Showing posts with label atheism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label atheism. Show all posts

Saturday, June 20, 2015

On the Existential Argument for God

First, I'd like to point out that I very much dislike any existential argument, somewhat related to the argument from desire (for God or anything else).  They're very much appeals to the populous.  And, while there is a point to be made, I hope I make it as we go, I dislike appeals to popular opinion.  Just because a large group of people feel such-and-such does not say anything to the truth of that feeling.

As a bit of background: I was doing some searching for existential arguments when I happened upon this page from "Common Sense Atheism."  This article written by Luke Muehlhauser is a response to an article by Tawa Anderson on "Apologetics 315," and I decided to respond to both of them here.

The first of Tawa’s arguments for God and the one that I want to discuss here is "Can Man Live Without God? An Existential Argument from Human Religiosity.”  Luke points out: "Tawa notes that every ancient and medieval culture was highly religious, and that 'there is indeed a hole in our hearts that can only be filled by God.'"  However, Luke has no (real) response.  He only scoffs, "Tell that to the healthy, satisfied, well-educated atheists of Scandinavia and they will laugh at you."  Will they?  This article and this article from the New York Post and this article from the Guardian, all tell very different stories about Scandinavian happiness than seems to be touted in the atheist blogosphere.  The basic points in those articles are that Scandinavians are actually among the saddest people in the world, it's the social norm there to conform and claim happiness and uniformity above all else.  Sure they might be among the best educated in the world, as Luke seems to fall into the confusion between causation and correlation as he blogs on this topic quite frequently.  Let's not assume that just because they're unhappy atheists that that is why they are highly educated or vice versa.  Perhaps education and atheism are only corollarily related.

After scoffing and wrongfully claiming that Scandinavians are happy atheists, Luke moves on to an appeal to the majority in the educated world: "Tell that to the most prestigious scientists and philosophers in the world, most of whom are atheists, and they will laugh at you.  (More scoffing/emphasis added.)  Tell that to the millions of fulfilled, moral, successful atheists around the world and they will laugh at you."  Again not really an argument just mocking scorn.  But, since he's gone there let's play the numbers, and if we're playing we might as well play big right?  On Luke's other post about the causes of atheism he references this statistic: "non-believers skyrocketed from 3.2 million in 1900 to 918 million in 2000, or 0.2% of world population in 1900 to 15.3% in 2000" from this source.  So, given approximately 10,000 years of recorded human history the largest percentage ever recorded was a measly 15.3%!?  I am not a mathematician (I'm a linguist), but even I can tell that the incredibly vast majority of human beings throughout the entirety of human history were definitely religious, at least in some fashion.  If anything this supposedly educated majority of people that are happy atheists is completely false given simple statistics.  Also, let's look at educated religious people.  This interesting article on "" counts some of the top IQs ever tested as being Christians or at least theists.  Maybe the test is skewed to allow for a religious person to score higher (that was sarcasm!)?

So let's go back to Luke's only critique so far, "The claim that 'there is … a hole in our hearts that can only be filled by God' is empirically false."  Is it?  We've shown clearly that trillions of people throughout history have had a desire for the ultimate, the other-worldly, the infinite.  But, because there's been a jump in atheism in the past hundred years or so the claim that most people have a desire for God is "empirically false"?  Perhaps Luke is misunderstanding the definition of empirically false.  How is this argument "a shameless, cult-like attempt to prop up human insecurities so that people cling even harder to the superstitions that feed off their insecurity"?  It's a verifiable claim from history that most people want to connect with God.  This verifiable fact implies that there is a hunger deep within humanity.  What are we to make of this hunger?  CS Lewis uses the analogy of one's hunger for food.  If an animal was born without the hunger for food, that organism would die within one generation.  Why are we still living with this desire if it's genetically disadvantageous to desire God, why is it still here?  If it's genetically disadvantageous to desire moral actions why do we still have those desires as well?  Luke's "critique" falls flat.

Luke's prejudice is clear when he calls belief in God "lies" that we ought to leave behind.  Claiming that "meaning and morality and happiness ... is available without fear and superstition (again a sign of prejudice), that is when they leave childish (and again) and comforting notions about gods behind."  I'm genuinely confused here though.  In the very next paragraph Luke claims that religion "thrives on existential insecurity," but he just said that it's "childish and comforting."  How can it be both comforting and full of insecurity?  Again a weak critique here because it's internally inconsistent.  Supposedly religion is childish and comforting, yet it seeks to unsettle its adherents.  Apparently this one book, Sacred and Secular: Religion and Politics Worldwide, is Luke's bible and much of his blogging apparently is founded on it.  It may have something interesting to say, but so far based on Luke's comments reflecting what it says, I'm not impressed.  That book claims that "Religion does not provide existential security – instead, it thrives on existential insecurity. It thrives on poverty and ignorance and fear and instability and risk."  And, that "the poorest nations in the world are the most religious," to which I wonder if this took into account the difference in wealth between Islamic countries and Christian or (post-Christian countries) or atheist nation-states like China.  Also, in a sense this is to be expected!  "When people live in a society that already provides them with [any] security ... [that has] stability and safety and education and health care ..." etc. etc. "then people don't need (or want) gods anymore."  (Quotes taken from the blog not from the book.)  Of course, if you lacked nothing in your life, would you want something more?  Oh wait that's the hallmark of the rich!  They become rich because they want more and more.  I found this interesting quote in Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment, (I do NOT recommend the book in general, this is merely a quote) "The change in purchasing power over the last half century in the wealthy nations carries the same message: real purchasing power has more than doubled in the United States, France, and Japan, but life satisfaction has changed not a whit."  Even Jesus taught this concept in Matt. 19:24, Mark 10:25, and Luke 18:25.  Why would one think that people with money and security would want God?  They already have security and all the "happiness" that money can buy, which if they're honest isn't really all that much.  Apply this on a societal scale and see a similar result.  If the government supplies all the money, food, health, lodging you could ever want why would you look to God for anything.  That worked so well in the Soviet Union (again with the sarcasm).  So what can we conclude from this?  Safety and security provided by the state quickly and quietly errodes religion (particularly the weak, liberal religions that seek to appease society rather than God).  Scandinavia is the poster child for this.  As the weak, socially watered-down church there stopped appealing to God it became less and less appealing to people as their physical needs were all met by the socialist state.

