Atheism is irrational


#1

Please read this, by Peter Kreeft (it’s pronounced “Krayft”, apparently). Kreeft is quite confident in this proof for God. For the purpose of this thread, I will assume that he has not proven the existence of God (as well as identifying some of His characteristics). Rather, he has made a very good case for the existence of God. Therefore, as I see it, the only way to be an atheist after reading this Argument is to have faith. You must have faith that:
[list=1]
*]Either, the Universe came into existence just because,
*]Or, the Universe has always existed, just because.[/list]
It is my contention, that it takes eminently more faith to believe in one of these two ideas, than it takes to believe in God. Therefore by Occam’s Razor, it is more reasonable to believe in God.

Now, one of the charges levelled by some atheists against theists is that “faith is irrational”. I believe I have even seen some theists concede this. I will now turn this around onto the atheist:
Since it takes more faith to be an atheist than it takes to be a theist, it is therefore more irrational to be an atheist than a theist.
That being said, I don’t actually agree that faith per se is irrational. I think that faith can be quite reasonable, so long as there is sufficient evidence, which I believe there to be in the case of Catholicism. Therefore I don’t personally believe that atheism is irrational, I just believe it to be much less reasonable than theism - and in particular, Catholicism.


#2

Whether ‘atheism’ is ‘irrational’, depends on the type of ‘theos’ that is being negated.

The negation of an evil ‘theos’ would be quite rational, for instance.


#3

Fascinating post. I am an atheist, by the way, and I doubt we will ever agree on the religion question. However, feel free to ask me any questions :slight_smile: Also, if you want me to answer to points raised in the post, I will be more than happy to.


#4

Did you read Kreeft’s essay? Do you concede my point that it therefore takes more faith to be an atheist than it does to be a theist? If yes, then what are the implications for your world-view? If no, then why not?

Welcome to the forums, by the way :slight_smile:


#5

I take atheism to mean that all of theism is positively not believed in. As in, atheists believe that there is no God or Gods; no “higher powers” or anything like that.

As for the rationality, I simply named the thread such for the shock-value :wink:


#6

Yes, and I am quite familiar with Thomas Aquinas Five Ways.

No.

That is not exactly the shortest question to answer ;). Instead of going through the paper point by point, I will use your summary. He pretty much uses the same argument several times throughout the paper anyway.

We do not know what happened prior to the big bang as physics is unable to explain that as of yet. Even talking about a ‘prior’ is difficult as time did not exist until after the big bang. I know that, and I am fine saying “I do not know” when asked about the beginning of the universe.

My problem with brining a supernatural being into the argument is threefold.
[list=1]
*]Supernatural beings, in your case God, become a cop-out. Since you do not know what happened, you ascribe it to God. What happens if we find answers to our questions in 100 years? What about 1000 years? In the past God was used to explain everything science did not have an answer for. Time after time natural explanations were found, I fail see the need to posit a God because once again science does not yet know the answer.
*]In order for God to be the creator of the universe, then he has to have always existed, or to have come into existence just because. These are the exact same arguments that you considered irrational when discussing the existence of the universe. Well, why does that make any more sense? If it is irrational and takes faith to believe that the universe did not have a cause, then why is it any more rational or less requiring of faith to believe that God has no cause or no beginning?
*]If God created the universe via the big bang, then he has to be more complex then the universe, and therefore less likely to exist in my opinion. I do not think that we can solve a complex problem by inventing a more complex being to take care of it without wondering about the beginning of that being :).[/list]

Thank you :slight_smile:


#7

It of course depends on one’s definition of “God.” Many atheists seem to believe in what I think is “God,” but they do not think of such thing as “God.” They are confused about my labeling myself a theist, whereas I’m confused about their labeling themselves atheists. And all the while, we seem to believe in the same thing.

If you know what I mean.


#8

In the Prime Mover argument? That’s among the least convincing proofs out there – and Kreeft provides four perfectly valid objections in the article itself.

