What arguments for god would you like to see rebutted?

This is for a project.  Please help me out.

I need to know what arguments you’ve heard for god’s existence.  Which one, in particular, would you like to see me take a swing at?

Gonna leave this up all weekend.

  • ibelieveindog

    On a personal level – because science is too hard. I’m talking with a young (precocious thirteen year old) family member about atheism and science. I think I’m doing OK (trying not to flood him with info – tell a teen what to do and he’ll do the opposite!), but I’d love to read what you have to say about it, especially because you work with students.

  • Armored Scrum Object

    The ontological argument. If I live to be 1000 I will never see this BS torn apart enough times.

  • http://www.atheist-faq.com Jasper T

    Probably the presuppositionalist arguments for basic rationality.

    I say that because I think we all need to brush up on that.

    • Metaphysical Ham Sandwich

      This.

      I’m dealing with this with one of my relatives. Essentially my response is “not all presuppositions are created equally” and “there is a God that matches he Biblical God perfectly” is much more complex and less likely than “The Universe exists and is relatively predictable at the level at which we generally observe it”.

      • cafeeineaddicted

        Presuppers apologists will not allow the following to penetrate their shields, but it might work on simple believers:

        What presuppers usually call their presuppositions are actually complex statements that can be broken down to simpler ones, and that when you do, you can show that in effect atheists and presuppers fall back to the same axiomatic statements (the world exists, it is intelligibile etc.), but the presupper adds a bunch more to the mix. At which point either the presupper’s head explodes and you never from them again.

  • http://inaweofeverything.blogspot.com/ Matthew Prorok

    I took on Aquinas’ First Way, the first cause argument, just recently. I’d love to see presuppositionalism dealt with, as well as Plantinga’s modal ontological argument. They come up a lot over on r/DebateReligion.

  • Arjan

    I always love seeing WLC’s arguments get ripped to shreds.

    • John Morales

      WLC’s problem is a typical one: Purportedly proving that some creative agent is necessary does not entail Jesus (or Krishna or whatever).

    • http://www.ranum.com Marcus Ranum

      WLC’s sophistimacated theology impresses the rubes. The best way to attack it is to argue at the rube-level not the word-salad level: “OK that’s all well and good but how do you get from that to christianity? Even if I grant your ‘greatest possible being’ you’re leaping to the conclusion that it’s the christian god instead of odin or zeus or brahma.”

      Also, the properties of the ‘greatest possible being’ would include “is obviously known to all” because god would be greater and more lovable if he wasn’t so well-hidden. Thus the god of WLC’s imagining isn’t the ‘greatest possible being’ – it’s a lesser being and doesn’t exist.

  • John Morales

    There cannot be a true argument for the existence of something called a god without specifying to what the term ‘god’ refers; this, because an argument needs to define its terms no less than to adduce its premises and the specific inference system which it employs.

    (Almost all such arguments fall at this very stage)

    That said, the one I find most annoying (none are even close to compelling) is the argument that because it cannot be philosophically excluded, there is merit in the claim that at least one god exists.

  • http://disagreeableme.blogspot.co.uk Disagreeable Me

    The Kalam Cosmological argument, specifically the phraseology invoking beginnings:

    1: Everything that begins has a cause
    2: The universe began
    3: Therefore the universe has a cause.
    4: ??
    5: Therefore the cause is God (who is eternal and thus needs no cause).

    Special points if you can explain the actual cause of the universe or why it needs no cause.

    More special points if you don’t rely on time being eternal in the past.

    • NotAProphet

      Easy, premise 2 is assumptive.

      Furthermore premise 1 is questionable.

      • http://disagreeableme.blogspot.co.uk Disagreeable Me

        You don’t get any bonus points!

        Easy, premise 2 is assumptive.

        Relying on the universe being eternal.

        Furthermore premise 1 is questionable.

        Doesn’t explain why the universe doesn’t need a cause.

        • sqlrob

          It doesn’t say that the universe doesn’t have a cause. It says that this argument is invalid since the initial assumption is invalid.

          • http://disagreeableme.blogspot.co.uk Disagreeable Me

            And that’s a valid argument to make, but it doesn’t get the bonus points!

            Special points if you can explain the actual cause of the universe or why it needs no cause.

            There is a rebuttal which both explains why the universe doesn’t need a cause and works even if did have a beginning.

    • keddaw

      “Everything that begins has a cause” is inferred from observations of the contents of the (visible parts of the) universe around us but not the universe itself. There is no logical reason why this actually has to be the case.

      • sqlrob

        Not only is there no logical reason it is true, it has been demonstrated to be false.

        • http://disagreeableme.blogspot.co.uk Disagreeable Me

          Not only is there no logical reason it is true, it has been demonstrated to be false.

          How?

      • http://disagreeableme.blogspot.co.uk Disagreeable Me

        True, as far as it goes.

        However that’s not as satisfying as an actual explanation for how something could begin without having a cause.

        There is such an explanation. There are even numerous other examples of this.

