Various articles related to general and other arguments for the existence of God(s). In addition to the articles below, see also related Debates, Reviews, and Links. To purchase related reading, go to the Secular Web Book Store.
Argument from Confusion [ Index ]
Michael Martin on Presuppositionalism [ Index ]
Michael Martin has written so many articles on presuppositionalism that we have dedicated an entire page to indexing these articles.
On first appearance, Richard Swinburne’s The Existence of God offers a highly structured, coherent, and rigorous argument for God’s existence grounded in Bayes’ theorem, inductive reasoning, confirmation theory, the intrinsic probability of simple hypotheses, substance dualism, and moral realism. But Gabe Czobel questions both the rigor of Swinburne’s overall argument, and whether it really yields the conclusion that Swinburne expects the reader to reach. An unsympathetic reader would have difficulty overlooking its major structural flaws, particularly where the argument does not live up to its promise of being grounded in premises undisputed by all. Moreover, it only promises a threadbare deity who is almost robotic in nature, and who offers little assurance of benefit to his adherents in this life or any other.
In an essay derived from his longer work “Mind-Brain Dependence as Twofold Support for Atheism,” Conifer employs both rigorous informal argumentation and formal logic so as to thoroughly debunk the popular theistic argument that human consciousness entails God’s existence. The essay includes a critical appraisal of the version of the argument put forward by the theistic philosopher Richard Swinburne.
Does God Exist? (1997) (Off Site) by Tim Gorski
Gorski, Pastoral Director of the North Texas Church of Freethought presents this hypothetical exchange on this question between believers and unbelievers.
“The ‘evidentialist challenge‘ is the gauntlet thrown down by atheist writers such as Antony Flew, Norwood Russell Hanson, and Michael Scriven. They argue that in debates over the existence of God, the burden of proof should fall on the theist. They contend that if theists are unable to provide cogent arguments for theism, i.e., arguments showing that it is at least more probable than not that God exists, then atheism wins by default. It follows that atheists are under no obligation to argue for the nonexistence of God; their only task is to show that theistic arguments fail. . . . Prof. Ralph McInerny … argue[s] that the burden of proof should fall on the unbeliever. Here I shall rebut Prof. McInerny’s claim and argue that, in the context of public debate over the truth of theism, theists cannot shirk a heavy burden of proof.”
” . . . all the major proofs for a theistic God contain a gap. Even if they are otherwise unassailable, they fail to prove what they purport to prove: that a theistic God exists. As proofs of theism these arguments are incomplete because the conclusion that in fact follows from their premises, barring other problems, is compatible with religious views besides theism.”
Narveson refutes the ontological, cosmological, teleological, and moral arguments. Narveson points out that if we are going to use theism as an explanation for the alleged fine-tuning of the universe, then we must know what God’s plan was and how he did it. It may be that God’s plan is beyond human comprehension, but in that case theism cannot be considered an explanation.
Why is there so much human suffering in the world if God is all good and all powerful? According to Craig, God aims for the maximal number of people as possible to know God and His salvation. Yet if this truly were God’s goal, there are many things which God could have done (but did not) and which do not involve suffering. Also, it is empirically false that suffering leads to knowledge of God. Moreover, if Craig’s theodicy were true, then God should actually increase the amount of suffering in the world.
The author engages in a Wittgensteinian elucidation of the mystical feeling that the world should exist. The believer who asks “why is there something rather than nothing?” is expressing an attitude toward the brute fact of existence. The believer is not asking how a thing came to be, but expressing the mystical feeling that a thing is.
Dr. Berggren argues that beliefs are not the result of the intentional act of choosing, therefore, it is immoral to punish someone for being in the state of unbelief.
Whether deserved or not, Antony Flew acquired a reputation for wrongheadedly using Karl Popper’s falsifiability criterion against theological statements such as “God exists” or “God loves us.” He also famously maintained that God debates should proceed under a presumption of atheism, with theistic debaters bearing the entire burden of proof while atheistic debaters simply tore down their arguments. In this paper Charles Echelbarger aims to make sense of why Flew seemed to be opposed to atheist debaters bearing a burden of proof by additionally offering positive arguments for atheism. Echelbarger concludes that a presumption of atheism may be justified if an atheist debater provides justified doubts that “God exists” expresses a proposition that could be true or false at all, such as if the concept of God definitionally includes the incoherent notion of an agent that acts outside of time. Theological statements may be unfalsifiable precisely because they possess such undetected conceptual incoherence. Though flawed in presentation, Flew’s basic insight is more important than has often been acknowledged, and it is still highly relevant to current discussions in the philosophy of religion.
“Belief in Heaven is an essential part of the great monotheistic religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Famous theologians have written about it and ordinary theists hope to go there after death . . . However, the concept of Heaven is neither clear nor unproblematic. As I will show[,] there are three serious problems with the notion of Heaven. First, the concept of Heaven lacks coherence. Second, it is doubtful that theists can reconcile the heavenly character of Heaven with standard defenses against the Argument from Evil such as the Free Will Defense. Third, Heaven is unfair and, thus, it is in conflict with the goodness of God.”
The myth of “you can’t prove a negative” circulates throughout the nontheist community, and it is good to dispel myths whenever we can. The real issue is the problem of induction, which is faced by both positive and negative claims. But there can still be a reasonable belief or unbelief even in what we can never know for certain.
“Robert M. Adams, in a brilliant, thought-provoking essay, ‘Must God Create the Best?’, puts forth a theodicy for God’s creating inferior people to those he could have created or, in general, a less perfect world than he could have created, in terms of his bestowing grace upon these created beings. … It makes available to God the following excuse for creating free beings who produce a less favorable balance of moral good over moral evil than that which would have been realized by other free beings he could have created: ‘Sure I created some rotten apples or, at any rate, people who are morally inferior to others I could have created, but in doing so I was bestowing my grace upon them–creating them without any consideration of their (moral) merit . . .’ Whether or not Adams intended this wide an application of his theodicy of grace, it will be instructive to see how it fares when so interpreted.”
Science, Confirmation, and the Theistic Hypothesis (1986) [ Index ] by Keith M. Parsons
This thesis examines various attempts to construe theism as an explanatory hypothesis and to defend it with arguments similar to those employed in the confirmation of scientific hypotheses. It is the aim of this work to show that such a construal fails to confirm theism and in actuality leads to its disconfirmation.
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.
Why Bertrand Russell Was Not A Christian (1996) (Off Site) [ Index ] by Rev. Ralph A. Smith
Smith, a Christian apologist, rebuts Bertrand Russell’s refutations of the traditional theistic arguments.