One of the Worst Arguments Against Atheism

OmniAtheist

Introduction

There are a lot of good arguments for theism / against atheism (like the argument from contingency). There are also some good ones which unfortunately have been misused so often that they have been identified as bad ones (like Pascal’s Wager). Even more unfortunately, there are also some genuinely bad ones (like the argument from the banana), and some of these are quite popular.

One of the worst is all the more dangerous because it sounds enough like a good argument that it is often made by seasoned apologists. I don’t think it has a name, but the idea is that in order for someone to know that there is no God, one would have to have to be God. Even the more “sophisticated” versions of this schoolyard argument are fallacious, and this needs to be called out before the argument does any more damage.

Proving Universal Negatives

It is popular in apologetic circles to argue that one cannot prove a “universal negative” (aka a “negative existential proposition”) such as “God does not exist.” This has some intuitive appeal – after all, how can one make an assertion concerning all of reality (i.e., “God does not exist anywhere.”) without knowing all of reality? Indeed, the famous atheist philosopher Bertrand Russell once admitted that when it comes to the existence of God, the proper “attitude may be that which a careful philosopher would have towards the gods of ancient Greece. If I were asked to prove that Zeus and Poseidon and Hera and the rest of the Olympians do not exist, I should be at a loss to find conclusive arguments.” However, the argument still fails as an apologetic strategy.

The underlying mistake is that the problem of proving a universal negative only applies to things that (at least) can possibly exist. So, for example, it might be impossible to completely disprove the existence of unicorns, simply because of the difficulty of searching out every possible location such creature might inhabit (perhaps extending to other planets). Thus, it would be extraordinarily difficult to definitively prove that “there are no unicorns in existence anywhere.”

When it comes to the existence of Santa Claus, however, it would not be nearly as difficult. This is because the existence of a being answering to the standard description of Santa Claus can be shown to be definitively impossible. Rather than surveying all possible locations where such a being might be found, one can simply note that the conditions required for such a being to exist are essentially impossible.

Put another way, while I may not be able to prove the non-existence of any 10′ tall bachelors, I can certainly prove the non-existence of married bachelors. In a similar fashion, if one could show that based on the type of being that God would be if he existed that such a being was impossible, then the universal nonexistence of God could be known without “knowing it all.”

Requiring Godlike Powers

A corollary to the above mistake is the followup conclusion that one would need to be godlike oneself in order to coherently deny God’s existence. The idea is that one would have to be omniscient and / or omnipresent (know everything there is to know or be everywhere there is to be) in order to posses the knowledge that God does not exist, because anything less would leave the door open for God’s existence in a heretofore unknown part of reality. But omniscience and  omnipresence are attributes of deity. Thus the popular conclusion is that in order to disprove God, one would have to be God.

This is a popular but philosophically ill-informed apologetic tactic. For example, seminary president and popular apologist Alex Mcfarland writes,

“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.” (“The 10 Most Common Objections to Christianity”, 37-38).

The same claim is made by the president and founder of Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry (the top Evangelical apologetics website) Matt Slick:

Then you cannot KNOW there is no God. . . . atheism is illogical. You cannot know there is no God. To do that, you’d have to know All things to know there is no God. (“An Atheist Says He Knows There Is No God”)

This argument is also made by Christian research institute president Hank Hanegraaff:

“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.” (“The Folly of Denying God” CRJ, 1990)

The same conclusion is repeated by popular apologists Ron Rhodes and Kenneth R. Samples in their respective articles on dealing with atheists in the Christian Research Journal in the 1990’s.

The argument does not seem to be losing any steam, either. As late as 2013, Ravi Zacharias made a similar claim on his Facebook page:

RZatheism

These alleged requirements are really just another species of the previously-discussed problem of proving a universal negative. Only empirical inductive arguments that require as their support the totality of reality (a “perfect induction” on a universal scale) would fall into such a trap. Rational deductive arguments (especially those involving direct contradictions) do not suffer from this flaw. (Interestingly, given the generally poor reception of the only purely deductive argument for the existence of God – Anselm’s Ontological Argument – among theists and atheists alike, it may be the case that atheists actually have the upper hand in attempting to argue their position based on logic alone.)

