Faith in a Box

Qualiasoup provides you with a basic philosophical explanation of why the theist position makes little sense.

The video’s a bit long for my taste, but the first couple minutes are excellent, and the accent gets you through the rest of the way :)

(Thanks to Claudia for the link!)

  • Laura Lou

    The point he makes about defining a divine entity is an excellent one. I’ve debated with a few theists where I immediately asked them to define “God.” Every time, they struggled to form a complete answer that was generic enough for me not to be able to find fault with it. In the end, when I pressed them for specifics regarding their faith, they fell back on “it defies words,” “you just know,” or some equally non-answer answer.

  • AxeGrrl

    Another wonderful video from Qualisoup :)

    I’m telling you, someone needs to put these videos on a DVD and make it available for classroom use everywhere!

  • http://www.fakingnews.com Pagal Patrakar

    Each time people defend arguments against their faith claiming “Religion is a private matter”. Read this satire to find out the stupidity of this logic – http://www.fakingnews.com/2009/09/student-expelled-from-school-for-wearing-pink-underwear-moves-hc/

  • JJR

    Definitely another “friendly atheist”…Qualia Soup doesn’t rant or rave, just lays out the facts, in a calming British accent. Love it.

  • medussa

    Well done.

    I particularly like the quote “evidence of superior intelligence and power does not constitute evidence of specific gods”.

    And also “it’s not whether we believe in gods but how we treat each other that says the most about our character”.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverFrog

    What accent?

    The arguments are so reasonable and don’t put down the personal views of theists. An interesting approach being non-argumentative.

  • Sesoron

    Yes! I’ve been wanting to shout out one of his arguments for ages: even if something happens that appears miraculous, whatever the agent is (if one exists) cannot be determined by human observers. Even if the agent directly (verbally) or indirectly (e.g. through symbols) claimed a cause consistent with or related to religion X, there’s absolutely no way to know it’s not a deliberately deceptive wizard, demon, time-traveler, or alien. The very fact that something has abilities beyond our comprehension means that it’s probably capable of reliably deceiving our best instruments.

    Deception by a natural agent (however advanced) is always a more likely explanation than an agent that transcends nature. It’s like the old “dog ate my homework” ploy, except the dog is spelled backwards.

  • ChameleonDave

    Ironically, if the video had been in a thick American drawl, Hemant wouldn’t have mentioned any accent.

  • ChameleonDave

    He’s slightly difficult to follow, as he doesn’t pause enough between paragraphs.

  • Leanstrum

    His accent has a slight Estuary twang to it, as does mine (apparently). If that’s considered pleasant, I need to get myself over to the US. Anyone seen Love Actually? :D

  • http://woofkitty.blogspot.com Samizdat

    Great video…but that accent doesn’t sound quite pure British to me. Maybe a bit of antipodean in there?

  • muggle

    Good video. Points I’ve said repeatedly and some new ones for new fodder. Good job.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    Excellent video. It would be amusing, though, to take that same video and replace the audio with the same words but spoken with a “thick American drawl”. We might have to slow down the slide transitions, though. :) If I had a little more free time, I’d do it myself.

  • mcbender

    QualiaSoup makes great videos, and it’s wonderful to see that he’s still going strong.

  • Tom

    I think it’s funny how all the antagonists depicted are white, pretty people. Everything is politically correct, in the illustrations at least.

    An excellent video.

  • Peregrine

    I knew the Companion Cube was real!

  • http://notdrjekyll.blogspot.com Mr. Hyde

    I will step into this tide. I understand his arguments fully, but it appears to me that it creates just as big a problem for atheists as theists. If we posit the existence of God X in the realm which is inaccessible to us, then it seems that we could propose endless possibilities of what could and could not exist in that realm. The things that he lists that could not exist in the realm (e.g. an omniscient being capable of choice) don’t follow since the realm is inaccessible. We would need some more information about the realm before we could propose anything. It worked for the cube because we know something about the cube because it exists in our realm, an accessible realm; however, any such propositions about an inaccessible realm bring up the inescapable question—why is that impossible in that realm? If the realm is inaccessible, then it’s possible that God X could not logically exist and equally possible that God X could logically exist. If I am missing something, please explain how this does not pose the same problem for both sides?

