Contemporary Atheism

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Contemporary Atheism

‘Traditionally, religions have offered relatively straightforward answers to some of life’s most challenging questions. Today however, many of those traditional ‘answers’ are being questioned, contradicted and sometimes rejected.’

Discuss this statement in the light of your studies.

“Fear of things invisible is the natural seed of that which everyone in himself calleth religion.” ~ Thomas Hobbes. Questions involving the existence of a transcendent and benevolent prime mover have fascinated mankind for millennia since logical thinking and scientific assimilation began. This socio cultural phenomenon is humanity's cushion against fear of the unknown. Nevertheless throughout history many philosophers have argued the existence of a God or many different Gods yet it is difficult to assess whether in fact an ultimate deity prevails. In the absence of religion, human beings are solely animals with a magnified sense of emotion and logic. This facet separates the human race from all other species on earth, as religious idiosyncrasies are innate only in human beings. Traditionally, religion or at the very least a belief in an afterlife or greater power presented individuals with the fundamentals of living life with a purpose as well as providing human, mental and spiritual growth by indoctrinating moral and ethical principles. Throughout history, religion has succored human beings with the ideas of death and has given life a sound purpose. But Atheism has challenged this faith, the traditions as well as the arguments and evidence put forward to prove the existence of God.

Through abstract reasoning, the ontological argument attempts to prove the existence of a God. This a priori argument begins with an explication of the concept of God and seeks to demonstrate the existence of God on the basis of that very argument. St. Anselm rests the ontological argument on the identification of God as “that than which no greater can be conceived”. All forms of this argument are interrelated between three fundamental concepts; the concept of God, that of perfection and of existence. The argument states that perfection is a part of the concept of God and that perfection entails His/Her existence. Anselm suggests, that once it is evident that God is that than which no greater can be conceived, His/Her existence is authenticated.

A form of the ontological argument also constitutes the crux of Rene Descartes’ mediations. Descartes relies on an untenable notion that existence is perfection and it can be predicated of God. Descartes argues the idea of God by describing the deity as an infinite substance; eternal, immutable, independent, all – knowing, all – powerful, to which nothing more perfect can be imagined. He defines the more perfect as “that which contains in itself more reality”. Hence there are gradations of perfection, beginning with subjective phantasms and culminating with the most perfect being in God Himself. Thus, because the idea of God is one of absolute perfection and existence contains more reality than non-existent thoughts alone, God exists. The most prominent modern advocate of the ontological argument is Alvin Plantinga. Plantinga defends his views by stating that religious belief is foundational; religious belief does not stand in need of external justification. He also applies modal logic to his approach; the logic of possibility and necessity. Hence presenting the argument in a revised form. He states that it is possible for a being that has maximal greatness to exist, if a being has maximal greatness it is omnipotent, omniscient and wholly good in every possible world. Therefore it is necessarily true than an omniscient, omnipotent and wholly good being exists.

However, the critics of this argument often question whether such a proof is legible even in proposition. The earliest critic of the ontological argument was a believer, monk Gaunilo of Marmoutier. Although Gaunilo did not...
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