Michael Horner's Blog

    “We aren’t saying God does not exist – we are merely lacking a belief that God does exist.” Right!?

    Written by Michael Horner and Paul Chamberlain

    In our debate with two atheists last month over the question of God’s existence, the atheists initially claimed that their answer to the question was a negative claim, which did not carry a burden of proof. In last week’s post, Paul argued persuasively that a truth claim being negative in nature (e.g. God does not exist), does not free it from having a burden of proof.

    Knowledge is defined by most philosophers as justified or warranted true belief. Any truth claim whether positive or negative, is a claim to know something and therefore requires justification or warrant. To put it simply, any knowledge claim, positive or negative, requires supporting reasons. Moreover, any negative claim can be rendered equivalently in a positive way without loss of meaning and thus has a burden of proof.

    For example, the late atheist Antony Flew (whom Michael met on a flight from Toronto to Dallas in 1985 on their way to a conference where Flew met Gary Habermas who was to have an integral role in Flew’s conversion almost twenty years later from atheism to deism)1

    stated that atheism can be put in the following positive forms: “’That this house denies the existence of God’; or, ‘That this house takes its stand for positive atheism’.”2

    During the debate’s ensuing dialogue when Paul pressed for clarification on the atheist’s position, one of our debate opponents “clarified” his position by asserting that he was not saying he believed there is no God but only that he did not believe there is a God? This may sound like meaningless philosophical hair splitting to some, but it was an important distinction to this atheist.

    The problem is that this distinction still cries out for clarification.  What, precisely does someone mean by saying it’s not that I believe there is no God; it’s just that I do not happen to believe there is a God?  There is an inherent ambiguity in the latter statement.

    Does he mean he does not believe there is a God in the sense that he really believes there is no God, which is a typical way to interpret a statement of the form I do not believe there is an X?  If so, this is a key negative truth claim (it’s actually a clear unambiguous statement of strong positive atheism) that places upon him a burden of proof to support this belief.  Even our atheist debater agreed that if a person claimed to believe there was no God, he would have a burden of proof just as a person would who claimed to believe there was no holocaust.

    But since our debating opponent stated that he is not claiming to believe there is no God, he must mean something else. Does he mean he does not believe there is a God in the sense that he is withholding judgment on the matter and simply doesn’t believe either that there is or is not a God? It seems that this may be closer to what he means. Many atheists these days say that they merely lack belief or that their position is one of disbelief or absence of belief. Now this is really ambiguous! And the atheist gains some traction in discussions because of this ambiguity.

    The first thing to notice about the atheists’ attempt to clarify is that it is not a clarification but rather a radical transformation of their position! Their first response was that their view is a negative claim and therefore doesn’t carry any burden of proof. Now with this lack of belief defense, our atheist is denying that he is making any claim at all, and for that reason, has no burden of proof. Which is it – a negative claim or no claim at all? In order for their “negative claims need no proof” defense to make any sense, they must have been making the negative claim that there is no God, but now they are saying that they are not believing or claiming that there is no God!

    By saying that he is only lacking a belief in God’s existence, the atheist is not making a claim about God existing or not; he is only telling us about a psychological state in his mind. This means that he is not answering the question at hand – Does a God or God’s Exist? He is trying to escape a burden of proof by not adding any knowledge about the world, but in doing so the atheist evades even answering the debate question.

    But the atheist may respond with “when I say I do not believe that there is a God, I am answering the question  Does a God or God’s Exist?” This is where the ambiguity really helps him. The atheist is correct that there is a logical difference between I believe X does not exist and I do not believe X does exist. But typically when someone says I do not believe that X exists, they mean that they think the proposition that X exists is false, and would be expected to provide reasons for their denial of that proposition.

    Only if someone actually says or means I believe God does not exist is he answering the question Does a God or God’s Exist? Of course this would then place a burden of proof upon him to support his claim.  But the atheist in our debate explicitly stated that this is not what he means! He only says or means I do not believe (or I lack the belief) that God exists. So this strategy allows the atheist to appear like he is sincerely answering the question, while at the same time not making any claims that require a burden of proof upon him. Is the atheist sincerely mistaken here or is this a deliberate deception on their part? It is difficult to say for sure, and it may vary among atheists, but it certainly is convenient!

    What do you think?

    _____________________________
    1. Yes this was shameless name dropping.
    2. Shandon L. Guthrie, Atheism and the Argumentum Ad Ignorantiam: Why Atheists Cannot Avert the Burden of Proof 

    22 Responses to ““We aren’t saying God does not exist – we are merely lacking a belief that God does exist.” Right!?”

    • Richard says:

      If I’m understanding this correctly, he is attempting to mask a claim to knowledge by simply stating a lack of belief in the proposition “God exisits.” My first question then, is what was he doing at the debate? If his claim is not “God does not exist!”, but rather a subjective “I dont happen to believe it”, then why does he feel it so important to proclaim and defend? His participation in the debate, previous public statements and written material would seem to prove he is in fact making claims about the way things really are and not just describing his own arbitrary thoughts… If truth is the relationship between an idea and reality, it seems to me that you cannot escape burden of proof on any reasonable statement about “the way things really are.” If he’s not attempting to describe reality, then why is his idea important? Why should anyone listen?

    • Richard – I think your last two sentences nailed it! If the atheist does not really mean that “he believes there is no God”, then why should anyone care what he has to say about something he “lacks belief” in? Presumably he lacks belief in all sorts of things that he doesn’t talk about and that others could care less about. Why tell us about his alleged “lack of belief” in God’s existence unless he is trying to get others to believe something that he thinks is true about reality – that is, that there is no God?
      Thanks for your insightful comment.

    • Antony Burt says:

      Both side refused to state without reservation that God does or does not exist.

      Matt Dillahunty framed his stance as: “The fact that there could possibly be a god is not a compelling enough reason to think that it’s actually true. So while I admit that there may possibly could be a god, I not only don’t believe there is one, but I believe there is not.”

