bookmark_borderCalvinists Needed!

I was raised a Presbyterian, and I think that debating predestination with my Sunday School teachers was one of the main things that pushed me towards an interest–and finally a career–in philosophy. However, there are still many things about the doctrine that I do not understand. I am presently teaching a graduate-level survey of the history of ideas and we are covering the Reformation, with readings from Luther and Calvin. Below is a portion of some notes I plan to post for my students:
The greatest emphasis of Calvin’s theology is the majesty of God. God’s sovereignty is absolute. The universe and everything in it reflect the glory of God, and everything that happens occurs to serve the glory of God. Even the most atrocious actions of the wicked serve the will and purpose of God in the long run. Indeed, God is constantly active in the world to the extent that everything can be seen as an instrument of God’s activity and a product of his will. Even Satan and his devils acted upon God’s command. However, does this not implicate God in the occurrence of evil, since no evil thing can happen without his active involvement?
The problem of God’s responsibility for evil becomes particularly acute when we consider the famous (or infamous) doctrine of predestination. Calvin held that God has foreordained some for salvation and others for damnation. Since God is all-powerful, whatever he ordains must take place. Nothing any human can do can alter God’s eternal decrees. Those who are saved are saved by the irresistible action of the Holy Spirit. Free will has nothing to do with it. The spirit moves those elected for salvation and they must believe the Gospel, and so will be saved. However, if the lost can do nothing to alter their fate, does this not imply that it is God, not the sinner, who is responsible for the sinner’s terrible fate?
One possible way of avoiding blaming God for the fate of the lost is to say that God has foreordained their damnation but not predetermined it. God grants free will to all human beings, but, left to their own devices, all will fall into sin. All humans are therefore corrupt and deserving of hell, but God mercifully chooses to save some. Those he chooses to save are no more deserving than those not chosen. God’s reasons for choosing some and not others are wholly mysterious and unknowable. As for the unsaved, God does not force them to sin, but he leaves them in the state of sinfulness and disobedience which they have chosen for themselves. Therefore, God is not to blame for the fate of sinners, but is to be praised for his mercy in saving some.
First, are these points accurate, so far as they go? Second, according to Calvin, are humans individually responsible for their own corruption, or is corruption the condition into which we are all born, consequent upon the fall of Adam and Eve? Frankly, I find Calvin somewhat confusing on this point. Finally, Calvin says that God shows his mercy by saving some and not others. Some of my students are sure to object as follows: If ten people are drowning and I can easily save them all but only save four, would I not rightly be blamed for not saving all rather than praised for saving four? Would not the same blame attach to a God who only saves some when he could just as easily save all? I have read Calvin’s answers to questions like these, but I am still not completely clear on his responses. Any elaboration or clarification would be appreciated by me and by my students.

bookmark_borderLeviticus and Homosexuality – Part 5: More Reasons for Skepticism about God

WHERE WE ARE
Should we view homosexual sex as morally wrong because it is (allegedly) condemned in the book of Leviticus?  In Part 1 of this series I outlined a dozen reasons to doubt this viewpoint.  Here is the first reason:

1. God does NOT exist, so no prophet and no book contains truth or wisdom from God. 

In Part 4 of this series I presented some of my reasons for skepticism about the existence of God.
In this current post, I will present more of my reasons for skepticism about the existence of God.
 
MORE REASONS FOR SKEPTICISM ABOUT THE EXISTENCE OF GOD  
G. The serious problems with one of the best cases ever made for God (by Richard Swinburne) support skepticism about the existence of God.
[Excerpts from my posts on Swinburne’s case for God:]
But when we come to the third argument, TASO (Teleological Argument from Spatial Order), the factual claim is not at all obviously true:

(e3) There exists a complex physical universe which is governed by simple natural laws, and in which the structure of the natural laws and of the initial conditions are such that they make the evolution of human bodies in that universe probable.

People are not born with modern scientific knowledge about plants, animals, chemistry, genetics, geology, etc.  We have to be educated over a period of many years, and even then, many (most?) people in the USA don’t learn enough scientific information and concepts to be in a position to know that human bodies evolved.  Certainly, many educated Christians in the USA have doubts about the claim that human bodies evolved in this universe.
Second, assuming it to be a fact that human bodies evolved in this universe, this still does NOT imply that the structure of the universe (the initial conditions at the time of the Big Bang plus the specific laws of nature in this universe) made this outcome PROBABLE.  For all we know, the evolution of human bodies might have been an extremely improbable event.  Many events that have occurred are improbable events.  The fact that event X actually occurred does NOT show that the universe was so structured that it was probable that X would occur.
[…]
Clearly, (e3) is NOT something that is “known by those who dispute about” the existence of God.  I doubt that anyone knows (e3) to be true, but even if there are a few such people, they are a tiny portion of the large population of those who “dispute about” the existence of God.   Therefore, premise (2) is FALSE.
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2018/01/27/problems-taso-part-1/

Richard Swinburne

So, in order to KNOW that (e3) is true, one must be aware of a great deal of information, and that information includes facts that support some of the most powerful objections to belief in God: the many and pervasive problems of evil.  But then when one evaluates the probability of the hypothesis that God exists in relation to (e3), one cannot rationally and reasonably set aside and ignore the many and pervasive problems of evil.  So, in order to rationally evaluate the probability of the claim “God exists” in relation to (e3), one must take into consideration not just the meaning and implications of (e3), but also the large collection of facts and data that allow one to KNOW that (e3) is in fact true.
If one takes into account most or all of the various and pervasive problems of evil in evaluating the strength of TASO, then it is unclear and very doubtful that all of this additional information increases the probability that God exists.  Given most or all of the various and pervasive problems of evil, that information might very well outweigh whatever positive support the hypothesis of theism gets from the fact that the universe is structured in a way that makes the evolution of human bodies probable.
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2018/02/05/problems-taso-part-2-favorite-objection/
H. Evolution provides a good reason for skepticism about the existence of God.
Evolution has at least two connections to the problems of evil.  First, in order to know that animal species evolved and that humans evolved from primates, one needs to learn a good deal of information about geology, paleontology, biology, chemistry, and anthropology.  This body of concepts, facts, and theories contains information about evils that have occurred and that continue to occur.  Thus, knowledge of evolution includes knowledge about evils.  That creates a serious problem for Swinburne’s Teleological Argument from Spatial Order (as I have pointed out above).
Second, evolution itself constitutes a significant problem of evil.  There is more than one example of evil in this world, and different evils have different characteristics making it difficult for there to be a one-size-fits-all-solution or response to all of the various kinds of evils that occur.
For example, there is a traditional distinction made between moral evil and natural evil.  Moral evil is evil that is constituted by or caused by the choices of human beings.  The traditional “solution” to moral evil is to point to free will, and assert that God allows moral evil to exist in order to give human beings the great good of having free will.  But natural evil cannot be explained this way (not plausibly), because natural evil is NOT the result of the choices of human beings.
Natural evil, such as death and suffering from a flood or earthquake, could be explained as the result of the free will of demons or of the devil, but such explanations are no longer plausible, given the advance of science, which allows us to understand the physical causes of earthquakes and floods and other natural examples of natural evil, and which also gives us good reason to disbelieve in the existence of demons, ghosts, angels, and the devil.
There are different kinds of evil, so different examples of evil can constitute different problems of evil, problems that have their own unique characteristics, and which may not be explainable by a single idea about how and why God fails to prevent or eliminate evil.
It is VERY UNLIKELY that God would structure the universe in such a way that human bodies would probably evolve (naturally, apart from any divine intervention).
God is, on Swinburne’s own definition, an eternally omnipotent person, and an eternally omniscient person (with omniscience being limited in relation to knowledge of the future, because God’s free will and human free will make it logically impossible to know every detail of the future).  Since God is omnipotent and omniscient, God would be able to create all existing plants, animals, and human beings in the blink of an eye, along the lines of the Genesis creation myth.
It is very implausible to suppose that God would use the long, random, and uncertain process of evolution to produce plants, animals, and human bodies when God could have instantly created billions of earth-like planets all filled to the brim with thousands of kinds of plants, and animals, and creatures with human-like bodies.
Furthermore, God is also supposed to be a perfectly morally good person, and all of the pain, disease, suffering, and death involved in a billion years of the evolutionary struggle for survival could have been avoided by God creating all of the desired plants, animals, and human-like creatures in an instant.  God, if God exists, had a very powerful moral reason to prefer instantaneous creation of living creatures over the slow, random, uncertain, and suffering-filled natural process of evolution.
There seems to be no strong reason for God to prefer the natural process of evolution over instantaneous creation of all living creatures, including the creation of human bodies, and there is an obvious powerful moral reason for God to prefer instantaneous creation over the natural process of evolution.
Since it is very unlikely that God would choose to create human beings by means of the process of evolution, and since human beings came into existence by means of the process of evolution,  this gives us a good reason to believe that there is no God.
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2018/01/27/problems-taso-part-1/
I. Skepticism about the two initial phases of Classical Apologetics (because of our ignorance of the plans and purposes of God) supports skepticism about the existence of God.
Some of my criticisms of Richard Swinburne’s case for God can be applied more broadly to any case for God (or to most cases for God).  In Classical Apologetics, there are three main phases:
(1) prove that God exists,
(2) use miracles to prove that Jesus or the Bible (or some religious authority like the Catholic Church) is inspired and authorized to provide messages from God,
(3) use the teachings of Jesus (or the Bible or the Catholic church) to support the truth of the rest of the Christian worldview.
In Part 3 of this series (see the section: “H. Skepticism about Miracles and Revelation casts doubt on Western theistic religions”) I argued that the second phase of Classical Apologetics is doomed to failure, because we don’t know any details about the plans and purposes of God.
However, most arguments for God involve assumptions about the plans and purposes of God.  That is explicitly the case with Swinburne’s case for God, but I have examined the arguments for God in Kreeft’s case for God, and discovered that they too are based on assumptions about the plans and purposes of God.
To the extent that we are ignorant about the plans and purposes of God, most arguments for the existence of God are doomed to failure.  This gives us a good reason to be skeptical about the existence of God.
Richard Swinburne recognized this important aspect of arguments for God, but he failed to show that we have sufficient knowledge of the plans and purposes of God to make his case work.  Other Christian apologists, like Peter Kreeft and Norman Geisler are oblivious to the fact that their arguments depend on such assumptions, so they have not even  attempted to argue for these assumptions required to make their cases for God work.
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2018/12/01/the-logic-of-miracles/
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2018/12/16/the-logic-of-miracles-part-2-showing-that-god-exists/
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2018/12/19/the-logic-of-miracles-part-3-kreefts-first-ten-arguments/
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2018/12/20/the-logic-of-miracles-part-4-kreefts-last-ten-arguments/
J. The problems of evil support skepticism about the existence of God.
I have previously mentioned some of the natural evils associated with evolution: injuries, diseases, mutations, famines, hunger, starvation, predation, pain, suffering, and death.  Just in learning enough scientific information to know that animals and human beings are the products of the process of evolution requires learning about the occurrence of such natural evils.
Furthermore, as I argue above, evolution is itself one example of a major natural evil, and all by itself constitutes a good reason to believe that there is no God.
Setting aside the fact that animals and humans came into existence as the result of evolution, there are natural evils that are powerful evidence against the existence of God whether evolution is true or not:  injuries, diseases, mutations, famines, hunger, starvation, predation, pain, suffering, and death.  These natural evils clearly exist and can be observed today.
The primary explanation that Christians have traditionally provided for such natural evils is that they are the results of the “Fall”, they were caused by human beings sinning, by human disobedience to God.  Everything was “Good” and wonderful, then Adam and Eve (the first human beings) sinned against God, and this corrupted all of nature.
This explanation, however, is clearly and obviously FALSE.  Predation existed long before human beings came into existence.  Injuries, diseases, famines and starvation existed long before human beings came into existence.  Pain, suffering, and death existed long before human beings came into existence.  Sentient animals existed on Earth long before human beings arrived on this planet.
Even if human beings were not the product of the process of evolution, even if human beings came about because a creator god instantly produced human beings out of nothing, or out of a lump of clay, it would still be a fact that humans have only existed on Earth for about a million years, and that sentient animals have existed on the Earth for hundreds of millions of years, and that sentient animals have been experiencing injuries, diseases, famines, predation, hunger, pain, suffering, and death for hundreds of millions of years.
In other words, injuries, diseases, famines, predation, hunger, pain, suffering, and death appear to be built into nature.  If the natural world of planet Earth was designed and brought into existence by a creator god, then that creator either designed the natural world to include injuries, diseases, famines, predation, hunger, pain, suffering, and death, or else these are unintended errors and flaws in the work of this creator god.  In either case, the creator god cannot be the God of Judaism, Christianity, or Islam, such a creator god cannot be an all-powerful, all-knowing, and perfectly morally good person.
Thus, the existence of natural evils provide us with good reason to believe that God does not exist.  If there is a creator god, that god is a finite and imperfect person.
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2018/02/05/problems-taso-part-2-favorite-objection/
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2018/08/16/a-simple-and-obvious-explanation/
There are other problems of evil that should also be considered:

