by Daniel Adams
Mr Guthrie writes in his last email...
"He wants to maintain that "a gnome exists" is untenable (as do I), but then he suggests that, "Well, the gnome is incredible and so must God's existence be as well." But until he fashions a connection between this analogy, there is no reason, a priori, to accept the illustration as representative of the very thing we are trying to prove or disprove."
My point, which Mr Guthrie seems to have missed repeatedly is this; Without the statement by a human "God exists" there is no concept of God. (Similarly, without the statement "Infinitely powerful invisible gnomes exist" there is no concept of infinitely powerful invisible gnomes.) The "default" belief is a lack of belief. Until the existence of something is proven to us, we are logically justified in lacking a belief in it. When I make the statement "Infinitley powerful, invisible gnomes exist" you would obviously expect the burden of proof to lie upon me. In other words, you would not think that it was up to you to prove that they didn't exist, but that it was my job to prove that they did.
We now know beyond all reasonable doubt that evolution occured. We have witnessed small-scale evolutionary changes as animals adapt to different environments through natural selection. We have a fossil chain in which we can trace our geneology back to a time before there were humans. Unless we accept that animals held a beleef in God, there must have been a time when there was no belief in God. There is now a claim "God exists". That is a positive claim and evidence must be given for it. Even if I fail in this debate to make a single constructive argument against God, I only have to successfully refute all of Mr Guthrie's arguments (which I have done thus far) in order to emerge the victor. Without Mr Guthrie proving his claim "God exists" we are left in absence of support for that claim and we can default to "It has not been proven that God exists" in the same way that "It has not been proven that fairies exist". If no proof is given, we are justified in lacking a belief in God.
The mistake Mr Guthrie makes is in believing that I am myself making a positive claim "God does not exist". Whilst I believe that God does not exist, my position in this debate has merely been a lack of belief that he does exist. [Confusing? Sorry :) ]
Mr Guthrie sees that he cannot prove that my hypothetical "infinitely powerful, invisbile gnome" does not exist. The implication I wish to show is that if he believes my lack of ability to prove that God does not exist justifies the statement "God exists" likewise his inability to prove that an infinitely powerful, invisible gnome does not exist (following his reasoning) would prove the statement "an infinitely powerful invisinle gnome exists".
Mr Guthrie realises this and so scrambles to concoct several unconvincing and artificial reasons for the case of "gnome exists" being different from "god exists". He says...
"there are some dividing characteristics that demonstrate a radical difference between "God exists" and "a gnome exists." "
Lets examine his reasons one by one...
"Gnomes do not enjoy any explanatory power,"
Ok, I now state that my infinitely powerful, invisible gnome created the universe one morning by sneezing. No difference so far, then. He continues...
" they are not competitive models to rival hypotheses,"
Rubbish. By my gnome's very definition and the fact that he created the universe by sneezing the gnome is a rival hypotheses to the claim "God exists" and also Big Bang theory. So, still no difference...
"and they have no historical or literary frame of reference."
Ahhh, now we get to the quick of it. Mr Guthrie's propsed "literary frame of refence" here is the bible. He is basically saying here "the bible says God exists". I'm glad he brought this up, because it is an often-used argument which is severely flawed. The bible cannot be proof that God exists, because that proof would be based on a circular argument. Lets take the following hypothetical dialogue to prove the point...
CHRISTIAN: God exists
ATHEIST: How do you know?
CHRISTIAN: The bible says that he exists
ATHEIST: But how do you know that what the bible says is true?
CHRISTIAN: Because God says it is.
ATHEIST: So God says that the bible is true
ATHEIST: and the bible says that God exists
ATHEIST: So your belief in God is based upon the bible. And your belief in the veracity of the bible is that you know God exists. And you know that God exists because it says so in the bible. And you know that the bible is true because it says in the bible that it is.
God's existence cannot be proven by reference to the bible.
At any length, by stating that the bible is proof that God exists, Mr Guthrie is completely at odds with the statement he made in the last email that God allows evil only because he does not wish to interfere with us. I'd call sending down a messiah a pretty big interference. And if God wished to convince people that he existed by sending down a messiah, why not do something more convincing, such as sending down a messiah every single day? The illogical nature of the bible once you examine it is quite stupendous.