This last bit is obvious and the clearest indicator that Luke has no understanding of the argument being discussed: "Does my yearning to be the next Matthew Bellamy suggest that I will be? Alas, no. Wishful thinking does not indicate truth."  That is not what the existential argument is saying whatsoever.  The argument does not say that wishing for God makes God exist.  It says, there is an overwhelming desire within humanity for the divine.  Therefore, there probably is something to that desire and the best explanation is that God put that desire in us.  The argument is not saying that wishful thinking makes it so.  Luke's critiques present a clearly flawed view and a deep misunderstanding of the argument in general.  As I said, I don't particularly like the existential argument(s) for God, but Luke Muehlhauser clearly doesn't understand them.  There is a big difference between not liking or thinking that an argument is ineffective and misunderstanding an argument and poorly critiquing it.

One last thing and this is more for my own edification than anything else.  I'd like to try to put the (correct) argument in a syllogism.

P1) The vast majority of humanity has had a desire for God
P2) People *generally* do not persist in desires that have no possibility of being fulfilled
C1) There *probably* is a God

From my recent trip to Korea

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Ten Things Christians Should Keep in Mind When Debating Atheists Number Three

Based on my post back in December about trying to break my writer's block (obviously it didn't work), I'm tackling this list of ten things Christians/theists need to keep in mind.  See this link for number one and here for part two, this is the third point:

There is a gap between natural theology and revealed theology. Arguing for a prime mover is not the same thing as arguing for any faith tradition.

This is a tough one to tackle in a whole blog entry because I totally agree.  Thomas Aquinas and others' "prime mover" argument for God really only gets to the first point of theism.  However, if just this initial part of the argument stands, at the very least atheism is false.

P1) All things that begin to exist have a cause for their existence
P2) The universe began to exist
C1) The universe has a cause

That is just the beginning of the argument.  That only gets to the point that there is some sort of God that created the universe.  That basic argument does not get us to the Christian God.  However, if we add these next few premises we can come to that conclusion:

P3) The cause for the material universe cannot be material itself
P4) The cause for the material universe cannot be with the scope of time
C2) The best description of such a Being is found within Christianity

Also, there is a long and complex argument for Christianity from historical facts:

P4) If Christ rose from the dead, He is God incarnate
P5) Christ rose from the dead (and there is historical evidence to support this)
C3) Christ, as revealed in the Bible is God (the God described above)

So there you have it; there is a gap between natural/general and revealed/special revelation, but it is not a huge gap and easy to cross.  Show me another religion that can claim anything near as powerful as the arguments for Christianity and I'll at least give it some thought.  Though I've done quite a bit of comparative religious studies and I've found other views wanting.

Denominational differences are another question altogether and doesn't belong in this particular discussion, so I'll leave that for another day.

Photo credit goes to my beautiful wife, Michelle Ronicker

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Ten Things Christians Should Keep in Mind When Debating Atheists Number Two

Based on my recent post about trying to break my writer's block, I'm tackling this list of ten things Christians/theists need to keep in mind.  See this link for number one, this is the second point:

Science has radically altered how we understand the universe, so theism must grapple with the implications of science before offering prescientific beliefs as truth.

First off, let's discuss definitions of various terms here.  I'm not claiming that these are the best or dictionary definitions, but it seems these are commonly agreed upon definitions.  If you disagree with these definitions I'd be open to hearing alternatives.

Science -- the methodical study of the physical/natural universe.
Radically altered -- completely changed.
Universe -- the totality of physically existent things.
Grapple with the implications -- consider and think about with relation to meaning.
Prescientific beliefs -- (honestly I'm not certain here, but I assume) metaphysical statements.
Truth -- that which best coherently explains and correlates with reality.

Given these definitions I find it curious why this would even be a problem.  Science deals with the physical nature of the universe, religion/Christianity deals with the metaphysical and sources of what it means to exist.  I think the original assumption is that science has somehow proven that God doesn't exist or at least that God doesn't need to exist.  I do not agree with the concept of NOMA, (Non-Overlapping MAgesteria) but in a sense the two are on a one-way street.  Science is concerned with what is happening or from what cause something happens, but it is limited to physical universe.  Science cannot get to a deeper meaning of existence.  Science cannot give why there is anything at all instead of nothingness.  Maybe, but honestly I'm not holding my breath, science will someday give us how the universe came into existence, but even then it still doesn't say why.  To try to apply purely scientific views to morality, consciousness, deeper meaning etc. only leads to disastrous results.  Pure logic says that one must torture the innocent if it will bring about something good.  Applying mathematic principles to life leads to devastating consequences.  As portrayed in the popular movie, Watchmen the hero/villain Adrian Veidt is perfectly justified in killing millions in order to potentially save billions of people.  Also, in V for Vendetta the government is perfectly justified at rounding up innocent people to do scientific experiments on them.  As I insinuated before any number of thought experiments seem to easily slip into absurdity.  Say you somehow could save one person by the torture of another, innocent, unrelated person.  Under strict utility, you have to weigh things that are totally unrelated to their value as human beings.  In a strict utilitarian view the idea of inalienable rights (life, liberty, property, pursuit of happiness) is foreign.  You do not have a right to life if somehow your death brings about some good.

