Theories: Strengths & Weaknesses
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·  Stephen Evans: “…Plato offers a rational argument for the existence of another reality, which can be read off this world, even though not fully; this involves free choice”

·  Magee: “The theory that there is another world than this…gives value and meaning to our present world...”


·   Does not match our experience of ourselves as unified wholes

·   Does not do justice to the way we perceive ourselves as having a single, unified mind and personality

·   You have to believe in the Forms to accept the rest of his beliefs

·   Plato’s argument about opposites is not supported by experience i.e. black does not bring about white


·    You can accept it without believing in the soul – more

·    If you accept God’s omnipotent existence, this theory is plausible Hick claims it is far more biblical. This theory is totally reliant on the acceptance of God

·    He does not posit a soul and so does not have to verify one

·    Hick’s theory challenges the conflicting claims argument because by it everyone goes to heaven: Buddhists as well as theists

·    The theory does not depend upon dualism and is possibly acceptable to materialists

·    The theory is possible in terms of logic


· Inconsistent with mainstream Christian teaching – if people can get into heaven whether they accept Jesus or not, it make Jesus’ death pointless

· Removes the incentive for people to struggle to fulfil their potential in this world as if we are all going to the afterlife, why struggle now?

· His view of universal salvation lacks free will - do we have any real choice if we are all going to be saved? It undermines the argument that God desires people to make a free choice about whether or not to believe

· Brian Davies criticises – argues that a replica is not identical with the original, however similar it might be

· To some philosophers there is just too much suffering. As we saw in our criticisms of Irenaeus, the end can never be worth the suffering of one innocent child. In Hick’s theodicy evil is a necessary thing, willed by God, as it the only way to achieve the aim of developing human souls

· Vardy challenges Hick. Would John Smith be the same person? Hick argues that he would if he thought of himself and others thought of himself as the same person, but is this enough? It is a replica the same person?

· Perhaps the biggest critique is that he doesn't successfully get over the continuity problem. Vardy thinks that there is a break in continuity so much so that the replicated could not be the same person

· Bernard Williams argues that Hick’s portrayal of an endless life of replications would be a meaningless life. It might prove a boring life

· Hick’s basic argument is that this theory is logically coherent and there is no evidence to the contrary. However, this is a weak form of argument. Just because something could happen, doesn’t mean that it actually happens

· Logical possibility does not equate to factual possibility


·  Scriptural support from the three monotheistic faiths



·   The idea of resurrected bodies created difficulties since bodies take up room so death must therefore take place in some kind of space – where is it? Implies heaven is physical

·   Would we still have human needs such as clothing and food?

·   In resurrected bodies, would people still have disabilities or imperfections?

·   If resurrection is 'just' a re-animation of that person's corpse, then what happens to cremated corpses, bodies eaten by animals, or decayed bodies? The resurrection body will have to be re-created out of nothingness

·   There are also problems of continuity of existence and personhood (as Richard Swinburne's theory of replicas points out). Possibly there are no literal answers to these questions

Reincarnation or rebirth

·  Some evidence – Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation by Ian Stevenson, an American professor of psychiatry – very detailed cases

·  Evidence of karma? A natural law?

·  The trauma of birth and death cause memories to be buried deep within our consciousness – we do not remember most of the events of our first two years of life, yet we don’t dispute that it was us that they happened to

·  Many people claim to have past life memories (Taranjit Singh)

·  Could provide a solution to the problem of evil as we are suffering as a direct result of our past actions

·  People having a sense of déjà vu – this could be evidence of a past life


·   Fraud – testimonies made up/attention seeking

·   Cryptomnesia – when someone thinks they remember something but in fact has heard about in from another source i.e. parents

·   Christians, Jews and Muslims reject this belief on the grounds that they contradict their holy books

·   Less plausible because many of the cases come from countries where reincarnation is always accepted as belief

·   The issue of personal identity does not fit in with reincarnation – similarities, however close, are not identity

·   Seems unjust for someone to be punished for something they did in their past life

·   Scientists dispute many past life claims as they cannot be verified and are highly subjective

·   It does not provide a solution to the problem of evil as it merely postpones it as there is no adequate explanation for the suffering experienced in the first life

·   Some find it difficult to understand how memories are transferred or storied between lives

·   Swinburne rejects reincarnation because if there is no continuity between the brain of a new baby and the old person who died, there is no way of saying that the soul is distinctively the soul of a particular person

·   Stephen Davis rejects it as he questions what the connection is between the person suffering and their past life. If the person suffering now has no memories of a past life and the link is only the immaterial soul, how is it just that the person suffers from sins committed by a different person in a previous life?

·   Peter Geach rejects it as on the grounds that a link with the person who has died cannot be established as reincarnation rules out any possibility of memories being the link between the dead and the new person. He uses the example of an old man dying and his soul being reincarnated into a new-born baby – what is the link??

Near Death Experience's

·  Many cases reported, all sharing the same features – it is difficult to understand how so many people could have the same hallucinations

·  It has happened in cases of religious and atheist patients – religious inclination makes no difference to the experience reported

·  The soul does not have physical properties – it could not be detected by machines anyway

·  Researcher Kenneth Ring (in follow up research) found that NDEs had a lasting effect on the patient’s life with many transforming their lives – surely this is evidence of the power of such an experience



·  They do not occur in all cases of people who are clinically dead

·  Similar sensations can be caused by psychoses, hallucinogenic drugs without the person being near to death

·  There has been some success in creating these experiences artificially

·  A build up of carbon dioxide in the brain and the release of endorphins can lead to the feeling of being in a ‘tunnel’

·   Researcher Susan Blackmore has used infra-red detectors and magnetometers to tests if anyone really does leave the body during these experiences – none of them have detected anything

·  Nightmares can feel very real but they do not reflect an external reality – NDEs are the same

·  People who have heard about NDEs and are fascinated by them may undergo such as experience because they have been influenced by people’s ideas and their own about what it ‘should’ be like

·  Just because someone experiences a positive life/ personality change does not mean they have experienced the afterlife



·  We cannot find evidence of the soul

•      People can hide their feelings and can mimic the behaviour of another emotion

•      Are these not a conscious decision of the person? More than just a chemical response? Or environmental stimuli?

•      Dawkins' theory about evolution and the selfish gene, however, does not explain things like emotions. According to his theory, emotions would be a mistake since they are usually inefficient, and often only get in the way of genetic progress


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