God: Philosophers weigh in

Alex Byrne in the Boston Review:

God The question of God’s existence is one of those few matters of general interest on which philosophers might pretend to expertise—Dennett is a professional philosopher, and Harris has a B.A. in the subject. Still, of the four, it is Dawkins who wades the furthest into philosophy. So what can philosophy contribute? In particular, have philosophers come to a verdict on the traditional arguments for God’s existence?

Although it would be too much to expect complete consensus, it is fair to say that the arguments have left the philosophical community underwhelmed. The classic contemporary work is J. L. Mackie’s The Miracle of Theism, whose ironic title summarizes Mackie’s conclusion: the persistence of belief in God is a kind of miracle because it is so unsupported by reason and evidence. The failure of arguments for God’s existence need not lead straight to atheism, but philosophers often seem to find this route tempting. In his contribution to Philosophers Without Gods, a collection of atheistic essays by twenty prominent philosophers, Stewart Shapiro observes that “among contemporary philosophers, the seriously religious are a small minority.” Dean Zimmerman, a notable member of the minority, has ruefully remarked that “although numerous outspoken Christians are highly respected in analytic circles, many of our colleagues still regard the persistence of religious belief among otherwise intelligent philosophers as a strange aberration, a pocket of irrationality.”

More here.