As always, be sure to read Alise’s wonderful post. And thank you, Alise, for wishing me a happy birthday. I was raised a Jehovah’s Witness, and birthdays aren’t that important to me in my atheism either, but nonetheless, thank you.
It is very hard to respond to this kind of argument without being sarcastic or somewhat condescending. I will try not to be though.
If I said to you, “It takes more faith to not believe in Santa Clause,” you would find it ridiculous, no? Now, I am not trying to offend anyone by comparing a god to Santa Clause, but to atheists, that’s how ridiculous it is. That is how we feel about this kind of talking point when it is spewed at us by people.
What people don’t realise when they say these kinds of things is that they are inherently admitting that faith is bad or, at least, illogical to have. It’s the same when people say, “Well, atheism is just another religion.” It’s a tacit admission that religion is bad.
But that’s what religion and faith are to us. Illogical. Bad. Causing harm.
Nonetheless, this kind of remark is also an admission of ignorance of what atheism is. Atheists are simply unconvinced by the claims being made that gods exist, let alone that fallible men wrote down and recorded the infallible and everlasting truth of these gods.
There is no faith involved. There is no faith required to not believe that Leprechauns, Unicorns, or the gods of other religions are real (again, I’m not trying to offend by drawing these comparisons).
I am not 100% sure that a god does not exist, but I am equally not 100% sure that Santa Clause or Unicorns do not exist (or that I even exist). It does not mean that I have faith that Santa Clause does not exist, and it most certainly does not mean that I have more faith than someone who believes in something that there is no reliable evidence for (and to which there even is some evidence to the contrary).
Speaking of evidence and proof. Some people think, because you can’t prove or disprove the existence of a god (which I contend with here), then it takes faith to believe either way. The null hypothesis is that there is no god and that a god must be proven to exist before believed in.
It does not take faith to believe the null hypothesis. That’s how science works. And this is where Alise is spot on when she points out, when atheists are talking about proof for a god’s existence, we are using the scientific method and scientific thinking to come to our conclusions.
We are not talking about the beauty of nature, appeals to emotion or tradition, or personal experiences, which are not evidence or proof of anything, let alone an all-powerful creator of the Universe.
If you find yourself tempted to say this to someone, just remember that atheists do not have faith that a god does not exist anymore than Christians have faith that Santa Clause does not exist, let alone have more faith than someone who does believe in these things. We simply trust in the scientific method and the demonstrable wonders it has done for our world.
I love how Alise ends her post. It is worth reading over and over again.
As Christians, I think we have become a little bit careless with our use of faith, and I would encourage us to look at some of the things that we see as requiring faith and maybe choose a different word. I could say that both my husband and I have faith that one loves the other, but it’s not simply faith – it is something that we live out each day. There is tangible evidence of our love for one another. Perhaps instead of using faith, we can use trust.
Next week’s The Christian Guide to Atheists: Atheists Hate God
I asked a while back on my Facebook and Twitter if we could prove a god does not exist. The general response was, “We don’t need to. The burden of proof is on the theists.” A few said, “It’s an unfalsifiable hypothesis,” or that we cannot prove a negative. Some went a little further and said, “We can prove theistic gods do not exist, such as that of the Bible, but we cannot prove a deistic god does not exist.”
It is often asked of atheists to prove the nonexistence of a god, specifically the god(s) that the theist believes in. We will respond with, of course, that the burden of proof is on the believer, not the nonbeliever, and we usually leave it at that. That is a proper response. The person who makes the claim is responsible for proving such a thing. So far, nothing has been found that would even suggest the existence of a deity, whatever that actually is, so there is no reason to believe in one. However, ignoring that it is not our job to do so, could we actually disprove the existence of a god? I believe we can.
The burden of proof I will deal with first, as it will be the quickest to handle, but possibly the most important. Atheists will say that there is no reason to try to disprove a god, since it is the job of theists to provide proof for their god and the claims that surround him/her/them/it. Others say that there is no point in trying to even argue with theists or creationists, since they are just delusional people and nothing will change their minds. These people either do not remember being theists or never were them. I was a Jehovah’s Witness. I am sure all of my atheist friends of the time would have thought it utterly pointless to try to reason with me, but look where I am now. Doing nothing solves exactly that.
If we keep saying that we do not have to do anything until proof is given or because the believers will not change their minds, these false ideas will continue to spread while we twiddle our thumbs and do absolutely nothing about them. Yes, we do not have to disprove any claims, but unless the claims are disproved, people who are ignorant of the truth and how vacuous these claims really are will continue to believe in them. Even when they are proven to be absolutely false, such as Creationism, people still believe in them, because scientists and science advocates refuse to go after the sacred cow of religion.
Ideas are dangerous, especially when they are wrong ideas. Just because they do not have evidence does not mean anything to the people who seriously believe in them, because they believe they are right, and they are going to cause change that will affect the rest of us, such is clear with the Intelligent Design movement of the United States. Chapman Cohen, a British secular activist and atheist from the late 19th through the early 20th centuries, had this to say on the subject in his 1921 book Theism or Atheism: The Great Alternative (emphasis mine):
It is not, then, because I believe the question of the existence of God to be of intrinsic importance that an examination of its validity is here undertaken. Its importance to-day is of a purely contingent character. The valid ground for now discussing its truth is that it is at present allowed to obstruct the practical conduct of life. And under similar circumstances it would be important to investigate the historical accuracy of Old Mother Hubbard or Jack and the Beanstalk. Any belief, no matter what its nature, must be dealt with as a fact of some social importance, so long as it is believed by large numbers to be essential to the right ordering of life. Whether true or false, beliefs are facts mental and social facts, and the scheme of things which leaves them out of account is making a blunder of the most serious kind.
Yes, the burden of proof is still on the believers, but the burden of the believers, and the consequences thereof, are on the nonbelievers and the people who think they do not have to do anything.