For the purpose of this thread, I will assume that he has not proven the existence of God (as well as identifying some of His characteristics).

Good, as the Prime Mover has only one known characteristic – it is the creator. Good, bad, indifferent, omnipotent or not, omniscient or not; none of this can be derived from that argument.

Rather, he has made a very good case for the existence of God.

Not really :smiley:

Therefore, as I see it, the only way to be an atheist after reading this Argument is to have faith. You must have faith that:
[list=1]
*]Either, the Universe came into existence just because,
*]Or, the Universe has always existed, just because.[/list]

I propose a third option – we don’t know, and it doesn’t really affect us? Nobody was around to see it, theist, agnostic, or non-theist.

It is my contention, that it takes eminently more faith to believe in one of these two ideas, than it takes to believe in God. Therefore by Occam’s Razor, it is more reasonable to believe in God.

Not necessarily. Objections 3 and 4 in particular poke some very neat holes in this proof.

Kreeft’s answer to #3 is wholly unsatisfying. God as defined by Christians is neither immobile nor immutable. He changed his mind about Sodom, Gomorrah, and Nineveh; he descended to earth, walked among us, and ascended to a particular place. What then caused God’s motion? For Kreeft’s rebuttal to work, that which is truly God cannot be allowed to move, and this denies his omnipotence – in fact, it makes God completely and utterly useless. Even more damning of the Prime Mover – if it cannot move, how could it create anything?

Similarly, Kreeft assumes in his treatment of #4 that the universe began as a physical object. It’s my understanding that current theories state it existed before the Big Bang as a Singularity, a thing more mathematical than physical. I’m afraid I’m no quantum physicist so my knowledge here is limited and imperfect at best.

His statements regarding time are also misleading; to an observer in the fourth dimension, 3-dimensional beings would appear at all places they have ever been at once, completely unlike the example of the positive number series he attempts to attach to Time. Just because our perspective is limited doesn’t mean it isn’t possible.

That being said, I don’t actually agree that faith per se is irrational. I think that faith can be quite reasonable, so long as there is sufficient evidence, which I believe there to be in the case of Catholicism. Therefore I don’t personally believe that atheism is irrational, I just believe it to be much less reasonable than theism - and in particular, Catholicism.

Faith is by definition irrational – it is belief without reason or evidence :slight_smile: As Soren Kierkegaard put it, it is a mental leap one must make.

I will say that atheism is not perfectly rational; but it seems closer to it than theism to me. Of course, I’m agnostic – which is perfectly rational as it denies neither possibility (also known as hedging my bets)! :smiley:


#9

I will say that atheism is not perfectly rational; but it seems closer to it than theism to me. Of course, I’m agnostic – which is perfectly rational as it denies neither possibility (also known as hedging my bets)!

No offense to you as a person, but agnostic seem to be agnostic for the wrong reason: just to be on the safe side. If it turns out that God doesn’t exist, I am therefore not completely stupid because I never claimed to believe in God. On the other hand, if God (and let us assume Heaven/Hell) exists, I can still ask for forgiveness and not be doomed for eternity.

Whether or not God exists is not an obscure question. It is also not a trick question. Either you believes or you don’t; there is no third alternative. If you’re not sure what “God” is, then you can always try to define it yourself and make up your mind. This is a free country; you can always write your own dictionary if the definition found in an existing dictionary doesn’t satisfy you. It is irrational to refuse answering a straightforward yes-or-no question (“Does God exist?”) after you’ve spent so much time thinking about it.