  • Beth B.

    With Hemant’s title, I was expecting a music video starring Justin Timberlake.

    Actually, this was better.

  • animation student

    i’m going to attempt to respond to that.
    i think i understand what you’re saying.

    the things that were listed as things that couldn’t exist were logically impossible.
    Most people (if not all) have a specific idea when they say ‘omniscient’. Most (if not all) have a specific idea when they say ‘choice’. If someone made the statement ‘this omniscient being is capable of choice’ we take it to mean ‘this individual that knows all that has happened, that is happening, and that will happen and that knows its actions of the past, present, and future is capable of making a decision about its action that may go against its previous and current knowledge of what it would and will do.’

    I think this goes with the idea of a squared circle or a married bachelor. We have a specific idea of what a circle is and what a square is. We have a specific idea of what being married is and what a bachelor is.
    The cube exists (as an idea) because we have a settled-on definition of the cube. If my definition of a cube was ‘[standard cube] but with an inside that’s larger than the outside’ and was different from your definition, we would have to settle that before talking about cubes.
    (in the example given, it’s assumed that we’re talking about a cube with an inside that isn’t larger than the outside)

    He talks a little about this in the section on [vague and specific definitions] and on [things beyond our understanding].

    I guess if you were to say ‘green ripicorns can’t possibly exist’ then i suppose that’s just as valid as someone saying ‘green ripicorns do exist’. In that case, there may be a ‘problem for both sides’.

    He addressed this in [vague/specific] and in [things beyond our understanding].

  • animation student

    edit: this is also addressed in the first third of the video.

  • http://yangandcampion.googlepages.com Margaret Y.

    I love the lunchtime scene that starts at 3:47. The maker of the video has no problem with private belief, but once you start bullying others into accepting your belief, the burden of proof is on you. Nice.

  • Josh

    Mr. Hyde,

    All of the things he lists that could not exist in the inaccessible realm are logically impossible things. An “omniscient being capable of choice” is self-contradictory. It’s impossible to be both omniscient and capable of choice. The rest of the list are also self-contradictory logical impossibilities, therefore, we can confidently say that they do not exist even though the realm is inaccessible.

    Also, hooray for the return of Qualia Soup! He’s my favorite Youtube Atheist.

  • AnonyMouse

    Then, of course, there’s the oncological argument: I survived cancer, therefore God exists.

    Great video. It poses the problem with brilliant eloquence, which unfortunately means that most of the Christians I would like to persuade will be completely unable to understand it.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverFrog

    Mr Hyde wrote

    If the realm is inaccessible, then it’s possible that God X could not logically exist and equally possible that God X could logically exist. If I am missing something, please explain how this does not pose the same problem for both sides?

    It poses a problem for anyone making a claim about the properties of the realm. Atheism makes no claims, it merely states “I don’t believe that, present your evidence”. Sure, God X could exist but then Zombie X could also exist and be ready to eat your brains. Any claims to knowledge regarding the inaccessible realm are equally possible and equally improbably. In order to escape from the trap of making ludicrous and improbable claims without supporting evidence the reasonable course of action is to make no claims and treat any claim with skepticism.

  • http://endfaith.blogspot.com Just Some Guy

    Well put, hoverfrog. Or (?) alternatively I summarize it as “The infeasible didn’t just become feasible because it’s believed to be in the box. It’s still just as infeasible.”

    I love those videos. They do fantastic work!

  • http://notdrjekyll.blogspot.com Mr. Hyde

    @hoverFrog

    You wrote: Atheism makes no claims, it merely states “I don’t believe that, present your evidence”…In order to escape from the trap of making ludicrous and improbable claims without supporting evidence the reasonable course of action is to make no claims and treat any claim with skepticism.

