Philosophy Class Discussion Questions and answers

As promised, I am posting the discussion questions and my answers to them. There are two units, the first is regarding the concept of religion. The second is regarding the concept of god. So, here ya go... enjoy! :-P

(I apologize for the formatting on discussion 9, msword doesn't transfer over here very nicely!)

Discussion 9- What is religion?

1.       Explain the difference between agnosticism and atheism.

An agnostic believes that it is possible that god may exist, but there has not been sufficient evidence to prove or disprove the existence of god. An atheist believes there is no god.

 2.       Explain and evaluate your concept of "religion" by answering the four questions posed by Streng (summarized in the yellow box on page 359).


  • “Does your definition reduce religion to what you happen to be acquainted with by accident of birth and socialization?” I feel that, as children, we are pushed into the religion followed by our parents. When we are old enough to explore on our own, some people decide to stick with what they were raised with, while other’s venture out to explore new ideas.


  • “Does your definition reflect a bias on your part –positive or negative- toward religion as a whole, or toward a particular religion?” I do think I am biased. I do not believe in religion at all. I do not see where there is any scientific proof of the existence of any form of god or other religious idol. I feel that everyone is biased in one way or another when it comes to religion.


  • “Does your definition limit religion to what it has been in the past, an nothing else, or does your definition make it possible to discuss emerging forms of religion?”  I do not feel that my definition limits religion. I feel that if a new religion emerged based on scientific fact, I would readily accept that religion.


  • “Does your definition have sufficient precision?” I feel that each person is entitled to their own belief system. I don’t feel mine is any better or more accurate that anyone else’s.  I think each person should be able to define their own structure of religion without having to worry about belittlement from others, or discrimination due to their beliefs. I think my definition of religion is precise to me, and that is all that matters. Whether it is to another person or not is up to them to decide.


 3.       Explain Feuerbach’s argument. Do you agree? Why or why not?

Feuerbach felt that god was the projection of man’s dream. He stated that people were not created in god’s image, but that god was created in man’s image. That people endowed god with the most desired emotions and values and then perfected them. In this creation, humankind found god. Feuerbach hoped that he could show people this was just a projection of what they desired god to be. He felt that if he could liberate people from this way of thinking, that they would turn their love and devotion to all humankind. Feuerbach goes on the question why has man created this ultimate goodness? He feels it is so that man can be free from himself to transcend himself and soar to the realm of ultimate goodness. I think this is a good argument because there is no scientific proof to support the existence of any form of god. So, if people have created this character in their own image, endowing him with perfect values and emotions, then they have something to emulate in their own lives, something to work towards.

 4.       Explain Nishitani's argument. Do you agree? Why or why not?

Nishitani felt that religion is what helped man to find the meaning of life, and the place he falls in that meaning. He felt that man could not answer these questions without the help of religion, or more specifically, by going on a religious quest, to find the answers specifically for each person. I do not agree with this argument because I do not feel religion is necessary for a person to find his or her own place in life, or to find meaning for his or her own life. I think that we as individuals are able to find those answers without involving the concept of religion.

 5.       Using the principles of logic that you have learned, are Feuerbach’s and Nishitani's arguments good arguments and why or why not?

I do think they are both well-formed arguments, however I do not feel that every person needs to follow the concept of religion, regardless of what form that concept takes.

Discussion 10- Does god exist?

Explain the Problem of Evil. What does Hick say in response to this problem?

The problem with evil states that if god exists and is all powerful and is all good, then how can evil exist. Hick says the problem with evil is only a problem for those who believe in a god that is both omnipotent and wholly good. According to Hick, we have to determine that either god is not all good or not all powerful in order to explain why evil exists.

Explain the Ontological argument and state one problem with it.

The main problem with this argument is that it states that everything must have a cause, and that there must be something that was a first cause to begin the cycle, and therefore god must be the first cause. The premise contradicts the conclusion. If every event must have a cause, then what event caused god?

Explain the Cosmological argument. Do you think that there must be a first cause or is it possible that there is no 'beginning'? Why?

The Cosmological argument follows that our universe is the model. First, everything in the world that moves had to, at one point in time, be moved. Since one thing has to move another thing, where is the original ‘mover’ of all things? The only logical answer would be that god is the original mover of things. Second is the cause and effect relationship. Since every effect has a cause, there has to be an original cause to set of effects, and the only logical answer would be that god set off the first effect.

I personally do not think there must be a ‘first cause’ and I do feel it is possible there is no beginning as believed by most Christians. I believe in the big bang theory, and in evolution. I believe science has provided enough supporting evidence that this is where our universe began.

Explain the Argument from Design and state one problem with it.

The argument from states that the world and universe was created by an omnipotent being. The problem with this argument is that it does not consider evolution. Another problem is that if an omnipotent being created our world, then why didn’t he/she create a world that was in perfect harmony, rather than one in which people are in constant chaos?


Explain the Argument from Morality. Do you believe that the existence of this deeply felt moral sense supports belief in the existence of a supremely moral mind -God? Why or Why not?

The argument from morality states that people get their morality from god; otherwise we would not have the moral principles which we so strongly feel is right. I agree with Kant who states that morality is grounded mainly in our ability to reason. I do not think that god gave us a moral code to follow, I think that humans are able to decipher right from wrong innately.

Using the principles of logic that you have learned, are any of these arguments for the existence of God good arguments? If so, which one(s) and why or why not?