#10

[list=1]
*]But the problem with this reasoning is that we are not discussing science; we are discussing metaphysics. Science will never be able to answer the question of why did the Universe begin, because it is not a scientific question.
*]Kreeft discusses this in his third objection. He writes:
Third, it is sometimes argued (e.g., by Bertrand Russell) that there is a self-contradiction in the argument, for one of the premises is that everything needs a cause, but the conclusion is that there is something (God) which does not need a cause. The child who asks “Who made God?” is really thinking of this objection. The answer is very simple: the argument does not use the premise that everything needs a cause. Everything in motion needs a cause, everything dependent needs a cause, everything imperfect needs a cause.
The very “thing” that the Argument tries to show exists is a first-cause-without-cause. Theists call this thing “God”. From the same Argument, Kreeft comes to the conclusion that this first-cause-without-cause has several characteristics. I am less interested in those characteristics than I am in the existence itself. Now, this argument is more rational than believing that the Universe itself had no cause, because it actually answers the question of why the Universe exists in the first place. The alternative, does not. For what reason would the Universe exist, just because? Even if there was no Big Bang and the Universe has always existed, why?! There has to be some reason for this. Why is there just nothing? If there were no God, then it seems to me eminently more likely that there would be simply, nothing.
*]I don’t follow this reasoning. What do you mean by “complex”? How can something be more or less complex than the Universe? I don’t really understand what you’re saying here.[/list]


#11

For the purpose of this thread, I am less interested in the characteristics of this creator than I am in the existence of the creator.

I propose a third option – we don’t know, and it doesn’t really affect us? Nobody was around to see it, theist, agnostic, or non-theist.

So you would rather hide under the covers and try to ignore everything that goes on around you? It doesn’t matter if noone was there to see it, tell me why it happened? As an agnostic, I suppose you don’t really need to answer this question, but it is a question that atheists must have an answer for, otherwise why would they be an atheist?

Kreeft’s answer to #3 is wholly unsatisfying. God as defined by Christians is neither immobile nor immutable. He changed his mind about Sodom, Gomorrah, and Nineveh; he descended to earth, walked among us, and ascended to a particular place. What then caused God’s motion? For Kreeft’s rebuttal to work, that which is truly God cannot be allowed to move, and this denies his omnipotence – in fact, it makes God completely and utterly useless. Even more damning of the Prime Mover – if it cannot move, how could it create anything?

The first argument here is a straw-man; also it is about Christianity which is off-topic. This is a topic about atheism versus theism; the details come later. Anyway, staying off-topic for a second, Christianity does believe in an immutable God. For the second argument, I guess I would have to say that God Himself (or itself, if you must) caused His own motion - as He is not dependent He can do this, and this would be one of His characteristics that we would be able to determine from the Argument.

Similarly, Kreeft assumes in his treatment of #4 that the universe began as a physical object. It’s my understanding that current theories state it existed before the Big Bang as a Singularity, a thing more mathematical than physical. I’m afraid I’m no quantum physicist so my knowledge here is limited and imperfect at best.

Well I am a physicist and I have no idea what you’re talking about. What do you mean it is “more mathematical than physical?” Are you trying to ascribe supernatural characteristics to the Universe? Seriously now, this objection isn’t really an objection; it still doesn’t answer the question of why the Universe exists.

His statements regarding time are also misleading; to an observer in the fourth dimension, 3-dimensional beings would appear at all places they have ever been at once, completely unlike the example of the positive number series he attempts to attach to Time. Just because our perspective is limited doesn’t mean it isn’t possible.

You need to do some research in Special Relativity to try to understand what is meant by the “fourth dimension”. You cannot have an observer in the fourth dimension; that makes no sense - it’s like saying we have an observer in time. Any higher dimension is the same as the three spatial dimensions that we are all familiar with: x, y and z. According to Special Relativity, all timelike particles (that’s everything that we can observe and know for a fact exists) occupy all four dimensions, not just three, or one. Let’s stay away from physics for this thread, as much as possible.

Faith is by definition irrational – it is belief without reason or evidence :slight_smile: As Soren Kierkegaard put it, it is a mental leap one must make.