  • MLR

    How about the argument that the universe is fine-tuned? I know that the anthropic principle serves as a rebuttal, but I’ve always found that alone a bit unsatisfying, so if you’ve got more ammo against it I would love to hear it.

    • http://www.facebook.com/Nyarlathotep101 ronstrong

      I’ll second that because I was going to post almost the exact same thing.

    • Besomyka

      My favorite reply to that is the one that I first heard from Douglas Adams (who, incidentally, should be required reading) http://www.biota.org/people/douglasadams/

      Now the real trap springs, because early man is thinking, ‘This world fits me very well. Here are all these things that support me and feed me and look after me; yes, this world fits me nicely’ and he reaches the inescapable conclusion that whoever made it, made it for him.

      This is rather as if you imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, ‘This is an interesting world I find myself in – an interesting hole I find myself in – fits me rather neatly, doesn’t it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!’ This is such a powerful idea that as the sun rises in the sky and the air heats up and as, gradually, the puddle gets smaller and smaller, it’s still frantically hanging on to the notion that everything’s going to be alright, because this world was meant to have him in it, was built to have him in it; so the moment he disappears catches him rather by surprise.

  • FireInTheNight

    Plantinga’s modal ontological argument, please. You are very good at explaining complex notions in simple terms and the modal ontological argument is the only one (that I know of) that I still can’t wrap my head around. Frankly, I doubt that many of the people invoking it really understand it either but “I don’t know what that means and neither do you” is not really a good rebuttal. If you were to explain in somewhat simple terms what it actually says and then rip it to shreds in equally somewhat simple terms I (and I’m sure many people arguing with the half-wits invoking this pile of word salad) would be forever grateful. Also, if you don’t do it I’ll tell Cthulu and then you’re fucked.

  • Crudely Wrott

    How about that the slacker never shows up? How about apologetics? Lying for Jesus?

    Dammit foks, this ultimate authority displays none of the qualities that the Ur-Creator might reasonably be suspected of possessing.

    Argue me this!

  • godlesspanther

    Bah — I would say that philosophical arguments for god(s) in general fall short. Using philosophical arguments to support theological claims are nothing more than puerile manipulation tactics and there is not a one of them that I would consider to be intellectually honest.

    Sure — you can present philosophical arguments — first cause, design, ontological, etc. and these ditties can cause one to ponder the possibility that there may be one of more great big somethings that may or may not still exist. So what.

    The problem is that as soon as the want their particular god to be the one and only — they have to jump from a vague possibility to the loony god described in their interpretation of the Bible and invariably skip 84,283 (give or take a few) steps in between.

  • Robert B.

    “Maybe it’s not true for you, but it’s true for me.”

    This one makes my brain explode with frustration.

  • MatthewL

    Presuppositionalism as a whole.

    I’ve never understood how anyone can present such an argument with a staight face. It’s really nothing more than begging the question. No amount of convoluted circular logic or appeals to authority or other Gish galloping can change that.

    It seems theists think if they can build a coherent, rational framework on the basis of presupposition that it constitutes substantive evidence of God’s existence. Euclidean geometry presumes that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line and a considerable (and very useful) framework has been built on this axiom, but as far as I can tell there is no evidence for the existence of actual straight lines in nature. Of course this may not be the best example with the godbots since they likely won’t understand. There must be something more obvious, hmmm. I’ll have to think about that.

  • Anteprepro

    Ooooo. Okay, I have a special hatred for responses to the problem of evil, especially the ones that invoke free will. Plantinga’s Transworld Depravity/Free Will Defense stands out. Also on Plantinga, I really love to see his Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism torn apart from every possible angle. The sheer fucking GALL of that argument.

    For the lesser ones: The Argument from degree might be fun, and is also one of Aquina’s Five Ways, but is ridiculous on its face, so it might not be worth the effort. The Moral Argument (morality looks innate/universal, ergo Jesus) is something to sink your teeth into if you want to talk about secular morality at length. Finally, I think you could tear into the argument from design quite nicely if you wanted to go on at length about evolution, and it would complement any arguments you make against fine-tuning (above), if you decide to so as well.

    I would like to say that the last three are inherently more ridiculous and worthy of dismissal than the first few, but that’s not the case. All of these arguments are fucking pathetic, and I can’t believe that we live in a world where theists who think these arguments are fantastic are not required to hang their heads in perpetual shame.

    • ‘Tis Himself

      Plantinga’s Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism uses several strawmen. For instance, Plantinga defines naturalism as the statement: “There is no such person as God or anything like God.” Most other people, theists and atheists alike, define naturalism as the idea that laws of nature (as opposed to supernatural ones) govern the structure and behavior of the natural universe, that the universe is a product of these laws. While this latter definition of naturalism doesn’t support the idea of gods, it doesn’t deny them either.

      Plantinga goes on to say “you can’t rationally accept both evolution and naturalism.” Dawkins says that evolution allows him to be an intellectual atheist. Since in his writings Plantinga makes his anti-evolutionary stance obvious, it’s more likely that an evolutionary biologist has a better idea about evolution than a creationist philosopher.