So, the study of the physical universe has greatly altered our lives including how and what are able to do, but it has had no impact on the meaning of life.  Just consider what I'm doing right now.  I'm typing out my thoughts on a laptop computer that is able to connect wirelessly at great speed to the largest collections of facts ever compiled.  It can process information at a speed faster than what used to take up several rooms of computing devices.  This isn't even all that amazing of a machine either.  Even small electronic devices can carry thousands of books.  We can nearly instantaneously communicate visually even at great distances.  We've landed on the moon.  We've sent probes deep into outer space.  But, all of this wonderful progress doesn't bring any deeper meaning or better moral value (whatever that may mean).

So far I've been bringing out the point that science doesn't bring meaning or really better people, only better convenience to living.  But what about the implication that religion is trying to control or denigrate science and scientific progress?  Why is this such a common theme?  I've actually written about this a couple times here and here.  Science actually only makes sense in the context of belief in God.  If everything is the result of random chance (under a strict materialist view), why would one expect any semblance of order to nature?  How can we perform scientific tests without first assuming that things won't randomly change?  Materialists won't admit it, but the consistency in nature is a presupposition smuggled in from the Christian/theistic view of the universe.  These "prescientific" beliefs actually guide science to be better, not just by giving science moral guidelines within which to work (think Nazi science experiments), but by giving it a foundation from which to spring.  If everything is random, then the scientific method itself will never work, because there's no reason why we should expect our testing and hypothesizing to be consistent in a framework of randomness.  Science, in the proper context is not lessened by believing that God created (creates) the natural universe, it a deepened understanding of the creator.  Indeed science is a form of worship, studying to know the Creator better by studying the creation.

Truth ... As Pilate so famously asked of Jesus, "What is truth?" (John 18:38), presumably not knowing that Jesus had already given the answer, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me (John 14:6)."  If you're trying to get to the truth of things, there is only one source of truth revealed to humanity in various ways.  Science certainly is a wonderful study and can teach us much about God, but God has also revealed much of Himself through the person and work of Jesus Christ (John 1:18).  There is no reason to expect science to "find God," or truth about God, but I'd say the reason some scientists can't find God is they are looking at the trees and missing the forest.  Big Bang theory also points to a creator.  The awesome intricacies of biological life, particularly the information found in genes, also points to God.  Also, based on a video I watched recently about quantum theory it seems that one of the conclusions we can come to is that quantum mechanics actually indicates that God is the reason for the universe.  So, science has proven God, just not in the way dogmatic materialist scientists will accept.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Ten Things Christians Should Keep in Mind When Debating Atheists Number One

Based on my recent post about trying to break my writer's block here's number one:

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Consequently, the burden of proof is on the theist rather than the atheist.

I've talked about this before and I don't really want a rehash of the same thoughts.  But, I want to revisit this idea to flesh-out how this really matters (or rather, how it doesn't).  What are the supposed extraordinary claims that the theist is supposedly making?  I can't speak for all the atheists who argue about this, but I assume that most of them are calling miracles "extraordinary claims."  Now, let's look at this.  Are miracles extraordinary claims?  Well, yes.  Of course they are, by definition a miracle is something extraordinary, but they're really only unexpected if there's no God.  If one takes a materialistic approach to philosophy, then a miracle cannot occur.  However, there's an important point missing from this whole conversation about miracles.  The very existence of anything whatsoever is a miracle in itself.  It's an ongoing miracle of creation.  I know, some theologians will balk at this, as the Genesis account implies that God is no longer creating.  Gen 2:1 says that the heavens and earth were completed and that God had "completed His work."  So, where do I come off saying that existence itself is a miracle?  Well, Col 1:17 Paul talks about how, in Christ all things hold together.  In this paradigm a miracle is not surprising at all.  Hebrews 1:3 has an even more active phrasing about how God holds everything together by His power.  So, the God who holds everything together can, by His mere willpower, suspend, cancel, or defy His own control over the entire universe.  Miracles are not nature behaving wrong or differently than it normally does or should.  It's God doing His will contrary to what we think or what we expect.

Also, as I commented before, which is a bigger miracle: A) The universe, for no reason with no cause exists, or B) God made the universe out of nothing?  Again, toss aside materialism for a minute.  If you a priori take materialism to be true then of course the theistic answer sounds extraordinary.  But at face-value the A) choice is obviously much more extraordinary.  I have seen arguments, most notably from Hawking, that attempt to use science to say that because of the laws of physics the universe must exist.  I don't even pretend to understand his scientific arguments, but have read some interesting things online that summarize Hawking and other prominent scientists' claims, and I've got to say, "I'm not buying it."  First off, every time I hear these types of arguments I hear a redefining of the word "nothing."  Now I understand that in certain contexts nothing can mean different things.  For example, one might ask, "What's up with you lately?"  To which you might answer, "Oh, nothing."  Does that mean the same as deGrasse Tyson's use of "nothing" which apparently means some type of quantum field in flux?  Obviously not.  But, these are the types of things I see when I discuss the beginnings of the universe with a materialist.  There was something (called nothing) and it exploded and became something else.  I pointed at Big Bang cosmology as an argument for God with an atheist one time and after going around and around, this interlocutor ended up admitting that the Big Band was true, but we don't know what happened before the Big Bang.  It's funny though, this particular atheist refused to accept that it might have been God. Basically reduced to saying, "We don't know and likely will never know what caused the Big Bang, but I refuse to accept that it could have been God."  If you give me a just-so story and make all your pieces fit together by inventing facts and theories that have never been shown to work in reality and only really work in some outrageous mathematical formula, all of which you cannot explain in terms that any regular person could follow or would accept, I have every right to dismiss your claim as extraordinary.  I have a saying I've been using for a while now (not sure if I've used it in my blogging before, if so I apologize for repeating myself), "Any claim made without evidence, can be dismissed without argument."  These are indeed extraordinary claims, but for sure the more extraordinary is the one that defies definition, explanation, and reason.

