Believers might be better served by NOT trying to prove god’s existence

Although he was born into a god-fearing family and had a typical Christian upbringing, the philosopher David Hume began to have doubts about god as early as in his teenage years, and throughout his adult life was very much a skeptic. I will later provide a review of the book The Infidel and the Professor by Dennis C. Rasmussen that is an intellectual biography of the friendship between David Hume and Adam Smith, but I wanted to pass along this passage that I just read that made me laugh out loud.

Near the end of his life Hume disclosed to James Boswell that he “never entertained any belief in Religion since he began to read Locke and Clarke. In other words, Hume’s encounter with the defenses of theism in the works of John Locke and Samuel Clarke had the effect of undermining his faith rather than bolstering it. (He thereby unwittingly made good the quip of Clarke’s contemporary Anthony Collins that no one doubted God’s existence until Clarke tried to prove it.) [My emphasis-MS]

When I look at some of the tortured attempts by religious apologists today to justify belief in their god’s existence, I suspect that Collins’s quip may well apply to them too.


  1. says

    I’ve often said the same of debates over the existence of the supernatural. If we grant them “personal revelation,” essentially if we let faith be its own proof and don’t bring in any other facts, they can avoid a lot of cognitive dissonance and embarrassment. There have never been any good arguments, just fashionable ones.

  2. rjw1 says

    Yes indeed, many of the arttempts by even celebrated theologians seem quite childish.
    Of course some believers realised how ridiculous their arguments were and countered by attempting to place the burden of proof on atheists. The burden of proof is on the believer.

    One doesn’t have to be a philosopher to be skeptical. Despite an education at a religious school, I can’t remember even as a teenager, being a believer.

  3. Matt G says

    Was it Einstein who said that if there were a good proof of God’s existence, you’d only need one? I once heard a “theologian” talk about his “favorite” argument for God’s existence as though it were a popularity contest.

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