Atheism and Post Modernism

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Types of Atheism

Anti-theism: belief that all religions are dangerous

Positive Atheism: belief that there is no God

Negative Atheism: the lack of a belief in God

Agnosticism: withholding judgement about God or believing that God cannot be known.

What has led to a rise in Atheism?

Ray Billington 

Religion without God

  • Evolution via natural selection
  • Invention of the telescope
  • Discovery of the unconsiousness
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Natural and Moral Evil

Natural evil: evil and suffering caused by natural events

Moral evil: evil and suffering intentionally or acidentally caused by acts of humans

If God is omnibenevolent, omnipotent and omniscient then He should know that evil exists, should have the power to stop it and would want to stop it.

Evil exists and so it is unlikely that an omnibenevolent, omniscient and omnipotent God exists. You can't jus remove one of the characterists as they are essential attributes of God.

To prove that God is omnipotent, omnibenevolent and omniscient then you must argue that God is justified in allowing for natural and moral evil to exist

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Horrendous Moral Evil

Marilyn Adams

Horrendous Evils and the Goodness of God

There are some acts of moral evil that are so horrific, that they cannot be excused by the person's potential to do good.

Examples of Horrendous Moral Evil

  • Child abuse described by Karl Karamazov
  • Raping someone while cutting off their arms
  • Eating your own children
  • Being forced to disfigure or murder someone you love
  • Slow death by starvation
  • Physcophysical torture with the aim of destroying personality
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Augustinian Theodicy

Categoriesed as a theodicy by John Hick in Evil and the God of Love

St Augustine of Hippo

Evil is simply the privation (lack of good), God didn't make evil as you cannot make the lack of something.

Adam and Eve upset the natural order, creating natural evil, which is simply acts of moral evil done by fallen angels.

Having freewill is better, so God had to give us freewill. It just so happened that we used Free Will do reduce the amount of good in the world.

Zaccaria: evil as a privation of goodness does not satisfactorily explain why so many people suffer in horrific ways.

David Griffin: God, Power and Evil: A Process TheodicyFree will isn't compatible with the tradionally divine omniscient and omnipotent God.

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Irenaean Theodicy

Saint Irenaeus 

We were made in God's image, but exactly like Him.

We are therefore like God, but not perfect like He is.

God is like a parent, letting us learn the difference between good and evil on our own.

We have to make mistakes (evil) so that we can learn what goodness is.

We're developing morally and spiritually to become more like God.

John Hick: evolution supports Irenaeus' idea of continual development

John Gray: Straw DogsWe're still fundamentally the same animal we began as. We have developed scientifically (nuclear bombs) but not morally (using nuclear bombs on cities).

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Alvin Plantinga's Free Will Defence

God is a maximally great being (MGB) so He would creat the best possible world.

A world where people choose to do good is better than a world were you automatically do good.

An MGB must then give us free will.

While He makes conditions where we are compelled to do good, He cannot compromise free will.

J.M.Mackie & Anthony Flew: Plantinga's theodicy supports an incompatibilist view of free will (a deterministic universe is completely at odds with free will, so the world isn't deterministic).

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Moral Argument for God

Believe that morals are a strict set of commands

Morals hold absolute authority

If morals have absolute authority then only something with absoulte authority can command them.

God is the only thing with ultimate authority and so if morals exist, then He must also exist.

Depends on a belief in moral absolutism

No guarantee that God is the one commanding morals. Possibly, there's another being with absolute authority.

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Moral Relativism, Absolutism and Realism

Moral Absolutism: the belief that right and wrong is unchangeable regardless of the circumstances.

Moral Relativism: the belief that right and wrong can depend on situation and therefore can change.

Moral Realism: the belief that "right" and "wrong" are physical things that are real and can be measured. Murder is evil because it actually contains "wrongness."

Mackie's Queerness of Moral Realism

Ethics: Inventing Right and Wrong

Ignoring the distinction between facts and values is odd.

How do morals supervene (come from) physical things?

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Plato's Euthyphro Dilemma


"Is something good because God commands it or does God command it because it is good?"

Either morals are completely subjective to God's will and can therefore change whenever he wants them to, or God is subject to moral absolutes and thus is not omnipotent.

Both options are equally bad, as neither is a God you would want to worship, so you are "stuck on the horns of the dilemma."

