In the context of "The Problem of Evil" can you help point me to the literature on this sub-category? Lacking this I have dubbed this sub-problem the "God for a day paradox": “If I had only some of the powers of God, I would cure cancer” Am I therefore more merciful than God? Supposedly the most merciful possible Being… Therefore is God’s omni-benevolence (not even that much is needed) itself a contradiction? How can a lesser being even think of a more merciful action (take curing cancer down to a single child; even to just answering a prayer for such a child) than God Himself? It is almost certainly possible to write a computer simulation that would, discover the “cancer mercy” action / rule on its own given an appropriate set of rules guiding “advance being behavior” This outcome would probably be another notch in favor of the Bostrom's “The Universe is a Simulation” argument. Thanks in advance, --JCN

Since you asked for literature on the topic of the problem of evil, let me offer you some sources: God, Freedom and Evil by Alvin Plantinga (focuses on a 'free-will answer' to why evil exists) Evil and the God of Love by John Hick (focuses on a 'moral development' answer to why evil exists) Wandering in Darkness by Eleonore Stump (focuses on a 'superior relationship with God' answer to why evil exists) The Problem of Evil (Marilyn and Robert Adams eds.) an edited collection with many influential essays from many viewpoints on the issue.

The reason that Pascal's Wager doesn't seem convincing to me is that to me it seems that you can't assign a probability to something that doesn't have any empirical evidence. So all gods seems equally improbable. And so I would be equally likely to suffer eternal torture if I chose Islam, Mormonism or nothing. Although on further thought, I don't feel so sure any more, largely because of the same reasoning that lead me to the question I'm about to ask. But, after I read the thought experiment "Roko's Basilisk," it seems to me that you could also make a Pascal's Wager-style proposition without metaphysical claims, one that would involve probabilities. Something along the lines of this: Biologists know a lot about the human body. Those that know a lot about the human body are more likely to have the capabilities to torture me for eternity. Those that are more likely to have the capabilities to torture me for eternity are more likely to torture me for eternity. If I go spend time near biologists it is...

Three quick observations: 1) Even if you can't determine which of the religious options is more likely (or less unlikely) than the others Pascal's Wager would still demonstrate that ANY of the religious options is superior to atheism/agnosticism. If you are on a mountaintop and a deadly storm is coming that will certainly kill you and there are ten paths - only one of which leads to safety, but you don't know which one- it is still more practically rational to take any of the paths instead of staying on the mountain awaiting certain death. 2) Pascal's Wager only works for relatively exclusivist religions. You can safely eliminate something like Hinduism because it doesn't threaten eternal torment, just a less favorable reincarnation. You can also eliminate any sort of universalistic religion, since everyone goes to heaven regardless of belief. 3) I don't know of any major historical religion for which there is absolutely no evidence. Surely, ancient scriptures of any sort serve as at...

Hello philosophers , recently in a debate with Christians , I made a point that if one claims a relationship with a God or being that can't be seen , heard or touched that they are suffering from a delusion; is this an unfair statement and if so why ?

The technical problem with your argument is that it is question begging. You didn't provide any evidence against the religious claim, but instead you simply asserted it was wrong/insane without further argument. In the same way, I have heard some Christians simply assert that unbelief is a result of sin. In both cases no/little evidence is provided for the key premise to the argument. Roughly your argument would run: Immaterial things do not exist Anyone who interacts with something that doesn't exist is deluded Therefore, anyone who claims to interact with God is deluded But, obviously no Christian is going to accept your first critical premise. Nor would the overwhelming number of cross cultural or historic thinkers. Those who would reject the premise assuming immaterial things don't exist not only include religious thinkers, but anyone who believes in an immaterial soul. So to have a remotely convincing argument you need to prove that immaterial things don't exist.

Are there any professional philosophers that find the traditional arguments for God convincing? In my intro class, we basically blitzed all of them (like Aquinas' cosmological one, and the Kalaam one, etc.), and the class consensus was that none of these arguments worked out to guarantee a personal creator god like the one many Christians, Muslims, and Jews believe in or really any deity/supernatural force. But I'm very interested to hear what the pros think about the matter!

I don't think there are many contemporary philosophers who find that traditional completely unrefined, unnuanced versions of the arguments for God's existence 'guarantee the existence of a personal creator God.' But, this should not be too discouraging since there are few historical, non-revised, philosophical arguments that are judged to be so thoroughly convincing that on their own they 'guarantee' their conclusions. Instead, contemporary philosophers usually judge arguments to be plausible or implausible; to provide a lot, some, little, or no evidence for their conclusions. I certainly hope your professor didn't rip the traditional arguments for God's existence out of their historic context and act as if they represented the pinnacle of contemporary religious thought. Take Aquinas's five arguments for example: unless your teacher took time to explain Aristotle's four types of causes and how Aquinas's arguments presuppose something like Aristotelian physics (the height of the science of his day)...

Why don't philosophers clearly define their terms in relation to the "theist/atheist" debate. Surely before we begin a philosophical discussion we should clearly define our terms; but when it comes to the existence of "God"; both theists and atheists just assume that everyone knows what "God" refers to. Once we have established- when the debate takes place in a Christian context- that "God" refers to the mythological creator deity "Yahweh" of the Bible; is it logical for us to even debate his existence? I mean, we don't debate the existence of the creator deities of African mythology (who have similar properties to the Biblical deity). Could this be a large-scale unexamined cultural bias?

Actually, many of the better philosophers take time to define the concept of God they have in mind. For example, in Richard Swinburne's The Existence of God you can find a 12 sentence, page long account of the God he has in mind (I believe it appears on page 7). While I understand that some people think the intrinsic probability of 'Yahweh' existing is rather low, it is a belief that is at least nominally subscribed to by about 2 billion people including some very intelligent thinkers (such as Oxford/Yale/Princeton/Cornell professors). So, I'd suggest that any belief with that kind of status is at least worth arguing about. If there are Oxford professors arguing for the existence of one of the African deities, I think it'd be fun to look at their arguments.

