“Three Arguments to Try with Atheists” – Debunked

I’ve found a little article in Spero News for you to laugh at. (Least you wonder, it is a Conservative Catholic Blog so you will be expecting pure rationality right?) It starts out like this …

You don’t have to be a philosophy major to talk to atheists about God. Here are three simple arguments to help you in your task.

Ohhhh scary stuff,  … proceed with caution folks, you just might have all your disbelief refuted to such a degree that you will immediately seek out your specially blessed-by-Dawkins edition of  “The God delusion”, rip it from your atheist shrine, and rush out to burn it. OK, so what is atheist-shattering argument number one?

1) Moral Argument: How can there be good and evil or right and wrong? Another way to put it, if we’re playing a game then someone has to create the rules. If there are no objective rules then there are no rules. All human acts would be morally arbitrary and neutral.

Was Hitler evil? By whose standards? Does the atheist have a good answer to this?

So then, there must be an objective lawgiver – and this we know as “God.”

This is, “I have no idea how to work out what is right and wrong by myself, so God must have told me“. Seriously!!! He is actually arguing that folks are incapable of working out good from evil without a  supernatural entity whispering in their heads. Should I point out the fact that the bronze age text the author’s belief system clings to actually endorses slavery, suggests it is OK to beat slaves as long at they don’t die within three-day ( Exodus 21:20-21), that it treats woman as inferior (I Corinthians 11:3), tells him that being gay is an abomination, and insists that we are all wicked and evil (Romans 3:23) unless we embrace his specific delusional belief system (Ephesians 2:8). In reality most humans, with or without belief, are decent honorable people and do not in fact derive their ethics from an ancient text, but instead are far more rational and can work out by themselves that doing harm to others is not good. In fact, secular ethics are actually far superior to all forms of religious ethics because, unlike religious ethics which end up being hammered in stone and may not be challenged, you can challenge and improve secular ethics. The prime example is slavery, once commonly accepted, but now it no longer is and so it has left a lot of religious based ethics behind.

Well, so much for argument one, so what about argument two, does it get any better? … Nope.

2) Cause and Effect Argument: This is also referred to as the cosmological argument. We observe cause and effect in the world. Yet it is absurd that the chain of cause and effect would go back in an infinite directly. There must have been a first cause. This first cause we know as “God.”

Think of one million people leaning on one another at an equal angle. At the end of the leaning line of people, there must be a wall to hold up the first person. If there weren’t something supporting the leaning line, everyone would just fall over.

Now we have, “I have no idea what started everything, so God did it“. It usually goes something like this when being discussed:

  • Everything has a cause, so something must have caused the universe.
  • Ohhh a problem, so how do we solve this challenge? Easy, lets invent a supernatural entity and claim it did it.

Hopefully you can see the obvious flaw here. “OK“, says the atheist, “What caused God?“. “Ah“, reply the theists, “God has no cause, he always was“. Note the complete lack of evidence for that claim, you could just as easily claim that “pink unicorns” did it.

As you look back over history, you will observe that when faced with something mysterious, our ancestors attributed it to a supernatural entity. Examples include thunder, seasons, lightening, etc… We now fully understand all of these and have completely naturalistic explanations. To date, the “God did it” answer has been proven to be 100% wrong, so why should this instance be any different. The following quote sums this up quite well for me:

“I can live with doubts and uncertainty and not knowing. I think it’s more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong…I don’t feel frightened by not knowing things, by being lost in a mysterious universe without having any purpose, which is the way it really is, so far as I can tell. It doesn’t frighten me.” – Richard Feynman

Will argument three be the atheist killer? .. (yep you guessed correctly, it is more of the same silliness).

3) Design Argument: This is commonly called the teleological argument or “watchmaker” argument. There is order and design in the universe (e.g. mathematical ratios observed in sea shells and bee hives). Since there is a rational order in the universe, then there must be a rational mind behind. To put it another way, if there is design, then there must be a designer. The common version of this argument is that if you were walking in the desert and you came across a gold watch, you would not assume that the gold, steel, springs, leather strap, crystal, etc. randomly came together to form a sophisticated machine. Rather, you would assume that the watch was made by a watchmaker. So then, the world is ordered and more sophisticated than a watch, therefore there is a supernal “watchmaker,” and this we call “God.”

