the secular atheist sees no reason or evidence for belief in a god or gods
The Secular Atheist

Arguments for God

"God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves?" Nietzsche

When Nietzsche said "God is dead" in his 1882 collection The Science of Joy, I wonder if he expected that 134 years later, religion would be gone or at least, become the past time of a minority. So why, when it was clear to him that god is not real, is it that in 2016, there are still billions of people who are religious? In addition, while the numbers are falling steadily, why is the process so painful and slow?

One argument is that there are strong, intellectual arguments for belief in god making theism a rational, even wise, choice. Many of the arguments are not new, but many still find them very convincing, so much so that people will at times kill and die for their religious beliefs.

To be clear, the majority of these arguments are philosophical arguments which are not rooted in religious texts or scientific observation.

Contrary to what some theists claim, none of the arguments present a definitive case for god. At most they can make the case that belief in god is rational. Some of them are easily debuked and some require carefully thought. Either way, examining them is an interesting and educational exercise that will not only provide an understanding of theist thought but challenge the thought of the non-theist and hopefully learn something in the process.

None of the arguments seeks to make the case for one specific god or collection of gods. That step is a topic in its own right, one that is frequently trivialised or ignored by theists. So even if someone were one day to produce an argument for a god that proved to be water tight, there is a whole extra journey needed to prove that this now proven god is Jehovah, Allah, Vishnu, Zeus, or anyone of the thousands of other gods that exist or have existed.

Twenty popular arguments for the existence of god will be examined over time - this may be adjusted with time to reflect feedback. While I will not respond to feedback individually, it is welcomed and will always be considered. It may even be referenced in this review.

It is strongly recommended that the person following this thread, reads outside of it, and references will be included to facilite this. The list to be examined is as follows -

  • The Argument from Change
  • The Argument from Efficient Causality
  • The Argument from Time and Contingency
  • The Argument from Degrees of Perfection
  • The Design Argument
  • The Kalam Argument
  • The Argument from Contingency
  • The Argument from the World as an Interacting Whole
  • The Argument from Miracles
  • The Argument from Consciousness
  • The Argument from Truth
  • The Argument from the Origin of the Idea of God
  • The Ontological Argument
  • The Moral Argument
  • The Argument from Conscience
  • The Argument from Desire
  • The Argument from Aesthetic Experience
  • The Argument from Religious Experience
  • The Common Consent Argument
  • Pascal's Wager

The Argument from Motion

"The argument from motion", often referred to as "the argument from change", was proposed by Thomas Aquinas.

Plants flower and seed, and animals feed and breed, all changing with time. A seed contains the potential to become a plant, and 'moves' from being a seed to being a plant. In this context the term 'moves' is used far more broadly than the narrow sense that a car travels from A to B, although that is included. The argument from motion relies on the concepts of potentiality and actuality rather than that of causal sequence.

The argument can be summarised as

  1. Nothing changes itself.
  2. The universe is the sum total of all these moving things.
  3. If there is nothing outside the material universe, then there is nothing that can cause the universe to change.

This argument assumes causality to be a universal truth, and uses this to assert the need for an Unmoved Mover or an Uncaused Cause to break the resulting infinite regress. There are a number of rebuttals to the argument that show it is inconsistent with modern science and logic, and some are listed below.

(1) Physics is no longer classical. The idea that no movement can happen without something else causing the movement, is not just pre-Einsteinian, it is pre-Newtonian. When people thought that no motion was possible without a mover, they believed that angels had to push the planets to keep them moving.

(2) Two bodies at rest will start to move towards each other due to gravity. They can be each other's first mover. Therefore, the prior mover requirement is unnecessary, in fact, gravity means that a universe without motion is inconceivable and no first mover is needed.

(3) Pairs of virtual particles are created (and annihilated) all of the time, out of literally nothing. These particles affect each other's motion, thus disproving Aquinas's premise. Not all events necessarily have causes. In quantum mechanics, not all events need a cause that proceeds it. To complicate matters, identical experiments can have different outcomes in quantum mechanics. These differences are spontaneous or 'uncaused' and they are mundane patterns of scattering electrons and photons.

