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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

34 Unconvincing Arguments for God

For any theists here who would like to have a better understanding of some of the reasons why atheists think there is most likely no god(s), this post at The Friendly Atheist gives 34 Unconvincing Arguments for God.
It's a pretty good post and I would like to have done a cut 'n paste of the arguments here, but I do not do extensive copying of others people's work if I do not have their explicit permission to do so, even if I give them proper attribution. It's just another pet peeve of mine.

So hop on over there and take a few minutes to read through the arguments. If you think you can refute any of them, it would make for a good discussion here and also give you some insight into the way some atheists think.

48 comments:

  1. http://www.amazon.com/Reasons-People-Give-Believing-God/dp/1591025672

    50 Reasons People Give for Believing in a God
    by Guy P. Harrison

    I just got this book and skimmed through the chapters. Each chapter is a reason and the response to the reason. I plan on reading it soonish....

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  2. Well, one of the reasons for believing in god I've heard, though it really makes no sense, is that xians are more moral than atheists.

    Not really an argument that I can see so much as an appeal to emotion.

    Nevertheless, I had to reply to this piece of self-righteous garbage.

    Though "mariano" does it indirectly. So of course he's not playing at "holier-than thou" at all...

    I'm so ticked off at this crap I'm posting this in a few places...

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  3. Thanks, a very nice link. The PDF version of the U.A. is here.

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  4. I think I've read something similar before. I like this one, however, as it appears to be addressing each point seriously, rather than a short, snarky comment that dismisses X as if the reasons for doing so are self-evident.

    ...

    I've got big problems with (2) leaps of Faith. He assumes an awful lot by saying "a typical believer must make at least nine leaps of faith to arrive at the god they believe in".

    First and foremost, he should use the words "Christian Fundamentalist" in place of "a typical believer". Most Christians (when it's explained carefully) understand the impossibility of a deity who's Omniscient, Omnipotent, Omnipresent, All-Loving, Just, and Wrathful.

    Second, I really want to take issue with the idea that (if you're faithful), you have to assume that God exists in a "supernatural realm". Given our rapidly expanding knowledge of the Universe, isn't it possible that we simply haven't discovered aspects of our own "naturalistic" realm where such a being might live, in complete agreement with the laws of physics?

    ---

    It's a pet peeve of mine that atheist critique of the reasoning for the existence of God seems to be aimed primarily at Christianity. That's a generalization of course, but it's true as far as I've experienced it.

    I'll concede that critique of atheism seems to be coming primarily FROM Christianity, though, so it's not entirely unreasonable to respond likewise.

    Still, I wish it were possible to decouple the critique of a belief in God from a specific instance of theism

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  5. Beams I read that book last month.

    It's quite good, doesn't smack anyone down, but tends to give the same refutation for most of the arguements: other religions.

    eg: My god transforms lives, rescues alcoholics etc.
    refute: Moslims, JWs, Mormons etc all make the same claim, which God is the right one?

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  6. Wow this has too many straw men to count.When will people learn not to misrepresent their opponent's arguments.
    Just look at god of the gaps, morality,something rather than nothing and fine-tuning
    (I laughed when I saw Robert Price though)

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  7. http://www.zerodivides.net/images/logic.jpg

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  8. I was googling myself yesterday and found myself of FDST. Which of you guys nominated me?

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  9. MFT,

    Point out the straw man arguments and please be specific.

    Also, "I was googling myself yesterday ..." Please keep those things private.

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  10. MFT -

    Pony up the 'straw man argument' examples.

    You shouldn't initiate an argument if you're not prepared.

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  11. The article said:
    Almost every “proof” for the existence of gods relies, at least in part, on a god-of-the gaps argument. This argument says that if we don’t know the answer to something, then “God did it.” “God” gets to win by default, without any positive evidence. But is saying “God did it” really an answer?

    I'd only change one thing about this sentence: I'd remove the word "Almost".

