Describe skepticism and its relationship to religion

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describe skepticism and its relationship to religion

Scientific American is the essential guide to the most awe-inspiring have made the connection between thinking and religion too obvious. It may also help explain why the vast majority of Americans tend to Evidence suggests that the majority of us are more prone to believing than being skeptical. Philosophy of religion is the philosophical examination of the central themes and the significance of religious pluralism, the nature of good and evil in relation to God, .. in opposition to skepticism and very primitive naturalistic schemes. It seems clear that many terms used to describe God in theistic. Skepticism (American English) or scepticism is generally any questioning attitude or doubt Related concepts and fundamentals: Formally, skepticism as a topic occurs in the context of philosophy, Religious skepticism is "doubt concerning basic religious principles (such as immortality, providence, and revelation)".

In this way he sought happiness, or at least mental peace. Starting from the skeptical doctrines of Socrates, its leaders, Arcesilaus and Carneadesset forth a series of epistemological arguments to show that nothing could be known, challenging primarily what were then the two foremost schools, Stoicism and Epicureanism. They denied that any criteria could be found for distinguishing the true from the false; instead, only reasonable or probable standards could be established.

This limited, or probabilistic, skepticism was the view of the Academy until the 1st century bce, when the Roman philosopher and orator Cicero was a student there. His Academica and De natura deorum are the main sources of modern knowledge of this movement. The other major form of ancient skepticism was Pyrrhonismapparently developed by medical skeptics in Alexandria. Beginning with Aenesidemus 1st century bcethis movement, named after Pyrrhon, criticized the Academic skeptics because they claimed to know too much—namely, that nothing could be known and that some things are more probable than others.

The Pyrrhonian attitude is preserved in the writings of one of its last leaders, Sextus Empiricus 2nd or 3rd century ce. In his Outlines of Pyrrhonism and Adversus mathematicos, Sextus presented the tropes developed by previous Pyrrhonists.

The 10 tropes attributed to Aenesidemus showed the difficulties encountered by attempts to ascertain the truth or reliability of judgments based on sense information, owing to the variability and differences of human and animal perceptions.

Michael Shermer on Skepticism and Religious Beliefs

Other arguments raised difficulties in determining whether there are any reliable criteria or standards—logical, rational, or otherwise—for judging whether anything is true or false. To settle any disagreement, a criterion seems to be required.

Any purported criterion, however, would have to be based either on another criterion—thus leading to an infinite regress of criteria—or on itself, which would be circular.

Sextus offered arguments to challenge any claims of dogmatic philosophers to know more than what is evident, and in so doing he presented, in one form or another, practically all of the skeptical arguments that have ever appeared in subsequent philosophy.

Sextus said that his arguments were aimed at leading people to a state of ataraxia unperturbability. People who thought that they could know reality were constantly disturbed and frustrated. If they could be led to suspend judgment, however, they would find peace of mind. In this state of suspension they would neither affirm nor deny the possibility of knowledge but would remain peaceful, still waiting to see what might develop. The Pyrrhonist did not become inactive in this state of suspense but lived undogmatically according to appearances, customs, and natural inclinations.

Medieval skepticism Pyrrhonism ended as a philosophical movement in the late Roman Empire, as religious concerns became paramount. In the Christian Middle Ages the main surviving form of skepticism was the Academic, as described in St. But having overcome them through revelationhe characterized his subsequent philosophy as faith seeking understanding.

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In Islamic Spain, where there was more contact with ancient learning, a form of antirational skepticism developed among Muslim and Jewish theologians. The view that truth in religion is ultimately based on faith rather than on reasoning or evidence—a doctrine known as fideism —was adopted by the late medieval German cardinal and philosopher Nicolaus of Cusa, who advocated learned ignorance as a path to religious knowledge.

Another line of thinking that included skeptical elements was that of the followers of William of Ockham —who explored the logical consequences of the belief that God is the origin of all knowledge.

They examined puzzles about whether God could deceive humankind, regardless of the evidence, and about whether he could render all human reasoning open to doubt. Modern skepticism Modern skepticism emerged in part from Okhamite medieval views, but its main source was the rediscovery of the skeptical classics.

Very little of the Pyrrhonian tradition had been known in the Middle Ages, but in the 15th century the texts of Sextus Empiricus in Greek were brought from the Byzantine Empire into Italy.

describe skepticism and its relationship to religion

Interest in Cicero was also revived, and his Academica and De natura deorum were also published in the 16th century. Later, during the Reformation and Counter-Reformationthe doctrinal controversies between Protestants and Roman Catholics raised fundamental epistemological issues about the bases and criteria of religious knowledge.

The Reformation During the 15th century, scholars in the Florentine convent of San Marco, where the Christian reformer Girolamo Savonarola was a lecturer, examined the views of Sextus in some manuscripts on deposit there.

Savonarola urged two of his monks to translate Sextus into Latin as a way of showing the vanity of all pagan philosophy.

describe skepticism and its relationship to religion

Before they could complete this task, however, Savonarola was tried and executed as a heretic. One of his disciplesGianfrancesco Pico—the nephew of the Italian Platonist Pico della Mirandola —published Examen Vanitatisthe first work to employ skepticism as a means of challenging the whole of philosophy. It was also the first work to discuss Sextus in Latin for a European audience. Skeptical arguments were central to the 16th-century debate between Erasmus and Martin Luther.

Using Academic skeptical materials, Erasmus insisted that the issues in dispute could not be resolved and that one should therefore suspend judgment and remain within the Roman Catholic church. Luther insisted, on the other hand, that true and certain religious knowledge could and must be gained through conscience. This new concern with skepticism was given a general philosophical formulation in the 16th century by Michel de Montaigne and his cousin Francisco Sanches.