  • The suffering of innocent children.
  • Great suffering or evil that is not required in order to produce or make possible a greater good.
  • The large number of instances of evil and suffering that don’t appear to be required in order to produce or make possible a greater good (making it probable that some evil and suffering are NOT required to produce or make possible a greater good).
  • The evil of the eternal suffering of those people who are condemned to hell.
  • The evil of the sorrow of those in heaven about the eternal suffering of loved ones in hell (or the alternative evil of the rejoicing of those in heaven about the eternal suffering of loved ones in hell).

K. Contradictions between the divine attributes support skepticism about the existence of God.
God is immutable AND God is a perfectly morally good person?

If God is immutable, then God is not a person.

If God is not a person, then God is NOT a perfectly morally good person.

THEREFORE:

If God is immutable, then God is NOT a perfectly morally good person.

God is outside of time AND God is a perfectly morally good person?

If God is outside of time, then God is immutable.

If God is immutable, then God is not a person.

If God is not a person, then God is NOT a perfectly morally good person.

THEREFORE:

If God is outside of time, then God is NOT a perfectly morally good person.

God is impassible AND God is a perfectly morally good person?

If God is impassible, then God does not love human beings.

If God does not love human beings, then God is NOT a perfectly morally good person.

THEREFORE:

If God is impassible, then God is NOT a perfectly morally good person.

God is bodiless AND God is a perfectly morally good person?

If God is bodiless, then God cannot be identified as a person.

If God cannot be identified as a person, then God is not a person.

If God is not a person, then God is NOT a perfectly morally good person.

THEREFORE:

If God is bodiless, then God is NOT a perfectly morally good person.

God is omniscient AND God is a perfectly morally good person?

If God is omniscient, then God knows every choice that God will ever make.

If God knows every choice that God will ever make, then God does not have free will.

If God does not have free will, then God is NOT a perfectly morally good person.

THEREFORE:

If God is omniscient, then God is NOT a perfectly morally good person.

I realize that ALL of the above arguments are controversial.  I don’t expect to PROVE that the concept of God is incoherent by just presenting these brief summary arguments.  I am merely indicating the sorts of arguments that I would be likely to use in an attempt to show that the concept of God is incoherent.
Actually, my preference is to toss out the “divine attributes” that seem to most clearly contradict the divine attribute of being a “perfectly morally good person”.  I would toss out “immutable”, “outside of time”, and “impassible” without a second thought.  Those seem to me to be inessential, less important, less central than other traditional divine attributes, like “omniscience” and “omnipotence” and being “bodiless”.  Obviously,  I think that the attribute of “perfectly morally good person” is central to the traditional concept of God.
One important objection to all of the above arguments is the Thomist view that “God is not a person.”  However, I find the Thomist concept of God to be absurd, so this objection doesn’t carry much weight for me.
I think the bottom line for me is that I could never bring myself to view being that was NOT a person as something that was worthy of worship and adoration.  Those are things that only make sense relative to a being who is a person.  Also, a being that is not a person could NOT be “perfectly morally good”, and again I could never bring myself to view a being that was NOT “perfectly morally good” as something that was worthy of worship and adoration.
It is possible that this is just my own peculiar personal bias, but if it is a bias, I strongly suspect it is one that I share with hundreds of millions of Christian believers.  I don’t think believers in the pews would have much interest in the “God” of the Thomists.  This point, by the way, is a perfect segue into my final reason for skepticism about God.
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2016/10/11/cases-for-god/

David Hume by Allan Ramsay, 1766 and Sigmund Freud by Max Halberstadt, c. 1921
David Hume and Sigmund Freud

L. Hume’s and Freud’s objections to theism provide good reason for skepticism about the existence of God.
Sigmund Freud had a few different ideas about the psychological basis of religion, especially Western theistic religion.  One idea is that humans commonly fear the awesome dangerous forces of nature, and that this fear is an important part of our thinking and our feelings.  Another idea is that when we are babies we look up to our parents as our source of food, life, comfort, and safety.  Our parents are like our gods when we are infants.
When we become children, we learn that our parents are imperfect and vulnerable, and that all humans are subject to the awesome dangerous forces of nature.  Thus, about the time we learn that our parents are not actually gods, we learn that we are in great need of protection, in need of a god-like parent in the sky who can protect us from the dangerous forces of nature.  Belief in a very powerful, very wise, and caring parent-in-the-sky becomes appealing to human beings at an early age.  So, belief in God, can be viewed as a result of WISHFUL THINKING.  We DESIRE to have a powerful, wise, and caring parent-in-the-sky, and so we make ourselves BELIEVE that there is such a being or person.
Freud’s view of the psychological basis for belief in God provides some reason for skepticism about the existence of God, because it suggests that this belief is based in WISHFUL THINKING.  However, Freud’s view also can be related to, and work together with, a skeptical view about belief in God promoted by David Hume.
David Hume was skeptical about the existence of God in part because he saw that there was a logical tension in the very idea of God.  On the one hand, Christians, and other religious believers in God, want God to be transcendent.  God must be more than a human being, and even more than just a “superman”.  God must be the absolute best and highest being that we can imagine.  Anselm talks about God as “the being than which none greater can be conceived”.  Theology that takes this idea of Anselm’s seriously, is called “Perfect Being” theology.
On the other hand, Christians, and other religious believers in God, want God to be immanent.  God cannot be so different from us that we cannot relate to God.  I think probably the most powerful motivation for viewing Jesus as being the “divine Son of God” and “God Incarnate” is that Jesus was a human being with a physical body, a human being who walked and talked and ate food, and drank, and swam in the sea of Galilee.  Christians, and other religious believers in God, want a God with whom they can talk, a God that they can view as being a friend or a parent.
But as Hume repeatedly points out, we cannot have our cake and eat it too.  If God is an absolutely infinite and absolutely perfect being, and God has infinite power and infinite knowledge, then God cannot also be just an ordinary human being who we can view as a friend or parent.  We cannot have a meaningful conversation with an absolutely infinite and absolutely perfect being.
So, the bottom line for me is this.  Freud and Hume together give us good reason to view the idea of God as the product of human desires, and this not only raises the suspicion that God is the product of WISHFUL THINKING, but also that because we desire logically contradictory things,  it is impossible for God to actually exist.
What we desire in God are a combination of attributes that it is not possible for one being to possess.  We cannot have our cake and eat it too, no matter how much we DESIRE this outcome.  We cannot have a God who is both transcendent and immanent, no matter how strongly we desire that such a being exist.

bookmark_borderLeviticus and Homosexuality – Part 4: Skepticism about God

WHERE WE ARE
Should we view homosexual sex as morally wrong because it is (allegedly) condemned in the book of Leviticus?  In Part 1 of this series I outlined a dozen reasons to doubt this viewpoint.  Here is the first reason:

1. God does NOT exist, so no prophet and no book contains truth or wisdom from God. 

My doubts about the existence of God are related to skepticism in general, and to three specific areas of skepticism:

