It's all about the deep questions.
Theism: A collection of atheological arguments
The purpose of this post is not to do an in-depth analysis of every argument against theism; it serves merely as an outline for the reasons why I personally reject the doctrine. In light of this, I will be exceedingly brief. One could easily devote an entire blog to the philosophy of religion (as many do). I, however, happen to be very interested in other areas of philosophy as well, so I wish to start blogging on those other areas soon enough. So, here is the outline.
The problem of evil
1. If God exists, gratuitous suffering would not exist.
2. Gratuitous suffering does exist.
3. God does not exist.
The motivation for the first premise is the all-loving nature of God along with his omnipotence and omniscience. God would not subject his creation to unnecessary suffering; he would only subject his creation to suffering if it was necessary for some greater good. Here, “gratuitous suffering” refers to the suffering that does take place which is not necessary for a greater good. The motivation for the second premise is clear; it appears that much suffering takes place that does not lead to an even greater good. Hitler’s holocaust, World War I, easily curable but deadly diseases in Africa, deadly and heart-wrenching birth defects, etc. For a more full discussion on the logical problem of evil I firmly endorse Quentin Smith’s paper.
The Existence of Reasonable Unbelief
1. If God exists, reasonable unbelief would not exist.
2. Reasonable unbelief does exist.
3. Therefore, God does not exist.
Theists tell us that God created human beings so that they can love him, serve him, and eventually get to spend eternal life with him. If this really was God’s end, he would at least give human beings unambiguous evidence that shows he exists! Would God really make this life a test to see who can believe things on bad evidence? Then, handsomely reward those who can, and eternally torture those who can’t? I take the second premise to be obvious; many great thinkers, philosophers, and scientists (actually the majority of them in present times see here, here, and here) are not theists.
Argument from Evolution
1. If God exists, evolution would not be the method by which humans came to exist.
2. Evolution is the method by which humans came to exist.
3. Therefore, God does not exist.
The motivation for the first premise is clear; actually, it is the reason why so many religious groups have fought (and sadly still fight) so hard against evolution. Not only does it go against the Bible, but more crucially evolution works through a process that combines chance, natural selection, and a time span of billions of years. If creating humans was the highlight of God’s creation (which seems to me to be extremely egocentric), what was the purpose of the universe for the billions of years while we were not around? Furthermore, would God have relied on a seemingly random process to achieve his ends? Lastly, why did God have to subscribe to such an inefficient process that resulted in the extinction of countless other species of animals in the fight for survival (talk about all-loving)?
The Incoherence of Omnipotence
This argument maintains that the very concept of omnipotence is incoherent. The original definition is something along the lines of: For an agent A to be omnipotent, A can do anything at all. This definition has clear flaws, however. Most theists acknowledge that God cannot do the logically impossible, e.g. he cannot prove that 2+2=5 or make x and not x both true. If he could, we would live in a pretty strange world. A revised definition can be: For an agent A to be omnipotent, A can do anything that is logically possible. This definition also has problems, however. Since the theistic God is non-physical he cannot do anything physical like run a mile, swim, etc. Particularly interesting is the fact that God cannot commit suicide. Furthermore, since the theistic God is defined as being morally perfect he cannot steal, lie, murder, or do anything truly evil. Perhaps the definition could be redefined as: For an agent A to be omnipotent, A can do anything that is logically possible and that is not precluded by its properties. Under this definition, we can define a being whose nature makes him so he can’t do anything. He would technically be omnipotent! It would seem that even I could be omnipotent. I can’t fly for example only because I don’t have wings to do it. In sum, no definition of omnipotence is without its problems.
Classic Question: Can God make a rock so heavy that he cannot lift it? Either way, he is not omnipotent.
These arguments aim to show that God is logically impossible
Perfect vs Creator – A perfect being has no needs or wants. If any being created the universe, he must have some need or want. Therefore, it is impossible that a perfect being created the universe. Therefore, it is impossible that God exists
Perfect vs Creator – If a perfect being created the universe, then the universe would have no imperfections. The universe does have imperfections. Therefore, a perfect being did not create the universe. God does not exist.