Conclusion

This particular argument fails due to the basic difference between empirical-inductive and rational-deductive proofs for a universal conclusion. Because inductive arguments are (by definition) those which (usually) give only probable support to their conclusion, and are usually based on empirical facts for their support, the idea that one could use such a method to disprove God is clearly problematic. There are, however, purely rational deductive arguments which would (in theory) definitively prove their conclusion by demonstrating that the notion of God is self-contradictory. And, since these kinds of arguments are indeed given against the existence of God, then it is not the case that “atheism is logically indefensible” (at least on these grounds). Thus, it is also false that atheists would have to posses godlike powers to know that God does not exist, because contradictions can be proven with merely human abilities.

Although not a lot of atheists have spoken out against this specious argument, it is a very bad one and makes theists look bad. Please do not use this argument, and alert those who have to its failure. For a better exposition of this kind of argument, see Peter Kreeft’s:

kreeft_omniscienceatheism

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27 thoughts on “One of the Worst Arguments Against Atheism

  1. Possibility and probability are not the same thing. The probability of the god of Abraham is equal to that of Zeus or Thor. It may be possible that all three exist somewhere but the probability of any of them existing is so close to zero that it’s not pragmatic to consider it more than zero. We have only to consider the probability that an invisible 6 foot purple frog follows each of us around everywhere we go. It’s possible… just not probable. In such a case the theist would gladly argue that absence of evidence is evidence of absence but not so when it comes to their favorite deity.

  2. MyAtheistLife,

    Thanks for commenting. Your understanding of the theism is extremely flawed if you think “the god of Abraham is equal to that of Zeus or Thor.” The Greco-Roman pantheon consists of beings who are finite, changeable, impassioned, physical, etc. They are basically really big, powerful humans. These attributes do not come close to describing the creator God of Western theism, and if they did, then the argument I dealt with in this post would actually be relevant. If you are an atheist for not believing in the kinds of gods you list here – or one that could be legitimately compared to “an invisible 6 foot purple frog” – then you have only rejected the same ridiculous notions that knowledgeable theists have. If you are going to be an atheist, at least be a good one!

  3. Pingback: Revisiting Pascal’s wager | Random thoughts

  4. Hi soul device,

    could you give me your definition of “God”? I find your site one of the more thoughtful Christian apologetic sites and would like to read more of it, but need this definition to consider your arguments fully.

    This also may help with your discussion with myatheistlife.

  5. ClubSF,

    I am a classical theist through and through. That is, I follow the conception of God that “prevailed historically within Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Western philosophical theism generally. Its religious roots are biblical, and its philosophical roots are to be found in the Neoplatonic and Aristotelian traditions. Among philosophers it is represented by the likes of Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, Maimonides, and Avicenna.” As a general rule I follow Thomas Aquinas, but his work can be rather dense, and requires prior familiarity with the philosophical categories laid down by the above-mentioned thinkers. Ed Feser has some of the best contemporary stuff out there on the subject.

  6. Pingback: Pascal’s Wager and Logical Deduction | The Musical Philosopher

  7. SD, make believe I have no idea what these things are that you claim are “classical”. I do and I know that some of these people mentioned disagree on what they claim. I also know that many Christians claim that their version of God is historical, philsophical, etc, and that they all disagree because they all pick and choose different things.

    I want to know how *you* define God. No one else. What parts of Aquinas do you agree with? What parts of Augustine’s writings? Take him for example, we have Christians like some parts but disagreeing with others, like children in hell.

    This is why I asking you directly.

  8. It’s very difficult to adequately do this in a Combox. I could list all the attributes I ascribe to God, but then I would need to define each one to avoid misunderstandings, and those definitions would themselves require a background in classical thought to understand correctly. Therefore I cannot make believe you have no idea what these things are and give you my view at the same time.

    Basically, I am an orthodox Christian. I adhere to the ecumenical councils, creeds, and definitions that the Church uses for her standard for orthodoxy.

    As far as the existence and (more) precise nature of God is concerned (and not the totality of doctrine) I follow Thomas Aquinas. The main feature of thomistic theology is that God is *Pure Act* (existence as such), and that all his other “attributes” (the typical ones I’m sure you’ve heard of) must be understood according to that starting point. This, in turn, entails that our attempts to describe God are always analogical – the words can be correct yet fail to the extent that we are using language based in our limited experience of finite, material components of reality to speak of an infinite spirit. This is why Thomas devotes an entire volume in his “theological summary” to the issue, and why I cannot summarize that summary here. 🙂

  9. Thanks for continuing to discuss this, SD. I know it is difficult, which is part of the reason that atheists find that Christian claim are so hard to believe.

