Religious Disagreement, Religious Experience, and the Evil God Hypothesis




Epistemology of Disagreement, Religious Experience, Evil-God Hypothesis, Lancaster-Thomas


Conciliationism is the view that says when an agent who believes P becomes aware of an epistemic peer who believes not-P, that she encounters a (partial) defeater for her belief that P. Strong versions of conciliationism pose a sceptical threat to many, if not most, religious beliefs since religion is rife with peer disagreement. Elsewhere (Removed) I argue that one way for a religious believer to avoid sceptical challenges posed by strong conciliationism is by appealing to the evidential import of religious experience. Not only can religious experience be used to establish a relevant evidential asymmetry between disagreeing parties, but reliable reports of such experiences also start to put pressure on the religious sceptic to conciliate toward her religious opponent. Recently, however, Asha Lancaster-Thomas poses a highly innovative challenge to the evidential import of religious experience. Namely, she argues that an evil God is just as likely to explain negative religious experiences as a good God is able to explain positive religious experiences. In light of this, religious believers need to explain why a good God exists instead of an evil God. I respond to Lancaster-Thomas by suggesting that, at least within the context of religious experience, (i) that the evil God hypothesis is only a challenge to certain versions of theism; and (ii) that the existence of an evil God and good God are compossible.


Augustine, Aurelius. 2009. The City of God. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers.

Daniels, Charles B. 1997. “God, demon, good, evil”. The Journal of Value Inquiry 31, no. 2: 177–81. doi:10.1023/A:1004275010090.

Forrest, Peter. 2012. “Replying to the anti-God challenge: a God without moral character acts well”. Religious Studies 48, no. 1: 35–43.

Hay, David. 1979. “Religious Experience Amongst a Group of Post-Graduate Students: A Qualitative Study”. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 18, no. 2: 164–82.

Hendricks, Perry. 2018. “Sceptical theism and the evil-god challenge”. Religious Studies 54, no. 4: 549–61. doi:10.1017/S0034412518000094.

Jakobsen, Merete. 1999. Negative Religious Experiences: Encounters with Evil.

Lancaster-Thomas, Asha. 2018. “The Evil-god challenge part I: History and recent developments”. Philosophy Compass 13, no. 7: e12502. doi:10.1111/phc3.12502.

—. 2018. “The Evil-god challenge Part II: Objections and responses”. Philosophy Compass 13, no. 8: e12543. doi:10.1111/phc3.12543.

—. 2019. “Encountering Evil: The Evil-god Challenge from Religious Experience”. European Journal for Philosophy of Religion online first. doi:10.24204/ejpr.v0i0.2617.

Law, Stephen. 2010. “The evil-god challenge”. Religious Studies 46, no. 3: 353–73. doi:10.1017/S0034412509990369.

Lougheed, Kirk. 2018. “Is Religious Experience a Solution to the Problem of Religious Disagreement?”. Logos & Episteme IX, no. 2: 173–97.

Moore, Edward. 2018. “Gnosticism”.

Nagasawa, Yujin. 2017. Maximal God: A New Defense of Perfect Being Theism. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

Reining, Stefan. 2016. “Peerhood in deep religious disagreements”. Religious Studies 53, no. 3: 403–19.

Ritchie, Angus. 2012. From Morality to Metaphysics: The Theistic Implications of our Ethical Commitments. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

Ward, Keith. 2015. “The Evil God Challenge – A Response”. Think 14, no. 40: 43–49. doi:10.1017/S1477175615000123.

Weaver, Christopher G. 2014. “Evilism, Moral Rationalism, and Reasons Internalism”. International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 77, no. 1: 3–24. doi:10.1007/s11153-014-9472-3.

Wiebe, Phillip H. 2015. Intuitive Knowing As Spiritual Experience. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.




How to Cite

Lougheed, Kirk. 2020. “Religious Disagreement, Religious Experience, and the Evil God Hypothesis”. European Journal for Philosophy of Religion 12 (1):173-90.