Skip to main content

On Apologists

By Paul So ~

When my dad was driving with me back home from the library he was listening to a lecture by a religious apologist (I do not remember his name). I knew he was a religious apologist given that I know that my dad listens to a lot of religious programs and that the speaker was talking about philosophy. Furthermore, I already knew the conclusion of the religious apologist (no, this was not in hindsight I literally predicted it). I could make this prediction because by listening to the apologist’s lecture for five minutes I already could tell what he would say since within those five minutes he was talking about the history of philosophy/science with the constant theme of the limits and fallibility of human knowledge. The conclusion I predicted he would make is that human attempts to explain the origin of the universe will ultimately fail because ultimately God created the universe. The conclusion I made was roughly correct. The argument the apologist made was the following:
  1. Any theory we present to explain everything can be questioned as to why that theory is true rather than the alternative theory.
  2. Current theories of cosmology (i.e. string theory, M-Theory, etc) are subjected to such question “why is that true instead of the alternative”.
  3. God is an exception to the “why” since we need faith in God
  4. therefore God exists
This is the rough formulation but that’s the basic reasoning behind his lecture; he does not really give his argument in this exact manner but I think it’s roughly accurate representation of his basic reasoning. The conclusion of the argument (3) is a non-sequitur (in logic this means “conclusion does not follow”) because the first two premises does not establish that God exists and the third premise does not explain why God is the exception to the “why” (it’s also because the conclusion is irrelevant to the premises, the premises do not really talk about God at all ; In logic you have to make sure that your premises and conclusion are relevant to each other by sharing the same key terms or concepts). I can also object to the conclusion with a question: “Which God? God of Islam? God of Judaism? God of Neoplatonism? God of Zoastrianism? God of Hinduism (i.e. Brahman)? God of Spinoza? God of Hegel? God of Christianity?”. If the apologist responds “God of Christianity” then I can easily point out to him that if I strictly follow the reasoning of his first premise then I can ask “Why God of Christianity is true? Why not the alternative theory such as God of Islam?”. He can respond that God is not just a theory but I can point out to him that theory means explanation in both science and philosophy of science, if that’s the case then to say that God created the world is already presenting God as a theory. He also doesn’t explain why God is the exception to premise 1, it doesn’t seem very convincing; He didn’t exactly say faith but I reasonably assumed that that’s probably the most plausible interpretation (given that he is a religious apologist), so I added the reason in premise 3. But if that’s the case then I can use the reasoning of premise 1 to show that premise 3 is arbitrary: I can ask “why God x is the exception, why not God y be the exception?”. Throughout the lecture the religious apologist expressed skepticism of M-Theory and String theory by appealing to authority: Stephen Hawking. I was annoyed at this because while Stephen Hawking is a renown cosmologist his opinions may not always reflect the consensus of the scientific community of physics.

There is another religious apologist who made an argument for presuppositionalism but I think it’s a very horrible argument. Here’s the gist of the argument and I will show why it’s a bad argument:
  1. God is omnipresent, immaterial, necessarily existing, and eternal.
  2. Logic is universal (omnipresent), immaterial, necessarily existing, and eternal
  3. Therefore Logic is explained by God
There are two problems with this argument. First, assuming that premise 1 and 2 are true, just because God and Logic share similarities does not warrant the conclusion. This becomes obvious when I try to make an analogous argument:
  1. Dogs are mammals with four legs, a tail, a whisker, and two eyes
  2. Cats are mammals with four legs, a tail, a whisker, and two eyes
  3. Therefore, Dogs explains Cats.
Obviously the conclusion does not follow from the first two premises since Dogs and cats are pretty different (as well as having different common ancestors….); This is analogous to the former argument because just like the argument for presuppositionalism the latter argument compares Dogs and Cats together and comes to an erroneous conclusion that a Dog explains the existence of a cat. The second reason why the argument is horrible is because it commits a fallacy of associative thinking also known as associative fallacy; just because two things share similar qualities does not mean that they must be related to each other by explanation (or other things); such form of thinking employs something called representative heuristic which assumes that if two things are similar they one of them must be the cause of the other, but this way of thinking is not very reliable (i.e. bees having wings but so do bats, but they do not relate to each other); Also the argument demonstrates a poor understanding of what constitutes an explanation: You have an Explanan (which does the explaining) and the Explanandum (that which is being explained by Explanan), it is possible that both Explanandum and Explanan may not share the same properties but the relation between them still holds; after all Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity explains Gravity with Space-time fabric, neither of which necessarily share the exact same properties. So it is possible that god and logic share the similar properties but still remain the case that God does not explain logic.

