I’ll start by saying that this article is not meant to tell you what to think, but it is meant to poke holes in how some people think. Maybe more importantly to poke holes in how they try to control what other people think by using insults. What I do have a problem with is when someone will put down another person for their beliefs, which of course goes for both sides of the fence.
This post is really aimed at people that have an air of intellectual superiority about not believing in God. They will make fun of God-believers and even call them delusional. They will claim that a belief in God is irrational and illogical. Well, I claim that these people are actually irrational and therefore hypocritical and they are deluding themselves into a false sense of superiority based on false assumptions and poor logic. That’s why I’ve titled this the Godless Delusion.
My view of the Godless Delusion is that it is the belief that can be summed up as “You believe in something that doesn’t exist. You can’t prove it exists but I can prove what I believe, which makes your belief irrational.” I have no problem at all with atheists and in fact I think it is a valid belief system, but it is a belief system and not a factual system.
(P.S. Yes, I am a stirrer and yes, I like to challenge and pose difficult questions. If you think you may suffer the Godless Delusion and don’t like challenges then perhaps you’d better go read about Santa Claus.)
There are certain standard arguments that are always pulled out by people suffering the Godless Delusion. Here are the ones I can remember and then I’ll deal with each one individually:
- God does not exist. You are making a positive assertion that God exists and you can’t prove that assertion so it is totally invalid, and I don’t have to prove anything because I’m not making a positive assertion.
- There is no tangible evidence for God so there is no reason to believe God exists.
- If God did exist and was so powerful then why isn’t there any clear evidence?
- I only believe in real things like gravity. If I let go of a ball it drops every time but there’s no equivalent for God.
- I refuse to believe in what someone else tells me to but I will only believe in hard reality.
- Science has already proven beyond doubt most of the things we used to blame on God so your God is diminishing as science finds more and more answers. It is only a matter of time before science shows there is no need at all for a story about God.
- The second law of thermodynamics is only for closed systems so evolution does not go against it because the sun provides an external energy source. Your concept of God has no scientific backing.
- It isn’t possible for God to just think or wish the universe into existence. What created God?
That’ll do for a start so here is my analysis of why each one of them is irrational and/or based on false assumptions and at worst hypocritical when used against someone else.
1. God does not exist. You are making a positive assertion that God exists and you can’t prove that assertion so it is totally invalid to start with, and I don’t have to prove anything because I’m not making a positive assertion.
There are plenty of positive assertions made that had no “proof” to start with but are generally accepted to be true. Did Darwin’s theory of evolution have a large body of proof when it was first made? No. Did that make evolution invalid? That’s an area where this type of thinking is (in my view) totally hypocritical. Science demands no “proof” at all. It requires an assumption to be made. The starting point is an assumption or a guess or a belief (a hypothesis or positive assertion). If there is any reasonable evidence for it then the investigation continues. The assertion is never actually “proven” to be right but it is only assumed right if there is no evidence found against it (not proven to be wrong). Darwin started with an unproven belief and then went about finding evidence to back up his belief and the hypothesis is repeatable and is able to make predictions and explain natural phenomena. There has been no evidence found to prove it wrong so it is widely accepted. There is no hard and fast “proof” that evolution as a whole is real. However science believes it to be true (and I do too) because it is the best known explanation for what has been observed. Therefore having no “proof” for evolution does not make it false, and having no “proof” for God does not make it false.
We also come down to exactly what “proof” is required. If anybody asks me to “prove” there is a God I always ask what type of proof will satisfy them. There’s no point setting up a test with no criteria for success or failure or it isn’t really a test. There’s more on this point later with the discussions on cause and effect.
Of course saying that God does not exist is also a positive assertion. It is stating a definite principle. It is like saying there is no elephant in my room. If I simply said I don’t believe there’s an elephant then that’s a totally different matter and is opinion based on personal experience not a positive assertion that there definitely is not one. If a person is going to hold someone accountable to a set of rules then they should apply those same rules to themselves.
2. There is no evidence for God so there is no reason to believe God exists.
a. If God did exist and was so powerful then why isn’t there any clear evidence?
b. I only believe in real things like gravity. If I let go of a ball it drops every time but there’s no equivalent evidence for God.
Ah, this is getting better. Now we are talking about evidence and not “proof” so we can have a much more rational and logical and science based discussion about it. We’ll start with the evidence for gravity. It is pretty convincing isn’t it and demonstrates without doubt that gravity exists, or does it? Let’s break it down into its components. We live in a world of cause and effect as nicely summarised by Newton’s laws of motion.
