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David Hume’s “Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion” offers arguments on the existence of God from three different perspectives. Cleanthes, a student of natural theology, offers the infamous design argument. Demea, a priest and a fideist, dislikes this theory because it assumes that God has human like properties; the theory is suggestive of anthropomorphism. Philo, an empiricist and the main voice of Hume himself, opposes this theory because he sees logical flaws. While Philo and Demea both disagree with the design argument, it is clear that their methods of refutation differ significantly.
Cleanthes, who holds that studying the natural world will bring one closer to understanding God, proposes the design argument. The theory likens the intricacy of technology to that of the universe. Just as a watch, for instance, must have a creator, so too must the universe. In other words, since there is no technology not built by humans, and there is no occurrence that a piece of technology is created completely by chance, the universe, a creation far greater in complexity, must have a creator. He argues that upon closer examination of nature, more evidence can be seen that God’s intelligence is very much like that of a human’s, though in a more perfect form. This theory is Cleanthes’ effort to show that religion and the existence of God can be based on reason.
Demea is the first to respond to the argument from design. He states that it ascribes too much human-like properties to God and that there are “no proofs a priori” (Hume 15). Often referred to as a mystic, especially by Philo, he holds that humans can know nothing about God and that it is the very nature of God to be “unknown and unintelligible” (Hume 17). Also a student of reveale...

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...ween fish and aquatic mammals, for instance, may lead one to assume that they are similar but in fact they differ on a fundamental level. Dolphins resurface for oxygen intake while fish have gills that facilitate oxygen transfer within the water.
While Hume’s goal may not have been outright denial of God’s existence, “Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion” is still a radical response to the design argument that instilled doubt unto many people. I believe Hume was aiming more towards criticism of the assumptions of the church rather than to revolutionize people’s ideals of religion. Those very assumptions the church held as true of God’s nature led them to discriminate and wage war against many other innocuous peoples such as the natives of South America. Perhaps Hume, accused to be an atheist, was weary of the hypocritical injustices in which the church engaged.
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