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Assess the role of faith in supporting religious belief

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Introduction

Assess the Role of Faith in Supporting Religious Belief In 1877, William Kingdon Clifford propositioned in his book "Ethics and Belief" that belief in something without sufficient evidence is irrational. Whilst he accepted that in many beliefs there is often an epistemic gap between the evidence and the conclusion (inductive reasoning) he did also claim that "It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence." Furthermore he claimed that that tolerating credulity (a tendency to believe readily) and superstition will damage ultimately society. He concurred with David Hume (1711-76) when he said "All wise men proportion their belief to the evidence." This stance - that belief without sufficient evidence is irrational - is called evidentialism, and is adopted by many atheists (including Clifford and Hume) in their view of theology. However, natural theology instead attempts to meet evidentialism on its own terms by trying to show that belief in God is actually rational. It draws collectively upon all of the a posteriori arguments for God's existence including the teleological, cosmological, moral and experiential arguments. However, it is rare that an atheist will be convinced by the evidence of these arguments anywhere beyond the point of agnosticism. It is generally accepted that belief in God requires some element of seemingly irrational faith. Indeed, the stance of fideism states that reason plays no part in belief. ...read more.

Middle

Could a child's belief in Santa Clause not be defined as properly basic? Plantinga would respond by saying that it is the beliefs directly connected to God's existence that are properly basic, rather than the belief in God's existence itself. For example, the guilt felt after committing a bad deed or the sense that something must have created and designed the universe. Blais� Pascal (1623-1662) deemed that it was reasonable to have faith in God by a sheer act of will, so certain was he that he put forward a wager: "Let us weigh the gain and loss in wagering that God is (exists)...If you gain, you gain all, if you lose, you lose nothing." By this, he meant that the theist stands the chance of gaining entrance to heaven at the risk of nothing, whilst the atheist however risks damnation to hell. However, surely this basis of self-gain is at odds with the teachings of the Christian church? W.K.Clifford suggested that God would deny heaven to those who followed Pascal's wager on the basis that faith should be founded upon trust and morality, not self gain. Pascal might have responded that true belief would arise from the habit of religion i.e. baptism, mass, prayer etc. However, this is contradicted somewhat by his opinion that one's relationship with God should be somewhat deeper. ...read more.

Conclusion

"to see oneself as a created, dependent creature, receiving life and well being from a higher source...the only appropriate attitude is one of grateful worship and obedience." - John Hick. To conclude; each of the arguments examined above vary in their relationship with reason, but what they all have in common is that faith is central to the believer and must work independently of reason to some degree. Some of the arguments incorporate reason, some reject it entirely, but the transcendent nature of God can never be proved, can never be indubitable, for faith is an integral part of religion. Perhaps then natural theology is not trying to prove God's existence to the point where faith is cast out and certainty resides in its place, but rather it is merely trying to explore God's nature. "I do not seek to understand so that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand" - St. Anselm (1033-1109) Proslogian 1. Natural theology could therefore be seen as an expression of faith, rather than a foundation for it. The majority of theists argue that faith is necessary, for if God proved himself to us, we would no longer have free will over our belief and so would be robots without dignity. On the other hand, surely God in His omnipotence could find some way of maintaining our freedom whilst simultaneously providing us certainty of his love? Why not give certainty to the millions of His helpless and suffering children who have lost faith; for where is their dignity? ...read more.

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