A ball falling to earth is the effect. The effect is consistent and probably demonstrates that there is a consistent cause. (That’s a hypothesis at this stage and not a fact.) But what is the cause? We call it gravity to explain that phenomena and then because we give the effect a name and someone tells us the same name is the cause we believe it because the effect is obvious. The confusion is that the cause and the effect have the same name (in general language). We look at the effect and assume the cause.
But what is cause of gravity? Well nobody really knows except that for simple observation it acts simply (like the ball falling) but it indeed works in mysterious ways. It is the weakest of all the primary forces but is believed to be largely responsible for holding the mass of the universe together. Sometimes it turns itself off, which is theoretically impossible. It is constant but isn’t constant in some circumstances. It extends out to infinity (the furthest star in the universe is actually affected by your personal gravity). We simply don’t know how or why it works – it is a mystery that nobody has so far been able to solve. Yet we believe in it as if it is a “fact” not a mystery. Yes, the effect of the ball falling is a fact, but the cause is indeed a mystery (with a name).
I find it truly amazing that people will hold up a mystery to debunk a mystery. They will say your theory has no known cause but my theory with no known cause is fact and yours is irrational which is proof that my belief is superior to yours.
The effects of the world are obvious (mostly) but the causes are mostly a mystery, even today. Just because we give the cause and effect the same name and say the effect is known doesn’t mean we know the cause. It is delusional to think we understand all the causes because we can see the effects and give names to what we assume are causes.
Another argument to this line of “evidence based” reasoning is simply to ask if they believe in love. Generally speaking they will say yes because they’ve experienced it. Therefore by their reasoning experience is valid evidence for something that has no tangible evidence available. Yet they’ll ignore the experience of countless millions of people that have experienced the love of God. If you think that’s an outlandish view then how would you react to a person who says that love does not exist anywhere for anyone because they have not personally experienced it?
3. I refuse to believe in what someone else tells me to but I will only believe in hard reality.
Would a person like this believe in quantum mechanics if they can’t see it for themselves? If they argue that someone else has seen the evidence and that’s acceptable then we get back to the discussion about what is suitable evidence and for what – the cause or the effect. It’s impossible to know all tangible reality personally. Some things have to be taken on faith, whether you choose to put your faith in other people and which people, or elsewhere is a matter of choice but it is still faith.
Science is quite happy to not know the cause of the big bang. Do they discount the big bang totally because there is no evidence for a cause? No, they assume there is a cause and continue on the assumption that one day they’ll find it or even if not found that it is “findable” by science. That’s a pretty big assumption right there. It’s kind of the reverse of “God did it” in that “science knows it”. It is simple blind faith that the unknown will be revealed in a certain known way. I don’t have a problem with that at all, but I do have a serious problem when someone who is doing that calls someone else that is doing exactly the same thing irrational or illogical or delusional – at least they are not being hypocritical.
Here’s another way to look at it…
There is physical “reality” (and one theory is that it doesn’t exist except as a construct of thought) which is indeed mysterious and confusing and in the large part contradictory, but does that mean those teachings are actual reality itself or an approximation of it? If the teachings are not exact do we throw out all of science and say all this reality nonsense is contradictory rubbish? I certainly don’t.
Then there is metaphysical “reality” (and one theory is that it doesn’t exist except as a construct of thought) which is also mysterious and confusing and in the large part contradictory, but does that mean those teachings are actual reality itself or an approximation to it? If the teachings are not exact do we throw out religion and say all this “God” nonsense is contradictory rubbish? I certainly don’t.
4. Science has already proven beyond doubt most of the things we used to blame on God so your God is diminishing as science finds more and more answers. It is only a matter of time before science shows there is no need at all for a story about God.
On one hand this is quite true, but we need to be careful to differentiate between superstition and a theory of God.
It’s also interesting to note that as science delves into the smallest (quantum mechanics) and also the biggest (astrophysics) it is finding common ground that is pointing to a “God like” entity that has always existed and is indestructible and is the cause of all things.
Science by its very nature is reductionist, which means that it breaks things apart in order to understand it. That works incredibly well and is the reason why we have such amazing technology available to us. However that benefit also has the disadvantage that it sometimes fails to see the bigger picture which is not under its microscope. Was Einstein wrong because he never found the unifying force, or is it simply that it hasn’t been found yet by using traditional scientific methods? Could this force explain God and the methods of God’s creation? More to the point, would this prove once and for all that God does exist and explain his methods, or because we put a name to it that is “not God” will it prove that God cannot exist? Same evidence but vastly different conclusions based on underlying assumptions! Again I’ll ask “what is suitable evidence to prove God?”
