Atheism In David Hume's The Natural History Of Religion

847 Words4 Pages
Nowhere in The Natural History of Religion does Hume’s explicitly speak in favor of atheism (perhaps due to the fear of persecution at the time), and yet, I would categorize this work as atheist. Hume strategically places monotheism or “theism” in contention with polytheism, leading the reader to assume that one would eventually prevail, but instead, he picks apart at both until readers are left questioning their own faith and wondering what a more rational alternative might be. In sections 1-5, Hume discusses polytheism and its origin. In sections 6-8, Hume discusses how we transition from polytheism to monotheism, and finally, in sections 9-15, he compares and contrasts the two, pointing out weaknesses and flaws in both. Throughout the book,…show more content…
4, para. 1). In saying this, Hume is trying to make it seem as though he is promoting natural theology, when in fact he is not. In section 1, he addresses a common misconception of the time, that early humans were monotheistic due to their ability to look at the world around them and see everything as a result of one perfect designer. He disputes this and says that 1,700 years ago, all humans were polytheistic, just as the vast majority of people have been throughout history (sec. 6, pg. 6, para 2). Hume argues that polytheism is the natural conclusion that mankind reaches before they are able to “stretch their conception to that perfect Being who bestowed order on the whole frame of nature” (sec. 6, pg. 7, para. 1). Hume also makes the claim that if humans had first come to the conclusion of “one superior being” through reasoning and reflection on nature, they would have never abandoned that belief in favor of polytheism. In sections 2 and 3, Hume discusses what he believes to be the origins of polytheism: man looked outside of nature as a whole, and into nature only as it relates to their passions, particularly…show more content…
He discusses the possibility of this occurring through natural theology, or contemplation, but decides that this is not possible due to the “ignorance and stupidity of the people” (sec. 6, pg. 29, para 1). He continues on to refute other possible explanations, before concluding that it occurs as a natural result of the flattery system; humans place one God above all others and say that he is omnipresent and infinite (sec. 6, pg. 31, para 1). They worship that one perfect God with the hope that they will attain the maximum control over their own anxieties and suffering. The purpose of these sections is to lead readers to doubt the foundations in reason of their belief

More about Atheism In David Hume's The Natural History Of Religion

Open Document