Monday, February 16, 2009

Against the Gods: Arguments Against God's Existence




Introduction:



It's been my hope to create a blog which attempts to answer a great majority of the claims and arguments put forth by theists about the existence of god, evolution, etc. I think I've amassed a great deal of information since I began my blog about a year and a half ago, but there seems to have been some arguments I've missed or just didn't bother to cover because, to put it simply, I thought they were too stupid to be taken seriously. For this reason I won't cover the Ontological arguments for god's existence, but I will cover all others. Because I have spent so much time on the arguments against "design" I will skip those sets of arguments as well (but I will place links that will point you to posts I've already written about it).

Because I began my blog in the first place to argue against the creationist/intelligent design nonsense a majority of my counter arguments and posts have been geared towards those kinds of arguments but because of reader feedback I've decided to address more arguments for god. I have referenced the book The Non-Existence of God, by Nicholas Everitt, for a list of arguments that I will be debunking.

The truth is, though, that I see nothing special about these arguments. Each of these arguments are fatally flawed when you think about them for just a few minutes (or when you look at the contradictory evidence). When someone comes to me and starts using a lot of philosophical arguments I often dismiss them by claiming they're using "philosophical bullshit" because, while I like philosophy, it can oftentimes be abused and just because something sounds logical doesn't mean it represents reality. Take, for example, the experiment in which a feather is dropped along with a bowling ball (taking wind resistance out of the equation). Logic would dictate that the ball would hit the ground first, but in reality they would both hit the ground at the same time. This is an example of something that seems like a logical conclusion: a heavier object will fall faster, but if you eliminate the affect air has on the objects, they will fall at the same rate and hit the ground at the same time.

It is because of this that I strongly argue that logic by itself (and I'm referring to both our more common "every day logic" and philosophical logic), while extremely helpful and right much of the time, can sometimes get you into trouble. Again, this is why I will not bother with covering the Ontological arguments. They don't prove anything. Their premises may all be true, but that doesn't mean the conclusion is true in reality.

With that in mind, let's begin smashing the logical disaster that is theology.


The Euthyphro Dilemma:


The Euthyphro Dilemma is so named because it comes from Plato's Euthyphro, in which it's asked, "Is the pious loved by the gods because it is pious, or is it pious because it is loved by the gods?"

This essentially means, "Is what is moral commanded by God because it is moral, or is it moral because it is commanded by God?" This is also called the divine command theory.

Assuming god exists, it would be horrible to have morality dictated by such a being. The reasons are the following:

1. The first question that must be asked is what god are you interpreting? The god of the bible, or nature?

2. If it is the god of the bible then you have already lost the argument because god commands the murder of the inhabitants of multiple cities in Joshua 10:28-42, "...as the Lord the God of Israel had commanded." [NEB] This is one of many other slaughters found throughout the bible, including, Hosea 13:16:

"Samaria will become desolate because she has rebelled against her God; her babes will fall by the sword and be dashed to the ground, her woman with child shall be ripped up." [NEB]

Clearly, any sane human being will see that this is an immoral act, therefore, god cannot be considered a source for good morals since he commands the murder of many people.

Some christian apologists attempt to explain these acts away. Take the author of the apologist website godandscience.org for example. He says,

"The sixth commandment is "Thou shall not kill."1 Atheists claim that God violated His own commandment in ordering the destruction of entire cities, just to allow the Jews to have a homeland in the Middle East. The Bible confirms that God ordered the killing of thousands of people. Isn't this an open and shut case for the hypocrisy of the God of the Bible?

One thing you have to love about atheists is their extreme appreciation for the King James Version (KJV) translation. The KJV was translated in the early 17th century using an archaic form of modern English. In the last 400 years, English has changed significantly. Unfortunately, the vast majority of those who read the KJV (both believers and unbelievers) are unqualified to know what the text means in many instances because of word meaning changes. In attempting to demonstrate the contradiction of God's commands to Israel and the sixth commandment, atheist cite the KJV translation, "Thou shalt not kill."

However, like English, Hebrew, the language in which most of the Old Testament was written, uses different words for intentional vs. unintentional killing. The verse translated "Thou shalt not kill" in the KJV translation, is translated "You shall not murder"2 in modern translations - because these translations represents the real meaning of the Hebrew text. The Bible in Basic English translates the phrase, "Do not put anyone to death without cause."2 The Hebrew word used here is ratsach,3 which nearly always refers to intentional killing without cause (unless indicated otherwise by context). Hebrew law recognized accidental killing as not punishable. In fact, specific cities were designated as "cities of refuge," so that an unintentional killer could flee to escape retribution.4 The Hebrew word for "kill" in this instance is not ratsach, but nakah, which can refer to either premeditated or unintentional killing, depending upon context.5 Other Hebrew words also can refer to killing.6-8 The punishment for murder was the death sentence.9 However, to be convicted, there needed to be at least two eyewitnesses.10 The Bible also prescribes that people have a right to defend themselves against attack and use deadly force if necessary.11

To answer the question whether God breaks His own commandments, we need to determine if God committed murder (i.e., killed people without cause).
[emphasis mine] The Bible is quite clear that God has killed people directly (the most prominent example being the flood) and indirectly (ordered peoples to be killed). If God ordered or participated in the killing of innocent people, then He would be guilty of murder. Let's look at two of the most prominent examples.

According to the Bible, God killed every human except Noah, his wife, his sons, and their wives in the flood. Were any of these people killed unjustly? The Bible says specifically that all people (except Noah and his family) had become corrupted.12 Not only had all people become corrupted, but they were continually plotting evil!13 Is it possible that an entire culture can become corrupted? You bet! Recent history proves the point rather well. When the Nazis took over Germany before WWII, opposition was crushed and removed. When they began their purging of the undesirables (e.g., the Jews), virtually the entire society went along with the plan. Further examples are given on another page. So, the Bible indicates that no innocent people were killed in the flood.

What about when God ordered Joshua and his people to kill every man, woman and child in Canaan?14 What crime could be so great that entire populations of cities were designated for destruction? God told Moses that the nations that the Hebrew were replacing were wicked.15 How "wicked" were these people? The text tells us that they were burning their own sons and daughters in sacrifices to their gods.16 So we see that these people were not really innocent. For these reasons (and others17), God ordered the destruction of the peoples whom the Israelites dispossessed....

