"Why I believe God exists" - A CD talk by NSR at Berea-Portal forum

"If you have a spare half an hour I'd really appreciate any feedback you can give me on this apologetics lecture I gave last Sunday at my in-laws' ecclesia on the title "Reasons why I believe God exists". I cover my three favourite philosophy arguments for God's existence: cosmological, teleological and moral. I try to strike a balance between covering all the bases and presenting it on a level your average listener can grasp."

Editor's Note: No one at B-P was able to set him straight, so I thought that I would throw the discussion open to Ex-Christadelphians. Click here to listen to the talk and then explain to NSR where he is going wrong by making a comment below.

10 comments:

  1. NSR starts his talk by using the Cosmological Argument that was debunked decades ago. It runs as follows:

    1. Everything that exists has a cause.
    2. The Universe exists.
    3. Therefore the Universe must have a cause that lies outside the Universe.
    4. That cause can only be God.

    This is a jumble of inaccurate premise and illogical deduction.

    (4) is an obvious non sequitur. It does not logically follow from the previous statement. Therefore (4) can be dismissed without further comment.

    (1) Is an unproven premise and if it is unproven, (2) and (3) also become non sequiturs and his argument vanishes into thin air. We don't know if everything that exists has a cause. If you are talking Classical Physics then it is true. But we know that Classical Physics has been shown to be false. It is merely an approximate (but not accurate) aggregate of quantum fluctuations. The Universe works Quantum, not Classical. At the quantum level events don't have a cause, they have a probability. For example an electron does not have a cause for passing through one or other of the slits in the two slit experiment, only a probability. Therefore not only do we have no evidence for (1) being true, but we know that it is false.

    It is generally accepted in science that our universe originated as a quantum fluctuation that has been magnified and then frozen into the billions of galaxies that we observe. Therefore it is highly unlikely that it had a cause. It had a probability and it just happened. Like it or not, that's how Quantum Mechanics works and we do know that it works. It has been proven experimentally.

    NSR's examples of why everything has a cause cannot be considered seriously. Turning the key in the ignition of your car might "cause" the engine to start, but it does not establish a scientific principle that dictates that our Universe had a cause.

    Let him prove his premise and we can take it further. But without a proven premise he has no argument and we have no reason to think that God exists.

    That's a few thoughts from me on the first of his three points. I will comment on the other two later.

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  2. The Kalam Cosmological Argument tries to use human "common sense" to deduce things about the beginning of the universe. Unfortunately, as you've mentioned it is based on outdated classical ideas within physics. Quantum physics does not conform to "common sense".

    Probably the worst part is that the Kalam Cosmological Argument can only lead as far as Deism, and that's if it's true.

    If anyone claims that Genesis 1 points to the universe having a beginning, they should immediately be asked where Genesis 1 even makes any mention, inferred or otherwise, of a universe. The word "heavens" in Genesis 1:1 is simply referring to the sky (see Genesis 1:8 - the thing called "heaven" is the firmament, which was thought to be a solid dome structure covering the earth). The cosmology of Genesis knows of nothing outside our atmosphere. In fact, the sun, moon and stars were all thought to be features sitting within our sky. You simply cannot infer anything about a universe from the Bible. Other passages talk about heaven being "stretched out" - with the idea being "to cover the earth, like a curtain". Appealing to modern cosmology to resurrect God is just desperate.

    The fine tuning argument is much better (did he mention that?) but again there are flaws which prevent anyone from using it as the basis of any kind of belief. And again it could only lead to Deism. At best one should be agnostic, and at worst there simply is no actual evidence for a deity. That's why theists resort to philosophical arguments rather than real evidence. If they had real evidence they would surely present it. And the problem with philosophical arguments is that we could not be sure if we've missed something. It may *sound* true, but without empirical evidence it's just a hypothesis. Further, these arguments were clearly dreamed up AFTER the belief was formed. That's the very definition of motivated reasoning.

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  3. I agree with Steve: philosophical arguments are often questionable, and even if you accept them the existence of God is about the best you can do.
    When I first came across the cosmological argument my reaction was "What are you even trying to demonstrate here? That the odds are slightly better that some God exists somewhere?"
    Moral sounds great until you realise it's actually about what people want to believe than what they have any reason to believe. You're not supposed to hear a Christadelphian say "In my search for absolute truth I accept there is a God because I'd like to think it gives me a sense of purpose." The argument also becomes a subtle attack on the unbeliever: "Obviously, you have rejected God because you want to go your own way and you can't accept being controlled. Why can't you just repent of your sins and accept God's way?"
    I have more sympathy with teleological, but in everyday conversation it is often reduced to the same: "Why do you want to believe in something that came by chance when you could believe in an all-powerful designer and creator who cares about you?"

