“… the trouble is that, apart from those scholars who specialize in the study of medieval philosophy, very few contemporary writers on the atheism versus theism debate really do properly understand the arguments. This is part of the reason that arguments for the existence of God seem harder to defend then they really are. It’s not that the arguments themselves aren’t powerful, it’s that any defender of the arguments has to clear away an enormous amount of intellectual rubbish if he’s going to ensure that the arguments get a fair hearing. A fair hearing, that is to say, not merely or even primarily from the complete novice, but also, and even especially, from the so-called “educated” reader who thinks he already knows what the arguments say, but in fact knows nothing of the kind.”
— Edward Feser
This is a much more concise version of whycatholicism’s latest post (see here). Rather than considering rebuttals to arguments for god (specifically the Kalam Cosmological Argument), they’re accusing atheists of not properly understanding the argument. I’ve given the arguments a fair hearing, but there are two reasons they no longer deserve a fair hearing:
1) Plenty of philosophers, both past and present, have given the arguments a fair hearing—and it is safe to say that no further contributions can be made on these arguments. At this point, both sides are just talking passed one another.
2) The arguments are the ultimate red herring.
None of them address arguments from history (i.e. the historicity of Jesus; the conflation of El and Yahweh; the polytheistic origins of Judaism; the eschatological and demonological parallels between Zoroastrianism and Christianity; other arguments from comparative religion/mythology). None of them address god’s immorality in the Bible; what pretentious arguments do is employ circular reasoning and say “well, he’s god; he can do as he pleases” or “god is the ultimate source of morality, so who are you to question his judgements?” Most importantly, none of them prove Christianity specifically and even Feser touches on this: “No one claims that the cosmological argument by itself suffices to show that Christianity is true, that Jesus of Nazareth was God Incarnate, etc.” (read here). He also stated that “[e]stablishing the truth of specifically Christian claims about this divine cause requires separate arguments, and no one has ever pretended otherwise.” People have pretended otherwise, but that is besides the point. In any event, those separate arguments fail miserably; one of the arguments is the supposed consensus on Jesus’ historicity. That consensus is patently Christian because mostly Christian scholars have arrived at that consensus; that cannot be ignored. Before accusing me of genetic fallacy or some other fallacy, notice that you’re committing a fallacy by appealing to that consensus—namely argumentum ad numerum or alternatively, argumentum ad populum. Your argument from consensus doesn’t matter; a majority does imply truth. X amount of Jesus scholars stating that he existed doesn’t imply that they’re correct just like two billion Muslims doesn’t imply that Islam is the true religion. Then there are arguments like William Lane Craig’s argument for the truth of the resurrection—another argument that relies heavily on circular reasoning. “I believe that Jesus died and resurrected, so in believing in his resurrection I will now prove that he resurrected.” Never mind the arguments against the empty tomb and the resurrection.
In any case, all of the arguments for god distract from the point—and it’s a point Christians seem to avoid: does the Judeo-Christian god exist? Ultimately, the Christian isn’t arguing for a theistic god or a deistic god or a god in general (whatever that is); they’re arguing for the existence of their god and the arguments do not prove his existence. Furthermore, they don’t prove the existence of any god. The KCA simply concludes that there must be a first cause; the Moral Argument pretends to show that morality must stem from a god (all of that while ignoring the contributions a plethora of philosophers have made concerning morality); the Fine Tuning Argument pretends to show that intelligence is behind the fine tuning of the universe (all of that while ignoring cosmologists (i.e. Victor Stenger, Lawrence Krauss, Leonard Susskind, Stephen Hawking, etc.) and a host of information from cosmology). It’s not that atheists misunderstand the arguments; it’s that we see them as medieval, pseudo-sophist distractions that don’t further the notions that Christianity is true and that the Judeo-Christian god exists. Plenty of people have considered them and rather than declaring this or that argument falsified, apologists reword the argument(s) (i.e consider the ontological arguments) or say that the person failed to understand the argument properly; it’s obduracy at its finest.
What apologists need to do is stop crying over spilled milk and address the issue; stop rehashing these centuries-old arguments and stop saying people don’t understand them. Some of the rebuttals have come from professional philosophers—even famed philosophers like Kant and Hume; pseudo-sophist, wannabe William Lane Craigs even pretend to refute Kantian and Humean contributions. In the end, apologetics is part of the reason* why I will always have a love-hate relationship with philosophy; I love it because it provides clarity, but I hate it because it is used as a smokescreen by Christians. A historical understanding of Christianity tears it from its roots; a scientific understanding does the same. A true philosophical understanding does the same, but we already spoke about how apologists overindulge in confirmation bias—because they have to when looking to defend their faith (read here). It’s not that we don’t get you and your tired arguments; it’s that you don’t get us and the fact that we’re walking through the smokescreen. We’re fed up with the distractions and we’re fed up with your avoidance of our rebuttals and arguments.** Never mind that your constant appeal to these arguments are disguised fallacies: argumentum ad antiquitatem (appeal to tradtion) and argumentum ad auctoritatem (argument from authority). How? “These arguments are centuries old, so the fact that they exist today must make them right; thus, I’ll employ them because they’re right.” It’s quite subtle, but there’s a definite appeal to tradition when using these arguments. “These arguments were championed by Aristotle, Aquinas, Augustine, etc.; those great philosophers couldn’t have been wrong and thus, I’ll use these arguments because the authority of those philosophers is hard to question.” This is less subtle and it’s made obvious by the outright worship of people like Thomas Aquinas and Augustine of HIppo. If you can appeal to their authority, an atheist can appeal to Kantian, Humean, and Nietzschean authority. In that case, you would both be wrong. What’s required is for the Christian to weigh all of the contributions objectively and I maintain that that cannot be done. So their next option is to consider arguments against god—and there’s no shortage of such arguments. Unlike the common arguments for god, which admittedly do not prove the existence of the Judeo-Christian god or the truth of Christianity, most arguments against god prove that Christianity is false and that the Judeo-Christian god does not exist. The issue with some of these arguments is that they can’t be reduced to deductive arguments. One can’t take Bart Ehrman’s conclusions and reduce them to a deductive argument; one cannot do this with Carrier’s conclusions or Price’s conclusions or Armstrong’s conclusions; arguments from history are actually sophisticated and require a lot of reading—and that is perhaps what discourages people from looking into them. Well, before you go around claiming that Christianity is true, history and comparative religion/mythology is something you should definitely look into.
*I also hate philosophy because it doesn’t resolve questions; it leaves them open for durations much longer than the human lifetime (i.e. free will, philosophy of mind/soul, morality, the existence of god). Questions are asked to eventually be answered; philosophy doesn’t seem to provide any answers. Never mind that answers are contested by philosophers. Think of the Humean Problem of Induction and Popper’s eventual solution via falsification; philosophers actually contest Popper’s solution and the ones that do so never question and probably don’t even realize their motives. The people that I’ve seen question Popper’s solution are usually religious and are usually anti-science and by anti-science, I’m not saying creationists for example; I’m saying people that seek to undermine science due to their obvious religious or philosophical bias.
**Many are the Christians who avoid my arguments from history and continue posting rehashed apologetic arguments. I listened to your KCA, your Moral Argument, your Teleological Argument, your myriad Ontological Arguments, etc. Now listen to my arguments. Or do you fear their conclusions?