Twenty Arguments for God – A Summary

 

I’ve spent the last couple of months considering and responding to twenty arguments for the existence of the Christian god (http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/20_arguments-gods-existence.htm).

To be blunt, I’m unconvinced and less than impressed. The bottom line is, when Christianity tries to argue for the existence of its god, it does so from a position of wishful thinking. Christianity desperately needs to appear reasoned and lacking in superstition, so arguments like that list emerge to try and show that face. Yet, when the bright light of reason does indeed shine on these arguments, what becomes demonstrably clear is that Christian arguments for their god are framed so that they can only conclude in their god and are worded so as to guide only towards the Christian god. It is the perfect example of putting the cart before the horse.

The big thing that is lacking in all these arguments is the test. This is the pinnacle of a reasoned argument. It’s all well and good making a case for something, but if you don’t create a test that will confirm or deny the validity of the idea, then you have only done half a job.

Christian apologetics as a whole is the school of half a job and this list of twenty arguments demonstrates that nicely.

When I started through the list I was hoping that I would be challenged to think deeper about why I rejected my former faith. I hoped that the challenge would stimulate me into having to think about the implications of the arguments and maybe even spend some time reading up on the background to the arguments. I did that a little for some of them, but over all I found that the arguments were light on substance to the point that my biggest challenge was to try to address the points thoughtfully and not resort to a sarcastic dismissal. It’s very possible that I wasn’t as successful on that as others would be.

The most disappointing argument for me was also one of the most popular and widely used, the Kalam Cosmological Argument. It really is a shocker. That intelligent people hold it in high regard demonstrates the wishful thinking element of religion and how far people will go to shore up their beliefs with arguments that have the superficial appearance of rationality.

 

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Twenty Arguments for God – Twenty – Pascal’s Wager

This post is one of a serious that picks apart the arguments for god that can be found at the link below. This post addresses number 20:

http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/20_arguments-gods-existence.htm#20

If you don’t want to click over there to read it, the full argument goes like this:

20. Pascal’s Wager

Suppose you, the reader, still feel that all of these arguments are inconclusive. There is another, different kind of argument left. It has come to be known as Pascal’s Wager. We mention it here and adapt it for our purposes, not because it is a proof for the existence of God, but because it can help us in our search for God in the absence of such proof.
As originally proposed by Pascal, the Wager assumes that logical reasoning by itself cannot decide for or against the existence of God; there seem to be good reasons on both sides. Now since reason cannot decide for sure, and since the question is of such importance that we must decide somehow, then we must “wager” if we cannot prove. And so we are asked: Where are you going to place your bet?
If you place it with God, you lose nothing, even if it turns out that God does not exist. But if you place it against God, and you are wrong and God does exist, you lose everything: God, eternity, heaven, infinite gain. “Let us assess the two cases: if you win, you win everything, if you lose, you lose nothing.”
Consider the following diagram:
The diagram is in the shape of a square with the opposite corners connected by lines. Going clockwise from the top left the labels are ‘God Exists’ then ‘God does not exist’ then I believe in Him’ then ‘I do not believe in Him’
The vertical lines represent correct beliefs, the diagonals represent incorrect beliefs. Let us compare the diagonals. Suppose God does not exist and I believe in him. In that case, what awaits me after death is not eternal life but, most likely, eternal nonexistence. But now take the other diagonal: God, my Creator and the source of all good, does exist; but I do not believe in him. He offers me his love and his life, and I reject it. There are answers to my greatest questions, there is fulfilment of my deepest desires; but I decide to spurn it all. In that case, I lose (or at least seriously risk losing) everything.
The Wager can seem offensively venal and purely selfish. But it can be reformulated to appeal to a higher moral motive: If there is a God of infinite goodness, and he justly deserves my allegiance and faith, I risk doing the greatest injustice by not acknowledging him.
The Wager cannot—or should not—coerce belief. But it can be an incentive for us to search for God, to study and restudy the arguments that seek to show that there is Something—or Someone—who is the ultimate explanation of the universe and of my life. It could at lease motivate “The Prayer of the Skeptic”: “God, I don’t know whether you exist or not, but if you do, please show me who you are.”
Pascal says that there are three kinds of people: those who have sought God and found him, those who are seeking and have not yet found, and those who neither seek nor find. The first are reasonable and happy, the second are reasonable and unhappy, the third are both unreasonable and unhappy. If the Wager stimulates us at least to seek, then it will at least stimulate us to be reasonable. And if the promise Jesus makes is true, all who seek will find (Mt 7:7-8), and thus will be happy.

I first heard Pascal’s Wager when I heard the singer Cliff Richard summarise it in an answer to a question about why he believed. He didn’t identify it as Pascal’s Wager at the time, he just summarised the argument and that he was convinced by it. At the time I was too. It was some years later before I heard the term and looked into it more deeply.

The way the argument is presented is that the options are; the Christian god or no god. No other god is allowed for. It’s a false dichotomy. Why doesn’t the argument include the other gods? If you line up all the possible gods and then place no god in opposition, the choice becomes much clearer. Pick any god and you fall foul of those that remain, you may as well go for the home run and offend them all! If there is only one god and all the others are man made then how do you identify that god from the human descriptions? They all sound like human invented deities, so how do you pick the real one? You may as well say that none of the gods that humans believe in is real. It really is the most reasoned option.

As an aside, I do find it amusingly ironic that a religion that today teaches the evils of gambling, would posit this wager as a reasonable bet.

An unbiased (in my view anyway) description of Pascal’s Wager can be found here: http://www.philosophyofreligion.info/theistic-proofs/pascals-wager/

Twenty Arguments for God – Nineteen – The Common Consent Argument

This post is one of a serious that picks apart the arguments for god that can be found at the link below. This post addresses number 19:

http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/20_arguments-gods-existence.htm#19

If you don’t want to click over there to read it, the full argument goes like this:

19. The Common Consent Argument

This proof is in some ways like the argument from religious experience (18) and in other ways like the argument from desire (16). It argues that:
Belief in God—that Being to whom reverence and worship are properly due—is common to almost all people of every era.
Either the vast majority of people have been wrong about this most profound element of their lives or they have not.
It is most plausible to believe that they have not.
Therefore it is most plausible to believe that God exists.
Everyone admits that religious belief is widespread throughout human history. But the question arises: Does this undisputed fact amount to evidence in favor of the truth of religious claims? Even a skeptic will admit that the testimony we have is deeply impressive: the vast majority of humans have believed in an ultimate Being to whom the proper response could only be reverence and worship. No one disputes the reality of our feelings of reverence, attitudes of worship, acts of adoration. But if God does not exist, then these things have never once—never once—had a real object. Is it really plausible to believe that?
The capacity for reverence and worship certainly seems to belong to us by nature. And it is hard to believe that this natural capacity can never, in the nature of things, be fulfilled, especially when so many testify that it has been. True enough, it is conceivable that this side of our nature is doomed to frustration; it is thinkable that those millions upon millions who claim to have found the Holy One who is worthy of reverence and worship were deluded. But is it likely?
It seems far more likely that those who refuse to believe are the ones suffering from deprivation and delusion—like the tone-deaf person who denies the existence of music, or the frightened tenant who tells herself she doesn’t hear cries of terror and distress coming from the street below and, when her children awaken to the sounds and ask her, “Why is that lady screaming, Mommy?” tells them, “Nobody’s screaming: it’s just the wind, that’s all. Go back to sleep.”
Question 1: But the majority is not infallible. Most people were wrong about the movements of the sun and earth. So why not about the existence of God?
Reply: If people were wrong about the theory of heliocentrism, they still experienced the sun and earth and motion. They were simply mistaken in thinking that the motion they perceived was the sun’s. But if God does not exist, what is it that believers have been experiencing? The level of illusion goes far beyond any other example of collective error. It really amounts to collective psychosis.
For believing in God is like having a relationship with a person. If God never existed, neither did this relationship. You were responding with reverence and love to no one; and no one was there to receive and answer your response. It’s as if you believe yourself happily married when in fact you live alone in a dingy apartment.
Now we grant that such mass delusion is conceivable, but what is the likely story? If there were no other bits of experience which, taken together with our perceptions of the sun and earth, make it most likely that the earth goes round the sun, it would be foolish to interpret our experience that way. How much more so here, where what we experience is a relationship involving reverence and worship and, sometimes, love. It is most reasonable to believe that God really is there, given such widespread belief in him—unless atheists can come up with a very persuasive explanation for religious belief, one that takes full account of the experience of believers and shows that their experience is best explained as delusion and not insight. But atheists have never done so.
Question 2: But isn’t there a very plausible psychological account of religious belief? Many nonbelievers hold that belief in God is the result of childhood fears; that God is in fact a projection of our human fathers: someone “up there” who can protect us from natural forces we consider hostile.
Reply A: This is not really a naturalistic explanation of religious belief. It is no more than a statement, dressed in psychological jargon, that religious belief is false. You begin from the assumption that God does not exist. Then you figure that since the closest earthly symbol for the Creator is a father, God must be a cosmic projection of our human fathers. But apart from the assumption of atheism, there is no compelling evidence at all that God is a mere projection.
In fact, the argument begs the question. We seek psychological explanation only for ideas we already know (or presume) to be false, not those we think to be true. We ask, “Why do you think black dogs are out to kill you? Were you frightened by one when you were small?” But we never ask, “Why do you think black dogs aren’t out to kill you? Did you have a nice black puppy once?”
Reply B: Though there must be something of God that is reflected in human fathers (otherwise our symbolism for him would be inexplicable), Christians realize that the symbolism is ultimately inadequate. And if the Ultimate Being is mysterious in a way that transcends all symbolism, how can he be a mere projection of what the symbol represents? The truth seems to be—and if God exists, the truth is—the other way around: our earthly fathers are pale projections of the Heavenly Father. It should be noted that several writers (e.g., Paul Vitz) have analyzed atheism as itself a psychic pathology: an alienation from the human father that results in rejection of God.

In the course of history, millions of people have believed in god and they can’t all be wrong can they? Well yes they can. Millions of people have believed in gods that are not the Christian god, does the author think they are all wrong? Of course he does.

The author would have us believe that because religious belief has been wholeheartedly accepted, promoted and foisted on others for as long as there is a history of humanity, then that must make it true. The author isn’t drawing a distinction between religions here, all religions are lumped into the same basket so as to weight the scales in favour of the Christian god. Should this methodology be taken seriously?

Even a skeptic will admit that the testimony we have is deeply impressive

This one doesn’t. Testimony means little to nothing when it’s that blatantly biased.

The question is asked if it’s really plausible to believe that if there is no god then all those acts of worship over the course of mankind’s religious history were never once directed to a real object. Well there are many idols that have been on the receiving end of that worship so it seems that the author has a rather skewed perception of what it was that all those religions have worshiped. The author, it appears, assumes that all those religions were really focused on the single god that he believes in.

The comparison with heliocentrism is puzzling. I assume the author means geocentrism, which isn’t a theory but an hypothesis. The origin for the belief was observation of the sun and moon, the correction of the false idea and the establishment of the fact of heliocentrism was further evidence that is measurable and repeatable today. God, in the meantime, is still only an idea, one which Christians will not allow to be tested, measured or otherwise detected.

Ditto the comparison with falsely believing yourself to be married. I can go home and experience conversations over a home cooked meal and then correctly load the dishwasher afterwards. In the meantime all prayers to god and other methods of communication are decidedly one-sided. The author is trying desperately to assert the existence of god using every day experiences while failing to address that his god can not be seen, touched, heard or tested for.

unless atheists can come up with a very persuasive explanation for religious belief, one that takes full account of the experience of believers and shows that their experience is best explained as delusion and not insight. But atheists have never done so.

Not accepting that religious belief can be explained naturally, is not the same as it not being possible, it just means that in the religious mind, religious belief overrides everything else.

Apparently,

Many nonbelievers hold that belief in God is the result of childhood fears

Can you hear the strawman claxon sounding? I have no recollection of ever having heard this argument, I am pretty sure this is the first time I have responded to any form of it. Kids form a belief in god because they are taught it. Either from parents or from other trusted adults. They don’t naturally gravitate to it because of fear. It’s not a coherent argument but it does make for a good set-up to plug the work of Paul Vitz who asserts

an alienation from the human father that results in rejection of God

More of that nonsense here (http://www.leaderu.com/truth/1truth12.html), if you can bare it.

