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Addressing the Arguments for God

By Ben Love ~

Intend to demonstrate here why the theists’ usual arguments in favor of a God fall logically flat…

This argument states that because the Universe (the physical realm) exists and shows signs of intelligent design, there must, of course, be an intelligent designer (a supernatural deity), and this person we call “God”.
My response: Prehistoric man could not explain earthquakes because he didn’t have the geological information on why the Earth might possibly quake. So he inserted the best answer he could find: there must be some sort of invisible being making the Earth shake, and if this being is powerful enough to do that, this being must be a type of God. But he was wrong. There was no invisible being making the Earth quake. There was a scientific explanation to which prehistoric man did not have access. Similarly, when we look at the intricacies of the physical world and conclude that we have no way of adequately explaining their origins, we do the same thing: we insert the “Invisible Being Answer.” But just because we might not have the answers yet doesn’t mean that suitable answers do not exist and cannot be attained at some future point. Does the Universe show signs of design? Possibly. It’s definitely likely that there is more to the story than we currently know, but the problem with inserting your particular “God” into that “gap in our knowledge” is that it doesn’t answer anything. The question has merely been shifted. You cannot explain one Great Unknown (the Universe), so you conclude that another Great Unknown (God) must be responsible for it. But who is responsible for that Great Unknown? In other words, if the Universe requires a designer, then the designer requires a designer. If you look at an airplane and say that it is too complex to have been assembled by some accidental explosion, and you thus conclude that the airplane must have a designer, doesn’t this mean that the designer is even more complex than the airplane? In a sense, the designer has become the new airplane, and now also requires a designer, ad infinitum. For this reason, using the Argument from Design creates an infinite loophole that serves neither the believer nor the nonbeliever. As such, this particular argument ought to be discarded by both. Moreover, even if we were to concede the Argument from Design (which we do not), there is absolutely no justification for you inserting your own particular “God” into the necessary slot of “the Creator.” It’s not as though the existence of some quasar in the far reaches of the galaxy is definitive proof that Jesus Christ rose from the dead or that “Allah is one; there is no God but Allah.”
This argument states that because the natural world appears to be universally governed by the Laws of Physics, there must be a Divine Lawgiver responsible for the erection those Laws, and this person we call “God”.
My response: The truth is that the Universe is not “governed” by anything. The “Laws of Physics” are merely the human being’s conceptions for the normal operation of the Universe as we observe it here on Earth. The Universe does what it does because the matter therein is consistent, and would do so even if we were not here to observe it and apply “laws” to these observations. The application of the word “law” to this system is therefore merely semantical. Moreover, if the Universe is indeed governed by laws, is it entirely impossible that it is self-governed? Why do we need to insert the divine-entity-figure into the argument? The reality is that those who do this do it because it serves their agenda within the argument. Once again, the human being is seeking to fill the gaps of knowledge with a Band-Aid answer. Suppose we were prehistoric humans observing that lightning usually produces thunder. Would we assume that this is a “law?” We might, but we would be wrong. Thunder is merely the usual reaction to lightning, but there need not be any God producing the thunder, or even the lightning for that matter.
This argument states that because life is so very complex, the odds of it resulting from accidental mutations over a million-year period (a process we call evolution) are insanely low, to the point of absurdity. Therefore, there must be a Lifegiver, and this person we call “God”.
