The Rejection of Miracles: An Attempt to Elucidate the Import of Hume’s Critique
Hume highlights, while explaining in The Natural History of Religion the actual origins of religious beliefs, that it is when confronted with astonishing and altogether unusual events that common people are disposed to suppose that the causes of such extraordinary phenomena before their eyes are personal, that is, invisible and intelligent beings. It should not appear strange then that, viewed from a historical standpoint, the practice of invoking extraordinary or privileged kinds of experiences as confirmation of the divine origin of very diverse religious beliefs, had been very common. Prominent among these have been miracles conceived as alterations to the natural course of events. Hence it should not surprise us that Hume decided to look into this presumably empirical foundation of religion. Accordingly, in Section X of the Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, he asks whether there is any testimonial evidence which can conclusively prove that a miraculous event has occurred so as to validate the claims to truth of a historical religion.
KeywordsChristian Religion Testimonial Evidence Uniform Experience Miraculous Event Extraordinary Phenomenon
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