opposed viewpoints on the relevance of a proof of God’s existence for religious faith. Looking back over these four viewpoints, we can see that none is utterly without some kind of grounding in religious sensibility, moral sensibility, or both. The first viewpoint—faith requires a proof—rests upon our moral sense that we ought to form and hold our beliefs in a responsible way, and it is dishonest to do otherwise. If the belief is a serious belief, as religious belief is, this moral demand seems all the more peremptory. The second viewpoint—that proofs are helpful to religion—allows that evidential support for religious belief can be welcomed by religion, which in itself does not deny the moral sensibility of the first viewpoint; furthermore, the second viewpoint recognizes the desire for religious certainty. The third viewpoint draws upon the importance in religious sensibility of giving trust to God. Religious faith is not a matter of believing in the existence of God; it is having faith in and trusting in God. The fact that we recognize the importance of doing the same in human relationships, when we are called upon to believe in a friend or another person, shows that this demand of faith is not uniquely religious. The fourth viewpoint taps the sensibility that faith is passionate; involving deep feelings. The fourth viewpoint draws to our attention the oddity, or impossibility, of having faith where there is no uncertainty, and it connects the passion of faith with the risk of believing what is uncertain. Our discussion does not naturally and easily lead to the judgment that one of these four viewpoints is clearly the right viewpoint about proofs of God’s existence and their relevance for faith. In part this is because a full evaluation of these viewpoints would require us to address further questions. The preceding discussion raises some questions about the different viewpoints, but there are other questions as well. An overarching question is this: Although these are “opposing” views, could they nevertheless be combined? Or could some of them? Or could they be modified and then combined? Consider the contrast between Aquinas, who tried to prove the existence of God, and Kierkegaard, who renounced all proofs and all religious knowledge as incompatible with faith. Still, in a way, they agree. They agree that where we have a proof, faith is ruled out. For Aquinas if we have scientific knowledge, or scientia, of God’s existence through a logical

proof, we do not accept it on faith. The difference between Aquinas and Kierkegaard is over the religious value of scientia. There are two questions here: (1) Do religious commitment and a religious life allow scientia or any kind of religious knowledge? and (2) Could there be knowledge about some religious beliefs (such as “that God exists”) whereas others are beyond such knowledge (such as “the absurd”—that the eternal God became temporal)? Clifford, on the one hand, and Unamuno and Kierkegaard, on the other hand, differ on what “proper” belief or faith require. For Clifford, morally proper faith or belief of any sort requires support. For Unamuno and Kierkegaard true or proper faith, especially religious faith, requires passion. If we hold serious beliefs without support we do not live up to our responsibilities in the area of belief formation. If we hold faith without passion, our faith is hollow. Is there any way that we or the religious can hold a passionate faith that is responsible? Or must we and the religious give up one or the other when we have faith? Can these different dimensions of faith or belief be combined? Another issue is whether there can be different "models" of faith. We have seen that there are two different forms of faith: faith that mA faith in (or belief that and belief in). In addition there are or may be different models of faith. Could there be one model of faith that allows certainty and knowledge and another that requires doubt? The first would be the one that applies when we feel that faith is not fully given when someone says to a friend accused of a crime, "I think you are innocent, but I am not sure." It would be this model that applies to Job in the Bible. In the Book of Job, he suffers the loss of all that he owns, the loss of his family, and the loss of his health. Yet in the midst of his suffering Job keeps his faith in God, his Redeemer. And in accord with this first model of faith, Job expresses his faith by proclaiming, "I know that my Redeemer lives" (Job 19:2 5).23 It would be to this model of faith that Aquinas appeals when he says that faith carries with it a form of knowledge. By contrast, Kierkegaard and Unamuno would appeal to the second model of faith, the one that requires doubt. It is in the light of this model that we are struck by the oddity of "accepting on faith" what is clearly and without doubt true, such as, 2 + 2 = 4. However, as we reflect on the model of faith that requires doubt, we may want to ask: Whose doubts are required for faith on this model? For a person to have faith, must that person face her or his own doubts or face the doubts of others? It appears that both of these models of faith are represented in the New Testament. The first, according to which the presence of doubt in one diminishes and possibly kills one’s faith, is seen in the story of Peter walking over the water when Jesus bids him to do so. As Peter walks upon the water, the wind comes up and he becomes afraid. At this point he begins to sink. In the biblical story Jesus reaches out his hand and saves him. Then Jesus says to Peter, “O man of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14.28–31) The other model, according to which faith exists with doubt and bravely struggles against it, is found in a biblical passage in which Jesus says to a father of an afflicted child, “All things are possible to him who believes.” The father, who is seeking from Jesus a cure for his child, cries

out, “I believe, help my unbelief” (Mark 9.20–27). In the biblical story, Jesus then cures the child, apparently in response to the father’s faith. We also find this model of faith in the New Testament passage where Jesus says, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe” ( John 20.29) if we understand “not seeing” as not knowing and not having silenced one’s own doubts. The issue discussed in this chapter is the question of the relevance of the proofs of God’s existence for religious faith. This issue is about the nature of religious faith and whether it allows, or requires, a proof of God’s existence, where a “proof” might be a full logical demonstration or just strong evidence. This issue more immediately addresses religious lives than does the logical strength question, for the main form of religiousness in the great monotheistic traditions deeply involves faith in God, although many and probably most religious believers will never consider the proofs for God’s existence and their logical strength. At the same time the relevance issue is relevant for those who do not see themselves as religious or even actively reject religion. For if we are not religious ourselves we yet live among those who are religious, and if we reject religion we should know what we are rejecting in rejecting faith in God. In subsequent chapters we return to and use some of what we have seen in this chapter about forms of faith and the character of faith, as well as some of the questions about faith that we have encountered. In the final two chapters we discuss how we should understand there being a plurality of different religions in the world. In Chapter 12 we return to what is discussed in this chapter about forms of faith and the character of faith in, for what we have seen about the forms of faith, and especially the character of faith in, will help us to understand how the many religions of the world are related to each other.

Questions for Chapter 3 Factual Questions 1. What is the difference between agnosticism and atheism? 2. What does Aquinas mean by scientia or scientific knowledge? 3. What, for John Calvin, is the difference between belief that God exists and belief in God? 4. For Martin Buber, what is the difference between the God of the Philosophers and the God of Religion?

Interpretive and Evaluative Questions 1. Think of a time in your life where you believed in, or had faith in, a friend. What emotions or affects were a part of your faith in your friend? Are these emotions different from those involved in faith in God? 2. If someone has faith in God, what effect do you think there would be on that person’s faith if she or he had a proof of God’s existence? What effect would there be if there were a proof of God’s goodness? Why? 3. Do you think that a proof of God’s existence would make faith easier or harder? Why? 4. Kierkegaard thinks of the eternal becoming temporal as “the absurd,” which must be embraced in faith in Christianity. Does the idea of the eternal becoming temporal apply to religions other than Christianity as well as to Christianity? Explain. 5. When Kierkegaard says that we do not have faith that “2 + 2 = 4” he seems to be right. There is no doubt about this mathematical truth. But if faith requires doubt to be struggled against, is it one’s own doubt or the doubt of others?

Notes 1. David Hume, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, Part XII. Elsewhere, in the context of believing that miracles have occurred, Hume commented on belief generally. There, in An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, in Sec. X

“Of Miracles,” he said, “A wise man . .. proportions his belief to the evidence.” “Of Miracles” is in Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 7. 2. W. K. Clifford, “The Ethics of Belief,” in Lectures and Essays. In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 3. 3. The story about a “celebrated philosopher” is told by H. H. Price in his “Faith and Belief,” in Faith and the Philosophers, ed. John Hick (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1964), pp. 19–20. In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 3. If the philosopher Wesley C. Salmon is correct, this “celebrated philosopher” may have been Bertrand Russell. Salmon recounts hearing a slightly different, but similar, story about Russell. In the story Salmon recalls Russell was asked what he “would say, if after dying he were transported to the presence of God.” Russell replied that he would say, “Not enough evidence, God, not enough evidence!” Wesley C. Salmon, “Religion and Science: A New Look at Hume’s Dialogues,” Philosophical Studies, vol. 33 (1978), p. 176, n. 20. 4. The contemporary philosopher is Thomas Nagel. Thomas Nagel, The Last Word (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), p. 130. 5. The lines of poetry are from In Memoriam, 96, by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Verses 55 and 96 are in the Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 3. 6. Aquinas, Summa Theologica I, q.2, a.3. In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 2. Summa Theologica I, q.2, a.2; q.4, a.1; q.11, a.3; and Summa Theologica II-II, q.1, a.5. In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 3. 7. Aquinas, Summa Theologica II-II, q.2, a.4. Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 3. 8. Alvin Plantinga, “Reason and Belief in God,” in Faith and Rationality, edited by Alvin Plantinga and Nicholas Wolterstorff (Notre Dame and London: University of Notre Dame Press, 1983), pp. 67and 73 (Plantinga’s emphasis). 9. Anthony Collin’s remark is cited by Alasdair MacIntyre in his “Relativism, Power, and Philosophy,” reprinted in Relativism: Interpretation and Confrontation, ed. Michael Krausz (South Bend, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1989). 10. Norman Malcolm, “Is It a Religious Belief that ‘God Exists’?” in Faith and the Philosophers, edited by John Hick (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1964), pp. 103–110. In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 3. 11. Price, “Faith and Belief,” p. 9. In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 3. 12. John Calvin, The Institutes of the Christian Religion, 1536 edition, Chapter 2, “Concerning Faith, Together with an Explanation of the Creed, Which They Call Apostolic.” Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 3. 13. Malcolm reflects on how one who has followed the Ontological Argument and become convinced by it might nevertheless be unmoved religiously toward the end of his “Anselm’s Ontological Arguments.” 14. Bertrand Russell’s account of this episode in his life is quoted by his biographer, Ronald W. Clark, in his The Life of Bertrand Russell (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1976), p. 45.

15. Martin Buber, Two Kinds of Faith (New York: Harper & Row, 1961). 16. Martin Buber, Eclipse of God (New York and Evanston: Harper & Row, 1957), pp. 3–6. In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 3. 17. Søren Kierkegaard, Concluding Unscientific Postscript, Part II, Sec. II, Chapter II “Subjective Truth, Inwardness; Truth is Subjectivity.” Selections in Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 3. 18. Aquinas, Summa Theologica II-II, q.1 a.2. 19. Miguel de Unamuno, The Tragic Sense of Life, translated by J. E. Crawford Flitch (n.p.: Dover,1954), p. 193. Unamuno, regarding faith as marked by doubt and anguish, characterized faith as “agonic.” A selection from Unamuno’s The Agony of Christianity is in Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 3. 20. Kierkegaard, as the author of Concluding Unscientific Postscript, stands in the same tradition of religious sensibility as Unamuno; however, Kierkegaard exhibits more than one form of religious sensibility. In another work, Fear and Trembling, his presentation of faith is significantly different. Kierkegaard marked this difference by using different pseudonyms for these two works:. The pseudonymous author of the Postscript is Johannes Climacus, and that of Fear and Trembling is Johannes de Silentio. 21. Robert Bretall recounts Unamuno’s comment about his learning Danish to read Ibsen and then being rewarded by reading Kierkegaard in A Kierkegaard Anthology, edited by Robert Bretall (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1946), p. xviii, n. 4. 22. Kierkegaard, Concluding Unscientific Postscript, Part Two, Sec. II, Chapter II “Subjective Truth, Inwardness; Truth Is Subjectivity.” Selections are in Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 3. 23. In the Revised Standard Version of the Bible Psalm 19.25 reads “I know that my Redeemer lives.” In the Tanakh Psalm 19.25 reads “I know that my Vindicator lives.” Job 19 is included in the selections from the Tanakh in Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 1.

Chapter 4 Is Religious Belief Reasonable? Faith and Reason Although many who are religious may never have asked themselves if their religious belief is reasonable, just as they may never have asked if God’s existence can be proven, the question of the reasonableness of religious belief has a long history within religious reflection. The question of how faith and reason are related, and that of how revelation and philosophy are related, goes back to the early centuries of the Common Era. Thinkers in all three of the great monotheistic traditions of the West—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—reflected on the relationship between faith and reason or, as it has been expressed, the relationship between Jerusalem and Athens (Jerusalem being the “home” of Christianity and Judaism, and a sacred city for Islam, and Athens being the “home” of Western philosophy). In the first century of the Common Era the Jewish thinker Philo of Alexandria tried to bring together the teachings of Moses in the Tanakh or Old Testament and the thought of the Greek philosopher Plato. Several centuries later the Christian thinker Augustine of Hippo, or St. Augustine, whose life bridged the fourth and fifth centuries, reflected on the relationship between faith and reason. In the Islamic tradition Avicenna (Ibn Sina in Arabic), who lived 980–1030 C.E., and Averroes (Ibn Rushd in Arabic), who lived 1126–98 C.E., reflected on the Greek philosophical heritage. The twelfth-century Jewish thinker Moses Maimonides and the Christian thinkers St. Anselm of Canterbury in the eleventh century and St. Thomas Aquinas in the thirteenth century all offered arguments for the existence of God. (Recall that Chapter 2 examines Anselm’s Ontological Argument and Aquinas’ Cosmological Argument, or his “five ways.”) Usually those who have tried to prove the existence of God have wanted to show, not only that God exists, but that reason, in proving God exists, does not go counter to what faith accepts. If we can use reason to prove that God exists, then surely there is no conflict between reason and faith, it was thought. The efforts to prove the existence of God embodied in the three traditional arguments discussed in Chapter 2 rely upon “natural reason” to “prove” the existence of God. They are attempts either to show with a conclusive demonstration that God exists or to establish that there is evidence that God exists. However, well before Paley’s attempt to prove the existence of God with the Teleological Argument, some had begun to question the ability of natural reason to prove that there is a God. And so other ways were sought to show that religious faith was reasonable.

Blaise Pascal and the Reasonableness of Faith Blaise Pascal lived in France in the seventeenth century; a scientist and a mathematician, he was also a committed religious believer. Over a number of years he wrote notes or reflections, most or all of which are on religious matters, directly or indirectly. He did not publish them during his lifetime, but after his death they were collected and published as the Pensées (or, in English, Thoughts). Many of his “thoughts” are only one sentence long, some a page long, and a few are longer. Pascal reflects on many religious themes in the Pensées, but the thought for which he is most often remembered is one several pages long, usually given the title “The Wager.”1 In it Pascal argues for a way that religious belief in God might be reasonable that does not rely upon proving that God exists. Pascal was deeply religious, and so his purpose was not to argue himself into believing. However, he was aware that others did not share his faith, and he wrote “The Wager” to address the issue of the reasonableness of religious belief as it would arise for those who were undecided about belief in God and who had concluded that the arguments for God’s existence fail to prove there is a God. In “The Wager” Pascal imagines himself speaking directly to those in this position, who are faced with the question of whether to believe in God. Is there or is there not a God? “Reason,” Pascal allows, “can decide nothing here.” Nevertheless, we have to risk believing one way of the other. We “must bet. There is no option.” We must either believe there is a God or not believe there is a God. It is not a way out to hang back and make no explicit choice, because in choosing to reserve judgment one chooses not to believe there is a God. Pascal is aware that there is a difference between reserving judgment about God’s existence (agnosticism) and believing there is no God (atheism), but he is of course right that both are ways of not believing there is a God. So, Pascal says, we must “wager”; we must bet by putting our belief on the line, one way or the other. The question is: Which way to go, what to believe? Should we believe there is a God or not believe? In one construction Pascal’s thinking about this question goes this way: Reason cannot decide the issue of God’s existence. Believing either way is a gamble, but we must either believe there is a God or not believe there is a God. If we believe either way there is a one-intwo chance that we will be right. But there is “an eternity of life and happiness to be won” if we believe in God and God exists; whereas there is only “one life,” a life of following our own pleasure, to be lost if we believe in God and God does not exist. The odds of winning or losing are even, but the possible gain is infinite, whereas the possible loss is finite. In this case, then, the only reasonable thing to do is to bet on God’s existence and believe. In this construction, which closely follows what Pascal wrote, there is no statement of what is to be won and what is to be lost if we do not believe there is a God. Sometimes those who discuss Pascal’s wager fill in Pascal’s thinking by observing that if we do not believe and God exists there is infinite

loss (damnation) and if God does not exist there is only finite gain, our “one life” of pleasure. So we have the following:

we believe we do not believe

God exists infinite gain infinite loss

God does not exist finite loss finite gain

When the argument is filled in this way, it is even clearer that the only reasonable thing to do is to bet on God’s existence and believe. In his thinking, we should notice, Pascal introduces another sense of “reason.” Reason in the sense of truth-proving natural reason cannot decide the question of God’s existence, Pascal says. But reason in the sense of prudential reason, or benefit-calculating reason, can decide what is most reasonable to believe, what is most in a person’s interest to believe; and that, concludes Pascal, is to believe that God exists. We should notice, also, that by “an eternity of life” Pascal apparently means a life after death: this is infinite gain if we believe. If the filled-in argument reflects his thinking, then he is assuming that in order to come to that life one must believe in God (or at least that if we have heard about God, we must believe), so that if one does not believe one will suffer damnation and a denial of that eternal life. (That those who have heard about God and not believed will suffer damnation is a theological view that many, but not all, in the Christian tradition would agree to).2

Criticisms of Pascal's Account Some, reflecting on Pascal’s thinking, have raised what has been called the “many gods” criticism. It may be put this way: Say that there are several gods we could believe in and we are told regarding each that only if we believe in that god we shall gain an eternal reward. Which should we believe in?

Integral to this criticism is the idea that there are several gods that might be believed to exist, and if we believe in one god, then we cannot also believe in another god. Here we should remind ourselves of the distinction between “belief in” and “belief that,” the distinction noted in Chapter 3, that Malcolm and others drew to our attention. We should as well recall the lesson of Kierkegaard’s parable of the idol worshipper, also noted in Chapter 3, regarding “belief in” where it is “faith in.” If the belief in question is belief that God exists (which is what Pascal’s language indicates), then in believing that god A (e.g., Jehovah) exists one would not (so far) be believing that god B (e.g., Brahma) exists. Furthermore, if we are told that if we believe that god A exists we must renounce belief in god B’s existence, then for this reason we

could not believe in the existence of both gods. But if the belief in question is belief in God, or faith in God, then if the lesson of the parable is correct, the conception of God is not a deciding factor, because, allowing there is finally but one God or Supreme Being, a person may have faith in that God even with the wrong conception of God. However, since Pascal is addressing belief that God exists, many see the “many gods” criticism as raising a real problem for Pascal’s reasoning. Pascal’s wager-reasoning faces another kind of problem that has its source in a strain of religious sensibility that one does not have to be religious to appreciate. As was noted previously, Pascal is apparently arguing for the reasonableness of a belief in God that is only belief in God’s existence. If someone followed Pascal’s reasoning and took up the belief that Pascal argues for, that person would hold only a belief that God exists, as opposed to belief in God involving trust in and heartfelt commitment to God. Moreover, as several have observed, the attained belief would be a belief that God exists held precisely for the “reward” of believing. But is such a belief as this a truly religious belief in God? William James, an American philosopher and psychologist, sensed that a faith that one “adopted willfully after such a mechanical calculation” of what is in one’s self interest “would lack the inner soul of faith’s reality.” In the same way, we might say (although James does not use this analogy), if a man “loves a woman for her money,” his “love” lacks the inner soul of love. James goes on to say that “if we were ourselves in the place of the Deity, we should probably take particular pleasure in cutting off believers of this pattern from their infinite reward.”3 It is not hard to appreciate James’s criticism, but there is a reply to it. It can be pointed out that although Pascal’s argument might cause those who are convinced to take up a merely prudential belief that God exists, over time if one follows a religious way of life a profound and real faith may develop.4

William James and the Right to Believe William James not only criticized Pascal’s wager thinking, he tried to extend and correct it. Pascal was right, James thought, that there are instances where it is permissible to believe when there is no proof, no deciding evidence, but Pascal left something out. He left out the role of our “passional nature”—our personal fears, hopes, desires—and these, James argues, in certain cases, can provide a justification for our choosing to believe in God if evidence cannot decide the matter. James argues for this in an essay titled “The Will to Believe,” but he might better have titled his essay “The Right to Believe,” for in fact, as he says on the first page, he offers “a defense of our right to adopt a believing attitude in religious matters.” He argues for our epistemic right (i.e., our belief-related right) to hold a religious belief—at least under certain circumstances.

James starts his essay by distinguishing several kinds of belief-options. We face a belief option when we have a decision or a choice between beliefs, even if it is only a choice between believing something and not believing it. But not all belief-options are the same. James draws to our attention three kinds. One kind of belief-option is that between live beliefs or possible beliefs. “Live” beliefs connect to our lives and strike us as relevant; they make some appeal to our belief, however slight. Some beliefs do this, and some do not. If your best friend says, “Believe me, I am innocent of the crime I am accused of,” you are presented with an option between two live beliefs: believe your friend is innocent or do not believe it. A belief-option of this sort James calls a living option. If, by contrast, you are invited to believe that somewhere in California there is a man who is guilty of stealing a green parrot, this belief-option would probably be a dead option for you because neither belief would be a live belief possibility; neither connects to your life. Second, says James, there are belief options that are forced or avoidable. The example just cited is also an example of a forced option if it is an option between believing that your friend is innocent or not believing it. There is no third alternative; whichever way we go we end up either believing or not believing. Recall that Pascal thought that we had either to believe there is a God or not believe it; in James’s terms he saw the option regarding believing in God’s existence as a forced option. We would be given an avoidable option is we were asked to believe either that our friend was innocent of a crime committed in New York because he was in New Jersey or that he was innocent because he was in Connecticut. (We could believe instead that he was guilty or that he was innocent because he was in Ohio.) Third, there are belief options that are momentous or trivial. We face a momentous option when the beliefs at stake are significant, the decision you make is not reversible, and the option or opportunity to believe is unique. We can continue to use our example of believing in your friend’s innocence to illustrate this third option. If the friend is indeed your best friend, whether you believe he or she is innocent may be very significant in your life, for your relationship to your friend is at stake. Your decision is irreversible in that if you do not believe in his or her innocence, there is no going back; if you change your mind later it will remain forever that you did not believe in your friend’s innocence at first, when your friend called upon you to believe. Your belief option is also unique (we may hope); it will be if nothing like this has come up before or will come up again in your relationship to your friend. The belief option would probably be trivial for you if you read in the paper that someone, a stranger, was accused of stealing a parrot, and you wondered if it were true.5 When a belief option is living, forced, and momentous James calls it a genuine option. James argues for an important thesis about genuine options. He offers it as a general thesis, but as he is aware, it has great significance for religious belief and for our right to believe religiously. Here is his thesis in his own words: “Our passional nature not only lawfully may, but must decide an option between propositions [that is, between proposed beliefs] whenever it is a genuine option that cannot by its nature be decided on intellectual grounds.”6

There are several things in James’s thesis to note and clarify: First, when he says our passional nature “lawfully may” decide a belief option, he means it may properly or without violating an epistemic duty decide (an epistic duty is an obligation that relates to our holding or forming a belief). Second, what he means by our “passional nature” is that part of us that is made up of our hopes and fears, our passionate allegiances and our need to believe. Third, his thesis contains two important limiting conditions: it applies only to belief options that (a) are genuine options and that (b) cannot in the nature of the case be decided on intellectual grounds or evidence. With this last clarification in mind we can see that James is not “justifying” our believing anything we want to believe. James would not say that his thesis makes it “lawful” or all right for me to believe that I am a mathematical genius deep inside or to believe that I am descended from the kings of England. He would not because, though I may have a great passional need to believe these things, and even though the belief option I face is genuine, the other condition is not met. In the nature of the case there is plenty of evidence that can be brought to bear on these matters. My demonstrated mediocre ability in math is evidence in the first case, and as yet ungathered but available genetic and genealogical evidence in the second case. It is not enough for James and his thesis that someone facing a genuine belief option really wants to believe something and it is not enough that one has a psychological need to believe it. In fact, James thinks that his thesis will not apply to many belief options we might encounter. Very often beliefs about “physical nature” are not pressing, and for most of us, as James sees it, the belief options they pose are dead and trivial. What to believe about the presence of sulfur on the moon or the number of species of beetles, or any number of other factual matters, is not of any importance to most of us. Consequently, given the first limiting condition of James’s thesis— that the option be a genuine option—his thesis will not apply to such belief options. To use one of James’s own examples, his thesis will not apply to some theory of Röntgen rays or X-rays. (W.C. Röntgen had discovered this new kind of ray, which he called “X-rays,” in 1885, the year before James published “The Will to Believe.”) The belief option in this case, and like cases, is dead and trivial for most of us. Also, it is not forced, as James sees it, and for this reason too the option is not genuine. (James does not say so, but he may have been thinking that any belief option that is dead or trivial to us will occur to us as also avoidable.) Not being forced options, they are not presented to us as the option between believing the proposed theory and not believing it. Rather, they are presented to us as an option between believing the theory to be true and believing the theory to be false—and this makes them nonforced or avoidable options, which we can avoid by simply reserving our judgment. In this case we should adopt no belief but keep weighing the evidence as it is presented, James says. Thus, since there is evidence that can emerge, commonplace belief options about the natural facts of the world do not meet the second limiting condition for his

thesis—the unavailability of evidence condition—any more than they meet the first.7 Moreover, James is aware that there are certain kinds of beliefs that are, as he sees it, properly taken up without evidence, but where his thesis does not apply. A case he considers is one in which one person would like another to like him. James observes that if the first person waits for evidence that the other likes him, that liking he hopes for may never come, but if the first person believes that the other likes him, then the trusting attitude he demonstrates will actually help to make it true that the other will like him. In another essay, James gives another example: A man is climbing down a mountain in the Alps and has got himself into the position in which the only way to proceed is to make a leap across a chasm. Can he make it? If he believes he can, it will encourage him and help to make it true that he can make the leap. These are cases in which believing something to be true (“I can make the leap”) helps to bring it about that it is true.8 But religious belief is not about our personal capacities and traits, but about the universe, he realizes, and so a very different matter. The big question for James is this: Does his thesis apply to religious belief? James believes it does. Accordingly, James turns his attention to religious belief, or to what he calls the “religious hypothesis.”9 He is using “hypothesis” in a fairly special sense to mean “anything that may be proposed to our belief.” So the religious hypothesis in James’s meaning is what religion proposes to our belief and asks us to believe. Religion, as James sees it, proposes two things to our belief: 1. “The best things are the more eternal things.” 2. “We are better off even now if we believe [this] first affirmation to be true.” Interestingly, James does not put either of these two parts of the “religious hypothesis” specifically in terms of belief in God, even though he himself goes on to speak of “gods” and elsewhere to speak of “God” and to refer to himself as a Christian.10 This is a difference between his approach and Pascal’s. James in effect, but without explicitly saying so, allows that “eternal things” may be understood theistically (as in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) or non-theistically (as in Buddhism and forms of Hinduism). What James is saying is that if (a) the religious belief option is for you a genuine option and (b) in the nature of the case it cannot be decided on intellectual grounds, then you have the epistemic right to decide it on passional grounds. James agrees with Pascal and others that intellectual grounds or evidence cannot decide the question of God’s existence. So the religious belief option, for everyone, meets condition (b). Condition (a) is that it must be a genuine option for you. Pascal’s wager reasoning went wrong, as James sees it, because it offered a “mechanical calculation” that left out the necessity that the option be living and in some way appeal to our passions. James is clear that if the religious belief option is not a “living possibility” for us, then his thesis will not apply to us. But he is fairly confident that

most will find the option living—that the option of believing or not will speak to us as something that connects to our lives—and since it is forced and momentous it will be for most of us genuine. For James, if the two conditions are met, then religious belief may “lawfully” be held by us human beings. If evidence cannot decide the religious belief option, and we must decide because the option is genuine and so a forced option, then our passional nature may decide because it must decide. James is using the same language W. K. Clifford (recall that Clifford was discussed in Chapter 3) used: the language of morality. In “The Ethics of Belief” he said it is “wrong always . .. to believe anything on insufficient evidence.”11 This means it is never permissible to believe on insufficient intellectual grounds. For Clifford, our epistemic duty in a case in which evidence is insufficient is to reserve judgment and not believe. Clifford, using the language James uses, says we have no right to believe on insufficient evidence. So, in the event sufficient evidence for religious belief is unavailable, Clifford and James are in clear opposition on whether we ever have a right to believe religiously. James is aware of this opposition, and he speaks directly to Clifford’s claim. As James sees it there are two laws of epistemic duty: One is that we must know the truth; the second is that we must avoid error.12 Clifford favors the second duty. To meet the duty to avoid error, Clifford will reserve judgment when intellectual evidence is not sufficient, as is the case with the religious belief option. This is his right, James says. When we are faced with a genuine option and intellectual evidence is not available, we may either believe or not believe; we have the right to go either way in accord with the epistemic duty we see as more important, given our passional nature. But then, James insists, just as Clifford has the right not to believe religiously, he, William James, and others, have the right to believe religiously. Clifford is not wrong to withhold his belief; that is his right. He is wrong, however, in denying the right of others to believe at their own risk. For this reason James concludes that Clifford is wrong in his central thesis that no one ever has the right to believe when there is insufficient evidence. Finally, then, if James is right, religious belief in the eternal, or in God, is epistemically proper even if evidence is not available, if we are faced with a genuine option and our passional needs and desires lead us to believe.

Criticisms of James's Account We may find James’s account appealing, for it seems to be generous to both the side of agnosticism and the side of religious belief. Nevertheless there are some problems that crop up in James’s reasoning, and they must be considered. In the first place, Clifford might object to the way that James characterizes one of our two epistemic duties. One duty, James says, is that we must “know” the truth—or, as he also puts it, “believe” or “gain” the truth. One might

reply on behalf of Clifford that, although there is an epistemic duty regarding the truth, it is the duty to seek the truth, and the way we do this is by means of investigation and inquiry; and unless and until we have sufficient evidence we should not believe something to be true. Perhaps James would continue to insist that there is a duty to “know,” or at least to embrace in belief, all the truth we can, even when we run the risk of error. At a minimum this objection raises a question about how we should understand the epistemic duty James identifies. Second, we may ask what kind of belief James’s reasoning justifies. Allowing that his thesis is established and we do have the right to believe religiously when the religious belief option is genuine for us and sufficient evidence is unavailable, are we justified in holding a deeply committed and firm belief or only a tentative belief? Since we would have to confess that evidence is lacking and that we are running the risk of error, one might think only a tentative belief is justified. But religion requires a committed belief, firmly held. Could James reply that if his thesis establishes our right to believe, it also establishes our right to believe firmly and with conviction because only that kind of belief will meet our passional need? However, there is a third objection that we should consider. Does James really establish that we have the right to believe religiously? Or does he show only that we have the right to hope and act as though religious belief is true? James ends his essay with a quotation from another author who speaks of “questions with which all must deal as it seems good to them,” and who says, in “all important transactions of life we have to take a leap in the dark....” This author goes on to characterize the human situation in the following way: “We stand on a mountain pass in the midst of whirling snow and blinding mist, through which we get glimpses now and then of paths which may be deceptive. If we stand still we shall be frozen to death. If we take the wrong road we shall be dashed to pieces. We do not certainly know whether there is any right one. What must we do? ‘Be strong and of a good courage.’ Act for the best, hope for the best, and take what comes .... I f death ends all, we cannot meet death better.”13 This sounds like a dramatic statement of the way James sees humankind as we face the religious belief option: We cannot see which path is the right one—available evidence is insufficient—and we are faced with a forced option—we must take this path or the other. However, look at the concluding advice: Act for the best; hope for the best. We should act forthrightly, choosing one path or the other, and we should hope that we have chosen the right one. But this author does not say believe the path chosen is the right one. He doesn’t because in the nature of the case we have no reason to believe our chosen path is the right one. It’s just that we had to choose one or the other—and can only hope it is the right one. James’s presentation of the religious belief option is closely analogous (as James himself apparently appreciates, since he provides the quotation). But if so, his own conclusion should not be that we should believe religiously, or have the epistemic right to believe religiously. It should be that we have the right to choose to act as though religious belief is true and to hope that it is. Pascal wrote in the seventeenth century and James in the nineteenth, but efforts to show

that religious belief is reasonable or in some way proper have continued to the present day. There have been contemporary efforts to show religious belief is rational or justified in nonevidential ways, that is, in ways that do not appeal to a proof that God exists or to “intellectual” evidence of the sort Paley sought to muster in his Teleological Argument, or indeed to any kind of evidence. Like Pascal and James, the authors of these contemporary efforts do not agree with Clifford that sufficient evidence is required for a proper belief. Unlike Pascal and James, however, they do not seek a form of reasonableness that is prudential or a form of justification of belief’s epistemic propriety that appeals to our passional nature. We now turn to two such contemporary efforts, after a short section on “evidentialism.”

Contemporary Concerns about "Evidentialism" In contemporary thinking about the epistemic status of religious belief, and when it is permissible or proper to believe, some questions have been raised about Clifford’s principle that it is always wrong to believe on insufficient evidence. Clifford, as mentioned previously, expresses his idea in ethical terms: It is morally wrong to believe on insufficient evidence. Clifford’s idea appears to be a version of a more general principle that belief held on insufficient evidence is in some way improper, deficient, irrational, or against our moral/epistemic obligations. We might call this general principle “evidentialism.”14 Some contemporary thinkers have questioned this principle. They have asked, Why should we believe Clifford’s principle? There doesn’t seem to be evidence for it. Maybe Clifford thinks it is self-evident, like “circles have no corners.” The proposition that “circles have no corners” would be self-evidently true to those of us who know what circle and corners mean. But Clifford’s principle does not seem to be self-evident in this way because, for one thing, it does not seem to hold in all cases. There are times when it does not hold, it has been argued. One contemporary philosopher gives this example: Say that a man has made a rough calculation of his bank balance. He believes it is a certain amount, but he has not worked out the figures carefully enough for him properly to believe— to “believe rationally,” as it is put in the example—that his balance is that amount. As Clifford would say, his evidence is insufficient, and so it is wrong for him to believe as he does. Now imagine that the man has an exceptional chance to take his son to see his son’s favorite team play in the World Series, but if the man goes over and improves his bank account calculations he will miss the opportunity to take his son to the game. In this case the man’s greater obligation is to his son, and it is not wrong to believe the bank balance to be what he calculated on the basis of his quick calculation, even though his evidence is insufficient for a rational belief.15 If this example is right, then it cannot be that, as Clifford says, it is always

wrong to believe on insufficient evidence. Contemporary philosophers of religion who have challenged Clifford’s principle have sought ways of understanding religious belief and what might make it acceptable or rational or justified or, to use a single general term, epistemically proper, that would not require religious belief to rest upon sufficient evidence. In a way their thinking is like the thinking of William James. Yet there is a difference. For James it is proper to believe religiously only if certain conditions are met, and one of these is that evidence in the nature of the case not be available. If evidence is available, then we should believe according to the evidence, James allowed. Contemporary philosophers, however, have explored ways that religious belief can be proper quite independently of any reference to evidence.

Alvin Plantinga and the Rationality of Religious Belief Alvin Plantinga is among those contemporary philosophers who have sought a new way of understanding the epistemic status of religious belief. Although, as was noted in Chapter 2, he has defended the Ontological Argument in one version, at the same time, as was noted in Chapter 3, he does not believe that faith should be based on an argument for God’s existence. It is not surprising, then, that he has developed a way of understanding religious belief that does not appeal to the Ontological Argument to support the reasonableness or epistemic propriety of religious belief. In this other approach, he has defended the claim that belief in God is epistemically proper because it is a “properly basic belief.”16 What a “basic belief” is, and what a “properly basic belief” is, can be made clear fairly easily. Plantinga suggests that each individual has what he calls a “noetic structure.” A person’s noetic structure contains all that person’s beliefs. Many of these beliefs are held on the basis of other beliefs. They have an evidential support or basis in these other beliefs and so are what Plantinga calls nonbasic beliefs. Many of our beliefs are not like this, Plantinga suggests. These beliefs not held on the basis of other beliefs Plantinga calls basic beliefs. Examples of basic beliefs that Plantinga gives are the belief that he is seeing a tree and the belief that he had breakfast this morning. Typically, he says, the belief that he is seeing a tree and the belief that he had breakfast are basic beliefs for him because usually he does not hold these beliefs on the basis of any other beliefs, and so too for most of us. We believe that we have had breakfast this morning—and so can say, if we are asked, “Yes, I have had breakfast”—but not because we believe some other proposition that forms the basis of our breakfast-belief. Plantinga also gives us examples of nonbasic beliefs held on the basis of other propositions that he believes. He says that he believes “umbrageous” is spelled u-m-b-r-a-g-e-o-u-s because he believes that is how the dictionary spells it. And he believes that 72 × 71 = 5,112 on the basis of a number of simpler

mathematical beliefs, like 1 × 72 = 72. So his belief that 72 × 71 = 5,112 is not basic, as opposed to his belief that 2 + 1 = 3, which is basic for him. Plantinga does not think that we can draw up a single list of basic beliefs for everyone and a single list of nonbasic beliefs for everyone. We cannot because what is a basic belief for him and his noetic structure may not be a basic belief for you and your noetic structure, and because, although a belief like the belief that he sees a tree is typically a basic belief for him, in some cases he may hold it on the basis of some such proposition as “though the light is bad, I can still see clearly enough.” Plantinga admits that “it is not altogether easy to say” when a belief is basic for a person, but he is confident that some beliefs of a person are basic and some are not. In the way of thinking about belief and its epistemic propriety that Plantinga develops, there are two ways a belief can be epistemically proper for a person. One way is that it is supported by the other beliefs in that person’s noetic structure, so that those other beliefs provide evidential support for it. This is how nonbasic beliefs are made epistemically proper for a person. The other way a belief can be epistemically proper is that it is a “properly basic belief”—not just basic, but properly basic. But what makes a basic belief properly basic? A follower of Clifford might allow that there are “basic beliefs” and then go on to say that only self-evident propositions can be properly basic beliefs.17 A self-evident proposition is one that is clearly true to us once we understand what it is saying. A follower of Clifford then might regard this proposition—only self-evident propositions can be properly basic—as a kind of criterion, or test, for proper basicality. And this follower of Clifford would point out that “God exists” is far from self-evident. (Recall from the discussion in Chapter 1 that Aquinas said God’s existence is self-evident in itself but it is not self evident to us.) Plantinga, however, argues that this proposition or principle is itself very far from self-evident and there is no good reason to accept it.18 Instead of there being a single criterion or test for proper basicality, Plantinga maintains, there are various “circumstances” or “conditions” that can provide the ground, or the ground of one’s justification, for a basic belief for a person. In the case of his belief that he is seeing a tree, the ground is his sense experience. In the case of his belief that he had breakfast this morning, the ground is his memory experience.19 The “conditions” that provide the ground for a basic belief are different for different basic beliefs, and, Plantinga says, there are conditions that provide grounds for a basic belief in God (or basic beliefs that entail, or logically require, that God exists, like the belief that God has created all about us or the belief that God forgives me). Plantinga refers to John Calvin and his Reformed tradition (a tradition in which Plantinga himself stands), and he points out that the Reformers, Calvin in particular, spoke of God disclosing himself in “the whole workmanship of the universe.”20 For Calvin, Plantinga says, God has created us with a “disposition to believe” religious propositions like “this vast and intricate universe was created by God,” and, Plantinga says, various “sorts of conditions may trigger this disposition” and “call forth belief in God.” Among these conditions are “guilt,

gratitude, danger, a sense of God’s presence, a sense that he speaks, perception of various parts of the universe.”21 Plantinga allows that there can be discussion and even arguments back and forth about whether some belief is a properly basic belief, even about whether belief in God is properly basic (thus some argument that there is no God can challenge the proper basicality of the belief in God). But importantly, for Plantinga, the Christian community’s criteria for proper basicality are based on its own examples, to which it is responsible. Plantinga says of Calvin: “We may understand him as holding, I think, that a rational noetic structure may well contain belief in God among its foundations.”22 For Plantinga, then, religious believers (or Christians, anyway), using the Christian community’s own examples and the criteria they form, can hold the belief that there is a God as a properly basic belief. And as a properly basic belief, belief in God would, for Christians at least, qualify as a reasonable or epistemically proper belief.

Criticisms of Plantinga's Account One problem with Plantinga’s account of the epistemic propriety of religious belief has to do with the role Plantinga assigns communities. The problem is not that what is a rational or proper belief for one person may not be for another. Almost everyone would allow that this can occur. If I have no reason at all to believe there is gold in the Beckoning Mountains and know of many thorough but failed attempts to find gold in those mountains, then it is not rational for me to believe there is gold there. (I can look and I can hope, but looking and hoping are not believing.) If you, however, have actually found traces of gold in some little outcropping, then your belief that there is gold in the Beckoning Mountains is rational. The problem that arises for Plantinga’s account is this: If communities are responsible to their examples of properly basic beliefs and the criteria they give rise to, then will not just about any belief end up properly basic for some community? Plantinga speaks to this kind of objection in his consideration of what he calls “The Great Pumpkin Objection.”23 If belief in God is properly basic, then why is “the belief that the Great Pumpkin returns each Halloween” not properly basic? Plantinga’s reply is that it is not, because the belief in the Great Pumpkin does not measure up to the conditions that the Christian community uses as grounds for its properly basic beliefs. Perhaps the Christian community does not have a single criterion or test for proper basicality, but Plantinga has argued it does not need a single test. It has a range of conditions, and these do not admit the Great Pumpkin belief. However, what this shows is that the Christian community itself is not bound to count the Great Pumpkin belief as properly basic. Could some other “community”? Of course there may be no such “community,” and so the question about the Great Pumpkin belief becomes moot. But the question is more viable regarding other candidates for properly basic beliefs for other communities. Plantinga

mentions voodoo and astrology. Here there are communities, as there is a community for atheism. If these communities are responsible to their examples and conditions, then they will have their own properly basic beliefs—and of course one properly basic belief for atheism will be the belief that there is no God. The problem that arises here for Plantinga’s account is one of an extreme relativism of epistemic propriety. As we have seen, it is not unheard of for a belief to be improper or irrational for one person and proper or rational for another person, as when one person believes there is gold in the Beckoning Mountains for no reason and another person believes there is gold in the Beckoning Mountains for good reason. In the same way it is not unheard of for opposite beliefs to be rational for different people. If a person knows about many failed attempts to find gold in the Beckoning Mountains and has personally searched diligently for gold throughout those mountains without success, then it is rational for that person to believe there is no gold there, whereas the lucky person who found traces of gold on that outcropping is rational in believing that there is gold in the Beckoning Mountains. We can understand this last kind of case because we can perceive that once the person who believes there is no gold in the Beckoning Mountains is shown the traces of gold in the outcropping, then, if that person is rational, he or she will stop believing there is no gold. In this last case and others like it, whether a particular belief is proper or rational for a person is relative, we may say. But the relativity is not extreme in that it can be resolved in the way we have seen. Things are different with Plantinga’s account. On his account, belief in God is properly basic and so epistemically proper for Christian believers, and so is belief that there is no God for atheists. Belief that the world is round is properly basic for most of us, and the belief that the world is flat is properly basic for the flatlander community, and so on. But for Plantinga there finally is no way to resolve such oppositions. Even though Plantinga allows that there can be challenges to proper basicality, finally, if each community has its own examples, there seems no way to resolve the issue of which beliefs ought finally to be properly basic for a community—if that question can even come up. And, we might ask, how large does a “community” have to be? Could it be only a family, say the family of Abraham? And why does it have to be a community at all? Why could it not be Abraham alone who has a properly basic belief in God? And if Abraham alone, why not other single individuals who may not be religious believers?24 There is a related problem with Plantinga’s account that should be considered. Plantinga says that the basic beliefs of the Christian community are not groundless, they have a ground of justification for believers. Such basic beliefs as the belief that all around us was created by God and the belief that God forgives me have grounds, Plantinga says, and he proceeds to name “conditions and circumstances that call forth belief in God,” such as “guilt, gratitude, [and] a sense of God’s presence.” These, for Plantinga, are conditions that may “trigger” the disposition to believe in God. What we should notice is that if what Plantinga means by

“grounds” is something that “triggers” a disposition to believe, then even atheists could admit that basic religious beliefs have “grounds” in this sense. For grounds in this sense are only what some call causes of belief. Such causes may explain why some have come to believe in God, but they do not provide grounds for belief in the sense of reasons in support of the truth of the belief. If we say that what causes a person to believe in God is his or her sense of guilt or sense of God’s presence, we offer an explanation of why that person believes in God, and we do so in a way an atheist can accept. If we say that a person has experienced the presence of God, and in doing so offer a reason in support of that person’s belief in God, then we are not just explaining why that person believes but we are citing what we see as support or evidence for the truth of the belief, and this an atheist, as an atheist, would not accept (not if it is offered as conclusive support). The problem for Plantinga’s account is that the “grounds” for basic religious beliefs, in his understanding of grounds, do not offer a justification for those basic beliefs; they only explain why those beliefs are held. (In Chapter 5 we shall return to this aspect of Plantinga’s thinking and see how it is somewhat different from what we find in the thinking of Calvin, to which Plantinga appeals.)

William Alston and the Reliability of Religious Belief Formation William Alston is another contemporary philosopher who has given us a new way of understanding religious belief and its epistemic propriety. Alston appeals to religious experience, or a special form of religious experience that he calls “putative direct awareness of God” or putative “direct perception of God” in his effort to show that religious belief is rational and that persons can be justified in holding religious beliefs about God. (Alston uses the word putative—that is, “reputed” or, roughly, “alleged”—to leave it open in his discussion whether what he is calling “perceptions of God” are genuine perceptions or not. Many of his readers will not accept that there is a God of whom there can be genuine perceptions, although many will accept it, and he wants to address both groups of readers.25) Unlike Plantinga, Alston has no objection to the idea that there are grounds for religious belief in God in the sense of grounds in which grounds support the truth of the belief that God exists. However he does not argue that since there is (putative) religious experience of God, or perceptions of God, we should on this basis alone conclude that belief in God is justified or rational. His reasoning importantly involves a reference to what he calls “doxastic practices.” What Alston means by a “doxastic practice” is a belief-forming practice (Doxa is Greek for opinion or belief, and is a root for words like orthodox.) A doxastic practice is a means or mechanism that we employ, perhaps without conscious attention, to form our beliefs. He

recognizes several doxastic practices. One, for Alston, is the doxastic practice we use to form our beliefs about the physical world around us. Following his explanation, we form our beliefs about the world around us on the basis of what we in some way perceive around us using our five senses. Typically we form our beliefs on the basis of what we see. We believe that there is snow on the mountains because we can see snow on the mountains; we believe that the sun is setting because we see the sun setting. Alston calls this practice of forming beliefs about the physical world around us on the basis of what we perceive a “sense perceptual practice” (or “SP” for short). It is “the practice of forming perceptual beliefs about the physical environment on the basis of sensory experience (together, sometimes, with suitable background beliefs).” (Sometimes, Alston allows, a belief about, for instance, the context or setting might be a part of our basis, as when we believe that what we are seeing is a facade of a house on a movie set, not a real house.26) Our SP is not the only doxastic practice we employ. Alston says that there is a “plurality of doxastic practices.” So SP is different from, say, the practice used to form beliefs through logical inference or reasoning or the practice used to form beliefs by memory. Furthermore, for Alston, there is a “mystical perceptual doxastic practice” (or “mystical practice” or “MP” for short). It is the practice of “M-belief formation on the basis of mystical perception (plus, in some cases, background beliefs).” Of course, to be clear on what this definition of MP means, we need to understand what Alston means by M-belief and what he has in mind by mystical.27 Alston uses M-belief for “manifestation belief,” that is, a belief that God is manifested to one in some way. An example of an M-belief would be one’s belief that God is giving one support in one’s life, and an example of engaging the mystical perceptual doxastic practice would be one’s forming this belief after (putatively) experiencing God in God’s giving one support in one’s life. We should, then, sharpen our statement of Alston’s thesis: His “central thesis” is that a person can be justified in holding M-beliefs—beliefs that God has been manifested in some way to one—by virtue of (putatively) perceiving God being a certain way or doing something (like giving one support). The belief that God exists is not itself an M-belief, but the truth of any M-belief entails the truth of “God exists,” so that if a person’s M-belief is justified, so too will be that person’s belief in God’s existence.28 Next, what does Alston mean by “mystical” experience? He means a (putative) experiencing of God or perception of God, as in God’s doing something, like providing support or guidance or comfort. His “focus,” he says, “will be on what are taken to be direct, non-sensory experiences of God.” In a direct experience of God one does not experience God through, or by virtue of, experiencing something else: One of Alston’s examples of indirect experience is feeling God in the sunshine or rain. In a nonsensory experience of God, there is no sensory content like color or sound or fragrance. Alston gives several examples of direct and nonsensory experiences of God. One is recounted in these words: “. .. All at once I . .. felt the presence of God . . . as if his goodness and his power were penetrating me altogether. . . . .

God was present, though invisible; he fell under no one of my senses, yet my consciousness perceived him.” Another is from St. Teresa of Avila’s autobiography; she writes: “One day when I was at prayer ...I saw Christ at my side—or, to put it better, I was conscious of Him, for I saw nothing with the eyes of the body or the eyes of the soul [imagination].” These are cases of perception, for Alston, but not sensory perception.29 Alston is clear, however, that some perceptions of God can be sensory—as when God appears as a light or is heard speaking— and he is clear that perceptions of God can be indirect; however, Alston regards direct, nonsensory experiences as “paradigm,” or exemplary, and keeps his focus on these forms of perceptions of God without denying other forms. In one place Alston says that he wants to “range as ecumenically as possible over the full range of Christian experience,” and he goes on to enumerate a variety of experiences: the “evangelical sense of having the burden of sin lifted from one after a commitment to Christ, the Catholic sense of the indwelling of Christ in the reception of the bread and wine . .. the experience of the Holy Spirit working through one in glossolalia [speaking in tongues], the sense of trust and confidence in God.” All of these experiences are candidates for experiencing God as doing something in one’s life. Alston is aware, then, that those who are not “professional” mystics like St. Teresa (who is usually regarded as a full-fledged mystic) can have experience of God. His term “mystical perception,” as he says, “only partially overlaps mystical experience usually so-called.”30 For Alston, there is not just one religious mystical perceptual doxastic practice, or MP. Instead there are different mystical doxastic practices in the different religions, so that the Hindu practice is different from the Christian practice.31 Within Christianity there is the “Christian Mystical Perceptual Doxastic Practice,” as Alston calls it (or “Christian mystical practice” or “CMP” for short). Although he discusses MP generally, it is the Christian form of the doxastic practice that he particularly wishes to discuss. He does raise the question of whether the same doxastic practice, the same form of MP, is employed by all Christians from Roman Catholics to Pentecostals, and he allows, furthermore, that there may be a certain “looseness” or element of indecision about whether CMP is being followed in some cases—his example is of a “practicing Roman Catholic” who takes himself to have received a message from God that goes counter to “Catholic doctrine and procedure.” Nevertheless, he suggests, CMP is followed by Christian denominations in “the vast stretches of the center of traditional Christianity.” What, then, is the case that Alston makes for the epistemic propriety of religious belief? What Alston argues is that a religious belief that God has done something in one’s life—that God was present in one’s suffering or that God has looked upon one and let His mercy flood over one or that the Holy Spirit has strengthened one in her life—is rational because the doxastic practice by which religious persons—specifically, Christians—form these beliefs on the basis of (putative) experiences of God, CMP, is rationally believed to be a reliable doxastic

practice. Alston argues that, generally, beliefs formed by a reliable doxastic practice, or one rationally believed to be reliable, are justified or epistemically proper. Since CMP is a doxastic practice that is rationally taken to be reliable, the beliefs it produces are justified or epistemically proper.32 For the obvious reason Alston’s view is called reliabilism. What in more detail is Alston’s reasoning in support of his reliabilism as it relates to religious or Christian belief? He wants us to see that CMP is a full-fledged doxastic practice and that his general reason applies to it. He has several reasons for claiming that it is. One important reason for him is that it has what he calls an “overrider system.”33 An overrider system, in Alston’s meaning, is a “ ‘back-ground system’ of beliefs against which a particular perceptually supported belief can be checked” to see if it is “overridden”; and such a belief can be overridden by two kinds of overriders: (1) one kind is a sufficient reason to think the belief false, (2) the other kind gives us a sufficient reason to think the experience does not provide its usual “justificatory force” for the belief.34 Every functioning doxastic practice must have an overrider system. In fact, part of what distinguishes one doxastic practice from another is its distinctive overrider system. SP certainly has an overrider system, and Alston illustrates its working. Say I am in a room in a friend’s house and I see a purple flower in a vase on a table, or think I see a purple flower. If I have good evidence that in fact there are no flowers in the room (my friend is showing me how he can project a holograph), then any belief I might form that I am seeing a purple flower is overridden by the first kind of overrider, and I should conclude that such a belief is not true. If, in a different kind of case, as I look at a flower that certainly looks purple, I am aware that there is something funny about the lighting (so it could be a white flower that looks purple in this light), then my belief that I am seeing a purple flower is overridden by the second kind of overrider, and I should conclude that my reasons for thinking I am seeing a purple flower are not so good. To be a genuine doxastic practice, CMP, must have an overrider system, and it does, Alston argues. As it is found in various religious traditions, MP takes different forms in great part because in different religious traditions—like Islam, Hinduism, and Christianity—there are different overrider systems, created by different doctrines, different central “stories” about God’s expectations, and different emphases on God’s love or justice.35 Alston finds the overrider system for CMP most explicitly indicated in mystical literature—that is, in the literature of and regarding “professional” mystics and in devotional literature. He draws upon the writings of St. Teresa of Avila in particular, in which we find her concern about whether her “visions” or experiences of God were really from God or from her own mind, or even the devil. In various places she reasons that if the effect of her experience is that she is spiritually fortified or restored, given peace, or given an increase in virtue, this is an indication that the experience is truly of God. And if the effect is spiritual aridity or turmoil or weariness, this indicates that the experience is not of God. Here, then, is a kind of overrider test that can be

applied to (putative) experiences of God, and it is one that is widely recognized in books on spiritual direction, Alston observes. Another test found in St. Teresa’s writings, and not there alone, is that, if there is a revelation, it should be in accord with Scripture and the teachings of the Church—that is, with the Christian tradition. Thus, in Alston’s presentation, using these overriders we can disallow the claim made by James Jones that God told him that it was His will that all of Jones’s followers should commit suicide, for that God would command any such thing goes counter to the Christian tradition.36 For Alston, then, CMP is a full-fledged doxastic process, and if CMP is rationally believed to be reliable, then those following CMP are justified in believing to be true the M-beliefs it produces. Those beliefs are epistemically proper for the followers of CMP. This is Alston’s reasoning. But, we may ask, can CMP be proven to be reliable? Alston admits that the CMP cannot be proven to be reliable without circularity. This is because we would have to appeal to experience of God, or what is based on prior experience of God, in order to try to prove its reliability. (It is circular to argue that the Christian mystical practice is reliable because the beliefs our experience of God produces are in accord with the revelation of the Bible, because the claim that the Bible is God’s revealed word requires that those who experienced God and received God’s revelation used a reliable doxastic practice—namely, CMP.) However, Alston argues, SP is in the same logical position. It too cannot be proven to be reliable without circularity. (It is circular to argue that SP is reliable because the beliefs it produces for us are confirmed by others, because the perceptual beliefs of others would themselves come from SP and require its reliability.) We do not reject SP on the grounds that it cannot be proven without circularity; indeed, of necessity, we use SP all the time. Thus, we cannot reject CMP on the grounds that it cannot be proven reliable— unless we arbitrarily use a double standard, which itself would be unjustified.37 So, for Alston, it is justified, or epistemically proper, for religious believers—or Christians, at least—to hold such beliefs as the belief that God is providing support in their lives (M-beliefs) because CMP can be rationally held to be reliable. It is an important part of Alston’s argument that it is rational to use CMP because we are rational in regarding it as reliable just as we are rational in regarding SP as reliable; and it is another important part of Alston’s argument that we have no more reason to reject CMP because we cannot prove it without circularity than we have a reason to reject SP because we cannot prove that doxastic practice without circularity. There is one last point we should appreciate regarding Alston’s overall view of the epistemic propriety of religious belief. Alston is not claiming that experience of God is the only ground for religious belief. In addition, there are natural theology, which includes the arguments for the existence of God, and revelation in various forms, including messages delivered to the Hebrew prophets and “divine action in history.”38 For Alston, these grounds

and the experiential grounds he has dwelt upon can provide “reciprocal support” for religious or Christian belief in its broad construction (including doctrinal belief), each lending support to and gaining support from the others.39 However, if we limit our focus to the M-beliefs that individuals hold—that God is guiding me in my decision or is giving me support in my life— then, Alston holds, individual persons, on the basis of their experience of God, can justifiably hold such beliefs, and for them they are epistemically proper.