Christians must take either one of two positions on the bible. Either...
(i) They must accept that every single word in the bible is infallible truth. These type of christians end up looking stupid, becuase they have to accept major logical fallacies as being the Word of an all-knowing God. For example, they would have to simultaneiously accept that all men were descended from just two people (Adman and Eve. This would have entailed Adam and Eve's children having sex with one another in order to provide the next generation). In other parts of the bible, however, there are words written strictly against sex within ones own family. Yet a strict christian must accept both "God says it is bad to have sex with your own family" and also "God planned life in such a way that every single man is descended from a family whose members had sex with one another".
(ii) The second type of Christian is the one who says that the bible is mainly true but some parts are "analogies, not fact" or are "illustrative and not _really_ true". Since they choose which parts are true arbitrarily, we would be equally justified in saying "I choose that every section is analogous and none of it happened." as they are in saying "There wasn't really Adam and Eve. but the rest is basically true"
When I later in my email wrote...
"He [Mr Guthrie] suggests that God does not wish for there to be a place without suffering and also implies that God does not wish to interfere with our lives. So you don't accept that heaven exists?"
Mr Guthrie replied...
"The problem with equating heaven with possible worlds is fundamental. Heaven is the outcome of a possible world and not a possible world itself. Heaven contains those who have gone through the valley of decision, so to speak, and have made those choices necessary for entrance into that kingdom. But we are contending with possible worlds here, not the outcomes of possible worlds."
A false distinction. If God was capable of creating heaven, he could basically have skipped the "Earth stage" and just created everyone directly in heaven. The fact that he didn't do this implies either that he wishes for us to suffer in this less-than-perfect Earth, or else he was incapable of creating a heaven for us to live in, in which case he is not a God.
I then wrote
"Does he [God] not recognise that we are self-aware just as he is? Why should we be granted less rights than he?"
I was trying to show that if a God existed, and it was within his power to remove suffering from the World, he should do so if he was all-loving. Obviously, there is still suffering so either God does not exist, or else he exists yet wishes us to suffer. Mr Guthrie chose the latter option and attempted to justify his choice by saying...
"G. W. F. Leibniz explained that it is logically necessary that we are inferior to God's nature. If a being such as God were to exist (one who is all-powerful, perfect, and the creator of all things), then it follows reasonably that any emanation or creation would be rendered unequally. "
Certainly a God would be more powerful than us, but I still fail to see why that means he has more rights than us and it is permissible for him to say "I don't care if you're dying of cancer. I don't want to remove suffering and I'm not going to."
This sort of attitude that "might makes right" was the same philosophy that led to slavery. White Americans were powerful enough to remove the rights of the less powerful African slaves so they did. According to Mr Guthrie, this sort of behaviour is justifiable. Incidentally, the bible does not condemn slavery. Quotes from the bible were often used in support of the practice of slavery in the past.
>>Adams then cries out, 'But God did not have to make us so that we sought harm anyway! HE did not have to make us capable of harm. He did not have to make us at all." But these are not objections. Just because one may not understand why God acts in a certain way does not mean that it is not the best possible world. I submit that God did not create us to seek after harm; harm is the product of our own free choices that would otherwise be non-existent should God intervene every time someone is about to be harmed.<<
But in the supposedly perfect heaven that Christians believe in, there is no harm. Equally, if we are to believe Mr Guthrie, there is free will. How, then are these two things possible in heaven but not on Earth. I ask again, if God was able to create heaven, why bother with "Earth at all", why not just craete everybody directly in heaven. Either God does not exist, or he is morally twisted since he wishes to watch us suffer.
I then asked Mr Guthrie
"For example, could an all-powerful God create a rock so massive that even he could not lift it? If he could, then by subsequently failing to lift such a rock, he is not all-poerful [sic]. If he is not poweerful [sic] enough to create a rock that he cannot lift, then he is not all-powerful. Whether or not he can create such a rock, then, a being cannot be omnipotent. Therefore a God cannot exist."