    Are you an orthodox Christian as in Russian Orthodox, Serbian Orthodox, or is this the orthodox I have seen other Christians when they wish to claim that their and only their version of Christianity is the true one?

    Tell me what “pure act” means. I do not understand what you mean as “existence as such”.

  10. ClubSF,

    Thanks to you too! I do not personally find Christian claims any more difficult than that of particle physicists or chaos theorists haha. OK so some terminology – “orthodox” and “catholic” are both somewhat generic words (meaning “right belief” and “universal” respectively). Both terms are alos used in the titles of the two major faith traditions of the ancient Christian Church (Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy) which both affirm the same councils, creeds, and definitions we are discussing here (the actual differences are minor and more political than doctrinal). I am Catholic.

    Pure Act refers to the metaphysical distinction between Act and Potency which are principles of existence. Act refers to what a thing actually IS, Potency refers to what a thing potentially is. So for an introductory example, an acorn *actually* is a seed while it is *potentially* an oak tree.
    An acorn is not, however, a potential rock. So when we ask if something “exists” a classical philosopher actually has to consider three things, not just two. The principle of Act, then, is that which makes something only existing potentially into actual existence. The reason some trees actually exist and others do not is because some are joined to Act and some are not. Act, then, is the principle of actual existence.

    the corollary to this is that since all existing things do not exist necessarily (because they all have the potential to not-exist), they must receive their Act from something else already in Act. But this cannot go on to infinity, so there has to be one thing that simply IS Act. That is what the classical theologians call God.

    I have a (potentially!) more intelligible version of this here, and a more entertaining version here.

  11. As you may know, most of the more knowledgeable atheists were banned from Strange Notions (where this article also appeared). Accordingly my response is here:

    http://outshine-the-sun.blogspot.com/2014/12/estranged-notions-debunking-one-of.html

    In short, while I commend you for criticizing poor arguments from your own side, you have missed the most important flaw in the argument, which indeed opens it up to an empirical counterargument: an existential claim for an omni-attributed God contains a nested universal claim.

  12. Andrew,

    I am only indirectly affiliated with Strange Notions, I have no idea what their policy has been. Sorry if you got banned! I’ll try to get to your post, but right off the bat I see a problem. You say it’s open to “an empirical counterargument: an existential claim for an omni-attributed God contains a nested universal claim.” Making a universal claim does not entail that it can be empirically verified. It seems obvious to me that a non-sensible entity cannot, even in principle, be open to empirical investigation.

  13. Hello SD,

    What you find personally acceptable or difficult ends up being argument from personal ignorance. There are experiments that can be run and rerun that confirm the theories of particle physics and chaos theory. There is nothing to support the claims of religions, including Christianity. We have no evidence of the claim of miracles, or the essential events of the bible. I find quantum physics, Einsteinian relativity, etc very odd, but they do have repeatable evidence and their predictions are confirmed by other observations. I trust those sciences because of this; I have no reason to trust the claims of theism. Now, we might not have all of the answers, but this does not mean that some god must be involved.

    I know that orthodox and catholic mean essentially the same thing. It is when sects of religion claim that they and only they are “right” that it becomes amusing to me since none of them can be shown to be that at all. No matter if it’s Protestant or Roman Catholic, Sunni or Shi’ite, Hasidic or Reformed, Ecletic Wicca or Gardnerian, everyone is sure that they have the “one true path”. When I was growing up, I got to see anti-Catholicism quite a lot since my grandfather was very anti-Catholic. Incidentally, my mom was baptized Catholic by her grandmother who took her without her mother’s knowledge. I mention this because it seems to underline just how much people think their own sects are the only right ones.

    It appears to me that you are using the first cause argument when you explain the idea of “pure act”. That is only special pleading from where I stand; where a theist wishes to claim that his god doesn’t need a cause. I could as well as say “the universe doesn’t need a first cause. Why? Well, it’s just that way.” The other problem with this is that your version of this “act” the Christian God cannot be shown to exist e.g. to be the actor or be the only actor.

