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Author Topic: Arguments Against the Existence of God  (Read 6012 times) Average Rating: 0
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Justin Kissel
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« on: November 17, 2009, 10:25:20 AM »

In another thread I said the following:

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"I feel like at this point I could argue against God's existence better than I could argue for His existence, in spite of me believing that He  exists."

To this, GabrieltheCelt responded:

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I'd like to "hear" all of these arguments.  Why don't you start a separate thread that outlines these arguments?  I think it could be helpful for us  all.

I've been told that I can proceed with this thread. Now, there are two aspects to my statement that "I feel like at this point I could argue against God's  existence better than I could argue for His existence, in spite of me believing that He exists." The first aspect would be the refutation of the many  arguments put forth in favor of the existence of God. However, I won't be presenting a refutation of these arguments for the existence of God. We'll see how this thread goes, and if people get  something beneficial from it, perhaps another thread can be started for a refutation of those arguments in favor of the existence of God.

The second aspect to my statement would be outlining the dozen or so major arguments against the existence of God.  And these arguments are what I will be  providing in this thread. So, my goal here is to provide the arguments that some people use in an attempt to demonstrate that God doesn't exist. My main goal  will be to outline, and if necessary clarify and expand on, the arguments. So, here they are...


1. The Problem of Evil
A form of this argument against God goes all the way back to ancient Greece, with Epicurus supposedly saying: "If God is willing to prevent evil, but is not  able to, then He is not omnipotent. If He is able, but not willing, then He is malevolent. If He is both able and willing, then whence cometh evil? If He is  neither able nor willing, then why call Him God?"

The argument relies on certain things that people usually attribute to God, including omnipotence and omnibenevolence. Other attributes, such as omniscience,  makes the argument against God because of the problem of evil more complicated, and more difficult to refute. The most important issues at play are the two  questions: where does evil come from, and why does God allow it? Most arguments against God that fall under the problem of evil umbrella are some variation  of these two questions.

There are, of course, answers that people who believe in God give for the problem of evil, the most common one being free-will. Other potential answers are  that God is testing people, that people are ignorant of God's plan, that evil is the natural consequence of the activity of created beings, that we wouldn't  appreciate goodness if we could not compare it to evil, and so forth. However, people who use the problem of evil as an evidence against the existence God  have their own rebuttals to these ideas.


2. The Omnipotence Paradox
This is another argument that has a lengthy history. The most popular form of this argument goes like this: Can God create a stone so heavy that he can't  lift it? If he can, then he isn't omnipotent; likewise, if he can't, he isn't omnipotent. Rebuttals of this argument include saying that the question itself  is meaningless, that the question misunderstands the type of omnipotence attributed to God, that the answer is a mystery, etc.


3. Poor Design
This argument is also sometimes called "Not the Best of All Possible Worlds". This argument is the opposite of the design argument that is used by people  trying to evidence the existence of God. What is at issue is how well the universe, or the world, or humans, seem to be designed. The argument is basically  that things are designed so poorly and strangely that it is unlikely that a God created the universe.

An example of this argument might be seen in the words of Charles Darwin about what he observed in the world: "I had no intention to write atheistically, but  I own that I cannot see as plainly as others do, and as I should wish to do, evidence of design and beneficence on all sides of us. There seems to me too  much misery in the world. I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae with the express  intention of their feeding within the living bodies of caterpillars or that a cat should play with mice."

The rebuttal to this argument is sometimes just the articulation of the design argument, or usage of the fine-tuned argument. And there are, of course, more  religious answers, such as that the ways of God are mysterious, or that we don't know his plans and therefore can't judge God in this matter.


4. The Unpersuasiveness of God
This argument is essentially that, if there was a God--the type which Christians speak about, anyway--then he would have done a better job in convincing  people of his existence. The fact that hundreds of millions of sincere people do not believe in God demonstrates that God either did a very poor job, or (as  is more likely) that there is no God trying to communicate with humanity to begin with. Or, put another way: surely if a God truly wanted people to follow or  worship him, he would be able to get his message across more effectively.

The answers to this argument are largely similar to those already mentioned: God doesn't want to violate our free will by giving overwhelming evidence, we  don't know the mind or purposes of God, God is mysterious, etc.


5. Naturalistic Explanations are Superior
This argument, usually based somewhat on occam's razor, says that naturalistic explanations are to be preferred to arguments which assume a supernatural God.  This is not only an argument against God, but many non-believers take it as a general principle for their entire world view when it comes to all  arguments about the existence of God. In other words, many non-believers don't believe you have to prove or even strongly evidence that God doesn't exist,  you just have to provide a naturalistic alternative to the supernaturalistic explanation.

Obviously Christians and other God-believers do not find such an argument (or principle) persuasive. Just because there is a potential naturalistic  explanation, that doesn't make it superior by default. Indeed, it might be an explanation that has a lot of holes in it, and is accepted by the naturalist  just because he or she doesn't want to accept the supernaturalistic explanation.


6. Russell's Teapot
This is a now fairly famous argument put forth by Betrand Russell, which he put like this:

"If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to  disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes. But if I were to go on  to say that, since my assertion cannot be disproved, it is an intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it, I should rightly be thought to  be talking nonsense. If, however, the existence of such a teapot were affirmed in ancient books, taught as the sacred truth every Sunday, and instilled into  the minds of children at school, hesitation to believe in its existence would become a mark of eccentricity and entitle the doubter to the attentions of the  psychiatrist in an enlightened age or of the Inquisitor in an earlier time."

Various forms or variations of this are commonly given by people arguing against the existence of God, or against the position taken up that agnosticism is a  valid position to hold to since we can't know for sure. So, sometimes you hear something such as this: I can't prove that a teapot isn't orbiting the sun, or  that there aren't fairies or magical leprechauns, but my inability to disprove those things doesn't mean that it is valid to believe in them.

I suppose there are a number of ways you could refute this, with perhaps the simplest way being to say that the argument isn't really relevant since there  is evidence for God. Thus it's unfair to compare God with a teapot, or fairies, or leprechauns.


7. All Gods Fall
This argument essentially states that since the overwhelming majority if Gods in the history of mankind are no longer honored or worshipped, we should expect  that the same thing will eventually happen to Gods that are honored or worshipped in the present day. The response to this argument should be rather obvious,  as this argument in no way demonstrates that the God of Christianity, for example, will fall. It might be said that this argument against God amounts to  little more than wishful thinking.


8. God Needs Nothing
This argument says that a perfect God would not need anything, including the need to create, the need to have relationships with other beings, and so forth.  Thus, the God Needs Nothing argument would say that the Christian view of God is self-refuting, because some beliefs about this God are contradicted by other  beliefs. Religious responses to this would usually follow along the same lines as previously mentioned responses: God is mysterious, we can't judge or know  the mind of God, we can't know God in his essence, etc.


9. Man and God Comprehension Gulf
This argument states that man and God would be so different from each other, that there is no way that there could be any communication. Usually people who  use this argument will try to show that the God of Judaism, Christianity, or Islam concedes in at least some beliefs that this is the truth, but contradicts  itself by also saying that God nonetheless communicates with mankind. Again, responses will be along the lines of us not knowing the mind of God, not knowing  how God works, etc.


There are other issues, such as the problem of hell, inconsistent revelations, the argument against God because of free will, etc., but I think the above  sampling should suffice. I should note that, speaking for myself, I only consider some of these arguments to be substantive, while others I consider to be  quite weak. Also, I consider the weakness of the arguments for the existence of God to be of more importance than the arguments against the existence of God.  Though I don't think you can either prove or disprove the existence of God.
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« Reply #1 on: November 17, 2009, 10:41:44 AM »



2. The Omnipotence Paradox
This is another argument that has a lengthy history. The most popular form of this argument goes like this: Can God create a stone so heavy that he can't  lift it? If he can, then he isn't omnipotent; likewise, if he can't, he isn't omnipotent. Rebuttals of this argument include saying that the question itself  is meaningless, that the question misunderstands the type of omnipotence attributed to God, that the answer is a mystery, etc.


I think the idea that the answer is a mystery is silly. However, the idea that the question is meaningless is a good one. A contradiction is not a thing at all. In fact, it is a non-thing. It means nothing. Thus, you are asking if God is capable of a nothing. God's omnipotence means that the he can do all things. But again, you are asking about a meaningless non-thing.
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« Reply #2 on: November 17, 2009, 10:43:57 AM »

6. Russell's Teapot
This is a now fairly famous argument put forth by Betrand Russell, which he put like this:

"If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to  disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes. But if I were to go on  to say that, since my assertion cannot be disproved, it is an intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it, I should rightly be thought to  be talking nonsense. If, however, the existence of such a teapot were affirmed in ancient books, taught as the sacred truth every Sunday, and instilled into  the minds of children at school, hesitation to believe in its existence would become a mark of eccentricity and entitle the doubter to the attentions of the  psychiatrist in an enlightened age or of the Inquisitor in an earlier time."

