A Nice Figgy Pudding, But No Proof

IN my last post I said that I would take up the cudgel and respond to someone who says, “Prove to me that god does not exist!”  Now, psychologically, I know I cannot do that for pretty much anyone who would say that to me.  We know that changing beliefs is a very tough row to hoe.  But I am willing to take up the challenge.

I will also say that the amount of “disproof” depends on the claims that are being made.  I don’t think, for example, it would be possible to disprove Thomas Paine’s deist god.  The claim that the universe was somehow supernaturally kicked off is impossible to disprove.  And Paine does not claim much else for his god, no interactions with history, no miracles, etc.  You can say that such a god is “not necessary to the hypothesis,” but you could never disprove it.

I think there is a better chance of disproving the general conception of the Christian god, all knowing, all powerful, all loving, etc.  There are plenty of claims being made here, claims which intersect with our natural world, so we can examine the evidence for those claims.

With that, here are a few ideas for answering the “prove me wrong,” challenge as it relates to god.

The first piece of evidence against the proposition, is the need for the proposition itself.  Even very devout believers (Anselm, Aquinas) have felt it necessary to provide “proof” of god’s existence.  Obviously the existence of god is not self evident, apparently even to those who claim to believe.  This seems to contradict all the “omnis” which we lavish on god.  Surely if we were his favorite creatures he would show himself more clearly.  And I do not buy the free will rebuttal to this argument.  Even if god presented himself more clearly, people could still choose not to believe or interact with him.  People don’t believe in all kinds of things for which there is more than adequate evidence.  I think an multi-omni god is incompatible with a god who hides, therefore no multi-omni god.

A second argument is similar.  Surely if a multi-omni god cared about mankind, his message to us would have been clearer.  The existence of so many religions is definitely a problem.  How could his message get so garbled?  Yes, man is imperfect, but surely a multi-omni god could make himself clear.  Even the story of the Tower of Babel speaks against such a god.  Surely he would want a way to communicate with all his beloved subjects, and a common language would have facilitated that, but no go.  If Jesus was his representative on earth, why didn’t Jesus write his own book?  With everyone speaking of god in so many different ways, then there is no multi-omni god to be speaking for.  The counter argument that god is so far beyond human comprehension that these different views are like the proverbial elephant of the blind men is a non-starter.  The understandings of god are so inconsistent and contradictory that an omni god who cared would seek to correct them.  He goes to the trouble to create the universe just for us, then allows only a tiny percentage of people to understand him correctly?  That does not seem very omni god like to me.

The argument from design is a lousy argument for the existence of god and also a pretty poor one against his existence, but so many people hold to this one, that I feel it needs to be mentioned.   Some people want to say that creation is perfect, therefore god.   If it were not for confirmation bias, no one would take this argument seriously.   The list of imperfections in creation is pretty much endless and if man is created in the “image” of god, that pretty much ends any argument for an omni god.  But the imperfections of creation do lead to the last argument.  The Problem of Evil.

Theists often cite “free will” as an answer to the Problem of Evil, but it is not that simple.  First there is the problem of “natural evil,” bone cancer and the like, but natural evil is not really a strong argument against the omni god.  As many have pointed out, such things could be part of some grander plan.  Personally, I don’t buy that, but I will concede the point, as it could also be argued that such unpleasant things are not actually “evil.”  But even with that, the Problem of Evil remains.

Evil and malice clearly exist in the human species and this can is usually kicked back down the road to “The Fall.”  But clearly, evil did not enter the world after the fall, it was pre-existing.  Eve could not have been tempted unless she was “temptable.”  So, the capacity for disobedience, was pre-existing before the fall.  Yes, I know, this is where “free will” comes in.  But that is not a fully satisfactory answer.  The fact is, we had a pre-existing capacity for evil, and where does that come from?

To begin to answer that question, we have to kick the can even further back up the road to the  first fall.  Here I am referring to the fall of the angel Lucifer.  Now, some theists argue that the devil does not literally exist, but most churches say he does, especially the Catholic church.  As the story goes, Lucifer got it into his head to lead a rebellion against god.  Let’s think about this for a moment, an angel, who god presumably created, looked god in the face and said, “screw you, I’m taking over!”  Surely the angels would have realized the fruitlessness of rebelling against an all powerful god, but they were not deterred.  Did they know he was not all powerful?  Maybe they did!

