Photo: H.L. Maibom: Varanasi, India 2010.

Photo: H.L. Maibom: Varanasi, India 2010.

Philosophy of Religion

What is it that make us believe in something super-natural like spirits or deities? What does it mean to say that there is a God? Is God a person, is it nature or the world? What are the reasons to believe in one, or many, Gods? These are some of the questions that I address in my course. We will look at ideas from great thinkers of traditions such as Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Daoism. We also examine skeptical views, such as those expressed by David Hume and Daniel Dennett, and evolutionary and psychoanalytic theories purporting to account for the origin in human psychology of religious belief.

This is a course that digs deep into our beliefs about the origin of the world, the heart of the universe, our human nature, and the range and complexity of human religious experience.

I usually cover some or all of the following topics:

  1. The ontological and the cosmological argument for the existence of God, and the argument from design (Anselm, Aquinas, Avicenna, Hume)

  2. Questions about the nature of God (Maimonides, Hume, Spinoza, the Upanishads)

  3. Non-theistic religion (Buddhism, Taoism)

  4. Psychoanalytic interpretations (Freud)

  5. Evolutionary accounts (Wilson, Boyer)

  6. Skepticism (Hitchens, Dennett)

  7. Religious experience (James, and modern neuroscience research)