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Thread: Arguments for the Existence of God

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    Default Arguments for the Existence of God

    Ontological Argument

    The ontological argument was originally written by a Benedictine monk named Anselm, the Archbishop of Canterbury, in his book Proslogion in 1078. Ontology is the branch of metaphysics that deals with the nature of being and existence. The argument is based on the greatest idea, God, must exist because it is greater to exist than to not exist. There is a lesser known ontological argument by Descartes.

    The classic ontological argument for the existence of God runs as follows:
    1. I have an idea of God as the greatest conceivable being.
    2. A being can exist merely as an idea or as an idea and in reality.
    3. It is greater to exist in reality too rather than just as an idea.
    4. If I think of this greatest conceivable being as existing merely as an idea, then I can think of a greater being, i.e. a being that exists in reality too.
    5. This greatest conceivable being must exist in reality too, i.e. God exists.

    Counter arguments
    In this argument, existence is given as one of God's attributes as part of the definition: if X is God, then X has the property of existence. This is logically equivalent to "if X does not exist, then X is not God." It does not prove that there are any entities that actually match the definition.

    Existence is not an attribute or predicate

    Existence can hardly ever be considered an attribute, as something non-existent cannot have attributes. [1] Therefore, making conclusions about existence of an entity based on its properties is not logically sound. In short, this argument boils down to "show me a god, and I'll show you an existing god." It is a form of circular reasoning because the existence is built into the assumptions. The flaw was first identified by Immanuel Kant.

    Here are some examples of this proof that highlight the fallacy.
    Unicorns:
    1. Let us define a unicorn as a magical equine being that has one horn, and that exists.
    2. By that definition, such a being must necessarily exist.
    3. Therefore unicorns exist.

    Shangri-La:
    1. Shangri-La is the greatest place on earth.
    2. A place that exists is greater than one that doesn't.
    3. Therefore, Shangri-La exists.

    Hercules:
    1. Hercules is the greatest warrior in history.
    2. A warrior that existed is greater than one that did not.
    3. Therefore, Hercules existed.

    Which God?
    No specific God or religion is supported by the argument.
    The argument supports pantheism better than monotheism:
    1. A being that contains all the parts of another plus one extra part is the greater being.
    2. There cannot exist any part that is not a part of the greatest possible being.
    3. Therefore, the greatest possible being encompasses the entire universe -- hence Pantheism.
    4. If 1. is false, there is no reason to believe that the greatest possible being encompasses anything -- the greatest possible being is indistinguishable from nothing.
    5. If 1. is false and 4. is false because the greatest possible being is the one that encompasses all intrinsically positive things and no intrinsically negative things, then "a being that exists is greater than one that does not" is not true unless existence is intrinsically good.

    Affirming the consequent
    The argument also contains a converse error. The second premise amounts to "If a thing exists then it has greatness," while the conclusion assumes the reverse: "If a thing (the god) has greatness then it exists."

    Non sequitur
    Another problem with the classical version of the argument is that it is invalid. So even if the premises are true, the conclusion is not guaranteed to be true. The fourth premise is supposed to show that there is a contradiction in supposing the greatest conceivable being merely exists as an idea. This, at most, would show that when thinking of this being one would have to suppose this being exists. So even if there are no other problems with the argument, it only proves that I must think of God existing; it does not prove that there is a being actually out there that fits my idea.

    An argument for the Devil
    An ontological argument can be used to prove the existence of the Devil.
    1. I have an idea of the Devil as the worst conceivable being.
    2. A being can exist merely as an idea or as an idea and in reality.
    3. It is worse for the worst conceivable being to exist in reality too rather than just as an idea.
    4. If I think of this worst conceivable being as existing merely as an idea, then I can think of a worse being, i.e. a being that exists in reality too.
    5. This worst conceivable being must exist in reality too, i.e. the Devil exists.