The commandment "Thou shalt not kill" is really not as general as the King James version would indicate. The commandment actually refers to premeditated, unjustified killing - murder. Although God ordered the extermination of entire cities, He did so in righteous judgment on a people whose corruption had led to extreme wickedness, including child sacrifice. Did God destroy the righteous along with the wicked? In an exchange with Abraham, God indicated that He would spare the wicked to save the righteous. He demonstrated this principle by saving righteous people from Sodom and Jericho prior to their destruction. The charge that God indiscriminately murdered people does not hold to to critical evaluation of the biblical texts."


So, according to this guy, murder is killing another without cause, therefore god did not murder since he had reasons to do so. Alright, let's take this to it's logical conclusion. A wife cheats on her husband, which gives him a reason to murder her, and so he carries out his plan and kills her. Now, by this apologist's own argument, he would not have murdered his wife because he had a reason; it would have been justified.

Clearly this isn't the case (I've got to say too that this thinking is literally insane. The lengths apologists will go...). Even if we accept this author's claim that the people were "corrupted" and "evil" what exactly does this imply, and who is to judge what is 'corrupt' or 'evil?' The author's claim that the people were "evil" for their acts of child sacrifice sounds like a decent reason (to protect the children) but god is being a hypocrite if that was the case, because in the very next book of the bible god asks for a sacrifice:

Exodus 22:29-30: "Do not hold back offerings from your granaries or your vats. You must give me the first born of your sons. Do the same with your cattle and your sheep. Let them stay with their mothers from seven days, but give them to me on the eighth day (NIV)."

If god cannot even be consistent in what he deems immoral and moral, how are we to judge what is moral or not by looking at the actions of god in the bible?

Again, we're back at the same question as before. "Is what is moral commanded by God because it is moral, or is it moral because it is commanded by God?"

3. A theist could look around at nature and conclude this god is a wonderful god, but nature, as even Charles Darwin wrote, is often cruel and inhumane. Animals kill and eat others for food, sometimes while still alive. Natural cells in a body turn cancerous and a person dies, etc.

True, there are very many things in nature that we could call "beautiful" but there are many cruel things as well, and if god is given credit for the good, he must also be given credit for the bad.

If god's commands cannot be considered moral, then is it possible that god is responsible for some kind of "moral sense" within us, which helps guide us?

This has been proposed by theologians for centuries. Christian apologists even today use this claim of "Natural Law Theory." One example is David Marshall, author of the book The Truth Behind the New Atheism, who seemingly tries to dismiss the findings of evolutionary psychology which is studying the innate nature of our moral sense, by saying that, "The naivete displayed by [Marc] Hauser's questionnaire is even more remarkable. Can a Harvard professor writing about morality have never heard of Natural Law Theory? Christians (and others) have been talking about it for thousands of years" (page 103). Marshall seems to be trying to give credit to theologians for this concept and not science for discovering it's truthful biological basis.

First of all, I wouldn't trust a "moral sense" put inside me by a being who is clearly hypocritical in nature and oftentimes horribly cruel.

Second, if god supposedly placed this moral sense within all humans, then how can theists claim that atheists are immoral if god gave this moral sense to everyone? Atheists and christians would be getting their morals from the same source. Unfortunately, this isn't the case. Many theists insist homosexuals are to be put to death, but this isn't shared by atheists and others. So, where are theists getting this information? The bible. If god is supposedly the author of the bible, or at least inspired it, and god is the one who created this moral sense, why wasn't he consistent with what he deems moral (according to divine command theory, whatever god commands is moral)? Our human conscience (for most of us anyway) sees the persecution of homosexuals as cruel and wrong, and yet it is a law given in the book supposedly written/inspired by this same god.

A third stumbling block is the fact that god has never been proven. If god cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt then the most logical answer for our morality would be our biology and our culture.

A related point are people who claim to do helpful and harmful things because god supposedly told them to. Because there are people who have supposedly been told to commit both good and bad acts, this doesn't do anything to fix the contradictory messages that god seems to send (assuming he is real). There are people who feel compelled by god to help the poor, but there are also people who commit horrible atrocities, such as Dena Schlosser who chopped off her eleven month old girl's arms because god told her to.

Now, an apologist will likely say that Schlosser was clearly insane and god would never command someone to do such a thing. But if they dismiss this woman's testimony so quickly, why do they accept a christian's so easily, as long as they're doing something good? The simple answer? Bias.

Morality has nothing to do with god and, therefore, it cannot be used as any kind of "evidence" of god.


The Cosmological Argument:


The Cosmological argument has a few variations but ultimately it is the famed "first cause" argument. Theologians postulate that the universe cannot possibly be eternal and therefore something had to have brought it into existence. They call this thing god.

It can be broken down as follows:

1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
2. The universe began to exist.
3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

There are a few major flaws with this. First, theologians assume that the universe can't be eternal; that it's impossible for the universe to just be, to just exist. Second, because of their claims that the universe cannot be eternal they then make a wild claim full of hypocrisy and nonsense and state that their god is eternal and does not need a cause. Third, they also assume that events that took place in the past could not go on indefinitely. But again, they contradict themselves and claim their god is infinite and has always existed, though they can never articulate "where" their god was or" what" he was doing the eternity before he just happened to create this universe. A related point is the fact that if the currently most widely accepted model of the big bang is one in which time didn't exist before the big bang, how could god exist in a "time" before time even existed? It's a contradiction. Fourth, with the Kalam Cosmological Argument claiming god has no beginning, thus needs no cause, they have no proof of this, and it's unknown if the universe even had a cause to begin with. The big bang we know of may have been just one out of countless "bangs" that have occurred throughout time, following Paul Steinhardt and Neil Turok's theory.

Because of these facts and the lack of knowledge human beings have regarding the universe (though more is being learned through science; religion sure hasn't done anything to help out on the matter) no one truly knows if the universe is eternal or not (though there are some plausible scientific theories that state the universe could be eternal such as those endorsed by Paul J. Steinhardt and Neil Turok, authors of the book Endless Universe: Beyond the Big Bang), but one thing is for sure, completely contradicting themselves in order to claim "god did it" is a completely bogus answer and leaves one to ask: "If nothing can be eternal, who made god?" Theologians have yet to come up with a reasonable answer that doesn't violate some scientific principal or use the bible for their proof, ahem, Ray Comfort.