    I've been of the belief for quite some time now that the exists not a single piece of "positive evidence" for God's existence. Every single argument is some sort of attack, on evolution, Big Bang theory, naturalism in general, etc.

    This might sound a little harsh, but is based in reality: I have asked repeatedly on many different sites for any positive evidence, and all I ever get is negative evidence.

    Although I don't like the term "God-of-the-Gaps", the lack of positive evidence is a vital weakpoint in the creationists armor.

    Word Ver: astma

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  12. LivingAsOneFreed said...

    MFT -

    Pony up the 'straw man argument' examples.

    You shouldn't initiate an argument if you're not prepared.


    Unless you are just a kid that is trolling.

    I still stand by my link to Logic - You are doing it wrong.

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  13. [(23) Morality/Ethics - This is the idea that without a god we’d have no basis for morality.]
    Straw man. We claim there is no OBJECTIVE basis for morality.
    [However, a secular moral code existed before the Bible: the Code of Hammurabi.]
    Soooo.....
    [whether something is good because God says it is, or does God announce something to be good because it has intrinsic goodness?]
    False dichotomy. God nature IS the measure of intrinsic goodness(this guy should read some Aquinas)

    [Christians can’t even agree among themselves what’s moral when it comes to things like masturbation, premarital sex, homosexuality, divorce, contraception, abortion, war, embryonic stem cell research, euthanasia, and the death penalty.]
    Red herring. People can disagree on something and one person be wrong

    Then he criticises the mosaic laws.No-one ever told him in Sunday school that Gentiles are not required to follow Mosaic law.
    (Or perhaps he is just ignorant of Christian teaching)
    Then he goes on to arbitrarily come up with his own view of ethics without telling why there isan obligation to follow it.

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  14. [parody/]
    Recently a spaceship was found on Mars. Some argue that this alien spaceship had to have been designed as it could not have been produced by any known natural process. However aliens are the ultimate free lunch.

    We don’t know what aliens are composed of.

    We don’t know what alien's attributes are.

    We don’t know how many aliens there are.

    We don’t know where aliens are from.

    We don’t know which planats aliens come from or, alternately, how it is possible for them to exist.

    We don’t know what mechanisms aliens use to create or change anything.

    We don’t know what the “extra terrestials” is, nor how it is capable of interacting with the earth.
    [/parody]
    If you read his article he suggests that god is not a good answer because theists don't answer all these questions. However it is perfectly valid to suggest an explaination without an explaination for the explaination or else we could go on ad nauseum.

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  15. Recently a spaceship was found on Mars

    That would be more evidence for aliens than any God has ever produced.

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  16. A lot of the arguments here are incomplete .For example the argument from embarrassment and from historical settings are general rules used for asserting the reliability of ancient documents, not just the bible. I would only use themm if I was arguing for overall historical reliability of the bible and not a standalone argument for god.

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  17. On the list given the author writes "However, a secular moral code existed before the Bible: the Code of Hammurabi".

    Not to nitpick but the Code of Hammurabi was given by a God to the king while on top of a mountain. I don't see how a God presenting laws to a king makes the laws secular. Or am I missing something?

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  18. What is FDST?

    Flight Dynamics Support Team?

    FooD Science & Technology?

    Family Directed Structural Therapy ?

    Fresno Dolphins Swim Team?

    Foundation for Development and Spiritual Thinking?

    AHA! Fundies Say the Darndest Things

    OK, I understand now!

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  19. @ Free

    I have to say that I did not submit your post though I am a proud member of that site. But some other comments must be made.

    First congratulations on your nomination to the FSTDT Hall of Shame.

    Second, and most especially, congratulations on your rating of 4.59. Well done!

    Did you read the comments Free?

