This essay aims to explain what Aquinas does and does not mean when using the word ‘God’. It also tries to explain why Aquinas thinks it reasonable to conclude that God exists and how Aquinas can be compared and contrasted with certain thinkers both agreeing and disagreeing with this conclusion. The essay places emphasis on Aquinas’s notion of esse and on the fact that he consistently asserts that we do not know what God is.
This essay distinguishes three kinds of arguments for atheism: direct; indirect; and comparative. The article begins with a quick survey of direct arguments, and argues that the prospects for successful arguments of this kind are not good. It then sketches a comparative argument, and argues that, while its prospects are also not terrifically bright—though plainly brighter than the prospects for any argument for theism!—a successful argument for atheism would most likely look something like the comparative argument that it has sketched.
Erik J. Wielenberg
This essay addresses two popular worries about morality in an atheistic context. The first is a psychological or sociological one: the worry that unbelief makes one more disposed to act immorally than one would be if one had theistic beliefs (of a certain sort) and, consequently, widespread atheism produces societal dysfunction. This essay argues that the relationship between atheism and human moral beliefs and behaviour is complex, and that highly secularized societies can also be deeply moral societies. The second worry is philosophical in nature: the worry that if there is no God or gods, then there are also no objective moral truths or facts. This essay make the case that the question of whether there are objective moral truths is independent of the existence or nonexistence of God. In the final section, the essay discusses the nature and possible grounds of objective morality in an atheistic context.
This article examines the strong correlation that currently exists between high levels of secularity in a given society positive societal well-being. By looking at the most and least theistic nations on earth, as well as the most and least theistic states in the United States, and by taking into consideration a wide array of indicators of societal well-being, the correlation is clear: the most secular societies on earth with the highest rates of non-belief fare much better, on average, than the most religious, strongly-believing societies. While understanding that correlation does not equal causation, this article still maintains that theism is clearly not the societal panacea many claim it to be, nor is atheism a source of societal degradation.
Kimberly A. Blessing
Both theists and atheists have attempted to show that their opponent’s orientation towards religion prevents them from living truly meaningful lives. But exclusivists on both sides are wrong. For neither atheists nor theists are necessarily committed to meaninglessness. This essay focuses attention on two key components of theistic meaning of life theories that theists argue are importantly missing from atheistic theories, immortality and a Divine Plan. It also considers atheistic alternatives to theistic accounts of meaningfulness that involve subjectivism, intrinsic values, and Susan Wolf’s hybrid theory of meaning. We come to see that genuine meaning for either theists or atheists requires some conceptual commitments, and the dispute about which side can live meaningfully is yet another case of the two sides talking past each other. Alternatively, if we allow for the different kinds and degrees of meaning we may conclude that both theists and atheists are able to offer rationally acceptable theories of life’s meaning(s).
T. J. Mawson
This essay begins by remarking that the broad understanding of atheism (‘absence of belief in a God or gods’) is not a position that theism per se commits one to claiming is unreasonable. The essay then, however, proceeds to present an argument against atheism being reasonable. This constitutes a variant of the fine-tuning version of the Design Argument, and contends that both the universe’s fine-tuning to us, and our fine-tuning to the universe, are better explained by the ‘God hypothesis’ than by a range of alternatives (including the ‘maximal multiverse hypothesis’). While admitting that there is no single ‘killer argument’ against atheism, the essay argues that a persuasive, cumulative case for the God hypothesis—with cosmic fine-tuning as its strongest suit—can nevertheless be constructed.
Ralph W. Hood Jr. and Zhuo Chen
Research on deconversion can largely be seen as a mirror image of research on conversion. While the latter focuses upon gradual or sudden acceptance of a religion, the former focuses upon the abandonment of a religion which also may be sudden or gradual. To define either religion or atheism simply in terms of belief is what has been termed the objectivist fallacy. Atheism like religion is a multidimensional construct. Empirical studies document that belief is only one factor in accepting or rejecting religion. Participation in religion as well as deconverting from religion is seldom simply a cognitive matter. Atheistically motivate deconversion may be sudden or gradual and motivated by emotional or positive factors that may involve various reasons for rejecting specific religious beliefs, including the existence of God.
This article introduces Humanism. It explains what those who organize under that heading mean by the term. It also addresses several common misunderstandings about what Humanism involves. In particular, Humanists need not sign up to utopianism, scientism, materialism, or naturalism. The chapter also corrects the misunderstanding that Humanism is defined wholly in terms of what it is against—that it is not really for anything. It is very much for a great deal. Other common criticisms of Humanism are addressed, such as that it involves a commitment to relativism, and also that it overlooks the fact that religion is socially necessary (to provide an essentially social adhesive, say) and required to provide a moral compass and foundation. The paper concludes with some discussion of, and argument for, a humanist-friendly approach to moral education.
This article discusses the relationship between Marx, Marxism, and atheism, outlining the ways in which the phrase ‘opium of the people’ is often misunderstood as an atheist statement. In fact, Marx rejected the term atheism as inadequate to the task as it did not address the socio-economic basis of religious belief. While some forms of Marxism often adopted a mechanistic and dogmatic materialist approach to religion, Marx saw it as the means by which people made sense of social oppression, and therefore worthy of study in its own right. From Marx’s letter to Ruge in 1842 speaking of communism fulfilling the religious dreams of mankind, via Walter Benjamin’s revolutionary messianism, Ernst Bloch’s contention that ‘only an atheist can be a good Christian and only a Christian can be a good atheist’, through to Slavoj Žižek’s work on religion, Marxism has a more complex relationship to atheism than is often thought.
Michael L. Peterson
The problem of evil is considered to be the most formidable objection to theism and a central element in the case for atheism. This essay surveys and evaluates the two key formulations of the problem expressed as an argument: the logical argument and the evidential argument. It also analyzes two types of defences offered in response to the argument from evil: the Free Will Defence against the logical argument and Skeptical Theist Defence against the evidential argument. Also treated are several greater-good theodicies that are generally employed as responses to the evidential argument: free will theodicy, natural law theodicy, and soul-making theodicy. Because it sounds a slightly different note from traditional greater good approaches, the theodicy of Open Theism—which argues that the theistic God could create a universe in which there is the possibility of evil occurring that does not serve some greater good—is examined.
The most interesting thing about sceptical theism is its sceptical component. When sceptical theists use that component in responding to arguments from evil, they think it is reasonable for their non-theistic interlocutors to accept it, even if they don't expect them to accept their theism. This article focuses on that sceptical component. The first section explains more precisely what the sceptical theist's scepticism amounts to and how it is used in response to various sorts of arguments from evil. The next section considers and responds to objections to sceptical theism. It is shown that just as there are non-theists who accept the sceptical theist's scepticism, so also are there theists who reject it.