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Adams, Marilyn McCord, , . Horrendous Evils and the Goodness of God
1999, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
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Publisher’ Note: When confronted by horrendous evil, even the most pious believer may question not only life’s worth but also God’s power and goodness. A distinguished philosopher and a practicing minister, Marilyn McCord Adams has written a highly original work on a fundamental dilemma of Christian thought – how to reconcile faith in God with the evils that afflict human beings. Adams argues that much of the discussion in analytic philosophy of religion over the last forty years has offered too narrow an understanding of the problem. The ground rules accepted for the discussion have usually led philosophers to avert their gaze from the worst – horrendous – evils and their devastating impact on human lives. They have agreed to debate the issue on the basis of religion-neutral values, and have focused on morals, an approach that – Adams claims – is inadequate for formulating and solving the problem of horrendous evils. She emphasizes instead the fruitfulness of other evaluative categories such as purity and defilement, honor and shame, and aesthetics. If redirected, philosophical reflection on evil can, Adams’s book demonstrates, provide a valuable approach not only to theories of God and evil but also to pastoral care.

Comment: This would be useful in a course on philosophy of religion or atheism. It is most likely that this would serve as a secondary rather than primary reading, but would be particularly useful for students who feel that discussions of the problem of evil for theism are carried out at too high a level of abstraction to get to what is really central to the problem.

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Antony, Louise M, , . For the Love of Reason
2007, in L. Antony (ed.) Philosophers Without God: Meditations on Atheism and the Secular Life. Oxford University Press: 41-58.
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Summary: Antony talks about the mysteries to do with religion and philosophy of religion that have always troubled her – for instance, the Euthyphro dilemma, the state of ‘limbo’, and original sin.

Comment: A personal and very accessible reflection by an atheist philosopher of religion on why she does not believe in God. Could be nice to include before a debate on atheism/agnosticism/theism, for instance. It is very much an accessible introduction to the topic – yet, one written by a philosopher of religion. Could help to combat stereotype threat for female undergraduates in that this is a personal piece written by a female philosopher of religion.

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Buchak, Lara, , . Can it be Rational to Have Faith?
2012, in Jake Chandler & Victoria Harrison (eds.) Probability in the Philosophy of Religion. Oxford University Press: 225-247.
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Abstract: This paper provides an account of what it is to have faith in a proposition p, in both religious and mundane contexts. It is argued that faith in p doesn’t require adopting a degree of belief that isn’t supported by one’s evidence but rather it requires terminating one’s search for further evidence and acting on the supposition that p. It is then shown, by responding to a formal result due to I.J. Good, that doing so can be rational in a number of circumstances. If expected utility theory is the correct account of practical rationality, then having faith can be both epistemically and practically rational if the costs associated with gathering further evidence or postponing the decision are high. If a more permissive framework is adopted, then having faith can be rational even when there are no costs associated with gathering further evidence

Comment: A great paper for an intermediate philosophy of religion course, especially because many arguments from students are to the contrary: it’s irrational to believe in God when we don’t have satisfactory evidence. It could be nice to set up a debate centering around this paper. It could work particularly well towards the end of the course.

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Buchak, Lara, , . Faith and Steadfastness in the face of Counter-Evidence
2017, International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 81(1-2): 113-133.
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Abstract: It is sometimes said that faith is recalcitrant in the face of new evidence, but it is puzzling how such recalcitrance could be rational or laudable. I explain this aspect of faith and why faith is not only rational, but in addition serves an important purpose in human life. Because faith requires maintaining a commitment to act on the claim one has faith in, even in the face of counter-evidence, faith allows us to carry out long-term, risky projects that we might otherwise abandon. Thus, faith allows us to maintain integrity over time.

Comment: This would be a great paper to set for further reading, with Buchak’s ‘Can it be Rational to Have Faith’? as a primary reading. It could alternatively be a primary reading, but in a more specialised Philosophy of Religion course – for instance, one that is specifically on Religious Epistemology or on Faith and Reason.

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Buchak, Lara, , . Rational Faith and Justified Belief
2014, in Laura Frances Callahan & Timothy O’Connor (eds.) Reigious Faith and Intellectual Virtue. Oxford University Press: 49-73.
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Abstract: In ‘Can it be rational to have faith?’, it was argued that to have faith in some proposition consists, roughly speaking, in stopping one’s search for evidence and committing to act on that proposition without further evidence. That paper also outlined when and why stopping the search for evidence and acting is rationally required. Because the framework of that paper was that of formal decision theory, it primarily considered the relationship between faith and degrees of belief, rather than between faith and belief full stop. This paper explores the relationship between rational faith and justified belief, by considering four prominent proposals about the relationship between belief and degrees of belief, and by examining what follows about faith and belief according to each of these proposals. It is argued that we cannot reach consensus concerning the relationship between faith and belief at present because of the more general epistemological lack of consensus over how belief relates to rationality: in particular, over how belief relates to the degrees of belief it is rational to have given one’s evidence.

