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The Future of Belief

John Cottingham

Has our scientific age outgrown religion? Is faith still an essential component of human existence? Philosopher and theologian John Cottingham argues for the importance of religion in the modern world.

  • john cott
    John Cottingham

About the Course

The New Atheists, superstars of the scientific age, want spirituality without God. Is religion now to be discarded as nothing more than a failed ‘hypothesis’, as Dawkins insisted? Can we be ‘spiritual but not religious’?


In these deeply personal lectures, John Cottingham makes a heartfelt case for the necessity and value of a broadly religious outlook. While celebrating the success and significance of science, he nevertheless claims that atheism is a kind of scientistic hubris which leaves us bereft of meaning or purpose. With wide-ranging erudition and sensitivity, he draws on philosophy and literature to argue that moral, aesthetic and spiritual experience points to something beyond the merely physical - to the transcendent and the divine.



By the end of this course you will have explored:


Part 1 - Science and Religion

How religion and science are compatible

Why religion is not an explanatory hypothesis

How religion is not irrational but requires a different kind of evidence

How religion provides an interpretive framework for scientific knowledge

How mathematical and moral truths are problematic for scientific explanation


Part 2 – Spirituality and Spiritual Experience


How spiritual experiences involve feeling part of a greater whole, of meaning beyond our making.

How spirituality is morally transformative

How contemporary art is cut adrift from moral concerns unable to replace religious

How experiences of the transcendent and the numinous cannot be granted meaning in a materialist worldview

How even atheists are responding to the divine, without realising

About the Instructor

  • John Cottingham

    Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the University of Reading and Honorary Fellow of St John's College, Oxford, Cottingham's chief research interests are in the philosophy of religion and moral philosophy. His books include Cartesian Reflections and Why Believe?

Course Syllabus

  • Part One: Science and Religion
  • Part Two: Spirituality and Spiritual Experience

Suggested Further Readings