Criticisms of Alston's Account One problem with Alston’s reliabilism arises from the existence of religious diversity— the undeniable existence in the world of a plurality of religions, including Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and many others. The issue of religious diversity, or religious plurality, is not an issue for reliabilism alone. It poses a question of great contemporary relevance for all of us in the twenty-first century (and it forms the concern of Chapters 11 and 12). However, it poses a particular difficulty for Alston’s thinking, and, in fact, he regards religious diversity as “the most difficult problem for [his] position.”40 The problem for Alston can be seen in the following way: Let us allow that CMP is coherent and can be followed. It is only one form of the religious mystical perceptual doxastic practice, or MP, and there are other forms associated with other religions. Each of these forms of MP has an equally good claim to be a reliable religious doxastic practice. But these various religious doxastic practices are incompatible and yield incompatible beliefs. In the light of this diversity, it would be irrational to choose one of these forms of MP and regard it as reliable. Alston, however, has a reply. In the case of comparing the different and, in a sense, competing mystical doxastic practices of Christianity and Hinduism and other religions, there is no common ground for evaluating their different forms of MP. This lack of a common ground, Alston suggests, greatly affects the case and in effect takes away its negative impact. Consider an analogy (which is close to the one Alston provides to substantiate his point).41 Acupuncture and standard medical practice are two methodologies that might be used to treat patients, but they are incompatible (at least in the sense that if one is emphasized the other cannot be). Now say that there is no common ground on which to judge which is more effective (either the cure rate is the same or what are identifiable benefits is itself subject to methodological dispute). Under these circumstances, comparison gives us no evaluative reason to prefer the one method to the other, and a practitioner who choses to follow either method rather than the other would be rational. It is the same if a person follows CMP in the absence of a common ground that can be used to judge her form of MP to be superior to other forms. Of course, as Alston acknowledges, others following “other internally validated forms of MP”—say, the Hindu or Islamic form—would equally “be able to rationally engage in his/her

own religious doxastic practice despite the inability to show that it is epistemically superior to the competition.”42 Why, then, we might ask, should Christians follow CMP and not the doxastic practice of some other religion? They, as Christians, would feel more comfortable with CMP, just as a Muslim would feel more comfortable following the Islamic doxastic practice. Although this explains why Christians and Muslims would follow their respective practices, we might ask whether it also provides a justification for their doing so. Another problem relates to our relying upon our religious doxastic practice as sufficient for our accepting the beliefs we form using it. Let us say that we accept Alston’s reliabilism and think of our religious beliefs—or at least our M-beliefs and our belief in the existence of God, which they entail,—as justified or epistemically proper on the grounds that they are formed by a reliable doxastic practice. Although we believe that our religious belief-forming practice is reliable, we also appreciate that sometimes it goes wrong and yields a false belief (as Alston allows a reliable practice can).43 Can we not ask, on the basis of this knowledge alone (without our being aware of the presence of some overrider) whether some particular M-belief we have formed is one of the reliably true ones and not one of the exceptions? If we can, we cannot think it is among the reliably true contingent just because the practice is reliable (because we already understand that our belief is the product of a reliable practice). Finally, there is a comment to be made about the import of Alston’s reliabilism as it relates to religious belief and evidentialism. Although Alston’s reliabilism argues against the absolute requirement of “sufficient evidence” that is affirmed by evidentialism, it does not deny the epistemic importance of evidence or truth-supporting “grounds.” In fact, Alston allows that experience of God can be one ground for religious belief (even though the M-belief that is formed on the basis of the experience is justified, not by evidence, but by virtue of being produced by a reliable doxastic practice). Although Alston gets us away from considering evidence, or grounds understood as truth-supporting, he does not get us that far away from such a consideration. Even if we agree with his reliabilism, we should not on that basis, given Alston’s full account, deny the relevance of a consideration of the possibility of evidence—in perhaps unanticipated forms—for the epistemic propriety of religious belief.

Summing Up and Going Further All of the efforts discussed in this chapter, from Pascal’s to Alston’s, are attempts to show the reasonableness, or epistemic propriety, of religious belief without making any appeal to support or evidence for religious belief. Each is in this sense nonevidential. None requires that there ultimately be evidence for the existence of God, and all, if it came to it, could agree with Pascal that natural reason is not capable of finding evidence one way or the other regarding

God’s existence. If any of these four efforts succeeds, then religious belief, we can conclude, is reasonable even though there might not be evidential support for religious belief. If they all fail, religious belief still might be reasonable, but why it is reasonable would remain to be explained. One further observation must be made. The reflections of all four of these thinkers—Pascal, James, Plantinga, and Alston—have their value in that they explore different ways of thinking about the reasonableness or epistemic propriety of belief. Their efforts provide ways of understanding the reasonableness of belief that might be applicable to religious belief. In each case, however, their efforts import to religion an epistemological model or theory of epistemic justification in order to defend religious belief. They do not start with accounts that are themselves grounded in religious sensibility. All four religious thinkers are sympathetic to religion, and in fact, they themselves are religious and are aware of religious sensibilities. But their awareness of religious sensibilities remains in the background and does not inform the epistemological theories they bring to their thinking about the reasonableness or epistemic propriety of religious belief. In the next chapter we return to the question about evidential support for religious faith, so important for Clifford in one way and for Kierkegaard in another way, and for the authors considered in this chapter in yet other ways. But in Chapter 5 we enter into dimensions of the question that are new and that proceed from identifiable religious sensibilities.

Questions for Chapter 4 Factual Questions 1. What would you say is the biggest difference between Pascal and William James regarding what makes it reasonable or allowable to believe in God when sufficient intellectual grounds are lacking? 2. Why is it wrong to say that James’s view of when we may properly hold beliefs makes it “lawful” or permissible to hold any belief we feel like holding? 3. What does Plantinga mean by a “basic belief”? 4. What does Alston mean by an “overrider system”?

Interpretive and Evaluative Questions 1. William James says of Pascal’s wager that “if we were ourselves in the place of the Deity, we should probably take particular pleasure in cutting off believers of this pattern from their infinite reward.” Was James fair to Pascal? 2. There is a big difference between the ways that William James and W. K. Clifford understand our epistemic duties. Which one is closer to being right? 3. Do you think that Plantinga is right that there can be “properly basic beliefs” and that for some people belief in God’s existence can be properly basic? Do you think that there are limits to what might qualify a belief as properly basic? 4. If Alston is right, then there can be times when it is proper to hold a religious belief without sufficient evidence, namely, when such a belief is formed by a reliable beliefforming practice. Do you think that Alston makes a good case for his view?

Notes 1. Pascal’s “The Wager” is in Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 4. 2. Some in the Christian tradition hold the view called “universalism,” which maintains all persons ultimately will be saved. 3. William James makes this comment on Pascal’s wager-reasoning in his “The Will to Believe,” Sec. II. In Introduction to

Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 4. 4. Terence Penelhum makes the point that the self-interested reason for acquiring faith is different from the faith that one may finally come to. He does so in his Problems of Religious Knowledge (New York: Herder and Herder, 1972), pp. 156–57. 5. James defines these different kinds of beliefs and belief options in “The Will to Believe,” Sec. I. In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings,Chapter 4. (The examples are mine.) 6. James states his thesis about genuine options in Sec. IV of “The Will to Believe.” In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 4. 7. James discusses the Röntgen example and similar cases in Sec. VIII of “The Will to Believe.” In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 4. 8. James considers the case of someone believing that another likes him in Sec. IX of “The Will to Believe.” In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 4. The case of the leap is in “The Sentiment of Rationality” in Essays in Pragmatism, ed. Alburey Castell (New York: Hafner, 1954) p. 27 9. James provides a statement of the “religious hypothesis” in Sec. X of “The Will to Believe.” In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 4. 10. James refers to “the gods” in Sec. X of “The Will to Believe.” In Lecture XX, “Conclusions” of The Varieties of Religious Experience, James says that “God is the natural appellation, for us Christians at least, for the supreme reality.” 11. A selection from Clifford’s “The Ethics of Belief” is in Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 3. 12. James states the two different “laws” of epistemic duty in Sec. VII of “The Will to Believe.” In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 4. 13. James is quoting from the writing of Fitz-James Stephen. 14. One contemporary philosopher who discusses evidentialism is Kenneth Konyndyk. He does so in his “Faith and Evidentialism,” in Rationality, Religious Belief, & Moral Commitment, edited by Robert Audi and William J. Wainwright (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1986). He characterizes or defines evidentialism on p. 83 and discusses it on pp. 97–108. 15. The example of the man taking his son to the World Series is that of Nicholas Wolterstorff, provided in “Can Belief in God Be Rational If It Has No Foundations?”: in Faith and Rationality, edited by Alvin Plantinga and Nicholas Wolterstorff (Notre Dame and London: Notre Dame University Press, 1983), p. 157. Wolterstorff is not addressing Clifford directly, but his example is applicable to Clifford’s view of our epistemic duty. 16. Plantinga develops his view about properly basic beliefs and noetic structures in “Is Belief in God Rational?” in Rationality and Religious Belief, edited by C. F. Delaney (Notre Dame and London: University of Notre Dame Press, 1979), and in “Reason and Belief in God” in Faith and Rationality. Here we use the later and longer article, “Reason and Belief in God,” as our primary source for Plantinga’s view. Selected parts of “Reason and Belief in God” are in

Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 4. 17. This view of a follower of Clifford is a simplified version of how Plantinga understands what he calls “classical foundationalism” in “Reason and Belief in God,” p. 59, which is in Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 4, or the position of “the Cliffordian foundationalist,” as Plantinga calls it in “Is Belief in God Rational?” p. 13. 18. Plantinga in “Reason and Belief in God,” pp. 60–61, addresses a more refined version of this self-evidence principle, but his reasoning applies to our simpler version. In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 4. 19. Plantinga discusses how different conditions or circumstances can serve as the ground of different basic beliefs on pp. 78–80 of “Reason and Belief in God.” Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 4. He is clear that the question of grounds can be complex; in the case of memory, for instance, one’s memory may not provide grounds if one knows one’s memory is unreliable. 20. Plantinga cites John Calvin in regard to grounds for basic beliefs on p. 80 of “Reason and Belief in God.” In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 4. The passage Plantinga quotes is from Calvin’s The Institutes of the Christian Religion, 1559, 1560 edition, Bk. 1, Chap. 5, Sec. 1. John Calvin, whose thinking about faith that and faith in is noted in Chapter 3, was one of the leaders of the Protestant Reformation in the sixteenth century, and he was the founder of the particular Reformed tradition of theology known as Calvinism. Bk. 1, Chap. 5, Sec. 1 of the Institutes is in Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 5. 21. Plantinga discusses the disposition to believe being triggered on pp. 80–81 of “Reason and Belief in God.” In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 4. 22. Plantinga makes the point that the Christian community is responsible to its own set of examples on p. 77 and observes what we may understand Calvin holding about a rational noetic structure and belief in God on p. 73 of “Reason and Belief in God.” In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 4. 23. Plantinga considers “The Great Pumpkin Objection” on pp. 74–78 of “Reason and Belief in God.” In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 4. 24. The story of Abraham and his encounter with God is found in Genesis 12–25. Genesis 17 and part of Genesis 22, from the Tanakh, are in Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 1. 25. Alston says that he wants to avoid using the term “religious experience,” which he feels is imprecise. William Alston, Perceiving God (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1991) pp. 35–36. Perceiving God is Alston’s book on his view, and we use it as the primary source for our discussion, parts of which are in Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 4. His view in earlier versions is also found in other works, such as his “Christian Experience and Christian Belief,” in Faith and Rationality. 26. Alston defines SP on p. 103 and discusses a role for contextual belief in the basis for some perceptual beliefs on pp. 88 ff. of Perceiving God. 27. Alston claims that there is a plurality of doxastic practices on p. 162 and names several on p. 6 of Perceiving God. He

defines MP on p. 7. 28. What Alston means by “M-beliefs” is defined on p. 1 of Perceiving God. Following Alston, we will often let “putatively” remain tacit. Alston states his central thesis for belief in the existence of God on pp. 3–4. In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 4. 29. Alston says that his focus is on “direct, non-sensory experiences of God” on p. 5 of Perceiving God. He says that in the case of indirect perception, in contrast with direct perception, “we perceive X by virtue of perceiving something else, Y” on p. 21. The case of indirectly perceiving God through feeling him in the sunshine or rain is on p. 25 of Perceiving God. Alston takes the case from William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience, Lecture III, “The Reality of the Unseen.” The report of feeling God’s presence and perceiving him not by means of any of the senses, but by consciousness alone, in on pp. 12–13 of Perceiving God. This case too is from James’s Varieties, Lecture III. William James, the author of “The Will to Believe,” discussed previously in this chapter, was a psychologist as well as a philosopher. His interest in religion led him to collect and reflect on a great number of reports of individual religious experiences in the Varieties. St. Teresa of Avila was a sixteenth-century Spanish mystic. The example of her “intellectual vision” of Christ (as it is called) is on p. 13 of Perceiving God. Alston cites her The Life of St. Teresa of Avila by Herself, translated by J. M. Cohen (London: Penguin Books, 1957) Chapter, 27, pp 187–89. Another translation of St. Teresa’s Life is that of E. Allison Peers, Complete Works of St. Teresa (London: Sheed and Ward, 1972); see vol. 1, p. 170, for Teresa’s “vision” of Christ. 30. Alston provides examples of this kind of sensory religious experience—God’s appearing as a light, or heard speaking—on pp. 18–19 of Perceiving God. He provides the examples of the full range of Christian experience in “Christian Experience and Christian Belief,” p. 104. Alston allows that experiential awareness of God may be had by “professional” mystics and by laypersons on p. 12, and allows that what he means by “mystical perception” overlaps but covers more than what is usually meant by “mystical experience” on p. 35 of Perceiving God. 31. Alston makes it clear that different religions, like Hinduism and Christianity, will have different forms of MP on pp. 190–92 of Perceiving God. 4. He acknowledges the “looseness” of the determination of whether CMP is being followed in n. 15 on p. 236; and he suggests that CMP is followed by the Christian denominations at the center of traditional Christianity on p. 194. 32. Alston’s reasoning that the beliefs that CMP produces are justified because CMP is rationally taken to be reliable is on pp. 184 ff. of Perceiving God. The beliefs, or M-beliefs, cited are like those involved in the examples of experiences of God that Alston provides on pp. 13 ff. 33. Alston discusses the overrider system of CMP on p. 187 ff. of Perceiving God. The other reasons for claiming that CMP is a full-fledged doxastic practice, beyond CMP being a “socially established, perceptual doxastic practice, are that it has distinctive experiential “inputs [putative experiences of God]”, distinctive “input-output [putative experiences of God/ M-beliefs] functions,” and a “distinctive conceptual scheme,” Perceiving God, p. 225. In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 4. 34. Alston distinguishes different kinds of overriders on p. 79 of Perceiving God and illustrates with SP’s overrider system

on the same page. 35. Alston discusses how different overrider systems apply in different religious traditions on pp. 190–91 of Perceiving God. 36. Alston draws upon the writings of St. Teresa on pp. 201–3 of Perceiving God. In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 4. He discusses the case of James Jones on p. 190 of Perceiving God. 37. Alston’s reasoning about the circularity of proving the reliability of SP is found in Chapter 3, pp. 102–45 in Perceiving God. Other “basic doxastic practices,” like the memory doxastic practice, also cannot be proven reliable with a noncircular argument, p 249. Alston refers to the “double standard” in several places, such as, pp. 234 and 249–50. This is Alston’s reasoning in a simplified version. He considers other factors as well, such as “Epistemic Imperialism,” as when the requirements of, say, SP are imposed on another doxastic practice like CMP, pp. 241–43 and 249. 38. Alston turns to these “other grounds of religious belief” in Chapter 8, pp. 289 ff. in Perceiving God. Also there is tradition, which may be grounds for an individual’s belief, Alston says, but since the doctrinal beliefs of tradition themselves need support, Alston does not include this category on “the list of basic grounds,” p. 291. 39. Alston sums up his point about reciprocal support on pp. 299–300 in Perceiving God. 40. Alston takes up the problem of religious diversity in Chapter 7, pp. 255 ff. of Perceiving God. 41. Alston’s analogous case is that of psychoanalysis in methodological opposition to behaviorism, pp. 272–73 in Perceiving God. 42. Alston acknowledges that his reasoning applies to practitioners of forms of MP in other religious traditions on pp. 274– 75 of Perceiving God. 43. Alston allows that a reliable doxastic practice can sometimes go wrong on, for instance, pp. 101 and 104 of Perceiving God.

Chapter 5 Religious Discovery: Is the Discovery of God Possible? Religious Experience and Discovery The preceding chapter discusses the views of four religious thinkers who sympathetically sought to understand how religious belief might be epistemically proper. Each did so using a theory of epistemic justification that he brought to religion. Although such efforts have their place and their value, in this chapter we stay closer to religious sensibilities as a grounding for religious belief and a way of understanding its status as a proper belief. We do this in two ways. First, we start with a form of religious experience that is well represented in religion, especially in a strand of religious tradition that can be found in the Psalms. Second, we heed the religious sensibilities of that tradition in addressing the unavoidable question of the genuineness of such religious experience. As an essential part of our effort we look at this particular kind of religious experience as a possible way of discovering God. The kind of religious experience considered here may be commonplace in various religious traditions, but in the traditions of Judaism and Christianity it is evident in the inspiration of many of the Psalms, as when the Psalmist says “I lift up my eyes to the hills” (Ps. 121) or “How lovely is thy dwelling place” (Ps. 84)1 When the Psalmist looks upon the hills, he finds new strength and his spirit is lifted up. He looks upon a natural scene—perhaps a range of hills or the sun setting— and his thought is “How lovely!” Many people have had something like this experience when looking upon a mountain range or a vista of natural beauty. In a way, then, something like the experience of the Psalmist is fairly common—with this difference: The Psalmist, unlike many, finds God’s presence in what he beholds. So, after lifting up his eyes to the hills and finding there new strength, he continues, “From whence does my help come? My help comes from the Lord.” And the Psalmist is referring to God’s tabernacle or temple as “thy dwelling place”—not all of nature, although God’s greater dwelling place, in the Psalms, may be all of nature or God’s creation, just as God is “enthroned in the heavens” in one Psalm (Ps. 123). Our main concern here is to explore the possibility that the Psalmist, or any other person, has discovered God’s presence in beholding what is before him or her in the heavens and in every aspect of his or her life. Within Judaism and Christianity, this kind of religious experience is not limited to the Book of Psalms. The tradition of this experience runs as a distinct thread of religious sensibility

through much of the Judaic and Christian heritages, but in a clear way its “home,” within Judaism and Christianity, is the Psalms; and so we may speak of it as belonging to the tradition of the Psalms, or one strand of that tradition. Still, we should appreciate that this kind of religious experience has occurred in other theistic traditions, such as Islam.2 Moreover, if we were to broaden the question to “Is the discovery of a religious reality possible?” we could then relate our question to nontheistic religions like Buddhism and nondevotional Hinduism. However, we pursue our discussion in theistic terms, for we are focusing our concern on the discovery of God (without thereby ruling out the possibility of other conceptions of religious reality), and our concern is specifically to explore the possibility that the experience of beholding what is before us in the world can embody a discovery of God. Not that this kind of religious experience is the only possible kind of experience of God. After we limit our consideration to religious experience in theistic traditions, and even to the heritages of Judaism and Christianity, the kind of experience we find represented in the Psalms should be distinguished from other kinds of religious experience that may be of God; it should be distinguished from ecstatic mystical experience, such as that of St. Teresa of Avila, in which, as she recounts her experience, an angel seemed to pierce her heart several times with a long golden spear that had a tip of fire.3 It should be distinguished from her purely intellectual and nonsensory “vision” of Christ (which, as was noted in Chapter 4, Alston cites); and it should be distinguished from the experiences of the Biblical prophets, like Jeremiah and Ezekiel, who in the Biblical accounts receive the word of God and deliver it to the children of Israel. What is distinctive about the experience expressed in the Psalms is that it carries the sense of discovering God’s presence in what we behold before us in the heavens and in the humble aspects of our lives. There is another fundamental point about religious experience that we should note. Religious experience in general, and specifically religious experience of the Psalmist’s kind, is unlike following a logical proof in that typically religious experience has an affective side. By its nature it tends in some way to be moving to the individual who has the experience. The same point can be made about much nonreligious experience. We may learn by reading what being bitten by a rattlesnake is like without its affecting us, but if we are actually bitten by a rattlesnake, we will almost certainly have some feeling reaction. A similar point can be made about seeing a sunset as opposed to reading about a sunset. In having the sense that one has discovered God in personal religious experience, the affective element can be trust or a sense of wonder or awe, or perhaps a combination of these states. Here, one should recall from Chapter 3 Norman Malcolm’s point that one might follow and accept the Ontological Argument and not be moved religiously. It is typically different with religious experience. Still, we should appreciate that identifying an experience as religious experience does not in itself mean that it is genuine, that it really is experience of God or a discovery of God. Calling the Psalmist’s experience “religious experience” means that it is experience found in religion,

had by some who are religious. The question of whether it really is of God or a discovery of God is the main question of this chapter. More finely put, the question of this chapter is whether the discovery of God is possible. Maybe it is, maybe it is not. If it is, that could make religious belief in God very reasonable indeed, at least for those who have made the discovery of God by experiencing God. However, we should be careful not to conclude that in truth some have experienced God and thereby discovered God from the fact that some have felt that they have experienced God and expressed their sense that they have. Unfortunately, people can be mistaken about what they experience, even when they have deep feelings about what they have experienced, sometimes especially when they do. It was noted previously that we would try to stay close to religious sensibilities in two ways. First, we start with a form of religious experience well represented in a religious tradition, a strand of religious tradition found in the Psalms. Second, we stay close to religious sensibilities by consulting those sensibilities for ways of assessing the genuineness of the religious experience. This means that we should consider features of the Psalmist’s form of religious experience that might alert us to relevant criteria for judging the genuineness or veridicality or “truth” of these experiences. We cannot reason that because those in this religious tradition were deeply convinced that their experiences were genuine, they therefore were truly genuine. Nevertheless, there may be something in the way they understand their experience that will help us to understand whether a genuine discovery of God has been made.4

Kinds of Discoveries There are various kinds of discoveries, and we should be clear on the kind of discovery that the Psalmist has made, if he has made a discovery of God. This is because different questions relate to different kinds of discoveries. One way to classify discoveries is by their subject matter. There can be moral discoveries (we discover what we are morally obligated to do), legal discoveries (we discover that a number of practices we regard as ordinary are against the law in a country we are visiting), esthetic discoveries (we discover a subtlety of expression in a painting that we had missed before), and so on. In this way of classifying kinds of discoveries, we may say that the Psalmist’s discovery is a religious discovery—still leaving it open whether it is a genuine discovery. However, there is another, more important, way of classifying discoveries: They can be classified by their means, or by the way they are made. Here again, many types of discoveries can be identified. For our purposes, though, we can divide them into two main kinds: those made by inquiry and those made through a realization. When a discovery is made by the means of an inquiry, it is made as the outcome of an inquiry that is undertaken and intellectually pursued. In some manner, we conduct an

investigation. Perhaps we gather evidence, as the police do when they conduct an investigation to determine who the perpetrator of a crime is. Perhaps we go over legal arguments to see which side of the case is stronger. Perhaps we compare paintings to see if a particular painting is a genuine Rembrandt or to see if one of the painting exhibits the same subtle use of color as the other does. Sometimes such inquires are inconclusive, but sometimes they are successfully concluded. When they are, a discovery is made: Jones is the one who did it; the case for the defense is stronger; yes, it is a real Rembrandt; no, this painting does not have the same subtle use of color as the other. The clearest example of an inquiry-discovery may be when we investigate and confirm a simple hypothesis. Here by hypothesis we mean a hunch, suspicion, or tentative idea we are entertaining. We entertain, investigate, and confirm hypotheses regularly in our day-to-day lives. Here is an example. We do not know where we have left our car keys. Maybe we left them on the dining room table, we think to ourselves (we entertain this hypothesis). So we go into the dining room and look (we investigate by gathering evidence). And, yes, there they are (we confirm our hypothesis). In this case we discover that our keys are on the table or—what is the same thing—that our hypothesis is confirmed. Contrasting with such inquiry-discoveries are realization-discoveries. A realizationdiscovery is not made as the result of an inquiry that we conduct, but when we realize the significance of what is familiar, perhaps what has been familiar to us for a long time. A story attributed to Mark Twain illustrates such a discovery: When he was a boy of fourteen, Mark Twain recounts, he thought his father to be very ignorant; when he was twenty-one he was astonished at how much his father had learned in seven years.5 Like inquiry-discoveries, realization-discoveries are commonplace. They are made when our “eyes are opened” and we see what is familiar to us for what it is. We do not see what is before us for the first time, but we see its significance for the first time. The person who thinks of himself as a grand storyteller and who likes to tell long stories to captive audiences at parties— stories that are in fact quite boring, although he does not think so—will make a realization-discovery about how entertaining his stories are if he comes to realize the significance of those glazed eyes his hearers have. His discovery will come not when he notices the lack of animation in his hearers (which he has been aware of all along), but when he comes to see, allows himself to see, the significance of that lack of animation as boredom. An adolescent young man who regards himself as having utterly no interest in girls will make a realization-discovery about himself if he comes to see the significance of his behavior and of his slight agitation around young women of his acquaintance. He has for some time been aware of the awkwardness in his behavior and of the agitation he feels; his discovery comes when he realizes what they mean. People can make realization-discoveries about any number of things. Notable examples are about how their actions affect others and about their own feelings, but this discovery type is not defined by its subject matter, and in principle, realization-discoveries can be about

anything. Whatever the discovery is of, it comes about through a realization being made. This means that when one makes a realization-discovery it is not necessary to gather evidence. The “evidence” is already there in the form of the familiar; but its significance is not seen for what it is. In fact, very far from gathering evidence or conducting some kind of investigation, the one who makes a realization-discovery may have no question in mind. The boring storyteller may have no idea that he is boring and may not have any question in mind about how entertaining he is. When he comes to realize how boring his stories are, if he does make this discovery, it will not be because he has concluded an investigation by finding a clinching piece of evidence. It will be because something happened to open his eyes—perhaps a chance comment he overhears—which changes his perception of the way his stories are received. In fact, we can go further: Realization-discoveries can be made in spite of what we believe. Our storyteller may not only have no question in mind about how entertaining his stories are; he may strongly believe that his stories are very entertaining. Perhaps it is an important element of his self-image that he is a great storyteller. In such cases there may be a resistance to one’s making a realization-discovery. Sometimes people do not want to see what is there to be realized. They may even deceive themselves about what is before them, or its significance, so that they do not have to recognize what is there to be realized. So, what prevents a person from making a realization-discovery can vary, and what allows a person to overcome his or her blindness to the significance of what is familiar may vary. It may be a gain in maturity or experience (as with Mark Twain). It may be a chance event that brings about a change in our perception (a word said or something we overhear). Still, whatever keeps a person from making a realization-discovery, and whatever may precipitate the realization, when a realization-discovery is made— whether the realization is sudden or made over time—the discovery is made through realizing the significance of what is before one and already familiar. This means that the question we should ask regarding a possible realization-discovery is different from the question we should ask regarding a possible inquiry-discovery. If we wonder whether some inquiry has resulted in a real discovery, the question to be asked is whether the investigation was thorough enough or the inquiry was conducted carefully enough. The question to be asked regarding a possible realization-discovery is whether a genuine realization has occurred. The Psalmist’s discovery, or possible discovery, is of the realization type. The Psalmist is not conducting an inquiry either to determine whether there is a God or to confirm his belief that there is a God. If the Psalmist has discovered God, he has realized God’s presence in the surroundings that are familiar to him. The question of this chapter, we said, is whether it is possible the Psalmist, or any other person, has discovered God’s presence—that is, whether the discovery of God is possible. We can now revise our question: Is it possible to realize God’s presence in our surroundings? In other words, is a realization-discovery of God possible?

The Religious Sensibility of the Psalms We now turn to the Psalms to illustrate in more detail the religious sensibility they express and to give substance to the question of whether the Psalmist, or anyone who has had the Psalmist’s kind of experience, has discovered God through realizing God’s presence in what is all about him or her. As we do so, however, keep in mind that we are consulting a tradition of religious sensibility that the Book of Psalms undeniably embodies but that did not begin or end with the Psalms. Moreover, we should appreciate that the Book of Psalms does more than express the religious sensibility that we are considering. For instance, the Psalms is one of the places in the Bible that one may go to fill in the Biblical concept of God, as was noted in Chapter 2. It is there that we are told that God’s “steadfast love endures for ever” (Ps. 106). Recall that Malcolm looked to Ps. 90 to find the idea that God exists “from everlasting to everlasting” (which Malcolm understood as expressing the idea of God’s necessary existence). We also find in the Psalms an expression of a wide spectrum of religious feelings or emotions, ranging from despair/distress to praise, hope, thankfulness, awe, and penitence. Above all, though, the Psalms express the Psalmist’s sense of God’s presence.6 The Psalmist’s sense of God’s presence is pervasive in the Book of Psalms. The Psalmist lifts up his eyes to the hills and there he finds his strength in the Lord (Ps. 121). He finds that the heavens tell the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork. (Ps. 19)

He beholds the works of the Lord (Ps. 46), and he proclaims that it is God who “summons the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting” (Ps. 50). He discovers God “robed in majesty” in his creation (Ps. 93); the crash of God’s thunder “was in the whirlwind,” and God’s “lightnings lighted up the world” (Ps. 77). It is God who makes the “springs gush forth in the valleys” and causes “the grass to grow for the cattle.” “How manifold are thy works!” exclaims the Psalmist (Ps. 104). God sustains him in his lying down and sleeping and in his waking again (Ps. 3). God keeps his “going out” and his “coming in” (Ps. 121). It is God who opens the Psalmist’s lips that his mouth may show forth praise of God (Ps. 51). The Psalmist finds God’s presence in all that is about him in the world; he is aware of God sustaining him in his daily life, of God’s keeping the daily round of his going out and his coming in. Nothing is too great for God’s presence: God stretches forth the firmament; and nothing is too humble for God’s presence: God is present in the Psalmist’s going to sleep and his waking in the morning. The Psalmist could not deny God’s presence if he wanted to. In one Psalm he asks:

Whither shall I go from thy Spirit? Or whither shall I flee from thy presence?

He answers this way: “If I ascend to heaven,” God is there; “if I make my bed in Sheol [the underground world, the place of the dead],” God is there; “if I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,” God is there (Ps. 139). Most often, however, rejoicing and joy are associated with the Psalmist’s sense of God’s presence, as when he exclaims: “The Lord reigns; let the earth rejoice” (Ps. 97), and “Let the hills sing for joy together before the Lord” (Ps. 98).7 As the Psalmist cannot flee from the ubiquity of God’s presence, so the Psalmist cannot deny the certainty of God’s presence. God’s presence is as unquestionable to him as his own breathing in and breathing out. He thus has no feeling that he has to intellectually defend his sense of God’s presence (in this he is different from us in our philosophically reflective position). His sense of God’s presence does not come in some specific perception; it suffuses all his experience. In expressing his sense of God’s presence, we should be clear, the Psalmist is not reasoning to God’s existence or presence. He is not reasoning from indications of design to the existence of a Designer (as Paley did). Rather, God is experientially present to the Psalmist in God’s creation. We should also appreciate that what the Psalmist discovers is the presence of God, the presence of God in his life and in all he sees and experiences, not the mere existence of God. He does not discover that God exists; he discovers that God interacts with his life and that he and the world are in an intimate relationship with God. The Psalmist does not discover this once and for all, but rediscovers it in rediscovering the presence of God daily. His discovery of God is renewed, if not constantly, at least regularly and often. As mentioned previously, the tradition of religious sensibility that the Psalms embodies does not begin or end with the Psalms. It is a sensibility that can be found in the lives of ordinary religious believers. It is found in the New Testament in The Letter of Paul to the Romans, in which Paul says that “ever since the creation of the world his [God’s] invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made” (Rom. 1.20)8 Also, it is found in devotional and mystical literature and in theological writing. For instance, it is found in St. Bonaventura’s writings. In The Mind’s Road to God, written in the thirteenth century, Bonaventura says that “with respect to the mirror of sensible things God is contemplated not only through them, as by His traces, but also in them, in so far as He is in them by essence, potency, and presence”; and, he says, echoing Paul’s letter to the Romans, “the invisible things of God are clearly seen, from the creation of the world.” It is true that there are other elements in Bonaventura’s writing and thinking besides the sensibility of the Psalms; at one point he presents an abbreviated and modified form of the Ontological Argument. Bonaventura nevertheless stands in the tradition of the Psalms, although he may stand in other religious traditions as well.9

John Calvin, the sixteenth-century Reformer, also stands in the tradition of the religious sensibility of the Psalms. In the Institutes, Calvin says that God “revealed himself and daily discloses himself in the whole workmanship of the universe.” In a reference to Ps. 11, Calvin says, “Since the glory of his power and wisdom shine more brightly above, heaven is often called his palace,” but, he continues, “wher-ever you cast your eyes there is no spot in the universe wherein you cannot discern at least some sparks of his glory.” In this way, “there are innumerable evidences both in heaven and on earth that declare his wonderful wisdom.”10 To be sure, there is much in Calvin’s theological writing besides an expression of the religious sensibility of the Psalms. Notably, there is his articulation of the doctrine of predestination (the doctrine that those who will be “saved” are predestined by God to be saved from the beginning of God’s creation). That Calvin is also in the tradition of the Psalms, however, remains clear. Others who have in some way expressed the religious sensibility of the Psalms include Martin Buber, the twentieth-century author of I and Thou, who spoke of an encounter with the Eternal You (or Thou)11; Sojourner Truth, the nineteenth-century American freed slave, who had an abiding sense of the presence of God “all over” and of God’s help in her life12; and H. D. Lewis, a twentieth-century religious thinker who speaks of an experience of wonder that “comes with the realization . .. that all existence . .. stands in a relation of dependence to some absolute or unconditioned being . . . .”—that is, God.13 Moreover, it is possible to think of the tradition of the Psalms, or the strand of that tradition that we have before ourselves, as a form of a wider tradition of encountering the Holy or the Sacred or Religious Reality. In this wider tradition, we might locate, for instance, certain Buddhist and certain Native American sensibilities, such as that of the Lakota (or Sioux), who lived amid the Wakan Tanka, the great incomprehensibility of their universe, sacred, powerful, and wonderful.14 We, however, given the framework of the issue at hand, must keep our focus on the theistic form of this religious sensibility as found in the tradition of the Psalms. The preceding chapter discusses the views of Alvin Plantinga and William Alston on the epistemic propriety of religious belief. Each argues in his own way for the positive epistemic status of belief in God. Each, Chapter 4 suggests, brings to religion an epistemological theory that he uses to defend the propriety of religious belief. Neither starts with religious sensibilities. Nevertheless, both Plantinga and Alston are aware of the religious sensibilities of the Psalms. Plantinga, as noted previously, cites Calvin (in whose Reformed tradition he stands). He, in fact, quotes the passage in the Institutes in which Calvin says that God “discloses himself daily.” However, Plantinga, in accord with his epistemological theory of a noetic structure, goes on to speak of dispositions to believe being “triggered” or belief being “called forth.” He does not speak of believers becoming aware of God or continue to speak of God’s disclosing himself. Plantinga correctly observes that for Calvin, believers do not need arguments; he then goes on to say he thinks we can understand Calvin as saying a “rational

noetic structure” may contain belief in God. The categories of “noetic structure” and “basic belief” are Plantinga’s, not Calvin’s. Calvin speaks boldly of “awareness,” “disclosure,” and “open eyes” that can see, and he refers to the Psalms and to Romans. Calvin’s themes are awareness of God in his creation, and eyes open to the “evidences” of God. Plantinga, then, though aware of the sensibility of the Psalms as expressed by Calvin, is unlike Calvin in that he does not draw upon that sensibility to present the epistemic position of religious believers. Alston as well is alive to the kind of religious experience represented in the Psalms. As indicated in Chapter 4, Alston, in developing his reliabilism, recognizes what he calls “indirect experience” or “indirect perception” of God, examples being an indirect experience or perception of God in such natural phenomena as the rain and sunshine. Clearly, although Alston does not say so, this kind of religious experience is the kind of experience expressed in the Psalms. Alston has also written the following about his own religious belief: I didn’t reason myself into the faith. Rather, my entrance into the faith gave me new materials, new data, new premises for my reasoning, and, of course, new problems as well. It was more like having one’s eyes opened to an aspect of the environment to which one had previously been blind; more like learning to hear things in music that one had been missing; more like that than coming to realize that certain premises have an unexpected implication.15

For Alston, the “environment” is importantly his church, the community of the faithful, whereas for the Psalmist God’s presence is found in all that is about him; however, the experience of each is that mode of religious experience that sees what cannot be seen until one’s eyes are opened. Plantinga and Alston, then, are not unaware of the religious sensibility of the Psalms, even though they argue for the epistemic propriety of religious belief on other grounds. In this chapter we are starting with the religious sensibility of the Psalms and seeking to understand how religious belief can have a positive epistemic status using the terms of that sensibility. Many have stood in and today stand in the tradition of the Psalmist. Many have the sense and certainty of the Psalmist that they have experienced the presence of God. However, noting this sense on the part of the Psalmist and many others does not in itself answer the question at hand: Is a discovery of God possible? It answers the question: Did the Psalmist see himself as discovering God by coming into the presence of God? Yes, he did, as have many others. But the question is still open as to whether he or they really discovered God. This is the way it is with all discoveries, in whatever way they are made. I may report that I have discovered gold, but if I have found what is only fool’s gold, I have not really discovered gold. Nevertheless, the Psalmist does help us to understand the terms of the issue of whether he has made a real religious discovery. The tradition of the Psalms points to the questions to be asked. The main issue is realization: Have the eyes of those who have had the Psalmist’s experience been opened so that a realization has been made? The issue is the significance of what is already familiar—the familiar facts of the world about us—and whether the Psalmist has realized that significance in having the sense of the presence of God.

Why Doesn't Everyone Realize God's Presence? There is another question to be asked. If the Psalmist and others can realize the presence of God, why are there many who do not come to realize the presence of God? Perhaps some have not been in the right setting where they can behold God’s presence. However, some would say there is no God, and so this question arises: If there is a realization of the presence of God, why are there some who say there is no God and so no presence of God to be realized? In fact, the Psalmist was aware that not all realize the presence of God, and there is something in the way the Psalmist and those in the tradition of the Psalms understand their experience that is relevant to whether a genuine discovery of God has been made. We have already encountered the fool of the Psalms, who denies God.” This is the fool cited by Anselm. But the fool is not merely denying the existence of God. Yes, in the Psalms we find this: “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God,’” as Anselm said (Ps. 14 and Ps. 53). But elsewhere in the Psalms we find that the one who holds in his thoughts “There is no God” is the “wicked” person who “boasts of the desires of his heart,” who “renounces the Lord,” and who, “in the pride of his countenance does not seek him,” does not seek God (Ps. 10). We should notice two things about what this Psalm says. First, it is being said that the one who holds in his thoughts “There is no God” renounces God, which that person can do while knowing God exists. When parents renounce their child, they are not saying that their child does not exist, but that they no longer recognize their child as having a special place in their hearts as their child. Their child no longer exists for them as their child. We may understand the one who renounces God as saying that God no longer exists for him or her in his or her heart as a living presence. The sense of a discovery of God that we find in the Psalms is a discovery of God’s presence, not God’s existence, as was noted previously. Thus, in accord with the sensibility of the Psalms, one may believe or know God exists and not have realized God’s presence. The second thing to notice is that for the Psalmist, the failure to realize God’s presence is not a failure of reasoning. It is a failure of the heart, a moral failure, a kind of “wickedness” that is an attachment to a person’s own desires. Another Psalm says this: Transgression speaks to the wicked deep in his heart; there is no fear of God before his eyes. (Ps. 36)

This aspect of the sensibility of the Psalms is particularly important for understanding the issue of whether a discovery of God is possible—not because it settles the issue, but because it frames the issue. It provides elements of what is sometimes called the “logic” of the issue: it puts in place relevant questions. The fool of the Psalms, the Psalmist says, is “corrupt” (Ps. 10

and Ps. 53). He is not a fool because he cannot add two and two, but because he fails to realize the presence of God, which is all about him; and he fails to do so because his heart is not right. He is too attached to his own desires. Ultimately, in the tradition of the Psalms, what prevents persons from realizing God’s presence is not a failure of argument, reasoning, or enquiry, but a kind of moral failure, a kind of self-centeredness that creates a blindness. The idea that those who do not realize or see God’s presence in all things suffer from a blindness is found throughout the tradition of the Psalms. In the Letter of Paul to the Romans it is expressed this way: Those “who by their wickedness suppress the truth ... are without excuse; for although they knew God they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking and their senseless minds were darkened” (Rom. 1:18 and 20–21). Bonaventura says, “He ... who is not illumined by such great splendor of created things is blind.” And why is there this blindness for Bonaventura when “it is clear that God is so near to our minds”? “The reason is close at hand,” he says: “The human mind [is] distracted by cares ... obscured by phantasms [and] allured by concupiscence.” Calvin says something similar. Those who do not respond to God labor under a “blindness” that is “almost always mixed with proud vanity and obstinacy.” Calvin says, referring to the Letter of Paul to the Romans, “they wantonly bring darkness upon themselves.”16 Here in these sources, we find not only the idea that those who do not realize God’s presence suffer from a blindness, but the further idea that this is an induced blindness that stems from self-centered desires or cares, or vanity. To sum up so far: For the religious sensibility of the Psalms, the presence of God is all about us in the great and humble things of the universe. To discover God’s presence we need only realize the significance of what is about us. This realization requires no argumentation or intellectual inquiry. It is open to everyone. The reason that many have not made this discovery of God is that they suffer from a blindness to the significance of the familiar and so do not find God’s presence there. This blindness is not accidental. In the tradition of the Psalms, it is caused by a moral failure of the heart.

Is a Realization-Discovery of God's Presence Possible? Now let us take up the main question of this chapter: Is this kind of discovery of God possible? It will be possible, of course, if the Psalmist or anyone has indeed discovered God through realizing God’s presence in what is all about us. But has anyone made such a realization of God’s presence? Are those who have not come to this realization “blind” as those in the Psalmist’s tradition say? In raising these questions, we are heeding the religious sensibility of the Psalms in that we draw upon that sensibility to frame our questions. And in asking these questions. we address that religious sensibility, and the issue of the genuineness of the

discovery of God that it says is possible, in their own terms, as we do not when we pursue the issue of the logical strength of the arguments for God’s existence or the issue of whether belief in God is “properly basic” or formed by a reliable doxastic practice. In the history of critical reflection on religious belief, there have been those who have addressed the tradition of the Psalms in its own terms and argued that it is wrong. For them there is no discovery of God to be made through realizing God’s presence in the world. Two such critical thinkers are Friedrich Nietzsche and Sigmund Freud. Without saying so in so many words, Nietzsche and Freud allow that within the sensibility of the Psalms, the issue is properly framed, and they address the tradition of the Psalmist on its own grounds. For Nietzsche and Freud, the failure in the Psalmist’s religious sensibility is not one of inquiry but lies in the area of “the heart,” as the Psalmist said. It is in the domain of our “passional nature,” as William James might say, in the area of needs and desires. The issue is one of “blindness,” Nietzsche and Freud would agree, but for them it is believers who are blind. In fact, for Nietzsche and Freud, the broader issue of the reasonableness or propriety of religious belief is not an issue of proving God’s existence or an inquiry-issue of gathering evidence for or against. Here again they are not at odds with the tradition of the Psalms and close to Calvin and others in that tradition. At this point we need to make explicit an important element of the “logic” of the issue of religious discovery of God. When the Psalmist says that the “wicked” person who renounces God “boasts of the desires of his heart” he is attributing to those who do not realize God’s presence a motive for their blindness. As the Psalmist allows that the blindness of the “wicked” has a motive in the desires of the wicked, and as Calvin allows that those who suffer blindness or darkness of mind have “wantonly” or willfully brought it on themselves, so Nietzsche and Freud find in the psychological makeup of believers motives for their belief in God and for their thinking that they have seen the presence of God. Friedreich Nietzsche was a German nineteenth-century philosopher who explicitly reflected on the motives for religious belief. In one place he says this: Weariness that wants to reach the ultimate with one leap, with one fatal leap, a poor ignorant weariness that does not want to want any more: this created all gods and afterworlds.17

What creates belief in gods, and in God, (and in a life after death) is the desire not to have to contend with the things of the world anymore, to have rest in a place free of striving. Nietzsche’s idea here is close to the idea that the motive for religious belief is the fear of punishment combined with the hope of reward, but more subtle. The motive of weariness could be present when the fear of punishment and the hope for reward are not motives for belief. In another place Nietzsche says faith is a “shrewd blindness” that denies “certain instincts” and yet allows Christians to act on those instincts while denying them. As Nietzsche sees the condition of religious belief, or Christianity, those with religious faith blind

themselves to their own natural instincts to be strong and have power—and yet act on them while condemning them in others. Nietzsche goes on to speak of the “instinctive hatred of reality” as the “motivating force at the root of Christianity.” Nietzsche in this way explicitly speaks of “blindness” and of “motivating force” and attributes both to Christian believers.18 Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, developed his thinking on religion in the early part of the twentieth century. In his view, religion is “the universal obsessional neurosis of humanity.” That is, religion is a dysfunction (neurosis) that involves an irresistible idea (obsession) that affects all of humanity (is universal). For Freud religious belief is motivated by wish fulfillment. We human beings all have a deep need to be secure. However, things are not always as we want them to be. There is much anxiety in life. To fulfill our wish for security, we human beings project onto the universe the image of a cosmic Father, who will guarantee our security—just as a father in a family setting provides security for the family (or should). What leads people to believe in God, and to believe they feel God’s presence, is not a realization but the psychological working of their need and wish for security. The motive that Freud says leads to religious belief is close to Nietzsche’s—weariness (or the wish for relief from weariness)—although Freud gives a special place to a Father image. Freud said that religion is an “illusion,” by which he meant that it is a belief formed in a nonrational way, by wish fulfillment. He appreciated that “illusions” could in theory turn out to be true. But if that were to happen in the case of religious belief in God, it would be a sheer accident, and if Freud is right, religious belief is never supported by a discovery of God.19 Although Nietzsche and Freud were not religious believers in their mature years, each grew up in a religious tradition. Nietzsche’s father was a Lutheran minister, and Nietzsche was raised as a Lutheran.20 Although he ceased to be a Christian and became a severe critic of Christianity and religious belief in God, he knew religion from the inside. Similarly, Freud’s family was Jewish, and his father was most likely raised as an Orthodox Jew (Orthodox Judaism requires strict obedience to a literal understanding of the Jewish law as revealed in the Five Books of Moses in the Bible.) After Freud’s family moved to Vienna, Freud’s father may have stopped observing Orthodox customs, but both of Freud’s parents continued to believe in God. Freud himself had little sympathy for religious belief, including the Judaic belief of his own heritage. However, though not a practicing Jewish believer, he was acquainted with Jewish customs and festivals and the religious tradition he rejected.21 It is because Nietzsche and Freud are so well acquainted with their religious heritages—broadly, the Judeo-Christian heritage—that they can address the religious sensibility of the Psalms in essentially its own terms. We should not conclude that, because Nietzsche and Freud see believers as blind, believers are blind, anymore than we should conclude that, because the Psalmist says he has realized the presence of God, he has and the fool is blind. Nevertheless, Nietzsche and Freud help us to understand the issue by filling in their side, and they illustrate how far-reaching the Psalmist’s sensibility is.

At the root of our main issue—Is a discovery of God possible?—is the issue of blindness and motives. A possible blindness to what is right in front of us is not unique to the issue of whether the religious have found the presence of God or, alternatively, are just reading into the universe what they want to see. The question of such a blindness pertains to lots of humble examples in our everyday lives where there may be a realization-discovery to be made—as when the boring storyteller is or may be blind to his storytelling ability or one thinks he or she has made an important realization but perhaps really has not. Such an issue about possible blindness is very different from issues about inquiry, in which the question is about an adequate gathering of evidence, the weighing of evidence, or the tracing of logical implications. Is there any way to resolve the issue of blindness as it relates to religious belief and the possibility of religious discovery? There are questions we can ask, namely questions about motives the religious and those who reject religion might have for deceiving themselves about what they believe they have realized or about what they have not realized. The main questions are these: Do the religious who share the religious sensibility of the Psalms have a feeling of the presence of God because they have discovered the presence of God? Or do they say they have a feeling of God’s presence because they suffer from weariness or have a deep need to believe they are secure in the universe? Do those who say there is no God do so for the kind of reason the Psalmist identifies, because in their hearts they are attached to their own desires—desires like those of the contemporary philosopher introduced in Chapter 2, who said he wanted atheism to be true and he did not want there to be a God, he did not want the universe to be like that? The further questions to be asked are these: Do believers have the kind of motive that Nietzsche and Freud identified? Do all believers have such a motive? If there are these possible motives, do they operate as motivating reasons in all believers? Do those who reject religious belief have the kind of motive that the Psalmist identified? Do all those who reject religious belief have such a motive? If there are these possible motives, do they operate as motivating reasons in all who reject religious belief? In theory, if we could be sure that religious believers who express their sense of God’s presence had no motive for believing they had experienced God’s presence and no motive for their religious belief, we could, other things being equal, conclude that they had come to a genuine realization of God’s presence. But blindness can affect our ability to judge our motives and those of others. Let us say that our boring storyteller is blind to how boring he is, and let us say that his motive for his blindness is that it is an important part of his self-image that he is a highly entertaining storyteller, a raconteur, as he likes to say. If he is blind to his being a

boring storyteller, he will also be blind to his motive for thinking of himself as being entertaining. He will not see that he has a need to see himself this way and that that need or deep wish motivates his belief about his storytelling abilities. The same thing holds for the possible discovery of God. If religious believers who think they see God’s presence are blind to the significance of what they behold, they will also be blind to their motivating need for security or relief from weariness. And if those who reject religious belief are blind to God’s presence, they will also be blind to the fact that the motive provided by their desires keeps them from seeing God’s presence and from religious belief.22 Maybe in the end we cannot say who is blind to the true significance of what is all about us and whether the Psalmist or others have truly realized the presence of God in what is all about them. But at a minimum we can see that the issue of religious truth is not circumscribed by questions about what we can logically prove and that it has as much to do with “purity of heart,” as those in the Psalmist’s tradition would put it, or with freedom from the unconscious power of wish fulfillment, as Freud would put it.23 Is a discovery of God possible? Understanding this question as the question “Is a genuine discovery of God possible and only blindness keeps persons from making that discovery?” an affirmative answer would mean that there is the presence of God to be discovered. This question we may not be able to answer. But we are able to answer the question “Is it possible that the way the Psalmist understood himself is correct and he did genuinely discover the presence of God?” Assuming only that the existence and presence of God cannot be conclusively disproved, our understanding the religious sensibility of the Psalms, and its connection to realization-discoveries and what prevents and allows them, is enough to allow an affirmative answer to this question.