      Michael Horner later stated: “I think to say that it is probable that God exists, is not exactly right. It’s just that my certitude is at a level that’s below certainty, but that’s just the way we know most things. Even science: science is all about probability. So it is highly more probable that God exists, and if God gave commands, then those commands are certainly true, whether we have correctly interpreted his communication to us, would be something at question, but if we correctly interpreted his communication, then we have God’s commands, and they would be absolutely true, but there would be a degree of probability. I believe that God exists, say 99%, then I guess it would follow I believe that’s command of God 99%, that’s pretty good. I mean that’s just the way the world is. I didn’t make this up, it’s the way the world functions. We have to come to grips with it. I can’t believe you’re attacking Christians for admitting that we don’t know things with certainty. There’s hardly anything we know with certainty.”

      So both sides back down from flat out asserting that God does exist or does not exist, relying on their stance of belief. While Matt, asserted he believed there is not a god, and does not believe in God, Michael only claimed 99% certitude in the existence of God.

      I have read many times that Christians assert that “there IS a god” but during the debate, it was definitely dialled back to ‘Probable” or “more probable”.

      No solid evidences were brought forth by either team to support 100% the claim that “God or Gods do Exist” or “God or Gods do NOT exist”.

      Indeed, the problem is stated in a way that is impossible, as the word exist is problematic in that to exist, is to be material in nature. A thought (a non material object) does not exist in the physical state. It happens, but it does not “exist”, it can not be put into a jar. So it is fairly easy to say that God CAN NOT exist, but that is dodging the intent of the question. How can something that does not exist, exist? You can’t possibly know 100% something which can never exist in the physical sense, you can only believe based on evaluation of known evidence to support the claim.

      While there is no evidence supporting a mind of any sort can exist outside of a brain, we also have no evidence that any object can exist outside of existing. We also have no evidence that evidence could ever be found to support either claim.

      It’s all “more probable” no matter what side of the fence you are on…

    • Antony Burt says:

      I had posted here earlier, but the post was not saved (apparently). So I will post again. Sorry if this is later found to be a duplicate. As I am writing this on line, it is much different from the earlier post, except for the transcriptions I have made from the video.

      While watching this debate, I noticed that the theists avoided stating categorically that there IS a god. While normally we read assertions in print that there IS a god, this was definitely dialled back during the debate to “probable” or “more probable”.

      Matt Dillahunty, during the debate cross examination stage, asserted: “The fact that there could possibly be a god is not a compelling enough reason to think that it’s actually true. So while I admit that there may possibly could be a god, I not only don’t believe there is one, but I believe there is not.”

      Matt has defined his belief pretty well. Defining acceptance that he could be wrong, but for all practical purposes, his belief is that belief in God is incorrect, and that there is no god to belief in.

      In contrast let’s look at what Michael Horner said during the question and answer period when asked why theists make absolute laws if God is only probable (shouldn’t the laws be also ‘probable’?): “I think to say that it is probable that God exists, is not exactly right. It’s just that my certitude is at a level that’s below certainty, but that’s just the way we know most things. Even science: science is all about probability. So it is highly more probable that God exists, and if God gave commands, then those commands are certainly true, whether we have correctly interpreted his communication to us, would be something at question, but if we correctly interpreted his communication, then we have God’s commands, and they would be absolutely true, but there would be a degree of probability. I believe that God exists, say 99%, then I guess it would follow I believe that’s command of God 99%, that’s pretty good. I mean that’s just the way the world is. I didn’t make this up, it’s the way the world functions. We have to come to grips with it. I can’t believe your attacking Christians for admitting that we don’t know things with certainty. There’s hardly anything we know with certainty.” This is pointedly non-scripted, and wanders, but the point is clear, there is absolutely no assertion that God does indeed exist, just that Christians feel that God is very probable (at 99%).

      Here we have Michael stating that he is 99% certain that God exists, but he does not know it (with 100% certainty). This is pretty fair. But notice how while God is highly probable, his commands are absolutely true even if they have a degree of probability… Lot’s of back peddling on the absolutes…

      So theists, man up! It’s ok not to know if God does or does not exist, as to know that beyond a shadow of a doubt will require knowledge of the supernatural, which, by it’s nature, unknown to us in the natural realm. All we can do is work with the evidence we have compiled so far. And so far, there is zero evidence to support the existence of the supernatural realm (that includes ALL gods, ESP, ghosts, astral travelling etc….)

      As a note: To exist is to be material. A frog exists. You can hold a frog. You can put a frog in a jar. CAN God exist? Can you put any God in a jar (like you can a frog.) It is perhaps impossible for Gods to exist.

    • Antony Burt says:

      Ha! After reloading the page many times, and reloading other pages… I retype and commit, and presto, there is the earlier post… technology, is not perfect.

    • Michael Horner says:

      Hi Again Antony
      This issue of probability that you have brought up in this comment was probably the most surprising thing about the debate for me. Both DiCarlo and Dillahunty, and now you, seem to have no idea of what I even meant when I said that our arguments for God were probabilistic in nature! Since I had already begun writing a post about this topic, I have decided to respond to your comment through my next two posts which will be posted early in each of the next two weeks.

    • Antony Burt says:

      I await your posts…

    • Antony
      Because of some of my colleagues being on vacation, I have run into some problems with posting the promised responses to the probability issue. It may be a while yet. Sorry

    • Richard says:

      Hi Antony – thanks for the replys – sounds like you have thought this out . While I wait for Michael’s response on the probability question, could you clarify your position for me a bit?

      [1] you seem to hold the view that on a weighted scale of probabilities, the evidence presented FOR God’s existence does not stack up to the evidence he does not exist. Let’s say that any and all evidence for God’s (term used liberally) existence could be systematically dismantle – it woudn’t “prove” (as you would use the term) that he doesn’t exist, but would rather make the claim much more probable and agnosticism would likely be most reasonable. That is, unless there was material evidence that led you to believe there in fact was no god. Assuming you aren’t agnostic, what are those reasons   athiesm is “more probable” ?

      [2] You claim the material world is all there is (ie. things like conscience, ethics, emotions, morality etc. are subjective constructs of the brain). What reasons do you have to support this?

      (pls correct if I have misspoken)

    • Antony Burt says:

      I am responding to email notification that messages have been posted here. I saw the one from Michael, but after many reloads, even that message is not showing up any more.