Many people simply give up on the existence or nonexistence of a god and say that it is an unfalsifiable hypothesis and unscientific. The same is said of Bertrand Russell’s Celestial Teapot and a whole host of other claims and imaginary things. People say that it is not science, therefore there is no reason to even consider it, but that we cannot prove or disprove the claim (even if they claim to not believe, such is the case with “agnostic atheists”).
Calling something not science in order to avoid having to answer or think about difficult questions is intellectual laziness. Like it or not, things like Creationism, homeopathy, aliens, Leprechauns, etc. are scientific questions that must be solved, not simply disregarded because the question might be hard to answer for some or we find the notion to be idiotic. Richard Dawkins in his famous book The God Delusion said, “…the existence of God is a scientific hypothesis like any other. Even if hard to test in practice, it belongs in the same TAP or temporary agnosticism box as the controversies over the Permian and Cretaceous extinctions.”
However, people will continue to say that it is an unfalsifiable hypothesis, therefore we cannot test it, therefore it cannot be proven either way, true or false. The interesting thing is that the very idea of falsifiability may be a mistaken. Karl Popper, the philosopher of science who popularised falsifiability, said in 1976 that evolution “is not a testable scientific theory but a metaphysical research programme.”
He did recant this statement a few years later, but this makes one question falsifiability itself. If the man who got falsifiability off the ground once applied his most notable philosophy to the scientific theory that has over 200,000 scientific papers concerning its validity, saying that it is not science, can it really be applied to a god or anything at all? Is it nothing more than a shaky philosophy that simply happened to get popular with some people?
The next most common thing that people say is that we cannot prove a negative. Philosopher Steven Hales argues that we can indeed do such a thing. I suggest reading his entire work on the subject to get a better grasp of what he is saying, as I only give tiny excerpts from it here:
…any claim can be expressed as a negative, thanks to the rule of double negation. This rule states that any proposition P is logically equivalent to not-not-P. So pick anything you think you can prove. Think you can prove your own existence? At least to your own satisfaction? Then, using the exact same reasoning, plus the little step of double negation, you can prove that you aren’t nonexistent. Congratulations, you’ve just proven a negative. The beautiful part is that you can do this trick with absolutely any proposition whatsoever. Prove P is true and you can prove that P is not false.
We prove negatives all the time. By proving that I am on a Macintosh, I am also proving that I am not on a Dell, HP, Acer, or any other kind of PC. We can prove that Creationism is not true by proving evolution true. In fact, we do not even need to prove that evolution is true in order to prove Creationism false. If the claim is made that the Earth is 10,000 years old, which is a key aspect of Young-Earth Creationism, with radiometric dating on certain things such as meteors, fossils, or even man-made artifacts, we can prove that the Earth is actually more around 4.5 billion years old. This does not prove evolution necessarily, but it most certainly proves that Creationism is false.
Maybe when people say, “You can’t prove a negative,” they are saying that we cannot prove that something does not exist, such as a god or Santa Clause, as James Randi likes to use as an example. “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence,” as Carl Sagan put it. Not only would Steven Hales disagree, but so would particle physicist and philosopher Victor J. Stenger, author of such books as The New Atheism: Taking a Stand For Science and Reason and God: The Failed Hypothesis: How Science Shows that God Does Not Exist.
The example that Hales gives is alien abductions:
So why is it that people insist that you can’t prove a negative? I think it is the result of two things. (1) an acknowledgement that induction is not bulletproof, airtight, and infallible, and (2) a desperate desire to keep believing whatever one believes, even if all the evidence is against it. That’s why people keep believing in alien abductions, even when flying saucers always turn out to be weather balloons, stealth jets, comets, or too much alcohol. You can’t prove a negative! You can’t prove that there are no alien abductions! Meaning: your argument against aliens is inductive, therefore not incontrovertible, and since I want to believe in aliens, I’m going to dismiss the argument no matter how overwhelming the evidence against aliens, and no matter how vanishingly small the chance of extraterrestrial abduction.
The example that Stenger uses often to show that we can prove negatives is a favourite of mine, which is elephants in Yellowstone:
Elephants have never been seen roaming Yellowstone National Park. If they were, they would not have escaped notice. No matter how secretive, the presence of such huge animals would have been marked by ample physical signs — droppings, crushed vegetation, bones of dead elephants. So we can safely conclude from the absence of evidence that elephants are absent from the park.
If there were evidence for elephants in Yellowstone, then some kind, any kind, of evidence would have been found. The person claiming that there are elephants in Yellowstone may try to make excuses and add on ad hoc hypotheses like, “There is evidence; it just hasn’t been found. They’re in the places you didn’t look. They’re hiding. They’re invisible. They’re very complex and are not able to be detected by human or animal senses or technology.” Does anyone see a similarity between this and theists when they push the goal post further and further back to avoid having their deities proven false as science pushes forward?
We can reasonably say that there are no elephants in Yellowstone, that we know there are no elephants in Yellowstone, and that we have proven that there are no elephants in Yellowstone, even with the unnecessary, unreasonable, and unintelligible ad hoc hypotheses that try to avoid the axe of disproof for as long as possible. The absence of evidence is evidence of absence.
Can this be applied to a god though? Some might say, “Yellowstone is far different from the Universe. Maybe somewhere there is a god. We do not have full knowledge of the entire Universe, so you cannot say definitively that there is no god. You might as well say definitively that alien life does not exist, when it most probably does.” The idea that we need knowledge of everything in order to know one thing is ridiculous, and the equivocation of a god to alien life is just as ridiculous. The problem is that life does most certainly exist in the Universe. It’s here on our planet Earth, and with that we can predict that life similar to what we may define as alien probably does exist somewhere else in this vast Universe. The same cannot be said for a “god.”
I digress though. If a criteria of existence is set, we do not need to know everything of the Universe in order to know something about it. Looking at the criteria for the claim, it can be answered. Some of the gods may be answered by simple logic. The second law of thought is the law of non-contradiction. Aristotle put it as, “[One] cannot say of something that it is and that it is not in the same respect and at the same time.” Most gods, by their own criteria, are self-refuting. Some are said to be omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, omnibenevolent, among other things, and these characteristics simply do not work together.
