The Price Of Tea In China

The internet has no shortage of skeptics arguing against the existence of God.  They refer to themselves as “freethinkers”.  They claim their arguments for rejecting the existence of a deity is based on logic and reason, and absent of emotion.  I have interacted with quite a few skeptics over the years and I have come to the conclusion that more often than not, when arguing the existence of God, the arguments they offer have nothing to do with whether or not God exists.  I find most skeptic’s arguments, even if valid, do not disprove God’s existence.  Just briefly I’ll address the most common arguments I hear and see and why they are irrelevant. 

God’s character — Many skeptics will point to apparent examples of moral evil commanded by God, usually in the Old Testament of the Bible.  Instances of Israel being commanded directly by God to attack and lay waste entire societies without regard for women and children.  Whether God maliciously commands the death of men women and children has no bearing on His existence.  If true, that God has no morally permissible reason for making such demands of the Israelite army, all it demonstrates is the kind of God which exists.  This argument has nothing to do with whether God exists, but instead, the kind of God that exists.

The existence of natural and moral evil — Skeptics often point to the amount and degree of natural evil, i.e. earthquakes, tsunamis, floods; and the amount and degree of moral evil, i.e. rapes, murders, child molestation, in an attempt to show there is no God.  Usually the skeptic will concede that this objection does not prove what they attempted to initially prove when its irrelevance is made clear.  This objection, like the first only speaks to the character or motives of God.

Belief in God is due to being raised in a particular religious tradition — The argument seeks to show that people believe in God because of how and where they were raised.  The environment taught and fostered a belief in God, and had the idea not been taught, people would not naturally come to a belief in God.  Regardless of how or why one comes to hold a particular belief is irrelevant to whether the belief is true.  Just because the culture you are born into is predominantly one religion is irrelevant to the truth of the religious beliefs themselves.  Our parents and teachers teach us lots of ideas, but this does not tell us if the beliefs are true or false.  If I was born in Afghanistan and was raised to believe Islam was true, that has nothing to do with whether Islam is true, likewise being raised in America where 70% of the population is some form of professing Christian tells us nothing of whether Christianity is true.   This objection tells us about people who believe God exists, not whether God exists.  For example, if my alphabet soup spells: “there is a pig named Snooki at the zoo”, we cannot reject the idea that there may in fact be a pig named Snooki at the local zoo just because it was read in a bowl of soup.  Whether it is true there is a pig named Snooki at the zoo is wholly determined by whether or not being a pig named Snooki is at the zoo.

Religions use the idea of God to control the masses — This is of the same category as above.  How or why people come to believe God exists is irrelevant to whether God actually exists.  If those in power seek to control the people by telling them there is a God who will punish them for certain behaviors is not what determines if that idea is true.

Unanswered prayer — Theists pray to their deity asking for things such as money, health, or happiness to no avail.  Prayers do not get answered.  Any appearance of answered prayers can be explained by coincidence.  However, there is nothing scientifically or philosophically speaking which necessitates that if a deity exists, that it must respond to prayer.  Unanswered prayers only shows God does not respond to the petitions made by adherents of religion; that God ignores the prayers of people.

Religious texts are unreliable sources/myth — Religious texts could be myth, fanciful stories invented by men.  If this is true, it only proves man created stories about what they believe God to be.  Every one could be an invented story, riddled with error and contradiction and it still has no bearing on whether God is real.  This objection would only serve to expose the imagination of man, not the non-existence of God, that religious texts are mistaken about the history and nature of God.

These are only brief examples of arguments used to discredit theism.  Not every skeptic makes these arguments, but it is common place to hear these objections offered to attempt to demonstrate God does not exist.  None of these objections even if they were true, will logically force the conclusion that God does not exist.  Each are non-sequitur and merely address the character of the proposed God, or the character of the men who claim God exists; or why people believe the things they do.  However, why we hold a certain belief only determines whether we are justified in holding a particular belief, not whether the belief is true.

