A Powerful Case Against God

Reader Brian sent along this video of atheist Austin Dacey‘s opening statement from a debate against Christian apologist William Lane Craig at Purdue University in 2004.

He called it “the most powerful ‘cumulative case’ for atheism that I’ve seen presented online”:

What do you think?

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

    Why does his mouth not match the words I’m hearing? Words come out when he is not even speaking. Amazing!

    • http://gloomcookie613.tumblr.com GloomCookie613

      Sometimes video and audio aren’t synced up quite right on youtube videos. Welcome to the internet.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

        Well it is really annoying to try and watch it when the video and audio are not in sync. In this day in age there really is no excuse for it even though the video was shot in 2004 and I don’t need a welcome to the internet. I started BBS’ing back in 1987.

        • http://www.facebook.com/gmillar Gavin Millar

          And this is the first time you’ve seen unsynced video? It’s not that easy to fix without professional editing software.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

            First time I’ve seen one that Hemant has posted about.

        • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

          You watch videos of people talking? I just leave the tab in the background and listen.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

            Yup, I do. I like to see their facial expressions as they speak and how they conduct their body movements. I know I’m being picky but when the audio is out of sync with the video it really bugs me.

        • http://gloomcookie613.tumblr.com GloomCookie613

          Then stop acting like a noob and asking stupid questions.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

            So says the 20 something. Go eat a cookie.

            • Baby_Raptor

              I’m a 20 something…Can I have a cookie?

              • RedGreenInBlue

                Hey! Get back in the corner! (Baby raptors of today, back in my day we said please, seen and not heard, grumble, moan) ;-)

                • Baby_Raptor

                  I was drinking when I read that. I now must excuse myself to find some paper towels…

            • Yukimi

              Download it with atutube catcher or another program, play it in videoland and use it to delay or advance the sound until it matches? I know it works on regular videos.

            • http://gloomcookie613.tumblr.com GloomCookie613

              Thanks for the compliment. Been awhile since you had your eyes checked, Gramps?

              • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

                You’re welcome, now go eat your cookie.

    • David McNerney

      God has cursed him for his insolence.

      • SaneMan

        Define “God”.

  • ZenDruid

    Good presentation. Just wanted to piggyback some points:

    * Hiddenness of god — I would expect a god to make sure everybody was on the same page from birth, without the need for preachers, apologists, and other storytellers. There wouldn’t be any sectarian divisions like those we see, because there wouldn’t be the need for inculcation of any type.

    * Success of science — I watched the Krauss-Greene discussion recently, and it struck me that if they had used the word ‘prophecy’ instead of ‘prediction’, they would be very much like evangelists in their appreciation of the math. My point is, even taken in that frivolous context, those prophecies were precisely stated and precisely fulfilled. Antimatter, CMB, and the Higgs boson for example.

    * Pointless suffering — Modern medicine has continued to improve in most efforts to alleviate suffering. On the other hand, the Vatican Boys’ Club sanctifies and glorifies pointless suffering to the point where death is the only escape. Makes you wonder what their agenda really is.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

      I just wanted to tell you that your beard is epic.

      • ZenDruid

        Thanks. At its longest, it was long enough to flap over my forehead….

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

          That is impressive.

      • SaneMan

        !?

  • http://chaoskeptic.blogspot.com Rev. Ouabache

    “Our brains, no doubt, are the most complex thing we’ve ever encountered.”
    … said the brain to the man.

    • Baby_Raptor

      At least I have proof my brain exists…I don’t need a book written by sheepherders thousands of years go that teaches hate, bigotry, science denial, slavery, sexism, rape….

      • http://chaoskeptic.blogspot.com Rev. Ouabache

        Was my joke so bad that you assumed I was a Christian?

        • Baby_Raptor

          Well, it sounded fundie, and your name has Reverend in it. So I assumed.

