Skip to comments.God or Atheism — Which Is More Rational?
Posted on 06/11/2013 3:34:14 PM PDT by NYer
A good place to start is with an argument by Thomas Aquinas, the great 13th century philosopher and theologian. The argument starts with the not-very-startling observation that things move. But nothing moves for no reason. Something must cause that movement, and whatever caused that must be caused by something else, and so on. But this causal chain cannot go backwards forever. It must have a beginning. There must be an unmoved mover to begin all the motion in the universe, a first domino to start the whole chain moving, since mere matter never moves itself.
A modern objection to this argument is that some movements in quantum mechanics — radioactive decay, for example — have no discernible cause. But hang on a second. Just because scientists don't see a cause doesn't mean there isn't one. It just means science hasn't found it yet. Maybe someday they will. But then there will have to be a new cause to explain that one. And so on and so on. But science will never find the first cause. That's no knock on science. It simply means that a first cause lies outside the realm of science.
Another way to explain this argument is that everything that begins must have a cause. Nothing can come from nothing. So if there's no first cause, there can't be second causes — or anything at all. In other words, if there's no creator, there can't be a universe.
But what if the universe were infinitely old, you might ask. Well, all scientists today agree that the universe is not infinitely old — that it had a beginning, in the big bang. If the universe had a beginning, then it didn't have to exist. And things which don't have to exist must have a cause.
There's confirmation of this argument from big-bang cosmology. We now know that all matter, that is, the whole universe, came into existence some 13.7 billion years ago, and it's been expanding and cooling ever since. No scientist doubts that anymore, even though before it was scientifically proved, atheists called it "creationism in disguise". Now, add to this premise a very logical second premise, the principle of causality, that nothing begins without an adequate cause, and you get the conclusion that since there was a big bang, there must be a "big banger".
It takes faith to believe in everything coming from nothing. It takes only reason to believe in everything coming from God.
But is this "big banger" God? Why couldn't it be just another universe? Because Einstein's general theory of relativity says that all time is relative to matter, and since all matter began 13.7 billion years ago, so did all time. So there's no time before the big bang. And even if there is time before the big bang, even if there is a multiverse, that is, many universes with many big bangs, as string theory says is mathematically possible, that too must have a beginning.
An absolute beginning is what most people mean by 'God'. Yet some atheists find the existence of an infinite number of other universes more rational than the existence of a creator. Never mind that there is no empirical evidence at all that any of these unknown universes exists, let alone a thousand or a gazillion.
How far will scientists go to avoid having to conclude that God created the universe? Here's what Stanford physicist Leonard Susskind said: "Real scientists resist the temptation to explain creation by divine intervention. We resist to the death all explanations of the world based on anything but the laws of physics." Yet the father of modern physics, Sir Isaac Newton, believed fervently in God. Was he not a real scientist? Can you believe in God and be a scientist, and not be a fraud? According to Susskind, apparently not. So who exactly are the closed-minded ones in this debate?
The conclusion that God exists doesn't require faith. Atheism requires faith. It takes faith to believe in everything coming from nothing. It takes only reason to believe in everything coming from God.
I'm Peter Kreeft, professor of philosophy at Boston College, for Prager University.
One is as irrational as the next. Proof is lacking from either argument.
Atheism is for idiots.
Everytime I walk into a Doctor's Office and see the anatomy charts on the wall, I think they resemble "wiring diagrams and schematics" for something incredibly complex. I have concluded that it takes a much greater leap of faith to conclude that this detailed anatomy bubbled up from swamp gas rather than from an Intelligent Design.
The simple truth is God is not an intellectual discussion. God is in your heart, spirit and soul. God is your belief. Men can scream all they want you can’t see God; but God is everywhere.
Atheism -- in the beginning there was nothing, and then it blew up.
The argument for God is inherently more logical.
An atheist recently said to me "your faith is like a penis. Its okay to have it and be proud of, but its not okay to shove down my throat."
I hadn't been trying to evangelize this guy at all, I just mentioned in passing something about my faith, and he jumped on it. In a divinely inspired streak of genius (in my opinion at least) I responded "so your an atheist, and have no faith in God." He said yes, that's right. "So you're trying to tell me you have no penis?"
I derived no little amusement from his resulting tantrum. Has anyone else noticed that these atheist types very frequently seem to have serious anger-management issues?
Several yeas ago I saw someone interviewing little Dicky Dawkins (Sorry, I just can't resist). The interviewer asked what was the origin of life here on Earth. Dawkins said it could very easily be space aliens. I waited for the next logical question of "Well how did life begin on the alien planet?" but the interviewer let a golden moment just slip away!
Ha Brilliant!! I have a question that I enjoy posing to atheists.
So you say there is no God. If you could choose to live in a universe with a God that promised you the salvation of heaven would you?