Various forms or variations of this are commonly given by people arguing against the existence of God, or against the position taken up that agnosticism is a  valid position to hold to since we can't know for sure. So, sometimes you hear something such as this: I can't prove that a teapot isn't orbiting the sun, or  that there aren't fairies or magical leprechauns, but my inability to disprove those things doesn't mean that it is valid to believe in them.

I suppose there are a number of ways you could refute this, with perhaps the simplest way being to say that the argument isn't really relevant since there  is evidence for God. Thus it's unfair to compare God with a teapot, or fairies, or leprechauns.


This assumes that there is no good reason to believe that God exists, thus it pretty much assumes its conclusion in its premise. Very weak arguement.
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« Reply #3 on: November 17, 2009, 10:45:24 AM »




1. The Problem of Evil
A form of this argument against God goes all the way back to ancient Greece, with Epicurus supposedly saying: "If God is willing to prevent evil, but is not  able to, then He is not omnipotent. If He is able, but not willing, then He is malevolent. If He is both able and willing, then whence cometh evil? If He is  neither able nor willing, then why call Him God?"

The argument relies on certain things that people usually attribute to God, including omnipotence and omnibenevolence. Other attributes, such as omniscience,  makes the argument against God because of the problem of evil more complicated, and more difficult to refute. The most important issues at play are the two  questions: where does evil come from, and why does God allow it? Most arguments against God that fall under the problem of evil umbrella are some variation  of these two questions.

There are, of course, answers that people who believe in God give for the problem of evil, the most common one being free-will. Other potential answers are  that God is testing people, that people are ignorant of God's plan, that evil is the natural consequence of the activity of created beings, that we wouldn't  appreciate goodness if we could not compare it to evil, and so forth. However, people who use the problem of evil as an evidence against the existence God  have their own rebuttals to these ideas.


St. Augustine also argued that God would only allow evil if the result was a greater good. From a Christian perspective, the Incarnation was the greater good.
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« Reply #4 on: November 17, 2009, 10:49:21 AM »


3. Poor Design
This argument is also sometimes called "Not the Best of All Possible Worlds". This argument is the opposite of the design argument that is used by people  trying to evidence the existence of God. What is at issue is how well the universe, or the world, or humans, seem to be designed. The argument is basically  that things are designed so poorly and strangely that it is unlikely that a God created the universe.

An example of this argument might be seen in the words of Charles Darwin about what he observed in the world: "I had no intention to write atheistically, but  I own that I cannot see as plainly as others do, and as I should wish to do, evidence of design and beneficence on all sides of us. There seems to me too  much misery in the world. I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae with the express  intention of their feeding within the living bodies of caterpillars or that a cat should play with mice."

The rebuttal to this argument is sometimes just the articulation of the design argument, or usage of the fine-tuned argument. And there are, of course, more  religious answers, such as that the ways of God are mysterious, or that we don't know his plans and therefore can't judge God in this matter.

Of course the fine tuned arguement is pretty good, especially when one looks at the way in which the universe follows mathematical principals. Furhter, evolution is indeed messier than the laws of physics and math, but this does not do away with those laws and the order that is intrinsic to them. But further, when it comes to evolution perhaps God did indeed intend those things that he designed to wear down eventually for a particular good. If nothing else, the wear down because they are finite. It seems completely unbelieveable that the human intellect is the result of random mutation. Finally, we may not be in the perfect world  yet, but perhaps this a good way to eventually arrive at a perfect world.
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« Reply #5 on: November 17, 2009, 10:51:44 AM »


4. The Unpersuasiveness of God
This argument is essentially that, if there was a God--the type which Christians speak about, anyway--then he would have done a better job in convincing  people of his existence. The fact that hundreds of millions of sincere people do not believe in God demonstrates that God either did a very poor job, or (as  is more likely) that there is no God trying to communicate with humanity to begin with. Or, put another way: surely if a God truly wanted people to follow or  worship him, he would be able to get his message across more effectively.

The answers to this argument are largely similar to those already mentioned: God doesn't want to violate our free will by giving overwhelming evidence, we  don't know the mind or purposes of God, God is mysterious, etc.


I think that there is indeed good evidence for the existence of a creator, and that is why every culture believes in some type of directed creation. So I really think that there is no excuse for atheism. However, there is enough room for a person to lie to himself/herself.
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« Reply #6 on: November 17, 2009, 12:16:20 PM »

All these arguments seem to suffer from one or both of two related defects:

1) The limit of human comprehension is a standard by which to judge reality. The Omnipotence Paradox is the clearest example but most of them demonstrate this to one extent or another. This is one reason atheism is often linked to the sin of pride in traditional Christian thinking (although it's painting with too broad a brush to say they are always linked)--"I can't wrap my brain around the concept of infinity, so it must not exist."

But no one sensible applies this standard elsewhere: when Einstein published the General Theory of Relativity, the saying was 'only ten people in the world could understand the underlying mathematics'. That number has greatly increased, but it remains true that only an infinitesimal percentage of humanity can actually comprehend the mathematics underlying relativity or quantum mechanics--and unless there's been a major breakthrough I've missed in the last decade even that infinitesmal percentage still doesn't comprehend how the two theories interact. But no one (sensible) thinks, "I can't understand quantum chromadynamics so it must be untrue" or "I don't understand how relativitistic gravity and quanta relate so one theory or the other must be wrong."

Not that I think God will ever be subject to scientific explanation (or disproof) but the point is that human intellect is inherently finite. Since the universe (much less any possible Creator of it) is not, we will never know everything and thus cannot logically argue that 'my not knowing it/not understanding it is *proof* that it doesn't exist.'

2) Closely related generalization, but even more individual, is that because *I* have not experienced something, nobody else has. Take Russell's teapot. As an argument that it is *not* "an intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it", it is a good argument--and I for one would never argue that agnosticism or atheism are inherently irrational or 'an intolerable presumption'. But what if some astronaut visibly observed said teapot? It's still too far away for anyone on the ground to confirm, and given the practical realities of the cost of space travel, and the vastness of space, we're not going to be able to send Russell (if he were still alive) or anyone else to verify what the astronaut saw. And Russell could propose a dozen alternate theories (astronaut was suffering mental fatigue, optical illusion from sunlight bouncing off space dust, etc, etc)--which the astronaut could not disprove; but the alternate theories would also not disprove the astronaut's experience.

The atheist response, presumably, is that even if we can't actually go and personally verify the astronauts view, at least theoretically if we followed the same steps we could repeat the experience. But the believer sees the same thing for spiritual experience--if I could transport Russell through time and space to Jerusalem in 33 A.D. then he could personally see the risen Christ. If you follow the spiritual regimin laid out by the Fathers and hesychasts then you will experience God.
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« Reply #7 on: November 17, 2009, 01:42:18 PM »

All these arguments seem to suffer from one or both of two related defects:

1) The limit of human comprehension is a standard by which to judge reality. The Omnipotence Paradox is the clearest example but most of them demonstrate this to one extent or another. This is one reason atheism is often linked to the sin of pride in traditional Christian thinking (although it's painting with too broad a brush to say they are always linked)--"I can't wrap my brain around the concept of infinity, so it must not exist."

Infinity is a pretty basic consequence of set theory, or you can get at it through number theory or even topology if you're one of those type people...what's the difficulty?

Quote
But no one sensible applies this standard elsewhere: when Einstein published the General Theory of Relativity, the saying was 'only ten people in the world could understand the underlying mathematics'. That number has greatly increased, but it remains true that only an infinitesimal percentage of humanity can actually comprehend the mathematics underlying relativity or quantum mechanics--and unless there's been a major breakthrough I've missed in the last decade even that infinitesmal percentage still doesn't comprehend how the two theories interact. But no one (sensible) thinks, "I can't understand quantum chromadynamics so it must be untrue" or "I don't understand how relativitistic gravity and quanta relate so one theory or the other must be wrong."

Technically it's only the general theory and quantum mechanics that have yet to be reconciled, the special theory fits quite well. But, I think Einstein overestimated the complexity of his theory, with a basic grasp of group theory, tensors, and pde's the mathematics behind modern physics, as with the math behind nearly any science except computer science (if one even wants to try to distinguish that from mathematics), is pretty basic. And, with that said, there are parts of quantum mechanics and general relativity that I don't know and understand, but that's just because I'm lazy and haven't taken the time to properly study them; anyone willing to take the time can fully understand them as they solidly based on mathematical reasoning and thus can be logically and objectively derived from the ground up.