Lastly, I want to comment on the final part of the statement, "the burden of proof is on the theist rather than the atheist."  Now, I know I'm only an amateur philosopher, but my knee-jerk reaction is, "So what?"  I, as a theist, have no qualms with making a case.  In general, yes, I'm making a claim.  (I don't think we can completely let off the atheist, but the point still stands, I'm making a truth-claim.)  My claim is fairly simple to prove though, "I believe, with good reason, that God exists."  Throw that one out there and see if anyone can disprove it ... notice some important points before you attack it.  First, "I believe," with this important qualifier, no one, can ever prove my claim incorrect unless that person somehow has mind-reading capabilities, which apparently doesn't exist outside God.  One might attack the second portion, "with good reason."  Well, let's look into various reasons/arguments. There are so many!  I've already mentioned the cosmological argument.  Then there's various design/fine-tuning arguments.  There's the moral argument made popular by CS Lewis in his masterwork Mere Christianity.  And, there are many others, some based on evidence and some on philosophy.  But clearly, there are plenty of "good reasons" to believe.  If you don't accept my claim, then not only are you calling me an idiot who hasn't examined these arguments, but you're making the claim that the millions of other Christians throughout history have all done the same thing.  Now, don't get me wrong, I don't typically think an appeal to authority is a particularly compelling argument.  However, if the authority to whom I'm appealing is sprinkled with such intellectual greats as Plato/Socrates, Aquinas, Newton, and even many of the top ten highest measured IQ test scorers who are at the very least theists, some clearly Christians, I'm justified in making such an appeal.  So, tell me again how you, Mr. Internet Atheist, know that only stupid, backwoods, country-bumkin, redneck, low-brow, Bible-thumpers believe in God.

Sorry for the abundance of sarcasm, but it seems that Mr. Internet Atheist is getting to me.  He's been drinking the Dawkins koolaid and doesn't really have anything new to add to the conversation.  I am by no means creative or worthy to be called an innovator in this discussion, but at least I admit that I'm standing on the shoulders of giants.  I don't know very much, but I do know that I exist and that I have good reasons to believe what I believe.

Screenshot from

Saturday, August 16, 2014

An Atheist Answers “20 Short Arguments Against God’s Existence” (Reblog)

I don't usually do this, in fact it's my first time, but I'm reblogging an article I recently ran across from the atheist blogger Boxing Pythagoras. His piece "An Atheist Answers '20 Short Arguments Against God’s Existence'" is one of the best, most honest atheist pieces I've ever read. Without further ado:

This single-panel comic strip succinctly and adequately describes the bulk of my interaction with the other citizens of the Internet over the last couple of decades. If you think that this is an exaggeration, I’ll refer you to my wife, who will attest that we have had some version of this conversation many, many times. I simply have a strange attraction to correcting bad arguments and inane claims, whenever I see them. Now, since I am an avowed and outspoken atheist, one might think that this generally culminates in my conversing with the religious. However, I tend to spend just as much time correcting many of the lies, misconceptions, and really bad arguments that embedded themselves into the modern humanist/materialist/atheist subculture as I spend in debunking poor religious apologetics. The simple fact that someone’s end point-of-view agrees with mine does not make their claims right. Just like in High School math, it doesn’t matter if you stumbled upon the correct answer; you show your work because the process of finding that answer is more important than the answer itself.
To that end, when I saw a video called “20 Short Arguments Against God’s Existence,” by Hemant Mehta, posted on the Friendly Atheist blog, I knew I was going to have to respond.

1. There’s no evidence

This is actually quite untrue. There’s a good bit of evidence. Particularly anecdotal evidence from believers. This is a common mantra among atheists, but it’s a very bad one to utilize because it is blatantly untrue. When engaging in a persuasive dialogue with a believer, if one of your foundational arguments is as thoroughly untrue as this statement, it gives your audience a reason to immediately dismiss your position.

A better, more accurate claim would be, “I am not aware of any demonstrable evidence which is convincing.” This claim is honest, acknowledging that we don’t have complete knowledge and that there may exist something of which we are unaware. It also clarifies that we are referring to evidence which can be verified by outside parties, eliminating things like anonymous anecdotes and personal revelation from the mix. Finally, this statement acknowledges that some things which seem like good evidence to a believer are wholly unpersuasive to a non-believer– for example, the fine-tuning of the universe or current ignorance as to the process by which abiogenesis may have occurred.

2a. God doesn’t stop the evil in the world

Theodicy, or the Problem of Evil, has been a very common question in philosophy for more than two millennia. As such, it is a question which has been tackled by theistic philosophers and theologians for nearly as long. Unless you are familiar with this area of philosophy– particularly Alvin Plantinga’s work, which is extremely commonly cited by modern apologists– it’s quite likely that a believer will dismiss you as being uninformed on the subject.