    Gasking's proof
    A piece of parody for the non-existence of god is as follows: [2]
    1. The creation of the universe is the greatest achievement imaginable.
    2. The merit of an achievement consists of its intrinsic greatness and the ability of its creator.
    3. The greater the handicap to the creator, the greater the achievement (would you be more impressed by Turner painting a beautiful landscape or a blind one-armed dwarf?)
    4. The biggest handicap to a creator would be non-existence
    5. Therefore if we suppose that the universe is the creation of an existing creator, we can conceive a greater being — namely, one who created everything while not existing.
    6. Therefore, God does not exist.


    Assumption that existence is greater than non-existence

    Assuming that existence and non-existence can actually be properties of something, there is no logical justification for existence being greater than non-existence



    Proof by logic
    The argument effectively defines God into existence without considering factual evidence.

    Use-mention error
    The concept God is equated with the greatest conceivable being. This confuses two separate issues: "If compared to every other object, God is greater" and "the greatest thing is arbitrarily labelled God". Of course, one could argue that a "greatest object" must necessarily exist. However, the argument changes the usage of "God" to the former definition. The argument therefore commits the use-mention error.
    Last edited by Petros Agapetos; 11-26-2016 at 04:26 AM.

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    Rene Descartes' existence is a perfection argument

    A variant, sometimes referred to the existence is a perfection argument (EPA) was proposed by Ren Descartes. Descartes' argued in his Fifth Meditation:
    "But if the mere fact that I can produce from my thought the idea of something entails that everything which I clearly and distinctly perceive to belong to that thing really does belong to it, is not this a possible basis for another argument to prove the existence of God? Certainly, the idea of God, or a supremely perfect being, is one that I find within me just as surely as the idea of any shape or number. And my understanding that it belongs to his nature that he always exists is no less clear and distinct than is the case when I prove of any shape or number that some property belongs to its nature"

    1. My conception of God is of a perfect being
    2. My conception of God includes existence since this is more perfect than non-existence.
    3. I cannot conceive of God not existing.
    4. Therefore, God exists.

    Modal ontological argument
    This is a version of the argument defended by such apologists as Alvin Plantinga. The premises are as follows:
     P(1): It is possible that God exists.
     P(2): If it is possible that God exists, then God exists in some possible worlds.
     P(3): If God exists in some possible worlds, then God exists in all possible worlds.
     P(4): If God exists in all possible worlds, then God exists in the actual world.
     P(5): If God exists in the actual world, then God exists.
     C(1): Therefore, God exists.

    Counter argument
    The Modal Ontological Argument is a deductive argument, which means that in order to deny the conclusion of the argument one must show the form of the argument to be invalid, that at least one of the premises are false, or that the argument commits some other fallacy.
    As a way to show the argument contains a fallacy, one could substitute something like a necessarily existing unicorn into the argument instead of God.
     P(1)': It is possible that a necessarily existing unicorn exists.
     P(2)': If it is possible that a necessarily existing unicorn exists, then a necessarily existing unicorn exists in some possible worlds.
     P(3)': If a necessarily existing unicorn exists in some possible worlds, then a necessarily existing unicorn exists in all possible worlds.
     P(4)': If a necessarily existing unicorn exists in all possible worlds, then a necessarily existing unicorn exists in the actual world.
     P(5)': If a necessarily existing unicorn exists in the actual world, then a necessarily existing unicorn exists.
     C(1)': Therefore, a necessarily existing unicorn exists.

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    The good ol' Creationist v Evolution Big Battle.

    For the evolutionists.... the birth of a child is creationist FYI.

    Bit of truth in both without absolutism in either.
    Ο Δίας ήντονε βοσκός

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    Veteran Member Petros Agapetos's Avatar
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    Default Divine Command Theory

    Divine command theory suggests that any statement about ethics is actually a statement about the attitudes and desires of God. That is, it claims that God's commands and morality are identical. To suggest that morality can exist without God is therefore a contradiction. Divine command theory is a form of theological voluntarism. Divine command theory is favored by many Protestant denominations. In contrast, Catholic morality uses the concept of natural law.

