an atheist viewpoint

thoughts from a non-theist

Why Doesn’t God Need a Creator?

The apologists over at Please Convince Me have flexed their brains again, and addressed the issue of the Uncreated Creator. This was in reply to myself and a few others commenting on the circular reasoning of a previous post. Let’s have a look at what they had to say…..

Christians believe that God is an infinite being who has always existed. But what is the “evidence” for this claim? This was a recent challenge posted on the PleaseConvinceMe blog.

Indeed it was. The post ‘Getting to the First Cause’ argued that the Universe is so complex, so unfathomable, that it had to have a creator, that the author of the piece couldn’t comprehend how it could exist without one. Not unreasonably, the blogger was asked why does the Universe need a creator, when it’s obviously far more complex creator doesn’t? If the universe is too complex to have happened naturally, why doesn’t the same logic apply to its creator?

The way this question is framed gives a hint of the answer that the challenger expects. After all, we usually think of “evidence” as things like witness statements or documents or fingerprints left at a scene. Since no one has “evidence” relating to things outside our universe, or to a being who preceded the Big Bang, it’s a safe bet that the Christian won’t come up with any “evidence.” Or is it?

And the way this paragraph is worded gives a hint of the tack the blogger intends to take. Already we’re being prepared for some new definition of ‘evidence’ so that the believing writer can get around some quite significant problems. 

Seeing the unspoken premise in the question highlights what is at play: the challenger assumes that such “evidence” is the only way we can know things.

Ah, the old ‘unspoken premise’! This is usually where the theist claims to know what the evil atheist is really driving at. It’s then essential for the Christian writer to present their point as being that of the little man, valiantly hanging onto ‘the truth’. If it can be established that the questions coming from those who don’t believe in your particular version of your particular god are deliberately designed to trip you up, to damage your faith, then you’ve got a strong corner to fight – you’re already distrusting the non-believer and his motives.

But this is simply not true. While evidence and inferences from evidence are valid ways of determining what is true, they are not the exclusive way. For example, when I know that no circle is also a square, where is the evidence for that? Or that A = C, when told that A = B and B = C? Or that rape is always wrong. These types of knowledge – based on logic and reason and a basic moral sense – are part of the normal functioning of every human mind.

I have no argument with this, we’re rather good at working with logic as a species. But if you’re going to use logic as a cornerstone of your argument, you’d better make sure that logic is absolutely watertight.

Like a computer, our minds come equipped with certain basic programs, like the ability to acquire language and to understand and to make use of concepts such as fairness and right and wrong. Watch a child develop and you will see these subprograms at work.

Interesting, the writer is here admitting that basic morality appears to be hard wired into us, that it ISN’T learned. Children understand fairness before they understand language, even other primates show the signs of having a basic ‘right and wrong’ programmed in. This base line morality is a result of evolution, and has served us very well as a social species.

The mind also has the ability to conceptualize, to make sense of patterns by grouping things into categories. By realizing what a square is, we “know” that a circle can never be one. By knowing that people have a right to the integrity of their bodies, we know that rape – which violates that right – is always wrong. By employing logic, we know that A = C when A and C are both equal to B.

Again, I have no argument with that (though could an all powerful being create a circular square?). It’s also nice to see a theist realising that people have a right to the integrity of their bodies, it’s just a shame that these same believers don’t think that applies when it comes to abortion.

What does this have to do with God’s origins? Just this: it is by conceptualizing what is meant by God that we can determine – that we can know – certain important things about him. When we think of God, we are thinking of that being a greater than which cannot be conceived.

Ah, but you’re conceptualising a version of God that’s based on the one you were brought up with. I am 100% sure that, when you think of God, you think of the image you first had of him as a child. An old man with a beard? White? Yeah, that’s what the Christian God looks like! But God is NEVER described in the Bible (the only hint we have is that we’re supposedly made in his image, though why God looks like a being that used to be quadrupedal, now balances on its rear legs, and evolved in the gravity well of a planet exactly like ours, is beyond me). You’re already moving away from the realm of the kind of facts that we demand for any evidence to be proof of anything.

He embodies infinite perfection. 

What evidence do you have of this? Is that something he’s told you, or are you simply applying what you assume your god to be like onto the god you were brought up with? See? This isn’t as easy as you think. Let’s see where these assumptions lead though…

Such a being must necessarily exist, because necessary existence is an attribute of a perfect being. 