    There is no reason an infinite regression cannot exist (I’ve seen Craig try to claim this and he has to try to redefine infinities to do so). There is also no reason that the universe needed an actor, defined as an intelligent powerful being as the Christian god is defined (at least partially) to make it exist. Your god is not demonstrably necessary. All religion does is say e.g. “The Christian God is a magical being that created the universe and partly became human, and died of the cross, and was resurrected and he actually exists.”

    I can agree that some vague being or “infinite existence” could possibly exist, though I find the plausibility of this to be essentially zero. However, your religion claims much more than some “ground of being” type entity. This god has lots and lots of attributes that are claimed to be true by the supposed book written/inspired by this god and its believers. These are not claimed to be analogies, but to be direct descriptions of the “truth” by the bible and many believers. It is only in more modern times that some believers have walked away from the claim that the bible is directly true and went to the claim of analogy because they know that what the bible claims is silly in many instances if taken as literal. God used to be far more concrete until people began questioning claims made about it. It has been my experience that the definition of “God” has become more and more vague as time has gone on and I think one reason is that there is no evidence for its existence. If one can’t provide evidence, then this god must be redefined into something that one cannot demand concrete evidence from.

  14. Wow, thank you for the reply. It would take a book (at least) to adequately deal with all these assertions. It’s clear we’re comparing radically different paradigms here – not just the conclusions of a few arguments within a shared worldview. And as Kuhn has shown, simple arguments don’t change those. So thank you for your dialogue, I’m always available for Q&A, but I don’t have time for debating age old questions right now even though you seem like a good person to do that with. 🙂

  15. ClubSF,

    OK I can’t help myself, some of this is just begging for response. The number of flawed assumptions here is rather breathtaking. Overall the major problem with most atheists today is the adoption of a self-defeating philosophical system that either directly or indirectly requires empirical support for all valid argumentation. It was short-lived and basically laughed out of existence by philosophers decades ago, but scientism-ists apparently never got the memo. (Scientism is basically the same view pretending to be science – see http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2011/03/scientism-roundup.html). That’s the problem lurking behind much of this discussion – the continued assumption that God needs science to back him up. Even if scientism wasn’t self-defeating, it would still be absurd to ask for empirical evidence for a non-empirical object.

    Everyone always thinks they are right, whether religious or not. If they think they are wrong they change their view to one they think is right. The question is who has the better reasons. Christianity has far better motives of faith than those other “traditions” – the historical and miraculous support is unsurpassed.

    There is more than one “first cause argument,” and none of your criticism touches the one I made. Once you understand the principles involved you’d never make the mistake of asking why the universe couldn’t be causeless – it is in the very nature of created reality to need a cause because not one particle of it exists of metaphysical necessity.

    Another misunderstanding is that the problem of an infinite regression of causes is one of number. It might be in other versions (i.e., Craig’s kalam) but it’s not in mine. Rather, the issue is that without a first one never arrives at an efficient cause – and none of the secondary causes have an explanatory value. (But as to Craig’s notion of infinity, it is based in standard Cantorian infinite set theory – which definition do you claim he changed?)

    Finally, I am quite frankly amazed that you would claims concerning analogous God-talk. Quite frankly, these reveal a complete lack of knowledge on your part. Apophatic theology goes back to pre-Christian times and it has been a MAJOR part of Christian theology for the entirety of its existence (see Karen Armstrong, The case for God for a simple intro). Analogous God talk is also quit ancient even though the exact terminology only became standardized about 700 years ago or so. Far from being a retreat into vagueness, this is simply the result of using finite-experiential language to describe an infinite-non-sensible, infinite being. I realize that not a lot of this has trickled down to the laity, but I am not interested in defending Sunday School notions in a forum such as this, and I doubt the rest of the readers are either.

    Anyway, I don’t say all this to continue a ping-pong game of assertions, but merely to back up my previous reply – you are simply not operating within the paradigmatic Christian theological tradition when you make these kinds of claims, so you’re really only arguing against a god which I agree does not exist!