Twenty Arguments for God – Eighteen – The Argument from Religious Experience

This post is one of a serious that picks apart the arguments for god that can be found at the link below. This post addresses number 18:

http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/20_arguments-gods-existence.htm#18

If you don’t want to click over there to read it, the full argument goes like this:

18. The Argument from Religious Experience

Some sort of experience lies at the very core of most people’s religious faith. Most of our readers have very likely had such an experience. If so, you realize, in a way no one else can, its central importance in your life. That realization is not itself an argument for God’s existence; in fact, in the light of it you would probably say that there is no need for arguments. But there is in fact an argument for God’s existence constructed from the data of such experiences. It is not an argument which moves from your own personal experience to your own affirmation that God exists. As we said, you most probably have no need for such an argument. Instead, this argument moves in another direction: from the widespread fact of religious experience to the affirmation that only a divine reality can adequately explain it.
It is difficult to state this argument deductively. But it might fairly be put as follows.
Many people of different eras and of widely different cultures claim to have had an experience of the “divine.”
It is inconceivable that so many people could have been so utterly wrong about the nature and content of their own experience.
Therefore, there exists a “divine” reality which many people of different eras and of widely different cultures have experienced.
Does such experience prove that an intelligent Creator-God exists? On the face of it this seems unlikely. For such a God does not seem to be the object of all experiences called “religious.” But still, he is the object of many. That is, many people understand their experience that way; they are “united with” or “taken up into” a boundless and overwhelming Knowledge and Love, a Love that fills them with itself but infinitely exceeds their capacity to receive. Or so they claim. The question is: Are we to believe them?
There is an enormous number of such claims. Either they are true or not. In evaluating them, we should take into account:
the consistency of these claims (are they self-consistent as well as consistent with what we know otherwise to be true?);
the character of those who make these claims (do these persons seem honest, decent, trustworthy?); and
the effects these experiences have had in their own lives and the lives of others (have these persons become more loving as a result of what they experienced? More genuinely edifying? Or, alternatively, have they become vain and self-absorbed?).
Suppose someone says to you: “All these experiences are either the result of lesions in the temporal lobe or of neurotic repression. In no way do they verify the truth of some divine reality.” What might your reaction be? You might think back over that enormous documentation of accounts and ask yourself if that can be right. And you might conclude: “No. Given this vast number of claims, and the quality of life of those who made them, it seems incredible that those who made the claims could have been so wrong about them, or that insanity or brain disease could cause such profound goodness and beauty.”
It is impossible to lay down ahead of time how investigation into this record of claims and characters will affect all individuals. You cannot say ahead of time how it will affect you. But it is evidence; it has persuaded many; and it cannot be ignored. Sometimes—in fact, we believe, very often—that record is not so much faced as dismissed with vivid trendy labels.

It’s not new or surprising that people who are religious have expereinces that they interperet in support of that religion. Often these experiences are very important to them. In some cases you could even say that they treasure them. People with vastly different religious creeds will use similar experiences to support their own beliefs.

Can these experiences be explained in any other way? Well yes, the human mind is very good at seeing patterns, especially patterns that do not exist, it is so easy to do this that a great many illusions are based specifically on this attribute. In addition, the human mind will interperet things according to it’s own biases. That is, if something can’t be explained easilly, then the mind will jump to its default unexplained bias. This could be religious, conspiracy, aliens or any number of other imagined explanations. The sheer number of experiences that people are prepared to attribute to these isn’t an argument for the existence of any of them but a clear demonstration of how lazy our cognitive functions are. Investigating and testing for the actual explanation requires a darn sight more effort than assuming your superstition of choice is correct. Which is exactly why these kinds of experiences are seen by the religious as confirmation of their religion.

In my time I’ve had a fair number of experiences that were interpreted as religious. To be completely frank and honest, there is one very significant one which I have no explanation for, does that mean the Christian god is real? Of course not. Way back at the beginning of my journey away from Christianity I learnt about the scientific explanation for an experience that matched one of my own (Sleep Paralysis). It was this moment that caused me to seriously question my religiously interpreted experiences. It was only when I questioned them in this manner that I realised that I had been duped all along.

Religious experience, by it’s very nature, is a very subjective thing and when mixed with a spoonful of bias, it becomes highly unreliable. This is exactly why we should not trust religious experience and it should not be taken as confirmation of anyone’s preferred god.

Twenty Arguments for God – Seventeen – The Argument from Aesthetic Experience

This post is one of a serious that picks apart the arguments for god that can be found at the link below. This post addresses number 17:

http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/20_arguments-gods-existence.htm#17

If you don’t want to click over there to read it, the full argument goes like this:

17. The Argument from Aesthetic Experience

There is the music of Johann Sebastian Bach.
Therefore there must be a God.
You either see this one or you don’t.

What do I do with this one? Question the sincerity of the author? Roll out an ad hominem by insulting the authors intelligence?

Do I call POE? Do I ask if the whole thing is an elaborate troll?

Do I counter by saying that there is also shit and vomit, therefore there is no god?

I’m stumped, not because the sentences are compelling, but because this is not an argument. To take it seriously or to give it serious thought is insulting.

Twenty Arguments for God – Sixteen – The Argument from Desire

This post is one of a serious that picks apart the arguments for god that can be found at the link below. This post addresses number 16:

http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/20_arguments-gods-existence.htm#16

If you don’t want to click over there to read it, the full argument goes like this:

16. The Argument from Desire

Every natural, innate desire in us corresponds to some real object that can satisfy that desire.
But there exists in us a desire which nothing in time, nothing on earth, no creature can satisfy.
Therefore there must exist something more than time, earth and creatures, which can satisfy this desire.
This something is what people call “God” and “life with God forever.”
The first premise implies a distinction of desires into two kinds: innate and externally conditioned, or natural and artificial. We naturally desire things like food, drink, sex, sleep, knowledge, friendship and beauty; and we naturally shun things like starvation, loneliness, ignorance and ugliness. We also desire (but not innately or naturally) things like sports cars, political office, flying through the air like Superman, the land of Oz and a Red Sox world championship.
Now there are differences between these two kinds of desires. We do not, for example, for the most part, recognize corresponding states of deprivation for the second, the artificial, desires, as we do for the first. There is no word like “Ozlessness” parallel to “sleeplessness.” But more importantly, the natural desires come from within, from our nature, while the artificial ones come from without, from society, advertising or fiction. This second difference is the reason for a third difference: the natural desires are found in all of us, but the artificial ones vary from person to person.
The existence of the artificial desires does not necessarily mean that the desired objects exist. Some do; some don’t. Sports cars do; Oz does not. But the existence of natural desires does, in every discoverable case, mean that the objects desired exist. No one has ever found one case of an innate desire for a nonexistent object.
The second premise requires only honest introspection. If someone denies it and says, “I am perfectly happy playing with mud pies, or sports cars, or money, or sex, or power,” we can only ask, “Are you, really?” But we can only appeal, we cannot compel. And we can refer such a person to the nearly universal testimony of human history in all its great literature. Even the atheist Jean-Paul Sartre admitted that “there comes a time when one asks, even of Shakespeare, even of Beethoven, ‘Is that all there is?'”
The conclusion of the argument is not that everything the Bible tells us about God and life with God is really so. What it proves is an unknown X, but an unknown whose direction, so to speak, is known. This X is more: more beauty, more desirability, more awesomeness, more joy. This X is to great beauty as, for example, great beauty is to small beauty or to a mixture of beauty and ugliness. And the same is true of other perfections.
But the “more” is infinitely more, for we are not satisfied with the finite and partial. Thus the analogy (X is to great beauty as great beauty is to small beauty) is not proportionate. Twenty is to ten as ten is to five, but infinite is not to twenty as twenty is to ten. The argument points down an infinite corridor in a definite direction. Its conclusion is not “God” as already conceived or defined, but a moving and mysterious X which pulls us to itself and pulls all our images and concepts out of themselves.
In other words, the only concept of God in this argument is the concept of that which transcends concepts, something “no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived” (1 Cor. 2:9). In other words, this is the real God.
C. S. Lewis, who uses this argument in a number of places, summarizes it succinctly:
Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for these desires exists. A baby feels hunger; well, there is such a thing as food. A dolphin wants to swim; well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire; well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. (Mere Christianity, Bk. III, chap. 10, “Hope”)
Question 1: How can you know the major premise—that every natural desire has a real object—is universally true, without first knowing that this natural desire also has a real object? But that is the conclusion. Thus you beg the question. You must know the conclusion to be true before you can know the major premise.
Reply: This is really not an objection to the argument from desire only, but to every deductive argument whatsoever, every syllogism. It is the old saw of John Stuart Mill and the nominalists against the syllogism. It presupposes empiricism—that is, that the only way we can ever know anything is by sensing individual things and then generalizing, by induction. It excludes deduction because it excludes the knowledge of any universal truths (like our major premise). For nominalists do not believe in the existence of any universals—except one (that all universals are only names).
This is very easy to refute. We can and do come to a knowledge of universal truths, like “all humans are mortal,” not by sense experience alone (for we can never sense all humans) but through abstracting the common universal essence or nature of humanity from the few specimens we do experience by our senses. We know that all humans are mortal because humanity, as such, involves mortality, it is the nature of a human being to be mortal; mortality follows necessarily from its having an animal body. We can understand that. We have the power of understanding, or intellectual intuition, or insight, in addition to the mental powers of sensation and calculation, which are the only two the nominalist and empiricist give us. (We share sensation with animals and calculation with computers; where is the distinctively human way of knowing for the empiricist and nominalist?)
When there is no real connection between the nature of a proposition’s subject and the nature of the predicate, the only way we can know the truth of that proposition is by sense experience and induction. For instance, we can know that all the books on this shelf are red only by looking at each one and counting them. But when there is a real connection between the nature of the subject and the nature of the predicate, we can know the truth of that proposition by understanding and insight—for instance, “Whatever has color must have size,” or, “A Perfect Being would not be ignorant.”
Question 2: Suppose I simply deny the minor premise and say that I just don’t observe any hidden desire for God, or infinite joy, or some mysterious X that is more than earth can offer?
Reply: This denial may take two forms. First, one may say, “Although I am not perfectly happy now, I believe I would be if only I had ten million dollars, a Lear jet, and a new mistress every day.” The reply to this is, of course, “Try it. You won’t like it.” It’s been tried and has never satisfied. In fact, billions of people have performed and are even now performing trillions of such experiments, desperately seeking the ever-elusive satisfaction they crave. For even if they won the whole world, it would not be enough to fill one human heart.
Yet they keep trying, believing that “If only… Next time …” This is the stupidest gamble in the world, for it is the only one that consistently has never paid off. It is like the game of predicting the end of the world: every batter who has ever approached that plate has struck out. There is hardly reason to hope the present ones will fare any better. After trillions of failures and a one hundred percent failure rate, this is one experiment no one should keep trying.
A second form of denial of our premise is: “I am perfectly happy now.” This, we suggest, verges on idiocy or, worse, dishonesty. It requires something more like exorcism than refutation. This is Meursault in Camus’s The Stranger. This is subhuman, vegetation, pop psychology. Even the hedonist utilitarian John Stuart Mill, one of the shallowest (though cleverest) minds in the history of philosophy, said that “it is better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a pig satisfied.”
Question 3: This argument is just another version of Anselm’s ontological argument (13), which is invalid. You argue to an objective God from a mere subjective idea or desire in you.
Reply: No, we do not argue from the idea alone, as Anselm does. Rather, our argument first derives a major premise from the real world of nature: that nature makes no desire in vain. Then it discovers something real in human nature-namely, human desire for something more than nature-which nature cannot explain, because nature cannot satisfy it. Thus, the argument is based on observed facts in nature, both outer and inner. It has data.

Like several of the other arguments before it, this one opens with statements that are assumed to be true and are framed in such a way that the read is guided towards the already predetermined god answer. There is no attempt made to establish the accuracy of the opening statements first.

The explanatory section that follows makes a distinction between natural desires like sleep and hunger, I’ll call them needs since without them the body will function less efficiently, and desires that I’ll call wants, which are things that align to our preferences but are not requisites for body survival. Needs are things that we find hard or impossible to control and would include addiction. You can’t control your body’s need for food or sleep but your want to drive the latest supercar is entirely optional.

The description of needs and wants seems reasonable enough and I have no specific issue there. However, for reasons which are unclear and unexplained, the concept of infinity and proportionality is introduced and then the subject (predictably) turns to god. It’s almost as though the argument, as pasted above, is an incomplete edit.

What’s going on here is pretty obvious, the author is making the case that there is an innate desire to worship a deity, that deity is of course the Christian god. There is an attempt to justify this by suggesting that this desire is observed in nature. “It has data” apparently, yet no link to the study which supplies it!

Reference is made to John Stuart Mill, read more about him here: http://www.iep.utm.edu/milljs/

The three posed questions are odd, they are not phrased how I would put, it’s as though they are worded peculiarly on purpose so as to create some easy to bat away. The second part of the response to question two is especially disingenuous, it foregoes all subtlety and basically says that if you deny that you have an innate desire for god you are a liar. The author isn’t alone in abandoning all integrity when arguing for god; I have seen variations of that claim multiple times since I started engaging Christians from the atheist perspective.

Skipping to question three and the answer given, I like that it gives a clue as to how to dismantle the argument for no 13. The answer draws on the observation that “nature makes no desire in vain”, that part I’ll accept, it goes wrong when it assumes god applies to that and that everyone desires god. That assumption is by no means established and is certainly a subjective interpretation, despite the objections.