      Plantinga also uses the same statistical argument that other creationists like, that the odds of humans evolving from freely floating chemicals are so tiny as to be effectively zero. I won’t refute this argument other than to say it relies on both a false reading of evolution and a misuse of statistics.

      One of Plantinga’s arguments I find particularly annoying is that after he supposes that gods are necessary and naturalism (as defined by him) is false, he then posits that his favorite pet god is the only one available and all others don’t exist. Nowhere does he support this bit of special pleading, he just declares it self-evident.

      Plantinga’s arguments are found here (paywall). A free discussion of his paper by Arash Naraghi is found here (PDF).

      • Anteprepro

        Will check out that article, so thank you for that. The EAAN fascinates me, but I can only stomach so much unfiltered Plantinga. I agree with all of your objections, and I think I realized a few of them, but not all of them. The biggest objection I have to it (I’m not sure if it applies to his original as much as it does to virtually every summary of it, put forward by him or anyone else), is that it also seems that it (sort of) strawmans evolution as well as naturalism. It does so by creating an artificial divide between true beliefs and beliefs that are conducive to survival, never acknowledging that the latter is overwhelmingly a subset of the former, and relying entirely on convoluted cases he can dream up where the latter isn’t the former in order to pretend that such a divide exists. These cases rely on astounding and convenient coincidences, so much so that if we believed they arose in sufficient quantity to call all of our beliefs into question, we would be dealing with an incredibly improbable situation. And there are more gripes I would love to make about it, but that pretty much wraps up the thing that most offends my sensibilities.

  • Daniel Schealler

    One that really annoys me is the moral argument for God’s existence.

    1) Objective morality exists.
    2) Objective morality requires an intelligent mind as a foundation.
    Therefore
    3) There is an intelligent foundation for morality
    4) ???
    Therefore
    5) The intelligent foundation for morality is God.

    • Rando

      This one is really annoying. Mostly because you NEVER find out just exactly WHAT are the objective morals. You’d assume that they’re talking about the ten commandments, but almost none of the ten found in Exodus 20 can be considered objective:

      1 Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
      Why is this objective? If there are no other gods than this becomes pointless, if there are other gods, than that means objective moral values are subjective because a group of gods had to weight the possible good and evil of something in order to asses it’s merit.

      2 Thou shalt not make any graven images.
      This one can’t be objective, because we can only guess what offends god. A Jesus figure in a bottle of piss could be offensive, but what if god is offended by the fact that we wear his son’s method of execution around our necks? I’d personally be offended by that.

      3 Remember the sabbath and keep it holy.
      This one can’t be objective, because we can’t agree on when exactly the sabbath is. The Jews say it’s on Friday, the Christens say its on Saturday, and the Muslims say its on Sunday, sorry, I can’t keep a day holy if no one can tell us when it is.

      4 Honor thy mother and father.
      My father was an abusive drunk, honor that?! Hell no!

      5 Thou shalt not kill.
      What if someone is trying to kill me? I’m arguing the “He’s coming right for us” exception.

      6 Thou shalt not commit adultery.
      What if the spouse involved is an abusive lover? If someone abuses their spouse is it really wrong to go to someone else for comfort?

      7 Thou shalt not steal.
      What if your staving and the only way to survive is to steal?

      8 Thou shalt not lie.
      Would it be wrong to lie to protect someone else?

      9 Thou shalt not covet thy neighbors wife.
      Lusting for someone else is not wrong, the whole human race would stop if not for us lusting for one another.

      10

    • Rando

      This one is really annoying. Mostly because you NEVER find out just exactly WHAT are the objective morals. You’d assume that they’re talking about the ten commandments, but almost none of the ten found in Exodus 20 can be considered objective:

      1 Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
      Why is this objective? If there are no other gods than this becomes pointless, if there are other gods, than that means objective moral values are subjective because a group of gods had to weight the possible good and evil of something in order to asses it’s merit.

      2 Thou shalt not make any graven images.
      This one can’t be objective, because we can only guess what offends god. A Jesus figure in a bottle of piss could be offensive, but what if god is offended by the fact that we wear his son’s method of execution around our necks? I’d personally be offended by that.

      3 Remember the sabbath and keep it holy.
      This one can’t be objective, because we can’t agree on when exactly the sabbath is. The Jews say it’s on Friday, the Christens say its on Saturday, and the Muslims say its on Sunday, sorry, I can’t keep a day holy if no one can tell us when it is.

      4 Honor thy mother and father.
      My father was an abusive drunk, honor that?! Hell no!

      5 Thou shalt not kill.
      What if someone is trying to kill me? I’m arguing the “He’s coming right for us” exception.

      6 Thou shalt not commit adultery.
      What if the spouse involved is an abusive lover? If someone abuses their spouse is it really wrong to go to someone else for comfort?

      7 Thou shalt not steal.
      What if your staving and the only way to survive is to steal?

      8 Thou shalt not lie.
      Would it be wrong to lie to protect someone else?

      9 Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife.
      Lusting for someone else is not wrong, the whole human race would stop if not for us lusting for one another.

