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.

 

God takes the Good People Early

This week I found myself in conversation (over the internet) with a Christian and we got onto the subject of death. I was then told that some people believe that God takes his people early and leaves the evil to live longer to give them more of a chance to repent.

I was stunned. It was a proper jaw hit the floor WTF! moment.

I didn’t ask if the person concerned believed that or if they knew anyone who did or even where the information came from. Quite frankly it wasn’t a subject I wanted to discuss, so I let the conversation move on.

The comment did get me thinking though. Why would anyone think that? And more importantly, is there actually a theological precedent or biblical passage that supports this idea? I certainly can’t think of any reason why this could be deemed a reasonable theological position to hold. I concede that I’m not exactly the world’s leading bible commentator, however with my years as a Christian and the number of sermons and Christian talks I’ve heard, you’d think that I’d have heard it if this was a reasonable position to hold.

Given this is the first time I can consciously say I’ve met this particular line of thinking, I think I can safely say that it’s something that is in the minority. However, what makes it concerning is that either there are some people who do believe and teach this, or there are some people who choose to believe this, despite not being taught it.

Of course there is the simple fact that looking at the evidence of deaths of history proves this particular line of thought to be utterly wrong.

It is not a comforting theology

The conclusion I have come to is that people who believe this only do so because it must be comforting to them. It taps into the ‘in a better place’ mentality, that being that those Christians who have died are enjoying fellowship in heaven and ultimately that’s where all good Christians want to be and death in this life is a relief, a good thing even, something to be rejoiced in even. This is denialist theology, it’s what happens when people invent things to try and ease the pain of a deeply unfair happening.

On a personal level, the only good thing about my mother’s death in her early 60s is that she is no longer suffering with cancer. If God was a merciful god and took the good people early then he should have taken this servant of His in that first year and not left her to suffer an appalling cancer for three years before finally going unconscious and dying a week later.

There is nothing good about her sons missing her terribly and there is nothing good about her never getting to see her granddaughter grow up. The suggestion that the loving God she worshiped all her life took her that way and at that time because he loved her and she was good is utterly wrong. The more I think about this, the more I get upset and angry about it. Time to go to my happy place….

There is Nothing to Fear in Doubt

Like all Christians, there had been many times when I’d questioned or doubted my faith. In fact most of the churches I’ve been to didn’t consider it a shame to admit to doubt. One church in particular loved to quote “honest doubt leads to true faith”. While I won’t go so far as to say they encouraged doubt, they didn’t say it was a bad thing and those to admitted to having doubts were encouraged to ask the questions because if you don’t ask the question, there is no one who is going to give you an answer.

This attitude of not fearing doubt is still one that I consider worthy and honest.

I remember one group conversation where I expressed the opinion that everyone should question their own beliefs. This was met with unanimous agreement, so I am glad to say that I am not alone in holding that view.

Of course, those who wish to control others will always fear and discourage doubt, especially doubt in those they have a hold over. In those situations, doubt brings about the potential of freedom, freedom from manipulative others. I am very aware and saddened that some churches have (and even still do?) act like that. I have a suspicion that one of the churches my family attended when I was a child had a senior pastor like that. That is not ground I wish to cover though, it was many many years ago and suspicion is not proof and I don’t really have a way of confirming that suspicion. I am judging events of long ago from a cynical adult mind when the memories I am working from are those of a child not even 8, possibly younger. That’s hardly fair.

As an adult, I have not consciously been in the situation, where I have been manipulated so I am thankful of that.

Enough of that, back to the doubt.

Doubt is good, it makes one ask basic questions about their own assumptions. Sometimes it will serve to confirm and sometimes it will serve to correct. The important thing is that stuff is not being taken for granted, it is being questioned and assessed.

Fear of this process is unhealthy. If your belief (no matter what it is) can’t survive the process of honest questioning, then its not a valid belief and you are living a life with little integrity.

Even as a Christian I can honestly say that I would rather have a friend who was an atheist with integrity than one who was a Christian without. You can swap that around now that I’ve left my faith behind, I’d rather have a friend who is a Christian with integrity than an atheist without. It’s the integrity that matters, not the belief.

Someone who fears or runs away from doubt lacks that integrity.

Where is the line between religion and cult?

The BBC recently broadcast a programme called My Brother The Islamist (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-12900460). I found the content fascinating and when I compare it to my own experience of fundamental Christianity I can’t help but stop and ponder, how close is the extreme end of religion to a cult?

In the BBC programme, a man tries to answer the question of what happened to his step brother to turn him into an extreme Muslim. One quote in particular jumps out at me.

“You see all this filth, all this munkar, it will all be gone when the Sharia comes in,” he remarked, scanning disdainfully around him.

By “munkar” he meant sin, evil. He was disgusted by what surrounded him

This strikes a chord with me as its how I remember feeling at times. I would look around and be offended at all the perceived sin around me and see it as evidence of the devil at work in this wonderful Christian land that was so obviously turning its back on God.

Now I know that the brother featured here and my own brush with fundamentalism are both small representations of the religious spectrum. I know too that the vast majority of those who practice religion are more moderate.

This is why the difference between a cult and an extreme religious sect intrigues me. Cults are normally identified by their forceful encouragement of members to cut all ties with friends and family outside of the cult. Its this aspect of a cult that rang a warning bell for me with the story of the Islamist brother and had me wondering how much further down the extreme spectrum does a religion have to go in order to be a cult.

When pondering this subject I was reminded of The Nine O’Clock Service (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nine_O’Clock_Service). This was a specific service that was part of an Anglican church here in the UK and eventually grew into something potentially more dangerous. I am fairly sure that when the news broke, that the word cult was used by some to describe it. Mind you there are many who would happily call anything religious a cult so that in and of itself does not make it a cult.

The thing with The Nine O’clock Service is that it started innocuous itself and then, without the right accountability, grew into something dangerous. This was my concern with the BBC story of the brothers, does something start looking like its becoming a cult and what can be done about it?

I don’t have answers to either but I hope that moderate religious people being aware of the dangers are able to spot the act early. Certainly for those in the centre of it, its very hard to spot what is going on.