    So are you saying that atheism is logically ludicrous because it also makes a claim (although it be a negative)? It sounds like your argument supports an agnostic position more than atheism.

  • http://notdrjekyll.blogspot.com Mr. Hyde

    @animation student

    I think I understand what you are saying and after watching the video again I see exactly what you mean. He does have a list of “logical impossibilities.” So we could add a square circle to that list. However, I still don’t think this advances the case against theism without also advancing the case against atheism.

    According to the video, a theist must provide evidence that God X exists in that realm. At this point, the only thing in favor of the atheist is if such a person proposes a “logical impossibility.” But the problem still remains, how do we know for sure that a square circle cannot exist in that realm. It is inaccessible to us, so we cannot state with any assurance that things are such in that realm to prevent the possibility of a square circle. The problem as I see it is that he tries to reveal a logical flaw in the argument for theism, but includes philosophical arguments in his “logical argument.” This somewhat muddies the argument because an “inaccessible realm” could possibly have a cube where the inside is larger than the outside. What if time and space interact differently in that realm such that a larger area could exist inside the cube than outside the cube? This is where I see the problem. My point is that this argument could easily lead to an argument something like this:

    Atheist: God X could not possibly exist because it is logically impossible that a space-less being can inhabit space, much less all of space at once. It would be like a square circle.
    Theist: You are wrong because you are imposing our finite experience upon an infinite God X. God X is other than we are. It is possible that God X can be a space-less being and still inhabit space in a realm outside of ours.
    Atheist: Yes, but you have no evidence to show that this other realm exists or that such a thing is possible.
    Theist: Can you prove that this realm does not exist or that a space-less being cannot inhabit space in this other realm?
    Atheist: I have no reason to believe that such a place exists—there is simply no evidence that would lead me to believe it is so.
    Theist: I have no reason to believe that such a place does not exist—there is simply no evidence that would lead me to believe that it is not so.

    This leads to a tireless debate. The only hope at this point is if the Theist defines God X in such a way as to self-destruct. There is no logical impossibility of a “loving God who allows eternal agony.” There is a philosophical problem with that, but logically this is a possibility. An omniscient being capable of choice is likewise a philosophical problem, not a logical problem. The being can know what choice it is always going to make; the only logical problem occurs if the being chooses something different than what it knew it would choose. There is no logical problem with a perfect being that needs to be worshiped, that’s a philosophical problem. The only one close to a logical problem is a non-spatial omnipresent being. But I think this could be explained as a perception problem as a commenter of the video stated on YouTube,

    I think I have found a convoluted example where a square can appear to be a circle. But it really doesn’t say anything about the intrinsic properties of the object, so much as flawed perspectives.

    To a flatlander, pushing a square orthogonally through their plane would look the same as pushing a same-sized circle through in the same way. So to the flatlander, the square and the circle would look the same.

    So I still think this argument cuts the same branch from underneath the atheist as he is trying to cut the branch from under the theist.

  • Aj

    Mr. Hyde,

    But the problem still remains, how do we know for sure that a square circle cannot exist in that realm.

    How could a squared circle exist anywhere? It’s a logical impossibility. Most of these examples seem to be subtracting something key to what that something is. It’s like saying a human that is not a mammal. A satellite that doesn’t orbit.

    This somewhat muddies the argument because an “inaccessible realm” could possibly have a cube where the inside is larger than the outside. What if time and space interact differently in that realm such that a larger area could exist inside the cube than outside the cube?

    I’m not sure what you mean by time and space interacting differently. A three dimensional cube cannot be larger inside than outside regardless of time.

    There is no logical impossibility of a “loving God who allows eternal agony.”

    There are escapes for that, perhaps this god doesn’t know, who can’t do anything. An omnipotent omniscient omnibenevolent god who allows eternal agony however is a logical impossibility unless this somehow stops a greater agony.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    Mr. Hyde Says:
    So are you saying that atheism is logically ludicrous because it also makes a claim (although it be a negative)? It sounds like your argument supports an agnostic position more than atheism.

