Belief in God

Plantinga, Fideism, etc.

  • Created by: Amy
  • Created on: 29-04-12 17:38

Is belief in God basic?

  • Alvin Plantinga said belief in God is basic, and needs no justifcation
  • However, there could be any number of beliefs that can be deemed basic, e.g. voodoo, ghosts and the Great Pumpkin that returns each Hallowe'en
  • Plantinga responds: Belief in God has grounds, whereas the belief in the Great Pumpkin does not
  • If you saw a man on the floor, writhing as a he clutches his foot, you would have grounds to belive that he is in pain, even if you have no solid evidence

Justifications for belief in God?:

  • Basic instinct -> you intuitively know
  • It's a good bet (Pascal's wager)
  • So many people believe, must be true
  • You want to believe
  • Religious experience
  • You trust the word of reliable people
  • peer pressure
  • Socialisation
1 of 10


Fideism is the claim that reason is independent to, or opposed to religious faith.


·         Faith is not rational

·         Faith is a matter of inwardness

·         Real faith takes over your life

·         Real fifth is total acceptance

·         Those who pick and choose what they believe do not have real faith

2 of 10


Soren Kierkegaard:

  • Arguments for the existence of God are too riddled with weaknesses to be convincing
  • They only work to support those people who already believe in God
  • People believe in God because of faith
  • Faith is a 'leap in the dark' - Blind and total acceptance

Rational belief:

• Empirical Evidence

• Sound justification

• Can be verified

Irrational Belief:

• Wishful thinking

• Faith

• Superstition

• Can’t be verified

3 of 10

Ludwig Wittgenstein

  • Believers have their own language of belief - "language games"; there is a language game of religion
  • In religion, we are dealing with a whole way or living, or form of life
  • To come to faith in God is to have one’s life changed; whereas to come to believe that there are three chairs in the room is not at all like that.”
4 of 10

Grounds in believing in God

  • AJ Ayer was involved in a car crash, he had a near-death experience and his heart stopped. He claimed that he 'floated up' once he was 'dead', and felt himself being drawn up a tunnell and felt paradise. It felt vivid to him.


  • A feeling of conscience
  •   A sense of intelligence and power at work in the universe

    ·         A conviction after inexplicable or miraculous events

5 of 10

Psychological Challenge to Religion

Ludwig Feuerbach:

  • Rational man created God in his image
  • Aspects of God correspond to human needs
  • God emerges from man's needs
  • Religion is anthropological
  • Religious Dogmas are damaging

Sigmund Freud:

  • Religion is wishful thinking - human minds create the illuision to combat psychological turmoil
  • The turmoil stems from inner conflict, stress or fear
  • The human mind creates images and beliefs to fulfill basic needs and desires
  • Religion is an illusion - not necessarily false, but something that answers inner needs
6 of 10

Freud - Oedipus Complex & The Superego

  • Boys become sexually attracted to their mothers
  • They also become jealous of their fathers because of this 
  • Feelings of fear and guilt arise in the child
  • The child develops a "superego" to overcome their feelings 
  • The superego is the repressive part of the brain
  • It manifests itself in conscience, shame and guilt
  • Relgion results from this repressed sexual guilt
  • Idols are created to direct towars making reperation & seeking forgiveness
  • The idol is treated like the father, with both hatred and veneration (respect & admiration)
7 of 10

Carl Jung

  • Rejected Freud's views, including the claim that religion was a neurosis caused by sexual trauma
  • Unconcious part of the mind can be divided into two - personal and collective
  • Collective: series of images, or archetypes, which have been passed down through the generations, developed by a culture, or society - THROUGH GENES
  • Religion provides many archetypes
  • People are born with the tendency to generate religious images
  • God exists as a psychcic reality - he is real to those who believe in him. Existence cannot be known.
  • Relgion is a necessary safety feature, acting as a balance, preventing disparity between different archetypes and thereby preventing neuroses
  • This is called individuation
8 of 10

Sociological Response


  • God is a symbol created by humans, representing their eperience of the power of society
  • Religion is an instrument of society, it creates a sense of moral obligation that holds society together
  • Social creation. When people celebrate sacred things, they are unwittingly celebrating the power of their society


  • All religious, moral and polictal life is rooted in economics
  • Induces rise to a capitalist society where workers produce goods and services and the rich profit from this
  • Societies keep the working class under control through laws, customs and religion
  • necessary to abolish religion if the working class are ever to become free
9 of 10

Sociological Response

Max Weber:

  • Society is only one of several factors that explains religion's origin
  • Charismatic prophets are a major force behind religious development
  • the ideas of religious leaders are accepted because they have the personality to attract a following
  • Religion fulfills a basic psychological need to make sense of life

Note: Hitler was a leader, Germany accepted his horrific ideas. The same can be said of religion - easy indoctrination.

10 of 10


No comments have yet been made

Similar Philosophy resources:

See all Philosophy resources »See all Ideas of gods resources »