David Hume, The Patriarch of Modern Doubts

David Hume, Patriarch of Modern Doubt

The beliefs that laid the foundation for Western life and practices were, of course, the Judaeo-Christian standards and beliefs.  The account of God’s act in creation, the Ten Commandments, and the teachings of Christ are examples of these beliefs.  The breakdown of this platform caused by atheistic and agnostic philosophies had already begun by the time of David Hume, and the rise of Empiricism (knowledge that is to be gained primarily from experience, not from reason) had blossomed in the 17th-18th centuries.  Establishing truth had become a matter of reason and science’s rapidly ascending authority in establishing what we can believe with “certainty.”  By the end of the 18th century, the undermining of religion’s previous authority was well underway, and doubt played its dominant role in the skepticism of figures like David Hume.  

Doubts are the result of incomplete knowledge

Humans are plagued with doubts because of their inability to possess complete knowledge.  As Paul had insightfully written some 16 centuries earlier, “We know in part…”  Having no other path open to them, humans have (particularly since the time of Hume) sought to establish society and beliefs on the incomplete knowledge available to them via human reason and science’s pronouncements.  But recall how this knowledge is always lacking in certainty.  Science itself proceeds inescapably from one error in judgment to another, one funeral after another.  Philosophy has also faltered on the incomplete foundation of mere human knowledge and, therefore, is always an uncertain final authority for our lives.  

Philosophers are one of two kinds

Philosophers can be divided into those who cast doubts about everything and those who are more concerned with evaluating the evidence of life and of the universe with an open mind.  In finding the truth about anything, approaching the subject with a preconceived idea or theory provides a hapless handicap.  Strangely, this mistake has been repeated ad infinitum and is still commonly observed.  However, in our desire to discover the truth, we must remember the truth needs no defense or support.  It will reveal itself regardless of human inadequacy, aid, or bias. 

David Hume’s implanted skepticism 

One man has profoundly implanted skepticism into the thinking of our age.  His skepticism often reigns in the thinking of our age even some four centuries later.   David Hume (1711-76) was a Scotsman who entered Edinburgh University at twelve years of age and left three years later.  His career was comprised of tutoring a lunatic and serving as a secretary and librarian.  He doubted the effectiveness of reason, God, miracles, and the list could go on.  

David Hume, the empiricist and skeptic

Hume espoused the philosophy of empiricism.  But most importantly, he was an intractable skeptic.  Skepticism is fed by the persistent limitations and inadequacies of human knowledge.  His masterpiece, The Treatise of Human Nature (1739-40), was a disappointment to him because it did not stir up the controversy he had intended.  However, it has surged in interest in our age, guiding the “rational thinking” of many.   

Hume used reason but doubted it

While he enthusiastically used reason to make his point, he even doubted its veracity when it favored him.  As an Atheist, his self-appointed mission was clearly to tare down religious beliefs and particularly the belief in God and miracles.  Philosophically, he was an empiricist.  However, he made no significant contribution to empirical philosophy, but was known more for his historical writings.  History has blessed him with the title of “patriarch of modern skepticism” and his loose ways with reason and logic are also often reflected in the way skeptics promote their own ideas today. 

His arguments that reject anything that savors of religion have thoughtlessly shaken the faith of many — and still do — but have lacked that final knockout blow they sought to inflict.  A logical, impregnable fortress stands in the way of all beliefs.  It was this: what can’t be proved also can’t be disproved.  

Atheists must rely on faith

Therefore, atheists and theists must rely on their respective faiths plus the best explanation of available evidence to finally settle their opposing beliefs.  Christianity openly states it is a faith.  Atheism seeks to hide the fact it is also based on a foundation of beliefs that can’t be proved.  The atheist comprise Atheism’s “religious faith.”  Which faith is the best way to live and which explains the evidence of life and the universe in its macro and micro details — physical, psychological, and spiritual — is the faith that is true and will last.  This, each person must decide for themselves and live with the consequences life will inevitably expose. 

Impotent bullets of doubt and crooked thinking

In their rush to make matter everything that exists and all else a fool’s fantasies, doubters have ended up building their trust on the shifting sands of a human’s limited and inadequate thinking.  So, as it still stands today, we can’t scientifically prove the existence of God; nor equally, can anyone disprove it.  The clever bullets of doubt and crooked thinking were aimed at God’s destruction, but they have performed like a boomerang.  The option of faith in some superior authority behind life and the universe remains viable and strong.   

Have your child think straight about their world and choose the beliefs that will bring them lasting happiness.  It’s harder to do some straight thinking than it is to cast doubts.  Help them see through the doubts.  

 

Who Am I?In my new book Who Am I?, I describe how we have become “crooked thinkers” and how to break out of this prison of the mind to become instruments of change for a better world by recognizing the source of our value as humans.  You can get your copy HERE.  (Psst!  Subscribers to my weekly updates can receive a 15% discount and free shipping from the above link!)

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