Criticisms of This Account Perhaps the first critical question to raise is this: If there is a realization-discovery of God, why is there no parallel inquiry-discovery? In other cases in which a person makes a realizationdiscovery, there seems to be an inquiry-discovery of the same thing that others could make. In the case of the boring storyteller, for instance, although he will discover how boring he is only through his coming to realize the significance of what is already familiar to him, others might investigate their hypothesis that he is a boring storyteller, gather evidence, and confirm their hypothesis. The explanation for this difference that one in the Psalmist’s tradition might offer is that in such cases as that of the boring storyteller, there is a fairly clear hypothesisconfirming condition, whereas there is no clear hypothesis-confirming condition in the religious case. There is no agreed-upon hypothesis-confirming condition that parties on either side of the question can use to investigate a hypothesis about God’s presence. Allowing that

there is the religious discovery, there is, then, a disanalogy between the religious realizationdiscovery and other realization-discoveries. The extent to which this disanalogy constitutes a problem for the possibility of a religious discovery is another question. Another problem with this account is that there is no final determination open to us of whether there is a genuine realization-discovery of the presence of God; we can identify the “logic” of the issue (how coming to a realization and overcoming blindness are related and how blindness and motivation are related), but we cannot trace it through to the satisfaction of all. This must be admitted, but at the same time the logic of the issue explains why this is so. And through our coming to see this logic we can understand how within this religious sensibility there is a way the religious can understand the epistemic propriety of their own belief in God. A third problem is that it is hard to see how the kind of realization-discovery expressed in the tradition of the Psalms could account for doctrinal beliefs, such as the Christian belief in the Trinity (the belief in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit) and the Jewish belief that the people of Israel are the chosen people. The epistemic propriety of such doctrinal beliefs in various religions will have to have some other source. The kind of realizationdiscovery expressed in the tradition of the Psalms, however, could account for some traditional religious beliefs about God. In the Psalms there is an indication of God’s traditional attributes (and so the Book of Psalms is one place in the Bible one may look to fill in the traditional concept of God shared by Judaism and Christianity), but the attributes of God are indicated through the Psalmist’s expressing his own sense of God’s love and goodness and other attributes, as when he says this: Thy steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens, Thy faithfulness to the clouds. (Ps. 36)

or The Lord is good; his steadfast love endures for ever. (Ps. 100)

If in realizing God’s presence the Psalmist or others realize the presence of a loving or merciful God or a righteous or faithful God or a God of goodness, then the realization of God’s presence embraces and provides an experiential base for these attributes. In fact, Abu Hamid al-Ghazali says in the “Revivification of Religion” that “All that we behold and perceive by our senses bears undeniable witness to the existence of God and His power and His knowledge and the rest of His attributes.”24 Other problems arise if we ask whether the kind of realization-discovery represented in the Psalms could occur in other religious traditions besides those of Judaism and Christianity. Is any transfer possible? If we keep it in mind that the religious sensibility of the Psalms is not

limited to or “owned by” the Book of Psalms, and that one could have a sense of God’s presence in one’s surroundings without ever having read the Psalms, then we can see that the Psalmist’s sense that he has experienced God’s presence could be had by others in other theistic religious traditions. Al-Ghazali’s expressions of the experience of God’s presence in the familiar things of the world place this experience in the Islamic tradition. There may, as well, be a transfer to Native American religion, in which there is an experience of a greater Religious Reality like the Wakan Tanka in Lakota religion. Is there any transfer to distinctly nontheistic religions? As mentioned previously, if we broaden the question to “Is the discovery of a religious reality possible?” we could then relate our question to nontheistic religions like Buddhism and nondevotional Hinduism. For Buddhism, the question would perhaps be this: “Is there a possible discovery that the world about us is a world of appearances with a greater reality to be found behind it or beyond it, the reality of Nirvana realized by enlightened Buddhas?” For nondevotional Hinduism, the question might be this: “Is there a possible discovery that the world about us is the cosmic play of lila and an expression of Brahma?” (Lila in Shankara’s advaita form of Hinduism is the cosmic sport or play of the impersonal Absolute or Brahman.) But now a greater problem arises. On the account offered in this chapter it is at least possible that the Psalmist has come to a discovery of God. Is it also possible on that account that a Buddhist could come to a discovery of a nonpersonal religious reality? Recall that Alston believed the greatest challenge to his reliabilist account was posed by religious diversity. The account of this chapter faces a similar challenge, except that it is, if anything, more serious. It is because the account of this chapter, unlike Alston’s reliabilism, finds in the sort of religious experience it considers a discovery. The problem it faces may be put this way: Can there be a Judaic, a Christian, or an Islamic discovery of God and a Hindu or Buddhist discovery of an impersonal religious reality? There could be if such religious discoveries were of different manifestations of religious reality or of different aspects of religious reality. We examine the view that different religions experience different manifestations of religious reality in Chapter 11, and we examine the view that different religions experience different aspects of religious reality in Chapter 12.

Summing Up and Going Further If anyone has come to a realization-discovery of God’s presence, then that person has come to have—to use Calvin’s word—“evidences” of God. That person has come to realize the significance of the familiar surroundings of the world as evidence of God. How would such an eventuality relate to W.K. Clifford’s thinking and his principle that “It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone to believe anything on insufficient evidence”? Clifford was

focused on inquiry and evidence-gathering through investigation. William James, recall from Chapter 4, replied to Clifford and argued that when we are faced with a “genuine option” and sufficient “intellectual grounds” are in the nature of the case lacking, we have a right to believe in accord with our passional natures. James, too, thought of evidence as “intellectual”— that is, as obtained by inquiry. The only kind of evidence that Clifford and James could conceive of was inquiry-evidence. Neither Clifford nor James was thinking that the evidence of God’s presence might be all about us and what was needed was not an intellectual gathering of that evidence but a realization of the significance of the familiar as overwhelming evidence, or “evidences,” of God’s presence. Chapter 3 mentions a “celebrated philosopher” who, at a meeting of a society of agnostics was asked what he would say if God suddenly appeared among them. He would ask God, he said, “God, why did you make the evidence for your existence so inadequate?” Those in the Psalmist’s tradition might reply, “But the evidence is not inadequate, God’s presence is disclosed in all that we see.” Pascal, in his Pensées, wrote this exchange with an imaginary interlocutor: ‘Why do you not say yourself that the sky and the birds are a proof of God?’— No.—‘And does your religion not say so?’ No, for though it is true in a sense, for some souls to whom God has given the light to see it, yet it is false in the case of the majority of men.25

Pascal in this passage, unlike in his wager argument, expresses something close to the sensibility of the Psalms. The sky and the birds and all that is about us do not constitute a “proof of God” because they are not convincing to many. But for those who are “given the light to see,” whose eyes have been opened so they can realize the significance of what they see, what is all about us is a proof “in a sense.” In the tradition of the Psalms, the blindness that keeps persons from realizing the presence of God is a state that those who do not see God in what is around them bring on themselves. It is willful or “wanton,” as Calvin says. Freud and Nietzsche, on their side of the issue, say something similar about religious believers. There is a motive for blindness. It is a motive for not seeing. However, not realizing that the significance of the familiar can occur in many contexts, and sometimes it is not motivated and not something we do to ourselves. Sometimes a change in our life circumstances will allow us to see what we were blind to, as Mark Twain came to realize how much his father knew when he, Mark Twain, got a little older. Could it be that there is the presence of God to be realized, and many are blind to it because in their circumstances they, in Pascal’s words, have not been “given the light to see”? If this is so, then, going beyond the sensibility of the Psalms, we can think that they may come to see when their circumstances are changed. This idea is not at odds with all religious sensibilities; For example, it is not at odds with Pascal’s. William Alston, as noted in Chapter 4, suggests that his reliabilist approach might be combined with other “grounds,” such as natural theology, so that they give each other

reciprocal support. Perhaps we could take a leaf from Alston’s book, modifying it slightly, and suggest that the approach of this chapter, which starts with the religious sensibility of the Psalms, might be combined with the approach of Alston and Plantinga, which bring to religious belief epistemological theories of epistemic propriety. These approaches, though significantly different, certainly seem to be compatible.

Questions for Chapter 5 Factual Questions 1. 2. 3. 4.

What is the difference between an inquiry-discovery and a realization-discovery? Why does St. Bonaventura stand in the tradition of the Psalmist? What for Friedrich Nietzsche leads to all belief in gods? What did Sigmund Freud mean by an “illusion”?

Interpretive and Evaluative Questions 1. If there is a discovery of God’s presence, why doesn’t everyone make this discovery? 2. If there is no God, why have some thought that they have discovered God or come into God’s presence? 3. Can there be a discovery of the same sacred presence in Christian and Islamic religious experience? In Christian and Lakota religious experience?

Notes 1. The Psalms are traditionally attributed to David, “the Psalmist.” David is King David and his place in the history of Judaism is explained in Chapter 1. He lived about 1000 B.C.E., and he figures in several biblical narratives, such as the story of David and Goliath (1 Samuel 17). Although the Psalms have more than one author, I follow tradition and refer to “the Psalmist” in the singular. Pss. 84 and 121 are in Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 1, as they are found in the Tanakh. In this chapter in quoting different psalms I have used the rendering of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible. 2. The Qur’an mentions David as the one to whom God “gave” the Psalms (sura 4:163 and sura 17:55), but the Qur’an does not itself contain psalms. However, the experience expressed in the Psalms is also expressed in a mystical form of Islam known as Sufism, as in the writings of Abu Hamid al Ghazali, who lived in the eleventh century. Passages from al-Ghazali’s “The Revivification of Religion” are in Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 5. 3. St. Teresa recounts this experience, sometimes called her “transverberation,” in her Life, at the end of Chapter 29. 4. It is an indication of the difference between feeling or thinking we have made a discovery and really making a

discovery that we change our description of our “discovery” if it turns out we were mistaken. Thus, if I think that I have discovered gold in the Beckoning Hills, but it turns out to be fool’s gold, I will say that I thought I had discovered gold, but I was wrong. This basic point holds for all kinds of discoveries. 5. This saying is attributed to Mark Twain. P. M. Zall, ed., Mark Twain Laughing (Knoxville: The University of Tennessee Press, 1985), pp. 160–61. The original source is “Bringing Up Father,” Reader’s Digest (Sept. 1937). 6. Pss. 22, 69, and 102 can be seen for an expression of despair/distress; Pss. 117 and 106 for an expression of praise; Pss. 23 and 46 for an expression of hope; Ps. 118 for an expression of thankfulness; Ps. 99 for an expression of awe; and Ps. 51 for an expression of penitence. 7. Of these quoted Psalms, which express a sense of God’s presence, Pss. 3, 19, 84, and 121 are in Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 1, as they are found in the Tanakh. 8. Chapter 1:1–23 of The Letter of Paul to the Romans is in Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 1 in the section on Christianity. 9. St. Bonaventura, The Mind’s Road to God (or as the title is sometimes translated, The Soul’s Journey into God.). In the George Boaz translation, used here, St. Bonaventura speaks of contemplating God in “the mirror of sensible things” and of seeing “the invisible things of God.” See The Mind’s Road to God, trans. George Boas (Indianapolis and New York: Bobbs- Merrill, 1953), p. 14 (Chapter 2.1) and p. 21 (Chapter 2.13) (emphasis in the text). In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 5. Bonaventura offers a modified form of the Ontological Argument on p. 39 (Chapter 6.2). 10. John Calvin, Institutes, 1559, 1560 edition, Bk. 1, Chap. 5, Secs. 1 and 2 are in Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 5. 11. Martin Buber, I and Thou, 2d ed., trans. Ronald Gregor Smith (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1958) passim. Selections from I and Thou are in Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 5. 12. Sojourner Truth, Narrative of Sojourner Truth, dictated to Olive Gilbert, in Narrative of Sojourner Truth; A Bondswoman of Olden Time, with a History of Her Labors and Correspondence Drawn from Her “Book of Life” (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991), p. 65 (emphasis deleted). 13. H. D. Lewis, Our Experience of God (London: George Allen & Unwin; New York: Macmillan, 1959), p. 107. 14. Raymond J. DeMallie, “Lakota Belief and Ritual in the Nineteenth Century” in Sioux Indian Religion: Tradition and Innovation (Norman and London: University of Oklahoma Press, 1987) p. 28. 15. William Alston made these comments in his autobiographical essay “A Philosopher’s Way Back to the Faith,” in God and the Philosophers (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994), p. 28. 16. Bonaventura’s comments on “blindness” are in The Mind’s Road to God, p. 13 (Chapter 1.15) and p. 28 (Chapter 4.1). Calvin’s comments are in his Institutes, 1559,1560 edition, Bk. 1, Chap. 4, Sec. 1. 17. Nietzsche’s point about weariness creating all gods is made in “On the Afterworldly,” Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Pt. I, in

The Portable Nietzsche, translated and edited by Walter Kaufmann (New York: Viking Press, 1954), p. 143. In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 5. 18. Nietzsche refers to a “shrewd blindness” and instincts in Sec. 39 of The Antichrist, in The Portable Nietzsche, p. 613 (emphasis in the original). In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 5. 19. Freud wrote several books on religion. The one most relevant for our concerns with religious discovery is his The Future of an Illusion. Freud says that religion is “the universal obsessional neurosis of humanity” on p. 55 of Chapter 8, that God is a projected father figure on p. 30 of Chapter 4, and that “illusions,” though created by human wishes, are not necessarily false on p. 39 of Chapter 6 in The Future of an Illusion, trans. James Strachey (London and New York: Norton, 1961). Chapters 4 and 6 are in Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 5. 20. These biographical facts about Nietzsche’s early life are cited in Walter Kaufmann, Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist, 4th ed.(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1974), p. 22. 21. The biographical facts about Freud’s religious background are found in Ernest Jones, The Life and Work of Sigmund Freud, vol. 1 (New York: Basic Books, 1953), p. 19. 22. William Alston, at one point in his religious career—before his final serious return to the church—came to reflect on and confront the Freudian idea that religious faith is an expression of a hidden wish for security from a heavenly father figure. Alston says that this Freudian idea was “the main bar to faith” that he faced. This is wholly in accord with issues that can arise for the Psalmist’s religious sensibility. Is it that the fool’s heart is closed to God’s presence, and he is blind to God’s divine presence in all that is about him; or is it that the Psalmist is reading into the universe what he has a hidden wish and need to believe? For Freud, it is the latter. Alston struggled with this Freudian view, he tells us, and finally overcame it, thinking it was less important to conform his life to a Freudian psychological view than to “come to terms with my own real needs.” He goes on to reflect that his “wrestling with Freudian and other reductive accounts of religious belief provided . . . an essential preparation for an openness to the Spirit.” “A Philosopher’s Way Back to the Faith,” pp. 22 and 26. 23. In the New Testament, in The Beatitudes, Jesus says “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). 24. Abu Hamid al-Ghazali, “The Revivification of Religion.” In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 5. 25. Pascal’s thought about “the sky and the birds” being a proof of God is on p. 126 of his Pensées.

Chapter 6 The Religious Problem of Evil Problems of Evil I once had a discussion with a poet who was socially concerned about the ways of our world. He understood the problem of evil to be the problem of how to lessen the evil in the world— the evil things that people do to each other and the suffering from disease and other causes. How can we bring justice to the lives of the deprived? How can we encourage the human heart to be generous? How can we relieve the pain of the world? This problem, to be sure, is a problem of evil. It is the practical problem of evil. It is the moral problem that we face when we ask: What should we do as the human race, as nations, and as individuals to remedy the moral evils of our world and the evil of the suffering in our world? Important as this problem of evil is, it is not the religious problem of evil. The religious problem of evil is a problem that can arise for religious believers in God. When it does, it addresses them as religious believers. In its briefest form the religious problem of evil is this: Why does God allow there to be evil? or If there is a God, why is there evil? This is a very old problem. Boethius in the sixth century put the question this way: “If there be a God, from whence proceed so many evils?” in his The Consolation of Philosophy.1 It can also be a problem for contemporary religious believers. Broadened and given more detail, the question is: Why does—how can—an all-powerful, allgood, all-knowing God allow there to be evil in the world? Put in this general and abstract way, the problem may appear to be theoretical, a problem to be pursued by theologians at their leisure. However, the religious problem of evil is not a theoretical problem when it arises in an individual believer’s life, but a deeply personal problem. How might it come about in a religious believer’s life?

The Personal Nature of the Religious Problem of Evil Here is an example of how the religious problem of evil might arise in an individual believer’s life. Imagine a young woman who is a practicing religious believer in God. She marries and in the first years of their marriage she and her husband have a child, a daughter. She and her husband do not have a lot of money, but they can make ends meet and, moreover, they have a beautiful baby girl. They consider themselves happy and thank God for what they have. All is

well until their daughter turns three. Then, after a medical examination, she and her husband are told that their daughter has leukemia and there is every chance it will be fatal. The mother prays for her child’s recovery and keeps her hope alive, but within a year her child dies. Though religious, she is not a theologian, and she has never heard of “the religious problem of evil.” However, she finds herself asking “Why?” She grieves for her child, but also she feels it’s unfair that her innocent child should have been taken from her. “Why did God allow this to happen?” she asks. There is only silence. Her priest or rabbi or religious counselor encourages her to have faith. But she keeps asking: “Why? Why did God allow this to happen?” Without knowing it, she is asking the question that forms the religious problem of evil. The problem has entered her life through her personal and concrete experience of evil. This personal religious problem of evil can take a more general form for religious believers, and it has. When it does, the question is not “Why has this evil happened to my child?” but “Why is there any evil in the world, why is there any suffering of any children?” Though a more general problem, it is still concrete in that it is focused on flesh-and-blood instances of suffering. In a chapter of his great novel, The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoyevsky has Ivan Karamazov present to his deeply religious brother, Alyosha, a catalogue of evils done to children. His catalogue is not that long, but it consists of flesh-and-blood cases, complete with terrible details, as when a wealthy landowner sets his hunting dogs on a peasant boy (because he had thrown a stone in play and accidentally hurt the paw of the landowner’s favorite dog), and the hunting pack tears the boy to pieces.2 The children in Ivan’s catalogue are not his own, but the problem of evil he presents is not the less concrete for that reason, and it is easy to see how, as Ivan feels for the suffering inflicted on the children that he recounts, we can go on to feel for the suffering of other children, and men and women, throughout the world. In this way, the general and concrete problem can be extended to include any human being, or any sentient being (for beings other than humans suffer pain). The religious problem of evil then becomes this: Why does God allow such suffering to be inflicted on others, and why does God allow human beings and other sentient beings to suffer so?

The Religious Problem of Evil and Faith in God The religious problem of evil arises in faith traditions in which there is faith in God and God is believed to be good and all-powerful as the Creator and Master of the universe. These beliefs are in the background of the mother’s crisis of faith when her child gets leukemia. We can see they are by noticing that it is no answer to her question “Why did God allow this to happen?” for her to try to explain her child’s leukemia by saying either “God is not good after all” or

“God did not have the power to prevent the death of my child.” If she were to say either of these, she would abandon her faith in God. If she says, “God is not good after all,” she ceases to trust in God and God’s goodness. If she says “God did not have the power to prevent the death of my child,” then she accepts that God does not have the power to bring about what is good, and in this way ceases to trust in and have faith in God. At the end of his presentation of dreadful evils done to children, Ivan Karamazov says that it is not God that he does not accept, but, he says, he returns his “ticket” of admission. That is, he rejects God’s moral order in the world as unjust. Ivan believes there is a God, that God exists, but he does not believe in God; he does not have faith and trust in God, for he cannot see God, the creator of an unjust moral order, as good.

Evil and God's Goodness and Power There are three propositions that, taken together, can lead to the religious problem of evil: The first two are central beliefs about God in the great theistic traditions and are locked into faith in God: 1. God is good. God is believed to be good or all-good. God’s goodness is unfaltering and unending, in the biblical tradition. This belief closely connects to continuing trust and faith in God. 2. God is all-powerful. God is the Creator of the universe, and the universe is subject to God’s will and power. As God can part the waters of the Red Sea or raise one who is dead, so God has the power to change any natural event. This religious belief about God connects to believers’ trust in God’s loving ability to give them in their lives what is good. 3. Evil exists in the world. This proposition arises from what the religious and nonreligious alike see about them in the world: the suffering from diseases like malaria and AIDS, natural disasters and famines, and the evil things people do, ranging from the many small ungenerous and mean things people do without thinking to planned and deliberate genocide. The tension among these three propositions is between any one and the other two. It can be expressed in the following reasoning. If there is evil in the world, and God wishes to remove it but cannot remove it, then God is not all-powerful. (Propositions 1 and 3 rule out Proposition 2.) If there is evil in the world and God can remove it but does not wish to remove it, then God is not all-good. (Propositions 2 and 3 rule out Proposition 1.) If God wishes to remove evil and can remove evil, then there should be no evil. (Propositions 1 and 2 rule out Proposition

3.) Since the existence of evil is hard to deny, the problem is one of reconciling God’s being both all-good and all-powerful with the existence of evil. (Sometimes God’s being allknowing is also brought into the problem, but we can leave this attribute out of the equation with the observation that God in any traditional religious conception of God would know about the existence of evil). This tensions among these three propositions can lead to the religious problem of evil as an abstract theological problem when the evil contemplated is kept at an abstract level and referred to as “the evil of the world,” or the tension can lead to a personal religious problem of evil when the evil is confronted in one’s life, as it is by the mother of the child with leukemia and by Ivan Karamazov. However, one does not need to believe there is a God to contemplate the tension between these three propositions, for one need not believe there is a God to understand that there are religious beliefs that God is good and that God is all-powerful. This is how a nonreligious person can address the religious problem of evil. In fact, if a nonreligious person rejects belief in God because she or he thinks there can be no reason why God would allow evil, if there were a God, then she or he has as much reason to address the problem as a religious believer. Although anyone, irrespective of religious belief, can address the religious problem of evil, we should appreciate that the religious problem of evil does not arise within every religious tradition. The religious problem of evil can arise for traditional Christians, Jews, Muslims, and others in the face of evil because their faith in God requires their belief that God is good and all-powerful, as we have seen. They in this way embrace all three of the previously mentioned propositions. But not all religions are theistic, and those that are not theistic are not committed to Propositions 1 and 2. Some forms of Hinduism and Buddhism, furthermore, can account for the evil and suffering that befalls people, even very young children, in terms of karma, (action) and the karmic cycle of rebirth. For these religious traditions, the suffering of people in this life is accounted for by their actions in past lives. Individual persons, or “souls,” are responsible for the evils that befall them in that their past actions, in earlier lives, cause their present suffering. (One philosopher, however, has suggested that religions that have a belief in karma have a version of the problem of evil in that they must hold there is a good moral order in the universe.)3 The religious problem of evil does not arise as a problem for Zoroastrianism, which holds that there are both good and evil principles at work in the universe, and the good principle is not all-powerful; Zoroastrianism thus rejects Proposition 2. Again, the religious problem of evil would not arise for Process theology, which regards God as “in process” and not all-powerful; it thus rejects Proposition 2. Similarly, the religious problem of evil would not arise for those Jews in the Reformed tradition, whose religious commitment does not include belief in God, and it would not arise for certain nontraditional Christians who do not regard belief in God as a belief in a transcendent God.4

Moral Evil and Natural Evil We should note and make explicit one more thing about the religious problem of evil: The examples of evils already mentioned, such as disease and genocide, are of two distinct kinds. One kind is natural evil (sometimes called physical evil). Natural evils occur “naturally,” such as disease, hurricanes, lightning fires, and floods. Sometimes such evils, or some of them, are called “acts of God.” The other kind of evil is moral evil. Moral evils are the morally bad or evil things that people do to one another. They may be great evils, like genocide, or lesser evils, like lying, cheating, or saying something hurtful about someone. Some speak of two problems of evil, one relating to natural evil and one relating to moral evil. Here we continue to address the religious problem of evil as a problem that arises in the face of both kinds of evil. Human suffering, which very often gives rise to the religious problem of evil, can come from either natural or moral evil.

Some Religious Answers What religious answers are there for the problem of evil when it does arise for traditional religious believers in God? Let us start with an “answer” or solution to the religious problem of evil that is not religious. For this position there is an irrevocable contradiction between there being evil in the world, or “superfluous evil,” and there being a good and all-powerful God. For this position, Proposition 3 mentioned previously logically contradicts Propositions 1 and 2 taken together. But there is evil in the world, which makes Proposition 3 true, and so, this position concludes, logically there can be no good and all-powerful God.5 Among traditional religious believers, many have seen evil as requiring some reason for its existence, in the light of which we can, in John Milton’s phrase, “justify God’s way to men.”6 Those who follow this way of thinking seek a reason that explains why God allows evil and justifies God’s allowing evil. Such a reason is offered by a theodicy, an effort to explain evil and vindicate God. In addition to Milton, in recent discussions some have offered, instead of a theodicy, a defense designed to show that God could consistently allow evil.7 A theodicy is an attempt to identify and argue for God’s reason for evil, whereas a defense tries to identify only a possible reason that God consistently could have for evil, thus showing that evil is compatible with God’s existence. The same consideration, such as human free will, can be offered as a theodicy or as a defense. A defense does not argue that the reason advanced is God’s reason; only that it could be. There are several traditional theodicies. We examine three.

The Free Will Theodicy This theodicy was given its classical formulation by St. Augustine, who lived from 354 to 430 C.E. It has been advanced in some form by many since Augustine’s formulation. For those using the free will theodicy, the reason there is evil in the world is that human beings, of their own free will, choose to do evil things. Human beings are responsible for evil, not God. God gave human beings the great gift of free will, so that they might determine their own actions and choose of their own free will to turn toward God. However, in giving human beings the gift of free will, God made it possible for human beings to choose either good or evil. Human beings could always choose the good, but often they choose to do what is evil. God could not make human beings free and guarantee that they will always choose the good, for this is logically impossible, this theodicy maintains. When is something logically impossible? Sometimes we say that something is impossible when it is still possible in the logical sense. It is, we would say, impossible for a man who is sixty years old to grow another foot in height. And it is impossible in a real sense. It is physically impossible, for it goes counter to the natural order of things and counter to the laws of nature, but it is not logically impossible. It would be logically impossible for him to both grow another foot in height and remain the same height. This is because the description “He grew another foot in height and remained the same height” is an internally contradictory description, and that makes it logically impossible. What is logically impossible is not in some other way possible, for nothing can correspond to a logically impossible description. Since God’s creating human beings with free will who are guaranteed always to choose the good is logically impossible, it is not a thing that God could do. It is sometimes added to this theodicy that evil in the world can be traced back to the first evil choices of Adam and Eve, when they chose to defy God and eat the forbidden fruit. For Milton, this is how paradise was “lost” in his Paradise Lost. For Calvin, whom Milton follows, the evils of the world are part of the punishment brought upon humankind by those initial evil choices. However, one can advance the free will theodicy without using the Adam and Eve story in this way.

Criticisms of The Free Will Theodicy 1. Even if the free will theodicy accounts for moral evil, it does not account for natural evil. Those who advance the free will theodicy have more than one reply to this criticism. Calvin would say that the natural evils of the world are themselves the result of Adam and Eve’s disobedience.8 Augustine attributed natural evils to the rebellious choices of those angels who sought to overthrow God in heaven. These replies carry implications: Calvin’s reply requires

the special place he gives to the Adam and Eve story, and Augustine’s reply requires an acceptance of the story of the heavenly revolt of Lucifer and the angels that followed him. 2. Is the “gift” of free will worth the price of all the moral evil in the world? Wouldn’t the world be better if human beings were programmed always to choose the good? 3. Is it really logically impossible for God to create humans with free will who always freely choose the good? Or is it only physically impossible—in which case it would be within God’s power? Why couldn’t God bring into creation only those humans that God knew would freely choose only the good? And if this is logically impossible, couldn’t God have made the evil choices that humans face much less tempting?

The Best of All Possible Worlds Theodicy In the eighteenth century, G. W. Leibniz (1646–1716) offered a different kind of theodicy. (In fact, Leibniz is the one who gave us the French term théodicée, which in English is theodicy.) His basic idea is that this world, as a world created by an all-good and all-powerful God, is simply the best of all the possible worlds that God could have created. We might think it could be better if all or just some evils were not a part of it, but any such change would make the world overall a worse world.

Criticisms of the Best of All Possible Worlds Theodicy 1. For many, the main problem with this theodicy is that it certainly seems easy enough to imagine the world being a better place if some evil had not occurred. But if Leibniz is right, present evils are necessary for the best of all possible worlds. Voltaire tried to show that such a notion is ridiculous. Voltaire, in the same century Leibniz presented his theodicy, satirized the Leibnizian theodicy in his short novel Candide, in which the hero and others stumble from one apparently gratuitous evil to another, including the great Lisbon earthquake of 1755. Voltaire raises this question: Would the world really be worse if the last great earthquake had not happened? 2. Keeping it in mind that satirizing an idea does not prove it is false, others have pointed out that, though it is not disproved, the Leibnizian idea that this is the best of all possible worlds is far from proven, even though this should be the best of all possible worlds if God exists.

The Irenaean Theodicy

A third kind of theodicy was provided in outline by Irenaeus in the second century of the Common Era. The basic idea of this theodicy is that evil is necessary for the spiritual growth of human beings. On this view human beings are created in a spiritually immature state, though it is possible for them to strive toward moral and spiritual perfection and final fellowship with God. When developed, the Irenaean theodicy speaks to both moral and natural evil. For human beings to grow spiritually they must have free will, and free will allows the entry of moral evil. Natural evils and their suffering are required as obstacles for human beings to overcome in their moral and spiritual development. In this way the Irenaean theodicy accounts for, or addresses, both moral evil and natural evil. Both are needed for the moral and spiritual development of human beings. If it is asked why God did not create human beings with full moral and spiritual development, ready for fellowship with God, the reply offered by this theodicy is that spiritual perfection requires choices and striving. Logically, it cannot be “built in.”

Criticisms of The Irenaean Theodicy 1. Some criticisms very like those that are brought against the free-will theodicy can be addressed to the Irenaean theodicy. For instance, it can be asked whether it is not logically possible for God to create humans already morally and spiritually perfect so that they have already a virtuous and spiritual disposition. 2. Even if moral and spiritual perfection is something that human beings must strive toward, so that it is not logically possible for God to create morally and spiritually perfect human beings, still might not the ordeals and tests that human beings must pass through have been made a little easier? In addition, we should note a general criticism of all theodicies that are attempts to explain or justify God’s way by an appeal to a greater good that presupposes the evils of the world. Say there was some greater good—the final happiness of humankind or their moral and spiritual perfection. Would it be moral to inflict pain and suffering on the world for the sake of this greater good? Some have thought not, and that it slanders God morally to think so.9

When the Religious Problem of Evil Is Not a Problem Job (pronounced JOBE) in the Book of Job in the Bible is a morally upright man and a devout worshipper of God. He has sons and daughters and is happy in his family life. Also, he is well off, with many sheep and oxen. In every way, it seems, Job is blessed. Then disaster strikes. Fire, perhaps from lightning, consumes his sheep and servants. A great wind blows in the

house of his eldest son and kills all his sons and daughters. Raiders steal the rest of his domestic animals and kill other servants. Job is left with no riches and no family, only his wife. Then Job’s body is struck with disease, and sores cover him from head to toe. At this point Job’s wife, in her despair, addresses him in his loss and suffering and advises him to “curse God and die.” Job replies with a rhetorical question: “Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” In saying this, in accepting that evils are a part of God’s domain or creation, we are told in the Book of Job, Job does not sin with his lips. He does not lose or renounce his faith in God.10 Job suffers both natural and moral evil. Both are included in his acceptance of the evil that he and his family have endured at the hand of God. In his acceptance of evil, Job is referring to the natural evils of the fire that consumed his sheep and servants, the great wind that destroyed the house of his eldest son and killed all his sons and daughters, and the disease that afflicts his own body; and Job is referring as well to the moral evil of the raiders who slew his servants and stole his herds. There are several interpretations of the Book of Job. On one reading, however, though in his suffering Job’s soul is bitter and his heart is in turmoil, Job’s faith in God never falters. His faith does not falter even though he does not understand God’s reason for allowing or creating evil in the world, in particular the great evil that God has brought upon him. In the Book of Job, on the reading that we are using here, Job maintains his faith in God. Though he has received evil from God, Job continues to believe in God’s goodness, in particular God’s goodness toward him. Job does not know why he has been afflicted with evil, but as long as he trusts in God he believes, and must believe, that God is good. He in fact affirms that he knows that his Redeemer lives (Job 19.25), and in this utterance we have Job’s expression of absolute faith in God and his goodness. Job does not seek a theodicy, then, because he does not have the problem of evil. He does not feel the need to find God’s reason for the evil he allows or creates in order to continue to believe in God’s goodness. It is not that he already has a theodicy. He does not, nor does God, speaking out of the whirlwind (as he does at the end of the Book of Job), provide Job with his reason for evil. So Job does not know God’s reason for allowing evil, but he is certain that God is good. Essential to Job’s position, to his very understanding of himself, is that he knows God is good. But why is Job confident that God is good? How does he know that God is good? David Hume, in his Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, says, “There are many inexplicable difficulties in the world of nature which, if we allow a perfect author to be proved a priori, are easily solved.”11 That is, if we know God is perfect by an a prior proof, then we know that “difficulties” somehow can be resolved and do not deny that perfection. (The term a priori means “before experience,” that is, independently of what we learn through our experience of the world. For example, the Ontological Argument, discussed in Chapter 2, is advanced by St. Anselm as an a priori proof of God’s existence.)

Job has no a priori proof of God’s existence or goodness. There is, however, another way Job might come to know God’s goodness. Job would know God is good if, in beholding the goodness of God’s creation, he beheld God’s goodness as a part of God’s presence. Job would know God is good, if in beholding the world, he, like the Psalmist (or as the Psalmist understands himself), discovers and becomes aware of God’s goodness. Those in the tradition of the Psalmist look upon the world and behold, or believe they behold, God’s goodness in the world. As they understand themselves, they see God’s goodness shining through creation. It is not that they draw an inference that God is good. God’s goodness is there before them, as the loving presence of a mother is there for a child in her mother’s face.12 In this way they behold and become aware of God’s goodness in an experiential way; as they understand themselves, they discover God’s goodness in all that is about them. Hume is not thinking of a religious discovery of God’s presence and God’s goodness, but the same point holds. If a discovery has been made and religious believers see God’s goodness shining through the world, even the world’s evil, then they have no need for a theodicy. If we allow that believers in the Psalmist’s tradition are aware of God’s goodness, and so are as they understand themselves to be, then we should allow that they have a particular cognitive position regarding evil that determines their logical attitude toward evil as being no evidence whatsoever against God’s existence. In fact, they properly would not regard evil as evidence of any sort or degree against God’s goodness or existence. For if they know there is a God whose goodness shines through creation, then whatever might seem to others to be evidence against God’s goodness cannot really be that. The logic here is general. If someone, S, knows something, P, then what appears to others to be evidence against P will not appear to S to be evidence against P, and moreover, it will not be evidence against P if S really knows P to be true. If I know that I have just put three oranges in the bowl before me on the table, I will not take it as evidence that there are only two if someone says from across the room that she can see only two or if I see an image of the bowl in a mirror that shows only two. Of course, in a case like this there is always a possibility (in a weak sense of the term possibility) that one is mistaken in the initial judgment and so does not really know—I might have put only two oranges in the bowl, thinking I handled three, perhaps due to distraction. So let us consider another case in which the possibility of initial error is eliminated or reduced to an utter minimum. Let us say that I am a houseguest in a wealthy home. One night, after all are asleep, I steal the jewels of my hostess. To cover my tracks, I frame the butler. I plant evidence that will incriminate him. I leave his glove by the jewel cabinet. I lift his fingerprints from a drinking glass and transfer them to the glass of the cabinet. I use the key to the jewel cabinet issued to him and leave it in the cabinet lock. The police are called and dutifully investigate. As I planned, they find the evidence I planted: the glove, the fingerprints, and the key. As they collect these items of evidence (as the police take them to be), the police, quite properly, begin to think that the butler did it. But should I, along with the police, begin to think that, after all,

perhaps the butler did it? Clearly not. Notice that it does not really matter whether I planted the evidence. Say that the butler had just happened to leave his glove at the scene, his fingerprints on the cabinet glass, and his key in the lock. Still I would be quite irrational to take these items as evidence that the butler had stolen the jewels when I know full well that I took them. These items, I could allow, are seeming evidence that the butler did it, which, from my standpoint, are fortuitously taken to be real evidence by the police. But I would be quite irrational if I took them to be any real evidence at all that the butler had committed the crime. The same holds in other cases of knowing. Thus, given that a believer in the Psalmist’s tradition knows that God is good and that God’s goodness shines through creation, she or he would not, and should not, see evil as any evidence against God’s goodness. Although we may have a question about whether such believers are truly aware of God’s goodness, they have no such question; and thus it is not surprising if they, like Job in the prologue when he replies to his wife, do not see evil as evidence against God’s goodness.13 Moreover, if they are as they see themselves, they are right in the evidential irrelevance they give to evil. Such believers, if they wished, could pursue the problem of evil out of a theological interest in the problem of evil at an abstract level, but they would not have the problem at the personal level.

Back to the Practical Problem of Evil The practical problem of evil is the moral problem of how to reduce or remedy the moral and natural evil we find in the world. This is how my poet friend understood the problem of evil. To address this problem we need not try to remove all of the evil in the world (which would be an impossible task), but we could seek in some way to lessen or mitigate the natural or moral evils of the world. Many in today’s world are working to counteract the evils of disease —AIDS, malaria, and other tropical diseases, like schistosomiasis. Others have undertaken to oppose such moral evils as torture. It is always open to us in our individual lives to try to lessen suffering by contributing to charities that help the homeless or refugees or to lessen moral evil by, for instance, just not repeating hurtful gossip. In The Brothers Karamazov, Ivan presents to his religious brother Alyosha terrible evils done to children. Alyosha, as much as Ivan, feels grief for the victims and dismay for the evils done to them. Alyosha, no more than Job, knows God’s reason for evil. In the novel, Alyosha does not speculate on God’s reason. He offers no theodicy. What he does do is to help some young boys in his community who are in need of a “big brother.” In Book 10 of the novel, Dostoyevsky introduces a number of school boys, prominent among whom is thirteen-year-old Kolya. Kolya is an only child, and his mother, a young

widow, is overly protective. Kolya is taunted by the boys as being a mother’s darling, and Kolya reacts with a kind of aloofness toward his mother, which causes her grief. At the same time, he impresses his school fellows with a feat of derring-do—he lies down between the rails and lets a train pass over him. He thus gains the reputation of being a “desperate character”14 among the school boys, who now start to look up to him. As a part of his role, Kolya in the streets lies to and treats disrespectfully peasants and tradespeople. As a further part of his role, he nurtures a growing coldness toward his mother—with some lapses—and toward the other boys. When a younger student, Ilyusha, joins the school and seeks to attach himself to Kolya, Kolya responds with coldness; the more Ilyusha expresses fondness for him, the more frigid Kolya is. Ilyusha comes to suffer greatly at the hands of the boys, once it is clear to them that he is not under Kolya’s protection. Ilyusha’s father is a drunkard, and the boys use this fact to taunt him. They get into fights, and Kolya does nothing. One day after school Ilyusha rushes at his tormentors, and Kolya does nothing to prevent the fighting. He just stands and watches from a short distance. Ilyusha, in desperation, takes out his penknife and rushing up to Kolya stabs him in the thigh. Kolya, after the event, tells Alyosha about all this, and says he is sorry. He says that he is a “sworn enemy of all sloppy sentiments” and that he wanted “to train him [Ilyusha] to be a man.”15 Alyosha comes into the boys’ lives because one of the boys has told him about Ilyusha. Ilyusha has become ill, apparently with consumption, and Alyosha goes regularly to visit Ilyusha. It is on such a visit that Alyosha meets Kolya. Alyosha’s role with the boys is that of a mentor, especially for Kolya. In some ways Alyosha is for the school boys what a contemporary interactive role model is for today’s urban gangs. As the novel is, however, the evils addressed are the psychological evils of coldness, vanity, and aloof pride, especially as found in Kolya. Although some may not see these traits as evils, but rather as aspects of personal independence and strength (as Kolya tends to),16 for Dostoyevsky these are certainly evils—evils of the soul, or psychological evils. In Dostoyevsky’s presentation, these elements affect even Kolya’s expression of generosity. Before Kolya met Alyosha he wanted to meet him, for there is something “sympathetic and attractive” in the stories he has heard about Alyosha. In fact, though, Kolya is deeply ambivalent toward Alyosha. He has hitherto “assumed an air of contemptuous indifference” when Alyosha was spoken of by the boys. He does not want to “disgrace” himself. He wants to be friends with Alyosha but does not want to show how anxious he is to be his friend.17 It is as though good and bad aspects of Kolya’s soul were struggling with one another. Without putting too fine a point on it, Alyosha counteracts these psychological evils and encourages the goodness in Kolya’s character, and in the character of the other boys. In the third and final chapter of the epilogue—the very end of the novel—Alyosha speaks to the boys. The occasion of their gathering is the death of Ilyusha, who has succumbed to his consumptive condition. Alyosha does not speak of the evil of little Ilyusha dying of consumption, but of how he

should be remembered as a good boy and as dear to them. “Oh, how I loved him!” exclaims Kolya.18 He has found in himself what before he would call a “sloppy sentiment.” Alyosha does not name evil or speak to it; he interacts with and speaks to the boys—not with righteous denunciation, but with communicative love—and thereby mitigates evil. Alyosha does not react to the evil of the world by rejecting or defying God, as does his brother, or by holding his religious faith in abeyance until he can find an adequate theodicy. Alyosha has no theodicy to offer and, like Ivan, rejects a theodicy that would justify evils done to children by citing an ultimate good that requires such evils. In this sense Alyosha has no answer to the religious problem of evil, which he does not address. Yet he is aware of evil. He engages evil and seeks to lessen it in the lives of the boys he helps. Both Ivan and Alyosha, it is to be noted, react to the evil in the lives of children, but their reactions are utterly different. Ivan’s reaction is to indict God. Alyosha’s reaction is to help children themselves. Alyosha does so with a vigor of spirit equal to his brother’s defiance. The religious problem of evil, then, he neither has nor addresses, even though he was invited to the problem by Ivan, whereas the practical problem of evil he both has and addresses. He addresses evil as an expression of his religious commitment to God and neighbor, and in answer to the moral and religious demands that apply to us all.19 In this sense, in The Bothers Karamazov, Alyosha transmutes the one problem of evil into the other.

Summing Up and Going Further When the religious problem of evil is felt as a problem by a religious believer, either at the abstract level or as a personal concrete problem, seeking a theodicy becomes relevant. The question then arises whether any theodicy is adequate. Several theodicies have been offered over the centuries, but each has its weaknesses. The religious problem of evil can be a problem for nonbelievers, too. Some nonbelievers see evil as conclusive evidence that God does not exist, and if they do—if this is their reason for not believing in God—then they must believe that no theodicy is adequate. In this way, they too have the religious problem of evil. Although the religious problem of evil can be a problem for religious believers, sometimes it isn’t. It wasn’t for Job, and it isn’t for those who see God’s goodness in the world. However, one could ask this question: Have they really seen God’s goodness? If they haven’t, then they should acknowledge the religious problem of evil. At least they should not think they have no need of a theodicy because they are aware of God’s goodness. Summing up, we can ask three questions from the standpoints of three positions or orientations on the religious problem of evil:

1. Does the existence of only some evil contradict the existence of a good and allpowerful God, and so require us to conclude that God does not exist? 2. Is there an adequate theodicy that explains the existence of evil and justifies God’s way? 3. Is there a religious perception of God’s goodness in the world, so that evil can be understood as a part of God’s creation and not real evidence against God’s goodness?

Questions for Chapter 6 Factual Questions 1. What are examples of moral and natural evil? 2. What is the practical problem of evil, and how is it different from the religious problem of evil? 3. Formulate in your own words the religious problem of evil, being sure to include all of its essential elements.

Interpretive and Evaluative Questions 1. Does the existence of only some evil contradict the existence of a good and allpowerful God, and so require us to conclude that God does not exist? 2. Is there an adequate theodicy that explains the existence of evil and justifies God’s way? 3. Is there a religious perception of God’s goodness in the world, so that evil can be understood as a part of God’s creation and not real evidence against God’s goodness?

Notes 1. Boethius, The Consolation of Philosophy, Bk. 1, Sec. 4. 2. Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov, Bk. 4, Chap. 4 “Rebellion.” In the Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 6. 3. Peter Byrne, The Moral Interpretation of Religion (Grand Rapids, MI, and Cambridge: Eerdmans, 1998), p. 16. 4. In Chapter 9 we look at a nonrealist conception of God that is different from the traditional conception of God as allpowerful, all-good, and all-knowing. Such a nonrealist conception of God does not admit the religious problem of evil, and the problem would not arise for those using this conception of God in their religious practice. 5. J. L. Mackie, “Evil and Omnipotence,” and H. J. McCloskey, “God and Evil,” both reprinted in God and Evil, ed. Nelson Pike (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1964). McCloskey allows that it is “superfluous evil” that forces us to conclude that there cannot be an omnipotent, benevolent God. McCloskey’s article is in Introduction to Philosophy of

Religion: Readings, Chapter 6. 6. John Milton, Paradise Lost, Bk. I, line 26. 7. Alvin Plantinga offers a defense (the “free will defense”) in God and Other Minds (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1967) pp. 131 ff. 8. Calvin, Institutes, Book II, Chap. 1, Sec. 5. 9. Among those who have seen such theodicies in this light, in addition to Ivan Karamazov in Dostoyevsky’s novel, are Stewart R. Sutherland in his God, Jesus and Belief, D.Z. Phillips in his “The Problem of Evil,” and Marilyn McCord Adams in her Horrendous Evils and the Goodness of God. 10. This portion of the story of Job is in the prologue, or Chapters 1 and 2 of the Book of Job. Parts of the Book of Job, including Chapters 1 and 2, from the Tanakh are in Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 1. 11. David Hume, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, Part V. In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 2. 12. Eleonore Stump speaks of a child’s sense of his mother’s goodness and its connection to a sense of God’s goodness in “The Mirror of Evil” in God and the Philosophers, edited by Thomas V. Morris (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994). 13. For a more detailed discussion of such a “Job-like believer,” see James Kellenberger, “God’s Goodness and God’s Evil.” In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 6. 14. The Brothers Karamazov, Book 10, Chapter 1; The Brothers Karamazov, translated by David Magarshack, vol. 2, p. 606. Book 10, Chapter 1 and other selections from The Brothers Karamazov are in the Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 6. 15. The Brothers Karamazov, Book 10, Chapter 4; The Brothers Karamazov, vol. 2, p. 626. 16. The Brothers Karamazov, Book 10, Chapter 4; The Brothers Karamazov, vol. 2, p. 623. 17. The Brothers Karamazov, Book 10, Chapter 4; The Brothers Karamazov, vol. 2, p. 623. 18. The Brothers Karamazov, Epilogue, Chapter 3; The Brothers Karamazov, vol. 2, p. 912. In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 6. 19. The general moral obligations to prevent harm where we can and to do good where we can are widely recognized, and the religious obligation to love one’s neighbors would be recognized by Alyosha as a Christian believer.

Chapter 7 Miracles Miracles in Religious Traditions What is a miracle? We today use the term in several ways or senses. Sometimes we mean only some occurrence that was very unlikely (e.g., we lose our keys someplace in a marsh, and find them in the first muddy pool we feel around in). Sometimes we mean a wonderful event, an event full of wonder (e.g., a person falls two stories and walks away or the “miracle of birth”). Sometimes we mean an event that goes counter to the natural order or against “the laws of nature,” an event that is physically impossible (e.g., a person levitates or a person eats nothing for a year and survives). One need not be religious to refer to such events as “miracles,” for they may not be regarded as having any religious significance. In religious traditions sometimes events in this last sense—an event that goes against the laws of nature— are regarded as having religious significance and attributed to religious founders, saints, and prophets.1 The basic religious meaning of miracle discussed in this chapter is an event, often unlikely, always wonderful in some way, that was caused by God. In this meaning, miracles have religious significance and—if they have occurred—are acts of God. Within the three main Western monotheistic traditions, miracles in this basic sense are caused by the one God. In other polytheistic traditions, such as Hinduism, miracles in this sense may be caused by one god or another. This is the basic meaning that forms our focus, although, there are significant variations on this basic meaning. This chapter covers three variants of this basic meaning: intervention miracles, contingency miracles, and natural miracles.

Intervention Miracles The first variation on the basic meaning of miracle we have identified is intervention miracle. An intervention miracle is an act of God by which God intervenes in the natural order and causes an event that goes against and so “violates” a natural law, an event that is physically impossible (though it is not logically impossible). Often when we think of a religious miracle, we think of a miracle in this sense. In each of the three Western monotheistic traditions, several examples of intervention miracles are widely recognized and accepted by believers: For example, in Judaism, Moses hears God speak out of the bush that burns without

being consumed (Exodus 3:2–6) and God parts the Red Sea (Exodus 14:21). In Christianity, Jesus turns water to wine at the wedding in Cana (John 2:7–9) and raises Lazarus from the dead (John 11:43–44). In Islam, God reveals, through Gabriel, the Qur’an to Muhammad and Muhammad ascends to paradise, where he talked with the prophets that preceded him. In different religious traditions, then, intervention miracles are believed in, although the specific miracles believed to have occurred are different in the different traditions. Furthermore, sometimes miracles are taken to be evidence in support of a religious tradition. Thus, sometimes the miracles attributed to Jesus in the New Testament, such as Jesus’ raising Lazarus from the dead and his curing the sick and afflicted, are advanced as evidence that Christianity is true. David Hume, the author of Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, reflected on religions doing this in another work, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding. Hume saw different religions as “rival systems,” each denying the other, so that they could not all rest on “any solid foundation.” He reasoned that any miracle offered as evidence in support of one religion would have equal force “to overthrow every other system.”2 Since all the religions, as he thought, bring forward miracles to establish themselves, their competing miracles cancel out each other as credible support and end up being evidence against other religions as much as support for any one religion. But Hume had other, even deeper, reflections on intervention miracles. Hume’s deeper critical thoughts on miracles relate to the very idea of intervention miracles. As Hume appreciated, for there to be an intervention miracle, there must be an event that goes counter to the natural order—in Hume’s words “a violation of the laws of nature.”3 Although Hume’s thinking about intervention miracles is, to some extent, open to interpretation, on the reading of Hume used here, Hume raises two kinds of problems with the idea of a violation of the laws of nature. To begin with, he argues, it is never reasonable to believe a report that a violation of the laws of nature has occurred. But, second, he argues, the very idea of a violation of the laws of nature is confused. Let us look at both his arguments.4 Hume’s first argument can be put this way: The likelihood or probability that a violation of a natural law has occurred depends on the evidence for and against it. The evidence for miracles takes the form of testimony by those who witnessed it. But the testimony of these witnesses that there has been a violation to a natural law must be far less than the “uniform experience” of human beings that established the natural law in the first place. Otherwise, there would be no natural law and no occasion to speak of a violation. This means that no evidence can be sufficient to establish or even make probable the occurrence of a violation of a natural law, and so it is always unreasonable to believe that a violation of a natural law occurred. Hume uses the example of a report that a dead man has come to life (as in Jesus’ raising Lazarus from the dead in the biblical story). By the nature of the case, it must be more probable, Hume argues, that the witnesses who report seeing this happen are mistaken or trying to deceive us than that the entire experience of humanity is wrong.5

There are one or two initial observations that can be made about Hume’s first argument. First, we might observe that it is at least possible that a violation of a natural law might have very many witnesses. In the story of Jesus’ miraculously feeding the five thousand with only five loaves and two fish, there are five thousand witnesses in the biblical account ( John 6.8– 13). In principle, a violation of a natural law—something like a marble statue bleeding, say— could have even more witnesses. In fact, nothing in Hume’s first argument rules out the possibility of so many reliable witnesses reporting a miracle that their testimony outweighs the hitherto “uniform experience” of humanity. At this point, however, Hume could respond that as things are, even though there be millions of witnesses to a violation of a natural law, their testimony would be much less than the testimony of humanity that established the natural law, and so it would remain more probable that the report given by these witnesses is mistaken or for some other reason untrue.6 The second observation to be made is that Hume’s first argument applies to cases in which we must weigh the testimony of witnesses that a violation of a natural law occurred against the competing evidence of our “uniform experience.” He assumes that the only evidence we can have that a violation of a natural law has occurred is the testimony of others. But what if one oneself witnesses a violation of a natural law? What if we ourselves see the Red Sea part or Lazarus called back to life? Assuming that we are certain that we did see such a happening, as conceivably we might be, this changes things; for now we are not in the position of weighing the testimony of witnesses to a violation of a natural law against the testimony of others. We have our own firsthand experience. Hume, in his discussion of miracles in the Enquiry, considers whether it would be rational for an Indian prince who had never experienced the freezing of water to refuse to believe that water could turn to a solid state. Hume concludes that the Indian prince would be reasonable in refusing to believe this—for all of his experience is of water as a liquid. Of course, if the Indian prince sees water freeze with his own eyes, that is different. Similarly, we might think, if the Indian prince, or someone else, sees with her or his own eyes the Red Sea part, or some other violation of a natural law, that would be a different matter, and Hume’s first argument would not apply. Again, as things are, we contemporary individuals do not witness violations of natural laws, and so, since we must rely upon the reports of witnesses, Hume’s first argument about the reasonableness of believing that violations have occurred remains relevant. Now let us turn to Hume’s second argument. Hume’s second argument is that the very idea of a violation of the laws of nature is confused and incoherent. If Hume’s second argument is correct, then the idea of a violation of a law of nature could not apply to any event, and the issue of adequate evidence would not come up. Clearly, this is the more serious argument of the two. Here is Hume’s second argument in one formulation. Hume begins by allowing that it is possible that testimony could establish a violation of “the usual course of nature.” For instance, Hume allows, it is conceivable that testimony could

establish that “from the first of January 1600, there was a total darkness over the whole earth for eight days.” Human testimony would establish this if all authors in all languages agreed that such an event had occurred and if there were records and a tradition of the extraordinary event in all cultures with no variation or contradiction. But, if we had this wealth of testimony, then we ought to “search for the causes whence it might be derived.” That is, Hume is saying, we ought to look for the natural explanation for the event. Hume’s argument is that if it is established that the unusual event really took place, this is sufficient for the conclusion that it is in accord with natural laws, and our previous conception of the natural law involved was deficient. Therefore, whenever an event is established as having occurred, it is established that it is not a violation of a natural law, but at most only unusual.7 In his Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, Hume provides another example. There he imagines that around the world at the same instant a great voice is heard from the clouds, and this voice, heard in each nation in the language of that nation, proclaims “some instruction altogether worthy of a benevolent Being superior to mankind.”8 If we apply the conclusion of Hume’s second argument to this example, we should say that, although the evidence of testimony establishes the occurrence of this event, because it occurred it must be a part of the natural flow of events. Accepting it as natural, we should then seek to discover its cause—in, perhaps, some chemical released into the atmosphere or in mass post-hypnotic suggestion. If Hume’s second argument is correct, there cannot be violations of natural laws because whatever occurs must be in accord with natural laws well understood. Some, following Hume, have said that it would be a contradiction to say that an event occurred and it violated a natural law. Alastair McKinnon comments on why this is contradictory: The contradiction is clearer, he believes, if we substitute for natural laws the expression the actual course of events. Then we can see that it is a contradiction to say that a violation of a natural law has occurred because this is to say that an event occurred, and so is within the course of events, that is also outside the actual course of events.9 The reflections of Hume and McKinnon raise this question: Can there be a violation of a natural law or deviations from the course of nature? One answer is that of Hume and McKinnon, who say that violations of natural laws cannot occur. But others have argued that violations of natural laws can occur. Both Richard Swinburne and R. F. Holland argue that there can in concept be violations of a natural law.10 For Holland, an event that violates a law of nature is conceivable, and in saying that such a thing can occur, we do not contradict ourselves. For Holland, we would see such a violation to occur if we witnessed an event that was empirically certain and also physically impossible. Something would be empirically certain when we see it with our own eyes and we are certain of what we see. To use Holland’s example, we might be certain that a horse is eating the forage it was given, and we might be certain that a horse has been regularly fed over a period of days or weeks. In the same way we might be certain that a horse has not been fed for a long period of time, so long that the

horse should die of lack of nutrition. But say that the horse does not die. Instead it remains active and healthy. The horse continues in good health, and its physiological processes remain just what they would have been if it had been regularly fed. Of this too, we might be certain through our own observation. In this case, we would be certain that what is physically impossible has occurred, for it is physically impossible for an animal like a horse to maintain its bodily functions and thrive without nutrition over a long period of time. Holland gives other examples as well, such as the example of his rising three feet in the air and floating there. McKinnon and Hume on the one hand and Holland on the other hand differ on how to understand the term “natural law.” For McKinnon and Hume we should seek the natural cause of any event that appears to breach a natural law, for there must be a natural cause. So in the end, for McKinnon and Hume, some natural law will cover the event. For Holland we can at times know that there is no natural cause (as in the horse case), and so we can know that the physically impossible has, or would have, occurred. In any case, if Hume’s reasoning regarding intervention miracles is right, then (1) intervention miracle claims will never be evidence for a religion, (2) it is never reasonable to accept the report of a violation of a natural law, and (3) the belief in an intervention miracle and the violation of a natural law that it requires is always inherently confused. Because Hume thought that he had shown that violations of natural laws could not occur or at least that there never is good reason to believe they have occurred, he never took up the other part of the question regarding intervention miracles: Is the violation of the natural law caused by God’s intervention? If Hume’s reasoning were conclusive, this second question would never come up. If, however, we were sure that a violation of a natural law had occurred, then it would come up. Holland suggests that one more element is necessary for the violation of a natural law to be a candidate for an intervention miracle: It must have religious significance. Holland believes that we know enough about gravity and material bodies to know that a person’s levitating is physically impossible and a violation of a natural law. However, if a person starts floating in the air three feet off the ground while, say, talking about the weather, it is far from clear that there is any religious significance to the event, Holland would say. If, in contrast, the levitation saved a person’s life or happened to a religious holy man, then it would have the necessary religious significance, Holland maintains.11 What, then, might be evidence that God intervened and caused a violation of a natural law? One philosopher, Richard Swinburne, has suggested that all of the following would be evidence that a god (God or some god) has caused a violation of a natural law: (1) the violation was requested: (2) the request was specifically addressed, say to Allah: (3) the request is often answered by a voice, not that of an embodied being, giving reasons for granting or refusing the request: and (4) the voice praises some requests and rebukes petitioners for others.12 One might propose evidence of other forms as well. The character of the violation

might provide evidence as to the character of its cause. The instant and unexpected curing of a severe disease, such as AIDS or paralysis, even without both a disembodied voice and a request, can be seen as an expression of benevolence and taken as evidence that its cause is a benevolent God (or god). A voice emanating from a bush burning without being consumed, which proclaims wishes or commands independently known to be those of God, can be taken to be evidence that God is the cause. Belief in intervention miracles plays a significant role in various religious traditions. For Hume the idea of a violation of natural law is a part of the idea of miracle. And some with religious sympathies, like H. D. Lewis, think that the concept of miracle should be restricted to events in which there is a deviation from the normal course of nature.13 However, if all belief in intervention miracles were set aside or renounced by religion, there would still be, or could be, room for belief in miracles. This is because God’s action or agency need not take the form of intervening in the order of nature. For an event to be seen as a miracle, it must have religious significance and be seen as an instance of God’s acting, but God’s acting and bringing about an event need not be through an intervention in the natural order of things or a “violation” of a natural law. This brings us to two other variations in the basic sense of miracle understood as an act of God. The first variation is what we may call a “contingency miracle,” following R. F. Holland.

