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  #1  
Old Feb 1, '10, 9:27 am
Luke K Luke K is offline
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Default What are the common, modern-day objections to the existence of God?

A Catholic apologetics group at my parish is going to be discussing the existence of God this week, and I'm wondering what the most prevalent reasons are for not believing in God. I know there are a lot of non-believers on this forum, so in the spirit of understanding, please share the major reasons for you not believing in the Catholic concept of God. Also, what are your rebuttals to the more common arguments you hear for the existence of God?

I do NOT mean for this to be a debate about the existence of God, but just so that I can learn what the other side is thinking. Thanks.
  #2  
Old Feb 1, '10, 9:41 am
James S Saint James S Saint is offline
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Default Re: What are the common, modern-day objections to the existence of God?

THE MOST immutable impetus related to dis-belief is THREAT. We could go through the endless spirit and confusion behind that concern, but you can figure most of it out yourself. The other arguments are merely the result of finding any excuse at all to avoid the perception of THREAT. Jesus knew how to handle it. Catholics and other "Christians" don't.
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Old Feb 1, '10, 9:49 am
AntiTheist AntiTheist is offline
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Default Re: What are the common, modern-day objections to the existence of God?

Well, the first reason that I always give is that there is insufficient evidence for the belief in any supernatural being, let alone a god (and let alone the specific god that your religion believes in). I always preface an explanation of my atheism by noting that I do not believe in the Hindu gods, the Roman gods, the Celtic gods, the Zoroastrian gods, the Christian god, Cthulhu, the Norse gods, leprechauns, pixies, or any other supernatural creatures. My reason for not believing in all of them is identical: no one has ever produced any evidence for the existence of any those things.

The burden of proof is always upon the person making the claim that something exists. If I claimed that a leprechaun lives in my backyard, it would obviously be up to me to prove to you that it exists before I could expect you to believe in it. It would be quite silly for me to insist that you believe that it exists unless you could prove otherwise. Now imagine if you inspected my backyard and found no sign of a leprechaun, and I said, "Well, the leprechaun is intangible and invisible. You can see him through events that happen in the backyard, like acorns falling off trees, holes appearing in the lawn, and rainbows appearing in the sky over that big tree...." Not exactly convincing evidence for the existence of a leprechaun, is it?

The arguments for a god seem to take two general forms:logical arguments for the necessity of such a being and emotional appeals to personal experience.

Obviously, emotional appeals to personal experience can't demonstrate that a god exists because people of all faiths -- including conflicting faiths -- all have personal "experiences" of their gods, and all of those faiths can't be correct. What that demonstrates is that it's possible for you to fool yourself into having an experience and mistaking your own emotional energy for something outside of you.

The logical arguments are sometimes tough to get one's head around, but they often take the form of an argument from ignorance. We don't know how the universe got here; ergo, it had to be a god. We don't know why the laws of the universe are the way they are; ergo, it had to be a god. We don't know how life arose; ergo, it had to be a god. I mean, the arguments aren't phrased like that, but that's what they pretty much add up to.

And obviously, if the burden of proof is on you, it doesn't help your case to say, "Well, no one knows, so therefore I'm right."

The atheist answer to a lot of the big questions is "I don't know," which -- until we know more -- is the honest and correct answer.

That's pretty much the broad strokes. If you want me to elaborate on any particular point or address a particular argument, let me know.
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Old Feb 1, '10, 9:54 am
warpspeedpetey warpspeedpetey is offline
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Default Re: What are the common, modern-day objections to the existence of God?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Luke K View Post
A Catholic apologetics group at my parish is going to be discussing the existence of God this week, and I'm wondering what the most prevalent reasons are for not believing in God. I know there are a lot of non-believers on this forum, so in the spirit of understanding, please share the major reasons for you not believing in the Catholic concept of God. Also, what are your rebuttals to the more common arguments you hear for the existence of God?

I do NOT mean for this to be a debate about the existence of God, but just so that I can learn what the other side is thinking. Thanks.
if you need the refutations to the common atheist objections, let me know.
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  #5  
Old Feb 1, '10, 10:20 am
Luke K Luke K is offline
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Default Re: What are the common, modern-day objections to the existence of God?