      10 Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s goods.
      Thought crimes? Seriously, thought crimes! Why is it wrong to want something someone else has? This one makes no sense!

      I could do the other ten from Exodus 34, but I think I’ve made my point.

      • http://disagreeableme.blogspot.co.uk Disagreeable Me

        My problem with this argument is that it appeals to the emotions of the audience who feel that some acts must be objectively immoral.

        This is annoying because it works on most people but it’s totally illogical. There is no logical reason to believe in objective morality. There is just subjective preference. That doesn’t mean that killing is ok.

        Killing is wrong in my opinion because I subjectively feel that it’s wrong, just like I feel that excrement does not smell nice. My subjective opinion is enough to allow me to oppose and condemn those that murder.

        Realising that morality is subjective does not automatically lead to wishy-washy moral relativism.

    • http://cafeeine.wordpress.com Cafeeine

      And you’ll notice that whenever the theist is trying to convince you that there are absolute morals, they begin by defining objective morals as morals that are true even if everyone disagreed with them and then they will always go for an extremely contrived scenario like:
      “Do you think that murdering and eating your innocent baby son for fun is evil?”
      There are two problems with that though:

      1)They are relying on their interlocutor not being in the minority of sociopaths that wouldn’t think the act is evil, and wouldn’t be scared to say so. Most people will say the above act is evil, and will not defend it. That doesn’t jive with the theist’s original premise that objective morals are true even if everyone disagreed with them, so consensus is irrelevant to his argument, and works against him. If they find themselves faced with that psychopath however, there is nothing they can respond to them other than assert their opinion that he is evil and they are not.

      2) This scenario is obviously a complex moral question, not a single objective rule. You can almost see the bartering going on:

      -”Do you think taking life is evil?”
      -”Not always. At the very least, we must consume plant life to subsist”
      -”Do you think taking animal life is evil?”
      -”Not always. Sometimes we must kill animals to save ourselves”
      -”Do you think taking human life is evil?”
      -”Not always. I may need to defend myself or my family”
      -”Do you think taking the life of a child is evil?”
      -”Not always. If the child is terminally ill, a mercy killing may be justified”
      -”Do you think killing and eating your son is evil?”
      -”Not always. If in a plane crash with no hope of rescue, and no hope of his survival, it would be horrifying, but it might be justified”
      -”Do you think killing and eating your son for fun is evil then”
      -”…”

      You can’t give me an example where you’ve taking the time to shape a dozen moral qualifiers in your favor and then claim morality isn’t relative to the situation.

    • Daniel Schealler

      The other thing that annoys the fuck out of me about this argument is that they start by asserting objective morality, but then later on insist that objective morality can only come from God – which makes it subjective relative to the mind of God. Not objective.

      1) and 2) are straight-up contradictions, but they just charge on through.

      Explaining the contradiction is hard, but it can be done.

      Well… Sort of.

    • amyc

      My boyfriend and I recently had an in-depth conversation on the topic of objective morality. About an hour into it, we both suddenly realized: Hey, wait a minute. Even if there is objective morality, it doesn’t prove god exists. Objective morality can’t require a foundation.Objectivity would mean it is not contingent on the existence of anything else–including a god. This means the corollary is also true: even if a god existed, it would not be the “source” of objective morality.

      • Daniel Schealler

        <3

        I hadn't thought of it that way.

        That's awesome. ^_^

      • http://www.ranum.com Marcus Ranum

        Is your boyfriend named Socrates? Because that’s a clever variation of the dilemma Socrates creates for Euthyphro: whether what is pious is what is loved by the gods (which implies it’s outside of the gods) or whether piety is defined by the gods’ love (which implies that it’s arbitrary).

  • CompulsoryAccount7746

    An argument for credulously accepting god claims:
     
    Too lazy to think through ramifications, or expend effort to learn philosophy, cosmology, history, etc. No intent to use such info, so learning would only risk closing gaps to hide gods in.
    +
    It feels good thinking one’s impulsive urges are mental signals from the king of the universe. And inane fortune cookie quotes from the bible become important because they could be hidden messages.
    +
    Religious victimizations are the result of gullible people who should have known better, and malicious/deranged individuals who directly abused them. But passively deluded folks filling pews are blameless (or at least so indirectly involved that “moderate supporting/excusing extreme” arguments are shrugged off).
    +
    Being wrong means, at worst, time was spent on confidence-boosting entertainment (not seen as wasted). If true: whoa, profound.

  • Paul Coyne

    “Because the bible tells me so..”

  • kevinalexander

    The argument from resentment*

    1) God gave most of the intelligence, learning and wisdom to the atheists. Also the good looks and cool jobs.

    2) Atheists make Baby Jesus cry.

    3) I want a comfy cloud to sit on in the next life from which I can watch the atheists in the Lake of Fire. When they complain about the heat, I’ll tell them they should have reasoned out the obvious existence of God when they had the chance. Then I’ll take pity on them and cool them down a bit by pissing on them.