  • Skepticism about Supernatural Claims
  • Skepticism about Religion
  • Skepticism about the Existence of God

In Part 2 of this series I explained my reason for skepticism in general (i.e. CYNICISM), and I explained my reasons for skepticism about supernatural claims.
In this Part 3 of this series I explained my reasons for skepticism about religion.
In this post I will cover my reasons for skepticism about the existence of God, the first two being based directly on my skepticism about supernatural claims and skepticism about religion.
SKEPTICISM ABOUT THE EXISTENCE OF GOD
A. Skepticism about supernatural powers and supernatural beings supports skepticism about the existence of God.
Over many centuries billions of people have mistakenly believed that there are ghosts and demons, invisible bodiless supernatural beings.  Over many centuries billions of people have mistakenly believed that there are people with amazing supernatural powers, what we now call psychics.   But there are no people who can actually move or bend physical objects with just their minds.  There are no people who can actually “see” future events.  There are no people who can actually “read” the thoughts of other people.  There are no people who can actually instantly heal physical injuries or organic diseases with just their minds.  There are no actual psychics.
Suppose someone claims that there is a person who has ALL of these supernatural psychic abilities.  Such a claim would be ridiculous on its face.  I remember as a young boy listening to Pastor Jim Jones of the “People’s Temple” on the radio in San Francisco, claiming that he had ALL of “the gifts of the spirit”, which include speaking in tongues, prophecy, healing,  miracles, and supernatural knowledge.  He, of course, turned out to be a mentally ill drug addict, who was followed by many naive, clueless, gullible, superstitious fools, many of whom followed him to Jonestown, a commune built in the jungle in Guyana, and then later ended their own lives by drinking poisoned cool-aid at the direction of Pastor Jim Jones.

Mass suicide at Jonestown (History.com article)

Now suppose that the “person” who allegedly has ALL of these amazing supernatural powers is not an ordinary person with a physical body, but is (allegedly) a ghost or spirit who is invisible and has no physical body.  Now we are getting into crazyville territory.  But belief in the existence of God is very similar to belief in the existence of a ghost who has many amazing psychic powers.
God, if God exists, is an invisible and immaterial supernatural being who has no physical body, like ghosts and demons.  God also has many supernatural powers.  God, if God exists, can “see” the future, just like a psychic.  God can make physical objects move (or bend) just by willing them to move (or bend), just like a psychic.  God can “read” minds, just like a psychic.  God can instantly heal people of injuries or diseases, just like a psychic.  So, belief in the existence of God is a lot like believing in the existence of a ghost who has many different psychic powers.
Although billions of people have for many centuries believed in supernatural beings (like ghosts or demons) and in supernatural powers (like those allegedly possessed by psychics), there is no good reason to believe that ghosts actually exist, or that psychics actually exist.  In fact, we have good reason to disbelieve in supernatural beings (like ghosts and demons) and to disbelieve in supernatural powers (like those allegedly possessed by psychics), because such alleged phenomena have been carefully and scientifically investigated for about 150 years, but no solid empirical evidence has ever been discovered that shows any such supernatural beliefs to be true.
So, we have good reason to be skeptical about God, and good reason to doubt that God exists, unless and until powerful empirical evidence confirming the existence of God becomes available.  Don’t hold your breath waiting for that evidence!
B. Skepticism about religions supports skepticism about the existence of God.
In Part 3 of this series  I presented a number of reasons for being skeptical about religions. Given those reasons for skepticism about religions, it might well be the case that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are all FALSE.
That is, the worldviews promoted by these religions might well be FALSE, meaning that a large portion of the beliefs and assumptions that constitute each of these worldviews are FALSE.  Since a worldview contains several beliefs and assumptions, it is not necessary that EVERY belief and assumption in a worldview be FALSE in order for the worldview as a whole to be FALSE.  So long as a large portion of the beliefs and assumptions of a worldview are FALSE, that would provide sufficient grounds for evaluating the worldview as being FALSE.
But if all three major Western religions are FALSE, then that means that a large portion of the beliefs and assumptions that constitute the worldviews associated with these religions are FALSE.  One of the beliefs that is part of the worldviews of all three of these religions is the belief that God exists.  But if a large portion of the beliefs and assumptions that constitute these worldviews are FALSE, then it might well be the case that belief in the existence of God was one of those FALSE worldview beliefs.
In any case, if the worldviews of all three major Western religions were FALSE, then these three religions would have no significant credibility.  We could not, in that case, reasonably view any of these religions as a reliable source of knowledge or information about theology, metaphysics, or ethics.   Thus, doubt about the existence of God would be justified, unless there were good reasons independent of these religions to believe in the existence of God.
Reasons for skepticism about religion don’t prove that all religions are FALSE, but they do make it somewhat likely that all three major Western theistic religions are FALSE, and if all three major Western theistic religions were in fact FALSE, then we would have good reason to doubt that God exists.
C. The silence of God supports skepticism about the existence of God.
In Part 2 of this series, I presented this argument for disbelief in the existence of God:

21. IF God exists, THEN it is very likely that God communicated truth or wisdom to human beings through prophets or holy books in the past four thousand years.

22. There have been no prophets or holy books in the past four thousand years that have provided truth or wisdom from God.

THEREFORE:

23. It is probably NOT the case that God exists.

It is clear and certain that the “holy books” of the main three western theistic religions (i.e. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) were NOT inspired by God; they do not constitute messages from God.
Jehovah, the god of the Old Testament is clearly a morally flawed person, so that means that Jehovah was NOT God.  But if Jehovah was NOT God, then Moses was a false prophet, and the Torah was NOT inspired by God.  If Jehovah was a false god and Moses was a false prophet, then the other holy books of Judaism (which constitute the Old Testament in the Christian Bible) were also NOT inspired by God, since they assume Jehovah to be God and Moses to be a true prophet.
Jesus believed and taught that Moses was a true prophet, and Jesus practiced and promoted worship and obedience to Jehovah.  Since Moses was in fact a false prophet, and since Jehovah is in fact a false god, it follows logically that Jesus was also NOT a true prophet and NOT the divine Son of God.  If Jesus was NOT a true prophet and NOT the divine Son of God, then the Gospels and the rest of the New Testament were also NOT inspired by God. Thus both the Old Testament and the New Testament of the Christian Bible were NOT inspired by God.
According to the Quran, both Moses and Jesus were true prophets of God, so since Moses was in fact a false prophet, and Jesus also was in fact a false prophet, we can logically conclude that the Quran was NOT inspired by God, and that Muhammad himself was a false prophet, just like Moses and Jesus.  Therefore: NONE of the holy books of Judaism, Christianity, or Islam were inspired by God.
Furthermore, other supposedly “holy books” teach or assume that Jesus was a true prophet, or that Moses was a true prophet, or that Muhammad was a true prophet, so those “holy books” are also clearly NOT inspired by God, because Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad were in fact false prophets.  For example, The Book of Mormon, and Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures both teach or assume that the Bible was inspired by God and that Jesus was a true prophet.  So, it is clear and certain that those two “holy books” are NOT inspired by God.
This means that either there have been NO prophets or holy books in the past four thousand years that have provided messages of truth and wisdom from God, or else that God attempted to communicate with mankind through a prophet and/or holy book in the past four thousand years, but God’s attempt was a failure, because that prophet and/or holy book are now unknown or known only to a small number of human beings.
But God, if God exists, is all-powerful, all-knowing, and perfectly good.  How could such a being fail so miserably at an attempt to communicate truth and wisdom to the human race?  The hypothesis that God made such an attempt but failed miserably is very improbable.  So, the most likely scenario is that it is NOT the case that there have been any prophets or holy books in the past four thousand years that provide messages of truth and wisdom from God.
Premise (22) is very likely true, and premise (21) is believed by most Jews, Christians, and Muslims, and it seems very plausible to me too.  Therefore, the silence of God gives us a good reason to believe that there is no God.
D. The utter failure of Peter Kreeft’s case for God supports skepticism about the existence of God.
[Excerpts from some of my posts on Kreeft’s case for God:]
Given that 100% of the last ten arguments in Kreeft’s case FAIL to provide any good reason to believe that God exists, it might seem unlikely that there will be any strong and solid arguments for God among the remaining ten arguments.  However, it seems to me that Kreeft was trying to put his best foot forward by presenting his strongest and best arguments up front, at the beginning of his case, and thus saved the weakest and worst arguments for the second half of his case.
Argument #3 and Argument #5 FAIL for the same reasons that Argument #1 and Argument #2 FAILED:  Kreeft does not bother to SUPPORT the most important premise in each of these arguments, namely the premise that links his stated conclusion to the conclusion that actually matters: “God exists.”
The middle inference or sub-argument [in Argument #4] FAILS to provide a good reason for its conclusion, just like the initial inference or sub-argument FAILS to provide a good reason for its conclusion.  Thus, we may reasonably conclude that Argument #4 is a complete FAILURE.  This argument has multiple serious problems, and so it provides us no good reason to believe that God exists.
Argument #4 fails, and thus ALL FIVE of the arguments that Kreeft apparently believes to be the best and strongest arguments for the existence of God FAIL, just like ALL TEN of the last arguments of his case FAIL.  At this point, we have determined that at least 75% of the arguments (15 out of 20) in Kreeft’s case for God FAIL.  Given the perfect consistency of FAILURE in Kreeft’s case so far, it is unlikely that any of the remaining five arguments will turn out to be a strong and solid argument for the existence of God.
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2020/04/26/peter-kreefts-case-for-god-2/
E. The utter failure of Norman Geisler’s case for God supports skepticism about the existence of God.
[Excerpts from one of my posts on Geisler’s case for God:]
PHASE 1: GEISLER’s FIVE WAYS
PROBLEM 1:  Geisler FAILS to provide a clear definition of the word “God”, thus making his whole argument unclear and confusing.
PROBLEM 2:  Geisler has only ONE argument for the existence of God, but he mistakenly believes he has FIVE different and independent arguments for the existence of God.
PROBLEM 3: Geisler makes a confused and mistaken distinction between proving the existence of God and proving the existence of a being with various divine attributes.
PROBLEM 4: The conclusions of Geisler’s five basic arguments are UNCLEAR and AMBIGUOUS, leading to multiple fallacies of EQUIVOCATION by Geisler.
PROBLEM 5:  Because Geisler consistently FAILS to show that there is EXACTLY ONE being of such-and-such kind, he cannot prove that  “the cause of the beginning of the universe” is the same being as “the cause of the current existence of the universe” or as “the designer of the universe” or as “the moral lawgiver”.  
PHASE 2: THE CREATOR’S PERSONAL ATTRIBUTES
PROBLEM 6:  Geisler simply ASSUMES without providing any reason or argument that the (alleged) being that caused the beginning of the universe is the same being as the (alleged) being that designed the universe, and that the (alleged) being that caused the beginning of the universe is the same being as the (alleged) being that produced moral laws.
PHASE 3: THE EXISTENCE OF A NECESSARY BEING
PROBLEM 7:  Geisler illogically shifts from the claim that a perfect being must be a necessary being to the assumption that a being that caused the universe to begin to exist must be a necessary being.  This is an INVALID inference.
PHASE 4: THE IMPLICATIONS OF “A NECESSARY BEING”
PROBLEM 8: In his reasoning about the implications of the concept of a “necessary being”, Geisler confuses different senses of the verb “to be” leading to INVALID inferences about the implications of the concept of a “necessary being”.
PHASE 5: ONLY ONE INFINITE BEING
PROBLEM 9: Geisler’s assumption that two unlimited beings would be indistinguishable from each other is FALSE and it also contradicts a basic Christian dogma.
PHASE 6: GOD EXISTS
PROBLEM 10: Geisler has adopted a Thomistic concept of God, but this Thomistic concept of God is INCOHERENT, making it a necessary truth that “It is NOT the case that God exists.”
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2020/04/26/geislers-case-for-the-existence-of-god/
F. The fact that arguments for God often provide reasons against the existence of God supports skepticism about the existence of God. 
There is a theme in Jeff Lowder’s case for Naturalism:  the thinking of religious believers is often distorted by confirmation bias.  They look for evidence that supports their belief in God, but ignore, or forget, or fail to notice, evidence that goes against their belief in God.
When believers offer some reason or evidence for the existence of God, it is often the case that if you look a little closer at that evidence, or take a step back and look at the general sort of evidence or phenomena that an argument for God relies upon, you find powerful evidence AGAINST the existence of God, evidence that was missed or ignored by religious believers.
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2020/03/03/arguments-for-god-that-are-arguments-against-god/
To Be Continued…