The fact is, though, that there are things that happen at the subatomic level which appear to have no cause. "When an atom in an excited energy level drops to a lower level and emits a photon, a particle of light, we find no cause of that event. Similarly, no cause is evident in the decay of a radioactive nucleus" (Source: God: The Failed Hypothesis, by Victor J. Stenger, page 124). So it seems it's known that things can happen without a cause, which would put to rest the entire cosmological argument at the beginning. Since it's known that some things happen without a cause then it's scientifically possible for the universe to have come about without some definite cause.

Even assuming that the universe wasn't eternal, and the previous research was flawed in some way, it's pretty presumptuous of them to claim their god did it. They have no proof. All they have is a book written by very superstitious individuals who didn't know what we do today about the world and how it works. How theists can claim this book that is full of oftentimes silly and cruel statements and stories tells us how the universe came to be is dumb founding.


Teleological Arguments:


Teleological arguments are arguments in which theists cite the apparent design and order in the universe as proof of a creator.

To quote Nichloas Everitt about this argument, "This argues from the fact that the universe is orderly, or displays regularities, to the conclusion that there must be a cosmic intelligence responsible for creating or imposing and maintaining the order."

As far as design, this implies intelligent design and creationism. Both of these arguments I've written about at some length so I will point you to other sources for that information.

Life shows evidence of evolution, not of being created:

Another "Gap" Is Found

Earth is not the only planet located in the "sweet spot" for life to thrive; it's also known for a fact that life can thrive even in immensely hot and cold temperatures:

Design in the Universe...There's No god Behind It!

More Evidence Against the "Design" Argument

Ignorance and More 'Design' Nonsense

A website that is excellent and handily debunks many claims of "design" and "order" is the TalkOrigins Archive (along with many other creationist and intelligent design lies and deceptions).

The fine-tuning argument suffers from the same lack of reasoning, lack of scientific knowledge, and "god of the gaps" thinking that dominate all arguments for the existence of god.

First of all, it seems that many numbers have been manipulated to make these constants seem extraordinary. Some examples are irrelevant. Victor J. Stenger says, "Many of the examples of fine-tuning found in theological literature suffer from simple misunderstandings of physics. For example, any references to the fine-tuning of constants like the speed of light,c, Planck's constant, h, or Newton's gravitational constant, G, are irrelevant since these are all arbitrary constants whose values simply define the system of units being used. Only 'dimensionless' numbers that do not depend on units, such as the ratio of the strengths of gravity and electromagnetism are meaningful.

Some of the 'remarkable precision' of physical parameters that people talk about is highly misleading because it depends on the choice of units. For example, theologian John Jefferson Davis asserts, 'If the mass of of neutrinos were 5 x 10 - 34 instead of 5 x 10- 35 kg [kilogram], because of their great abundance in the universe, the additional gravitational mass would result in a contracting rather than expanding universe.' This sounds like fine-tuning by one part in 10- 35. However, as philosopher Neil Manson points out, this is like saying that 'if he had been one part in 10- 16 of a light year shorter (that is, one meter shorter), Michael Jordan would not have been the word's greatest basketball player.....'

One of the many major flaws with most studies of the anthropic principle coincidences is that the investigators vary a single parameter while assuming all the others remain fixed. They further compound this mistake by proceeding to calculate meaningless probabilities based on the grossly erroneous assumptions that all the parameters are independent....

Physicist Anthony Aguire has independently examined the universes that result when six cosmological parameters are simultaneously varied by orders of magnitude, and found he could construct cosmologies in which 'stars, planets, and intelligent life can plausibly arise.' Physicist Craig Hogan has done another independent analysis that leads to similar conclusions. And, theoretical physicists at Kyoto University in Japan have shown that heavy elements needed for life will be present in even the earliest stars independent of what the exact parameters for star formation may have been" (Source: God: The Failed Hypothesis, pages 145 - 149).

Other theories seem to put the Anthropic Principle to rest, including possible multiple universes, and string theory. If our universe is just one out of many the chances are very good for different values in the universe to happen to be within the right parameters to facilitate life.

According to Gordon L. Kane, and associates, "In string theories all of the parameters of the theory - in particular all quark and lepton masses, and all coupling strength - are calculable, so there are parameters left to allow anthropic arguments... "

Even Stephen Hawking's more recent studies seem to cast doubt upon the Anthropic Principle. "He proposed that our universe is much less 'special' than the proponents of the Anthropic Principle claim it is. According to Hawking, there is a 98 percent chance that a universe of a type as our own will come from the Big Bang [emphasis in original]. Further, using the basic wave function of the universe as a basis, Hawking's equations indicate that such a universe can come into existence without relation to anything prior to it, meaning that it could come out of nothing" (Source: Did Man Create God?, by David E. Comings, M.D., page 272).

Because physics and cosmology are not my strong suit I suggest reading Victor J. Stenger's book dealing in much detail with many of these arguments.

One of the best arguments I've heard against the anthropic principle isn't scientific arguments, but one that just relies on pure logic. If the universe wasn't suitable for life we wouldn't have evolved to witness it! Proof of our being here is no proof of any designer or creator.

After giving the previous examples of false reasoning and evidence that proves several of the fine-tuning and design arguments incorrect, I think it stands to reason that most others are just as faulty. That's something I've noticed about theists' arguments. After you debunk one they throw another argument out at you; you then successfully debunk it, and so it goes again and again. It would be nearly impossible to catalogue each and every single argument ever used, but again, if a majority are found wanting then most likely the others are as well. Especially since their beliefs oftentimes blind them from seeing the truth anyway, they won't give up until they find something you cannot effectively answer. Then they'll raise their arms in victory (after about a thousand wrong arguments in a row), but once again, the gaps in our knowledge is really the only avenue theists have for arguing their god. If that's the case they really have no arguments at all.


Appeals to Miracles:


I find the use of miracles to be one of the most absurd "proofs" of god's existence. It is once again a "god of the gaps" argument: because we don't understand precisely how someone may have been healed, it was a miracle. Most of these are far and few between. For example, in Richard Dawkins' two part series called The Root of All Evil? Part 1, it was said how within the last century and a half there were "sixty-six declared miracles" to have taken place out of the yearly 80,000 people who go a pool of water where the virgin marry is said to have appeared. Obviously not anywhere close to a significant percentage to declare any genuine miracles.