      Michael: There is no rush on responses, fulfil your other obligations. Messages can wait. Thanks for the update.

      Richard: Neither side would flat out commit to ‘knowing’ with an omniscient sense that they knew God DID or DID NOT exist. Both sides quantified their stance in the form of belief. You can “know” something at 50% or 98%, but if there is ANY doubt, it is but a belief, and it is not knowing. The equation 2+2=4 has no “but maybe not” portion to it.

      And yes, I weight the claim for NO god higher than IS god, as I see absolutely no strong evidence to support ANY god. Zeus, Thor, Isis, Ra, God, Jesus, Yahweh, Allah, Coyote, Nuwa, or any of the thousands of other gods, are all exactly the same: mythical creatures made by man. Just as you weight the evidence FOR god to be stronger than not. Just like the followers of Zeus did, or Isis, or… well, you get the picture.

      Why do I hold that the absence of God is more likely? For thousands of years, mankind has believed in Gods. Gods that were the sun, gods that were in volcanoes, gods that controlled the wind, gods that had to be fed through sacrifices to appease them. What do we see in Christianity? The very same sacrifices mandated to appease God. Indeed God had a wife (the Goddess of wisdom Asherah. Notice she has roots like the tree of knowledge) prior to the religion morphing into monotheism. So, all these religions with their own gods, and they all claim that the OTHER religions are all wrong. Maybe they all have one thing in common and they are all correct about the others being wrong?

      The material world (not spiritual) is all that any evidence ever supports an existence of. We have heard claims of ESP, telekinesis, ghosts, gods, and such, and nothing ever has been verified to stand up to scrutiny.

      As for thoughts, they are essentially transient but chemical and electrical in nature. Brain scans show areas in the brain where activity shows up while people interact. Mechanical stimulation of the brain (electrical or magnetic) can even trigger thoughts (even religious thoughts!) Thoughts do exist in the real world, but they exist only the moment they are thought (but the the concept of the thought may be memorized in the brain, for later recall and dissemination). The brain is fully organic, with nothing supernatural going on in there. Why should there be? There is no need for magic in the brain.

    • Richard says:

      Antony – I read through your clarification, and either I’m confused, or you’ve missed something. I consider myself a rational and logical thinker; ideas presented in point form or in a “premise -> conclusion” format are the type that make most sense to me. An idea can be considered false or untrue, if it’s conclusion doesn’t follow from any of the supporting premises, or if any of the premises can be shown to be false (logic 101 stuff). If not, the argument is solid and the conclusion can be reasonable counted as true (or highly probable). I have troubles with conjecture or rhetoric, or when there are many assertions without supporting evidence. I believe Mr. Hitchens felt the same way:

      Quote:
      “That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.” ? Christopher Hitchens

      You said:

      “I weight the claim for NO god higher than IS god, as I see absolutely no strong evidence to support ANY god. Zeus, Thor, Isis, Ra, God, Jesus, Yahweh, Allah, Coyote, Nuwa, or any of the thousands of other gods, are all exactly the same: mythical creatures made by man”

      There is a significant amount of evidence to support the existence of the Judeo Christian God as overwhelmingly probable. Michael & Paul presented a number of arguments that followed this rational “premise -> conclusion” format. Unless the arguments they presented are shown to be false in some way, they qualify as evidence of the “most probable” kind.

      Question: Where (specifically) is the flaw in their argumentation?

      You said:

      Why do I hold that the absence of God is more likely? For thousands of years, mankind has believed in Gods. Gods that were the sun, gods that were in volcanoes, gods that controlled the wind, gods that had to be fed through sacrifices to appease them…

      It goes without saying that the following claim is logically absurd:
      1. I see no evidence that X exists
      2. Therefore, X does not exist (or is vastly improbable)

      My attempt to explain this in my previous post may not have come across very well. The point I was trying to make was simply that the absence of evidence does not itself qualify as evidence. Even IF it were true that evidence from cosmology and the sciences could be shown errant, and arguments of the world’s leading theist philosophers were logically defeated, and the historical evidence for Jesus and the scriptures was erased — you still cannot claim the absence of God is far more probable simply because of the absence of evidence – it’s irrational. I have wondered for a good while now why there doesn’t seem to be any evidence FOR atheism that isn’t rooted in attempts to dismiss the evidence for God’s existence. There are many things that cannot be seen which can be proven false (or highly improbable) by strong scientific evidence, or sound reasoning.

      Question: What is the evidence that atheism is true?

      I suppose I’m of the mind that if God exists, and is personally interested in us as he claims, then there should be evidence sufficient for anyone who would honestly look for him, to discover whether those claims are true. Sorry for the long post here – it’s sometimes a challenge to be concise with my reasoning … interested to hear your take.

    • Antony Burt says:

      Hi Richard,

      If you wish evidence for the case that the myth of God is just myth and nothing more we must look at the myths themselves. Where shall we start? Let’s look at Genesis shall we… It’s the book that without it’s validity, all else in Christianity falls apart at the seams.

      In the beginning of Genesis, we find TWO distinct versions of creation the creation of earth. The order of creation is distinctly different. ONE must be wrong, or perhaps both? Which version is wrong? In one version God creates man and woman at the same time (the unnamed woman in this version I suspect is none other than Lilith) and the other time he creates man alone, then asks Adam to choose from the animals for a wife (how sickening is that!) Also, in the different accounts, the order of plants, animals and man are differing. Which one is correct. To find out, we leave the scriptures and look at the well documented scientific evidence of the evolution of life. The first life on earth was single celled life. Algae and bacterium abounded. The blanket of Algae existed for about a billion years, before multi celled life evolved… Awesome isn’t it! A billion years of just a blanket of algae, then finally evolution got going, but in contrast to the scriptures, there were not “first” of kinds, but a gradual change of genes… A good analogy is the different phases in any humans life. From infant, toddler, child, teenager, adult, to senior there are several distinct “kinds” of stages, but at no particular moment does an infant becomes suddenly a toddler… It is obvious that the scriptures are incorrect. Live was not ‘created’ fully formed and ready to go, it was a slow and gradual process, the first step of which took a billion years! There was NO Adam and Eve as the Bible says. It’s an impossible claim.

