Investigating God’s Existence from Innate Desires

FoetusI am so good at being so wrong. For a long period of time, I was not persuaded by the argument from innate desire for the existence of the transcend beings. Even though I deserted atheistic worldview 6 years ago, I am incapable of completely breaking free from the philosophical ghosts of my past. The shekels of empiricism and positivism are still strongly intervened in my Christian worldview.

David Hume, whose philosophy I strongly followed, captured how I went about evaluating whether a particular argument was persuasive  when he wrote,

When we run over libraries, persuaded of these principles, what havoc must we make? If we take in our hand any volume, of divinity or school metaphysics, for instance; let us ask, “Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number?” No. “Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence?” No. Commit it then to the flames. For it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion” (Hume 2000: 123)

I committed the arguments from desire to the flames. In Mere Christianity and The Weight of Glory, C. S. Lewis presented one of the versions of this argument that I rejected. Lewis contended that creatures possess innate desires that correspond to their satisfaction. Creatures possess some of innate desires that finds none of their satisfaction in this world. Therefore, it is probable that there is another world beyond this world. He argued, Continue reading

Eschatological Solution to the Problem of Pain and Suffering

Pain Pauls blog

The problem of pain and suffering is without doubt the most troubling paradox for Christians. How could a loving, maximally powerful and caring God allow his children to go through extreme and seemly meaningless pain and suffering? In times of suffering many Christians do, and correctly so I may add, find it difficult to imagine that God cares about their struggles. God appears to be as cold as ice itself and far from them as east is to the west. At those moments they rightly identify with Ivan Karamazov’s cry: “It’s not that I don’t accept God, you must understand, it’s the world created by Him I don’t and cannot accept”, in Fyodor Dostoevsky’s fictional novel, The Brothers Karamazov (Dostoevsky 2007, 257)

Early Christians underwent various trials and persecutions. Many paid their faithfulness with their own blood. What was it that made them stand tall and proud through such hard times? What was it that made them triumphantly walk into the valley of death without doubting the sovereignty of their loving God? As I explored their writings, I discovered one of their reasons. Their eschatological hope was what keep them going. It was their hope for the future glory at the second advent of their Lord and God. Their understanding of this future glory brought them hope. They considered all their present suffering not worthy compared to the joy and glory prepared for them (Rom. 8:18). Continue reading

On Behalf of Demea: Hume’s Problem of Evil

Pain Pauls blogEpicurus’ old questions are yet unanswered.” Said Philo, David Hume’s skeptical character, in Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion (1779). “Is he [God] willing to prevent evil, but not able? then is he impotent. Is he able, but not willing? then is he malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Whence then is evil?”(D 10.25)

In part 10 and 11 of the Dialogues, Hume explored the traditional problem of evil. He, quo Philo, argued that given the occurrence of pain and suffering, an omnicompetent Deity, believed by Cleanthes and Demea, cannot exist. The existence of instances of pain and suffering is logically incompatible with the existence of such a Deity.

Philo expounded more,

Why is there any misery at all in the world? Not by chance surely. From some cause then. Is it from the intention of the deity? But he is perfectly benevolent. Is it contrary to his intention? But he is almighty. Nothing can shake the solidity of this reasoning, so short, so clear, so decisive; except we assert, that these subjects exceed all human capacity, and that our common measures of truth and falsehood are not applicable to them (D 10.34)

Demea, Hume’s unbending and inflexible standard orthodox-theist character, offered a response to meet Epicurus’ old questions. This article explored Demea’s response and argued that it does shake the solidity of the classical problem of evil. Continue reading

Epicurean Paradox (Mis)understood


A great amount of ink is being spilled on the so called the problem of evil. Without doubt the problem of pain and suffering is the most essential, and probably the most influential, case against the providence of a benevolent God in mankind’s world. The burden of proof, in this article, is to show that the classical problem of pain and suffering should not be understood as a case against the existence of God(s) but against divinely providence in mankind’s world.

A case for the incompatibility of the gods’ divine providence and existence of pain and suffering in mankind’s world can be traced  back to Epicureans who believed that the gods existed but did not take any interest in mankind’s affairs. Epicureans are among the first to contend, against Stoics, that the idea that mankind toil in the hostile and inhospitable world demonstrate that gods’ aeons of blissful tranquility is uninterrupted by mankind’s pain and suffering (Letter to Herodotus, D. L. 10.76¹).