This is where I disagree. I have examined all the evidence I can find, and in my opinion, faith in God is much more reasonable than faith in no God. Let’s say we are the jury in a murder case, where there are no eye-witnesses and we can only judge the case on circumstantial evidence. This evidence clearly shows that the defendant is guilty. Is it irrational to therefore say that he is guilty? I don’t think so - it is entirely reasonable. Of course, there is a small chance that this person is innocent. The whole point that I have in this thread is to demonstrate that it is more reasonable to have faith that the defendant is guilty, when there is sufficient evidence, and to have faith that the defendant is innocent takes a greater “leap” of faith. Therefore, it is less reasonable.

I will say that atheism is not perfectly rational; but it seems closer to it than theism to me. Of course, I’m agnostic – which is perfectly rational as it denies neither possibility (also known as hedging my bets)! :smiley:

To me, agnosticism makes much more sense than atheism. There is just no evidence for atheism - it makes absolutely no sense! At least with agnosticism, you’re admitting that you just don’t know. And that’s why you should consider questions such as this one!


#12

That was precisely my reaction when, in the movie Contact, the Elly Arroway character used Occam’s Razor to argue for atheism.

I agree that atheism requires way more blind faith than belief in the Judeo-Christian Creator God.

DaveBj


#13

Not so much that as holding that the existence or non-existence of such a being as God cannot be logically proven one way or the other. To make a trite little saying of it, if God created the rules of logic God must be beyond logic.

Additionally, the burden of proof (even though I believe proof impossible) lies on those who claim the positive – one can’t prove a negative because there might always be an exception somewhere. That’s my primary reason for calling myself agnostic instead of non-theist, even though I have seen no empirical evidence for God’s existence.

The first argument here is a straw-man; also it is about Christianity which is off-topic. This is a topic about atheism versus theism; the details come later. Anyway, staying off-topic for a second, Christianity does believe in an immutable God. For the second argument, I guess I would have to say that God Himself (or itself, if you must) caused His own motion - as He is not dependent He can do this, and this would be one of His characteristics that we would be able to determine from the Argument.

Well, the Christian God has moving parts, but enough of that :wink:

If God causes his own motion, you’re stuck in an infinite loop and fall right into the trap of the fourth objection: God because God because God because… ad infinitum. And since Kreeft says infinite regression is only really allowable in mathematics and not the ‘real world’, either God is an equation or that particular re-rebuttal doesn’t hold up :slight_smile:

Well I am a physicist and I have no idea what you’re talking about. What do you mean it is “more mathematical than physical?” Are you trying to ascribe supernatural characteristics to the Universe? Seriously now, this objection isn’t really an objection; it still doesn’t answer the question of why the Universe exists.

I will consider myself properly schooled on this one :smiley:

You need to do some research in Special Relativity to try to understand what is meant by the “fourth dimension”. You cannot have an observer in the fourth dimension; that makes no sense - it’s like saying we have an observer in time. Any higher dimension is the same as the three spatial dimensions that we are all familiar with: x, y and z. According to Special Relativity, all timelike particles (that’s everything that we can observe and know for a fact exists) occupy all four dimensions, not just three, or one. Let’s stay away from physics for this thread, as much as possible.

To be the prime mover, God must exist outside time – this is eternity. He does not perceive time as we do; rather, he sets things in motion and observes them at all points simultaneously God would then be that observer.

I’m fine with staying out of physics though – I’ve already shown I’ve got precious little clue what’s going on there :o

This is where I disagree. I have examined all the evidence I can find, and in my opinion, faith in God is much more reasonable than faith in no God. Let’s say we are the jury in a murder case, where there are no eye-witnesses and we can only judge the case on circumstantial evidence. This evidence clearly shows that the defendant is guilty. Is it irrational to therefore say that he is guilty? I don’t think so - it is entirely reasonable. Of course, there is a small chance that this person is innocent. The whole point that I have in this thread is to demonstrate that it is more reasonable to have faith that the defendant is guilty, when there is sufficient evidence, and to have faith that the defendant is innocent takes a greater “leap” of faith. Therefore, it is less reasonable.