          I made an ass of myself. Sorry for any potential offense. I will go stand in the corner like a bad baby raptor…

          • SaneMan

            Oh, another moral atheist saying sorry! Moral atheism… hhaa ha ROTFL… oh my… ha ha moral atheism..

      • SaneMan

        As I have not seen your brain, i believe your brain does not exist. Tyrannosaurs rule?

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    Here’s a really interesting bit of evidence against dualism. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PFJPtVRlI64

  • LesterBallard

    What? No WLC?

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      I haven’t seen it, but let me prognosticate…

      We can’t see God because that would violate our free will to reject God.
      Suffering is because God gives us the free will to suffer, and besides, everything God does is, by definition, good.
      And he’ll trot out Kalam with a sprinkle of fine tuning.

      There, I saved you 20 min of listening to WLC. You’re welcome.

      • David McNerney

        “I would like to point out that Mr Dacey did not address any of the points I made in my opening speech.”

        (Translation: I want to do this on my terms – because in general terms my argument just falls apart)

        • amycas

          I actually saw a debate where the theists (at the beginning of the rebuttals) accused the atheists of not addressing any of their arguments. To be clear, here is where they were in the debate:
          Theist Opening Statements
          Atheist Opening Statements
          Theist begins rebuttals
          Since when are the opposing parties supposed to start their rebuttals in their opening statements?

      • LesterBallard

        Way to ruin it for me.

        • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

          Thou shalt not have surprise endings.

      • http://www.facebook.com/matt.bowyer.75 Matt Bowyer

        Basically, the usual apologist drivel.

  • http://www.facebook.com/karen.uncoolmom Cary Whitman

    He make a lot of good points, but the whole thing still strikes me as absurd. It’s like making the argument that Santa doesn’t exist, isn’t it just obvious? I guess it’s because I grew up in a non-religious family and never believed in God at all, but I just can’t wrap my head around the fact that people actually take the bible as literal truths. To make logical arguments against the existence of God just seems to legitimize it as an actual “debate” of two reasonable viewpoints. I definitely respect atheist who refuse to even be a part of these kinds of “debates”. That said, I don’t want to imply that I don’t respect people like Mr. Dacey too. As much as I can’t understand it, I know it’s true that people believe in God and he does a great job of spelling out all the reasons God doesn’t exist in a calm and logical fashion, whereas I just want to grab people, give them a good shake and shout, “ARE YOU CRAZY? How can you possibly believe that nonsense? How stupid are you!!!”.

    • Brian Pansky

      hey now, I was raised religious, and I was very serious about it for the entire time that I believed. I accepted all sorts of nonsense to be true.

      And even I sometimes now forget the sorts of things people believe. Even to me it is difficult to see how ANYONE can think such things. And I’ve only been an atheist for a bit more than 2 years.

      So it’s not just you.

    • baal

      “It’s like making the argument that Santa doesn’t exist, isn’t it just obvious? ”

      Sometimes I’m accused (rightfully) of making banally obvious statements. Other times when I think I’m being banally obvious and merely describing something, some folks go ballistic. I don’t always know ahead of time which response I’ll get. To me, it’s worth putting forth my ‘obvious’ ideas to see what someone or another makes of them.

      Also, reminding people of obviously true but easy to forget details can help them from falling into woo related thought patterns. My son persisted for quite a while that he could change stop lights to green by wishing. His argument was that the stop lights have detectors for emergency vehicles that detect EM waves and his brain makes EM waves so he could trip the sensor. He backed that by doing poorly designed empirical experiments.

      I eventually helped him change his beliefs with better experiments and also the reminder that whenever someone claims mental powers (like magic), there is a better explanation consistent with the theories of science.

    • bernardaB

      As George Carlin said, I was a Catholic until I reached the age of
      reason. Apparently Catholics believe that is at 7. In fact he was just
      born and raised in a Catholic family. The age of 7 is around the age
      that children learn that there is no Santa Claus, so it should be an
      easy step to conclude also that there is no god(s).