Other than this example, the failure rate of prayer is another devastating blow to the theologian. I've gone over this evidence in the past, along with other arguments against the supernatural, and those are located here.

Instead of trying to debate whether or not miracles exist I try to argue against the entire concept of the supernatural, or the existence of an immaterial world. If it cannot be reasonably shown that the supernatural exists, then no miracle could possibly occur. I have given several challenges for anyone to give me unbiased evidence (no personal accounts, secondhand stories) of the supernatural. No one has been able to present any evidence, nor debunk my two papers Evidence Against the Supernatural, parts 1 and 2.

The fact of the matter is that there have been many people have have experienced "something" in their lives they cannot explain but it seems that the mind is wired for personification and people apply human traits to objects and events. People tend to "see" something intervene in their lives if it goes the way they want; if their prayer was answered, if someone's injuries are healed all of a sudden, if a disease disappears. Again, just because these events occur doesn't even imply the existence of god! What if it was some other being that humans have never discovered? What if it was a different god? What if there were laws of nature that we haven't discovered yet and that's what was responsible for such and such event occurring? If these things happened due to this unknown law of nature, then it couldn't be considered a miracle nor supernatural.

There are countless examples of this throughout history. It's not a stretch of the imagination to any degree to think that these current claims of some supernatural agency are just as likely to be false as the ones that happened in the past. Because of the many natural events that took place in the past, lightning, wind, and other forces, human beings were sure to give these events human traits and think "something" caused them to happen. It's only with our more advanced knowledge do we know how wind and other natural disasters happen. No doubt the same will take place with certain instances of a medical "miracle" or other such events in the future.


Religious Experiences:


In this final section, I will attempt to argue why I think religious experiences aren't any form of evidence for god, let alone the supernatural, because of the large body of research which shows that these experiences are happening at the level of the brain only, and most religious experiences have been duplicated in subjects when certain areas of the brain are stimulated.

Mostly performed on epilepsy patients these tests confirm that when the temporal lobes, amygdala and hippocampus are stimulated many different experiences take place. Everything from out of body experiences, deja vu, a feeling of not being in this world, hearing voices, feeling a presence, etc.

In fact, one man who had been diagnosed with left temporal lobe epilepsy, his brain was stimulated at the point of the inferior temporal lobe and at this time he exclaimed, "I'm going to die." When he was asked if he saw anything, he replied, "No, God said I am going to die."

One case reported that while a man's brain was stimulated in the right superior surface of the temporal lobe he had an out of body experience. He exclaimed, "Oh God! I am leaving my body!"

In a case with a twenty-five year old woman who had TLE (Temporal Lobe Epilepsy), an MRI showed a right-sided, mesial temporal focus and hippocampal sclerosis. The auras, seizures, and religious thoughts she was experiencing were almost completely eliminated after the removal of the right amygdala and hippocampus.

In 1997 Vilayanur Ramachandran developed the idea of "The God Module" when studying epilepsy patients. During the experiments one subject with TLE felt a "oneness with the Creator" and others made statements like, "I finally understand what it is all about..."

Other experiences elicited feelings of a god and feeling as if they were "filled with the spirit" and felt the presence of god (Source: Did Man Create God?, by David E. Comings, M.D., pages 347, 349, 354, 355, 362).

This is only a tiny fraction of the experiments and examples of this kind of experiment. Direct stimulation of the temporal lobes seem to consistently bring out spiritual and religious thoughts, feelings, and visions.

This seems to be bedrock evidence that all of these religious experiences are caused completely at the level of the brain and humanities' experiences of god and spirituality are truly just in our heads.

Obviously religious believers would likely respond that this is proof of a god; that god placed these parts of our brains inside us so we might be aware of his presence. It's an interesting hypothesis, but I don't see how that's possible. god supposedly will send his creations to hell dependant upon if they believe or not based on some clue he left in our brains that might or might not give us the sensations of his presence. That's like rolling the dice and whoever gets a certain number gets themselves engulfed in flames, and others get "saved" just by the luck of the throw. Not a very kind thing to do in my opinion (of course theists always have silly excuses for the cruel acts of their god).

Another problem with this is the fact that this "spiritual feeling" one might characterize as "god" just points us to a belief in "something out there" that's bigger than us; points to ghosts, fairies, and a multitude of gods. If this belief was truly put in place by the one true god (according to christians) then why do humans have such a variety of beliefs about spiritual agents and gods? Wouldn't god implant a belief that just included him if he is the one and only true god in existence, if it was him, and only him, he wanted his creations to worship?

Based on this evidence, it seems clear to me that this "spiritual feeling" does not point to any god; the god a person believes in depends upon the culture they grow up in, and is not "hardwired" into our minds; it is only this vague spiritual belief that is hardwired (possibly for survival purposes and to cope with the fear of death) and humans built upon these vague, innate beliefs by making up everything else about these various spiritual agencies.

Because there is no evidence of any gods the most likely explanation is that these experiences caused the belief in gods and not the other way around.


Conclusion:


I'm sure there are many apologists who may feel as if I've created strawmen arguments, or did not represent all theological views during this discussion. I would argue strongly that I created no strawmen; I consulted the books of philosophers and ex-theologians such as John Loftus in representing the arguments of theists (and arguing against).

I also think it would be a near impossible task to present every theological argument, or variation of those arguments. I tried to pick the most common ones and go from there. Besides, most arguments are variations upon a basic theme anyhow, so if I debunked a major argument I likely debunked its variations as well.

It's sad that the a large majority of the human race must feel it has to lie to itself for whatever reasons it has for believing in some higher power or god. What it ultimately amounts to is ignoring and/or distorting evidence, and having a preconceived bias that leads you to believe in your god (while disbelieving in everyone else's for the same reasons they don't believe in yours!). This is surely the case with many believers and one such example is the christian apologist William Lane Craig, as told from John Loftus' book Why I Became an Atheist (page 214):

"Mark Smith (of www.jcnot4me.com) set up the following scenario for Craig: 'Dr. Craig, for the sake of argument let's pretend that a time machine gets built. You and I hop in it, and travel back to the day before Easter, 33 AD. We park it outside the tomb of Jesus. We wait. Easter morning rolls around, and nothing happens. We continue to wait. After several weeks of waiting, still nothing happens. There is no resurrection - Jesus is quietly rotting away in the tomb.'