Again, you can invoke free will (or sheer stupidity), but it also points to evil pre-existing in Lucifer.  And maybe pre-existing stupidity.  And where did all that come from?  I think you could create creatures with free will that are neither evil nor stupid.

After the rebellion, does god destroy Lucifer?  No.  Why not?  Even Bill Cosby’s father supposedly said, “I brought you into this world. I’ll take you out.”  Apparently god could not (or would not) destroy Lucifer, therefore he is probably not omnipotent.  And since the capacity for evil exists in all of god’s creations, there for he himself is not omnibenevolent.  Somewhere deep in his heart, god has evil (which explains much of his behavior in the old testament.)

There may be a god, but it cannot be the Christian god as we normally conceive him.

And with one final logical nail for the coffin, (thanks to a preacher I heard yesterday) we can bury the Christian omni-god and his son as well.

The preacher pointed out how wonderful it was that Jesus asked for forgiveness for his killers.  And yes, it is true they were mere pawns in god’s game therefore blameless.  But it then follows that if god can forgive his own killers, certainly he could have forgiven a couple of clueless teenagers for crunching an apple.  If Jesus could ask for forgiveness for those Roman soldiers, then why not beg for the same forgiveness for Adam and Eve?  “Aww, c’mon dad, they are just kids, give them a break!”  And here I don’t buy the “perfect justice” argument.  What kind of justice is it for sin to pass down thousands of generations?  But also, why should god demand recompense for this infraction?  Was god hurt?  How can an all powerful god be hurt?  If he is not hurt in anyway, why demand atonement?  Real justice in this case would have been to hold them personally accountable in some way, and then fully forgive them.  If god’s feelings were hurt so much that he needed a blood sacrifice to appease his “wounds” from this sin, then he certainly is not an omni-god.

Also, when it was time for the flood, why not drown everyone and start over?  And don’t give me the “Noah was the only righteous person.”  Surely many innocent children were drowned.   Why not drown the last eight and try again?  Surely it would have been better to drown the last few tainted human beings than to bring billions more into the world, most of whom will apparently end up in hell.  What kind of benevolence is that?  Does his inherent evil make it impossible to create people without the capacity for evil?

By the evidence that Christianity presents, the multi-omni god cannot exist.  A deist god may exist.  A malevolent god may exist.  But an all powerful, all knowing, all loving god is not out there anywhere, at least as attested to by Christianity.

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5 thoughts on “A Nice Figgy Pudding, But No Proof

  1. Good approach. You can’t disprove “god” because that term is just too vague. But very few people believe in just a nebulous god concept. The more we narrow down the general idea of “god” to what people actually claim to believe in, like “Biblegod” or “Fundamentalist Biblegod”, or “Catholic Dogmagod” the more we have specific claims which can be disproved. Something that annoys me about apologists’ attempts to prove god is that they will make their arguments about a vague creator, then jump right to their specific god without any justification.

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  2. Agellius says:

    You write:

    “The first piece of evidence against the proposition, is the need for the proposition itself. Even very devout believers (Anselm, Aquinas) have felt it necessary to provide “proof” of god’s existence. Obviously the existence of god is not self evident, apparently even to those who claim to believe. This seems to contradict all the “omnis” which we lavish on god. Surely if we were his favorite creatures he would show himself more clearly. And I do not buy the free will rebuttal to this argument. Even if god presented himself more clearly, people could still choose not to believe or interact with him. People don’t believe in all kinds of things for which there is more than adequate evidence. I think an multi-omni god is incompatible with a god who hides, therefore no multi-omni god.”

    But if God is the source of all that exists, then he manifests himself in all that exists. He manifests himself in the fact that anything exists at all, when everything we see around us is contingent, that is, exists only because it was caused to exist by something else. But the fact that anything exists makes existence itself necessary, not contingent, because if ever there was a time when nothing existed, then nothing would exist now. Therefore, the non-contingent must be the source of the contingent, the necessary of the unnecessary. This has been clear and obvious to people for centuries.

    Thus, one thing you seem to be missing is that everything around you, and within you, makes the existence of a being like the Christian God (that is, a non-contingent, necessarily existing being) blindingly obvious to anyone with a moderately analytical mind.