Contingency Miracles Usually when miracles in a religious sense are spoken of, intervention miracles are meant. We most easily apply the term miraculous to an instant recovery from paralysis that was thought to be permanent or to a person’s awakening from a coma said by the doctors to be irreversible. In these cases, there is a strong candidate for a violation of a natural law. In these cases we can understand someone who is religious thanking God for the recovery of the person with paralysis or for the awakening of the person in a deep coma. Now consider the following possible scenario. A child is playing in the street in a residential area. There is next to no traffic, although there is a large truck parked up the street. The driver has failed to set the emergency brake, and the truck starts to roll toward the child. The child, who does not see the truck, continues to play. The child’s mother, who does see the truck rolling toward her child, cries out to her child, but she is too far away for her child to hear. It looks as though the truck is going to hit the child, but when it is about fifty yards away, an air line ruptures, which causes the air brakes automatically to be applied.14 If the mother is religious, we should not be surprised if she thanks God in her heart that her child was spared. She will do so even though there is no candidate for a violation of a natural law. In fact there

is a natural explanation of why the air line ruptured when it did: It was an old frayed hose, and a little bump the truck went over caused it finally to give way. Yet even if this is explained to the mother, she will continue to thank God. Not every coincidence makes a contingency miracle, for the event must have religious significance to be considered a miracle, Holland observes. If I open my front door to get the mail, and just as I do my friend is there about to knock on the door, that is a coincidence, but not a candidate for a contingency miracle. Nothing like someone’s possible death is at stake. However, in our illustrative case, there is religious significance; there is something for which to thank God, as the mother does. Many other cases may be brought to mind: In a restaurant we decide to skip desert and leave a few minutes earlier than we would have otherwise, and in those minutes there is a natural gas explosion in the restaurant; or when we are driving at highway speed, we get a blowout, and the out-of-control car goes off the road, just misses a concrete embankment, and comes to rest in a field. At this point, we should notice what is presupposed when anyone thanks another person for something. When someone is thanked for doing something, that someone is seen as having done what she is thanked for. Otherwise, why thank him or her? The person thanked is seen as responsible for the action (the thing done), and this makes gratitude toward that person and thanks for that action appropriate. These familiar connections hold for contingency miracles as well. What this draws to our attention is that contingency miracles are seen as acts of God, even though God is not understood to act through an intervention in the course of nature. The key here is the “thankability” of God. When religious persons believe that God should be thanked, and do thank God, they attribute to God responsibility of some kind for doing something, for bringing something about or allowing something to occur. What Holland draws to our attention is that religious people can and do thank God for the occurrence of events that do not involve a candidate for a violation of a natural law. Of course, that religious people do this does not in itself show that events thought to be contingency miracles really are miracles, really are in some way due to God’s action. But it does show that in an identifiable strain of religious sensibility, God may appropriately be thanked for events when there is nothing like God’s intervening in the course of nature through a violation of a natural law.

Natural Miracles In the eyes of many religious people, most if not all natural events are due to God’s action or agency.15 Religious believers in God may give thanks to God for the beginning of a new day, for food being on the table, as well as for the birth of their children and for recovery from

surgery. In doing so they implicitly attribute to God some kind of responsibility for these events, although they may never have thought how God brought about or allowed these events to occur. They may confess complete ignorance of the mode of God’s agency. Yet, in thanking God for the bread on their table or for their recovery from surgery, they see God as in some manner responsible for these events. For these events religious believers will praise and thank God. At the same time, like those who are not religious believers, they will pay the baker for their bread and their doctors for the surgery performed. Like those who are not religious believers, religious believers will blame the baker if the bread is stale and blame their doctors if there are avoidable complications in their recovery from surgery. But whereas religious believers will blame the baker if the bread is stale and blame the doctors if the recovery has avoidable complications— and not blame God—if the bread is wholesome and the recovery goes well, they will thank God. How can we understand this apparently confused attribution of responsibility to God—one that allows praise but not blame? One thing some religious believers might say is that there is no understanding God’s ways. Perhaps, though, some understanding may be available through reflecting on a certain familiar mode of human agency and responsibility that bears some analogy to God’s agency and responsibility for natural events. Natural miracles occur through God’s agency. They are not instances of God’s direct action. There is no intervention in the course of nature attributed to God in thanking God for a natural miracle. Rather God, as creator, is deemed thankable for establishing the ground for natural events. In an analogous way, parents who establish an education fund for their son can be thanked by him, and others, for making his college education possible. The parents are thankable even though they exert no direct influence on their son’s education and the educational decisions he makes. In this kind of case there is a dual responsibility. When the son earns his degree he will be congratulated, and rightly so, for the degree was earned through his efforts. At the same time the parents remain thankable for making it possible for their son to attend college. If, in contrast, their son fails to earn his degree, other things being equal, he alone is responsible for the failure. The analogy is not perfect. The parents did not create their son’s intellectual powers, and they are not responsible for the diversions he pursues. God, however, did create the baker and the doctors and their abilities. So, we might think, God is responsible for their failures. Here we are near the edges of the religious problem of evil. For some, the correct view is that God ultimately is responsible for the failures of the baker and the doctors, and for much more that is evil, which makes God blameworthy and hence not all-good. For traditional believers, if they follow the free-will theodicy, God is not responsible; rather, human beings are. For other traditional believers, closer to Job, God is responsible for such failures, but God is not blameworthy. There are other questions that may be asked about the idea or category of natural miracle. Miracles in the religious sense should in some way be wonderful, full of wonder, but what is

wonderful about the natural events of the world? Perhaps most of us will feel wonder before a volcano erupting or a vivid sunset, but many natural events are quite ordinary. There is something contradictory, or at least paradoxical, about saying that ordinary events are wonderful. What it draws to our attention is that, whether we are religious or not, in much of our daily lives we must treat ordinary things as things we use to do everyday tasks. We turn the key in the ignition and start the car, we watch the traffic light turn to green, and we drive to the store where we buy groceries. A religious person may go about the daily affairs of life without an acute consciousness of every event being a miracle, just as a physicist doing the normal things of life may not reflect on the atomic structure of every object she touches. Still, just as the physicist is aware that everything has an atomic structure, in the same way a religious person can have a background awareness that every event is a miracle and only occasionally stop and react with recognition and wonder. Another question is this: What is added to the description of an event as a natural event if we add that the event is a miracle? This question draws to our attention that there is no empirical or scientific difference between “This event is a natural event” and “This event is a natural miracle.” When religious people say that a natural event is a (natural) miracle, they are not saying there is some natural property (such as being surrounded by glowing light) that the event has that nonreligious people have failed to notice—a natural property being a property or characteristic of something that can in principle be detected by scientific observation, with or without special instruments like a Geiger counter. There is no scientific test that will determine if a natural event is also a natural miracle. This, however, does not mean that there is no difference in meaning between “This event is a natural event” and “This event is a natural miracle.” To affirm that an event is a miracle is to affirm that God has responsibility for that event and so is thankable. To affirm that an event is a natural miracle is to affirm that God is responsible for that event, not through intervention in the course of nature, but by making it possible through God’s creation for that event to occur. Conversely, to affirm that an event is a natural event is to affirm, roughly, that the event is not a violation of natural law. This difference in meaning makes a difference, for if we say that an event is a natural miracle, then we are saying thankfulness to God is appropriate, whereas if we say that an event is a natural event, we are not saying this. A third question that we might ask is this: Won’t applying the term miracle to natural events empty the term of meaning? The concern behind this question is closely related to the concern that H. D. Lewis had that the concept of miracle should be restricted to events that deviate from the normal course of nature, mentioned earlier. Both concerns arise for religious thinkers with religious sympathies. H. H. Farmer reflects that a person walking through country fields, contemplating the beauty, richness, and order of nature may become aware of “the steadfast goodness of God toward man.”16 However, Farmer suggests, such a religious person would not term this revelation a miracle. Farmer believes that the religious sentiments

or feelings expressed when we call such an experience a miracle may be proper, but, for him, the sense of God’s goodness toward man, that is toward all persons, is too “general.” His reason is not that the sense of the miraculous requires a “rarity or irregularity.” In other words, he is not saying that miracles must involve a violation of a natural law. For Farmer, events properly termed miracles should evoke a sense of personal demand and aid from God. Others, like Lewis, would say that an irregularity, a departure from the ordinary course of nature, is required for a miracle properly called. Farmer believes that if miracle were applied to ordinary or natural events, the term would be emptied of its “distinctive meaning.”17 Although Lewis and Farmer agree that many ordinary events can evoke a sense of God’s presence, for their separate reasons they would not call natural events miracles. Natural events that some religious people have seen as natural miracles, for which God may be thanked, include the birth of a child, a sunset, a seascape, a smile, the movement of our hand, and much more. If religious persons can stand in wonder before a natural event, they can begin to see it as a miracle. This sense of wonder, we should appreciate, can go comfortably with an understanding of the physical character of the event and of its cause. An obstetrician, who understands very well the physiology of gestation and giving birth, can feel wonder each time she assists a delivery. A meteorologist, who knows precisely why the colors of a sunset glow and fade as they do, can yet feel wonder at the sight. Regardless of whether we extend the term miracle to natural events, it does not take away from a natural event being seen as an event full of wonder, for which God may be thanked, that we understand the event and can explain it in scientific terms. Sometimes a confusion of puzzlement with wonder obscures this point. We feel puzzled by an event when we do not understand it, when we ask “Why did that happen?” or “How can that occur?” These questions can be answered by our scientific knowledge of the natural world. Wonder is different. We feel wonder before an event when it moves us to feel a kind of awe before it. Those who come to feel this awe may even have a sense of mystery before a natural event, although, if they understand the phenomenon before them, they will have no sense of puzzlement. And there is more than a sense of awe to the religious sense that a natural event is a miracle, or something for which God is to be thanked, for (as was discussed in Chapter 2) one who does not believe in God and who has agnostic or atheistic sensibilities can feel awe before the natural world. What is needed for the or a religious sensibility, in this connection, is the sense that God’s agency is involved.

Summing Up and Going Further There are different types of miracles. If we accept that within the theistic traditions the basic

idea of a miracle is or requires God’s action, then we can distinguish the three types of miracles discussed here. That God’s action is embodied in the very idea of a miracle derives from the religious sensibility that God is to be thanked for miracles, and so in some way is responsible for bringing them about. It is important to appreciate that often when religious persons in the different theistic traditions thank God for what God has given them and others, they are not thanking God for what they see as an intervention in the natural order. They may be thanking God for quite ordinary things in their lives. Different religious thinkers recognize that for many of the religious, God’s goodness may be manifest in everyday events, but some of these thinkers, like Lewis and Farmer, are reluctant to call every event a miracle. Still, as Holland argues, it seems to be a mistake to limit the religious category of miracle to intervention miracles. It is one thing to get inside religious sensibilities and appreciate what kinds of events religious persons may regard as miracles, and it is another thing to present miracles as evidence for a religion or for the existence of God. It must be granted that the existence of God follows immediately from the existence of even one miracle, if by miracle we mean an act of God. But why should we think that any event really is a miracle in this sense? Religious persons, many of them, especially if they are in the tradition of the Psalms, may see many events that we consider ordinary to be miraculous in the sense that they are acts of God. Many others will regard these same events as just natural events. The issue between them, in one dimension, is the issue of religious awareness and discovery discussed in Chapter 5. In this dimension, the issue is whether religious persons, or anyone, have or can come to behold God’s presence in the world. Usually when miracles are presented as evidence to convert others or to support a particular religion against criticism, it is intervention miracles that are given this evidential role by the proponents of the particular religion. It is this kind of miracle that Hume concentrates on, and Hume makes us see that there is an issue of whether any event can reasonably be believed to be a violation of a natural law, and even whether any event can coherently be thought of as a violation of a natural law. If Hume is wrong and a violation of a natural law can be shown to have occurred, then some extraordinary and irregular cause must be responsible. Whether God would be that cause is a further issue, as Swinburne appreciates. Furthermore, if Hume is right, since intervention miracles are claimed in all (or at least several) religions, intervention miracles cannot be marshaled as evidence for the doctrines of any one religion. Whether they could be used as evidence for the existence of God in some conception of God, as opposed to the truth of the doctrines of a particular theistic religion, like Christianity or Judaism, is another matter.

Questions for Chapter 7 Factual Questions 1. What is the difference between an intervention miracle and a contingency miracle? 2. Explain how what is physically impossible might still be logically possible. Give an example. 3. What is the conceptual difference between a natural event and a natural miracle? That is, what is the difference in meaning between “This event is a natural event” and “This event is a natural miracle”?

Interpretive and Evaluative Questions 1. Do you think that there could be an event that deviated from the course of nature? Give examples if you do. 2. Do you think that one can come to see an event in the world as a miracle without already believing in God? 3. Can miracles ever be evidence for a religion? 4. Could there be so many people who witnessed a violation of the laws of nature that it became more probable than not that it occurred? 5. If a miracle was evidence for one religion, would it then be evidence against every other religion, as Hume thought? 6. Must there be a violation of natural laws for an event to have religious significance and be regarded as a miracle, or could any event have religious significance and be regarded as a miracle?

Notes 1. Miracles in this sense have been attributed to the Buddha in Buddhism, to Muhammad in Islam, to the prophets in Judaism, and to saints in Christianity. 2. David Hume, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, Sec. X, Pt. II. Sec. X of Hume’s Enquiry is in Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 7.

3. David Hume, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, Sec. X, Pt. I. In the Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 7. 4. Richard Swinburne interprets Hume’s arguments differently in The Concept of Miracle (London: Macmillan; New York: St. Martin’s, 1970), p. 13. Selections from The Concept of Miracle on violations of laws of nature and on evidence for intervention miracles are in Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 7. 5. David Hume, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, Sec. X, Pt. I. In the Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 7. 6. Richard Swinburne, The Concept of Miracle (London: Macmillan, 1970), pp. 13–15. 7. David Hume, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, Sec. X, Pt. II. In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 7. 8. Hume, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, Part. III. It is Cleanthes who presents this example, and he is doing so for a different point. 9. Alastair McKinnon, “‘Miracle’ and ‘Paradox,’” American Philosophical Quarterly, vol. 4 (1967), p. 309. 10. Richard Swinburne argues that there can be violations of the laws of nature in The Concept of Miracle, Chapter 3, “Violation of a Law of Nature.” In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 7. R. F. Holland argues for the same view in “The Miraculous” American Philosophical Quarterly, vol. 2 (1965), xxx–xxx 43–51. In my presentation of Holland’s argument I have changed Holland’s terminology to match our discussion. 11. Holland, “The Miraculous,” p. 49. 12. Richard Swinburne, The Concept of Miracle (London: Macmillan, 1970), pp. 58–59. In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 7. 13. H. D. Lewis, Our Experience of God (London: George Allen & Unwin; New York: Macmillan, 1959), p. 240. Lewis appreciates that events can have religious significance without being miracles in this sense. 14. This is an adaptation of an example used by Holland, “The Miraculous,” p. 43, to illustrate the category of contingent miracle. In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 7. 15. For a discussion of natural miracles, see James Kellenberger, “Miracles,” International Journal for Philosophy of Religion, vol. 10 (1979), 145–162. The section of “Miracles” on natural miracles is in Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 7. 16. H. H. Farmer, The World and God (London: Nisbet, 1935), p. 118. 17. H. H. Farmer, The World and God (London: Nisbet, 1935), p. 119.

Chapter 8 Religion and Morality We human beings are moral beings, not in the sense that we all are morally upright, but in the sense that we all regularly have moral concerns: We often ask ourselves what the right thing to do is; we come to judgments about what we ought to do; we commend others for their generous and courageous behavior; we morally criticize others, and sometimes ourselves, for thoughtless and hurtful actions; and so on. Probably, if we were called upon to do so, we all could write out a list of recognized moral rules. On it we might find, for instance, “Do not lie,” “Help those in great need,” “Do not steal,” and “Be loyal to your friends.” Our lists probably would agree to a great extent, although there could be some differences. Of course, our lists would be partial lists, but we would at least be able to start them. We all negotiate our way in the moral sphere, some more deliberately than others. Although some of us shun religion, it seems that we are all in some way engaged in the moral aspect of our lives. Many within the various religious traditions, and many outside religion, have asked: What is the relationship between religion and morality? This question can be understood in different ways. It might be taken to be asking if individual persons can be moral—morally good— without being religious, or if individual persons can be religious without being moral. These questions can be readily answered, it seems. Although many who are religious have led exemplary moral lives, not all who are moral have been committed religiously. Conversely, it appears that not all who are religious have been morally upright. Although we have religious leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi who have led efforts to obtain moral justice, we have also seen slavery defended in the name of religion. A better way to understand the question is as a question about morality itself and religion itself. Is morality connected to religion? Is religion in some way the foundation of morality? Is morality independent of religion? Taking this question to be about the relationship between morality itself and religion itself, we can distinguish three views, each with its different answer: 1. Morality is independent of religion because human beings can appeal to their moral sense of right and wrong without any appeal to God or religious reality. 2. Morality is strongly dependent on religion because what makes something morally wrong is its being contrary to God’s commands, as what makes something a moral obligation is its being commanded by God. 3. Morality is connected to religion because divine action or religious reality is the foundation of morality, but not because God’s commands make actions right or wrong.

Two Preliminary Questions Before we discuss these three views of the relationship between religion and morality, we must address two preliminary questions that arise because within religions we find ethical demands, which allow us to speak of, for instance, “Christian ethics” and “Buddhist ethics”: First, How close is religious morality to secular or nonreligious morality? And, second, Is religious morality the same from religion to religion?

How Close Is Religious Morality to Secular or Nonreligious Morality? In partial reply to the first question, Basil Mitchell in his reflections on the difference between moral wrongdoing and sin proposed that, though moral wrongdoing is the “most flagrant manifestation of sin,” the demands of morality—what we must do to avoid moral wrongdoing —are much less stringent than the demands of sin— what we must do to avoid sin. For instance, Mitchell says, lack of sensitivity in our human relationships is a sin, but not moral wrongdoing. Mitchell draws to our attention that often religious morality addresses what we may call interior action— our intentions, what we allow ourselves to wish for, thoughts we dwell upon, various fantasies we entertain. To illustrate the importance of interior actions for religious morality, consider that in the New Testament, Jesus says that every one who looks upon a woman with lust has already committed adultery in his heart (Mt 5:28). Mitchell argues that moral wrongdoing should be restricted to violations of “principles and rules of conduct which are needed for people to live together harmoniously” whereas we are “answerable to God for everything that we are and do.”1 It may well be that, for the religious in Mitchell’s tradition and other religious traditions, we are answerable to God for much more than we are answerable for to other people. However, it may also be that the moral domain is wider than Mitchell allows, for it may be that we are morally responsible for not being willfully insensitive to others and for having some level of concern for others, so that we can be guilty of such failures, as indicated by our sometimes asking others to forgive us for these failures. D. Z. Phillips has also reflected on the differences between “moral duties” and religious “duties to God.” He identifies five differences2: 1. The moral person does not think constantly about her duty, but the more one meditates on God’s law “the nearer one is said to be to God.” 2. Moral duties are specific in their demands. Religious duties—the positive ones, like the duty to love others and the duty to forgive others—are such that we can always do more.

Here Phillips assumes that morality has “threshold” duties (where once the threshold line is reached enough has been done) and not “scale” duties (where one can always do more and go further up the scale); at least some of our moral duties could be scale duties, such as, one’s obligation to support one’s friends and the obligation of parents to care for their children. We should observe that the positive religious duties that Phillips mentions—to love and to forgive —have essential interior aspects. 3. Moral duties are often thought of in terms of needs, but God has no needs. 4. One can fulfill one’s moral duties and hold that moral values are important while thinking life is hopeless, but one cannot fulfill religious duties and come to believe in God and also feel life is hopeless. 5. Morally perplexing situations call for psychological insight and moral analysis, but one cannot think one’s “way through to God.” Phillips maintains that religious believers must realize that they “do not know the answer” before they can receive “the grace of God” and be guided by God’s wisdom. However, it is not clear that a religious person’s thinking about the details of a situation (where the question might be, say, how to provide loving support for someone who is terminally ill) is not a helpful step before conceding that one does not know the best way to proceed and seeking God’s guidance. Nor is it clear that in such a situation, regarded as a moral perplexity by a nonreligious person, a nonreligious person might stop trying to think it through and hope for “insight,” regardless of whether it is thought of as coming from God. We should notice that, even if Mitchell and Phillips are right, there is much moral behavior that is common to moral wrongdoing and sin against God (to use Mitchell’s categories) or common to our moral duties and our duties to God (to use Phillips’ categories). For instance, the duty not to steal is at once a moral duty and a duty to God (since, in the Judaic and Christian traditions, there is God’s commandment not to steal). And, of course, even if Mitchell and Phillips are right, the question of the relationship between moral duty or moral wrongdoing and religion would remain.

Is Religious Morality the Same from Religion to Religion? We turn now to our second preliminary question: Is religious morality the same from religion to religion? In the Judaic and Christian traditions the commands of God are looked to for a source of moral instruction. In Judaism Torah traditionally is understood to include 613 commands, although the core of Torah is the Ten Commandments. These Ten Commandments are a central part of the Christian tradition as well. Briefly stated, they are as follows:

Have no gods besides the Lord. Make no image to be worshipped. Do not swear falsely by the name of the Lord. Keep the Sabbath. Honor your father and your mother. Do no murder. Do not commit adultery. Do not steal. Do not bear false witness. Do not covet.3

In addition, Judaism and Christianity share the two great commandments: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your soul, and with all your heart, and with all your mind” and “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”4 In Buddhism, which is non-theistic, we find no divine commandments from God, and we find no precepts (or rules) relating to worship of God. We do, however, find precepts that are not unlike the precepts embodied in some of the Ten Commandments. There are many precepts in Buddhism, some of which hold on special days, and many of which hold for Buddhist monks. Also there are The Five Precepts, which hold for all Buddhists and hold generally for their conduct: Abstain from the taking of life. Abstain from taking what is not given to you. Abstain from sexual misconduct. Abstain from false speech. Abstain from intoxicating liquor.5

Like most of the Ten Commandments, the Five Precepts of Buddhist ethics say what ought not to be done. The first four correspond fairly closely with the sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth commandments, except that the first Buddhist precept is against the taking of “life,” not only human life, and the third may cover more than adultery. All the world religions in some way support the value of human life, the value of honesty, and the value of not taking what is not yours. John Hick has reflected on the question of the comparison of religious morality from one religion to another. He finds within all the great religious traditions “the moral ideal of generous goodwill, love, compassion.” This is the ideal contained in the Golden Rule, and Hick finds this moral ideal in some expression to be universal among the world religions. For Hick this is a moral ideal in that it directs our human practice, but it is furthermore an ideal shared by the religious moralities of the great traditions. Importantly, it is an ideal that calls upon the interior actions of human beings in that in order to have generous goodwill, love, or compassion, one’s feelings and intentions must be properly aligned: For instance, the exterior act of giving money or helping someone in need is not sufficient. In the Christian tradition Hick finds this ideal in the commandment “You shall love your

neighbor as yourself” (Mt. 22:39). In the Jewish tradition, it is expressed in Torah as “The stranger who sojourns with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself” (Leviticus 19: 34). Hick cites the hadith in the Islamic tradition, in which he observes that many sayings of Muhammad are in accord with this ideal. One he cites is that “It is one form of faith that one loves his brother as himself.” However, Hick also finds the same ideal embodied in the teachings of the non-theistic traditions of Hinduism and Buddhism—for instance in the bodhisattva ideal in Buddhism.6 There may, however, be differences between Buddhist compassion (karuna) in practice and Christian love (agape) in practice. Buddhist compassion is for all sentient beings, not only human beings, whereas Christian love is love of our human neighbors.7 Again, regarding shared precepts and rules, religions can agree that murder is wrong but disagree about what constitutes murder. Furthermore, religious precepts can be culturally influenced in their implementation. The Islamic requirement of modesty in one Muslim culture may require women to cover their entire bodies in a burqua, whereas in others only a hijab (in one meaning, a head scarf) may be required. But it remains that there are shared general moral principles found in Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, and other religious traditions and that, if Hick is right, the principle of the Golden Rule in some form, with its demands upon our interior lives, is found in all traditions. Two further points about religious morality should be noted. First, for all major religions at least some significant moral duties, as defined by one’s religion, are not toward only those in one’s religion. Thus, Buddhist compassion extends to those who are not Buddhist and indeed to nonhuman sentient beings, and Christian and Jewish love of neighbor extends to all people. Second, for all the major religions, those both inside and outside one’s religion are bound by the general laws and precepts of one’s religions. Thus, in the Christian tradition it is said that when people unacquainted with the written law do what God’s law requires, that shows that the law is “written on their hearts” (Rom 2:14–15). Similarly, for some Buddhist commentators, the Five Precepts, or the first four, hold for both Buddhists and non-Buddhists.8

The Question of the Relationship between Religion and Morality: Three Views Granting that religions share a number of precepts and that all religions recognize the moral ideal of generous goodwill, compassion, and love, and granting the last two points about how religions understand the scope of their religious precepts and values, our primary question of the relationship between religion and morality remains, just as it remains even though Mitchell and Phillips should be right. So let us now turn our attention to the three views noted

earlier.

Morality Independent of Religion Morality is independent of religion because human beings can appeal to their moral sense of right and wrong without any appeal to God or religious reality.

A defender of this view might point out that we can carry out moral reasoning and deliberation without reference to God or to any religious reality. For instance, in a simple, uncomplicated moral context in which a promise has been made, we can reason that “Yes, you ought to interrupt what you are doing and help him because you promised you’d help.” In another kind of simple moral case we can reason that “No, I shouldn’t in a gossipy way repeat this story about my friend because it reflects poorly on him.” No reference to God or religious reality is necessary to complete these straightforward lines of moral reasoning. Second, defenders of this view might draw our attention to ethical theories that propose a standard for moral rightness. There are different kinds of ethical theories, but ethical theories of one significant kind propose a standard, or basic test, for moral rightness. There are two primary schools of ethical thought: the consequentialist and the deontological schools. Each proposes a different standard. For the consequentialist school, good effects or consequences make actions right, whereas for the deontological school moral rightness, or permissibility, is not defined in terms of the consequences of our actions, but rather by being free of moral incoherence. Although there are significant points of difference between these two schools, what is to be noted is that both schools propose a test that operates independently of God’s will and of any other religious element. Immanuel Kant is the most famous deontologist, and as was discussed in Chapter 2, he proposed a “moral” argument for God’s existence, arguing that the “rationality” of morality required a belief in God’s existence. Despite this argument, however, and despite Kant’s own belief in God, Kant saw morality as existing independently of religion in the way we have just seen. What if God’s commands were regarded as the standard for moral rightness in the sense of what we ought to do? In this case, Jeremy Bentham argued, we would need some other ethical principle or test to know what God commands, and so divine commands would be useless as an ethical standard.9

Critical Examination of the First View Say that morality is independent of religion in that we can conduct moral reasoning and come to moral judgments without any explicit reference to God or to religious belief. It could still be

the case that morality and religion are connected in other ways, so that morality is dependent on religion. For instance, God or the divine could be the source of morality. Furthermore, those who believe that religion and morality are connected might agree with Bentham that some kind of test is necessary to identify divine commands, or to know what God commands, but still insist that God’s commands, or some other aspect of religious reality, is what makes right actions right and wrong actions wrong.

Divine Command Morality Morality is strongly dependent on religion because what makes something morally wrong is its being contrary to God’s commands, as what makes something a moral obligation is its being commanded by God.

On this view what is morally wrong is wrong because it goes against God’s commands (or God explicitly forbids human beings to do those things), and what is obligatory is obligatory because God commands us to do those things. Sometimes this view is understood as saying “wrong” means “contrary to God’s commands” and “right” means “in accord with God’s commands.” On this view, what makes stealing wrong is God’s commanding us not to steal, and what makes loving your neighbor right and an obligation is God’s commanding it of us. This view is called the Divine Command Theory or Divine Command Morality.10 Its correctness has been at issue for centuries around and sometimes within the great Western theistic traditions. Some who believe that Divine Command Morality is wrong have been nonbelievers who stand outside the Western theistic traditions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. But the issue of the correctness of Divine Command Morality has also existed within the theistic traditions, between religious believers of different sensibilities and convictions. In Christianity the issue goes back at least to the Middle Ages. St. Thomas Aquinas denied the view, whereas others, including William of Ockham, supported it. In Islam, today the traditionalist and widely held view accepts Divine Command Morality, although for a time in the ninth century the Mu’tazilites (“separatists”), who rejected Divine Command Morality thinking, held sway. In Judaism, Maimonides is typical of mainstream thinking in holding that acts forbidden by moral rules would be wrong even if not forbidden by the Torah. In fact in Judaism, although Divine Command Morality thinking has occasionally been expressed, according to some commentators it never became established. This is so, it has been argued, because halakhah, the body of decisions in the Jewish tradition about how to follow God’s law, is determined by rational and legalistic discussion, and because of the moral and rational character of God in the Jewish tradition.11 However, this is not to say that Divine Command Morality has never been held in the Jewish tradition. Divine Command Morality has been held, if rarely. It is to say that if or when Divine Command Morality is held by a religious thinker in the Jewish tradition, it is not generally received as a viable position.

The issue of Divine Command Morality within the Western theistic traditions is not whether God has given human beings commands to follow or whether it is right to follow God’s commands. Such questions like the question of God’s existence can be asked, but they would not arise within the mainstream traditions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The issue raised by Divine Command Morality within the theistic traditions is not about what God commands. This can be an issue within and between these traditions, but it is not the issue of the correctness of Divine Command Morality. That issue persists after there is agreement on what God has commanded and forbidden. The issue raised by Divine Command Morality, put one way, is whether what is morally right in the sense of obligatory is right because God commands it. The religious sensibility that accepts Divine Command Morality would give absolute loyalty to God and God’s will and would seek in no way to challenge the absolute nature of God’s will as expressed in God’s commands or the absolute and limitless nature of God’s power. Saying that there is a moral rightness and wrongness prior to God’s commands posits a limitation on God’s will and power, it is felt by this religious sensibility.12 Although the issue of the correctness of Divine Command Morality addresses the religious understanding of the connection between God’s commands and morality in the great monotheistic traditions of the West, the first formulation of the critical question about the correctness of Divine Command Morality predates both Islam and Christianity. It is attributed to Socrates, the ancient Greek philosopher. Socrates lived in the fifth century B.C.E., well before the emergence of Christianity and Islam and in a time when the Jewish belief in one God was not known in Greece. In the Euthyphro, a dialogue written by Plato, Socrates’s student, Socrates questions Euthyphro about the nature of piety or holiness. Euthyphro at one point says that what makes pious things pious is all the gods loving them. This evokes from Socrates the question “Is the pious loved by the gods because it is pious, or is it pious because it is loved by the gods?”13 Euthyphro must say that it is the second, but Socrates argues that it is the first. Socrates argues that what is loved by the gods (the god-beloved) has one nature, but the pious has a different nature. The god-beloved is what it is because the gods love it. But the pious has a nature to be loved—there is something in its nature that makes it worthy of love before the gods love it. So it cannot be that the gods’ loving it makes it pious. In the dialogue Euthyphro defines piety in terms of the then-flourishing polytheistic belief in the Greek gods. However, the challenge to monotheistic Divine Command Morality posed by the dialogue and Socrates’s question is apparent when Socrates’s question is rephrased as “Does God command what God does because it is right, or is it right because God commands it?” Those who hold that Divine Command Morality is correct must say that it is the second, whereas those who oppose Divine Command Morality would say that it the first. Socrates’s reasoning, appropriately rephrased, would still apply. What God commands is what it is because God commands it. But the morally right has a nature to be commanded—there is

something in its nature that makes it worthy of being commanded before God commands it. So it cannot be that God’s commanding it makes it morally right. One reason why Divine Command Morality has seemed wrong to some later thinkers is that if it were correct, God’s commands would be arbitrary. God would have no moral reason for commanding one thing rather than another. If what makes stealing wrong is God’s command against stealing, then it cannot be that God commands us not to steal because it is wrong. Again, if Divine Command Morality were correct, then if God commanded us to be cruel, it would be right to be cruel. But cruelty is wrong if anything is.14 Recently, a contemporary religious philosopher, Robert Merrihew Adams, sought to address this criticism. He formulated what he called a “modified” Divine Command Theory. In his modified theory, Adams endeavors to explain moral or ethical rightness and wrongness in terms of God’s will or commands. Adams does not maintain that “X is wrong” means “X is contrary to God’s will or commands.” Adams argues that part of what “the believer” means by “X is wrong” is that “X is contrary to God’s will or commands.”15 While Adams holds that “wrong” and “contrary to God’s commands” “contextually imply each other” for believers, he does not maintain that they always imply each other. Adams’ Divine Command Morality is a modified theory because he does not accept the implication that if God commanded cruelty, then it would be wrong to disobey and not practice cruelty. What Adams says is that if God commanded cruelty, then his concept of ethical wrongness would “break down.” If God commanded cruelty, then, Adams explains, he would not hold that it would be either wrong or permitted to disobey, nor would he hold that it would be wrong or permitted to obey. His concept of moral wrongness (and “permittedness”) understood in terms of God’s commands would “break down” in that they would cease to be applicable.16 This might suggest that for Adams what saying that some action is morally wrong means is that it is contrary to “the commands of a loving God.” But Adams considers and rejects this way of understanding his modified Divine Command Morality. He wants to keep in place an understanding of ethical wrongdoing in terms of the will or commands of God—not in terms of God’s love. But, for Adams, the applicability of the believer’s concept of ethical wrongness presupposes God’s love. For Adams, then, a believer may feel in certain extreme cases (e.g., if God commanded cruelty) that she is not committed to following God’s command. Adams explains that his modified theory does not cover all “valuation,” not even all moral valuation. A believer may feel that cruelty is so “repulsive” that this is a sufficient reason not to follow God’s command to be cruel. What is essential to his modified theory is that a believer following it should have as part of what she means by “wrong” that the action is contrary to God’s command. But this allows that if God did command what is repulsive, the believer’s concept of wrongness would “break down.” Since Adams modified Divine Command Morality allows that a believer may morally value some things (the avoidance of what is repulsive) not only independently of, but

more than, God’s commands, some have wondered if Divine Command Morality, with its loyalty to God and to God’s will, has not been abandoned. As Adams sees it, his modified view keeps devotion to God central in that it allows a devotion to God in which various “motives” are fused, such as the desire for the happiness of others and the independent valuation of actions, a devotion to God that is enabled by the religious person’s beliefs about what God commands (love of neighbor and not cruelty).17

Critical Examination of Divine Command Morality Directing our attention to unmodified Divine Command Morality, the criticisms noted previously still seem to apply: If God commanded cruelty, then cruelty would be right, and since God’s commands cannot be based on what is right, God’s command’s would be arbitrary. In reply, some have pointed out that God is essentially good and so would not issue commands arbitrarily, but would do so in accord with the divine goodness.18 For the same reason, God would not command cruelty. However, for God’s commands not to be arbitrary for this reason, and for God not to command cruelty for this reason, it must be that God’s goodness is independent of God’s will. Good cannot be defined by God’s will, for if it were once again a “good” God could command anything. In one version Divine Command Morality covers only obligation and moral wrongness. In other versions Divine Command Morality covers all of morality, including moral goodness. This kind of reply addresses the first form of Divine Command Morality (which we have been considering) but not the second form. Often, however, those who hold a version of Divine Command Morality that addresses obligation and wrongness go on to say that goodness too is defined by God’s will, as does Adams, for instance.19 Another kind of criticism that applies to both unmodified and modified forms of Divine Command Morality is to be found in the thinking of St. Thomas Aquinas: Morality is based primarily on God’s wisdom. It is his wisdom that establishes creatures in their proper relationship with each other and with him: and it is precisely in that relationship that the essence of a creature’s moral goodness consists. To say that morality is determined simply by God’s will is to suggest that God’s will may sometimes not follow order and wisdom; and that would be blasphemous.20

Aquinas concern is like the concern that God’s commands would be arbitrary if Divine Command Morality were correct. But also Aquinas sees that Divine Command Morality allows that God’s commands would not reflect God’s wisdom about what is for our good. The kind of religious sensibility that informs Aquinas’s criticism, and his thinking about religion and morality, gives an importance to a goodness and moral order, established by God, that then exists independently of God’s will and commands.

Divine Action as the Foundation of Morality Morality is connected to religion because divine action or religious reality is the foundation of morality, but not because God’s commands make actions right or wrong.

Even after it has been agreed that God’s commands are not the foundation of morality, there still is more than one way to understand religion being foundational to morality, and we discuss two ways under this heading.

The Natural Law Form of the Third View One primary way is in terms of natural law theory. This is Aquinas’ way, although natural law theory predates Aquinas. The basic idea of natural law theory is that normative moral laws (telling us how we ought to behave) are discoverable in nature, just as are the physical laws of nature (which tell us how physical things do behave). Within religion and theology, natural law thinking has a long history. For instance, in the New Testament Paul appeals to what is natural and “what nature . . . teach[es]” (1 Cor. 11:14). On the natural law view the moral law of maternal care for offspring can be seen in various species, just as the physical law governing the consumption of wood by fire can be seen in nature. But just here some see a problem regarding which regularities are expressive of natural laws. Male lions kill their cubs. Female black widow spiders after mating kill the male with which they have mated. Are these regularities expressive of moral natural laws to be followed by human beings? Paul, writing in the early days of Christianity, says: “Does not nature itself teach that for a man to wear long hair is degrading to him, but if a woman has long hair it is her pride?” (1 Cor. 11:14–15). Today most would say this is a matter of social custom or even personal preference. Aquinas, in the Summa Theologica, sought to clarify and defend natural law thinking. The natural law, for Aquinas, is the “participation of the eternal law in the rational creature.”21 The eternal law is the basic moral law of the universe, not subject to time, emanating from God’s divine reason, and by “rational creature” Aquinas means human beings. It is by the natural law that human beings “participate” in God’s eternal law. The natural law, for Aquinas, is in us. Aquinas takes it to be “the first principle” of practical (action-oriented) reason that good is that which all things seek after. The fundamental “precept” (or rule) of the natural law, then, is that good is to be done and promoted, and evil is to be avoided. For Aquinas, the natural law is seen in human beings’ “inclinations,” what they naturally apprehend by their reason as good and are naturally inclined to do. There are three levels of this natural inclination in human beings toward their good, for Aquinas. First, there is an inclination toward the good in accord with the nature human beings have in common with all substances—the inclination toward self preservation is an example. Second, there is an inclination toward the good in accord with

the nature human beings have in common with other animals—the inclinations toward sexual intercourse and the education of offspring are examples. Third, there is an inclination toward the good in accord with the nature of human beings’ reason, which is the nature “proper to him [human beings]”—and so, using Aquinas’s examples, human beings have a natural inclination to know the truth about God and to live in society.22 Aquinas provides an answer to the question of which regularities found in nature express a natural law for human beings: It is those in accord with human nature, which, for Aquinas, is a rational nature. For Aquinas, “reason” allows us to discern which “precepts” are in accord with the good and so are precepts of the natural law, and reason allows us to discern how they apply. Within the natural law, Aquinas allows, there are many “precepts.” There are “first common principles,” and they are the same for all. Also, however, there are “secondary principles” or “detailed proximate conclusions drawn from first principles.” These can be influenced by “conditions,” so much so that proper action is not to follow the first principle. Aquinas provides an example of this: Reason teaches us that it is proper to restore goods entrusted to us to their owner; but if the owner plans to use those goods to do injury to others, then that condition makes it unreasonable and wrong to restore the goods. In general, it is right to restore goods, but in such specific circumstances the “rectitude” of the principle fails. Aquinas also appreciates that the “knowledge” of a principle may fail. Though a principle has “rectitude” (and so is right), some persons may fail to acknowledge the principle. This can happen because “passion” or “evil habit[s]” may “pervert” reason, and in such a case some human beings may fail to acknowledge a common principle. Aquinas offers an example that he takes from Julius Caesar’s commentaries on the Gallic Wars: Julius Caesar relates that the Germans did not consider theft wrong. (In the time of Julius Caesar, the first century B.C.E., the Germans were given to marauding.) Although reason teaches us that it is wrong to take the property of others, passion or evil habits perverted the reason of the Germans encountered by Julius Caesar, and they could not acknowledge this common principle of the natural law.23 In Aquinas’ elaboration of the natural law, we see his explanation of (1) how human beings can discern which regularities in nature express the precepts of the natural law, (2) how human beings can determine when a “common principle” requires a special application, and (3) why some human beings fail to recognize some of the precepts of the natural law. In all these cases what is crucial is the role of reason—the rational nature that God has given human beings. Thomas Aquinas, who is in the Christian tradition, may be the greatest elaborator and defender of the natural law view. However, it can be maintained in other religious traditions as well. In the Jewish tradition, though the Torah and God’s revealed will are the source of the law, there is a place for natural law. In the Talmud, for instance, there are examples of learning moral lessons from nature.24 In fact, unlike Divine Command Morality, the natural law view

of the relation between religion and morality may be held by those in non-theistic traditions, like the Buddhist tradition. In the Buddhist tradition dharma can be seen as natural law, not in accord with God’s divine reason, but as a part of the causal structure of the universe. The moral precepts of Buddhism and the Noble Eightfold Path would be seen as reflecting and being attuned to this structure.

Critical Examination of the Third View in its Natural Law Form For Aquinas it is our “reason” that naturally apprehends what is good, toward which we have a natural “inclination,” and toward which the precepts of natural law direct us. But is it so clear that everyone’s “reason” will naturally apprehend the same things as our good? Will everyone have the same natural “inclinations” toward the same goods? Many following Aquinas would see getting married and having many children as a precept of the natural law. But why isn’t having a small family or even remaining single something that many could apprehend as a good, something toward which they might have a natural inclination? Aquinas believes that we human beings have a rational nature, which allows us to discern the precepts of the natural law. Again, many would say that it is not clear that there is this or any common human nature, as Aquinas assumes. Granted, we all need to eat and breathe — but is it our nature to be rational? Aquinas thought so in the thirteenth century and Immanuel Kant thought so in the eighteenth century, but Jean-Paul Sartre in the twentieth century questioned the idea that human beings have an essential nature of any kind. For Aquinas there is the natural law because God has established it as a part of God’s moral order, and so for Aquinas the natural law shows the connection between religion and morality. However, it does seem to be possible to see morality as embodied in natural laws without seeing those natural laws as established by God or as derived from religious reality.

The Relationships Form of the Third View Aquinas’ idea is that God has put the natural law in us, making its precepts discernible to our reason, and making our natural inclinations an expression of the natural law. However, others might see the way that God is the foundation of morality in a different way. An alternative view is that God has established the requirements of morality by making them evident in the human relationships that human beings have. On this view one is moral by living up to one’s relationships to other persons (and to the natural beings of the environment). These relationships include our relationships to our parents, our children, our friends, those in our community, and ultimately our relationship to all other persons in the world. One is religiously moral, on this view, if one lives up to one’s relationship to God or religious reality. In fact, we

can to a great extent live up to our relationship to God or religious reality by living up to the demands of our relationships to others, for in not stealing, we both live up to our relationship to our neighbor, whose property we would take by stealing and our relationship of obedience to God or our proper relationship to religious reality. Similarly, in giving sympathy, love, and compassion to those who are in need of shelter, food, or relief from pain, whether near or far, we respect both our neighborly relationship to them and our relationship of obedience to God or our proper relationship to religious reality. In this way, on this view, in theistic terms, God provides knowledge of moral requirements by making them evident in the relationships we have with one another, and our moral behavior toward others is continuous with our religious behavior toward God. The relationships way of understanding how religion and morality might be related, like the natural law way, is open to various religious traditions, including theistic traditions but also Buddhism and other non-theistic traditions. In a way, this view is like the natural law view, but the appeal is not to natural laws or to what is appropriate to a fixed rational human nature instilled by God, but to the demands of human relationships, many of which are familiar to us.

Critical Examination of the Third View in its Relationships Form One criticism of this view is that it underestimates the difficulty in ascertaining the demands of at least some of our relationships to other persons, and, if it is a part of this view that human beings have a relationship to God or to religious reality, there is a profoundly greater difficulty in ascertaining the demands of our relationship to God or to religious reality (assuming there is such a relationship). Another criticism is closely related to a criticism of the natural law view of the relationship between religion and morality. As it seems possible to see morality as embodied in natural laws without seeing those natural laws as established by God or as derived from religious reality, so too it seems possible to see the demands of morality as the moral demands of relationships between human beings without seeing the moral demands of relationships as having their source in God or religious reality.

Summing Up and Going Further It may be that on the question of the relationship between religion and morality there is a difference in intuitions or sensibilities among those who are religious and those who are not religious. For the religious there is a strong sense that how they ought to behave is connected to their religion: Morality must be grounded in some way in God or in religious reality. For

the nonreligious, no such ground is necessary. There may be a divide in sensibility here that is akin to that which we saw in Chapter 2 between Father Coppleston and Bertrand Russell. Is there a sensible question about the cause of the universe? For Coppleston, of course there is. For Russell there is not. However, as with the issue between Coppleston and Russell, here too there can be a meaningful question about which intuitions or sensibilities are closer to being correct. In fact, it seems that it must be one way or the other: Either morality is in some way connected to religion, or it is not. A question not addressed here is whether being religious helps one to be moral. It is not invariably true that being religious encourages moral behavior. Some who are religious have done horrendous things, and sometimes with what they took to be religious approval. For example, in the medieval period there were Christian crusades against Muslim societies in the Middle East. Christians have practiced anti-Semitism against the Jewish people. Following the Protestant Reformation there were religious wars between Catholics and Protestants in Europe. In contemporary India there is conflict and friction between Hindus and Muslims. And so on. In all these cases, however, it can be argued that the religious ideal embodied in religion was not being followed. If individuals follow the ideal of the Buddha, of Jesus Christ, or of another religious tradition in their lives, there does seem to be room for positive moral influence in their lives.

Questions for Chapter 8 Factual Questions 1. What are two of the differences that D. Z. Phillips sees between moral duty and religious duty to God? 2. Often it is thought that religious morality makes requirements on our interior actions, whereas nonreligious morality does not. What are examples of such “interior actions”? 3. What moral ideal does John Hick find to be universally accepted by the major religions? 4. What is the main difference between Robert Merrihew Adams’s modified Divine Command Morality and unmodified Divine Command Morality?

Interpretive and Evaluative Questions 1. Not counting religious ritual and the observance of religious holidays, do you think that religious morality (or sin against God, for Mitchell) covers more and is more demanding than nonreligious morality (or moral wrongdoing, for Mitchell)? Give examples if you do. 2. Explain Thomas Aquinas’s objection to Divine Command Morality. Do you think that his objection is conclusive? 3. What seems to you to be the greatest problem facing the natural law view or the relationship between religion and morality? Why?

Notes 1. Basil Mitchell, “How Is the Concept of Sin Related to the Concept of Moral Wrongdoing?” Religious Studies, vol. 20, (1984) pp. 170, 172 and 173. 2. D. Z. Phillips, “Moral and Religious Conceptions of Duty: An Analysis,” Mind, vol. 73 (1964). Reprinted in Religion and Understanding, ed. D. Z. Phillips (Oxford: Blackwell, 1967, pp.192–95. In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 8.

3. Exodus 20.4–15. Included in the selections from the Tanakh in Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 1. 4. Matthew 22:37–39. Deuteronomy. 6:4–5 and Leviticus 19:18. Deut. 6:4–5 and Lev. 19:18 are included in the selections from the Tanakh in Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 1. The translation in the Tanakh uses “fellow” instead of “neighbor” (Lev. 19:18) and “might” instead of “mind” (Deut.6:5). 5. H. Saddatissa, Buddhist Ethics (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1970), p. 87. 6. John Hick, An Interpretation of Religion (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989), Chap. 18, Sec. 1, “The Ideal of Generous Goodwill, Love, Compassion.” In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 8. The selection from Leviticus and various selections from other sacred texts cited by Hick in “The Ideal of Generous Goodwill, Love, Compassion” are in Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 1. 7. In Chapter 12 we return to the possible differences between compassion and love, where they are relevant to one way of understanding the plurality of religions. 8. Damien Keown, The Nature of Buddhist Ethics (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1992), p. 232. 9. Jeremy Bentham, An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation, Chap. II, Sec. xviii. 10. There are different forms of Divine Command Morality, but this is a, if not the, primary form. 11. Avi Sagi and David Statman, “Divine Command Morality and Jewish Tradition,” Journal of Religious Ethics, vol. 23 (1995), pp. 59–61. Sagi and Statman discuss Maimonides’s rejection of Divine Command Morality on pp. 53–54. 12. See Janine Marie Idziak, “Divine Command Morality: A Guide to the Literature” in Divine Command Morality: Historical and Contemporary Readings, edited by Janine Marie Idziak (New York and Toronto: The Edwin Mellen Press, 1979), pp. 8–10 for these and other reasons that have been proposed. 13. Euthyphro, in The Trial and Death of Socrates, translated by G. M. A. Grube (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1983), p. 12. The first two-thirds of the Euthyphro, including Socrates’s question, is in Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 8. 14. A. C. Ewing, “The Autonomy of Ethics” in Divine Command Morality: Historical and Contemporary Readings, pp. 225– 26. 15. Robert Merrihew Adams, “A Modified Divine Command Theory of Ethical Wrongness” in Religion and Morality, ed. Gene Outka and John P. Reeder, Jr. (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1973), p. 330. In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 8. 16. Adams, “A Modified Divine Command Theory of Ethical Wrongness,” p. 322. In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 8. 17. Adams, “A Modified Divine Command Theory of Ethical Wrongness,” pp. 334–36. In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 8. 18. Patterson Brown, “Religious Morality” in Divine Command Morality: Historical and Contemporary Readings, pp. 250–

51. 19. Adams, “A Modified Divine Command Theory of Ethical Wrongness,” p. 340. In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 8. 20. St.Thomas Aquinas, De Veritate, question 23, article 6; quoted by Eric D’Arcy, “‘Worthy of Worship’: A Catholic Contribution” in Religion and Morality, p. 191 (emphasis in the original). 21. Summa Theologica I–II (First Part of the Second Part), q. 91, a. 2. In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 8. 22. Summa Theologica I–II, q. 94, a. 2. In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 8. 23. Summa Theologica I–II, q. 94, a. 4. In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 8. 24. Harold M. Schulweis, “Judaism: From Either/Or to Both/And” in Contemporary Jewish Ethics and Morality, edited by Elliot N. Dorff and Louis E. Newman (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995), p. 30.