(4) Einstein's General Relativity supports closed time loops in which an object can meet itself in the past. These are at odds with the causality assumed in Aquinas' argument.

(5) There is no good reason for allowing the Unmoved Mover to exist without a cause. This is a case of special pleading and there is no good reason to accept it. If nothing moves without a prior mover, then God must need a prior mover, as well. Otherwise God is nothing, which contradicts the conclusion. Thus, either the premise is untrue, in which case the argument is unsound, or the conclusion doesn't follow, in which case the argument is invalid. In fact, as stated, the argument is clearly self-contradictory. Who created God?

(6) If for some reason it is possible to show that there has to be a Unmoved Mover, why would this need to be a being? Why could it not be the universe itself, or some team of super gods that created lesser gods who created lesser gods who created the universe? Why could it not be a random quantum fluctuation? Aside from the fact, that the arbitrary use of god in the argument carries a lot of undesirable cultural baggage, denoting an intelligent being, the decision to insert god as the starting point as the creator of the universe is simply arbitrary and without justification. The argument simply does not demonstrate anything like a god, but just the cultural baggage of the person using the argument.

(7) Imagine there was evidence for the notion of a being that created the universe, there is no reason to believe that this god is the god of any particular religion. Theists simply go from 'I have proved the need for a god' to 'My god is real' without any convincing argument that bridges this huge gap.

(8) Even if there is an infinite regress of causes, so what? The human mind is uncomfortable with the concept of infinity, but reality has no obligation to make humans comfortable. An infinite regress may turn out to be the correct explanation.