If there is only circumstantial evidence, I would consider the defendant innocent unless and until more specific and incriminating evidence appears. Circumstantial evidence may indicate guilt, but it does not prove it. But that’s the way our legal system works – one is innocent until proven guilty.

Outside the bible (or other religious holy texts) and the teachings of various religions, what empirical evidence do you have for God’s existence?


#14

What does this mean? Are you saying something like God transcends logic? I’m pretty sure that’s what the Muslims claim, and it’s probably one of the biggest arguments against Islam, imo. I think I’ve misunderstood what you’re getting at here.

Additionally, the burden of proof (even though I believe proof impossible) lies on those who claim the positive – one can’t prove a negative because there might always be an exception somewhere. That’s my primary reason for calling myself agnostic instead of non-theist, even though I have seen no empirical evidence for God’s existence.

Yes, I know what you mean and I agree. That’s why I started this thread!

If God causes his own motion, you’re stuck in an infinite loop and fall right into the trap of the fourth objection: God because God because God because… ad infinitum. And since Kreeft says infinite regression is only really allowable in mathematics and not the ‘real world’, either God is an equation or that particular re-rebuttal doesn’t hold up :slight_smile:

Hold on, I think I contradicted Kreeft’s article in my last reply. Specifically, this segment of Kreeft’s:
[Aquinas] argues that the chain of movers must have a first mover because nothing can move itself. (Moving here refers to any kind of change, not just change of place.)
Kreeft goes on to say:
the argument does not use the premise that everything needs a cause. Everything in motion needs a cause
So God is not in motion, in this Argument. Is that the same as saying that God is immutable? I think so.

To be the prime mover, God must exist outside time – this is eternity. He does not perceive time as we do; rather, he sets things in motion and observes them at all points simultaneously God would then be that observer.

Oh ok, I see what you’re saying now :slight_smile: I much prefer this explanation than anything about fourth-dimensions…

If there is only circumstantial evidence, I would consider the defendant innocent unless and until more specific and incriminating evidence appears. Circumstantial evidence may indicate guilt, but it does not prove it. But that’s the way our legal system works – one is innocent until proven guilty.

On the contrary, you can definitely find someone guilty on purely circumstantial evidence. It’s a matter of weighing up the evidence. See here

Outside the bible (or other religious holy texts) and the teachings of various religions, what empirical evidence do you have for God’s existence?

Why outside the Bible? Do “other religious holy texts” include the writings of the early church fathers? That would be a start. I also think there is some evidence for the Christian idea of Jesus in Jewish writings, believe it or not - but I’m not too well-schooled in this area.

I suppose I would point to the consistency of the Catholic Church’s teaching, as well as the sense of it all. But mainly it comes down to the witness of the apostles and the first generations of Christians. Then there’s C S Lewis’s Trilemma. I also think there are mountains of evidence in the Bible itself, but I won’t mention what exactly as you don’t seem to want me to.

I’ve never read Lee Strobel’s The Case For Christ, but I hear it is quite convincing. Can anyone back me up/shoot me down on that?

Oh, and can I please make a request that we don’t turn this thread into an examination of evidence of Christianity? I would very much prefer to stay on the topic of the First Cause Argument. I know that I was the one that mentioned this evidence, but I don’t know what other evidence for God exists outside of a Christian view-point! Apart from Aquinas’s other Arguments and such.


#15

Actually, we are discussing both science and metaphysics. The argument poses a scientific question, how did the universe come into being. It then went on to determine that because we do not know the answer, a first cause or a ‘why’ is necessary. More important, it uses our incomplete knowledge of science to argue this. God has been used for millennium to explain ‘why’ when the ‘how’ is not known. Lightening is no longer due to God’s anger though. Will this also become a moot point once we understand how the universe came into being?

I do not think that a ‘why’ is needed in all explanations, obviously you disagree. For instance, if we were to discuss the evolution of life on earth then we would both likely agree that it happened through some natural process when the conditions on earth were suitable for the development of life. I would say that is explanation enough and that as long as we understand how life developed, there is no need to assume that there is a why. You would likely disagree.