2b. According to the Bible, God caused a lot of evil


3. Drowning everything alive is not a sign of love


4. The opening lines of the Bible are factually wrong

Firstly, arguing against the deity described by the Bible does not constitute a very convincing argument against theism, in general. At best, it might show that the Jewish or Christian conceptions of God are flawed. However, it says nothing at all about whether a God exists.

More importantly, however, is that most atheists tend to be wildly ignorant of the fields of hermeneutics and exegesis. They are so used to dealing with fundamentalist Christians who interpret the Bible literally that they are completely unaware that the majority of Judaism and Christianity has never thought this was the proper way to read the text. Atheists who are unfamiliar with hermeneutics are likely to be quickly dismissed by Christians with even a rudimentary knowledge of this process.

5. Prayer has never fixed anything physically impossible [to fix]

The follow-up question being, “Why won’t God heal amputees?” This is, again, an example of conflating a broad and general belief (“God exists”) with specific claims about that belief (“prayer to God can lead to miraculous healing”). Invalidating the latter does not necessarily invalidate the former. There are plenty of theists who do not believe in any miraculous healings.
Furthermore, the idea that the primary purpose of prayer is to request things for oneself from God is a common misconception on the part of atheists, and not one shared by the majority of theists. Yet again, displaying ignorance of someone’s beliefs often makes it very easy for them to dismiss your arguments, entirely.

6. There are thousands of gods you don’t believe in

Followed by, “What makes yours any different?” Given half an opportunity, a great many theists would absolutely love to tell you about why their god or gods are different from those claimed by others. This is especially true for anyone with even a modicum of apologetics training.

7. Where you are born determines what you believe

This is a particularly egregious fallacy. Noting that people in similar geographic areas tend to have similar beliefs says nothing at all about the veracity of any of those beliefs. This is a version of the argumentum ad populum fallacy, and we should strive to avoid fallacious arguments whenever possible, if our aim is to convince others of the rationality of our own beliefs.

8. Who created God? And how does your answer make any sense?

Once again, displaying one’s ignorance of the millennia of philosophy and theology regarding this question is not very likely to be convincing to anyone with even a modicum of experience in these fields. If you are not familiar with the concepts of non-contingency and eternity, or with the manner in which these concepts are applied to deity in classical theology, you really should not be asking this question. And if you are familiar with these things, you would not be asking this question.

9. Pediatric cancer

This goes right back to 2a and the discussion of the Problem of Evil. Again, if you are not familiar with the philosophy which has been done in this field, you are not going to be convincing to anyone, let alone strong believers.

10. Unconditional love shouldn’t come with a list of conditions

Similar to 5, Mehta is again conflating the general claim over God’s existence with specific claims about God’s nature. Commenting on the latter says nothing at all about the former.

11. Every single supposed miracle gets debunked

There are actually quite a few “supposed miracles” which have not been debunked. The Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches tend to be particularly adept at listing such events. Amongst Catholic apologists, the Incorruptibles and Our Lady of Fatima are particularly popular. While it is far from convincing, to a non-believer, that these anomalous events were supernatural in origin, neither can it be claimed that these things have been clearly shown to be falsely portrayed (which is the meaning of “debunked”).

12. The 10 Commandments left off “Don’t rape” and “Slavery is bad”

Another instance of conflating the general and the specific, as well as another instance of objectionable interpretation of someone else’s beliefs. Generally, “your god doesn’t behave the way non-believers want a god to behave” is not the most convincing argument.

13. The movies and music that honor God are just awful

While there are some fairly prominent examples of bad Christian art, today, this claim is preposterously overbroad. Even as an atheist, I can absolutely proclaim that much of the best and most beautiful art ever produced has been religious in nature. If we are talking about music, it’s incredibly easy to find extremely good pieces which were written to honor God– Gregorian chants, classical and baroque pieces, choir music, gospel music, and much more. In film, focusing on a terrible movie like “God’s Not Dead” without acknowledging the magnificence of a movie like “The Ten Commandments” is simply willful ignorance.

14. The invisible and the non-existent look very much alike


15. No hide-and-seek game lasts this long

Radio waves. Gravity. Dark matter and dark energy. We don’t have to go far to acknowledge a number of invisible things which are almost certainly extant. It’d be better to compare the entirely undetectable with the non-existent, but I wouldn’t even recommend that unless two conditions are first met: your opposition has made the claim that God is entirely undetectable, and you are at least somewhat familiar with the arguments for and against Verificationist philosophy.

16. Science explains so much of what we used to attribute to a god


17. The more we learn, the less reason we have to believe in God

Scientific understanding of a phenomenon is not mutually exclusive with the attribution of that phenomenon’s explanation to a god. For example, the people over at the BioLogos foundation will completely agree with all of mainstream biology that the complexity of life can be understood through a combination of the blind processes of genetic variance and natural selection. Understanding the way in which it works does not preclude one from attributing the way in which it works to a god.

18. Explaining your mythology makes you sound crazy

Explaining that the Earth moves around the Sun to someone who has never heard it before sounds pretty crazy, too. Explaining that Time shifts and bends in accordance with an observer’s acceleration or velocity sounds crazy. Explaining that there is an infinite quantity of real numbers that are greater than 1 and less than 2 sounds crazy. “That sounds crazy” is not a particularly good epistemological qualifier.

19. If God didn’t exist, the world would look exactly the same

This is just blatant question-begging. Mehta assumes God is not necessary to the world in order to argue that God does not exist. One cannot claim to be supporting a more rational view than his opposition while supporting that view with logical fallacies.

20. If God existed, he would smite me right now

This is one of the most juvenile, ignorant, and fallacious of all the arguments which could be made against God’s existence. Making this claim is like declaring to your audience, “I have absolutely no intention of addressing my opposition’s beliefs in a fair and rational manner.” You might as well just stick your fingers in your ears and scream, “Nuh-uh!”

