The origins of religious belief rest with human ..
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In terms of religious belief, ..
One of the most sustained discussions of this general theme is inThe Natural History of Religion, where Hume compares theeffects of polytheism and theism on their believers (Sects. IX-XIV).In this context., Hume points out that while theism may avoid some ofthe absurdities and barbarisms of polytheism, it is by no means freeof these problems. On the contrary, it is Hume’s view thattheism is prone to intolerance and persecution of its opponents; thatit encourages its followers to abase themselves and pursue uselessforms of self-denial; that it corrupts and perverts philosophy; thatalthough it is plagued with doubts, it presents a dogmatic attitude tothe world; and, finally, that it breeds serious moral vices, includinghypocrisy, fraud and cruelty. The tendencies of theism that mostconcern Hume, however, are its intolerance and opposition to liberty,its distorted moral standard, and its willingness to sanction the“greatest crimes” in the name of piety and devotion (NHR,14.7). Hume leaves his readers with the clear view that religion, farfrom being a source of support for moral practice, is in fact a majorsource of moral sickness in the world.
Religious Belief and Religious Skepticism.
Hume’s account of the autonomy of morals and its foundations inhuman nature constitutes the constructive aspect of his views on thereligion/morality relationship. In developing this account, Hume drawsheavily from earlier work by other freethinking, irreligious, andradical philosophers, such as Hobbes, Spinoza, Bayle, and (especially)Shaftesbury. There is, however, a much more critical aspect toHume’s views on the religion/morality relationship. While it isevident that Hume believes that religion is not necessary formorality, he stops short of claiming that religion is alwaysdestructive of morality — even though this is a view that wouldbe no more extreme than the contrary view frequently advanced byreligious apologists (i.e., that atheists are incapable of moralconduct etc.). Nevertheless, in a variety of contexts, Hume doesmaintain that religion — especially monotheism — haspernicious and corrupting tendencies.
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