Reply: Several replies might be offered here. Testimony to experiencethe absence of God might be better understood as testimony not toexperience God. Failing to experience God might be justification forbelieving that there is no God only to the extent that we have reasonto believe that if God exists God would be experienced by all. Theistsmight even appeal to the claim by many atheists that it can bevirtuous to live ethically with atheist beliefs. Perhaps if there is aGod, God does not think this is altogether bad, and actually desiresreligious belief to be fashioned under conditions of trust and faithrather than knowledge. The diversity of religious experiences hascaused some defenders of the argument from religious experience tomute their conclusion. Thus, Gutting (1982) contends that theargument is not strong enough to fully vindicate a specific religioustradition, but that it is strong enough to overturn an anti-religiousnaturalism. Other defenders use their specific tradition to deal withostensibly competing claims based on different sorts of religiousexperiences. Theists have proposed that more impersonal experiences ofthe Divine represent only one aspect of God. God is a person or isperson-like, but God can also be experienced, for example, as sheerluminous unity. Hindus have claimed the experience of God as personalis only one stage in the overall journey of the soul to truth, thehighest truth being that Brahman transcends personhood. (For adiscussion of these objections and replies and references, seeTaliaferro 1998.)
The most recent work on the afterlife in philosophy of religion hasfocused on the compatibility of an individual afterlife with someforms of physicalism. Arguably, a dualist treatment of human personsis more promising. If you are not metaphysically identical with yourbody, then perhaps the annihilation of your body is not theannihilation of you. Today, a range of philosophers have argued thateven if physicalism is true, an afterlife is still possible (Peter vanInwagen, Lynne Baker, Trenton Merricks, Kevin Cocoran). The import ofthis work for the problem of evil is that the possible redemptivevalue of an afterlife should not be ruled out (without argument) ifone assumes physicalism to be true. (For an extraordinary, richresource on the relevant literature, see The Oxford Handbook ofEschatology, ed. by J. Walls.)
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At least two reasons may support recent non-realism. First, ithas some credibility based on the sociology of religion. In thepractice of religion it appears that we have something more (one mightwell say something deeper) than “mere” metaphysicaltheorizing. Religion seems pre-eminently to be focused upon howwe live. Phillips has examined different religious practices suchas prayer and the belief in an afterlife, concluding that both areintelligible because the motives behind each can be held intact withoutany of the metaphysical “baggage” traditionally linked withthem. For example, prayer to God by parents for the recovery of achild's health may be understood as an expression of theiranguish and an effort to center their hope on the child's gettingbetter, and not as an attempt to persuade God to violate thelaws of nature by miraculously healing their child.
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In spite of whether this powerful force works for the good or bad of mankind, it would be a great mistake to think that the globalization and economization of thought has lessened religion’s importance.
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The ontological argument goes back to St. Anselm (1033/34–1109),but I shall explore a current version relying heavily on the principlethat if something is possibly necessarily the case, then it isnecessarily the case (or, to put it redundantly, it is necessarilynecessary). The principle can be illustrated in the case ofpropositions. That six is the smallest perfect number (that numberwhich is equal to the sum of its divisors including one but notincluding itself) does not seem to be the sort of thing that mightjust happen to be true. Rather, either it is necessarily true ornecessarily false. If the latter, it is not possible, if the former,it is possible. If one knows that it is possible that six is thesmallest perfect number then one has good reason to believe that. Dowe have reason to think it is possible that God exists necessarily? Insupport of this, one can also appeal to a posteriori matters,noting the extant religious traditions that uphold such a notion. Thefact that the concept of God as a necessarily existing reality seemsto be coherently conceived widely across time and cultures is someevidence that the concept is coherent (it is possible there is a God),for God's existence has plausibility, thus can also contribute tobelieving it is possible God exists. There is an old philosophicalprecept that from the fact that something exists, it follows that itis possible (ab esse ad posse valet consequentia). A relatedprinciple is that evidence that something exists is evidence that itis possible that such a thing exists. There does not appear to beanything amiss in their thinking of God as necessarily existing; ifthe belief that God exists is incoherent this is not obvious. Indeed,a number of atheists think God might exist, but conclude God doesnot. If we are successful in establishing the possibility that Godnecessarily exists, the conclusion follows that it is necessarily thecase that God exists.
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Current work in the field of science and religion encompasses a wealthof topics, including free will, ethics, human nature, andconsciousness. Contemporary natural theologians discuss fine-tuning,in particular design arguments based on it (e.g., R. Collins 2009),the interpretation of multiverse cosmology, and the significance ofthe Big Bang. For instance, authors such as Hud Hudson (2013) haveexplored the idea that God has actualized the best of all possiblemultiverses. Here follows an overview of two topics that generatedsubstantial interest and debate over the past decades: divine action(and the closely related topic of creation), and human origins.