The Real Problem

My contention against Hemant Mehta’s “20 Short Arguments” is more than just the sum of its fallacious parts. The real problem is that even attempting to formulate arguments against the existence of God unnecessarily assumes a burden of proof which does not naturally belong to the skeptic. I do not believe in the existence of gods. If someone wants to convince me that some deity exists, the onus is on that person to support their claim. If I want to address the problems in a person’s specific case for the existence of deity, I will do so. However, the minute I try to extend that response into a more general claim about the ontology of deity, I am stepping beyond the role of a skeptic and into the role of a claimant. This is why I tend to steer clear of anti-theist religious antagonism. Why should I take the theist’s burden upon myself?

I do not burden myself with attempting to find arguments against the existence of unicorns or fairies or elves or ghosts or UFO’s. There’s no reason I should do so with God, either.


I have one point I'd like to bring up about "arguments" 2b and 3.

This is a fairly common thing I've read from internet atheists and is a common theme in Dawkins' book The God Delusion. There's a serious problem with critiques like that. If one claims that the God of the Bible did some evil, then one must appeal to some authoritative morality by which one can claim that God did something wrong. If one has no authoritative objective source of morality, then the claim that God has done something wrong rings hollow. It's as powerful as saying, "boo, I don't like that." Your feelings about what I (or anyone else) do or do not do, have no weight. They're just your opinion, and as they say, everyone has an opinion just like everyone has a butthole, and some of them stink. I have every right to dismiss your opinion about what God has or has not done without recourse because so what, you don't like it. If you try to claim some higher authority then what higher authority exists by which you can appeal to judge God?

Monday, August 11, 2014

Atheists, Agnostics, Deists, and Theists

I once read a post on about defining atheism/agnosticism/theism.  Unfortunately, that entry doesn't appear to be available anymore.  I really liked his diagram so I was quite unhappy to not find it again.  So, I'm going to move forward with my own diagram:
The colors are arbitrary, just the standard colors from Microsoft Word.
Edit: At long last I have finally found the original article, see here.

Now, the original diagram had parts of the extremes cut off.  The original author said he cut off the extremes because there are very few people that hold the extreme positions.  The ideas are NOT from current word usage and more from the traditional concepts behind the actual words.  The word gnostic in the diagram is in no way related to the term given to the heretical view called gnosticism (from ancient Greek) except to use the same Greek term, "γνῶσις gnōsis, knowledge" (from Wikipedia).  Also, this table is not an attempt to make new terms.  There is an important distinction to be made though, philosophically.  The discussion about the existence or non-existence of God often asks, "On whom is the burden of proof?"  Well, the burden of proof is on the person that is making the claim.

If a gnostic-atheist stands up and says, "There is no god, and I know it."  That person bears the burden of proving that claim.  Also, the strict (original meaning of the term) agnostic, if he/she stands up and claims, "We cannot know whether or not god does or does not exist."  That too is a claim and must be defended.  Likewise, if the gnostic-theist says, "I know there is a God."  Then he/she must prove it.  Now, this is all philosophically speaking, and thinking like a debate wherein there are rules by which one must abide.  If, you're simply seeking a worldview that makes sense, there aren't really "rules," it becomes more about what evidences and arguments to which one is willing to listen.

I would argue that no truly honest thinking person would ever be on the top half of this diagram.  Here's the problem though, people talk "big talk" and in books, lectures, blogs, etc.  People talk like they know one way or another when really all the "gnostic" positions are lying to themselves and everyone else.  Here's something I heard a while back from Ravi Zacharias and lately I read from an apologist on Facebook, and though I don't know the exact words I'll try to capture it the way it comes to my mind:
To absolutely affirm a negative, is to claim infinite knowledge.  To affirm the negative that there is no God, is to claim infinite knowledge that there is no being that has infinite knowledge.
I assume you see the contradiction there, though some don't see how affirming a negative is claiming infinite knowledge.  Here's one way to think about it, I affirm the negative that there are no such thing as unicorns (an affirmation of the negative).  That means I know for certain that there are no unicorns anywhere or at any time.  Ironically, unicorns are often used as examples of things that everyone knows don't exist.  There's an interesting conundrum with that claim.  Take the initial premise that there are an infinite number of universes, a multiverse.  *This is a common claim which runs counter to the claim that the universe is uniquely fine-tuned for the existence of our galaxy and life itself.  So, here we are with an infinite number of universes, and within at least one of those universes a unicorn must exist.  If you don't think so, then you are misunderstanding the concept of infinite!

Back to the diagram.  There are so many positions on this continuum.  There's rarely anyone on the far extremes, but there are lots of people that sit somewhere in the middle.  People that don't think there's a god, but allow that there might be one.  People that think there might be a god, but aren't sure about his/her/its existence.  There are people that don't care and sit right in the middle.  Let's not redefine terms, let's stick to these ideas.  Language is vague and that makes things difficult.  People might say, "I'm an atheist," and they're really saying they're an agnostic-atheist.  Same with theists, some claim that God exists, and if they're being honest they mean they're pretty sure that God exists, but they're not sure.  I often hear internet-atheists claim that atheists aren't making claims at all, which is pure ignorance.  If you say you don't believe in god because there's no evidence you're not being honest with yourself or those you're dealing with.  There is plenty of evidence, the problem isn't the lack of evidence, it's what you will accept as evidence.  Will you accept a simple straightforward argument?  If not, if you try to explain it away with some kind of untestable theory (like the aforementioned multiverse) then it's not about a lack of evidence, it's about outright dismissal of evidence.