bookmark_borderLeviticus and Homosexuality – Part 3: No Messages from God (continued)

WHERE WE ARE
Should we view homosexual sex as morally wrong because it is (allegedly) condemned in the book of Leviticus?  In Part 1 of this series I outlined a dozen reasons to doubt this viewpoint.  Here is the first reason:

1. God does NOT exist, so no prophet and no book contains truth or wisdom from God. 

My doubts about the existence of God are related to skepticism in general, and to three specific areas of skepticism:

  • Skepticism about Supernatural Claims
  • Skepticism about Religion
  • Skepticism about the Existence of God

In Part 2 of this series I explained my reason for skepticism in general (i.e. CYNICISM), and I explained my reasons for skepticism about supernatural claims.
My skepticism about supernatural claims also reinforces my skepticism in general, because billions of people over many centuries have believed many false supernatural claims about various alleged supernatural powers and forces, and about various alleged supernatural beings, confirming my CYNICISM, the view that human beings are naturally and commonly irrational, illogical, ignorant, superstitious, gullible, prejudiced, dishonest, and self-deceived.
In this post I will cover my reasons for skepticism about religion, and in a future post I will cover my reasons for skepticism about the existence of God.
 
SKEPTICISM ABOUT RELIGION
A. Almost all religions are false or contain significant errors.
The major world religions contradict each other, and not just on minor points.  They disagree about some of the most basic and important issues that religions address.  At best only ONE of the major world religions can be true, only ONE can be consistently correct about it’s basic teachings, and the rest are false or are fundamentally mistaken about some of their most basic teachings:
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2018/11/14/skepticism-about-religion-part-5-disagreement-between-religions/
B. Christianity and most other religions involve a conjunction of several questionable beliefs. 
Because there is a significant number of independent beliefs and a significant degree of independence even with those Christian beliefs that have some logical or causal relationship,  probabilities must generally be multiplied here.  Although Christians often assert these beliefs dogmatically and with great confidence, it seems clear to me that an objective evaluation of these beliefs can at most arrive at the conclusion that the belief is probable or in a few cases, very probable.  But with a dozen beliefs at issue, it is highly probable that at least one of the dozen or so of these beliefs is false.  The same objection applies to all major world religions (and to at least some secular worldviews):
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2016/09/21/skepticism-and-conjunctions/
C. Religious belief is distributed geographically, and is based primarily on socialization and indoctrination.
Why is the religion of a person so closely related to the location where he or she was born and raised?  The answer is obvious: religious beliefs are typically based on cultural bias and social conditioning.  People who are born and raised in Turkey or Saudi Arabia are raised to be Muslims.  People who are born and raised in Venezuela or Bolivia are raised to be Christians.  People who are born and raised in Cambodia or Thailand are raised to be Buddhists.  The society or culture of the country where one is born and raised has a great deal of influence over which religion one will believe and practice:
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2018/11/15/skepticism-about-religion-part-6-cultural-bias-and-social-conditioning/
John Loftus rightly emphasizes this point:
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2016/12/27/unapologetic-review-part-8-religion-irrationality/
https://religions.wiki/index.php/Outsider_test
D. The natural biases of egocentrism and sociocentrism motivate uncritical religious belief.
It is very obvious to most Christians that the Quran was NOT inspired by God. But the very same reasons why Christians reject the inspiration of the Quran apply to the Bible, especially to the Old Testament. This belief in the inspiration of the Bible is partly based on socialization and indoctination, but it is also based on egocentrism and sociocentrism. Christians firmly believe that their ingroup is right about the Bible being inspired and the Quran NOT being inspired, not based on an objective analysis of the relevant facts, but because they identify with Christians: “WE believe what is true and wise, but THEY (Muslims) believe what is false and foolish.” People in every century and every country commonly believe that their people are the best and wisest people in the world and that people of other cultures are bad and foolish, or at least not as good and wise as the people of their own culture.
Dr. Richard Paul, a leading theorist and advocate of Critical Thinking, emphasized the problem of motivated bias in thinking, especially the biases of egocentrism and sociocentrism:

Critical thinking is that mode of thinking — about any subject, content, or problem — in which the thinker improves the quality of his or her thinking by skillfully analyzing, assessing, and reconstructing it. Critical thinking is self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored, and self-corrective thinking. It presupposes assent to rigorous standards of excellence and mindful command of their use. It entails effective communication and problem-solving abilities, as well as a commitment to overcome our native egocentrism and sociocentrism.   [emphasis added]
http://www.criticalthinking.org/pages/our-conception-of-critical-thinking/411

Critical thinking is self-guided, self-disciplined thinking which attempts to reason at the highest level of quality in a fair-minded way.   People who think critically consistently attempt to live rationally, reasonably, empathically.    They are keenly aware of the inherently flawed nature of human thinking when left unchecked.   They strive to diminish the power of their egocentric and sociocentric tendencies.   They use the intellectual tools that critical thinking offers – concepts and principles that enable them to analyze, assess, and improve thinking.   They work diligently to develop the intellectual virtues of intellectual integrity, intellectual humility, intellectual civility, intellectual empathy, intellectual sense of justice and confidence in reason. [emphasis added]
http://www.criticalthinking.org/pages/defining-critical-thinking/766

E. Historical examples of wishful thinking (such as belief in panaceas) support skepticism about most religions and worldviews.
For historical examples see the section called “HISTORICAL EXAMPLES OF WISHFUL THINKING” in  Part 2 of this series.
The Christian worldview is dubious because it presents a panacea (Slides 22 and 23 from the PowerPoint that I created for a podcast: Thinking Critically about Christianity – Podcast 5).  For a clearer view, click on the images below:

The same objection can be raised against MOST religions (as well as at least some secular worldviews), so MOST religions should be viewed with significant skepticism.
F. Happiness and virtue do NOT correlate with religion. 
…if religion is not the key to happiness, then that is a GOOD REASON to be skeptical about religion and religious belief, because (a) this shows that a widely-held belief about religion that is often asserted by religious leaders is mistaken, and (b) it seems likely that if a religion was completely true (or mostly true), it would be the key to happiness.  Although it is possible for a religion to be completely true (or mostly true) but fail to be the key to happiness, it seems more likely that a true (or mostly true) religion would be the key to happiness.  So, to the extent that a religion is NOT the key to happiness, we should at least be SKEPTICAL about the idea that the religion is completely or mostly true.  If religion in general is disconnected from happiness, that doesn’t prove that religion is foolish or a delusion, but it does give one a reason to doubt the truth and wisdom of religion:
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2018/09/11/a-case-for-atheism-skepticism-about-religion-part-1/
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2018/09/15/skepticism-about-religion-part-2-caveats-and-qualifications/
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2018/09/20/skepticism-about-religion-part-3-more-caveats-and-qualifications/
…if religion is not the key to virtue, then that is a GOOD REASON to be skeptical about religion and religious belief, because (a) this shows that a widely-held belief about religion that is often asserted by religious leaders is mistaken, and (b) it seems likely that if a religion was completely true (or mostly true), it would be the key to virtue.  Although it is possible for a religion to be completely true (or mostly true) but fail to be the key to virtue, it seems more likely that a true (or mostly true) religion would be the key to virtue.  So, to the extent that a religion is NOT the key to virtue, we should at least be SKEPTICAL about the idea that the religion is completely or mostly true.  If religion in general is disconnected from virtue, that doesn’t prove that religion is foolish or a delusion, but it does give one a reason to doubt the truth and wisdom of religion.
If religion was the key to virtue, then we would expect that the most religious states in the USA would have the least amount of crime, the lowest crime rates.  But in fact, the most religious states tend to have the highest crime rates. … If religion was the key to virtue, then we would expect that the least religious states in the USA to have the most crime, the highest crime rates.  But in fact, the least religious states tend to have the lowest crime rates:
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2018/10/24/skepticism-about-religion-part-4-religion-and-virtue/
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2018/05/27/god-guns-and-school-shootings/
G. As science explains more and more of reality, religion explains less and less.
The Bible used to explain the origin of the universe, the origin of species, the origin of human beings, and the origin of languages.  But in the 21st century, science explains the origin and development of the universe, science explains the origin of species, and science explains the origin of human beings, and science and history explain the origin of languages.
Earthquakes, floods, lightning, pandemics, and famines used to be explained as acts of God by Christians and by other religious people.  But now science explains how and why these kinds of events happen.  Diseases and mental illnesses used to be explained in terms of the actions of God or the activity of demons.  But science now provides us with explanations of diseases and mental illnesses, as well as providing us with cures and therapies for treating diseases and mental illnesses.  So, with the continuing advance of science, there is less and less for religion to explain by appeals to supernatural causes (like the actions of God, or demons, or angels).
It now appears that about the only thing left for religion to explain is human nature, especially human minds, thinking, and consciousness.  But science is beginning to make significant advances in helping us to understand human minds, thinking, and consciousness, so it is reasonable to think that religion will soon lose this final bit of territory to further advances of science.  Given that there is very little left for religions to explain, and given that the explanations that religion provided in the past have nearly always turned out to be false and unsupported by facts and data, we now have very good reason to be skeptical about religion as a source of truth and wisdom.
H. Skepticism about Miracles and Revelation casts doubt on Western theistic religions (e.g. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam).
First, there are no modern-day miracles.  This is just as clear as that there are no modern-day psychics (who actually move objects with their minds or who actually “see” events in the future), no modern-day wizards or witches (who actually perform feats of magic), no modern-day mediums (who actually communicate with dead people), no modern-day philosopher’s stone, no modern-day elixir of life, no modern-day panacea.  Many people still believe in such bullshit, but there is no significant scientific evidence for such alleged supernatural phenomena.
Thus, it is reasonable to be suspicious of miracle stories from ancient times, especially in view of the fact that modern science has only been around since Galileo (around 1600), and the masses have never been particularly fond of science (e.g. the current president is proud of his anti-scientific beliefs, and he has millions of idiotic fans who adore him precisely because of his antagonism to science and scholarship).
Why would God perform miracles in the ancient past, when people were hopelessly ignorant, superstitious, and credulous, but then stop performing miracles when science, careful empirical observation, and education became common?  The most obvious explanation is NOT that God changed policies on interfering in human lives, but that miracle claims were always FALSE, and that it has simply become more difficult to get people to believe FALSE miracle claims in the age of science, careful empirical observation, and widespread public education.
Miracles play an important role in Western theistic religious traditions.  They provide “evidence” for divine revelation.  Jesus, for example, allegedly performed nature miracles (walking on water, turning water into wine,  stopping a storm with a single command, and bringing a dead person back to life).  These miracles are supposed to provide “evidence” that Jesus was a true prophet, and that his claims to be the Messiah and the divine Son of God were true, and thus miracles provide “evidence” to show that the teachings of Jesus are teachings from God, revelations from God.  Moses allegedly performed many amazing miracles, which is supposed to provide “evidence” that Moses was a true prophet, and thus that the laws of Moses were, as Moses claimed, from God himself, revelations from God.
Miracles, in short, are the main “evidence” that certain teachings or messages or sacred writings were inspired by God, messages from God.  But there is a fundamental problem with this way of supporting claims of divine revelation:  In order to be able to identify an event as being a MIRACLE, we must first figure out the plans and purposes of God.   Apart from such knowledge, we cannot identify a particular event as being something that God intentionally brought about.
We cannot see God.  We cannot observe God by means of any of our senses.  God has no body, according to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.  So, we cannot physically observe God doing something, in the way that we can observe people and animals (who have physical bodies) do something.  Because God has no physical body,  God does not leave any physical traces.  No finger prints, no foot prints,  no hairs, no saliva, no sperm, no blood, no urine, no skin cells.
The only way to try to identify God as the being who intentionally brought about event X, is to know what the plans and purposes of God are, and to determine whether bringing about event X fits well with God’s plans and purposes.  The problem is that we don’t know anything specific about God’s plans and purposes.
We can infer from the definition of God that God will only do things that an all-knowing, all-powerful, and perfectly good person would do.  But that doesn’t really tell us much.  Afterall, God, if God exists, appears to have created a world with a great deal of evil and suffering in it, which doesn’t seem like what we would expect an all-knowing, all-powerful, and perfectly good person to do.  God, if God exists, created a world where everything dies, and where billions of sentient creatures suffer from physical injuries, mutations, poisons, diseases, parasites, cancer, predators, fires, floods, earthquakes, famines, etc.
If there is a God, God does not behave in the way that we would expect a perfect being to behave.  So, either there is no God, or we are not very good at figuring out the plans and purposes God.  Of course religious people often claim to know God’s plans and purposes, but their claims are based either on scriptural revelation (e.g. the Bible, the Quran, Book of Mormon) or on alleged personal communication with God.  But if the Bible and Jesus require miracles to support their claims to divine inspiration, then so do individuals who claim to talk with God today.  There is no reason to accept such claims about personal communication with God apart from strong evidence, namely the occurrence of a miracle associated directly with that person.
But now we are reasoning in a BIG CIRCLE.  In order to show that Jesus or the Bible (or the Quran or the Book of Mormon) are truly communicating messages from God, we must first determine whether some alleged events actually occurred and were actually miracles (e.g. Jesus really did walk on water AND this happened because God intentionally caused it to happen, and Jesus really did turn water into wine AND this happened because God intentionally caused it to happen).  But in order to determine whether some alleged event really was a miracle, we must first know details about the plans and purposes of God, which we can only know on the basis of revelation (i.e. messages from God).
So, it appears to me that it is NOT possible to identify an event as being a miracle, because we don’t know any details about God’s plans and purposes (if God exists), and because we need to first identify a miracle before we can get specific information about God’s plans and purposes:
The above is slide 13 from my PowerPoint called “Belief in Miracles“.
In the next post in this series, I will give my reasons for skepticism about the existence of God.

bookmark_borderLeviticus and Homosexuality – Part 2: No Messages from God

REASON FOR DOUBT #1
Should we view homosexual sex as morally wrong because it is (allegedly) condemned in the book of Leviticus?  In Part 1 of this series I outlined a dozen reasons to doubt this viewpoint.  Here is the first reason:

1. God does NOT exist, so no prophet and no book contains truth or wisdom from God. 

The question “Does God exist?” is not a simple and easy question to answer.  However, in my view there are no good reasons to believe God exists, but there are good reasons to doubt and to disbelieve that God exists.  I cannot establish these conclusions with just a single blog post, but I have written many posts that are concerned with arguments about the existence of God, so I can summarize my conclusions and point to various posts that I have previously published.
If it is unlikely that God exists, then it is also unlikely that there are prophets who communicate truth or wisdom that they received in communications from God, and it is unlikely that there are books that contain truth or wisdom from God.
 
THE SILENCE OF GOD
Furthermore, we can turn this reasoning around, and argue that there probably is no God, because there are no true prophets and no books that were truly inspired by God.
Christians, Jews, and Muslims argue that there are prophets and writings that provide us with messages from God.  Part of their argument is based on the following assumption:

21. IF God exists, THEN it is very likely that God communicated truth or wisdom to human beings through prophets or holy books in the past four thousand years.

This seems like a reasonable assumption to me, but this assumption can also be used to argue for the conclusion that there is no God:

21. IF God exists, THEN it is very likely that God communicated truth or wisdom to human beings through prophets or holy books in the past four thousand years.

22. There have been no prophets or holy books in the past four thousand years that have provided truth or wisdom from God.

THEREFORE:

23. It is probably NOT the case that God exists.

Premise (22) appears to beg the question against the belief that the book of Leviticus was inspired by God, but we can set Leviticus aside for the moment, and think about other allegedly inspired writings:

  • The Quran
  • The Book of Mormon
  • Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures
  • Deuteronomy and Joshua (other OT books)

If one was not raised a Muslim, then it is very obvious that the Quran was NOT inspired by God.  If one was not raised as a Mormon, then it is very obvious that The Book of Mormon was NOT inspired by God.  If one was not raised as a Christian Scientist, then it is very obvious that Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures was NOT inspired by God.  When Christian believers who accept the traditional Christian faith examine allegedly inspired writings of other religions or non-traditional Christian sects, they very quickly (and correctly) determine that those other writings were NOT inspired by God.
However, the Bible, and especially the Old Testament, has most of the same defects as the Quran.  In fact, the OT is often worse than the Quran in terms of the cruelty and injustice and bloodthirsty character of Jehovah, the god of the Israelites.  So, the very same reasons that Christians give for rejecting the Quran as NOT being inspired by God apply to the Bible, especially to the OT.  It is clear that the OT is no more inspired than the Quran.  Christians are just biased and hypocritical in how they evaluate the Quran vs. how they evaluate the Bible.
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2018/08/09/ive-got-one-less-prophet-without-you/
The OT is filled with false claims and assumptions, both false claims and assumptions about nature, and false claims and assumptions about historical events.  The OT is also filled with cruel, unjust, and immoral actions and commandments by and from Jehovah, the god of the Israelites.  So, either the OT is filled with SLANDER and FALSEHOODS about what God said and did, or else it accurately portrays the words and actions of Jehovah, but Jehovah is NOT GOD, and therefore the being who communicated with Moses was NOT GOD, and thus the OT was NOT inspired by God.  Either way, the OT is, in general, NOT inspired by God.
It would be rather unlikely that Leviticus was inspired by God while the rest of the OT was inspired by a cruel, unjust, and morally flawed being named “Jehovah”.  We will see later that Leviticus has the same problems as the rest of the OT.
Deuteronomy and Joshua clearly describe Jehovah as commanding that the Israelites MERCILESSLY SLAUGHTER every man, woman, teenager, child, and baby who lived in the geographical area called “the promised Land” (basically Palestine), in order to steal the land from the peoples who had already settled in that area.  This massive slaughter of innocent civilians and children and babies is cruel, unjust, and immoral, so it is clear that Jehovah, as described by Deuteronomy and Joshua is a morally flawed person, and thus is NOT GOD.  Therefore, either Deuteronomy and Joshua contain SLANDER and FALSEHOODS about God, or else Jehovah said and did what these books claim, and Jehovah is NOT God.  Either way, it follows logically that Deuteronomy and Joshua are NOT books that were inspired by God.
For further details see my recent series of posts on this subject:
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2020/07/06/index-was-joshuas-slaughter-of-the-canaanites-morally-justified/
 
