Some Stupid Arguments FOR God

I can’t believe just how often people come out with the dimmest arguments for God. Now, actually there are some good arguments for God, but they are not cheap remarks. I frequently debate matters of God with all sorts of people. The theists do occasionally make you think. But many theists seem to think that some of the following make good arguments. I shall dispose of each of them now.

1. 76% of people believe in God

I’ve frequently encountered this whilst corresponding with right-wing American nutters. It’s not an argument. It’s a statement of fact. If it even is a fact (the quoted figure is often different and not properly referenced). As though it needed saying: just because any particular number of people believe in something doesn’t make it true. People used to think that the earth was flat. They used to think in droves that miasma transmits plague. Many used to believe in slavery. Many believed Hitler… and so on…

2. Without God everything is permitted.

This is the argument from Dostoyevsky. Except it’s not an argument. It is an assertion. In fact, hardly more than a worry. And an unsubstantiated one. You see, it all depends on what you mean permitted. I am not “permitted” to go and kill anyone; the law of the country I live in prohibits it. But of course the theist means “permitted” in the sense that the universe contains no intrinsic moral code or justice whose source is above humanity. Well, firstly that’s true. There is no evidence for such a thing. It is obvious that many of the most grotesque evil-doers don’t get punished for their crimes (think Stalin for example). So the theist moves to metaphysics: people get punished for bad deeds in the afterlife. Except there’s no evidence for an afterlife, so you have to go on faith again. Which is what the original statement above is an expression of anyway. Not an argument.

3. The world’s worst killers on the planet, Stalin and Mao, were atheists.

True. But they didn’t murder for atheism. They murdered for power and for fanaticism. Denying the idea of God doesn’t lead to genocide. On the other hand, asserting that your moral code is the one God means for humanity to abide by is exclusivist and dangerous if it is imposed by force. For a discussion of why the “which is worse, atheism or theism” debate is a complete waste of time, read my entry here: Is Religion Evil? An Interminable Debate… But even if Stalin and Mao did murder for atheism’s sake (which they didn’t) that still does not imply God exists.

4. Atheism produces bad art/music/culture

I recently read this on an orthodox Christian blog. Of course what constitutes “bad” art is a matter of opinion, not of objective fact. I, or anyone else, is equally entitled to think religious art is bad (dreary mass music, dull figures in frescos). Of course I don’t think religious art is always bad. But it is a question of opinion. So it is not objectively true that atheism produces bad art/music and culture. Though even if it did, that would still not be a reason to believe in God.

Imagine applying that reasoning the other way: I don’ t like Bach’s Mass in B minor. Religious music is bad. Bach didn’t believe in unicorns. Therefore I will believe in unicorns.

On this logic, the addition of opinion and taste to metaphysical entities results in the justified belief in anything you like! God included.

In any case, many people who say that “atheism produces bad art/music/literature” actually mean that they think secularism or humanism do, not atheism. Atheism, as the etymology of the word indicates, is “without god(s)”. It is just the position that there is no sufficient reason to believe in God. It is not a movement or an ideology. Just a conclusion based on arguments offered by theism. It is a reaction to theism, not a rival for cultural space. Humanism and secularism are different to mere atheism.

5. Morality comes from God

Now, I’ve tackled this already, but I want to look at it from a different angle.

This argument is most often offered by fanatic Christians who assert the literal truth of the Old Testament (of all things!). Though I dare say most Jews and Muslims will also believe their moral code is divinely given. And that’s half the problem! For they can’t all be right. Not to mention the inherent danger in believing you can interpret the word of God as to how everyone should behave. That’s how you get such inhumane things as Sharia law in Saudi Arabia. Believing you are in possession of the holy moral code and have God’s backing is a dangerous thing.

In any case, consider this: How did people make it to the base of Mount Sinai for Moses to receive the ten commandments without everyone killing each other before hand? Did they get there and find out that murder, infidelity and theft were all bad of all a sudden? “What do you mean we can’t do that stuff anymore?” they exclaimed horrified when they saw the tablets.

