It seems apparent from early on in the history of the Church, that the existence of a Christian God was not disputed. The arguments and the philosophical debate seemed irrelevant. It simply gave many people who were already becoming suspicious of the Polytheistic system forced upon them by Rome, a chance to reassert control over their lives, and a way to escape and hide in a World of their own. A sense of individuality apart from Rome.
Doctrine became more important than spirituality and truth. Bishop Victor of Rome, around 190ad decided when Easter would be celebrated. He came up against opposition from a sect called the Quatrodecimens who insisted on celebrating Easter on Jewish passover. Victor demanded uniformity. The Catholic Church was becoming powerful very early on, and any descent from its ranks, was met with swift punishment and calls of heresy. Many gnostic groups felt the full force of the Catholic Church’s iron fist. The truth was that many different Christian sects existed. Some didn’t even acknowledge the resurrection. Many didn’t believe that Jesus was born of a virgin. There could only be one sect that reigned victorious; not because of any divine power, but because it had friends in very high and rich places. The Catholic Church spread its message violently and with threat of severe punishment, for centuries proceeding the early years of the Church. Islam is experiencing much the same attempts to monopolise knowledge and debate in Eastern Nations now. If you dare to question the tenets of Islam in a Nation like Iran, you better run for your life. That is the only reason organised religion is perpetuated. The existence of God and the philosophical arguments surrounding his supposed transcendental nature, were not explored pre-Enlightenment, through fear alone, not reason.
Anyway, today I had a short discussion with a Muslim guy who told me that as an Atheist, I could not disprove the existence of a God.
There were two problems I can see instantly with this statement.
Firstly, this is entering the realms of Deism. It is true, I cannot disprove a creator. But a creator has no attributes, and so it takes a rather large leap to get from a creator, to the Christian or Islamic God. A creator could be anything; an infinitely good creator, an infinitely evil creator, two creators, a creator whose final act before dying, was to create the universe, a creator that created the universe but then stepped back. This is entirely different from a God of religion. To prove a religion is worthy of public power, it must first prove a creator who is infinitely good, infinitely knowledgeable. And so we are given the old cosmological argument provided by Aquinas, and currently being used constantly by William Lane Craig in every debate he has:
1. Every thing has either been caused to exist by something else or else exists uncaused.
2. Not every thing has been caused to exist by something else.
3. Therefore, at least one thing is itself uncaused.
The problem being, that point two is conjecture, rather than truth. Aquinas’ logic is limited by time itself. If existence is infinite, then everything that exists has indeed been caused by that which came before. Fortunately for those of us who languish in unbelief; not everything that exists, has a cause. On the subatomic level, protons appear spontaneously and cease to exist just as quickly. The entire study of Quantum Mechanics backs this up. Both Stephen Hawking and Lawrence Krauss attest to this.
Even if Aquinas’ logic is applied to the existence of a God, it is impossible to assign the logic to the existence of a God of organised religion, because Aquinas’ God could have been the first cause, but has had nothing to do with existence ever since. Perhaps it was more than one first cause. But obviously this is irrelevant because no philosopher would take the old cosmological argument seriously any more.
There is a more rounded version and a more modern version of the cosmological argument that is early Islamic in origin, though taken from earlier traditions. But even this argument, is weak. The Kalam Argument as it is known states that:
1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
2. The universe began to exist.
3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.
It is weak because of how it is worded. The language is its downfall. “Everything that begins to exist has a cause“. This places a limit to “everything“. Everything…. that begins to exist. Which automatically excludes the idea of something that doesn’t begin to exist, i.e – a God. It is trying to prove God, by just presuming God already exists as something that didn’t begin to exist, and just existed any way. The Islamic Kalam argument does not point out where the evidence is for that which did not begin to exist. It is trying to persuade the reader that God is already a known. He is transcendental and so already exists. Almost clever, but not actually.
It is also limited by the constraints of time. Something cannot ‘begin’ unless time exists. Since time sprang into existence at the point of the big bang, there is no ’cause’ before. Because before doesn’t exist. The entire chain of cause and effect began at the point of the big bang. So, the premise of the Kalam argument is wrong. It follows then, that the rest of it, is wrong.
On the cosmological argument, the Muslim guy tried to suggest to me, that the Koran offers evidence that science has only just managed to discover. He quoted the Koran:
Then He turned to the sky, when it was still gas, and said to it, and to the earth, “Come into existence, willingly or unwillingly.” They said, “We come willingly.”
Quite how this relates to science is beyond me. As far as I can discern, a God looked at some Gas and said “make the Earth”. I’m pretty sure that isn’t what Stephan Hawking is trying to suggest. It is not a very persuasive argument to say the very very least. Even then, the Koran is saying nothing new. Even for the time period. The Ancient Greeks, 1000 years before the Koran, were theorising about atoms, gas particles and even evolution. The Greeks had guessed that the atom was the building block of everything, long before Islam sprang into existence. It would be wholly arrogant for Islam to take credit for knowledge that pre-dates it, by about a millennium. That being said, the Koran doesn’t mention atoms. It mentions gas (doesn’t go into much detail, unsurprisingly for a Religious text). And so, is wrong. Scientists would be ashamed to call this verse scientific in any way whatsoever.
The cosmological argument, in every way, fails.
Even if it didn’t fail, the cosmological argument does not imply a personal God of any sort. That is problem number one with the statement “Prove God doesn’t exist“.
The second problem and most important, is the burden of proof.
As an Atheist, I did not start by saying “God doesn’t exist“. I simply hear a religious person say “God does exist” and I reject the notion, based on the lack of evidence to support the assertion that the religious person has made.
The burden of proof is not on me to disprove the existence of a God, because it is logically impossible to do so. It would be equally as impossible to ask a religious person to prove that there isn’t a monkey sitting on my head, that turns invisible whenever someone else looks at me. They would not logically be able to disprove it, because it is an assertion that I have made without the use of evidence. The burden of proof is lodged firmly with me. If I am to make an extraordinary claim, and use it to justify horrendous abuses and prejudices (the appalling and frankly moronic and dangerous way religious people treat homosexuality), then they MUST provide extraordinary evidence.
Proof against an assertion with no characteristics or evidence, is logically impossible. I should not be expected to provide evidence for denying an assertion. The person making the assertion should provide the evidence.
So the burden of proof is not on Atheists, it is on the believers. And none of them can offer any proof whatsoever. It comes back round to the original cosmological argument, especially with reference to the Kalam argument. A God that cannot be seen or heard or have any kind of human attributes attached to it, and was the first cause so must exist outside of the realm that He created (if I make a cup, I am not part of the cup, I am apart from the cup), cannot be disproved as such. I cannot possibly, as an Atheist summon up enough arrogance to presume I can disprove something that according to those who make the assertion, exists beyond the realm of human knowledge. We are all subject to the limitations of time and space and we cannot transcend that. That goes for religious people also.
And so it stands, the burden of proof is not on me, it is on the religious person.
Needless to say, the Muslim guy I was speaking to briefly, didn’t answer.