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'An analysis of arguments for the existence of God will result in valid philosophical reasons to believe in God.' Discuss and assess this claim

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'An analysis of arguments for the existence of God will result in valid philosophical reasons to believe in God.' Discuss and assess this claim with reference to the following two arguments for the existence of God: (i) Religious Experience (ii) Ontological Argument I will first discuss the Ontological Argument for the existence of God, most famously expounded by Anselm, the Archbishop of Canterbury, in 1078. He wrote in The Proslogion that he considered the existence of God to be logically necessary. His reasoning, unlike that for the Teleological Argument and the Cosmological Argument, is a priori because it does not rely on experience from the world around us or on the evidence of our own senses. It is deductive, because the conclusion is contained within the premises, and analytic, because it is supposedly true by definition alone. All other versions of this argument are generally considered to be restatements of Anselm's. The simplest form of the argument states that if we were to meditate on the concept of God, it would become self evidently obvious that He exists. The more developed argument attempts to use the essence of the nature of God to prove His existence. Anselm reasoned that any being we could call 'God' must be that reality than which no more perfect can be conceived: his logic hinges upon this definition. J N Findlay, a contemporary philosopher, justifies his view: 'we are led on irresistibly to demand that our religious object should have an unsurpassable supremacy along all avenues...the proper object of reverence should be all-comprehensive.' The idea is that God cannot just happen to exist, nor something on which all other objects just happen to depend. He must be something that could not not exist, and on which objects could not not depend. He must not merely be one to which no actual independent realities stand opposed, He must be one to which such opposition is totally inconceivable. ...read more.


It does seem that, while there may be some believers who understand God to be 'that which nothing greater can be conceived', many will want to describe Him in other terms. There could, therefore, be good reasons for rejecting Anselm's very definition of God - and as we can never know the nature of God anyway, it is impossible to base an argument on it. Therefore, I do not believe that we have found valid philosophical reasons to believe in God. Because the Ontological Argument is deductive, its premises must be true and lead to valid conclusions for it to succeed, but as we have shown, they don't, and thus it is flawed. Another common argument for God is the Argument from Religious Experience, a deeply convincing one for many. It is inductive and a posteriori by definition, since it is concerned with whether direct experience of God can provide any proof of His existence. If God manifests Himself to people, it supposedly becomes impossible to deny that He exists. The basic argument is that throughout human history, in all cultures and societies, there have been many reports of a great variety of religious experiences. What exactly counts as 'a religious experience' is highly debatable and varied, ranging from a full-on encounter with a divine being or a near-death experience, to visions, pictures, words, prayers or miracles, or just feeling the presence of a divine spirit. Many religious apologists believe the competing explanations for these reports are not as probable as is the supposition that some religious beliefs are true. Of course, it is not merely a question of whether the person had the experiences or not - there have no doubt been many experiences caused by nothing more than mental phenomena, e.g. hearing things, dreams and daydreams, hallucinations, hysteria, delusions, cycles of mania, depression or sexual passion. The issue would be whether the experiences were caused by a referent that is not located in the human psyche alone. ...read more.


It is possible that when individuals claim to have had a religious experience, in fact they are expressing their ego or super-ego and there is no external referent. Once those needs are identified they can be satisfied without reference to religion, which is nothing more than an illusion created by people to enable them to cope with the haunting fear of death and alienation. Similarly, the emotions and sensations that accompany religious experience could probably be explained by biological or neurological factors e.g. epilepsy. Furthermore, I would disagree with Swinburne's Principle of Testimony. Humans can be highly fanciful and sensationalist - the chances of nobody ever, either, pretending they have seen God to get attention or to support their religious beliefs, deluding themselves that they have seen God, or falling into a freakish mental state that makes them think they are seeing God - are minute. Anyway, it is a logical certainty that people lie or delude themselves regarding religious experiences, because so many opposing claims have been made about opposing Gods. It is as though there were twenty jurors in court, all contradicting each other. If we know that the majority of people are wrong or being dishonest, it is perfectly conceivable that they all are. Indeed, although religious experiences are common, verifiable reports of collective sightings of God are not - if the volume of these experiences were in any way equal to that which the Bible documents, we would have very few atheists left. But it isn't, and it is difficult to explain why God would have suddenly ceased his verifiable divine action in the world, now we could actually prove and record it. I would say claims to religious experience, however they are defined, are exactly what we should expect in this world, and far from giving us any cogent reason to believe in God, judging by the nature of humanity, they tie in well with an atheistic outlook. I would, therefore, reject the notion that the argument from religious experience gives us valid philosophical reasons to believe in God. Julia Wilson ...read more.

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