    Mr. Hyde,

    You are applying a too narrow definition of atheism. Atheism simply means not having theistic belief (Not believing in god). You would have to provide another adjective (like “strong”) to refer to someone who claims to have absolute knowledge that there is no God. I would agree with you that claiming such absolute knowledge about a supposed inaccessible realm is unsupportable.

    Many atheists who read this blog (who are also agnostic) find it frustrating when people refer to anyone calling themselves an atheist as someone who claims absolute knowledge that there is no God. We view that as a straw man atheist.

  • bernerbits

    Atheist: I have no reason to believe that such a place exists—there is simply no evidence that would lead me to believe it is so.
    Theist: I have no reason to believe that such a place does not exist—there is simply no evidence that would lead me to believe that it is not so.

    The atheist here is refusing to believe something until shown evidence. The theist is insisting on believing in something, refusing to provide evidence for it, yet at the same time requesting evidence against it.

    You can’t prove I didn’t kill my mother. You simply don’t know enough about me, where I live, my family, etc. to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that I didn’t kill my mother. Yet you will likely accept me at my word that my mother is alive and well, even though I will refuse to provide that evidence. And it would be ludicrous of you to suggest I did kill my mother, or that it’s just as likely that I did kill my mother as it is that I didn’t, without strong, compelling evidence that my mother is indeed dead, and that I had the means, motive and opportunity to kill her.

    “You can’t prove one way or another that god does or doesn’t exist” does not place theism and atheism on equal footing. It is called shifting the burden of proof. The burden of proof is always on the one making the assertion. You don’t believe X doesn’t exist? That’s nice, but it is not justification for the existence of X. On the other hand, “I don’t believe X exists” is not an attempt to convince, it is a simple statement of personal disbelief requesting evidence to the contrary.

    Refusing to believe in something until shown evidence is healthy. In fact it is the basis of our criminal justice system: “innocent until proven guilty.” On the other hand, insisting on believing in something until shown that it is false allows you to believe in all manner of nonsensical propositions, like square triangles and 2+2=3, because in the face of conflicting evidence, you can always push it farther away into “inaccessible realms.”

  • http://notdrjekyll.blogspot.com Mr. Hyde

    This has been a wonderful exchange. But I think this discussion has somewhat demonstrated my point. This argument isn’t 100% fool-proof.

    @bernerbits

    It is called shifting the burden of proof. The burden of proof is always on the one making the assertion.

    There is an assertion in an atheist claim and I don’t mean that one has absolute knowledge. But the assertion could be summarized like this, “I do not believe God X exists.” That is an assertion just as much as the theist who claims God X does exist. Therefore, the theist has every right to ask, “What brings you to that conclusion or what reasons do you have for not believing God X exists?” Is this not fair?

    Likewise, I understand that this video is Qualia’s reasons for holding his view. I just don’t think they are good reasons.

    @Aj

    I’m not sure what you mean by time and space interacting differently. A three dimensional cube cannot be larger inside than outside regardless of time…
    There are escapes for that, perhaps this god doesn’t know, who can’t do anything. An omnipotent omniscient omnibenevolent god who allows eternal agony however is a logical impossibility unless this somehow stops a greater agony.

    Please explain how that is a logical impossibility (point-by-point so I make sure I understand your view)?
    As far as the cube, it is theoretically possible that the cube could contain a black hole. This would mean that the inside of the cube would be larger than the outside of the cube.

  • Josh

    There is an assertion in an atheist claim and I don’t mean that one has absolute knowledge. But the assertion could be summarized like this, “I do not believe God X exists.” That is an assertion just as much as the theist who claims God X does exist. Therefore, the theist has every right to ask, “What brings you to that conclusion or what reasons do you have for not believing God X exists?” Is this not fair?

