Philosophers & God: An Age-Old Debate

Atheists today have public intellectuals on their side, as well as neuroscientists and philosophers. These people sound their opinions far and wide and the mass media provides them with a means. For all their stridency, there are some who are amused and say it was ever thus. Consider the following on Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens, whom the essayist, Alex Byrne, calls "the four horsemen of atheism."

"The question of God’s existence is one of those few matters of general interest on which philosophers might pretend to expertise—Dennett is a professional philosopher, and Harris has a B.A. in the subject. Still, of the four, it is Dawkins who wades the furthest into philosophy. So what can philosophy contribute? In particular, have philosophers come to a verdict on the traditional arguments for God’s existence?

Although it would be too much to expect complete consensus, it is fair to say that the arguments have left the philosophical community underwhelmed. The classic contemporary work is J. L. Mackie’s The Miracle of Theism, whose ironic title summarizes Mackie’s conclusion: the persistence of belief in God is a kind of miracle because it is so unsupported by reason and evidence. The failure of arguments for God’s existence need not lead straight to atheism . . . ."

Byrne's coda: "the devout do not know that God exists in the way it is known that dinosaurs existed, or that there exist infinitely many prime numbers. The funny thing about arguments for the existence of God is that, if they succeed, they were never needed in the first place."

Somebody who left a comment on the essay: "Any Christian who busies himself trying to prove or debate the existence of God is missing his true relationship in the world." More

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