I love Top 10 lists. Movies, sports stars, events—I will watch “The Top 10 Doily-Knitters of All Time” if its on. This post begins a set of two Top 10 lists: for and against God-belief. I write these lists as a theist, as one who believes in God (though that may change by the end), and the arguments below are the ones from which I feel the most pull and seem to capture the rationality for rejecting God belief best. (Here is a link to #10.)
#9 – Believers
- If God exists, he always makes people better who have faith in him.
- Those who rise highest in religious institutions because of their depthy faith in God can be the worst kinds of people.
Therefore, there is no God.
The Catholic philosopher Peter Kreeft thinks that Christians are the only compelling argument against Christianity because some of us have been hurt by religious people in high places, but again the argument isn’t very strong. Here’s a few thoughts:
Just because someone leads a church or has risen high in an organization does not mean they have had transformative encounters with God. “But certainly God has good reasons to put the best kinds of people in charge of religious institutions”, one might counter. Sure, but must a good God be the CEO of every religious institution? In fact, what counts as “a religious institution” is unclear here, and why should we think all religious institutions actually showcase and commune with the God who is real?
From a Christian angle, I see the organized and disorganized Church more like a hospital in which everyone is, in some way, still sick and seeking to get both themselves and others healthy. As such, I should expect failures from everyone, and if those at the top are “the worst”—whatever we might mean by that—perhaps it proves the Christian claim that human beings are universally in need of help.
Furthermore, “better” will be relative to each individual. Each person who has real encounters with God may be “getting better” (Premise 1), yet everyone starts that process from different places, with different addictions and tendencies. Those who lead authentic churches may simply be slower in the transformation process, and as such the argument isn’t valid.
#8 – No Good Gods
- God would have made himself known to at least one ancient people group.
- There are no ancient religious traditions that picture a good God, for all the traditional pictures show God instigating something morally reprehensible (hell, divinely mandated genocide, jihad, etc.)
- If God exists, he is not morally reprehensible.
Therefore, God does not exist.
This is actually a hermeneutical problem. Ought we to believe that any of the ancient texts of the various traditions display the God they encountered correctly 100% of the time? Furthermore our readings of the texts could be flawed, and we may be reading those places where it appears that God is morally reprehensible in faulty ways (see for example the argument: here).
But for those who truly believe that all ancient texts inescapably picture a God who loves the slaughter of Canaanite children or the eternal conscious torment of a human soul for example—this seems a worthy argument. I have commented on this problem further: here.
(The list will continue soon…)
JEFF COOK teaches philosophy at the University of Northern Colorado and is the author of Everything New: One Philosopher’s Search for a God Worth Believing in (Subversive 2012). He pastors Atlas Church in Greeley, Colorado. www.everythingnew.org