philosophy and ethics

For details, contents and extracts from my books on the Philosophy of Religion, just click any of these titles...

Mud Intro Phil of R Rel and Sc

The Logic of Divine Impotence

If there is one single thing that inclines me to atheism, it is the logic of divine impotence and the wriggles that some theists use to avoid it. Read more.

(This short article, taken from the draft of my new book about God, is also relevant to those studying 'miracles' and 'the problem of evil')

Atheism, Culture & God

I am working on my next book, planned for publication in Spring 2024.

It will explore the impact, both personal, philosophical and cultural, of what I see as a rather strange and much-misunderstood word: 'God.'

I'm doing battle with this subject, which has haunted me for more than 50 years, and am determined to be absolutely honest.

But, for now, to give you an idea of the problem with 'God' that I am addressing, take a look at my notes of Feuerbach and (below it) at an already published article about 'The Question of Being', which tries to reconnect Philosophy and Theology.

Ludwig Feuerbach (1804-72)

If you've always thought of Feuerbach as an atheist who saw God as no more than a projection of humankind's best qualities, think again. He's a remarkable thinker, and contributes positively to our understanding of 'God' in today's secular world.

Here are some of my notes on The Essence of Christianity, 1841.

articleIt's enough to make you...

Reconnecting Philosophy and Theology (2020)

From The Philosopher, Volume CVIII No. 1 Spring 2020

Reconnecting Philosophy and Theology

Why has a caricature of God been allowed to dominate much modern Philosophy of Religion? asks Mel Thomson. The answer, he believes, reveals a crucial blind spot of the Enlightenment.

Read the article here.

DialogueIs our experience of suffering and moral evil compatible with belief in a loving God?

I've written an article for latest issue of Dialogue magazine, on this question, entitled God on Trial.

You get get information about Dialogue, by clicking here. In addition, if you'd like to see my existing notes on the subject, click here

Philosophy of Religion - the challenge (my personal view)

In the introduction to his book A History of Modern Britain, 2007, Andrew Marr, political commentator and shrewd observer of the modern mores, comments on the experience of living in Britain since the Second World War:

‘In the period covered by this book, the dominant experience has been acceleration. We have lived faster. We have seen, heard, communicated, changed and travelled more. We have experienced a material profusion and perhaps a philosophical and religious emptiness that marks us off from earlier times.’ p. xxxi

If his comment is right – and I believe it is, minus the 'perhaps' – then there is no more important challenge today than to get to grips with the Philosophy of Religion. Philosophy should not be an obscure or exclusively academic subject. At its best, it is simply the willingness to think carefully about what it is we know and what it is we value. It is the process of bringing reason and evidence to bear on the assumptions of everyday life.

So the challenge of studying the Philosophy of Religion is to apply reason to religious beliefs and values, and to do so in a way that is rigorous (not being afraid to ask difficult questions) and also sensitive, recognising the key importance that religion has in the lives of very many people.

Sadly, there are plenty of religious people who do not seem willing or able to use their reason to examine what religion is about, preferring fundamentalist acceptance of dogma. Equally, there are a good number of really intelligent people (including top scientists and philosophers) who seem particularly obtuse when confronted with religious ideas, preferring to caricature and dismiss them, rather than examine why people choose to follow them.

Hopefully, a grounding in the Philosophy of Religion will be a useful antidote to both of these narrow views.

big bangFrom my notes for students...

(Just click on any topic to go to the notes.)

Does God Exist?

The Cosmological Arguments,

The Design Argument,

The Anthropic Argument,

The Ontological Argument

If you think the answer to that question should be straightforward, consider this quote from St John of Damascus (c675-c750):

'God does not belong to the class of existing things: not that he has no existence, but he is above all existing things, nay even above existence itself.’

In other words, if you think that God 'exists' in the same way that other things exist, then you have not understood what the word 'God' is about.

candlesThe greatest challenge to the idea of God...

The Problem of Evil 

Can miracles happen? What do they say about God?