If the criteria for a god is that they made the Earth 10,000 years ago, we can test that as we did earlier to prove Creationism false, thereby proving false this specific god. If the criteria for a god is that they made the Universe, which is the criteria set for the deistic god that people say is unfalsifiable, that one might be a little trickier to answer for some. This is why people will say that while we can prove that Jehovah, Vishnu, Ra, etc. do not exist, we cannot prove that a deistic god does not exist. The problem with this line of reasoning, other than the fallacy within it which I will get to soon, is that it is not up to date with contemporary thought.
Physicist Lawrence M. Krauss recently came out with a book called A Universe From Nothing: Why There is Something Rather Than Nothing, where in it he uses modern cosmology and physics to show that things do just come into and out of existence, apparently from nothing, all the time and that the Universe came from a structureless void that he dubs, just that, “Nothing,” which he admits is difficult to define in it of itself. Despite the semantic complications, there are reasonable explanations for the existence of the Universe that do not require a god or designer or “unmoved mover.” If falsifiability is correct, then these are the tests and observations that can be made in order to falsify gods, even if certain ones may seem like they cannot be tested, which many people state.
I said earlier that there was a fallacy contained within stating that we can prove theistic gods do not exist, but we cannot prove a deistic god does not exist. Another way it is worded is, “We know the theistic gods do not exist, such as those of the world’s holy books. The origins of the Universe are still unexplained though, so we, and by ‘we’ I mean ‘you’ too, do not know that a deistic god does not exist,” which I just showed how they are not unexplained. Anyone catch the fallacy? Anyone see how this is similar to what theists say? It’s the God of the Gaps Fallacy, only it is atheists who are using it now. X is unexplained, therefore it could be a god. Am I supposed to take anyone who says this anymore seriously than I would a theist who asks how the tides go in and out, then claims in their ignorance that it could be a god (specifically the god that they believe in)?
Everything about human history and progress dictates that what once was the field of religion, superstition, and ignorance will one day be the realm of science and knowledge. In Theism or Atheism, Chapman Cohen said something very similar, “…one may safely predict that just as the advance of scientific knowledge has taken over one department after another that was formerly regarded as within the province of religion, so one day it will be borne in upon all that an hypothesis such as that of theism, which does nothing and explains nothing, may be profitably dispensed with.”
What is left now of “god”? We know that the gods of theism most certainly do not exist, and we now have reasonable certainty that the god(s) of deism, which are merely theistic gods watered down by philosophy and science, also do not exist. So what is left of the claims made by believers? Richard Dawkins said it best in the afterword to Krauss’ book, “Even the last remaining trump card of the theologian, ‘Why is there something rather than nothing?’ shrivels up before your eyes as you read these pages.” The very concept of “god” at this point is a meaningless word, an “unintelligible proposition,” as Chapman Cohen put it.
For some this may not be satisfactory. This is not enough for some people to say that a god does not exist. Chapman Cohen, who I have mentioned and quoted multiple times now, said this following his comment about the importance of examining all claims that affect people’s lives in Theism or Atheism (emphasis mine):
Certainly, conditions were never before so favourable for the delivery of a considered judgment on the question of the belief in God. On the one side we have from natural science an account of the universe which rules the operations of deity out of court. And on the other side we have a knowledge of the mode of origin of the belief which should leave us in no doubt as to its real value. We hope to show later that the question of origin is really decisive; that in reaching conclusions concerning the origin of the god-idea we are passing judgment as to its value. That the masters of this form of investigation have not usually, and in so many words, pushed their researches to their logical conclusions is no reason why we should refrain from doing so. Facts are in themselves of no great value. It is the conclusions to which they point that are the important things.
If the conclusions to which we refer are sound, then the whole basis of theism crumbles away. If we are to regard the god-idea as an evolution which began in misunderstandings of nature that were rooted in the ignorance of primitive man, it would seem clear that no matter how refined or developed the idea may become, it can rest on no other or sounder basis than that which is presented to us in the psychology of primitive man. Each stage of theistic belief grows out of the preceding stage, and if it can be shown that the beginning of this evolution arose in a huge blunder I quite fail to see how any subsequent development can convert this unmistakable blunder into a demonstrable truth. To take a case in point. When it was shown that so far as witchcraft rested on observed facts these could be explained on grounds other than those of the malevolent activities of certain old women, the belief in witchcraft was not “purified,” neither did it advance to any so-called higher stage; it was simply abandoned as a useless and mischievous explanation of facts that could be otherwise accounted for. Are we logically justified in dealing with the belief in God on any other principle? We cannot logically discard the world of the savage and still retain his interpretation of it. If the grounds upon which the savage constructed his theory of the world, and from which grew all the ghosts and gods with which he believed himself to be surrounded, if these grounds are false, how can we still keep in substance to conclusions that are admittedly based on false premises? We can say with tolerable certainty that had primitive man known what we know about nature the gods would never have been born. Civilised man does not discover gods, he discards them. It was a profound remark of Feurbach’s, that religion is ultimately anthropology, and it is anthropology that gives to all forms of theism the death blow.
This next part comes from the next chapter in his book:
Finally, the suspicious feature must be pointed out that the belief in God owes its existence, not to the trained and educated observation of civilised times, but to the uncritical reflection of the primitive mind. It has its origin there, and it would indeed be remarkable if, while in almost every other direction the primitive mind showed itself to be hopelessly wrong, in its interpretation of the world in this particular respect it has proved itself to be altogether right. As a matter of fact, this primitive assumption is going the way of the others, the only difference being that it is passing through more phases than some. But the decay is plain to all save those who refuse to see. The process of refinement cannot go on for ever. In other matters knowledge passes from a nebulous and indefinite stage to a precise and definite one. In the case of theism it pursues an opposite course. From the very definite god, or gods, of primitive mankind we advance to the vague and indefinite god of the modern theist a God who, apparently, means nothing and does nothing, and at most stands as a symbol for our irremovable ignorance. Clearly this process cannot go on for ever. The work of attenuation must stop at some point. And one may safely predict that just as the advance of scientific knowledge has taken over one department after another that was formerly regarded as within the province of religion, so one day it will be borne in upon all that an hypothesis such as that of theism, which does nothing and explains nothing, may be profitably dispensed with.