    You might find them illuminating. By the way you are very welcome to comment on that site. Feel free Free :-)

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  20. MrFreeThinker
    [whether something is good because God says it is, or does God announce something to be good because it has intrinsic goodness?]
    False dichotomy. God nature IS the measure of intrinsic goodness(this guy should read some Aquinas)

    What bull. If one says that god's nature is the "measure of intrinsic goodness", which I feel his actions in the OT shoot all to hell, then what does that even mean? Does that mean that something is good because god says it is, (in other words, it's subjective, and "goodness" is whatever he could want it to be.)or does it mean that he figured out (like we have to) just what is "good" or not, in which case, "goodness" exists outside of your god and he's not necessary for "goodness" to exist. Kind of like the situation with the rules of logic or with integers for instance.

    I remember SyeTen B using that kind of reasoning (he was the one saying that god is necessary for the rules of logic to exist, and that atheists can't account for the laws of logic) before he got schooled on Stephen Law's blog.

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  21. MFT,

    Straw man. We claim there is no OBJECTIVE basis for morality.

    No. You may claim that, and a certain number of xians may claim that, but a LOT of them just claim that atheists have no basis for morality and never mention a word about objectiveness.

    False dichotomy. God nature IS the measure of intrinsic goodness(this guy should read some Aquinas)


    Reynold already beat me to it on that one.


    Red herring. People can disagree on something and one person be wrong

    What you quoted was very relevant to the issue. Are you even trying?

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  22. Aw, MrFreeThinker beat my submission.

    I haven't posted anything to FSTDT in ages: I should start up again.

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  23. PS: If you follow my link, read the comments. But put your coffee down first.

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  24. MrFreeThinker...
    Then he goes on to arbitrarily come up with his own view of ethics without telling why there isan[sic] obligation to follow it.

    Please do some research into game theory in general, but if that's too daunting try just the nash equilibrium and its genetic equivilant the evolutionarily stable strategy.

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  25. Nonmagic wrote No. You may claim that, and a certain number of xians may claim that, but a LOT of them just claim that atheists have no basis for morality and never mention a word about objectiveness.

    This has been my experience as well.

    Honestly, the idea that Christians who preach/prosletize take great care in making sure they express themselves accurately is silly. Most simply emote, sprinkling scripture and opinion, and don't pay too much attention to the literal meaning of what they're saying.

    Simply put, very few Christians use the word "objective", let alone knowing how it applies to the issue of standards of morality.

    ---

    MFT, I often find that you throw around logic terms and phrases without fully understanding what they mean - and this doesn't help your credibility (if you care about such things).

    There was no "straw man" with the Objective Standard comment; there was only your opinion that the writer was somehow wrong.

    There was no "false dichotomy" with the question about the goodness of the standards we utilize; you simply wanted to sidestep the question. The correct answer (assuming your claim that God's nature is Good) is that something is Good because God says it is.

    I'm not going to go through the entire list

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  26. Chris wrote Or am I missing something?

    Although it's an excellent point, keep in mind that the person who wrote the list was only trying to cast doubt on the idea that Christianity = Morality.

    Even if Hammurabi's standards came from God, it certainly wasn't a God Christianity is willing to concede to. And thus, *any* standard of conduct (regardless of its origin) would suffice.

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  27. [Does that mean that something is good because god says it is, (in other words, it's subjective, and "goodness" is whatever he could want it to be.)or does it mean that he figured out (like we have to) just what is "good" or not, in which case, "goodness" exists outside of your god and he's not necessary for "goodness" to exist.]
    Did you read what I said? I said the 2 options you gave were a false dichotomy.
    God's absolute unchanging nature by definition is perfectly good and so becomes the standard by which good and evil are judged.

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  28. [No. You may claim that, and a certain number of xians may claim that, but a LOT of them just claim that atheists have no basis for morality and never mention a word about objectiveness.]
    Well I guess I could see a Joe Fundamentalist using that line but not any real philosopher or apologist.

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  29. [The correct answer (assuming your claim that God's nature is Good) is that something is Good because God says it is.]
    Well not necessarily . God's will is an expression of his perfectly moral nature.

