Philosophy Epistemology of Religious Belief
by
Duncan Pritchard
  • LAST REVIEWED: 23 December 2016
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 April 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396577-0104

Introduction

Interest in the epistemology of religion has experienced a resurgence since the late 1980s, prompted for the most part by the rise of reformed epistemology, which has energized the debate and brought this topic into mainstream epistemology. Alongside standard topics in the epistemology of religion, such as that concerning the effectiveness of putative demonstrations of God’s existence, new topics are also coming to the fore in the contemporary debate, such as the issue of how the epistemology of disagreement relates to specifically religious disagreements.

General Overviews

The dramatic increase in interest in the epistemology of religion is reflected in the wide range of overview articles that are now available. Wolterstorff 1999 and Plantinga 2009 share the distinctive merit of having been written by two of the leading figures in the reformed epistemology movement. Plantinga 2009 needs to be read in conjunction with Bergmann 2009, since the latter covers ground left uncovered by the former. Forrest 2013 and Clark 2009 are two excellent introductions to the topic that are also freely available on the Internet. Plantinga and Tooley 2008 is a series of exchanges between two prominent philosophers on the epistemology of religion. Bishop 2006 is an overview of contemporary philosophy of religion rather than the epistemology of religious belief, but it would still be very useful to someone interested in the latter topic because it approaches the philosophy of religion largely via epistemological issues. Quinn 2002 is an in-depth survey of the main issues in the epistemology of religious belief, whereas Zagzebski 2010 is far more introductory, though it has the additional merit of being very up to date.

  • Bergmann, Michael. “Religious Belief, Epistemology of: Recent Developments.” In A Companion to Epistemology. Edited by Jonathan Dancy, Ernest Sosa, and Matthias Steup, 697–699. Oxford: Blackwell, 2009.

    E-mail Citation »

    This piece should be read in conjunction with Plantinga 2009, since it covers ground left uncovered by that article. Collectively, they represent an excellent up-to-date overview of the main issues in regard to the epistemology of religion.

  • Bishop, John. “The Philosophy of Religion: A Programmatic Overview.” Philosophy Compass 1.5 (2006): 506–534.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1747-9991.2006.00039.xE-mail Citation »

    Although this article is focused on philosophy of religion rather than specifically on the epistemology of religion, the author’s approach to this topic is primarily epistemological, so it will be helpful to those interested in contemporary epistemology of religion.

  • Clark, Kelly James. “Religious Epistemology.” In The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by Bradley Dowden and James Fieser. Grand Rapids, MI: Calvin College, 2009.

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    A thorough and up-to-date overview of the main issues in contemporary epistemology of religion.

  • Forrest, Peter. “The Epistemology of Religion.” In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by Edward N. Zalta. Stanford, CA: Stanford University, 2013.

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    A comprehensive introduction to the main topics in the epistemology of religion.

  • Plantinga, Alvin. “Religious Belief, Epistemology of.” In A Companion to Epistemology. Edited by Jonathan Dancy, Ernest Sosa, and Matthias Steup, 692–697. Oxford: Blackwell, 2009.

    E-mail Citation »

    This relatively concise introduction to reformed epistemology, while somewhat partisan, is thus of intrinsic interest. This article should be read in conjunction with Bergmann 2009, since the latter covers ground left uncovered by this article. Collectively, they represent an excellent up-to-date overview of the main issues in regard to the epistemology of religion.

  • Plantinga, Alvin, and Michael Tooley. Knowledge of God. Oxford: Blackwell, 2008.

    DOI: 10.1002/9781444301304E-mail Citation »

    An extremely useful book, this is a series of exchanges between two prominent philosophers on the epistemology of religion.

  • Quinn, Philip L. “Epistemology in Philosophy of Religion.” In The Oxford Handbook of Epistemology. Edited by P. K. Moser, 513–538. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.

    DOI: 10.1093/0195130057.003.0019E-mail Citation »

    This is an in-depth discussion of the epistemology of religion by one of the leading figures in the debate.

  • Wolterstorff, Nicholas. “Epistemology of Religion.” In The Blackwell Guide to Epistemology. Edited by John Greco and Ernest Sosa, 303–324. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 1999.

    E-mail Citation »

    An excellent overview of the epistemology of religion. It is written by one of the main philosophers behind so-called reformed epistemology, which has been one of the most widely discussed proposals in religious epistemology in recent years. While offering a snapshot of the main issues in the contemporary debate, this article also has the added virtue of introducing some of the main historical discussions relevant to the contemporary debate.

  • Zagzebski, Linda. “Religious Knowledge.” In The Routledge Companion to Epistemology. Edited by Sven Bernecker and Duncan H. Pritchard, 393–399. New York: Routledge, 2010.

    E-mail Citation »

    This article offers an introductory overview of the main issues in the epistemology of religion. It is written by one of the leading figures in the debate and has the added merit of being up to date.

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