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Originally Posted by AntiTheist View Post
The burden of proof is always upon the person making the claim that something exists. If I claimed that a leprechaun lives in my backyard, it would obviously be up to me to prove to you that it exists before I could expect you to believe in it. It would be quite silly for me to insist that you believe that it exists unless you could prove otherwise. Now imagine if you inspected my backyard and found no sign of a leprechaun, and I said, "Well, the leprechaun is intangible and invisible. You can see him through events that happen in the backyard, like acorns falling off trees, holes appearing in the lawn, and rainbows appearing in the sky over that big tree...." Not exactly convincing evidence for the existence of a leprechaun, is it?
I've heard this objection a lot, actually. But do you think it's really fair to compare Christian faith to belief in a leprechaun? Ours is a historical faith that has developed over thousands of years, with a practical theology that applies to everyone's lives. A person naturally reacts quite differently to the belief that a supreme, loving being exists who created the universe compared to a magical creature that plays pranks on people.

Also, just because different people hold different beliefs, why does that stop you from trying out one for yourself and seeing if it works like it says it will?

Quote:
The logical arguments are sometimes tough to get one's head around, but they often take the form of an argument from ignorance. We don't know how the universe got here; ergo, it had to be a god. We don't know why the laws of the universe are the way they are; ergo, it had to be a god. We don't know how life arose; ergo, it had to be a god. I mean, the arguments aren't phrased like that, but that's what they pretty much add up to.
But aren't the logical arguments more in the form of proof by contradiction, rather than arguments from ignorance? I don't think you would say that mathematical proofs of contradictory form are suffering from a lack of imagination for why the contradiction can't in fact be possible. So I guess I need you to explain why you think proofs for God are more from ignorance than contradiction.
  #6  
Old Feb 1, '10, 10:25 am
JP2Admirer JP2Admirer is offline
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Default Re: What are the common, modern-day objections to the existence of God?

If you want to get a glimpse of the best critique of the existence of God, I would advocate reading a little bit of Nietzsche. He is the only atheist philospher that I have encountered who offers convincing arguments.

Most of the philosophers I have encountered are simply sophists, who with a predetermined atheistic mindset offer sophistical refutation mostly based on the bad behavior of violent men who call themselves "Christian."

Modern atheist physicists like Dawkins, etc. offer pretty weak critiques in comparison. I have never found a philosopher who actually is able to definitively deny Aquinas' Five Ways -- in fact few even try. (Kaufmann tried, but I think unsuccessfully.)

The problem with the modern "scientific" approach is that, Dawkins and others like him, want there to be intelligibility in nature (i.e. essentially linked causality), but then they run into the problem of the First Mover. That is, if nature is intelligible and causes are intrinsically linked to their effects, then Aquinas' Five Ways are indisputable. Nietzsche, on the other hand, says to throw out science as a Socratic optimism. He correctly perceived that if science is able to prove law like qualities, then there is rational order to reality. If that's the case, you cannot escape, logically, a First Mover.

He simply said, like Hume before him, that there is no order to reality. This perception of rational order is merely the human mind imposing order on that reality. For him, all existence was a chaotic haphazard burgeoning of an active force; all was a will to power. He made causality accidental, which makes it infinite, which entails no First Mover. To deny a First Mover, we must deny rational order to reality. This is what Nietzsche did. This is a quite plausible explanation, except that there are uniform laws within nature. This suggests a rational order, not chaos.

Anyway, I find this the only probable denial of the existence of God, but ultimately it fails, in my opinion, because of nature actually conforming to our scientific discoveries. We couldn't build machines that fly if there were no order in reality; if order only existed in our minds. That is, there would be no correspondence between the two.
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  #7  
Old Feb 1, '10, 10:26 am
Friar David, O.Carm Friar David, O.Carm is offline
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Default Re: What are the common, modern-day objections to the existence of God?

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Originally Posted by AntiTheist View Post
Well, the first reason that I always give is that there is insufficient evidence for the belief in any supernatural being, let alone a god (and let alone the specific god that your religion believes in). I always preface an explanation of my atheism by noting that I do not believe in the Hindu gods, the Roman gods, the Celtic gods, the Zoroastrian gods, the Christian god, Cthulhu, the Norse gods, leprechauns, pixies, or any other supernatural creatures. My reason for not believing in all of them is identical: no one has ever produced any evidence for the existence of any those things.
Just a small question for you.

How do you define "evidence for the existence"?
  #8  
Old Feb 1, '10, 10:42 am
AntiTheist AntiTheist is offline
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Default Re: What are the common, modern-day objections to the existence of God?

