The Cosmological Argument

I haven’t been here in a long time. School, work, and my family have dominated my life, but I hope to spend a little time here. I have long wanted to discuss the so called “classical” arguments for the existence of God. So, I will try to do that here:

The Cosmological Argument

There are several variations of the Cosmological Argument, but the most basic form I am aware of follows:

1) Everything that exists has a cause of its existence.
2) The universe exists.
3) The universe has a cause of its existence.
4) If the universe has a cause of its existence, then that cause is God.
5) Therefore, God exists.

There are numerous problems with this argument; I’ll look at the argument line by line.

1) This is a claim that must be supported. Sure, everything in our everyday experience is caused, but how can we say, absolutely, that this is the case? This premise bears a burden of proof.

2) I have no problem with this one.

3) Really? How do you know? (See my objection to premise 1). We know something caused the universe to take its present form, but we don’t know the details before the Planck Epoch. Perhaps the universe has always existed, and it is the kind of thing that naturally goes bang (as in the big bang). Any claims here bear a burden of proof.

4) No. Just, no. If we accept the third premise, which I do not, but if we do, all we know is that there is a cause. We know nothing about the nature of that cause. If we are going to claim it is a god, we are stretching the definition of the word “god” to something that is unrecognizable and most certainly not the way it is used in common parlance. Plus, which god? There is no way to say it was Zeus or Thor or YHWH or any other god idea.

5) Nope, there is no reason to get to this point.

 

That was just my quick take on the Cosmological argument. I hope to find the time and energy to do more. 

Why Does God Suck as an Author?

While there are different opinions on how the various holy books were complied, at least from the opinion of the Abrahamic traditions, the ideas came from God. Furthermore, the actual text is generally considered to have been inspired by, or directed by, said deity. This begs the question, if a god, or especially a God, felt that a written text was the appropriate vehicle for his important message to mankind, why does he suck so badly as an author?

Speaking specifically about the bible, its followers often take both sides of the same issue. There are some 40,000+ denominations within Christianity, and while many are very similar, there are many disputes regarding exactly what the book means. How should it be interpreted? Are we saved by faith alone, or are works important? What happens to the wicked after death, eternal torture, or eternal nothingness? Of course lets not forget that all of Christianity and Islam are basically offshoots of Judaism. If their God had been clearer, perhaps there wouldn’t be such confusion.

It seems to me that any God worth the title would be able to convey his message a little more clearly. Not only is a written text a terrible way to convey such ideas through millennia, but the writing, editing and translation are all terrible.

God, if you exist, you are a terrible author.

Ethical Development

Developmental Psychologist Lawrence Kohlberg developed a system of moral development where one grew through up to six different stages of moral reasoning through one’s lifetime. The six stages are:

1) Avoiding Punishment
2) Seeking Pleasure
3) Conforming (being a good girl/boy)
4) Following the Rules (specifically the letter of the law)
5) Following Social Contract
6) Driven by Universal Ethical Principles (having the ability to evaluate situations using abstract reasoning and ethical principles)

The first two stages are obvious to any parent; these are children’s first foray into ethical thought. The third and fourth stage are also generally reached during childhood, first wanting to be a “good” child and then simply following the rules. You will often find young school children tattling on each other because Johnny is breaking some rule or another. At this stage it is the fact that there is a rule that is important to the child. Unfortunately  many religions keep people stagnated in their ethical development at this stage.

I’m not saying everybody, and I’m not saying that people never flirt with stage five, but I am saying that religions tend to arrest their followers’ development. How many people ask why you can’t eat pork? Or why you can’t eat meat during lent? Why is adultery bad? Why is stealing bad? I’m not saying that some of these things aren’t bad, but WHY are they bad? I think one of the reasons we in the US have a crime problem is because few of us ever reach the sixth stage; few of us are able to derive our morals from underlying principles. Instead, we follow the rules someone else has laid down for us.

How Important Are We?

“Consider again that dot [the Earth]. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar”, every “supreme leader”, every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.”

“Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.” Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot

 

Or, you can imagine that some magical being created all of that space, just for those tiny creatures living on the thin outer crust of that insignificant “mote of dust.”

Abraham the Patriarch

Why is Abraham put up on a pedestal by all three of our “great” monotheistic traditions? If there is any truth to the famous Abraham and Isaac story in the 22nd chapter of Genesis, then Abraham was a disgusting human being. It doesn’t matter if God didn’t allow him to follow through with the sacrifice of his son or even if Isaac accepted it (as Muslims believe). What matters is that Abraham was willing to kill another human being, without question, because he was told to by someone in authority. How is this person worthy of anything but contempt?

Ignosticism

This is something that I had figured out long before I knew that there was a fancy word for it. Ignosticism is basically the position that any “Is there a God?” discussion is utterly pointless unless we clearly define what we mean by the term “God,” or for that matter, “god.”

This should be a no brainer. At the beginning of any paper, a researcher will define what is begin studied; at the beginning of a computer program, variables are defined. Take a look at any legal contract, and at the very beginning you will see numerous paragraphs doing nothing but clearly defining words and how they will be used withing the context of that contract. However, for some reason this is lost in theistic discussions.

While some believers will claim that they all worship the same God, or that every religion worships a different face of the same God, this is not possible. Many different religions (in fact, many different sect within the same religion) worship Gods that have very different qualities. For instance, Catholics worship a God that is the type of deity who created hell as a place of eternal torture, while the God of some more liberal branches of Christianity worship a kinder being that doesn’t believe in infinite punishment for a finite crime. Many Christians worship a triune God, while Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that God the Father and the son, Jesus, are two discrete individuals, with the holy spirit being something entirely different. Not to beat the idea to death, but each of these concepts exists withing the umbrella of Christianity, and each describes a very different kind of God.

Why is this important? Well, if one is going to claim that God is the ultimate in morality, then they will have to deal with his creation of hell and the concept of infinite punishment. However, another Christian will not have this problem since they don’t believe in a literal hell. In order to have a productive discussion, all of these details must be addressed at the beginning of the discussion.

Why is this a problem? It is a problem because believers don’t know what they believe. They often claim that their God is “mysterious” or that he “cannot be grasped by human minds.” Of course, this is malarkey. My 6th grade science teacher, Mr. Purn, used to say that if you can’t explain something, then you don’t really understand it (I think he was paraphrasing Einstein, but that isn’t important.) To apply Purnian logic to the theist/atheist debate, theists don’t know what they believe, because they can’t describe it. How then are we to have any sort of meaningful discussion?