Edit: After a short conversation with a coworker there may be an edit in order for affirming a negative.  Here's a possible exception to the idea that affirming a negative requires infinite knowledge.  If I make the claim that there is no such thing as a square circle, I do not think it requires infinite knowledge to affirm a philosophically contradictory claim.  So, to say, there is no such thing as a square circle or a married bachelor, is affirming an already established contradiction and does not require infinite knowledge.  Here's an interesting point that this route would take an atheist should he/she go down the route of philosophical arguments.  Many atheists, including John Loftus (though to be fair, he only speaks out against the philosophy of religion and not philosophy itself), are against philosophy, and for good reason too.  Looking at this site, the logical arguments against theism are just weak.  I'm only an elementary philosopher and I can see through these arguments like glass.  Also, in all my discussions with atheists both face-to-face and online, they have always appealed to science.  In fact, all I've ever heard from atheists, including in their books, is the mantra "science, science, science."  Philosophy is on God's side, in a manner of speaking.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Short Review of the Book True Reason

True Reason is a great offering of reasoned responses to the "New Atheists." With the popularity of these anti-theist writers, it's good to see them called out on their irrational positions. As a Christian myself it's an insult to read these anti-theists' books and be called irrational, delusional, etc. When, if one really takes a good hard look at the arguments, the converse is actually true. The Christian Apologist has much more reasonable answers than these New Atheists. This book does a great job collating and responding to the many fallacious arguments throughout the New Atheists' writings. I highly recommend this book for the apologist looking for reasonable responses to brash New Atheists' claims. It's also great for any ordinary lay person that has heard these New Atheists spouting off with bold claims of truth or anti-truth etc. and wants to hear more about these extraordinary claims. The entire text is filled with great arguments and powerful blows to poor arguments offered up in New Atheists' writings but to be the best chapter is the eighth chapter, The Explanatory Emptiness of Naturalism. Most of the other chapters respond to specific issues in specific arguments, but this chapter combines several components of theistic arguments and the huge holes throughout naturalism. My favorite simple argument is in chapter eight.
1. If science explains things, then naturalism is false.
2. Science explains things.
3. Therefore, naturalism is false
Secular humanists/atheists/naturalists will try to claim 1. If science explains things, then naturalism is true. However, and the chapter explains this quite thoroughly, Naturalism itself if full of holes for which it will never find answers.

I do have more to say about the text but I haven't the time!  This review is posted on Goodreads as well as Amazon.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Just Who is Making Extraordinary Claims?

I just read this great blog entry by +Rob Lundberg and I wanted to put in my thoughts on this interesting challenge.

The idea, as Rob so clearly presents it, comes from the late Carl Sagan and the preface to Peter Boghossian’s book, A Manual for Creating Atheists.  I can't say that I've actually had this challenge levied at me before, but I've seen it in many an online discussion.  Honestly, I don't have nearly as much to say on this matter but I did want to ask a question.  Who is making the truly extraordinary claim?

Take this analogy.  You're watching a magic show and you see the stage magician pull a live rabbit out of an empty hat, you'd think (and you'd be right) that the magician is making an extraordinary claim.  That is, the ability to make something, the rabbit, out of nothing, the air in the hat (which is technically not 'nothing,' but for the sake of this argument let's leave it there).  Now, that is not unlike the claim of theists.  I know, I know, before all the apologists that happen to read this send me nasty grams, let me explain.  Keep the image of the magic show...  Only this time, there is no magician.  There is no hat.  There really is no stage either, but let's stop it there.  And, with no intervention by anyone at any time.  A rabbit appears on the stage.  THAT is the atheist's claim.  Now, without any formal philosophical training or anything, just the regular guy doing regular life.  Which one seems more extraordinary?  Keep in mind, that technically the analogy falls short, it's not a rabbit that is pulled from the hat.  It's the entire universe created ex nihilo (from nothing).

So, I know there are going to be some objections.  Let me approach some now.  Some claim that the universe has always existed.  Let's apply the same analogy.  This time, there is no magician still, and no hat.  Only a rabbit.  That never gets old or when it does get old it suddenly implodes and becomes a baby again, and then continues this cycle of getting older and then popping back into youth and never being born and never dying.  Is that more reasonable than the previous claim?  Is that verifiable?  Okay let's look at another.  There are an infinite number of universes out there.  Now, our stage and the extraordinary claim hasn't gotten any easier or more rational.  If anything we've now multiplied the extraordinary claim by an infinite.  And I don't know what you learned in math, but I'm pretty sure anything times an infinite is an infinite.  So now we have either an infinite number of sequential rabbits popping onto an infinite number of stages one at at time popping into existence living an unknown amount of time and then dying in an unknown way for no reason.  Or, we have no magician and no hat and an infinite number of rabbits all popping into existence at the same time.

So again I ask, Who is really making extraordinary claims and is really required to provide extraordinary evidence?

Seoul Tower near sunset
There's millions (maybe I didn't count them) of these locks with wishes/messages of love by Seoul Tower.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The God Delusion Book Review Part 1 Ch. 1-3

So, I've read several reviews of this book and I've seen several reactions to this work, but I wanted to get it straight from the horse's mouth in a manner of speaking.  So I'm reading The God Delusion, and I'll give you my notes.