Twenty Arguments for God – Fifteen – The Argument from Conscience

This post is one of a serious that picks apart the arguments for god that can be found at the link below. This post addresses number 15:

http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/20_arguments-gods-existence.htm#15

If you don’t want to click over there to read it, the full argument goes like this:

15. The Argument from Conscience

Since moral subjectivism is very popular today, the following version of, or twist to, the moral argument should be effective, since it does not presuppose moral objectivism. Modern people often say they believe that there are no universally binding moral obligations, that we must all follow our own private conscience. But that very admission is enough of a premise to prove the existence of God.
Isn’t it remarkable that no one, even the most consistent subjectivist, believes that it is ever good for anyone to deliberately and knowingly disobey his or her own conscience? Even if different people’s consciences tell them to do or avoid totally different things, there remains one moral absolute for everyone: never disobey your own conscience.
Now where did conscience get such an absolute authority—an authority admitted even by the moral subjectivist and relativist? There are only four possibilities.
From something less than me (nature)
From me (individual)
From others equal to me (society)
From something above me (God)
Let’s consider each of these possibilities in order.
How can I be absolutely obligated by something less than me—for example, by animal instinct or practical need for material survival?
How can I obligate myself absolutely? Am I absolute? Do I have the right to demand absolute obedience from anyone, even myself? And if I am the one who locked myself in this prison of obligation, I can also let myself out, thus destroying the absoluteness of the obligation which we admitted as our premise.
How can society obligate me? What right do my equals have to impose their values on me? Does quantity make quality? Do a million human beings make a relative into an absolute? Is “society” God?
The only source of absolute moral obligation left is something superior to me. This binds my will, morally, with rightful demands for complete obedience.
Thus God, or something like God, is the only adequate source and ground for the absolute moral obligation we all feel to obey our conscience. Conscience is thus explainable only as the voice of God in the soul. The Ten Commandments are ten divine footprints in our psychic sand.
Addendum on Religion and Morality
In drawing this connection between morality and religion, we do not want to create any confusion or misunderstanding. We have not said that people can never discover human moral goods unless they acknowledge that God exists. Obviously they can. Believers and nonbelievers can know that knowledge and friendship, for example, are things that we really ought to strive for, and that cruelty and deceit are objectively wrong. Our question has been: which account of the way things really are best makes sense of the moral rules we all acknowledge—that of the believer or that of the non-believer?
If we are the products of a good and loving Creator, this explains why we have a nature that discovers a value that is really there. But how can atheists explain this? For if atheists are right, then no objective moral values can exist. Dostoyevsky said, “If God does not exist, everything is permissible.” Atheists may know that some things are not permissible, but they do not know why.
Consider the following analogy. Many scientists examine secondary causes all their lives without acknowledging the First Cause, God. But, as we have seen, those secondary causes could not be without the First Cause, even though they can be known without knowing the First Cause. The same is true of objective moral goods. Thus the moral argument and the various metaphysical arguments share a certain similarity in structure.
Most of us, whatever our religious faith, or lack of it, can recognize that in the life of someone like Francis of Assisi human nature is operating the right way, the way it ought to operate. You need not be a theist to see that St. Francis’s life was admirable, but you do need to be a theist to see why. Theism explains that our response to this believer’s life is, ultimately, our response to the call of our Creator to live the kind of life he made us to live.
There are four possible relations between religion and morality, God and goodness.
Religion and morality may be thought to be independent. Kierkegaard’s sharp contrast between “the ethical” and “the religious,” especially in Fear and Trembling, may lead to such a supposition. But (a) an amoral God, indifferent to morality, would not be a wholly good God, for one of the primary meanings of “good” involves the “moral”—just, loving, wise, righteous, holy, kind. And (b) such a morality, not having any connection with God, the Absolute Being, would not have absolute reality behind it.
God may be thought of as the inventor of morality, as he is the inventor of birds. The moral law is often thought of as simply a product of God’s choice. This is the Divine Command Theory: a thing is good only because God commands it and evil because he forbids it. If that is all, however, we have a serious problem: God and his morality are arbitrary and based on mere power. If God commanded us to kill innocent people, that would become good, since good here means “whatever God commands.” The Divine Command Theory reduces morality to power. Socrates refuted the Divine Command Theory pretty conclusively in Plato’s Euthyphro. He asked Euthyphro, “Is a thing pious because the gods will it, or do the gods will it because it is pious?” He refuted the first alternative, and thought he was left with the second as the only alternative.
But the idea that God commands a thing because it is good is also unacceptable, because it makes God conform to a law higher than himself, a law that overarches God and humanity alike. The God of the Bible is no more separated from moral goodness by being under it than he is by being over it. He no more obeys a higher law that binds him, than he creates the law as an artifact that could change and could well have been different, like a planet.
The only rationally acceptable answer to the question of the relation between God and morality is the biblical one: morality is based on God’s eternal nature. That is why morality is essentially unchangeable. “I am the Lord your God; sanctify yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy” (Lev. 11:44). Our obligation to be just, kind, honest, loving and righteous “goes all the way up” to ultimate reality, to the eternal nature of God, to what God is. That is why morality has absolute and unchangeable binding force on our conscience.
The only other possible sources of moral obligation are:
a. My ideals, purposes, aspirations, and desires, something created by my mind or will, like the rules of baseball. This utterly fails to account for why it is always wrong to disobey or change the rules.
b. My moral will itself. Some read Kant this way: I impose morality on myself. But how can the one bound and the one who binds be the same? If the locksmith locks himself in a room, he is not really locked in, for he can also unlock himself.
c. Another human being may be thought to be the one who imposes morality on me—my parents, for example. But this fails to account for its binding character. If your father commands you to deal drugs, your moral obligation is to disobey him. No human being can have absolute authority over another.
d. “Society” is a popular answer to the question of the origin of morality “this or that specific person” is a very unpopular answer. Yet the two are the same. “Society” only means more individuals. What right do they have to legislate morality to me? Quantity cannot yield quality; adding numbers cannot change the rules of a relative game to the rightful absolute demands of conscience.
e. The universe, evolution, natural selection and survival all fare even worse as explanations for morality. You cannot get more out of less. The principle of causality is violated here. How could the primordial slime pools gurgle up the Sermon on the Mount?
Atheists often claim that Christians make a category mistake in using God to explain nature; they say it is like the Greeks using Zeus to explain lightning. In fact, lightning should be explained on its own level, as a material, natural, scientific phenomenon. The same with morality. Why bring in God?
Because morality is more like Zeus than like lightning. Morality exists only on the level of persons, spirits, souls, minds, wills—not mere molecules. You can make correlations between moral obligations and persons (e.g., persons should love other persons), but you cannot make any correlations between morality and molecules. No one has even tried to explain the difference between good and evil in terms, for example, of the difference between heavy and light atoms.
So it is really the atheist who makes the same category mistake as the ancient pagan who explained lightning by the will of Zeus. The atheist uses a merely material thing to explain a spiritual thing. That is a far sillier version of the category mistake than the one the ancients made; for it is possible that the greater (Zeus, spirit) caused the lesser (lightning) and explains it; but it is not possible that the lesser (molecules) adequately caused and explains the greater (morality). A good will might create molecules, but how could molecules create a good will? How can electricity obligate me? Only a good will can demand a good will; only Love can demand love.

This argument opens by offering a rephrasing of the moral argument.