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Related Articles: Who Needs Morality?, Where’s My Stuff?

Comments

  1. Most religious people believe in a specific god. In the western world, that god is predominantly God/Jesus. It’s pretty clear, from all the evidence, that this capital-G god does not exist in the way that Christians claim it does. So you fall back on defending wishy-washy disconnected deism in general.

    The apologist argument usually comes down to this: if the atheists cannot categorically rule out some form of deity, even if that deity may be evil or doesn’t interact with the universe at all, then Christianity is probably true.

    You’re really clutching at straws to get from “you can’t prove that a being didn’t create the universe billions of years ago and then stopped interacting with us” to “the Christian god probably created the universe and mankind and good and evil and sin and had a son in human form that absolved us of that sin so long as we believe”.

    Just because we can’t (yet) prove that a pointless deity didn’t create the universe and then vanish, or that an evil deity isn’t torturing us for no good reason, doesn’t mean we can’t disprove that Christianity is a lie that’s been used to control the masses with more sticks than carrots.

    • My point is to the fact that Atheists when attempting to show God does not exist nearly uniformly attack the Judeo-Christian God as described in the Bible. Rather that attempt to shut down the Christian apologist’s foundation, they attack particular characteristics of a particular God. What I’d like to see from Atheists is an attack on theism proper.

      Atheists make the leap from “the Judeo-Christian God doesn’t exist, therefore no god(s) exist” But even in that respect, it is still non-sequitur that because some Christians in the past have abused power, that Christianity is therefore false. Atheist apologist arguments even when arguing against Christianity specifically do not disprove Christianity.

  2. rautakyy says:

    The character of the god in bible is in contradiction to the general claim that he is benevolent and therefore his whole existance becomes subject to suspicion. Because both claims are made with same conviction. This also applies both the fact how the alledged god manifests itself in the world and how fair is the propability of the promised salvation for people who are born in different religions. It also applies on how the religions are used to economically, politically and militarily benefit the few on the expence of many.

    Some prayers are said to be answered and others are not. There is no benevolence in the randomnes who seems to get help and who does not. So, again it is the gods claimed benevolent character that sets the claims of his existance under obvious suspicion.

    If an omnipotent and benevolent god existed, surely that god would not let so much bad be done in that gods name? Surely the said god would ensure everybody gets the same possibility for the alledged salvation? Once again, I challenge that god to reveal him/herself and repair the damage done by that alledged god, by the command of that god and/or in his/her name. Of course, repairing it would not be nearly enough, because a benevolent and omnipotent god should not have let it happen in the first place, but it would be a start for serious discussion of his/her true nature and alledged power. It would also be concrete evidence of the existance of any deity, since at the moment we are left with no plausible evidence. Only on the devices of blind faith and widely warying interpretation of circumstantial evidence of religious scriblings. Why is this god hiding?

    If benevolence of the alledged god is not a part of the character of the said deity, are you worshipping an evil god, or just a sloppy one?

    • Each response here proves my point.

      • No,John Barron Jr, they do not. Did you even read them?

        Atheists in your experience attack the judeo-christian god because you defend the existance of that particular god. Or are you now claiming all gods exist? Do you need also evidence Ganesha, Odin, Quetzacoatl or Toth not to exist? Even on philosophical grounds Ahriman and Ormuzd are more likely to exist than Jahve, but that does not make them likely enough for me to believe they do. There is as much evidence to believe in the existance of Father X-mass as there is for any god. Do you have evidence Father X-mass does not exist?

        There are claims that deny the existance of all gods, but there are also claims that put the existance of a particular god under suspicion. The fact the latter claims do not concern other deities, does not undermine their point against the particular supernatural phenomenon they were poised at.