Sigh, yes indeed, this is, “Gosh the world is such a complex place, I have no idea how it could have happened, so God did it“. This old argument from ignorance was popularized by Rev Paley in his 1802 book and has been debunked over and over, yet almost akin to a game of whack-a-mole, it just keeps on popping up. There are a couple of key points to consider:

  • Complexity does not imply design. Natural physical processes often result in considerable complexity and diversity (think snowflakes)
  • Even if there was evidence for intelligent design (there is none) – it would prove nothing about the existence of a supernatural entity. Other explanations such as super-smart aliens from another universe who naturally evolved themselves would be as credible an answer.

And that’s it, nothing there is an atheist shattering argument. In fact, all three are completely daft, and so I do suggest that anybody who seriously considers deploying these should be prepared to be laughed at.

Not so subtle hint: utilize google before you offer up daft ideas that have zero substance and have been de-bunked many times over.

5 thoughts on ““Three Arguments to Try with Atheists” – Debunked”

  1. Maybe try looking at it from a different paradigm. I quote:

    “It is important to realize something about being an atheist that even most atheists fail to acknowledge and that is that atheism requires omniscience (complete knowledge of everything).… An atheist is making a positive assertion that there is no God. The only way that anyone could make such an assertion would be to presume that he knew everything about everything.”

    “Atheism involves a logical fallacy known as a universal negative. Simply stated, a person would have to be omniscient and omnipresent to be able to say ‘there is no God’ from his own pool of knowledge. Only someone capable of being in all places at the same time — with a perfect knowledge of all that is in the universe — can make such a statement based on the facts. In other words, a person would have to be God to say there is no God. Hence, the assertion is logically indefensible. By using arguments like this, you will often find that an atheist quickly converts to agnosticism and is thus making progress rapidly in the right direction.”

    • Hi Sean, It is a popular claim promoted by the religious, but is generally not a reflection of how things actually are.

      You are of course correct in the sense that those asserting a claim have the burden of proof. However, the rejection of a claim is not equivalent to a claim.

      The problem with the argument you are cutting and pasting is that the vast majority of those that do not believe, are not actually asserting a no-god claim, and instead are simply adopting the null hypothesis. The various god-claims are rejected due to a lack of evidence.

      The second issue that may be worth understanding is that atheism and agnosticism are not mutually exclusive. It works like this …

      – atheist / theist = I don’t believe / I believe
      – agnostic / gnostic = I don’t know / I know

      When it comes to the various god claims, nobody actually knows, even if they claim they do.

  2. The “everything has a cause” claim is nonsense, as quantum physics shows (and that is directly relevant to how the universe might have arisen). I discuss this in my blog post about the Kalam Cosmological argument, which is a favourite in both Christian and Muslim circles: http://www.lukesci.com/2011/09/05/why-the-kalam-cosmological-argument-is-bunk/

    As for the morality component, I won’t go on about that here, but suffice to say that plenty of atheists have come forward with proposals about how an objective moral theory could be considered to exist, most recently Sam Harris in The Moral Landscape. My point isn’t that Harris is necessarily right, but if objective morality was such a problem for the atheists, they would shy away from discussing it altogether, rather than writing books on the subject.

  3. I think you’re slightly missing the point of the Moral Argument. The point is not “Humans can’t tell the difference between right and wrong without God telling them”, it’s “In a meaningless universe, there is no objective right or wrong”.
    Of course, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a subjective right and wrong. Like you said, the Bible endorses slavery, misogyny, and homophobia, which were all perfectly fine when it was written but are outdated (to say the least) in today’s society. “Good” and “evil” change their meanings depending on the country and the century.

    Bringing Hitler into their arguments was a nice touch, too.


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