“All religious beliefs in the end, traces to the dread of unknown.” – Hume
David Hume is the central figure in the philosophy of modern religion.Born in the 18th century called the ‘Age of Reason’, his landmark book ‘Natural History of Religion’ is the source of critical analysis of the canons of the theistic tradition. Hume was a skeptic and through questioning he arrived at the conclusion of his theory of religion. He believed that genuine knowledge must either be directly traceable to object perceived in experience or result from abstract reasoning about relations between ideas which are derived from experience. According to Hume, human actions are directed by passion rather than rationality.
Example of passion driving reason is religion. He proposed that there is not enough compelling logical arguments in favour of existence of God. Considering himself somewhere between agnostic and theist, he argued that it is needless to debate on the religion and existence of God as it is not based on some concrete evidence. He considered the religious people driven by passionate emotion who should be left in peace so long as they do likewise with us. Hence, he was foremost defender of religious toleration.
Known as one of the chief proponents of skepticism, Hume’s views hold true in contemporary world too.
David Hume was a Scottish philosopher, historian, economist and essayist. He is best known today for his highly influential system of philosophical empiricism, skepticism and naturalism.
His contribution to the philosophy of religion
Hume had argued about religion and his philosophical views on religion like on other subjects are also skeptical.
Natural and Revealed religion: During period of enlightenment, there were two pillars of traditional Christian belief i.e. Natural and Revealed. Former involves knowledge of god based upon logic and reason and latter involves knowledge of god based upon revelation through religious texts like Bible, Hume had argued for Natural Religion.
Miracles: Hume said that, regardless of how strong the testimony of miracle it can never come close to the overwhelming experience of unvaried laws of nature. Thus, according to Hume, wise person must reject the evidence concerning the alleged miracle.
Psychology of Religious belief: Another attack on revealed religion appears in Hume’s essay “The Natural History of Religion”. His thesis is that, natural instincts such as fear is the true cause of religious belief and not the rational argument.
Thus, Hume had very wisely criticized the religious belief which are not based on logic and reason at the time when criticizing religion would cost very dear.