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Publisher's Summary

These 36 intellectually challenging yet remarkably clear lectures take you on an intellectual journey to explore the questions of divine existence, not from the standpoint of theology, but as an issue of epistemology, the classic branch of philosophy that concerns itself with knowledge theory: how we can know things and how we can know we know them.
If you enjoy wrapping your mind around questions for which every potential answer triggers a new set of questions and issues, you will find this course particularly enjoyable, regardless of whether you define yourself as a believer, an atheist, or an agnostic. Professor Hall lays out many of the fundamental questions and issues related to the philosophy of religion: What do we mean by "God"? Consider the many characteristics of a monotheistic deity - including omnipotence, omniscience, omniperfection, and asceity.
Can we know if there is a God? Examine the ontological, cosmological, and teleological arguments for the existence of God and the problem of evil. Weigh the arguments and counterarguments for whether the existence of evil - sometimes natural and sometimes human - is compatible with the existence of a god.
You won't be surprised to discover that the issue of divine existence remains undecided after the arguments for and against have been put on the table and analyzed. This provocative course will hold the attention of believers, skeptics, and agnostics alike. While your mind may not be changed, it will definitely be put to work.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©2003 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2003 The Great Courses
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Gary on 03-03-18

An inquiry about the inquiry of religion

I always get particularly irritated by people who belittle philosophy. It’s as if they really don’t want to get at the truth or the understanding. I’ve seen scientist such as Lawrence Krauss ask what good are philosophers? And politicians such as Marco Rubio finding it is incredible that a philosopher can make more money than a welder, as if salary is the standard for worth. But, if you really want to understand a subject let a philosopher explain it to you. (And it seems to me, that both Krauss with his sexual accusations against him and Rubio with his inability to think his way out of NRA funding, both of those thinkers need the help of a philosopher!).

I’ll tell you why I think philosophers add value. They know that real understanding comes about through the second order (or ‘meta’) understanding. That is the understanding about the understanding, or as Professor Hall will say ‘the inquiry about the inquiry’ and the analysis of the ‘ideas and concepts that go into the making’ of the subject under consideration.

The Professor wants to consider a religion with a God (not all religions have a ‘God’) and he defines it as something ‘deserving of being worshiped’ with some transcendental characteristics. He’ll illustrate the ‘equivocation trap’ that we so often fall into when we use words like ‘transcendental’. First, he’ll illustrate the danger of equivocation by giving a hilarious comic vignette about ‘Lola’ and ‘Brute’ going on a date after Lola has been warned to be ‘good’ and when asked after the date she’ll say ‘yes I was good, and Brute will say I was very good’. Second, he’ll show how ‘transcendent’ takes on multiple meanings such as we can ‘transcend’ ourselves to be like Charles Atlas, or we can subscribe to the National Geographic and transcend our local world, or the final sense of the word to be ‘something that is outside of space and time or beyond normal human experience’ a characteristic we often attribute to a God.

The Professor looks at traditional proofs of proving the existence of God: the Ontological, the Cosmological and the Teleological. The first is ‘a priori’ (without experience and with reason alone), the last two are ‘a posterior’ (from experience). The God the Professor is most interested in is an ‘ethical monotheistic’ God. He’ll show what each proof entails, but also show the counter-arguments to each approach. He’ll conclude for each proof that even if one were to grant the assertion the proof doesn’t necessarily lead to an ‘ethical monotheist’ God. The argument of Theodicy (‘why is there evil’) can actually just as easily apply equally to a non-benevolent being of some kind. Leibniz (who is frequently mentioned in this lecture) is unmercifully mocked by Voltaire in ‘Candide’ for his ‘best of all possible world’ explanation for evil.

You ever wonder why some cretins claim that some city was punished by God such as New Orleans with Katrina because they allowed Gays to exist and enjoy life? I have. If one buys into their world view of the teleological and accept a principal of sufficient reason and project their hate on to the world of others as those cretins do, and ignore the Euthyphro paradox on morality, one can conclude such nonsense. This lecture will show how those hateful connections can be made by hateful cretins but yet make sense when their premises are accepted.

Descartes showed (according to this lecture) that the formal structure used in going from defining a triangle by three points in a plane means that triangles must have three angles totaling 180 degrees is equivalent to St. Anslem’s Ontological proof because the ‘form’ can be shown to be the same therefore the conclusion must be valid for both if either is shown to be true. Obviously, today we realize that space is not always Euclidian and non-Euclidian space exists within Einstein’s General Theory and also near a black hole, and that a conclusion is always dependent on its premises for its validity.

There’s this really healthy amount of philosophy of science within these lectures. Wittgenstein and Kuhn and why they matter for understanding the world, and both are often quoted, and the logical positivist are shown to be not relevant. The constructs we create limit our world view. There was a marvelous example of St. Teresa having thought she had seen Holiness and knew it was blue. Her only concern was if it could have been from the devil instead. The only constructs she was capable of making where from her own Christian World View, never even considering it could have been Ahura Mazda or Ganesh or 10000 other possibilities, because after all she was not willing question her faith based beliefs or to deny her experience of what she thought she had seen. The mind can only construct from the tools that the mind has within it. It never ceases to amaze me, the number of people who I’ve met who have had beliefs derived from an emotional experience and will always put it into a construct based on their family of beliefs based on their faith never quite realizing that there could be equally as valid other explanations from the pantheon of Gods or even possibly based on their own mental desires or whims, or they could be better explained by extra-terrestrial aliens or identical twins playing tricks or a thousand other possible explanations which would most surely be more probable than attributing the phenomenon to a supernatural demon or saint of some kind.

I really enjoyed these lectures. The Professor says he is no longer a believer who can sign on to the dotted line, but still participates in religion and loves providing a fair inquiry about the inquiry of the ideas and concepts that make up religion.

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3 of 3 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Michelle on 02-26-15


Professor Hall' has created a series that gently and steadily equips the student to critically assess not only arguments in favour or against the existence of God, but also to challenge their own personal faith with the tools of philosophical analysis. He shows how faith is a choice one can make rationally.

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3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
4 out of 5 stars
By Neil Green on 12-07-17

A well balanced course.

A difficult subject well explained, the professor covers a lot of ground and is even handed in his treatment of the subject matter. Most of the chapters are very interesting although the latter chapters about stories did not seem so interesting or critical to the subject . Well narrated.

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4 out of 5 stars
By Amazon Customer on 12-06-13

Interesting listen

Where does Philosophy of Religion rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

Religions and their various aspects are an area of interest for me. The fact it is actually a lecture given by an academic, not just an audiobook, makes it even more attractive to me. It feels more authentic and at certain points I felt like sitting in a lecture hall listening.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Philosophy of Religion?

It is hard to say. There are many interesting points throughout all the book. It is a lecture, not a movie.

Have you listened to any of Professor James Hall’s other performances? How does this one compare?

It has been my first and so far only encounter with Professor Hall. One of the reasons I did purchase this book was the fact his voice felt well comprehensible and comfortable to listen.

If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

Not a film, but perhaps a documentary. Tag line? "Anything you ever wanted to know about Philosophy of Religion but were afraid to ask." ;-)

Any additional comments?

A book for anybody who wishes to educate her/himself.

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0 of 2 people found this review helpful

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