    • Carlos B

      The problem is that most people who believe in god are (at least in my experience) surrounded by other people who believe in god; it’s a whole culture. When you’re surrounded by all these people who believe the same thing, it makes it hard to conceive of a person believing anything else. That and since everyone believes the same thing, having people who can articulate a solid argument for the other side are few and far between, so arguments against theism are often trivialized and reduced to a straw-man, leading people to think that it is impossible for atheists to come up with coherent arguments against theism. My parents were never all that religious, but they still had me educated in a private christian school for most of my life (4th -12th grade) and I would often go to church. In my christian school, all grades had an hour period dedicated to study of the bible, all other classes were taught with a biblical perspective in mind, and once weekly the faculty and staff would gather us students for a weekly church service during school hours. In the minds of these young people, there is no other alternative that exists; it’s all that they know. Unfortunately, the word for what I’m describing is indoctrination. It’s unfortunate that these young minds have to undergo such a process and it’s unfortunate that most of these people aren’t really aware that in many cases they are crippling these young people’s critical reasoning skills. In their mind, they’re doing god’s work and trying to save the newest generation of souls. It’s vicious circle pretty much; those who were indoctrinated will become those who indoctrinate the next generation.

  • Haha USA

    If this god dude was anything worth knowing about it would be absolutely clear that he exists.

    But, rather, it’s a bad concept for dumb people. In saying that, I don’t mean that the religious are doomed to eternal dumbness. The cure for that dumbness is to apply the same rationale to one’s “beliefs” as one does in the other parts of one’s life.

  • Michael

    Unfortunately the Christians will respond by saying, “But I believe in god anyway.”

    And those who were offended will happily recall Mark 9:42 where sweet Jesus said, “…whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea.”

  • Philo Vaihinger

    What is the case against the Tooth Fairy? Does there need to be a case against the Tooth Fairy? No, I didn’t think so.

  • Rwlwoffice

    His argument is summarized in a simple sentence- “I expect God would look like this and since I don’t see that God must therefore not exist.” It is a logical fallacy based upon a presupposition.

    If you are interested the entire debate is on the web at vimeo .com.

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      I expect God would look like this

      That’s exactly how WLC (and D’Souza) gets to Christianity. He starts with Kalam and fine tuning to get a Deistic-hands-off-watchmaker-god, and then says “what properties would we expect this god to have?” And lo and behold, those properties that he expects that god to have exactly match the properties he assigns to the Christian God.

      However, that leaves him stuck with the complete and total genocide of the Canaanites being an offense against the soldiers who had to do the actual baby-head-bashing.

      • rwlawoffice

        Of course we all bring our own worldview in these discussions. However, from a purely logical standpoint, WLC’s argument is not base upon an illogical presupposition.

        WLC’s starting point isn’t if there was a God here is how I would expect him to act or behave. He doesn’t start with the God of Bible says this so let’s accept that as true and what we should expect. The starting point is why are we here? Why is there something rather than nothing? This provides a logical starting point not based upon what God would look like. It is exactly the opposite of Darcey’s argument.

        For example, using the cause argument- if there is something that has a possibility of not existing, than it must have been caused by a necessary thing or being that had no possibility of not existing and thus is eternal. This doesn’t start with “if there is a God He must be eternal” or the Bible says God is eternal and therefore He is. It doesn’t presuppose God at all.

        Darcey in contrast claims that if God exists he would not for example allow suffering. Or He would make himself less hidden so all could see Him. That is a subjective presupposition.

        Now taking the argument of WLC to its end, you do get to the God of the Bible, but that is the result of the logical steps in the argument, not looking at the Bible and seeing if God fits the argument.

        • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

          if there is something that has a possibility of not existing, than it must have been caused by a necessary thing

          That’s a faulty assumption, but that’s not the important point.

          but that is the result of the logical steps in the argument

          No. They can’t be. There are no logical steps in the argument to any God. And I don’t mean that as an insult or a slam. If we remove the text from the equation, then anything I can say about God, you can disagree with and say I’m trying to define God on my own terms. And anything you say about God, I can likewise say you are trying to define God on your own terms.

