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David Hume

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Renaissance to Revolution
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Abbas Ali

David Hume and the Fallacy (Philosophy) of Religion

David Hume is considered the greatest philosopher Britain has produced and an intellectual hero to many atheists. His arguments against religion are clear, incisive and devastating. However, some people have misconstrued his agnosticism to represent faith and claim that while Hume challenged conventional religion, he himself believed in God. In this paper I will attempt to refute some of these claims by briefly highlighting some of Hume’s most compelling arguments against religion and showing how they leave little room for belief. I will also delve into some of the context surrounding Hume’s work to show how speaking against religion was a dangerous game in those times and restricted Hume’s ability to speak freely.
Some of the primary sources used for this paper include Hume’s most famous works on religion, including The Natural History of Religion and Dialogues concerning Natural Religion. Secondary and tertiary sources include scholarly critiques of Hume’s texts as well as reviews and journals interpreting his work one way or another.
To start with, lets have a look at an excerpt from, The Natural History of Religion, published in 1757. In the following passage, Hume summarizes his views on religion as “sick men’s dreams”:
What a noble privilege is it of human reason to attain the knowledge of the supreme Being; and, from the visible works of nature, be enabled to infer so sublime a principle as its supreme Creator? But turn the reverse of the medal. Survey most nations and most ages. Examine the religious principles, which have, in fact, prevailed in the world. You will scarcely be persuaded, that they are any thing but sick men’s dreams: . . . . Hear the verbal protestations of all men: Nothing so certain as their religious tenets. Examine their lives:...

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