Smith asked Craig, given this scenario, if he would then give up Christianity, having seen with his own two eyes that Jesus did not rise from the dead. Smith wrote: 'His answer was shocking, and quite unexpected. He told me, face to face, that he would STILL believe in Jesus, he would STILL believe in the resurrection, and he would STILL remain a Christian. When asked, in light of his being a personal eyewitness to the fact that there WAS no resurrection, he replied that due to the witness of the 'holy spirit' within him, he would assume a trick of some sort had been played on him while watching Jesus' tomb. This self-induced blindness astounded me.'"

There is no evidence of god in our biology, in the cosmos, nor within our uses of logic. This is why I often make the claim that there is no evidence for god, as I did here, in the review of the first chapter, despite these arguments being held up as such. I've even been insulted because of this view (though no one has yet to offer one argument against my position).

Because of the facts and logic that I have presented I see no reason to believe in any god. There are miles wide, gaping holes in every single argument ever put forth for a god and these arguments will only get weaker as science discovers more and more about the universe and us.

It is precisely for this reason that I consider christian apologetics to be a huge pile of bullshit, and half ass attempts by unenlightened and superstitious individuals to convince themselves that they aren't going to die.


UPDATE 4-3-09

It has come to my attention that some of Victor J. Stenger's statements that I cited may be false, but as with just about everything I write I usually think two or three steps ahead of any possible detractors, which is why I stated the following in the above post:

Even assuming that the universe wasn't eternal, and the previous research was flawed in some way, it's pretty presumptuous of them to claim their god did it. They have no proof. All they have is a book written by very superstitious individuals who didn't know what we do today about the world and how it works. How theists can claim this book that is full of oftentimes silly and cruel statements and stories tells us how the universe came to be is dumb founding.

I said this because I am well aware of the fluid nature of science. As more data is collected old theories are put to rest and are replaced with new ones that fit the data better. Because of the non static nature of science you can't always count on everything being completely accurate at all times, especially in the fast moving world of cosmology where they're finding new things at a fairly fast pace. There is also a lot of disagreement among scientists so to proclaim Stenger as the ultimate authority would be foolish. Of course he could be wrong (and as someone has informed me, he very well could be) and I don't deny that, but because he is wrong does nothing to my case. It's still no proof of a god and where I cited Stenger was just a small part of my argument.

As I tried to show throughout the post, all arguments for god are nothing more than "god of the gap" arguments: because theists are at a loss to explain something we don't yet understand or something miraculous, they wish to subscribe a god to plug the "gaps" in our knowledge. But, this is severely logically flawed way of thinking because theists are also at a loss to explain their god. They just assume their god exists and that it's necessary to have this "uncaused cause" to cause the universe. That's preposterous and contradictory to say the least. I might as well say that some leprechaun caused the universe because it's utilizing the exact same flawed reasoning.

The overall premises of my arguments stand untouched and thus far unrefuted. All arguments for god are nothing more than illogical attempts to plug "gaps" in our knowledge and that's that. That's no more "proof" of a god than me trying to explain how my sandwich disappeared by claiming the tooth fairy got hungry.

UPDATE 4-6-09

I've responded to a few criticisms (though they are mostly misunderstandings and pure ignorance) by one Joe Hinman, who tries, but fails miserably, to rebut any of my above arguments. I respond to his claims here.

UPDATE 4-21-09

I created a post pointing out errors in a christian apologists' arguments against my claim that all arguments for god are nothing more than "god of the gap" arguments. Click here to read it.

UPDATE 5-28-10

I recently finished writing a rebuttal to several of famed Christian apologist William Lane Craig's arguments for god. Some are repeated from this paper, but there is some new stuff in the new one that you might find interesting as well. It can be found here.

28 comments:

  1. Is it possible that an entire culture can become corrupted? You bet! Recent history proves the point rather well. When the Nazis took over Germany before WWII, opposition was crushed and removed. When they began their purging of the undesirables (e.g., the Jews), virtually the entire society went along with the plan. Further examples are given on another page. So, the Bible indicates that no innocent people were killed in the flood.

    This particular paragraph thou cited really caught me as a problem. If this statement is true about Nazi Germany then the author needs to explain exactly why the Allied forces did not feel justified in killing everyone who lived in Germany—including civilians and babies. The Allied forces were not a flood, indiscriminately sweeping away everything in their path; they did not kill every German they came across because they had been “corrupted” and therefore not innocent.

    Second, if god supposedly placed this moral sense within all humans, then how can theists claim that atheists are immoral if god gave this moral sense to everyone?

    This claim has always made me snicker. The response to this question is, of course, that atheists benefit from Christian morality because their god gave it to everyone (therefore also atheists)—and included with that conscience is also the knowledge that the Christian god exists. The problem that I have with this weird consolation is nearly the same as thine. I say,

    “If this is true, why is it therefore an anthropological fact that Christian communities embedded in differing cultures happen to shift towards the morality of the major culture? Two Christian communities, surrounded by different cultures, have differing moralities—and those differing moralities more closely match the cultures they are part of. This suggests that while Christian morality might have its own core concepts, it is not unbendable to the influence of communal moral forces.”

    This is especially evident in the schisms of Christianity, who oftentimes have directly conflicting mores or internally inconsistent morality (“Thou shalt not kill” vs “Homosexuals should be put to death.”)

    To me this smacks of culture shock. A profound misunderstanding by those who are steeped in Christian culture that not only is their Christian culture potentially fundamentally different from another Christian culture, but that their culture is certainly different than another one. That we don’t see core morality today because some immortal law-giver created it; but instead because societies that don’t manage to have a working morality fall apart and tend not to endure.

