A wide variety of arguments
From the IAmAnAtheist feedback form:
The universe came into existence at a point in the distant past. Nothing can come into existence, though, unless there is something to bring it into existence; nothing comes from nothing. There must therefore be some being outside of the universe that caused the universe to exist. This argument, if it is successful, demonstrates the existence of a Creator that transcends time, that has neither beginning nor end.
The universe could have been different from the way that it is in many ways. It could have had different laws of physics; it could have had a different arrangement of planets and stars; it could have begun with a more powerful or a weaker big bang.
The vast majority of these possible universes would not have allowed for the existence of life, so we are very fortunate indeed to have a universe that does. On an atheistic world-view, there is no way to explain this good fortune; the atheist must put this down to chance. On the view that God exists, though, we can explain why the universe is the way that it is; it is because God created the universe with beings like us in mind. This argument, if it is successful, strongly suggests the existence of a Creator that takes an interest in humanity.
The big bang occurred as it did was crucial for the development of life, because the rate of expansion of the universe, i.e. the speed at which the pieces of matter flew apart, had to fall within certain limits if life was to develop. Had the rate of expansion been too slow, then gravity would have pulled all of the matter back together again in a big crunch; there wouldn t have been enough time for life to emerge.
Had the rate of expansion been too fast, then gravity wouldn t have had a chance to pull any of the pieces of matter together, and planets, stars and even gases wouldn t have been able to form; there wouldn t have been anything for life to emerge on.
The rate of expansion following the big bang, of course, was just right to allow life to develop; if it weren t then we wouldn t be here now.
That this was the case, though, was either an extraordinary fluke, or was intended by the big bang s Creator. Had the rate of expansion been even fractionally slower one part in a million million then the big bang would have been followed by a big crunch before life could have developed. Had the rate of expansion been even fractionally faster one part in a million then stars and planets could not have formed. It is highly unlikely that a random big bang would be such as to allow life to develop, and therefore highly unlikely, according to the argument from design, that the big bang from which our universe was formed happened at random.
The fine-tuning of the universe for life can only be explained with reference to a Creator, as the result of intelligent design.
Moral laws have the form of commands; they tell us what to do. Commands can t exist without a commander though, so who is it that commands us to behave morally?
Moral commands, though, have ultimate authority; they are to be obeyed under all circumstances.
There are some things that can t exist unless something else exists along with them. There can t be something that is being carried unless there is something else that is carrying it. There can t be something that is popular unless there are lots of people that like it.
Commands are like this; commands can t exist without something else existing that commanded them.
The moral argument seeks to exploit this fact; If moral facts are a kind a command, the moral argument asks, then who commanded morality? To answer this question, the moral argument suggests that we look at the importance of morality
Belief in God has consequences; if one believes in God, then one must make a decision either to follow him or to oppose him. Atheism, then, offers an easy way out for those unable to deal with the reality of life with God.Some think that this view of atheism is correct, that atheists really are consciously aware of the existence of God but choose to rebel against him by professing unbelief.
Much of the evil in the world occurs only because we choose to create it. The greatest evils in the world are those inflicted by man upon man. In making the world, God faced a choice: he could create free agents like us, or he could create automata, robots, without the ability to make choices of their own. God chose to create free agents, and he made the right choice; a world containing free agents is clearly more valuable than a world of robots. The pay-off for this is the abuse of freedom that we see around us. Free agents sometimes choose to abuse their freedom, to do wrong. The wrong that we do, though, the suffering that we cause, great though it may be, is a price worth paying for something that is profoundly valuable: genuine freedom. Though God could have prevented evil by creating a world of automata, it is a good thing that he did not.
The free-will defence is, I believe, a partial success. I believe that it is correct to say that it is better that the world contain agents with significant freedom than that it contains only automata, and I believe that much of the evil that we see around us is a consequence of the abuse of this freedom. Not all evil, however, can be explained in this way. There is much evil that is not inflicted by man. Natural disasters, for example, cause great destruction, but there is nothing that we have done that causes them and there is often nothing that we could have done to prevent them. This brings us to a second response to the problem of evil.