Naw. He’s the One who showers you with blessing in a world of sinners who like torturing you with evil.
>> I waited for the next logical question
Precisely. But atheists aren’t concerned about that, its simply a matter of contempt for Christianity — specifically Christianity.
So is he complicit or powerless? Is he waiting for extreme suffering before intervention? How does he measure the suffering?
Maybe Obama destroying the Constitution and chaining up his people isn`t even on his radar.
Believing in God takes FAITH. Not believing in God takes/requires nothing. An empty mind.
By definition the atheist’s worldview is materialist. That is they believe all there is is matter/energy. The question is in regards to rational thought. The atheist owes us an explaination as to the material makeup of rational thought, logic, and reason. If they cannot, they need to abandon their worldview.
To me it's got to be the most irrational of all irrationalities....
To believe and identify yourself as someone who does not believe in anything, and to have faith that there is no such thing as faith by being faithful to nothing.
It would be more rational to believe in little green men on Mars.
Um, they’re gray not green?
Faith in some sort of transcendent mind is more logical than the very ‘magic’ idea that the universe popped into existence by itself. This is just an argument for theism though. You have to analyze other things to determine which faith is true.
This is the classic ‘problem of evil’. What would you have God do? Reach down and stop you and every person on the planet every time you’re about to do something wrong? Where is the freedom in that? He might as well have created puppets on strings.
We are given free will because it means much more to CHOOSE good than to be forced into it. Let me present you a microcosm. Which is better, charity or communism? Both may end up feeding a downtrodden individual, but does charity not have more value than communism, because I willingly decided to help another? I would say it does.
He loves you so much that He left heaven, took on human form, suffered horribly and died on the cross for you. Then He left the tomb three days later to save you from an eternity of torture.
“In other words, if there’s no creator, there can’t be a universe.”
I hear and read this assertion all the time and it is always stated as an axiom. I don’t think it is even a proper question to ask who created the universe because it denies that the universe is an absolute. Existence doesn’t need to be explained or justified, in my opinion. It just is. As far as we know it has always existed and always will. After all the big bang doesn’t say anything about the universe popping into existence from nothing. It simply says that at one time it was a very small package of energy or a singularity. If a god can “just be” why can’t existence. To say that God can “just be” and the universe has to have a creator or first cause is special pleading. If someone can prove that a god exists with evidence then fine but until then the only rational thing to do is to start with what we know, existence exists, and go on from that point and learn as much as we can about it with reason and logic and not fill the gaps in our knowledge with articles of faith.
The alternative to a creator is not random chance or accidents. It is natural law. Who created the natural laws? That is another improper question, in my opinion. The natural laws are absolutes and don’t need a cause. They just are. Again to be consistent, if a god can exist without a cause then so can natural laws or else it is another case of special pleading.
Evil exists. What makes you think that if God that would mean He likes it?
If there's no God, where do you get your concept of good and evil?
What makes me raise an eyebrow is the ridiculous theories that atheism leads to. Intellectual atheists are usually adherents to a very strange belief called ‘metaphysical naturalism’, and they begin to make bizarre claims such as we don’t have free will, we don’t plan anything, sentences don’t mean anything.
This is a form of scientism at its worst. If you can’t prove it with science, then it isn’t true. Of course, this means every element of human history is BS. I can’t scientifically prove that the Sassanid Empire existed, but I believe it to be the case from accounts and carvings and such.
My experience with atheism is that it serves as an excuse for personal views that do not conform with our natural apprehension of God-given morality. Essentially, its for people who read a religious text, disagree with aspects of it, and so choose not to believe. Can you imagine if we did that with earthly authorities. XD.
Given the astounding number of factors that had to have their outcomes fit in very narrow windows for life to exist and teh massviely minimal probability of all of those things occurring, it’s much more rational, applying Occam’s Razor, to presume that something “drove” the process than that it just happened by accident. Thus, it’s much more rational to believe in God than to believe in atheism.
Say, is the atheist deity Nogod?
Deductively, you’re correct. Neither view can be proven deductively.
However, using inductive reasoning, it is much more reasonable to believe in God than not.
I remember asking my science teachers when we were learning about the Big Bang, “What banged and where did it come from?” they hemmed and hawed A LOT. (This was my idea of fun.)
The universe is governed by the laws of metaphysics. Out of nothing, comes nothing. This has been around since Plato, and we have yet to discover anything that violates this rule. The universe cannot have always existed, because infinity is a theoretical construct that can never exist in our universe. It causes mathematical inconsistencies, as outlined in Hilbert’s Hotel.
To summarize the case -
1) The universe exists
2) Governed by natural law, everything that exists has a cause or a ‘beginning’
3) The universe has a beginning
You only have two explanations for its existence. One is that it appeared from nothing, which defies logic. The other is that a transcendent cause brought it into being.