And then it goes on to define the universe as dependent and imperfect and God as independent and perfect. Convenient, no? Unless you can define dependent and imperfect and then demonstrate how the universe is both and God is neither, then defining it as such does not change reality.

Yes, but I fail to see why the universe needs a first cause but God does not. Saying that God does not need a first cause because you define him as uncaused does not count ;).

This is where we will likely always disagree. I do not think that a ‘why’ is needed. Or better, it is an unnecessary question. I also am continually amazed that theists are incapable of asking the same questions to their God that they do to the universe. Why does God exist? I am serious. If you need a why for the existence of the universe, then I need a why for the existence of you God. Please do not say that the argument cannot apply to God because he is the answer to ‘why’ already. That does not answer the question.

Perhaps you should ask the author of the article ;), or anyone who uses the first cause argument. Usually these arguments hinge on the belief that the universe is so complex that it must have a designer:

The universe is a vast and complex chain of causes

.


#16

Well, I am more interested in the “why” than the “how”.

I do not think that a ‘why’ is needed in all explanations, obviously you disagree. For instance, if we were to discuss the evolution of life on earth then we would both likely agree that it happened through some natural process when the conditions on earth were suitable for the development of life. I would say that is explanation enough and that as long as we understand how life developed, there is no need to assume that there is a why. You would likely disagree.

Well Ok. But I’m talking about existence itself. There must be a reason why existence exists. I follow your argument, but I don’t think it is the same for creation.

Yes, but I fail to see why the universe needs a first cause but God does not. Saying that God does not need a first cause because you define him as uncaused does not count ;).

It is an attribute or characteristic of God. And so it does count :wink:

This is where we will likely always disagree. I do not think that a ‘why’ is needed. Or better, it is an unnecessary question.

An unnecessary question?! I cannot believe this. By the same reasoning behind Pascal’s wager, I see it as a very necessary question!

I also am continually amazed that theists are incapable of asking the same questions to their God that they do to the universe. Why does God exist? I am serious. If you need a why for the existence of the universe, then I need a why for the existence of you God. Please do not say that the argument cannot apply to God because he is the answer to ‘why’ already. That does not answer the question.

No you are right here. I have thought about this myself, and all I can come up with is that it is beyond my comprehension. Why does God exist? I have absolutely no idea! Yet I still think that we can determine His existence from the First Cause Argument.

Perhaps you should ask the author of the article ;), or anyone who uses the first cause argument. Usually these arguments hinge on the belief that the universe is so complex that it must have a designer:
.

Isn’t this part of the Argument from Design?


#17

Is not the creator more perfect than the creation (outside of sci-fi movies)? If God created everything that then includes logic. And if God is infinite, he is beyond human comprehension and thus human reason.

Hold on, I think I contradicted Kreeft’s article in my last reply. Specifically, this segment of Kreeft’s:
[Aquinas] argues that the chain of movers must have a first mover because nothing can move itself. (Moving here refers to any kind of change, not just change of place.)
Kreeft goes on to say:
the argument does not use the premise that everything needs a cause. Everything in motion needs a cause
So God is not in motion, in this Argument. Is that the same as saying that God is immutable? I think so.

So then, God is not in motion. But how could this God act? All actions require movement in some plane, whether physical or not. An immobile (ie, incapable of moving) God cannot be the Prime Mover.

Why outside the Bible? Do “other religious holy texts” include the writings of the early church fathers? That would be a start. I also think there is some evidence for the Christian idea of Jesus in Jewish writings, believe it or not - but I’m not too well-schooled in this area.