Modern people often say they believe that there are no universally binding moral obligations …

So far I don’t have any issues; there is no evidential support for universally binding moral obligations, so there is no reason to say otherwise. However, tacked on the end is.

… that we must all follow our own private conscience.

It’s a strange phrase, and not one that I hear, so I have no idea which modern people allegedly often say it.

Isn’t it remarkable that no one, even the most consistent subjectivist, believes that it is ever good for anyone to deliberately and knowingly disobey his or her own conscience?

“Consistent subjectivist” is an oxymoron really since subjectivity tends to imply non consistency so the existence of a consistent subjectivist is something I remain to be convinced of. No need to dwell on that though as it was covered in the last post. I disagree with the whole sentence, I am not aware of any subjectivists who think that way. Please, if you are one, step forward and educate me.

there remains one moral absolute for everyone: never disobey your own conscience.

I’m fairly sure that I can find an example of when I’ve acted against what my conscience was screaming at me. In fact, isn’t that exactly what feelings of guilt do? They highlight when we’ve acted against our own conscience. It seems that in the rush to assert something as true (without support of course) the author has tripped over and put a massive head sized hole in the side of the argument.

Now where did conscience get such an absolute authority

It doesn’t have absolute authority, but hey ho, let’s read the options.

From something less than me (nature)
From me (individual)
From others equal to me (society)
From something above me (God)

What we have here is a prime example of framing the answer to suit the desired result. Does the author’s conscience not limit how much dishonesty is allowed?

How can I be absolutely obligated by something less than me

I don’t know, first one should demonstrate that absolute obligations actually exist, saying they do doesn’t make them so.

We have not said that people can never discover human moral goods unless they acknowledge that God exists. Obviously they can.

This is good to know, and it is nice to see it acknowledged so frankly. Though I do take issue with the word ‘discover’. Moral good is a human description of human behaviour; it is an attribute we individually ascribe to acts. It’s not something you find, like money down the back of the sofa.

If we are the products of a good and loving Creator, this explains why we have a nature that discovers a value that is really there.

I agree. Unfortunately there is no evidence that values are a thing that we discover, they are descriptions we ascribe. Which means ….

if atheists are right, then no objective moral values can exist.

I agree! Objective moral values have not been shown to exist, so atheists must be right! Huzzah! Cue the fanfare and let the confetti burst forth!

That’s not the end if though; the argument then has a huge section which assumes its opening assumption is correct and assumes that the god it’s trying to establish exists. The circularity is more dizzying than the previous argument.

Reference is made to Divine Command Theory: http://www.iep.utm.edu/divine-c/

But wait.

The Divine Command Theory reduces morality to power. Socrates refuted the Divine Command Theory pretty conclusively in Plato’s Euthyphro. He asked Euthyphro, “Is a thing pious because the gods will it, or do the gods will it because it is pious?” He refuted the first alternative, and thought he was left with the second as the only alternative.

I agree with the power play part, is that good enough to dismiss Divine Command Theory as an argument? It seems the author thinks so, so now I’m a little puzzled, many theists subscribe to Divine Command Theory, but this one seems not to. Dissention in the ranks?

Never mind, let’s skip right to the end

The atheist uses a merely material thing to explain a spiritual thing.

Not in the slightest, the scientific method is used to detect and describe the effect the brain has on behaviour. One does not need to be atheist to accept that. We see altruism in non human animals. Evolutionary theory can describe conscience as an emerging property as well as morality and other related behaviours. Assigning them to a god brings it’s own set of issues like how do we tell the difference between those god-given traits and evolved traits? Not to mention the absolute lack of support for the existence of any god.

Like every argument before it, this one can’t demonstrate with any certainty the bold claims it makes. It relies on bare faced assertions and prays that no one will notice.

Twenty Arguments for God – Fourteen – The Moral Argument

This post is one of a serious that picks apart the arguments for god that can be found at the link below. This post addresses number 14:

http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/20_arguments-gods-existence.htm#14

If you don’t want to click over there to read it, the full argument goes like this:

14. The Moral Argument

Real moral obligation is a fact. We are really, truly, objectively obligated to do good and avoid evil.
Either the atheistic view of reality is correct or the “religious” one.
But the atheistic one is incompatible with there being moral obligation.
Therefore the “religious” view of reality is correct.
We need to be clear about what the first premise is claiming. It does not mean merely that we can find people around who claim to have certain duties. Nor does it mean that there have been many people who thought they were obliged to do certain things (like clothing the naked) and to avoid doing others (like committing adultery). The first premise is claiming something more: namely, that we human beings really are obligated; that our duties arise from the way things really are, and not simply from our desires or subjective dispositions. It is claiming, in other words, that moral values or obligations themselves—and not merely the belief in moral values—are objective facts.
Now given the fact of moral obligation, a question naturally arises. Does the picture of the world presented by atheism accord with this fact? The answer is no. Atheists never tire of telling us that we are the chance products of the motion of matter—a motion which is purposeless and blind to every human striving. We should take them at their word and ask: Given this picture, in what exactly is the moral good rooted? Moral obligation can hardly be rooted in a material motion blind to purpose.
Suppose we say it is rooted in nothing deeper than human willing and desire. In that case, we have no moral standard against which human desires can be judged. For every desire will spring from the same ultimate source—purposeless, pitiless matter. And what becomes of obligation? According to this view, if I say there is an obligation to feed the hungry, I would be stating a fact about my wants and desires and nothing else. I would be saying that I want the hungry to be fed, and that I choose to act on that desire. But this amounts to an admission that neither I nor anyone else is really obliged to feed the hungry—that, in fact, no one has any real obligations at all. Therefore the atheistic view of reality is not compatible with there being genuine moral obligation.
What view is compatible? One that sees real moral obligation as grounded in its Creator, that sees moral obligation as rooted in the fact that we have been created with a purpose and for an end. We may call this view, with deliberate generality, “the religious view.” But however general the view, reflection on the fact of moral obligation does seem to confirm it.
Question 1: The argument has not shown that ethical subjectivism is false. What if there are no objective values?
Reply: True enough. The argument assumes that there are objective values; it aims to show that believing in them is incompatible with one picture of the world, and quite compatible with another. Those two pictures are the atheistic-materialistic one, and the (broadly speaking) religious one. Granted, if ethical subjectivism is true, then the argument does not work. However, almost no one is a consistent subjectivist. (Many think they are, and say they are—until they suffer violence or injustice. In that case they invariably stand with the rest of us in recognizing that certain things ought never to be done.) And for the many who are not—and never will be—subjectivists, the argument can be most helpful. It can show them that to believe as they do in objective values is inconsistent with what they may also believe about the origin and destiny of the universe. If they move to correct the inconsistency, it will be a move toward the religious view and away from the atheistic one.
Question 2: This proof does not conclude to God but to some vague “religious” view. Isn’t this “religious” view compatible with very much more than traditional theism?
Reply: Yes indeed. It is compatible, for example, with Platonic idealism, and many other beliefs that orthodox Christians find terribly deficient. But this general religious view is incompatible with materialism, and with any view that banishes value from the ultimate objective nature of things. That is the important point. It seems most reasonable that moral conscience is the voice of God within the soul, because moral value exists only on the level of persons, minds and wills. And it is hard, if not impossible, to conceive of objective moral principles somehow floating around on their own, apart from any persons.
But we grant that there are many steps to travel from objective moral values to the Creator of the universe or the triune God of love. There is a vast intellectual distance between them. But these things are compatible in a way that materialism and belief in objective values are not. To reach a personal Creator you need other arguments (cf. arguments 1-6), and to reach the God of love you need revelation. By itself, the argument leaves many options open, and eliminates only some. But we are surely well rid of those it does eliminate.

