There are certain arguments for God that cannot work. And if we inspect the basic arsenal of the average apologist—the cosmological arguments, the teleological arguments, arguments from objective purpose, arguments from objective morality—certain ones stand out as not being able to work, regardless of what the evidence is.
Despite my persistence is arguing that most forms of the cosmological argument are misleading tripe of the highest order, that is not the argument I want to look at. In fact, I dedicate time to the argument because its form works and the issue is solely what the evidence says. Unfortunately (for the apologist) the evidence does not say what it needs to say for an argument for God.
There are arguments—the arguments from objective purpose and morality—which can simply never work. The argument form is basically this: objective morality and purpose are founded in a God; without God you have to throw out objective morality and purpose; you don’t want to throw out objective morality and purpose; therefore God. No matter how much linguistic perspicacity fleshes out those trite bones, that is the argument: “without God there is not right and no wrong”; “there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference” (to shamelessly quote mine, look what he actually says); “if there is no God everything is permissible”.
I contend, right off the bat, that not everything is permissible if God is absent. Even evolution keeps us in check on this one; we need to be a successfully propagating society to… propagate. The environmental and societal niche we occupy demands a level of social cohesion and not all things are permissible. I also believe that objective morality can be described and justified in a secular world. So I don’t accept either the premise that morality is founded in God or that without God we have to throw morality away.
But none of that is important. If, somehow, those premises could be demonstrated to us then the conclusion simply doesn’t follow. If you can convince an atheist that without God there is no objective morality or purpose you haven’t provided a rational reason to accept God; you have provided a reason to throw out objective morality. “Oh, you’re absolutely right, beating children is merely something that we condemn because we empathise with the suffering of the child and cannot abide the idea of living in a society that allows that”.
The same problems arise with purpose, so I’m going to use it to elucidate another issue. If I doubt objective purpose, which I do, then you are going to be hard pushed to tell me that true purpose is founded in God, somehow. I had this conversation with a student of mine. Don’t mock me for citing a student as a source, she is one of the most astute Russian speaking 15 year-old girls I have ever met… perhaps even the most astute. I spend my breaks discussing freewill* with her (we disagree). On the issue of purpose she asked ‘why are we here, then?’ and then she took a moment to consider my mechanical answer—evolution—and my point that we can value intelligence all we like, but by most other measures we aren’t atop the league table: for size it’s wales, for number it’s bacteria, for long-term survival it’s probably crocodiles, for closeness to immortality it is the jellyfish; to think we alone have a reason to be here is absurd or arrogant or mislead or some combination of these. But she then had to deal with my pre-emptive rebuttal: what purpose, exactly, does God grant us? The imperative to love a good live? Why? Heaven? Why is Heaven good? I mean, I hear it’s pleasant there, but what about that makes it objective purpose? The argument is backwards
* we got into this conversation because I was teaching population and the Malthusian Crisis. I decided I wanted them to discuss the big red button question: if there was a big red button that, when pressed, would painlessly kill everyone, would you press it? That conversation got us to morality, God and then freewill. By this point break time had come and most of the students left. So Ekaterina and I were left pondering the big questions. We also had a lesson that went from UK politics to dolphins are evil to are they aware enough to call “evil”? to is there evil? She’s a good student.
I was then called to account on what, precisely, I thought the purpose of life was—objective or otherwise. And although “purpose” was the wrong word (and Ekaterina recognised this, but most English people would struggle to find the right word) I spotted the content of the question and I answered: This is it; this is our opportunity; there is only one chance to be nice to each other, and to bask in the warm sun, and know what it is like to be excited, and to love, and to lose, and to connect with other people, and see and to feel beauty, and try to break into a castle in a thunderstorm, and get completely lost of a scooter in the mountain; we have one opportunity to live this life of ours, and make our friends, and be lost in the wonder of the universe of the elegance of literature. It is chaotic and nihilistic to assume we are floating through the theatre of time; but it is liberating and it is beautiful.
15 thoughts on “God-arguments that don’t work and the beauty of life”
“try to break into a castle in a thunderstorm”
Did you learn nothing from the entire Middle Ages, man?
I learned a week ago that it’s a hell of a lot of fun (really depends on your company).
But it wasn’t a wise decision.
“depends on your company”
Ah, yes. I know that well. Aged 17 I managed to weave my way through the Brisbane City Hall building, miraculously evading all security as if i was wearing an invisibility cloak, and scaled the huge clock tower, enter the giant time mechanism, climb between enormous cogs, and have sex with the “right company” at the clock face overlooking the city. Amazing what the right company can inspire in men 🙂
Give or take age and security guards, that is my story. Thunderstorms are awesome.
Aren’t they. Blessed with some real beauties here in Brazil.
I thought you were in Australia. I’m in England.
I’m Australian, but living in Brazil. Women are far friendlier here… and the music is much, much better.
Scientific evidence and scientific thinking both support the cosmological argument. And both the cosmological and teleological arguments are self-evident.
All you are doing to disprove them is make declarations that they are wrong based on your own personal opinion.
You present no reasoning, only a series of personal opinions woven together by other personal opinions.
Without God there is no objectivity or standard of excellence. That means everything is merely a matter of personal opinion.
So being an atheist all you can do is express personal opinions that holds no more value than any other people’s personal opinions. Which essentially means anything you say is worthless.
The person who has the mental capacity to reason out the existence of God, has the capacity to reason out the truth.
Truth is superior to personal opinion because it applies to everyone. Truth doesn’t get lost in incoherence and tawdry babble like personal opinion does.
That makes truth most precious.
I assume English is your first language, and based on that assumption I guess you are not ignorant to context. On that idea I implore you to read the post again to see if the teleological argument and cosmological argument are the focus of this post.
Since the teleological and cosmological arguments are cited in your first paragraph, the practitioner of proper English composition understands them to be the topic of discussion.
Wrong. I am clearly making a distinction between two types of argument. I then go on to explain which type I am dealing with.
And even if I did make a mistake in the first paragraph, reading the post would fix that problem. Did you read the whole thing?
Nevertheless, atheists are scrupulous about stating their first premise in the first paragraph.
I have found that the atheists’ first premise is always false. If the first premise is false it follows that the rest of the composition is false.
Okay. What have I said, that is a part of my argument, which is false?
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