These are objective sciences that you can fully comprehend by just following the instructions and I can tell you how to set up experiments to test all the assumptions (though some are a bit pricey to run). And, therein, lies the difference. Even if we're too lazy to put the work into understanding modern physics, we know that there is a clear cut and objective reasoning behind it, derived from the most basic observational principles. Metaphysics simply lacks this objectivity; you claim you can 'experience god' by following a certain path, but can I sit down ahead of time and calculate out the exact results before actually doing the experiments? If I follow the same set of instructions will I have the same experience of god every time? Will everyone have the same experience if they follow the same set of instructions? Where is the predictive nature of this theory? Unless you can make objective predictions that are repeatable and verifiable, the beliefs of metaphysics simply cannot be compared to the science of physics.
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« Reply #8 on: November 17, 2009, 01:42:54 PM »

If you follow the spiritual regimin laid out by the Fathers and hesychasts then you will experience God.
Wouldn't you also have to have "faith", in addition to simply physically following the regimen?
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« Reply #9 on: November 17, 2009, 01:50:26 PM »

I don't have the energy to attempt responses at the moment, but I'd like to provide the reminder that Orthodoxy has maintained the concept from the earliest age that God has willingly limited Himself in creation and through it (thus allowing free will, the Incarnation, the Death & Resurrection, etc.), which leaves some of the issues above as non-issues from an Orthodox POV.
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« Reply #10 on: November 17, 2009, 02:57:10 PM »

If you follow the spiritual regimin laid out by the Fathers and hesychasts then you will experience God.
Wouldn't you also have to have "faith", in addition to simply physically following the regimen?

I specifically said 'spiritual' regimin which encompasses far more than any particular physical regimin. So yes, it would include faith, hope, love, kenosis and everything else Orthodoxy ties to theosis.

(And yes, I realize that the counter-argument to that is that if one must believe in order to know, then it is not a process open to objective/sceptical testing. Which is why I don't think the atheist position is irrational, nor do I place much weight on attempt to objectively prove the existence of God. It's rather like 'proving' that I love my wife or that she loves me. Relationships (which is how I fundamentally see faith) may be influenced by 'evidence' but in the end there is a subjective knowledge that is not inherently 'rational').
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« Reply #11 on: November 17, 2009, 03:27:21 PM »

All these arguments seem to suffer from one or both of two related defects:

1) The limit of human comprehension is a standard by which to judge reality. The Omnipotence Paradox is the clearest example but most of them demonstrate this to one extent or another. This is one reason atheism is often linked to the sin of pride in traditional Christian thinking (although it's painting with too broad a brush to say they are always linked)--"I can't wrap my brain around the concept of infinity, so it must not exist."

Infinity is a pretty basic consequence of set theory, or you can get at it through number theory or even topology if you're one of those type people...what's the difficulty?

There is a difference between being able to comprehend the concept of infinity (and assign it a symbol and manipulate it mathematically) and being able to comprehend infinity. That is, I can picture a stick 1 foot long. I can picture a stick 1 mile long. But I can't actually picture a stick 5 billion miles long much less one that is infinite. My point is simply that the human mind is inherently finite and limited, and therefore to draw an argument from the fact that 'I can't comprehend X' or 'I can't understand X' only tells us something about I, not about X.

Quote
Quote
But no one sensible applies this standard elsewhere: when Einstein published the General Theory of Relativity, the saying was 'only ten people in the world could understand the underlying mathematics'. That number has greatly increased, but it remains true that only an infinitesimal percentage of humanity can actually comprehend the mathematics underlying relativity or quantum mechanics--and unless there's been a major breakthrough I've missed in the last decade even that infinitesmal percentage still doesn't comprehend how the two theories interact. But no one (sensible) thinks, "I can't understand quantum chromadynamics so it must be untrue" or "I don't understand how relativitistic gravity and quanta relate so one theory or the other must be wrong."

Technically it's only the general theory and quantum mechanics that have yet to be reconciled, the special theory fits quite well. But, I think Einstein overestimated the complexity of his theory, with a basic grasp of group theory, tensors, and pde's the mathematics behind modern physics, as with the math behind nearly any science except computer science (if one even wants to try to distinguish that from mathematics), is pretty basic. And, with that said, there are parts of quantum mechanics and general relativity that I don't know and understand, but that's just because I'm lazy and haven't taken the time to properly study them; anyone willing to take the time can fully understand them as they solidly based on mathematical reasoning and thus can be logically and objectively derived from the ground up.

Have you ever taught math at the high school level? It's certainly true that had they the interest and incentive far more people could understand tensor calculus than currently do (as witnessed by the fact that once relativity gave physicists a *need* to know it, every graduate of a physics program plus not a few armchair physicists, did start to learn it). However, it is simply not true that 'anyone' can grasp the concepts involved in higher mathematics if they just try hard enough.

But as to the whole paragraph about relativity and quantum mechanics, uh, yeah, so? Tomorrow, someone could have the theoretical or experimental breakthrough which led to a iron clad theory of quantum gravity and it wouldn't affect my point--which is that we have lived the last century with many of the best minds of that time period trying and *failing* to successfully reconcile the two theories. From that, we have not taken 'one theory (or both)' must be wrong, but rather 'we just don't understand enough--with more knowledge, more thought, more perspective--eventually we may reconcile the two (or discard one or the other, but it will be because of a better understanding not simply because it didn't reconcile with the other).

That's my criticism of something several of the arguments above--they take two propositions (i.e., 'God exists', 'Evil exists'.) or a definitional problem (since without reference to a specific revealed concept of deity, 'omnipotent' is a purely conceptual proposition with no fixed definition) and then say that since "I" can't understand how the two propositions 'reconcile' then one or the other *must* be wrong. When in fact all it shows is that you can't reconcile them, not that either is wrong.


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« Reply #12 on: November 17, 2009, 03:56:36 PM »

Witega,

You seem to be arguing that at least some of the arguments listed in the OP are nothing more than an argument from incredulity, which would be a logical fallacy. However, I don't know that that is a fair assessment of the arguments. Sometimes the language can be a bit confusing or misleading, and perhaps I have not stated things as cogently as others might be able to. Let's take an argument that I didn't outline, but which is a common example of this problem: the argument regarding hell. Many times people will state the issue rather casually, perhaps saying something like "I just don't understand how a loving God could allow people to go to hell". However, even though laymen like me may speak imprecisely, the argument could also be stated in a more valid way.

Regarding the argument from religious experience, all I can say is that many (myself included) tried to follow the advice of various Christians (whether John Chrysostom or C.S. Lewis), and it didn't work out so that all such people ended up remaining Christians. To paraphrase what I have said before on this forum, I didn't leave Christianity because I read writers like Nietzsche and Dawkins, I left because I read writers such as St. John Chrysostom and St. Vincent of Lerins. My religious experience led me to believe in a rather impersonal, deistic God, if I have to make a choice about believing in a God at all. People can give lots of "if only" examples. Even atheists could play that card, and say something like "If only I could transport you to 33CE, so you could see that Jesus didn't rise again." But what is at issue, IMO, is what God has actually done in the lives of people who are rather open to the existence of God.
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« Reply #13 on: November 17, 2009, 03:57:02 PM »

All these arguments seem to suffer from one or both of two related defects:

1) The limit of human comprehension is a standard by which to judge reality. The Omnipotence Paradox is the clearest example but most of them demonstrate this to one extent or another. This is one reason atheism is often linked to the sin of pride in traditional Christian thinking (although it's painting with too broad a brush to say they are always linked)--"I can't wrap my brain around the concept of infinity, so it must not exist."

Infinity is a pretty basic consequence of set theory, or you can get at it through number theory or even topology if you're one of those type people...what's the difficulty?

There is a difference between being able to comprehend the concept of infinity (and assign it a symbol and manipulate it mathematically) and being able to comprehend infinity. That is, I can picture a stick 1 foot long. I can picture a stick 1 mile long. But I can't actually picture a stick 5 billion miles long much less one that is infinite. My point is simply that the human mind is inherently finite and limited, and therefore to draw an argument from the fact that 'I can't comprehend X' or 'I can't understand X' only tells us something about I, not about X.

I guess I just don't understand where you're coming from, I don't think the infinite stick is that difficult of an idea to comprehend. You can model it, you can make absolute statements about continuity, completeness, smoothness, etc. You can discuss the theoretical implications of relativity on such a stick using limits, we can understand this stick just as well as we understand one that's only a metre long. If we can know and describe the same things about the infinite stick as we can about the finite one, how is it harder to understand?


