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Gospel Disproof #51: No good arguments for God

I’m going to piggyback off an excellent post by The Uncredible Hallq on the topic of whether there are any good arguments for God. You often hear Christian apologists protest that, when you disprove Apologetic Argument X, you still have not disproved the existence of God, because you haven’t addressed Apologetic Argument Y (and when you address Y, then they’ll claim you need to address Z, etc. etc.). All the apologist has to do is keep drawing one more line in the sand, indefinitely, in order to claim that the skeptic has failed to cross the right one.

Despite this ingenious exercise in goalpost-moving, though, the nature of the arguments themselves is enough to establish the fact that there are no good (i.e. valid and reliable) arguments for the existence of a deity like the Christian God.

Let’s shift the debate for a minute to forestall any religious biases. Suppose instead of talking about the existence of God, we’re talking about the existence of chupacabra. You have two arguments in favor of chupacabra‘s existence. Argument 1 is that your cousin Ernie, an alcoholic, says he actually saw one during one of his binges. (He’s also seen snakes with legs, flying monkeys, and George Washington.) The other argument is that your neighbor Pat saw one attacking some goats, and shot it, and took pictures of the body, and had a vet do some dissection of it, and then had a taxidermist stuff it and mount it, and you can stop by and see it if you like.

If you were trying to persuade a skeptic that chupacabra was real, you’d obviously use argument 2 instead of argument 1. Argument 1 is just a bad argument, notoriously unreliable and unconvincing, whereas argument 2 is pretty conclusive. Likewise, if you invent a chupacabra whistle, and every time you blow it, more of them show up, you’ll use that as evidence they exist. When you want to convince someone, you’re going to use the best argument(s) you know.

There are only two ways, then, that you can have a lot of different, equally-popular arguments for the existence of something. One way is if they’re all equally good, and any one of them ought to be reasonably convincing to an honest skeptic. The other way is if they’re all equally bad, and none of them is really sufficiently good evidence to rise to the top (like your neighbor Pat’s stuffed chupacabra) and crowd out the bad evidence. Even granted that some of the good arguments might get a bit technical, and be out of the intellectual reach of the average layman, a good line of evidence is going to stand out versus any number of bad arguments (as in Special Relativity, or the Big Bang).

When we look at the evidence for the Christian God, what do we see? We see a vast jungle of generally poor arguments, all competing for the available pool of gullible minds. As we look at these arguments one by one, we find that each of them is as unreliable as Cousin Ernie, and depends on superstition, and rigged scorekeeping, and double standards, and so on. Apologists can keep drawing lines in the sand, and insisting that the best answers are on the other side, but we know this is not true, because if Argument Z were really the valid and verifiable argument, no apologist would waste time trying to push the inferior arguments X and Y. Every argument we look at is going to prove as false and unreliable as the last one, because they’re all equally bogus. This endless series of lines in the sand is itself proof that Christian apologists have nothing solid to put on the other side.

Comments

  1. Cafeeine says

    The guys at the Atheist Experience have made a similar point, after dealing with several callers who try to rattle off several arguments one after the other, when the previous ones are shot down. They now ask “what is your best evidence / argument for God?” This saves a lot of time.

    • OverlappingMagistera says

      And don’t forget the follow-up question: “If your best argument failed to convince us, what makes you think your second-best argument will?”

  2. raymoscow says

    Yeah, I think this is right. After a few months of arguing with religious apologists, I noticed that the arguments never got any better. They were usually just the same tired old lame arguments that had been refuted a thousand times already.

    After a few years more (yeah, I’m slow), I realised that this was all there would ever be from the apologists.

  3. Josh R. says

    I love logic.

    When they shift the goal posts it is always either a lateral shift or a loss of yards. There is never a better argument only a vague-er argument. (yes, I could’ve typed “more vague”)

    It seems such a simple concept. Their arguments aren’t equally good. They’re equally bad. All of them fail the same set of tests, just at different portions of the testing.

  4. BKsea says

    In my experience, every single argument devolves into “God exists. Therefore god exists.” They have just tried to dress up the argument with enough misdirection to make it seem profound. So, if you have shown one argument to be poor, you actually have shown every argument to be poor.

    • Jer says

      In my experience, every single argument devolves into “God exists. Therefore god exists.”

      Really? In my experience most of them devolve into “I can show that you can’t discount the possibility of God completely, therefore God exists”. If even a 0.00000000001% chance of God existing remains, then they feel that the argument is won and you have to admit that God must exist.

      What’s really funny are the ones where they essentially construct a version of God that no Christian believes in, get you to admit that you can’t prove that that version of God doesn’t exist, and then say “AH-HA!” like they’ve scored some kind of point.

  5. grumpyoldfart says

    Before asking for proof of god’s existence, the atheist should first ask the theist to describe god (otherwise we won’t know what we are talking about).
    `

    The believer usually gets to a point where he declares that god is “beyond the understanding of mere mortals.”
    `

    So the discussion can end right there – because the theist doesn’t know what he’s talking about.
    `

    On page 360 of the 1968 edition of the National Catholic Almanac (still listed at Amazon) God is described as “incomprehensible”.
    `

    Pretty good trick that – comprehending the incomprehensible.

  6. mikespeir says

    Yeah, but the cumulative effect of all the arguments together is just devastating. I mean, zero + zero + … uh, zero + ….

    Never mind.

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