No God. Now What? An Introduction to Secular Humanism Session II
Session IIA Few Reasons Why SH Don’t Believe In Session I, we said that there are basically ten reasons why Secular Humanists do not believe in the supernatural worldview. Among those reasons are four that are particularly devastating to faith for anyone who has not closed their mind to empirical evidence, scientific proof, independent historical accounts, and sound logic. 1
The 4 Most Devastating Arguments Against The Existence of God • All rational arguments for God’s existence are flawed. • Faith is illogical. • The Problem of Evil • The Problem of Scripture
Why It Matters: Belief in God Has Had Terrible Consequences Historically, most Americans have relied on their superstitions, willful ignorance, and wishful, magical thinking to make horrific political decisions that have caused everything from ridiculous inconvenience to social injustice to preventable suffering and death on a massive scale.
Examples Since the United States was founded, the superstitious have managed to pass laws that prohibit: • shopping on the Sundays; • possessing alcoholic beverages; • inter-racial marriage; • women & non-whites from voting; • atheists from holding public office; • practicing a religion other than Christianity; • having sex in any position other than missionary; • sale and consumption of marijuana, even for prescribed medical purposes; • sex with someone other than one’s own spouse; • the sale of birth-control devices and medicines; • physician assisted suicide; • abortion; • embryonic stem cell research; • witchcraft and • same-sex marriage.
Using sacred scripture to rationalize their bigotry, superstitious Americans have also passed laws: 1. validating the superiority of the white race; 2. legalizing indentured servitude and slavery; and 3. mandating forced re-location of Native Americans and destruction of their culture.
Despite The Faithful’s Best Efforts To Prove The Existence & Goodness Of God Over Thousands of Years… All arguments have so far failed.
Basically, There Are 10 (or 11) Arguments For The Existence Of God. All are ancient.All Are Fatally Flawed. • The Argument From First CauseSometimes called the Cosmological Argumentoriginally proposed by St. Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century. Claim: everything had to have a prior cause to bring it into existence. • Yet, there has to have been a first cause for the creation of the universe. • This First Cause is called “God.” • Therefore, God exists.
Flaws In The First Cause Argument First, if everything has to originate from a prior cause, who then created God? Second, if God always existed, never needing a first cause Itself, this statement would invalidate the original hypothesis; i.e., everything requires a prior cause to bring it into existence.
Flaws In The First Cause Argument Third, Aquinas’ “logic” proved nothing more than that he assumed God’s existence as a matter of faith. Fourth, Aquinas ignores the more likely possibility that the natural universe itself is eternal and no deity is required to explain it.2
2. The Argument From Design (Sometimes called the Teleological Argument. Teleos = end or purpose. Teleological = pertaining to the purpose of design.) Claim: complex life could not have occurred by “random chance.” * Since we can observe complex design in the world, there must be an Intelligent Designer, whom people generally refer to as God. 3 * Theist’s misunderstanding of evolution.
Flaws In The Argument From Design • No evolutionary biologist claims that complex life evolved by chance. Evolution by natural selection is exceedingly purposeful (survival of the fittest for the purpose of reproduction to perpetuate the species). • Complex life developed through gradual (billions of years) non-random evolution by natural (sexual) selection, a totally natural process. • Evolution by natural selection explains a great deal about complex life, is easily tested, and is as well supported scientifically as the theories of gravity, electricity, and relativity.
Flaws In The Argument From Design 4. Fundamentalists argue that complex design requires an Intelligent Designer. They conveniently ignore this little problem: • They claim that their god is the all-powerful, all-knowing Creator-of-the-Universe. • Nothing could be more complex than an all-powerful, all-knowing Creator-of-the-Universe. • Who, then, designed their god?