Montaigne recommended living according to nature and custom and accepting whatever God reveals, and Sanches advocated recognizing that nothing can be known and then trying to gain what limited information one can through empirical scientific means. His followers in France— Pierre CharronJ. Camus, and La Mothe Le Vayeramong others—further popularized his views.

In the s efforts to refute or mitigate this new skepticism appeared. A Christian Epicurean, Pierre Gassendihimself originally a skeptic, and Marin Mersenneone of the most influential figures in the intellectual revolution of the times, while retaining epistemological doubts about knowledge of reality, nevertheless recognized that science provided useful and important information about the world.

The constructive skepticisms of Gassendi and Mersenne, and later of members of the Royal Society of England such as Bishop John Wilkins and Joseph Glanvilldeveloped the attitude of Sanches into a hypotheticalempirical interpretation of the new science.

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Using this criterion, one could then establish a number of truths: Thus Descartes, starting from skepticism, claimed to have found a new basis for certitude and for knowledge of reality. Throughout the 17th century, skeptical critics—Mersenne, Gassendi, the reviver of Academic philosophy Simon Foucherand Pierre-Daniel Huetone of the most learned men of the age—sought to show that Descartes had not succeeded, and that, if he sincerely followed his skeptical method, his new system could only lead to complete skepticism.

Nicolas Malebranchethe developer of occasionalism the view that all interaction between mind and body is mediated by Godrevised the Cartesian system to meet skeptical attacks only to find his efforts challenged by the new skeptical criticisms of Foucher and by the contention of Antoine Arnauld that Malebranchism led to a most dangerous Pyrrhonism.

They admitted that there might not be sufficient evidence to support knowledge claims extending beyond immediate experience. But this did not actually require that everything be doubted; by using standards of common sense, an adequate basis for many beliefs could be found.

Lacking rational answers to complete skepticism, humans must turn to God for help in overcoming doubt. The culmination of 17th-century skepticism appears in the writings of Pierre Bayleespecially in his monumental Dictionnaire historique et critique — Bayle, a superb dialectician, challenged philosophical, scientific, and theological theories, both ancient and modern, showing that they all led to perplexities, paradoxesand contradictions.

He argued that the theories of Descartes, Malebranche, Benedict de Spinozaand Gottfried Wilhelm Leibnizwhen skeptically analyzed, cast in doubt all beliefs about the world, even the belief that the world exists.

Bayle skillfully employed skeptical arguments about such things as sense information, human judgments, logical explanations, and the criteria of knowledge in order to undermine confidence in human intellectual activity in all areas. He suggested that humans should abandon rational activity and turn blindly to faith and revelation; they can therefore only follow their conscience without any criterion for determining true faith.

Bayle showed that the various conceptions of religious knowledge were so implausible that even the most heretical views, such as Manichaeism known for its cosmic dualism of good and evil and atheismmade more sense.

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Although Bayle indicated in later works that he did hold some positive views, he presented no answers to his skepticism. There is still much scholarly debate as to what his actual position was.

The Irish bishop George Berkeleyan empiricist and idealist, fought skeptical doubts by identifying appearance and reality and offering a spiritualistic metaphysics. He was immediately seen as just another skeptic, however, since he effectively denied the existence of a world beyond experience.

describe skepticism and its relationship to religion

Combining empirical and skeptical arguments, Hume asserted that neither inductive nor deductive evidence can establish the truth of any matter of fact. Knowledge can consist of intuitively obvious matters or demonstrable relations of ideas but not of anything beyond experience; the mind can discover no necessary connections within experience nor any root causes of experience. Beliefs about the world are based not upon reason or evidence, nor even upon appeal to the uniformity of nature, but only on habit and custom see induction, problem of.

Beliefs cannot be justified. While these influences are important, new research suggests that whether we believe may also have to do with how much we rely on intuition versus analytical thinking. In Amitai Shenhav, David Rand and Joshua Greene of Harvard University published a paper showing that people who have a tendency to rely on their intuition are more likely to believe in God.

Building on these findings, in a recent paper published in Science, Will Gervais and Ara Norenzayan of the University of British Columbia found that encouraging people to think analytically reduced their tendency to believe in God. Together these findings suggest that belief may at least partly stem from our thinking styles.

Understanding these two ways, which are often referred to as System 1 and System 2, may be important for understanding our tendency towards having religious faith. System 1 thinking relies on shortcuts and other rules-of-thumb while System 2 relies on analytic thinking and tends to be slower and require more effort.

Solving logical and analytical problems may require that we override our System 1 thinking processes in order to engage System 2. Psychologists have developed a number of clever techniques that encourage us to do this.

describe skepticism and its relationship to religion

Using some of these techniques, Gervais and Norenzayan examined whether engaging System 2 leads people away from believing in God and religion. Participants who viewed The Thinker reported weaker religious beliefs on a subsequent survey. However, Gervais and Norenzayan wondered if showing people artwork might have made the connection between thinking and religion too obvious.

Philosophy of Religion

In their next two studies, they created a task that more subtly primed analytic thinking. Participants received sets of five randomly arranged words e. Some of their participants were given scrambled sentences containing words associated with analytic thinking e. After unscrambling the sentences, participants filled out a survey about their religious beliefs.

In both studies, this subtle reminder of analytic thinking caused participants to express less belief in God and religion. Analytic thinking reduced religious belief regardless of how religious people were to begin with. In a final study, Gervais and Norenzayan used an even more subtle way of activating analytic thinking: Prior research has shown that difficult-to-read font promotes analytic thinking by forcing participants to slow down and think more carefully about the meaning of what they are reading.

The researchers found that participants who filled out a survey that was printed in unclear font expressed less belief as compared to those who filled out the same survey in the clear font.