In addition to evidential and logical arguments for atheism, there is a lesser-known third kind of argument. Modal arguments for atheism conclude that atheism is necessarily true on the basis of a mere possibility claim. In this paper Ryan Stringer considers how modal arguments for atheism contribute to the philosophical defense of atheism, concluding that modal arguments for atheism either (a) positively support atheism or (b) at least undermine modal arguments for theism.
In this paper Ryan Stringer critiques a response to atheistic arguments from evil that has been called “skeptical theism.” He starts by formulating a simple atheistic argument from evil and briefly justifying its two premises. Then he defends the argument against a skeptical theist’s potential response. First, he indirectly defends his argument by arguing that skeptical theism is both intrinsically implausible and has problematic consequences, which makes it an unreasonable response. Second, he directly defends his argument by presenting arguments supporting its second premise. Stringer concludes that skeptical theism does not undermine his argument.
In this paper Ryan Stringer assesses a modal version of the cosmological argument that is motivated by the so-called “questions of existence.” He begins by formulating the argument before offering a critical assessment of it. Specifically, he argues that it not only fails as a proof of the existence of God, but that it is not even rationally acceptable. He concludes that it does not provide rational justification for belief in God.
In this paper Ryan Stringer discusses arguments from perfection, both for and against the existence of God. He begins with a simple argument from perfection for the existence of God and argues that it is unsuccessful. Then he defends two kinds of arguments from perfection against the existence of God. The first ones are inductive and thus present atheism as a tentative conclusion, while the second one is deductive and thus purports to conclusively demonstrate atheism based on the logical inconsistency between God’s existence and the imperfect world in which we live.
In Chapter Four of Science, Confirmation, and the Theistic Hypothesis, Keith Parsons defends the dictum that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence as part of a general critique of miracle claims which aims to defend naturalism as a rational operating philosophy against potential defeaters. In this defense of miracle claims Don McIntosh argues, first, that for any unknown the burden of proof falls equally upon naturalists and supernaturalists; second, to repudiate all miracle claims in one fell swoop with a mere presumption of naturalism renders naturalism unfalsifiable and unscientific; and third, estimating the prior probability of miracles introduces an element of subjectivity that makes any general probabilistic argument against them suspect. These points leave open the possibility of confirming specific miracle claims on the basis of historical evidence and eyewitness testimony.
If God is all-powerful, then he can prevent evil; and if he is as good as can be, then he will prevent it. Why, then, does evil exist? The existence of evil implies that either God is not all-powerful, or he is not perfectly good. And if the traditional God must be both, then the existence of evil entails that such a God does not exist. Unless, of course, God has some morally sufficient reason for permitting evil—to prevent even greater evils, perhaps, or to enable some greater good. But examples of apparently pointless evils could be multiplied indefinitely, and some evils are so egregiously awful that no conceivable attendant good would be great enough to justify permitting them. But perhaps there are attendant goods that we, with our finite minds, simply cannot conceive. Perhaps; but this solution comes at a price. If we can have no inkling of what God would permit to happen, then we can equally have no inkling of whether God does, or even could, exist.
If God is omniscient, it seems that he would have to know what it is like to learn. However, in order to know what it is like to learn, one must have learned something. This entails that at one time we were in a state of not-knowing a thing that was learned, then experienced what it is like to learn. But if God is essentially omniscient, he always is and has been omniscient, so was never in a state of not-knowing. Because being in a state of not-knowing is necessary to know what it is like to learn, we would seem to have to say that God does not know what it is like to learn. But this contradicts the original claim that he does know this based on his omniscience. Thus, it seems that God’s omniscience generates a contradiction. Consequently an omniscient God cannot exist.
Supposing that atheism is true, is it important to defend its truth? Ryan Stringer emphatically answers in the affirmative. Stringer argues that if atheism is rationally held to be true, that alone is sufficient reason to defend it, for truth and rational belief are intrinsic goods, and it is generally noble to try to change others’ minds when they seem to hold false beliefs. In addition, Stringer considers a number of secondary, supplementary reasons for defending atheism. These range from fighting religiously motivated mistreatment, developing beneficial public policies, redirecting resources going to religious institutions to benefit those in need, understanding our place in the world, and fostering thinking freely as rational and autonomous beings, among other things. Stringer wraps up by considering whether anything indispensable to the good life is lost when we abandon traditional theistic belief for atheism, concluding that the purported benefits of theistic belief over atheism typically evaporate on closer inspection.
