Hey—don’t blame me. I’d stop listing stupid arguments if Christians would stop making them.
The discussion of these arguments begins here (go to the appendix at that post for a list of all these arguments to date).
To illustrate this stupid argument, here are comments by popular apologist J. Warner Wallace (audio interview @ 20:30). When an atheist, he says, he wondered if he was justified in believing “that everything in the universe could be accounted for with nothing more than just space, time, matter, and the laws of physics and chemistry—because that’s all I would have to work with if atheism was true.” I guess he was an inquisitive guy, because he had a lot on his mind:
Does that explain the universe the way we see it? Can it explain the beginning of the universe, the fine tuning of the universe, can it explain the origin of life or the appearance of design in biology, can it explain consciousness or free agency or objective transcendent moral truths? Everyone has to explain evil, whether you’re a theist or a nontheist. These are the things that everyone has a burden to explain.
Let’s first clear away the smoke to see what is actually being argued here. The universe began with the Big Bang, though I imagine his question is what caused that. Fine tuning of constants in the universe is curious, though not much of an argument for God (discussed here and here). The origin of life (abiogenesis) is indeed a puzzle, though too much is made of the appearance of design, which is neatly explained by evolution. Science does have questions about consciousness, though there’s no evidence of objective morality (see here and here). And the Problem of Evil asks why a good god allows bad things to happen. Atheists don’t propose a god, so this is precisely a problem for Christians.
So what’s left? The cause of the Big Bang and abiogenesis are important research areas, with consciousness and perhaps free will as additional challenges. After dismissing the tangential issues, we’re left with the observation that science has questions to answer. That’s true. And obvious. Why then the long list of questions? Because it sounds stupid to come right out and say, “There will always be questions within science, but ‘God did it’ can explain them all; therefore, God.”
Wallace demands, “These are the things that everyone has a burden to explain,” but his sense of urgency is groundless. Yes, there are unanswered questions, but so what?
[Then I examined] the universe from the perspective of my philosophical naturalism to see if my atheism had any explanatory power.
Sure it does, just not in the field of science. While the Christian claim “God did it” has no evidence backing it and is unfalsifiable (and therefore useless as an explanation), the hypothesis “there is no god” does follow the evidence and neatly untangles the tough problems that tie Christians in knots (more here).
[I already accepted] several extra-natural explanations as an atheist, because if nature is just space, time, matter, and physics, well there’s lots of things that those things won’t account for, and so I’ve got to step out of my naturalism just to explain those things and so what am I doing here?
Time’s up—I need the answers now! No, I’m sorry, “Science is working on it” will not be accepted as an answer. You must completely explain all remaining scientific questions right now.
Or at least that’s how apologists like Wallace imagine things. For some reason, we shouldn’t look for further progress from the discipline that has given us our modern technology-intensive world. No, we should rely on the discipline that weaves contradictory stories about the supernatural, that has no use for evidence, and that has never taught us anything accurate about reality.
Here’s a comment from this blog that illustrates the popular Christian idea that we mortals are in no position to judge God’s actions.
I am completely clueless as to what you think could possibly give you the right to Judge God. Unlike you, God knows all things and He brought the universe into existence for a reason. You don’t have to like it that God created people knowing they would end up in hell, or suffer on earth, or be blessed for a while, or whatever it might be. But what right do they have to look into the infinite heavens, raise their fist, and bring a righteous charge against the infinite God of the universe?
The first problem, of course, is the Hypothetical God Fallacy (Stupid Argument #33). You don’t just assume the incredible Christian claims and proceed from there, but that is the assumption behind the claim, “Who are you to judge God?”
If we don’t assume God, which is the only reasonable option for an outsider to Christianity, then we’re not judging God but judging claims about God. No believer can ask anything more from us than that we evaluate their supernatural claims. What’s the alternative? To simply accept Christians’ claims about God? No, the buck stops here, and we’re the ones to judge.
The problem is that the Christian claims suck. The Christian is usually eager to judge God but only when the conclusion would be “God is good.” When a negative conclusion is possible, they tell us that no one can judge God.
And with the biblical God, a negative conclusion is inevitable. A god who is all-loving but commands genocide and sanctions slavery? A god who is eager for a relationship but won’t provide evidence of his existence? A god who is just and fair but demands belief in the unbelievable to get into paradise? Nope—that’s not a good God (more).
Christians seem to want to treat God like a celestial baby. With a human baby, people excuse its messes since it doesn’t know better, but then that’s how they treat God as well. When someone wants to judge God’s actions by adult standards—nothing difficult, just basic morality—these Christians step in and say that that’s not fair. God can’t do wrong, by definition. If he does something that would be wrong if you did it, we’re just supposed to call that “right” since it’s God who did it.
Like the baby who needs a diaper, God can’t even defend himself. What does it say that Christians treat God like a baby? And that they demand that we avoid judging his actions?
Continued in part 15.
Of the two great, evil, criminal gangs to emerge out of Italy,
why is the Mafia the one that gets most of the bad press?
Image credit: Mark, flickr, CC