Andrew Eshleman has argued that atheists can believe in God by being fully engaged members of religious communities and using religious discourse in a non-realist way. He calls this position 'fictionalism' because the atheist takes up religion as a useful fiction. In this paper I critique fictionalism along two lines: that it is problematic to successfully be a fictionalist and that fictionalism is unjustified. Reflection on fictionalism will point to some wider problems with religious anti-realism.
While Hume has often been held to have been an agnostic or atheist, several contemporary scholars have argued that Hume was a theist. These interpretations depend chiefly on several passages in which Hume allegedly confesses to theism. In this paper, I argue against this position by giving a threshold characterization of theism and using it to show that Hume does not confess. His most important confession does not cross this threshold and the ones that do are often expressive rather than (...) assertive. I then argue that Hume is best interpreted as an atheist. Instead of interpreting Hume as a proto-logical positivist and arguing on the basis of Hume’s theories of meaning and method, I show that textually he appears to align himself with atheism, that his arguments in the Dialogues on Natural Religion support atheism, and that this position is most consistent with Hume’s naturalism. But, I hold that his atheism is soft and therefore distinct from that of his peers like Baron d’Holbach—while Hume really does reject theism, he neither embraces a dogmatically materialist position nor takes up a purely polemical stance towards theism. I conclude by suggesting several ways in which Hume’s atheistic philosophy of religion is relevant to contemporary discussions. (shrink)
In this paper I argue that Poston and Dougherty's attempt to undermine the problem of divine hiddenness by using the notion of belief de re is problematic at best. They hold that individuals who appear to be unbelievers (because they are de dicto unbelievers) may actually be de re believers. I construct a set of conditions on ascribing belief de re to show that it is prima facie implausible to claim that seemingly inculpable and apparent unbelievers are really de re (...) believers. Thus, while it is indeed possible that a de dicto unbeliever is a de re believer, it is unlikely that this has sufficiently general application to actual individuals to alleviate the problem of divine hiddenness. (shrink)
In this paper I argue that traditional theism, in its theory, history, and practice has implications for the philosophy of nature. Namely, nature should be designed around aesthetic or meaningful principles and nature should be engineered in order to fulfil a fairly well defined set of purposes. If theism is true, we should be able to study nature objectively as a teleological system. After all, the teleological structure of nature is more important to us as spiritual beings than its mechanisms. (...) Since a teleological philosophy of nature is no longer viable, traditional theism is untenable. (Published Online July 10 2006). (shrink)