  16. No, it would not take a book. It would take evidence from a Christian that their god exists and that no other gods do. That’s all, and thousands of years, there is still nothing. We stand with Pascal’s Wager and the claims of Aquinas having nothing to support them as always. I am not comparing radically different paradigms here, I am discussing your paradigm that your god exists and showing how your, and Aquinas’ assertions fail in some very basic ways, as the claims that only your god could exist, that it is the only creator, and that your god doesn’t require some cause.

    Thanks for the discussion, short as it was. Unfortunately, this is how many of this type of discussion end. It is common that Christians suddenly find they have no time to support their claims, and then proceed to have plenty of time to make more unsupported claims.

  17. I will admit that I am amused to read your claim that you have no time for this and then see that you suddenly do. I’ll respond to your post in a little while, perhaps a day, perhaps much shorter.

  18. I said I did not have time to write “a book” (i.e., teach you all the things you’d need to understand to even get started), I did not say I had no time to support my claims.

    “Thousands of years, there is still nothing . . . the claims of Aquinas having nothing to support them as always”. This tells me all I need to know about the usefulness of future discussion. Peace.

  19. SD,

    Okay, let’s go at this, and please, if you want to claim I’m wrong, I hope you don’t again try to use an excuse that you don’t have time to address my points. Now, I see you’ve claimed I’ve made flawed assumptions. That’s fine, as long as you can back that claim up. You’ve also claimed that somehow it is self-defeating that I require empirical evidence for all valid argumentation. How is it self-defeating? I have no problem living in this world with my requirements of evidence. Indeed, I have flourished because I don’t accept things without evidence. Seems that the only thing it defeats is the baseless claims of theists and some philosophers. That appears to be the only reason you don’t like it. When it allows you to have modern comforts, then it becomes okay. That is the hypocrisy I often note with many theists.

    You make the claim that somehow this was “short lived” and supposedly “basically laughed out of existence by philosophers years ago.” Oh really? Seems that its’ still around in the scientific method, which certain requires empirical support for claims made. And I get to see one more claim of “scientism” which is the attempt by some theists to vilify the scientific method when it’s convenient for them. Sorry, I don’t worship science. You wish to claim that there are “other ways of knowing” and there still is no evidence that there are. Some theists and some philosophers try to claim that there are these “other ways” because that is the only way their religion or their claim of how the world “really” works can continue to exist in the face of reality. However, these other ways of knowing never reveal any actual truths, only what each religion or each philosophy wants to claim as the “truth” e.g. unsupported opinions. You’d think people would agree about what they found in these other ways of knowing if they were valid but they don’t.

    Most, if not all, theists claim that they have evidence that their god interacts with this world. Most, if not all, theists claim that the evidence that their god exists is this world, like Paul claims in Romans 1. And none of you can show that this claim is true. You cannot show that your god exists or that other gods do not exist. Your claim of worshipping the sole creator of the universe is nonsense.

    You claim that it is “absurd to ask for empirical evidence for a non-empirical object.” Your god is not defined by you or your fellow Christians as non-empirical, because you all claim that this god can be and is experienced. Empirical means “originating in or based on observation or experience” which seems to be the definition you are using. Now, I know that some modern theists and philosophers try to make this god non-empirical so they can excuse the problem of evidence but that doesn’t work if one is to accept claims of the bible and of theists. If you want to say that those claims aren’t true, I’m all for that, but it does present Christians with a problem in that some of their most treasured relics and stories are just so much nonsense.

    You make vague claims that Christianity has “better reasons” than others for believing in it. What are those, SD? That you “feel” him? That you just know he’s real? These and so many others can be applied to any religion and if this god is non-empirical, claims of physical evidence e.g. “historical and miraculous support” fail because you have tried to claim that your god can only be understood in these mysterious other ways of knowing and that it is non-empirical. It is ignorance on your part that you claim that the historical and miraculous support for Christianity is “unsurpassed”. There is no evidence for *any* of the essential claims of the bible. We have no evidence that miracles occur. We have pretty good evidence that Mohammed existed. so does that mean Islam is where its at? We have none that Jesus Christ did, and yes, I know all of the claims and exactly how they fail. My favorite one is that since Christians are mentioned in historical works, then Christ must have. This would indicate that since there are still worshippers of Anubis, Thor, et al, this means that those gods exist too. Trying to claim that your religion has better support than oh Hinduism or Buddism shows an ignorance in those faiths too.

