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Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion
Themes, Ideas, Arguments
Suggestions for Further Reading
Suggested Essay Topics
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1. Who is reporting the dialogue on religion?
2. Which of the characters represents orthodox Christianity?
3. What is empirical theism?
The belief that there is some higher power, but that this power is not in any way personal
The belief that the entire universe is God
The belief that we can achieve knowledge about God and his nature through experiential evidence
The belief that we can achieve knowledge about God and his nature through pure reason
4. Which of the following terms definitely does not describe the character of Philo?
5. Which of the following is not used as an analogy to the universe?
6. Why does Cleanthes object to the analogy between the universe and an animal?
Because it implies that the world is eternal
Because it implies that God is not eternal
Because it implies that God is imperfect
Because it implies that God has a physical body
7. Does Philo believe that church leaders are in favor of skepticism or against it?
Against it; it undermines belief in God
In favor of it; it undermines belief in secular philosophy, and opens the way for faith
Either for it or against it depending on whether they are in power
Either for it or against it depending on the political climate
8. Which of the following is not one of the four causes of evil according to Philo?
The existence of physical pain
The need for individuals to rely on others for their survival
Immutable laws of nature
The limits of all creatures
9. What is Philo's main point in raising the problem of evil?
To show that there cannot possibly be a God like the one in which Demea and Cleanthes believe
To show that Demea's rosy picture of the world is off-target
To show that one cannot infer God's moral attributes from nature
To show that the real God is not infinite
10. What of these effects does Philo not claim comes as the result of organized religion?
11. According to Philo, what is the difference between an atheist and a theist?
A theist believes in God and an atheist does not
There is really no difference
The only difference is the degree to which they believe that God resembles man
A theist lies to himself, whereas an atheist has self-honesty
12. Where does the dialogue take place?
At Demea's home
At Cleanthes' home
At Philo's home
At Pamphilus' home
13. At what point in a student's education does Demea claim that a teacher should first introduce him to theology?
It should be the first subject taught
After logic and ethics but before physics
Theology should never be taught
Theology should only be taught after all other subjects
14. Which of the characters is accused of anthropomorphism?
15. What does Cleanthes mean when he calls Demea a "mystic"?
That he thinks God is beyond all human comprehension
That he believes the laws of nature can be bent with faith
It is another way of calling him an atheist
That he believes that God can be known only through entering a trance-like state
16. What does Philo believe is the cause of organized religion?
17. Which system of cosmogony does Philo find most plausible?
18. Which of the following is not one of Cleanthes' objections to the cosmological argument?
There might be a necessity in nature of which we are unaware
You cannot prove matters of fact using a priori arguments
The argument does not even really lead to the right conclusion
The argument is based on the fault premise that an entire chain of causes needs to be caused by something
19. Which of the following is not cited as an unfortunate consequence of the argument by design?
It leaves open the question of whether God is infinite
It leaves open the question of whether God is perfect
It leaves open the question of whether there is only on God
It leaves open the question of whether God could create a rock he could not lift
20. To whom does Philo attribute a close variation of the most plausible picture of the origins of the world?
21. Which of the following does Cleanthes not appeal to when refuting the claim that the world is eternal?
Cherry trees in Europe
Potatoes in Ireland
Grape vines in France
Sheep in America
22. To which of the following does Cleanthes not compare the universe?
23. Who does Pamphilus declare as the victor at the end of the dialogue?
He says there is no clear victor
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