Of course this is rubbish. A society to exist must have rules by which it is structured. And that must have happened before the ten commandments were handed invented. Morality is not God-given. It is human in origins. In fact, some animals have it too. Bonobos and Chimps are easily observed to have moral codes.

6. “Intelligent Design”

Or as I like to write it, “Intelligent” Design; both parts of the phrase are wrong (the world is not designed, and much less by anything intelligent).

Creationism is the primitive’s answer to where the world came from. The “Intelligent” Design movement revamped the arguments, drawing for inspiration from William Paley’s Natural Theology. The idea is that such things as humans, the diversity of species, complex organs and so on are too complex and serve their purpose so well that they couldn’t have happened by chance.

To assert such nonsense you have to deny Evolution or Darwinism. And that means having to be quite ignorant of scientific evidence. Some “Intelligent” Designers claim that Evolution is not even a scientific theory since it can’t predict what future species will evolve (and is therefore untestable). That takes quite some ignorance of what a scientific theory is. People who are inclined to think this way should see my entry here: What To Show Someone Who Believes In “Intelligent” Design

There are even those who would say that the Earth is created some 6,000-10,000 years ago. They are completely wrong. These people have to work very hard to keep at bay reality and scientific evidence, including geology, paleontology, carbon dating, and so on. The way they get the age of the earth to be so small is they add up all the ages of all the people in the Bible, starting at the end. They work backwards to Genesis and thus figure out when the world must have been created by God. You can demonstrate that the world is older than this merely by adding up the rings in tree trunks (an extra ring is added every year to a tree).

If you need further convincing, read this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Young_earth_creationism#Origins

Did a loving God “intelligently” create the appendix? People’s backs aren’t well enough adjusted for walking upright (which is why many people suffer from back pain in their life) – is this God’s “intelligent” dealings? If men are intelligently designed, why do they get prostate trouble in their later years? Why do so many people choke each year, when you could easily have eating and breathing orifices separate (even in mammals; whales have this)?

There’s neither a creator, nor is he intelligent, nor are the people who believe the opposite. Or at the very least they’re ignorant.

7. The Ontological and Cosmological Arguments

The ontological argument is laughable. See here: The Ontological Argument

The Cosmological argument needs an infinite regress of causes, which in turn also demands an explanation. The debate is rather circular. An interesting debate between Betrand Russell and Father Copplestone in Why I Am Not A Christian discusses this. There is a plethora of publications on this topic. But the argument has hardly convinced philosophy to adopt theism as a result.

Final remark:

Even if any of the arguments above did show that God must exist, which God would it be? The Christian God? Allah? Jahweh? Zeus? Take “Intelligent” Design: God created the eye. Ok. Let’s say that’s true. How does that get to become “Jesus died for my sins”?

It doesn’t.

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21 Responses to “Some Stupid Arguments FOR God”

  1. toni Says:

    You’re a thinker…….that’s good…t

  2. just_curious Says:

    You have provided examples of arguments for the existence of God which you do not accept. What kind of proof would you need in order to accept that God exists?

  3. bluerat Says:

    just_curious,

    I don’t think that a proof of God is possible (though of course I might be wrong, or humankind might yet come up with one at the moment we cannot think of – though personally I think it unlikely). Many atheists go about the question of God from the proof perspective. That is, they say “there’s no proof”. Of course almost nothing has any proof. Science, for instance doesn’t prove anything either; it surmises – a point often overlooked. Theists who encounter that kind of bad atheism react by asking what proof would be required. Or, as is very frequently the case, they say that he cannot be proven and it’s a question of faith. That something might not be provable does not mean that it’s not rational. If a theist says belief in God is not rational, fine. It doesn’t have to be. But then don’t foist it upon other people, don’t assert God is literal and don’t claim that this irrationality is THE one true one.
    I do think some rational arguments for God’s existence can be quite engaging. Recently a friend of mine (a theologian and believer in God) and I discussed the idea of language and whether human language is too restricted to offer a good account of religious experience, and belief in God in particular, to be able to find expression in argument.
    These are interesting discussions.
    The idea that God is a metaphor, a psychological projection, symbolic of mankind’s struggle with existential issues, a historical idea, a literary figure, and so on… all these have significance. And they don’t, incidentally, mean that we can’t learn from scripture some very important things about our existence and meaning in our lives. But to rationally prove such things are literary, historically, true is as ridiculous as to assert the literal truth of a metaphor.
    Nonetheless, I quite readily invite anyone to offer what “proof” or rational reason for belief in God they think would compel a non-believer. It is not my job as an atheist to do the work for them, though.
    However, the idea of “belief” is a highly questionable one. It is the unreasonable conviction that reality operates in a way which is clearly undemonstrable by either experiment, observation or reason. And such beliefs frequently lead people into serious trouble of various kinds. Why, if God exists, would he not make sure that his existence was undeniable? He could also take some effort to ensure that people know which tradition is correct, and which isn’t, instead of letting mankind to develop inter-religious disagreeement. Islam, Christianity and Judaism can’t all be right. Why does God not endorse the right one unambiguously?
    The answer suggests itself: he’s not there in the way believers claim.
    But feel free to offer a rational reason for why I, or anyone else, should believe.

  4. bluerat Says:

    I’m not sure that that directly anwered the question, actually. Your question was what KIND of proof. Well, I already talked about proof above. As to what KIND of argument I would hope for from a theist:
    Firstly, it would have to be a rational kind, because irrational propositions are almost impossible to discuss – and it would be a discussion we’d be having about the proposition.
    Secondly, even a reason for why the Jewish, or Christian or Muslim God is even LIKELY would be a good start. For example, if you woke up but didn’t know what day it was, you could go to find out by checking the date on a newspaper in a shop. Let’s say you did and you found it said “wednesday” on the paper. Would that convince you it was wednesday? Probably it would suffice for most people. It is reasonable to assume that the shop is carrying that day’s edition, right? Right. Strictly speaking, of course, it might be an eleborate hoax, though that would be unlikely.
    And so it is with theism. Far before I would ask for any KIND of proof, I’d ask for some KIND of rational reason that makes God quite likely. I don’t mean some watered-down deism or anything. I mean here, the Christian, Jewish or Muslim God. I don’t think their existence in the literal sense is likely.
    To paraphrase someone else’s rather crudely put rhetorical question about the origins of belief in the Abrahamic God and his miracles: “What is more likely, that the natural order of the universe is suspended at key moments in history at the behest of an all-powerful, all-knowing and supremely good God who, despite the vastness of the universe cares personally about each of us but whose existence cannot be rationally proven… or that a few Jews told a lie?”

    You see the scale of the problem now, I hope.

  5. just_curious Says:

    I’m not sure that I properly understand some of the points you made…hoping you can find some time to clarify the following:

    1) You state “That something might not be provable does not mean that it’s not rational” – can you give an example of something that you think is not provable but rational?

    2) You ask “Why, if God exists, would he not make sure that his existence was undeniable?”…I think this relates somewhat to my original question. What would God need to do in order to “make sure that his existence was undeniable”? Do you think there could be any kind of experiment or observation that could convince you of this? For example, to borrow from your last paragraph, if it was proven that the natural order of the universe was in fact suspended at key moments in history would this be sufficient proof that God exists or would you still not be convinced?

  6. bluerat Says:

    Hi Just_Curious,

    I’m very grateful to finally have some intelligent conversation with someone. In answer to your questions:

    1) Something that is rational but not provable:
    The list of these things is virtually endless. I think every scientific theory I can think of is rational but not proved (hence a theory). So for example, the electronic energy levels of an atom. They are a rational explanation for observable phenomena (e.g. photoelectric effect). But you can’t PROVE it. It is a theory. It is the best effort we have yet for describing how atomic structure is ordered. For it to have been proved it would have to be shown that no matter how many times you perform any experiment, the outcome will always be consistent with the model. But no such proof has been shown. Science doesn’t work by proving anything, despite popular misconceptions. Science tests theories and they either pass the test or they don’t. If they do, they might not tomorrow, or they might. The more tests they pass, and the more rigorous the tests, the more confidence we have in the theories. But they are not proven. Not proven, but rational.