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Originally Posted by Luke K View Post
I've heard this objection a lot, actually. But do you think it's really fair to compare Christian faith to belief in a leprechaun? Ours is a historical faith that has developed over thousands of years, with a practical theology that applies to everyone's lives. A person naturally reacts quite differently to the belief that a supreme, loving being exists who created the universe compared to a magical creature that plays pranks on people.
Well, I think you'd agree that logically, the amount of time a belief has been around has nothing to do with how much evidence there is for it. The leprechaun example just makes that clear with an obviously ridiculous comparison, but the same comparison could just as easily be made to some other faith -- for example, Vishnu has been worshipped for thousands of years, but there's no evidence that he exists, either.

Quote:
Also, just because different people hold different beliefs, why does that stop you from trying out one for yourself and seeing if it works like it says it will?
It doesn't. What I was saying was that people of different faiths -- that claim contradictory things -- claim to have experiences that validate their faiths. Because their faiths make contradictory claims, they obviously can't all be right about the experiences they report. For example, a Christian claims that Jesus is god, and a Hindu claims that there is some kind of Brahma force that manifests in several different gods (or something like that). The Christian thinks that he experiences the presence of Christ, and the Hindu thinks that he experiences the presence of Vishnu. They can't both be correct.

Clearly, it's possible to be mistaken about a spiritual experience you've had and/or fool yourself into thinking that a strong emotional experience is a spiritual experience. And clearly, this mistake or self-deluding is so strong that people can be convinced it's the real thing. Given all of those facts, we have a good basis on which to discard personal experience as evidence for supernatural claims.

To look at those facts and then say, "Yeah, well, I'll try out this religion, and if it produces 'spiritual experience' in me, then I'll claim it's real" is to utterly miss the point of what the evidence actually suggests.

Quote:
But aren't the logical arguments more in the form of proof by contradiction, rather than arguments from ignorance?
I may have mispoke. I meant something like this: take the argument from causes. The argument breaks down when you consider the fact that no one knows anything about the beginning of the universe -- no one knows what came before the Big Bang or what the laws of the universe were like then (if, for example, causality even functioned then). The only actual answer is "we don't know."

That's really the best I can do unless you want me to talk about a specific argument.
  #9  
Old Feb 1, '10, 10:47 am
AntiTheist AntiTheist is offline
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Default Re: What are the common, modern-day objections to the existence of God?

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Originally Posted by ByzCath View Post
Just a small question for you.

How do you define "evidence for the existence"?
Evidence is "that which compels belief." Typically, it refers to data that is independently verifiable that unequivocally suggests a conclusion (that becomes more certain as more evidence is gathered). The more evidence for X, the more likely it is that X exists.

I might think that acorns falling from the trees and holes mysteriously appearing in my lawn is good evidence for the existence of a leprechaun, but most reasonable people will obviously not agree. Better evidence would be his pot of gold, his little leprechaun clothes, or producing the little creature alive. What would you consider evidence for the existence of a leprechaun? Would you believe me because I get a warm feeling in the pit of my stomach when I talk to the leprechaun in my mind or because there's a written record of some guy claiming to see a leprechaun on my property hundreds of years ago?
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Old Feb 1, '10, 11:00 am
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manygift1spirit manygift1spirit is offline
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Default Re: What are the common, modern-day objections to the existence of God?

Pick up Peter Kreeft and coauthor's Handbook of Catholic Apologetics. The first chapter is a broad summary of arguments for the existence of God, including twenty covered in some detail. Among the detail are several potential (and perhaps actual historical) critiques of each argument, and a rebuttal. You may use the critiques as possible answers to the original post.
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Old Feb 1, '10, 11:14 am
warpspeedpetey warpspeedpetey is offline
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Default Re: What are the common, modern-day objections to the existence of God?

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Originally Posted by AntiTheist View Post
Well, I think you'd agree that logically, the amount of time a belief has been around has nothing to do with how much evidence there is for it. The leprechaun example just makes that clear with an obviously ridiculous comparison, but the same comparison could just as easily be made to some other faith -- for example, Vishnu has been worshipped for thousands of years, but there's no evidence that he exists, either.
unlike vishnu, thousands of people over thousands of years, literally witnessed G-d, His Prophets, Christ, and their works. we are a Faith based on those empirical experiences of those people, dozens of these witness statements were written down and compiled into the Bible.
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Old Feb 1, '10, 11:28 am
warpspeedpetey warpspeedpetey is offline
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Default Re: What are the common, modern-day objections to the existence of God?