    I understand the principles involved in your first cause argument quite well. And yours fails too because you cannot show that your god exists, that it was the first cause and no other was, and that the universe somehow “needs” a magical intelligent creator that your religion has fashioned. It is only in your particular definition of “created reality” that needs a cause. You go from declaring that reality is created (no evidence for this), and then you need a creator so you make one up. You do not go from saying we have no idea what reality is, so let’s look at the evidence. You have decreed that not on particle of it exists because of metaphysical necessity, but you have no idea if that is true or not. You see, SD, you need to create a universe that works with your already determined conclusion. This “created reality” of yours is not based on reality, it is based on what you need to postulate to require a god. Nothing in the real universe shows that is needed at all.

    I know that lots of Christians have come up with their own version of a first cause argument. Again, that shows that there is no truth to your nonsense, only what you want to claim without evidence. You claim that one now needs an “efficient cause”. Again, this is nothing different than saying there has to be a first cause. Again, there is nothing that requires a force to cause change, especially an intelligent, omnipotent being that concerns itself with the sexual preferences of one species on one planet in the universe, which is what you claim. Craig, well, he claims that one simply can’t have infinities as we know them to be, endless, in his equations. (this is what I meant when mentioning defintions) He requires an infinity that starts, and again can’t show that this is required or is the case at all in reality. He restricts terms with no reason except to make his nonsense work.

    I don’t care if you are amazed or not. Claims of personal incredulity don’t impress me and certainly don’t do much for saying I’m wrong. You claim that apophatic theology goes back to pre-christian times. Yep, but again, when you claim historical and physical evidence, and you claim your bible tells the truth, there is little apophatic theology in your religion until much later as Karen Armstrong notes (yep, I’ve read her). Apophatic theology claims that one can only say what this god is and not exactly what it is because it is impossible for us as limited beings to do so. However, that is a problem since Christianity is based on many many claims of positive attributes claimed to be true. Christians claim that they know that their god loves them, that this god hates certain things and loves certain things, that this god has done certain things in the past for certain reasons and will do things in the future for certain very definite reasons. It is people like you, and Karen Armstrong, that try to redefine this god since the attributes given to it in its supposed inspired work are rather silly and embarrassing to a modern believer. It is in its most simplistic form the attempt of the believer to claim that their god has “mysterious ways” when confronting the problem of evil in what is claimed to be an entirely omnibenevolent god.

    I always love when someone like you claims that the “laity” just doesn’t understand. That is the claim of a Sophisticated Theologian, who again wants his version to be the only right one and how dare those little people not understand how much better you understand your god than they do. Such disgust at Sunday School notions” you show. From your attitude, it seems that you may believe that those kids and adults who still believe it aren’t real Christians? Again, we see that you want to claim that your version is the only “paradigmatic Christian tradition”. It isn’t and having been a Christian, I know that personally. You have invented your own god, SD and called it Christian, just like everyone else.

  20. I do undertand these things, SD. it seems that you must claim I don’t because you do not like the conclusions I come to.

    Until you can show evidence for your god, then my statement that there have been thousands of years with no evidence of your god stands. It does tell you all you need to know why atheists and non-Christians don’t believe your claims about your supposed “non-empirical” god, that you claim to have very empirical evidence for and can’t show.

  21. “Until you can show evidence for your god, then my statement that there have been thousands of years with no evidence of your god stands.”

    No it doesn’t. You made that assertion, you have the burden of proof. Let’s consolidate our discussion on the other thread.

  22. Burden of proof doesn’t mean what you seem to think it does. It lies upon the person/entity that makes the positive claim, not the one that makes the negative one. Now, since I have said that there is no evidence for your god as the creator, or the essential events in the bible, even though these are negative claims, I would support this by pointing out that there could be other gods though evidence for them is also lacking, and that there is no evidence of the miracles claimed by god happened, for example, the existence of cultures who noticed no magical flood, and and another precluding event happening, the presence of sedimentary layers of rock that do not happen in a flood.

    You have claimed that there is historical and miraculous evidence for your god. I am waiting to see it.

  23. ClubSF,

    Sorry – in my feed every comment comes in separately and it seemed there were two convos going on at the same time.