    2) The question “Why doesn’t God want to do this or that?” is a strange one, because it assumes that we could second-guess the intentions of a supernatural entity. What God would choose to do to convince people would have to be up to him. I’m not his strategist. But I’m certainly not convinced so far that it is from God. Let us say, theoretically, that it could be shown that the natural order was suspended. There are two ways I can think of that this would happen. One is that it might happen in a laboratory and could be repeated by experiment. (for example, gravity could be switched off, or a brain dead animal could be brought back to life or something). In that case, there would be no need for God. If you can reliably repeat the measurement, then you have to go away and reconsider how science views reality and how it describes laws of nature. Science has throughout history adjusted to such observations and nothing about the process requires God.
    The second option is that you can’t repeat the phenomena. In that case, how could you “prove” that a historical event involved the suspension of the natural order of things? You can’t prove anything about history. You can only acquire degrees of confidence based on surviving evidence. In the case of religion, say Christianity’s Gospels, none of the evidence is stronger than for any of the other religions. And in any case, even if you COULD prove that a suspension of the natural order must have taken place in history – let’s say an amputees limb grows back after praying for it – how could you prove it was as a result of the specific God you prayed to? If I pray and my amputated arm grows back, it might have done anyway. There’s no causal link that’s been established. Just because you rub your tummy and pat your head and then the postman brings the mail, doesn’t mean that patting your tummy and rubbing your head makes the mailman arrive. To be confident, you’d have to be able to repeat it. Although that still wouldn’t be proof for the reasons given above for science: repetition doesn’t establish a proof. And you’d be back to the laboratory situation anyway.
    So overall, I don’t know what God would have to do to prove his existence. It would have to be pretty impressive. Though I’m sure if claims about his omniscience are correct, he’s clever enought to think of something.
    I suppose if the heavens opened in full view of the public, God came down, spoke to everyone, introduced himself and offered to perform miracles in front of a crowd of onlookers, including scientists and skeptics, and allowed for a scientific investigation of what he was doing so that we could be sure the natural order was suspended, and permitted the whole thing to be video taped, and showed it wasn’t an elaborate hoax, and I saw this and he would take questions from people and answer them openly… that might go some way towards persuading me.
    Of course Christians might claim that this already did happen and it was recorded in the Bible. But it wasn’t done in public. It wasn’t reliably documented, and it wasn’t repeated for subsequent generations. Instead, the accounts are historically disputed, ambiguous, their origins aren’t always certain, they’ve been mistranslated, misappropriated, some of them have been excluded from the Bible, and other religions make identical claims but for a different God. Hardly convincing.

  7. bluerat Says:

    Put another way, if God’s intention is for people to believe in him, and the accounts of the Bible and the few questionable accounts of miracles since then are supposed to be his effort, then I would question if he is omnipotent after all.

    Bertrand Russell was once asked what he would do if he died and went to heaven and God would ask him “Why didn’t you believe in me?”. Russell said he’d tell him “Not enough evidence, Lord.”

    And that’s about right.

  8. artphotowall Says:

    In Judaism there is no part of anything that is not God. But whether God is a part of mens’ lives depends upon how men behave. This is so at the most obvious and at the most profound level.

    After the Flood, when Noah was a wreck of a man, an alcoholic, hating himself for not believing in God and the coming Flood sufficiently, (for he thought that if he had believed enough he would have convinced more people to come aboard), his sons were visited by God, who told them that if they put in place the institutions of family, law and social justice, those acts would be like a tent erected over the people, and God would come down and dwell in that tent.