The first part I really wish to point out is in the second paragraph of the first excerpt. “If we are to regard the god-idea as an evolution which began in misunderstandings of nature that were rooted in the ignorance of primitive man, it would seem clear that no matter how refined or developed the idea may become, it can rest on no other or sounder basis than that which is presented to us in the psychology of primitive man. Each stage of theistic belief grows out of the preceding stage, and if it can be shown that the beginning of this evolution arose in a huge blunder I quite fail to see how any subsequent development can convert this unmistakable blunder into a demonstrable truth.”
The next part I want to bring further attention to is from the second excerpt given, “In other matters knowledge passes from a nebulous and indefinite stage to a precise and definite one. In the case of theism it pursues an opposite course. From the very definite god, or gods, of primitive mankind we advance to the vague and indefinite god of the modern theist a God who, apparently, means nothing and does nothing, and at most stands as a symbol for our irremovable ignorance.”
I recently discovered this book, and its author, only a few days prior to publishing this post, but I have been saying the exact same thing for months now! Apparently, Cohen has been saying it for a nearly a century, and his works go unnoticed by most atheists.
If it were not for these primitive peoples and their fears and misunderstandings of the world, no one on Earth would even understand the word “god,” and the labels that divide us and that some people kill over like Christian, Muslim, Hindu, theist, atheist, agnostic, and all others would not even exist (sure, we would still kill each other over other things). There would be no one fighting over who has the best god or if there is a god or not, because the word “god” would mean absolutely nothing to us.
It does not matter what definitions or criteria or ad hoc excuses are given to a god. It does not matter how vague and nonsensical the definitions of “god” become as science progresses, whether they be Odin, Jehovah, or a deistic god. The simple fact of the matter remains that the very concept of “god” originated from primitive men who knew absolutely nothing of the world and tacked on a meaningless word to explain the things around them that they could not at the time that we now can. All claims of a god that stem from this “huge blunder” are just as blundering and just as primitive in thought.
With this, the question must be asked again: can we disprove god?
Yes. We just did.
In one of my latest blog posts on here, “Belief, Knowledge, and Ignosticism,” I said that I know that a god does not exist (even a deistic god). I do not simply lack belief in a god like most atheists claim; I know that one does not exist.
The entire post was in response to several claims and arguments ranging from the false dichotomous people who think it’s either atheist or theist and that one cannot be simply agnostic, to the people that think I cannot say I know a god does not exist if I claim ignosticism.
One argument I sort of forgot to tackle was when some people say, “One simply cannot know that a god does not exist. One can only have faith that a god does not exist,” or that I do not know X, that I only have faith in X, whatever X may be. These arguments do not come from theists; they come from fellow atheists (I’m serious).
I would like to take this time to go further into that common argument that people seem to keep making in all sorts of situations, not just in a god debate.
A recent example of this kind of objection I ran into on my Facebook went along the lines of, “You do not know that the sun will rise tomorrow. You have faith that it will.” Again, these were coming from atheists.
I would respond with, of course, that I do know that the sun will rise tomorrow. I have evidence that it will. There is no reason to seriously think that the sun will not come up tomorrow (or more so, that we will stop going around it). However, I could always be wrong in that. The Earth could just stop going around it. The sun could blow up in the next few hours. There is no evidence from what we have gathered about stellar evolution or orbital physics to suggest that such things will happen, but they could very well happen for no reason whatsoever. Just because something could happen does not mean that we should seriously consider it though.
I could jump from here (Texas) to Alaska. There is no evidence whatsoever that would even remotely suggest that, and there is even evidence against that happening, but it still could happen. I know that it will not though. I am not 100% certain of that though, because as I stated near the end of “Belief, Knowledge, and Ignosticism,” some people’s definitions of knowledge and certainty would basically make it so that one cannot be 100% of anything, even their own existence.
The common rebuttal to that goes like this, “If you know something, then you can’t be wrong about it. In order to know something you must be 100% certain, but you say that you aren’t 100% certain the sun will rise tomorrow/that god does not exist, therefore you have faith in such things.”
No. Just no. I do not have faith that the sun will come up tomorrow. I know that it will. I cannot be 100% certain, because again, something could happen, but I still know. I do not have to be 100% certain to know things. If I have to 100% certain to know something, then we just cannot know anything, because we cannot be 100% certain of anything by some people’s definitions certainty. Right now, 2+2=4, but we could find out someday that 2+2=5. However, we all know that this will not happen, but we still cannot be 100% in that either.
Simply because someone states 99.99999999999999…99999% certainty does mean that they have faith or that they do not know. We know so many things about the world around us (however, in the grand scheme of things we hardly know anything, but we still know certain things). We know 2+2=4. We know water boils at 212°F (100°C). We know the Earth is an oblate ellipsoid. We know of over a hundred elements in the Periodic Table, and we know how to make some of them. We know that evolution is real. We know that the Bible and all other holy books from the world’s religions are complete bunk.
We know these things. We do not have faith that these statements are true simply because we are not 100% certain though. We could all just be in a dream or some other possibility that is proposed, which is that 0.0000000000000000000000…000001% chance that we may be wrong, though it is not faith in any way, shape, or form. There is no need to even seriously consider that 0.0000000000000000000…000001%. It is so unlikely that it is indistinguishable from something that will never happen.
At 99.99999999999999…99999%, we might as well round up to 100% certainty, but we do not in case of any possible, however extremely unlikely, evidence may pop up to prove us wrong. Saying we know does not mean that we cannot be wrong. I know my computer is a Macbook Pro.