      Now, let us move on the the cosmological ‘evidence’. The bible tells us God created earth, THEN the sun, moon and the stars on a later single day. This seems out of kilter. God takes DAYS to manage to make earth, yet can zip out almost 2 million GALAXIES per second.

      Another problem with this myth is that science shows us that OUR solar system was made billions of years AFTER other stars. We indeed would NOT exist if the Genesis story was true, as our solar system has the heavier elements that were released from other stars as they exploded… If our earth was created before our sun (which is a physical impossibility), then we would not have ANY heavier elements, and life would NOT exist… The creation of the stars ‘hanging’ on our firmament made in one day, is another impossible claim. The notion of hanging stars is just silly… not so silly for the writers of the bible, who did know any better…

      You see, there is solid scientific evidence that the myths of God are just and only myths.

    • Antony Burt says:

      “We aren’t saying God does not exist – we are merely lacking a belief that God does exist.” July 8, 2012.

      Hi Richard:

      You ask: “Where (specifically is the flaw in there argumentation?”

      The major flaw is the unspecified nature of the argument.

      Their arguments work as well for the Christian God, as it does with Allah, Jahweh, or any other deity so imbued with a creation myth, or a myth of dishing out morality.

      Just plug in Allah instead of God and the arguments work just as fine. So what’s the problem you may ask, Allah and God are both derived from the same Jewish God Jahweh, which is also derived from pagan god worship.

      A short history: About 840 BCE the pagan god Jahweh lost his consort and his fellow gods, and became a monotheistic god. Then he became the Christian god God, and later the Muslim god, Allah.

      ALL of these versions claim they are the true version. The Jewish religion says the Christian and Muslim religions are false or in error, the Christian religion says the Jewish and Muslim are false or in error, and the Muslims say the Jewish and Christian are false or in error.

      Because they are monotheistic religions, if Allah were to be the one true god, then by their very nature, Jahweh and God could not exist. If Jahweh were to be the one true god, then likewise, Allah and God could not exist. Finally if God exists, then Jahweh and Allah can not exist.

      If a monotheistic god exists, no other monotheistic god can exist, nor can any other pan-theistic god exist. If Vishnu were to exist, God, Allah and Jahweh can not exist, but the other gods that are said to reign in the supernatural realm with Vishnu, could also exist.

      With such, if ANY god exists besides Allah, Jahweh or God, then those three can NOT exist. They can not exist with any other god (even one historically based prior or after them.)

      So, let’s revisit the Kalam Cosmological Argument and see where it gets us:

      1) Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
      2) The universe began to exist.
      3) Therefore, the universe has a cause.

      So far so good, right? (You would think…)

      Let’s continue:
      As the cause of space, time, matter and energy, such a cause must be: timeless, uncaused, changeless, spaceless, immaterial personal being of immeasurable power. Such a being is Allah.

      Since Allah has been shown to be the creator of the universe, and Allah is a monotheist god, there cannot exist any other god in the universe.

      God therefore does not exist.

      That is the major trouble with generic arguments for a god who happens to be mono-theistic. There is no ‘DNA’ markers for a specific god, that can exclude other gods from being used within the same framework. They are without merit to prove a specific god or deity.

      ————

      What is the evidence that Atheism is true?

      First: Atheism is “the rejection of belief in one or more gods.”
      So, unless one was to take the Pascal’s Wager to its ultimate end (to believe in all gods), then most if not all people have atheism as a personal belief.

      Essentially, to lack ANY atheism is illogical, and indeed it would be fallacious to attempt to believe in all monotheistic gods just because of their very nature. Atheism is the standard for nearly everyone, for nearly all gods.

      That is only an argument, and not evidence. I would need to a good sized sample of people from many cultures to ascertain Atheism is true or not for all if not most people. I am just assuming here, that most people hold Atheism to be true for most of the gods of man kinds past.

      Now, let’s look at Buddhism. Buddhism is a philosophical way of life that has no god at all within it’s doctrines. While the lack of deity precludes it from being a ‘real’ religion, even some buddhist feel it is a religion, due to the doctrines, the temples, the rituals etc, but that is not my point. Atheism MUST be true within Buddhism, by it’s very nature.

      Can the rejection of ANY belief be good? The rejection of any unfounded belief (a belief not founded in fact, but opinion) is the natural default position.

      “The moon is made of cheese.” May be a fun belief, but without evidence, it would not be beneficial for anyone to fall in line with it. “You have two fathers.” would also be an opinion that could be dangerous to accept without evidence. “God X exists.” likewise would need back up evidence otherwise “God W exists.” “God J exists.”, “God A exists” etc must also be taken at face value…

      You see, you MUST not just blindly accept everything without verification.

      Look before you leap. You can’t judge a book by its cover. Don’t believe everything you read. Atheism is the default position…

      Atheism is not only the default position for most mythical gods, for some people it’s the default position for all gods.

      I hear you though, what about evidence that God does not exist?

      Firstly, there is no evidence that God does exist, otherwise there would be no other religions, there would be no rational for atheism either. Should we stop there and say because you have not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that God exists we do not need to go any further? We could, as we have the right. There is no need to go to the moon and get a rock to prove the moon is NOT made of cheese. There has been no proof for the cheese claim to start with (I know Nasa has actual moon rocks, but that issue is beside the point. Even if no one had ever landed on the moon yet, there still would not be any validity to the claim that the moon is made of cheese.)

      Some people hold the Bible as evidence of God. Instead the bible proves there is no God.

      1) Bible Creation. In the creation fables, God creates the universe (excepting the earth which took him the other five working days) in just one day. That is over 170 billion Galaxies, thats a smidgen under 2 million galaxies per second, for 24 hours… Now each galaxy has thousands of stars in them. That is a LOT of matter to create from nothing and to set it formation and motion each second. A huge amount! So by this very fable we are led to believe the all knowing, all powerful god can create massive amounts of matter, set it up, and get it going, in less time than a single human heart beat… but, the rub is that His greatest single object that carries his most important message to his most important creation, he is impotent! He could NOT create a bible. He could NOT manage to put his own thoughts into a form that we his creation could understand flawlessly and without error. He could NOT manage to create a book. He, who can create a burning functioning star in less than a nano second (there are a million nano-seconds in a second) cannot self publish an autobiography. Lots of humans can do it, no reason a god could not… He could even make it out of a flexible indestructible metal not found on earth. Creating the bible was somehow an “iron chariot” for God.