        The mythology around gods lets us expect they would manifest themselves to us. They do not. The people of past times believed a lightning was the manifestation of gods. They had no other explanation for it, so they made up one. To them nature was full of mysteries they needed to explain. Today, these “mysteries” do not require a mythical explanation. We understand them to a degree we may assume those mysteries still unexplained have similar reasonable explanations.

        There is no PROOF of any supernatural creature, we could define in any way. We have ample proof that it is inherent to humanity to explain the unknown by virtual variety of gods. These simple facts logically lead to the most obvious conclusion, that it is wery, wery unlikely any gods exist.

        A person may choose to believe in any gods, but it is ultimately a result of a leap of faith or lack of knowledge. Anyone is free to take a leap of faith. It is called idealism, but beware what kind of idealism you support.

        • Yes I did read them, that’s why I said what I did. I have also already addressed that merely arguing against Christianity doesn’t disporve God, though skeptics act as if “defeating” Christianity defeats theism.

  3. Contrary to what you may think, it’s not the atheist’s position to try to disprove god’s existence. The atheist simply points to the absurdity of the character of your god IF he exists. The atheist simply exposes the fact that there is no conclusive evidence to show that prayer is effective or that any religious text is credible source for factual information. These are all foundations of your belief, are they not?

    I still find it fascinating that you refuse to defend your position of belief.

    • You’re partially correct. The atheist who remains silent has nothing to prove or defend. However once you enter the discussion, you bear a burden of proof for your position, and simply arguing against one particular religious system does not suffice to conclude atheism is true.

      I still don’t know what it is you want from me. Maybe you could spell it out instead of being so vague.

  4. I apologize if my statements are vague. I shall try to be more precise.

    I fail to see how the burden of proof falls on me.

    Most of your commentaries have to do with style, not substance. You constantly complain about the tactics of the atheist argument instead of the argument itself. The argument is for the “truth about religion” and the assertion of the existence of god. You argue by demanding a counter-position and then go about trying to debate the counter-position.

    You argue that the atheist position is that “religious texts are unreliable” and dismiss the entire discussion as irrelevant to the existence of god. I disagree. These religious texts are the very foundation of your beliefs and you accept them as true and inerrant. This is precisely what I would like you to defend. The very premise of your entire site is about the “truth” and I simply ask how you come to that conclusion.

    • Again, you’re partially right. I point out that skeptics argue religious texts are unreliable, then I do criticize them for saying that disproves God…because a great many, as you just stated are essentially arguing: religious texts are unreliable = God does not exist. My point is that argument does not follow regardless of my particular view. And that is the point of this particular commentary. You seem to always want me to make points which have nothing to do with the particular commentary I did write.

  5. Your argument represents a false dichotomy between religious text and the existence of a god. Now you’re saying that even if that the religious texts are wrong, that doen’t prove that god doesn’t exist. Regardless of your particular view, the atheist is pointing to the unreliability of the religious text you use to endorse your belief.
    Just as in a courtroom, the unreliability of the witness only reinforces the argument against your claim.

    The atheist doesn’t have to set out to disprove the existance of god, just like you don’t have to disprove the extance of non-Christain god. Trying to do so is futile.

    Most atheists just simply ask you to defend your position. I’m sorry if this bigger picture doesn’t fit in with your attacks on style over substance. Your commentaries seem to be minor by comparison.

    • Its not a false dichotomy at all, the atheist believes no gods exist and therefore when defending their claim of “no gods exist” it is insufficient to attack one religious system and claim victory. Additionally if I was arguing with a non-christian for my position, I would have to argue for my position which would entail the non-existence of competing gods, a concept you ignore. You believe the atheist is in the privelaged position to never having to argue for their view.

  6. I don’t ignore it at all and I don’t presume a privileged position. I’m not going to argue with you about your definition of “atheism” again, but I would love to hear how you would defend the position involving the non-existance of competing gods.

  7. Again with the confrontation about style over substance.

    Please expound on how you would go about defending the position involving the non-existance of competing gods.