Comment: This could be a great paper to set for further reading, with Buchak’s ‘Can it be Rational to Have Faith?’ as a primary reading. If being discussed as a primary reading, it would be good to get very clear on Buchak’s four candidates for the relationship between belief and degrees of belief: perhaps by splitting the room into four groups, and getting each group to discuss one proposal – as well as what follows about the relationship between faith and belief according to that proposal.

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De Cruz, Helen, , . The Enduring Appeal of Natural Theological Arguments
2014, Philosophy Compass 9/2: 145-153.
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Abstract: Natural theology is the branch of theology and philosophy that attempts to gain knowledge of God through non-revealed sources. In a narrower sense, natural theology is the discipline that presents rational arguments for the existence of God. Given that these arguments rarely directly persuade those who are not convinced by their conclusions, why do they enjoy an enduring appeal? This article examines two reasons for the continuing popularity of natural theological arguments: (i) they appeal to intuitions that humans robustly hold and that emerge early in cognitive development; (ii) they serve an argumen- tative function by presenting particular religious views as live options. I conclude with observations on the role of natural theology in contemporary analytic philosophy of religion.

Comment: This would be useful in a course on philosophy or religion, metaphysics (where arguments for and against the existence of God are being considered), epistemology or religious epistemology. The paper is clear and non-technical. It does not provide arguments for or against the existence of God but considers the debate as a whole. It may then be useful for scene-setting, or for placing previously considered arguments in their context.

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Ekstrom, Laura W, , . Religion on the Cheap
2015, Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion (Jonathan Kvanvig (ed).) Vol. 6: 87-113
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Introduction: The project of this chapter is to address this question: is it sensible to live a life that involves religious practices and experiences and involvement in religious community within a traditional monotheistic religion that affirms the existence of God, without oneself having a commitment to the existence of God—that is, with being a religious agnostic? It is argued that it is not. It is further argued that there are real costs associated with rejecting the claim that the proposition, ‘God exists’, realistically construed, is true. But one should be prepared to absorb these costs rather than trying to have it both ways – rather than getting religion on the cheap.

Comment: Useful for an introductory philosophy of religion course element on agnosticism and fictionalism, perhaps as a secondary reading in response to a paper that argues for religious fictionalism (e.g. by Natalja Deng – also recommended in the DRL). Alternatively, both of these readings could be set as core readings, and students could be set the task of defending one of them, and giving reasons why they think that particular account is stronger.

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Ekstrom, Laura W, , . Suffering as Religious Experience
2004, in Peter Van Inwagen (ed.) Christian Faith and the Problem of Evil. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Press: 95-110.
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Summary: In this paper, Ekstrom argues that some instances of suffering might reasonably be viewed as religious experiences that serve as a means of intimacy with God. Thus, where atheologians typically take suffering as evidence against the existence of God, Ekstrom argues that it might in fact be a route of knowledge to God.

Comment: This chapter would probably be most useful in arguments for/against the existence of God. In particular, it could follow on from a unit on the problem of evil. It is of particular interest because it’s commonly argued that suffering is an argument against God’s existence, but Ekstrom argues to the contrary.

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Ellis, Fiona, , . Atheism and Naturalism
2017, in A. Carroll and R. Norman (eds.) Religion and Atheism: Beyond the Divide. London: Routledge
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Summary: Ellis argues that atheism and naturalism don’t have to be traditionally-opposed rivals. First of all offers a helpful synopsis of these traditionally-opposed positions, and then argues that there is scope for allowing that nature is God-involving as well as being value-involving, and this move can be defended on (liberal) naturalistic grounds.

Comment: A good paper to use for an atheism and agnosticism unit, especially as many do tend to use naturalism as an argument against the existence of God.

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Fricker, Elizabeth, , . Epistemic Trust in Oneself and Others – and Argument from Analogy?
2014, in Laura Frances Callahan & Timothy O’Connor (eds.) Religious Faith and Intellectual Virtue. Oxford University Press.
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Abstract: Richard Foley and others have recently argued that there is an a priori connection between rational trust in one’s own faculties to rational trust of other human persons. This chapter argues, to the contrary, that we must instead establish through empirical observation which others are to be trusted and under which circumstances – there is no rational presumption of the trustworthiness of others. Hence, insofar as one’s religious beliefs are based on trust in the testimony of others, rationality requires that one assess the credentials of those whom one trusts.

