A Few Really Bad Objections to Theism

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"The philosophical case against Christianity is rather easily dealt with.  There is no philosophical case against Christianity." ~G.K. Chesterton

There are many objections to the existence of an all-powerful creator God, and even more to Christianity.  They range from the powerful  -  even compelling - to the truly embarrassing.  This blog will tend towards examining some of the more interesting objections.  But some of the truly terrible objections are so pervasive today that they must be dealt with even in passing.  Otherwise, they only serve to provide a roadblock to meaningful dialogue between atheists and theists.  This post will tackle only a few.  My next post will deal with a few really bad defenses of Christianity.

Terrible Objection #1: Who Created God?

The problem with the objection boils down to a misunderstanding of the God of classical theism.  The work of the great Christian thinkers make it manifestly clear that their understanding of God is that he is the ultimate foundation of all that exists, and that he depends on no one and nothing for his own existence.

An infinite regress of causes is impossible, so it is clear that there must be some un-caused cause.1  From there, many of the classical arguments for the existence of God derive his un-caused nature from, well, argument.  It is not some arbitrary premise.  Because of this, the idea of God being the First Cause is not open to a related objection: "why not say the universe is uncreated?"  This assumes that God's un-caused nature is simply some arbitrary property assigned to God, and to assign it to the universe is no more arbitrary.  However, the point of some of the classical arguments for the existence of God is that we have no good reasons for concluding that the universe is the First Cause, and very good reasons for concluding God is.  Further, even based on the most current cosmology, there is no reason to think the universe is un-caused.  If a scientist does believe the universe (or the multiverse, or the quantum vacuum, etc.) is un-caused, the scientist believes this out of a prior commitment, not out of any evidence in cosmology.

Terrible Objection #2: The "One God Further" Objection

This objection  has resulted in  - among other things - one of the credos of atheism today: "Christians disbelieve in every other god, we just take it one god further." The objection suffers from the same malady as the first,2 namely, a failure to understand the God of classical theism.

God, as properly understood, is not simply very powerful - like Thor, nor the spirit of truth - like Aletheia, nor super nice, like Santa.  He is all-powerful, he IS truth, and he is the source of all goodness.  The mistake is putting God on the same continuum with various other superhero-like deities.  Again, these attributes of God are not arrived at arbitrarily, but through careful thought and argument.

So, to compare the God of Christianity to Zeus, Krishna, Santa, and others (as the likes of Richard Dawkins are wont to do) or to ask "who created God?" shows a complete lack of understanding.

Terrible Objection #3: Where's the Evidence?!

The idea behind this objection is that there must be physical evidence for the existence of God, as there must be physical evidence of, well, everything.  To quote the comedian Ricky Gervais: "All [science] knows is there is no scientific proof of anything supernatural so far.  When someone presents a jar of God it will test it."

This objection shouldn't be confused with a much more subtle and interesting objection known in philosophical circles as Divine Hiddenness.  With the Hiddenness of God, the issue is that God does not seem to be very involved in the world today, and that he has not made his existence sufficiently clear.  There has been quite a lot of discussion in philosophical circles on the subject in recent years.

The objection at hand, however, is usually presented as a dilemma between scientific evidence and God' existence.  If something exists, science should be able to find it.  The problem with this objection is similar to that of the logical positivists mentioned in a previous post.  There are a great many counterexamples to the claim that science can discover everything that exists.  Here are a few:

1)  The claim itself.
2)  The existence of other minds.  We cannot observe in any way the subjective aspect of another person's mind.  In response, many run to neuroscience as an explanation, but no amount of reading brain waves will ever allow one to directly observe someone else's thoughts.
3)  Mathematics.  Science depends on mathematics, so to try to explain mathematics in terms of science would be to argue in a circle.
4)  Morality.  Of course, one could simply deny the existence of morality, as some atheists in fact do.

In the case of God, there is no compelling reason to believe he would interact with the world in such a way that he could be tested in a Petri dish.  That being said, the very existence of the universe is seen by theists as pretty compelling evidence of God's existence.

Terrible Objection #4: Your Religious Beliefs Depend Largely on Where You Were Born, So Why Believe Them?

On one hand this is something really interesting about which to think.  However, used as an objection it suffers from a certain amount of hypocrisy.  The problem is that this could be just as easily applied to a person's atheism.  There are geographical areas where atheism is fairly common, so why not doubt one's atheism?  The simple fact that one disbelieves in God's existence does not give one the privilege of avoiding this question.

This is speculation, but some atheists may think they are in a privileged position because they de-converted from a religion after much thought, rather than simply believing what they were raised to believe.  But this is the case with many religious believers as well; people change religions and even - dare I mention - convert from atheism to other religions.  So it is a moot point.  In this objection as with others, atheism is given preferential treatment on the part of the objector.

1.  This may strike some of our more philosophically-minded readers as rather dismissive.  It was done for the sake of brevity, and infinite regress will be dealt with in more detail when we cover some of the classical arguments for God's existence.
2.  Because both #1 and #2 both stem from a failure to understand the very idea of the God of classical theism, I considered combining them into a single facepalm-worthy objection.  However, they are both common enough to warrant separate points.
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