    • This post is about the substance of general arguments skeptics offer against the truth od theism, and nothing whatsoever to do with their style. Stay on topic.

      And for those interested, zqtx just said: “I don’t presume a privileged position”

      Please refer to this comment section here where he did exactly that:

      “1. “You do not just get to claim “nonsense”, you must provide reasons why you believe my claims are nonsense.” Sure I do, and I don’t have to provide anything more.

      2. “If I offer evidence for the existence of God, you do not just get to say “nonsense” until I convince you.” Sure I do, because to claim evidence for non-existence of anything is futile.

      4. “You keep assuming there is a default position, there is none.” False. The default position is one of skepticism.”

      I urge readers to read the entire comment section, it is rather amusing. At that time zqtx went by the name “god”.

  8. Amusing indeed and I stand by those statements because I wasn’t the one making any assertions – you were. All I ever asked for was some evidence for your claims and you never provided any. This is a perfect example of the futility of trying to explain the process of logic to an imbecile. If you want to keep believing anything anyone ever tells you in your church without question that’s your right, but don’t try to pass it off as truth to the rest of us. Just keep drinking the kool-aid.

    Style over substance is the very essence of the post. Your commentary is not about the existence of god, but the manner in which atheists approach their point. While you like to condemn the atheist for somehow not proving the non-existence of god, you do nothing to support the contrary. You bring nothing to the table.

  9. rautakyy says:

    Do you believe in Santa Claus? He is a supernatural being that many people around the globe beilieve does exist. Can you disprove his existance?

    The fact that most of his followers are children does not disprove his existance, but only describes the character of his followers.

    The fact that kids do not get everything they ask from Santa, does not disprove his existance, it only tells us he does not give everything you want.

    He is said to live in numerous places around the Northern hemisphere, but wery few people have visited those places, and I have never heard any of those people make any public announcements not to have met with Santa Claus. Have you?

    Unlike any other deity he manifests himself regularly around the globe every year and there are numerous eyewittness accounts of his actions. He is a truly benevolent character who distributes gifts for the little innocent children and he does it with miraculous power in one night around the globe. He is said to have a flying sleigh drawn by flying reindeer, truly a divine attribute. The fact that this contradicts with laws of physics does not disprove his existance, it only shows how godlike his powers are.

    His existance is described in ancient texts and yes, he derives from Judeo-Christian tradition. He used to be just one of the saints, but by these days he has achieved a godlike powers to produce mounts of gifts to almost all children in the world. Even children from other religious groups. This proves his good will. He is not discriminating anyone. He even brings gifts to many children who have lost faith in him.

    The fact that many imposters portray as him does not disprove that the real Santa Claus exists, nor does the fact that he is used to move the masses into bying commercial products. Any deity can be portrayed by inposters or be used to sell consumer products and almost everyone well known deity is being used in this way. This does not disprove his existance, it only tells of human nature, and Santa is in no way responsible what the human nature is because he was never involved in the creation of human.

    He sets a far better model of morality in comparrison to any other deity, yet his followers have not imposed his set of morality on any society. He lets people to decide themselves and simply gives gifts to those who have been good. He does not punish the naughty, he simply does not give his gifts to them. His moral character is flawless, what a divine characteristic.

    All the people who say he does not exist have not proven he does not. They make empty claims and hold on to circumstantial contradictions in the story around Santa Claus.

    No other religion claims there is no Santa Claus. In fact many of the oldest animistic religions also have stories and eyewitness accounts of his divine aides, the elfs. I bet you have actually met him, when you still believed in him. How was that faith taken from you? Or did you just grow up?

    By the way do you believe in Superman?

    • What disproves Santa Clause’s existence is not the mere fact that he is a supernatural being, or that it is children who hold the strongest to his existence. It is that SC’s origin is known. It is known that what we know SC to be today is based loosely on a St. Nicholas who actually lived. We have records of the story as it evolved through time, and we know presents do not get under the tree unless we parents put them there. SC is intentionally a fictional character in a way Jesus is not, you may want to claim Jesus is a work of fiction, but that doesn’t hold water. This will be the last time I’m going to entertain nonsensical comments like this.