    Burden of proof is on the one making the claim – positive or negative has nothing to do with it.

    I will take time to address your supported points, I do not have time to respond to your unsubstantiated (and often obnoxious) assertions. For example, when you say something ridiculous like in 2,000 years there’s been no evidence of God. 99% of the most brilliant people in history (e.g., the ones responsible for the logic and science you’re so proud of) believed in God and many gave arguments for his existence that continue to be respected millennia later, you don’t come across as someone worth talking to. And if you continue to claim I never back up my statements, I’d be happy to put our convos side by side for a comparison count.

    Requiring empirical evidence for all valid argumentation is self-defeating because the position that empirical evidence is required for all valid argumentation cannot itself be validated empirically.
    Few adults accept things without any evidence, the problem is that you are illicitly limiting what counts as evidence. And the hypocrisy is not with people like me who accept the right kind of evidence for the right kinds of things (I fully accept empirical evidence for things that are empirically-based, like modern comforts). The hypocrisy is people who claim to only accept a certain kind of evidence for what they don’t want to accept, but then implicitly accept it for things they do (for example there is no empirical evidence that there are other minds, or that our senses are trustworthy, or that the laws of logic are true, etc.).
    What was short lived was Logical Positivism as anyone who knows anything about modern philosophy will tell you. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the scientific method (which, by the way, a Christian theist developed!). Science and scientists need not subscribe to scientism (and most of them are smart enough not to). Scientism is not science worship which you would know if you had read the article I sent you (but of course, I never back up my claims…right?)

    As to Paul and “most theists” – arguing form an effect to ground is common enough practice between philosophers and scientists (e.g., particle physics). That does not make the being of God as such available to empirical investigation. That might be your biggest confusion – I’m not saying there is no empirical evidence for the effects of God, I am saying God himself is not open to it.

    You say, “You cannot show that your god exists or that other gods do not exist. Your claim of worshipping the sole creator of the universe is nonsense.” This is the sort of thing that makes me not want to dialog you. And don’t blame my refusal to engage overreaching and unsupported attacks like this on my not being willing to back up my claims – you’ve got PLENTY yourself.

    Christianity has better supported claims because it is supported by the best philosophy (which proves general theism) and is lodged in historical facts (not myths, e.g., Gospels-Acts) and miraculous events (e.g., the resurrection) – not just untestable mystical experience (e.g., Islam) or philosophy (e.g., Buddhism). If you want to know details I suggest picking up a book on Christian apologetics. Now if you want to argue against those claims, go for it – but do not think that saying, “I know all the arguments and why they fail” counts as there being “no good arguments.”

    Again, more of this crap: “It is ignorance on your part that you claim that the historical and miraculous support for Christianity is “unsurpassed”. There is no evidence for *any* of the essential claims of the bible.” See, now you’re not even making claims intelligent atheists would support.

    Given your track record so far, I highly doubt you understand the principals involved in my first cause argument “quite well.” Especially because if you did, you would not say there is no evidence for reality being created – since that is one of the principles that emerges from the act/potency distinction itself! Further, the argument only proves ONE kind of being – one that cannot be duplicated or tweaked, and it is not, nor can it be, Zeus, Krishna, or a flying spaghetti monster. Now, there might be others who claim THAT being is their God too, but (a) Christianity taught it first, and (b) they do not have the evidential support beyond this mere theism that Christianity does. Even if you don’t find that evidence decisive, at least it’s there (cf. Islam which would be the closest to the Judeo-Christian God – no miracles, insane founder).

    Apophatic theology is NOT a problem for Christians precisely because of analogical God-talk. In fact, it is part of it.

    Finally, nothing I said justifies your assertion that I believe that kids and adults who still believe lay-level views of God aren’t real Christians. Obviously level of understanding is taken into account in religion just like any other field. What I am saying is that it is illicit to take a child’s understanding and put it up against sophisticated arguments.

    Wow, it just keeps getting worse – now a first cause is “nonsense”? Wow, I am honored to be dialoging with someone smarter than Aristotle! Well, I know one cause that I can prove – a “lost” one, which this thread might be.

  24. I have found the problem with Atheists is not so much lack of morals as many Christians (wrongly) claim, but that they do have morals, which I find odd, since there can be no law if there is no lawgiver.

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