I could be wrong though. I might be completely delusional; my senses might be lying to me, and I could actually be typing this up on an old Compaq desktop with the Millennium OS (I use that specific of a computer as an example merely because I used to have one; it was a piece of shit), or I could be in the Matrix inside a computer.
However, I know that I am not. I can be reasonably certain beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am on my laptop, that 2+2=4, that evolution is real, that a god does not exist, and much more. I know these things. There are mountains of evidence supporting them and no evidence whatsoever to the contrary. There is no faith involved, nor is there any need for it, because I know it to be true.
I have taken GodandSociety’s original post and made my comments basically in the margins, more so at the end of each paragraph, so that people know what I am referring to when I talk about something in his post. Sorry for subjecting my readers to Christian idiocy such as this which tries to masquerade as intelligence and just comes off as a pseudointellectual that mocks people to make it seem like he’s somehow smarter than them. You may say that was an ad hominem; no, it was just an insult.
Re: Refuting God and his fan club
Taking pride in my orthodox Christianity means many things, and the call to defend it is one of those things. Before you can even begin to defend what you consider truth, you must first, subject yourself to dissenting viewpoints. Some of these viewpoints may raise good objections, while others may fail miserably – in this case they fail, and rather spectacularly at that. However, sometimes you just have to get these things done no matter how bad they are [; I wonder if I could be considered a masochist for putting myself through reading these viewpoints?]. So in my attempt to clear up a few problems I have with Daniel’s [TheBarkingAtheist] post – Refuting God and his fan club – I will split my response into some categories: theology, Christian theology, philosophy, science and general errors.
To begin with, I would like to congratulate Daniel on realising there is more to theology – especially natural theology – than what one; who is lacking the basics, may first think about the subject. Over and over again, Daniel makes the comment about which god – Allah, Yahweh, Zeus, Jupiter etc. – the god arguments are trying to prove, and the simple answer may be confusing. The god arguments are not trying to prove a particular deity, but instead the general concept of god – so the attempt to use the, which god [non]argument is rather futile to all but the most uneducated.
I don’t see how you think my question is “futile.” I am asking the question, if a god or gods exist, which one is it? How do you know it is Jehovah/Yahweh? It could be Allah. It could be Vishnu. It could be Zeus. How do you know which one it truly is? Saying, “It just is my god, because I believe in this one god,” means nothing to nonbelievers or believers of other faiths, because it offers nothing other than to assert something without evidence, and it can be just as easily dismissed without evidence. All religions say that their holy book is the one true holy book handed down by the one true god that is their god and that all others are wrong and that they have the advantage over all other faiths. How do you know which one is really the right one when they are ALL mutually exclusive and seem just as (in)valid as the next one?
So onto my first grievance with Daniel’s rendition of the cosmological argument – I am not criticising the reasoning, though that will come – because without even naming the argument it may cause future grievances over the changing of ideas being discussed. Thankfully, I do know who originated the argument that Daniel is quoting; and the basic ideas being used to support it (which I am sure that St. Thomas Aquinas would approve). If you didn’t catch on with my subtle clue to who originated the argument that Daniel quoted, then let me be clear; Saint Thomas Aquinas first originated the argument in his five ways.
Here is a simple version of the Cosmological argument that I found on the website Philosophy of Religion.
(1) Everything that exists has a cause of its existence.
(2) The universe exists.
(3) The universe has a cause of its existence.
(4) If the universe has a cause of its existence, then that cause is God.
(5) God exists.
First thing is first, the first three are correct. Everything has a cause, but we don’t know the cause to everything. The universe does indeed exist. So yes, the universe had a cause of some sort; we just don’t know what that was yet.
Number four is downright false, because it makes an assertion without evidence or just cause. It just throws a god into the equation for no reason other than the belief without evidence that a god exists. Just because we don’t know the cause to everything does not mean that you can randomly throw in a god or gods because you feel like it. You might as well say that the universe has a cause of its existence, then that cause is aliens. Therefore, aliens exist. Both are unfounded claims that lack any evidence and have zero validity behind them.
Christian theism has always concluded that God has always existed, – without a cause – this was first established with the story of God in the Old Testament telling Moses that I am was the one who sent you – at the time, something like that would have been revolutionary compared to the surrounding beliefs. So the question: who created god is ultimately a futile one. It is meaningless to a Christian; it is like saying, who caused the thing to exist that has always existed.
“God has always existed,” is an unproven assertion, so your argument fails right off the back. Again, if you assume that a god or gods exists, specifically the Christian one, then you must prove that assertion somehow. Saying “the bible says so” is not proof, because the bible is not proof. A demotivational that I once saw said, “Trying to prove God with the bible is like trying to prove Superman with a comic book.” It is meaningless to anyone with some common sense to say that something that has yet to be proven to exist has just always existed, because you believe that it exists without any evidence.
I am one of those not so strange Christians that accept there are errors in the Bible, but doesn’t throw it away – that would be like me saying: ‘Your reasoning is flawed, I am going to stop listing to you now’ [and then never bother to listen to you ever again]. I personally think these contradictions actually make the Bible stronger, this may seem strange but, those contradictions arise from the retellings of different people, so where they converge it is a good indication that you should give it more credit to those areas. The Christian is in a catch-22, no differences [in manuscripts] and it is evidence that it was some master forgery; if there are some differences [in the manuscripts] then the authors don’t know what they were talking about (and the atheist 2000 years later do!).
Yes, the bible has errors. It has multitudes of mistakes that contradict everything that we know about: biology, taxonomy, genetics, archaeology, geology, anthropology, mathematics, and other fields of science. It says that bats are birds (Leviticus 11:13-19; Deuteronomy 14:11-18). That whales are fish (Jonah 1:17; Matthew 12:40). That rabbits chew cud (Leviticus 11:6). That snakes and donkeys can talk (Genesis 3; Numbers 22:1-35). That pi is a round number (1st Kings 7:23; 2nd Chronicles 4:2). It says that if you use bird blood you can cure someone of leprosy (Leviticus 14:4-7) and even your house of “leprosy” (Leviticus 14:52). The bible says that if you present striped patterns to a flock of animals and they mate in front of the patterns that they will have striped offspring (Genesis 30:37-43). How could a supposed omniscient being make such huge mistakes about science that not even a five-year-old would make? Why does the knowledge of the Judeo-Christian deity fit perfectly in with what the people of the time and area thought of the natural world?