    Reasons to Obey Divine Command Theory:

    Divine attributes and actions
    "The first foundation is the doctrine of God the Creator. God made us and all the world. Because of that He has an absolute claim on our obedience. "
    This is a non sequitur. Being a creator does not in itself imply the creator should be obeyed.
    "The conduct which God demands of men, He demands out of His own Holiness and Righteousness."
    This is a non sequitur. Being holy and righteous does not in itself imply he should be obeyed.
    "Christ has purchased us"
    This makes no sense as it is immoral of own people. Also there is no clear reason why a person's owner should be obeyed (and it's a non sequitur).

    Duty
    "The simplest reason is: Its our duty."
    This is begging the question. We can immediately ask why is it our duty to obey God?

    Pragmatic obedience
    "we believe that Gods commands are for our own good."
    There is scant evidence that obeying or disobeying God results in any specific reward or punishment apart from poorly supported myths.
    Even if we follow our own selfish interests, this does not make an absolute moral obligation. An existentialist might ask why should we act for our own good? Don't people often act against their own interests?

    "If we obey God, we will prolong our days. [referencing Deuteronomy 5:33 Bible-icon.png] [3]"
    If that were true, it would be observable in demographic data. However, there is no evidence this is true.

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    Veteran Member Petros Agapetos's Avatar
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    Default Criticism of Divine Command Theory

    Semantic objection
    As pointed out by William Wainwright, "being commanded by God" and "being obligatory" have distinct meanings. It is necessary to establish the connection between these two separate concepts, if it is to be the basis of morality.

    "'x is obligatory but God did not command x' is not false on its face; and 'If x is obligatory, God commands x' and 'If God commands x, x is obligatory' are not bare tautologies. Hence, 'x is obligatory' does not mean 'God commands x.'"

    Divine command theory cannot prove that God is the source of morality because that is precisely what it assumes. That is, divine command theory assumes that whatever God commands must be moral (in fact, in most cases it defines morality that way). However, it's not clear that I am morally required to do something just because God commands it. I might want to obey God in order to escape punishment, but this is a matter of my own selfish interest and not an absolute moral obligation. Similarly, it's not clear why I should assume that there's no other possible source of morality.

    Unless divine command theory can first demonstrate that it is the most appropriate view of ethics, one cannot assume that it is correct to prove anything else.
    "Humanism asserts that the nature of the universe depicted by modern science makes unacceptable any supernatural or cosmic guarantees of human values. Obviously humanism does not deny the possibility of realities as yet undiscovered, but it does insist that the way to determine the existence and value of any and all realities is by means of intelligent inquiry and by the assessment of their relations to human needs."

    Non-standard usage of the words "good" or "moral"
    Most people have an intuitive sense of what it means for an action to be good or to have a moral obligation, and this set of moral attitudes typically pre-dates or is independent of any religious beliefs. To define a new meaning for "morality" as meaning what God wants, then to act as if this is the same as the everyday conception of morality, is to commit an equivocation fallacy. Morality is either a system for determining which actions are right or wrong, or a desire to obey the will of God. It can't mean both things at the same time, unless one first demonstrates that both meanings are equivalent.

    Divine command theory is not an absolute system of morals

    Divine command theory implies that whatever God commands must be the morally correct course of action. Therefore, if/when God endorses genocide, infanticide, animal sacrifice, slavery, or rape, those things are good, whereas if/when he forbids eating certain foods or working on certain days or having certain kinds of kinky sex, those things immediately become bad. This makes divine command theory a subjective theory of morals, one which is arbitrary and can change at God's whim.
    One way of countering this argument is to say "God wouldn't do that", but this doesn't help at all. For one, in many religious traditions he does do such things. For another, if God is the source of morality, he can do whatever he wants and it would still be just as "good" as anything else.