Even in the preface Dawkins has already shown his prejudice.  Obviously the title says a lot, "Delusion."  He even mentions that psychologists asked him to change it because the word delusion is a scientific term and to apply it to the millions of people that believe in god wouldn't do justice to the word.  Of course that doesn't seem to faze Dawkins and his writing about that almost seems boastful, like he's proud of the fact that he's insulted the majority of the world.  How about this quote?  "... I believe there are plenty of open-minded people out there: people whose childhood indoctrination was not too insidious, or for other reasons didn't 'take,' or whose native intelligence is strong enough to overcome it" (pg6).  In case you didn't catch that, if you're open-minded or intelligent you'll give up anything you were taught about God in your childhood and be an atheist, like all the other smart people in the world.

How about this "gem"?  Quote from a Roman Catholic bishop who wrote to Einstein, "...He is all wrong.  Some men think that because they have achieved a high degree of learning in some field, they are qualified to express opinions in all."  Of course, Dawkins' retort is a false analogy based on his presupposition that God is just as fanciful as fairies.  Dawkins claims that theology isn't a "proper field" at all.  I find this particularly interesting because I've heard a very similar comment levied against Dawkins.  He's a world-renowned ethologist and evolutionary biologist, not a philosopher or theologian yet he's written extensively and authoritatively on subjects he has no (formal) education in.  No offence to his brilliance in his fields, but what expertise does a animal behaviorist and evolutionary biologist have in the fields of philosophy of religion, theology, philosophy in general?  Being brilliant in one particular field of knowledge doesn't give one authority to speak to all other fields of knowledge.

The biggest problem I have so far is that there haven't been any arguments (yet, he keeps hinting that they'll be proven in later chapters).  Chapter one, the first section is simply a childish foot-stomping raving that when atheists say "god" they don't mean the word "god."  Something akin to a child throwing a fit saying, "I did not say what you think I said!"  Alright!  When Dawkins and other atheists say "god" they really mean, uh, well... nothing really, they apparently mean force or nature or the universe, or whatever they want it to mean at that particular moment, but they most certainly do not mean a personal intervening god that is worthy of worship.  Dawkins talks about how Einstein was NOT a theist as some theists claim, that he was actually a deist or pantheist.  The only acceptable belief in god, to Dawkins, is the deists' god that creates the universe then leaves it alone and never interacts with it again; an invisible, intangible, inactive, uncaring, uninvolved, person-less, unintelligent being with no human characteristics at all.  The deists' god is the same as the pantheists' god, an impersonal force that has nothing to do with humanity, that's the only acceptable god, one that has nothing to do with the universe.

Then in chapter one, section two, Dawkins offers a half-hearted attempt at an (advance) apology, which comes too late since the only thing he's said so far is that only intelligent people believe in either an impersonal god or that the universe is god, and by extension only idiots believe in a personal god.  It's almost comical, Dawkins makes this claim that theists are always trotting out scientists, especially Einstein, that believe/believed in god and then dismisses it as a bad argument.  Then, he turns the same fallacious argument around and uses it, saying that this or that brilliant scientist is atheist and the vast majority of Nobel prize winners in science have been atheists, on and on.  I'm sorry, but if an argument is fallacious for one side of an argument, it's equally as fallacious for the opposing side.  Think about it; if I say, "Thousands of people believe in pink unicorns, therefore I'm a pink unicorn."  You cannot say, "Thousands of people don't believe in pink unicorns, therefore there's no such thing as pink unicorns."  An appeal to the people or authority is a fallacy for either side.

In chapter two the insults just keep coming.  Not only does Dawkins attack those that believe in a personal god, but he begins attacking anyone who believes that we cannot know whether or not there is a god, agnostics.  As part of his disdain for agnosticism he attacks the concept of NOMA (Non-Overlapping MAgisteria).  He, who has been continuously accusing God of evil acts and intentions, seems to be calling on god to prove himself.  It's like Dawkins is calling upon god to submit to scientific inquiry or proof.  It's like Dawkins is saying he expects this wicked, sneaky, conniving, evil, all-powerful entity to answer this puny ant's call.  Reminds me of a quote from the 2012 Avengers movie, "The ant has no quarrel with the boot."  (Don't misunderstand me, I'm not saying God is the boot looking to crush ants like us, merely that Dawkins is making god out to be this crushing, killing, evil boot character then complains when that entity doesn't kowtow to his demands for proof.)  Dawkins, who is much less than an ant, is shaking his puny fist at a god he doesn't believe exists saying, "How dare you not prove yourself to me!  How dare you presume to break the laws you set by performing miracles, but when I ask you're silent!"

I just finished reading Jenna Miscavige Hill's book about getting out of Scientology, and she had a quote that Dawkins would do well to listen to: "My parents were aware it was my choice to remain in [Scientology], but they also knew I was brainwashed.  The last thing you want to tell a person who is brainwashed is that they are brainwashed."  If Dawkins really wants to get through to us poor brainwashed theists, telling us we're brainwashed is definitely not the way to go.

Then on pg. 83 Dawkins quotes Norman Malcom in relation to Anselm's ontological argument, which seems to have a loophole in it about existence being more perfect than non-existence.  "The doctrine that existence is a perfection is remarkably queer.  It makes sense and is true to say that my future house will be a better one if it is insulated than if it is not insulated; but what could it mean to say that it will be a better house if it exists than if it does not?"  The answer to this riddle seem painfully obvious.  If you need/want shelter, it's much better to have a house that exists than one that doesn't.

In summation: the first three chapters and preface do nothing in the way of arguing against God; hopefully the actual arguments will begin in chapter four.  The first three chapters have been nothing but blustering and casually brushing aside arguments for god.  Even Aquinas' eloquently framed ways to God were poorly treated and no real arguments or counter-arguments have been made.  These first three chapters can be summed up as such: Anyone who believes there is a God and anyone who believes that we cannot know if there is or isn't a god, is an idiot.