Monday, October 31, 2011

Having forced myself to slog through Swinburne, I thought I could give the whole area of arguments for God a rest. Swinburne admits that there are no valid deductive proofs of God's existence, and all his "good inductive arguments" for God seem pretty weak to me. But I keep running across atheists who claim either  that there are reasonable arguments for God, or that the usual arguments for naturalism fail, or both. For instance, here's a curious article in Philo by atheist philosopher Quentin Smith. I like and respect Smith: he has published some very cogent counter-arguments to the arguments of William Lane Craig and other theists. So when he says that naturalists are naturalists for all the wrong reasons, I have an uncomfortable feeling that he's probably right.

Oddly, though, he doesn't (in this article) tell us what the wrong argument for naturalism is, nor what he considers the right argument. This he leaves to "other papers and books."

One book that is often mentioned favorably (by Smith, among others) is Arguing About Gods, by Graham Oppy. According to the Amazon reviews, Oppy - an atheist - concludes that neither side has arguments sufficient to convince the other.

To me, the naturalist arguments seem clearly superior. My questions are, what reasons do theists have to remain theists (it seems to me they don't have any), and why aren't the naturalist arguments strong enough to be convincing (as it seems to me they are)?

I guess I have to do some more reading....


  1. Practically, theists have many reasons to remain theists: the social structure of religious practice confers tangible benefits. And this is, I believe, what really keeps most people in the church - not philosophical arguments for the existence of God, which most theists have never even heard of.

    Atheists, on the other hand, have often chosen to reject the comforts of a religious culture precisely because they have looked at the arguments underpinning the theological castle, and found them to be composed of thin air.

  2. In general, I agree. What intrigues me is that intelligent, thoughtful people who have studied the matter closely can still remain theists. And that (some) atheists can conclude that those theists are not being unreasonable in holding on to their beliefs.