Outside religious texts because I’m not interested in self-fulfilling prophecies and teachings. What empirical evidence would be found in those is still only backed up by ‘I’m right because I say so’. The writings of the early Church fathers (I’d even include the New Testament epistles, actually) are somewhat more objective :slight_smile:

I suppose I would point to the consistency of the Catholic Church’s teaching, as well as the sense of it all. But mainly it comes down to the witness of the apostles and the first generations of Christians. Then there’s C S Lewis’s Trilemma. I also think there are mountains of evidence in the Bible itself, but I won’t mention what exactly as you don’t seem to want me to.

The teachings are remarkably consistent, but sense is a point of debate :wink: You’re right that it’s mostly up to the early members of the Church to make the case for Jesus’ divinity; but they are still only human witnesses far separated from us by time, and that’s the big problem.

I think Lewis missed a couple – it’s actually a quintilemma. One missing option is, of course, that the entire story of the Christ is a fabrication or an exercise in historical fiction. The other (which I think likeliest) is that Jesus did exist, did preach, and was misrepresented and deified by his followers. In a way this second option is a modification of the ‘Liar’ arm of the trilemma, but it is not a lie of the man himself.

Oh, and can I please make a request that we don’t turn this thread into an examination of evidence of Christianity? I would very much prefer to stay on the topic of the First Cause Argument. I know that I was the one that mentioned this evidence, but I don’t know what other evidence for God exists outside of a Christian view-point! Apart from Aquinas’s other Arguments and such.

Okay, shutting up about Jesus now :slight_smile:

A fun ‘proof’ I’ve always enjoyed is Anselm’s ontological argument. Basically it goes like this:

  1. Anyone can imagine a being greater than all else.
  2. To be truly greater than all other things and ideas, this heretofore imagined being must have the quality of existence.
  3. This being exists and is what we call God.

It’s beautifully simple, and the way it’s originally phrased is a joy to read (it starts with ‘the fool hath said in his heart, there is no God’ in the version I read). The problems are in step 2 – one, existence doesn’t have to be greater (I know, I know, the response to that is ‘so why haven’t you committed suicide yet?’ :stuck_out_tongue: ), and two, even if it is, merely imagining a thing doesn’t make it so. The human mind can’t create a perfect picture of what is truly greater than all else anyway.


#18

Well, we disagree on the importance of the question ‘why’ then :).

I do not see a reason for a why. Or better yet, ‘why’ seems to be an emotional question whose sole intent is to validate the supernatural. The question is always asked when someone believes that a purpose is needed in order to validate their existence. Then this need for a purpose is used to as evidence for a supernatural being. I do not think that you can assume purpose without any evidence of it, and then use the assumption to prove gods. If you have any evidence that existence should have a purpose, then I am willing to think that over :).

That is why I am not a theist. I do not believe that this is a valid or more rational response.

No, come on, Pascal’s wager? That argument is too flawed to be used in rational discussions.

‘How’ is a valid question to ask because we know that there are ‘hows’ that will answer the question. May people have tried to come up with ‘whys’, and there are thousands of answers, yet none of the answers have been universally accepted. Many are also mutually exclusive. So I think the first question should be “is there a why?” or “should there be a why”. If you can demonstrate that the answer to those questions is ‘yes’, then you have grounds for asking ‘why’.

See, I asked myself that question and came up with the answer that he/she/it does not. I am not swayed by the argument that the universe must have a first cause but that supernatural beings do not need one.

Yes, I confused my arguments there.


#19

[quote=Suat]Yes, but I fail to see why the universe needs a first cause but God does not. Saying that God does not need a first cause because you define him as uncaused does not count :wink:
[/quote]

Suat,

You’ve missed the entirety of Aquinas’ argumentation if you cannot understand the necessity of an uncaused cause. Reconsider the boxcar analogy referenced in the original article:

Imagine a series of boxcars, in which each boxcar moves as it is pushed by the one behind it:

O >>> O >>> O >>> O >>> O >>> O >>> O >>>

In this illustration, the motion of each boxcar is dependent upon the boxcar behind it. (This series of boxcars is “the universe” taken in its entirety; all events constituting the universe are caused by previous events.)