GENERAL SKEPTICISM PLUS THREE SPECIFIC AREAS OF SKEPTICISM
My doubts about the existence of God are related to skepticism in general, and to three specific areas of skepticism:

  • Skepticism about Supernatural Claims
  • Skepticism about Religion
  • Skepticism about the Existence of God

I am a SKEPTIC because I am a CYNIC.  It is not the case that all skeptics are cynics.  However, it is probably true that many skeptics are cynics (like me).
Furthermore, my cynicism is not merely a pessimistic prejudice about humans, but is supported by historical and scientific data, and investigations into human behavior.  Science and history support cynicism.
By CYNICISM I mean: the view that human beings are naturally and commonly irrational, illogical, ignorant, superstitious, gullible, prejudiced, dishonest, and self-deceived.
My SKEPTICISM can be summed up this way: QUESTION AUTHORITY!  People very often boldly and confidently assert (or believe) things that are FALSE or UNREASONABLE.  Donald Trump, for example, does this several times a day. This is because people are naturally and commonly irrational, illogical, ignorant, superstitious, gullible, prejudiced, dishonest, and self-deceived.
See the second half of the following post, the section called “REASONS FOR SKEPTICISM ABOUT THE SUPERNATURAL”:  Why I Reject the Resurrection – Part 4: Skepticism about the Supernatural.
 
HISTORICAL EXAMPLES OF WISHFUL THINKING
[The above are slides from a PowerPoint that I created for a podcast: Thinking Critically about Christianity – Podcast 5.  Slides 17 through 21 provide the above historical examples of wishful thinking.]
 
SKEPTICISM ABOUT SUPERNATURAL CLAIMS
There are at least three areas of skepticism about supernatural claims that provide examples and evidence supporting doubt about the supernatural:

  • Skepticism about Supernatural Powers: ESP, Psychics, Prophets, Astrology, Telekinesis, Levitation.
  • Skepticism about Supernatural Beings: angels, demons, spirits, ghosts, fairies.
  • Skepticism about faith healers, psychic healers, shaman, and/or new age medicine (Homeopathy, Crystals, Chakras, etc.)

There has been about 150 years of investigation into ESP, telekinesis, and psychics, and no significant evidence has been found that confirms popular belief in these alleged supernatural powers.  Belief in such supernatural powers is due to wishful thinking, gullibility, superstition, bias, deception, and other forms of ignorance and irrationality.
There is no significant evidence for the existence of angels, demons, spirits, or ghosts.  Mediums who claim to communicate with the dead have been studied for over 150 years, and no significant evidence has been found that confirms the popular belief that mediums are able to communicate with the spirits of dead people.  The fact that billions of people have believed in angels, demons, ghosts, spirits, and mediums for many centuries just shows that people are in general, naive, gullible, superstitious, ignorant, and uncritical thinkers.
Faith healers, psychic healers, and New Age medicine (homeopathy, crystals, chakras) are generally practiced by con artists, quacks, and charlatans, and by some superstitious true believers.  There is no significant scientific evidence that confirms the ability of faith healers, psychic healers, shaman, or New Age medicine to heal people of any actual organic diseases (as opposed to making people feel less anxious or fearful or to feel better in some psychological way).  Billions of naive, ignorant, uncritical, superstitious people have for many centuries believed in faith healing, psychic healing, shamanic healing, and/or in New Age medicine, but they are simply more examples supporting general cynicism about human beings.
Billions of human beings over many centuries have uncritically and unreasonably accepted various supernatural beliefs like those listed above.  But whenever such alleged supernatural powers or supernatural beings or supernatural forces are carefully and scientifically investigated, we either find natural explanations for the phenomena, or we find that there is no significant empirical evidence that such supernatural phenomena exist.
That does not mean that there is no possibility that one day someone will discover a supernatural phenomenon that can be confirmed by careful scientific investigation, but the repeated FAILURE of ANY alleged supernatural powers or supernatural beings or supernatural forces to be confirmed when carefully investigated makes is VERY UNLIKELY that any such supernatural phenomena actually exists.
=================
Articles on General Skepticism about the Paranormal
creators-of-the-paranormal
eyewitness-testimony-and-the-paranormal
psychic-experiences-psychic-illusions
cold-reading-how-to-convince-strangers-that-you-know-all-about-them
confirmbias
coincidences
coincidences-remarkable-or-random
Articles on Skepticism about Astrology
Astrology_and_science
astrology
astrology-more-like-religion-than-science
does-astrology-need-to-be-true-a-thirty-year-update
astrology-strikes-back-but-to-what-effect
belief-in-astrology-a-test-of-the-barnum-effect
tests-of-astrology-do-not-support-its-claims
Articles on Skepticism about ESP, Telepathy, Clairvoyance, and Psychokinesis
psychic
esp
clairvoyance
psychokinesis
mind-over-metal
fakers-and-innocents
the-case-of-the-psychic-detectives
psychic-pets-and-pet-psychics
failed-psychic-predictions-for-1998
psychics-strike-out-again-in-1995
psychics-fail-once-again
a-controlled-test-of-dowsing-abilities
Articles on Skepticism about Parapsychology
psihistory
heads-i-win-tails-you-lose-how-parapsychologists-nullify-null-results
the-evidence-for-psychic-functioning-claims-vs-reality
the-elusive-open-mind-ten-years-of-negative-research-in-parapsychology
a-critique-of-schwartz-et-als-after-death-communication-studies
Articles on Skepticism about Specific Psychics and Mediums
geller
dixon
cayce
ramtha
psychic-defective-sylvia-brownes-history-of-failure
years-later-sylvia-brownes-accuracy-remains-dismal
Geraldine Smith – Toronto Psychic
investigation-of-psychics  (James Hydrick and Alan Vaughan)
nostradamus-a-new-look-at-an-old-seer
john-edward-spirit-huckster
testing-natasha
nostradamus-the-prophet-for-all-seasons
edgar-cayce-the-slipping-prophet
the-geller-papers
Articles on Skepticism about Supernatural Beings
ghosts
haunted
poltergeist
fairies
exorcism
satan
so-you-have-a-ghost-in-your-photo
firebug-poltergeists
dispelling-demons-detective-work-at-the-conjuring-house
the-200-demons-house-a-skeptical-demonologists-report
the-conjuring-ghosts-poltergeist-demons
the-bell-witch-poltergeist
enfield-poltergeist
john-edward-spirit-huckster
demons-in-connecticut
a-skeletons-tale-the-origins-of-modern-spiritualism
ghosts-caught-on-film
ghost-hunters-2
amityville-the-horror-of-it-all
john-edward-hustling-the-bereaved
exorcism-driving-out-the-nonsense
Articles on Skepticism about Faith Healing, Faith Healers, and New Age Medicine
faithhealing
Faith_healing  (Kathryn Kuhlman and Peter Popoff)
psychic surgery
homeopathy
crystals
crystal-healing
Crystal_healing
johnofgod
john-of-god-healings-by-entities
benny-hinn-healer-or-hypnotist
peter-popoff-reaches-heaven-via-39-17-megahertz
To Be Continued…

bookmark_borderLeviticus and Homosexuality – Part 1: Outline of My Reasons for Doubt

Recently, I posted a meme on my personal Facebook page that challenged the Christian argument that sex between two men is morally wrong because this is allegedly prohibited in the Old Testament book called Leviticus.
The basic objection in the meme is that there are several things that Leviticus prohibits that Christians seem to have no moral objections against.

  • Eating ham or bacon or pork ribs or pork chops or pork roast or pork sausage:

The pig, for even though it has divided hoofs and is cleft-footed, it does not chew the cud; it is unclean for you. Of their flesh you shall not eat, and their carcasses you shall not touch; they are unclean for you. (Leviticus 11:7-8)

  • Eating shrimp, crayfish, crab, lobster, clams, scallops, oysters, and mussels:

10 But anything in the seas or the streams that does not have fins and scales, of the swarming creatures in the waters and among all the other living creatures that are in the waters—they are detestable to you 11 and detestable they shall remain. Of their flesh you shall not eat, and their carcasses you shall regard as detestable. 12 Everything in the waters that does not have fins and scales is detestable to you. (Leviticus 11:10-12)

  • Planting a mixture of two different kinds of seeds or wearing clothes made from two different kinds of material or fabric:

19 You shall keep my statutes. You shall not let your animals breed with a different kind; you shall not sow your field with two kinds of seed; nor shall you put on a garment made of two different materials.  (Leviticus 19:19)

  • Trimming your sideburns or beard:

27 You shall not round off the hair on your temples or mar the edges of your beard. (Leviticus 19:27)

  • Getting a tattoo:

28 You shall not make any gashes in your flesh for the dead or tattoo any marks upon you: I am the Lord. (Leviticus 19:28)

  • Having sex with a woman when she is on her period:

19 “‘Do not approach a woman to have sexual relations during the uncleanness of her monthly period. (Leviticus 18:19)

Christians have no interest in passing laws against any of these other things prohibited by Leviticus.  Christians don’t condemn or criticize people who do these other things prohibited by Leviticus.  Christians themselves often openly practice these other things prohibited by Leviticus, and feel no shame in doing so.
One of my Facebook friends is a Catholic, a philosophy student, and an admirer of Aquinas.  He made this comment in response to my posting of the meme:

I asked Christopher how reason alone could show that sex between men was evil, and he responded by pointing me to an article that presented a Thomist argument against homosexual sex.
I plan to analyze and evaluate that argument here on The Secular Outpost later this year, but first I want to deal with the argument against homosexual sex based on quotations from the Old Testament book Leviticus.
Off the top of my head, I came up with a dozen reasons to doubt this argument that is based on the book of Leviticus.  Some of the reasons are indented (namely reasons 3 through 8) because they not only provide some independent reason for doubt, but also provide support for the second reason (i.e. Leviticus is NOT the inspired Word of God.).  So, the list below will provide me with a plan for future posts in this new series of posts.
======================
A DOZEN REASONS WHY I DOUBT THAT LEVITICUS PROVIDES US WITH A LEGITIMATE MORAL PROHIBITION AGAINST SEX BETWEEN TWO MEN
1. God does NOT exist, so no prophet and no book contains truth or wisdom from God. 
2. Leviticus is NOT the inspired Word of God. (Leviticus is just another book written by ignorant and imperfect human beings).