    Another thing to note is that many apologists claim that the god they speak of is unpredictable and works in mysterious ways; By their own claim, they cannot wrap their "flawed human reasoning" around what's beyond its ability to anticipate, aka what said god would or would not carry on. A biblical example is Abraham being unflinchingly convinced that God's commandments were inherently good even when said deity commanded him to sacrifice his son Issac. The lamb appearing before the sacrifice, which Abraham never expected, doesn't change how the later saw that his god's orders as undeniably good, even if it would have ended in Filicide. It seems their idea of what is "bad, and my god wouldn't do it" is derived of a more personal moral code, outside their religion. After all, people interpreted passages differently throughout history (Many justified enslaving Afro-Americans by quoting the bible in the past, but said ideology greatly fell out of society's favor nowadays).

    Thomas Aquinas believed that God's commands come from his own (unchanging?) essence and thus were not arbitrary pronouncements. This is irrelevant to the problem. Either there is a single absolute, necessary code of morals that governs everything, in which case God's commands merely reflect (or fail to reflect) this standard, or else there is no such code, and so the commandments of God cannot reflect an absolute morality. Either way, it gets you nowhere to say that actions are good for no other reason than because God approves of them.

    "God is good" becomes meaningless tautology

    Theists describe God as good and loving, which is problematic primarily due to the problem of evil. But setting that aside, if goodness is defined as Godly, then "God is good" is an empty statement, reducing to "God only acts in accordance with the ways God acts." Yet theists almost never treat "God is good" as a tautology. For example, Christians say that God-as-Jesus was being good and loving by sacrificing himself to save humankind from the wages of sin. Yet under divine command theory, God would have been exactly as good if he never sacrificed himself, or if he decided to send everyone (Christian or otherwise) to suffer eternally in Hell, or if he put everyone in Heaven, or if he turned everyone's legs into tree trunks. One cannot point to anything God does as an "example of" or "evidence for" God being good, because there is no hypothetical action God could take that, if he did it, would not be an action God takes, and therefore not be "good" indeed, maximally good by divine-command standards.

    People are told to have faith in God and to demonstrate this by, for example, praying. Yet if God were to personally appear to a loyal petitioner (someone asking for God to help a sick child, say) and tell him/her that he is now sick of prayer and that he's going to punish the child out of spite, then that would be the maximally good action for God to have taken. Thus, extrapolating back to the present, there is no reason to trust God to do that which we humans might consider good, since his actions cannot be bound by a moral system outside himself. Even if he promises to act a certain way, his breaking the promise later would (since he did so) be the right thing for him to do.
    Divine command theory cancels out most theodicy. For example, a common theodicy is the free-will defense evil must be permitted because otherwise humans would be robots, which would be bad. Apart from the other issues with this argument, it doesn't fit in the same box as divine-command theory. After all, if God did make us all robots, he would remain 100% good.

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    Veteran Member Petros Agapetos's Avatar
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    How is knowledge possible?

    Generally speaking, all theistic transcendental arguments use the axiom that knowledge is possible or an equivalent statement such as "The Laws of Logic form the basis of rational discourse" or "human communication is possible".
    What the apologist doesn't make clear is they assume some version of Platonic epistemology in which knowledge is "justified true belief". This should be understood in the sense that knowledge can never be mistaken, in that it is absolute.

    "If you know something, it is impossible to be wrong about it"
    — Sye Ten Bruggencate
    "I affirm that we discover the logical absolutes. This must mean that we discover what already exists."
    The apologist also often implicitly assumes that knowledge of abstract ideas is innate and that knowledge of these abstract ideas is absolute.
    The question is: is such knowledge, according to the definition implicitly used by apologists, even possible? Without this axiom being supported, the transcendental argument collapses. Since the arguments that support the possibility of this type of knowledge are weak, this axiom may be a case of wishful thinking.
    This argument is similar to the ontological argument. Just because you semantically define something "transcendent and perfect" doesn't mean it actually exists.