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God is Dead

Friedrich Nietzsche

God has created a world where there is no place for God. We have scientific explanations for the universe, why we're here and how. We no longer need God and have removed him from our lives.

Without God, morals are completely subjective and so there is no true right or wrong.

Our morals now have no meaning. We could decide that murder is right one day, and this would be true. 

We are left with nihilism: the belief that all values are baseless and that nothing can be known or communicated.

"God is dead and we have killed him."

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Alternate Ideas About Morality

David Hume: 

you can't derive morals from facts about the universe. Descriptive statements (facts) cannot be turned into normative statements (values and rules). 

Immanuel Kant: 

Moral law is derived be meaning alone. Absolute morality does prove God's existence, but leads us to postulate His existence. We don't achieve Summon Bonum (the highest state of good as an ultimate goal) in this world so it's reasonable to believe in the existence of God, morality and the afterlife.


Actual moral entities are simply made up. Morality isn't an actual thing that exists (can't be empirically verified anyway, so they're meaningless). Right and wrong simply represent our emotional response to a situation

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Religion in the Postmodern World

  • Religion is retreating into Fundamentalism as a response to challenges.
  • Durkheim: traditional religion depends on the society and culture it developed it. 
  • In Postmodern world, religion no longer dependant on culture due to globablisation.
  • Many people use religious symbols as fashion without understanding their meaning.
  • Faith becomes a private and individual belief system rather than a communial thing.
  • Pick N' Mix Religion: you can choose the aspects of different religions that suit you.

Rejection of moral absolutes and metanarratives.

Metanarrative: a statement about the world that is believed to be absolute fact.

Os Guinness: "There is no Truth, only truths."

Moral absoultes: the belief that morals are unchanging regardless of circumstances.

John Gray: Straw Dogs. New atheism is becoming like a religion where the people think that there beliefs and values are absoulte. Science doesn't support a value system. 


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Postmodernist Threats to Religion

Rejection of all metanarratives when religion is founded on metanarratives.

Lyotard: metanarratives are just interpretations about the world made by individuals.

Religious Pluralism: each religion is equally valid in the context of its own culture and history. You're aware of other faiths, so how can you be certain yours is the absolute truth?

John Hick: "it is a short step from asking which one is telling the truth, to accepting that none of them are."

Living Religion (religion is about how you act) over Intellectual Faith (religion is about what you believe.

Pick n Mix Religion: you can choose aspects of different religions that you like. Goes against religious belief that you must believe in one religion.

Problem of Evil and Suffering.

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Postmodernist Supports of Religion

Rejection of all metanarratives. This includes atheism.

Living Relgion is valid and Christian doctrine stresses doing acts of good faith and holiness.

Religious Pluralism: all religions are valid, in a way. 

Rumi: "the lamps are different but the light is the same"

Rejection of absolute facts could be compatible with the idea of faith over knowledge.

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Scientific Threats to Religion

Steady State Theory

Rejected by scientists for the Big Bang now

Universe is self-sufficient and has always existed. Based on false belief that energy cannot be created or destroyed.

Undermines Aquinas' Argument from Contingency if there is no need for a beginning.

The Big Bang Theory

A single condensed matter (including space and time) exploded and thus the universe began.

Used by supporters of the cosmological arguement and deniers of it as well.

If the universe's creation was spontaneous, it undermines Aquinas' 5 Ways.

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Religious Responses to Science

Science is entirely compatible with a belief in God

There is no evidence that directly disproves God

There are many scientists who support evolution, the Big Bang and the idea of God

Science only tells us 'how' and not 'why' things are the way they are

We don't know what caused the Big Bang

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Verification Principle


Things are meaningful if and only if they can be empirically verified or they are true by definition. God cannot be verified and so is meaningless.

David Hume

An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals

All metaphysical entities are nonsense. Theism is incompatible with empiricism and nothing can be known a priori. 

Gavid Hyman

God is completely at odds with empiricism

God, as a metaphysical entity, cannot be known.

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Religious Responses to Empiricism

The Verification Principle, it itself actually unverifiable. It is self-defeating and so cannot be true or a challenge to religion.

The existence of the universe could be seen as evidence for the existence of God.

Religious experiences could be empirical evidence of God.

Faith over reason. It doesn't matter that you can't empirically verify Him, faith is what's most important.

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