I’m certainly not saying that God is proven in any way, but I am saying that it is irrational to suggest that the fact science exists in some way disproves God. Also see the last paragraph of the next section that explains they are quite separate.
I’ll leave the last word on this to Albert Einstein (who contrary to some opinions did not believe in a traditional “God” but also was not an atheist): “Everyone who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the Universe — a spirit vastly superior to that of man.”
5. The second law of thermodynamics is only for closed systems so evolution does not go against it because the sun provides an external energy source. Your concept of God has no scientific backing.
So then what about the universe itself and the second law (which in a nutshell states that everything tends towards greater randomness, or decays unless acted upon by an external energy source)? How did the universe become so organised after the Big Bang? If the universe is a closed system then the universe breaks the laws of the universe. If the universe is not a closed system then there must be an energy source outside the universe which powers the greater organisation we see today compared to the randomness at the Big Bang. (I’d like someone to seriously try to debunk this argument because I might have it wrong but I just can’t see a way around it).
If there is a power greater than the entire universe itself then what is it? What’s wrong with giving it the name of God? If we called it “Gazumpta” would it disprove God? Why would it not be intelligent if it created intelligence? How could we hope to understand it rationally if it is bigger than the entire universe? Why then call someone irrational if they choose to believe it may exist?
To my way of thinking the only way the universe can obey the laws of the universe is for there to be an unknown intelligent creative force that is greater than the entire universe and powers all that we see and is the driving force for all of creation and life. Give it any name you like but (in my opinion) it rationally and logically really should exist. To call people who believe in it delusional is maybe just a bit defensive of an indefensible dogmatic position.
It’s also my contention that God is beyond the reach of science. If you believe most Holy Scriptures the effects of God are everywhere so we’ll ignore those effects for the sake of argument as “not suitable evidence” but we’ll look for the cause. The cause actually created the physical and so can’t be seen directly in it. We can say that the signature of the designer is on the creation but that means nothing to someone who doesn’t believe in the creator in the first place. But science is based on evidence and generally speaking circumstantial or direct evidence to support a theory or direct evidence to disprove a theory. There is not and cannot be direct physical evidence for a non-physical creative God, therefore science must remain silent on the issue. Scientific principles can be used in logical discussions, but that is far from evidence for or against God.
6. It isn’t possible for God to just think or wish the universe into existence. What created God?
God by definition is infinite and eternal. God has no beginning or end. Therefore the “God theory” steps outside of the cause-effect conundrum and solves it. You only get the cause-effect problem if you believe that only the physical universe exists, which then needs a creator, which needs a creator etc.
Only the “God theory” solves that problem. God didn’t spontaneously come into existence because God is beyond (more than) mere existence. Existence is the effect and God is the cause of existence. Existence can’t cause existence. So then what caused existence? Of course you can always say there is some “stuff” that is infinite and eternal and intelligent and creative and give it a name and then say God can’t exist because we have a theory of “stuff”. That is really just playing with words.
There is also a basic assumption to this line of reasoning that only the physical universe exists. If there is more to the universe than just the physical then the door opens for the possibility of God, and remember I’m talking about people who say adamantly that there is no God. What proof is there that there is nothing beyond the physical? You can’t prove it with the physical because you can’t prove what’s outside it with what’s inside it. They can only take it on blind faith that there is only the physical tangible world and nothing more. How can they then berate a person for having faith?
Just as a last comment I do find it endlessly amusing that people who do not believe in God will quote the Bible and say “That is what God is”. However they interpret and define it very strictly and narrowly so it would be impossible for anything to fit the description, but they’ll use that definition as “proof” that God cannot exist.
In summary, a theory of creation that includes a God-like entity is plausible and defensible using logic and rational thought processes. A theory that denies a God-like entity may or may not be rational and logical but no more so that the God theory. Feel free to have and believe in any theory you care to choose but also please do not put down people who believe in God as being irrational or illogical (not all of them anyway).
Please feel free to tell me where my arguments are illogical or where I’ve got it totally wrong. You can also add your own points you’ve heard from those who suffer from the Godless Delusion. If you merely want to defend your own dogma that’s fine too.