Forthcoming Series on Apologetics

Objective: It is my intent to show that the formal arguments for the existence of God embodied in the Kalam Cosmological Argument, the Fine Tuning Argument, the Argument from Morality, and the Argument against Naturalism all fall prey to lack of empirical grounding and fallacious reasoning.

Disclaimer: As a person who doesn’t set stock by blind faith, I still say that there are elements of faith in God which cannot be formally debunked. Arguments from personal divine revelation, for example, represent highly subjective, anecdotal experiences that make few formal claims and therefore do not lend themselves to formal critique. Whereof one does not know, thereof one must be silent. The Divine Simulation argument may also represent an acceptable basis for supporting theism.

A Preliminary Note on Ontological Arguments

Many apologists attempt to prove the existence of divine beings or divine influence using Ontological Arguments. Ontological arguments are intended to draw an a priori inference about the existence of a real-world entity. These are typically constructed by taking a few basic premises believed to be true about the state of the world and using them to logically infer that a real-world entity must or must not exist.

Truth and validity are two different properties of a logical argument, and in practice, correct ontological arguments only demonstrate their own validity. This is because ontological arguments typically cannot demonstrate that there is no situation under which their conclusion could be untrue. In other words, valid ontological conclusions must be warranted in order to be convincing. It is because of this issue that ontological arguments are often not even addressed by philosophers- they are viewed as uninteresting exercises in world-building, not undeniable arguments which warrant addressing.

An ontological argument for the existence of God often takes the form of an explanation. Typically, the goal of the arguer is to make the case that a particular characteristic about the world can only be explained by invoking God. The arguer must show that God is absolutely warranted, and that no other possible explanation is warranted.

Few ontological arguments for divinity are “pure” ontological arguments. Most include significant a posterioribacked reasoning in order to disprove other possible explanations in favor of leaving God as the sole warranted explanation. Unfortunately, many such arguers either misapprehend modern scientific explanations or commit fallacies in the process.


“Moral” Rebellion and Religious Fundamentalism

An interesting thought that has always struck me about framing the world in terms of good and evil is that “black and white” moral perspectives constrain the moralizer into viewing all individuals (and their decisions!) as essentially partisan. The most obvious problem with this ideology manifests itself when a moral or ethical issue is composed of more than just two dimensions.  More precisely, a black-and-white moralizer cannot perform accurate moral reasoning about actions that may not instantly conform to stereotypically “good” or “evil” motivations. Also true is that most fundamentalist religious sects are required by their doctrine to observe this moral worldview…that’s incredibly obvious to anyone who has ever beat their heads against the philosophical brick wall of fundamentalism.

The big deal is that this “moral framing” problem makes people despise religious fundamentalism. At the core of this strong dislike lies the fact that fundamentalist ideologies leave no room for legitimate doubt in core doctrine. Modern evangelical Christianity, for example, stresses that “doubting is natural”… but only if you eventually see the light of denominational orthodoxy.

The fundamentalist perspective is that doubters, agnostics, atheists, and members of other religions must be choosing to rebel against God, because if they weren’t choosing rebellion, then only one of two other possibilities could explain their disbelief:

A) The doubters/disbelievers were somehow forced to reject belief in God.

B) The doubters/disbelievers have legitimate reasons to disbelieve in God.

Option A violates the (very popular) doctrine of free will, so relatively few religious adherents would think that an unbeliever could be “forced” to doubt. We can therefore rule out option A as a religious rationale for disbelief. Likewise, very few modern religious adherents would opt to favor option B, because if there existed legitimate reasons to doubt the truth of core doctrine, then any reasonable God would have to grant a reprieve to any unbeliever that had legitimate reasons to disbelieve. Obviously such reprieves would run against specific criteria that scripture lays out as being necessary for salvation. So we can also rule out option B as a religious rationale for disbelief, which leaves willful rebellion as the only explanation for disbelief that Abrahamic fundamentalists are willing to accept.

Do you see what this means? In their eyes, significant doubt or disbelief is ultimately unreasonable, the result of a rebellious “spiritual adolescence”.  They won’t ever admit, as a matter of doctrine, that legitimate reasons for disbelief exist, because if legitimate reasons did exist, it would essentially make their religion one of many optional paths to salvation. And that’s a no-no for the sort of authoritarian mindset that thrives in the certainty and discipline created by strict religious doctrine. To fundamentalists, all people either willfully trust God or willfully reject God- there is no middle ground. And that’s just one of the many reasons why it dangerous to allow the religious to pidgeonhole anyone into adhering to their monochromatic view of the world.