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Course Hero. "The Natural History of Religion Study Guide." February 7, 2020. Accessed February 20, 2020. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Natural-History-of-Religion/.
Course Hero, "The Natural History of Religion Study Guide," February 7, 2020, accessed February 20, 2020, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Natural-History-of-Religion/.
This work aims to examine religion in a sober, skeptical light without any interest in apologetics, which is the defense of a faith against objections. David Hume proposes to show that humans are naturally inclined toward polytheism, or belief in multiple gods, and idolatry, the worship of physical objects as numerous gods and their earthly representations. Moreover, he argues that the monotheism of his own time develops naturally from ancient polytheism according to principles of human psychology. Hence, he argues that the prevalence of monotheistic religions—Christianity being the one he has primarily in mind—is not a result of compelling evidence and argumentation. Rather, it arises from the emotional and mental limitations shared by the bulk of humanity.
Such an account of religion, especially Christianity, stood in stark contrast to much of the theology and philosophy of Hume's time. During the Enlightenment many philosophers, theologians, and scientists proclaimed that Christianity—or at the very least the existence of a supreme, perfect, and unique God—could be demonstrated either by logic alone or by observation of the natural world. Hume, both in The Natural History of Religion and in Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, attacks such optimism and poses objections to such reasoning that are still considered important today in the contemporary study of religion.
David Hume wrote The Natural History of Religion to explore the origins of a pervasive human phenomenon. The focus on specifically natural religion indicates Hume's intention to look beyond the intellectual history of theological development and each religion's own take on how it originated. He focuses on the circumstances of human psychological and social nature that generate the forms of religion seen throughout history.
This study guide for David Hume's The Natural History of Religion offers summary and analysis on themes, symbols, and other literary devices found in the text. Explore Course Hero's library of literature materials, including documents and Q&A pairs.