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David Hume’s “Dialogues and Natural History of Religion” Research Paper

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Updated: Sep 26th, 2021

It is in the nature of humans that they look for someone metaphysical and supernatural for the solution their problems and difficulties whenever they feel quite helpless and unable to do the same. It is therefore the institution of religion that came into being. Looking into the history of the world at large, it becomes evident that religion existed in all human societies from the most primitive to the most modern ones. “Humans have formed their own beliefs (called probability belief in mathematics and science) about the set of incomprehensible elements of the universe. They have branded their beliefs about the unknowable as religion.” (Acharya, 2006) Since religion is a highly diversified subject, different societies maintain different religious faiths and beliefs. Not only has this that it varies from society to society and from one culture to the other, but also one single society contained the followers of many different religions in it. “Some people speculate about which mind qualities survive the demise of our physical body, only to reappear in different shapes and in a renewed context. As this issue belongs to the realm of personal faith, it doesn’t make sense to approve, to disapprove, or to argue.” (Kessler, 2004, 1)

The concept of God also varies along with the divergence in religious beliefs, cults, and cultures of the world at large. David Hume, Scottish economist and philosopher of the 18th century, contains empiricist views about religion and God, and strongly lays stress upon the belief in the nature and existence of God on empirical proofs and validity. In his renowned posthumous book under the title “Dialogues and Natural History of Religion”, Hume discusses the nature of God through three fictional characters. He is of the view that there is an urgent need of understanding the dynamic powers of the human mind, which are highly supportive in solving both concrete as well as complex problems. It is the powers of knowledge and observation that make a man get acquainted with the world around him. Man cannot seek wisdom without the help of observation. It is a deep and minute examination of social phenomena that bestows the blessings of knowledge upon man and improves his vigilance, foresight, and intellect.

Hume emphasizes deep meditation, soundproof and logical contemplation in order to explore the concept attributed to the Supreme Being i.e. Almighty God. It is not apposite, according to him, to imitate the footprints of others regarding accepting certain religious beliefs blindly by following the practices of forefathers as well as other members of community and society at the time when the human mind is unable to admit the same. Since the human mind carries exemplary intellectual capabilities, Hume submits, his wisdom, vigilance, and insight are sufficient enough to demonstrate the reality about the entire natural and social phenomena including the existence of God. Famous French philosopher Rene Descartes (1596-1650) in his works also expresses the same views and argues about discovering the realities about God with the help of intellect and meditation. “Since Hume believed that all matters of fact had to be established through experience, the question of whether religious belief can ever be rationally boiled down to the more specific question of whether religious belief can ever be justified by experiential evidence.” (Sparknotes.com)

His views reflect his deep meditations, where the philosopher has proved the existence of God. He refutes the very idea that religion is synonymous with the adaptation of some presumptions and propositions without analyzing their validity through intellectual capabilities and sound examinations. Eminent German philosopher and thinker Friedrich Nietzsche has also emphatically described the same fact that individuals set certain beliefs and notions in their mind for the solution of their problems, to which they state as the spiritual values. He maintains quite novel and diversified views regarding the concept of God, which he has mentioned in his famous book under the title “The Gay Science.” (1882) Nietzsche considers truth and knowledge as the vital things to explore the natural and social phenomena present in the environment to recognize and search out the true concept of God.

He cites Greek philosophers and declares few of them as the torch-bearers as well as carriers of wisdom and reality in respect of natural phenomena and characteristics attributed to the Lord as well. The ancient Greek philosophers also had an idea regarding Almighty God, the Creator, Who had, according to them, made man out of His own image and bestowed upon him the blessings of knowledge. It is the knowledge that distinguishes man from animals, beasts, and even angels too elevating his position superior to all. Nietzsche cites Socrates, the great philosopher, and thinker of ancient Greece, who always preached truth, justice, wisdom and sacrificed his life for the sake of true knowledge. Socrates views that if an individual looks into himself and analyses his mind and personality, he gets acquainted with the favors of his Lord on him. Almost the same views have been applied by Hume in his works.

Hume’s notion certainly carries weight and invites the people to come and analyze the realities of life and death keeping in mind positivistic propositions in order to give an appropriate and satisfactory reply to their own questions and curiosities regarding religion and God. Hence, he proves the very fact that rationalism does not serve as an antithesis to religious faith; rather, it is rationalism that shows humans the right path of acknowledging and admitting the powers, favors, and bounties of the Supreme Being. Mere blind imitation keeps the human mind going astray in the thick darkness of ignorance and awareness, where a man can become easy prey to evil forces by denying the existence of God at large. In such an age of scientific advancements and technological achievements where man is making quite wonderful inventions, it is really queer to stop thinking about the presence and concept of the Lord without making an empirical generalization and focusing on sound proofs to affirm and assert the facts about God.

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