      Same with superman, the originator of Superman did so for entertainment purposes intentionally as a work of fiction.

  10. rautakyy says:

    Santa Claus is covered in myth allmost as much as Jesus Christ. St. Nicholas was a historical character that can be defined even more so than Jesus. We have vague records how the story of judeo-christian god has evolved from the insignificant tribal god who visits convention of gods, to a single god whose angels are counted by the learned of some major civilisations. Though this may not be as good a record as with Santa Claus.(As both of their stories are evolving all the time dispite of fundamentalists.) Does that make the Judeo-Christian god, or any other god for that matter, any more believable? The fact that the sourcematerial is vague and selfcontradicting?

    If in your family it is parents who buy gifts, rather than that a mythical character comes to distribute them, that does not disprove that the mythical character could do so in other families.

    How do you define nonsense? To me gods and myths are nonsense, though entertaining. There may exist a truth behind the myths, but to find out the truth one has to stript the mythical part away first, otherwise you end up believing in Santa Claus.

    How can you be absolutely sure the different parts of bible were not originally written only as fictional entertainment? There are fanclubs and cults around the world that are based around fictional characters. Who can say superman or Elvis will not be worshipped as real historical and divine characters in few generations? Look what happened with L. Ron Hubbard.

    The nonsense part is not wether Jesus, Elvis or St, Nicholas existed or not. The obvious nonsense is what divine forces they are expected to weild. With Superman and gods even the existance is nonsense, because their originators created these enteties to their own benefit.

  11. I find it funny how much I agree with you lol. Although, to be fair, some of your ‘atheist arguments’ could be used against the Judeo-Christian god, but I agree that it does nothing for god, in general.

    Honestly, I have not read any of the comments left. I did happen to see a comment by yourself, however, that intrigued me. Could you expound on arguing on ‘debating theism proper’?

    • I agree most of the Atheist arguments above would argue against the Judeo-Christian God of the Bible, but Atheism as an enterprise by nature argues against theism. I think Atheists have gotten comfortable arguing with Christians, and their beef really is with Judeo-Christian theology, and reject God based on their understanding of Christianity Bible, so that their arguments against God are arguments against Christianity.

      Theism proper would be defended by Natural Theology as opposed to special revelation.

  12. rautakyy says:

    The fact that some of the atheistic arguments John Barron Jr has listed work also against judeo-christian god does nothing to undermine the fact that atheists have arguments against all kinds of gods. Neither does it undermine those particular arguments against certain kind of religious belief systems. It is his own cultural backround that causes those to be the arguments he faces, and how he interprets them to be agaist his own particular superstition.

    There could be many sorts of gods in existance. Yet, the mere possibility does not lead me to believe there are any sort of gods. There could be UFO:s but the possibility does not lead me to a belief that there are. Let alone to the assumption they need to be worshipped by some rituals. In fact, it seems UFO:s make more manifestations these days, than any of the gods worshipped in the world. There could even be a Santa Claus, but again, the possibility does not qualify as proof of his existance. Nor does the fact that some other people believe he does.

    There is an UFO enthusiast poster that says: “I want to believe!” Is their will to believe, the prime motivator of belief? Let me now ask you: Do you want to believe?