In “No Creator Need Apply: A Reply to Roy Abraham Varghese,” Keith Parsons argues that the success of science in explaining the world makes belief in God logically unnecessary, as science is fast approaching a point where everything has been explained by a completed and well-confirmed physics. As science progresses, he argues, we are left with less and less need to hypothesize the existence of a Creator. But to the contrary, Paul Herrick argues that philosophical theism rests on a rationally satisfying and philosophically attractive logical basis that cannot, in principle, be overturned by the continued progress of natural science.
This article examines Nowicki’s novel version of the Kalam Cosmological Argument (N-KCA), and finds it seriously flawed. The N-KCA purportedly shows the factual impossibility of a denumerably infinite set of coexisting concrete entities; and that there would be such a set were an infinite temporal series of events to obtain because each existing substance bears its own necessarily permanent temporal marks and those of its ancestors. Nowicki, professing the A-theory of time, nevertheless maintains that truth-makers of past-event propositions are not tensed facts, according to some correspondence theory of truth, but rather the temporal marks borne by existing substances.
Despite his seminary roots, John Loftus has come to conclude that Christianity cannot be reasonably defended on the basis of the available evidence. In this overview of his reasons for ultimately rejecting the Christian faith, Loftus considers a variety of sociological, philosophical, scientific, biblical, and historical facts, explaining why he is now an atheist and what it means for him to live life without God. His approach does not proceed from any internal theological inconsistencies, but rather from inconsistencies between theological ideas and the empirical reality in which we find ourselves. He ultimately concludes that all modern, civilized, educated, and scientifically literate persons should reject Christianity, and that a proper skeptical attitude toward religion, informed by modern science, yields a tentative naturalism subject to potential falsification by better evidence.
In The Miracle of Theism and elsewhere John L. Mackie argued that the existence of an omniscient, omnipotent, and wholly good God is logically incompatible with the existence of evil, as God could have created persons who always freely choose the good. Alvin Plantinga responded with his famous Free Will Defense, in which he claimed that, under certain conditions, it was impossible for God to create a world containing no evil whatsoever. In this refutation, Raymond D. Bradley notes that these conditions–such as actualizing a world containing significantly free creatures or one in which all of God’s creatures suffer from “transworld depravity”–were entirely up to God, in that he could have refrained from creating such a world. Since in virtue of his omniscience any such God would have known the consequences of creating the world that he did, he would bear command responsibility for all the evils that resulted from his creation–if he only existed in the first place. In other words, a morally perfect, omnipotent, and omniscient God does not now, and never did, exist.
In this highly original and challenging essay, Raymond Bradley develops an argument that all religions are probably false inspired by David Hume’s famous discussion of the ‘contrary miracles’ of rival religions. According to Bradley’s argument from contrariety, any one of the vast numbers of religions ever conceived (or to be conceived) makes factual claims contradicted by the claims of all of the other religions. Moreover, the claims of any particular religion are generally as well-attested as the claims of all of the others. Consequently, given the “weight” of the “evidence” of all of the other religions, the probability that the claims of any one religion are true is exceedingly low. From this it follows that all religions are probably false.
In this autobiographical account of his journey from Baptist fundamentalist to freethinker, Raymond D. Bradley outlines his reality-driven philosophical predisposition and the difficulties it generated for his acceptance of traditional Christian doctrines throughout his childhood. These difficulties with specific doctrines–several of which Bradley discusses in detail–matured into a brief stint with deism before finally culminating in full-blown, outspoken atheism.
In Kingdom Coming Michelle Goldberg lets America’s “Christian Reconstructionists,” who openly advocate making the Bible the basis of a shari’a-type religious law, speak for themselves. Though considered extreme even within the religious right, an offshoot called dominionism, or Christian Nationalism, openly advocates theocracy and is rapidly gaining ground among “mainstream” right-wing Christians. Those swept away in this fundamentalist counterculture live in a universe that they have created, separate from and parallel to the one that the rest of us live in. The immediate danger they pose is not their impact on social issues, but the subversion of rationality itself, which has been achieved to an alarming extent. Today the best established scientific conclusions are routinely undermined and derided, and even the mainstream media feel that they have to offer “balance” on scientific issues by giving equal time to cranks and crackpots. The religious right is motivated, organized, and well-funded, and they are not going away. We ignore them at our peril. Goldberg has done us a service in giving us a beautifully crafted statement of why we fight.