e shortest answer to most of these arguments is that if any of them were correct, they would not prove that god exists. Most of these arguments would prove the existence of an uncaused cause and do not show that this cause has any resemblance to “god”. However, each of the arguments is wrong. (My responses to each of Kreeft’s arguments is very brief.) 1. The Argument from Change Nothing changes itself… The universe is the sum total of all these moving things… if there is nothing outside the material universe, then there is nothing that can cause the universe to change. This is really stupid. Things “change themselves” all the time. The only changes in a physical system that aren’t examples of the system “changing itself” are caused by something outside the system. So Kreeft would have to assume that there is something “outside the universe” in order to prove that there is something outside the universe. See the problem?? 2. The Argument from Efficient Causality Kreeft proposes that everything needs a cause, except for god, apparently. Why can god be uncaused but not the universe? 3. The Argument from Time and Contingency This argument essentially repackages the second. If the universe can’t come from nothing, then why can god? 4. The Argument from Degrees of Perfection This is the ontological argument on a bad hair day. He presents a more coherent version of this argument later. 5. The Design Argument Evolution proves that “chance” is enough to explain every living thing could have emerged from a single organism. There are several plausible theories as to how the first living things could have appeared. The fine tuning argument requires a lengthier response. Kreeft also seems to be arguing that world is so pretty that there must be a god. Right. 6. The Kalam Argument 1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause for its coming into being. 2. The universe began to exist. 3. Therefore, the universe has a cause for its coming into being. Kreeft argues that a universe that has always existed must have begun, but the defining quality of a universe that always existed is that it did not begin. 7. The Argument from Contingency 1. If something exists, there must exist what it takes for that thing to exist. 2. The universe “the collection of beings in space and time” exists. 3. Therefore, there must exist what it takes for the universe to exist. 4. What it takes for the universe to exist cannot exist within the universe or be bounded by space and time. 5. Therefore, what it takes for the universe to exist must transcend both space and time. Point five tacitly assumes that space and time are bounded by space and time, which is nonsense. If space and time are “what it takes”, which is plausible, then the problem is solved. It remains unexplained why the universe can’t cause itself but god can (in other words, “what it takes” may be nothing). 8. The Argument from the World as an Interacting Whole This world is given to us as a dynamic, ordered system of many active component elements. Their natures (natural properties) are ordered to interact with each other in stable, reciprocal relationships which we call physical laws… In such an interconnected, interlocking, dynamic system, the active nature of each component is defined by its relation with others, and so presupposes the others for its own intelligibility and ability to act. The second sentence is false. This argument defines the universe as a series of interactions and then supposes that these interactions can’t exist without their constituent elements. It is assumed that X can’t have the properties that produce the interactions we know it has with Y unless Y exists, which is false. In other words, the chemical properties of hydrogen do not change if oxygen never existed. 9. The Argument from Miracles Kreeft asserts that there are “well attested miracles”, which is false. At the very least, anyone making this claim should provide specific evidence. Even if there were well attested miracles, it would only prove naturalism false; it would not prove theism true. 10. The Argument from Consciousness Kreeft argues that the unthinking matter which is supposed to produce consciousness cannot produce reason. This premise is nowhere supported and is apparently contradicted by the existence of computers. While it is true that humans designed computers, there’s no reason to suppose that evolution could not produce a network of logic gates that assesses sensory data. The brain does exist, and it was produced by evolution, so we are left with the bald assertion that matter cannot produce reason. This argument has been assessed here. 11. The Argument from Truth 1. Our limited minds can discover eternal truths about being. 2. Truth properly resides in a mind. 3. But the human mind is not eternal. 4. Therefore there must exist an eternal mind in which these truths reside. This argument relies on the ambiguity between the words truth and reality. To the extent that the second premise is true, the first is unsubstantiated and begs the question. The universe exists independently of our minds, and if truth is defined as something which exists in a mind (i.e. it is defined as distinct from reality), then the only way it could be eternal is if there is an eternal mind. Thus, under this definition of truth, to assume that we may know eternal truths is to assume the existence of an eternal mind, but this is what Kreeft was trying to prove. 12. The Argument from the Origin of the Idea of God Kreeft here argues that since we have an idea of god, and god is infinite and perfect, the idea had to have come from outside us since we, imperfect beings, couldn’t create something perfect. This conflates god with our idea of god. If the argument is to work, our idea of God has to be infinite and perfect. Even Kleeft would agree this is not the case, and the argument fails. 13. The Ontological Argument The ontological argument effectively defines god into existence. I can define an object X and say that X has the quality 'exists’, but this doesn’t mean it does exist! 14. The Moral Argument Real moral obligation is a fact. We are really, truly, objectively obligated to do good and avoid evil. We are obligated to the people around us because we literally cannot live without their cooperation, not because god says so. 15. The Argument from Conscience ...there remains one moral absolute for everyone: never disobey your own conscience. Kreeft thinks that this “universal truth” demands a supernatural explanation when in fact it is a tautology. Your conscience is what tells you right from wrong, and for it to tell you to disobey itself would be a silly paradox akin to saying “this statement is false”. It is impossible for you to think it’s moral to disobey your conscience since it’s your conscience which decides what’s moral in the first place. 16. The Argument from Desire Every natural, innate desire in us corresponds to some real object that can satisfy that desire. This is another really stupid argument. Some people fantasize about having sex with women made of jello. Does that mean living jello exists? Kreeft’s argument hinges on differentiating “natural desires” from “unnatural desires”, but in claiming that the desire to know god is “natural” in the sense of the above premise he begs the question. 17. The Argument from Aesthetic Experience There is the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. Therefore there must be a God. You either see this one or you don’t. (emphasis added) Since the purpose of a proof of god is ostensibly to convince a non-believer, this argument demands a rather simple response: FAIL. 18. The Argument from Religious Experience It is inconceivable that so many people could have been so utterly wrong about the nature and content of their own experience. Hardly. People have been misinformed by their priests throughout history. Kreeft seems to think that the only natural explanation for religious experience is pathological, but hallucinations can happen to healthy people as well. 19. The Common Consent Argument Everyone admits that religious belief is widespread throughout human history. But the question arises: Does this undisputed fact amount to evidence in favor of the truth of religious claims? No. Kreeft again relies on the faulty assumption that religious experience, god-belief in particular, is either supernatural or psychotic in origin. 20. Pascal’s Wager The question is whether god exists, not whether believing in god is more likely than not to result in personal benefit. Pascal’s Wager addresses the latter irrelevant concern. There you have it. Twenty failed arguments

Theists put forward a number of arguments for the existence of god with a range of variations. The five most common arguments for the existence of god are:
  • Ontological