Quote
Quote
But no one sensible applies this standard elsewhere: when Einstein published the General Theory of Relativity, the saying was 'only ten people in the world could understand the underlying mathematics'. That number has greatly increased, but it remains true that only an infinitesimal percentage of humanity can actually comprehend the mathematics underlying relativity or quantum mechanics--and unless there's been a major breakthrough I've missed in the last decade even that infinitesmal percentage still doesn't comprehend how the two theories interact. But no one (sensible) thinks, "I can't understand quantum chromadynamics so it must be untrue" or "I don't understand how relativitistic gravity and quanta relate so one theory or the other must be wrong."

Technically it's only the general theory and quantum mechanics that have yet to be reconciled, the special theory fits quite well. But, I think Einstein overestimated the complexity of his theory, with a basic grasp of group theory, tensors, and pde's the mathematics behind modern physics, as with the math behind nearly any science except computer science (if one even wants to try to distinguish that from mathematics), is pretty basic. And, with that said, there are parts of quantum mechanics and general relativity that I don't know and understand, but that's just because I'm lazy and haven't taken the time to properly study them; anyone willing to take the time can fully understand them as they solidly based on mathematical reasoning and thus can be logically and objectively derived from the ground up.

Have you ever taught math at the high school level? It's certainly true that had they the interest and incentive far more people could understand tensor calculus than currently do (as witnessed by the fact that once relativity gave physicists a *need* to know it, every graduate of a physics program plus not a few armchair physicists, did start to learn it). However, it is simply not true that 'anyone' can grasp the concepts involved in higher mathematics if they just try hard enough.
[/quote]

No, I've never taught high school students and I hope I never have to...but maybe I just have more faith in humanity than you do. Wink The concepts are simple, extraordinarily simple, it's just a matter of taking the time to learn them. Theoretical mathematics may take a bit more effort, but applied mathematics truly is a trivial endeavour.

Quote
But as to the whole paragraph about relativity and quantum mechanics, uh, yeah, so? Tomorrow, someone could have the theoretical or experimental breakthrough which led to a iron clad theory of quantum gravity and it wouldn't affect my point--which is that we have lived the last century with many of the best minds of that time period trying and *failing* to successfully reconcile the two theories. From that, we have not taken 'one theory (or both)' must be wrong, but rather 'we just don't understand enough--with more knowledge, more thought, more perspective--eventually we may reconcile the two (or discard one or the other, but it will be because of a better understanding not simply because it didn't reconcile with the other).

But one, or both, of the theories is wrong. The inconsistency proves that. With that said, they're both great approximations, far better than newton's...which was also wrong. Just because something's technically wrong, however, doesn't mean it's necessarily useless. But when two theories contradict, we have to look at one being incorrect, at least where they overlap (maybe only one of the assumptions of quantum mechanics is wrong and the rest is correct?) Now determining which one's wrong certainly requires more research and understanding, but we know there's a problem and no one will pretend there isn't.
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« Reply #14 on: November 17, 2009, 04:05:44 PM »

Asteriktos, you're a living Wikipedia. You're so objective sometimes, but you also ahve a tendency towrads Christianity. Or it's just logic that proves God neccessary.

1. The Problem of Evil
[...]
There are, of course, answers that people who believe in God give for the problem of evil, the most common one being free-will. Other potential answers are  that God is testing people, that people are ignorant of God's plan, that evil is the natural consequence of the activity of created beings, that we wouldn't  appreciate goodness if we could not compare it to evil, and so forth. However, people who use the problem of evil as an evidence against the existence God  have their own rebuttals to these ideas.
Like what kind of rebuttals?


Quote
2. The Omnipotence Paradox
This is another argument that has a lengthy history. The most popular form of this argument goes like this: Can God create a stone so heavy that he can't  lift it? If he can, then he isn't omnipotent; likewise, if he can't, he isn't omnipotent. Rebuttals of this argument include saying that the question itself  is meaningless, that the question misunderstands the type of omnipotence attributed to God, that the answer is a mystery, etc.
I don't know about stones, but He already did that with a wooden cross. Does that still count?

Quote
3. Poor Design
This argument is also sometimes called "Not the Best of All Possible Worlds". This argument is the opposite of the design argument that is used by people  trying to evidence the existence of God. What is at issue is how well the universe, or the world, or humans, seem to be designed. The argument is basically  that things are designed so poorly and strangely that it is unlikely that a God created the universe.
Lol! I think this is more of a reply to those who believe in God because of the intelligent design, not an argument. By the way, our universe has not been completed yet, it's still on the way to perfection.

Quote
4. The Unpersuasiveness of God
This argument is essentially that, if there was a God--the type which Christians speak about, anyway--then he would have done a better job in convincing  people of his existence. The fact that hundreds of millions of sincere people do not believe in God demonstrates that God either did a very poor job, or (as  is more likely) that there is no God trying to communicate with humanity to begin with. Or, put another way: surely if a God truly wanted people to follow or  worship him, he would be able to get his message across more effectively.
Say The Great Inquisitor? Wink

Quote
6. Russell's Teapot
This is a now fairly famous argument put forth by Betrand Russell, which he put like this:
Well, that's impossible. If there is not even a single proof for the teapot, except for Russell's mere (flase on purpose) belief, then it's a dead end. Burden of proof on Russell, Christians have already provided the rest of the world with proof, right?
Also, there is a scientific hypothesis about God, about the unmoved mover who is outside out universe. Yet there is no evidence for any space-teapot.

Quote
7. All Gods Fall
This argument essentially states that since the overwhelming majority if Gods in the history of mankind are no longer honored or worshipped, we should expect  that the same thing will eventually happen to Gods that are honored or worshipped in the present day. The response to this argument should be rather obvious,  as this argument in no way demonstrates that the God of Christianity, for example, will fall. It might be said that this argument against God amounts to  little more than wishful thinking.
Just because Jesus Christ is often accompanied by the word God it doesn't mean that He is essentially just like the rest gods. I think that the word god has been used conventionally, because Christians left behind the pagan gods and worshipped Christ.

Quote
8. God Needs Nothing
This argument says that a perfect God would not need anything, including the need to create, the need to have relationships with other beings, and so forth.
Who said that God created the world out of need? If things were that way, then it means that there was some other cause behind God too, one that is superior. But, since He was supposed to be all alone in nothingness (Smiley), we are to automatically accept that God created the world out of His will.
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« Reply #15 on: November 17, 2009, 04:13:19 PM »

If you need to see God, Just ask Him.
When I needed Him the most, He was there, I just wasn't looking the right way.
And this was way before I became a Christian. Infact it's how I became one.
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« Reply #16 on: November 17, 2009, 04:14:21 PM »

These are objective sciences that you can fully comprehend by just following the instructions and I can tell you how to set up experiments to test all the assumptions (though some are a bit pricey to run). And, therein, lies the difference. Even if we're too lazy to put the work into understanding modern physics, we know that there is a clear cut and objective reasoning behind it, derived from the most basic observational principles. Metaphysics simply lacks this objectivity; you claim you can 'experience god' by following a certain path, but can I sit down ahead of time and calculate out the exact results before actually doing the experiments? If I follow the same set of instructions will I have the same experience of god every time? Will everyone have the same experience if they follow the same set of instructions? Where is the predictive nature of this theory? Unless you can make objective predictions that are repeatable and verifiable, the beliefs of metaphysics simply cannot be compared to the science of physics.
My (rhetorical) question is this--they say you can 'experience god' by doing X, Y and Z. You reply that you cannot calculate the exact results before doing the experiment. The question is, because you cannot calculate the exact results, does that mean that the experiment is not worth carrying out?

But the truth is, there are people who 'feel better' after doing what they consider to get the closer to god. So there is a causal link between religious praxis and the 'divine experience.' The results may not be measured in numbers, but qualitatively speaking, they are there.

It reminds me of a study that concluded that prayer has no spiritual benefits, only physiological ones. The flavor of the goodness does not change the fact that the activity is, in fact, good. If prayer or prayer-like activity is shown scientifically to be good for you, then what is your justification for not praying?
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« Reply #17 on: November 17, 2009, 04:21:00 PM »

to #4 I have to say, what makes you so sure they were sincere in seeking God?