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or because there's a written record of some guy claiming to see a leprechaun on my property hundreds of years ago?
not just some guy, but thousands of people. over thousands of years, witnessing a great many "leprechauns"

yes, you should believe that.

that is an entirely rational; reason to belive in leprechauns.
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Old Feb 1, '10, 11:34 am
sablouwho sablouwho is offline
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Default Re: What are the common, modern-day objections to the existence of God?

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Originally Posted by Luke K View Post
I know there are a lot of non-believers on this forum, so in the spirit of understanding, please share the major reasons for you not believing in the Catholic concept of God. Also, what are your rebuttals to the more common arguments you hear for the existence of God?
Hi Luke. I am a believer now, but used to be an unbeliever, so I will share with you what I can recall of my former lack of belief.

I specifically didn't believe in the Catholic concept of God because I was raised Jewish. I'd been taught that Christians weren't true monotheists.

But, truth be told, I didn't even believe in the Jewish concept of God either, so whether there was a monotheistic God or a Triune God--well, both concepts to me seemed like gobble-de-gook.

A big reason for my lack of belief is that, despite my parents sending me to religious school, no belief in God was engendered at home. My parents are both medical doctors so I think that the lack of scientific evidence for God is what lead me to not believing.

As for what helped me to believe (eventually) -- the first part of CS Lewis' book Mere Christianity contains a philosophical look at "Right and Wrong and the meaning of the Universe" and once I read it, I could no longer object to the concept of some sort of Supreme Something.

Reading more apologetics aimed at an intelligent skeptical audience is what got me to believe in the possibility of Jesus, specifically.

But I didn't have faith (as opposed to just academic belief in Jesus) until I had a Road to Damascus conversion experience. Unfortunately, THAT type of evidence (personal experience, that is) is not something that is likely to convince someone else. They would have to experience it themselves in order to believe. (Which is too bad, because I really wish my dad would believe in God, and he doesn't due to lack of empirical evidence.)
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Old Feb 1, '10, 11:53 am
warpspeedpetey warpspeedpetey is offline
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Default Re: What are the common, modern-day objections to the existence of God?

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(Which is too bad, because I really wish my dad would believe in God, and he doesn't due to lack of empirical evidence.)
maybe you could bring him here? empiricism, and the scientific method arent the right tools for finding G-d. the higher forms of reason, mathematics and metaphysics are. we start with the empirical, but we quickly leave it behind. i have a friend that is an MD, a few years ago, he felt the same way, now he retired from his job, to work with a convents hospice and medical outreach. doctors make great Christains. its a matter of knocking down the hard empiricism. after all, the statement that truth can only be arrived at empirically, is not empirically proveable. it simply an assumption.
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Old Feb 1, '10, 12:19 pm
sablouwho sablouwho is offline
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Default Re: What are the common, modern-day objections to the existence of God?

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Originally Posted by warpspeedpetey View Post
maybe you could bring him here? empiricism, and the scientific method arent the right tools for finding G-d. the higher forms of reason, mathematics and metaphysics are. we start with the empirical, but we quickly leave it behind. i have a friend that is an MD, a few years ago, he felt the same way, now he retired from his job, to work with a convents hospice and medical outreach. doctors make great Christains. its a matter of knocking down the hard empiricism. after all, the statement that truth can only be arrived at empirically, is not empirically proveable. it simply an assumption.
Oh, I totally agree with you that empiricism is the wrong method. Unfortunately, my dad doesn't see it that way. I'm sure you're familiar with many of the know-it-all, self-satisfied atheists and agnostics that post on forums such as this one? Well, he is like that.

There is also a lot of psychological baggage--he still seems to have a lot of residual anger at having been raised in an Orthodox (Jewish, that is) home. He's quite hostile towards religion--his own, and certainly at Christianity as well. Interestingly, he wife is a lapsed Catholic (never in a million years would he have married a woman who practiced/believed in her religion).

Plus, being Jewish (like me), I doubt he'd ever become a Christian of any stripe if he ever were to come to faith in God. This one I understand from personal experience. When you're taught that Jesus absolutely wasn't the Messiah, and given a lot of (seemingly) really good reasons for that belief, it is very hard to have an open mind to the possibility that Jesus really was/is the real deal. It's very frustrating for me...I see so clearly now what was impossible to see before, and while I get why my family members (who aren't observant, except for a few distant relatives) can't see this, I wish that they could.

TO THE OP-- sorry for the tangent!
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