Now, if the movement of every boxcar is dependent upon the boxcar behind it, then how did the entire series begin to move? The entire series of moving cars must ultimately depend upon a “prime mover,” identified as “A” below:

A >>> O >>> O >>> O >>> O >>> O >>> O >>>

As the occupant of the first position in this series, “A” is an uncaused cause; all cars depend upon it for motion, but it does not depend upon something else. In deism and theism, this prime mover is “God.”

Now, you assert that “God” would also have to have a cause, finding the designation “uncaused cause” a clever cop-out. Alright then; let’s return to our diagram and deny that an “uncaused cause” can exist, so that “A” is also caused, just like all the other boxcars:

B >>>** A** >>> O >>> O >>> O >>> O >>>

Now, “A” has a cause as well (“B”). Well, what caused “B”? Something must have, since we excluded the possibility of “uncaused causes.” Let’s assume the cause of B is C. What’s the cause of C? D. And the cause of D? E… F… G… H… I… J… K… and on to infinity. Ultimately, our boxcar series would have an infinite regression of causes, correct?

Now, here is the key question: is an infinite regression of causes sufficient to explain the motion of the entire series? The answer is no. An infinite regression of causes is no answer in all. Rather than provide us an answer to our question, it postpones it indefinitely. Thus, it is an insufficient answer.

Likewise, the claim that no answer is needed to explain the motion of the entire series is also insufficient (and fallacious), since we stated at the very beginning that the movement of every boxcar in the series was dependent upon the movement of the one before it. We cannot divorce the concept of “movement” from the relations between the boxcars. Therefore, we cannot state that the universe itself is sufficient to explain the cause-effect relations constituting the universe (that would be the true “cop-out” answer).

Ultimately, the ONLY sufficient answer is that an “uncaused cause,” positioned at the beginning of the series, effects the motion the entire sequence of “caused causes.” The observation that we live in a universe of dependent (caused) events compellingly argues for the existence of an independent (uncaused), prime mover.

This is “why the universe needs a first cause but God does not.”


#20

I like your analysis. I’ve printed it out so that I can present it to my atheist daughter as one more ‘proof’ that her claim of atheism is an irrational dodge.

The best counter-argument I’ve heard to the boxcars is the perpetual-motion theory:
You assume the boxcars are moving in a line. Suppose they are moving, instead, on an enormous wheel. We perceive it as a line because we see only a segment of that wheel. We are so small and the wheel is so large that we can’t see past the horizon. Along the wheel, the motion of each boxcar both pulls on the one behind it and pushes the one ahead of it. No prime mover needed, because the integrity of the wheel itself provides the movement.

My first answers to the enormous wheel are:
“Where did it come from in the first place” and “How was it set into motion to begin with?”

Another support of the prime mover argument, in opposition to the enormous wheel, is to look not at the beginning but at the end:
The evidence of astronomy has shown us that the universe has no boundaries. The astronomical bodies in the universe are flying apart with nothing to constrain them or bounce them back - they have been ever since the Big Bang - and the rate of separation is increasing. Eventually that rate of separation will reach the speed of light, whereupon the passage of time will cease and the universe will come to an end. The universe will have a “last cause” therefore it also had to have a “first cause.”

Ultimately, atheism is not about proving or disproving the existence of God at all. Atheism is all about accountability and self. The atheist rejects the existence of God so that he does not have to acknowledge the authority of God. The atheist is accountable only to himself and those persons or organizations he chooses to acknowledge.

If you accept the existence of a higher power (for example, your employer), you must also accept the authority of that higher power to build things in a certain way (the layout of the office and the business plan) and the right to set certain rules for operation (dress codes and standards of conduct).

If you deny the authority of your employer you won’t be working there very long, but look on the bright side - you can set up your own business and then you can be the employer and make other people acknowledge your authority. Of course, there is the problem of finding the money to make it happen…

The same applies to God. Deny the existence of God and - ta dahhh - you get to live by your own rules. For now, anyway…

Nan


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.