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  2. I'd really like to read all this... but it's way too long for me to be honest

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  3. > It is because of this that I strongly argue that logic by itself, while extremely helpful and right much of the time, can sometimes get you into trouble. <

    I disagree strongly. You've confused "common" logic and philosophical logic. Rigorous philosophical logic - aka valid arguments containing only true propositions - do indeed conclude true propositions. Not so for what everyday people mean by "logic." The argument:

    1. A bowling ball is heavier than a feather.
    2. Heavier things tend to fall toward massive objects faster than lighter objects.
    3. Therefore, even if we remove the air, a bowling ball will fall toward the earth faster than a feather.

    Using philosophical logic, this is clearly an invalid argument. Philosophical logic has not failed you at all.

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  4. Wow, nice work.

    Have you considered discussing the transcendental argument for god (TAG), presented by CARM.org (see http://www.carm.org/secular-movements/atheism/transcendental-argument-existence-god)? The author was recently on the Atheists Community of Austin's "Atheist Experience" public broadcast TV show where he argued extensively with Matt Dillahunty...

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  5. For their brevity, these points are a nice introduction to the arguments that I commonly see given for a belief in God, though I wouldn't say that they count as evidence *against* the existence of a God, but as a rebuttal to those common arguments, leaving them without an intellectual leg to stand on. However, I think that more refinement is necessary for those more sophisticated in their belief, especially in discussion about the Cosmological argument.

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  6. Hi, thank you for responding to my article. I suppose I'll answer spacecataz first since I just went to that website. Personally, I think that argument is just dumb. Logical absolutes exist, therefore, god exists. Give me a break. This is yet another example of bad logic (the same kind I warned about in Luke's comment, which I'll get to shortly). They give an example that something cannot be both true and false at the same time, well, so what? That's just a fact. It's like the fact that the earth holds life. Theists want to subscribe that to god as well, but does that prove "his" existence? No.

    Luke,

    I see what you're saying, I think, but my point is that logic can't always lead someone to truth. A perfect example would be the bad argument above and the first cause argument. Just because you have several true propositions doesn't mean your conclusion is true. Logic alone won't always lead someone to truth; one also has to make use of the scientific method to test ideas. Look at the Ontological arguments. Does this use of logic prove god exists? No. Now, it may be a "logically sound" argument but so what? My goal is truth, and my point is that logic alone cannot always lead you to the truth. I think the above arguments for god prove my point. They may be logically sound by some philosophical standard, but they don't represent reality. I hope I explained myself well enough. That's the only point I was making there, but if you have any further comments I'd love to discuss it with you. Well, I can try. : ) I'm a very amateur, armchair philosopher.

    J. Park,

    Sorry it's too long for you. Maybe you can read a section or two at a time if you'd like? You probably would not want to read some of my book reviews : ) Two of them are over 100 pages.

    TKD,

    I agree with you that these arguments don't disprove any god's existence but I think with there not being any evidence for such a being in the (outside) world that leaves the human mind as a place for god to live. But if you destroy their so called "logical" arguments with your own logic and evidence, then I think you can possibly get rid of god for good. But then again, there's always faith. I like Dawkins' definition as "belief in the teeth of evidence."

    I've read several variations of the Cosmological argument and I honestly don't see what's so hard about debunking it. From all the variations I've seen they're all god of the gap arguments, and doesn't prove their god. Where can I find different ones? Maybe I'll add a few variations to my article.

    Thanks again everyone for stopping by and giving me your thoughts.

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  7. WL Craig's response reveals the inherent dishonesty in the apologists' pretense that evidence & logic play any role in their reason to believe in the Christian faith. Apologetics is nothing more than an attempt to provide a facade of acceptability in a culture that values knowledge, based on verifiable evidence & logic, above unsupported beliefs in supernatural entities such as fairies, dragons, gods & mythological man-gods.

    Craig also reveals his fear. A fear that an errant statement of skepticism or expressing limits of acceptable evidence for the dogma of the resurrection of Jesus, might have eternal consequences: namely an eternity in hell for having publicly questioned a core teaching of the Christian faith.

    This apologetic pretense that the Christian faith is based on verifiable evidence is only a propagandist's tool to reduce the cognitive dissonance of the modern Christian. I would bet that almost no-one comes to believe in Jesus by a critical examination of the evidence except perhaps in the imaginations of the faithful.

    -evan

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  8. The cosmological argument seems to be a big one for apologetics. It starts with assuming there was a first cause and claims that it was God, the ultimate application of the "god of the gaps" principle. Then the special pleading kicks in and asserts it was the Biblical God, rather than say Bhraman, or Quetzalcoatl, or some other deity.

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  9. Just dropped by this blog - thought the time machine travelling back to AD 33 was an interesting idea - but - I'd just like to turn it round! How many athiests, finding there was no body, or even witnessing the resurrection, would really believe - or would some kind of 'cognitive dissonance' kick in??!!

    Just a thought.

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  10. "How many athiests, finding there was no body, or even witnessing the resurrection, would really believe..."

    I would guess a number close to zero. The ideas that underpin thiests and atheists aren't completely open to absolute verification, and this creates a huge problem. But, even if one or the other were, some still wouldn't believe them. If you remember the Rodney King riots there was a motorist attacked (Reginald Dennny) by one of the local thugs named "Football" Williams. The attack was caught on *videotape*. But, during an interview with the mother of Football Williams, she refused to believe her son attacked Denny even while being shown the tape. Clearly, there was something more going on there than a mere lack of evidence.

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  11. "How many athiests, finding there was no body, or even witnessing the resurrection, would really believe..."

    "I would guess a number close to zero."

    This is an interesting hypothesis, but I doubt the number would be zero. Given good evidence I will say right now that I would believe if I saw it with my own eyes. Of course, I'd want to verify that what I saw was real in some way (do some tests on jesus to make sure he truly was dead before the time came before he is said to rise again), but yes I would believe. But, since there is no evidence I find that kind of thinking a little bit silly. But if time travel was ever invented that question would definitely be a valid and important one. If it were possible I would love to go and see for myself the events of the past. See how the Greeks lived, watch the trial of Galileo, and witness how our earliest ancestors lived to name a few. If any atheists and other doubters did deny it after being shown this proof I'd say they would be shaming the legacy of rational thinkers and freethought.

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  12. "This is an interesting hypothesis, but I doubt the number would be zero."
    "I will say right now that I would believe if I saw it with my own eyes."