  • St Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)
    • God can be defined as "that than which nothing greater can be conceived". Therefore God (like unicorns) exists in the mind.
    • It is not possible to think of any being greater than God (as God is "that than which nothing greater can be conceived").
    • Therefore God must exist in reality.
  • Cosmological

  • St Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274)
    • Everything has to come from something. You cannot make something out of nothing.
    • Therefore there must have been a 'First Cause' that created the 'something' (the universe). That First Cause is God.
  • Teleological (or design)

  • William Paley (1734-1805)
    • If you were walking on a heath and saw a watch on the ground you would assume that its parts had not come together by chance because it is too ordered and complicated. Therefore someone must have designed it or it would not work.
    • Because the universe is also ordered and complicated, someone must have designed that too. That 'someone' is God.
  • Religious experience
    • Some people claim that they have had a religious experience eg, a miracle (a fortuitous event believed to have been caused by divine intervention), a vision, or a particular prayer to God answered.
    • Therefore God exists.
  • Morality
    • Some people say that everyone knows the difference between 'right' and 'wrong'. They describe this as having a sense of morality.
    • This sense of morality has to come from somewhere, and the only possible source is God. Therefore God exists.

It makes no sense banning drugs

20 November 2016

Banning drugs makes no sense

Making a chemical an illegal drug, does not stop people taking drugs. People take drugs for a range of reasons and not once, am I aware, has the fact that it is illegal, prevented them from experimenting or doing drugs regularly. Drugs are a fact of modern life, and all sectors of society indulge, including lawyers and policemen. If the goal is to reduce the use of illegal drugs, surely we should be looking for ways that achieve this goal rather than continuing a strategy that does not.

It costs a vast amount of money, which could be used more constructively on providing other services like educating people about drugs and providing rehabilitation for addicts. Governments are constantly asking public services to find savings, yet they continue to spend vast amounts of money on something that does not yield results.

If adults make an informed decision, it is not the place for the law to tell them what they can and can't do. Human beings make numerous decision each day knowing the downside. Look, for example, at all the people in the West that continue to smoke. There is no question that smoking increases the chances of getting cancer, yet knowing this, many people continue to smoke, and while I think their decision is wrong, it is right that the decision is theirs.

It is hypocritical to not include alcohol and tobacco on the list of illegal drugs. Both substances, share many of the characteristcs that are used to justify banning drugs. Many people become addicted to alcohol with devastating consequences for themselves, their families, and friends, but because alcohol and tobacco have been part of our societies for a long time, these substances are regulated but legal, in fact, as businesses, they generated ignificant amounts of money for the tax man.

Are there any good muslims?

19 November 2016

I am very careful to distinguish between Islam and criticising Muslims.

I know many muslims who I like and respect. They are good people, and knowing them has enriched my life in many ways. Some are aquaintances and some are friends. No doubt, I will meet many more muslims who are likeable, decent human beings. I do not judge someone because they are muslim but take each individual, one person at a time, and assess in the same way as I would any other person.

By contrast, my feelings about the Quran and the Hadith are quite different. I find them to be barbaric, backward, and immoral. I despise the god that they describe. I despise his acts and orders, and his prophet. I reject them completely as having merit in a civilised society.

Surely, Muslims and the holy writings of Islam will share the same values? Well, no.

Human beings are extremely good at picking the elements of a belief system that match their values, and reasoning away those aspects that do not suit them. They will find ways to justify the unjustifiable, or logic to interpret the unpalatable as reasonable.

To the outsider, this will appear irrational but it is important to remember that the outsider has no vested interest to defend. So the outsider, will read the story of Mohamed and the Banu Quresh, and see cruel genocide, theft and enslavement, while the insider will see a threatened community defending themselves from a threatening enemy.

Muslims, like all other human beings, will reshape their religion in their own heads to match the values they have developed and acquired, rather than giving up their religion. As humans, none of us likes to make changes to parts of ourselves that we identify as a fundamental part of our identity. Muslims are no different.

The New Atheism and Five Arguments for God William Lane Craig
The 7 Most Intriguing Philosophical Arguments for the Existence of God
theologicalstudies.org
A Safe Place to Explore Questions About Life and God
Peter Kreeft christian site
existence christian site
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