          A Pagan will tell you God has many ‘aspects’ including both female and male. How is that any less logical than saying God must be ‘the father’? Or saying God must exist as a ‘trinity’?

          • rwlawoffice

            I would like to know why the necessary being is a faulty assumption. That is intriguing.

            I agree that once you get into the Bible, you then use it to further understand the nature of God which would include the Trinity for example. But getting to the basic nature of what type of being would be necessary to create the universe can be done without any reference to the Bible. However, once you do that you come up with a description of a being that is described in the Bible. For example, if by logical deduction you reach the conclusion that the necessary cause is eternal, you are not using the Bible to reach that conclusion. But that is how god is described in the Bible.

            • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

              Things that may or may not exist do and don’t exist all the time at the quantum level. It’s kind of like trying to imagine what it would be like for time to not exist. It is such an integral part of our lives, that even Physicists who know better will talk about “before the big bang” when we don’t in fact know if ‘time’ exists outside of our universe which was a result of the big bang.

              You can argue as Craig does that Krauss is mistaken, but as long as people like Krauss and Hawking say we don’t need a cause for the universe, then I’d at least say it’s not a ‘given’ just because people like Kalam centuries ago and Craig today say it is. I realize that’s a bit of an argument from authority, but it’s an argument from people who have a path of evidence to that claim. Not an argument from people who a path of faith to that claim.

              ‘Eternal’ is hardly a distinguishing characteristic of a god. Lots of gods (although certainly not all of them) are eternal. Usually pantheons have something eternal at the root, and less eternal things lower down. Jews and Muslims and Mormons all have the same eternal God you do, but Craig is also able to ‘logically’ distinguish them. I’m getting a bit beyond my memory of the details of several debates I’ve seen of his, but as I recall it seems ‘logical’ that we are all sinners and that a price has to be paid for our sin, and vicarious redemption is available, and only God can pay for our sins, and so God did so by killing himson.

              But the Buddhists have a perfectly logical explanation about how our souls are leaning lessons over multiple lifetimes. There’s no evidence of this, but it seems more logical to me that each individual soul is responsible for itself, and on a ‘learning path’ than that some other entity can absolve us of our sin through some kind of suffering, which isn’t really because it is after all, eternal.

              • rwlawoffice

                The idea of vicarious redemption is not one of logic, it is one of grace. But there is a logic behind it if you follow the story from the beginning. That being said, even though we are saved by grace through faith, we are judged for our actions here on earth. The Bible is pretty clear about that.

                • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

                  oookay.

                  What I was really getting at is the idea that the tenets of Christianity that make it unique among all religions don’t form some kind of “of course” sequence.

                  Craig is trying to not use divine revelation to prove the truth of Christianity, but instead argue that Christianity is true because it follow from what we’d logically expect God to be like. I would think the simple fact that there are so many different religions on this planet would be evidence enough that none of them are “of course!”.

                  If civilization was wiped out, and we started all over again, we’d probably re-invent a bunch of religions, but the only way you can assume we’d get a particular one over again is if you assume it’s the right one and we’d get outside help. Of course we’d still invent the false ones too. So the path to Christianity isn’t obvious, or logical. It’s either making shit up or outside help. For the sake of my argument, outside help is fine, but is doesn’t fit Craig’s argument that Christianity in particular “just makes sense” or is somehow “self revealing”.

                  (none of those are exact quotes of Craig, just my best memory of his arguments. I’m sure they’re reasonably close)

                • Baby_Raptor

                  I seem to remember you insulting me a couple weeks back for calling you a theist and insisting that you were a non-believer. And yet here you are talking about how “we” are saved by the christian god.

                  Lying sack of shit lies again!

