Hume Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, Hume offers a complex and multifaceted analysis of the concept of God. The ongoing debate between atheism and theism is resolved in part by an assertion that human beings are technically incapable of absolutely knowing or defining, or at least simply speaking about God. Moreover, the debate between theism and atheism is nullified by the fact that it is difficult, if not impossible, to define God in terms satisfying or agreeable to all parties. There are anthropomorphic gods, creator gods, gods that interact with or interfere with human lives and gods that are distant and detached. Hume argues that any argument related to theism vs. atheism is invalid unless a definition of terms is provided clearly and adhered to consistently. Yet paradoxically, any discussion of God is cloaked in "perpetual ambiguity" because of the limitations of both human language and human cognition (Hume 217). Through the persona of Philo, Hume minimizes the dispute between theism and atheism by describing the debate as being "merely verbal," about semantics, and never actually approaching a meaningful conversation (Hume 217). Philo notes that there is an "incomprehensible difference between the human and the divine mind," preventing either a theist or an atheist from making a credible argument either way (Hume 217).

By denigrating both their positions, Philo notes that theists and atheists need to recognize their points of reference and acknowledge their similarly blind starting points. The atheist makes assumptions about God, as does the theist. It is impossible to prove or disprove God when it is impossible to even agree upon what God is. Furthermore, Philo points out that one cannot be defined as being a theist or an atheist before a clear definition of terms is established. A person who affirms the Christian view of God does not own the definition of God, for there are many other concepts of God in different cultures and religions. By extension, one who denies the Christian model of God is not necessarily an atheist. The Christian fundamentalist might deem that person to be an atheist because he or she denies the Christian view of deity, but the individual branded an atheist in this way could believe in a different view of God or Absolute Reality. What Hume suggests, through Philo's argument, is that Christianity should not be considered the absolute religion that defines the terms of God.

Hume establishes…

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Works Cited

Andre, Shane. "Was Hume an Atheist?" Hume Studies. Vol. 19, No. 1, April 1993. Retrieved online:

Hume, David. Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion.

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