    A posteriori knowledge, as defined in this argument, is unattainable

    Skepticism provides many strong arguments against certain a posteriori knowledge, such as Ren Descartes's evil genius. Many non-theists, when they are backed against the wall, will admit that they know nothing with 100% certainty. Psychologically, humans generally will prefer some explanation rather than no explanation. However, providing "some explanation" does not make the claims in the explanation true. Absolute certainty is in general meaningless as by definition one would have to be omniscient to acquire it. Atheists do not in general make claims to the absolute truth of things; this is usually the domain of the theist.

    An example of what some may call absolutely certain is the idea that the Sun will rise tomorrow. To be truly absolute in certainty, you would require precognition; however, that is generally useless. It's much more accurate to state that inductively based on the evidence of many days prior as well as our understanding of chemistry and the composition of stars that the sun will not soon cease to rise.

    Is synthetic a priori knowledge possible?

    "Thankfully, two plus two does equal four. There is absolute truth, and it can be found and understood."
    Philosophers have long debated if synthetic a priori knowledge is possible. This includes fields such as logic, geometric and mathematics. Immanuel Kant argued that this was indeed a priori knowledge. David Hume later argued that some concepts which seemed to be a priori were actually a posteriori, such as cause and effect. Since logic and geometric are branches of mathematics, this argument is a form of argument from mathematical realism. However, it may be there are in infinite number of mathematical axioms that exist a priori and we have selected a useful subset a posteriori.

    Mathematics appears to have the property of being a priori and at the same time reflecting physical reality - this seems to set them apart as "knowledge" and not just an arbitrary set of axioms. There is no certainty that reality might not change tomorrow to a completely different set of mathematical and physical laws. For this reason, even mathematics is not absolute knowledge.
    "Our nature is as much a fact of the existing world as anything, and there can be no certainty that it will remain constant. It might happen, if Kant is right, that to-morrow our nature would so change as to make two and two become five."

    By forced choice
    "There either is absolute truth, something that is true at all times and places, or there is not. To argue with certainty that there is no such thing as absolute truth is to make an absolute truth claim, and is thus self-refuting. Therefore, the only option remaining is that absolute truth does exist. [9]"
    "A good question to ask people who say, “There is no absolute truth” is this: “Are you absolutely sure of that?” If they say “yes,” they have made an absolute statement—which itself implies the existence of absolutes. They are saying that the very fact there is no absolute truth is the one and only absolute truth."
    This is probably the most popular argument used by apologists to support absolute truth. However, it is rarely used by expert apologists because it contains a serious false dichotomy.
    When considering the propositon "absolute truth exists", there are three positions we can have:
    1. We know it to be true
    2. We know it to be untrue (which is arguably a self-contradiction)
    3. We cannot say if it is true or untrue (which is the option missing from the above arguments)
    We cannot rule out the second choice and then conclude the first choice is true, particularly when the third option is actually the case.
    If absolute truth does not exist, the claim "Absolute truth does not exist" is not absolutely true either. As the above sentence - in its entirety, so all that is italicized - must be true, it forms the proof of the existence of absolute truth.
    Just because we cannot say absolutely that absolute truth does not exist, it does not follow that it does exist. We simply cannot confirm if it does or does not exist. This is therefore an argument from ignorance and an attempt to shift the burden of proof.
    Defining something, in this case "absolute truth", so that it must exist is a proof by logic and not appropriate for determining how reality actually is.


    From experience

    "Another problem with the denial of absolute truth/universal truth is that it fails to live up to what we know to be true in our own consciences, our own experiences, and what we see in the real world. If there is no such thing as absolute truth, then there is nothing ultimately right or wrong about anything. [...] Is there any evidence for the existence of absolute truth? Yes. First, there is the human conscience, that certain “something” within us that tells us the world should be a certain way, that some things are right and some are wrong. [7]"

    Moral argument
    "People would be free to do whatever they want—murder, rape, steal, lie, cheat, etc., and no one could say those things would be wrong. There could be no government, no laws, and no justice, because one could not even say that the majority of the people have the right to make and enforce standards upon the minority.[7]"

    From natural law
    "Without absolutes, what would there be to study? How could one know that the findings of science are real? In fact, the very laws of science are founded on the existence of absolute truth.[7]"
    This is a separate issue called the natural-law argument.

