Atheism and Agatheism in the Global Ethical Discourse: Reply to Millican and Thornhill-Miller

European Journal for Philosophy of Religion 7 (4):197– 245 (2015)
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Peter Millican and Branden Thornhill-Miller have recently argued that contradictions between different religious belief systems, in conjunction with the host of defeaters based on empirical research concerning alleged sources of evidence for ‘perceived supernatural agency’, render all ‘first-order’, that is actual, religious traditions positively irrational, and a source of discord on a global scale. However, since the authors recognise that the ‘secularisation thesis’ appears to be incorrect, and that empirical research provides evidence that religious belief also has beneficial individual and social effects, they put forward a hypothesis of a ‘second-order religious belief ’, with Universalist overtones and thus free of intergroup conflict, and free of irrationality, since supported (solely) by the Fine-Tuning Argument. While granting most of their arguments based on empirical research and embracing the new paradigm of the atheism/religion debate implicit in their paper, I contend that Millican’s and Thornhill-Miller’s proposal is unlikely to appeal to religious believers, because it misconstrues the nature and grounds of religious belief. I suggest that their hypothesis may be refined by taking into account a view of axiologically grounded religious belief that I refer to as ‘agatheism’, since it identifies God or the Ultimate Reality with the ultimate good (to agathon).



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Janusz Salamon
Charles University, Prague

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