My response: Suppose a man stands at the top of the Empire State Building in New York City and is struck by lightning. Now, the odds of being struck by lightning are about 1 in a million, give or take. So, as this man is being struck by lightning, suppose he says to himself, “Well, the odds are very likely that this isn’t really happening.” How absurd! The point is that the odds, no matter how outrageous they might be, are reduced to 1 in 1 the instant the unlikely happens. You may have a 1 in a 5 million shot in winning the lottery, but if you do win, the instant you purchased the winning ticket the odds went down to a 1 in 1 chance. Therefore, the argument that the odds against the occurrence of the unlikely demand that it be impossible for the unlikely to occur is sheer nonsense. The unlikely occurs all the time. And let it be perfectly understood that just because life has evolved the way it did does not mean that it had to do so. There were a billion other probabilities that could have occurred through the process of natural selection, all of which would have been just as improbable as the next. We may look back and say that it seems unlikely that a micro-organism would one day evolve into Babe Ruth, but we would have said that no matter what the outcome would have been. The outcome had to be something, and whatever that “something” ended up being was eventually going to be thought of as “unlikely.” The outcome is now what it is, and we may marvel at the improbability of it all, but we need not automatically invoke the “God-card” to explain it.
This argument states that since a deaf person cannot perceive sound, and since sound is indeed real regardless of the deaf person’s disabilities, so too is God real, regardless of the fact that some perceive him and some do not. 
My response: I will admit that for a while this particular argument stumped me. A blind person might indeed consider the existence of “color” to be hearsay. But then the obvious occurred to me. A hearing person and a deaf person both exist in the same natural world. A blind person and a seeing person both exist in the same natural world. And the natural world provides empirical proof of both “sight” and “sound”, even to those who cannot experience it firsthand. This would be the same as assuming that since I do not understand the principles involved in Advanced Calculus, Advanced Calculus must not exist, but because I do understand the mechanics of grammer, writing must therefore exist.  My experience, or lack thereof, has no bearing on the actual existence or non-existence of a given thing. Something either exists or it doesn’t; my ability or inability to perceive it is neither here nor there. Besides, using the analogy of the blind or deaf person falls flat. As Dan Barker put it: “The blind and the sighted live in the same world, and both can grasp the natural principles involved. The path of light can be traced through a normal eye to the brain. Frequencies can be explained and the spectrum can be experienced independently of vision. The existence of color need not be taken by faith.” Thus, this argument falls apart under even a cursory ray of logic. While it does provoke an interesting discussion and deep questions, this argument does not prove the existence of God anymore than UFO sightings definitively prove the existence of extraterrestrials.
Pascal’s Wager can be expressed as such: “God cannot be proved. But if does God exists, the believer gains everything and the unbeliever loses everything. If God does not exist, the believer loses nothing and the unbeliever gains nothing. There is therefore everything to gain and nothing to lose by believing in God.”
My response: Blaise Pascal no doubt thought he was expressing the end-all argument in favor of a personal God when he uttered this. But what is interesting here is that this is not an argument for the existence of God; this is an argument in favor of belief. There is nothing here that philosophically proves that God exists. All we have here is intimidation wielded in an attempt to get you to believe anyway, whether or not God exists. This kind of brute coercion masquerades as intellectualism, but all it really amounts to is the usual fearmongering one expects from the theist. Besides, if this argument did prove the existence of God (which it does not), who wants to worship a being that uses fear to subdue his creations? Moreover, to assume that the believer loses nothing by accepting this wager is highly erroneous, as I have proved elsewhere.
This argument, first expressed by Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century, states that everything has a cause, and that every cause is the effect of a previous cause. But since something is required to have started it all, we must assume that there was a “first cause,” or an “unmoved mover,” and this person we call “God”.
My response: I can’t help but feel this is merely semantical wordplay dressed up as intellectualism, which can then be wielded to argue in favor of God’s existence. And all we really have here are assumptions and agendas strewn together for the theist’s benefit. Once again, we see here the theist’s taste for making special exemptions in order to suit his fancy. He asserts that everything must have a cause, but then he excuses God from that condition in order to make his logical argument work. I think the theist needs to pick one. Either everything needs a cause (and God would be included in the truest definition of the word “everything”), or nothing needs a cause. Which is it? Moreover, if the theist gets to exclude his version of “God” from the argument by saying this God is “uncaused,” does the atheist get to do the inversion of the same? Does the atheist get to exclude the Universe from the argument by saying the Universe is “uncaused?” No Christian anywhere would allow us atheists to get away with that, but they feel it is perfectly acceptable to do this very thing when it comes to their God. Let us also observe that assigning a special exemption to God in order to make the argument work is the same as assuming ahead of time that which the argument wishes to prove in the first place. That, my dear friends, is called special pleading, a variation of circular logic. Not good enough, I’m afraid.