If God exists, and wants to be known, how is it possible that some open-minded people don't believe in God? In my case, if God existed, I would want to know. Is a theist committed to saying that either I don't really want to know of God's existence, or that God doesn't really want me to know?

I suppose there are sophisticated theologies that would take either of the options you suggest. Yet I think a third position is possible. Someone could claim that 'being open-minded' is a necessary but not sufficient condition for discovering God's existence. Perhaps, it requires some more aggressive effort or a step of faith to come to believe in God. There is considerable literature in philosophy of religion circles on 'The Problem of Divine Hiddenness' that asks (from the believer's viewpoint) why the existence of God is not more evident.

Why are there so many atheists in philosophy? Is this evidence that religion does not stand up to philosophical scrutiny?

Charles Taliaferro has a good point, but I feel the need to add that many intelligent religious thinkers who might be 'philosophically oriented' end up going to seminary or studying formal religion instead of going into philosophy. So, there are many attractive options open to an 'abstract thinking' religious person who wants to pursue in-depth metaphysical studies that atheists don't have. After all, if you are satisfied with relatively conventional religious answers there's no need to go into philosophy. I wouldn't read any more into the pattern than that. Finally, I'd note that the number of theists in philosophy is increasing rather than decreasing as Charles and I recently commented upon at length in another question.

I have recently stumbled upon a short book written by the Catholic theologian named Peter Kreeft. He deductively argued for Jesus’ divinity through an approach he summarized as “Aut deus aut homo malus.” (Either God or a Bad Man.) Basically, his argument works only on the assumption made by most historians. Jesus was a teacher, he claimed divinity, and was executed. So, assuming this is true he says Jesus must’ve been one of three things. One possibility is that he was a liar. He said he was divine even though he knew it was not true. Another possibility is that he was insane. He believed he was divine even though he wasn’t. The final possibility is that he was telling the truth and he was correct. He was divine. He goes through and points out that Jesus shows no symptoms of insanity. He had no motive for lying. In fact, he was executed because of his claims. That gives him a motive to deny his divinity, which he apparently was given a chance to do by according to the Jewish and Roman sources on the...

Thanks to Charles Taliaferro for resurrecting this interesting question (which I was too swamped to answer when it came around the first time). It is important to remember that like many philosophical arguments it has a specific audience in mind. Let's call the intended audience 'the agnostic gentleman' in these two senses: first, the intended audience is genuinely agnostic in that he/she really believes that miracles and the incarnation are possibilities with a reasonable probability of being true. The intended audience does not have a strong commitment to naturalism or standing opinion against the possibility of miracles. Second, the intended audience is a 'gentleman' in the sense that he/she really wants to hold an unambiguously positive view of Jesus so the 'liar' and 'lunatic' options of the 'trilemma' will not be attractive to him/her. For someone holding the two previous commitments, the argument can be quite effective. The initial questioner's error was in assuming that no one would find...

I find the philosophy of religion immensely interesting. Recently I watched a YouTube video in which a well known Christian philosopher/theologian, William Lane Craig, explained how the Anglo-American world had been "utterly transformed" and had undergone a "renaissance of Christian philosophy" since the 1960s ( [starts at around the 7:40 mark]). Do you agree with these statements? Moreover, how well respected is Dr. Craig? Is he generally viewed as a top notch philosopher? I also wonder whether the very best arguments on the atheistic side are really being discussed. It seems there is some disdain among philosophers regarding the so-called "new atheists": Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, etc. Who are the top contemporary atheists working in philosophy today? I'd really be interested in reading some of their work. I would really appreciate multiple perspectives on these questions. Thanks a lot.

It is probably fair to say that William Lane Craig (WLC) is making an overstatement. But, the truth that he is overstating is that in the mid-20th century Anglo-American philosophy there was little or no influential new work in Christian philosophy and now there is quite a bit, including some that is published by the most reputable secular academic presses. To cite just a few examples consider: Richard Swinburne's The Existence of God & The Coherence of Theism (both by Oxford University Press(OUP)), Alvin Plantinga's Warranted Christian Belief (OUP) & God and Other Minds (Cornell UP), Nicholas Wolterstorff's Divine Discourse: Philosophical Reflections on the Claim that God Speaks (Cambridge UP), William Alston's Perceiving God (Cornell UP), Eleonore Stump's Reasoned Faith (Cornell UP), and Alexander Pruss's The Principle of Sufficient Reason: A Reassessment (Cambridge UP). Oxford and Cambridge University Presses are largely viewed as the two most respected publishers of philosophy in general and...

Moral arguments have long been made in support of theism, but the Euthyphro dilemma has always seemed to be a strong counter. Is there any way a theist can get passed the dilemma without simply biting the bullet and accepting that moral laws are based on the arbitrary whims of God? Sure they could also accept the first horn, but it would seem to cost them there argument that God has to be the source of objective moral values. Basically, I have heard some say that it is a false dilemma -- that there is some other way of resolving it perhaps. Is there any good philosophical reason for making this sort of claim?

One classic theist response to the Euthyphro dilemma is that morality doesn't ultimately come from a contingent or subjective divine will, but from the necessity of the divine nature. Therefore, morality could not be other than it is and is not subjective, but morality's ultimate source is still God. So, God will's the things that he does because they are good, but not in reference to a standard outside of himself. Yet, that standard is not something arbitrary. There is ample commentary elsewhere on the web concerning the pros and cons of this alternative. In any case, I don't think its an obvious non-starter.