According to the bible, all living animals, which is about two to five million different species of animals, lived within walking distance of Noah’s Ark, could fit inside the Ark without killing or eating each other, and could get somehow to where they all now inhabit, even though oceans, mountains, and much more lie between Mount Ararat, the place where Noah’s Ark supposedly landed after the flood, and Australia, North America, South America, and Antarctica. How did all the marsupials make it all the way to the land down under?
What about the other species of animals that have existed throughout the 3.4 billion years that life has existed on Earth? Today’s two to five million are only 1% of all life that has ever existed on this hunk of rock that is hurtling through space. How does the flood account for them? Were they wiped away in the flood? Then why does it say that Noah had two of EVERY animal? Did Noah just forget them? Did they just miss the Ark by a few close minutes?
However, I almost forgot to mention that in the first place Noah’s Flood has no evidence for itself. No evidence in the geological strata can be found that would suggest a world-wide flood. Also, if it was a world-wide flood, how come civilisations at the time of the flood, which according to the Answers In Genesis website was about 2300 BCE, in India and China that were a couple hundred years old at that point not affected one bit?
What about the Tower of Babel? No historian or linguist that knew anything about history or the origin and evolution of language could ever honestly say that the Tower of Babel, one, ever existed, two, is the explanation for why there are so many different languages in the world and still be taken seriously by their peers.
These alone are enough to discredit most, if not all, of the bible, which is supposed to be the inherent word of a supreme being that is supposed to know everything!
If you simply say, “Well, things like the Tower of Babel and Noah’s Flood are metaphors and parables, or they aren’t to be taken literally,” then what in the bible is supposed to be taken as literal? Who decides what is taken literally and how literally to take it? You would think that if a supposed omniscient being wanted something to be taken as literal or metaphorical, he would have said something beforehand.
In the field of science, which I’m sure you know nothing about, if someone presents something and their reasoning is flawed and their evidence is lacking, then you don’t listen to them anymore until they can prove themselves and their assertions somehow. That’s how science works. It weeds out the stupid ideas and promotes those that have evidence to support them. That’s why a god, gods, ghosts, unicorns, and other supernatural things have yet to be proven in any way, shape, or form, because there is no substantial evidence that would suggest their existences.
I fail to see why contradictions somehow make a story stronger. If you have three witnesses to the same crime, and one of the witnesses says the murderer was a black man with a pistol, another says he was white using an Uzi, and the last says it was actually a woman of unknown race, do you think any of them have any real validity behind them? Maybe one of them does at the most, or all could be utterly wrong. How can you be sure if any of them are right when all of them disagree on key facts like race, gender, and the murder weapon? Sure, they all say that there was a murder that happened with a gun, but which of them are correct? It can’t be all of them. And yet, we are told to take all four of the Gospel accounts as equally true and accurate, and if we are not told that, then people who believe in the bible as the word of God are trying to discredit certain parts of it, because simple logic is getting in the way.
Look at the Gospels and how they contradict each other over the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
Three of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke) argue that Jesus was crucified on the Passover in the early morning, while the Gospel of John says that it was the day before the Passover at midday. Which was it?
All of the Gospels tell of supernatural events occurring immediately after Jesus’ crucifixion (this is in no particular order). One says an earthquake. Another says a mass of people rising from the dead and heading into Jerusalem. Another says that there was a darkness that covered the lands. The last says that the temple in Jerusalem magically split in half. Which was it? All of them? Then why don’t any of the other Gospels mention any of these other events occurring? None of them? Then why are they in there? Some of them but not all? Which ones then and why don’t they all just mention those select few?
I could go on, but I’d rather link you to something that explains this to save myself some time. I think two examples is enough anyway for now. http://www.skepticmoney.com/the-ultimate-easter-quiz-jesus-gets-nailed/
So are those “some differences”? This supposed catch-22 that you speak of does not exist. No one has ever said that if they all said the same thing then it is proof of forgery, because if they all said the same things and actually were written through independent accounts of these events and could be verified as such, then that would be proof that the bible has some validity behind it. If it really was written or inspired by a supreme being that knew everything, then the bible would not contain ANY of the things it currently does, but because it claims to be inspired by an all-knowing being and yet contains such obvious mistakes and contradictions, that is the proof that it is a forgery, or at least that it is not what believers claim it is.
While I am interested in how you rationalise the Catholic Church editing the Bible hundreds of times because honestly I think Daniel is talking out of his ass. I would like to raise your attention to some faulty reasoning, how can it be safe to assume that Jesus wasn’t the son of God? The attacking of the gospels – which the claim that they were written 100 years after the death of Jesus is utter nonsense, because the first fragment we have of John’s gospel is dated to 125AD, five years before the date Daniel claims – doesn’t even establish that the Christian story is wrong. St. Paul’s letters were some of the first Biblical documents, far earlier than the gospels and they affirm Jesus’ death and resurrection. As far as I can see, that assumption – that Jesus was just an average Joe – is unfounded.
“Pulling it out of [my] ass” you say? Have you ever heard of the Council of Nicaea? The Catholic Church left out entire books for no reason other than “no one was using them.” Nearly twenty different Gospels were rejected by popular vote at the council. Apparently majority rule of humans decides what people are going to listen to and be taught as the inherent word of God. The church even had arguments within itself at the council as to whether Jesus was who he said he was, which was the son of God, if he was merely a prophet for God, or if Jesus was actually God in disguise. By a show of hands, the idea that Jesus was part of some trinity with God and the Holy Ghost was the majority rule, and all other interpretations were banned and those who preached them were deemed heretics by the church because they were in the minority.