    Do you not see the obvious flaw in this argument? You are making yourself the final word on what is or isn't real. For example, would you actually sit on a jury, and because you, personally, didn't see the murder, then conclude there was no murder? Think about you are saying. If we use this standard of evidence, then we can safely toss out about 99% of what is in the history books. You may have valid reasons for rejecting a belief in god, but this is not one of them.


    "Of course, I'd want to verify that what I saw was real in some way (do some tests on jesus to make sure he truly was dead before the time came before he is said to rise again), but yes I would believe."

    How would you know that Jesus wasn't drugged to *appear* dead? How would you know you hadn't been drugged?


    "But, since there is no evidence I find that kind of thinking a little bit silly."

    Again, think carefully about what you are saying. Was there no evidence that OJ murdered his ex-wife and her boyfriend? Well, sure there was; there was the blood, the shoeprints, and there was a motive. But, if we were to use your standard of evidence, all of that could be easily rejected. The blood could have been planted, somebody else was wearing a pair of OJ's shoes, and on and on. But, *you* didn't see the crime.


    "But if time travel was ever invented that question would definitely be a valid and important one. If it were possible I would love to go and see for myself the events of the past. See how the Greeks lived, watch the trial of Galileo, and witness how our earliest ancestors lived to name a few. If any atheists and other doubters did deny it after being shown this proof I'd say they would be shaming the legacy of rational thinkers and freethought."

    Let's grant your time machine. And when you return, you tell all of us that's it's true, Jesus rose from the dead. Why should I believe you? We would be left with an infinite regress "until I see it with my own eyes...". That;s just not a standard of evidence that exists anywhere that I am aware of.

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  13. "Do you not see the obvious flaw in this argument? You are making yourself the final word on what is or isn't real. For example, would you actually sit on a jury, and because you, personally, didn't see the murder, then conclude there was no murder? Think about you are saying. If we use this standard of evidence, then we can safely toss out about 99% of what is in the history books. You may have valid reasons for rejecting a belief in god, but this is not one of them."

    How am I making myself the last word? I'm simply explaining what it would take to convince me and if I'm going to believe something that unbelievable I'd like to dot all the t's and cross all the i's so to speak. If I have a way to test something that I'm going to believe I'm going to do it (alluding to my statement that I'd want to test to make sure jesus was truly dead). Also events in history also have much evidence for them; many supernatural happenings are less likely and there is no reliable evidence for such an event anyway.

    "How would you know that Jesus wasn't drugged to *appear* dead? How would you know you hadn't been drugged?"

    I honestly don't think these arguments are getting you anywhere. First of all, I don't know of any drug that will stop someone's heart and not kill them. Second, I could take precautions to not be drugged.

    "Again, think carefully about what you are saying. Was there no evidence that OJ murdered his ex-wife and her boyfriend? Well, sure there was; there was the blood, the shoeprints, and there was a motive. But, if we were to use your standard of evidence, all of that could be easily rejected. The blood could have been planted, somebody else was wearing a pair of OJ's shoes, and on and on. But, *you* didn't see the crime."

    Murder trials are notorious for putting innocent people on death row. Do you know how many death sentences have been overturned because of this "justice" system? As one example, "Two separate studies conducted in 1987 by The Stanford Law Review and Tufts University found that 350 people sentenced to death in this century were later proven innocent, including 23 who were actually executed" (Source: http://www.lutins.org/death-p.html). Even one innocent person is not worth killing one hundred truly guilty people. Regardless, if I'm going to believe something as important (or as silly as in the resurrection) as putting a man to death I better have some damn good evidence.

    "Let's grant your time machine. And when you return, you tell all of us that's it's true, Jesus rose from the dead. Why should I believe you? We would be left with an infinite regress "until I see it with my own eyes...". That;s just not a standard of evidence that exists anywhere that I am aware of."

    A person coming back from a time machine with a story (or even a video!) of the occurrence would be much more believable than a book that's been changed countless times over the centuries, which was written by people who were very ignorant and superstitious at the time.

    Besides, the question was posed in such a way as to ask someone if they went back in time, would they believe in the resurrection, not if they could convince others. That's a different matter all together.

    The larger problem here is the fact that not one example of a truly supernatural occurrence has ever been proven. Every case that's been tested scientifically has been shown to have natural causes. If that's the case now, then the chances are very good that this was the case back then.

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  14. "I will say right now that I would believe if I saw it with my own eyes."


    That is a clear statement about a standard of evidence. I am not aware, unless you can correct me, that historians, theists or atheists, ever employ this standard. Also, I am not aware that any court of law has in its "rules of evidence", that, in order to convict or not convict, the jury "must have seen it with their own eyes." Rather, this standard of evidence that you propose is the sort of unsophisticated argument that passes as normal among internet atheists.

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  15. I'm not talking about 'standards of evidence', only what would convince me personally to believe in such an unbelievable event.

    "Rather, this standard of evidence that you propose is the sort of unsophisticated argument that passes as normal among internet atheists."

    Instead of dealing with any arguments I've presented you'd rather throw out these silly accusations about "Internet atheists" and whatnot. On the contrary, this kind of attitude is exactly what I've come to expect from 'internet' theists. But thanks for the comment anyway and thanks for stopping by.

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  16. "I'm not talking about 'standards of evidence'....,

    Yes, you are. You stated that the only way you would believe in the resurrection would be to have seen it with your own eyes. Eyewitness testimony is a type of evidence. So you are in fact saying, "This is the evidence that I demand".


    "...only what would convince me personally to believe in such an unbelievable event."

    So you rule out the resurrection a priori?

    Look, I am not going to sit here and tell you I believe in the resurrection 100%, but, I certainly wouldn't invoke an unreasonable and unverifiable burden of proof such as "I'd have to see it with my own eyes."
    "

    "Instead of dealing with any arguments..."

    I've dealt with at least one, but what others are you talking about?

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  17. "You stated that the only way you would believe in the resurrection would be to have seen it with your own eyes. Eyewitness testimony is a type of evidence. So you are in fact saying, "This is the evidence that I demand"."

    And what's the problem? The reason I demand such a high level of evidence is simply because of the tremendous lack of evidence for any supernatural event; see my next comment.

    "So you rule out the resurrection a priori?"

