In the Dialogues, one of his supreme masterpieces, David Hume savages most of the traditional arguments for the existence of God, shows how religion is often founded on ignorance and irrational fears, and suggests that only "the rational and philosophical kind" of religion can possibly stand up to serious scrutiny. Hume's intense scepticism and astounding ability to take nothing on trust led John Stuart Mill to call him "the profoundest negative thinker on record", yet this book is equally distinguished by the dramatic ebb and flow of argument put into the mouths of its characters. The result is one of the classic works on the nature of religion; it also makes crystal clear the reason why A.J. Ayer called Hume the greatest of British philosophers.
In the posthumously published Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, the Enlightenment philosopher David Hume attacked many of the traditional arguments for the existence of God, expressing the belief that religion is founded on ignorance and irrational fears. Though calm and courteous in tone - at times even tactfully ambiguous - the conversations between Hume's vividly realized fictional figures form perhaps the most searching case ever mounted against orthodox Christian theological thinking and the 'deism' of the time, which pointed to the wonders of creation as conclusive evidence of God's Design. Hume's characters debate these issues with extraordinary passion, lucidity and humour, in one of the most compelling philosophical works ever written.
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David Hume (1711 - 1776) was a philosopher who wrote A Treatise of Human Nature and considered the nature of religion.
JM Bell is Professor of Philosophy at the Manchester Metropolitan University and Head of the Department of Politics and Philosophy.
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