It is inappropriate, according to Epicureans, to hold that this fragile and faulty mankind’s world was designed by beings that are enjoying the blissful aeons of existence. The existence of pain and suffering is, for Epicureans, a proof that the gods neither created mankind’s world nor concerned themselves with it. In De Rerum Natura Epicurean Lucretius poetically wrote (RN 5.195-199):

Quod si jam rerum ignorem primordial quae sint,

Hoc tamen ex ipsis caeli rationibus ausim

Confirmare aliisque ex rebus reddere multis,

Nequaquam nobis divinitus esse paratam

Naturam rerum; tanta stat praedita culpa.

Lactantius, a 4th century Christian theologian, was aware of Epicurean’s argument against philosophers who defended divine providence. He explained that philosophers were “almost driven against their will to admit that God takes no interest in anything, which Epicurus especially aims at.”(AG 13). Epicurus’ argument, according to Lactantius, unfold as follows:

God, he[Epicurus] says, either wishes to take away evils, and is unable; or He is able, and is unwilling; or He is neither willing nor able, or He is both willing and able. If He is willing and is unable, He is feeble, which is not in accordance with the character of God; if He is able and unwilling, He is envious, which is equally at variance with God; if He is neither willing nor able, He is both envious and feeble, and therefore not God; if He is both willing and able, which alone is suitable to God, from what source then are evils? or why does He not remove them?(ibid)

Philo, one of David Hume’s spokesperson in Dialogues concerning Natural Religion (1779), reechoed Epicureans’ position that “the course of nature tends not to human or animal felicity”(D 198) and reformulated Lactantius’ argument attributed to Epicurus. Philo contended,

Epicurus’ old questions are yet unanswered. Is he[God] willing to prevent evil, but not able? then is he impotent. Is he able, but not willing? then is he malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Whence then is evil? (D 198)

Epicurean’s argument could be formulated as follows:

  1. The gods power and wisdom are infinite (thus whatever they will comes about and they know how to bring their will about).
  2. Neither mankind are happy nor is the world design for their felicity.
  3. Therefore gods neither will mankind’s happiness nor designed the world for their felicity.

The idea that the existence of pain and suffering leads to the conclusion that the god(s) did not exist would be foreign to Epicureans. Their argument was aimed to challenge the divinely providence in mankind’s world. It was not aimed to challenge the existence of gods. According to Epicurus’ admirer Lucretius and Epicurean spokesman in Cicero’s On the Nature of the Gods Epicurus strongly rejected atheism.

Epicurean paradox should, thus, be understood as a case against divinely providence in mankind’s world and not against the existence of God(s).


Lactantius, “A Treatise on the Anger of God” in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, eds. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, vol.7 (1886) Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company.

Diogenes Laertius Lives of the Philosophers, trans. R. D. Hicks, Loeb (1972) Classical Library, 2 vols. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press

[1] See also Cicero, On the Nature of the Gods 1.45

David Hume’s Genuine Theism

David Hume

“All the new discoveries in astronomy,” explained David Hume quo Philo, “which prove the immense grandeur and magnificence of the works of Nature, are so many additional arguments for a Deity, according to the true system of Theism.” (DNR 165)

Superstition, following Hume, ravishes from us the “presents of God and Nature”. Liberation from the slavery of the grossest superstition and false religion was Hume’s driving force in his campaign against superstition (Roman Catholicism) and enthusiasm (Protestantism) orthodoxy theism.  He explained,

That the corruption of the best things produces the worst, is grown into a maxim, and is commonly proved, among other instances, by the pernicious effects of superstition and enthusiasm, the corruptions of true religion. (E 73)

Sound philosophy and philosophical skepticism were not only the route to weed out superstition, man’s worst enemy, and false religion but also the route to establish a “true system of theism” and true religion.

Hume went head-on against rationalist orthodoxy, which assumed that religious beliefs can be defended by the principles of human reason. In its place he resurrected a “genuine theism” or “true religion” that is aesthetically founded. After dismantling rationalist argument from miracles, for example, Hume resolved that: “Our most holy religion is founded on Faith, not on reason; and it is a sure method of exposing it to put it to such a trial as it is, by no means, fitted to endure.”(EHU II, 135).