      2) The prayer lie:

      In many verses Jesus claims that he answers prayers. He does not quantify any stipulations on his answering of prayer, but he does recommend the believer be true. Now, this sets up a verifiable test on the validity of prayer. Many people have tested the validity of prayer, and they found no benefits beyond the placebo effect, and they found actual detriments in the case of the study which found people who were told they were being prayed for actually faired slightly worse then the other groups. No example of prayer for regrowth of amputated limbs, moved mountains, or world peace has ever been found to come true. Since prayer does not work, it is a lie, and thus, God does not exist.

      3) Genesis: There is a whole lot wrong with the myths in Genesis, but we will try to keep this short…
      The creation of Man: In the two different accounts of creation within Genesis we have to differing accounts of mans creation. In the first account, man and woman are created at the same time (I think this likely is where Lilith is created) and in the second account man is created first, and then God asks Adam to pick a mate from the animals already created (God made pairs of other animals, then asks his prize creation to ‘steal’ a mate from the other animals? God is good with bestiality?) Only when Adam protests, does God create a clone for Adam for him to marry. God then gets upset at his creation (Adam and Eve) and curses them and their unborn descendants.

      Was there a first man and woman for God to curse? Simply no. All life on earth stems from single celled life which formed on this planet billions of years ago. For one billion years, algae and bacteria was the only life on earth. Finally, multi-celled life started to emerge, and then billions of years later, the primates emerged. There was not ‘first’ man and woman, but a gradual slow change. A good analogy for this is to look at human development stages. There are some distinct stages as we grow from infant to senior, but there is no single day when we are an infant one day, and a toddler the next, it is a gradual change. Likewise there was not ‘first man’ for God to create, nor curse. Thus, there is no god (and no Jesus as Jesus was created because God could not figure out a way to lift the curse without causing some grief somewhere…)

      I could go on, but this post is already getting long, and I think you get the point. There ARE valid reasons to doubt the myths of god are anything but myths.

    • Antony Burt says:

      Sorry for the two posts instead of when one would suffice… my earlier post was not showing up and I doubted I had had actually saved it, so I rewrote it… Sadly I see it un-required, and the new version even contains typographical error:

      You ask: “Where (specifically) is the flaw in their argumentation?”

      Please accept my apologies on double dipping the post… ;-)

    • Richard says:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fallacies

      Antony:
      Appreciate your attempt to deal directly (somewhat) with the arguments presented — but you’re all over the place with your reply making .

      Here’s what I’m hearing you say:
      ———————————————————————
      [1] Regarding the specific flaw in their argumentation:
      ———————————————————————
      [CLAIMS]
      “The major flaw is the unspecified nature of the argument”
      “Their arguments work as well for the Christian God, as it does with Allah, Jahweh, or any other deity…”

      [RESPONSE]

      I was referring specifically to a premise or conclusion drawn from *any* of the arguments presented, but perhaps I should have been more specifc … I’m having troubles seeing how the fact this argument works for multiple gods is somehow evidence none of them exist … Unless *ALL* (ie. every single one) of the conclusions from the arguments presented can be shown false, it remains most probable the idea(s) it supports are true – ie: God exists.

      *** Question: Are you claiming God cannot exist because the arguments used (assuming you mean all of them) could apply to any God’s existence, therefore no God exists?

      It’s easy to dance around arguments presented with clever rhetoric and persuasive monologue – it’s how Richard Dawkins has made his fortune, but dealing with the specific arguments presented is the only way you can claim it’s not highly probable God exist. No atheist, agnostic or persuasive writer (especially Dawkins) has been able to show the fallacy in the arguments Mike and Paul presented — but I would appreciate a reference showing this has been done. For a system of thought touting reason and logic as their foundation, atheism seems to appeal elsewhere when trying to deal with the ideas when presented in a reasonable and logical format.

      Matt Dilauhaunty subscribes to this way of thinking:
      The editors and contributors at this wiki are convinced that logic, reason, skepticism, critical thought, and scientific investigation are the modern equivalent of Iron Chariots. No god hypotheses or supernatural claims have been able to withstand even casual examination

      In an attempt to keep this on topic and “stick to the arguments”, here’s how easy it is to harness that logic, reason, skepticism and critical thought:
      [1] show one of the premises is false (automatically negating the conclusion)
      [2] show the conclusision does not LOGICALLY follow from the premises.

      Simple, right?

      ******** Question ********
      Which specific premise or conclusion is false, and why?

      Here’s a good list of 100+ other ways you can show their arguments are without merit:
      Reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fallacies

      ———————————————————————
      [2] Regarding your notion on the history of religion:
      ———————————————————————
      [CLAIMS]
      “A short history: About 840 BCE the pagan god Jahweh lost his consort and his fellow gods, and became a monotheistic god. Then he became the Christian god God, and later the Muslim god, Allah.”
      “If a monotheistic god exists, no other monotheistic god can exist…”
      “With such, if ANY god exists besides Allah, Jahweh or God, then those three can NOT exist. They can not exist with any other god (even one historically based prior or after them.)”

      [RESPONSE]
      I’m not sure if this is just contextomy or kettle/fuzzy logic, but I lost you completely here … I’m not sure where you picked up the idea Jahweh had some god-fellows whom he fell out of sorts with, or any of the subsequent ideas — no respected secular historian or biblical scholor holds this view. It looked like you were starting to build an argument based on logically impossible claims of the religions, but I couldn’t see how it tied to any of the specific arguments Michael & Paul presented.

      ******** Question ********
      Are you claiming God cannot exist because three monotheistic gods are logically impossible and because multiple religions claim exclusive truth?
      ******** Question ********
      Which argument/premise were you referring to?

      ———————————————————————
      [3] Regarding multiple creation events
      ———————————————————————
      [CLAIMS]
      “In the beginning of Genesis, we find TWO distinct versions of creation the creation of earth….”

