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Posted by on Mar 10, 2009 in Uncategorized | 11 comments

Baggini on Hume (V)

Julian’s fifth installment is out, I see, but still no defence of his initial claim that:

The most pressing and telling critiques of religion not only cannot, but should not, attempt to deliver any fatal blows…


  1. I don’t understand. How can a “fatal blow” be landed on something which is either believed without evidence or disbelieved without evidence?Don’t we need some undisputable objective evidence about something to deal a fatal blow?Reasonably, we all know we cannot be proven to exist without any doubt. Thought is subjective and any proof made based on subjectivity will fall into the lair of the relativist.Therefore, if we cannot prove or disprove our own existence objectively, how can we then hold to the idea that God, Allah, Vishnu, and Fairy Godmothers cannot exist because they cannot be proven or disproven objectively?Is philosophy purely a rationalist tool?

  2. What’s Baggini’s agenda for these articles? Is he really trying to use Hume’s dialogue to show that empirical claims are not devastating to religion? That makes no sense. If religion operates on the same assumptions (for example, a mind-independent reality, causality, etc.), then these assumptions can be used by all who wish to critique it.

  3. Stephen,From Julian’s account of Hume, I think what he means byThe most pressing and telling critiques of religion not only cannot, but should not, attempt to deliver any fatal blows…is simply that Reason offers good critiques of religion, but there are limits to Reason, and in fact, reasons to be sceptical about Reason, so it can never be regarded as the end of the matter.However, I do not speak on behalf of Julian, and it is not clear be me that he intended that comment to be a major point.I think you should e-mail him if you want to know what he meant because he is probably unaware that anyone is taking issue with it.

  4. Kyle – I was assuming we just haven’t got to his argument yet… maybe I’m wrong. Let’s see…

  5. Mr Hamtastic – we can establish beyond any reasonable doubt that there are no fairies, goblins and other supernatural beings.We can also establish beyond reasonable doubt that there is no all-powerful, all-evil being.There is overwhelming evidence against that thesis (way too much good in the world).Thus it is possible there is overwhelming evidence against the good god hypothesis too.Actually, there is. Way too much evil in the world.

  6. Precisely. Too much good for all-evil, too much evil for all good. God is assigned the all good label by man, not by himself as far as we know. Therefore we have the possibility of a balanced God.This is not to mention the possibility that our interpretation of good and evil is not God’s interpretation. Aren’t the things God has done good only because he subjectively declared them to be so?On a side note, if you’d like to disprove that there is an undetectable supernatural being in my pocket right now I would enjoy hearing this proof.

  7. Hamtastic, I don’t know where you get the “possibility of a balanced God” anymore than you get the possibility of a balanced celestial teapot. When you lump “God, Allah, Vishnu, and Fairy Godmothers” into the same set you are hitting the nail on the head. If religious people would start being intellectually consistent and refer to their faith as a “possibility”, then we could start analyzing just what a slim possibility their beliefs actually are.

  8. That’s where the fun begins isn’t it? All things being of equal possibility is the first step down a fun road.Consider this, if you will. If a person larger than you came into your house and threatened violence against your person you would have the choice to obey their wishes or face the consequences. Do beliefs in God of any variety really differ from this all that much? Toss in that the guy promises to pay you if you do what he says.I’m trying to illustrate that God may or may not be any of the tremendous things we imagine him to be. Without firm evidence otherwise, are we not faced with a decision to believe or not based upon what we fear most?On the other hand, police and Judges are only human, as are political leaders and royalty, yet we show these people deference and ask their protection. Does it harm people to ask a being of questionable existence for similar help?Sorry… not meaning to tirade. Just one of those philosophical problems that has always tweaked my nose.For the record, I hope atheists turn out to be right. That would protect many from a bad time.

  9. One last thing. Where I get such an idea is out of my own imaginings. We are talking about an unprovable being, correct? It can be of whatever nature I choose to assign it, couldn’t it?

  10. Sorry, a bit of redress here. What defines proof? How about doubt? A reasonable doubt? What makes it reasonable? Who decides this stuff?Maybe I just missed the memo.

  11. Really, Atheist Missionary, expecting religious people to be intellectually consistent is even more fanciful than believing in a balanced celestial teapot! Irrationality and intellectual inconsistency are what characterise all “faith” positions. Sceptics may not always succeed in being logical and accurate in their reasoning, but they do at least make the effort as a matter of principle.

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