  13. John,
    I continually try to avoid the arguments you outlined above. You are quite right, they are not evidence against a God.
    They are, however, very good arguments against a specific claim made by theists. This is where I have used these arguments.
    In order:
    1.God’s Character- If you or any other theist seeks to argue presuppositional morality, or that God is both omnibenevolent and omnipotent, or that God’s laws are an expression of His eternal unchanging nature, then I think that this argument is a fair cop. It doesn’t disprove God, but it does disprove a certain attribute that theists attribute to their God. You might say that you haven’t argued for any of these things, and I would say “exactly, and that is why I have not argued God’s Character with you”. Rest assured though, others do, and if they do; you don’t get to walk in and yell “irrelevant”.
    2. The Existence of “evil”- What if your theist is a hard predestinationalist? Hyper-Calvinist? Is this not appropriate? Again, only if they couple this belief with “omnibenevolence”. If they are making specific claims then I think you can retort.
    3.Being Raised A Theist- If a theist tries to use a populist argument, why would this be off limits? I used a variation of this argument with you just yesterday, but only to show that our epistemological positions were more similar than you give credit for. Was that off-limits? I wasn’t trying to disprove God, I was trying to highlight that extraordinary claims do require extraordinary evidence.
    4.Control- Again, I don’t often use this line. If a theist, though, tried to argue that there is no reasonable explanation for religion to exist and flourish outside of the actual existence of God, then this would be a fair objection.
    5. Unanswered Prayer- If a theist brings up answered prayer as a proof of God then I think this HAS to be an argument against. I cannot allow a theist to argue that positive results of prayer are evidence and negative results are just God saying “No.”
    6.Unreliable Text- If a theist is arguing for biblical inerrancy, or that the Bible prophesied a historical event, or that the Koran has no contradictions, or the Bagavad Gita is all the evidence anyone needs that Krishna exists….what on earth am I supposed to argue?

    This post of yours is helpful in that it shows the weakness of certain arguments as proof against a God. It misses the larger point that these arguments usually have a context that was introduced by the theist. Atheists should not be required to disprove a God before having the right to address a specific claim about that God, anymore than a theist should have to prove a God before presenting any evidence for one. Evidence, for or against, needs to be argued on it’s own merits.

    Also, I really take issue with a theist taking the disingenuous stand of making the atheist argue against a vague deist conceptualization of God when the theist doesn’t believe in that conception. If you are a Christian, you believe in very specific claims. You do not believe in a Prime Mover type God. Your God is both interested and invested in humanity. John, you continually argue that an atheist needs to disprove a vague shadow of a God concept in order to have the right to address specific claims about a specific God. The problem is that even if this vague God exists, it does nothing to prove Christianity or the God of Abraham.
    Atheists need not disprove any God in order to address your argument for your God.

    • It’s not really that I require Atheists to argue against deism if the particular discussion is religiously specific. Put another way, I don’t expect you to argue against deism in the same conversation I am defending and arguing for Christianity. If you and I are discussing Christianity, then the above arguments are relevant and need to be defended by the Christian.

      But my point is more to the idea that Atheists broadly speaking start from a position of arguing against Christianity (the terminology is general deism, but the concepts argued against are Christian), and when the Atheist is the one who begins the discussion it is my experience they implicitly and consistently argue: Christianity is false, therefore God does not exist.

      I do my best to argue for theism proper when discussing with Atheists, really for the sole reason (in my experience) the Atheist goes off on rabbit trails. For example, the conversation starts with The existence of God, which turns into biblical inerrancy, which turns into defending miracles, which turns into the historicity of Jesus, which turns into the reliability of the Gospels… I’m not saying those are not valid issues, but the conversation jumps around and rarely stays focused on the single issue which the discussion was originally focused on. Of course not everyone does this, but it’s why unless I introduce a Christian theological issue, I try to keep the discussion focused on some form of deism.

  14. rautakyy says:

    John Barron Jr, when I argue with you about the existance of a god, I usually use some of the arguments you listed. That is only because I think that is what you believe a god to be. Have I mistaken about you being chrisitian? When I use your counter arguments to discredit arguments against a nother imaginary character (Santa Claus), you determine my argumentation to be nonsense. I agree with you, they are nonsense. However, why is the same argumentation nonsense, when used for one imaginary being, but not so for a nother?

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