3. Leviticus was NOT written or authored by Moses.
4. Leviticus is NOT an historically reliable account of actual events.
5. Leviticus contains bad moral guidelines.
6. Leviticus contains bad laws and bad social guidelines.
7. Leviticus contains false information.
8. Leviticus contains logical contradictions.

9. It is unclear and uncertain whether the relevant passages in existing copies of Leviticus are accurate representations of the original text of Leviticus.
10. It is unclear and uncertain whether the relevant passages in existing copies of Leviticus prohibit sex between two men. 
11. Even if the relevant passages in existing copies of Leviticus prohibit sex between two men, it is unclear and uncertain WHY Leviticus prohibits sex between two men.
12. Even if the relevant passages in existing copies of Leviticus prohibit sex between two men, it is unclear and uncertain whether this prohibition applies to Christians, or even to modern Jews.

bookmark_borderNew Book Published on Feser, Thomism, and Natural Law Theory of Ethics

I recently wrote the Foreword for a new book that takes a skeptical look at Edward Feser’s views, Thomism, and the Natural Law Theory of Ethics.  The book is called The Unnecessary Science: A Critical Analysis of Natural Law Theory.  
Here is the final paragraph of the Foreword that I wrote for the book:

In The Unnecessary Science, Gunther Laird provides an intellectual banquet of concepts, principles, arguments, and skeptical objections about religion and morality that draws upon the ideas of two of the greatest philosophers of western thought: Aristotle and Aquinas—as clarified and defended by the modern Catholic philosopher Ed Feser. Laird provides an antidote to Feser’s conservative Catholic views: skeptical arguments that will help liberals (and others) to win the Culture Wars. He does this in a way that is user friendly and entertaining, while emphasizing and promoting some key aspects of critical thinking—hypothetical reasoning and dialectical thinking. In this book, you will discover how philosophical thinking going back to ancient Athens still has relevance for how we should think and live in the 21st century.

Graham Oppy also had some good words to say about the book:

Gunther Laird casts a critical eye over the books and blogs of Edward Feser… The work gives readers plenty to think about.

– Graham Oppy, Professor of Philosophy, Monash University

The Unnecessary Science is available on Amazon.com

bookmark_borderThe Unmoved Mover Argument – Part 8: 2nd Argument for Changing Things

In his book When Skeptics Ask (hereafter: WSA), Norman Geisler presents his general version of a Thomist Cosmological Argument (hereafter: TCA).  The first premise of Geisler’s TCA is this:

1. Finite, changing things exist.  (WSA, p.18)

Geisler provides a very brief argument in support of (1) in WSA.  In Part 4 of this series I showed that Geisler’s brief argument in support of (1) was a stinking philosophical TURD.  It FAILS utterly and completely to support ANY part of premise (1).
In Part 5 of this series I clarified and analyzed a longer and more sophisticated  argument by Geisler in support of just one part of premise (1) of TCA, an argument that is found in his much older book Philosophy of Religion (hereafter: PoR).  This longer argument only supports the simple and obviously true claim that “Something exists”.  In Part 6 of this series, I argued that this longer argument by Geisler FAILS.
In Part 7 of this series, I analyzed and evaluated Geisler’s first argument for the following claim:

21. Changing things exist.

I concluded that this first argument for (21) FAILS.
Now I will attempt to analyze and evaluate Geisler’s second argument for claim (21). Here is the paragraph where Geisler presents this second argument (PoR, page 192):   Key claims in Geisler’s second argument:

31. The argument that all change is illusory is indefensible.

32. Total illusion about ourselves and the world is impossible.

33. If only some change is real…, then it follows that there is at least some real change in real things.

I believe that claim (31) is just a summary of Geisler’s view, and does not play a role in this second argument.  So, the basic logical structure of this argument goes like this:

32. Total illusion about ourselves and the world is impossible.

33. If only some change is real…, then it follows that there is at least some real change in real things.

THEREFORE:

21. Changing things exist.

It seems to me that the consequent of claim (33), i.e. “there is at least some real change in real things” is just an alternative way of stating claim (21), so I will revise the wording of (33) accordingly:

33a. IF only some change is real, THEN changing things exist.

It is immediately apparent that (33a) is FALSE.  The antecedent only requires that ONE change is real, but the consequent asserts that MORE THAN ONE change exists (“things” is plural).  So, if Geisler’s second argument is going to have any chance of success, we need to beef up the antecedent of claim (33a) a bit:

33b. IF two or more changes are real, THEN changing things exist.

Here is the revised 2nd argument:

32. Total illusion about ourselves and the world is impossible.

33b. IF two or more changes are real, THEN changing things exist.

THEREFORE:

21. Changing things exist.

This argument is NOT formally VALID.  We need a claim that affirms the antecedent of (33b) in order to have a formally VALID inference (namely a modus ponens).  Presumably, the claim that affirms the antecedent of (33b) is inferred from claim (32), so that claim (32) has a role in this argument:

32. Total illusion about ourselves and the world is impossible.

THEREFORE:

A. Two or more changes are real.

33b. IF two or more changes are real, THEN changing things exist.

THEREFORE:

21. Changing things exist.

I can see how claim (32) could be used to infer claim (A), because (32) is talking about experiences of two different phenomenamyself and the world.  (Note: I don’t think Geisler intends for claim (32) to be about multiple selves, but just about ONE self, so I’m going to revise that premise to refer to “myself”.)   We can add an intermediate inference between claim (32) and claim (A):

32a. Total illusion about myself and the world is impossible.

THEREFORE:

B. At least ONE change that I seem to have experienced about myself is real, and at least ONE change that I seem to have experienced about the world is real.

THEREFORE:

A. Two or more changes are real.

33b. IF two or more changes are real, THEN changing things exist.

THEREFORE:

21. Changing things exist.

OK.  We have now analyzed and clarified Geisler’s second argument for the claim that “Changing things exist.”  Here is a diagram showing the logical structure of the argument: 
I am going to start with what is right with this argument, and then proceed to examine the more dubious aspects of the argument.  I set up the final inference from (33b) and (A) to (21) as a modus ponens, so that inference is clearly deductively VALID.  Furthermore, although the inference from (B) to (A) is not a formally VALID deductive inference,  I take it that (B) clearly logically implies (A), so I accept that as a VALID deductive inference.  The assumption I make here is that oneself is something distinguishable from and other than “the world”.  Given that assumption (B) logically implies (A).
There remain three potential problems with this second argument for the claim that “Changing things exist.”:

  • Is premise (32) TRUE?
  • Can premise (B) be VALIDLY deduced from premise (32)?
  • Is premise (33b) TRUE?

I’m going to start with the third question, because premise (33b) is clearly NOT TRUE, but is clearly FALSE:

33b. IF two or more changes are real, THEN changing things exist.

 Two real changes can happen to the SAME THING.  A caterpillar can grow from being small and slender to being much larger and plump, and a caterpillar can then transform into a butterfly.  So, ONE thing can undergo TWO changes.  Therefore, the occurrence of two changes does NOT logically imply the existence of TWO different things that change.
Also, it is not clear and obvious that real changes only occur in “things”.  I can change my mind.  Does that mean that some “thing” has changed?  That depends on whether my mind counts as a “thing”.  Events can change.  My birthday party can change from being dull and boring to being fun and exciting.  But is a birthday party a “thing”?  Are events “things”?  Geisler provides no clarification or definition of the word “thing”, so it is difficult to answer these questions.
Furthermore, the word “thing” is a problematic word in the context of Thomist philosophy.  Aristotle and Aquinas had very specific ideas about what constitutes a “thing” or a “substance”, so whenever the word “thing” appears in relation to Thomist philosophy, one must determine whether this word is being used in some loose ordinary sense of the word, or whether it is being used in a more specific sense in keeping with the metaphysical theories of Thomas Aquinas.
Strictly speaking, premise (33b) is clearly FALSE, and it must be rejected as currently stated.  However, one might be able to revise the wording of (33b) to avoid the counterexample of ONE thing undergoing TWO changes:

33c. IF two or more things change, THEN changing things exist.

Premise (33c) avoids the counterexample of ONE thing undergoing TWO changes, and it avoids the error of inferring the change of a THING from just any sort of change.  However, premise (33c) also appears to be FALSE.
There is no clear reference to time in (33c), and one could reasonably interpret it as having the following meaning:

33d. IF two or more things change at some time or other, THEN changing things exist right now.

But with this clarification in terms of time, we can clearly see that premise (33d) is FALSE, and thus that premise (33c) is also FALSE, if (33d) is a correct interpretation of the meaning of (33c).  My father’s father changed professions at some time or other, and my mother’s mother also changed her profession at some time or other, but both of those people are dead now; neither of them exist at this time, to the best of my knowledge.  So, TWO people have changed at different times in the past, but neither of those two people exist right now.  That is a clear counterexample to premise (33d), so this premise is clearly FALSE.
We could try to repair premise (33d) by making the references to time match up between the antecedent and the consequent.  I happen to know that for the purposes of the Thomist Cosmological Argument it is important to establish that “Changing things exist right now.”  So, we cannot change the consequent of (33d); instead, we must change the antecedent to match the consequent:

33e. IF two or more things have changed in the past and still exist right now, THEN changing things exist right now.

