Volume 92, Issue 3, July 2015
Ethical and Religious Themes in Humean Philosophy
A. E. Pitson
"More Affected than Real"
Hume and Religious Belief
Hume’s remark that “the conviction of religionists, in all ages, is more affected than real” is considered in relation to various monotheistic beliefs against the background of his account of belief more generally. The issue arises as to what Hume means by characterizing the assent associated with religious belief as an operation between disbelief and conviction. According to Hume, the obscurity of the ideas involved in the religious convictions of the “vulgar” prevents them from achieving the force and vivacity characteristic of belief. As for philosophers, their idea of God encounters the problem of evil and the question of whether it is possible for the deity to possess moral virtues. Even the ascription to God of natural attributes takes us beyond what may meaningfully be imagined. Finally, the philosophical idea of God as a principle of order provides a form of theistic belief that is only verbally different from atheism.