True theism emerges from aesthetic escalation of beauty and wonderful scenes in nature. There is no intelligent person who is so blind and senseless not to see the “regularity and uniformity of nature” and the awareness it strikes us (DNR 214¹). Hume rhetorically inquired:

Can we then be so blind as not to discover intelligence and a design in the exquisite and most stupendous contrivance of the universe? Can we be so stupid as not to feel the warmest raptures of worship and adoration, upon the contemplation of that intelligent being, so infinitely good and wise? The most perfect happiness, surely, must arise from the contemplation of the most perfect object. But what is more perfect than beauty and virtue? And where is beauty to be found equal to that of the universe? Or virtue, which can be compared to the benevolence and justice of the Deity(E 158)

The “regularity and uniformity of nature” is for Hume the “strongest proof of design and of a supreme intelligence”(NHR 329). Philo’s skepticism is relaxed when it came to aesthetic appreciation that is poured out from reflecting the wonderful scenes of the parts of universe. “[T]he beauty and fitness of final causes strike us with such irresistible force, that all objections appear (what I[Philo] believe they really are) mere cavils and sophisms”( (DNR 201)

Cleanthes resounded the role of true religion², which Hume drafted in History of England vol. II but did not publish³. He contended that:

The proper office of religion is to regulate the heart of men, humanize their conduct, infuse the spirit of temperance, order, and obedience; and as its operation is silent, and only enforces the motives of morality and justice, it is in danger of being overlooked, and confounded with these other motives (DNR 220)

Hume’s criticism against rationalist orthodoxy should not be read as leading to atheism but  “pure theism” and “true religion”. Hume’s aim was to restore the gifts of a Deity and nature that was kept captive by superstition. Belief in the designer and supreme intelligent Deity is not founded through human reason but aesthetic appreciation of the “regularity and uniformity of nature”.

[1] See also NHR 309, 311, 317 & 325

[2] See E 581 for the providence of Hume’s Deity

[3] Mossner, Ernest C. (1954) The Life of David Hume. Austin: University of Texas Press. pp. 306-7


Hume, David (1947) Dialogues concerning Natural Religion, ed. Norman Kemp Smith. Indianapolis: Bobbs Merrill.

_________ (1978) A Treatise of Human Nature, ed. L. A. Selby-Bigge, 2nd  ed. revised by P. H. Nidditch. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

_________(1882) The Natural History of Religion, from Philosophical Works of David Hume, ed. T. H. Green and T. H. Grose. London: Longmans, Green.

_________ (1987). Essay, Moral, Political, and Literary. E. F. Miller (Ed.) Indianapolis: Liberty Classics Pub.

David Hume (Mis)understood

David Hume

Without doubt, David Hume’s Dialogue Concerning Natural Religion is both the most famous and most influential criticism levelled against standard theism’s natural theology. Hume’s worldview had no room for any form of theism from superstition (Roman Catholicism) and enthusiasm (Protestantism) traditions. His stance against standard theism may lead a (non)religious prejudiced reader to the conclusion that Hume was an atheist, or worst anti-theist.

In two parts article I focused on the charge that Hume was an atheist. I argued, contrary to Antony Flew (1992), Peter Millican (2002) and Bernard Williams (2006), that Hume was not an atheist. There are elements of “genuine Theism and Religion” (NHR 309), a  “true system of Theism”(DNR 165), and “suitable notions of divine perfections”(DNR 88) in Hume’s worldview that is incompatible with any form of atheism.

Hume’s works showed that he was not an atheist (nor was he standard orthodox theist).   In The Natural History of Religion, Hume wrote:

A little philosophy, says lord BACON, makes men atheists: A great deal reconciles them to religion. For men, being taught, by superstitious prejudices, to lay the stress on a wrong place; when that fails them, and they discover, by a little reflection, that the course of nature is regular and uniform, their whole faith totters, and falls to ruin. But being taught, by more reflection, that this very regularity and uniformity is the strongest proof of design and of a supreme intelligence, they return to that belief, which they had deserted; and they are now able to establish it on a firmer and more durable foundation. (NHR 4:329¹, Hume’s emphasis)

A simple argument, beside Hume’s belief in a supreme intelligent Deity, is the case that if Hume was an atheist, then it is the case that he had little philosophy. Surely it is not the case that Hume had little philosophy. Therefore it is not the case that Hume was an atheist.