Chapter 9 Religious Language, Metaphor, and Gender Issues of Religious Language Questions about religious language, particularly the language used to speak about God, have been raised from several standpoints. One strain of religious sensibility, going back to well before the Middle Ages, maintains that human language and conceptions are inadequate in their application to God. Its adherents believe that it cannot be said strictly of God that God “knows” or “is good” or “is loving.” These terms apply to human beings, but not to God. Another strain of religious sensibility, however, has stressed the importance for faith in God that God is, or at least can be believed to be, good and loving. The issue here is to what extent these and other terms crucial to religious belief apply literally or only figuratively to God. Related to this issue is the gender issue. Often in the Western theistic traditions God is spoken of using male gender terms. In Christianity Jesus spoke of a heavenly Father, and in the Bible and the Qur’an the masculine pronoun he is used to refer to God. Does this mean that God is male? Could God just as well be referred to as “she”? This issue has been brought to prominence in recent years by feminist theologians, but it too goes back many centuries. Another kind of issue relating to language about God has been raised from a scientific standpoint, or, more accurately, from a philosophical standpoint that has been greatly influenced by the procedures and standards of science. The sense that there is a tension between reason and faith, as was discussed in Chapter 4, has a long heritage in the Western theistic traditions. In the age of science, though, there developed a concern about the meaning of religious beliefs, or religious statements, like “There is a God” or “God is merciful.” Unlike scientific statements, some philosophers argued, such religious statements lack “factual meaning.” In this chapter we examine the religious-language issues of metaphor, gender, and factual meaning, starting with the issue of factual meaning.

Does Religious Language Have Factual Meaning? Some philosophers have argued that religious claims about God cannot have “factual meaning.” David Hume, whom Chapter 2 introduces as a critic of the Teleological Argument,

long ago provided the seminal philosophical idea about factual meaning. Hume identified two kinds of reasoning: “abstract reasoning concerning quantity and number” and “experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence.” We use the first when we reason that “if a is bigger than b and b is bigger than c, than a is bigger than c,” and we use the second when we “reason” that “there is a fig on the table” because we can see it there. For the first kind of reasoning the meanings of terms supply the conclusion (the meaning of bigger in our example), and for the second kind of reasoning an “experiment,” or our experience, supplies the conclusion. Hume said that if anything we read does not contain one of these kinds of reasoning or the other, it is “sophistry,” or nonsense, and we should “commit it to the flames.”1 Hume is speaking of “reasoning,” but his thinking clearly extends to claims or statements. Many, following Hume’s lead, have noted that if there is a claim about God’s existence or about, say, God’s creating the earth, it must be a “matter of fact” claim, for only such claims make an assertion about “existence.” Abstract claims about God make no claim as to existence. We can say that God is merciful by definition, but this makes no claim that a merciful God exists, it was thought, following Hume. So can claims or statements about God have factual meaning? In the twentieth century, Antony Flew, reflecting the thought of many, argued that what appear to be claims or statements about God, such as, “God exists” or “God created the world,” really do not qualify as factual claims or statements. He argued that they lack factual meaning and so really make no claim about the facts of the world or universe. He embedded his argument in a parable about a garden.2 Summed up and adapted, the parable is this: There is a clearing in a jungle that is found by two explorers. The clearing has a number of flowers, but also lots of weeds. One explorer says, “There must be a gardener who comes and tends this garden,” and the second explorer says, “No, there is no gardener.” Having lots of time, they watch for a gardener over a long period of time. No gardener is seen. They rig fences and set up cameras and motion detectors. No gardener is ever detected. “See, there is no gardener,” the second explorer says. “There is a gardener,” says the first explorer, “but he is invisible and cannot be detected with devices.” Such an undetectable gardener, though, is no different from no gardener at all, for Flew. If the first explorer is making a genuine (factually meaningful) claim, then there must be something (e.g., never being detected by the motion detector) that would show the claim to be false. His implicit argument, related to apparent claims about God, is this: 1. Genuine factual claims assert that some factual content is true. 2. This means factual claims deny that the opposite facts obtain, for those facts would show the claim to be false. (As an example, the claim that “It is raining” 3. denies that there is no water falling from the sky. If there is no water falling from the sky, then “It is raining” is disproven and shown to be false.)

4. So any factually meaningful claim must deny some factual condition that would, if it occurred, show that claim to be false. 5. Religious claims about God do not deny anything; nothing that might occur is accepted by the religious as showing their claims about God are false. 6. Conclusion: Religious claims about God are factually meaningless and make no assertion at all. Flew put a challenge to religious believers: What would show your claim or belief that God exists is false? And this challenge addresses other claims or beliefs about God: that God created the world, that God knows our hearts, that God is merciful toward us, and more. Unless a religious believer could say what her or his claims or beliefs about God actually denied, Flew and others concluded, these claims were factually meaningless and so really made no claim or assertion that might be believed. Flew was not asking religious believers to disprove their religious claims, but to say what would disprove them if it should occur. But, it seems, nothing would show religious claims to be false. Does our never actually detecting God moving across the heavens or disease or war or the suffering of children show that the claim that there is a God is false? Many believers continue to believe in the face of these conditions. Flew and others appreciated that religious claims and beliefs look like real claims. Some utterances that lack factual meaning look like genuine factual claims, but they are not. “All caspigs are gossif” is sheer nonsense because caspigs and gossif are words I just made up and lack any meaning. But I put them in a sentence with the syntax of English, so that sentence looks like a meaningful claim; however, it is not, despite its superficial appearance. Flew thinks something similar holds for religious claims—unless believers can say what they deny, that is, what would show them to be false if it occurred. But really they can’t, he thought. Since religious statements about God really do not deny anything, Flew concluded that they are factually meaningless and so make no assertion about anything to be believed. For Flew and others it is not merely that God’s existence cannot be proven; it is that claiming God exists is nonsense as a claim that something is true. Flew and others who challenged religious belief in this way appreciated that many of the things we say (or shout or utter) do not have factual meaning. “Hooray!” or “Yipes!” or a sigh have expressive or emotional meaning but not factual meaning. They, of course, are not claims or things we believe. They do not even look like claims. We don’t believe that “Yipes!” is true when someone makes this exclamation, nor are we tempted to. Similarly, those following Flew allowed that “Praise God!” might have emotional meaning but not factual meaning as a claim that something is true. At this point we might ask: Is it really necessary that religious statements have factual meaning? Some might suggest that we accept that Flew is right in his reasoning and accept that religious statements about God do not have factual meaning. This could be done. But if it is, then we would have to agree that there can be no genuine claims that there is a God, or

that God created the world, gave us commandments, saved the people of Israel from slavery, or revealed the Qur’an to Muhammad (or, extending Flew’s thinking to nontheistic religions, that Siddhartha became the Buddha). All of these apparent claims would cease to be genuine claims or statements to be believed. Some, in contrast, might raise questions about Flew’s reasoning, in particular his principle that any factually meaningful claim must deny some factual condition that would, if it occurred, show that claim to be false (which is the third premise in his implicit argument). One question is this: Just what counts as a “factual condition”? One might say that of course “There is a God” denies a factual condition. It denies that there is no God. However, Flew and others would not accept this as a factual condition. A factual condition, for them, is something we can observe in our experience of the world, as is done in the empirical sciences. But then, if this is how we are to understand “factual condition,” why should we think religious believers have to be able to say what factual condition in this sense is denied by their religious statements about God? Flew and others seemed to have had empirical science and the testing of hypotheses in mind as they developed their thinking about factual meaning. If a scientific investigator proposes as a hypothesis that a human flu strain is caused by a virus found in birds, then, to the extent that the hypothesis is a useful one to investigate, she should know what would confirm it (show it to be true) and what would disconfirm it (deny it or show that it is false). Moreover, something similar holds for the hypotheses or hunches that we in everyday life propose to ourselves, such as, “I think I know where my car keys are. I think they are on the kitchen table.” We can proceed to see if our hunch is right or not (investigate it) if we know what will confirm or disconfirm it. In this simple case, going into the kitchen and looking is normally sufficient. So “meaningful” or useful hypotheses must have a “factual condition” of some sort that is open to observation. But empirical hypotheses are one thing and religious claims or beliefs are another, we might think. We should notice that typically religious believers in God can say what they are asserting when they say there is a God, for they can say what they mean by God, at least to some extent, and sometimes to a fairly great extent. Typically, religious believers in God can fill in the core concept of God in some way. They can say, for instance, “I mean by God the Supreme Being, the Creator of heaven and earth.” And this means they can, in the same way, say what they are denying, namely, that there is no Supreme Being who created heaven and earth. Of course, not all religious believers in all the theistic traditions will go on to fill out what they mean by God in the same way. Jews, Christians, and Muslims may agree that what they mean by God, or Allah, is the Supreme Being, the Creator of heaven and earth. So all three of these religious traditions can agree on this much of what they mean by God. But they will fill out their fully stated concepts of God differently, and even within each of these religious traditions, there may be differences. Many traditional Jews will go on to say “. . . and

who will return the Children of Israel the promised land,” whereas traditional Christians will add “. . . and whose Son is Jesus Christ,” and Muslims will add “. . . and whose Prophet is Muhammad.” But even if they fill out their religious concepts of God differently, religious believers in all three traditions can say what they mean, and so they can say what their belief denies. Again, Flew and others would say this is not a factual denial, a denial of a “factual condition,” because there are no facts we can observe that are denied. This must be granted. But why is denying a “factual condition” necessary for making a meaningful religious claim? Why couldn’t there be different ways of saying what our claims and beliefs mean in different areas of human endeavor? Why should religious believers need in addition to the denial they can provide a “factual condition” that is denied?

Metaphor A metaphor is a figure of speech in which a word or term that literally denotes or means one thing is applied to another thing so that an implied comparison between the two things is made. An example is “an idea dawned upon her.” No literal dawn is referred to; the sun is not coming up in the morning. But the implied comparison is with the sun’s coming up. The idea pops up and is bright in its prospects. Metaphors can often be dramatically revealing in a way that literal expressions are not. “She got a good idea,” though it may be accurate, does not have the same expressive power as the metaphorical expression. Another familiar example is “a roaring good time.” And a very familiar example is “raining cats and dogs.” When a term is used metaphorically, often familiar conceptual connections do not hold. For example, the literal dawn is by definition in the morning, but an idea may dawn upon one at any time. A question that arises within and about religion is this: To what extent is religious language literal and to what extent is it metaphorical or figurative? Put generally this question could be about either theistic religions (like Christianity) or non-theistic religions (like Buddhism). As it applies to theistic religions, it relates primarily to language about or describing God. To what extent is it figurative to speak of God as a Heavenly Father, as is done in Christianity? To what extent is it literally true of God that God is loving, just, and merciful? Closely related to this question is the question of whether we can say of human beings and God that they are loving, wise, and merciful in the same sense. Sometimes religious believers say that “God’s ways are not our ways” and that God’s love is not human love. When the religious speak of God’s love, do they mean something different from what we mean when we speak of our love for our parents, our children, and our friends? There are several related reasons why some who are religious think that what we say about God (the descriptive

adjectives or what we “predicate” of God) should not be understood in the same sense we use when speaking of human beings. First, if when we said God is merciful or good or loving we meant what we ordinarily mean by these terms or predicates, the claims that God is merciful or good or loving would be false, it is thought; for example, a loving and merciful father would not let his children suffer from incurable diseases if he could prevent it. Of course this would not be a reason for the Job-like believers we discussed in Chapter 6. For them, with their certainty that God is good, the evil of children’s suffering, along with the other evils of the world, would not be evidence against God’s goodness or love. For others, however, including other religious believers in God, evil could be seen and felt as counting against God’s goodness and love. For them this first reason has weight. Second, there is the religious sense that God is so far above human understanding that we cannot have an adequate conceptual understanding of God. The sensibility here is that God is so far beyond us and our rational understanding that God cannot be captured by our concepts. Nothing can be said about the true nature of God, except that it is beyond our concepts and inexpressible. It is in this sense ineffable. This idea is at home in mysticism, which is a strain of religious expression found in several religions. Meister Eckhart, a medieval Christian mystic, said, “God’s being” (God’s true nature) is “beyond all knowledge” and cannot be named; though in experience we can “taste” God (as Psalm 34:8 says) and the soul can “know with the purest knowledge,” but it is not a knowledge that allows us to apply “names” to God or to say anything about God.3 In the Kabbalistic tradition of Judaism, Moses de Leon, spoke of “the Concealed One who is not known,” that is, the Ein Sof (the Infinite or ultimate reality of God beyond all differentiation).4 Another Christian mystic, Dionysius, who lived around 500 C.E., expressed the theme of ineffability about God when he said that although we can call God “wise” and “benevolent,” these are “symbols” “drawn from the world of sense” and do not apply to God in God’s true being, which is above all knowledge. He thought, however, that we might be able to say what God is not, using the via negativa, or “negative way,” so that we can say that God is not darkness nor is God light, and God does not belong to the category of nonexistence nor to the category of existence.5 In this or closely related strains of religious sensibility it is stressed that God or the divine can be experienced by the religious as the “wholly other,” something experienced as real and outside of ourselves, but something utterly mysterious and awe-evoking, felt to be ineffable.6 However, it is not only mystics who have this religious sensibility. St. Anselm sought to prove the existence of God understood as the Supreme Being, “a being than which none greater can be thought,” as he said (recall his Ontological Argument discussed in Chapter 2). For Anselm, though, God is not only a being than which none greater can be thought, God is also a being greater than can be thought. When Anselm says this, he expresses the second more mystical religious sensibility, even though in trying to prove that God exists and has the traditional “perfections,” he is in accord

with another religious sensibility. Third, there is the religious sense that if we used terms referring to God in the same meaning in which we use them when we refer to human beings, we would limit God. We would reduce God to the finite and earthly. In Islam, this lowering of God is called shirk (or “association”—associating God with the earthly). Such a lowering of God is a kind of sacrilege or idolatry in Christianity, although not every Christian sensibility would regard using terms like “loving” and “merciful” of God in the same sense in which a parent might be loving or a ruler merciful as lowering God, just as for some Christians visually representing God can glorify God (as in Renaissance painting), whereas for others any such visual representation is idolatry. Within religion, specifically within theistic traditions, there are two kinds of religious sensibilities in tension with one another. On the one hand, religious believers need to believe that God is concerned, loving, and merciful in a way they can understand in order for there to be comfort or reassurance in trusting in God, and in believing that God is concerned, loving, and merciful. What point is there is believing that God is “loving” and “merciful” if these terms applied to God mean something different from what we understand them to mean? What point is there in believing that God is a forgiving God if “forgiving” doesn’t mean what we mean when we forgive one another? On the other hand, there is the religious sensibility that God, or God’s true nature, is the wholly other, that which transcends our understanding, of which we cannot speak with our ordinary concepts—except perhaps to say what God is not. Often, as in the case of St. Anselm, both these religious sensibilities are found within a single religious believer. One issue that arises here is whether anything can be predicated of God in a literal sense. Before we get into that issue, however, it is useful to note that almost all religious believers in God would allow that there are some metaphorical descriptions of God. Certainly most Jews and Christians would allow this. In the poetry of the Psalms, several metaphors are used to present God and the believer’s relationship to God. The Psalmist says of those in the shelter of God that God will cover them “with his pinions,” or feathers, and “under his wings [they] will find refuge” (Ps. 94:4). God is their “refuge and . . . fortress” (Ps. 91:2). The Psalmist says that God is the “Rock of my salvation” (Ps. 89:26). Although these metaphors underline the steadfastness of God’s support and caring protection, clearly it would be misguided for religious believers to think that God has feathers or wings or is a Rock. Within the Catholic and Orthodox Christian traditions, there is religious art representing saints, prophets, and even God. There are many renderings of Mary and her child, Jesus. Also, there are many renderings of Jesus on the cross (a crucifix). On the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome there is a fresco painting of God’s creation of Adam done by Michelangelo. In this famous fresco Adam is represented as a reclining man and God is represented as an older man with white hair and a white beard. God’s creation of Adam occurs as God reaches out

and touches, or nearly touches, Adam’s outstretched hand. Such visual religious art can be thought of as visual metaphors. Visual metaphors, like written metaphors, can serve to communicate or make vivid an important aspect of the religious tradition (God as protector, God as creator). However, they must be read in the right way. Just as it would be misguided for believers to think of God as a bird, so it would be misguided for them to think of God as having a beard. Religious metaphors are retained in religious usage when they serve a religious purpose, such as helping in prayer. In the broader tradition believers can move from the visual image of a man with a beard to the metaphor of a protective bird providing refuge under his wings without any mistake of literal understanding. Again, believers might speak of God’s all-seeing eye (not even our hearts are hidden from God), but it would miss the point to speak of God’s eye having eyebrows.7 So God is spoken of and visually presented metaphorically, but is there anything that can be said of God literally, or do believers have only metaphors? It is a metaphor to say God has protective wings or is a Rock, but is it a metaphor when we say that God’s love is steadfast, as we find in the Psalms (Ps. 36:5) or that God is our Father, as we find in the Psalms (Ps. 89:26), or our heavenly Father, as we find in the New Testament (in Matthew 6:9)? St. Thomas Aquinas wrestled with the problem of how we should understand the predicates we apply to God. Aquinas recognized that some “names,” or things said of God, can be applied to God only metaphorically. He gives as an example stone (which is like rock in “the Rock of my salvation” in the Psalms, and Aquinas no doubt had this passage in mind). Since stone (or rock) signifies a material thing, and God is not material, Aquinas says that it can be applied to God only in a metaphorical sense. In contrast, for Aquinas several things said of God can be applied to God “properly,” or literally. This is so of the “perfections”—“goodness, life, being and the like”—for God is their source and they are in God “in a more eminent way” (more fully, in a greater degree) than in “creatures” (human beings and other things that God has created).8 So it is said of God literally, not metaphorically, that God is good or has being or is wise, for Aquinas. But Aquinas did not think that God is good or wise in the same sense that human beings are wise. Aquinas distinguished three kinds of predication in which “names” may be predicated of or applied to things. First, there is univocal predication. In univocal predication a name or term is applied to two things in the same sense. When we say of two large pieces of iron that each is heavy, heavy is applied to each piece of iron in the same sense. Second, there is equivocal predication. In equivocal predication a name or term is applied to two things in different senses. When we say that a man dresses smartly and we say that another man hit a ball smartly, smartly is used in two distinct senses. The third kind of predication is analogical predication. Aquinas says there are two kinds of analogical predication, but the kind that is important for God predication is when a name or term is predicated of two things according as the one thing is “proportioned” to the other. Aquinas’ example is saying that medicine is

healthy and a body is healthy. The healthy medicine is the cause of the healthy body and in this way, Aquinas says, it is “proportioned” to the healthy body. The medicine is not healthy in the same sense that the body is, nor is it healthy in a completely different sense. It is this kind of predication that is used in saying that God is wise and that human beings are wise. God is properly or literally said to be wise, but when it is said that God and human beings are wise, it is according to a relation between God and human beings by which God’s wisdom is the “principle and cause” of human wisdom.9 For Aquinas, however, it is not merely that God is the cause of human wisdom. Wisdom and goodness exist in God in a “more excellent way” so that “these perfections flow from God” to human beings. Thus “wise” and “good” apply to God primarily. This makes analogical predication applied to God different from metaphors, for Aquinas. Metaphors, like rock” apply to “creatures” primarily. When we say that God is the Rock of our salvation, we are saying God is like a rock, a thing that we experience in the world, to which rock applies primarily. But when we say God is good or wise, we are not saying God is like a good or wise person. Rather, we are saying God is good and wise, and we are using predicates that apply primarily to God, for God has these perfections more eminently or in a more excellent way.10 So, for Aquinas, the ideas of wisdom and goodness applied to God and the ideas applied to human beings are not one and the same, but also they are not utterly different. The one is related “proportionately” to the other. For Aquinas, the same is to be said of the other perfections of God. For Aquinas, then, there are things that can be said of God and of human beings, and said literally—for example, he is wise, alive, and good, and also is loving, merciful and more. For Aquinas, these things are said not univocally (in one sense) or equivocally (in different senses) but analogically. This means they are not said in the same sense, but not in different senses either. So, following Aquinas’ thinking, believers can take heart in that God is literally loving and merciful and in that “loving” and “merciful” do not apply to God and human beings in different senses. But neither do they apply in the same sense. In this way, Aquinas’ solution ends up with a paradox that has seemed to some to undermine his way of thinking on the issue of God predication. In the nineteenth century, Cardinal Newman observed that “personal” is not used in regard to God in the same sense as it is used in regard to human beings, and he said that no human words are adequate for the Supreme Being. Here he sounds like Aquinas. However, Newman went on to say that the “popular meaning” of Three, One, He, God, Father, Son, and Spirit applies when Christians speak of God and the Trinity.11 Following out Newman’s thought perhaps further than he would go, we may say God is loving in the same “popular meaning” we use when we speak of loving parents or friends, keeping it in mind that in our familiar meaning of love, the ways of love may be many and that, furthermore, for religious believers in God, the ways of God’s love may be quite unanticipated and astounding. In this way religious believers could use the familiar meaning of

love, wise, and forgiving in their references to God but allow that the ways of God’s love, wisdom, and forgiveness may exceed their understanding.

The Gender Issue In traditional forms of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, there is a God who is believed in and who is believed to exist. What is required of the traditional concept of God? In the general traditional core concept of God, God is the Supreme Being and Creator of the world, and in these main theistic traditions other traditional attributes are included: merciful, all-knowing, all-powerful, eternal, and more. Anselm thought that the Supreme Being contains all the perfections, which are those attributes it is better to have than not to have.12 Is it one of the attributes of God that God has a gender? Is God masculine? Is God masculine in the religious understanding of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam? It is true that in the scriptures of these religions the pronoun used to refer to God is masculine. It is also true that in the Christian New Testament Jesus, in the Lord’s Prayer, prays “Father, hallowed be thy name. . . .” (Lk. 11:2).13 These textual facts, however, do not settle the gender issue. In fact, there are two aspects involved in the gender issue: One relates to how God should be conceived, and the other relates to how God should be imaged.

How Should God Be Conceived? Is it a part of the core concept of God that God is masculine? In the Christian tradition, when Anselm and Aquinas speak of the “perfections” of God, or of God’s attributes, they do not include being masculine. God in the Christian tradition, as in Judaism and Islam, is differently conceived from how, say, the gods of the Greek pantheon are conceived. A pantheon is the collection of all the gods and goddesses in the belief of a polytheistic religion, like that of the ancient Greeks. Many of the stories associated with Zeus, the chief god of the Greek pantheon, require that he be masculine. To the extent that these stories define Zeus, Zeus is essentially a male god. In a similar way it may be important to the conception of other Greek gods and goddesses, like Apollo and Athena, that they be male or female. The same may hold for the Teutonic pantheon, the gods and goddesses of Valhalla. For the Christian concept of God, and the Judaic and Islamic concepts of God, although God is essentially the Supreme Being, and good and merciful, it is not part of those concepts that God is masculine.

How Should God Be Imaged?

The greater part of the gender issue is how God should be imaged. How should God be presented religiously? As a father? As a mother? This issue persists even after we appreciate that images are metaphors. If religious persons image God as Father, that does not mean that they must or should think that God is a male. True, if we said that God is a father in the literal sense, then it would be implied that God is male. In its primary meaning, the concept of father, or the literal sense of father, implies that fathers are male. In a metaphorical usage, however, conceptual requirements that hold in a literal use are often inapplicable, as we have seen. So, images do not literally describe God, as predication does or ostensibly does. Still, there is an issue here, for images may communicate something about God that is religiously important for a believer’s life. Images can communicate much about God’s love or guidance, God’s knowing our hearts, or God’s steadfastness. Although the role of images is different from literal description, they offer a way to the religious of metaphorically presenting God to themselves. In doing so, they have the practical effect of fashioning and facilitating the religious life. Images of God, or those central images, or metaphors, that become “models,” can have a significant impact on believers’ religious lives. As Sallie McFague puts it, if they are successful, they “mediate God.”14 The primary way in which metaphors or images “mediate God” is that they give concreteness to the believer’s spiritual relationship to God as the believer experiences it. One way Christian believers, and believers in God in the other theistic traditions, affirm and deepen their relationship to God is by prayer. Jesus starts the Lord’s Prayer with “Our Father who art in heaven. . . .” He is not so much saying, “Here is how to think of God” as he is praying and teaching how to pray. The image of God as Father in Christianity emphasizes that, as an earthly father cares for his children, expects of them, guides them, forgives them, so God the heavenly Father cares for his children, expects of them, guides them, forgives them. But if the role of the image of father is to communicate care and protection— and even creation—in believers’ felt relationship to God, the image of mother can perform the same role, it seems. True, the main traditional image or model in Christianity is that of heavenly father, but it has not been used exclusively by Christian believers. Julian of Norwich in the fourteenth century used the image of a heavenly mother to refer to God and overtly referred to “mother Jesus.” Though an earthly mother may allow her child to perish, “our heavenly mother Jesus,” she said, will not allow his children to perish, “for he and none but he is almighty, all wisdom and all love.”15 So far it might seem that either image—heavenly father or heavenly mother—would do as an image of God for the religious believer. Some religious thinkers, however, especially some feminist theologians, seek a feminine imagery of the divine. They perceive a male bias or patriarchy (domination by men) in the exclusive use of the masculine imagery of God as father. Those in this feminist tradition offer several reasons why there is a need for feminine imagery or a departure from an exclusive masculine imagery of God.

First, the exclusive use of the image of God as father can contribute to the idea that women are the “other” and in a secondary position religiously, and men are the true subjects of religion.16 A second reason draws upon the idea that the language we use influences the way we see the world and our reaction to it.17 (One might think here of the effect on the way those outside our group or nationality would be perceived and treated if we designated them “barbarians.”) Changing the imagery of God to a feminine image, it has been argued, would oppose patriarchy and patriarchical hierarchy in its cultural and social expressions. It could, for instance, facilitate the perception of women as equally responsible and competent in the workplace and in public affairs. This kind of reason has sometimes been replied to by those who point out that there have been cultures with “strong goddess traditions” that nevertheless have been strongly patriarchical, as was true of ancient Egypt.18 It may, in fact be very difficult to assess the cultural effect of a change in religious imagery from masculine to feminine. One philosopher, however, in defense of such a change, has observed that some feminist thinkers are well aware that goddess worship can exist in patriarchical societies. Even so, he observes, there may still be “a need for a deity with which women can relate and identify.”19 Although women may be able to relate to God imaged as a father, women cannot identify with God so imaged. A third reason, then, is that using feminine imagery for the deity can provide an increased opportunity for women’s religious experience and feeling close to God by making it easier for women to identify with God. It should be appreciated that the primary feminist objection is to the dominance of the imagery or model of God as father, as Sallie McFague puts it; the objection is not to imaging God as father in itself.20 Rosemary Ruether says something similar. She draws attention to what strikes her as the “peculiarity of imaging God solely through one gender.”21 Julian of Norwich, who refers to “our heavenly mother Jesus,” says that God is our mother as truly as God is our father. God is “the power and goodness of fatherhood” and “the wisdom of motherhood.” God as our father “knew and loved us before the beginning of time.” We pray to God our mother for mercy and pity. Also, we pray to God the Holy Ghost for help and grace.22 For Julian the images of father and mother do not exhaust her imagery of God, not if the Holy Ghost is a third image. Furthermore, Julian sees the mother image as embodying different features from the father image: wisdom and mercy in contradistinction to goodness and power. This raises the possibility that the mother image and the father image are not as interchangeable as it seemed. For some feminists and others, fathers, and hence the father image, are protective, whereas mothers, and hence the mother image, are caring.23 In any case, whatever the resolution of this last issue, feminist authors have seen the religious need for various images of God, including feminine and masculine images, not just

one dominant Father image. For Rosemary Ruether, “God is both male and female and neither male nor female.” This may sound paradoxical, but Ruether is speaking of images of God, which are metaphors. And though there may be a contradiction in saying “both male and female” and “neither male nor female” in a literal use of terms, there is no contradiction where the usage is metaphorical. There is no contradiction in the claim that both male and female images, as well as nongender images may be religiously applied to God. One thing that is needed, Ruether is saying, is an “inclusiveness” that “draws upon the images and experiences of both genders.” Ruether explores different parables told by Jesus in the New Testament to show how two parables may be “parallel” though one uses a male image and one uses a female image. Two she compares are the parable of the shepherd who leaves his flock of ninety-nine sheep to find the one that is lost and the parable of the woman who has ten silver coins and, when she has lost one coin, lights a lamp and sweeps her house until she has found it (Lk. 15.3–10). In each case, when the lost is found there is rejoicing—as God rejoices when one who is lost is found. In these parables the images of male and female are “equivalent images for God,” Ruether says. They both stand for the same thing, as “paired images.” This allows that in other religious contexts Father and Mother images could carry different emphases, as Julian suggests. And even in these parables, in which the images are equivalent, inclusiveness and drawing upon the experiences of the two genders would provide a reason for using both images to express the divine attitude toward those who are lost religiously. It should be noted, furthermore, as Ruether points out, that in these two parables the male and female images are not parental. They do not image God as father or mother, but as finder of the lost (as Redeemer).24 Sallie McFague points to other models for the divine. She refers to models in other religions that might be brought to a theistic and specifically Christian understanding of the divine. She sees the cost of the centrality of the “personalistic model of Christianity” (by which God is a personal God) as a “tendency” toward transcendence over immanence, which regards the divine as immanent, or in, nature and the world, not above or transcending it. When God is transcendent, she observes, God is removed from the world and “man” then can assume a license “to dominate and destroy the natural environment.”25 Of course, some would question whether traditional Christianity can allow that God is immanent.26 Here, the question is about the conception of God. Others might question whether conceiving of God as transcendent requires thinking that human beings have been given the world to dominate. In addition, some see a connection between a masculine image of God and endorsing a dominance, or dominion, model of our relationship to the environment, which, they suggest, a feminine image of God as God/ess would counter.27 It seems there are three models in the Christian tradition about the proper relationship of human beings to their environment. One is indeed the domination or dominion model. Those with this view often cite Genesis 1:26, in which God says, “let them [human beings] have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over

the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over the earth.” This dominion view was the view of Aquinas and many others. Another model, accepted by several contemporary Christian churches, is the stewardship model, according to which human beings are responsible to God for the welfare of the earth. Human beings are God’s stewards and, if they are good stewards, will care for the environment. Those following this model can cite Genesis 2:15, in which we are told, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till and keep it.” In this passage, “the man” is Adam, but, generalized, the lesson is that human beings should “keep” the earth. A third model is the Goodness of Creation model. Here too passages from Genesis can be cited in support. In the first chapter of Genesis we are told that God created the light, the dry land, the seas, the vegetation of the earth, and the living creatures and beasts of the earth, and we are told that God saw that they were good. In Genesis 1:31, we are told “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.”28 For this model of our relationship to the earth and the environment, the earth is created good with an inherent value, so that our responsibility is to care for the environment for its own sake in respect for that value. So, allowing that the model of a personal God carries a “tendency” toward transcendence, or even that God is conceived as transcendent, there is a question about what this means for Christianity’s view of the proper relationship between us human beings and the environment. Does the third model provide a way of understanding how a transcendent God could give goodness and inherent worth to creation without becoming immanent in it? Another question is just what the connection is between imaging God as Father, or as Mother, and the dominion model. Are dominion and stewardship male and treating the natural beings of the earth as having goodness and inherent worth female? But, in any case, there are other images of the divine besides Father and Mother or male and female images. Several images are needed, says McFague. We need to balance maternal and paternal models with “nonfamilial and non-gender-related” models, she says. One such model is that of friend, she suggests. The metaphor of friend is not gender-related in that, unlike mother or father, a friend may be of either gender. The image of God as friend is found here and there in the Bible, McFague points out, as in John’s First Letter in the New Testament, where our “fellowship” with God is spoken of (1 John 1:3).29Although there are many complementary models, for McFague no one model, or collection of models, is adequate to express our relationship to God. In addition to personal models, religious believers need impersonal models too, such as the model of Being Itself, if only to express the depth of the believer’s dependence on God.30 Thus, as feminist writers and others are aware, there is a range of images of God. In addition to the images of God as Father or Mother, there are, as noted here, the Psalmist’s images of sheltering under God’s wings, of God as refuge and fortress and as the Rock of salvation. There are as well other images in the Psalms, such as the image of God as King above all gods (Ps. 95:4). There is the image of God as finder of the lost and the image of God

as Being Itself or even the unapproachable “wholly other.” Perhaps several images could be used without contradiction or dissonance within a religion or even by a single religious believer. When we return to the gender issue, several stances regarding imaging God with gender images can be distinguished. One is that in worship services or liturgy it is necessary to have feminine images to balance masculine images, especially the image of God as Father. Religious believers should not use either feminine or masculine images to the exclusion of the other. Both should be used.31 Another stance is that some religious believers or congregations may use masculine images exclusively and some religious believers and congregations may use feminine images exclusively, depending on what “facilitates their growth in the Faith.”32 A third stance is that believers should use only genderless images, such as, Almighty God or Merciful God and so avoid the gender issue altogether. A fourth is that religious believers in the various dimensions of their religious lives may use various images: shepherd, fortress, and others, in addition to Father and Mother, but they should be aware that all these images are metaphors.

Summing Up and Going Further The three issues discussed in this chapter all have to do with how religious believers can speak of or think of God or how they should speak or think of God. In this sense they all have to do with religious language. The first kind of issue has to do with the possibilities of language (Can we make genuine claims or assertions about God? Can we say anything literal about God?) The second kind of issue is an issue about the religiously proper and best ways to speak of God (How should we image God?) We discuss the three issues of this chapter mainly in the context of Christian thinkers, but all three of these issues, as issues about how we can or should speak or think of God, relate to Judaism and Islam as well as to Christianity (and other theistic religions, such as Sikhism). They also might arise in non-theistic religious traditions (Can we say anything literally true about the Buddha nature?) And, as with other issues that arise for religious traditions, these issues relate to the nonreligious as well as to the religious, for how can we say “There is no God” unless we can speak of God and claim that God does not exist?

Questions for Chapter 9 Factual Questions 1. What is the challenge that Antony Flew put to religious believers? 2. What does ineffable mean, and in what form of religious expression is the ineffability of God’s true nature found well represented? 3. What type of God predication was advanced by Thomas Aquinas? 4. Identify one difference between literal and metaphorical meaning. 5. What are two images or metaphors that are used to refer to God in the Bible?

Interpretive and Evaluative Questions 1. Do you think that religious statements like “There is a God” or “God created the world” must have “factual meaning” in order to be meaningful? What reasons would you give for your answer? 2. When religious believers say that God hears their prayers or that God gives them support in their lives, should we understand these terms literally or metaphorically? 3. Should God be imaged as a Father or as a Mother? 4. Why does it matter what image of God is used if it is kept in mind that all images are metaphors?

Notes 1. David Hume, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, Sec. 12, Pt. III, the concluding paragraph of Pt. III and of the Enquiry. Sec. 12, Pt. III of Hume’s Enquiry is in Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 9. 2. Antony Flew, “Theology and Falsification” in New Essays in Philosophical Theology, edited by Antony Flew and Alasdair MacIntyre (New York: The Macmillan Company; London: SCM Press, 1955), p. 96. Antony Flew’s contribution to “Theology and Falsification” is in Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 9. Flew borrows this parable from John Wisdom’s essay “Gods,” selections of which are in Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 9.

3. Meister Eckhart, Sermon 9 in Meister Eckhart, translated by Raymond B. Blakney (New York: Harper & Row, 1941), p. 142. Sermon 9 is in Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 9. 4. Zohar, “The Creation of Elohim” in Zohar, translated by Daniel Chanan Matt, The Classics of Western Spirituality (New York: Paulist Press, 1983), p. 50. “The Creation of Elohim” and “The Hidden Light,” the first two sections of the Zohar, are in Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 1 in the section on Judaism. 5. Dionysius, The Divine Names, Chapter 1 and The Mystical Theology, Chapters 4 and 5, both in Dionysius the Areopagite, translated by C. E. Rolt (London: SPCK, 1940), pp. 57–59 and 199–201. Chapter 1, Secs. 4 and 5 of The Divine Names and Chapters 4 and 5 of The Mystical Theology are in Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 9. 6. Rudolf Otto, The Idea of the Holy, translated by John W. Harvey (London: Oxford University Press, 1950), Chapter 5, p. 26 and Chapter 2, p. 5. Chapter 2 of The Idea of the Holy is in Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 9. 7. Ludwig Wittgenstein, “Lectures on Religious Belief” in Wittgenstein Lectures & Conversations on Aesthetics, Psychology and Religious Belief, edited by Cyril Barrett (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press), p. 71. 8. Aquinas, Summa Theologica I, q.13, a.3. In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 9. 9. Aquinas, Summa Theologica I, q.13, a.5. In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 9. 10. Aquinas, Summa Theologica I, q.13, a.6. In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 9. 11. John Henry Newman, An Essay in Aid of a Grammar of Assent (South Bend, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1979), p. 113. 12. Anselm, Proslogion, Chapter 15. In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 2. 13. Luke 11:1–4, in which Jesus teaches his disciples the Lord’s Prayer is in Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 1, in the section on Christianity. 14. Sallie McFague, Metaphorical Theology (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1982), p. 188 in Chapter 5. Selections from Chapter 5 of Metaphorical Theology are in Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 9. On p. 103 in Chapter 4, McFague refers to religious models as “systematic and relatively permanent metaphors.” 15. Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love (Long text), translated by Elizabeth Spearing (Penguin Group, 1998). Chapter 61, p. 143. Chapters 59, 60, and 61 of Revelations of Divine Love are in Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 9. 16. Maura O’Neill, “A Model of the Relationship between Religions Based on Feminist Theory” in Inter-Religious Models and Criteria, edited by J. Kellenberger (Houndmills, Basingstoke: Macmillan and New York: St. Martin’s, 1993), p. 50. O’Neill draws attention to this and other reasons in her essay. 17. O’Neill, “A Model of the Relationship between Religions Based on Feminist Theory,” p. 50. O’Neill cites Sallie McFague,

Metaphorical Theology, pp. 8–9, on this point. 18. William Harper, “On Calling God ‘Mother’” Faith and Philosophy. vol. 11 (1994), p. 295. William Harper’s article is in Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 9. 19. George F. Isham, “Is God Exclusively a Father?” Faith and Philosophy, vol. 13 (1996), p. 270. George Isham’s article is in Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 9. 20. McFague, Metaphorical Theology, p. 145 in Chapter 5. In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 9. 21. Rosemary Radford Ruether, Sexism and God-Talk (Boston: Beacon Press, 1983) p. 53, in Chapter 2. The last section of Chapter 2 is in Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 9. 22. Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love (Long text), Chapter 59, pp. 139–40. In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 9. 23. Harper cites and discusses Sara Ruddick’s view on a mother’s role in opposition to a father’s role in “On Calling God ‘Mother’” p. 291. In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 9. 24. Ruether, Sexism and God-Talk, pp. 67–68 in Chapter 2. In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 9. 25. McFague, Metaphorical Theology, pp. 143–44 in Chapter 4. 26. Harper, “On Calling God ‘Mother,’” p. 293. In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 9. 27. Harper, “On Calling God ‘Mother,’” p. 292–93. Harper cites several feminist thinkers, including Ruether and McFague. In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 9. 28. This is the rendering of Genesis 1:31 in the Revised Standard Version of the Bible. In the Tanakh it reads “And God saw all that He had made, and found it very good.” The first chapter of Genesis as found in the Tanakh is in Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 1. 29. The first chapter of John’s first letter is in Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 1, in the section on Christianity. 30. McFague, Metaphorical Theology, pp. 178, 190 and 192 in Chapter 5. In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 9. 31. Harper comments on this view in “On Calling God ‘Mother,’” p. 296. In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 9. 32. This is Harper’s view in “On Calling God ‘Mother’” p. 296. In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 9.

Chapter 10 Religious Realism and the Meaning of God The Issue of Religious Realism and Questions about the Meaning of God It is possible to ask religious believers in the three great monotheistic traditions “What do you mean by God’” A traditional reply to this question would in some way cite the core concept of these traditions, according to which God is the Supreme Being and the Creator of all that is. Sometimes when religious believers try to say what they mean by God they do not say much more than this. St. Anselm, in the Christian tradition, referred to God as “supreme being” and said that God is the greatest being, “than which nothing greater can be thought.”1 However, there is more to the core concept of God shared by Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. God in all of these traditions is transcendent, and God is self-subsistent, depending on nothing, whereas everything depends on God for its being. God is not just one more thing or being. God is the Supreme Being. God, in all of these traditions, is merciful, compassionate, and just, to name further attributes or “perfections” in the shared core concept. In these traditions God is a personal God. God knows, wills, asks, punishes, forgives, and loves. God is omniscient or all-knowing. God is omnibenevolent, or all-good. God is omnipresent, so that God’s presence may be found everywhere. In this way, in the traditional core concept, God may be found in the sunset; but God is not the sunset. In the same way God is love, but God is not just love. God is prayed to, but God is not prayer itself. For most or many traditional believers in Judaism, Islam, and Christianity, it is a part of the core concept of God that God interacts with believers and others. That is, God in some way provides revelations to special prophets or to messengers or provides guidance to believers or in some other way performs miracles. At the same time, in the core concept of God, there is much that is beyond human comprehension regarding God’s ways and the manifestations of God’s love and goodness. To be sure, a traditional Christian’s full reply to the question “What do you mean by God?” would differ in several significant respects from a full reply given by a traditional Jew or Muslim. For the traditional Christian, part of what she or he means by God would include there being “God the Father” and “God the Son,” whereas this would not be so for Jews and Muslims. In the same way, a traditional Jew’s or Muslim’s full reply would differ from one another in certain respects. For example, for a Muslim, God’s final prophet is Muhammad, but

this is not so for a Jew. Still, there is the nucleus of a shared core concept common to the three traditions. In this way traditional believers can say, or begin to say, what they mean by God, even if not all traditional believers in the three traditions would give identical full replies. There is, however, another question that may be raised after religious believers have answered the question “What do you mean by God?” This second question has been phrased as “What is the meaning of God?” This question is not “What do believers mean by God?” It is “What does God mean for believers?” Some would put the issue as “What is the best understanding of God in a religious life?” When we ask this question, we are asking about the deepest religious significance of God. We are asking what understanding of God connects most deeply to religious practice and sensibility. The issue of religious realism is precisely the issue that has arisen within religion and religious thought about the meaning of God. It relates to the theistic or monotheistic religions, in which belief in God is central. At times in their everyday life the issue of religious realism can arise for the religious and for those who have a religious background in one of the theistic traditions. It may arise when one hears a person say, “I am religious, but I do not believe in God” or “I believe in God, but not a God up there somewhere.” The issue of religious realism consists of two main concerns: how to understand the meaning of God and, arising from the first concern, whether theistic religion and spirituality, or religiousness, require a belief in a real, transcendent God, existing independently of religious practice. For realism, religious belief in God and a religious life rooted in religious belief require a belief in a transcendent realist God, whereas for non-realism religious commitment and spirituality do not require belief in a transcendent realist God. In contemporary reflection, the issue of religious realism has arisen specifically within and for Christianity. As an issue about the meaning of God, in a superficial way it is like the issue about factual meaning and beliefs about God (discussed in Chapter 9), but it is different. The older issue is about the meaning of claims about God, about their factual meaning, and was inspired by a scientific standard. Often this older issue was raised as a challenge that was put to religion, and often it came from those standing outside religion. The issue of religious realism is between those within religion to a great extent. But the issue is about the meaning of God, not the factual meaning of statements about God.

The Perspective of Non-realism Several contemporary religious thinkers have defended non-realism as a way of understanding God and spiritual commitment. Prominent among them is the religious thinker Don Cupitt, writing out of the Christian tradition. Cupitt is aware of the traditional core

concept, but he calls it “metaphysical or realist.”2 (Metaphysics is the area of philosophy that is concerned with the nature of ultimate reality.) Cupitt regards the traditional concept of a transcendent God metaphysical or realist because it postulates a “supernatural” God (above nature) with an “objective” existence (an existence independent of religious practice). A belief in a realist supernatural God is accompanied by further metaphysical beliefs about supernatural events—intervention miracles, such as the belief that God parted the Red Sea or the belief that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. Such a realist understanding of God misrepresents the very meaning of God, as Cupitt sees it. Cupitt’s thesis is that we should “break with” the realist view of God, and with “the old ‘literal’ personal theism.” We should, in his words, “take leave of God” where God is understood as a supernatural personal being “objectively” existing over and above the requirement and the goal of a religious life.3 This does not mean, however, that there is no role for God in Cupitt’s non-realism. “God is,” Cupitt says, “the unifying symbol of the religious life.” God is not to be understood as an independently existing being, but as a symbol that unifies the religious life, or the religious life of theistic believers. As the central symbol of religion, God can even be personified (in the way the virtue of wisdom is sometimes personified as the feminine Sophia). As this symbol, God is a metaphor or personified image for two essential elements of the religious life, Cupitt suggests. One is the religious requirement and the second is the religious goal. Cupitt says that “the religious requirement is that we must become spirit.” It is the requirement “for complete spiritual integrity, for purity of heart and for an entire change of life.” In following or seeking spiritual integrity we must face those secret things in our lives that we have hidden even from ourselves. “God,” however, “is not only the requirement personified, but also the goal personified.” For Cupitt, “when we choose God we choose a demand upon ourselves which is a priori and overriding, namely the demand that we shall become full individuated, free, responsive and purely spiritual subjects. God is that, and when we have become what is demanded of us we are united with God. Then we are spirit as God is spirit.”4 Although Cupitt, who is a non-realist Christian, may be nontraditional in various ways, at the same time his understanding of what is spiritually required and the place in religion of spiritual development places him within a broad religious tradition. Cupitt’s focus is on spirituality, the religious practice of spirituality and personal spiritual development, as found in various traditions, including Christianity. It is key to his non-realist view that meeting the religious requirement and striving toward the religious goal do not require a belief in a transcendent realist God. Cupitt refers to his non-realist view as “Christian Buddhism.” He calls it “Buddhist” because in its form it rejects creedal beliefs in “supernatural beings, causes, and events,” and he calls it “Christian” because in its content it is Christian with its reference to God and grace. Though it rejects belief in a realist God, it would still nourish “admirable and beautiful religious attitudes, values [and] practices.” Cupitt names several of these spiritually significant attitudes, values, and practices, including the following:

self-appraisal of one’s life, especially one’s inner life the cultivation of meditation and contemplative prayer the development of absolute disinterestedness and purity of heart commitment to religious hope and receptivity to grace experience and expressions of cosmic awe, thanksgiving, and love cultivation of these values for others as well as for oneself.5

Note that Cupitt’s non-realism is not merely the denial of a realist God but also embodies positive claims about the meaning of God and what the meaning of God entails for religious attitudes and practice. Cupitt is urging a development of religious attitudes and a furthering of religious practice without belief (or without belief in a realist supernatural God and supernatural events). He appreciates that traditional Christian believers, with their emphasis on creeds and orthodoxy, will feel threatened by his Christian Buddhism, but he sees nonrealist faith as perhaps being the faith of the future.6 In his perception that non-realism is not now the character of faith, although one day it may be, Cupitt is different from D. Z. Phillips, who is another prominent non-realist. If Phillips is right, religious belief, as it now exists, does not involve accepting the truth of “there is a God,” understood as an existenceclaim about an object or being in the universe—that is, a realist God. For Phillips, religious belief does not involve an assertion like the claim that there is one more star or planet than we thought.7 As Phillips says, in accord with Cupitt, “Coming to see that there is a God involves seeing a new meaning in one’s life, and being given a new understanding.”8 Taking up religious belief, for Phillips, as for the earlier philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, is taking up a belief that regulates in one’s life, affecting one’s actions and affections.9 It is to enter into a form of life, to use Wittgenstein’s term, but it is not to make an existence-claim about God. Phillips is not offering a new understanding of the meaning of God, as Cupitt sometimes says he is. Phillips is offering an understanding of ordinary or traditional religious belief in God, or at least of one of its main forms. Whether religious belief—as it stands now—is really non-realist, as Phillips suggests, or religious believers must “break with” realist belief, as Cupitt says, Phillips would agree with Cupitt that so far as religion is realistic it ceases to be religious.10 For Cupitt, and for Phillips, spirituality and religious maturity require no longer believing in a realist transcendent God. Cupitt’s thinking about spirituality, with his emphasis on the religious requirement and goal, as suggested previously, connects to several religious traditions, and to the Christian tradition especially in its mystical and devotional strains, in which there is a great emphasis on personal spiritual development. For Cupitt, the God of spirituality is not a being that exists independently of religious practice and belief. This means that, for Cupitt, it is not presupposed by spiritual practice that God exists as a “spirit.” Rather, God is spiritual practice personified, and spirit is better understood as a capacity of human beings, except that “. . . it is not quite correct to speak of spirit merely as a capacity, for one ought to add it is an extraordinary

capacity of persons,” says Cupitt.11 At times Cupitt sees himself as providing a “new religious meaning of God,” and at other times he believes he is reclaiming the original religious meaning.12 Yet, if Cupitt is giving a new and nontraditional meaning to God, he continues to speak of spirituality and of spirit in an identifiably religious way. Cupitt maintains that we may speak of spirit without our doing so presupposing belief in the proposition “God as spirit exists.” Moreover, for Cupitt, spirits or pure spirits (which is what a transcendent God would be) do not exist. Cupitt regards the issue of the truth of the existence of God as spirit as meaningful in that it can be addressed, and in fact he argues that it is not true that God or any being exists as pure spirit. He asks this: If spirit is a supernatural capacity (namely the capacity to exceed one’s natural capacities, the power of selftranscendence) are there any beings who are purely spirits—just spiritual, so that their being spirit is their essence?