Omniscient vs Omnipotent – Can God do an action that he himself did not foresee?
Morally perfect vs free – A morally perfect being can only do one course of actions: those that are morally perfect. For God to have (libertarian) freedom, he must have the ability to do otherwise. Therefore, God does not exist
Just vs Merciful – To be just is to treat every offender exactly the way he/she deserves. To be merciful is to treat every offender with less severity than he/she deserves. It is impossible to be both, therefore God does not exist.
Omniscient vs Free – An omniscient being would have to know exactly what he would do in the future. To be free, one’s future actions cannot be fully knowable. Therefore, God does not exist.
Immutable vs Creator – To create anything one must have an intention to do so at one time, and lack that intention at a later time. To be immutable is to be unchangeable. Therefore, God does not exist.
Argument from Hell
First, I will concede that to be a theist does not mean that one must believe in the orthodox conception of hell. Therefore, this argument is directed at the more conventional forms of theism, such as most strands of thought in the various branches of Christianity.
1. If an all-loving, all-merciful God exists, hell would not exist.
2. Hell does exist.
3. Therefore, God does not exist.
This argument is directed at those theists who do believe that Hell does exist to explore a possible inconsistency in their beliefs. Therefore the truth of premise 2 is assumed (I, obviously, don’t subscribe to premise 2). So, the only premise that needs to be defended is premise 1. In hell, sinners undergo eternal torture. The basis for premise 1 is that (i) An all-loving God would not subject anyone to any length of torture. (ii) It is fundamentally un-just and definitely un-merciful to subject a sinner for a punishment for an infinite duration for finite sins. (iii) There exists a possible world that God could have created where more people freely follow him and fewer people do not than the actual world (For one example, heaven is a possible world where everyone follows him). Until the theist gives three good answers to those objections, I believe that one cannot maintain that an all-loving all-merciful God exists and at the same time maintain that hell exists.
Argument from religious confusion
1. If God exists, the present amount of religious confusion would not exist.
2. The present amount of religious confusion does exist.
3. God does not exist
Premise 2 is a tautology, so I will concentrate on premise 1. The motivation for premise 1 is similar to the motivation in the argument from the existence of reasonable unbelief. The huge number of contradictory religions around the world (some even condoning human sacrifice and other exotic practices) with no clear-cut answer as to which is right (if any) is deeply incongruous with the fact that God’s end is for human beings to come to know the one true God. Additionally, simply the statistical fact that the vast majority of people end up following the religion that their parents happen to hold strikes me as very arbitrary.
1. No one should add to his/her ontology without a strong reason to do so.
2. There is no strong reason to add God (as a non-physical supernatural agent) into ones ontology.
3. Therefore, no one should add God to his/her ontology.
Premise 1 simply is a statement of the widely accepted principle of Occam’s Razor. All of my other posts that argue against theistic arguments serve as the support for premise 2. The conclusion logically follows.
Argument from Physical Minds
According to most theists, God is nonphysical yet has a conscious intelligence and the power to act. We have not confirmed one instance of this phenomenon, but we have confirmed countless instances of conscious intelligence with the power to act requiring physical material (brains). Therefore, we have every reason to believe that these capabilities supervene on the physical, and we have no reason to believe that these capabilities can supervene on the non-physical (if anything non-physical even exists). Therefore, we have no reason God exists.
Argument from Naturalism
Disease was once thought to be the working of supernatural demons used to punish sinners, and we once thought lightning was the wrath of God. We once thought that the orderly motions and orbits of celestial bodies were caused by a supernatural intellegence, and we also once thought that biological life was so well suited to living that it must have been designed by God. In case after case, without exception, the trend has been to find mindless, natural causes of phenomenon that we are investigating. Not once has the cause of something been verified as divine wrath, intelligent meddling, or demonic interference, or anything supernatural at all. The weight of this observation is simply enormous. Supernaturalism has been tested countless times and has always lost, while naturalism has been tested countless times and has always won. Again, not ONE instance of anything supernatural has been conclusively verified, given millions of opportunities to do so. Imagine a horse race, where one horse has won every single race it has run and one horse has not won one race in its entire career. They are about to race each other. Who would you bet on?