      [RESPONSE]
      I’ve read the bible through a number of times and don’t see that — perhaps you were referring to the quran or some other book? …

      ******** Question ********
      Which verses show these multiple conflicting accounts?
      ******** Question ********
      Which argument/premise were you referring to?

      ———————————————————————
      [4] Regarding order of creation
      ———————————————————————
      [CLAIMS]
      “Now, let us move on the the cosmological ‘evidence’. The bible tells us God created earth, THEN the sun, moon and the stars on a later single day. This seems out of kilter. God takes DAYS to manage to make earth, yet can zip out almost 2 million GALAXIES per second.”
      “Another problem with this myth is that science shows us that OUR solar system was made billions of years AFTER other stars. We indeed would NOT exist if the Genesis story was true, as our solar system has the heavier elements that were released from other stars as they exploded… ”

      [RESPONSE]
      You’re committing a figure of speech fallacy … the bible was never meant to be interpreted “literally” in the same way the local sports colum isn’t meant to be interpreted “literally” when writing something like “the home team slaughtered their opponents 6-0!” – or when you read the phrase “The sailor was at home on the sea” …. just as you don’t interpret many historical writing “literally” (eg. shakespeare) … it was written by at least 40 authors from different cultures and backgrounds over a period of 1500 years in three different languages. Of course it’s meant to be interpreted “literarily”. There are universally accepted principals of interpretation that govern how this is done — suffice to say, the bible has been the subject of more critical examination at the academic and professional levels than any other piece of historical literature. The reason it’s been the number one selling book for decades is because it’s true.

      That being said, your argument here is nonsensical … but I’ll play along here — lets say it’s true that God did create the universe the way you claimed:

      ******** Question ********
      Are you saying God CANNOT exist because he couldn’t have taken a few days to make the earth and then the rest in a few seconds? (i do not hold this view)
      ******** Question ********
      Are you saying God CANNOT exist because he could not be powerful enough to creat a universe with an appearance of age, initiating gene mutations, creating the cosmos in an illogical order, creating a human mind that would discover and devlop a scientific method, and generally doing whatever he wants – even things that seem crazy and would cast doubt on his own existence? (i do not hold this view) — you’re saying this is evidence God cannot exist?
      ******** Question ********
      Which argument/premise were you referring to?

      ———————————————————————
      [5] Regarding burden of proof & agnosticism
      ———————————————————————
      [CLAIMS]
      “Matt Dillahunty, during the debate cross examination stage, asserted: The fact that there could possibly be a god is not a compelling enough reason to think that it’s actually true. So while I admit that there may possibly could be a god, I not only don’t believe there is one, but I believe there is not.”

      [RESPONSE]
      This is clearly agnosticism. Matt’s admission “there could possibly be a god” is proof he doesn’t “know” the claim “god does not exist” is true. Any attempt to chalk that statement up to “merely his belief” qualifies it as subjective and not a claim to knowledge/truth/high-probability (demanding supporting evidence).

      Burden of proof rests on the person asserting a claim.
      Definition:
      “The philosophical burden of proof is the obligation on a party in an epistemic dispute to provide sufficient warrant for their position.”
      Who owns the burden?
      When debating any issue, there is an implicit burden of proof on the person asserting a claim
      Reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosophical_burden_of_proof

      This breaks down very simply to me: either the atheist claims [1] God does not exist, or [2] he does not believe God exists.
      If #1, then he owns a burden of proof. If #2, then his statement is subjective and meaningless (it’s just an opinion).

      I’m well into 2 hours on this response here, and hoping that your response can live up to the athiest mantra that “logic, reason, skepticism, critical thought, and scientific investigation are the modern equivalent of Iron Chariots”. (ie. be specific about which argument/premise you’re referring to)

      =)

      (by the way, if you wait for a bit after posting, you’ll see your comments show up – no need to double/triple post)

    • antony burt says:

      Hi Richard,

      Thank you very much for the detailed critique of my post. It will take me a while to garner a response to you. (Your reply has not even been posted yet..)

      It has taken over a week for some posts to appear, (later posts even appearing prior to earlier ones!) So, I seem to have a handle on the methodology at play here… Post a message, you may see it right away after posting, but it needs to be ‘cleared’ first, and that can take up to over a week… As my first messages on this site were quickly posted and did not seem to need moderation, I thought that was the norm. Post a message and it gets posted publically. I was wrong to assume that was the norm.

      I will respond to your massive missive in a later post (I think I may need to print your post to properly respond to most if not all points…)

      Cheers!

    • Jamie Jamie says:

      Hi Antony, just to clarify the process for posting: there are few different filters in our system that may red flag a comment for moderation. We try and jump on those in a timely fashion but occasionally there is a lapse that could appear sinister to an observer :) Sorry for the confusion and the way it can make the conversation a little stilted.

      One of the things that will send your comment to moderation is a link to another site. We try to protect our visitors from being sent to nasty websites so all those comments are automatically flagged so we can check out the link. Not to discourage your use of links but that will slow things down somewhat.

      Hope that helps.

    • antony burt says:

      Thanks Jamie for clarification of some of the inner workings…

    • Antony Burt says:

      Hi Richard.

      Wow, that’s a lot to respond to…

      Richard asked: ” Are you claiming God cannot exist because the arguments used (assuming you mean all of them) could apply to any God’s existence, therefore no God exists?”

      Not really. I claim that the ambiguity of the arguments posit only that ‘a god’ (non specific) may exist, not that a specific god (Allah, God, or Thor…) may exist. Yet all three arguments summarize that God (proper noun, therefore specific) exists without eliminating the others from the equation.

      An example of what I mean:

      1) A crime scene contains a sample of DNA.
      2) The DNA does not belong to the victim, therefore it must belong to the criminal
      3) James Toshabian has DNA so is therefore the criminal.

      You can easily see the flaw in this argument. There is a logical flow until item 3 which oversteps its limitations of generality and specifies someone without any cause.

      It does not follow that if a god exists, it must be Allah, or God, or Isis… There is a missing step (or more) before such can be claimed.