From where I stand sincerity means setting our own concepts aside in hopes to be confounded, yet not expecting to be. Like watching a really good movie and getting involved to the point that we feel emotions.
If one wants to see God, and notice His subtlety, one must only open their eyes.
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« Reply #18 on: November 17, 2009, 04:21:16 PM »

Just a note, I'm trying to walk a line here where I clarify the arguments given in the OP, without actually trying to take up and defend those arguments. In my message about the propriety of this thread that I sent to Fr. Anastasios, which was then forwarded to Fr. Chris, I said: "It would not be my goal to argue against the existence of God; rather it would be my goal to outline the arguments, and to clarify what they are arguing if need be."  So I'm trying not to defend the arguments, so much as make sure they are explained correctly. Perhaps I should have taken a week and actually spent a few hours each day on each argument, and presented them more precisely and systematically, and in a more detailed way. But... the post is out there now, so we can just see what direction things go from here...

GammaRay,

Quote
Like what kind of rebuttals?

Well, here are some thoughts that come to mind. People who argue against the existence of God usually argue that the free-will defense doesn't work, because an all-powerful God should be able simultaneously make people with free will and yet persuade them from committing evil. One thing in this regard which has always confused me is that people in heaven still apparently have their free will (ie. they aren't mind-numbed robots), yet they can't or won't or don't sin. Why not create that type of situation on earth? Why the test? And if testing is important, then why have so much of humanity not had to go through the test? When you consider how many have died in the womb, or shortly after death, or at least before they are old enough to understand and be responsible for their actions, it seems that a great many (perhaps a majority) came into existence but never had to take the test. Are such people condemned to hell? If so, then what kind of God is it that is being worshipped? If they go to heaven, then wouldn't that be a better situation than taking the chance of eternally suffering? Of course, the God-believer can then argue that we don't know what will happen, that perhaps almost everyone (except Hitler/Stalin types) will end up in heaven, and so forth. So the arguments and counters would go on for quite some time, I think.
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« Reply #19 on: November 17, 2009, 04:23:00 PM »

All these arguments seem to suffer from one or both of two related defects:

1) The limit of human comprehension is a standard by which to judge reality. The Omnipotence Paradox is the clearest example but most of them demonstrate this to one extent or another. This is one reason atheism is often linked to the sin of pride in traditional Christian thinking (although it's painting with too broad a brush to say they are always linked)--"I can't wrap my brain around the concept of infinity, so it must not exist."

Infinity is a pretty basic consequence of set theory, or you can get at it through number theory or even topology if you're one of those type people...what's the difficulty?

There is a difference between being able to comprehend the concept of infinity (and assign it a symbol and manipulate it mathematically) and being able to comprehend infinity. That is, I can picture a stick 1 foot long. I can picture a stick 1 mile long. But I can't actually picture a stick 5 billion miles long much less one that is infinite. My point is simply that the human mind is inherently finite and limited, and therefore to draw an argument from the fact that 'I can't comprehend X' or 'I can't understand X' only tells us something about I, not about X.

Quote
Quote
But no one sensible applies this standard elsewhere: when Einstein published the General Theory of Relativity, the saying was 'only ten people in the world could understand the underlying mathematics'. That number has greatly increased, but it remains true that only an infinitesimal percentage of humanity can actually comprehend the mathematics underlying relativity or quantum mechanics--and unless there's been a major breakthrough I've missed in the last decade even that infinitesmal percentage still doesn't comprehend how the two theories interact. But no one (sensible) thinks, "I can't understand quantum chromadynamics so it must be untrue" or "I don't understand how relativitistic gravity and quanta relate so one theory or the other must be wrong."

Technically it's only the general theory and quantum mechanics that have yet to be reconciled, the special theory fits quite well. But, I think Einstein overestimated the complexity of his theory, with a basic grasp of group theory, tensors, and pde's the mathematics behind modern physics, as with the math behind nearly any science except computer science (if one even wants to try to distinguish that from mathematics), is pretty basic. And, with that said, there are parts of quantum mechanics and general relativity that I don't know and understand, but that's just because I'm lazy and haven't taken the time to properly study them; anyone willing to take the time can fully understand them as they solidly based on mathematical reasoning and thus can be logically and objectively derived from the ground up.

Have you ever taught math at the high school level? It's certainly true that had they the interest and incentive far more people could understand tensor calculus than currently do (as witnessed by the fact that once relativity gave physicists a *need* to know it, every graduate of a physics program plus not a few armchair physicists, did start to learn it). However, it is simply not true that 'anyone' can grasp the concepts involved in higher mathematics if they just try hard enough.

But as to the whole paragraph about relativity and quantum mechanics, uh, yeah, so? Tomorrow, someone could have the theoretical or experimental breakthrough which led to a iron clad theory of quantum gravity and it wouldn't affect my point--which is that we have lived the last century with many of the best minds of that time period trying and *failing* to successfully reconcile the two theories. From that, we have not taken 'one theory (or both)' must be wrong, but rather 'we just don't understand enough--with more knowledge, more thought, more perspective--eventually we may reconcile the two (or discard one or the other, but it will be because of a better understanding not simply because it didn't reconcile with the other).

That's my criticism of something several of the arguments above--they take two propositions (i.e., 'God exists', 'Evil exists'.) or a definitional problem (since without reference to a specific revealed concept of deity, 'omnipotent' is a purely conceptual proposition with no fixed definition) and then say that since "I" can't understand how the two propositions 'reconcile' then one or the other *must* be wrong. When in fact all it shows is that you can't reconcile them, not that either is wrong.




Dang ! You go girl.. (spits on floor for effect).

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« Reply #20 on: November 17, 2009, 04:25:22 PM »

Asteriktos -
What compels you to be on a site chock-full of Orthodox Christians, only to interject lack of faith? Is it mearly a cry for help?
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« Reply #21 on: November 17, 2009, 04:29:49 PM »

Asteriktos -
What compels you to be on a site chock-full of Orthodox Christians, only to interject lack of faith? Is it mearly a cry for help?

It was an Orthodox Christian who suggested that this thread be started. Then, before I started it,  I asked the admins of the site about making it. Anyway, the following is from a post I made about 5 days ago, and hopefully will suffice as an answer. If not, let's at least not make the thread about me, you can always PM me if you'd like.

Quote
I stick around for a few reasons. First, I have a long history here (over 7 years), and have become familiar with many of the people. I've been a jerk to many, and they have forgiven me (or at least appear to have forgiven me); that's not something that happens everywhere. Second, it's the best discussion forum I've found, with a great mix of intelligence, post volume, civility, freedom of expression, etc. And third, regardless of my religious affiliation, I am still very much fascinated by Christian history and theology. It might be likened to studying the Greeks: one does not have to be ethnically Greek to appreciate Greek philosophy or culture. Likewise, IMO one does not have to be a Christian to appreciate Christian theology or history. I disagree with a lot, of course, but I also find a lot that is insightful, and whether I disagree or not I find it interesting.
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« Reply #22 on: November 17, 2009, 05:04:28 PM »

Asteriktos -
What compels you to be on a site chock-full of Orthodox Christians, only to interject lack of faith? Is it mearly a cry for help?

People need to be challenged in their faith, and respond positively to it - an untested faith is likely a weak one.  Anyway, these are questions and arguments that should be met and responded to regardless of the source; what would you say if I myself posted arguments that atheists have used to try and dissuade me from my faith?  Would you accuse me of crying for help?  Or interjecting lack of faith?  Asteriktos remains a Christian (albeit not an Orthodox one), but has posted these questions in the interest of generating discussion and possibly hearing counter-arguments - which is exactly what discussion forums are supposed to do.
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« Reply #23 on: November 17, 2009, 05:11:15 PM »

To reiterate, there's nothing wrong with asking questions. If there was, I wouldn't have a job as a scientist. Cheesy
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« Reply #24 on: November 17, 2009, 05:24:58 PM »

Fr George, I mean no harm to Asteriktos in asking him those questions. I posed them to stimulate a response and I got one. It is afterall he who began the thread. I only wanted to know why. I find that sometimes the answer is in the "why" it was asked.

On all questions, one can simply ask another question as the answer to them...
What are you truly seeking? For if one wants to know God, one must only Seek Him above all else. Everything becomes quickly self-evident.
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« Reply #25 on: November 17, 2009, 05:55:55 PM »

In another thread I said the following:

Quote
"I feel like at this point I could argue against God's existence better than I could argue for His existence, in spite of me believing that He  exists."

To this, GabrieltheCelt responded:

Quote
I'd like to "hear" all of these arguments.  Why don't you start a separate thread that outlines these arguments?  I think it could be helpful for us  all.

I've been told that I can proceed with this thread. Now, there are two aspects to my statement that "I feel like at this point I could argue against God's  existence better than I could argue for His existence, in spite of me believing that He exists." The first aspect would be the refutation of the many  arguments put forth in favor of the existence of God. However, I won't be presenting a refutation of these arguments for the existence of God. We'll see how this thread goes, and if people get  something beneficial from it, perhaps another thread can be started for a refutation of those arguments in favor of the existence of God.