    From which we see that within that tradition of belief, God can be invited in by correct behaviour, or left out of the world. So while within that system of belief there is no part of anything that is not God, man’s experience of existence and of reality is affected by whether God is present as a dweller in the tent.

    So the proof of the existence of God is in the experience. I suppose that is in same the sense that Wednesday’s paper feels real in one’s hands.

    kind regards
    David

  9. bluerat Says:

    Hi artphotowall,

    I feel pedantic, so i’m going to pedant my way through your remark. Don’t take offence, I’m just airing my views.

    From the beginning:
    “In Judaism there is no part of anything that is not God. But whether God is a part of mens’ lives depends upon how men behave.”

    The two sentences imply an inconsistency. If man behaves badly, you tell us he is not necessarily in that man’s life. Therefore his life can be independent of God, or outside of Him. Then how can the first sentence be true, that “there is no part of anything that is not God”? Unless you’re willing, of course, to admit that something that IS God doesn’t have God in it. But where does that leave you?

    You see, religious expressions of this kind, have to take a blind eye to certain bits of language and logic. That’s been my experience with most theists. You can go on to talk about logic and language and their merits – and as I mentioned before these can make an interesting discussion. But wishy-washy descriptions on their own are hardly convincing. And in the above example seem blatantly self-contradictory.

    If only just after the flood God instructed for mankind to establish law, presumably that included such prohibitions on theft and murder. So why the ten commandments (apart from the first three, of course, for which the reasons are perfectly clear). In any case, how did anyone manage to build the ark in time for the flood without having to contend with murder, rape and theft, given that laws against these were not yet present?

    The tradition you refer to might reckon God is invited by “good” behaviour, but to me it seems that to invite a supernatural tyrant invigilator is the opposite of good. Of course, the “good” in this context is what God recommends anyway, right? So essentially, if you do what God tells you, he’ll draw himself nearer and “into your life”. Odd stuff.

    “…man’s experience of existence and of reality is affected by whether God is present as a dweller in the tent.”

    So how we see things depends on whether we admit God into our life first or not. But that is to put the thing upside down. I want to know whether admitting God is warranted on the basis of how things are. And I see no reason for this. The latter approach also seems completely fair; first you look, then you jump. Not the other way around.

    On your last point, proof of God’s existence may be in the experience. But it is not an experience that theists find themselves capable to communicate to skeptics sufficiently well – how inconvenient for something for which there is also no objective evidence, don’t you think? The “real” feeling of Wednesday’s paper in your hands, on a strict philosophical note, proves nothing – merely shifts one’s idea of what is most likely. Nonetheless, the analogy about the paper was to demonstrate that although you feel “wednesday’s” paper in your hands, it might actually be a hoax. And therefore, if you feel God, you must admit the feeling might be leading you to the wrong conclusion about his existence also.

  10. just_curious Says:

    Thanks for responding…some further queries:

    1) You indicated that you think scientific theories cannot be proven but are rational. So if something can be rational without being proven on what basis has it been accepted as rational?

    2) Your thoughts on what God would have to do in order to prove his existence would appear to indicate that no matter what God did (ie even if the heavens opened in full view of the public etc…) you could probably explain the phenomenon without needing to accept the existence of God?

  11. bluerat Says:

    Hi Just_Curious

    In answer to your points:

    1) It’s not that I think scientific theories cannot be proven. It’s that it is universally acknowledged to be so. If “theories” were proven, they would not longer be theories. All theories are provisional and contingent on incoming data. All theories are in principle falsifiable. The natural sciences can’t prove anything for lot’s of different reasons. One of them is problems with induction. Another experimental error. In the natural sciences quantified measurements include an experimental error (no equipment with which you do experiments is perfect). And so on…