Woah there! What?? So your argument goes ‘God is perfect, one of the attributes of a perfect being is that it exists, therefore God exists, because God is perfect’?? To describe this as circular would be to downplay just how self generating this is….perhaps ‘spherical logic’ would be a better description.

Already we can see that the author is accelerating hard away from ‘evidence’, ‘facts’, and ‘reality’ and is plunging deep into the realm of assumption and presumption. His existing beliefs about God are being used as evidence to back up his reasons for believing God exists.

That he is the source of this universe, and all that is in it, is a product of recognizing that all created things had a preceding cause, sufficient to bring them into existence. There are no known exceptions and no reason to suspect that there are any exceptions. Moving to the very beginning of the space/time universe we occupy, there must be a source adequate to the task of creating it. Two possibilities exist: the creator of the universe was himself created, and therefore had a beginning; or he was infinite, having no beginning. If you choose the former, you haven’t gone far enough in your reasoning. You need to keep moving back in time, because your conception of God is not fully developed.

Right, so now we get to the nub of things. If you’re asking why God doesn’t have a creator, you clearly aren’t bright enough to understand God! Right! Got it! It’s nothing to do with the concept of an infinite being with no beginning being completely illogical, it’s down to the fact that I’m clearly a simpleton, not fit to understand the majesty of this never starting God.

The other option, that God doesn’t exist at all, and that the simpler explanation is that the Universe is a self generating phenomenon, isn’t mentioned at all,

Anselm of Canterbury is credited with first developing this argument. When you follow where reason leads in conceptualizing what God entails, you realize that he must be an infinite being who necessarily exists. He was not created. He never came into being, and will never cease existing. All that there is, or was, or ever will be is contingent him upon him for existence, while he is complete in and of himself, contingent upon nothing. This is the only rational conclusion that can be drawn from the existence of something from nothing; it is where the “evidence” leads.

The comments were quite interesting here, the author of the original post stated that Anselm thought “….that the mind is not capable of imagining something that does not correspond to reality.” This is obviously and provably nonsense. Human beings are tremendously imaginative, and are more than capable of creating things in their minds that have nothing in reality that’s anything like them. Anselm was basically arguing from incredulity – he couldn’t imagine how anything could happen without a creator, so there had to be a creator. This says less about the existence or otherwise of god, than it does about the lack of imagination that poor old Anselm had.

The skeptic will usually persist in his challenge: why doesn’t your god need a cause? But again, to ask the question betrays the mistake in reasoning of the questioner. The error is in the premise: all things do not need a creator, only those things in this universe. Something outside of the universe, something that is the source of all things, does not need to be created. In fact, reason leads us in the opposite direction. Since things don’t create themselves, there must be, at the very beginning, a being who always existed, who was never created and never in need of anything.

The comments responding to this were brilliant, with The Eye of Reason making the following remark 

What is the cause of radioactive decay? we know it exists without cause therefore not everything that exists has a cause so the first cause argument is demonstrably false.

The writer of the article, as we see above, reiterates his ‘you don’t understand god if you need to ask why he doesn’t have a start’ argument, claiming ‘all things do not need a creator, only those things in this universe.’ before going on to say Something outside of the universe, something that is the source of all things, does not need to be created’. But if the Universe IS everything, no matter how weird those things are, there can be no ‘outside’! And you’re now creating another problem, not only do you need to prove that your god exists, you now need to provide evidence that a whole different type of reality exists outside of everything that exists for him to dwell in! You’ve tied yourself into an almighty knot.

Seen in this light, the question becomes nonsensical, translating into: who created the uncreated being, or who caused the being which needed no cause? It is no different than asking what time it is on the moon. The time of day is a function of where on earth a person is; it is nonsensical when applied off planet.

Really, it’s all over by this point. Not only has the author completely failed to supply anything other than the faulty reasoning of circular logic as ‘evidence’ of his god’s eternal nature, but he rounds it off with a rather silly comment about time on the moon. I wonder if he realises that an hour that passes for me, here on earth, will be (allowing for relativity) be pretty much the same passage of time on the moon, or anywhere else in the universe?

None of this proves the God of the Bible, who by the way does provide witness testimony of his eternal nature. But the skeptic will never begin to consider the truth claims of Christianity if he remains stuck doubting the very existence of that God. 

No, the sceptic will never begin to consider the ‘truth’ of Christianity if the evidence supplied to support it is as circular and utterly flawed as yours.

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