And he replies with this reasoning: Surely only a being that is already something else, that already has a nature, can have superadded to it the power of selftranscendence? So the idea of an individual pure spirit appears to be an empty idea. There cannot be a free-floating pure spirit. There can only be something’s becoming spirit. So spirit exists only in persons who have become spirit. In them it is self-transcendence, but it is not a transcendent being apart from them.13

Important for Cupitt is the role of becoming. Spirit as a mode of self-transcendence is what persons have a capacity for becoming. There is no spirit without becoming, he says. The God of whom Cupitt is “taking leave” is this transcendent God or spirit conceived to exist apart from spiritual development. In the nineteenth century Friedrich Nietzsche said that God is dead.14 A great part of what he meant was that religious belief in God no longer had a deep connection in the lives of his fellow Europeans. Today Don Cupitt might say that a transcendent, supernatural, and realist God is dead. Cupitt offers four reasons why we, or religious believers, should break with and abandon the belief in a realist God. First, all the “proofs” of a realist God “break down.” He means the Ontological, Cosmological, and Teleological (or Design) Arguments, as well as the Moral Argument and what he calls the “argument from religious experience.” All fail to provide good grounds for belief in a realist God. Second, a realist God “threatens human spiritual and moral autonomy.” By autonomy Cupitt means self-direction. It stands opposed to heteronomy, which is being given values and direction from what is outside ourselves. For Cupitt an “objective” realist God giving humanity commandments to follow must be heteronomous, whereas an “internalized” nonrealist God allows autonomy. Third, a realist God threatens “the autonomy of religion.” Cupitt sees the realist metaphysical view of God as imported to religion from philosophy, going back to Philo of Alexandria, who lived from 20 B.C.E. to 50 C.E. (Philo’s early contribution to an understanding of the relation between faith and reason is briefly discussed in Chapter 1.) For Cupitt this imposition of a metaphysical view of God takes away from religion’s independence. Fourth, the idea of a realist God is not scriptural in the

sense that the teachings of the prophets in the Old Testament and of Jesus in the New Testament are not committed to a particular view of the reality of God.15 So, for Cupitt, those who are religious believers should give up their belief in a transcendent, realist God. But, as we have seen, this does not mean that there is no religious role for God, in Cupitt’s view. Furthermore, much of the way traditional religious believers speak of God would remain unchanged. Believers would and should continue to speak of God’s knowledge of their hearts, of God’s omniscience (or of God’s being all-knowing) and of God’s will and immutability. They would and should continue to speak of God’s traditional attributes. For Cupitt, God is the religious requirement and goal personified. As God is the religious requirement personified, “his attributes are a kind of projection of its main features as we experience them.” When believers rigorously follow the religious requirement, they will, in seeking spiritual integrity and purity of heart, hide nothing that they have done from themselves. Their experience of this feature of the requirement is represented as God’s omniscience. Their sense that what is thus exposed in their inner lives is open to moral judgment is represented by God’s judgment. A non-realist believer may speak of “casting myself on God’s mercy,” although this cannot be in the hope of help from “an objective individual over and above the religious requirement.” Non-realist believers will experience the will of God as the demands of the religious requirement itself after they have internalized it. The unyielding and categorically binding nature of the demands of the religious requirement are felt as God’s immutability, and this is so even though, as Cupitt puts it, non-realist religious believers bind the religious requirement unconditionally upon themselves, as opposed to their being bound by a realist God.16 In this way, how nonrealist believers talk religiously may be much the same as the way realist believers talk religiously. Cupitt, as a non-realist believer, says that “I can quite properly and meaningfully describe it [the religious requirement] as waiting, as searching me out, as judging and condemning me, as restoring me, freeing me, and as filling me with the divine spirit.”17 And when we bear in mind that for Cupitt God is the personification of the religious requirement, we can see that for him within his non-realist Christianity it is proper and meaningful to say that God searches him out, judges and condemns him, restores him, frees him, and fills him with the divine spirit. So it is that both the realist believer and the nonrealist believer, when they feel their burdens lightened and their spiritual resolve strengthened, could say, “God restores my soul,” but they would mean different things and understand the meaning of God differently. At one point in his discussion of the meaning of God, Cupitt raises the issue of “reductionism” in connection with his non-realism. Many, he suspects, will see his non-realism as a “sort of reductionism, some sort of diminished version of religious realities.”18 What does Cupitt mean by reductionism? Reductionism is the translation of statements about one kind of thing into statements about another kind of thing that is less problematical. For example, in

the past, people referred to those who lost control of themselves as being possessed by demons. Later such individuals were described as suffering from epilepsy or some neural disorder: Possession by demons was reduced to a bodily or neural disorder. In this case, we would say that we came to realize that really there were no demons at work. When reductionism is right or justified, it sheds light on what is really before us. But often the term is used disparagingly, so that people are accused of reductionism when they are seen as “reducing” something of significance to another lesser thing. If we translated talk about love between two human beings into talk about the discharge of hormones, this would be to say that love is nothing but a discharge of hormones, and this would discredit love by reducing it to something less than it is. Cupitt sees his view as being accused of this second sort of reductionism, which substitutes a “diminished version of religious realities” for God. One way to put the issue between religious non-realism and religious realism is to ask this: Is non-realism this negative sort of reductionism? Or is Cupitt giving us a new enlightened understanding of religious realities (or reminding us of the original meaning of God)? Is Cupitt’s view atheism? The answer depends on the meaning of God. If the meaning of God requires God to be a transcendent, supernatural realist God, then Cupitt’s non-realism amounts to atheism, but if the deeper understanding of God is as Cupitt presents it, then nonrealism is not atheism, and the “metaphysical” belief in a realist God is not really religious. Cupitt suggests that traditional believers will see four crucial differences between their realist belief and non-realism. One is in regard to God’s personality. For realism, God is a personal God, who wills, judges, and loves. For non-realism God, as the religious requirement, is “an impersonal categorically binding unconditional principle.” Second, there is a difference over the grace of God. For realism, God literally bestows gifts on men and women. Not so for nonrealism. Third, there is a difference over “the divine initiative.” For realism God may “call” one individual to one way of life and “call” another to a different way of life. For Cupitt’s nonrealism the religious requirement is the same for all. Fourth, there is a difference over divine love. For realism, there is a supernatural Being, a Heavenly Father (or Heavenly Mother), who loves his (or her) children. For non-realism, this is part of an old supernaturalism that must be outgrown.19

The Perspective of Realism As both Cupitt and the defenders of religious realism appreciate, most traditional believers are realist in their belief. Cupitt urges the traditionally religious to “break with” their realist belief, whereas defenders of realism think that this circumstance is not accidental and reflects the

deeper understanding of the meaning of God. Among the most prominent defenders of the realist perspective is John Hick. Hick, as a matter of fact, allows that realism and non-realism can agree on several significant points, but finally, he argues, non-realism is deeply flawed. On what points do non-realists and realists agree, according to Hick? First, they can agree on the value of spiritual development, on the “fruits of faith in human life,” as Hick puts it. Hick maintains that there may be spiritual progress—and essentially the same spiritual progress—in different religious traditions. Such progress occurs when there is a growth in love or compassion and a surpassing of “the self-centred point of view.” Hick believes that such spiritual progress can be found in all the major religious traditions of the world. Realists, Hick observes, believe that when such spiritual progress occurs, it is because of a “conscious or unconscious awareness” of a divine reality that exists independently of our human belief and practice, whereas for non-realists there is no such “objective” divine reality. Nevertheless, realists and non-realists like Cupitt can agree on the value of such spiritual development or “self-transcendence,” as it is referred to by both Cupitt and Hick. Second, non-realists and realists can agree that the forms of religious belief, practice, and even experience are culturally conditioned. To use Hick’s example, they can agree that “the maleness of God” in historical Judaism, Christianity, and Islam reflects the patriarchical societies in which these religious traditions developed. That is, they can agree that a male image of God emerged in these religious traditions because of the cultural settings in which these traditions developed. Of course, for realism there is an independently existing religious reality of which such a male image (like female and nongender images) is a representation; this is not so for non-realism. Third, Hick observes that non-realists and realists can agree that in spiritual development there is a “transformation of consciousness” in which new meaning and value are discerned. For both non-realists and realists, essentially the same spiritual transformation or reorientation in a person’s life can be acknowledged. And, fourth, non-realists and realists can agree on an emphasis on moral and religious autonomy. Hick identifies two elements of autonomy: Our morality is autonomous when (1) it does not depend on “external moral commands” but derives from our own understanding and judgment (which may be given to us by God) and (2) we are not moral for the motive of reward or to avoid punishment. Cupitt, as we have seen, regards autonomy as incompatible with a realist God, but on Hick’s understanding of autonomy they are not incompatible.20 For Hick, then, there is much room for agreement between non-realism and realism. Finally, however, they disagree on what Hick calls the “ultimate issue.” In Hick’s view, this issue is about nothing less than the nature of our universe. For non-realism, the physical universe is not created by any more ultimate divine power; religious values originate with human beings and do not reflect an objective structure of the universe; and no supernatural beings exist except as ideas in our minds. If non-realism is correct about these points, however, as Hick sees it, it is “bad news” religiously for most of humanity, because, although salvation

as spiritual attainment will be possible for some, salvation will be denied to most. Salvation in non-realist terms will be attainable to those who, as Cupitt would say, internalize the religious requirement and so strive toward spiritual transformation. But this will be only an elite few, Hick points out. At the same time, if non-realism is the right view, salvation will not be attained by those who are incapable of following the religious requirement in this life, and it will be denied to all those who have lived and died without attaining this spiritual goal. The message of the great religious traditions is very different, Hick argues. Their message is profoundly optimistic, for it holds out the hope of spiritual attainment for all human beings in a life to come if not in this life.21 It is true that the details of this message vary from tradition to tradition, but the optimism of the message in its different forms is invariable across religious traditions, as Hick sees it. In the monotheistic traditions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, this optimism takes the form of the hope of a life after death in an eternal heavenly life with God. Although it is true that within these traditions there is the doctrine of hell and eternal punishment and, within Christianity even a theological strain that sees some as predestined to damnation, at the same time there is the hope that none will be damned and all will ultimately be saved, as Hick appreciates. (This theological view is called universalism and dates from the second or third century of the Common Era in Christian thought.) Within Hinduism, this optimism takes the form of the hope of Moksha—realization and freedom from the karmic cycle of rebirth. For Buddhism, this optimism expresses itself in the belief that all sentient beings are on the path to Nirvana and are potential Buddhas. But this optimism of the great religious traditions rests upon the realist belief that the universe has an objective structure that allows this final attainment for humanity in general. Again, the specific belief varies from tradition to tradition. For the monotheistic traditions, there is the belief in a caring, loving, compassionate God whose mercy extends to all. For Hinduism there must be the possibility of the ultimate realization of oneness with Brahman. For Buddhism there must be the Dharmakaya, or transcendent Buddha-nature, in which those attaining Nirvana will participate, in order for there to be the possibility of Buddhahood for sentient beings. If, however, God/Brahman/the Dharmakaya are accepted as being only human ideas, then the basis for religious optimism for humanity in general is lost.22 Hick’s final argument against non-realism, as he says, is not that it is false. It is that such a pessimistic view cannot represent the profound optimism of the great religious traditions of the world.23

Critical Examination of Realism and Non-realism Among the strengths of non-realism, from the standpoint of one or more of the strains of

religious sensibility encountered in this book, are these: 1. An appreciation that the bare claim that God exists has little religious significance.24 2. An appreciation that taking up belief in God in an engaged way in the Judaic, Christian, or Islamic tradition involves finding a new dimension of meaning in one’s life (Kierkegaard called faith a passion and compared it to being in love).25 These points, though, are not strengths of non-realism alone, for they are recognized by many realists as well. Thus they do not count in favor of either view against the other. Still, it seems that non-realist believers would be less inclined to let their religion slip into a bare claim that God exists since there is in non-realism no place at all for a belief in the existence of a transcendent God. Moreover, as Hick concedes, non-realist religion can have a “strong appeal” to those who find a value in “the quest for inner peace and purity of heart, the development of love and compassion, the outgrowing of the natural ego with its obsessive cupidity and corrosive anxieties—without the encumbrance of a system of supernatural beliefs which has lost its plausibility for many modern minds.”26 The issue between non-realism and realism over the meaning of God leads us to ask two questions: 1. Can there be forms of spirituality (or religiousness) in a monotheistic tradition that are non-realist? and 2. Are there forms of spirituality in monotheistic traditions that require realist belief? The answer to both questions may well be affirmative. If so, then God has both a non-realist and a realist meaning within the Christian tradition, and within the other monotheistic traditions if they are construed very broadly. In answer to the first question, it seems clear that there can be forms of non-realist spirituality in a monotheistic tradition. Don Cupitt lays out in detail what such a spiritual path of “self-transcendence” would be like, and John Hick does not deny that a non-realist could pursue such a spiritual life. Non-realist spirituality of the sort presented by Cupitt would emphasize personal spiritual development through self-examination, and the control of one’s selfish tendencies through contemplation and meditation. This is a strain of religion found in various traditions, including Christianity. Often it goes with a realist understanding, but it need not, as Cupitt sees. A religious person can follow the “religious requirement” without prayer to God, without a belief in God or any transcendent reality, as in some forms of Buddhism as Cupitt understands them. Cupitt’s form of spirituality is definitely oriented toward personal spiritual development, toward a diligent self-searching and a development of purity of heart. But he does recognize as one of the values of religion a cultivation of these personal values for others as well as for

oneself. Could there be forms of non-realist spirituality that focused, not so much on the development of these personal spiritual values in others, but on the needs of the oppressed, the dispossessed, and those in suffering? Religious missionaries that we may call to mind, like Albert Schweitzer and Mother Teresa, who devoted their lives to the relief of the suffering of others, almost certainly were traditional realist believers. However, it is possible to imagine a non-realist Mother Teresa who worked diligently in Calcutta to relieve the suffering of the afflicted, having “internalized” the value of love of others. The second question is whether there are forms of spirituality in monotheistic traditions that require realist belief. For one thing, it does seem that religious belief in God—whether Jewish, Christian, or Muslim—requires the implicit belief that the God believed in exists. And for many traditional believers, their belief in God presupposes a belief that God exists over and above their religious practice. That is, their belief in God presupposes a belief that God exists in a realist understanding. Often such traditional believers hold a central religious belief that connects to their trust and belief in God. Thus, traditional Jews believe that God has delivered the people of Israel from bondage, traditional Christians believe that through his sacrifice Christ is their savior, and traditional Muslims believe that Muhammad has received the final prophetic message from God. All of these beliefs, as traditionally understood, require the belief that a realist God actually did something in human history. In addition, it seems that a number of religious persons follow various traditional religious practices that they could hardly follow without their believing it to be true that God exists— that is, without their believing that God exists independently of their religious practice and belief and, in this sense, objectively. For such traditional believers, though they may not heed the creedal formulations of orthodoxy all that carefully, it would seem several familiar religious practices require some kind of belief in an objective or independently existing realist God. Consider religious worship and confession. In accord with one clear traditional way of understanding these practices, they are worship of God and confession to God and so internally require a tacit belief that there is an independently existing God. Similarly, petitionary prayer to God (prayer in which something is asked of God), traditionally understood, seems to require the same tacit belief. And, as one religious thinker has observed, even the Lord’s Prayer has a petitionary element.27 Even non-petitionary prayer expressing only acceptance of God’s will, is prayer to God. To be sure, prayer can be understood as meditation or contemplation (and this is how Cupitt understands prayer). And the religious practices just mentioned can be ritualistically followed without belief, but it remains that there is a traditional way of believers’ understanding their participation in them that connects them internally to belief in a God that exists over and above the practices themselves. Let us consider giving thanks to God in more detail. Cupitt, as we have seen, recognizes that there are “admirable and beautiful religious attitudes, values [and] practices.” These ought to be retained, he believes. One of these he describes as follows: “In spite of all the ugliness

and cruelty in the world, it is good that one should at least sometimes experience and express cosmic awe, thanksgiving and love.”28 What would such thanksgiving be in Cupitt’s form of spirituality? It could not be a giving thanks to God for what God has given, for that would require believing God to be an objectively existing being distinct from religious practice. It could be an experience and expression of thanksgiving as an undirected feeling of thankfulness, as one might feel one ought to thank someone for one’s good luck. Such a feeling is coherent and understandable, but it is not yet giving thanks in the sense that informs the more traditional practice of giving thanks to God. The more traditional practice retains the commonsense conceptual connections that have it that if one thanks another for something, then it is implicitly believed that there is another and that that other has in some manner done something, specifically, has given something. In the traditional religious practice of giving thanks to God, it is believed that something was given by God, and believers offer thanks to God for that gift. If God is thanked for one’s recovery from illness, for the food before one, or for one’s returning home safely in the evening, within the traditional practice cited it is believed that thanks are due to God because these are gifts of God. Although the believer may not presume to speculate on the nature or means of God’s activity, the coherence of his or her giving thanks requires a belief that there is a God to be thanked and that thanks are due to God for what was given. In nonreligious settings when these conceptual connections are severed, the feeling of thankfulness that remains is like feeling generous but not giving anything to anyone; in such a case, there may be an echo of the feeling that goes with generosity, but full generosity, we might say, is lacking. In a religious setting, in which the traditional practice of thanking God is followed, not being able to believe there is a God to be thanked can become a crisis of faith. As noted previously, both the realist believer and the non-realist believer, when they feel their burdens lightened and their spiritual resolve strengthened, could say, “God restores my soul.” But they would mean different things and understand the meaning of God differently. For the realist, but not for the non-realist, God did something: God restored her soul. For the realist it would be appropriate to thank God for what God has given. For the non-realist it is the religious requirement and one’s living by it that has the effect of restoring one. As suggested previously, we may be able to imagine a non-realist Mother Teresa ministering to the afflicted, but it is another matter to imagine her giving thanks to God for the strength God has given her. The religious practice of thanking God, like the traditional religious practices of worshipping God, confessing to God, and asking of God in prayer, and the form of spirituality of which they are a part, are realist in that they require a belief in an objective, realist God existing over and above the practices themselves. In reply Cupitt might remind us of his argument that God as “pure spirit” cannot exist. He argues, as mentioned previously, that spirit is a capacity for self-transcendence. For Cupitt, spirit, as a mode of self-transcendence, is what persons have a capacity for becoming, and

there is no spirit without becoming. God as a realist pure spirit cannot exist because for such a God there would be no becoming. So Cupitt reasons. To be noted is the role of becoming in Cupitt’s argument. Regarding the religious role of becoming, there is an interesting near-parallel with Søren Kierkegaard’s thinking in the Concluding Unscientific Postscript. For Kierkegaard, “existence” is the unavoidable state of human beings, which is a condition of striving and becoming.29 For Kierkegaard, as for Cupitt, becoming has a religious significance: Striving and becoming are the human lot, and the religious attitude of faith carries this becoming to its highest pitch. There is, however, a significant difference between Kierkegaard and Cupitt. At one point Kierkegaard says, “God does not exist, he is eternal.”30 D. Z. Phillips observes that in saying this Kierkegaard is saying “the Hebrew-Christian conception of God is not a conception of a being among beings.”31 Kierkegaard is certainly saying and insisting that God is not a being among human beings, since God is not a striving, becoming being, as human beings are. It is for this reason, Kierkegaard maintains, that God does not have “existence”; rather, God is eternal and unchanging. For Kierkegaard, however, God does “exist” in the sense that God is an eternal being. Moreover, for Kierkegaard in the Concluding Unscientific Postscript, faith is the struggling, passionate belief that what he called “the absurd” is true, the “absurd” being the supreme “objective uncertainty” that the eternal God became temporal by entering into time as Jesus of Nazareth.32 This means that for Kierkegaard in the Concluding Unscientific Postscript there is and must be “objective truth” to the proposition that the eternal God became temporal, because this is the “objective uncertainty” that faith must embrace. For Cupitt spirit is the extraordinary capacity human beings have for becoming selftranscendent, and there is no propositional truth for “spirits exist” (or for “pure spirits exist”) and no truth for “God as spirit exists.” For Kierkegaard in the Concluding Unscientific Postscript, in contrast, although God does not “exist” in the sense that God is not an “existing” (striving, becoming) being, God does exist in the sense that God is an eternal being. Cupitt and Kierkegaard agree on the religious significance of spiritual becoming (spiritual striving and development) of human beings. But Kierkegaard would not agree that this means there can be no eternal, objectively existing God. In fact, Kierkegaard holds that faith requires the belief in such an eternal, objectively existing God. Although spiritual becoming can be understood in Cupitt’s non-realist way, it can also be understood in Kierkegaard’s realist way. It may be instructive to end this section with a question and a comment that Cupitt presents at the end of his discussion of the meaning of God. For Cupitt, there is a God, but God is the religious requirement personified. When he speaks of faith’s God and religion’s God, it is this God that he means, not an “objectively” existing transcendent God. Such a “metaphysical” God, for him, would have an “extra-religious reality.” What, then, of the question, “Does God exist outside faith’s relation to God, or is the concept of God just a convenient heuristic fiction

that regulates the religious life?” Cupitt does not deny that this question can be asked. In fact, he allows that it is often asked. But, he says, “it is of no religious interest.” It isn’t, for him, because the practice of following the religious requirement in the quest of the religious goal does not require such a God. Moreover, for Cupitt, autonomy rules out any such realist God (a point on which Cupitt and Hick differ). Cupitt, however, goes on to make this comment: So it would seem that religion forbids that there should be any extra-religious reality of God. The most we can say is that it is religiously appropriate to think that there may be beyond the God of religion a transcendent divine mystery witnessed to in various ways by the faith of mankind.33

Summing Up and Going Further There can be non-realist forms of spirituality or religiousness, and not only the form that Cupitt describes in great detail. But also there are more traditional forms that do seem to require realist belief in God. It turns out, then, that there is both a non-realist and a realist answer to the question “What is the meaning of God?” Each answer informs strains of spirituality or religiousness and their religious sensibilities. Cupitt and other non-realists are aware of the traditional forms of religiousness that embody realist belief in God. For Cupitt, it is time to break with them and to move to a form of religiousness that carries no metaphysical baggage. Of course, whether this should be done, or whether religious believers should continue with realist belief, depends on whether there is a transcendent and realist God. Cupitt believes there are no “sufficiently good grounds” for belief in such a God. Cupitt believes that all the “proofs” of a realist God fail. He means the traditional arguments for the existence of God, the Ontological, Cosmological, and Teleological (or Design) Arguments, as well as the Moral Argument and also the “argument from religious experience.” But there are other ways of showing that a belief in a realist God is reasonable or has “epistemic propriety,” such as those pursued by William Alston and by Alvin Plantinga, discussed in Chapter 4. And Cupitt does not consider the kind of religious experience that might lead to or constitute a religious realization-discovery of God’s presence, discussed in Chapter 5. In this way the issue of this chapter is connected to the issues of Chapters 4 and 5.

Questions for Chapter 10 Factual Questions 1. Jews, Christians, and Muslims agree that there is one God, and they agree that God is the Supreme Being. How are the Judaic, Christian, and Islamic conceptions of God different? 2. In what ways is Don Cupitt’s understanding of spirituality or religiousness traditional? 3. Why does John Hick think that non-realism is counter to the great religious traditions of the world, including Christianity?

Interpretive and Evaluative Questions 1. For Don Cupitt, is it true that there is a God? Explain your answer. 2. Why does Don Cupitt conclude that God cannot exist as a “pure spirit”? Does his reasoning prove his claim? 3. Do you think that a non-realist or a realist understanding of the meaning of God is more relevant to us today? Why?

Notes 1. Anselm addresses God as “supreme being” or as “that which exists alone over all things” in Chapter 5 of the Proslogion. Chapter 5 of the Proslogion is in Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 2. 2. Don Cupitt, Taking Leave of God (London: SCM Press, 1980), p. 84 of Chapter 7, “The Meaning of God.” Chapter 7 of Taking Leave of God is in Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 10. 3. Cupitt, Taking Leave of God, pp. 84 and 93 of Chapter 7, “The Meaning of God.” In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 10. 4. Cupitt, Taking Leave of God, pp. 85, 86, 88, and 94 in Chapter 7, “The Meaning of God.” In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 10. 5. Cupitt, Taking Leave of God, pp. xiii, 82, and 83.

6. Cupitt, Taking Leave of God, pp. xiii and 83. 7. D. Z. Phillips, “Faith, Scepticism, and Religious Understanding,” in Faith and Philosophical Enquiry, ed. D. Z. Phillips (New York: Schocken Books, 1971), p. 16. “Faith, Scepticism, and Religious Understanding” is in Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 10. 8. Phillips, “Faith, Scepticism, and Religious Understanding,” p. 18. In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 10. 9. D. Z. Phillips, “Philosophy and Religious Education,” in Faith and Philosophical Enquiry, p. 159, and Ludwig Wittgenstein, “Lectures on Religious Belief,” in Lectures & Conversations on Aesthetics, Psychology and Religious Belief, compiled from notes taken by Yorick Smythies, Rush Rhees, and James Taylor (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1966), p. 54. 10. Cupitt, Taking Leave of God, p. 45. 11. Cupitt, Taking Leave of God, pp. 94–95 and 88 (Cupitt’s emphasis) in Chapter 7, “The Meaning of God.” In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 10. 12. Cupitt, Taking Leave of God, pp. 84 and 91 in Chapter 7, “The Meaning of God.” In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 10. 13. Cupitt, Taking Leave of God, p. 89 in Chapter 7 “The Meaning of God.” In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 10. 14. One work in which Nietzsche proclaims the death of God is The Gay Science, in a section titled “The Madman.” “The Madman” is in Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 5. 15. Cupitt, Taking Leave of God, p. 84 in Chapter 7, “The Meaning of God.” In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 10. 16. Cupitt, Taking Leave of God, pp. 85–87 (my emphasis) and 92 and 93 in Chapter 7, “The Meaning of God.” In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 10. 17. Cupitt, Taking Leave of God, p. 93 in Chapter 7, “The Meaning of God.” In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 10. 18. Cupitt, Taking Leave of God, p. 91 in Chapter 7, “The Meaning of God.” In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 10. 19. Cupitt, Taking Leave of God, pp. 92–93 in Chapter 7, “The Meaning of God.” In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 10. 20. Hick, An Interpretation of Religion (New Haven, CT, and London: Yale University Press, 1989) pp. 201–4 in Chapter 12 “Contemporary Nonrealist Religion,” Sec. 4 “Penultimate Issues.” Cupitt refers to “self-transcendence” in Taking Leave of God, pp. 88 and 95 in Chapter 7, “The Meaning of God.” Secs. 3, 4, and 5 of Chapter 12 of An Interpretation of Religion, as well as Chapter 7 of Taking Leave of God, are in Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings,

Chapter 10. 21. Hick, An Interpretation of Religion (New Haven, CT, and London: Yale University Press, 1989), pp. 204–6 in Chapter 12, “Contemporary Nonrealist Religion,” Sec. 5 “The Ultimate Issue.” In the Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 10. 22. Hick, An Interpretation of Religion (New Haven, CT, and London: Yale University Press, 1989), p. 206 in Chapter 12, “Contemporary Nonrealist Religion,” Sec. 5 “The Ultimate Issue.” In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 10. 23. Hick, An Interpretation of Religion (New Haven, CT, and London: Yale University Press, 1989), p. 208 in Chapter 12, “Contemporary Nonrealist Religion,” Sec. 5 “The Ultimate Issue.” In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 10. 24. The idea that the bare claim that God exists, or the belief that God exists, is of no religious significance is discussed in Chapter 3 under the heading of the third reaction to the proofs for God’s existence: “Proofs for the existence of God are irrelevant to religious faith and can be distracting to the religious.” 25. In the Epilogue to Fear and Trembling, Kierkegaard says “the highest passion in a person is faith.” 26. Hick, An Interpretation of Religion (New Haven, CT, and London: Yale University Press, 1989), p. 205 in Chapter 12 “Contemporary Non-Realist Religion,” Sec. 5 “The Ultimate Issue.” In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 10. 27. Peter Geach, “Praying for Things to Happen,” in God and the Soul (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1969), p. 86. 28. Cupitt, Taking Leave of God, p. 82. 29. Søren Kierkegaard, Concluding Unscientific Postscript, Part 2, Sec. I, Chapter II, Number 2. In the edition of the Concluding Unscientific Postscript, ed. and trans. Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1992). See Vol. I, Text, pp. 86 and 92. 30. Kierkegaard, Concluding Unscientific Postscript, Part 2, Sec. II, Chapter III, Sec. 2. In the edition of the Concluding Unscientific Postscript, edited and translated by Howard V. Hong and Edna H, Hong. See Vol. I, Text, p. 332. 31. D. Z. Phillips, “Faith, Scepticism, and Religious Understanding,” pp. 17–18. In the Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 10. 32. Kierkegaard, Concluding Unscientific Postscript, Part 2, Sec. II, Chapter II “Subjective Truth, Inwardness; Truth Is Subjectivity.” Selections in Readings, Chapter 3. In the edition of the Concluding Unscientific Postscript, edited and translated by Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong, see Vol. I, Text, p. 203. This is the Kierkegaardian definition of faith noted and discussed in Chapter 3 in relation to the fourth reaction to the proofs for the existence of God: “A proof for the existence of God is relevant to religious faith in a negative way in that such a proof would destroy faith.” As observed in endnote 20 to Chapter 3, Kierkegaard in Fear and Trembling presents a significantly different view of faith.

33. Cupitt, Taking Leave of God, p. 96 in Chapter 7 “The Meaning of God.” In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 10.

Chapter 11 Religious Plurality: The Mutual-Opposition View, Exclusivism, Inclusivism, and Pluralism The Undeniable Phenomenon of Religious Plurality There are in the world many religions; in other words, there is in the world a religious plurality. Sometimes, in order to emphasize that the world’s religions are significantly different from one another, this plurality is spoken of as a diversity of religions. That there are in the world different religions has been appreciated for centuries. In the West, since the Middle Ages and before, Jews, Christians, and Muslims have been aware of one another’s religions. In ancient India, Jainism, Hinduism, and Buddhism existed together. Today in the various countries of Asia Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity coexist. In the twentyfirst century all of these religions, and others too, are represented on all or many continents and thus are world religions. Moreover, as modern anthropology has made us aware, there is in addition a great multiplicity of geographically limited religions that are not world religions, although they may have many followers. Although it is clear that the fact of religious plurality was not discovered in the twenty-first century, or even in the twentieth century, what has happened in the late twentieth century and is continuing to happen in the twenty-first century is that different world religions have increasingly come to coexist in single cultures around the world. In Asia, this religious coexistence within a single culture has visibly been the case for centuries; now it is to be found in the cultures of Europe and the Americas. In the twenty-first century many of us on various continents live in communities where, within the radius of a few miles, there are synagogues, churches, mosques, Hindu temples, and Buddhist temples. Many in today’s world know people or have friends in religions other than their own. Religious plurality for many has in this way come to be something in their own experience, not just something they read about. Many others have come to experience religious plurality at least indirectly, through television reports and documentaries that make us aware of different religious traditions and of the encounters between religious traditions. For these reasons, the fact of religious plurality is now more acutely felt as something real. The concern here is to understand this undeniable religious plurality in the world. This concern addresses both the religious and those who are not religious, for both live in the same world of religious plurality. Whether we ourselves are or are not religious, we can appreciate that an individual’s religion can be significant in that individual’s life. A religion presents a

picture of life and its meaning; it can guide our actions and shape our feelings. So, if I am religious, how should I understand the relationship of my religion to other religions, and if I am not religious, how should I understand the relationship between the various religions of the world? If I notice that lots of people have different kinds of cars, I can say, “Well, different people have different tastes and like different things in cars.” But I cannot say this about different religions. Religions are not just a matter of taste. For one thing, there is no conflict between my having a Honda and your having a Ford. But different religions say different things about the deepest meaning of the world. The question is: How should we understand different religions and the relationship between them? Several different answers have been proposed to the question of how we should understand the religious plurality we find in the world. In this chapter and Chapter 12 we look at a range of answers to this question. Important among these answers are exclusivism, inclusivism, and pluralism, and we examine these three major reactions to religious plurality in this chapter. Exclusivism, inclusivism, and pluralism come from serious thinkers within some religious tradition, but not all answers to the question of how to understand religious plurality come from within religion. Before we turn to a consideration of exclusivism, inclusivism, and pluralism we consider an answer to the question of religious plurality that does not come from within religion. It is a view that may be called the mutual-opposition view of religious plurality.

The Mutual-Opposition View Succinctly put, the mutual-opposition view holds that religious plurality shows that no religion is right, or at least that there is no reason to accept one religion over any other. The viewpoint of this answer is that of someone who is aware of the diversity of religions in the world but who stands apart from them all. Some offering this answer may be anti-religious and opposed to religion in all its forms, whereas others may not be anti-religious but can see no reason to adopt any religion. Among those who not only stand apart from religion but stand opposed to religion, some have the sense that the various religions cancel each other out in that what supports one tells against the others. For them the best view of the plurality of religions in the world is that they are more than mutually opposed; they mutually destroy each other. Those with this more extreme view—the mutual-cancellation view, we might call it—may realize that religions differ significantly in what they hold as orthodox belief. For Islam, Muhammad is “the Seal of the prophets,” the final and greatest Prophet of God, but Muhammad is not given this position by Judaism or Christianity. For Christianity, Jesus Christ is the Son of God, but Jesus is not

given this position by Judaism or Islam. For Hinduism, there is a cycle of rebirth or being born over and over in a series of lives, determined by one’s actions in prior lives, called karmic rebirth, whereas this is not so for the Western religions. In all these cases, it would be reasoned from this viewpoint, whatever supports the orthodox beliefs of one religion would overthrow the beliefs of the others. In the eighteenth century, the philosopher David Hume seems to have reasoned in this way about the different religions of the world. He said that “in matters of religions, whatever is different is contrary.” That is, the different beliefs of different religions should be understood as contrary to each other so that if one is right the others are wrong. And so, he thought, it is impossible that all the religions of the world should “be established on any solid foundation.” Hume reasoned that everything that supports one religion, as its proclaimed miracles are meant to do, has “the same force, though more indirectly, to overthrow every other system” of religion. Thus, every “miracle” cited in support of one religion, he reasoned, would tell against every other religion, “and,” Hume observed, “all of them abound in miracles.”1 Some with the viewpoint of the first answer, the mutual-opposition view, may not be opposed to religion but only aloof and reserved about religion (and Hume, on one reading, can be construed as having this stance). Those who follow this alternative of the first answer see no reason for any one religion to be chosen over any other. They have what we may call the mutual-doubt view. It may strike them that people are in the religion they are due to the accident of the place of their birth. As they look upon the plurality of religions in the world, it might seem that it would be arbitrary to them for to choose any religion. So, it seems to them, the best stance is not to commit to a particular religion, or to take up religious belief in any form, but to reserve belief and commitment. If those following the first variant of the mutualopposition view, the mutual-cancellation view, are “atheistic” regarding all religions, those following the alternative form of this viewpoint, the mutual-doubt view, are “agnostic” regarding all religions.

Exclusivism Exclusivism is the view that my religion alone is right and other religions that differ from mine are excluded from being right. Many who belong to a particular religion and feel deeply committed to that particular religion may feel this way. Often exclusivism is associated with Christianity, and it is true that the underlying idea has been advanced in Christian circles as a way of viewing Christianity. Still, although many Christians in the past have been exclusivists, and many Christians are today, not all Christians have been or are exclusivists, and, viewing exclusivism broadly, it is possible for there to be exclusivists in other religions as well. In the

broad sense used here, those are exclusivists who hold that their religion is right and all other religions that differ from it are not right. A question that comes up immediately is this: “Right” in what sense? One significant and obvious sense of “right” that can be applied here is true. Often when we say that what a person believes is right we mean what that person believes is true. This sense applies to religious exclusivism in a straightforward way. Using this sense the exclusivist is saying that his or her religion is “right” in the sense of having the right—true—religious beliefs, and all other religions with other, incompatible, beliefs are wrong. Two beliefs are incompatible when not both of them can be true; so if one is true the other must be false. If the exclusivist thinks, furthermore, that all other religions have beliefs that are incompatible with the true beliefs of his or her religion, then the exclusivist will conclude that all other religions are wrong. Blaise Pascal, who accepted Christianity as the true religion, in effect said just this in his Pensées when he said, “I see several religions contrary to one another and therefore all false but one.”2 This first sense is the truth-claim sense of “right,” and it is a sense of “right” that is important for the exclusivist viewpoint. But there are other senses of “right” that might be applied. Another sense that is significant in the context of religions is: being “right” in the sense of being the exclusive or one true path to religious attainment. This is the religiousattainment sense of “right.” Both of these senses of “right” are important for this position, and both have been a part of the Christian discussion of exclusivism.3 Obviously the two senses can go together and be made to complement one another. An exclusivist might claim that his or her religion is exclusively right in the religious-attainment sense precisely because it is exclusively right in the truth-claim sense. The history of exclusivism in Christian thinking goes back centuries. Seven hundred years ago the then Pope declared that faith required all to believe there was one Church, outside of which there is no salvation (or eternal life after death), and that submitting to the Roman Pontiff (or Pope) was a necessity for salvation. It was believed that “outside the church there is no salvation.”4 On the Protestant side, going back to the early days of the Reformation, there was a similar belief that outside Christianity, and accepting Christ, there was no salvation.5 However, most contemporary Roman Catholics have rejected the old doctrine that outside the Church there is no salvation in its traditional understanding, and it was repudiated by Pope John Paul II. In an encyclical, or letter, Pope John Paul II said in 1979 that “every man without any exception whatever—has been redeemed by Christ, and . . . with each man without any exception whatever—Christ is in a way united even when man is unaware of it.” Although Pope John Paul II continued to see redemption or salvation as coming through Christ, his encyclical allowed that membership in the Church is not necessary. Similarly, John Hick observes, although a number of modern fundamentalist Protestants subscribe to the idea that accepting Christ is necessary for salvation, this form of exclusivism has been set aside by many Protestants.6

Of course, many individual Christians may subscribe to some form of exclusivism even if exclusivism has been rejected by “official” Christian thinking for the most part. Individual Christians may continue to hold that only Christianity, or their version of Christianity, is “right” in one or both of the senses we identified. One way for a Christian to be an exclusivist and hold that Christianity is “right” in the truth-claim sense is to hold that Christianity’s key or core beliefs are true and all other religions with other, incompatible, beliefs are wrong. Alvin Plantinga has defended this form of exclusivism. He finds himself, he says, with religious beliefs that he realizes are not shared by many. For example, he says, he believes both: (1) The world was created by God, an almighty, all-knowing, and perfectly good personal being (one that holds beliefs; has aims, plans and intentions; and can act to accomplish these aims) and (2) Human beings require salvation, and God has provided a unique way of salvation through the incarnation, life, sacrificial death, and resurrection of his divine son.7 He goes on to say that it must be conceded that if an exclusivist “believes (1) or (2), then she must also believe that those who believe something incompatible with them are mistaken and believe what is false.”8 We should make two observations at this point. First, Plantinga is affirming a form of exclusivism because his (2) makes a uniqueness claim (the only way to salvation is through the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ). Since every religion other than Christianity believes that this uniqueness claim is not true, every other religion believes what is incompatible with (2) and so every other religion must be believed by Plantinga to be mistaken. Second, to the extent that these two beliefs are deeply held religious beliefs that Plantinga is “confessing” in the religious sense, or “bearing witness” to, and to the extent that he deems them essential to his religious commitment, he is expressing an identifiable form of religious sensibility. For this sensibility a deep expression of faith, or religious commitment, requires an affirmation of an essential religious claim or belief—(1) and (2) for Plantinga. That Christ is our savior is an essential belief, not only for Plantinga, but for many other Christians with this religious sensibility, for whom embracing this belief is essential to their faith in God. In a similar way in Islam Muslims express this religious sensibility when they confess their faith by reciting the shahada: “There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his Prophet.” For forms of Buddhism in which this strain of religious sensibility is found, an essential belief may be that Gautama was the Buddha. For those with this religious sensibility, it may well seem that religious exclusivism is required by their religious commitment itself. If a Christian holds that Christianity is right in the religious attainment-sense of “right” so

that it is the exclusive or one true path to religious attainment, then he or she may hold that in order to be “saved” or accepted by God one must (1) accept the teachings of “the church,” (2) accept the key or core teachings of “the church,” (3) accept Christ as one’s savior, or (4) some combination of these. Or in a more informal version of exclusivism Christians might feel that Christianity is the “one true religion,” and it alone is “right,” but leave it unspecified what makes Christianity the one true religion or what one must accept to be a Christian. Exclusivism in this informal version could be held by members of various religions. To the extent a Buddhist or a Muslim held that her or his religion was the one true religion, she or he would be an exclusivist. Plantinga has defended his truth-claim exclusivism against several objections. One objection that Plantinga considers is the “moral objection” that his exclusivism is arbitrary in a selfserving and arrogant way, because it assumes a privileged position regarding religious truth. To this objection Plantinga replies that one making such an objection is himself being arrogant. Such an objector to exclusivism who (like Plantinga and Hick and many others) is aware of various religions, recognizes genuine piety or spiritual development in them, and knows of no argument that would prove to others the correctness of one’s own religion, and who then counsels abstention from believing Plantinga’s previously mentioned beliefs (1) and (2) is arrogant in his own way, Plantinga reasons, for he presents himself as having a privileged status in seeing it is better not to believe (1) and (2).9 In other words Plantinga is saying that if it is arrogant to think one has a privileged position in believing (1) and (2) to be true, it is arrogant to think one has a privileged position in seeing it is better not to believe (1) and (2). In addition to this moral objection, Plantinga considers several “epistemic objections.” One epistemic objection, very much like an objection made by John Hick (noted subsequently), is that Plantinga’s exclusivism is intellectually arbitrary when it involves believing (1) and (2) are true (and that all other religious beliefs incompatible with them are false). This objection is like the moral objection of arrogance, but different in that it focuses on the epistemic matter of belief-holding rather than the moral matter of having a morally objectionable attitude like arrogance. Plantinga replies to this epistemic objection in the following way: Say that an exclusivist recognizes that religious believers in different traditions have “internal epistemic parity,” so that they are equally convinced of their beliefs and they have the same interior “markers” regarding their beliefs (they equally have the sense they can point to evidence, their beliefs feel uplifting, and so on), still the exclusivist must think that there is an “important epistemic difference.” The exclusivist will think that others who do not accept (1) and (2) have made a mistake, have a blind spot, haven’t been attentive, have not received some grace that those who believe (1) and (2) have been given, or are in some way “epistemically less fortunate.” If the exclusivist is right in this assessment, then his exclusivism is not arbitrary. If the pluralist says that the proper thing to do when there is “internal epistemic parity” between people in different religions is not to believe (1) and (2), then he has a dilemma. Plantinga

observes that for all such a pluralist knows, his pluralist belief has “internal epistemic parity” with the exclusivist’s belief in (1) and (2). In that case, Plantinga reasons, if the pluralist continues in his insistence “he will be in the same condition as the exclusivist” (open to the accusation of arbitrarily holding his own belief) or, if he does not continue in his insistence, “he no longer has an objection to the exclusivist.”10 Boiled down, Plantinga is saying that there is just as good a reason for saying that the belief that one should withhold belief in (1) and (2) is arbitrary as for saying the belief in (1) and (2) is arbitrary. Plantinga considers other epistemic objections as well. The objection that his exclusivism is intellectually arbitrary he considers under the heading of justification. Another objection under this heading (or another variant of the objection that exclusivism is epistemically unjustified) that he considers is that the exclusivist is not within his “intellectual rights” in holding his exclusivist view. But, Plantinga replies, this would be true only if the exclusivist is violating his “epistemic duties,” by which he means our duties regarding our beliefs (which, again, is what Clifford and James had in mind, as was discussed in Chapter 4). The best way to understand our epistemic duty, Plantinga suggests, is as a duty “to try one’s best to get into and stay in the right relation to the truth.” And, Plantinga asks, wouldn’t the exclusivist be conforming to this duty if he or she still held that (1), say, is true “after careful, indeed prayerful, consideration”?11 Under the heading of irrationality, Plantinga considers the charge that the exclusivist is irrational in holding his exclusivist view. In reply, Plantinga identifies five different related senses or varieties of rationality. They range from Aristotelian Rationality (being rational is having the ability to “look before and after,” hold beliefs, make inferences, and have knowledge) and The Deliverances of Reason (being rational is being able to know self-evident beliefs; and in a closely related sense a belief is rational if it is self-evident and irrational if it is contrary to what is self-evident) to Rationality as Sanity and Proper Function (in which irrationality is the dysfunction of our faculties, as in a psychological disorder). Plantinga argues that his exclusivism is not irrational in any of these senses. In addition, Plantinga considers the epistemic objection that his exclusivism does not have enough warrant for knowledge (where a warrant is an epistemic sanction or authorization). Many pluralists hold that the exclusivist “can’t know” that his exclusivist views are true, Plantinga observes. But he argues that this is wrong: An exclusivist could know that his views are correct, specifically that (1) and (2) are true. Plantinga argues that there are several epistemological views about what would give a warrant for knowledge that provide ways of understanding how the exclusivist could have adequate warrant. One he cites is reliabilism. Chapter 4 discusses William Alston’s reliabilism; however the form of reliabilism that Plantinga draws attention to owes more to John Calvin. If (1) and (2) are true, his belief in them, he says, “could be produced in me by a reliable belief-producing process.” What Calvin called the “Sensus Divinitatis” could reliably produce his belief in (1) and what Calvin called

the “Internal Testimony of the Holy Spirit” could reliably produce his belief in (2). Alternatively, under the view of “proper functionalism,” if (1) and (2) are true, his belief in them could be produced by properly functioning “cognitive faculties” (including Calvin’s Sensus Divinitatis and Internal Testimony of the Holy Spirit). In either case there would be enough warrant for knowledge. Plantinga is not arguing that the exclusivist does know (1) and (2), but that he could know them to be true, and so the pluralists he cites are wrong in saying that the exclusivist can’t know.12

Critical Examination of Exclusivism John Hick and others have observed that for most who are religious, the religion they have is a matter of the religious community into which they were born.13 Every religion has some kind of religious experience that it draws upon, and Hick maintains that there is no good reason to claim that the religious experience of one’s own religion is valid whereas that of every other religious tradition is delusory. It is arbitrary to do so, he holds.14 William Alston is in essential agreement. Alston, as we saw in Chapter 4, allows that those in religious traditions other than Christianity, following their own internally validated forms of belief-forming practice, would be as rational in following their own practice as Christians are rational in following their belief-forming practice. On this thinking one’s religion is an accident of birth, and the different religions are equally rational in forming and holding their conflicting beliefs. Why, then, should one affirm one’s religion as the only right religion? Often, the effort to convert or proselytize others is sustained by exclusivism. If exclusivist believers regard their religion as the one and only way to salvation or eternal life, irrespective of any religious duty to seek converts, they may seek to convert others out of concern for them and their ultimate welfare. However, exclusivism need not lead to a proselytizing effort, and, moreover, missionary activity need not be tied to religious exclusivism. To the extent that missionary activity has the purpose of providing medical attention to those in need, it does not presuppose exclusivism, and establishing a mission in the sense of an externally supported place of worship among those already in one’s religion does not presuppose exclusivism. Similarly commitment to one’s religion need not be tied to exclusivism. The pronouncement of Pope John Paul II makes it clear that he and the Church for which he speaks do not hold an exclusivist view regarding redemption or salvation. In contrast, Plantinga has defended his form of exclusivism against the objection that it is arrogant to hold this view. And he has argued that there is no more reason to say exclusivism is arbitrary than for saying pluralism is arbitrary. Furthermore, he has argued, exclusivists may well respect their “epistemic duties” and not be irrational in holding their exclusivism and, on more than one epistemological theory, exclusivists could have enough warrant for knowledge.

If exclusivism can meet all of these objections, Plantinga might ask, why shouldn’t one with deep religious commitment to his or her own religion be an exclusivist?

Inclusivism Inclusivism is the view that my religion alone is right but other religions may participate in its rightness and so are included. The essential informing intuition of this reaction to the religious plurality in the world is twofold: There is the basic idea that one’s own religion is right (in the truth-claim sense, the religious-attainment sense, or in both senses), but also the idea that other religions are not utterly wrong. In some way they are to be “included.” For many holding this view, their own religion is right in both the senses we have distinguished. The doctrines, or the central religious beliefs, of their religion are true, and their religion is the true path to religious attainment, to God or to Religious Reality. However, inspiring this view is the desire to reach out to other religions and in some way to include them in the circle of acceptance. As the exclusivist view goes back centuries in Christian thinking, so too does the inclusivist view in some form. Early in the history of Christianity, questions were raised about the patriarchs of the Old Testament, who lived hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus. Were they, from the standpoint of Christianity, saved? Were they excluded or included? It was held that they were included. For St. Augustine, who wrote in the fifth century of the Common Era, Old Testament figures like Noah and Moses were still “heirs of God and joint-heirs of Christ,” even though they lived before the birth of Jesus.15 In the thirteenth century, St. Thomas Aquinas had the same concern and came to a view similar to Augustine’s. Aquinas asked whether it is “necessary for the salvation of all that they should believe explicitly in the mystery of Christ.” He replied that although it was necessary for all to believe in the mystery of Christ—and that Christ is the one Mediator of God—it was not necessary for all that they believe this explicitly; for some it was enough to believe it implicitly. For some, Aquinas allows, “though they did not believe in Him explicitly, they did, nevertheless, have implicit faith through believing in divine providence.”16 Implicit belief in Christ (or in God) is different from explicit belief in that implicit belief does not require a conscious acknowledgement of Christ (or of God) as the object of belief. (We might say that before the discovery of gravity as an attractive force, people implicitly believed in gravity, for they were aware that objects fall when dropped; but after the discovery of gravity in the eighteenth century people explicitly believed in gravity.) Aquinas’ way of thinking clearly expands the circle of religious inclusion (in this case, Christianity’s), so that many persons who have not proclaimed themselves to be believers may be included. The concern of Augustine and Aquinas was with the inclusion of

pre-Christian individuals, not with religious plurality and the relationship of Christianity to other religions. However, it is not difficult to extend their thinking to the contemporary question of religious plurality and to a form of religious inclusivism that applies to other religions. In effect this is exactly what happened following Vatican II, the ecumenical council called by Pope John XXIII in 1962. Ecumenical means working toward the unity of Christian churches and better interfaith understanding. Invitations were extended to Protestant and Orthodox Eastern churches to attend Vatican II. Karl Rahner is a Catholic theologian who, following Vatican II, developed a form of inclusivism that would not deny that Christianity, or more specifically Catholicism, is the one true way to salvation and yet would include those in other non-Christian religions. Rahner’s chief contribution to Christian inclusivism is his category of the “anonymous Christian.” Rahner maintains that non-Christian religions include not only “a natural knowledge of God,” but also “supernatural elements arising out of the grace which is given to men as a gratuitous gift on account of Christ.” In fact, for Rahner, it is best to suppose that every human being is exposed to the influence of supernatural grace by which God communicates himself “whether the individual takes up an attitude of acceptance or of refusal towards this grace.” For God desires the salvation of everyone. So, for Rahner, there may be individuals in non-Christian traditions who participate in grace. Yet salvation remains “specifically Christian” and finally “there is no salvation apart from Christ.” Accordingly, for Rahner, there may be in non-Christian religions individuals who perhaps have never heard of Christ but have implicitly accepted grace given on account of Christ and, in this way, by virtue of their having implicitly accepted grace though they do not proclaim Christ’s sacrifice, have become anonymous Christians.17 Although for Aquinas it is implicit belief that can bring non-Christians to salvation, for Rahner it is implicit acceptance of grace that can bring non-Christians to salvation by making them anonymous Christians. What would indicate such an implicit acceptance of grace? The implicit acceptance of this grace will not be seen in a proclamation of Christian belief, of course. It will be seen in a person’s life and her or his decisions about how to live. One indication of the implicit acceptance of grace could be “the radical love of neighbor.”18 Rahner’s inclusivism in a way keeps in place the “outside the church there is no salvation” doctrine, but it liberalizes it so that it no longer is exclusivist. However for, say, a Buddhist or a Hindu to be an anonymous Christian, there is a further condition. It must be that they have not truly understood the Christian message of the Gospel and rejected it. For Rahner it is not enough for such true understanding that Buddhists or Hindus, or others, have merely heard the central propositions of Christian belief articulated. It must be that Christianity has reached them “in the real urgency and rigor of [their] actual existence” so that they have come to the point of existential and historical encounter with Christianity that understanding requires.19 For Rahner, then, many who have in some way

heard what the beliefs of Christianity are and have then vigorously denied them may still be anonymous Christians. However, for Rahner, those who are anonymous Christians are nevertheless in a state of essential incompleteness. In “Anonymous Christianity” there “is something missing from the fulness of its due nature.”20 What is missing is an explicit acceptance of Christianity. Finally, for Rahner, there is a “basic duty of every man to become a Christian in an explicit ecclesiastical form of Christianity.”21 For Rahner’s Christian inclusivism Christianity remains the one true and right religion, and those explicitly outside Christianity are saved only by their implicit participation in Christianity. The same or analogous point holds for whatever inclusivists there may be in other religious traditions. Inclusivists, then, do not deny that their religion alone is right in the truth-claim sense or the attainment-sense. But they allow that those explicitly outside their religion may still be included by virtue of implicit belief or implicit acceptance. In this connection we might revisit Plantinga’s exclusivism. Plantinga believes both that the world was created by a personal God and that God has provided a unique way of salvation through the sacrifice of his divine son (Plantinga’s (1) and (2)). Believing both (1) and (2) to be true, Plantinga defends the exclusivist position. However, keeping in place his strong belief that (1) and (2) are true, Plantinga could take an inclusivist position. He would if he allowed that non-Christians might implicitly believe (1) and (2) or if he allowed that Christ’s unique salvation extended to those in other religions by virtue of their implicit acceptance of Christ as savior through God’s grace, even though they did not explicitly accept Christ as their savior. Those in other religions may also take an inclusivist position. In the Qur’an Jews and Christians are recognized as “People of the Book,” people who in their own tradition have a sacred scripture. Over time Muslims included those in other communities with a sacred scripture, such as Zoroastrians and Hindus.22 Although people in these religious traditions have not accepted Islam, or Muhammad as the seal of the prophets, they are traditionally regarded as “protected” by Muslims. In Buddhism there is a natural avenue that leads to inclusivism. This is because in Buddhism every human being, and every sentient being, is a potential Buddha. Many human beings may fail to attain enlightenment in their present life, and the road to Buddhahood may be long for many, winding through a series or reincarnations. Still, for each and every person, finally, there is the potential of Buddhahood, whether one is a Buddhist or not. I once had a Buddhist student, a monk, who allowed that I too was on the Buddha path. In one of the oldest Hindu scriptures this question is addressed: to what god shall we offer our oblations or sacrifices? The answer given is: it must be Prajapati, who is the one God above all gods. But in the Hindu tradition this was understood as meaning that any god could be worshipped on a given occasion as long as he or she was seen as “the one god above all gods.”23 The practice of worshipping the one God through the worship of several gods is one

form of what is called henotheism, and it is embraced by Hinduism in its devotional form (as we observed in Chapter 1). Moreover the practice is commonly recognized by Hindus, even those without formal education, so that it is understandable to them that different persons will have different ishtadevs (different forms through which they worship God).24 Allowing that, for Hinduism, a Christian concept of God, or a Judaic or Islamic concept of God, can be an ishtadev, Hinduism naturally accommodates a form of inclusivism.

Critical Examination of Inclusivism For an inclusivist one’s own religion is the one right religion, and persons in other religions are included only by virtue of the inclusivist doctrine of one’s own religion. So, while inclusivism does include other religions and those in other religions, it affords them a “second-class citizenship.” For inclusivists, in order for those included in other religions to fully embrace the whole truth they should explicitly accept the inclusivist’s own religion, as with Rahner’s Christian inclusivism. This point holds for Hindu and other inclusivists. While Hinduism can include those who worship God in a Judaic, Christian, or Islamic conception it is only by virtue of bringing a Hindu understanding to worship in these other religions. Some have seen this insistence on the unique rightness of the inclusivist’s own religion as a weakness of the inclusivist position. There is a related problem with inclusivism. Say that two inclusivists from different religious traditions meet. Each would regard the other as religiously saved, but each must regard the other as being mistaken about the religion through which he or she is saved. Karl Rahner once had a conversation with Keiji Nishitani, who was the leader of the Kyoto School of Philosophy in Japan. Nishitani knew that Rahner regarded others in non-Christian traditions as anonymous Christians by virtue of their implicit acceptance of God’s grace given on account of Jesus Christ. Nishitani, however, asked Rahner what he would say to his treating Rahner as an anonymous Zen Buddhist.25 Rahner replied that he would be honored, although he confessed that he was obliged to regard Nishitani as being in error. The problem here with inclusivism is that, though it is a reaching out to other religions in an effort to include them, those in other traditions cannot accept the extended offer of inclusion without at the same time renouncing their commitment to their own religion.