The second aspect to my statement would be outlining the dozen or so major arguments against the existence of God.  And these arguments are what I will be  providing in this thread. So, my goal here is to provide the arguments that some people use in an attempt to demonstrate that God doesn't exist. My main goal  will be to outline, and if necessary clarify and expand on, the arguments. So, here they are...


1. The Problem of Evil
A form of this argument against God goes all the way back to ancient Greece, with Epicurus supposedly saying: "If God is willing to prevent evil, but is not  able to, then He is not omnipotent. If He is able, but not willing, then He is malevolent. If He is both able and willing, then whence cometh evil? If He is  neither able nor willing, then why call Him God?"

The argument relies on certain things that people usually attribute to God, including omnipotence and omnibenevolence. Other attributes, such as omniscience,  makes the argument against God because of the problem of evil more complicated, and more difficult to refute. The most important issues at play are the two  questions: where does evil come from, and why does God allow it? Most arguments against God that fall under the problem of evil umbrella are some variation  of these two questions.

There are, of course, answers that people who believe in God give for the problem of evil, the most common one being free-will. Other potential answers are  that God is testing people, that people are ignorant of God's plan, that evil is the natural consequence of the activity of created beings, that we wouldn't  appreciate goodness if we could not compare it to evil, and so forth. However, people who use the problem of evil as an evidence against the existence God  have their own rebuttals to these ideas.


2. The Omnipotence Paradox
This is another argument that has a lengthy history. The most popular form of this argument goes like this: Can God create a stone so heavy that he can't  lift it? If he can, then he isn't omnipotent; likewise, if he can't, he isn't omnipotent. Rebuttals of this argument include saying that the question itself  is meaningless, that the question misunderstands the type of omnipotence attributed to God, that the answer is a mystery, etc.


3. Poor Design
This argument is also sometimes called "Not the Best of All Possible Worlds". This argument is the opposite of the design argument that is used by people  trying to evidence the existence of God. What is at issue is how well the universe, or the world, or humans, seem to be designed. The argument is basically  that things are designed so poorly and strangely that it is unlikely that a God created the universe.

An example of this argument might be seen in the words of Charles Darwin about what he observed in the world: "I had no intention to write atheistically, but  I own that I cannot see as plainly as others do, and as I should wish to do, evidence of design and beneficence on all sides of us. There seems to me too  much misery in the world. I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae with the express  intention of their feeding within the living bodies of caterpillars or that a cat should play with mice."

The rebuttal to this argument is sometimes just the articulation of the design argument, or usage of the fine-tuned argument. And there are, of course, more  religious answers, such as that the ways of God are mysterious, or that we don't know his plans and therefore can't judge God in this matter.


4. The Unpersuasiveness of God
This argument is essentially that, if there was a God--the type which Christians speak about, anyway--then he would have done a better job in convincing  people of his existence. The fact that hundreds of millions of sincere people do not believe in God demonstrates that God either did a very poor job, or (as  is more likely) that there is no God trying to communicate with humanity to begin with. Or, put another way: surely if a God truly wanted people to follow or  worship him, he would be able to get his message across more effectively.

The answers to this argument are largely similar to those already mentioned: God doesn't want to violate our free will by giving overwhelming evidence, we  don't know the mind or purposes of God, God is mysterious, etc.


5. Naturalistic Explanations are Superior
This argument, usually based somewhat on occam's razor, says that naturalistic explanations are to be preferred to arguments which assume a supernatural God.  This is not only an argument against God, but many non-believers take it as a general principle for their entire world view when it comes to all  arguments about the existence of God. In other words, many non-believers don't believe you have to prove or even strongly evidence that God doesn't exist,  you just have to provide a naturalistic alternative to the supernaturalistic explanation.

Obviously Christians and other God-believers do not find such an argument (or principle) persuasive. Just because there is a potential naturalistic  explanation, that doesn't make it superior by default. Indeed, it might be an explanation that has a lot of holes in it, and is accepted by the naturalist  just because he or she doesn't want to accept the supernaturalistic explanation.


6. Russell's Teapot
This is a now fairly famous argument put forth by Betrand Russell, which he put like this:

"If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to  disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes. But if I were to go on  to say that, since my assertion cannot be disproved, it is an intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it, I should rightly be thought to  be talking nonsense. If, however, the existence of such a teapot were affirmed in ancient books, taught as the sacred truth every Sunday, and instilled into  the minds of children at school, hesitation to believe in its existence would become a mark of eccentricity and entitle the doubter to the attentions of the  psychiatrist in an enlightened age or of the Inquisitor in an earlier time."

Various forms or variations of this are commonly given by people arguing against the existence of God, or against the position taken up that agnosticism is a  valid position to hold to since we can't know for sure. So, sometimes you hear something such as this: I can't prove that a teapot isn't orbiting the sun, or  that there aren't fairies or magical leprechauns, but my inability to disprove those things doesn't mean that it is valid to believe in them.

I suppose there are a number of ways you could refute this, with perhaps the simplest way being to say that the argument isn't really relevant since there  is evidence for God. Thus it's unfair to compare God with a teapot, or fairies, or leprechauns.


7. All Gods Fall
This argument essentially states that since the overwhelming majority if Gods in the history of mankind are no longer honored or worshipped, we should expect  that the same thing will eventually happen to Gods that are honored or worshipped in the present day. The response to this argument should be rather obvious,  as this argument in no way demonstrates that the God of Christianity, for example, will fall. It might be said that this argument against God amounts to  little more than wishful thinking.


8. God Needs Nothing
This argument says that a perfect God would not need anything, including the need to create, the need to have relationships with other beings, and so forth.  Thus, the God Needs Nothing argument would say that the Christian view of God is self-refuting, because some beliefs about this God are contradicted by other  beliefs. Religious responses to this would usually follow along the same lines as previously mentioned responses: God is mysterious, we can't judge or know  the mind of God, we can't know God in his essence, etc.


9. Man and God Comprehension Gulf
This argument states that man and God would be so different from each other, that there is no way that there could be any communication. Usually people who  use this argument will try to show that the God of Judaism, Christianity, or Islam concedes in at least some beliefs that this is the truth, but contradicts  itself by also saying that God nonetheless communicates with mankind. Again, responses will be along the lines of us not knowing the mind of God, not knowing  how God works, etc.


There are other issues, such as the problem of hell, inconsistent revelations, the argument against God because of free will, etc., but I think the above  sampling should suffice. I should note that, speaking for myself, I only consider some of these arguments to be substantive, while others I consider to be  quite weak. Also, I consider the weakness of the arguments for the existence of God to be of more importance than the arguments against the existence of God.  Though I don't think you can either prove or disprove the existence of God.
1. God created Man with free-will, but Man used his free will to do something which God had not allowed, the Devil did the same thing but for a different reason. One to be as one with God, one to be above God. (both are Pride.
2. Since we can not comprehend God in His fullness, how can we comprehendOmnipotence?
3. Sin contorts and mutates this world from the perfection it was created in. Yet there is evidence of this in the Universe if we are to shift the planet one degree off its access. We have a mathemetician in the crowd, do things become cataclysmic? Infact they do. The whole Universe is this way. There is no thing, that if it is changed in any dischordant way, does not effect something else. From the Macro it is easier to see.
4. How can He show Himself more to you, than by the love which you share with your bretheren? Are you so loving that you can even surprise yourself by your own love, when you go beyond what you thought you were capable of?
5. Omit - Pass, I don't understand the question.
6. Evidence for God's existence is in His handiwork. If you can't see that stuff, look at the coincidences in your own life. In mine I know there are too many to be unsure.
7. So because no-one believes in God, He doesn't exist?
8. God creates because He is love. What more is needed and what more can love do than to share Himself with someone else?
9. We can understand the will of God due to the consensus of Human Conscience if not His scriptures, and Natural Law.
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« Reply #26 on: November 17, 2009, 05:58:57 PM »

Fr George, I mean no harm to Asteriktos in asking him those questions. I posed them to stimulate a response and I got one. It is afterall he who began the thread. I only wanted to know why. I find that sometimes the answer is in the "why" it was asked. 

