When we argue with believers, inevitably the moment arrives when they scold us, as if we are daft: “But god must exist,” they say. “How else did we get here! Planets, stars and people just don’t happen by accident. There had to be a creator.”
I usually reply, “If you want to argue that god exists, that would be your weakest point. You don’t want to go there.”
But why is that a weak argument? Isn’t it logical that everything has a cause? Indeed, one of the classic arguments for god in Western thought has been the necessity of a First Cause. We humans evolved to detect patterns and causes; that’s how we survived, and it’s hard to abandon this frame of mind when we think about the Universe.
There are three points to keep in mind when your religious opponent tells you that god was required to kick things off:
- For an Atheist, the perfect come-back is, “Well then, where did god come from? ” Believers often retort, “god always existed.” An eternal god is part of the Sunday school baggage they were taught as kids, but we Atheists need evidence, not guesses and surmises rooted in dogmas we don’t believe. (Bertrand Russell made the point that it’s just as easy to believe in an eternal universe as it is to believe in an eternal god.)
- Cosmologists–scientists who study the structure and dynamics of the universe–are not in the god-createdit camp. The brilliant cosmologist Sean Carroll (Department of Physics at Caltech) wrote recently: “…scholars who are experts in the fundamental nature of reality have concluded that god does not exist. We have better explanations for how things work.” (from his article, “Science and Religion Cannot Be Reconciled: Why I Won’t Take Money from the Templeton Foundation”).
- But then we come to a question that is the major stumbling block in our debate with the believer: How would we know what the creator god was like?
Believers rush in with an easy answer, “The god of the Bible!” But how does that follow, unless we accept revelation? Without revelation, the Bible’s ideas about god are useless.
So, according to believers, there was a human-like creator god? Wait, you may say, how can believers rule out any of these possible explanations of our origins:
- Maybe a blind force, with little or no awareness of results, blasted the Cosmos into being.
- If there was a creator god, the possibility exists, you might remind the believer, that this god was in no way personal, i.e., interested in personal relationships with humans. Using ‘he’ about this god would not be appropriate. The creator god might be an ‘it,’ and could have ignited lots of universes— ours is only one of many.
- Another possibility, you might remind the believer, is that the god who created our universe could be a lesser god who was created by another, more remote, god. How far back do we have to go with this theological mind game?
- This idea should rattle your opponent: Perhaps a wicked deity concocted the Universe. Is Joseph Daleiden right? “…Looking at the mess the world is in, it might seem easier to prove a Devil than a god” (The Final Superstition: A Critical Evaluation of the Judeo-Christian Legacy, p. 136).
- Or, there’s the possibility that the believer’s creator god doesn’t notice much below the level of black holes, stars and planets—certainly not seven billion humanoid mammals. I can bake a loaf of bread—I’m the creator of that—but I am not aware of the molecules in the flour. Maybe humans are molecules in the Cosmos dough? This possibility baffles believers who long for a personal god to pray to.
- If your believer friend isn’t befuddled yet, you can throw some more facts at him or her: We know that the universe is 13.82 billion years old; that’s the current dating for the Big Bang. Believers can claim that a god did it, but how do you get from an Igniter god 13.82 billion years ago to the god who and who can be channeled through prayer? That takes a heck of a lot of theological wishful thinking, none of which is testable and verifiable.
Pretending to possess the grand answers, theology falls far short of delivering the goods. Author Sam Harris tells the truth: “…theology is now little more than a branch of human ignorance…” (The End of Faith: Religion, Terror and the Future of Reason, p. 173.)