Pluralism Pluralism, like exclusivism and inclusivism, is a view about religious plurality and the

relationship between different religions. In its barest form, it is the view that all the great religions of the world are right. John Hick is the foremost proponent of pluralism and has done the most to develop this view in recent years. Hick identifies as the “central insight” of pluralism the idea that “the great world faiths are different responses to the one ultimate transcendent reality.” He observes that pluralism has ancient roots. For instance, in the ancient scriptures of the Hindu tradition, the Vedas, there is the teaching that “The Real (sat) is one, but the sages name it variously.” Hick cites leaders and thinkers in a range of religious traditions who have in one way or another expressed the central idea of pluralism, including Mahatma Gandhi, who said, “We are all children of the same God,” and the Quaker William Penn (the founder of Pennsylvania) who said that “The humble, meek, merciful, just, pious, and devout souls are everywhere of one religion.”26 An implication of pluralism is that no religion is more right than others; none is in the favored position of being the one true religion. And here is the main difference between pluralism and both exclusivism and inclusivism. Pluralists like Hick are happy to accept this key implication of pluralism. Hick has said that, in the light of the undeniable religious plurality of the world, what is needed in thinking about religions is a radical shift—a “paradigm-shift”—like the Copernican shift from seeing the universe as earth-centered, with all the other planets and the sun rotating around it, to seeing it (or our solar system, anyway) as sun-centered, or helio-centric, with the earth rotating around the sun. This astronomical shift followed the development of Nicolaus Copernicus’ helio-centric theory in the sixteenth century. Today Copernicus’ theory forms the basis of modern astronomy and is accepted as commonplace by most educated people. In religious thinking, Hick suggests, we must stop seeing the universe of religions as centered on our religion, with all the other religions arranged around it, and begin seeing the universe of religions as “Reality-centered,” with all the religions, including our own, arranged around a central religious reality.27 In this way a theological Copernican revolution in religious thinking is needed, Hick suggests. There are two main elements in Hick’s pluralism. The first is essentially the “central insight” of pluralism, that the great world religions are different responses to one religious reality or the Real. The different religions embody different perceptions and conceptions of the Real, and thus different responses to it. Some religions, like Christianity and Islam, interpret Reality as a personal ultimate, as a deity or God, and some, like Buddhism and forms of Hinduism, interpret Reality as a nonpersonal ultimate or Absolute.28 In addition to this central idea, there is a second crucial element of Hick’s pluralism: that the transformation from self-centeredness to Reality-centeredness—called variously liberation, enlightenment, salvation, or fulfillment in different religious traditions—is taking place in all the major traditions.29 Hick’s pluralism is the view that all the great religions of the world are right in that they all are related to religious reality or the Real and they all provide a path for human beings to attain the religious goal of Reality-centeredness.

Hick elaborates and explains both of these main elements of his view. The first element contains two “postulates”: (1) that there is an ultimate transcendent divine reality or Real, and (2) that in human experience, within the different religious traditions, the Real is experienced differently. In his development of (1), Hick explains that what he means by the Real is a religious reality that is beyond human conception and experience as it is in itself. The Real is experienced and conceived of in the various religions of the world, but it is not experienced or conceived as it is in itself. Hick, then, presents a distinction between the Real-in-itself, or the Real an sich, as he calls it, and the Real as humanly experienced. In identifying this distinction, Hick is drawing in his own way upon the thinking of Immanuel Kant (the same eighteenthcentury philosopher who criticized Anselm’s Ontological Argument). Kant distinguished between the world or things in themselves (a Ding an sich or thing in itself) and the world as it appears to and is experienced by humans. The world we experience, he thought, depends on our modes of perception, whereas the world as it is in itself is never experienced by us. Kant’s view is a general view about all human experience of everything. Hick does not appropriate Kant’s general view but applies the Kantian distinction specifically to religious experience and conception of the Real. Hick acknowledges, however, that he does so in a way that Kant himself would not.30 Given Hick’s understanding of the Real as the Real an sich in this Kantian or neo-Kantian sense, we can see why he proposes his second postulate that humans in different religious traditions experience and conceive of the Real differently. For Hick, although Buddhists, Christians, Muslims and Hindus experience the same Real, they do not experience the Real as it is, the Real-in-itself. They all experience “different manifestations of the Real,” as determined by their different modes of human consciousness, these modes themselves being fashioned in great part by their religions and cultures.31 In this way, Hick would point out, if a person is raised in a Buddhist religious culture, he will not experience the Real as God, whereas if another person is raised in an Islamic religious culture, she will. Hick suggests that across the spectrum of the world religions there are “two very different ways of conceiving and experiencing the Real.” In theistic traditions, the Real is experienced as God. In non-theistic traditions, the Real is experienced as an Absolute. In Judaism, Christianity, and Islam the Real is experienced as a personal God, whereas in Buddhism and nondualistic Hinduism, the Real is experienced as a nonpersonal Absolute. Within these two main ways of experiencing the Real, there are finer distinctions, Hick wants us to appreciate. A traditional Jew will experience the Real as the God of Israel, whereas a Christian might experience the Real as the Holy Trinity. A Mahayana Buddhist may experience the Real as Nirvana or Dharmakaya, and a nondualist Hindu may experience the Real as Brahman. Thus, at the theistic end of the spectrum, there are a number of personae (or personal manifestations of the Real), and at the non-theistic end of the spectrum, there are a number of impersonae (or nonpersonal manifestations of the Real).32

In this way, for Hick, there are in the different religions of the world different phenomenal experiences of the Real, none an experience of the Real-in-itself and each an experience of a manifestation of the Real. This does not mean that the different ways humans experience the Real are illusory. It would be a mistake to think this, Hick says, just as it would be a mistake to think any of the ways a mountain in the distance appears to several viewers differently placed is illusory.33 Moreover, for Hick, all the religions are rational in their different interpretations because each truly experiences the Real, even though each does in a different manifestation. Still, for Hick, we have no warrant to apply the phenomenal characteristics of the Real experienced in any religious tradition to the Real an sich.34 Here we might recall Plantinga’s argument against the pluralist contention that it is not possible that an exclusivist could have enough warrant to know that his exclusivist claims are true. Remember that Plantinga argues that in the light of more than one epistemological view, the exclusivist could have enough warrant to know that there is a personal God and that the sacrifice of his divine son provides a unique way to salvation (Plantinga’s (1) and (2)). Hick would say in response that our conceptions of the Real belong to the phenomenal realm of our human experience and cannot be applied to the Real-in-itself. It is for this reason, for Hick, that we can never have sufficient warrant to “know” that the Real an sich is as any religion conceives of Religious Reality. Let us now turn to the second main element of Hick’s pluralism: that the movement toward Reality-centeredness—called variously liberation, enlightenment, salvation, or fulfillment in different religious traditions— is taking place equally in the various religious traditions as far as we can tell. Put in other words, this second point is that the movement toward saintliness, spiritual development, or religious attainment is taking place equally in the world’s religions. For Hick the great world religions have different and distinctive beliefs about the Real, but they are not so much systems of beliefs as they are ways to salvation or liberation, to religious development and attainment, which Hick characterizes as transformation from selfcenteredness to Reality-centeredness.35 Hick, we should appreciate, is not maintaining that the transformation from selfcenteredness to Reality-centeredness occurs in all the religious movements of the world. The concept of religion is broad and covers many forms of belief and practice (as was discussed in Chapter 1). In fact, Hick allows that Nazism and the Jim Jones “phenomenon,” for example, can be counted as “religious movements.” (Hundreds of Jim Jones’s followers in the church he founded committed mass suicide.) But these movements, Hick is clear, are not “salvific,” that is, are not ways to salvation or liberation through a turning toward Reality-centeredness.36 Hick suggests that, broadly speaking, there are two main patterns of religious transformation to Reality-centeredness in the world’s religions: In one pattern there is a focus on prayer and meditation and withdrawal from the world, as in a monastic life; in the other there is a focus on changing the world for the better, as in medical missionary work. In the different religious traditions of the world there have been individuals greatly advanced in

religious transformation in both patterns. Such individuals Hick calls “saints.” He mentions Julian of Norwich, whom he counts as a more contemplative saint, and Mahatma Gandhi, who is a more active and political saint.37 We could as well mention Mother Teresa of Calcutta as another saintly person following the active pattern. For Hick there is an “ethical criterion” that applies to both patterns of transformation from self-centeredness to Reality-centeredness. It is not a criterion that belongs uniquely to Islam, to Buddhism, or to any one religion but is a common criterion in the world religions, Hick claims. It is the criterion of love/compassion (or agape/karuna, as Hick sometimes expresses it).38 Agape is the form of love associated with Christianity, and karuna is the form of compassion, or feeling for others, associated with Buddhism. It is by virtue of this common criterion that saints can be identified in all the great religious traditions. It is embodied in the Golden Rule that in one expression says “it is good to benefit others and evil to harm them.” And Hick finds the ideal of “generous goodwill, love, compassion,” epitomized in the Golden Rule, to be universal among the world religions.39 In applying this criterion to the religions of the world, Hick comes to the tentative judgment that, although vicious and evil behavior is found among the religious in all the world religions, it appears that all the great religious traditions are equally productive of love/compassion, and this holds both at the personal level and at the level of large-scale religious efforts. In this way, Hick concludes that, as far as we can tell, no one religious tradition is superior to the others in transforming human consciousness from self-centeredness to Reality-centeredness.40 This, then, is Hick’s pluralistic view of the world’s religions, according to which all the great religious traditions are right. However, Hick emphasizes that his pluralism is a hypothesis, that is, a proposed idea that explains religious plurality, as opposed to a thesis that has been proven.41 Hick denies the charge that he arrogantly claims that he “sees the full truth” about religion; his pluralism is in fact only a proposed hypothesis.42 Nevertheless, although Hicks sees his pluralism as only a hypothesis, he believes it is the best hypothesis to explain religious plurality. It explains why there are different religions in different cultural settings: Different religious cultures with different experiential backgrounds interpret the Real differently. And it explains how there can be progress toward religious attainment in different religions: Each religion in its way is in touch with the Real and provides a path to religious attainment. Furthermore, it is the simplest hypothesis. His pluralistic hypothesis, Hick observes in one place, does not postulate many different religious realities (not all of which could be ultimate), but one ultimate Reality, interpreted differently in different religious cultures.43 Still, since pluralism is a hypothesis, Hick must allow that there could be other hypotheses that might be brought forward to explain religious plurality, and he must concede that the pluralistic hypothesis has not been confirmed. Hick holds that the pluralistic hypothesis, if true, may be “indirectly” and “progressively confirmed” in the eschaton, in a life after death. It is

not open to direct confirmation, even in the eschaton, because the Real will not be verified by a simple observation the way “there is a chair in the next room” is verified.44 And, if true, the pluralistic hypothesis will be progressively confirmed because its verification will require survivors going through stages of development in the eschaton, which will progressively allow them to see that pluralism best fits the observed phenomena of the diversity of world religions.45 If the pluralistic hypothesis is in this way finally confirmed, Hick holds that it will confirm or verify religious belief over naturalistic belief, naturalism being the view that all that exists is “natural” and there is no transcendent religious reality. But Hick thinks that it will “probably” not resolve whatever “conflicting truth-claims,” or conflicting beliefs or doctrines, there are between the different religious traditions.46 Hick believes a further indication that his pluralistic hypothesis is a genuine hypothesis is that it is open to falsification or being shown to be false. Hick of course does not think that his hypothesis is false, but he does identify conditions that would show his hypothesis to be false if they were discovered to obtain in the eschaton. For instance, if a particular version of Christianity should turn out to be confirmed in the eschaton (such as the Augustinian version, in which a minority are allowed into heaven and most humans are consigned to the fires of hell, to use an example Hick uses in one place), then, Hick allows, this would show that his pluralistic hypothesis is false.47 It would because the ultimate religious reality would then not be beyond human conception, but exactly in accord with a particular version of Christianity. In fact, Hick allows that it is logically possible that in the eschaton survivors will discover that the doctrines of any of various particular religions are true down to the smallest details, such as the specific beliefs of Shia Islam, Theravada Buddhism, or a particular form of Christianity. Although Hick concedes this is logically possible, he believes it is more likely that in the eschaton it will be found that the doctrines of all of the world’s religions will “undergo correction or enlargement or transformation.”48 Hick seeks to understand different religions, not in terms of their truth-claims or doctrines, but rather as different paths to salvation or religious attainment. Hick, however, is very much aware that religions make truth-claims, that important issues for a religion can turn on the truth of a religion’s truth-claims, and that between religions there can be conflicting truthclaims. In thinking about such conflicts, Hick suggests that we must distinguish different kinds and levels of doctrinal conflict. At one level there are doctrinal differences over different conceptions of the religious ultimate arising from the different ways the Real is experienced and conceived. At this level, using Hick’s examples, in Judaism the Real is experienced as Jahweh (the God of Israel), whereas in Christianity the Real is experienced as the Holy Trinity and in Buddhism the Real is experienced as the Dharmakaya. But at this level, Hick maintains, there is no real conflict of belief, because the beliefs of different religions, like the Christian belief and the Buddhist belief, are not about the Real-in-itself, but about different manifestations of the Real. Being about two different manifestations they are about two

different entities. And there is no conflict between Christians believing that one manifestation of the Real is the Holy Trinity and Buddhists believing that another manifestation of the Real is the Dharmakaya.49 To use an analogy, there is no conflict between believing the manifestation of the moon as a full moon is a shiny disk and believing the manifestation of the moon in the first quarter is a shiny crescent. But at the second level of doctrinal differences, there can be true conflicts of belief. At this level there are metaphysical beliefs about the Real and its relation to the material universe. Two examples provided by Hick are the belief that the universe was created out of nothing (ex nihilo) and the belief in reincarnation. The first is a Christian belief; the second is a Hindu and Buddhist belief. These issues are important, Hick observes, for they have implications for how religious believers understand themselves and live their lives. But, he suggests, regarding them we should simply confess that we do not know and follow the advice of the Buddha when he advised his followers not to concern themselves with questions it was not necessary to answer in order to attain Nirvana. Hick echoes and extends the advice of the Buddha when he says that having a correct opinion on these metaphysical questions is not necessary for salvation or religious attainment.50 The third level of doctrinal differences is over historical beliefs. At this level we find Jewish beliefs about the history of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the people of Israel; Christian beliefs about the death and resurrection of Jesus; Islamic beliefs about the life of Muhammad; and Buddhist beliefs about the historical existence of Gautama and his enlightenment. Although there can be real disagreements about these historical beliefs, if these disagreements can be settled, they can be only by historical evidence. In any case, Hick says, here too knowledge is not necessary for salvation or religious attainment.51

Critical Examination of Pluralism For Hick pluralism is an explanatory hypothesis and it is the best explanation of the plurality of religions. It provides a better understanding of the relationship between religions than exclusivism and inclusivism in that it avoids making the claim that one’s own religion is the one true religion, which seems to Hick to be arbitrary. A pluralist would maintain that her or his religion is a true path to religious attainment but would also allow that other religions in their own right provide other true paths to religious attainment. At the same time, however, pluralism faces some problems regarding religious commitment. Say that a religious believer—a Christian—becomes a pluralist. Can she continue to accept her Christian beliefs as true? Can she continue to have committed belief to the literal truth of the particular Christian belief that Jesus Christ is the Son of God? When faced with this kind of question, Hick says Christianity’s understanding of itself is not static, and as both a

pluralist and a Christian theologian, he tries “to contribute to the on-going development of Christian thought in the light of our knowledge of the wider religious world.”52 A related criticism is that Hick’s pluralism contradicts the self-understanding of each particular religion, for no religion understands itself as being one way among several of “perceiving the divine.”53 As mentioned previously, there is an element of Hick’s pluralism that derives from Kant’s philosophy, according to which no religious experience or conception can be of the Real an sich or the Real-in-itself; rather, the different religions experience or “perceive” different manifestation of the Real. Thus when a Christian conceives of God or experiences God as loving, it is not the religious reality that is loving but a manifestation of that Reality. So, for Hick, although it is literally true of the Christian God that God is loving, this is a literal truth that holds only for the Christian manifestation of the Real; and it is not literally true of the Real that it is loving. It is “mythologically true,” or metaphorically true, of the Real that it is loving, for Hick. But for Hick a myth is a religiously useful “story” and by “mythical truth” Hick means only “a practical truthfulness, consisting in its capacity to orient us rightly in our lives,” that is, a capacity to help us move from self-centeredness to Realitycenteredness.54 Here Hick’s pluralism contrasts with that of another pluralist, Keith Ward. In Ward’s pluralism the Real or the ultimate is a reality of compassion and bliss, “a supreme reality of value, love, and power,” which is “one, perfect, the cause of all.”55 Hick, however, criticizes Ward’s pluralism on the grounds that in making the Real a personal God, it does not take full account of the non-theistic religions for which the Real is experienced as a nonpersonal Absolute.56

Summing Up and Going Further There is more than one way to try to understand the undeniable fact that there is a plurality of religions in the world. This is true for those who stand outside religion as well as for those who are religious. For some of those outside religion who hold the mutual-opposition view, the fact of religious plurality shows that no religion can be correct. For others with this view, some religion could still be correct, but each religion is doubtful. For those who are religious, there are three main views of religious plurality that may be taken: exclusivism, inclusivism, and pluralism. The existence of the pluralistic view of religious diversity shows that one can be religious and not claim that one’s own religion is the only true religion. In this chapter we discuss pluralism as John Hick has developed it. Hick’s formulation is the most carefully thought out and developed form of pluralism, but there are other forms, such as Keith Ward’s. As explained in Chapter 12, there are yet other ways of understanding how the basic idea of pluralism—that all the great world religions are right—could be correct.

One issue between exclusivism (and inclusivism) and Hick’s pluralism is over having enough warrant for religious knowledge of the character of religious reality. Plantinga points out that it is not obvious that we can infer anything at all about who has warrant from the apparent fact that for any of us, if we had been born in a different place or time, we would have displayed a different pattern of religious belief.57 For Hick, to think that one’s own religion has valid religious experience and all other traditions have delusory experience is to assume a baseless and arbitrary stance. The issue here between exclusivism and pluralism is not over the rationality or reasonableness (or epistemic propriety) of religion or of any particular religion. Neither John Hick, from his pluralistic viewpoint, nor Alvin Plantinga, from his exclusivist view point, denies the rationality of religion of believers in any of the various world religions. The issue examined in this chapter is not how religious persons should regard their own religious belief (as reasonable or not), but how they should regard the relationship between their own religion and other religions, and, regarding the nonreligious, how they should regard the plurality of religions in the world. There may be no way here and now to prove that exclusivism, inclusivism, or pluralism is true and correct. To prove that either exclusivism or inclusivism is correct, one would have to prove that one’s own religion was “right.” In the case of both exclusivism and inclusivism, this would entail proving that at least some important and essential beliefs of one’s religion are true (and so right in the truth-claim sense) or that one’s religion was the exclusive path to salvation or religious attainment (and so right in the religious-attainment sense). In the case of Hick’s pluralism, to prove that its hypothesis is correct, one would have to prove that there is a Real an sich above human conception and beyond direct human experience, which the different religions of the world differently conceptualize. Given that the Real an sich is both above human conception and beyond direct human experience, both a logical proof and an experiential verification are ruled out. Finally, a further word about possibly conflicting truth-claims of religions and their significance: Plantinga is right that if we hold that key beliefs of our religion are true, then we logically must hold that incompatible beliefs held by other religions (or anybody) are false. This is a simple logical point, as Plantinga observes, and as such it is one that pluralists and inclusivists can hardly deny. But this much does not tell us which beliefs are incompatible. John Hick, as discussed here, regards the different beliefs of different religions about the nature of the Real as not really mutually conflicting or incompatible because they are beliefs about different manifestations of the Real. Thus, for him, there is no real conflict between the belief that the Real is a personal God and the belief that the Real is an impersonal Buddha nature or Dharmakaya. What would happen, though, if we set aside Hick’s Kantian or neoKantian distinction between the Real-in-itself and its phenomenal manifestations? Still, we might wonder, Is the belief that God exists incompatible with the belief that there is a Buddha nature or Dharmakaya? Could they both be true, or might they be so different that they

cannot be compared? Say that the belief that there is a God is incompatible with the belief there is a Buddha nature. Is this enough to show that at least one of these religions must be “wrong” in the further sense that our following it cannot lead to religious attainment? We get into these issues in Chapter 12, where we discuss other ways that we might understand religious plurality or diversity.

Questions for Chapter 11 Factual Questions 1. Within the mutual-opposition view, what is the difference between the mutualcancellation form of that view and the mutual-doubt form of that view? 2. What is the main difference between exclusivism and inclusivism? 3. Why does John Hick consider his pluralism a hypothesis?

Interpretive and Evaluative Questions 1. Faced with the plurality of religions in the world, it seems to some to be arbitrary to commit to one. Does the plurality of religions give us a reason not to commit to any one religion, or a reason to adopt the view of religious pluralism, or is it neutral regarding the various reactions to it discussed in this chapter? 2. Say that a religious believer “confesses” a key belief of her or his religion (like “Jesus Christ is our savior”). Must that religious believer hold the exclusivist view? Explain your answer. 3. Is it arbitrary to hold the exclusivist position? Does Alvin Plantinga adequately defend exclusivism against this charge? 4. One criticism of John Hick’s pluralism is that it contradicts the self-understanding of each particular religion, for no religion understands itself as being one way among several of “perceiving the divine.” Does Hick have an adequate reply to this criticism?

Notes 1. David Hume, Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, Part II of Sec. X, “Of Miracles.” In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 7. 2. Pascal, The Pensées, translated by J. M. Cohen (Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1961), p. 137. 3. John Hick identifies this distinction in terms of “truth-claims” and “salvation-claims” in A Christian Theology of Religions (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1995), pp. 18–19.

4. The Pope is Boniface VIII, who declared this in a papal pronouncement in 1302. “Outside the church there is no salvation” is a translation of the Latin “extra ecclesiam nulla salus.” John Hick, God and the Universe of Faiths (London: Macmillan, 1973), p. 120. 5. Hick, A Christian Theology of Religions, p. 21, n. 8. On the Protestant side, Hick cites John Calvin, Commentary on the Catholic Epistles. 6. Pope John Paul II, his first encyclical Redemptor Hominis (On Redemption and the Dignity of the Human Race), 1979, Para. 14. Quoted by John Hick, A Christian Theology of Religions, p. 19. Hick observes that the exclusivist position was even earlier “implicitly rejected” by Vatican II in 1962. 7. Alvin Plantinga, “Pluralism: A Defense of Religious Exclusivism,” in The Rationality of Belief and the Plurality of Faith, ed. Thomas D. Senor (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1995) p. 173. In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 11. 8. Plantinga, “Pluralism: A Defense of Religious Exclusivism,” p. 176. In the Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 11. 9. Plantinga, “Pluralism: A Defense of Religious Exclusivism,” pp. 176 and 178. In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 11. 10. Plantinga, “Pluralism: A Defense of Religious Exclusivism,” pp. 181–82. In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 11. 11. Plantinga, “Pluralism: A Defense of Religious Exclusivism,” p. 180. Plantinga refers to the philosopher Roderick Chisholm as one who understood our epistemic duty this way. In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 11. 12. Plantinga, “Pluralism: A Defense of Religious Exclusivism,” pp. 186–89. In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 11. 13. John Hick, Problems of Religious Pluralism (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1985), p. 47. 14. John Hick, An Interpretation of Religion (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1989), p. 235. 15. St. Augustine, Against Two Letters of the Pelagians, Bk. III, Chapter 8. 16. Aquinas, Summa Theologica, II–II, q. 2, a. 7. 17. Karl Rahner, Theological Investigations, 5, translated by Karl-H. Kruger (Baltimore: Helicon Press; London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1966), Chapter 6, “Christianity and the Non-Christian Religions,” pp. 115–34 (Rahner’s emphasis). Karl Rahner’s “Christianity and the Non-Christian Religions” is in Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 11. 18. Gavin D’Costa, “Karl Rahner’s Anonymous Christian: A Reappraisal,” Modern Theology 1 (1985), p. 132. 19. Karl Rahner, Theological Investigations, 5, p. 120. Cited by Gavin D’Costa, “Karl Rahner’s Anonymous Christian: A Reappraisal,” p. 138.

20. Karl Rahner, Theological Investigations, 12, trans. David Bourke (New York: Seabury Press, 1974), p. 164. 21. Karl Rahner, Theological Investigations, 12, p. 161. 22. Mahmoud M. Ayoub, “The Islamic Tradition” in World Religions: Western Traditions, 2nd ed., edited by Willard G. Oxtoby (Oxford: Oxford University Press), pp. 420–21. 23. Shivesh Thakur, “To What God . . .?” in The Experience of Religious Diversity, edited by John Hick and Hasab Askari (Aldershot, England and Brookfield, VT: Gower), p. 119. In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 12. 24. Nancy M. Martin comments on the common Hindu understanding that of course the one God can be worshipped through different ishtadevs in her “Introduction: Inter-Religious Understanding” in Ethics in the World Religions, edited by Joseph Runzo and Nancy M. Martin (Oxford: Oneworld, 2001) p. 7. 25. Karl Rahner, Theological Investigations, 16, translated by D. Moreland O.S.B. (New York: Seabury Press, 1979) p. 219. 26. Hick, A Christian Theology of Religions, pp. 34 and 37. 27. Hick, Problems of Religious Pluralism, p. 53, and Hick, God and the Universe of Faiths, p. 131. 28. Hick, Problems of Religious Pluralism, p. 36, and Hick, An Interpretation of Religion, p. 234. 29. Hick, Problems of Religious Pluralism, pp. 36–37. 30. Hick, An Interpretation of Religion, pp. 241–43. 31. John Hick, “Religious Pluralism and Salvation,” Faith and Philosophy, 5 (1988), p. 370. “Religious Pluralism and Salvation” is in Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 11. 32. Hick, An Interpretation of Religion, pp. 245–46. 33. Hick, “Religious Pluralism and Salvation,” p. 371. In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 11. 34. Hick, “Religious Pluralism and Salvation,” p. 371. In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 11. 35. Hick, “Religious Pluralism and Salvation,” pp. 366–67. In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 11. 36. Hick, A Christian Theology of Religions, p. 44. 37. Hick, “Religious Pluralism and Salvation,” p. 367. In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 11. 38. Hick, “Religious Pluralism and Salvation,” p. 367, and Hick, An Interpretation of Religion, p. 14. “Religious Pluralism and Salvation” is in Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 11. 39. Hick, An Interpretation of Religion, p. 313, and Chapter 18, Sec. 1, “The Ideal of Generous Goodwill, Love, Compassion,” pp. 316–25. “The Ideal of Generous Goodwill, Love, Compassion” is in Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 8. 40. Hick, “Religious Pluralism and Salvation,” pp. 368–69. In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 11. 41. Hick, Problems of Religious Pluralism, p. 97, and Hick, An Interpretation of Religion, pp. 233–51.

42. Hick, A Christian Theology of Religions, pp. 49–50. 43. Hick, An Interpretation of Religion, pp. 248–49. In a later book, however, Hick says that “strictly speaking” we should not insist on “the oneness of the ultimate.” A Christian Theology of Religions, pp. 70–71. 44. Hick, A Christian Theology of Religions, p. 73. 45. Hick, Problems of Religious Pluralism, p. 124, and Hick, A Christian Theology of Religions, pp. 74 and 76. 46. Hick, Problems of Religious Pluralism, p. 125. 47. Hick, A Christian Theology of Religions, pp. 74–75. 48. Hick, Problems of Religious Pluralism, p. 100. 49. Hick, “Religious Pluralism and Salvation,” p. 369, and A Christian Theology of Religions, pp. 42–43. “Religious Pluralism and Salvation” is in Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 11. 50. Hick, “Religious Pluralism and Salvation,” pp. 372–74. In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 11. 51. Hick, “Religious Pluralism and Salvation,” pp. 374–75. In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 11. 52. Hick, A Christian Theology of Religions, p. 43. 53. Hick, A Christian Theology of Religions, p. 47. 54. Hick, A Christian Theology of Religions, p. 51. 55. Keith Ward, “Divine Ineffability” in God, Truth, and Reality: Essays in Honour of John Hick edited by Arvind Sharma (London: Macmillan and New York: St. Martin’s, 1993), pp. 218 and 219. Quoted by Hick, A Christian Theology of Religions, p. 63. “Divine Ineffability” is in Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 11. 56. Hick, A Christian Theology of Religions, p. 64. 57. Plantinga, “Pluralism: A Defense of Religious Exclusivism,” p. 188. In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 11.

Chapter 12 Other Ways of Understanding Religious Plurality In the previous chapter we examined four different ways of understanding religious plurality. Three of those ways—exclusivism, inclusivism, and pluralism—are open to those committed to a particular religion. Only pluralism, however, accepts it that all religions or all the major religions are right. John Hick, who has developed a distinctive form of pluralism, maintains that exclusivism, inclusivism, and pluralism exhaust the possible views on the relationship between religions (at least for “Christian theologies of religion”).1 This may be correct. However, if it is, then it must be allowed that there can be different forms of pluralism taken as the view that all major religions are right. In this chapter we explore four other ways of understanding the relationship between different religions that will sustain the view that all major religions are right.

The Different Aspects Approach The basic idea that all the different major religions are right, and that all the major religions are in some way paths to God, or to the same religious reality, has a long history. It can take different forms. In one way or another it has often been expressed in popular thought in stories and parables, as opposed to fully developed philosophical or theological views. One form of this idea is expressed in a parable that is attributed to the Buddha, the parable of the blind men. In this parable a number of blind men encounter an elephant for the first time. Each touches a different part of the elephant—an ear, a leg, a tusk. The one who feels the ear says that an elephant is flexible, like canvas. The one who touches the elephant’s leg says that an elephant is a rigid column, like a tree trunk. And the one who feels the elephant’s tusk says that an elephant is sharp and pointed, like a sword blade. As the blind men cannot see the elephant in its entirety, so the various religious cannot “see” all of religious reality, yet each religion is in touch with part of the truth about that Reality, as each blind man can feel part of the elephant. Religions go wrong, however, if their adherents think they have the whole religious truth. So runs the lesson of the parable. The underlying idea in the parable can be captured with another analogy. Imagine several people stationed around a many-sided table, one person to a side, each viewing intently a large multi-faceted stone on the table. On each facet there is a distinctive carving. Each person

from her or his constrained position can see only one facet with its carved design and has no knowledge of the stone’s other facets. Each naturally reports the character of the stone and its carved design differently because each sees something different. Each person sees one part or aspect of the stone, but none sees the whole of the stone. Similarly, the underlying idea, as it applies to the plurality of religions, is that each religion perceives or is in touch with an aspect of religious reality, but none has experience of the whole of that Reality. We find the same underlying idea in a story by the well-known Russian author Leo Tolstoy. Tolstoy is perhaps best known for his novels, one of which is War and Peace. But he also wrote stories or tales. One of his stories, adapted from a French author’s story, is The CoffeeHouse of Surat.2 (Surat is a city in India.) In Tolstoy’s story travelers from different parts of the world, who are followers of different religions, find themselves together in Surat’s coffeehouse. A religious discussion develops, involving a Hindu, a Jew, a Catholic, a Protestant, a Muslim, and others, who disagree about the nature of God and the way to salvation. When the discussion becomes heated, an appeal is made to a Chinese man, who has remained quiet and out of the fray. He is asked for his judgment. His response takes the form of a parable. In the parable he tells of men of different nationalities and experience who disagree about the nature of the sun. For one it is a ball of fire that sets in the mountains of his island. For another it is a deity that rides a golden chariot. For another, who has gone blind looking directly into the sun, it is nothing. And so on. The moral of The Coffee-House of Surat, as Tolstoy draws it, is complex. In part it is that “on matters of faith it is pride that causes error and discord among men.” In part it is that “the better [a person] knows God the nearer will he draw to Him, imitating His goodness, His mercy, and His love of man,” and in this spirit he will not blame or despise those who believe differently from him. But also, with a little pressure, the moral could be construed as being that there is no absolute religious perspective. There are only the perspectives of Hinduism, Judaism, Catholicism, Protestantism, Islam, and other religions, from which one sees only one aspect of God or religious reality. For the different aspects approach, different religions can all be right in that each has true beliefs about an aspect of religious reality. For one aspect of the religious reality Brahman is God, for another Jesus is the Son of God, for another God has made Muhammad the last and greatest prophet, and so on. Since these beliefs relate to different aspects of the religious reality, no contradiction is involved. This approach, then, allows a person in one religion to acknowledge that the beliefs in other religions are true (in their application to different aspects), and in this way it allows everyone to recognize how the all the various world religions can be right. This approach to religious plurality is very much like one element of John Hick’s pluralism, but it is significantly different. For this approach different religions experience, and have beliefs about, different aspects of religious reality. In Hick’s pluralism different religions experience and have beliefs about different manifestations of religious reality (or the Real, to

use Hick’s term). And there is a significant difference between aspects and manifestations. Aspects are parts of the thing itself, but manifestations are not. For Hick’s pluralism, recall from Chapter 11, all the major religions experience the same Reality, but they do not experience it as it is; they do not experience the Real-in-itself. Rather, different religions experience different manifestations of the Real due to cultural and historical influences. For Hick, following this Kantian or neo-Kantian construction, the Real-in-itself is beyond our concepts, so that no religious conception of God or of a nonpersonal Absolute is literally correct as a conception of the Real. The different aspects approach does not require acceptance of the Kantian or neo-Kantian claim that is essential for Hick’s pluralism as he has developed it. For the different aspects view each religion does have a part of the truth about the Real, for each holds true beliefs about a part or aspect of the Real, but none has the whole truth. Both Hick’s pluralism and the different aspects approach maintain that there is no contradiction between the central beliefs of different religions (e.g., between religious reality is personal, and religious reality is nonpersonal), but this is so for different reasons for the two views. For Hick’s pluralism it is because these religious beliefs are about manifestations of the Real, not about the Real itself. For the different aspects approach it is because, although these beliefs are about the Real itself, they are about different aspects of the Real. This difference can be seen as significant because it allows the different aspects view to escape a criticism that attaches to Hick’s pluralism. It can be an important religious belief that God is loving or merciful, but on Hick’s view, these beliefs can be true at most of a manifestation of the religious reality, not of the reality itself. For the different aspects view, these beliefs can be true of religious reality itself. However, although the beliefs that there is a God and that God is loving and merciful are beliefs about the way religious reality is in itself, the way it really is, they are beliefs about only an aspect or part of that reality.

Critical Examination of the Different Aspects Approach Although the different aspects approach does give us a way of understanding how Hinduism and Christianity, Judaism and Buddhism, and all the great religious traditions can be right, and does so in an accessible nontechnical way, there are some difficulties. One problem has to do with this view perhaps admitting as “right” variants of religion that many would want to say are not right in their beliefs or in their practice. As indicated in Chapter 11, Hick’s pluralism faced and dealt with the question of how it would regard Nazism and the Jim Jones phenomenon. Hick did not deny that these movements were “religious,” but he did exclude them from his pluralistic hypothesis on the grounds that they were not “salvific.” They did not support the movement from self-centeredness to reality-centeredness. The different aspects approach, however, does not have as an internal element the salvific criterion, as Hick’s view

does. A related problem for the different aspects view arises when the different “truths” of different religions are compared. For many Christians, it is an important truth that God is a loving God. The different aspects view allows that it is a truth that God is loving, but this is a truth only about an aspect of religious reality. Say that in another religion, or in another version of Christianity, God is seen as a stern judge demanding punishment for each and every wrongdoing—very just but not loving. The question for the different aspects approach is this: How are these different “truths” related? The question becomes even more pressing when we consider such a religious form as that practiced by the Thugs in India over a number of centuries up to the nineteenth century. The Thugs worshipped the goddess Kali and, in her service, ritualistically murdered merchants and others. Are the beliefs of the Thugs and their practice on a par with a belief in a loving God and religious practice informed by love of neighbor? Another problem for the different aspects approach is a problem that Hick’s pluralism faces. This approach, like Hick’s pluralism, is not true to the self-understanding of believers in particular religions. Jews, Christians, and Muslims, who believe that God is the Supreme Being, do not understand themselves as believing that God is the Supreme Being in their aspects of religious reality, whereas in another aspect, a non-personal Absolute, like Nirvana, might be the supreme entity. Those traditional Christians who believe that God is a loving God do not understand themselves as holding a belief about one aspect of religious reality, no more significant than opposing beliefs in other religious traditions. They understand themselves as believing a fundamental truth about the essential nature of religious reality as a whole.

The Common Core Approach The common core approach looks for what the different religious traditions share, what they hold in common. If all the major religions share a core, then they will not be in conflict over that core and can all be right by virtue of the core they share. This approach can take several forms. In one form the approach looks for a common core of belief. In another it looks for a common core of practice. The common core of belief approach seeks to find a common core of mutually held beliefs among the world’s religions, an undisturbed eye of agreed-upon beliefs at the center of divergent and perhaps incompatible truth-claims. The questions raised by this approach are these: Is there a core of belief shared by the world’s major religions? And, if there is, what beliefs constitute it? Among the theistic religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—there may

be the shared belief that God is the Supreme Being (in accord with what Anselm said), but on many other characteristics of God there will be disagreement among these theistic religions. In fact, belief in God (as trusting belief in God or as merely the belief that God exists) is not universally accepted among the world’s religious traditions. In Buddhism and in nondualistic or advaita Hinduism, there is no belief in God or in God’s existence. For these religious traditions the highest Reality is a nonpersonal Absolute, and the highest attainment is Enlightenment, which for Buddhism is Nirvana. In the Western monotheistic religions, there is often a belief in immortality, a life after death in the presence of God or a life deprived of God in damnation, but no belief in reincarnation. In the Eastern religions, in contrast, there is a religiously important belief in reincarnation. It seems, moreover, that none of the central, strongly held, distinctive beliefs of the various traditions will qualify as common core beliefs. The Christian belief that Jesus is the Son of God does not qualify. The Islamic belief that the Qur’an is God’s final revelation given to Muhammad, does not qualify. Nor does the Buddhist belief that the way to enlightenment and liberation is through the Noble Eightfold Path. However, there still may be a core of shared belief that does not consist of the distinctive beliefs held by one or another of the established religious traditions. John Hick in his writings has identified religious beliefs of a more general nature that may be better candidates for a common core of belief. He has observed that it is recognized in “all the main religious traditions, that the ultimate divine reality is infinite and as such transcends the grasp of the human mind.”3 Of course, Hick believes that this ultimate reality is never experienced in itself (an sich) by the various traditions (as was indicated in the discussion of his pluralism in Chapter 11). But he has at times referred to the “transcendent reality an sich,” which is variously experienced in theistic and non-theistic traditions, as the “Eternal One.”4 Candidates for universally accepted beliefs, then, might be that there is an ultimate religious reality, that it is infinite, that it is eternal, and that it is one. All of these beliefs could be accepted by theistic religions like Islam and Christianity and by nontheistic religions like nondualistic or advaita Hinduism and Buddhism. Of course, not all religions would hold these beliefs. Religions that accepted the ultimate as polytheistic, and so not “one,” would not. But all the major religions would, whether they saw the ultimate as God, as the transcendent Buddha-nature or Dharmakaya, or as Brahman. In this way the major religious traditions could all be right—by virtue of holding the same beliefs. Notice that this is not to say that they all are right by virtue of holding true beliefs, only that they could all be right by virtue of holding the same beliefs. However, allowing that these are common beliefs by virtue of which the major religious traditions could be right, it remains that there are many other more distinctive beliefs held by each tradition. Moreover, the distinctive beliefs of one religion may not be accepted by other traditions and may even be rejected as false. The distinctive Christian belief that Jesus is the Son of God is not accepted by either Judaism or Islam. The distinctive Islamic belief that the Qur’an was given to

Muhammad as God’s final revelation is not accepted by either Judaism or Christianity. Although some distinctive beliefs may be shared by some traditions, they will be rejected by others. The distinctive belief that God is the creator of all is shared by Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, but if not utterly rejected, it is not embraced by Buddhism, for which it is not religiously important. So it seems that many of the religious beliefs taken to be religiously important, even essential, by one tradition or another will not be included in the common core. This detracts from the attractiveness of the common core of belief approach. However, there are two movements within religious or theological thought that are pertinent here. One is the movement toward understanding various tradition-specific distinctive beliefs as mythologically true. In John Hick’s sense beliefs are mythologically true when they are not literally true of, or do not apply to, religious reality, but are “truthful in the sense that the dispositional responses which they tend to evoke are appropriate to our existence in relation to the Real.” So, to use one of Hick’s examples, the Christian belief that God is our Heavenly Father may be considered mythologically true because it encourages in Christians a sense of a trusting and loving relation to God. This allows, we might note, that the belief that God is our Heavenly Mother is also mythologically true for Christians. Other beliefs that might be only mythologically true, mentioned by Hick, are the belief in Judaism that the Children of Israel are God’s chosen people and the beliefs in Buddhism about the Buddha’s prior lives, recounted in the Jataka tales. Although many of these beliefs are now considered literally true in their respective religious traditions, Hick suggests that there is a developing awareness of the mythological character of many such beliefs.5 To the extent that there is such an ongoing development, the number of religious beliefs considered to be literally true but outside the common core would diminish. This would not increase the number of shared beliefs in the common core, but it would decrease the number of unshared, distinctive beliefs outside the core. The other movement that is pertinent to the common core of belief approach is the evolution in the understanding of beliefs within religious traditions allowing a “synthesis” of beliefs in different traditions. The way specific religious beliefs are understood within a religious tradition can change over time, due in great part to theological judgment and development. (Recall that Chapter 11 includes a discussion of how Karl Rahner provided a new way of understanding the belief that outside the church there is no salvation, and Chapter 10 explains how Don Cupitt offers a new understanding of belief in and beliefs about God.) Ninian Smart, who makes the point that Christian theology changes over time and it is difficult to predict what changes it will undergo, observes that if it changes enough in its understanding of Christian beliefs, then what are at present incompatible truth-claims between Christianity and other religions may through new understanding and construction be “synthesized” or brought together as compatible beliefs. As Christian theology becomes more “Existentialist,” Smart suggests, the less obvious becomes the incompatibility between even

theistic Christianity and non-theistic Buddhism.6 Although theism, understood as claiming that religious reality is a personal God, and non-theism, understood as claiming that religious reality is a nonpersonal Absolute, are incompatible in their current meanings, if these meanings are reconstructed, they could become compatible. If, furthermore, they become “synthesized” to the degree that they are regarded as different expressions of the same belief, then they could be included in the common core of belief shared by theistic and non-theistic religions. In this way, the synthesizing movement in various religions would increase the number of beliefs in the common core. The common core of practice approach seeks to find a common core of religious practice among the world’s religions. The practice of a religion expresses itself in what the followers of that religion do, in the actions of the religion’s followers. The religious actions that are of concern to this approach, however, are not the ritualistic actions of religions (e.g., praying facing Mecca or crossing oneself with holy water). This approach focuses on the moral behavior and action required or encouraged by the different major religious traditions. It is in the area of religious moral practice that this approach finds a common core. Think about the discussion of Tolstoy’s story The Coffee-House of Surat used to present the different aspects approach; we observed that the moral of the story is complex. Part of the moral, as Tolstoy presents it, is that “the better [a person] knows God the nearer will he draw to Him, imitating His goodness, His mercy, and His love of man,” and in this spirit he will not blame or despise those who believe differently from him. This part of Tolstoy’s moral points toward the common core of practice approach. As Tolstoy presents his moral, it is theistic in characterizing the core of practice in terms of imitating God’s goodness, mercy, and love. But the common core of practice view can be understood in such a way that it includes both theistic and non-theistic religions. The basic idea of this approach is that it does not matter if religions have divergent and even incompatible beliefs. The major religions of the world can all be right by virtue of encouraging the same moral behavior. For this view what is important is not the truth of beliefs (propositional truth or the truth of truth-claims), but the truth of behavior, as it might be called. For various thinkers there are two dimensions of truth. This was certainly true for Søren Kierkegaard. Chapter 3 discusses the “parable of the idol-worshipper,” as we called it, in which Kierkegaard presents two “religious” persons: One has the “true conception of God” but prays in a false spirit; the other has a wrong concept of God but prays in the right spirit. Where is there “most truth”? Kierkegaard asks. It is the idol-worshipper who has the most truth, for Kierkegaard, because her “subjectivity” is right and she has “subjective truth,” even though she does not have the “objective truth” about God. Similarly, Wilfred Cantwell Smith recognizes, in addition to propositional truth, a truth of persons, which we refer to when we speak of someone being true to his word or being true to a friend.7 For the common core of practice approach, the important kind of truth—what we are calling the truth of behavior—is

like Kierkegaard’s subjective truth in that it embraces the interior dimension of behavior (what we feel and intend) and like Smith’s truth of persons in that it is a truth that relates to us as persons (what we do when we are true to our word), not the truth of what we believe. If the common core of practice approach is correct, then all the major religions have a shared core of moral practice or behavior. What is this common core of behavior? Many religions have prohibitions against murder, and many require that help be given to those in need and that the hungry be fed. Such widespread religious prohibitions and injunctions may seem to provide the needed common ground of moral practice, but there are two concerns about them. One concern is about practical understanding: What counts as, for example, murder (which instances of taking human life are murder and which, if any, are justified), and do the religious traditions agree on what counts as murder? Which hungry persons should be fed and at what cost, and do the religious traditions agree? Questions of a similar sort arise for other specific prohibitions and injunctions. The second concern is that such specific prohibitions and injunctions, though moral and practical, do not contain enough religious character. For one thing, they do not address the interior dimension of moral behavior. The correction seems to be to seek the common core of practice in actions defined by a more general, and more distinctly religious, moral ideal. One strong candidate for such a common core of practice is action that follows the moral ideal of “generous goodwill, love, compassion.” This ideal John Hick finds epitomized in the Golden Rule, which in its Christian expression is “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:39). But in some form, the moral ideal embodied in the Golden Rule is found in the scriptures or sacred writings of all the major traditions, Hick maintains. From the Hindu tradition Hick cites the Mahabharata and, within the Mahabharata, the Bhagavad-Gita; from Judaism the Books of Leviticus and Isaiah; from Buddhism the Dhammapada; from Christianity the Book of Matthew; and from Islam sayings of Muhammad from the hadith.8 Hick sums up this basic shared moral ideal as a “common criterion,” that of “love/compassion” or “agape/karuna.” If Hick’s criterion of love/compassion is incorporated into the thesis of the common core of practice approach, the claim of the common core of practice approach, of course, would not be that all who are religious consistently and without fail practice a morality of love or compassion, but that all the major traditions encourage this religious practice in their teachings.

Critical Examination of the Common Core Approach One problem for the common core of belief approach is the apparent meagerness of the beliefs available for the common core. Granting that there may be in the theologies of Christianity and other religions a movement toward mythological truth (which would

decrease the number of beliefs outside the common core understood as literally true), and granting that there may be a movement toward the synthesis of beliefs (which would increase the number of beliefs in the common core), at present only a limited number of very general beliefs seem available for the common core. If the only beliefs in the common core are the belief there is ultimate religious reality, that it is infinite, and that it is eternal, then there is very little in way of religious guidance offered by the shared beliefs of the world’s religions. Are prayer and worship appropriate? Or is meditation appropriate? What is offered in the way of moral guidance? A second and related problem for the common core of belief approach is that, for this view, what makes all the major religions right (holding beliefs in the common core) of necessity excludes the distinctive beliefs of the different religious traditions. And often it is the distinctive (and divisive) beliefs that are deemed essential within religious traditions. A main problem for the common core of practice approach is comparing the practices of different religions and judging them to be the same. We note this problem in comparing the moral prohibitions and injunctions of different religions, such as the prohibition against murder. But the same question arises for practice in different religious traditions in accord with the love/compassion, or agape/karuna, ideal. Adopting an example provided by Ninian Smart, consider a village in which there are many who are hungry and underfed. A Christian reaction, exemplifying love of neighbor, might be to provide food to relieve the immediate need, and then to teach the villagers to hunt and fish so that they can provide food for themselves. However, the Buddhist reaction to this form of aid might not be approval, for Buddhist compassion extends to sentient beings other than human beings.9

The Indeterminacy Approach The indeterminacy approach accepts that different religions make different truth-claims, that they have different propositional beliefs-that-something-is-true, or truth-beliefs (as we may call them). This approach, furthermore, accepts that these different truth-beliefs are religiously important. However, this approach regards the different beliefs of different religious traditions as indeterminately related. This means that the beliefs of different traditions are incommensurable (i.e., they cannot be compared; they are like apples and oranges). In this way, the truth of a belief in one religion will not necessitate the falsity of an apparently opposing belief in another religion. And so the various major religions can all be right in the sense that their beliefs do not conflict. One exponent of this approach is John Whittaker. He recounts a story about Spinoza, the seventeenth-century philosopher and religious thinker. Spinoza was asked by his landlady if

she could be saved in the religion she professed (which was probably some form of Christianity). Spinoza, who had been born in the Jewish tradition but was at odds with the Jewish community in Amsterdam, where he lived, replied, “Your religion is a very good one; you need not look for another, nor doubt that you may be saved in it, provided, whilst you apply yourself to piety, you live at the same time a peaceable and quiet life.” As Whittaker reads this story, the lesson is that as long as a person follows the “demands of right living, while applying himself [or herself] to piety, he [or she] stands fast in God’s truth no matter what his [or her] beliefs may be.”10 So read, the story, like one reading of Tolstoy’s The CoffeeHouse of Surat, recommends the common core of practice approach. But for Whittaker such a view of religion is not correct, for it leaves out the essential role of religious truth-beliefs. Whittaker appreciates that traditional religion needs a “cognitive” element; that is, it needs beliefs that something is true, such as that Abraham had a covenant with God, that Jesus is the Son of God and our savior, or that Muhammad is the last and greatest prophet. In other words, Whittaker acknowledges that religions importantly make truth-claims. They importantly have propositional beliefs-that-something-is-true, or truthbeliefs, such as the Jewish, Christian, and Islamic beliefs just cited. In his words, “one cannot do justice to religious belief by entirely severing it from propositions.”11 To be sure, Whittaker wants us to appreciate that being religious is not simply an allegiance to a creed or a set of beliefs. He sees an analogy between love and faith. One significant point of analogy between love and faith that he draws to our attention is that it is as odd to ask a religious believer “Why do you have this religion?” as it is to ask a man “Why do you love this woman?” As Kierkegaard saw, there is no reply except, “I only know she is my love.”12 Again, some might think that the reasonable way for us to become religious is to array all the religions before us and, using some measure, choose the best. This is a rational way to pick the car you will buy, but this way of proceeding does not apply to becoming religious any more than it applies to falling in love. With religion, as with love, we respond to something initially appealing to us. Many times, we can observe with Hick, what is initially appealing is found in the familiar religion of one’s family and culture. Later, Whittaker says, in faith as in love, these initially attractive features will “give way to the overriding test of reliability.”13 Yet Whittaker also sees an important point of disanalogy between faith and love, and it is a disanalogy that exists in the area of truth-beliefs. A person in love responds to one “right for him [or her],” but in religion the response is to what is “right for anyone,” not just oneself. In other words, Whittaker maintains that one can make an error in both love and belief; however, on the one hand, a lover’s error (made by falling in love with the “wrong” person) is about what is right for only him or her, and on the other hand, in religion if one’s belief is in error it is about a truth-claim that is supposed to hold for everyone. It remains, for Whittaker, that even with the points of analogy between faith and love, there is an undeniable place in religion for truth-beliefs. Presumably, then, Whittaker observes, “to believe that one’s religion

is true, one must believe that every other religion is false.”14 It is this presumption that Whittaker attacks with his indeterminacy approach. Being religious, for Whittaker, “is primarily a matter of having one’s thoughts and passions informed by a new set of concepts and principles.” What Whittaker means by a principle is a basic belief that plays a “formative role in our judgments, yet [is] not derived from any prior judgments.” Matters of faith, for Whittaker, are matters of principle, in his special sense of principle. A Christian “principle” might be the central Christian belief that Jesus is the Son of God and our savior. One becomes a Christian by committing to this basic belief as one would fall in love, for Whittaker. As he sees it, one need not take a stand on every religious doctrine or denounce religions other than one’s own in order to be religious. Being religious— conforming one’s life to a basic religious “principle” or belief—is distinguishable from arguing for the doctrines of one’s tradition. One can simply stand above the fray of doctrinal controversy and in this way avoid a strong affirmation of exclusivism.15 Nevertheless, it appears to Whittaker that in the end, religious belief cannot avoid a kind of exclusivity. This exclusivity characterizes religious belief, not by virtue of its being belief that is religious, but by virtue of a generic feature that attaches to all truth-claims or truth-beliefs. Regardless of whether believers wish to adopt a negative stance toward other religions, simply by accepting a belief as true, they thereby deny all beliefs incompatible with it. This is the same logical point made by Alvin Plantinga in Chapter 11. As Whittaker sees it, this is simply a part of the logic of truth-claims, and there is no escaping it.16 So, if a Christian believes that Jesus is the son of God and our savior, then she thereby denies every other belief that is logically incompatible with it. But are there any other religious beliefs incompatible with it (or with the principles of the other religious traditions)? Hick, with his understanding of religious beliefs in different traditions as being about different manifestations of the Real, and the different aspects approach, with its understanding of religious beliefs in different traditions as being about different aspects of religious reality, can say for their respective reasons that none of the central beliefs of different traditions are incompatible with each other. But the indeterminacy approach is different. It does not subscribe to Hick’s neo-Kantian understanding of religious experience and belief, and it does not subscribe to the underlying idea of the different aspects approach. It in effect asks if the central beliefs, or principles, of the major traditions can escape incompatibility without the postulates of Hick’s view and of the different aspects view. Whittaker thinks they can. When we think about different religious claims, we find that there are two obvious relationships they could have: First, they could be compatible (so that both could be true together); and second, they could be incompatible (so that not both could be true). Whittaker, however, perceives a third alternative: “Instead of being compatible or incompatible,” he says, “two different religious principles [or basic beliefs] may stand in an indeterminate logical relationship.”17 Whittaker gives some examples of religious beliefs that are indeterminately

related. Beliefs in a native culture encountered by Christian missionaries may bear such a relationship to the beliefs of the missionaries. (Whittaker does not give a specific example, but perhaps some forms of animism would be illustrative.) Beliefs in the Christian miracle stories may bear this relationship to belief in miracles in other traditions. Contrary to Hume’s view (discussed in Chapters 7 and 11), Whittaker suggests that a believer in one religious tradition can accept miracle-claims in other traditions without holding incompatible beliefs. In Christianity, however, as Whittaker sees it, the matter is unclear because Christian teaching is unclear. If Christian believers want to come down on one side or the other (compatible or incompatible), they may need a theological “ruling,” until which the beliefs in question are indeterminately related.18 If the religious principles of the major traditions are indeterminately related, then they are neither compatible nor incompatible. They are not comparable, but this means that they do not conflict, and in at least this way all the major traditions can be right. Just here, as Whittaker acknowledges, a problem arises for the application of indeterminacy to beliefs. It arises in the light of a basic rule of reasoning and logic called “the law of excluded middle.” The law of excluded middle says that any proposition is either true or false (there is no middle ground). But this appears to require us to reject the idea that two truth-beliefs can be indeterminately related, because it requires that the predicate “compatible” either fits two beliefs or it does not. Either it is true that two beliefs are compatible or it is false (and they are incompatible). Therefore, with regard to the belief that Jesus is the Son of God and the belief that the Buddha attained Enlightenment, the proposition “They are compatible” is either true or false, according to the law of excluded middle. Whittaker argues, however, that it is a mistake to think that the law of excluded middle always applies. Regarding some subjects and predicates, he argues we cannot make any ascriptions or denials: We cannot say either that the subject is “that” or that the subject is “not that.” Whittaker presents three kinds of cases in which this is so. First, there are cases in which the use of a predicate would involve a “category mistake.” To use Whittaker’s example, this would happen if we said of a young man, Arthur, that he is “either metrical or nonmetrical.” A scale of measurement can be either metrical or not, but human beings are not scales of measurement. Second, there are cases in which “the standards for applying the predicate are unclear.” Whittaker’s example is “Arthur is either great or not great.” Although “great” is the kind of predicate that might be ascribed to Arthur, the standard for applying it (what the test for greatness is) may be so unclear that we cannot say if Arthur is great or not great. Third, there are cases in which “the subject itself is not sufficiently defined or developed to permit a confident judgment.” Here Whittaker’s example is “Young Arthur is a saint.” It is this third kind of case that is pertinent to the relationship between religious beliefs. They may not be well enough defined or developed to permit a judgment regarding their being compatible or incompatible.19 Just as it is indeterminate whether young Arthur is a saint, the relationship between religious principles may be indeterminate.

