Next Talk: 'Should we Want to Believe in God' by Dr Piers Benn on Tuesday 11 September - A Royal Institute of Philosophy talk at NEW VENUE Coach & Horses 7.30 pm- 9 pm* Dr Barbara Underwood, Chair            

Dr Piers Benn

Debates about the existence of God are familiar in philosophy. But the question of whether it is a good thing that God exists (or would be a good thing if he did) is much less discussed. Perhaps this is because, to many people, it seems crazy to deny that it would be a superlatively good thing if the cosmos were ruled by ultimate love and justice, that goodness will ultimately prevail and the 'every tear shall be wiped away'. Atheists are sometimes accused of not wanting God to exist, because they do not want to surrender to the sovereignty of God or face judgement for their sins. I want to defend (some) atheists of the charge of not wanting God to exist. However, there is a serious question of whether - at least from the standpoint of atheism or agnosticism - it would be an entirely good thing, or a good thing all things considered, if God existed. This becomes especially apparent when we consider particular religions traditions, and wonder whether the conception of God that they advocate is a conception of a supremely good Being. For believers, the question is obviously settled. However, non-believers lack a decisive a priori reason to think it settled.

[Piers Benn is a Visiting Lecturer in Philosophy at Heythrop College, University of London and an Adjunct Professor at Fordham University London Centre].

1 comment:

  1. What a pleasure it was to hear Dr Piers Benn again, giving such a stimulating talk, we had over 70 people for the talk, which was lovely but rather unexpected: so my apologies for miscalculating the number of handouts we needed to print. I sent a copy both for all of you who were there and for those of you who were unable to join us.

    This was our first event at our new (old) venue, and we did seem to have a couple of teething problems with the logistical arrangements. We hope to get them sorted out for next month's lecture. There should be more chairs in the room -- in fact Piers and I seemed to have a surfeit of everything including room, so next month there will be a couple of extra rows at the front. Also, we should have sorted out the sound system too by then.

    Finally, a word about the talk itself. The question of God is an enormous topic and has been a perennial for hundreds of years, from stories of revelation to logical arguments for the existence of God. But it is a sign of the times that these days we seem perhaps to be able to debate freely whether we actually want a god in our lives and what god it might be. Dr Piers Benn gave us a very succinct account of Thomas Nagel's wish for atheism to be true, countered by an American theologian W.L. Craig who is all for hell and damnation if one is not a Christian by the time of death. Piers went on to complexify an already complex question by introducing many variables such as morals, political questions and so on. What I like about his approach is that he is not advocating one side or the other, but seems to be stepping back viewing the arguments (if that is possible in the end).

    As ever the questions from the floor were both interesting and enlightening; questions such as, is god simply cultural, what is god, and is it part of a human being's mind set, hard-wired as it were.


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