You yourself have just admitted that the Gospel of John is nearly one-hundred years after the supposed death of Jesus, so my point remains. Again, with the dating of the Gospels to be around 60 CE – 130 CE, then the people who wrote them were still so old that they probably couldn’t even hold a pen, let alone remember things that happened decades ago. Even if it was being written down by others being told the story or trying to remember what they had been told about the story years ago, then there is still the problem of ambiguity, mistranslation, memory loss, and memory distortion, which really hurts the reliability of any claim.
As well, scholars generally agree that several of the Pauline epistles were not actually written by Paul, these are: 1st Timothy, 2nd Timothy, Titus, and Hebrews. Some are disputed as to whether or not Paul wrote them, but most of them are agreed to be written by Paul after his conversion to Christianity when supposedly the resurrected Jesus just appeared to him one day while he was travelling to Damascus with two companions, which both heard (Acts 9:7) and did not hear (Acts 22:9) the voice of Jesus.
So even if all the Pauline epistles were written by Paul, it doesn’t mean that he knew anything about Jesus’ life, death, or resurrection other than what others may have told him, which again leaves room for so many mistakes, so they are not proof of Jesus’ existence, let alone allow you to assume that he is the son of some deity.
Very quickly into the attempt to refute Paley’s watchmaker argument – an argument that I consider rubbish – Daniel erects a straw man. When you decide to refute an analogy (Paley’s watchmaker argument is really an analogy used as a prelude to the teleological argument) why change it to form the weakest possible argument and then proceed to nock it flat? This can be show in the jump between (3) and (4) in Daniel’s amended watchmakers argument, because it doesn’t allow for discourse – as can be show by the money tree argument directly below – but still allows the atheist to outright deny without the need to rationalise their decision. A much better amendment to the argument would be to allow the ideas of design by necessity, chance or design (as in Dr. Craig’s teleological argument) into the mix which would cause all parties to make a case.
Straw man? Where?! Oh, the one you erected in an attempt to paint my argument as a straw man, when it is clearly not.
Paley’s Watchmaker says that complex things, such as a watch, have a designer. Organs, such as the eye, are complex, biological structures, therefore they must have a designer; the universe is complex, therefore it must also have a designer, and that designer is God.
That is what Paley’s Watchmaker says. If you want to say it says anything different, please do tell. I’m dying to know what you think it says. And if you think that Paley’s Watchmaker is “rubbish” then why do you follow, I assume, the teleological argument? Paley’s Watchmaker is an argument from design, and so is the teleological argument, so why do you value one over the other when they are both basically the same thing, just different names and time periods?
Assumptions allow you to get away with almost anything, so assuming that the universe has always been there is rather lazy. So what happens if you call into question this particular axiom that Daniel holds [which wasn’t supported in the original post]?
Assumptions allow you to get away with almost anything, so assuming that a god has always been there is rather lazy.
Usually when you can’t articulate something well, you stop right there and pull out a book about the topic, because clearly it is a good indication of much needed education. So when instead of refuting the argument, you go on to prove it – by saying this: “nothing can be great or perfect that does not first exist…” – I can not help but giggle like a thirteen year old school girl. To make a complex argument short; all the ontological argument is saying is that if god exists, he would be a necessary being (all or nothing). There would not be a contingent god. On a side note, replacing words on the ontological argument is not a good way to refute it; unless of course the word is red herring.
Much needed education? No, I just turned to someone who has already refuted the ontological argument. It doesn’t mean that I lack an education. It was using a resource to help make my case, so your attempt to mock me fails.
Here is another big one – like question begging and favouring own position big – and it is a common ploy done by atheists. Here Daniel makes an off cuff remark: “believe that there is some magical man in the sky than to look at the evidence and sees where it points you.” So what do we have here? Daniel has just begged the question about his ability to look at evidence [go check out the YouTube user CartesianTheist, he does a few videos on the topic], and favours his own position by thinking if theist would “look at the evidence” we would come out any differently. Honestly, grow up.
Yes, that is what I am saying. Look at the evidence and for evidence to support your claims, because without evidence you are making statements that mean nothing to the scientific community and are not worth even mentioning, let alone taking seriously enough to consider them. There exists no evidence for your god or any other supernatural being. I don’t see how you think I have a bias. Because I actually am using evidence unlike you when you assume the existence of a god without ANY evidence to support you? Honestly, grow up.
There was only one scientific error that I cared to address, and in my note taking I simply put: You can’t jump from Texas to Alaska, don’t be stupid [with another word somewhere in there that rhymes with trucking]. The first time I have heard an absurd claim like this was in Richard Dawkin’s book The God Delusion; where instead of jumping thousands of kilometres cross country, it is a cow jumping over the moon [as the nursery rhyme goes]. Sorry to burst your bubble, there is a thing called gravity; that I dunno, delivers a constant force causing you to fall back to the ground. I do not know what is worse, a person who doesn’t know better but acts like a fool; or one that does but still acts like a fool nonetheless.
It is possible. Anything is possible. Now probable is a different story, and I believe I explained this distinction when I said that it is so improbable to do things such as jumping from Texas to Alaska that it is considered impossible, because no evidence whatsoever exists that would support that claim whatsoever. It is possible that aliens came down millions of years ago and genetically altered our ancestors in the African savannah to have their brains grow at an extremely accelerated rate (I actually know a person who believes this, which is kind of sad) for some unknown reason. However, the probability is so low that it is considered impossible, because of the lack of evidence. Still possible. Just not probable.