      Now, if any god can exist (as posited by the three arguments), then the odds of any particular god to exist is simply mathematics. If there were only two god myths, then the chances of either one being correct is 50%. If 10 god myths existed, then the chance of any particular god existing would naturally be only 10%. As there are hundreds if not thousands of mythical gods, we could say there is perhaps 0.5% chance that any particular god could exist. Chances are against any particular god actually existing, even if the grand total is 100%. If the chance of any god existing was deemed 50% (does exist or does not exist) then any particular god would fall to 0.25% chance of existence. Pretty close to zero.

      Without logical argument specifying a particular gods existence, the odds are against that particular god actually existing just by the sheer numbers of god that have been claimed to exist (with all claims likely made with exactly the same certainty of correctness (excepting the satirical gods like the Invisible Pink Unicorn whose myths were created in absence of certainty.) Who knows how many additional god myths will be created in the future, or have been already made on other planets…

      ————————-

      Specific failures of logical arguments:

      Let’s look at the Kalam Argument:

      1) Everything that begins to exist has a cause.

      “Everything that begins to exist” must naturally pair with “everything that does not being to exist”. Thus we have two sets of things. Those that began to exist, and those that never began to exist. If something has never began to exist, it is either currently non-existent or always has been existent. Currently we conclusively know of no object that can be proven to have always been existent.

      Part two of the first claim states that anything that begins to exist must have a cause. This certainly ‘seems’ likely, but has this been proven for all things? Likewise, it should apply to the other set of “everything that does not begin to exist” simply in that those things have not yet not been caused, so therefore they currently are non-existent. If something from the “everything that does not begin to exist” can exist without causality, then certainly something from the “everything that begins to exist” can likewise become existent without causality. If something can exist without causality, it will likely be shown with quantum mechanics. Currently both radio active decay and the Stern-Gerlach experiment have no understood causality. Potentially there may or may not be a cause, but it does cast doubt that “everything” must have a cause.

      As it stands, the statement should be constructed, “Everything (that begins or does not begin) to exist may have a cause.”

      2) The universe began to exist.
      3) Therefore the universe has a cause.

      The universe is a set of all things that exist and may or may not include all things that have not yet began to exist. As a set of all things, do the rules that apply to the individual pieces (things in statement 1) apply to the master set (universe in statement 3)? Let’s take a look.

      1) No cells in the human skeleton are expected to last more than 10 years.
      2) Therefore after ten years of age, humans can be expected to have have no skeleton left.

      We can see that the rules of the individual parts may not needfully apply to the collection of the individuals as a whole. Another example would be the brain: Within the brain, the individual cells do not ‘aware’, but the brain is. This argument is comparing apples to oranges.

      The summation of the argument then goes on to posit that a god (of some sort) must be logically the causation of the universe (the big bang event), but the route to the summation if fraught with ambiguity. There is nothing solid in the first and third statements. The only statement that is solid is number 2 “The Universe began to exist (as we know it.)

      The argument suffers from being incomplete, and all we can get from it is that there is ‘a in determinant possibly that a god of some sort may exist which may or may not have caused the universe’.

      ——————–

      “Are you claiming God can not exist because three monotheistic gods are logically impossible and because multiple religions claim exclusive truth?”

      Almost. I am claiming that the odds are against any particular god by at least 2 out of 3 against any particular god existing. Logically they can all be wrong, but they can not be all right. IF one is correct, then the others do not exist. Any particular monotheistic god may exist, but it’s a one in three shot. Add into the mix the thousands of predecessors and the odds tumble even further.

      As a note:
      My mention of Jahweh being a pantheistic god prior to approximately 840BC is common knowledge. Prior to the Babylonian exile, the followers of Jahweh were pantheistic, even giving Jahweh a wife or consort (search the internet for God’s wife, God’s consort, or God and Asherah). The exile cauterized the religion, and they figured the reason why Jahweh was upset with the people (as evidenced by their being exiled) was their reliance on secondary gods. So, Asherah, Baal and all the other gods were removed and the religion became fully mono-theistic (though the bible still carries remnants of there being many gods.)

      ———————

      “Which verses show these multiple conflicting accounts [of Genesis]?

      First lets look at the authorship of Genesis chapters 1 and 2: Chapter 1 is predominately authored by “P” (dating from the Babylonian or post Babylonian captivity period) where as Genesis 2 is a “J” manuscript, authored likely in the ninth century BC. We have two unknown authors from different times writing the same story. P refers to God as Elohim (God), J uses Jehovah (LORD God). Now on to contradictions:

      Days required to create the world: Six (Genesis 1:31) and One (Genesis 2:4)

      Order of creation: Trees prior to man (Genesis 1:12,27) and man prior to trees (Genesis 2:5,9)

      Order of creation: Beasts prior to man (Genesis 1:21,24,27) and man prior to trees (Genesis 2:18-19)

      Mans likeness: Made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27) and made as golem (animated dirt) but only becomes “As of of us” after eating forbidden fruit (Genesis 2:7; 3:22)

      Man and women created together (Genesis 1:28) and separate (Genesis 2:7-22)

      There are more contradictions, but you can easily see the flaws. The flood story too is mixed from two contradictory stories (one author I read even suggested three flood stories.)

      Genesis, indeed can be deemed to be taken literal. It would seem that even Jesus took it literal: “But from the beginning of creation God made them male and female.” (Mark10:6) He recites as if Genesis were a true accounting. Jesus says ‘beginning” not billions of years after forming the world, or about a 100 thousand years ago when humans first evolved. No, he basically reiterated parts of the Adam and Eve myth which would be literal retelling.

      Adam is only 8 centuries old when he dies, so the ‘day’ if his creation, and the ‘day’ of resting by God should be literal so that Adam and Eve do not end up to be millions of years old. If Adam did not actually happen to exist, why did Jesus need to be born to absolve the Sins of Adam? Within the bible, Genesis is seen as literal.

      ——————
      “Are you saying God CANONT exist because he couldn’t have taken a few days to make the earth and then the rest [of the universe] in a few seconds?”