What can we know and what can we say?

brainReligious Experience, Religious Language

And is faith compatible with reason?

Faith and Reason

mountainsOr is the whole idea of a philosophy of religion a mistake?

In my view, most of the arguments presented in the Philosophy of Religion do not get to grips with the nature of religion because they tend to identify it with a set of propositions to be believed, rather than an overall experience of life. Why has this happened? And what on earth has this to do with mountains and Wittgenstein's advice about looking? Read more...

quick thoughtsNew to the Philosophy of Religion? Here are some quick thoughts to get you started...

Is God needed to give life meaning? / The problem of evil / Science and religion / Does fundamentalism get to the bottom of it? / Eastern wisdom / Can you experience God? / Can there be a multi-faith truth? / What are the hazards and benefits of religion? / The distraction of militant atheism

Just click my image to get your discussion started....

Secular dialogue

don cupittFor a fascinating dialogue between a secular Buddhist (Stepen Batchelor) and a secular Christian (Don Cupitt), held in August 2012, visit Secular

For those interested in a radical approach to Christianity, Don Cupitt's introduction, available here, is particularly valuable, and for more about Don Cupitt and his work, visit his website at

Don Cupitt's ideas are a great stimulus for reflection, whatever one's own views on religion and life. Click here for what, I believe, amounts to a manifesto which any sensitive agnostic or atheist can subscribe, but which I regard as expressing the essence of what is best in religion.

Dealing with God

Discussion about what ‘God’ means, or whether God exists is clearly central to the Philosophy of Religion. Frustratingly, much recent debate (especially between religious and scientific fundamentalists) is superficial on the question of God. It is therefore refreshing to find a book which takes, almost as an obvious starting point, that God certainly does not ‘exist’ in the literal way that things in the universe exist, and therefore that – if we are going to appreciate the word ‘God’ and what it refers to – we need to probe something of its history. Karen Armstrong’s The Case for God is a particularly valuable book in that it provides a clear overview of the whole set of issues surrounding God.

But I have also found it useful to look at two books – one presenting the position of philosophers who do not accept belief in God (Philosophers without Gods, 2007) and an answering volume Philosophers and God, 2009. Apart from one or two rather sad lapses into polemic in the first of these volumes, both present what belief in God means with clarity and sensitivity.

We can set aside the crude, supernatural notion that God exists as an external object within (or beyond) the world – that would be idolatrous for a monotheist. But how does one square religious practice and language with the conviction that God is a human construct; an image used to probe the meaning of human life within the universe?  There is still a mismatch between what theologians and philosophers say and what popular religion appears to proclaim - and while that mismatch continues, religious beliefs of all sorts will be rightly vulnerable to the less-than-sensitive criticisms of a newly vocal but rather superficial form of atheism. 

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Click on any title here for further information...

philos of rel

Your basic introduction to the subject, ideal both for the general reader and for students at AS and A2 level.

What does the experience of war do to religious ideas? mud

The problem of evil; the existence of God; Paul Tillich; Pierre Teilhard de Chardin: big issues and big thinkers, influenced by the First World War.

This book, which runs from the trenches of the First World War, to New York in the 1950s, deals with issues that are absolutely relevant for religious ideas today.

From only £1.99 - worth taking a look?

Interested in issues of Religion and Science?

Religion and Science

Core text for the Philosophy of Religion and Ethics...


Henry VIIICan the lyrics to ‘Henery the VIII’ explain the problem with arguments about the existence of God?

I reckon one of the most innocently funny music hall songs ever, written by Murray and Weston in 1910,  is ‘Henery the VIII’ – although, of course, it should always be pronounced ‘Enery’ and rendered in a cockney accent.

It is also useful in assessing arguments for the existence of God. Let me explain... more

Wireless Philosophy


Subtitled 'a toolkit for building a better mind' this open access philosophy website is a very good online resource for those coming new to philosophy, and for students from GCSE upwards, particularly (in videos already produced) for those taking Philosophy of Religion papers. Just click here for their website.