Philosophy of Religion

Chapter  5 Arguments for the Existence of God: Experience

Section 8. Final Questions

Are there reasons to think that the reports of mystical, religious and psychic experiences are not reliable?

Can the reports be accepted as being true?

Can they be verified?

Do they need to be?

Can reports of mystical, religious and psychic experiences be used as support for a belief in a deity, the supernatural realm?  

Are there reasons to think that the reports of Miracles are not reliable?

Can the reports of Miracles be accepted as being true?

Can Miracles ever be verified?

Do claims of Miracles need to be authenticated?

Can reports of Miracles be used as support for a belief in a deity, the supernatural realm?

In the end what can be made of all the proofs and arguments for and against the existence of god.  It appears that each and every one of them has strong points and weak points as well.  It appears as if no one argument is definitive.  No one argument is powerful enough to convince everyone to accept it. No argument or proof is psychologically convincing or logically compelling to the point where the non-believer in a deity would become a believer.

Then, just what good are the proofs?

Concerning these proofs it has been said that: 

Believers do not need them

Unbelievers will not heed them

The following Philosophers have offered these views concerning the arguments that attempt to prove the existence of a supernatural deity.

Stephen Cahn:

  1. they are irrelevant to believers and non-believers

            morality can exist without a belief in or a proof of Godís existence

  1. they are of use to philosophers as rational exercises  

S.T. Davis

    1. The proofs do not succeed
    2. Proofs are unpersuasive to skeptics
    3. Proofs are irrelevant to believers
    4. The "God" of the proofs is not the "God" of the faithful: it is a philosophical abstraction
    5. Proofs deny divine transcendence

The "god" of the proofs is a being similar to other beings

The "god" of the proofs is not the "Ground of Being"- P.Tillich  

So then one may ask: What good are the proofs? What value do they have? Well the arguments or proofs are philosophically and religiously valuable.

The benefits (purposes) of a successful proof for Godís existence:

  • Theists can make use of their rational faculties

  • Belief in god is shown to be rational and justified intellectually

  • They help to confirm faith in god  

However , in the end once again it is affirmed that:

The proofs remain optional for theists!!!

So in the end the proofs remain optional for theists!!!  Most believe or disbelieve not due to any rational exercise but due to experiences!! 

Considering that the burden of proof should be on the person who makes the claim that X does exist then it might appear that skepticism or atheism is well warranted where the claim is that a supernatural being, a deity, exists.

 It is not the rational or logical arguments that persuade people to believe.  Most do so because of experiences they have had that they believe support them in their faith or have led them to their faith in a deity or because of experiences when growing through which they learned of a certain way of viewing the world and their existence and place within the world.  They know of no other and do not want to seriously examine alternative views.  They have been brought up in a belief system that affords them an identity and a sense of belonging to a group and a sense of comfort in the face of uncertainty and adversity.  They believe because they believe and they believe because it provides them with a hope.

© Copyright Philip A. Pecorino 2001. All Rights reserved.

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