    Rationality does not entail a requirement for proof. For example, if I lived to be one hundred years old, but in my whole life, I only ever saw white swans, what could I say? Could I say I’ve proven that all swans must be white? No. It may be that there are some black swans somewhere and I’ve just happened not to have seen them. (In fact, black swans do exist.) However, never having seen a swan of a colour other than white, I could formulate a theory: all swans are white. Now, that is a falsifiable theory, because should a non-white swan be found, the theory is shown not to be true. However, I cannot prove that all swans are white.
    On the other hand, the theory from observation of swans, that they are all white, is a rational one. It is a rational proposition.
    I’ve already given the structure of the atom as another instance of the same thing: the theory behind the electronic structure of the atom is rational, it can even be expressed mathematically, but it is not proven. We know nothing that says that theory in principle cannot be falsified tomorrow if we do a particular experiment. Or even if we repeat one we already did before and get a different result.
    So what do you need to do to qualify a statement, proposition or theory as a rational one? Well, you could say that rationality is a way of using reason to systematically analyze data. Definitions of rationality vary, but you can get a rough outline here, to begin with:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rationality

    2) This point is easier to answer, thankfully. Of course if God came down to earth he would be treated by scientists as a natural phenomenon, given that he was a part of the world at that time. How successful that would be depends on the limits of human reason, science and what exactly God was like. Certainly scientific reductionism claims that there is nothing that in principle can’t be explained by the natural sciences. For my money, it would be up to God to demonstrate that science could not, even in principle, ever explain him. How he would choose to do that I’ll happily leave up to him.

    Note, however, that we’re not talking about such philosophical topics as meaning. That’s key, because if you have a scientific understanding of something, you need to also keep in mind the limitations of that understanding, if there are any, that is. As I said, there are those who would deny there is such a limit. Theists, on the other hand, frequently try to emphasise the limits of science (e.g. by claiming that it does not give us ethical guidelines for how to live our lives). But that’s a whole ‘nother discussion.

  12. bluerat Says:

    Just to give one more example of the fact rationality and proof needn’t be conjoined: if it is raining outside, and you want to go out but not get wet, what do you do? You take an umbrella. That is a rational decision. But there’s no burden of proof in this situation. You’re not being asked to prove anything. You just don’t want to get wet.

  13. Ross Says:

    Hi,

    I’m posting in relation to your original post.

    I agree with you that most of the “arguments” you listed above are not really arguments at all. I wouldn’t even consider using the majority of those as arguments for God’s existence at all. The exception are the last two arguments. But leaving those arguments to the side for the moment, and touching on the comments of the other posters I would like to present another thought. Most people get caught up with some metaphoric/metaphysical (etc) spiritualisation of God. But the Bible clearly implies that God is a person (to save you guessing what I believe, you’d probably classify me as a fundamentalist christian). So the best way to positively prove that God exists is if you actually met Him. Note: not meeting Him (the negative result for this test) does not prove that he doesn’t exist. This will only prove that God exists.

    Now you may think that I have taken a leap off the deep end now but I am merely stating the obvious. If you are debating the existence of a person then you can prove they exist by meeting them. Obviously this isn’t the easiest thing to achieve but if the Bible is true then you will have the opportunity to meet God (and satisfy the answer to this question). Unfortunately you have to die to do this (and then you are in serious trouble).

    Lastly I this isn’t a final rebuttal to your comments about God it is only meant to bring a bit of reality to the debate. As probably all reasonable/rational Creationists and Evolutionists alike will admit, there is no proof for God’s existence. However He either exists or He doesn’t (mutually exclusive events) and our belief will not change this fact one iota. The only way to know that God exists is to have a personal meeting with Him.

  14. bluerat Says:

    Hi Ross,

    Thanks for posting back. I’m glad to hear you think most of the arguments I’ve listed are not good enough.

    As for the personinfication of God:

    Let’s assume that you’re right about God being a person. To meet a person does often tend to convince us that that person is real. Except that 2 things: (1) If other people have trouble meeting the same person, despite doing the same things you’ve done, that appears to be a problem. (2) People “meet” all sorts of things that aren’t really there all the time: aliens, ghosts, apparitions of the Virgin… people have what they describe as literal encounters with all sorts of things that aren’t really there. And merely because on their own they believe these meetings have happened to them, that proves nothing. Plenty of people, for example, claim to have seen visions of Jesus, plenty have seen Zeus… what if there’s a person whose met more than two Gods from different religions, what if each person on earth “met” a different God? Native Indians, the Mauri, the Aborigines, the Norse civilization… all these people met different Gods – this proves their existence too, does it?