The second response to the problem of evil is that the existence of evil is a necessary condition for the existence of certain kinds of good. There are a number of character traits that are valuable only if evil exists. Compassion, for instance, is of great value, but can only exist if there is suffering. Bravery, too, is a virtue, but only if we sometimes face danger. Self-sacrifice is another great good, but can only exist if there is inter-dependence, if some people find themselves in situations where they need help from others. God created us in such a way that we would depend upon one another, that we would be drawn together to form a community. If each of us were self-sufficient, safe from suffering, then the great goods that come from this would not have been possible.
paradox of the stone: Can God create a stone so heavy that he cannot lift it?
Either God can create such a stone or he can t.
If he can t, the argument goes, then there is something that he cannot do, namely create the stone, and therefore he is not omnipotent.
If he can, it continues, then there is also something that he cannot do, namely lift the stone, and therefore he is not omnipotent.
Either way, then, God is not omnipotent. A being that is not omnipotent, though, is not God. God, therefore, does not exist.
Problems With the Paradox of the Stone
Although this simple argument may appear compelling at first glance, there are some fundamental problems with it. Before identifying these problems, however, it is necessary to make clear what is meant by omnipotence .
According to Descartes, God can do the logically impossible; he can make square circles, and he can make 2 + 2 = 5.
According to Aquinas, God is able to do anything possible; he can part the red sea, and he can restore the dead to life, but he cannot violate the laws of logic and mathematics in the way that Descartes thought that he could.
If Descartes conception of omnipotence is correct, then any attempt to disprove God s existence using logic is hopeless. If God can do the logically impossible, then he can both create a stone so heavy that he cannot lift it, and lift it, and so can do all things. Yes, there s a contradiction in this,
According to Aquinas understanding of omnipotence, remember, God is able to do anything possible, but not anything impossible, and creating a stone that God cannot lift is something impossible.
Well now, that was pretty comprehensive! I’ll try and respond in as few words as possible, just to keep the overall length in balance.
In your first-cause argument, you state, “There must therefore be some being outside of the universe that caused the universe to exist.” This is incorrect. There is no reason to assume that the cause is a being — it could be a natural process.
You continue, saying, “This argument, if it is successful, demonstrates the existence of a Creator that transcends time, that has neither beginning nor end.” You are apparently assuming that time was created along with the universe — that there was no time until the universe was created. If there was no time until the universe was created, then the cause of the universe could not have occurred before the universe was created (nothing can be “before” anything if time doesn’t exist). Therefore, the cause of the universe could not have preceded the creation of the universe. If cause does not precede effect, your argument fails.
I do not find the “fine tuning” argument compelling for a couple of reasons. First of all, we do not know how many universes have come into existence that were unable to support life. Second, we don’t know enough about the laws of physics to say what the possible parameters are. Perhaps physical constants are interconnected in such a way that only certain combinations are possible, and many of those combinations are sufficient for life to arise?
Moral laws can indeed be phrased as commands. However, if those moral laws exist necessarily in any logical, consistent, acceptable moral system that we can conceive of, then they exist as a consequence of logic, not as commands from a law giver. In a sense, a logical person who wants to be moral is logically compelled to command herself to obey these laws. To test these statements, try and come up with an absolute moral law (one to which there are no exceptions) that a logically consistent moral system would not compel someone to obey.
Believing in God does have consequences, and I agree that many atheists do not believe in God because they want to avoid these consequences. However, the consequences atheists are trying to avoid have nothing to do with personal responsibility, and everything to do with intellectual integrity. (Not that religious people can’t have intellectual integrity, of course.)
Regarding evil, I agree that from God’s perspective there may be compelling moral reasons to allow free will. However, I am not convinced that allowing free will should also compel God to allow evil to succeed. For example, it is true that it would interfere with Hitler’s free will to cause him to die of a disease or be crippled by an accident so that he could not rise to power, but allowing Hitler to rise to power also interfered with the free will of millions of innocent people.
The argument that certain goods are inaccessible without certain evils is interesting, but again I wonder how value is assigned to these goods. For example, how many innocents have to die in natural disasters or from diseases before the goods these horrors bring out are overshadowed by the evil?
I don’t worry about the paradox of the stone. I see no problem with God’s omnipotence being defined as the ability to do anything that can possibly be done that is not against God’s nature.