    From consequences
    Apologists argue that without their theistic justification for truth, "there is no proof of anything". Fortunately, people can and do live without absolute certainty - sometimes by fooling themselves into the belief it exists.

    Another appeal to consequences is to claim that the lack of absolutes would lead to anarchy.
    "That would mean that everybody does what they think is right--setting their own rules for life. The problem comes when one person's rules clash with another's. What if one person decides that killing is a noble thing to do, and so attempts to kill everyone in sight? [12]"

    This is not really an objection because it describes the actual world - some people commit murder and other people decide to arrest and imprison the murderer. They don't need to reach agreement on morality or "respect each others views" to take actions based on their beliefs.

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    The only acceptable argument I have seen for a god is A is A/2 + 2 = 4

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    Default Versions of the Transcendental Argument for the Existence of God (TAG)

    Knowledge depends on God
    That is, knowledge cannot be obtained absolutely unless the source of that knowledge is itself an absolute source (read: being/God). Therefore, either you subconsciously believe in an absolute being that upholds and makes absolute the laws of the universe/morality or you do not—and can not—know anything for certain.

    "The best, the only, the absolutely certain proof of the truth of Christianity is that unless its truth be presupposed there is no proof of anything. Christianity is proved as being the very foundation of the idea of proof itself. [...] It is the firm conviction of every epistemologically self-conscious Christian that no human being can utter a single syllable, whether in negation or affirmation, unless it were for God’s existence."
    — Cornelius Van Til

    "in order to affirm rationality and logical thinking, there needs to be some ground of this in God rather than in the evolutionary process because the evolutionary process doesn't aim at truth. It merely aims at survival."
    "Thus I see plainly that the certainty and truth of all knowledge depends uniquely on my awareness of the true God, to such an extent that I was incapable of perfect knowledge about anything else until I became aware of him."
    — Ren Descartes

    "[...] we have Locke's word that acceptance of a divinely ruled and rational universe is a necessary precondition for knowledge."
    "When you are arguing against Him, you are arguing against the very power that makes you able to argue at all: it is like cutting off the branch you are sitting on."
    — C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

    "But order, logic, design, and truth can only exist and be known if there is an unchangeable objective source and standard of such things"
    There are many variant wordings of the argument. The argument is classically stated as:
    (1) If God did not exist, rational thought would not be possible.
    (2) Rational thought is possible.
    (3) Therefore, God exists.


    Based on the way the argument is actually employed, a more complete version would be:
    Epistemological problem X exists. (such as the existence of rational thought or the foundation of logic)
     Without God there is no solution to X.
     God is a possible solution to X.
     X must have a solution (either theism or not theism).
     If God did not exist, X is not explainable.
     Therefore God exists.

  9. #9
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    Logical absolutes depend on God

    "But why do the laws of logic hold? For the Christian, there is a transcendent standard for reasoning. As the laws of logic are reduced to being materialistic entities, they cease to possess their law-like character. But the laws of logic are not comprised of matter; they apply universally and at all times. The laws of logic are contingent upon Gods unchanging nature and are necessary for deductive reasoning. The invariability, sovereignty, transcendence, and immateriality of God are the foundation for the laws of logic. Thus, rational reasoning would be impossible without the biblical God."
    "since The Laws of Logic are always true everywhere and not dependent upon human minds, it must be an absolute transcendent mind that is authoring them."

     The logical absolutes are rational, transcendent and not material.
     Atheism presupposes that everything comes from material sources.
     Therefore, atheism lacks any objective source for logic.
     The logical absolutes are based on either theism or atheism (materialism).
     Since atheism is refuted, theism must be true.
     God exists.

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