The only transcendent cause that makes sense is an unembodied mind. God.
Sorry, can’t get past the non deductivity. I really do think about this stuff a lot.
Have you heard of the ontological argument?
Happiness occurs between the ears. I hope that everyone can be happy...mostly, though, I try to ensure that I am happy...as do we all. I find that my happiness quotient increases as I discard fallacious assumptions and then view the resulting world view hoping that I am approaching the truth of the matter.
What do you think of it? It kind of rules out agnosticism as a logical option, leaving only the two distinct sides of the argument.
What is evil?
I seek truth. My willingness to profess ignorance in an area that has so consumed human thought for much of our known history does not disturb me in the least. I will continue to seek truth. Every man is an island.
Well, I wish you all the best in your search for the truth. I hope it leads you to belief. :)
Logic begins with premises. Premises are not proof
I believe a lot of things...and can still recite the sucipiot from my latin mass altar boy days.
I think it is MUCH better to believe in God. Heck if he doesn’t exist than we had a great life because of God. If he does exist, I am sure glad I believe because those who don’t....look out.
Spent a little time in detention didn't you?
A variation on Pascal's wager.
With God you at least have hope.
Atheism leaves you with nothing...
Your logic is sound, however the argument that there is no evidence God exists is not correct. There is plenty of eye witness testimony. It is proper for you to say the evidence is not sufficient for you. Different people have different needs for evidence. That is why we have juries.
Metaphysics is a branch of philosophy. It simple means a study of the nature of the universe on the fundamental level.
It is possible for existence to be finite and eternal. It exists for as long as time does and time exists so long as there is existence. We can’t even ask what was here before anything was here. What evidence is there that the universe had a beginning? Who says that the big bang was THE beginning?
According to your argument, then god had to have a cause. If everything that exists has a cause or a beginning then if a God exists then it had to have a beginning. But the article points out that that would lead to an infinite regression which is the logical problem with the first cause argument. So if a god can exist with no beginning then so can existence.
I believe that existence is an axiom. It is an irreducible primary. It is an absolute and needs no cause. No one knows where it came from and I mean no one. Many people accept an explanation on faith. To me faith is not a good foundation for knowledge. I don’t need faith to know that existence exists. It is self evident. So that is my starting point of knowledge and I go from there and just because we don’t have answers to every question does not mean we get to fill in with speculation and call it knowledge. Scientists speculate for the purpose of coming up with an explanation then they go on to look for evidence. They ask: Does this speculation (hypothesis) correspond to reality. Once again reality, existence, is the means of validation. For a rational person, it is the only means of validation. Existence itself needs none.
You are correct, however unfortunately, accounts are often looked at with skepticism when it relates to the supernatural, even though we’re more than ready to believe Hannibal crossed the Alps with elephants on accounts alone.
You are absolutely right. It is proper to say that there is not sufficient evidence. I don’t think that any number of eyewitness accounts alone particularly in an ancient text is evidence of anything. I also agree with you that different people have different ideas about what constitutes evidence. If someone is an eyewitness then it is rational for them and them alone to believe but it is also rational for someone who hasn’t had that first hand experience not to believe.
“According to your argument, then god had to have a cause. If everything that exists has a cause or a beginning then if a God exists then it had to have a beginning”
Incorrect. Everything that exists under the laws of our universe has a cause. The law does not apply to things that transcend the universe, such as numbers and other mathematical constructs. These things we understand to be eternal, because they transcend the universe.
God is understood to transcend the universe.
Speculation implies that we pluck an answer out of thin air. On the contrary, we can analyze what we do know, similar to how historians piece together fragments to build an accurate picture of the past. I think the fine-tuning alone allows us to make the logical assumption of intelligent design. If you came across a fully functioning plane in a forest, you would not conclude that such a masterfully engineered object could have just come together by chance. You would apprehend that planning went into building it. Looking at how carefully balanced our existence in this universe is, I find God to be far more likely than no God.
Virtually all of us accept who our mother is with second hand witnesses. why does age affect witness testimony? Wouldn’t other factors like corroboration be of greater importance? For example, the OT required 3 witnesses for death penalty. Personally I would be more impressed with multiple witnesses from ancient time than a single present witness.
However, historians have methods to analyze ancient texts, weeding out poetic license and ‘legendary’ accounts. This is why most historians affirm the events surrounding Jesus Christ, even if they may come up blank on the explanation for the resurrection, and their trust has been proven well placed. I remember when many denied that Pontius Pilate had ever existed, but the Pilate Stone late confirmed his position as prefect of Judea.
Exact corroboration is not even required to build a reasonable hypothesis. In fact, if two accounts of an event are exactly the same, I would view it with more skepticism than if they had differences. No two people see things the same.