I suppose from my POV the questions could have been better worded... But accept my apologies - I did not mean to mischaracterize your questions as being aggressive.
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« Reply #27 on: November 17, 2009, 06:25:40 PM »

These are objective sciences that you can fully comprehend by just following the instructions and I can tell you how to set up experiments to test all the assumptions (though some are a bit pricey to run). And, therein, lies the difference. Even if we're too lazy to put the work into understanding modern physics, we know that there is a clear cut and objective reasoning behind it, derived from the most basic observational principles. Metaphysics simply lacks this objectivity; you claim you can 'experience god' by following a certain path, but can I sit down ahead of time and calculate out the exact results before actually doing the experiments? If I follow the same set of instructions will I have the same experience of god every time? Will everyone have the same experience if they follow the same set of instructions? Where is the predictive nature of this theory? Unless you can make objective predictions that are repeatable and verifiable, the beliefs of metaphysics simply cannot be compared to the science of physics.
My (rhetorical) question is this--they say you can 'experience god' by doing X, Y and Z. You reply that you cannot calculate the exact results before doing the experiment. The question is, because you cannot calculate the exact results, does that mean that the experiment is not worth carrying out?

For it to be a valid theory there should be some predictive element to it, I'm not saying results have to be exact as would be the case in physics, though that would be ideal. I'll even recognize theories from a field like psychology as being worth consideration, though I'd never assign the weight and validity to them that I assign to theories of physics that we KNOW have issues (relativity vs. qm).

And, with that said, it's an experiment that I have carried out and I didn't see the results that people claimed. Sure, it can give a warm fuzzy feeling inside, but that can just as easily come from giving your life over to a political party as to Jesus.

Quote
But the truth is, there are people who 'feel better' after doing what they consider to get the closer to god. So there is a causal link between religious praxis and the 'divine experience.' The results may not be measured in numbers, but qualitatively speaking, they are there.

It reminds me of a study that concluded that prayer has no spiritual benefits, only physiological ones. The flavor of the goodness does not change the fact that the activity is, in fact, good. If prayer or prayer-like activity is shown scientifically to be good for you, then what is your justification for not praying?

Yes, it does make some people feel better and we've identified the neurological activity in the brain that is responsible. Opium also makes people feel better by affecting their neurochemistry and, personally, I think it does a better job. And since neurological activity can be measured, it can be presented quantitatively...but we have perfectly reasonable scientific theories for this effect, it's not an argument for the existence of god, at best it's an insight into the evolution of the minds of Homo sapiens as social animals.
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« Reply #28 on: November 17, 2009, 06:33:33 PM »

Quote
5. Omit - Pass, I don't understand the question.
This is the classic "God in the Gaps" argument. The idea is that now that we know how something happened, God is no longer necessary. The problem is that this is not really an argument against the existence of God. It is an argument for the validity of not-God causality explanations. The assertion that naturalistic answers are "better" is also somewhat relativistic. In a strictly naturalistic, mechanistic worldview, of course the explanation of lighting as a potential difference between the atmosphere and the ground is better than "God/Zeus threw lighting." But the question left remaining is "Is a strictly naturalistic worldview better than a spiritual/mystic one?"

In terms of evolution, the answer is that you cannot place value judgements on such worldviews. Homininds survived and begat long before Newton wrote the Principia, so it seems that being "scientific" has no bearing on the fitness of a species. We must be careful, however, to remember that TENS tells us not who is "better," but who stays and who dies. It cannot tell us why we should live.

But to get back to the "Naturalistic Explanations are Better" argument. It really depends. If you believe that God is preexistent, created everything, and is transcendent, that shouldn't affect your belief in Him.
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« Reply #29 on: November 17, 2009, 06:36:45 PM »

Yes, it does make some people feel better and we've identified the neurological activity in the brain that is responsible. Opium also makes people feel better by affecting their neurochemistry and, personally, I think it does a better job. And since neurological activity can be measured, it can be presented quantitatively...but we have perfectly reasonable scientific theories for this effect, it's not an argument for the existence of god, at best it's an insight into the evolution of the minds of Homo sapiens as social animals.
Then why not make everyone drug addicts?
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« Reply #30 on: November 17, 2009, 06:37:22 PM »

To be fair, I thought I would point out an inherent problem with the question being presented and perhaps offer an insight into why these threads tend to drift. Questions concerning the attribute of existence are a 19th century phenomena that many modern theologians would consider too vulgar to be applied to a deity. Perhaps the better question is does god have value, regardless of questions on existence. I still believe the arguments come up short, but they can be better argued than the possibly unfair questions about existence.
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« Reply #31 on: November 17, 2009, 06:38:40 PM »

Yes, it does make some people feel better and we've identified the neurological activity in the brain that is responsible. Opium also makes people feel better by affecting their neurochemistry and, personally, I think it does a better job. And since neurological activity can be measured, it can be presented quantitatively...but we have perfectly reasonable scientific theories for this effect, it's not an argument for the existence of god, at best it's an insight into the evolution of the minds of Homo sapiens as social animals.
Then why not make everyone drug addicts?

Because, like with religion, though I believe that drugs can provide a quick fix and easy escape, I believe the long-term effects can be detrimental.
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« Reply #32 on: November 17, 2009, 07:01:59 PM »

GiC,

Quote
To be fair, I thought I would point out an inherent problem with the question being presented and perhaps offer an insight into why these threads tend to drift. Questions concerning the attribute of existence are a 19th century phenomena that many modern theologians would consider too vulgar to be applied to a deity. Perhaps the better question is does god have value, regardless of questions on existence. I still believe the arguments come up short, but they can be better argued than the possibly unfair questions about existence.

Well I'm not widely read on the matter, but from what I've read by such religionists as Tillich, they don't seem to solve the problem of whether we should speak of God existing, so much as play with words in such a way that makes the issue seem irrelevant, or make it seem like even talking about God's existence destroys any chances of actually knowing him. But at the end of the day, if you're going to deal with the vulgar masses, such as myself, the issue is still a seemingly valid one. But perhaps I am not giving these people enough credit, and have passed over their work too quickly. And perhaps your raising of the question of value rather than existence is something that should be explored.
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« Reply #33 on: November 17, 2009, 07:12:14 PM »

GiC,

Quote
To be fair, I thought I would point out an inherent problem with the question being presented and perhaps offer an insight into why these threads tend to drift. Questions concerning the attribute of existence are a 19th century phenomena that many modern theologians would consider too vulgar to be applied to a deity. Perhaps the better question is does god have value, regardless of questions on existence. I still believe the arguments come up short, but they can be better argued than the possibly unfair questions about existence.

Well I'm not widely read on the matter, but from what I've read by such religionists as Tillich, they don't seem to solve the problem of whether we should speak of God existing, so much as play with words in such a way that makes the issue seem irrelevant. But at the end of the day, if you're going to deal with the vulgar masses, such as myself, the issue is still a seemingly valid one. But perhaps I am not giving these people enough credit, and have passed over their work too quickly. And perhaps your raising of the question of value rather than existence is something that should be explored.

I only raise it because, while from a formal perspective of dogmatics, questions of existence are important to the more traditional religious organizations within the Judeo-Christian tradition, when discussed it seems that the question usually shifts away from existence to value; with the unspoken implication being that existence is dependent on value rather than the other way around (which would have been the popular mindset of the 19th century). Whether or not people are willing to admit it, it at least seems that relativistic philosophies and theologies are gaining ground on absolutist ones even amongst the 'vulgar masses'. Of course, there are some who will shift the debate to whatever they believes gives them the best advantage at the time, but I don't believe this is generally the case.
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« Reply #34 on: November 17, 2009, 07:14:30 PM »

Because, like with religion, though I believe that drugs can provide a quick fix and easy escape, I believe the long-term effects can be detrimental.
Long term effect of any lifestyle is you die.
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« Reply #35 on: November 17, 2009, 07:16:44 PM »

Yes, it does make some people feel better and we've identified the neurological activity in the brain that is responsible. Opium also makes people feel better by affecting their neurochemistry and, personally, I think it does a better job. And since neurological activity can be measured, it can be presented quantitatively...but we have perfectly reasonable scientific theories for this effect, it's not an argument for the existence of god, at best it's an insight into the evolution of the minds of Homo sapiens as social animals.
Then why not make everyone drug addicts?

Because, like with religion, though I believe that drugs can provide a quick fix and easy escape, I believe the long-term effects can be detrimental.
Really? Why is that?
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« Reply #36 on: November 17, 2009, 07:19:28 PM »

Because, like with religion, though I believe that drugs can provide a quick fix and easy escape, I believe the long-term effects can be detrimental.
Long term effect of any lifestyle is you die.

Fair enough...I won't contest that point. Wink
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« Reply #37 on: November 17, 2009, 07:22:12 PM »

Yes, it does make some people feel better and we've identified the neurological activity in the brain that is responsible. Opium also makes people feel better by affecting their neurochemistry and, personally, I think it does a better job. And since neurological activity can be measured, it can be presented quantitatively...but we have perfectly reasonable scientific theories for this effect, it's not an argument for the existence of god, at best it's an insight into the evolution of the minds of Homo sapiens as social animals.
Then why not make everyone drug addicts?

