Philosophical Arguments Against Theism
I am gradually going to use this post to collect my thoughts on the reasons that God's nonexistence is the most parsimonious on the topic.
The Cosmological Argument:
All extant things have a cause, the universe is extant, therefore the universe has a cause. Since the universe has a cause, the universe itself cannot be that cause. Therefore, the universe has a cause other than itself. Given that the universe is a physical reality, however, phenomena within it can be used to determine the cause of the universe. Cosmological inquiries into the question have been unable to detect any evidence of supernatural causes, therefore it is unlikely that a supernatural cause can explain the universe. This makes the most reasonable conclusion from cosmological evidence regarding the non-existence of God, the one that is most probably true. This probability can be established by considering whether any physical theory or theological theory, can be shown to map against the physical cosmos. To simplify this we cite the papers of Lee Smolen
, Sean Carrol
, and Lawrence Krauss
which all model precisely to the physical universe as we know it. Of course, we concede that these are competing theories and that they cannot all be correct. The point, however, is that multiple physical models align with the universe as we know it and no theological model does. It is much more parsimonious, therefore, to assume that a supernatural being did not create the universe.
The fine-tuning of the universe appears to have the intention of creating intelligent life on planet earth. I am a part of that life. I detect this fine-tuning because I am looking for it. An anthropomorphic meteor, or black hole, or lifeform (as in a virus) that is antithetical to my existence can say the same thing. Therefore the universe simply is what it is and has no teleology. It is, yes, a universe in which fine-tuning has lead to human life, but to countless other realities also, most of which are incompatible with human life. Moreover, the fine-tuning is not as remarkable as one might think on scales unimaginable to the human perspective. One last thought: this body ought to exhibit fine-tuning as well, but my back hurts, my sinuses drain against gravity, my laryngeal nerve takes a dangerous detour through a major artery near my heart before terminating in my larynx, I urinate through my prostate, and my vas deferens takes a similarly ridiculous route as my laryngeal nerve.
Psychological tests indicate that there is a natural instinct for morality and something of an instinctual moral consensus that evolves. Every religion has moral duties and prejudices that outsiders can see is immoral according to that innate common morality. Female castration, homophobia, and blood sacrifice are representative. If there exists a personal God, she has a will, replication of which should constitute our morality. The paucity of religious duties that conform to our internal moral zeitgeist indicates that either there is no God, or that she has no will, or that she keeps her will to herself. Therefore moral duties must be sought through reason, not religion. This admittedly is an argument for living as though there is no god, not necessarily an argument that she does not exist.
The Cosmos is all there is, all there was, and all that ever will be. God is defined as a being that transcends the cosmos. Therefore God is a being that is not, never was, and never will be.
I am about 65% serious about that definition. I have never found the ontological for God's existence to be persuasive. It has been, however, for many who are much more intelligent than me. This causes me to suspect that I do not understand it as well as I ought to. It comes from Anselm, and I will characterize it as fairly as I can: It is possible to conceive of a supremely great being, but impossible to refute that such a perfect being is greater by actually existing. Therefore our capacity to conceive of the ontology of a supremely great being presupposes the actual existence of that being. That being is God. This seems foolish to me. Such reasoning also applies to a supreme drunk, a supreme stinker, and a supreme debtor too. The leap from these supreme concepts to the actual supreme beings implied by them is precisely as logical as the god inference in this context.
The real nail in this coffin is when you apply it to conceptual ideals. Anselm's logic applies both to an unstoppable force and an immovable object. Logically these two forces cannot exist within the same universe. Via reductio ad absurdum, we, therefore, demonstrate that this logic is not cogent.
I shudder here. This is the moment in which the reality of my new philosophy presents, in unforgiving starkness, the allegiances I gain and lose. The best exponent of the argument from desire is the lovable C. S. Lewis, for whom I still of great affection.Lewis' argument is presented with far more elegance, but it really can be summarized with the following statement: the desire for God presupposes the existence of God, as in the case of thirst presupposing water. Lewis makes the heavy distinction between innate and learned desires as in hunger, lust, thirst, etc. For Lewis, the major desire is for something that we never know on earth, some entity of fulfillment in another world. These premises cannot be proven, and are exposed to any number of attacks. It could be shown that the desire for that which we do not know is not innate. It could be shown that another innate desire does not have an actual object as its focus. It could be shown that the desire for that which we do not know has an object other than God. I have contentions for each of these, but it is this last method of attack that seems most relevant to me personally. This desire is for Dani. I do not believe in soulmates or anything but the life-giving soul. I do believe in love. I believe that good people of compatible personalities, who share a mutual attraction, and who behave well regarding one another, can fall bounteously, thrivingly, in love. I feel that way for Dani. The intention of my universe, the fine-tuning of it, the glory, conquest, sacrifice, and intelligence of history is mutual, committed, devotion. Any who truly experience this know that it is enough. The tender emotion toward Christ, the solemnity of worship, the lives before and after death, and the faithful zeal of religion do not overawe love. God is not love. Love is love. God does not exist, but the place for her is real, it is the abode in my heart where Dani is.
The Properly Basic Belief:
The concession to God's nonexistence is not so much a faith claim or an objective, empirical, necessity, as it is an assumption, based on personal experience, that constitutes a properly basic belief. God does not answer prayers or give comfort. I know this from personal experience. Now, this may seem like rocky ground since the claimed personal experience of countless others justifies the opposite conclusion. More people claim that prayers get answers than claim that prayers do not get answers. I will submit two items for intellectually honest inquiry and the matter alone. First, I want to say that I am one who formerly claimed that I have experienced answers to prayers and comfort in times of trial. I claimed that answers and comfort came as manifestations of the Holy Ghost. I can admit openly now that I have felt that same feeling, which formerly I ascribed to the Holy Ghost while watching John Stockton sink the game-winning three that sent the Jazz to the finals. I have felt it when the Mighty Ducks won their major games in all three movies. I have felt it when watching Amistad or even The Conjuring. I am confident that these phenomena, for me at least, are simply the result of the rite of passage experience common to all cultures. Introduce liminality, separation, reversal, communitas, and reintegration to any event, and you will replicate the "experience of god". My second point is that the personal experience of god can be refuted by any parent who observes their children. One instance is representative. I had come home from work at around 9:30 PM one night. I was making myself some food and I heard Lucy screaming. I went into her bedroom and held her. She had obviously experienced a nightmare. I rocked her and told her that when we are scared, we can pray, and God will make us less scared. I said a prayer out loud and then she calmed down. Now, what happened there? Did God comfort her? Was that a personal experience that would warrant a properly basic belief in the existence of god? No. I comforted her. When I heard her screaming, it tore my heart in two. As I held her and felt her shaking, tears welled up in my eyes and I would have done any moral thing in my power to take away her fear. In the Mormon hypothesis of God, He heard those cries also and felt her spasms of fear. He did nothing. He did not rush in as I did with comfort. He gave did not give that caloric warmth we all know in our bosoms. Yet it came to her when we prayed. This was me training Lucy to experience that warmth and interpret it as God's comfort. This was brainwashing. If this personal experience is in fact properly basic, it should be available to all. It should not require the right environment at birth that would expose a child to the stimuli called truth by the church. The child, the handicapped, and all humans born in any circumstance should be able to quench fear with God's love like they can with water.