This argument states that there must be a moral standard from which we derive the ideas of “right” and “wrong”. Without that standard, morality would disintegrate. A standard is therefore required, and this person we call “God”.
My response: This argument, which is more of an argument in favor of belief rather than an argument in favor of God, falls to pieces for the Christian when we observe that the God of the Bible cannot be the standard of morality if he is not also the example of that same morality. After all, how can God be your standard if it is a “Do as I say, not as I do” type thing? In other words, if God is the standard for morality, then he himself is obligated to exemplify that morality through his own actions. The instant he violates that morality, he is no longer the standard, and therefore never was to begin with. And the Bible is utterly replete with examples of God behaving immorally and ordering humans to do the same. Clearly, if a God is needed to standardize morality, it cannot be the Christian God. Moreover, if a standard is required, the fluid, flexibility of humanist relativism works just as well as some randomly inserted deity, maybe even more so. In other words, if a standard is needed, the human being himself is it, and the process of social evolution is adequate enough to explain how human beings have, over time, come to understand that which constitutes “good” and that which constitutes “evil.”
This argument can be stated as follows: 
  1. God is the greatest conceivable being
  2. It is greater to exist than not to exist
  3. Therefore, God exists
My response: This is one of the easiest arguments to dismantle, though most theists believe the ontological argument to be one of the trump cards hidden up their sleeves. It’s actually quite simple: refer back to the Argument from Design. We mentioned that if the Universe is too complex to not have a designer, then that designer must be even more complex than the Universe, and thus requires his own designer. Right here, in our minds, we have conceived a being even greater than the designer most theists have in mind (which happens to be their particular God). In other words, anytime the mind can conjure what it thinks is the greatest conceivable being, we immediately require that this being have an even greater designer. Thus, there is no such thing as the “greatest conceivable being,” because as soon as we conceive of one, we required another. And another…and another. Here again we have semantical wordplay being disguised as logic. This argument proves the existence of God only if it happens to be the convenient uncaused God subscribed to by your particular brand of theism. And even then, it comes with its problems of regress. Any creator that we can conceive of instantly requires a higher context in which to place him, ad infinitum. Therefore, we could erect our own inverted ontological argument like so:
  1. There is no such thing as “the greatest conceivable being”
  2. God therefore cannot qualify as the greatest conceivable being
  3. Thus, God does not exist, because a God must be the greatest conceivable being
See? We atheists can engage in the wordplay, too.
There are more arguments with which we could deal, but these constitute the usual ones theists retreat to when pressed. I want this to be perfectly understood: I am not saying that I have effectively disproved the existence of God (I don’t wish to do so and even if I did, I cannot); but I do believe I have successfully refuted the classic arguments that theists use to prove the existence of God. Whether or not God really exists is not really the issue here; the issue here is that the standard arguments in favor of his existence do not accomplish what the theists think they do. They are merely cleverly (or not so cleverly) worded equations that allows the believer to pat himself on the back and feel his faith has just been validated. This is not the case. Faith may very well be noble (or it may very well not be), but the above arguments do not satisfactorily demand that anyone put his or her faith in any particular theistic interpretation of a personal God as offered by the religions of the world.
Here’s a confession: I wish there was a personal God. I very much want God to exist. But I must conclude, if I am to be responsible, that as of yet I have no good reason to assume he does, let alone believe he does. After all, there are two golden rules one must strictly adhere to if he or she is to be a student of rationalism: 1) always follow the evidence, and 2) never forget rule #1.
It is for all of these reasons that I remain an atheist.