On Academic Consensus And Faith:
The vulgar, indeed, we may remark, who are unacquainted with science and profound inquiry, observing the endless disputes of the learned, have commonly a thorough contempt for philosophy; and rivet themselves the faster, by that means, in the great points of theology which have been taught them.
(Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, Part 1, page 4).
On The Universality Of Philosophy:
He considers, besides, that everyone, even in common life, is constrained to have more or less of this philosophy; that from our earliest infancy we make continual advances in forming more general principles of conduct and reasoning; that the larger experience we acquire, and the stronger reason we are endued with, we always render our principles the more general and comprehensive; and that what we call philosophy is nothing but a more regular and methodical operation of the same kind. To philosophize on such subjects is nothing essentially different from reasoning on common life, and we may only expect greater stability, if not greater truth, from our philosophy on account of its exacter and more scrupulous method of proceedings.
(Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, Part I, page 7).
Philo: Don’t you remember, said Philo, the excellent saying of Lord Bacon on this head?
Cleanthes: That a little philosophy, replied Cleanthes, makes a man an atheist; a great deal converts him to religion.
Philo: That is a very judicious remark, too, said Philo. But what I have in my eye is another passage, where, having mentioned David’s fool, who said in his heart there is no God, this great philosopher observes that the atheists nowadays have a double share of folly. For they are not contented to say in their hearts that there is no God, but they also utter that impiety with their lips, and are thereby guilty of multiplied indiscretion and imprudence. Such people, though they were ever so much in earnest, cannot, methinks, be very formidable.
(Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, Part I, page 11).
On Underdetermination And Its Relation To Experience:
Again, after he opens his eyes and contemplates the world as it really is, it would be impossible for him at first to assign the cause of any one event, much less of the whole of things…. He might set his fancy a rambling, and she might bring him an infinite variety of reports and representations. These would all be possible; but, being equally possible, he would never of himself give a satisfactory account for his preferring one of them to the rest. Experience alone can point out to him the true cause of any phenomenon.
(Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, Part II, page 17).
On The Poor Theology Of The God Of The Design Argument:
I was from the beginning scandalized, I must own, with this resemblance which is asserted between the Deity and human creatures, and must conceive it to imply such a degradation of the Supreme Being as no sound theist could.
(Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, Part II, page 18).
[Note: This argument overlaps Ken Miller’s chapter on the “God Mechanic” in his Finding Darwin’s God.]
On Infinite Explanatory Regress:
How, therefore, shall we satisfy ourselves concerning the cause of that Being whom you suppose the Author of Nature? Have we not reason to trace that ideal world into another ideal world or new intelligent principle? But if we stop and go no farther, why go so far? Why not stop at the material world? How can we satisfy ourselves without going on ad infinitum? And, after all, what satisfaction is there in that infinite progression? Let us remember the story of “turtles all the way down”. It was never more applicable than to the present subject. If the material world rests upon a similar ideal world, this ideal world must rest upon some other, and so on without end. It is better, therefore, never to look beyond the present material world. By supposing it to contain the principle of its order within itself, we really assert it to be God; and the sooner we arrive at that Divine Being, so much the better. When you go one step beyond the mundane system, you only excite an inquisitive humor which it is impossible ever to satisfy.
(Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, Part IV, Page 31).
On The Advantage Of Skepticism:
All religious systems, it is confessed, are subject to great and insuperable difficulties. Each disputant triumphs in his turn, while he carries on an offensive war, and exposes the absurdities, barbarities, and pernicious tenets of his antagonist. But all of them, on the whole, prepare a complete triumph for the skeptic, who tells them that no system ought ever to be embraced with regard to such subjects, for this plain reason: that no absurdity ought ever to be assented to with regard to any subject. A total suspense of judgment is here our only reasonable resource. And if every attack and no defense among theologians is successful, as is commonly observed, how complete must be his victory who remains always, with all mankind, on the offensive, and has himself no fixed station or abiding city which he is ever, on any occasion, obliged to defend?
(Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, Part VIII, Page 53).
On Theism And The Flaws Of Nature:
[Were I to] show you a house where there was not one apartment agreeable; where the windows, doors, fires, passages, stairs, and the whole economy of the building were the source of noise, confusion, fatigue, darkness, and the extremes of heat and cold, you would certainly blame the contrivance, without any further examination. The architect would in vain display his subtlety, and prove to you that, if this door or that window were altered, greater ills would ensue. What he says may strictly be true: the alteration of one particular, while the other parts of the building remain, may only augment the inconveniences. But still you would assert in general that, if the architect had had skill and good intentions, he might have formed such a plan of the whole, and might have adjusted the parts in such a manner as would have remedied all of most of these inconveniences. His ignorance, or even your own ignorance of such a plan, will never convince you of the impossibility of it. If you find any inconveniences and deformities in the building, you will always, without entering into any detail, condemn the architect.
In short, I repeat the question: is the world, considered in general and as it appears to us in this life, difference from what a man or such a limited being would, beforehand, expect from a very powerful, wise, and benevolent Deity? It must be strange prejudice to assert the contrary. And from thence I conclude that, however consistent the world may be, allowing certain suppositions and conjectures with the idea of such a Deity, it can never afford us an inference concerning his existence.
(Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, Part XI, Page 68-69).
On The Appeal Of Indifference Arguments:
There may four hypotheses be framed concerning the first cause of the universe: that they are endowed with perfect goodness; that they have perfect madness; that they are opposite and have both goodness and malice; that they have neither goodness nor malice. Mixed phenomena can never prove the two former unmixed principles; and the uniformity and steadiness of general laws seem to oppose the third. The fourth, therefore, seems by far the most probable.
(Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, Part XI, Page 75).
On Theism’s Relationship With Fear:
It is true, both fear and hope enter into religion because both these passions, at different times, agitate the human mind, and each of them forms a species of divinity suitable to itself. But when a man is in a cheerful disposition, he is fit for business, or company, or entertainment of any kind; then he naturally applies himself and thinks not of religion. When melancholy and dejected, he has nothing to do but brood upon the terrors of the invisible world, and to plunge himself still deeper in affliction. It may indeed happen that, after he has, in this manner, engraved the religious opinions deep into his thought and imagination, there may arrive a change of health or circumstances which may restore his good humor and, raising cheerful prospects of futurity, make him run into the other extreme of joy and triumph. But still it must be acknowledged that, as terror is the primary principle of religion, it is the passion that always predominates in it, and admits but of short intervals of pleasure.
(Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, Part XII, Page 87).