If philosophers agree on anything, it’s that there are no good arguments for the existence of God

Last month, a guest post by Landon at Butterflies and Wheels listed a number of issues, which, according to the Landon, “were largely settled through the work of people who were essentially, for their respective eras, professional philosophers”:

1) Materialism is the proper paradigm for understanding the operation of the mind (a refutation of dualism).

2) Religious belief is not rationally required (and there is only a rear-guard action maintaining that it is rationally permissible).

3) The correct paradigm for analyzing ethical problems is some variant of consequentialism that includes a concept of rights.

4) Democracy with universal adult suffrage is not only rational and ethically justifiable, it is probably the only rational and ethically justifiable form of government.

In the cases of 1, 3, and 4, Landon’s claim strikes me as dubious (to a degree that varies depending on which particular point you focus on). But I’m increasingly thinking there might be something to be said for claiming something like 2 as being generally agreed upon by philosophers.

The stats from the PhilPapers survey are that philosophers are 72.8% atheists, 14.6% theists, and 5.5% agnostic, with a few percent giving other answers. It’s safe to say that the atheists and agnostics don’t think religious belief is rationally required, something which a great many theists will also grant. That makes for a very strong majority of philosophers agreeing that religious belief is not rationally required.

Now you could change the question a bit to whether there are any good arguments for the existence of God. This is a tricky question because there’s a lot of disagreement about what even constitutes a good argument, but I have in mind what Richard Swinburne or William Lane Craig would claim about their arguments, rather than, say, the more modest claims Plantinga has typically made about his ontological argument.

By that standard, it’s a safe bet that almost all of the atheists will say there are no good arguments for the existence of God. Some of the agnostic will agree, though other agnostics (Paul Draper, perhaps) will say that there are good arguments on both sides. And importantly, many of the theists will agree that there are no good arguments for the existence of God, and say they belief on faith (or their beliefs are properly basic, or whatever).

Add all those people together, and it would be a safe guess that at least 80% of philosophers agree that there are no good arguments for the existence of God. That’s not the sort of overwhelming consensus you find on some scientific issues (evolution, global warming), but it’s very high by philosophical standards.

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