Although Whittaker does not comment on it, there is a strain of mystical religious sensibility that would deny that we can judge God or religious reality to be either “this way” or “not this way.” We find this strain in the nondualistic teaching going back to Shankara in the Hindu tradition, and we find it in the mystical teachings of mystics in other religious traditions, including some Christian mystics. For one Christian mystic, Dionysius, God, or the Pre-eminent cause of everything, “transcends all affirmation as the perfect and unique Cause of all things, and transcends all negation by the preeminence of Its simple and absolute nature.” It is not “darkness nor is It light, or error or truth.” It cannot be known or named.20 In effect Dionysius is saying it is a “category mistake” to apply these (or perhaps any) predicates to God. Dionysius’s claim here is very different from that of Aquinas about “analogical predication,” as was discussed in Chapter 9. However, to the extent that Dionysius is correct, predicates would not apply to God for the first reason Whittaker gives. Shivesh Thakur has also commented on the law of excluded middle as it applies to relationships between religious beliefs.21 It is useful to compare his treatment to Whittaker’s. Unlike Whittaker, Thakur suggests that there may be other “values” (or “truth-values”) besides true and false that can be given to propositions. He considers Rubik’s cube (a cube each of whose six sides has a different color). The claim that the cube has a red surface, Thakur observes, is partly true, because one of its six surfaces is red, but largely false, because only one of the six is red. The insistence that the claim is either simply true or simply false is silly, he suggests. In this case, the law of excluded middle does not operate because there are middle values, namely “partly true” and “largely false.” The philosopher J. L. Austin suggested something similar about such statements as “The galaxy is the shape of a fried egg.” Perhaps it is “exaggerated” or “somewhat rough” or “not very good.” But these are not the same as being simply true or false.22 Thakur goes on to point out that in the natural sciences there is a way of talking about propositions and theories in terms of likelihood such that they are assigned degrees of probability, and not truth or falsity. Since no scientific empirical proposition can have 100 percent probability, at most such propositions are more or less true, he suggests. Thakur has in mind general empirical propositions and theories, like “All mammals evolved from fish” or “All gold is malleable.” But, he says, his point also holds for ordinary empirical observations like “The sun will rise tomorrow.” It too is only “more or less true,” he suggests. In this way, Thakur presents several examples of candidates of propositions or assertions to which the law of excluded middle does not apply, for they admit of having values other than (simple) truth or falsity. If Thakur is right, then in some modes of discourse the law of excluded middle will not apply. His view relates to religious belief in that it would allow individuals to accept their religions as true without being required to regard other religions as false. Other religions could consistently be regarded as, say, more or less true or partly true. Although Thakur’s thinking here is close to Whittaker’s, it is different in two respects. First, Thakur is reflecting on the

truth and incompatibility of religions in their entirety, as opposed to the incompatibility of particular religious beliefs or principles, which is Whittaker’s concern. Second, Thakur’s thinking leads to the conclusion that different religions are not incompatible, as opposed to the conclusion that the predicate “incompatible” does not apply, which is Whittaker’s conclusion. Whereas for Whittaker, religious principles are indeterminately related and indeterminately related principles are not comparable, for Thakur religions are comparable, at least comparable enough for us to make the judgment that the truth of one does not entail the falsity of the others. For both thinkers, however, the law of excluded middle is escaped— escaped by religions for Thakur, and escaped by religious principles for Whittaker. There is one further point in Whittaker’s exposition that deserves attention. In his defense of the logical indeterminacy of the relationship between religious beliefs or principles of different traditions, Whittaker considers an objection that addresses his view (and Thakur’s too). That objection is that truth-claims, to be truth-claims, “must always have fully determinate senses, so that propositions which can be said to be true or false, must also be definitely compatible or incompatible.”23 Whittaker allows that the requirement of determinacy may hold for hypotheses (for otherwise they could not be tested). But basic religious beliefs or principles typically are not offered as scientific hypotheses to be tested.

Critical Examination of the Indeterminacy Approach A problem that the indeterminacy approach faces is that, even if it is right about some basic religious beliefs, there are a number of basic or at least important religious beliefs that on the face of it are clearly logically incompatible. Thus we might allow that the Christian belief that Jesus is the Son of God and the Buddhist belief that the Buddha attained Enlightenment are in a logically indeterminate relationship, but we might also hold that the Christian belief that Jesus is the Son of God and the Jewish and Islamic belief that Jesus is not the Son of God are incompatible. Those religious traditions that are more closely related, like Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, address one another more directly than do the more distantly related traditions of Christianity and Buddhism, and in doing so can generate basic or distinctive beliefs that are more clearly incompatible. This is not to say, however, that there are no clearly incompatible beliefs between the more distantly related traditions. Christian theism, understood as claiming that religious reality is a personal God, and Buddhist nontheism, understood as claiming that religious reality is a nonpersonal Absolute, seem on the face of it to adhere to incompatible beliefs. Smart, as discussed previously, is one who recognizes this incompatibility. For Whittaker, as they stand, such basic religious beliefs from different traditions are indeterminately related, although he allows that future theological “rulings” may further define such beliefs so that they become either compatible or incompatible.

Smart’s analysis is very different. For Smart, whereas Christian theism, understood as claiming that religious reality is a personal God, and Buddhist non-theism, understood as claiming that religious reality is a nonpersonal Absolute, are incompatible in their current meanings, if these meanings are theologically reconstructed and synthesized they could become compatible. It appears, then, that the indeterminacy approach, as an effort to show that the various major religions can all be right in the sense that their beliefs do not conflict, can at most attain only a partial success.

The Relationships Approach Many have noted that we today live in a world of religious plurality or diversity, and many have observed that particularly those among us who have become aware of religions other than and different from our own (if we are religious), may well feel challenged by these other religions. Sometimes those aware of religious plurality in this way see the questions facing the religious as “So what should you do? Should you stick with the religious system of belief and practice in which you were raised? Should you try to switch to one of its competitors?”24 These questions present the issue as one of switching allegiance from one system of belief and practice to another, from one creed or set of orthodox beliefs with their associated practices (observing Easter, praying several times a day facing Mecca, observing the Buddha’s birthday) to another set of beliefs with its associated practices. A different way to think of being in a religion is to think of it as like being married, being in a significant friendship, or being in love, so that being religiously committed is not precisely a matter of holding a system of beliefs about God or religious reality and acting in accord with those beliefs; it is to be in an intimate relationship to God or religious reality through one’s religious tradition. Various religious thinkers, ranging from Martin Buber to Søren Kierkegaard to John Whittaker have been aware of this relationship dimension of religion. From this perspective, giving up one’s religion for another is less like switching from one set of beliefs to another and more like ending a relationship with a person you love. It must be borne in mind that from this perspective, beliefs about God or religious reality can be very important. For one thing, there is that religious sensibility that finds commitment to and trust in God—maintaining that relationship to God—as requiring the confession of a particular belief like “Jesus Christ is my savior.” However, from the relationship perspective on religion, although holding religious beliefs can be important, it is so because holding those beliefs is required by or affirms or deepens a felt relationship to God or religious reality. The relationships approach to understanding how one religion relates to another is quite aware of this perspective on what is most significantly involved in being in a religion. It goes

further. It elaborates a way of understanding religious plurality, and how all the great religions of the world can be right, in terms of possible relationships to religious reality. For the relationships approach, the major religions of the world can all be right in that they allow and encourage a right relationship to God or religious reality. Two distinguishable kinds of relationships to God or religious reality are important for this approach: faith relationships and abiding relationships.25 A faith relationship is the relationship to God that believers are in (or see themselves as being in) by virtue of having faith in God. It is essentially a trust relationship. ( Note here that the relationships approach assumes or postulates that there is a God or religious reality, since a relationship to God or religious reality has this requirement. So in the discussion of this approach we should keep it in mind that the relationships discussed are possible relationships, or relationships that followers of the different religious traditions may be in, and will be in if they are as they understand themselves to be.) Recall the discussion about the difference between faith or belief in God and belief that God exists from Chapter 3. For the relationships approach, and for religious sensibilities well represented in the theistic traditions, faith in God defines a relationship that the believer has to God, a faith relationship. This sensibility is well represented in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The relationships approach recognizes that faith in God requires a belief that God exists, but that existence-belief does not define the faith relationship to God. What does define that relationship, or begins to, is the trust in God internally connected to faith in God. Now we come to a conceptual point about faith in God that is quite important for the relationships approach: To have faith in God it is not absolutely necessary to have a correct understanding or conception of God. In fact, we encountered this point in Chapter 3 in the discussion of the “parable of the idol worshipper.” Recall that the idol-worshipper in Kierkegaard’s presentation has the wrong conception of God but prays in the right spirit, whereas another individual has the true conception of God but prays in a false spirit. Kierkegaard’s lesson is that the idol-worshipper has the “most truth” by virtue of her “subjectivity”—her “trust and commitment,” as we may put it. The previous discussion used this parable to bring out how one can have faith in God even if one has the wrong concept of God, the very point that is so important for the relationships approach. Let us now consider another scenario designed to bring out some of the implications of this interesting conceptual feature of faith in God. The scenario is a case of having faith in a person. We can, of course, have faith in persons, as when we have faith in a friend, and as long as the scenario is true to the general concept of faith in, the implications it identifies will hold for both faith in a person and faith in God. In the scenario two individuals have faith in a person they do not know very well, a Stranger. The situation is this: One individual, who lives in Kansas, needs aid in the form of a near-miraculous cure for his brother. The other individual, who lives in Hawaii, needs aid in the form of obtaining the release of her brother

from a prison in a totalitarian state. The Stranger meets and talks to each of these two individuals in their separate settings. He promises his aid to each. Although the stranger meets and talks to the two individuals only briefly, he succeeds in impressing each, so that each comes to have faith in the Stranger and his promise. But each individual conceives of the Stranger differently. One thinks of him as a kind of renegade medical practitioner, who has obtained secret medical skills through a lifetime of arcane studies. The other thinks of him as a prestigious diplomat, powerfully connected in the world of international affairs, whose life has been devoted exclusively to the pursuit of international justice. Each of the two has faith in the Stranger, but they have different, even incompatible, conceptions of him. This does not mean that they do not have faith in the same person. And in fact, they both do have faith in but one person, the Stranger. Somehow—and for our purposes it does not matter how—one or both have come to have a wrong picture of the Stranger. Yet, even if neither knows the Stranger very well, we should not conclude that either fails to have faith in and trust him, for both may have an unwavering faith in him and his promise. The points to note here are these: 1. To have faith in a person, it is not necessary to have a true understanding or conception of that person. This is the point of the parable of the idol-worshipper, applied to faith in persons. Two further implications brought out by this scenario are these: 2. Two people may have faith in the same person with different conceptions of that person, and 3. These different conceptions may even be incompatible. Applied to faith in God specifically, the three points are as follows: 1. To have faith in God it is not necessary to have a true understanding or conception of God. 2. Two people may have faith in the same God with different conceptions of God. 3. These different conceptions may even be incompatible. What these conceptual features of faith in mean is that followers of different theistic religions may have faith in one God, even though they have different, even incompatible, conceptions of God. And so (if there is a God for them to be related to) they may all be related in the same way to God: They may all be in a faith relationship to God. In a traditional Jewish conception of God, the Jewish people were made his chosen people by God; in a traditional Christian conception, God gave his only Son to be the savior of humanity; and in a traditional

Islamic conception, God selected Muhammad as the final prophet. Jews, Christians, and Muslims may think of God differently, may have different beliefs about God, and may even conceive of God differently, but this would not prevent its being true that all of them have faith in the one God. The same point would hold for theistic forms of Hinduism and for other theistic religions. Furthermore, this observation is open to any in these religions (or outside them) who are aware of these conceptual features of faith in. What about non-theistic traditions? If there is no faith in in these traditions, then what we have seen so far of the relationships approach will not apply to them. But sometimes there can be a place for faith in, or something close to it, in a nontheistic tradition. Not faith in God, but faith in religious reality in a non-theistic understanding. This is one way to understand forms of Mahayana Buddhism in which there is a place for worship or veneration of bodhisattvas, such as, the celestial bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, the great bodhisattva of compassion, to whom prayers may be directed. Of course, even if there were a place for faith in a bodhisattva in some forms of Buddhism, the center of Buddhism would be the seeking of Nirvana or enlightenment, not having faith. The home of faith relationships is the theistic tradition and its different religions, in which the faith relationship is to God, even though God is differently conceived in the different theistic religions. Are there any limits on how different the conceptions of God can be among those who are in a faith relationship? It appears that there are, created by faith in God and the faith relationship itself. If faith in God and the faith relationship it defines embody trust in God, as they surely do in the major theistic religions in their traditional forms, then there is a close connection to belief in God’s goodness. One’s trusting another requires one to see the other as good to the degree that the other is trusted. In the theistic traditions, trust in God is or should be absolute, and God’s goodness is accordingly believed to be absolute or perfect. This is why when a religious believer in God begins to doubt God’s goodness, we see this as a crisis of faith. Another requirement of how God is conceived, created by the faith relationship, is a belief in God’s power. One’s trust in another requires that one believes that the other has the power to do what she is trusted to do (as in the Stranger scenario). In the theistic traditions we find an internally related belief in God’s power, even God’s omnipotence. Perhaps other beliefs are required. Certainly many theistic believers believe that God in some way has given humanity commandments to follow, and this belief about God, or this conception of God, may be required by the religious effort to be obedient to God. But this conceptual requirement is not a requirement of the faith relationship as a relationship of trust. Various beliefs about God may be required by various elements of religious practice, but not by the faith relationship itself. Still, other beliefs may be required by the faith relationship. Even so, the relationship approach maintains, it would remain that the faith relationship to God allows a range of different and even incompatible conceptions of God, such as the traditional Judaic, Christian, and Islamic conceptions noted previously.

Here, then, as the relationship approach sees it, is the significance of the faith relationship to God for different theistic religions being right. In the light of the identified conceptual features of faith in, whether we are religious or not, and whatever religion we happen to belong to, we can and should acknowledge that (if there is a God to be related to) believers in the various theistic religions, despite their different conceptions of God, can all have the same right relationship to God by having a faith relationship to God and trusting in God. And we can and should allow that these different theistic religious traditions can all be right by virtue of allowing and encouraging the faith relationship to God. So far, though, we have seen only half of the relationships approach to the issue of religious plurality. The other half of the relationships approach makes use of the idea of abiding relationships to God or religious reality. What does the relationships approach mean by an “abiding relationship”? In the New Testament, in his first letter John says that “he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.”26 Through abiding in love of others, through dwelling in love and being loving, John is saying, one abides in or dwells with God. Through loving others one enters into a kind of relationship to God, an abiding relationship, one not defined by faith in God but by living a life of love. In the Jewish Bible, the Tanakh, in the Book of Micah, we are told that what God requires of us is “to do justice and to love goodness and to walk modestly with your God.”27 Here the image is not dwelling with God but walking with God, which again is done by a kind of doing, as opposed to having faith in God. In his first letter to the Corinthians Paul speaks of himself as an “imitator of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1). Here the informing idea is imitation of the ideal embodied in the life of Jesus. The relationships approach, taking its lead from the first letter of John, calls such relationships collectively “abiding relationships.” What is significant about abiding relationships is that individuals enter them through what they do, not through their faith. One enters an abiding relationship through loving others, through walking modestly with God and following his way and his law, or through imitating the life of Jesus. One does not enter an abiding relationship through belief or faith. Could one individual be in a faith relationship through having faith in God and be in an abiding relationship to God through what she does? Yes. This is not ruled out, and no doubt it is the expectation of the biblical writers quoted here. However—and this is an important point for the relationships approach—one could be in an abiding relationship without being in a faith relationship. Following John, one could be in an abiding relationship to God (abiding in God) through one’s love of others without being in a faith relationship to God (assuming, again, that there is a God to whom one can be related). A faith relationship is a relationship defined by faith in and, usually if not always, by faith in God. Typically, faith in God is explicit faith in God (as opposed to the “implicit belief” discussed in Chapter 11), and those with faith in God have a strong sense of commitment. Typically, those in a faith relationship are very much aware of their faith and have a strong

sense of the relationship to God defined by that faith. With abiding relationships, it is different. The individual may be in an abiding relationship without a sense of being related to religious reality. This is because an abiding relationship is a relationship to religious reality that is entered by an individual through practice, and that practice may not require any thought of God or of religious reality. In this way, for the relationships approach, an abiding relationship to God can be entered by a person through her living a life of love toward others even though she has no thought of God. Abiding relationships are not limited to Judaism and Christianity. Nor are they limited to theistic traditions. Abiding relationships are identifiable in non-theistic traditions in nontheistic terms. As one may be in such a relationship to God through the imitation of Christ from a Christian perspective, so one might be in such a relationship to the Buddha (or to the eternal Buddha-nature, the Dharmakaya) through an imitation of the Buddha from a Buddhist perspective. Although this kind of relationship is called “abiding relationship” after the quoted passage in John’s first letter, it could also be called “praxis relationship” or “relationship-entered-through-doing.” The advantage of abiding relationship is that it is framed with religious language. Its disadvantage—given that the relationships approach wants a category that will apply to various religious traditions—is that it is framed with theistic, and specifically Christian, language. Whatever term we use to designate what we are calling “abiding relationships,” they are entered by individuals through their practice. What kinds of practice might signal an abiding relationship for the relationships approach? Examples of such practice recognized in Christianity and Judaism identified previously are love of others; walking modestly (without self-aggrandizement) with God by observing the requirements of justice and goodness and by following God’s law in one’s life; and striving to follow the ideal embodied in the life of Jesus. By extension another mode of practice that could define another abiding relationship is following the ideal embodied in the life of the Buddha. Are there other kinds or modes of practice that might define other abiding relationships? Although religious writers have not addressed this question directly, several have in effect pointed to such modes of practice. Yves Congar, from within the Christian tradition, suggests that individuals can “meet the hidden God” through service to such “transcendent absolutes” as Peace, Justice, Brotherhood, and Humanity, which are forms of commitment to our neighbor.28 Leo Trepp, from within the Jewish tradition, cites the Talmudic saying “All the righteous of the nations of the world have a share in the world to come,” and goes on to suggest that there may be righteous persons in other religions besides Judaism, who are saved by their ethical action.29 Mohammad Talbi, from within the Islamic tradition, points out that, although traditionally in Islamic thought the “People of the Book” have been regarded as Jews and Christians, according to the Qur’an there have been many “messengers” and “messages.” He goes on to raise the possibility that those who serve God and work for the good of the world can be born in any “community.”30

If abiding relationships to God or religious reality are recognized as being possible, then the way is open for those in one religious tradition to see others in other religious traditions as being rightly related to God or religious reality by virtue of practice. Christians can see Buddhists and others in an abiding relationship to God by virtue of their concern for others. Jews can see Christians and Muslims and others in an abiding relationship to God by virtue of their righteousness. Muslims can see Hindus and others in an abiding relationship to God by virtue of their working for the good of the world. Hindus can see Christians and Muslims and others in an abiding relationship to Krishna or Brahman by virtue of their loving practice. And in general those in any religious tradition can see others in other religious traditions as being in an abiding relationship to religious reality (understood in theistic or non-theistic terms) by virtue of their upright lives and concern for others. Let us consider more closely the abiding relationships that a Christian and a Buddhist might be in. A Christian might be in an abiding relationship by virtue of love of others, and a Buddhist might be in an abiding relationship by virtue of compassion for the world. For the Christian the ideal is love of neighbor (agape), and for the Buddhist the ideal is compassion (karuna). Whether the Christian and the Buddhist are in the same abiding relationship depends on whether the practice of agape and karuna are the same, and as was noted in the discussion of the common core of practice approach, there is some question about whether it is. To a great extent the overt and inner practice of the Christian and the Buddhist would be the same, however, and to that extent they would be in the same abiding relationship. But it need not be decided to what extent their practice is the same to judge that each is in some abiding relationship. Of course, this is not to say that the religiousness of either the Christian or the Buddhist consists solely in being in an abiding relationship. Each in her or his religion is surrounded by different traditions, rituals, styles of contemplation, and more, which, from the relationships perspective, make up the individual’s full relationship to religious reality, shaped and provided by his or her religious tradition. Furthermore, the Christian has explicit faith in God, whereas the Buddhist does not, and the Buddhist seeks Nirvana, whereas the Christian does not. Nevertheless, despite these not unimportant differences, each may be in an abiding relationship— even the same abiding relationship—to religious reality. It is true, the relationships approach must concede, that the Christian and other theists will call religious reality “God” and regard it as personal, whereas the Buddhist will call religious reality “Dharamkaya” (or, alternatively, “sunyata” or “Emptiness”) and regard it as nonpersonal. Thus for Jews, Christians, and Muslims abiding relationships will be to God, whereas for Buddhists and nondualistic Hindus, abiding relationships will be to a nonpersonal Absolute. For the relationships approach, this difference complicates how abiding relationships will be described, but it does not imply that there is no abiding relationship to be described. Imagine two saintly persons, one a Christian and one a Buddhist. Each lives a life of self-

sacrifice. The one lives a life of selfless love for others; the other lives a selfless life of compassion for all the world. A Christian viewer who recognizes the saintliness of each would describe both as being in an abiding relationship to God, whereas a Buddhist viewer who recognizes the saintliness of each would describe each as being in an abiding relationship to Dharmakaya. The difference between the two descriptions does not stem from any difference over the existence of the abiding relationships or the practice that defines each relationship. The difference stems from the different ways that religious reality is thought of. The viewers agree that both the saintly Christian and the saintly Buddhist are in an abiding relationship to religious reality, but they disagree on the correct understanding of the nature of religious reality. The conclusion of the relationships approach is that abiding relationships (or many of them) can be described in Christian or Buddhist terms, or in terms central to other religious traditions, and that abiding relationships in general do not presuppose a religion-specific conception of religious reality. Recall that the discussion of the indeterminacy approach draws upon Shivesh Thakur’s comments on the law of excluded middle. Thakur also poses a dilemma for committed religious believers who would recognize the value of religions other than their own: Either one can be strongly committed to one’s religion and not grant value to other religions, or one can grant value to other religions and in doing so lessen the commitment to one’s own. If Thakur’s dilemma is right, personal religious commitment is inversely related to the ability to recognize value in a plurality of religions and strong commitment to one’s own religion rules out a genuine respect for other religions. Thakur suggests that there are only two ways out of this dilemma: (1) One allows that although only one religion can be true, it could be that a religion other than one’s own will turn out to be the true one; or (2) One concedes that “the truth is one, but the sages call it by many a name . . . Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, etc.”31 Thakur’s second way is in accord with the moral of Tolstoy’s The Coffee-House of Surat used in our discussion of the different aspects approach: There is no absolute religious perspective; there are only the perspectives of Hinduism, Judaism, Catholicism, Protestantism, Islam, and other religions, from which one sees only one aspect of God or religious reality. However, the relationships approach can propose another way out. Let the essential commitment to one’s own religion be not understood as commitment to the truth of one’s religion’s key doctrines or truth-beliefs (though such a commitment may be present), but be understood as commitment in a relationship to religious reality within one’s own religious tradition, and let respect for other religions and their value be understood as recognizing that in other religions too there can be faith or abiding relationships to religious reality. For the relationships approach, moreover, the faith relationships and the abiding relationships found in different traditions are complete as they are. Neither the faith relationship of the Muslim nor that of the Christian needs to be added to in order to be a full faith relationship. Neither the abiding relationship of the Jew nor that of the Buddhist needs to

be added to in order to be a full abiding relationship. In this respect, the relationships approach contrasts with the inclusivism discussed in Chapter 11, for which “anonymous Christians” are not complete as they are. The relationships approach, as was indicated in connection with how it understands faith relationships, does not deny that religions may have truth-beliefs and that sometimes the truth-beliefs of one religion may be incompatible with those of another religion. Moreover, for the relationships approach, it may be that some religious truth-beliefs are false and that some must be false because some are incompatible. However, for the relationships approach, there can be right relationships to religious reality (faith or abiding) when there are wrong beliefs. It would be sympathetic to the moral of another short story by Leo Tolstoy, The Three Hermits, in which the three saintly hermits pray with the words “You are three, we are three, have mercy upon us,” in innocent ignorance of the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity. Although the relationships approach does not deny that there are religious truth-claims and truth-beliefs that can be important for ritual, practice, and forms of religious commitment, it regards them as mostly irrelevant to the existence of those right relationships to God or religious reality by virtue of which all the major religions of the world can be right. John Hick says at one point that “the function of a religion is to bring us to a right relationship with the ultimate divine reality.”32 The relationships approach can agree and then go on to identify a range of right faith relationships and a range of right abiding relationships in the plurality of religions. Its claim is that the different major traditions can all be right because they all open the way for their followers to be in a right relationship to religious reality.

Critical Examination of the Relationships Approach Some might challenge the idea that believers in different traditions may all have faith in the same God despite different and incompatible conceptions of God. Those who pose the “many gods” problem for Pascal might think this. Some might say that there is the God of Judaism, the Christian God, and the God of Islam, and they are all different. Certainly there are different conceptions of God in these traditions, and different beliefs about God, but the question is this: When believers in different traditions with different conceptions of God have faith in God, do they have faith in the one God differently conceived or in different Gods? Another problem for the relationships approach has to do with its extension to non-theistic religions. There are no faith relationships in non-theistic religions (or, allowing that there may be a faith relationship to a bodhisattva, no central faith relationships), as noted previously. Moreover, it may be that the very idea of a relationship to religious reality (whether a faith relationship or an abiding relationship) favors and is applicable only to theistic religions. For traditional Buddhists, attaining Nirvana or enlightenment is not coming into a relationship

with anything, it might be maintained. Whether we may appropriately speak of Buddhists and others being in a Dharmakaya relationship, finally, is up to Buddhists to decide. A third problem has to do with the self-understanding of religious believers and is like a problem that faces the different aspects approach and Hick’s pluralism. Although the relationships approach may be right that neither faith nor abiding relationships are negated by the different and even conflicting distinctive beliefs of religious traditions, those who take the relationships approach do not see what makes a religion right as residing in its distinctive beliefs. Its adherents do not deny that some religious beliefs may be true and some may be false. They argue that differences over religious belief are not relevant to the existence of faith and abiding relationships recognizable across traditions, and it is these shared relationships that make all the major religions of the world right. In this way, this approach does not accommodate the self-understanding of those believers in different traditions who see the rightness of their religious tradition in terms of the truth of the central and distinctive beliefs of their tradition.

Summing Up and Going Further We sometimes hear it said that the different religions are like different paths up a mountain. These different paths start at different sides of the mountain, but they all lead up the mountain to its peak. As they ascend toward the peak they draw closer together until finally, at the peak, they converge. Not all the ways of understanding religious plurality would accept the applicability of this proposed analogy to the various world religions. However, several of the views and approaches we have discussed in this chapter and Chapter 11 would. The questions that this analogy leaves us with are these: What is at the “peak”? And in what ways do the paths “draw closer together” and “converge”?

Questions for Chapter 12 Factual Questions 1. What is the difference between the aspects approach and John Hick’s pluralism? 2. There are two main forms of the common core approach. How are they different? 3. John Whittaker calls certain religious beliefs “principles.” What does Whittaker mean by this term, and what would be an example of a “principle” in his sense? 4. What two kinds of religious relationships are important for the relationships approach?

Interpretive and Evaluative Questions 1. What do you see as the main “lesson” of Tolstoy’s The Coffee-House of Surat? 2. Some believe that at the most fundamental level all the major religions teach the same moral practice. Do you agree or disagree? Why? 3. Say that John Whittaker is right and “Jesus is Lord” and “The Buddha attained Nirvana” are neither compatible nor incompatible. What does this mean for our understanding of how religions, or Christianity and Buddhism, are related to each other? 4. Say that a Muslim regarded other persons in other religions as being in an abiding relationship to Allah. Would she then have to see these others as “anonymous Muslims” or not?

Notes 1. John Hick, A Christian Theology of Religions (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1995), pp. 18–19. 2. Leo Tolstoy’s The Coffee-House of Surat is in Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 12. 3. John Hick, God and the Universe of Faiths (London and Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1973), p. 139. 4. John Hick, God Has Many Names (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1980), pp. 83–84. 5. John Hick, An Interpretation of Religion (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1989), p. 379; and John Hick, A

Christian Theology of Religions (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1995), p. 51. 6. Ninian Smart, “Truth and Religion” in Truth and Dialogue, ed. John Hick (London: Sheldon Press, 1974), p. 49. Selections from “Truth and Religion” are in Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 12. 7. Wilfred Cantwell Smith, “A Human View of Truth” in Truth and Dialogue, pp. 20 ff. and p. 30. 8. Hick, An Interpretation of Religion, Chapter 18, Sec. 1, “The Ideal of Generous Goodwill, Love, Compassion.” In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 8. Selections from the Bhagavad-Gita and from other sacred texts cited by Hick are in Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 1. See also Hick’s “Religious Pluralism and Salvation,” pp. 367–68. In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 11. 9. Smart, “Truth and Religion,” p. 56. Selections are in Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 12. 10. John H. Whittaker, Matters of Faith and Matters of Principle (San Antonio, TX: Trinity University Press, 1981) p. 147 of Chapter 6 “The Exclusiveness of Religious Conviction.” Selections from Chapter 6 are in Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 12. The story comes from the early biography of Spinoza by Johannes Colerus. 11. Whittaker, Matters of Faith and Matters of Principle, p. 150 of Chapter 6, “The Exclusiveness of Religious Conviction.” Selections from Chapter 6 are in Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 12. 12. Whittaker, Matters of Faith and Matters of Principle, p. 151 of Chapter 6, “The Exclusiveness of Religious Conviction.” Selections from Chapter 6 are in Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 12. Whittaker cites Kierkegaard’s Journals. In the Epilogue of Fear and Trembling, Kierkegaard regards faith as being like love in that both are “passions” that involve all of a person’s life, although, for Kierkegaard, faith is the highest passion in a person. 13. Whittaker, Matters of Faith and Matters of Principle, pp. 156–57 in Chapter 6, “The Exclusiveness of Religious Conviction.” Selections from Chapter 6 are in Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 12. 14. Whittaker, Matters of Faith and Matters of Principle, p. 160 of Chapter 6 “The Exclusiveness of Religious Conviction “(Whittaker’s emphasis). Selections from Chapter 6 are in Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 12. 15. Whittaker, Matters of Faith and Matters of Principle, pp. 36 and 161–62 of Chapter 6, “The Exclusiveness of Religious Conviction.” Selections from Chapter 6 are in Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 12. 16. Whittaker, Matters of Faith and Matters of Principle, pp. 150 and 162–63 of Chapter 6, “The Exclusiveness of Religious Conviction.” Selections from Chapter 6 are in Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 12. 17. Whittaker, Matters of Faith and Matters of Principle, p. 163 of Chapter 6, “The Exclusiveness of Religious Conviction.” Selections from Chapter 6 are in Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 12. 18. Whittaker, Matters of Faith and Matters of Principle, pp. 163–64 of Chapter 6, “The Exclusiveness of Religious Conviction.” Selections from Chapter 6 are in Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 12. 19. Whittaker, Matters of Faith and Matters of Principle, p. 165 of Chapter 6, “The Exclusiveness of Religious Conviction.”

Selections from Chapter 6 are in Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 12. 20. Dionysius, The Mystical Theology, Chapter 5. Chapter 5 of The Mystical Theology is in Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 9. 21. Shivesh Thakur, “To What God . . .?” in The Experience of Religious Diversity, edited by John Hick and Hasan Askari (Aldershot, England and Brookfield, VT: Gower, 1985), pp. 122–24. In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 12. 22. J. L. Austin, “Truth,” in Philosophical Papers, ed. J.O. Urmson and G. J. Warnock (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1961), pp. 97– 98. 23. Whittaker, Matters of Faith and Matters of Principle, p. 165 of Chapter 6, “The Exclusiveness of Religious Conviction.” Selections from Chapter 6 are in Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 12. 24. Philip L. Quinn and Kevin Meeker, Introduction, The Philosophical Challenge of Religious Diversity, edited by Philip L. Quinn and Kevin Meeker (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), p. 2. They raise these questions as they address Christians specifically. 25. Faith relationships and abiding relationships are discussed in J. Kellenberger, God-Relationships With and Without God (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1989), pp. 71–93 and 133–47. 26. 1 John 4:16. See also 1 John 2:6, which is in Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 1. 27. Tanakh, Micah 6:8. In Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 1. 28. Yves Congar, The Wide World, My Parish, trans. Donald Attwater (London: Longman & Todd; Baltimore: Helicon Press, 1961), pp. 122 and 124–25. 29. The Talmudic passage is from Tosefta Sandhedrin, 13.21. Cited by Leo Trepp in “Judaism and the Religions of the World,” in The Experience of Religious Diversity, p. 34. 30. Mohammad Talbi, “A Community of Communities: The Right to be Different and the Ways of Harmony” in The Experience of Religious Diversity, pp. 80–84. 31. Thakur “To What God . . .?” pp. 121 and 130. Selections are in Introduction to Philosophy of Religion: Readings, Chapter 12. 32. Hick, God and the Universe of Faiths, p. 147.

Glossary A agape: the form of love associated with Christianity. agnostic, agnosticism: agnosticism is the position of those who say that human beings do not, or cannot, know whether there is a God. animism: the belief that natural objects, like trees and mountains, are animated by individual spirits. apostle: in the Christian tradition those who saw the risen Christ. a priori: before experience; ideas or propositions that are true a priori can be known to be true before our experience of the world. argument: a piece of reasoning designed to offer support for a claim or proposition on the basis of other propositions. argument by analogy: an argument form used when one tries to show that two things are probably alike in a certain respect because they are alike in other respects. atheist, atheism: the belief that God does not exist. avatar: in Hinduism, an incarnation of a god.

B baptized, baptism: a Christian rite of initiation representing a spiritual cleansing. Bhagavad Gita: a part of the Mahabhrarata in which Lord Krishna gives spiritual advice to Arjuna. bodhisattva: a potential Buddha near Buddhahood; in the Mahayana tradition, bodhisattvas

are savior figures who hold back from final enlightenment out of compassion for others. Buddha: one who has attained enlightenment and release from the suffering of the world.

C canon, canonical: texts recognized by a religion as having special religious authority. caste system: a hierarchical system of castes or social groups, such as priests, warriors, and merchants. Common Era: The Common Era corresponds to the Christian Era. C.E. stands for Common Era, and B.C.E. stands for before the Common Era. conclusion: the proposition in an argument that is supposed to be established as true or supported. contradiction: a compound idea or proposition with parts such that when one is true, the other must be false, and vice versa, so that the idea or proposition logically cannot be true as a whole; for example, it is a contradiction to say that God is the greatest conceivable being and we can conceive of a greater being. creed, creedal: a creed is a statement of orthodox beliefs accepted by a religious tradition.

D deductive argument: an argument that demonstrates or shows conclusively that its conclusion is true, if it is a good argument. defense: an effort to show that some reason could be God’s reason for evil. dharma: teaching, duty. Dharmakaya: the transcendent or primordial Buddha-nature. doxastic practice: a practice or procedure by which beliefs are formed.

E ecumenical: working toward the unity of Christian churches and better interfaith understanding. empirical: by observation using our five senses; empirical knowledge is gained through our observation or sense experience. epistemic: relating to belief. epistemically proper: a blanket term that is applied to acceptable beliefs on various grounds of acceptability, these different grounds being a matter of contention. epistemic duty: an obligation relating to belief, such as the obligation to hold a belief only under certain conditions. epistemic right: a right relating to belief, specifically the right to hold a belief. eschaton: for individuals, life after death. Eucharist: the rite or sacrament of Holy Communion in the Christian tradition, commemorating the Last Supper.

G Gemara: addition or completion: the rabbis’ discussion of the Mishnah; a part of the Talmud.

H hadith: the words and deeds of the Prophet Muhammad transmitted on his authority. hajj: the pilgrimage to Mecca, required of each Muslim. halakhah: literally “walk”; the body of decisions in the Jewish tradition about how to follow God’s law.

Hegira: the withdrawal of the Prophet Muhammad from Mecca to Medina in 622. henotheism: devotion to one God while accepting the existence of other gods; in the form found in Hinduism, the worship of the one God through the worship of any of several gods. heresy: a belief that is not orthodox. hypothesis: a hunch or proposed belief that is investigated so that it may be confirmed or disconfirmed.

I immanence, immanent: immanence contrasts with transcendence; an immanent God is conceived as existing in the world. incompatible, incompatibility: two beliefs (or claims or propositions) are incompatible when not both can be true, so that if one is true the other must be false. inductive argument: an argument that establishes that its conclusion is probably true, if it is a good argument. ineffable: something that is beyond our concepts and cannot be expressed in language. intervention miracle: an act of God by which God intervenes in the natural order.

J jihad: in Islam, struggle or effort.

K Ka’ba: a sacred cubical structure in Mecca that has great religious significance for Islam. Kabbalah: literally tradition; specifically the esoteric tradition of Jewish mysticism.

karma, karmic rebirth: action as performed by human beings, which determines their rebirth in the karmic cycle of rebirth, as in Hindu belief. karuna: the form of compassion, or feeling for others, associated with Buddhism.

L logical impossibility and logical possibility: an event or thing is logically impossible when logically it cannot occur or exist because its description contains an internal contradiction, so that its description logically must be false and inapplicable to any event; an event or thing is logically possible when its description is free of any such internal contradiction.

M mantra: a sacred formula. Messiah: the Anointed One; in the Jewish tradition the Messiah will bring rescue and return to the Children of Israel, and in the Christian tradition Jesus Christ is the Messiah or Christ and the Savior of all humankind. metaphysics, metaphysical: metaphysics is the area of philosophy that is concerned with the nature of ultimate reality. miracle: an event, often unlikely, always wonderful in some way, that was caused by God. Mishnah: review or study; the teachings of the rabbis in an edited and written form; a part of the Talmud. Mitzvah: commandment of God implying a duty to God or to people. monotheism: belief in one God. moksha: in the Hindu tradition the attainment of release through realization and overcoming the illusion of diversity. moral evil: those morally bad or evil things that human beings do to one another.

mosque: a place of worship in the Islamic tradition. mysticism: a form of religious expression and sensibility that stresses feeling and experience.

N natural evil: natural events, like hurricanes, lightning fires, and diseases, which typically cause great suffering. natural property: a property or characteristic of something that in principle can be detected by scientific observation, with or without the use of special instruments. natural reason: the capacity to reason that human beings naturally have. New Testament: the New Testament and the Old Testament constitute the Christian Bible; the New Testament contains the four Gospels and epistles or letters by Paul and others. Nirvana: the “blowing out” off the flame of passion and craving and the attainment of Buddhahood. nondualism: the teaching that all is one and there is no ultimate distinction between this and that, as in Shankara’s advaita teaching. non-theistic religions: religions whose followers do not believe in God and think of the highest religious reality in some other way.

O orthodox: officially sanctioned by a religion, proper; applied primarily to belief and doctrine.

P pantheon: the collection of all the gods and goddesses in a polytheistic tradition. physically impossible: an event is physically impossible when it goes counter to the natural

order and to natural laws; a physically impossible event can still be logically possible. polytheism: the belief in several gods. premises: those propositions in an argument that are offered in support of the proposition that is to be established as true or supported. proposition: anything we can say or think that is either true or false (propositions make up arguments but play other roles as well).

Q Qur’an: the sacred book of Islam, revealed to the Prophet Muhammad; also Koran.

R rabbi: teacher of the Jewish law; the spiritual head of a congregation in a synagogue. Ramadan: Islam’s sacred month of fasting. reductio ad absurdum reasoning: a method of reasoning that is used when we try to show that a proposition is true by first tentatively assuming the truth of the opposite (or denial) of what we want to prove and then deducing a contradiction or absurdity from that assumption (along with other accepted propositions), thus allowing us to conclude that what we wanted to prove is true. reductionism: the translation of statements about one kind of thing into statements about another kind of thing that is less problematical, as when statements about possession by demons are reduced to statements about neural disorders. reincarnation: the rebirth of a person or soul in another body, as in the karmic cycle of rebirth.

S

Sangha: the Buddhist monastic order. satori: in Zen Buddhism the direct experience of awakening or enlightenment. scripture, scriptural: texts recognized by a religion as having special religious authority. shahada: “There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his Prophet,” the phrase with which Muslims confess their faith. sharia: Islamic religious law. Shi’a: the form or party of Islam consisting of those Muslims who believe that Ali was the first true Caliph. shirk: in Islam, the sin of “associating” God with anything earthly. sound argument: a valid argument with all true premises; sound arguments logically prove the truth of their conclusions. Sunnah: the way the Prophet Muhammad lived his life. Sunnis: those who belong to the major form or party of Islam. synagogue: a gathering place for worship in the Jewish tradition.

T Talmud: compendium of learning, consisting of rabbis’ discussions and interpretations of the Torah in the Mishnah and the Gemara. Tanakh: the Jewish Bible, consisting of Torah (The Five Books of Moses), Nevi’im (The Prophets), and Kethuvim (The Writings); it corresponds to what Christians call the Old Testament. Tawhid: in Islam, the divine unity or oneness of God. theism: the belief in a god or gods, or, especially in reference to Judaism, Christianity or Islam, belief in one God. theodicy: an effort to explain evil and to vindicate or justify God.

theology: the study of God and God’s relation to humanity and the universe, or for some religions the study of the gods, and their relation to humanity and the universe. Torah: literally “teaching”; the Five Books of Moses, the first five books of the Jewish and Christian Bibles; in a wider meaning Torah can refer to the Tanakh or the spiritual tradition of Judaism. transcendence, transcendent: the transcendent is beyond our everyday world of experience; a transcendent God is conceived as existing beyond our everyday world of experience, as is a transcendent Buddha-nature; a transcendent experience is one that is different from or beyond everyday experience.

U universalism: the theological view that ultimately all will be saved and none will be damned.

V valid argument: a deductive argument is valid when, if all the premises are true the conclusion must be true; the truth of the premises necessitates the truth of the conclusion.

W world religion: a religion with millions of followers on several if not all the inhabited continents of the world.

Z Zion: the City of David ( Jerusalem) or the hill in Jerusalem on which the Temple was built; Zion is a symbol for the center of Jewish life.

Index Adams, Robert Merrihew, 150–52 abiding relationships, 229, 231–36 advaita, 9, 218, 219 anonymous Christian, 201, 203, 235 agape (love), 147, 206, 222, 233–34 agnosticism,1, 30, 58, 113 Alston, William, 86–91, 105, 113, 114, 189, 199 animism, 30, 225 St. Anselm, 23, 32, 34–37, 56, 59–60, 72, 164, 204 apostle, 21 a priori, 34–35 St. Thomas Aquinas, 27, 33, 40–43, 56, 59–61, 68, 72, 152–54, 166–67, 200, 226 argument (defined ), 2, 33 argument by analogy, 47 argument evaluation, 33–34 Arjuna, 8 articles of faith, 59–60 atheism, 1, 30, 182 St. Augustine, 72, 121, 122 Austin, J. L., 226 Lord Avalokiteshvara (or Avalokita), 12, 231 avatar, 8 Averroes (Ibn Rushd), 27, 72 Avicenna (Ibn Sina), 27, 72 Bahai, 30 baptism, 19, 21 belief in God, 61–63 See also faith in God belief that God exists, 61–63 Bentham, Jeremy, 148 best of all possible worlds theodicy, 122–23 Bhagavad Gita, 8, 9, 222 Bible, 3, 16, 112 bodhisattva, 12, 231 St. Bonaventura, 103, 107

Boethius, 117 Buber, Martin, 63–65, 104 Buddhas, 12 See also Celestial Buddhas and Gautama Bhddha Buddhism, 10–14, 31, 112, 120, 146, 155, 202, 205 219, 220 Calvin, John, 62–63, 83, 103, 104, 107, 114, 122, 198 canon, canonical, 8, 15 caste system, 9 Celestial Buddhas, 12 Christianity, 2, 4, 19–20, 31, 72, 112, 141, 146, 172, 185, 205, 219, 222, 225, 232–33, 235 Christian mystical practice (CMP), 87–90 Clifford, W. K., 58, 68, 78–79, 81, 113 cognitio (knowledge), 60 Coleridge, Samuel, 62 common core approach, 218–22 Congar, Yves, 233 contingency miracles, 136–37 Copleston, F. C., 43–46, 156 Cosmological Argument, 33, 40–46, 50–51, 180 creeds, 22, 186 Cupitt, Don, 177–82, 187–88, 220 deductive argument, 33 defense, 121 Design Argument, 33 See also Teleological Argument devout skeptic, 59 Dharma, 7, 11, 154 Dharmakaya, 12, 205, 234 different aspects approach, 215–17 discoveries, 99–101 Dionysius, 164, 226 Divine Command Morality, 148–52 Dostoyevsky, Fyodor, 118, 127–28 doxastic practice, 86–89 See also Christian mystical practice (CMP), mystical practice (MP), and sense perceptual practice (SP) Eckhart, Meister, 164 ecumenical, 200 empirical, 35, 162 epistemic duty, 57, 76, 78–79 epistemic propriety, 81 epistemic right, 75, 78–79

eschaton, 207 Eucharist, 20 Euthyphro, 150 evidentialism, 80–81 exclusivism, 194–99, 209–10, 215 factual meaning, 159–163 faith and reason, 72–73, 159 faith in God, 23–31, 62, 64–65, 69, 229 faith, models of, 68–69 faith relationships, 14, 229–31, 232, 235–36 Farmer, H. H., 139, 140 Five Pillars of Islam, 28–29 Five Precepts of Buddhism, 146 Flew, Antony, 160–63 Four Noble Truths, 11 free will defense, 121 free will theodicy, 121–22 Freud, Sigmund, 107–109, 114 Gandhi, Mahatma, 143, 203, 206 Gautama Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama), 4, 10, 11, 12, 156, 208, 220, 225, 227, 233 Gaunilo, 37–38 Gemara, 15 gender issue, 3, 167–72 genuine option, 76, 78 al-Ghazali, Abu Hamid, 28, 112 Golden Rule, 146, 222 hadith, 26, 146 hajj, 29 halakhah, 16, 149 Hegira, 26 henotheism, 9, 202 heresy, 22 Hick, John, 146–47, 182–85, 199, 203–209, 216–17, 219, 224–25, 235 Hinduism, 4, 6–10, 32, 112, 120, 202, 205, 219, 222, 235 Holland, R. F., 134–37 Hume, David, 48–50, 56, 58, 125, 132–35, 160, 194, 221, 225 Huxley, T. H., 30, 58 hypothesis, 100, 111, 162, 206–207

immanence, 171 inclusivism, 199–203, 209–210, 215 indeterminacy approach, 223–28 inductive argument, 34 ineffability, 164, 204, 226 intervention miracles, 131–36, 178, 194 Ireanaean theodicy, 123–24 Islam, 2, 24–29, 31, 72, 127, 172, 202, 205, 219, 235 Jataka tales, 11 James, William, 75–80, 91, 113 Jesus, 19–20, 22, 156, 218, 225, 227, 233 jihad, 28 Job, 68, 124–25, 128 Pope John XXIII, 200 Pope John-Paul II, 195, 199 Jones, James, 206, 217 Judaism, 2, 4, 14–19, 24, 31, 72, 141, 146, 172, 205, 220, 222, 232–33 Julian of Norwich, 169–70, 206 Ka’ba, 25, 28 Kabbalah, 7, 164 Kali, 9, 218 Kierkegaard, Søren, 64–65, 66–67, 68, 184, 187–88, 221, 223, 229 King, Martin Luther, Jr., 143 Kant, Immanuel, 1, 38–40, 52, 148, 154, 204 karma, 8, 120 karmic rebirth, 8, 120 karuna (compassion), 13, 147, 206, 222, 233–34 Krishna, 8, 9, 233 Lakota religion, 30 Leibniz, G. W., 122 Lewis, H. D., 135, 139, 140 Luther, Martin, 23 Mahabhrarata, 7, 8, 222 Maimonides, Moses, 16, 33, 72, 149 Malcolm, Norman, 40, 51, 61–63, 65, 98 mantra, 13 many-gods objection, 74–75 McFague, Sallie, 168, 170–71

McKinnon, Alastair, 134–35 Messiah, 18, 19–20 metaphor, 163–67 metaphysical beliefs, 208 miracles, 2–3, 131 See also contingency miracles, intervention miracles and natural miracles Mishnah, 15 Mitchell, Basil, 144–45, 147 Mitzvah, 15–19 moksha, 8 monotheism, 4 Moral Argument, 52, 180 moral evil, 2, 120–21 morality independent of religion, 147–48 Moses, 14–15, 72 mosque, 26 Muhammad, 24–27, 219 Mu’tazilites, 149 mutual-opposition view, 193–94 mystical practice (MP), 86 mysticism, 17, 164 mythological truth, 209, 219–20 natural evil, 2, 120–21 naturalism, 207 natural law (law of nature) 132–135, 141 natural law morality, 152–55 natural miracles, 137 natural reason, 32, 72–73 Nazism, 206, 217 New Testament, 19, 152, 166, 232 Nietzsche, Friedrich, 107–109, 114 Nirvana, 11, 13, 205, 208, 231, 236 Nishitani, Keiji, 203 Noble Eightfold Path, 11, 219 noetic structure, 82, 104 nondualism, 9, 205, 218, 226 non-realism, 177–82 non-theism, 4, 205, 209, 220, 228, 232, 236 Ontological Argument, 32, 34–40, 50–52, 180, 204

orthodoxy, 22 Paley, William, 46–50, 72 pantheon, 10, 168 parable of the blind men, 215 parable of the idol-worshipper, 64, 74, 221, 229–30 Pascal, Blaise, 73–75, 78, 80, 91, 113–114 Pascal’s wager, 73–74 St. Paul, 21, 103, 106–107, 152 Penn, Willaim, 203 Phillips, D. Z., 144–45, 147, 179, 187 Philo of Alexandria (Philo Judaeus), 16, 72, 180 Plantinga, Alvin, 51–52, 60–61, 81–85, 91, 104, 114, 189, 196–99, 201–202, 210 pluralism, 203–10, 215 polytheism, 4, 219 preambles to faith, 59–60 Price, H. H., 62 practical problem of evil, 117, 126–28 properly basic belief, 82–83 prudential reason, 74 Qur’an, 25, 26, 218, 219, 233 rabbi, 15, 20 Rahner, Karl, 200–203, 220 Ramadan, 29 Real-in-itself (Real an sich), 204–205, 210, 217 realism, 2–4, 177, 182–84 realization-discovery, 99–101, 189 reductio ad absurdum reasoning, 36 reductionism, 181 reincarnation, 8, 208 relationships approach, 228–36 relationships morality, 155–56 reliabilism, 88, 91, 113, 114 religious experience, 52–53, 87, 97–98 religious plurality, 4, 90, 192–3, 215, 228–29 religious problem of evil, 2, 4, 117–119 religious sensibilities, 5, 57, 66, 67, 101–105, 111, 114, 149, 164–65, 184 Ruether, Rosemary, 170 Russell, Bertrand, 44–46, 156

sangha, 11 satori, 12 scientia (scientific knowledge), 60 scripture, scriptural, 8, 15 secular humanism, 30 sense perceptual practice (SP),86,88,89 shahada, 24, 28, 196 sharia, 27 Shankara, 9 Shi’a, 28 Shinto, 30 shirk, 28, 164 Shiva, 9 Sikhism, 29, 172 Smart, Ninian, 220, 222, 227–28 Smith, Wilfred Cantwell, 221 Socrates, 150 Spinoza, Baruch, 223 Sufism, 28 Sunnah, 26 Sunnis, 28 Sunyata (emptiness), 13, 234 Swinburne, Richard, 135 synagogue, 15 synthesis of beliefs, 220 Talbi, Mohammad, 233 Talmud, 15, 16, 154, 233 Tanakh, 14, 232 Taoism, 29 tawhid, 28 Teleological Argument, 33, 46–50, 52, 180 Ten Commandments, 145–46 Tennyson, Alfred, 59 Mother Teresa, 185, 187, 206 St. Teresa of Avila, 88–89, 98 Thakur, Shivesh, 226–27, 234–35 theism, 4, 205, 220, 231, 236 theodicy, 121

theology, 8, 22 Tolstoy, Leo, 216, 220–21, 235 Torah, 14, 16, 23, 145, 149, 154 transcendence, 4, 171, 176, 185 Trepp, Leo, 233 Trinity, 59, 205, 235 Truth, Sojourner, 104 Unamuno, Miguel de, 65–66, 68 universalism, 184 Upanishads, 7 Vatican II, 200 Vedas, 7, 203 via negativa, 164 Vishnu, 9 Voltaire, 123 Wakan Tanka, 30, 104, 112 Ward, Keith, 209 warrant, 198, 210 Whittaker, John, 223–27 Wicca, 30 William of Ockham, 149 world religions, 6 Zion, 17 Zohar, 17 Zoroastrianism, 29, 120