Before & After Darwin’s Origins Of Species • Before Darwin, the Argument From Design actually made the existence of God seem plausible. 4 • After Darwin, the unprovable belief in God became unnecessary for explaining the design & complexity of life. • This is why religious fundamentalists are trying so desperately to downgrade evolution to “just another theory.” 5
Flaws In The Argument From Design Finally, even if this Intelligent Design argument was provable, which it isn’t, it would say nothing whatever about the character or personality of the Designer. For that, theists would have to rely on the veracity of scripture.6
3. The Argument From Morality Claim: without God, everything (every evil) is permissible. Civilization, and all of its benefits, would be impossible. • Without God, we could not know right from wrong. • But we DO have an innate sense of right and wrong. • This innate moral sense is universal. • Therefore, it could only have come from God, our Creator.7
Flaws In The Argument From Morality • That moralities are similar across history and culture does not prove the existence of God. • There are also remarkable differences. • Example: Nazis vs. Jains 8
Examples (con’t) • The faithful claim that without God, everything is permissible. The ugly reality is that, “With God, everything is permissible.” • For thousands of years, the faithful have used scripture, the so-called Words of God, to justify the most horrific injustices and atrocities. • It would be more logical to argue that since we are not moral beings, God does not exist.
Examples (con’t) Claim: “Without God, morality would be relative. • The faithful argue that without God, there can be no absolute rules for determining right from wrong. The truth is that God’s (600+) laws are relative. They have been subject to personal preferences & cultural biases in scriptural interpretations for millennia. • For instance, liberal believers argue endlessly with conservative believers over the proper interpretation of scripture regarding such matters as capital punishment, abortion, same-sex marriage, and church-state separation. • The greater truth is this: if you are inclined to reason & compassion, you can find scripture to support loving others in the name of God. And if you are inclined to irrational hate & fear, you can find scripture to support killing others in the name of God.
4. The Argument From Fear Claim: without God, life would be terrifying. • If God does not exist, we all are going to suffer and die and there is no one to prevent it. • This prospect is not only terrifying, but unacceptable. We need God to make us feel safe. • Therefore, God must exist.
Argument From Fear: the Corollary: Claim: if God does exist, and we don’t acknowledge His existence by slavishly obeying His Divine Will, we will all be punished in this life and in a hideous afterlife forever. • Therefore, we should all act as though God exists and obey His moral rules out of fear of punishment.
Flaws In The Argument From Fear The argument from fear is merely wishful thinking. • The implications of God not existing are frightening. • Therefore, (we hope) God exists. 9 10
5. The Argument From Purpose Claim: humans have an innate sense of wonder and a basic sense of grand purpose & meaning. Therefore, God must exists. • We look at our lives and up at the stars and wonder; “Is this all there is?” • “Are we merely an accident of nature?” • “Are we just another creature with no more inherent worth than a worm?” • “Does my life – my suffering and death; my moral choices – mean nothing?” • Only a being created by God could conceive such questions.
5. The Argument From Purpose (con’t) Corollary claim: without God, people would have no purpose, no reason to live. To the faithful, these thoughts are too depressing. Surely, we humans must be a part of some Grand Cosmic Purpose. Human life must mean something in the great scheme of things. Otherwise, there would be no point to our lives. It would all be meaningless. Therefore, God must exist.
Flaws In The Argument From Purpose • Just because we want our lives to have some cosmic meaning does not make it so. • Even young children can figure out this is merely wishful thinking as soon as they are old enough to figure out that wishing for a new bicycle will not automatically make one appear.
More Definitions: metaphysics The philosophical study of ultimate causes and underlying nature of things. • meta = beyond • physics = physical or natural • metaphysics = beyond the natural world • Thus, metaphysics is speculation about the supernatural.
More Definition: ontology • A branch of metaphysics dealing with theories or speculation about the nature of existence. • The study of the kinds of beings, such as angels, demons, and gods, that exist and their characteristics, such as intentions & behavior. • Remember: all metaphysical theories, including ontological ones, are unprovable.
6. The Ontological Argument Claim: logic alone can prove that God must exists. • First proposed by St. Anselm of Canterbury in the 11th. century A.D. • Claims to derive the existence of God from the concept of “a being than which no greater can be conceived.”
6. The Ontological Argument (con’t) • Anselm reasoned that, if such a being fails to exist, then a greater being — namely, a being than which no greater can be conceived, and which exists — can be conceived. • But this would be absurd: nothing can be greater than a being than which no greater can be conceived. • Therefore, a being than which no greater can be conceived — i.e., God — exists.