This is why I get tired of religious apologists: they use their rudimentary background knowledge in philosophy, logic, theology, and science in order to serve their theological agenda and exclude anything else proposed by science to explain how the world works without recourse to supernatural explanation. To me this is very self-serving and intellectually dishonest, but even worse the arguments the religious apologists made is pretty bad argument as I have demonstrated. Over a period of time I grow less and less interested in rebutting philosophical arguments for the existence of God because not a lot of them are very good since most of them are made by cheap religious apologists who are mostly intellectual cons-men. I might make exceptions for philosophers such as Alvin Plantinga who made very challenging arguments for the existence of God but I suspect that ultimately his arguments for the existence of God won’t stand up to rigorous scrutiny. Aside from Plantinga, most religious apologists are very self-serving and employ bad arguments. Even worse, when they start criticizing the theory of evolution or big bang as if they have scientific credentials then I immediately lose my respect for them (this gets worse when they make arguments for intelligent design or fine tuning). Even then this may not be enough since apologists like William Lane Craig who accepts evolution and big bang theory goes beyond his theological/philosophical expertise to misrepresent scientific theories to say that God exists; When I watched his debate with Shelly Kagan I was annoyed at how Craig can play dirty on occasion: Craig argued that naturalism cannot account for free-will if determinism is true, but Kagan showed that Craig is being misleading since compatibalism is a possible alternative; Craig used this as an opportunity to demand Kagan to explain why compatibalism is true but Kagan does not commit himself to compatibalism and the argument for it is already deviating from the subject of debate.

I’m more interested in philosophy of mind, free-will, philosophy of time, and other philosophical subjects but I pay less attention to arguing with religious apologists since it’s a waste of time. Rarely do religious apologists show any interests to be charitable and intellectually honest. They usually distort the other side, employ bad arguments, and use useless rhetoric. Maybe I will return to the debate on the existence of God on occasion but I see myself doing so less often than before. What disturbs even more is how many people actually fall for religious apologists and think to themselves that the religious apologist’s argument must be irrefutable or true. It gets on my nerves because when they think that way they lose the opportunity to think outside the box and see why the argument can be flawed in multiple ways. It also just simply reinforce what they already believe. This very fact alone already tells me that much of the churches in Christianity is intellectually bankrupt and shallow.


Popular posts from this blog


By David Andrew Dugle ~ O ctober. Halloween. It's time to visit the haunted house I used to live in. When I was five my dad was able to build a big modern house. Moving in before it was complete, my younger brother and I were sleeping in a large unfinished area directly under the living room. It should have been too new to be a haunted house, but now and then I would wake up in the tiny, dark hours and see the blurry image of a face, or at least what I took to be a face, glowing, faintly yellow, high up on the wall near the ceiling. I'm not kidding! Most nights it didn’t appear at all. But when it did show itself, at first I thought it was a ghost and it scared me like nothing else I’d ever seen. But the face never did anything; unmoving, it just stayed in that one spot. Turning on the lights would make it disappear, making my fears difficult to explain, so I never told anyone. My Sunday School teachers had always told me to be good because God was just behind m