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    Replies
    1. It gets worse, though.
      The Ontological Argument: "If I can think of something, it must be true." Took me a long time even to understand what they were trying to argue. I've never been able to accept it.

      Pascal's Wager: "If you're not sure, why not just serve the God who gives you the best reward". Doesn't consider the possibility that you picked the wrong God, and the right God is even more unhappy with that than if you believed no God. Or that you picked the right God, but he is not happy with you signing up just for the reward without any certainty of his existence. (in Bible terms, take for example Hebrews 11:6).

      In short, leave philosophy to the philosophers - but don't expect to get concrete, absolute truth out of it. There will always be a big leap from the general, abstract world of the philosophers to the particular religious texts or customs you are trying to shore up with it.

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    2. JJ, you won the internet for me tonight. Very. Well. Said.

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    3. I agree. JJ did well with that comment. I am proud to have him writing on this blog.

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  4. NSR's second point: "How did life originate and why is life possible on Earth and in our Universe?"

    We don't know the answer to either of those questions. But who cares? Six hundred years ago we did not know that the Earth was a sphere that rotated around the Sun. Most people thought that it was flat and that the sky was a solid dome. One hundred and fifty years ago we did not know that time was a fourth dimension. Five days ago we did not know that there is running water on Mars. A few hours before writing this comment we did not know that climate change can change the shape of our planet. But we know now, thanks to a paper published today. Give humans some more time and they will solve the mystery of Abiogenesis, just like they have solved tens of millions of other problems in science. A savage does not know why lightening strikes during a storm; but that is not excuse for him telling his fellow tribesmen that a god is angry with them.

    In effect NSR is saying "because there are some things that humans have not yet figured out the answer to, the God of the Hebrews must be real." If he has to argue something as illogical and meaningless as that then it must surely be obvious that he is scratching around to find anything at all to prove the existence of God.

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  5. His third argument: "Morality can only come from God and the Bible."

    - Who says? The other day I watched a YouTube video of a trainer at Sea World attacked and dragged down to the bottom of the pool by a Killer Whale who was attempting to drown the man. After a while, two other Orcas realised what was happening and dived down to bump the offending animal and the trainer was released. He lived. Did they get their morality from reading the Bible?

    There is much enlightened material in the Bible and much evil. Humans cherry pick the Sermon on the Mount and other nice parts and ignore the unenlightened parts of the Bible. How do they know how to do that? They know because they use the innate morality and enlightenment that humans have developed over hundreds of thousands of years. That morality has evolved along with our physiological evolution.

    If there is good material in the Bible, that is a result of the evolving enlightenment of humanity. The evil in the Bible is also a product of human thinking. But it is us who have to pick and choose what to accept in the Bible and what to sweep under the carpet. There is also good and bad in the Koran, in the Code of Hammurabi, there is even some good along with a great deal of evil in Hitler's book 'Mein Kampf.'

    The arbiters of morality and the originators of enlightenment are human, not divine.

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  6. I agree with John on the so called “moral argument”.. It is the stupidest on all arguments for the existence of god. How anyone with an ounce of critical thought not see how silly it is?

    When listening to NSR’s rather puerile recital of the difference between absolute and relative morality I just wanted to shout at him!

    He expressed the notion that if morality is relative he can decide that stealing his brother’s car is OK.

    NO MATE! YOU CAN’T! – that is not what moral relativism means. Morality is decided by groups to enable us to live in harmonious societies, and as John reminds us it is not restricted to the human species. You can just make up your own individual morality – it is by definition about living in co-operative groups.

    BUT HOW DOES GOD TELL YOU WHAT IS ABSOLUTE MORALITY?

    It can’t be from the bible, because the Old Testament God commands some pretty immoral behaviours

    As Dawkins famously says OT god is “arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”

    But even disregarding the “morals” of Old Testament god, what about the morals of the central story of Christianity? The notion that god has to be placated from his anger at the “sins” of mankind by allowing his son to be murdered on our behalf – what is moral about that?

    If I commit a crime the moral thing is for me to pay for it with a fine or a prison sentence. It is not moral for my sentence to be transferred to somebody else.

    There is simply nothing moral about the Christian god. The notion that you can get “absolute morality” from god is just wishful thinking.

    The “moral argument” is no argument at all.

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