How do the theistic and anti-theistic arguments rate? A personal assessment

February 26th, 2014 in clues. Tags: , , , , , ,

Statues of 2 people discussing

Last post I referenced 20 arguments for the existence of God by philosopher Peter Kreeft, some of which I find convincing, others less so.

So this post I thought I’d put my head on the chopping block and rate 7 theistic arguments and 7 atheistic arguments. I’d be interested to hear how others rate them.

The theistic arguments briefly summarised

Cosmological

What caused the universe? Why is there something rather than nothing?

Teleological (design)

Of all the possible universes allowed by physics, very few would allow planets and life to form. So how did our universe beat amazingly long odds?

Moral

Most of us act as if some things are really right and wrong, but how could that be in a universe without God

Argument from reason

If human brains are the product of physical processes and natural selection alone, how can we trust our thinking?

Consciousness and free will

We are conscious and we appear to have the ability to choose. But how can brains controlled only by physical laws have free will and produce consciousness?

Miracles

300 million people claim to have experienced or observed one or more healing miracles. Is every last one of them mistaken?

Jesus

Historians conclude that many facts about Jesus’ life and teachings are most likely historically true. Him being the “son of God” is the best explanation.

The atheistic arguments briefly summarised

Evil and suffering

Many people in the world suffer horrendous evil and pain. How could this be if there was a loving God?

Hiddenness of God

If God existed, he would do much more to reveal himself so everyone could know him.

God is an incoherent concept

Theistic definitions of God – all-knowing, all-powerful, personal, non-physical, etc – are inconsistent and cannot all be true.

The inhospitable universe

Almost the entire universe is dangerous and inhospitable to life, so how can it be ‘well-designed’?

There is no scientific evidence for God

Science is the best, perhaps the only, way to reliably know things, and there is no scientific evidence for God.

Jesus was not the son of God

We cannot be sure enough what Jesus actually did and said, and we don’t have nearly enough information to say he was the son of God.

Who designed the designer?

If God is the explanation of the universe, what is the explanation of God?

Assessment

Here is my assessment of all these arguments, from strong to weak. The theistic arguments are shown in grey, the atheistic arguments in blue.

Strong Teleological (design)
Cosmological
Evil & suffering
Miracles
The divinity of Jesus
Argument from reason
Moral argument
Moderate Consciousness and free will
Hiddenness of God
The idea of God is incoherent
Jesus was not the son of God
Weak The inhospitable universe
There is no scientific evidence for God
Who designed the designer?

What do you think?

In the light of my assessments, it isn’t surprising I’m a theist. But I’d be interested in any reader’s assessment of these arguments. Either just list which ones you find strong, or not, or make a comment on any particular argument. I’m not looking to argue about them, just interested to see what other people think.

Thanks.

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Picture: Wikimedia Commons.

15 Comments

  1. An additional argument against god:
    Argument from parsimony – all other hypotheses for how existence got started don’t need anything as complicated as a god.

  2. unkleE, your assessment very definitely points to your theism .

    Your evaluation of such things would be better received if you simply stated that your “Faith” causes you to believe these things rather than claiming there is evidence which points to them being true.

    There are certain things better left to time to develop their truth. Apparently 2,000 years has not been long enough. 🙂

  3. In the world of Christian scholarship, for example, to read the Bible literally is regarded as absurd. To call the words of the Bible “the Word of God” is more than naïve. No modern person can still believe that a star can wander through the sky so slowly that wise men can keep up with it, that God actually dictated the Ten Commandments — all three versions, no less — or that a multitude can be fed with five loaves and two fish. No modern person understanding genetics and reproduction can believe that virgins conceive, nor can those who understand what death does to the human body in a matter of just minutes still view the resurrection as the resuscitation of a deceased body after three days. Biblical scholars know that the accounts of the crucifixion read in Christian churches on Good Friday are not eye witness reports, but developed interpretations of Jesus’ death based on a series of Old Testament texts selected to convince fellow Jews that Jesus “fulfilled the scriptures” and thus really was the “messiah.”

    Bishop John Shelby Spong

  4. The subject of faith came up during our discussion on the previous post and it seems others here regard this in a similar light.

    Based on your assessment, the atheist points seem a lot more logical and certainly have a greater ring of truth and commonsense about them.

  5. Hi Gordon,

    I didn’t think of that argument, but I might have used it as, while I don’t think it very strong, it is surely stronger than “Who designed the designer?”

    But do you think it is a separate argument, or rather a principle (more or less Ockham’s Razor) to use in judging arguments?

  6. Well, as this is about theists and atheists I’d say the best argument seems to be the one that Jesus isn’t the son of God.
    From my understanding there is only what’s written in the bible and I’ve never been one to take much of it too seriously.
    As a kid I was always brought up to believe that faith is what counts more than anything.
    It was never a big deal, so these days I reckon that Jesus was probably just a preacher trying to get people to do good but ended up making enemies of the Jews and got crucified for his trouble.

    But the son of God? I’d have to say a definite ”no” on any evidence for this. Bit like that chariot wheels story.

  7. @unkleE
    The “who designed the designer” argument is better known as “the infinite regression” argument and some people think it quite strong.

    The theist has to propose the idea of eternity and a god that has always existed to counter this argument but, of course, eternity and permanent existence are just two more ideas for which there is no evidence.

  8. That’s interesting about the “who designed the designer” argument. As an anti-theistic argument I put it in the weak category as well. However, I believe what it does do is move the theistic teleological argument down into the weak category. The two fall together. I think a slightly modified form also puts the cosmological argument into that weak category.

  9. @One Skeptic, “But the son of God? I’d have to say a definite ”no” on any evidence for this. Bit like that chariot wheels story.”

    I assume you are talking about the late Ron Wyatt. He had also claimed to have found the Ark and other biblical relics . Funny, I didn’t find any articles in my Biblical Archaeology Magazine about these amazing finds . 🙂

  10. Hi Gordon, I’ve seen a few philosophers, both atheist and theist, comment on it, and I think they all said it was a poor argument, for 2 reasons:

    1. An explanation can be helpful even if we can’t then explain it. For example, if I get sick and the doctor explains that I have some obscure virus, this is helpful because we can then decide how to deal with it. The fact that we don’t know where the virus came from doesn’t obviate the value of the explanation.

    2. The logic is fairly clear. The universe is the result of a hodge podge of contingent causes and events. There are only 3 possibilities – either it is contingent events all the way back to infinity, or there was a first contingent event without a cause, or the first contingent event had a non-contingent cause. The retort (it isn’t really an argument) “Who designed the designer?” doesn’t really address these options properly.

    The theist doesn’t really have to address the matters you raise any more than anyone else does. I think the theistic option is by far more sensible than the other two, but no doubt you think differently. Que sera sera!

  11. Hi Howie, thanks for your comments. As I commented to Gordon, I think the logic you mention enhances the teleological and cosmological arguments. We disagree again! 🙁

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