For the answer to any of life’s big questions—questions such as “Why are we here?” or “What is the meaning of life?”—anything with God in it is always the worst guess. Super-smart aliens would be better. Fairies would be better. “I dunno, but there’s gotta be something better” would be better.
“God did it” is perhaps the most remarkable claim possible since it assumes, without compelling evidence, that a supernatural being created everything.
Let’s explore why God is the worst explanation for anything.
1. “God did it” is unfalsifiable. It explains too much.
“God did it” is the ready answer apologists can use to explain any scientific puzzle—what caused abiogenesis (the first life, which allowed evolution to begin), what caused the Big Bang, what explains consciousness, and so on. Of course, science keeps answering those puzzles, meaning that those applications of “God did it” were both wrong and premature, but apologists never seem to learn that lesson.
I can never prove that “God did it” is not the explanation for anything. What about a tsunami that kills hundreds of thousands of people, God’s hiddenness despite earnest prayers, or anything else within Christianity that confounds us? The Christian can always say that God might have his own reasons that we simply aren’t entitled to know or aren’t smart enough to understand.
(A god who made knowing about him a requirement to avoiding hell in the afterlife and yet remains hidden is not the omnibenevolent Christian god, but let’s ignore that for now.)
Handwaving away challenges to the God hypothesis is exactly what you’d do if there were no God.
2. “I don’t know” is a perfectly reasonable answer.
Don’t stretch to fill the void—if you don’t know, just say so.
Christians will say that they have the answers to life’s big questions. They seem to imagine a time limit, with the teacher saying, “Time’s up! Pencils down. Pass forward your quizzes.” Yes, Christianity does have answers to life’s big questions; it’s just that those answers suck. They’re given without evidence, so there’s no reason to believe them.
Things are clearer when we pull back to take in all the world’s religions. The map of world religions makes clear that religion’s answers to these questions depend on where you live. If you live in Tibet or Thailand, Buddhism teaches that we’re here to learn to cease suffering. If you live in Malaysia or Morocco, Islam teaches that we’re here to submit to Allah. Christianity, Scientology, and all the rest—they each have their own supernatural answers to these big questions, and each answer must be taken on faith. The only thing that religions all agree on is that the supernatural exists, and each one makes up its own stories to populate its version.
3. Popular apologetic arguments don’t point to God.
The most popular Christian apologetic arguments today—the Cosmological, Moral, Transcendental, Ontological, Design, and Fine Tuning arguments and so on—are all deist arguments. The Christian god is never the conclusion; all these arguments can do is allude to some sort of vague and undefined Creator. Yahweh fits the bill no better than the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
4. The Principle of Analogy tells us where to put supernatural claims.
We’re familiar with supernatural stories. Even the most secular society has in their history something like Grimm’s Fairy Tales or the Greek pantheon of gods or magical folk such as fairies, leprechauns, and elves. We have a bin for these stories labeled “Mythology and Legend.” Zeus, Odin, and Merlin go in the bin, and so does Yahweh. More.
To be concluded in part 2.
just outrage from those insecure in their own faith.
— Stephen Fry
(This is an update of a post that originally appeared 2017-7-8.)
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