    I grant that this conclusion isn’t “self-evident”, since it can only be arrived at through logical analysis. The only things that are logically self-evident are things like the Law of Non-Contradiction or the Law of Identity, where you can’t deny them without denying the possibility of knowing anything at all. God isn’t like that, as Aquinas demonstrates in the Summa Theologica (http://www.newadvent.org/summa/1002.htm#article1). But again, very few things that people take for granted are self-evident in that respect. Even my existence as a human being is not self-evident to you, but only deduced based on premises that you take for granted, i.e. that only a human being could type the kinds of things that I am typing in this comment. Nevertheless my existence as a human being is obvious to you; you don’t waste time doubting it.

    Perhaps by “self-evident” you mean that God should appear before us in physical form, as we appear to each other. When another living person is physically present, that person’s existence is self-evident to us — assuming we’re not skeptical of our own senses. The problem is that God is not a physical being. Therefore, if a physical being appeared before us claiming to be God, it still would not be self-evident that he was God. It still would require a chain of reasoning, and probably some kind of physical proof such as miracles, to arrive at the conclusion that the physical being standing before us is the non-physical, non-contingent being who is the cause of all that exists. In short, there is no way that a non-physical being can make his existence self-evident to beings like us, who are dependent on their physical senses for knowledge. It’s impossible even in theory.

    Your assertion that a “multi-omni” God is incompatible with a non-self-evident God is unfounded. There is no logical incompatibility between a non-physical God who is omniscient and omnipotent, and a God whose existence is not self-evident to physical beings. It seems that you would like such a God to be self-evident; perhaps you would find that kind of a God easier to believe in (who wouldn’t?); but it doesn’t follow from any premises that I know of, that such a God must be either self-evident or else nonexistent. Indeed it’s clear to me that such a God couldn’t be self-evident to beings such as ourselves.

    For space reasons I won’t address the rest of your arguments now. If we can get past this one then maybe we can move on to the others.

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  3. I like this: The fact is, we had a pre-existing capacity for evil, and where does that come from?

    I don’t think that one gets picked up by many folk. The god knew it too, hence the tree in the middle of the garden that could not be eaten from – a set up from the start.

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  4. You start with a premise, “But if God is the source of all that exists…” that may or may not be true. But even if I grant the premise, all of what you say does not necessarily follow. As I point out in today’s post, some kind of superhuman/supernatural agency could have kicked off the Big Bang and therefore been the “source of all things” but it does not necessarily follow that it is the omni-god of our religions. It could have kicked off the Big Bang and then simply sat back and watched. We have a pretty good idea how natural processes get to our current state from the Big Bang.

    I will also say that more than a few analytical types, looking at creation and the obvious imperfections thereof (including the evil tendencies in mankind) and have concluded that if there is a creator, it must be malevolent, but fortunately not omnipotent.

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  5. Agellius says:

    You seem to have lost the thread of the argument. I was not attempting to prove the existence of the God of Christianity. I was responding to the argument of yours quoted in my comment. And your argument was an attempt to prove that the God of Christianity doesn’t exist. My comment was a rebuttal to your attempted disproof.

    Your argument was basically:

    A. An omnipotent and omniscient God would not “hide” himself
    B. The Christian God, if he exists, hides himself
    Therefore the Christian God does not exist

    To undermine your argument I was attacking your premise B, that the Christian God hides himself. My argument being, basically, that if an all-powerful God wants to hide himself, creating an unimaginably large and complex universe is a funny way of doing it, since most theologians have taken this very size and complexity to be an expression of God’s unlimited power and intelligence. The universe is a blaring advertisement for God’s existence. In other words, if a God as Christians understand him wanted to make himself known, the universe as we know it is just the kind of thing he would do.

    Also, that the contingency of everything in the universe, logically implying the existence of something non-contingent, is another blaring advertisement for his existence, as evidenced by the fact that millions of people all over the earth and throughout time have understood and interpreted it as such.

    Granted, not everyone has understood and interpreted these things in this way. But the point is that large numbers of people have been convinced of God’s existence through such evidence and arguments as these. It follows, therefore, that if God exists, he is not being negligent in making his existence known. He has provided evidence that people have been able to discover and understand.

    The fact that you understand and interpret the evidence differently, and reject the arguments, proves neither (a) that God doesn’t exist, nor (b) that he has hidden and continues to hide himself.

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