6. The Ontological Argument (con’t) In other words, God must exist because we cannot conceive of anything greater.
6. The Ontological Argument (con’t) Another way to express the “logic” of this argument. • God, by definition, is the most perfect being imaginable or even possible. • Such a perfect being must possess all of the attributes or characteristics of perfection. • Since it is better (more perfect) to exist than not, existence is an attribute of perfection. • Thus, by definition, God exists.
Flaws In The Ontological Argument • The only conclusion that follows logically from the premise is: • By definition: God or gods exist in our imagination. • If you want to know more, go to: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ontological-arguments/#ParOntArg. • Thinking deeply about the ontological argument will only convince you that God or gods exist if you want them to.
7. The Argument From Consciousness Claim: I can think, therefore God must exist.
Flaw In The Argument From Consciousness • I can think, therefore it is highly unlikely that God or gods exist. • ‘Nuff said.
8. The Argument From Miracles Claim: so many people claim to have experienced phenomena so amazing and seemingly in violation of the laws of nature that such happenings can only be explained by the existence of God who intervenes in people’s lives.
Flaws In The Argument From Miracles • A lot of people believe weird things. • Some sincerely believe they have been abducted by aliens, others say they saw ghosts, and still others claim to have communicated with the dead through a medium at a séance. • Many people have heard a voice coming from somewhere inside their head which they assume must be the voice of an angel or even God Himself. The Prophet Mohammed is a good example.
Flaws In The Argument From Miracles (con’t) • Anecdotal evidence for the existence of God is hardly persuasive but often amusing. • The magicians, Penn & Teller, have been debunking such claims for decades in the most entertaining fashion. • Go to www.pennandteller.com. • Philosopher, Michael Martin, “Since experiences of God are good grounds for the existence of God, are not experiences of the absence of God good grounds for the non-existence of God?”
9. The Arguments From Scripture Claim: scripture is divine revelation. • We know scripture is the inerrant Word of God because scripture tells us so. • Therefore, God exists.
Flaws In The Argument From Scripture • The argument commits a logical fallacy - Circular Argument. The conclusion merely re-states the assumption in the premise. • Moreover, the claim is a belief unsupported by empirical evidence, scientific proof, independent historical accounts, or sound logic.
10. The Argument From Happiness Claim: only a belief in God (or gods, eternal paradise, etc.) can make us happy. • When I believe in God, etc. I am happy (or at least happier than if I doubt). • Therefore God must exist.
Flaws In The Argument From Happiness • This is an argument for the benefits of belief (i.e.; happiness) not an argument for the existence of one or many gods. • In effect, it claims that we must believe in order to be happy, whether or not god or gods actually exist.
Three Free Thoughts on Happiness Happiness requires only three ingredients (and belief in God is not one of them): • Someone to love. (purpose & reason to live.) • Something to do. (e.g., keeping busy doing something we believe is constructive or useful to others. Makes life meaningful.) • Hope for the future.
Two More Free Thoughts on Happiness • Success: getting what you want. • Happiness: wanting what you get.11
Hope: A Secular Humanist Perspective • Since we are all sentenced to permanent death (annihilation), hope for the future is sometimes the most troubling for atheists. • But we can hope (and work) for a bright future for our children and grandchildren and be just as happy as someone who has hope for a pleasant eternal life that will never be.
11. “Pascal’s Wager” Claim: Blaise Pascal, a 17th century French mathematician and philosopher, said that we should believe that God, heaven, and hell exist because: • if we are wrong, we lose little or nothing; and • if we are right, we gain Eternal Paradise.
Flaws In “Pascal’s Wager” 1. Not really an argument for the existence of God. Only for the benefits of belief in God, whether or not God actually exists.
Flaws In “Pascal’s Wager” (con’t) 2. Pascal, a Christian of sorts, was arguing for belief in Jesus as the Savior of Mankind. But the same “wager” can be made with any other religion.
Flaws In “Pascal’s Wager” (con’t) 3. Pascal’s wager” assumes that belief has little or no cost. • If in fact our life in the here and now is all there is, as atheists claim based on the lack of credible evidence for an afterlife, • then sacrificing our lives in servitude to a silly superstition would mean that we have lost everything. End segment: all arguments for God fail.