Philosophy & Atheism: In Defense of Atheism

Philosophy & Atheism: In Defense of Atheism

Philosophy & Atheism: In Defense of Atheism

Philosophy & Atheism: In Defense of Atheism

Excerpt

Many, perhaps most, educated twentieth-century believers and nonbelievers alike are perplexed about the concept of God and other central religious notions of the Jewish-Christian-Islamic faiths. Key concepts of such religions—God, heaven, hell, sin, the Last Judgment, a human being's chief end, being resurrected, and coming to be a new man with a new body—are all to one degree or another problematic. Indeed, their very intelligibility or rational acceptability are not beyond reasonable doubt. These concepts form a system. Indeed, a religious faith or a religion should be seen as a system of salvation and we should recognize that we cannot properly understand these concepts in isolation or apart from understanding the rationale of the form of life of which they are an integral part. But in the various cultures of the West, if our socialization has been even remotely normal, we know how to play Jewish or Christian language-games and in varying degrees, we even have some understanding of those forms of life. Yet what I said initially still remains true: many of us—believers and nonbelievers alike—remain perplexed by the fundamental concepts of the dominant religion in our culture. We know how to use these terms perfectly well and we have a reasonable understanding of why they have remained in circulation, for we acknowledge many of the aspirations that religion answers to. Yet we remain thoroughly perplexed over whether these terms in their religious employments answer to anything real or even to anything we can coherently conceive.

I shall in this collection of essays probe why this is so, and in the course of this probing I shall define, explicate, and defend atheism as a form of skepticism concerning religion. Perhaps "atheism" is a crude . . .

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