The first line of the quoted piece reads

Real moral obligation is a fact. We are really, truly, objectively obligated to do good and avoid evil.

Isn’t it immoral to lie?

In the first four lines, this argument opens with an unsupported assertion, makes a false dichotomy, makes another unsupported assertion and then posits an unsafe conclusion. It’s a terrible way to start an argument!

The claim that it is an objective fact that we are obligated to be moral is a religious claim that can only be true if there is a god that has created us subservient to this ‘fact’. That god hasn’t been demonstrated and so the claim is suspect. To try and then use this claim as proof that that god exists is circular reasoning.

Humans behave according to their biases and their desires; this is an entirely subjective behaviour pattern. That the religious doubt it is because of their bias towards a controlling god and their desire for everyone else to fall in line. That is an entirely subjectively moral behaviour based on their peculiar biases and desires. Need further proof against objectivity? Go to any church and checklist the behaviours of the membership, do they all act in the same way in the same situations? No they don’t. Then there can’t be an objective standards ruling their behaviour, therefore their behaviour is subjectively driven.

In the reply to question 1 we see a rare bit of honesty, the argument does indeed assume objectivism and the argument does indeed fail if is false.

Therein lies the fatal flaw in this argument, from beginning to end the objective morality is assumed and used to argue for ‘religion’, yet at no point is there any reference to anything supporting objectivity. There is a half-hearted attempt at dissing subjectivity which ironically supports it.

almost no one is a consistent subjectivist.

That is the whole point of subjectivity! Consistency is neither implied nor expected, we act and behave according to our motivation at the time. By definition that means there will be inconsistency. That inconsistency is the evidential support for subjectivity. In claiming that morals are objective, the author has actually demonstrated exactly why morals are subjective. Subjective morality does not support the god hypothesis and this one on it’s own should be enough to declare the Christian god does not live, long live humanity!

Twenty Arguments for God – Thirteen – The Ontological Argument

This post is one of a serious that picks apart the arguments for god that can be found at the link below. This post addresses number 13:

http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/20_arguments-gods-existence.htm#13

If you don’t want to click over there to read it, the full argument goes like this:

13. The Ontological Argument

The ontological argument was devised by Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109), who wanted to produce a single, simple demonstration which would show that God is and what God is. Single it may be, but far from simple. It is, perhaps, the most controversial proof for the existence of God. Most people who first hear it are tempted to dismiss it immediately as an interesting riddle, but distinguished thinkers of every age, including our own, have risen to defend it. For this very reason it is the most intensely philosophical proof for God’s existence; its place of honor is not within popular piety, but rather textbooks and professional journals. We include it, with a minimum of discussion, not because we think it conclusive or irrefutable, but for the sake of completeness.
Anselm’s Version
It is greater for a thing to exist in the mind and in reality than in the mind alone.
“God” means “that than which a greater cannot be thought.”
Suppose that God exists in the mind but not in reality.
Then a greater than God could be thought (namely, a being that has all the qualities our thought of God has plus real existence).
But this is impossible, for God is “that than which a greater cannot be thought.”
Therefore God exists in the mind and in reality.
Question 1: Suppose I deny that God exists in the mind?
Reply: In that case the argument could not conclude that God exists in the mind and in reality. But note: the denial commits you to the view that there is no concept of God. And very few would wish to go that far.
Question 2: Is it really greater for something to exist in the mind and in reality than in the mind alone?
Reply: The first premise of this argument is often misunderstood. People sometimes say: “Isn’t an imaginary disease better than a real one?” Well it certainly is better—and so a greater thing—for you that the disease is not real. But that strengthens Anselm’s side of the argument. Real bacteria are greater than imaginary ones, just because they have something that imaginary ones lack: real being. They have an independence, and therefore an ability to harm, that nothing can have whose existence is wholly dependent on your thought. It is this greater level of independence that makes them greater as beings. And that line of thinking does not seem elusive or farfetched.
Question 3: But is real being just another “thought” or “concept”? Is “real being” just one more concept or characteristic (like “omniscience” or “omnipotence”) that could make a difference to the kind of being God is?
Reply: Real being does make a real difference. The question is: Does it make a conceptual difference? Critics of the argument say that it does not. They say that just because real being makes all the difference it cannot be one more quality among others. Rather it is the condition of there being something there to have any qualities at all. When the proof says that God is the greatest being that can be “thought,” it means that there are various perfections or qualities that God has to a degree no creature possibly could, qualities that are supremely admirable. But to say that such a being exists is to say that there really is something which is supremely admirable. And that is not one more admirable quality among others.
Is it greater to exist in reality as well as in the mind? Of course, incomparably greater. But the difference is not a conceptual one. And yet the argument seems to treat it as if it were—as if the believer and the nonbeliever could not share the same concept of God. Clearly they do. They disagree not about the content of this concept, but about whether the kind of being it describes really exists. And that seems beyond the power of merely conceptual analysis, as used in this argument, to answer. So question 3, we think, really does invalidate this form of the ontological argument.
Modal Version
Charles Hartshorne and Norman Malcolm developed this version of the ontological argument. Both find it implicitly contained in the third chapter of Anselm’s Proslogion.
The expression “that being than which a greater cannot be thought” (GCB, for short) expresses a consistent concept.
GCB cannot be thought of as: a. necessarily nonexistent; or as b. contingently existing but only as c. necessarily existing.
So GCB can only be thought of as the kind of being that cannot not exist, that must exist.
But what must be so is so.
Therefore, GCB (i.e., God) exists.
Question: Just because GCB must be thought of as existing, does that mean that GCB really exists?
Reply: If you must think of something as existing, you cannot think of it as not existing. But then you cannot deny that GCB exists; for then you are thinking what you say cannot be thought—namely, that GCB does not exist.
Possible Worlds Version
This variation on the modal version has been worked out in great detail by Alvin Plantinga. We have done our best to simplify it.
Definitions:
Maximal excellence: To have omnipotence, omniscience and moral perfection in some world.
Maximal greatness: To have maximal excellence in every possible world.
There is a possible world (W) in which there is a being (X) with maximal greatness.
But X is maximally great only if X has maximal excellence in every possible world.
Therefore X is maximally great only if X has omnipotence, omniscience and moral perfection in every possible world.
In W, the proposition “There is no omnipotent, omniscient, morally perfect being” would be impossible—that is, necessarily false.
But what is impossible does not vary from world to world.
Therefore, the proposition, “There is no omnipotent, omniscient, morally perfect being” is necessarily false in this actual world, too.
Therefore, there actually exists in this world, and must exist in every possible world, an omnipotent, omniscient, morally perfect being.