    I've looked into all manner of supernatural claims and found all wanting. If this is the case now, the chances are very, very high it's the same in the past. Besides, I wouldn't rely on second-hand accounts that were changed throughout time for my evidence of some man rising from the dead. I also don't just outright reject it (or any other supernatural claim). I looked into supernatural claims and came to a logical decision based upon the evidence I found, and that evidence told me that supernatural events do not take place. At the very least none have ever been proven.

    "I've dealt with at least one, but what others are you talking about?"

    I'm sorry but you haven't dealt with the resurrection or any other supernatural claim, much less god, which is what my entire article was based upon. You simply question my methodology, which is nothing but sound.

    The problem with people is that they believe things on too little evidence and don't think things through. Otherwise, we wouldn't have these people who believe in UFO's, aliens, or even religion, psychics, and other superstitions.

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  18. "And what's the problem? The reason I demand such a high level of evidence is simply because of the tremendous lack of evidence for any supernatural event; see my next comment."

    The problem is that you can't make up things out of thin air, which is what you are doing. You didn't just demand a high level of evidence, you demanded an impossible level of evidence, one that nobody, including yourself, can possibly meet. This is why, for example, you won't hear Richard Carrier demand as proof of the resurrection that he would have to had personally witnessed it. That would be *nuts*.
    Thats why they examine the testimony of those who said they witnessed it. And the documents, and so forth. If you can't see this, or concede this point, then I can only guess you skipped your classed on historical methodology.


    "The problem with people is that they believe things on too little evidence and don't think things through. Otherwise, we wouldn't have these people who believe in UFO's, aliens, or even religion, psychics, and other superstitions."

    Now let's see. Of the thousands of cases of paranormal events, you have investigated exactly how many *first hand*?

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  19. You're starting to get a little bit of an attitude there and I don't appreciate it. I also am getting tired of having to repeat myself and you taking me out of context.

    "The problem is that you can't make up things out of thin air, which is what you are doing. You didn't just demand a high level of evidence, you demanded an impossible level of evidence, one that nobody, including yourself, can possibly meet. This is why, for example, you won't hear Richard Carrier demand as proof of the resurrection that he would have to had personally witnessed it. That would be *nuts*.
    Thats why they examine the testimony of those who said they witnessed it. And the documents, and so forth. If you can't see this, or concede this point, then I can only guess you skipped your classed on historical methodology."

    I'm not making anything up out of thin air. My entire comment about jesus was about what kind of evidence would I personally accept, if I had the ability to go back in time. That's it. It's not about trusting ancient documents or some such thing; but the fact of the matter is that we cannot trust the bible about the resurrection to begin with. If that's what you claim I'm "making up" you're wrong on that account. The unreliability of the gospels (especially) regarding the resurrection is well known.

    "Now let's see. Of the thousands of cases of paranormal events, you have investigated exactly how many *first hand*?"

    This is talking about a completely different situation. If I had a time machine I could go and try my best to test various claims from the past first hand, but I was referring to the research I've done over the years, in which I've read accounts of these events, and looked at the supposed evidence. I've found none. You also created a strawman because I never said all claims must be checked first hand - that's impossible anyway. I was only talking about that hypothetical situation that Loftus recounted in his book and I gave my opinion on that topic, and that topic alone.

    I'm sorry but I'm getting tired of having you put words in my mouth and my having to repeat myself, so this is the last comment I shall post.

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  20. Hi, i want to give you credit for your work on this blog. On this particular topic...Well. much have been written about it. You present your arguments well. I agree with you that the concept of God ias a fallacious argument. It's the same as saying the universe has always existed. The point is...theists do not know what they are talking about! I have an opinion on the existence of a god and I'd ike to know what you think of it. My premise is: we only know what we have experienced. For instance: we cannot imagine a colour we have not yet seen. Yes, imagination has its severe limits! So, all of humankind has experiences and has recorded these. Through combinations of all these factors that make up those experiences we can come up with calculations, predictions etc. Beyond this we know absolutley nothing, although our collective knowledge is growing. What we can speak of is a current boundery of our collective knowledge and surrounding that is the boundery of our collective imagination. These bounderies are being pushed forward (that is our experience), but we do not know if this will always be the case. Maybe one day there will be nothing to know outside our own knowledge. It seem highly improbable, but we do not know this. Well, where does God or a god in the picture? Simply nowhere! For if we discover God, he fall within our bounderies of experience, so he cannot be trancendent and cannot have all the attributes assigned to him by theists. Furthermore, we could never know if it is God. He can perform miracles, tricks and whatever, but we cannot see beyond death. Perhaps when we die, the discovered God has disappeared (it was an Alien), turns out to be Satan who played a terrific joke on us, or he tells us he is just a figment of our imagination. Or we won't discover a thing because we're dead? Or maybe....You see, you can suppose anything. You can put the whole of your imagination on the things that you do not know and anything seems possible. In my opinion, theists have a very poor imagination and an evil one at that. The change that they are remotely right is well...just as small as you can imagine! You see, why worry about something you do not know and cannot know? It's just a waste of time!

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  21. Hi Erniesam, thanks for the compliment. I think your thinking is on track and I hope as a species we all continue to learn and grow. But we'll all just have to wait to see what the future brings!

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  22. Thanks for the nice post!

    So, which arguments in Stenger's book are supposedly (possibly) false? And can you explain why?

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  23. Hi cornelius,

    The reason I added this was because of comments posted at Debunking Christianity where Mr. Loftus had linked to this post. Someone commented regarding Stenger's arguments and with my liking to be as thorough as possible I wanted to add that in case what he was saying was true about Stenger's arguments (I doubt it, though) it still doesn't prove anything.

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  24. Heya. That's a great topic you got here, and big...

    Best regards from Brazil.

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  25. http://creation.com/what-is-good-answering-euthyphro-dilemma

    I hope that this will be helpful.

    I can't invest the time in a long argument now, and I have a slow connection so I won't be subscribing to comments.

    I'll be back to engage some other time.

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  26. Erik,

    Thanks for the comment. It's not your fault since you may not have read this post but I already answered the argument used in the article. It's a horrible argument and is the same one William Lane Craig uses.

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  27. do you believe in point singularity as the cause of big bang theory?

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  28. There was no singularity. That’s the reason Craig was wrong when he cited cosmology for his “first cause” argument.

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