    Logically it is just false that “meeting” a God proves his existence, anymore than seeing anything proves that it’s actually there. One way of boosting confidence is to have many people meet or see the same thing, and be able to repeat it. For instance, I know my friend Tom exists -at least I’m highly confident that he does – because I can arrange to meet him, or go down to see him whenever I like – and so can anyone else. I can with ease introduce him to other people. Religious believers have quite some difficulty in introducing God to many people.

    You wrote:
    “Note: not meeting Him (the negative result for this test) does not prove that he doesn’t exist. This will only prove that God exists.”

    I hope that’s a mistake; you’re not trying to say that NOT meeting God is prove of his existence, are you?

    You mention that you may have to die to meet God. In which case, this putative “proof” that he exists suffers from the additional inconvenience of not being accessible in the here and now. That, of course, is a very convenient argument of theists: “It’s provable, but not till you die”. I love the implicit hubris; theists are able to tell us what we can expect when we die, but are unable to show us any good reason for it.

    Literature is repleat with examples of non-person entities personified. The psychology of this is quite clear. It is universally acknowledged that abstract concepts are far better understood and related to by people when they are personified. This is not the same as saying that abstract concepts are people. I have far more sympathy for the view that God is a literary metaphor for a range of subjective experiences had by the Judeo-Christian world since a couple thousand years BC. The same thing is true of classical mythology (and non-classical mythology). On the most basic level, humans have traditionally been tempted to explain the world’s machinations by invoking the presence of God or gods: it is these supernatural entities that are responsible for everything from mysterious nature to inspiration in war, to disease…
    Many of these perceptions have been overthrown by science, including, for example, Creationism.

    Finally, be wary of believing whatever the Bible tells you. It is a human document, written by humans, compiled by humans, translated by humans, and frequently self-contradictory. It is dangerous to assume any text is divinely sourced and hold its message up above all others as though there was a rational basis for this.

  15. Cameron Says:

    BR, just wanted to say thanks for how you handled yourself over at Fr. Stephen’s blog. I appreciate your patience in expressing your beliefs.

  16. just_curious Says:

    Some of these concepts are new to me so i’m learning as I go here. To clarify:

    1) The link you provided states that “All that is required for an action to be rational is that you believe that X and that that if X then Y so you do Y. Arguments about belief are couched in the terms valid and sound – logically you must believe something if the argument supporting it is sound. In some cases, such as religious belief, the argument may be valid but its soundness cannot be known for the truth of its premises cannot be known.”

    So with this as a definition, my understanding on your position re arguments for the existence of God would be that in some cases the argument may be valid but you do not accept the soundness of the argument because you do not accept the premises on which it is based?

  17. bluerat Says:

    That’s essentially correct. The premises you refer to are sometimes also known as axioms or assumptions. What you have to realise is that all thought systems rely on these. There isn’t a single human field of knowledge or thought that doesn’t. Axioms (or assumptions or premises…) are often rather arbitrary and establishing whether they’re good starting points is a tricky affair. Asking such questions belongs to a field of philosophy called epistemology (the study of knowledge – what can be known and what cannot).
    So, consider something as basic as geometry. Take euclidian geomtery (that’s geometry on a flat plane). Take a shape as simple as a triangle. Now, to date people can describe all sorts of triangles, they can prove pythagoras’ theorem, and they can use triangles in all sorts of applications (e.g. building bridges). But the theory of what a triangle is actually rests on some axioms of geometry. A triangle is a shape of three sides connecting three points. Now, by definition each line describing the triangle connect two points. So what is a point, then? Ah, well, we define a point as a position but at the same time, something without size. Now, that might seem rather odd. If a point has no size, how can it be said to exist?
    But we must do with points, otherwise we can’t have triangles. So, we accept them as axioms of euclidian geometry.
    The same is often the case with many other propositions and ways of thinking. Science, for example, assumes that it is possible to discover laws governing the behaviour of matter and energy. Of course, you can’t prove there are any such laws, and all human theories are approximations (no theory describes everything to any ultimate accuracy). But science can turn around and say that it is actually quite good at what it does, even though it’s always improving.
    The philosophy of religion often throws up all sorts of questionable axioms. Some of them are legendary for being self-contradictory. For example, assume that God is 1) omnipotent, 2) all-good, and 3) omniscient (all knowing). It would seem to follow that such a god could do anything, would want only to create things that were good, and could predict the consequences of anything he made. And yet there is evil in the world. So how to we explain that? Of course, you can question what evil is as well. But for our purposes let’s suppose that you and I agree what it is in the way the word is commonly meant. If that’s the case, then it would seem the 3 premises about god contradict one another. Epicurus famously realised this 300 years before Christianity. He said: “Either God wants to abolish evil, and cannot; or he can, but does not want to. If he wants to, but cannot, he is impotent. If he can, but does not want to, he is wicked. If God can abolish evil, and God really wants to do it, why is there evil in the world?” The problem has dogged theologians for innumerable decades and wider philosophy is certainly not impressed with the proposed suggestions they’ve come up with so far.
    When it comes to religion, it depends what you mean generally. Religion can be defined in lots of different ways. As can God. But in the commonly understood sense of a God that is immanent (that interferes with the affairs of the world), good, omniscient, omnipotent creator – that I don’t believe in with a passion. It seems patently absurd. Other definitions of God have to be considered on their merits, and this post is long enough as it is.
    You wrote that: “my understanding on your position re arguments for the existence of God would be that in some cases the argument may be valid but you do not accept the soundness of the argument because you do not accept the premises on which it is based.” Like I said, that’s essentially correct. Theologians can plant a good argument. That doesn’t mean they have good assumptions (axioms). Frequently also, they will change the assumptions they’re working with, or alternatively refer to something like “god is irrational and cannot be understood, but is nonetheless real.” Sometimes this is done to prevent rational questions being asked about God, and sometime to invoke a subjectivity.
    My question is: If god wants everyone to believe in him, why doesn’t he demonstrate his existence unambiguously?

    One more remark (I know there’s a lot here). If you’re just beginning to be interested in all this stuff, another good place to look is on Wikipedia for Occams Razor. It is the principle that you should try to have as few assumptions for any explanation you offer as you can. Following that, the simplest explanation tends to be the right one. In the case of God’s existence, if you consider that God made man, you have to explain a lot about God, his nature and all the problems we know about already (and many more). If you consider that God comes from the imaginations of men, then you’ve far less left to explain, since all becomes clear: why there are so many religions, why they are inconsistent with one another and so on.
    I’ll stop now, and let you get a word in edgeways.
    All the best.

  18. bluerat Says:

    Actually, just to warn you, Just_Curious: You’ll hear mention of rationality and rationalism. They are not the same. Rationalism is a philosophical position advocating rationality.

  19. just_curious Says:

    Thanks for explaining these concepts…It’s obvious you’ve spent a great deal of time studying these fields of knowledge.
    Clicking through from one page to another on wikipedia I eventually found:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Existence_of_God
    It covers a lot of really fascinating and compelling ideas. I have a feeling we would have ended up skimming across many of these topics…but I’ve taken up enough of your time already.
    All the best.

  20. bluerat Says:

    Don’t worry about it. Post anything you like. If it woult take up more time they I have I’ll just tell you or not post a reply. In the meantime, feel free.

  21. Iconia» Blog Archive » Arts Roundup: Defending Atheist Art and 400 Pounds of Pieta Says:

    […] [Blue Rat] Some theists say atheism produces bad art, but bluerat writes, “it is not objectively true that atheism produces bad art/music and culture. Though even if it did, that would still not be a reason to believe in God.” […]


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