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  30. MFT,

    Did you read what I said? I said the 2 options you gave were a false dichotomy.
    God's absolute unchanging nature by definition is perfectly good and so becomes the standard by which good and evil are judged.


    In the scenario given there were only 2 possible options. Inserting a third that is stated as a fact when it is unproven doesn't work..

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  31. I wrote "The correct answer (assuming your claim that God's nature is Good) is that something is Good because God says it is."

    MFT responded Well not necessarily . God's will is an expression of his perfectly moral nature.

    This is like pulling teeth >.<

    I'm not going to reconstruct this mini-thread, but it sure feels like I need to. God's perfect moral nature can not be expressed without God himself willing that this be done. In other words, you would not know of that nature unless God decided to tell you about it.

    THEREFORE, by your own admission, things are good because God says so.

    No false dichotomy - you attempted to duck the question.

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  32. [God's perfect moral nature can not be expressed without God himself willing that this be done. In other words, you would not know of that nature unless God decided to tell you about it.]
    Yes I am made aware of what is good through god's revelation, but god's will is not what makes it Goodbut his nature is what is good.

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  33. The two are indistinguishable, MFT.

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  34. "I was googling myself yesterday..."

    Of course you were. You're a teenager. Hooray for narcissism.

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  35. @ Free

    To quote larryniven "at various times in the Bible, God commands both an act and its negation."

    Now if, as you contend "God's will is an expression of his perfectly moral nature" and his will is contradictory then it follows that his moral nature is contradictory.

    In other words sine God issues contradictory commandments & such commandments issue from his moral nature, then that would mean God is either both good & evil or God is insane.

    I believe that answers Aquinas' argument.

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  36. @ WEM

    You wrote "The two are indistinguishable, MFT."

    Not exactly.

    Think of it this way.

    The Euthyphro dilemma posits two positions. Either morality is based upon the actions of the God [in which case morality is up to God's momentary whim] or it is based upon a system of ethics.

    But consider this option. Take the ethical system & imagine writing it into God's genetic code. Now, since God is unchanging, it should be impossible for God to violate that system of ethics without becoming less than God. Why? Because God will have changed - become less than He was.

    Aquinas is basically taking both horns of the dilemma and sying that they are both true.

    I don't see it as a dodge. It is a third option to the dilemma but as I've pointed out it raises other questions all its own.

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  37. @ nonmagic

    You wrote "In the scenario given there were only 2 possible options. Inserting a third that is stated as a fact when it is unproven doesn't work.."

    Well it's true that Free did state his argument more baldly than was necessary but it is still a valid option.

    Please allow me to restate Aquinas' argument.

    The Euthyphro dilemma states that either morality is decided upon the whim of God or that morality is based upon a system of ethics.

    Now if God exists & if a universal ethical system exists then it may well be the case that such an ethical system resides within the very being of the existing diety.
    Written into His very nature if you like.

    In tha case, since the ethical system is universal & since God's nature is posited as unchanging, God will always do what is morally correct based upon the ethical system which, it is argued, is written into his very being.

    Basically Aquinas is saying that both horns of the dilemma are correct.

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  38. @ Free

    A false dilemma would be a dilemma which ignored other options.
    E.g. Choose either option 1 or option 5 [completely ignoring options 2, 3, and 4].

    Aquinas' argument actually argues that both horns of the Euthyphro dilemma are true. Therefore, stictly speaking, he is not offering a third option so much as arguing that the entire dilemma is illusory. I.e that both options are correct.

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  39. Chris wrote Take the ethical system & imagine writing it into God's genetic code. Now, since God is unchanging, it should be impossible for God to violate that system of ethics without becoming less than God. Why? Because God will have changed - become less than He was.

    I'm having a hard time extrapolating this onto the conversation here.

    An omnipotent God can do things which are logically impossible; he can change his mind without changing his mind, for example. It's a patently ridiculous idea, of course, but let's not lose the context of the being we're discussing (according to MrFreeThinker).

