Atheistic objections


Not scienceMany believe science has disproven God.  This is not possible, even in principle.[1]  The truth of the matter is that advances in science are providing more reasons to believe in God, not less.  While scientific discoveries cannot prove God’s existence, they can be used to support premises in arguments that have theistic conclusions/implications. For example, science has discovered that the universe began to exist.  Anything that begins to exist requires an external cause.  Since the universe encompasses all physical reality, the cause of the universe must transcend physical reality.  It cannot be a prior physical event or some natural law, because there was nothing physical prior to the first physical event, and natural laws only come into being once the natural world comes into being.  Whatever caused the universe to come into being must be transcendent, powerful, immaterial, spaceless, eternal, and personal, which is an apt description of God.

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WaldoMany atheists employ the concept of divine hiddenness to argue against God’s existence.  If God exists, they argue, why is His existence not more obvious?

I have blogged on this issue previously (here and here), so I won’t rehearse the arguments again.  Instead, I’ll simply assert that I do not accept the claim that God’s’ existence is not obvious enough.  I think there is good evidence for God’s existence, and that God only appears to be hidden because we have not looked for Him with an open mind and heart.

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For the previous installment, click here.

So far I have provided what I consider to be reasonable responses to the HoG objection.  Now I want to discuss a couple of popular responses I find inadequate for the task.  The first is to assert that God has provided enough evidence to convince those who are willing to believe in and submit to a relationship with God, but not so much so as to compel the unwilling.  The idea here is that if God were to provide more evidence of His existence, people would be compelled to believe in Him, and thus be robbed of their free will.  But what exactly would they be compelled to do?  At best, they would be compelled to believe that God exists (a rational obligation); however, such knowledge does not coerce one into a relationship with God.  Rational obligations tell us what we ought to believe given the evidence; they do not coerce us into believing or doing anything in particular.  Our beliefs and actions continue to be free.

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Given the inadequacy of so many “old” philosophical arguments against God’s existence, atheists are increasingly turning to the “hiddenness of God” (HoG) to argue that God does not exist (or that His existence is highly improbable).  The essence of this argument is that God’s existence is not as obvious as it should be.  If God existed, we would expect to find more evidence of His existence than we in fact do.  Given the inadequacy of the evidence, rational persons should conclude that God (probably) does not exist.  Some HoG proponents go so far as to argue that if God existed He would prevent unbelief by making His existence obvious and undeniable.  He does not do so, therefore, He does not exist, or if He does exist, the fault of human unbelief is to be laid at His feet.

There are a number of ways to respond to the HoG argument.  One could agree with the HoG advocate that God’s existence is not as obvious as we might think it should be, but deny that the conclusion—“God (probably) does not exist”—follows from such an observation.  After all, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.  Perhaps there is insufficient evidence on which to conclude that God exists, but God may exist nonetheless.  At best, an insufficient amount of evidence for God’s existence should result in agnosticism, not atheism.  To conclude that God does not exist one needs positive evidence against His existence, not a mere lack of evidence for it.

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