why arguments for there being a god are unsuccessful


Apologists for a religion try to show why theirs is the right one. But their first task is to show why it is rational to believe there is any god at all, let alone their version.


The arguments for there being any god are unsuccessful for two related reasons: the absence of evidence to support them; and their failure as causal explanations.


1 Evidence


1.1 Factual assertions are about the way things are, including scientific assertions, or about the way things were and what happened – historical assertions. Many people believe the assertion there is a god is factual.


1.2 A factual assertion is true or false, regardless of what anyone believes. With factual assertions, belief is irrelevant.


1.3 To decide if the assertion there is a god is true, we need evidence. The absence of evidence may not mean the assertion is false, but to believe it is true is irrational.


1.4 Evidence for the assertion there is a god must be physical, which means in the physical universe – what we used to call nature. And this applies to historical evidence.


1.5 An assertion is not true just because someone says or writes that it is. The argument from authority, including that of personal experience, is a fallacy. Personal experience is notoriously unreliable.


1.6 An argument for the existence of a god is not evidence for the conclusion that there is a god. Argument and evidence are completely different things.


1.7 There have been many claims, but so far there has been no evidence for the assertion there is a god, or for the existence of any other supernatural thing or event.


1.8 As it is rational to believe only those factual assertions for which there is evidence, it is irrational to believe there is a god.


2 Causation


2.1 A causal explanation, such as a god created the universe, works only if there is evidence of the cause itself, and of how it caused the effect. If the only evidence for the cause is the effect, that may not mean the explanation is incorrect. But to believe it is correct is irrational.


2.2 The absence of a rational explanation does not make an irrational one viable, how ever much we want an explanation.


3 Conclusion


3.1 None of the arguments for there being a god succeeds, because none provides evidence for the god. So none can provide evidence of how the god caused or causes anything: the universe, its structure, the rules of logic, morality, personal experiences, and so on.


3.2 Because there is no evidence, all the arguments for there being a god must define the god into existence and proceed backwards from there.


3.3 The arguments for there being a god amount to this: there is a god who caused everything, so everything had to be caused by a god, so there is a god. This is the fruit of religious apologetics, and not just the Christian variety.


P.S. Why apologetics?


Religion is big business. Religious institutions and those who make a living from religion, including apologists, constitute a vast vested interest. Jobs, funding, social prestige and self-esteem are at stake.


So the show must go on. But the competition is tough. Rival shows may steal the audience and its tribute. Or people may listen to rational criticism and abandon the shows altogether.


The role of apologetics is to provide a façade of intellectual respectability and academic gravitas. And the grander the façade, the less likely people may be to take a peek inside and see how vastly empty the edifice really is.


Peter Holmes


September 2015

Revised, August 2017