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Notes for Does God Exist?



Verse 1

St Anselm (1033-1109) is the author of the ontological argument (in chapter two of his Proslogian), one of the traditional theistic proofs for the existence of God. He famously said: I believe [in God] in order that I might understand.

Verse 2

William Paley (1743-1805) popularised natural theology and the argument from design (longhand: the argument from the evidence of design in nature to the existence of God). His major work: Natural Theology; or Evidence of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity, Collected from the Appearances of Nature. Also known as the teleological argument. He was also the author of such gems as Insect Theology.

Verse 3

Paley thought of God as the Divine Watchmaker

Verse 4

Richard Dawkins, populariser of evolutionary Darwinism, and author of The Selfish Gene (1976).

Does Hawkins in his A Brief History of Time (1988) leave space for God?

Verses 5 & 6

There is a rich vein of anthropomorphism running through The Selfish Gene.

The Anthropic Principle, a modern theory in cosmology, which says roughly that the fundamental constants of the universe are fine tuned / were fine tuned at moment zero-plus to make intelligent life possible. Some see it as breathing new life into the teleological argument.

Verse 7

Pascal's Wager. Pascal (1623-1662) offers a pragmatic reason for believing in God: even under the assumption that God’s existence is unlikely, the potential benefits of believing are so vast as to make betting on theism rational.

Verse 8

Sigmund Freud (1856-1939)), an opponent of religion. Author of The Future of An Illusion (1927). Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961) split with Freud, finding his emphasis on the unconscious as a repository of sexual repression and little else to be too negative. Jung developed what he thought of as a more positive, integrative view of the unconscious, and is a founding father of much of American 'depth psychology'.

Verse 9

Matthew Arnold (1822 - 1888). Arnold's poem, Dover Beach, is a lament for the loss of religious faith which in the poem leaves a vista of a barren void before humanity: "And we are here as on a darkling plain / Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight, / Where ignorant armies clash by night."

Verse 10

Don Cupitt, the doyen of non-realist religion, took the phrase, The Sea of Faith, from Arnold's poem and used it as the title of his book, The Sea of Faith (1984). (Also see http://www.sofn.org.uk/)

The last poem of Louis MacNeice (1907-1963) is Thalassa (Greek for 'sea'), which (poignantly) espouses a tenaciously secular view of life.