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May 01 2008

The end of god-2: The death of the Personal God and the God of the Gaps

(For previous posts in this series, see here.)

In the previous post, I discussed the three theories of god: Personal God, God of the Gaps, and Ultimate Creator God.

The arguments advanced in favor of the Personal God theory have little intellectual merit and are proffered as evidence only by those who already want to believe. People who believe in such a god are in the grip of powerful emotions and are not going to be swayed by rational arguments. People who argue in favor of such a god or believe in the literal truth of the Bible have essentially declared that they are rejecting science and logic and reason as the basis of their belief.

The Personal God causes all kinds of problems for rationality. It is not a serious theory and sophisticated theologians, who appreciate that the idea of an activist, interventionist god creates more theological problems than it solves, tend to dismiss it. Thus we can consider this god to be dead as a serious intellectual proposition, although it is still believed in by a large number of people. I am not going to spend much time arguing against the existence of the Personal God because people who believe in such a god are not doing so on the basis of any argument and hence arguments against this god will have no effect. For example, how can you argue with someone who says that she had a vision in which god spoke to her or a near death experience where she visited heaven?

What about the arguments for the Ultimate Creator God and the God of the Gaps?

The arguments in favor of these two gods (which I discussed in an earlier post) do have some intellectual merit and the more sophisticated religious apologists use them to underpin their faith. These arguments have been the foundation of religious apologists starting from ancient days, through Bishop Paley’s watchmaker analogy, down to the current intelligent design creationism. While these arguments are by no means conclusive, for a long time there did not exist any credible alternative models or theories or conclusive arguments or evidence to refute them. Hence these arguments by religious apologists for the existence of god were tenable (at least in principle) and thus seemed plausible enough to be held on to without seeming to be irrational. Atheists always had the option of rejecting them as sterile explanations without any content and while many did so, they were not able to refute them.

That is no longer the case. There is no question that we now have powerful new arguments against the existence of the Ultimate Creator God and the God of the Gaps that were not available to the earlier generations of atheists. They arise from the rapid advance of modern science.

The most obvious casualty of these advances in science has been the God of the Gaps. Those things that were once thought to be so amazingly complex that they could not possibly have come about by natural causes (the eye, wings, the colors of butterflies, etc.) are now routinely explained by biological theories and their origins and workings are no longer deeply mysterious, though these things are still marvelous and awe-inspiring to behold. The gaps where this god resided have become increasingly narrow and is so threatened with extinction that more sophisticated theologians have abandoned this god because of the embarrassment it causes. In any high-level discussion involving the existence of god (see for example The God Delusion Debate between Richard Dawkins and John Lennox), it is quite common for religious apologists (Lennox in this case) to start with a disclaimer that the god they believe in is not a God of the Gaps, since they know that advances in scientific understanding have made such a god an endangered species.

But although formally disclaiming such a god, some still try to sneak it in under a different name. Intelligent design creationism, by suggesting that certain microbiological phenomena are too unlikely to have occurred by the laws of biology and thus must have been created by a designer, is invoking a God of the Gaps, even if the gap it appeals to is so tiny.

But given that sophisticated religious apologists are shying away from admitting to a belief in a God of the Gaps, we can assume that that god, like the Personal God, is also dead, at least as a serious proposition worth debating, although it still has some believers.

The demise of the Personal God and the God of the Gaps as viable candidates leaves standing just the Ultimate Creator God. But as I shall show, here too significant new developments in the theories of evolution and cosmology have dealt devastating blows to its credibility and it is these developments that have laid the intellectual foundations for the powerful arguments of the new atheists, arguments that were not available to earlier generations of atheists.

Next: The death of the Ultimate Creator God

POST SCRIPT: True sporting behavior

As I have said before, I am well and truly disgusted with the lack of graciousness, the downright boorish behavior, that occurs in professional sports.

This heartwarming story shows how people should approach sports. (Thanks to Jesus’s General.)

1 comment

  1. 1
    Robert

    Mr. Singham,

    “If logic is not how God thinks, it was merely how Aristotle* thought.”

    —-

    Please consider that aphorism at length before contacting me, Mr. Singham, should that interest you. Hint- it is driving at the atomistic nature of the universe in which you must believe we are living, and the consequences upon all you hold dear.
    —-

    * “Aristotle” should be taken as a figure here, a synechdoche, or more likely a metonymy.

    Respectfully,

    RM
    Washington, DC

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