    Secondly, God's perfectly moral nature is unknowable to humanity unless God wills himself to inform us.

    And thus, when God tells us "A is good but B is bad", even if he's only describing his own nature, the very fact that he communicates this establishes the validity of "the first horn".

    To wit: something is good because God says so.

    Communication is the key to this particular argument. Without it, God's perfection would be unknowable; with it, God establishes morality - which as far as humanity is concerned, stems from that communication.

    This being could even come back to us with "By the way, when I said A is good, I actually meant C". This is because he's able to contradict himself for whatever reason he so chooses. Considering that he's omnipotent, this can't be considered a contradiction.

    So, yeah - this God that's been described to me. He tells us what's good and what's bad. The only thing we can use to verify or validate these values is the fact that he expressed them.

    (Sorry, I still consider it a dodge)

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  40. @ WEM

    I see where you're coming from.

    You write "God's perfectly moral nature is unknowable to humanity unless God wills himself to inform us."

    Correct. Atleast according to the Abrahamic faiths.

    You continue "And thus, when God tells us "A is good but B is bad", even if he's only describing his own nature, the very fact that he communicates this establishes the validity of "the first horn"."

    Correct!

    But God can only inform us of that which is part of the second horn. Why? Because i is his very nature to do so.

    Can't his omnipotence override this? No. Omnipotence [defined as the bald statement "God can do anything" is a logical contradiction.

    Now if God communicates in logical contradictions then no communication with us is possible.

    BUT another efinition of omnipotence has been proposed. That is that onipotence should be defined as "God can do anything which is LOGICALLY POSSIBLE".

    If that is the case then it follows that God cannot logically change his nature. Why? Because then, logically God would be less than Himself. He would have surrendered His own diety. Either that or we are dealing with a non-abrahamic God.

    By the way consider this. This dilemma does NOT argue against the idea of non-believers acquiring morality. e.g. through the use of reason. Merely that, according to Aquinas' argument, such morality would ultimately come from God whether the non-believer knew it or not.

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  42. Actually, I did not like the thingie. The guy does enlist properly the problems, but then messes the whole thing up by over-explaining, and mixing one problem with another.

    Just as an instance, the god-of-the-gaps argument is easier to explain, and the guy went into territories where we have hear answers by Xtians that do not really belong to the realm of god-of-the-gaps. In any event, god-of-the-gaps is quite common (if not the most common as somebody here already said). Many many Xtians look desperately for something that is hard to know, or at least to explain, to say "you see? no such thing as evolution, just god." Presupp is a very elaborated god-of-the-gaps argument.

    G.E.

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  43. Chris,

    Per usual, MFT did not state his argument in full, neither did he do it very well.

    Ah, Aquinas.While he certainly was a great thinker, it really is just a way to explain how a god works when it really doesn't work.

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  44. @G.E.
    What do you think of the God-of-the-gaps thing?
    I do agree it is fallacious but what friendlyatheist did a misapplication of the term.
    This guy says that god just makes the question more complex so we shouldn't use it as an explanation.
    But as I pointed out this is what we use in all explanation. When we ask the question of "Who designed the alien spacecraft?", it raises more questions as the nature of the alien designer but it is still a valid explanation.

    Imagine if we were to apply this guy's attitude to science.It would be ridiculous.

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  45. Good job explaining it Chris. You did a much better job than I could do.

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  46. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  47. MFT,

    What do you think of the God-of-the-gaps thing?

    Please do not misunderstand me. What I said is that this guy over-elaborates and then moves into an explanation that does not help understand the problems with the Christian (or fundies more properly) arguments. In simpler words, I think this guy made a bad job.

    Now, what I think of the god-of-the-gaps thing is that yes, fundies (and other religious people) do use gaps in explanations as arguments to support beliefs in their god.

    And that is true. So, it is not a fallacy to say that lots of believers use god-of-the-gaps arguments. And I would add that they come up with some quite elaborate ones (such as presupping, as I said before).

    G.E.

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