The Problem of Contingency for Religious Belief

Faith and Philosophy 30 (4):371-392 (2013)
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Abstract
In this paper, I hope to solve a problem that’s as old as the hills: the problem of contingency for religious belief. Paradigmatic examples of this argument begin with a counterfactual premise: had we been born at a different time or in a difference place, we easily could have held different beliefs on religious topics. Ultimately, and perhaps by additional steps, we’re meant to reach the skeptical conclusion that very many of our religious beliefs do not amount to knowledge. I survey some historical examples of this argument, and I try to fill the gap between the counterfactual premise and the skeptical conclusion as forcefully as possible. I consider the following possibilities: there are no additional steps in the argument; or there are and they concern the alleged safety condition on knowledge, or the alleged non-accidentality condition on knowledge, or the unclarity produced by disagreement. On every possibility, the argument from the counterfactual premise to the conclusion of widespread skepticism is invalid. It seems, then, that there is no serious problem of contingency for religious belief.
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2013-07-25

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