According to Alister McGrath, the early 21st century marks the decline of atheism. In this critique of McGrath’s arguments, Keith Parsons considers whether the intellectual clout, stature, or influence of atheism has in fact declined in recent years, concluding that McGrath does not even begin to address the real intellectual case for atheism. That disbelief in God is just as much a matter of faith as belief in God can only be a stale platitude from McGrath given his failure to even superficially survey the best arguments for atheism. McGrath does address, however, four charges made by Richard Dawkins against religion, including the charge that evolution makes God unnecessary as an explanation and that religion is a source of much of the misery in the world. Parsons concludes that once one appropriately qualifies or refines Dawkins’ accusations, McGrath’s critique fails to adequately address the underlying problems for religion that inspire them. Moreover, to the extent that the influence of inherently controversial and divisive religions on people’s lives grows, a corresponding dawn of the popularity of atheism is inevitable.
One of the clearest statements of the case for a Creator is written by Roy Abraham Varghese in his introduction to the volume Cosmos, Bios, Theos. Here Varghese argues that the best explanation for why there is something rather than nothing necessarily terminates in God, rather than the ultimate features of the physical universe, for unlike any physical thing, God is self-explanatory. But we are left completely in the dark on the sense in which God is self-explanatory, and how that would differ from the self-explanatoriness of a putative original, uncaused state of the physical universe. Consequently, I argue that there is no intellectual difficulty in postulating an initial state of the universe as a ultimate brute fact, and conclude that Varghese’s arguments to the contrary fail.
David Eller’s Natural Atheism is no ordinary freethought handbook. Its chapter on church-state separation reviews most of the appropriate legislation and case law, concluding that freedom from religion is protected by the constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion. As an unapologetic rationalist, Eller insists that any deviation from reason–including faith–merely masquerades as thinking. Advocating the relativity of moral systems to specific social contexts, Eller nevertheless thinks that reason can ground moral systems by encouraging socially beneficial behavior on the basis of intersubjectivity. And while he thinks that no religious source truly values toleration, he is ambiguous about the extent to which freethinkers should tolerate religion for social convenience at the expense of truth.
Hector Avalos’ Fighting Words adds organization, scholarly research, and coherent theory to the phenomenon of religiously inspired violence. Analyzing religious violence in terms of “scarce resource theory,” Avalos argues that sacred spaces and authoritative scriptures constitute scarce resources accessible to, controlled by, or interpreted by only a few. Competition for these resources, or for group privilege and salvation, inevitably leads to violence which is only that much more tragic because of the unverifiability of the very existence of such resources. Failure to recognize the authority of, or correctly interpret or observe, a particular sacred text creates the potential for bloodshed; and Judaism, Christianity, and Islam’s soteriological justifications for violence only exacerbate its realization. Rather than merely explaining the root causes of religious violence, Avalos encourages us to assist religionists in modifying their traditions to thwart the maintenance and creation of unverifiable scarcities, or otherwise seek the elimination of their violent traditions.
Susan Jacoby’s Freethinkers paints a broad picture of American secularism, beginning with the US Constitution’s break with all precedent in failing to make even a passing reference to a deity, then outlining the importance of Enlightenment values–particularly the concept of natural rights–in propelling the abolition of slavery. Though Jacoby surveys a cast of nineteenth-century secularist heroes, she does not sufficiently emphasize the battles taken up by late nineteenth-century freethought organizations. But she does enjoin us to educate ourselves and ensure that the public never overlooks the harm that religion has caused, offering no compromises for the sake of political correctness.
Helen Bennett’s Humanism, What’s That? will undoubtedly please those searching for philosophical confirmation, but utterly fails as a work of children’s fiction. With her mechanical writing style and one-dimensional characters, Bennett virtually ignores the most fundamental elements of effective storytelling, never revealing the finer details of the story’s setting. The fictional teacher’s encouragement to trust doctors rather than the will of God, and to seek knowledge in general, is commendable. But her mildly informative history lessions are hardly inspiring, and her god-like characterization of Humanism’s adherents are Pollyannaish and dogmatic. Though potentially helpful to some, freethinking parents ought to be aware of its occasional tendency toward irrational or shallow thinking.
In his typical accessible style, Alan Dershowitz tackles some of the most central ethical questions in Rights From Wrongs. Do we discover rights derived from either God or Nature, and if not, on what basis do we invent them? Should we pretend that there is a perfect and absolute source of rights even if we know that there is no such beast, lest everything be permitted? Arguing that such “fraud” would only invite more mischief, Dershowitz develops a secular theory of rights that he intends to ground, among other things, the free marketplace of ideas. But while appreciating the merits of Dershowitz’s attempt to derive rights from agreed-upon wrongs, Krause is skeptical of the capacity of the general public to come to any sort of reasoned agreement about what sorts of actions are morally wrong.
