Two New Books from Schellenberg

The first -- Progressive Atheism: How Moral Evolution Changes the God Debate (Bloomsbury) came out on the 8th.  Here's the blurb to whet your appetite:
Progressive Atheism shows how atheism can make progress in humanity's future. It presents a new way of arguing that God doesn't exist, based on a portrayal of God so positive that you may sometimes wonder whether you're reading the thoughts of a believer.  
Starting with the simple idea that our understanding of what it takes to be a good person has changed and grown over time, J. L. Schellenberg argues that our understanding of the goodness of God must now change too. Masculine images of God as haughty King or distant Father have to be replaced by God as a paragon of nonviolence and relational openness.  
This more evolved conception of God is incredibly attractive and admirable. But by the same token it has become less believable. Each moral advance, applied to God, makes it even clearer that such a being would never create a world like ours.  
Atheists have often approached the subject of God with disdain. Progressive Atheism proves that admiration will be far more powerful.

The second -- Religion After Science: The Cultural Consequences of Religious Immaturity (Cambridge) -- comes out in October. Here's the blurb to whet your appetite:
In this provocative work, J. L. Schellenberg addresses those who, influenced by science, take a negative view of religion, thinking of it as outmoded if not decadent. He promotes the view that transcendently oriented religion is developmentally immature, showing the consilience of scientific thinking about deep time with his view. From this unique perspective, he responds to a number of influential cultural factors commonly thought to spell ill for religion, showing the changes - changes favorable to religion - that are now called for in how we understand them and their proper impact. Finally, he provides a defense for a new and attractive religious humanism that benefits from, rather than being hindered by, religious immaturity. In Schellenberg's view, religion can and should become a human project as monumental as science.
Both look to be required reading for those interested in philosophy of religion.

My New Book With Joshua Rasmussen Is Now Out

Readers of this blog might be interested in my new book with Joshua Rasmussen, Is God the Best Explanation of Things? A Dialogue (Palgrave Macmillan).  (Besides the hardcover version, the e-book version is available here, and a softcover version is available here (link in top right corner)).




Some of my points rely on my previous work in modal epistemology. Those interested in seeing further development and defense of that sort of view might be interested in reading the contributions of myself and others in a book I co-edited with Bob Fischer: Modal Epistemology After Rationalism (Springer, 2017).


For a Limited Time: Free Downloads of Cambridge Elements in Philosophy of Religion!

Several new books have recently been released in the excellent Cambridge Elements in Philosophy of  Religion Series:



For a limited time, they are available for free download Check them out!

Special Issue: Alternative Concepts of God

Andrei Buckareff and Yujin Nagasawa guest edited a terrific new issue of the European Journal for Philosophy of Religion on alternative concepts of God. Here is the table of contents:


Guest Editors’ Introduction
Andrei Buckareff, Yujin Nagasawa

The Awe-some Argument for Pantheism
T. Ryan Byerly

Against Mereological Panentheism
Oliver D. Crisp

Being Perfect is Not Necessary for Being God
Jeanine Diller

Panentheism, Transhumanism, and the Problem of Evil - From Metaphysics to Ethics
Benedikt Paul Göcke

Nothing Else
Samuel Lebens

Infinity and the Problem of Evil
John Leslie

Personalistic Theism, Divine Embodiment, and a Problem of Evil
Chad Meister

Neoplatonic Pantheism Today
Eric Steinhart

By Whose Authority: A Political Argument for God's Existence
Tyler McNabb, Jeremy Neill

God, Elvish, and Secondary Creation
Andrew Pinsent

Assessing the Resurrection Hypothesis: Problems with Craig's Inference to the Best Explanation
Carlos Alberto Colombetti, Robert G. Cavin

Check it out!

Soul-Making Theodicies and Lack-of-Character Data

Soul-making theodicies aim to defeat the problem of evil. In broad outline, they argue that moral virtues  (e.g., patience, kindness, compassion, etc.) are among the greatest possible goods, and that God must allow suffering in order to give us the opportunity to develop virtue (e.g., developing patience requires undergoing hardships; developing courage requires facing danger; developing compassion requires experiencing suffering yourself (to empathize) and seeing and responding to the suffering of others, etc.). Therefore, God is justified in permitting evil or suffering in order to allow for these goods.

The problem is that, as John Doris and others have recently argued, there is a robust set of data regarding human behavior that casts serious doubt on the hypothesis that humans have the capacity to develop virtue. And if that's right, then soul-making theodicies are thereby undercut.

Two Notions of Necessity (and the Theistic Arguments that Conflate Them)

There are two notions of necessity floating around that easily get conflated: (i) exists in all possible worlds, and (ii) can't not exist. But (ii) can't be captured by (i); (ii) is more fine-grained than (i).  Indeed, it's epistemically possible that a being is necessary in sense (i), but not in sense (ii). 

To see this, say that a world stub is some initial temporal segment of a possible world (whether beginningless or not). Now consider that it it's epistemically possible for a god (an uncreated, metaphysically independent being) G to exist in the world stub of every possible world, and yet go out of existence at some time downstream of the world stub of at least one -- but perhaps many, and perhaps even every -- possible world (say it commits suicide due to eternal boredom, or it's annihilated by some other being downstream of one or more world stubs). It's therefore epistemically possible for G to be necessary in sense (i), but not in sense (ii).

This has non-trivial implications for some theistic arguments. Some contemporary theistic arguments --  "minimal modal ontological arguments" (as van Inwagen defines them), certain Leibnizian cosmological arguments, etc. --  deploy S5 modal logic to show that an Anselmian being currently exists. In particular, they aim to show that

1. A necessary being exists in at least one possible world.

and then infer from (1) and Axiom S5 of S5 modal logic to infer that

2. A necessary being exists in every possible world.

And finally, from (2) they infer that

3. A necessary being exists.

Now of course many -- myself included -- have raised doubts about (1). But the preceding discussion raises a problem for the inference from (2) to (3). For as we've seen above, (3) doesn't follow from (2). Therefore, even if one establishes that there is a necessary being in the sense captured by sense (i) above -- viz., the necessity operator of modal logic --, one has not thereby established that such a being currently exists. And because of this, theistic arguments of the sort mentioned above that rely on an inference from (2) to (3) to establish God's existence are bound to fail.

Two New Books from Schellenberg

The first --  Progressive Atheism: How Moral Evolution Changes the God Debate   (Bloomsbury)   came out on the 8th.  Here's the blurb t...