"What is a rock so big that God cannot lift? There will be a silence as to the answer because such an animal is mutually exclusive and not cognitively possible."
Mr Guthrie sees the problem clearly enough but hits upon the wrong answer. He sees the incompatibility and states that the rock cannot exist. However, God is supposedly omnipotent. That means all-powerful. It does not mean "all-powerful to the extent that human minds can imagine" or "all-powerful up to a certain point" it means all-powerful. Mr Guthrie's objection is therefore invalid, because a true God, being truly omnipotent is not constrained to acting within any physical or logical boundaries. He could do anything. By stating that God is unable even to bring about a situation where the creation of such a rock is possible, he has stated that God is not omnipotent.
If a being is less than omnipotent, it cannot be a God, for no matter how powerful it is, if it is not infinitely powerful, there exists the possibility that other life forms may attain the same, or even greater power. And a God that is less powerful than its creations is no God at all.
Mr Guthrie continued...
"I have also been defending the cosmological argument for God's existence and he replied with something like, "Well, our universe may be an oscillating one and may not have a beginning." But I quoted a prominent atheist who denied such a cosmology and gave a reason why. I also added that there is still the problem of an actual infinite. "
Lets put this simply. We do not know whether the universe had a beginning. If it had no beginning, there is no need for a God to have created it, and thus there is no "creation argument" for God. It is stupid in any case to talk of a "before the universe began", since time itself began when the universe began. Time does not exist as such, it is merelt how we humans measure movement. If there were no movement of any particle, there would be no time, and the concept of time would not hold any meaning. So, if there were no matter in the universe before the Big Bang, there was no "before the Big Bang" and time itself began when the Big Bang occurred
Mr Guthrie then chose to quote Mr Quentin Smith in saying
"As atheist philosopher Quentin Smith poignantly observes, "'God created the Big Bang' has taken hold on popular consciousness and become a staple in the theistic component of 'educated common sense.' By contrast, the response of atheists and agnostics to this development has been comparatively lame"
Christians do a quite remarkable job of changing their beliefs from one moment to the next to adapt to whichever new piece of scientific evidence emerges. We have "educated common sense" no thanks to christians. It was when christians were in a dominant charge of this planet that advances in science were seen as "evil" or "witchcraft" and popes would order the execution of those who made scientific progress. Thank fully, now that the power and influence of religion is receding, more scientific progress is being made than ever before.
It is interesting that Mr Guthrie chooses to accept that the Big Bang occured. He must therefore accept that the universe is billions of years old. He must as a result of this accept that this invalidates a good portion of the old testament of the bible, which talks of Adam and Eve, and 6,000 year old universe. By admitting that the bible is flawed, he invalidates it as "the Word of God" and we cannot accept it as being reliable.
Mr Guthrie calls the response of atheists to the knowledge of the Big Bang "lame". I'm sorry, but this is quite ridiculous. It is not atheists, but christians who lead campaigns in several US states to introduce "creation teaching" in schools, teaching children that the Universe is only 6,000 years old. The evidence of the Big Bang supports what atheists have been saying all along "God did not craeate the World". It is the christians who have been back-tracking and revising their beliefs from "God created Adam and Eve on Earth at the centre of the Universe" to "God created the Earth, only not at the centre of the Universe" to "God created life on Earth, which evolved to form man" to "Actually, God created the Big Bang, which created the Earth, which allowed life to evolve into man. And no, it wasn't anywhere near the centre of the Universe" To suggest that Christians have been supportive of Big Bang theory is quite laughable. They have been forced by overwhelming evidence to accept that it happened. Just as they were forced in the face of overwhelming evidence to accept that.
It will be interesting to see just how far the Christian religion will be able to bend and adapt before it breaks. Interestingly, as I write this very article, it has just been reported to me that the results of a survey in the "Guardian" newspaper in Britain show that for the first time the number of atheists in England outnumber the number of theists.
To my recollection I have so far refuted every single one of Mr Guthrie's arguments for the existence of God. I have also in addition provided my argument of "the problem of evil" against the belief that God exists, and I am still not satisfied that Mr Guthrie has rebutted this.