According to M. D. Faber’s The Psychological Roots of Religious Belief, although we are born free of religious inclinations, widespread belief in a personal God has its roots in our early childhood development. In infancy, for instance, a child relies on his or her seemingly omnipotent caregiver (a “proto-deity”) to supplicate cries (“proto-prayer”) for nourishment and care. The child is consequently primed to map this process onto a religious narrative complete with its Parent-God. By promoting a religious narrative early on, religious institutions lay the groundwork for religious belief by exploiting an essentially subconscious process before a child has fully developed the ability to reason. None of us are quite “wired for God,” however; the existence of nonbelievers testifies to the possibility of accepting alternative narratives by the time one is exposed to religious ones. Despite reservations about some of the author’s contentions, Krause uses Faber’s analysis to offer his own recommendations for ensuring that one’s children enjoy the rewards of a rational life.
(2006) Introduction Kyle J. Gerkin’s critique of Lee Strobel’s The Case for Faith has a great deal to recommend it. It is not my intention to defend Strobel’s apologetics and I have not even read any of his books. Rather, as a historian specializing in the history of science and religion, as well as being […]
Jordan Howard Sobel’s Logic and Theism is long, abstruse, and technical, but valuable for those who have an interest in its topics. Those looking for arguments based on empirical phenomena said to be best explained by the God hypothesis should look elsewhere. Sobel’s focus is, rather, issues of definition and logical structure. He addresses everything from the ontological argument to the fine-tuning argument, demolishing all of the main arguments for God’s existence. Moreover, he argues that the kind of omnipotence and omniscience that theists ascribe to God is incoherent, and defends both evidential and logical arguments from evil against the existence of God. Finally, he turns to a discussion of practical reasons for belief in God, such as those invoked by Pascal’s wager. No cutting-edge research on these topics should omit Sobel’s work.
The latest release from the senior pastor of the World Harvest Church might not inspire great thoughts, but it certainly invites a great deal of criticism. A litany of deficiencies could be ennumerated: citing the founding fathers only when it suits him; glossing over the Bible’s endorsement of slavery and the Christian Crusaders’ brutality; showing little sign of compassion for the poor; demonizing entire segments of society because he dislikes their “lifestyle”; and so on. After noting the irony of Parsley’s characterization of Islam as a violent superstition, Krause supplements Parsley’s chapter on education with a history of Christian attitudes to public education. Peddling the standard fare in evangelical circles on abortion and the media, Parsley leaves little doubt that he intends Silent No More to do nothing more than play off its audience’s fears as a vehicle for his own (unreflective) ideas.
Ted Drange develops two arguments for the nonexistence of the God of evangelical Christianity, an all-powerful and loving being greatly concerned about the fate of human beings and desiring a personal relationship with them. According to his argument from confusion (AC), widespread confusion between Christians over matters of ultimate importance entails that the God of evangelical Christianity probably does not exist. In particular, the rampant diversification of Christian sects on such matters entails that, even if any one of those sects is correct, large numbers of Christians must hold false beliefs about issues of ultimate importance–contrary to what one would predict if the God of evangelical Christianity existed. The argument from biblical defects (ABD) contends that if the God of evangelical Christianity existed, then the Bible would probably be perfectly clear and authoritative and without marks of solely human authorship; but since the Bible does not meet either of these criteria, the God of evangelical Christianity probably does not exist.
Book of Abraham Book of Abraham Skinny (1997) by rpcman (Off Site) Unanswerable questions on the Book of Abraham that Mormon apologists ignore. Book of Abraham Facsimiles by James David (Off Site) Photographs and images of the facsimiles. They have nothing to do with the Book of Abraham. Book of Abraham Facsimile No. 2 Altered […]
In this review of Sam Harris’ The End of Faith, Kenneth Krause notes Harris’ most important points about the destructive nature of faith. After pointing out that hundreds of millions of Americans hold beliefs clearly inconsistent with well-established scientific and historical facts, Harris turns to a discussion of how faith adversely affects our daily lives, directly motivates religious violence, and even threatens the future of civilization. The problem is not so much specific religious doctrines as it is the principle of faith itself–a principle which eschews reason and ends all meaningful conversation. Harris also blames religious moderates as much as fundamentalists for the ongoing religious conflicts of our times. Though Krause greatly appreciates all of these points, he ends by noting at least two deficiences of this book.
AIK is a new probabilistic argument against the existence of the Christian God. According to one version of the argument, if the Christian God existed he would ensure that (nearly) all human beings have an excellent knowledge of the Bible before they die. But, as a matter of historical fact, most human beings do not even get close to having an excellent knowledge of the Bible before they die (if they even know it at all). Therefore, the Christian God probably doesn’t exist.