The Blame Game or Shit Happens

By Webmdave ~ A relative suffering from Type 1 diabetes was recently hospitalized for an emergency amputation. The physicians hoped to halt the spread of septic gangrene seeping from an incurable foot wound. Naturally, family and friends were very concerned. His wife was especially concerned. She bemoaned, “I just don’t want this (the advanced sepsis and the resultant amputation) to be my fault.” It may be that this couple didn’t fully comprehend the seriousness of the situation. It may be that their choice of treatment was less than ideal. Perhaps their home diabetes maintenance was inconsistent. Some Christians I know might say the culprit was a lack of spiritual faith. Others would credit it all to God’s mysterious will. Surely there is someone or something to blame. Someone to whom to ascribe credit. Isn’t there? A few days after the operation, I was talking to a man who had family members who had suffered similar diabetic experiences. Some of those also suffered ea

Christian TV presenter reads out Star Wars plot as story of salvation

An email prankster tricked the host of a Christian TV show into reading out the plots of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air and Star Wars in the belief they were stories of personal salvation. The unsuspecting host read out most of the opening rap to The Fresh Prince, a 1990s US sitcom starring Will Smith , apparently unaware that it was not a genuine testimony of faith. The prankster had slightly adapted the lyrics but the references to a misspent youth playing basketball in West Philadelphia would have been instantly familiar to most viewers. The lines read out by the DJ included: "One day a couple of guys who were up to no good starting making trouble in my living area. I ended up getting into a fight, which terrified my mother." The presenter on Genesis TV , a British Christian channel, eventually realised that he was being pranked and cut the story short – only to move on to another spoof email based on the plot of the Star Wars films. It began: &quo

Why I left the Canadian Reformed Church

By Chuck Eelhart ~ I was born into a believing family. The denomination is called Canadian Reformed Church . It is a Dutch Calvinistic Christian Church. My parents were Dutch immigrants to Canada in 1951. They had come from two slightly differing factions of the same Reformed faith in the Netherlands . Arriving unmarried in Canada they joined the slightly more conservative of the factions. It was a small group at first. Being far from Holland and strangers in a new country these young families found a strong bonding point in their church. Deutsch: Heidelberger Katechismus, Druck 1563 (Photo credit: Wikipedia ) I was born in 1955 the third of eventually 9 children. We lived in a small southern Ontario farming community of Fergus. Being young conservative and industrious the community of immigrants prospered. While they did mix and work in the community almost all of the social bonding was within the church group. Being of the first generation born here we had a foot in two

Are You an Atheist Success Story?

By Avangelism Project ~ F acts don’t spread. Stories do. It’s how (good) marketing works, it’s how elections (unfortunately) are won and lost, and it’s how (all) religion spreads. Proselytization isn’t accomplished with better arguments. It’s accomplished with better stories and it’s time we atheists catch up. It’s not like atheists don’t love a good story. Head over to the atheist reddit and take a look if you don’t believe me. We’re all over stories painting religion in a bad light. Nothing wrong with that, but we ignore the value of a story or a testimonial when we’re dealing with Christians. We can’t be so proud to argue the semantics of whether atheism is a belief or deconversion is actually proselytization. When we become more interested in defining our terms than in affecting people, we’ve relegated ourselves to irrelevance preferring to be smug in our minority, but semantically correct, nonbelief. Results Determine Reality The thing is when we opt to bury our

Reasons for my disbelief

By Rebekah ~ T here are many layers to the reasons for my disbelief, most of which I haven't even touched on here... When I think of Evangelical Christianity, two concepts come to mind: intense psychological traps, and the danger of glossing over and missing a true appreciation for the one life we know that we have. I am actually agnostic when it comes to a being who set creation in motion and remains separated from us in a different realm. If there is a deistic God, then he/she doesn't particularly care if I believe in them, so I won't force belief and instead I will focus on this one life that I know I have, with the people I can see and feel. But I do have a lot of experience with the ideas of God put forth by Evangelical Christianity, and am confident it isn't true. If it's the case god has indeed created both a physical and a heavenly spiritual realm, then why did God even need to create a physical realm? If the point of its existence is to evolve to pas