Given that the next episodes are about phenomenology and not about religion any more, I wanted to give a few parting thoughts to the topic of religion for the moment and refer new listeners to some old episodes they may not have been aware of. I've created a Podcast Topics page that includes a Philosophy of Religion section that I'll keep updating as we do more episodes. These particular comments are just meant to get my own thinking in order; I don't pretend to speak to the other guys on the 'cast.
1. Kant is right: we can't know with certainty what the world is "really" like, so ruling out a metaphysical creator is simply not something that science or reason can do. (See our agnostic streak on Episode 43 about arguments for the existence of God.)
2. At the same time, I just don't see invoking a divine creator as at all explanatorily helpful. Contra Swinburne (also from Ep. 43), I don't find the concept of God simple (see Dawkins's argument in Episode 44), i.e. a component of the simplest explanation for anything.
3. Though I can't vouch for Hume's entire epistemology, I do buy in outline his argument against miracles: see our description of his epistemology in Episode 17: whether there are miracles or not, we're not epistemically justified in believing in them. Were God to come up and turn into a burning bush in front of me personally, that would change matters.
4. Though Swinburne has lessened my conviction that the concept of a God is just plain nonsensical (e.g. via problems with the notion of omnipotence), I definitely still find the concept of a personal God incoherent. Per Spinoza (in Episode 24), if God is everything (and this is how I interpret His infinite, omnipresent nature; He wouldn't be simple in the way Swinburne thinks if He weren't), then creation is part of God, not a separate thing. God is One and inseparable, whereas consciousness, which is involved in any kind of personal relationship, requires separation, which the universe qua God just doesn't have.
So, maybe God exists as the foundation of existence (though I don't pretend to understand what "foundation" in this sense could really mean), but if there's a divine person who talks to people, that same entity can't be it. (Hegel has an interesting, though crazy-seeming alternate view of God as a constantly evolving and internally divided Being; see Episode 15.)
5. Could there be some other mechanism (maybe a non-omnipresent God or gods, or whatever) that provides comfort and hope in the world in the way that religion purports to? Per William James (in Episode 22, there are plenty of religious conceptions not directly contravened by science, and whether or not we feel the need to embrace them depends on a lot of personal factors. James saw religion as life-affirming as a practical matter. Given our current climate and where I'm at in my life, I have practical reasons for avoiding the whole thing. If I'm talking to my dead loved ones, who's to say for sure that I'm not connecting with them?
6. I do feel like there's something important about our lives that can't be expressed, and I'm in awe of the infinite: If there is a God, He's too big for me to think anything about, predicate anything sensible of, etc. Chuang Tzu (in Episode 12) calls this incommunicable the Tao, and even though we can't say anything about it, we can allow it a practical role in our lives.
7. Can this sense be channelled back into support for our traditional Western religions? Schleiermacher (Episode 39) says yes: the historical religions represent, at their core, people who have this sense of the divine trying to share their findings, and though we can't take their factual claims about creation, history, and metaphysics literally, they're not meaningless either. However, the notion of one Scripture produced at a particular point in time that is the exclusive source of truth, to the exclusion of things revealed to people today or people in different parts of the world, strikes me as extremely implausible.
8. Nor, then, do we need such a book or religious authority to tell us what to do (Episode 46). If religion has something to teach us about ethics, it's because wise people in multiple traditions think a lot about these things and hit on the same truths that we all get around to figuring out if we engage in enough ethical reflection (see Episode 45 on moral sentiments).
We hope these discussions provide as good an introduction to this topic as a bunch of agnostics of varying degrees can hope to provide. I'm grateful for the tolerance of both you folks who are frustrated by our lack of capacity to take full-blown faith in traditional religion seriously and to those of you that find discussions of religions simply tedious and want us to get back to discussing "real" philosophy. However I may bluster and dismiss, I appreciate the convictions of anyone who actually thinks about these topics, whatever conclusions they may draw, and am grateful for your willingness to engage us, even if I do not always personally have the time or energy to take up some particular thread with you.