    4) Therefore, God. QED

    *I just now made this up. It’s probably too sophisticated for most theologists but they’re welcome to use it. It makes about as much sense as the shit they’ve been peddling so far.

  • “Michelle”

    The “what happened to Jesus if he didn’t actually die and rise?” question would be a nice one to address, since I think a lot of people ignore the implausibility of god and jump straight to this.

    For what it’s worth, I first tried to debate it here (under the name Michelle): http://littlecatholicbubble.blogspot.com/2011/05/did-jesus-really-die-and-rise.html but never was able to plot out a convincing scenario that would adequately account for everything that (was claimed to have) happened.

    • Anteprepro

      For my money, the Swoon Hypothesis accounts for the most of it, aside from just taking everything at face value and saying that the supernatural were totally things that any alternative explanation needs to take into account. They remark in one of the Gospels at how quickly he “died” on the cross. But, of course, I give too much credit, since the most probable thing is that everything after Jesus’s death is at least as made up as the miracles supposedly occurring during Jesus’s life. And, of course, ANY explanation is infinitely more plausible than magic.

      Also, at the link: Cripes, those are some intelligent morons. That is your brain on religion, folks. Otherwise smart people throwing logic out the window in order to pretend that the Emperor is wearing a stunning silk robe.

    • “Michelle”

      Isn’t it depressing? I comment there quite a bit due to a severe case of “someone is wrong on the internet” syndrome. They all love to argue so much, and even though I’m frequently appalled by their reasoning and conclusions, I can tell they aren’t stupid, just badly misguided. They would make great atheists/agnostics, but so far I’ve had no luck!

    • keddaw

      Surely a better question is “why is there not a history of all the saints that rose that weekend?”

      Matthew 27:52-3
      And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who slept arose,
      and came out of the graves after His resurrection, and went into the Holy City and appeared unto many.

      Why isn’t that a defining moment in the story? Why didn’t that cause the whole Roman Empire to come and see what was happening?

  • Martin

    @Matthew Prorok, re: Plantinga’s S3 modal logic Ontological Argument.

    Somewhere on the intertubez is a very good rebuttal to this…and I cannot find it again {sob}. Although I could follow both the argument and the rebuttal I cannot reproduce them, but the salient points are:

    Plantinga’s argument ends up with the equivalent to the statement:

    If god exists in one possible world, then god exists in all possible worlds.

    The rebuttal took the same argument but instead of following the “if god exists” path it took the “if god does not exist” path, and reaches the equivalent to the statement:

    If god does not exist in one possible world, then god does not exist in all possible worlds.

    Taking the two conclusions, one ends up with the tautology:

    In all possible worlds, god either exists or god does not exist.

    Thus, Plantinga’s argument is shown to be a pile of steaming dingo’s kidneys.

    • ‘Tis Himself

      Actually both arguments rely on begging the question. One assumes gods exist, the other assumes gods don’t exist.

    • mikmik

      1. It is possible that a maximally great being exists.
      If ‘maximally great’ = ‘perfect,’ then no, it is not possible. It cannot both create an immovable object, and move it. There is no possible thing as omnipotence because there is no possible world where a thing can both exist and not exist ie. unmovable objects that can be moved.

      2. If it is possible that a maximally great being exists, then a maximally great being exists in some possible world.
      You see, right here is a major problem because it is a non sequitor already. First, a thing cannot both have existence and possible existence. Existence in a possible world is still only possible existence. This is a bait and switch.

      3. If a maximally great being exists in some possible world, then it exists in every possible world.
      Okay, then this means that every possible world exists. Again, all possible worlds includes worlds in which no god(maximal being) exists. A being cannot both already exist, and possibly not exist. It can not both possibly exist, and not possibly exist.

      4. If it exists in every possible world, then it exists in the actual world.
      Yawn. Only if our world possibly does not exist.

      5. Therefore, a maximally great being exists.
      No, don’t you listen well? Only if something that is impossible to exist, exists. FFS.

      It seems to me there are many other ways to dismantle Platinga(If I have, in fact, done it), and that modal logic is contingent on bullshite being true.

  • mikmik

    The one that picks my ass the most is the fabricated term, ‘micro-evolution.’
    No end of explaining micro-walking, or traveling, or eating or etc., seems to make a dent on their concept that lots of little changes over time somehow cannot add up or diverge enough to produce a new species.
    All they can muster is stories of dogs and horses.

    This is directly related to the ‘missing link’ confabulation they succumb to immediately following. You’d think they would puzzle in wonderment at the untold majesty of God because there is no way all those pieces of plastic, glue, and paint could suddenly fly together just right in order for that model of a ’64 Corvette to be sitting on their kid’s shelf!

  • JohnJacob

    Here is one that I would be very interested to hear your comments on: http://www.new-god-argument.com/

    My interpretation is that it’s a synthesis of Mormon theology (at least some strains of it) and the Simulation Argument. It resonates with a former version of myself, but I no longer find it convincing.

    • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

      JohnJacob: that argument is more science-fiction than theology: it basically says (or tries to imply, or something) that we — and possibly this entire Universe — were created by another species that evolved to much higher intelligence and power than we can currently imagine. None of that has anything to do with religion, unless your religion is just a cargo-cult.

  • orgostrich

    I’d love to see a real take-down of the idea that since so many people in the history of the world have believed in a God, is it very likely that there is a God (in some form or another).

    Also, could you go into the idea that a god (or at least a non-naturalistic universe) is required for free will.

    • Anteprepro

      I’m not sure how JT would go about the latter one, since he doesn’t believe free will exists. Hypotheticals, I guess?

      Also, related to the first one you said, JT could also address the “all religions are basically the same” “other gods are just different versions/views of the same True God” kind of schlock. Granted, though, it is not technically an argument for god. Or, it could be, but it is an obviously fallacious one.

    • “Michelle”

      I’m totally on the fence about free will, but the way I see it, a god would make free will impossible. If he set everything into motion and knows exactly what’s going to happen, then you can’t possibly really be making your own choices, even if it feels like you are. Add to that the idea that a god could cause things to happen (like cause you to meet a certain person for a particular reason) – that doesn’t really leave any room for autonomous actions.

  • http://triangulations.wordpress.com Sabio Lantz

    I think the strongest argument for God’s existence is never addressed.
    And that argument is TRUE.
    Addressing all other arguments is usually time wasted.
    That argument runs invisibly in the believer’s mind:

    “GOD serves to satisfy many of my needs: status, security, belongingness, identity, community and much more. So since I experience these things, God is real, no matter what you say. You are blind to how God works.”

    And, indeed, non-believers are often blind — they think that beliefs are truth statements held philosophically. Yeah, right! They believe that just because a person tells you WHY they believe something, they really know what they are talking about.

    PS — What the heck is the difference between the first two check boxes on this comment submission form. Boy is that confusing. And you want to tackle belief in God debates? :-)

    • Besomyka

      I think you are conflating the existence of god with the existence of a belief in god. God functions in our world in the same way that money does.

  • http://angramainyusblog.blogspot.com Angra Mainyu

    Any more or less common argument that you’re sure you can properly tackle by removing the word salad and show why it fails, or at least that it fails (i.e., so that theists can’t find a mistake in your refutation, even if they believe they can).

    If I can pick (i.e., if you can handle any theistic arguments), perhaps Craig’s metaethical argument, or generally metaethical arguments: good counterarguments, if they become popular enough, might help reduce the widespread confusion caused by those.

  • Adam Collins

    Please obliterate the morality argument. It’s one that I hear all the time, and even after thoroughly demolishing it, they still want to stick to their guns. It’s frustrating to no end. :-(

  • Pingback: Which Apologetics Need Answers?

  • neXus

    The argument that “some people are not ready” or “some people have hardened their hearts.” I had a conversation with a young man who was part of a ministry group that was preaching on my college campus.

    He was trying to argue that the prophecies in the book of Daniel (ch 2 – about the statue made of four metals) showed that the bible contained knowledge of future events. Once I pointed out how bad an argument prophecies are (too much interpretation, not enough specific information) he fired off the “hardened hearts” bit and the conversation ended shortly after.

    I didn’t push him on the issue, and I wish I had. What’s an effective way of saying, “it’s not my fault your arguments suck” without being so offensive that the theist just shuts the atheist out?

    • Anteprepro

      What’s an effective way of saying, “it’s not my fault your arguments suck” without being so offensive that the theist just shuts the atheist out?

      Why does it matter, in the circumstance that you describe, whether “the theist just shuts the atheist out”? Once they play the “hardened hearts” card, they are saying that YOU are the one who are shutting THEM out and not listening and are just too narrow-minded to give what they are saying a fair chance. Giving them a chance to prove that they are the ones with their fingers plugged firmly in their ears doesn’t seem like a bad thing. And bringing the discussion back to argumentation, rather than armchair psychology, is also not a bad thing. “It’s not my fault that all the arguments fail” is probably better if you want to be less directly insulting, but something along that vein seems like fair game, especially considering what an insult “hardened heart” is to atheists who have given Christianity more than a fair chance.

    • Suido
  • John Franklin

    nice project JT – some arguments have been around a long time – that scrappy little one known as the ontologcial argument has had a ‘life’ of 1000 years or so – though Kant took a swing at it – it appears it wasn’t down for the count… lots of discussion since Kant supporting the argument.

    Now I don’t know if you just have too much time on your hands as so took on this project or whether you hope to be successful in providing “defeaters” for the arguments proposed.

    You should be careful you don’t get trapped in the cage of rationality where all is decided by “argument” as though reason is the last court of appeal for all that is true. Plenty of folk doubt that view these days.