A more lengthy telling of the argument (if you want it) is here: http://www.iep.utm.edu/ont-arg/ and here: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ontological-arguments/

In summary, because it is possible to think that there is nothing that is greater than the Christian god, the Christian god is the greatest thing ever and is therefore real. Well colour me unimpressed because I am pretty sure that I can think of a god eating monster that eats gods for fun, especially gods which are greater than those which exist only in the mind. Therefore my god eating monster just ate all the gods so there’s none left. The end.

Jesting aside, this argument is all about the limits of the human mind. The argument posits that the no human can imagine anything greater than X and because something existing is greater than something imagined, the imagined Christian god must be real. The argument makes no allowance for someone else thinking of something greater than the Christian god, there really is nothing about this argument that makes any sense.

I take issue with the phrase ‘philosophical proof’ at the start because I dispute that philosophy can prove any such thing using arguments like this. Proof would be a demonstration of that god that is unambiguous and could not be attributed to anything else. Thinking it real and claiming that that means it is real is not a proof for anything and it is disingenuous to suggest otherwise.

Getting into the grit of the argument itself, it stumbles massively when it says that god must exist both in thought and reality because it’s not possible to think of something greater. It’s a blunt assertion with no support. It is always possible to think of something greater and it is the utmost arrogance to think that because you have imagined in your mind what you think is the greatest possible god, that that god must therefore exist. Thinking something is real doesn’t make it real.

The argument also seems to be implying that when something that exists is thought about, that something exists both in reality and in the mind! No it doesn’t. What is in the mind is simply a mental representation. Like a photocopy isn’t the real thing and it’s copy and a reflection isn’t the real thing and it’s copy.

The argument really does back flip itself into a knot of nonsense.

The argument certainly is imaginative, I’ve got to give it that, but what it imagines isn’t real and the leap from the imagined greatest ever god to that god being real is missing a great many steps and it does not follow in the slightest.

Twenty Arguments for God – Twelve – The Argument from the Origin of the Idea of God

This post is one of a serious that picks apart the arguments for god that can be found at the link below. This post addresses number 12:

http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/20_arguments-gods-existence.htm#12

If you don’t want to click over there to read it, the full argument goes like this:

12. The Argument from the Origin of the Idea of God

This argument, made famous by Rene Descartes, has a kinship to the ontological argument (13). It starts from the idea of God. But it does not claim that real being is part of the content of that idea, as the ontological argument does. Rather it seeks to show that only God himself could have caused this idea to arise in our minds.
It would be impossible for us to reproduce the whole context Descartes gives for this proof (see his third Meditation), and fruitless to follow his scholastic vocabulary. We give below the briefest summary and discussion.
We have ideas of many things.
These ideas must arise either from ourselves or from things outside us.
One of the ideas we have is the idea of God—an infinite, all-perfect being.
This idea could not have been caused by ourselves, because we know ourselves to be limited and imperfect, and no effect can be greater than its cause.
Therefore, the idea must have been caused by something outside us which has nothing less than the qualities contained in the idea of God.
But only God himself has those qualities.
Therefore God himself must be the cause of the idea we have of him.
Therefore God exists.
Consider the following common objection. The idea of God can easily arise like this: we notice degrees of perfection among finite beings—some are more perfect (or less imperfect) than others. And to reach the idea of God, we just project the scale upward and outward to infinity. Thus there seems to be no need for an actually existing God to account for the existence of the idea. All we need is the experience of things varying in degrees of perfection, and a mind capable of thinking away perceived limitations.
But is that really enough? How can we think away limitation or imperfection unless we first recognize it as such? And how can we recognize it as such unless we already have some notion of infinite perfection? To recognize things as imperfect or finite involves the possession of a standard in thought that makes the recognition possible.
Does that seem farfetched? It does not mean that toddlers spend their time thinking about God. But it does mean that, however late in life you use the standard, however long before it comes explicitly into consciousness, still, the standard must be there in order for you to use it. But where did it come from? Not from your experience of yourself or of the world that exists outside you. For the idea of infinite perfection is already presupposed in our thinking about all these things and judging them imperfect. Therefore none of them can be the origin of the idea of God; only God himself can be that.

I believe the Descartes argument that is mentioned at the top is summarised here:

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/descartes-ontological/

ideas [of things] must arise either from ourselves or from things outside us.

We all have ideas, this is part of being human, sometimes our ideas are nonsense and sometimes they are correct. They are all out own. How does an idea come from outside of us when the idea happens inside our brain? Is there a demonstration of how an idea comes to us from outside of us? How do we tell the difference between the two idea types?

This idea [of an all-perfect god] could not have been caused by ourselves

With the failure to address how there are ideas that we don’t come up with ourselves, how could anyone support this claim? The claim is interesting, but its premise is not shown so why should the claim be accepted?

the idea must have been caused by something outside us

How? What is the mechanism? The author is running with the idea as though it’s true. Who came up with the idea that there are ideas that come from outside us? If that idea came from within someone, how could we know it to be true?

Therefore God exists.

Whose idea of god exists? Does every Christian describe the same god? Do they all exist? if a Christian’s idea of god is flawed or incorrect does that means it’s their own idea of god and not an external idea? Does that cancel out this argument?

It one believes the author, it seems that only the Christian god could have planted the idea of the Christian god into our minds because we’re too weak and limited in our thinking to invent that god ourselves? Really!?

One only has to read the Bible to see that the Christian god has many human characteristics, disproportionate vengeance, annihilation of the disliked, inconsistency. It’s all there.

If it’s specifically the Christian idea of god that has been given to humans from god, how come there are so many other gods that humans think about? Is the Christian god really that much more special that it would be impossible for humans to come up with it on their own?

As a final thought, I am genuinely astonished that this argument is presented seriously. In fact this argument makes me wonder if the whole list of 20 arguments is someone having a massive laugh at the expense of those Christians who buy it and reference it on an all too regular basis.