“Epicurus’s old questions are yet unanswered. Is he willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then is he impotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then is he malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Whence then is evil?” (Fundamental Problems and Readings in Philosophy, 76)
Audio file (if you ain’t got that time to read). I got a short one over here for you guys.
This is a brief introduction to David Hume’s take on religion. There is so much that David Hume tackles within his writing. And since I have been trying to understand him, I thought it would be a good idea to implement it into everyday life now. Hume had a positive message, his goal was to form a “constructive science of human nature that would provide a defensible foundation for all the sciences, including ethics, physics and politics” (44).
Hume’s understanding of the universe is somewhat similar to mine. I understand morality to be dictated by science and empirical data. Similarly he calls for “experimental methods of the natural sciences, which emphasize the data of experience and observation, sometimes combined with mathematical or logical reasoning” (45).
Furthermore, David Hume is of particular interest to me, since he was one of the first more known atheists of the Enlightenment, arguably sparking it.
Hume also has strong doubts on whether there are good reasons to believe in God. He asks why religious belief is so common, in The Natural History of Religion
“Hume argues that the causes of religious belief are independent of rationality and are instead based on human fear of the unpredictable and uncontrollable influences in our lives — such as the forces of nature — which we try to propitiate through worship” (45).
Hume also argues that religious belief does more harm than good historically, preaching exclusive messages causing strife, wars, and suffering. In particular speaking of Christendom, it has been guilty of creating spurious sins which are not intrinsically harmful such as attending ceremonies and abstaining from foods, which I have argued before.
Do you think that the existence of suffering makes it impossible to believe in an omnipotent and benevolent God?
In the past, I have not considered the Problem of Evil a serious issue in the debate with Religion. There are some problems with the concept. But overall, it could be explained within the Christian framework, if we are debating with Christianity specifically.
David Hume shifts the discussion to the question of why there are so many inconsistencies in nature. Contemporary philosophers such as Daniel C. Dennett have further looked at this proposition, suggesting that natural phenomena such as parasites add to the reasons to question the ‘Intelligent Design’ of the universe. Personally, I find Hume’s approach easier to agree with, since it addresses the basics of the premise that God is truly the only one that can be perfect (hence his creation must also resemble that). Hume makes it clear that humans are finite (at least from his character Demea’s perspective). Who are we to understand the ways of God? But since this imperfection of the universe points to the improbability of God’s existence, Hume’s resolve is that we should at least be able to question it.
Hume’s most convincing argument from my brief dabble into his text is his argument from the imperfection of the architect’s design. He says that “If you find any inconveniences and deformities in the building, you will always, without entering into any detail, condemn the architect” (77). The ultimate question is: why are there parasites? Why are there so many dead-ends in evolution? So called empty rooms, that do not have stairways leading to them — rooms that seem to have no purpose or design. This seems to suggest that it was not an intelligent designer in nature or that it was an ID but rather cruel to put these tricks in nature, just to mislead the average thinker.
The question I have asked is too big to answer in a brief reflection on Hume’s work. But as a brief observing of the man, it covers some of his more famous bases. I wish to write more on David Hume in the near future.
The Problem of Evil
Now let us proceed to the actual problem of Evil, which Hume tackles, but which will be succinctly explained below.
This has in recent weeks been a hot topic in my world, since my Hell blog post (link below) sparked quite the controversy on social media:
The Concept of Hell is Absurd (Luckily)
“Religion is based, I think, primarily and mainly upon fear” (Bertrand Russell).
The Logical Problem of Evil: If God exists and is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent, then why is there evil in the world? This is what the Stoic Greek philosopher, who was my introducing quote explains.
Free Will Defense
- If we have free will, then an omnipotent God chooses not to control us. We make our own evil as a by-product of free will. God allows a certain amount of evil, because he permits free will.
- This is the one I meet much too often. I don’t think it is a good argument and I will write about this in future blogs.
The Evidential Problem of Evil:
- God’s existence is logically compatible with human suffering and evil, but the existence of evil makes God’s existence highly implausible based on the amount of evil in the world.
- This is the one I like to propose when discussing the problem of evil.
It is your choice on which you adhere to. Expect to be challenged, as do I.
AND Before you go…
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