Comment: A great primary reading for a religious epistemology course, or otherwise a great secondary reading for a more general philosophy of religion course, for a unit on Faith. If being used as a primary reading, it could be good to ask students to explain whether and why they agree that religious beliefs are based on trust in the testimony of others – and, if they do agree, whether this is problematic? What other (non-religious) cases can they think of where our beliefs are based on trust in the testimony of others?

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Garcia, Laura, , . Ontological Arguments for God’s Existence
2017, in Kelly James Clark (ed.) Readings in the Philosophy of Reigion – Third Edition. Broadview Press.
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Summary: A clear introduction to the Ontological Argument for God’s existence, and different versions of it.

Comment: A nice introduction to the Ontological Argument, suitable for an introductory philosophy of religion course. Would work as either a primary or secondary reading, depending on how much attention you want to give to the ontological argument.

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Garcia, Laura, , . Teleological and Design Arguments
2008, in Charles Taliaferro & Philip Quinn (eds.) A Companion to the Philosophy of Religion, Second Edition. Wiley-Blackwell: 375-384.
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Summary: This chapter takes you through the history of teleological arguments and an analysis of them: beginning with traditional teleological arguments and their origins, and moving to discuss modern day ‘fine tuning’ and ‘many worlds’ arguments. Along the way, Garcia considers criticisms of these various arguments.

Comment: An excellent and thorough introduction to the Teleological Argument, suitable for an introductory philosophy of religion course as a core reading. It could be good to ask students to compare classical ‘design’ arguments with ‘fine-tuning’ arguments, based on their reading of Garcia.

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Griffioen, Amber, , . Theraputic Theodicy? Suffering, Struggle, and the Shift from the Gods-Eye View
2018, Religions 9(4).
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Abstract: From a theoretical standpoint, the problem of human suffering can be understood as one formulation of the classical problem of evil, which calls into question the compatibility of the existence of a perfect God with the extent to which human beings suffer. Philosophical responses to this problem have traditionally been posed in the form of theodicies, or justifications of the divine. In this article, I argue that the theodical approach in analytic philosophy of religion exhibits both morally and epistemically harmful tendencies and that philosophers would do better to shift their perspective from the hypothetical ‘God’s-eye view’ to the standpoint of those who actually suffer. By focusing less on defending the epistemic rationality of religious belief and more on the therapeutic effectiveness of particular imaginings of God with respect to suffering, we can recover, (re)construct, and/or (re)appropriate more virtuous approaches to the individual and collective struggle with the life of faith in the face of suffering.

Comment: Useful for an introductory or intermediate Philosophy of Religion course – probably following or preceding the study of a ‘classical’ theodicy. It would be interesting to then have seminar questions in which students are invited to compare the two approaches to theodicy.

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Harrison, Victoria, , . Philosophy of Religion, Fictionalism, and Religious Diversity
2010, International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 68(1-3): 43-58.
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Abstract: Until recently philosophy of religion has been almost exclusively focused upon the analysis of western religious ideas. The central concern of the discipline has been the concept God , as that concept has been understood within Judaeo-Christianity. However, this narrow remit threatens to render philosophy of religion irrelevant today. To avoid this philosophy of religion should become a genuinely multicultural discipline. But how, if at all, can philosophy of religion rise to this challenge? The paper considers fictionalism about religious discourse as a possible methodological standpoint from which to practice a tradition-neutral form of philosophy of religion. However, after examining some of the problems incurred by fictionalism, the paper concludes that fictionalism and religious diversity are uneasy bedfellows; which implies that fictionalism is unlikely to be the best theory to shape the practice of philosophy of religion in a multicultural context.

Comment: This paper is a great one to include as a further reading in a fictionalism unit, because it goes beyond this topic to examine its compatibility with the desire for a more multicultural philosophy of religion. It also reflects upon the discipline of philosophy of religion as a whole, which would be very interesting for the keener students. Alternatively, this could be used as a primary reading at the end of a course (that has covered fictionalism) to allow students to reflect upon the discipline of philosophy of religion as a whole.

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Howard-Snyder, Frances, , . Divine Freedom
2017, Topoi 36(4): 651-656.
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Abstract: In ‘Divine Freedom,’ I argue that morally significant incompatibilist freedom is a great good. So God possesses morally incompatibilist freedom. So, God can do wrong or at least can do worse than the best action He can do. So, God is not essentially morally perfect. After careful consideration of numerous objections, I conclude that this argument is undefeated.

Comment: Useful for a unit on divine freedom with an intermediate level Philosophy of Religion course – would suit as the primary reading for this, as it gives a great overview and is relatively short, and also presents the central arguments in the debate over divine freedom: the alleged tension between incompatibilist freedom, and the thought that God always chooses the best possible action. It could be good to spend a whole seminar discussing how this tension is created, why it’s problematic, and whether it can be resolved.

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