              • Baby_Raptor

                I’d toss logical in sarcastic airquotes there. God created man knowing that he would sin, and therefore would “have to” be punished. He chose to create us anyway, and then pins our sin on us like it’s our fault and claims he “has to” torture us.

                It’s not logic, it’s a catch-22 set up by a sadistic asshole.

        • Pattrsn

          “if there is something that has a possibility of not existing, than it
          must have been caused by a necessary thing or being that had no
          possibility of not existing and thus is eternal.” For one thing there is no actual argument here, you’ve just made an assumption. And we don’t know whether or not the universe has a possibility of not existing, this is just pure speculation.

    • baal

      No, Dacey’s argument is that we would see certain incidents and badges were god (pick any of them) to exist. These signs, symbols and evidences are not apparent despite substantial efforts put forth to find them. Google “dragon in my garage” for another version of the same argument.

    • Baby_Raptor

      The bible paints a specific picture of the God that’s supposed to exist. It’s logical, and therefore not a fallacy, to not see that God and therefore assume that God does not exist.

      And then there’s the lack of any real proof outside the bible itself that says God exists.

    • SaneMan

      Exactly right. These foolish atheists haven’t the slightest sense. (And, remember: Thou shalt not kill. Don’t eat meat, fish or eggs else you can’t defend theism well. They affect your consciousness and degrade it.)

  • amycas

    “You can reasonably conclude that the cake isn’t there.”

    OMG, he used the cake is a lie!

  • Bob

    Hemant, just wondering why only a sixth of the debate is posted here? I thought you started this blog to invite honest dialogue? Just seems to me that if “honest” was your goal, the entire debate would be posted. What are you afraid of? All the things you say you hate about religion; hatred, bigotry, closed-mindedness, exclusivism, etc., (which I hate as well), seems to be a very fair critique of this blog.

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson
    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

      You can watch the whole thing starting here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xcfwq3GNjOU

      • SaneMan

        Poem by Hemant Mehta (croaking of A Frog who has never left his well and thinks the Atlantic Ocean is a myth):

        I am a friendly atheist, and I dearly love my life.
        I reject all evidence for God with a lot of strife.

        I am in a bed of roses, my cozy bed.
        I don’t care what happens to me when I’m dead.

        …(as he is singing happily, a snake (death) comes from somewhere and go[[les up the Frog. Finished.)

      • SaneMan

        gobbles up (!)

  • Guest

    Is there anywhere where the rest of the debate can be watched, I would like to see WLC’s rebuttal to this.

  • SaneMan

    Don’t forget that you are going to die one day. No scientist, no matter however great his achievements may be is never, ever going to: 1)create life, 2)stop death. He may prolong life (he may prolong life and add prolonged suffering) but not more than 125 or 130 years. (The chances that a human being will live up to 100 years of age, after a 1000 years, may be less than one in a trillion). Just mark my words: reject them now but remember that a fool had blurted this statements on your site. Happy atheism.

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      Good thing too, since the planet is of finite size, we’d either a) have to selfishly not give anyone else a chance at life (stop having babies) or b) well, there is no b). Wanting to live forever is selfish.

  • SaneMan

    Mr. Hemant, don’t forget that you are going to die one day. No scientist, no matter
    however great his achievements may be is never, ever going to: 1)create
    life, 2)stop death. He may prolong life (he may prolong life and add
    prolonged suffering) but not more than 125 or 130 years. (The chances
    that a human being will live up to 100 years of age, after a 1000 years,
    may be less than one in a trillion). Just mark my words: reject them
    now but remember that a fool had blurted this statements on your site.
    Happy atheism.

    • rlwemm

      If we define life as self-replicating evolving bio-chemistry then scientists have recently developed life. Stopping death may be possible, but there are many reasons why it may not be at all advisable. It would stop the process of evolution and adaptation to an inevitably changing environment – and our species would go extinct, as just about all of them have at this point.

  • Thomas

    Eric Stoltz looks funny with a bald head. Fortunately, he is not aging AT ALL. One of the perks of atheism, I guess.


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