Amidst all the chaos of the self-proclaimed atheist leaders exposing their flaws, it’s easy to forget that they’re right about atheism. There is no god. The arguments for god are pathetic and silly. Many religious beliefs are self-destructive and poisonous. I’ve been seeing a few articles lately that are basically gloating that atheism is dead or dying because Richard Dawkins said something stupid about women’s equality…but they ignore the fact that he also said many smart things about god-belief, and the regressive nature of one guy’s antipathy towards feminism does not discredit atheism, or provide any comfort to religious advocates. It’s also particularly ironic when Catholics wag a finger at a few atheists who are blinded by privilege, while studiously ignoring that one of the biggest threats to women’s rights in the western world has been Catholic doctrine.
But as far as arguments for religions go, Dawkins doesn’t matter, and neither do the criminal activities of the Catholic church. What matters on the topic of god-belief are the qualities of the arguments. and really, they are appallingly bad. I’m not talking about just the goofy crap that comes out of lackluster minds like that of a Hovind or a Comfort, but the Big Guns of religion, like Aquinas. They are impossible to take seriously, unless one is doped to the gills with bad theology.
People often send me links from a site called “Intellectual Takeout” — there are a lot of Catholics who think I still need to be taken down a peg or two — and they are without exception absurd. The latest that was told would humble me is The Most Famous Proof for God’s Existence, which left me unimpressed. Here it is, in summary:
The “First-Cause Argument”:
– It’s impossible for a thing to be the cause of itself.
– If something is caused by another, then these causes must go back to infinity, or their must be a first, uncaused cause that begins the chain of causes in the universe.
– It’s not possible for causes to go back to infinity.
– Therefore, there must be a First Cause, which everyone calls “God.”
I have two problems with it.
The first is that I don’t know that their initial premise is true. Why can’t a thing be caused by itself, or better yet, have no cause at all? It’s simply an assertion, plopped down at the beginning of the argument, and it hasn’t been demonstrated.
The second is a related problem. What do you mean by “cause”? Just yesterday I was sitting down at a microscope, staring at high power at single cells, and seeing slow bubbling fluctuations in the membranes and the jittering activity of organelles, and also jerky movements of debris particles in the water, and I understood the cause: Brownian motion. This is simply the visible, random motion of ojects in response to collisions with the smaller atoms of water, which are all jiggling randomly with simple thermal energy.
Is that accepted as a “cause”? There is no intelligence behind it. Even if you accept some kind of determinism (I don’t), it’s not causal in the sense implied by Aquinas, who is reading some kind of planned purposefulness to it.
So is “God” just a form of heat?
It generally seems to be true that the deeper we look into things the simpler and more physical their causes appear. You might ask, “Why carbon?”, wondering why there’s so much of it here on Earth. And the physicists will tell you it all comes from nucleosynthesis in stars. Is nucleosynthesis “God”? Are stars?
So even if I accept their first premise, that all things are caused, I see no reason to believe that the primal trigger for all existence was an intelligent being with human-like personal qualities, like love and morality. Quite the opposite actually. This is an argument that leads me far, far away from the typical religious perspective of a deity, and closer and closer to an atheistic, scientific view of the universe.
In this sense, the religious apologists seem to be thrilled with internal dissent within the atheist community, because it is a useful distraction from the bullshit they’ve been peddling for a few centuries.