Monday, September 15, 2014

I Don't Believe It

It is often asked of atheists, “What would it take to make you believe in God?” I think this is a fair question as atheists often have no compunction about asking exactly the opposite question. So I started thinking about all the common arguments for God’s existence and found that if one thinks about the various arguments even a little, they really make no sense. I just cannot accept any of the common arguments for the existence of a god and there doesn’t seem to be any argument for God that makes me say, “Well, maybe…” I’m not going to cover every argument for the sake of brevity, but give the basic argument and a quick response that gives the most superficial analysis, demonstrating the foolishness of the so-called proof.

Here are the most common arguments for the existence of God and why they fail in my view:

1.      “Because we had to come from somewhere (or) something had to create the universe.” The argument is circular; if everything has to have a cause, the first cause requires a cause as well. Even if there were a first cause, this says nothing about who or what the first cause is. For example, imagine a robot with the knowledge to build a robot exactly like itself. Should the built robot consider its builder a god? 

2.      “Because the universe appears as though it was designed (or) because the universe is fine-tuned for life.” First, assuming this is true, is says nothing about the designer or designers who again, must have been designed themselves. Two, the universe appears as ordered as it appears chaotic, but not designed. Arguments of design presuppose how any given person would design a universe from scratch. 

3.      “Because belief in God is intuitive.” No it is not. If someone grew up without anyone else around, it is unlikely they would have any conception of the supernatural unless they were seeking explanations for things they could not explain. Even if a belief in the supernatural is a proclivity hardwired into our genes, as it appears, particulars regarding belief are contingent upon a person’s immediate environment. 

4.      “Because morality has to come from somewhere.” Morality is driven by culture and is relative; there are no universal moral maxims that exist necessarily. Even if God did exist we couldn’t be sure such a being were moral since that being would either be able to say whatever they want as being moral (in which case God may be an evil dictator) or have a system outside of itself by which they recognize morality. 

5.      “Because miracles have happened.” There has never been an event shown to violate the known laws of the universe, which is the definition of a miracle. Self-appointed prophets have never been able to demonstrate they can perform a miracle. 

6.      “Because prophecies have come true.” These always just happen to be cases of interpretation. Notice that prophecies are never very specific, which helps them be ‘fulfilled.’ A prophecy is also not a prophecy when the future is written after an event has transpired. Of course, holy men are never that dishonest. 

7.      “Because people have reported visions of Heaven.” Delusions. Notice that visions of Heaven always reflect Heaven as it is imagined by the religion of the person claiming to have seen such a place. No one imagines seeing Heaven in a way that doesn’t include some information they have come across previously.

8.      “Because this life cannot be all there is.” Why not? Just because one has an unpleasant life is not reason to conclude there is a better life waiting for them after they are dead. It is also interesting that people who want to believe in Heaven due to the amount of suffering or evil they see in their Earthly life are often the same people willing to make others suffer when those others don’t adhere to the same beliefs. 

9.      “Because the Bible/Torah/Koran is historically accurate.” Even if some events in scriptures are accurate, this does not reflect an overall accuracy. Imagine a geology book before the discovery of plate tectonics; some of the information may be accurate but that doesn’t mean the book is accurate in its entirety. 

10.   “Because if you don’t believe and God does exist, you won’t like the consequences (aka Pascal’s Wager).” Accepting Pascal’s Wager has been shown to actually increase the likelihood that one may be wrong about God’s existence because the wager (as originally formulated) doesn’t account for other religions. Pascal’s Wager also works in the opposite direction, for if one finds out on their death bed that God does not exist, they have wasted their life believing in God. 

11.   “Because God is a perfect being.” (Often attributed to Thomas Aquinas) It is argued that God must exist since existence is entailed in the definition of a perfect being, which God is. But this is like saying the perfect woman exists simply because in order for her to be perfect, she must exist by virtue of what is included in the definition of a ‘perfect woman.’ Nonsense. If you think otherwise, please produce a perfect flying unicorn. 

12.   “Because I have experienced God (or God’s presence).” Problem with anecdotal evidence is that it makes everyone’s experience of God equally valid. If one says that they have experienced the Christian god’s presence, their claim to the truth about God is no more valid than someone who says they have experienced the presence of Allah or even the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Personal visions do not equal universal truths. 

13.   “Because there is good and evil.” This is a really dumb argument as even if we did have acts that were intrinsically good or evil, this says nothing about the origin of good and evil and nothing that prevents intrinsically good or evil acts from being rooted in our evolution. Moreover, if you consider some acts to be more or less good or more or less evil than others, how was it ever determined that anything was ever intrinsically good or evil in the first place?

14.   “Because human beings are special.” In what way? Because we build things by destroying other things? Because of our seemingly advanced communication skills that nonetheless breakdown when resources are at stake? Because we can imagine a god in our own likeness? Because we are conscious beings who cannot explain how they came to be this way (not yet anyway)? None of these questions points to human beings being any more special than any other animal in their own way. 

15.   Finally, here’s one I haven’t heard in a long time, probably because it is so dumb; the Argument from Aesthetic Perfection, “There is the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. Therefore there must be a God. (You either see this one or you don't.)” I don’t see it, probably because there is nothing there.

As it stands, there appears to be no argument that can make me even consider the existence of a god because even if we did find some powerful being with vast knowledge and incredible powers, we couldn’t be sure the being wasn’t just a really smart alien with a really intimate knowledge of physics. Theists would do well to simply try to avoid using reason to argue for the existence of a god since no reason (so far) stands up to scrutiny. I have a lot more respect for people who say they believe in God simply because they want to, not because they claim to have proof. They don’t. And if that person then tells me there is nothing I could say to make them not believe in God, I’d call it even and we should all grab a drink together and chill the fuck out.

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