    There are a lot of folks out there who believe in God – but the God they believe in is not the conclusion of an argument. So when you ask for arguments for God’s existence – one is inclined to ask which God are you thinking of – to show that the God of the philosophers cannot be proven – is a very small achievement and likely has little or no bearing whatsoever of the truth or falsehood of whether there is a God. Divinity is elusive to be sure and there is little hope that reason (argument) will get su far in pinning down the divine one way or another….jf

    • anteprepro

      it appears it wasn’t down for the count… lots of discussion since Kant supporting the argument.

      Yeah, bad religious arguments tend not to die easily, even when any other comparably bad non-religious argument would. Hence why creationism is still a thing.

      You should be careful you don’t get trapped in the cage of rationality where all is decided by “argument” as though reason is the last court of appeal for all that is true.

      Oh man! Is this where you start blabbering about “Other Ways of Knowing” without bothering to specify how “knowledge” obtained in this fashion could be considered reliable in any way, shape, or form? Because that’s my FAVORITE. (Another possible thing to counter-argue, JT!).

      There are a lot of folks out there who believe in God – but the God they believe in is not the conclusion of an argument

      Yeah, I’m pretty sure we atheists realize that virtually all of believers are those “a lot of folks”. But a large group of believers like to also pretend they are not those “a lot of folks”. They pretend that there are good, logical, rational reasons to believe in God, and that Christians aren’t illogical in being Christians, and that their beliefs are very intellectual and sophisticated and so obviously well-supported and true. They aren’t as courageous as John Franklin to openly admit that logic and reason aren’t how people come to believe in God. Possibly because they realize how ridiculous they sound when they admit that they throw reason out the window and rely on gut feelings in order to obtain religious “truth”. Pretending that they actually use reason is far better PR.

      So when you ask for arguments for God’s existence – one is inclined to ask which God are you thinking of – to show that the God of the philosophers cannot be proven – is a very small achievement and likely has little or no bearing whatsoever of the truth or falsehood of whether there is a God.

      Ahahaha, bullshit. The God of the philosophers is an incredibly vague version of the Christian God. If philosophers can’t even manage to muster up a good argument for a “God” of the loosest definitions, then that means that a rational argument for a far more specific Christian God, a subset of the broader category of Philosopher “God”, is dead-in-the-water. The only way that truth/falsehood of God is unconnected to the fact that there is no logical reason to believe in God is if an alternative way to reliably know that God exists, without using reason. Amusingly enough, I have only seen this done by people arguing, through reason, that we have the ability to Sense the Divine or that belief in God is “properly basic” (i.e. it is logical to simply assume God’s existence). But, you’ll notice, THESE ARE ALSO ARGUMENTS and if they are false ones, then, no, there is still no good reason to believe in God, and therefore we have good (enough) reason to believe God does not exist (until we actually a good case to the contrary). If “divinity” is so elusive that we cannot comprehend it via the only reliable tools that humans have at our disposal, then there is no reason for anyone to make the bold assumption that “divinity” actually exists.

      Here’s a thing about atheists: We apply the same standards to God that (almost) everyone else does to fairies, ghosts, homeopathy, bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, and alien abductions. So, when you come in here claiming that we should abandon logic on this one entity, this one issue, we ask: Why are we only selectively allowed to abandon logic on issues pertinent to religion? Why do we assume that something doesn’t exist unless we have evidence that it does in almost all cases, save for “God”? Why do we have virtually no confidence in things that aren’t supported by reason and evidence on most matters, knowing how often poor reasoning and fallacies can lead us astray, but Christians are warranted to have absolute confidence in matters that they claim require no evidence or reason? These double standards look bizarre to atheists, and should look bizarre to any rational Christian. The only way you can be consistent using this tact is if you don’t just believe in God, but believe in anything and everything. I just don’t think you’re quite that gullible.

  • Castilliano

    A lot of good “debate style” arguments have been posted here, but I’d like you to address some of the personal/grassroots arguments.

    1. “I have experienced Him”, “Know/felt He heard my prayer”, etc. up to and including seeing spirits or auras or having physical effects on themselves. While most believers recognize it’s not shareable evidence, to them it is very strong evidence. Couple this with those who know many others that have experienced God (or ghosts/etc.) too, and they have a bastion.
    How does one counter their argument without belittling their sense of perception?

    2. Coincidence/healing/other anecdotal evidence. While several of these can be addressed if you are versed in the subject matter, “Out of body? Don’t you know they can simulate that by triggering a portion of your brain?”.
    If you compile citations of the research and where the listener can follow up on it it’d be helpful. Also, some come from your backside and “WTF?” just doesn’t cut it as a response (thought it’s usually #1 on the list.) Addressing several of the more common types of this argument would be useful.

    3. “Easy Arguments”: While I love that you want to tackle the harder ones, you do converse with an erudite group. Don’t forget the ‘common atheist’ or newbie who has to contend with Pascal’s Wager for perhaps the first time. Or “America was founded on Christian beliefs”, “Earth is 6000 years old”, or other such dismissible arguments, that aren’t so easy if you haven’t prepared for them.