It is possible that a god or gods exist, but the extreme lack of evidence makes it very improbable. What is even less probable is choosing the right god, if one exists that is. As was the case in my original post, if there is one true god and one true religion, you have the same odds of picking the right deity as if you had 60,000 playing cards and told to find the right one. That is not even a hyperbole; in the course of human history there have been over 60,000 different faith systems that have existed, including the over 4,000 that still exist today, and that is not including the 34,000 different denominations of Christianity, all of which are still mutually exclusive. So take your pick of really about 90,000 different playing cards and find the one true Ace of Spades. As well, you have to take into account, not only did you pick the right card, but also if you truly believed that you had picked the right card before you had known what it was and if you had followed that one true card in all that it preached. You have basically the same odds as being a nonbeliever, who choose just not to play, for they see no point to these silly games that contribute nothing to society other than scientific oppression, hatred, and war and don’t even really guarantee any reward in the end. So yes, still possible. Very improbable.
At first I wasn’t sure where to put the next annoyance in, but as I thought about it, a simple reading error can not be filed in under as a philosophical error. The third sentence in the cosmological argument explicitly states that not everything has a cause, the “unmoved mover.” So when Daniel then forgot what he just copied and pasted about a minute ago to claim that “if every thing had a cause” it calls into question your general understanding of the topic he claims to be refuting.
I call into question your understanding of anything really. How can you have an “unmoved mover”? You can’t just say that “God did it, because God has always been there, because God said that he has always been there!” and really expect to be taken seriously by anyone except the most uneducated.
Another general error I find common within the debate, is the appeal to Zeus done by atheists. Honestly, I do not care about Zeus or Santa for that matter. The debate is between a Christian and an atheist, not some pagan and an atheist. The exact same appeal can be flipped directly back onto an atheist; maybe they should share why they don’t believe in Zeus?
The point made with figures such as Zeus or Santa is that none of them have ever been proven to be real, yet people used to really believe that they were real at one point, just like how any Christian today believes in the existence of Jehovah and Jesus. What makes a belief in Zeus or Santa any less valid than a belief in Jehovah? What proof do you have that your god and fairytales are real and theirs are not? I don’t believe in Zeus for the same reason, hopefully, that you don’t, because there is no evidence for their existence. I don’t believe in ghosts, unicorns, leprechauns, Ra, Odin, Vishnu, or Jehovah for the same reason.
So now we are onto a double package: “The nonbeliever is not weighed down by dogma and superstition.” – Atheistic new speak aside; let’s have a look at this claim. Taken at face value, everyone has dogma [when defined as: A principle or belief or a group of them] because dogma may come in other forms than religious dogmas. (Just open the “you really want to know me tab” on Daniel’s blog, and you will find he is Democratic socialist; I wonder what dogmas they hold? Does anti-capitalism ring a bell [, what is extremely funny is that anti-capitalism is a belief against the evidence, capitalism works, and works well it does]). So now onto superstition, [superstition can be defined as a belief sprung from ignorance or ignorance of the natural laws]. How can someone honestly say that we are superstitious – do we believe the rain is a god? We quite well know how the natural laws work, and the mechanics of them are not attributed to the constant upholding of a god.
My political “dogma” can be changed. I am willing to change my beliefs in economics and politics if given enough reason to do so. Religious dogma does not allow for that, because most religions, including Christianity, say that if someone leaves the faith or is not of that faith at all then they should be killed or that they are damned to an eternity of torture. I have definitions too you know. This is the first one that comes up when you type “dogma” into Google, “A principle or set of principles laid down by an authority as incontrovertibly true.” What about Democratic Socialism, communism, capitalism, anarchism, or other socio-economic theories are incontrovertibly true? Nothing. The only reason I even call myself a Democratic Socialist is because that is the socio-economic views that I most agree with.
As for capitalism working or not working or socialism working or not working, that is completely subjective. What do you mean by “capitalism works” exactly? I look at America today, and I think that capitalism has failed miserably, because the rich are getting richer at the expense of the lower and middle classes. You see this as a good thing; I don’t. Now, I could change my beliefs about this, but again only if I am given enough reason to. Same with Christianity. I am more than willing to believe in Jesus, God, and talking snakes if there is enough evidence to do so. So far, nothing has convinced me, because all arguments in favour of capitalism fail to convince me, all arguments in favour of communism fail to convince me, all arguments for the existence of a god fails, all arguments for creationism/intelligent design fail, all arguments for Jesus’ existence fail, etc. because of facts and reality.
Next up is your superstition claim. Christians used to attribute rain to God, and some Christians still do, such is the case here in the state of Texas where Governor and presidential hopeful Rick Perry told Texans to pray for rain. I can’t make this shit up; he actually told people to pray to God and Jesus for rain, and then he asked for people to come to Houston to pray to help the economy, because apparently enough faith in Jesus allows you to absolve all your responsibility as a publicly elected figure and just turn it over to something that has no proof for its existence.
They also used to attribute rainbows, thunder, earthquakes, tornadoes, and most other completely natural things to God until they figured out that they weren’t his doing but that of nature, and we used science to figure that out. You are playing a “god of the gaps” argument throughout your entire response by saying that we don’t know what caused the universe, therefore it must be the god I choose to worship, but I know now because of science that these things that used to be attributed to my god are not actually their work. If you can gladly accept the things science has to offer about things like the weather, medicine, or the computer you used to type up your tripe of a response, why can’t you accept certain aspects of it when it conflicts with your dogma, such as evolution? Because you lack an understanding of the theory of evolution, biology, and science in general and desperately want the preconceived notions that are clouding your perception of reality to be real.
As I look back over what I have wrote, thinking, do I really need to do this? Shouldn’t ex-Christians know these mistakes that they making; but then honestly who am I kidding? While to me it seems a lot, this response is actually smaller than what I was planning to make, but I simply became bored with typing out response to criticisms that would fail my first year of secondary Christian education class. As I see it, Daniel hasn’t done much refuting and his ability to rest on the usual atheist quip: there is no evidence, is so wrong he might as well go jump off the flat earth.
As I look back over what I wrote, I think to myself, “Why don’t Christians see the mistakes that they are making? Why do they believe in anything really that has no proof for its existence?” But then who am I kidding? This person wouldn’t pass a second grade science course. You might as well take a space shuttle and go hit the firmament that was put in place over the Earth by God.