Using the principles of logic that I have learned, I have decided no, none of these arguments are good arguments for the existence of god. I feel each argument asks us to take some premise on faith rather than providing factual evidence of the truth of the premise. I think they could be valid arguments because of the way they are stated, but that does not mean they are factual arguments. I feel that there is no factual evidence in support of the existence of god; however I do feel there is evidence against the existence of a supreme being. Our examples in nature, the fossil record, and all that we have learned from exploring the cosmos leads me to believe that our world was created through the big bang theory, and all life on our planet came to be through evolution.


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Comment by Simon Paynton on April 22, 2013 at 1:56am

Question 2 provides a good way of talking about and purifying your definition of religion.  As I understand it, you haven't spelled out your definition of religion, you've only referred to it in your answers to the questions. 

I think you are biased.  Otherwise you would have said you have an open mind, instead that you don't believe in it and don't think you are biased.  That's what I think anyway. 

Comment by Simon Paynton on April 22, 2013 at 2:01am

You're mostly talking about your feelings and opinions about religion. 

Comment by Logicallunatic on April 22, 2013 at 2:57am

Apart from the obvious indoctrination, you could have went deeper into describing religion as a cultural construct; as a community, a place to gather on a Sunday and so on. However, it is of course grounded on faith which is belief without evidence. You could also say that the strength of one's beliefs should be directly proportional to the evidence behind them, thus religious belief is totally unjustified and ultimately grounded in emotional wish-thinking. 

Comment by Diane on April 22, 2013 at 7:17am

I didn't have time to read the whole thing this morning, but I will later.  As far as your definition of atheism goes, there is another aspect to it that is subtly different yet important.  I am an atheist who simply does not believe in a god (weak atheism).  I am not making a statement that I believe there is no god.  Strong atheists are the ones who claim there definitely is no god.  The weak and strong labels do not describe our resolve, but indicate our position along a continuum.  

Comment by SteveInCO on April 22, 2013 at 8:41am

Many here will dispute your paragraph 1, and Diane has partially alluded to the distinction they will try to raise.  According to these folks atheism/theism is about belief while agnosticism/gnosticism is about knowledge. Thus they generally describe themselves as agnostic atheists, they don't believe there is a god but they don't know their isn't one, because it hasn't been proved.

I, on the other hand, seem to have internalized somewhat different definitions closer to what you are using.  Maybe I took George H, Smith's Atheism: the Case Against God to heart.  (BTW I strongly recommend this book [and it's fairly cheap!] if you want a philosophical discussion of atheism vs. theism, as opposed to the largely science-based reasoning people here tend to employ--not taking anything away from that, it's also a good line of attack.)  On somewhat deeper reflection the definitions of these terms actually they come in pairs:

(strong) atheism: the belief (however arrived at) that there is no god.  (Weak) atheism: simply lacking the belief that there is a god--this could conceivably even come from never having thought of the concept of god in the first place.

(weak) agnosticism:  Not being sure one way or the other, perhaps a belief the evidence just isn't adequate to decide.  (strong) agnosticism:  the belief that one cannot be sure even in principle.

You'll note I said "belief (however arrived at)"  Some atheists cringe at the word "belief" because to them it connotes an arbitrary faith-based opinion; I just use it in the sense of "whatever one holds to be true" and that could be either due to faith or a process of reason based on actual facts of reality, or some weird mix of the two ("reasoning" from arbitrary statements to get a logical-seeming but in fact utterly fictitious result).

Comment by SteveInCO on April 22, 2013 at 8:45am

On question 2--it seems as if in some places you are describing religion as a general phenomenon (you correctly identify that there are plenty of different ones), and in others describing what it would take for you to accept a (hypothetical) religion as true.  Which isn't what was being asked.  Also describing a religion based on scientific facts would (to my mind) make it not a religion any more since they are faith and woo based, though it would certainly be a view of how the universe works (which religions are too, they are just crappy ones).

Comment by SteveInCO on April 22, 2013 at 8:51am

For Discussion 10 Hick correctly identifies that the problem of evil only proves that a (hypothetical) god cannot be both omnipotent and omnibenevolent.  Since the Christian god has both of those in his description, it proves the Christian god cannot exist (but leaves the door open for a god that only has one of these two qualities).

This is the kind of argument that leads me to conclude with certainty that the Christian god is just as impossible as a four sided triangle.  I know that particular god doesn't exist. (Richard Dawkins won't go that far.)  I find Thor and the Flying Spaghetti Monster more likely to exist than the Christian god (though I don't know enough about Pastafarianism; perhaps the same claims are made about FSM).

Comment by Missy Hollingsworth on April 22, 2013 at 12:10pm

@ Ray Not at all nit-picking! You are exactly right. Evolution explains how the planet came to be as it is now, but I think the 'big bang' explains how the planet came to be, and the beginnings of life came to be. I got a lot of crap about that on my school discussion site. There are a lot of extremely religious people in this class, which surprises me. But, I must say in their defense also, a lot of them also saw my point of view as being valid.

I could have delved a lot deeper, however we do have space constraints (which I think thoroughly sucks) I really do appreciate everyone's comments. It helps me to better explore this subject. I'm new to the philosophical school of thought... or at least, I'm new to the way it is taught in college! Sometimes it can be somewhat confusing. I've always tried to research what I feel is the truth to make sure I'm correct, and there have been a lot of times when I was wrong. The thing I have to accept is that my way is not the only way! (But then I think most people have trouble accepting that! Hence the reason for debates!)

Comment by Missy Hollingsworth on April 22, 2013 at 12:10pm

@Steve- Thank you so much for your insight! We should talk more. I just wish I had more time to be online... damn school!

Comment by angela kozma on April 22, 2013 at 6:15pm

@ missy. I liked what you wrote. if anything i would have added would have been a deeper explanation of the big bang and a bit of the basic physics that caused seid big bang theory. 


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