    4. Arguments against popular theist/new age media. “Heaven is for Real” would be the most prominent target of the year, but also Byrne’s “The Secret”, et al. Short synopses coupled with brief counterarguments (or references to counterarguments) would be a useful argumentation tool.

    5. Oh, I wish I could remember the debate. It was Hitchens vs. a nobody, and Hitchens was losing (which I’ve never seen before or since). The nobody was a grad student (30s?) (doctoral candidate?) who was very well grounded in science, and used science as his weapon. He backed Hitchens to the ropes and the best Hitchens could do was out bombast, not out reason, his opponent. The young guy earned the win. Only Hitchens’ derailment through an emotional barrage ‘won’ the debate.
    Apologies for the incomplete information, but likely somebody here knows the debate. And if the argument can stump Hitchens…

    Admittedly, most of these are not geared toward reasonable debaters, but that’s whom a lot of us are debating.
    JMK

    • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

      1. “I have experienced Him”, “Know/felt He heard my prayer”, etc. up to and including seeing spirits or auras or having physical effects on themselves. While most believers recognize it’s not shareable evidence, to them it is very strong evidence.

      Just point out that other people have equally strong “evidence” for their totally contrary ideas of God(s). That won’t make instant atheist out of them, of course; but it could help ease them out of the “my Way is the only Way” rut.

      And as for Pascal’s Wager, just point out that you don’t just have to believe in “God” to cover yourself; you have to believe in the RIGHT interpretation of the RIGHT God(s), otherwise (at least in the eyes of those who are trying to manipulate you with bogus arguments like this) you’re no better than an atheist. Seen in that light, Pascal’s Wager really doesn’t look like such a safe bet after all.

    • http://www.ranum.com Marcus Ranum

      Skepticism about claims of knowledge can work with this one. Simply ask them if they’ve ever had the experience of thinking they knew something and later realized they were mistaken and then ask them how their “knowledge” of god feels different from that. An honest person who has ever experienced being wrong about something (most of us have) will have to confront the fact that “knowing god is out there” feels just the same as “having the wrong answer on a multiple choice test” – I thought I knew, but I didn’t. The rational person resolves uncertainty about knowledge by gathering more information – which, if your “certainty” about god is all you have, you can’t do about god.

      • Castilliano

        Thank you, Raging Bee & Marcus,

        Bringing up other people having other gods (experiences/etc.) is like bringing up demonic influence, which, to some minds, those ‘other people’ are under. Not all believers are atheists to other gods, some downright believe in them, and that they are demonic. Others believe, contrary to the Bible, that other gods exist too or are facets of their own god.
        I think it will take erosion, as I believe rational people become uneasy when delving into this part of their belief system.
        But, if JT can think of a succinct counterargument, that would be wonderful. You see, often people retreat into their bastion of believers, coming out revitalized in their faith. (Re-drained of their reason?)
        This makes for an arduous process.

        As for Pascal’s Wager, too easy, but only for those of us who’ve heard the several killing rebuttals. That was a suggestion for JT’s project, to address all levels of atheists.

        I recently tried the ‘doubt your perception’ argument, and haven’t got feedback yet. (It’s an e-mail discussion with an old friend.) I gave the example of thinking a stick was a snake, a false fear which I think many have experienced.
        I also referenced “The Believing Brain”, but I still find it a difficult argument that could use some cleaning up for field use.

  • Suido

    The information theory one. DNA is a code, therefore, GOD!

    A full rebuttal will expose common logical fallacies and misuse/misunderstanding of science. Always handy for planting seeds of doubt in believers’ minds.

  • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

    All these arguments for God are a bit like diet plans: if any of them work, why are there so many of them?

    • http://www.ranum.com Marcus Ranum

      LOL!

    • Castilliano

      Like diets, they give structure to those with no self-control.
      The commonalities continue…

  • ischemgeek

    I’m late to this but: Any variation on “This theory is elegant, therefore God.” or its related-yet-contradictory argument: “This is really complicated and poorly understood, therefore God.”

    I’ve had people try to argue to me that because evolution by natural selection is such an elegant theory, God did it. On the other hand, I’ve had others argue that quantum mechanics proves God because it’s so complicated.

  • Pingback: 7 Quick Takes (5/18/12)

  • Cejuan

    I don’t know if this fits within the scope of your plans, but it would be nice to see responses geared towards youngsters. Mine were recently in the upwards basketball program and I heard some of the nonsense arguments they were exposed to during their breaks. The two I can remember are: “Its ok that you can’t see god because you can’t see air either” and “If you were to enter your aquarium and talk to the fish, they wouldn’t believe the stories you told of the outside world, but that wouldn’t make them false.”

    Also, I’m horrible at remembering philosophical terms so I’d like to develop an argument in which I basically say, “I’m not a philosopher and won’t pretend to follow you when you dabble in the language of philosophers, if you’ve got proof then surely the majority of philosophers must agree with you. What percentage of them do?” I think I read that it’s somewhere around 30%, which is about what I would estimate the number of theologians in the philosophical community to be. But, I’m not sure how reliable my source was.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X