      No, I am looking at the conflict inherently held within Genesis that God must take many days to create the world, and then can create a whole galaxy in a split second. This demonstrates clearly to anyone that Genesis creation timeline is geared towards the apparent size of the world due to location. As the authors lived on earth, the earth seemed huge. The other planets and stars were just dots in the sky and indeed, the author of Genesis (chapter 1) thought the stars and sun and moon were affixed to our sky! No wonder the author levied only one sentence to the creation of all the other galaxies in the universe. He saw them only as stars affixed to our sky. A simple and uneducated view indeed. Further more, I question how a god who can create an entire galaxy from nothing in a split second, can NOT write a simple book. He can’t create a pound of indestructible paper with indelible ink on it for his most important auto-biography. Why is a vanity press release of 1 beneath him? It would have been much easier, and would have provided proof of his existence (by producing paper and printing process that is far beyond our technology).

      At this point I am not discussing the arguments, but attempting to provide fresh arguments as further ‘proof’ of God’s non-existence, by pointing to flaws within the scriptures which are supposed to be either the inerrant word of God, or inspired by God, but which when looked at critically seem to be lacking the perfection that the word of God should have had, or that the inspiration should have lead to.

    • Jamie Jamie says:

      Antony, I don’t know that you are being entirely accurate in your claims that the Hebrew God had Asherah, the fertility goddess, as a consort or wife. There is some archeological evidence that some Hebrews did worship a god that was married to Asherah but that was not the norm. In fact, as one reads the historical narratives and the prophetic writings of the Bible you can see that often the people of Israel fell away from a true worship of God and either ignored Him completely or syncretized worship of Him with other gods of the surrounding nations, Asherah being one of those. But to say that was the beginning of worship of God would be historically inaccurate.

      Now you are correct in identifying that there are some differences in the Genesis 1 account of Creation and the one found in Genesis 2 and I think it is a good idea to take some time considering why Moses included both of those in his writings. You have to know that the modern world was not the first to recognize that there are some discrepancies. I think it is also pretty fair to say that Moses was a pretty smart person and realized that the two accounts were not the same. So they were both included for a reason, both landing in a primarily historical document. Therefore we can’t just chalk it up to creative licence or poetic interpretation because the writings of Genesis are historical reporting, not poetry, prophecy or other types of literature that lend themself to symbolic language and interpretation.

      So rather than doing a surface reading and discount both as myth because they don’t match, I think it is far better to look more closely at the descriptions to understand what Moses was trying to convey when he included both in his writings that God had inspired to help the people of Israel in their understanding of and worship of God.

      As you look at the two stories one thing you will notice about the first account is that God Creation of humanity was the climax, all other acts of Creation being a preparation for place in which to place humans. The second account emphasizes the relational aspects of humanity with God, other humans and the rest of Creation. It is the breath of God put within Adam that carries with it the image of God. It is the connection of Adam being made of the earth that links him as a part of the world around him. It is the creation of woman out of the man that links them in relationship and establishes the role of headship for husbands.

      There is much more that can be derived from the two different accounts but the differences do not detract from their credibility but rather point out different highlights of God’s act of Creation and His desire for humanity.

    • Antony Burt says:

      Hi Jamie,

      As Andre Lemaire said: “Whatever an Asherah is, Yahweh had one!” This is only because the surviving evidence is ambiguous to the usage of Asherah within the blessing.

      As for the two distinct versions of creation within the Genesis, you gloss over the fairly obvious and accepted reason is that two people or groups of people wrote the two different versions (Moses being possible for one but not both versions. As I iterated early, authorship of Genesis is by “P” or “J”. A more in-depth treatment of authorship of Genesis can be found in the book “History Of God” by Karen Armstrong. If you don’t have that book handy, try the link http://web.cn.edu/kwheeler/Genesis_texts.html

      You attempt to argue away the conflicting time scales by saying they are simply alternate viewpoints, but this simply fails. Incorrect order is simply incorrect. While it does detract from the stories, the myths are still impressive. Creating magical life is always a fun story, no matter be it Egyptian, Norse, Hebrew, or Asian mythology.

    • Jamie Jamie says:

      There are some different ideas around the authorship of Genesis. Even those who infer the participation of “J” and “P” have some differences in opinion of how the different documents were redacted together into the document we have today. I prefer a traditional understanding of Moses as author since Jesus did refer to him in that way. But whomever you assume to have written the document(s) the inclusion of both stories is nonetheless significant and by no means an accident. Whether it was one author, two authors, one redactor or many they would not have missed the clear differences in between the two Creation accounts. Therefore they must have included them for a clear purpose. And indeed, as you look back through historical interpretations of Genesis 1 and 2, others have noted the differences and interpreted them not as conflicting and thus flawed, but rather as complementary each highlighting different aspects of the events and their significance.

      I actually did not argue away the different time scales by claiming they were different viewpoints. Remember, I accept Mosaic authorship which means that both stories are written from his perspective as he was inspired by God. I know that there have been those who have tried to harmonize the two accounts and they very well could be accurate in their readings. My position is that each of the accounts has a different aspect of Creation that God wanted humanity to be aware of. So He revealed both to Moses so that he would be able to record both for our instruction. The time scales are not different from Genesis 1 and 2 because no time scale is given for Genesis 2 while Genesis 1 is very methodical in the recording of what was created on each of the first 6 days of Creation.

      One of the glaring differences between the two accounts, as pointed out earlier in your comment, is that Genesis 1 reveals that plants were created prior to humanity but Genesis 2 begins with “This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made earth and heaven. Now no shrub of the field was yet in the earth, and no plant of the field had yet sprouted, for the LORD God had not sent rain upon the earth, and there was no man to cultivate the ground. But a mist used to rise from the earth and water the whole surface of the ground. Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” (Genesis 2:4-7) While a cursory reading reveals a contradiction you also have to acknowledge that it is possible that both statements could be true. The fact that the authors/redactors left it as it is gives strong evidence that they saw no contradiction in the two accounts. It could be that an ancient Hebrew idiom was being used, or the Genesis 2 is speaking of a local area where Eden was planted while the Genesis 1 account is referring to a global reality. For me, I am comfortable with some uncertainty about the details but clarity in the understanding that God created with purpose and significance and He wants me to know what that purpose is; so, He included both accounts in His Bible.

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