Swinburne’s Case for God – Part 1

Richard Swinburne summarizes his case for God in the final pages of the final chapter of The Existence of God:

…all that my conclusion so far amounts to is that it is something like as probable as not that theism is true, on the evidence so far considered. However, so far in this chapter I have ignored one crucial piece of evidence, the evidence from religious experience. I concluded the last chapter (p.326) with the claim that, unless the probability of theism on other evidence is very low, the testimony of many witnesses to experiences apparently of God suffices to make many of those experiences probably veridical. That is, the evidence of religious experience is in that case sufficient to make theism overall probable. (EOG, 2nd ed., p.341)1. Based on evidence other than religious experience, the existence of God is not very improbable.
2. If based on evidence other than religious experience, the existence of God is not very improbable, then the evidence from religious experience (in combination with other relevant evidence) makes the existence of God more probable than not.
Therefore:
3. The evidence from religious experience (in combination with other relevant evidence) makes the existence of God more probable than not.

Premise (1) is supported by the following claim:
4. Based on evidence other than religious experience, the existence of God is approximately as probable as not.
Premise (4) is itself a conclusion argued for in Chapters 6 through 12 in EOG, where Swinburne explains and evaluates what he takes to be the most plausible a posteriori (i.e. empirical) arguments for and against the existence of God.

Swinburne thus breaks down his case for God into two steps, as represented by the following two-premise argument (my summary of his reasoning):


Premise (2) is supported by the reasoning in Chapter 13 of EOG, called “The Argument from Religious Experience”.

About Bradley Bowen
  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12132821431322748921 LadyAtheist

    In other words, there's no reason to believe in god other than the neurological events that people interpret as "religious experiences."

    Yeah, I'm convinced.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    LadyAtheist said…
    In other words, there's no reason to believe in god other than the neurological events that people interpret as "religious experiences."

    ============
    Response:
    No, that is not what Swinburne's argument implies.

    The argument from religious experience is used to bump up the probability of the existence of God from .3 or .4 to something greater than .5 (to being more likely than five chances in ten).

    The first premise is supposed to get the probability of the existence of God up into the .3 or .4 range, and that premise refers to several other arguments that Swinburne presents and evaluates: cosmological argument, teleological argumets, arguments from consciousness and morality, argument from providence, the problem of evil, and arguments from history and miracles.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12244370945682162312 NAL

    If God exists, outside the human mind, then there must be a causal mechanism between God and religious experiences, or else the two events (God's existence and religious experiences) are independent. If the two events are independent there is no change in the probability of the existence of God given religious experiences. This causal mechanism is presupposed.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06017322587415620841 Rich

    I was at the web site http://creation.com/atheism and they had some quotes there by Sam Harris. I was wondering if they are true. Sam Harris is atheist but he said some comments rather hostile to atheism. Have you guys seen them?
    I believe it is at that site but he had compared us atheists to child molestors.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00241446130197185049 Kold_Kadavr_flatliner

    FACT: we ALL will croak at some point in our lifelong demise, thus, our indelible spirit rises-up to meet our Maker – absolutely nuthin we can do bout that: our soul wants to be loved, nourished, enveloped, return-to-her-maker-thing. Jesus doesn't have a sign outside of Heaven saying, 'Those who don't believe? C’est la guerre. C'mon in. Guess I wasn’t as forthright as Marvel Comix'. Be on the pro-LIFE-eration side, don't be on the side which'll swiftly LET/LEAD you down. I’m a small 'peAce-de-resistance' of a Larger Picture: give your soul that final chance. Repent and believe. God bless you with discernment.


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