We may be tempted to claim that Hume’s position changed over time. Even though in NHR he argued that  “[t]he whole frame of nature bespeaks an intelligent author; and no rational enquirer can, after serious reflection, suspend his belief a moment with regard to the primary principles of genuine Theism and Religion”(4:309), Hume’s spokesman Philo, throughout chapter 11 in Dialogues, refuted this argument.

This temptation would overlook Philo’s unexpected reverse of course in chapter 12.  Philo held a certain form of design argument. He admitted that, “a purpose, an intention, or design strikes everywhere the most careless, the most stupid thinker; and no man can be so hardened in absurd systems, as at all times to reject it.” (DNR 214).  Philo’s skepticism ought not be viewed as deconstructive skepticism but a constructive one because for him,  “[t]o be a philosophical sceptic is the first and most essential step towards being a sound, believing Christian.”(228)

If this is true, how then should we understand Hume’s criticism levelled against classical arguments for existence of God? Does Hume’s stance against standard theism lead to atheism?

Hume’s own response against a similar charge, namely his denial of doctrine of causes and effects, the principle that whatever begins to exist must have a cause of existence, led to downright atheism, could be used as a guarding tool to understand Hume’s thoughts. In Letter From a Gentlemen Hume denied that charged and explained that it was only Samuel Clarke’s argument a priori that his denial would affect. Both arguments from design, “these Arguments so sensible, so convincing, and so obvious, remain still in their full Force” and other “metaphysical Arguments for a Deity are not affected”. In a similar manner the second part of this article will show that Hume’s criticism affects only standard form of theism. What he called true system of Theism (DNR 165) is not affected.

Next: David Hume’s Genuine Theism

¹ A similar quote is echoed in DNR part 1: “Don’t you remember, said Philo, the excellent saying of Lord Bacon on this head? That a little philosophy, replied Cleanthes, makes a man an Atheist: a great deal converts him to religion”(23) Edinburgh; London: William Blackwood and Sons(1907).

Flew, Antony (1992). David Hume: Writings on Religion. La Salle: Open Court.

Hume, David. Dialogues concerning Natural Religion, ed. Norman Kemp Smith (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merill, 1947).

___________ The Natural History of Religion, from Philosophical Works of David Hume, ed. T. H. Green and T. H. Grose (London: Longmans, Green, 1882).

Millican, Peter (2002). Reading Hume on Human Understanding. Oxford: Clarendon Press. (See pp. 34-40)

Williams, Bernard A. (2006). The Sense of the Past: Essays in the History of Philosophy. Princeton, N. J. : Princeton University Press. (See pp. 267-273)

Plants vs. Zombies: Hume Was An Atheist

David Hume

My wife used to love playing a action-strategy game called Plants vs. Zombies. The aim of this game was to arrange and rearrange different types of plants and fungi, as a landowner, around the house to stop a mob of zombies from invading it and eat your brain.

Popular myths are like zombies.  They too, if not stopped, invade your head and eat your brain. This series of articles concisely introduced some of popular theists and atheists myths. My aim is to give plants and fungi to both sincere atheists and theists brains’ soil to battle these waves of  zombies. So, lets get ready to soil our plants and fungi before these zombies eat our brains.

Myth I: David Hume Was An Atheist

In The Presumption of Atheism, Antony Flew’s wrote that David Hume was “the archetypal ancient spokesman for an atheist scientific naturalism”(1976, 52). Reading what some philosophers said about Hume’s Dialogue Concerning Natural Religion, a master piece leveled to refute the classical arguments for existence of God, this zombie ate my brain.

I started planting plants and fungi against this zombie when I began reading  Hume’s original works. I discovered that Hume’s aim was to show that the existence of God, the omnicompetent and wholly good creator is indemonstrable (D 189  cf. 141-2). The whole Dialogues(D) is not whether God exists or not, but if His nature can be known. Both Demea (D 142) and Philo (D 198), Hume’s characters, affirmed God’s existence but diverged on His nature. The problem of evil, for example, was Philo’s case against a benevolent nature of God, not His existence..

Hume’s Natural History of Religion (4:30 & 4:329) reveals that Hume, like Epicurus, was a limited theist. A narrow form of theism, but theism nonetheless.

Next: Myth II: Conflict Between Darwinism and Paleontology

When prejudiced creationists fail to see a zombie-difference between Darwinian gradualism and Darwinian punctuated equilibria.


Flew, Antony (1976) The Presumption of Atheism . London: Pemberton.

Further Reading: Major Writings of David Hume in contemporary English.