    Theists bring this argument up all the time, but it’s not really accurate. When an atheist says “I do not believe God X exists”, they are not making a factual claim that “God X does not exist”. They are saying “I have not been presented with sufficient evidence required to make the factual claim that God X does exist.” This is simply refuting a factual claim made by someone else. It’s the opposite of a factual claim.

    If someone approaches you on the street and says they have a fire-breathing dragon in their basement, but presents no evidence of such a dragon, you’d be perfectly reasonable if you said “I do not believe there is a dragon in your basement.” This is reasonable because the claim falls outside the scope of everything you’ve ever observed about the world. You are not making a factual claim that’s equal to the original. You’re not saying that there definitely is not a dragon, or that there cannot be one, just that you don’t have enough evidence to believe such an outlandish claim. The more outlandish a claim, the more evidence is required, and a supernatural, omnipotent, omnibenevolent being that watches, and meddles in the everyday affairs of humans is the most outlandish claim ever made.

  • Josh

    Regarding my previous example, and to answer your question directly, the claimed dragon-owner does NOT have every right to ask, “What brings you to that conclusion or what reasons do you have for not believing there is a dragon in my basement?”. No, this is not fair. You don’t need any reasons. You’re not the one making the claim.

  • Aj

    Mr. Hyde,

    Please explain how that is a logical impossibility (point-by-point so I make sure I understand your view)?

    A cube has 8 vertices, 12 edges, and 6 faces. The vertices are equal length apart. The edges are equal lengths. The faces are of equal area. The volume is the distance between any vertex cubed, or the area of any face multipled by the distance between any vertex.

    As far as the cube, it is theoretically possible that the cube could contain a black hole. This would mean that the inside of the cube would be larger than the outside of the cube.

    If you warp space then you warp the cube, or the cube no longer represents space-time.

  • http://notdrjekyll.blogspot.com Mr. Hyde

    @Aj
    I apologize, I should have been more specific in regards to what I was asking you to clarify. I wanted you to clarify your statement, “An omnipotent omniscient omnibenevolent god who allows eternal agony however is a logical impossibility unless this somehow stops a greater agony.” This is that to which I was referring asking you to clarify point-by-point. My apologies for not making that clear in my original comment.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverFrog

    Mr Hyde wrote

    So are you saying that atheism is logically ludicrous because it also makes a claim (although it be a negative)? It sounds like your argument supports an agnostic position more than atheism.

    No, I’m saying that the only claim that atheism makes is one of personal belief. Atheism does not say “There are no gods”, it says “I do not believe that there are any gods”. It is only when you make positive claims like “God exists” that you need to support and justify the claim.

    Agnosticism isn’t a middle ground between theism and atheism. Theism and atheism are statements of belief, you either believe in gods or you don’t. Agnosticism\gnosticism is a claim to knowledge. An agnostic says that we cannot know if gods exist either because such knowledge is not possible or because we have insufficient information to make a positive claim. You can have agnostic theists and agnostic atheists. I am an agnostic atheist in that I do not believe in gods and believe that the definition of gods is insufficient to base any claim of knowledge on.

  • Aj

    Mr. Hyde,

    I think Epicurus said it best: “Is he willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then is he impotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then is he malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Whence then is evil?”

    This is basic theodicy. If a good person is moved to relieve the suffering of a stranger within their power and knowledge. Then an all-good God must then relieve all suffering with all-power because they are all-knowing of the suffering.

  • bernerbits

    This is basic theodicy. If a good person is moved to relieve the suffering of a stranger within their power and knowledge. Then an all-good God must then relieve all suffering with all-power because they are all-knowing of the suffering.

    Unless, of course, the nature of the universe is such that everybody cannot be helped equally without also harming someone else, and God is doing as much as he possibly can to optimize the happiness/suffering ratio.

    Of course, that goes along the lines of God creating a rock so big he can’t lift it. But if God can create a universe wherein even he is powerless to stop all evil, at a minimum that makes him irresponsible for having done so in the first place.


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