Because, like with religion, though I believe that drugs can provide a quick fix and easy escape, I believe the long-term effects can be detrimental.
Really? Why is that?

Because any form of escapism prevents us from fully enjoying this life for what it is and for what has to offer. Not that one should be prohibited from taking this approach, but in my opinion it is a waste of the wonderful opportunity this life presents.
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« Reply #38 on: November 17, 2009, 07:33:49 PM »

Well I'm not widely read on the matter, but from what I've read by such religionists as Tillich, they don't seem to solve the problem of whether we should speak of God existing, so much as play with words in such a way that makes the issue seem irrelevant, or make it seem like even talking about God's existence destroys any chances of actually knowing him.

Specifically of Tillich, while I believe he would personally dismiss the existence of a personal god, I believe his main point about the concept of god is that, concerning it, the question of existence truly is irrelevant. He would suggest that that you could call it 'God' or 'being' or 'the universe' or 'the abyss', it can be the 'first-cause', but doesn't have to be. It's not a play on words, it's just a relativistic approach to the definition of 'god'. And while this was probably the part of his work that drew the most attention, he was really just trying to say 'it doesn't matter, can we move on to the important stuff now?' What was important to him was 'value' or 'meaning' and, again, not in absolute terms but in personal terms.

Now, before I start to sound like I'm defending theism and, specifically, Christian theology...the very notion is quite disturbing to me Wink...I would argue that the concept of god actually destroys, or at least diminishes, the 'value' and 'meaning' of human existence; but for the sake of discussion, I think it would be helpful to distinguish between the two very different claims...that god 'exists' and that god 'has value'.
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« Reply #39 on: November 17, 2009, 07:34:55 PM »

Yes, it does make some people feel better and we've identified the neurological activity in the brain that is responsible. Opium also makes people feel better by affecting their neurochemistry and, personally, I think it does a better job. And since neurological activity can be measured, it can be presented quantitatively...but we have perfectly reasonable scientific theories for this effect, it's not an argument for the existence of god, at best it's an insight into the evolution of the minds of Homo sapiens as social animals.
Then why not make everyone drug addicts?

Because, like with religion, though I believe that drugs can provide a quick fix and easy escape, I believe the long-term effects can be detrimental.
Really? Why is that?

Because any form of escapism prevents us from fully enjoying this life for what it is and for what has to offer. Not that one should be prohibited from taking this approach, but in my opinion it is a waste of the wonderful opportunity this life presents.
One has to assume that religion is escapism to adopt your view.
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« Reply #40 on: November 17, 2009, 07:40:36 PM »

Yes, it does make some people feel better and we've identified the neurological activity in the brain that is responsible. Opium also makes people feel better by affecting their neurochemistry and, personally, I think it does a better job. And since neurological activity can be measured, it can be presented quantitatively...but we have perfectly reasonable scientific theories for this effect, it's not an argument for the existence of god, at best it's an insight into the evolution of the minds of Homo sapiens as social animals.
Then why not make everyone drug addicts?

Because, like with religion, though I believe that drugs can provide a quick fix and easy escape, I believe the long-term effects can be detrimental.
Really? Why is that?

Because any form of escapism prevents us from fully enjoying this life for what it is and for what has to offer. Not that one should be prohibited from taking this approach, but in my opinion it is a waste of the wonderful opportunity this life presents.
One has to assume that religion is escapism to adopt your view.

If you want to discuss that issue in an absolute and metaphysical sense, well that's what this thread's for. Wink

But from the perspective of our day to day lives on earth, it is escapism, just as sitting around all day dreaming about winning the lottery is escapism, and just as sitting around high all day is escapism.
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« Reply #41 on: November 17, 2009, 07:41:47 PM »

Yes, it does make some people feel better and we've identified the neurological activity in the brain that is responsible. Opium also makes people feel better by affecting their neurochemistry and, personally, I think it does a better job. And since neurological activity can be measured, it can be presented quantitatively...but we have perfectly reasonable scientific theories for this effect, it's not an argument for the existence of god, at best it's an insight into the evolution of the minds of Homo sapiens as social animals.
Then why not make everyone drug addicts?

Because, like with religion, though I believe that drugs can provide a quick fix and easy escape, I believe the long-term effects can be detrimental.
Really? Why is that?

Because any form of escapism prevents us from fully enjoying this life for what it is and for what has to offer. Not that one should be prohibited from taking this approach, but in my opinion it is a waste of the wonderful opportunity this life presents.
One has to assume that religion is escapism to adopt your view.

If you want to discuss that issue in an absolute and metaphysical sense, well that's what this thread's for. Wink

But from the perspective of our day to day lives on earth, it is escapism, just as sitting around all day dreaming about winning the lottery is escapism, and just as sitting around high all day is escapism.
And if God really exists, your running from his comandments is a form of escapism.
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« Reply #42 on: November 17, 2009, 07:49:43 PM »

Yes, it does make some people feel better and we've identified the neurological activity in the brain that is responsible. Opium also makes people feel better by affecting their neurochemistry and, personally, I think it does a better job. And since neurological activity can be measured, it can be presented quantitatively...but we have perfectly reasonable scientific theories for this effect, it's not an argument for the existence of god, at best it's an insight into the evolution of the minds of Homo sapiens as social animals.
Then why not make everyone drug addicts?

Because, like with religion, though I believe that drugs can provide a quick fix and easy escape, I believe the long-term effects can be detrimental.
Really? Why is that?

Because any form of escapism prevents us from fully enjoying this life for what it is and for what has to offer. Not that one should be prohibited from taking this approach, but in my opinion it is a waste of the wonderful opportunity this life presents.
One has to assume that religion is escapism to adopt your view.

If you want to discuss that issue in an absolute and metaphysical sense, well that's what this thread's for. Wink

But from the perspective of our day to day lives on earth, it is escapism, just as sitting around all day dreaming about winning the lottery is escapism, and just as sitting around high all day is escapism.
And if God really exists, your running from his comandments is a form of escapism.

Even if I knew for a fact that some deity existed, I'd still probably blow him off...it's not escaping, it's prioritizing. If there is an afterlife, then I'll deal with it when it comes, lets focus on the here and now, not some fanciful vision of the future.
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« Reply #43 on: November 17, 2009, 07:51:48 PM »

Well I'm not widely read on the matter, but from what I've read by such religionists as Tillich, they don't seem to solve the problem of whether we should speak of God existing, so much as play with words in such a way that makes the issue seem irrelevant, or make it seem like even talking about God's existence destroys any chances of actually knowing him.

Specifically of Tillich, while I believe he would personally dismiss the existence of a personal god, I believe his main point about the concept of god is that, concerning it, the question of existence truly is irrelevant. He would suggest that that you could call it 'God' or 'being' or 'the universe' or 'the abyss', it can be the 'first-cause', but doesn't have to be. It's not a play on words, it's just a relativistic approach to the definition of 'god'. And while this was probably the part of his work that drew the most attention, he was really just trying to say 'it doesn't matter, can we move on to the important stuff now?' What was important to him was 'value' or 'meaning' and, again, not in absolute terms but in personal terms.

Now, before I start to sound like I'm defending theism and, specifically, Christian theology...the very notion is quite disturbing to me Wink...I would argue that the concept of god actually destroys, or at least diminishes, the 'value' and 'meaning' of human existence; but for the sake of discussion, I think it would be helpful to distinguish between the two very different claims...that god 'exists' and that god 'has value'.

Fair enough, I'll put some more thought into it before I talk about it again. I don't have any books by Tillich anymore, but maybe I'll try to get some through interlibrary loan whenever I get the chance Smiley
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« Reply #44 on: November 17, 2009, 07:57:15 PM »

S.A.B. - So based on this (#5) , Why live, why love, why do anything that does not quantitatevly produce results? Why ask whether or not there is a God because it supposedly does nothing for us?
In that case science is also a waste...we survived before we thought about how to survive.
We know God before we are "aware" of Him, just as children are knowing of their parents before they become aware of their own individuality and will.

I never really questioned whether or not God exists. When I began to fall away from Him, it was not long before I was reminded that I needed help beyond myself to get myself out of the messes I allowed myself to roll around in. Though, I do not believe this was due to my upbringing. It was innate.

Who else has always had the sense of His presence, or lack of?
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 Witega: "Bishops and Metropolitans and even Patriarchs have been removed under decidedly questionable circumstances before but the Church moves on."
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