This is the premise that Geisler actually needs to establish for his second argument to work.  Now we need to modify the other premise in the final sub-argument so that the argument will remain logically VALID:

A1. Two or more things have changed in the past and still exist right now.

33e. IF two or more things have changed in the past and still exist right now, THEN changing things exist right now.

THEREFORE:

21a. Changing things exist right now.

OK.  Now premise (33e) appears to be TRUE, and with the modification of the other premise to premise (A1), this sub-argument is also deductively VALID.  So, the question now becomes, has Geisler provided a SOUND deductive argument for premise (A1)?  Here is the argument that Geisler had provided for this premise:

B. At least ONE change that I seem to have experienced about myself is real, and at least ONE change that I seem to have experienced about the world is real.

THEREFORE:

A1. Two or more things have changed in the past and still exist right now.

Because we have modified premise (A) into premise (A1), this inference is no longer a VALID deductive inference.  For example, (B) says nothing about whether the world still exists right now.  
So, premise (B) now also needs to be modified or supplemented in order for Geisler to have a deductively valid sub-argument for (A1).  I am going to split up the reference to the two key phenomena, and I am going to make explicit the assumption that myself and the world are different things:

C. At least ONE change that I seem to have experienced in the past about myself is real, and myself still exists right now.

D. At least ONE change that I seem to have experienced in the past about the world is real, and the world still exists right now.

E. Myself is a thing and the world is a thing.

F. It is NOT the case that the world and myself are the same thing.

THEREFORE:

A1. Two or more things have changed in the past and still exist right now.

Premises (C) and (D) are each supported by premise (32a).  For example, (32a) is a premise supporting (D):

32a. Total illusion about myself and the world is impossible.

THEREFORE:

D. At least ONE change that I seem to have experienced in the past about the world is real, and the world still exists right now.

I just now noticed an ambiguity in (32a), so that needs to be fixed:

32b. Total illusion about myself is impossible and total illusion about the world is impossible.

Now we can lay out the logical structure of my modified/enhanced version of Geisler’s second argument for the conclusion that “Changing things exist right now.”:  
Because I have revised each of the three premises that Geisler provided in order to clarify them or to make the logical inferences valid, and because I have had to add five different unstated assumptions, also in order to make the logical inferences in this argument valid, it is no longer clear that this is Geisler’s argument.  My thought, effort, and skills have gone into the construction of this argument, and it is significantly different from the argument that we started with.  So, even if this turns out to be a solid deductive argument, that will not show that Geisler’s original argument was a solid deductive argument.
It is clear that Geisler’s second argument as originally stated was NOT a SOUND deductive argument, and that it FAILED as a deductively valid proof of the conclusion.  But the above enhanced version of Geisler’s second argument might turn out to be a solid proof, so I will continue to evaluate this enhanced argument in the next post.

bookmark_borderThe Unmoved Mover Argument – Part 7: 1st Argument for Changing Things

In his book When Skeptics Ask (hereafter: WSA), Norman Geisler presents his general version of a Thomist Cosmological Argument (hereafter: TCA).  The first premise of Geisler’s TCA is this:

1. Finite, changing things exist.  (WSA, p.18)

Geisler provides a very brief argument in support of (1) in WSA.  In Part 4 of this series I showed that Geisler’s brief argument in support of (1) was a stinking philosophical TURD.  It FAILS utterly and completely to support ANY part of premise (1).
In Part 5 of this series I clarified and analyzed a longer and more sophisticated  argument by Geisler in support of just one part of premise (1) of TCA, an argument that is found in his much older book Philosophy of Religion (hereafter: PoR).  This longer argument only supports the simple and obviously true claim that “Something exists”.  In Part 6 of this series, I argued that this longer argument by Geisler FAILS.
Geisler also presents arguments for the claim that “changing things exist”, and I will begin to analyze and evaluate those arguments in this post.  Here is the first paragraph Geisler wrote in support of this claim  (PoR, p.192):  
Here are the key claims made by Geisler in the above paragraph:

21. Changing things exist.

22. I am a changing thing.

23. I experience other changing things in the world.

24. The whole world of my experience is a space-time continuum of change.

Statement (21) is the conclusion of his argument.  Statements (22), (23), and (24) are premises in his argument for (21).   Because the conclusion uses the plural “things”, premise (22) is not sufficient by itself to prove (21).  We need at least one other example of a changing thing, in order to prove that (21) is true, so (22) and (23) must work together to support (21). The basic logical structure of Geisler’s argument is this:  
Because Geisler uses pronouns in all three premises, we cannot evaluate those claims as either true or false, unless and until we determine the meaning of those pronouns.  Since Geisler wrote those statements, one obvious interpretation of the pronoun “I” is that this is a reference to himself:

22a. Norman Geisler is a changing thing.

23a. Norman Geisler experiences other changing things in the world.

24a. The whole world of Norman Geisler’s experience is a space-time continuum of change.

I believe that (22a) is true, and I also believe that (23a) is true.  However, I have never met Norman Geisler, and I have not done any historical research about his life.  So, I am not absolutely certain that Norman Geisler exists.
More importantly,  my belief that “Changing things exist” is MORE obvious and MORE certain than my belief that “Norman Geisler exists” or that “Norman Geisler is a changing thing”.  But in order to provide an acceptable deductive proof of the conclusion that “Changing things exist”, ALL of the premises in this deductive argument must be MORE obvious and MORE certain than the conclusion of the argument.  So, given the above interpretations of Geisler’s premises, this argument clearly FAILS.
But perhaps Geisler intends for the readers of his argument to insert their own names into the argument wherever the personal pronoun “I” appears (or “my”).  In that case, I would interpret the argument this way:

22b. Bradley Bowen is a changing thing.

23b. Bradley Bowen experiences other changing things in the world.

24b. The whole world of Bradley Bowen’s experience is a space-time continuum of change.

First of all, we need to toss out premise (24b).  Geisler’s reference to the modern scientific notion of “a space-time continuum” sounds very sophisticated, and it is somewhat sophisticated, but that is clearly a problem with this premise.  There is no way that such a modern scientific idea can be viewed as a self-evident truth, or as a truth that is MORE obvious and MORE certain than the claim “Changing things exist”. (Aristotle firmly believed that “Changing things exist”, but I doubt very much that Aristotle viewed his experience as “a space-time continuum of change”.) So, that premise is worthless for the purposes of this argument.
Premises (22b) and (23b) are more plausibly viewed as self-evident or at least as having a high degree of obviousness and certainty.  But there is a problem, however, with this argument given this interpretation of Geisler’s premises.  Geisler doesn’t know me, as far as I am aware.  He doesn’t know that I exist.  Although I myself might be fairly confident of the truth of (22b) and (23b),  Geisler has no idea whether those claims are true or false.  So, since he has no knowledge or information relevant to determining whether those premises are true or false, it is obvious that he was NOT asserting the truth of (22b) or (23b) when he presented his argument.  This interpretation is clearly mistaken.
Perhaps Geisler intended that the pronoun “I” be viewed in more general terms, as a sort of placeholder for ANY person.  In that case, we could interpret his premises this way:

22c. Every person is a changing thing.

23c. Every person experiences other changing things in the world.

Whoops!  This immediately gets into dangerous territory for Geisler, because the following argument would then be very tempting to make and accept:

22c. Every person is a changing thing.

25. God is a person (if God exists).

THEREFORE:

26. God is a changing thing (if God exists).

I myself, accept this as a SOUND deductive argument for claim (26).  But Geisler, as a fan of Thomas Aquinas, would firmly reject claim (26).  Thomists also tend to reject claim (25), but Geisler is not a dogmatic Thomist, so he might well accept (25), but then reject (22c) in order to avoid the conclusion that “God is a changing thing (if God exists).”
Because Thomists strongly affirm that God is unchanging and unchangable (in fact this idea is at the heart of the TCA), I think that Geisler would be very reluctant to agree with premise (22c).  But in that case, this third interpretation of the meaning of Geisler’s premises also seems to be a dubious and mistaken interpretation.
I’m now in a bit of a bind.  On the one hand, if we don’t cash out the meaning of the pronoun “I” in Geisler’s key premises, then we cannot determine whether those premises are true or false.  On the other hand, when I try to cash out the meaning of the pronoun “I” significant problems arise, so that either the argument FAILS or it appears to be a mistaken interpretation.  I am not able, so far, to come up with an interpretation that is both a plausible interpretation of what Geisler meant AND an acceptable deductive proof of the conclusion.
Although I cannot reach a definitive evaluation, it appears to me that Geisler’s 1st argument for the conclusion that “Changing things exist” FAILS.  I do not see any plausible interpretation of the premises of this argument on which the argument would constitute an acceptable deductive proof.

bookmark_borderThe Unmoved Mover Argument – Part 6: More on Something Exists

In his book When Skeptics Ask (hereafter: WSA), Norman Geisler presents his general version of a Thomist Cosmological Argument (hereafter: TCA).  The first premise of Geisler’s TCA is this:

1. Finite, changing things exist.  (WSA, p.18)

Geisler provides a very brief argument in support of (1) in WSA.  In Part 4 of this series I showed that Geisler’s brief argument in support of (1) was a stinking philosophical TURD.  It FAILS utterly and completely to support ANY part of premise (1).
In Part 5 of this series I clarified and analyzed a longer and more sophisticated  argument by Geisler in support of just one part of premise (1) of TCA, an argument that is found in his much older book Philosophy of Religion (hereafter: PoR).  This longer argument only supports the simple and obviously true claim that “Something exists”.  Geisler provides further arguments in PoR for the claim that there are finite, changing things.  But I will get into those further arguments in later posts of this series.
There were eight explicit statements in Geisler’s longer argument, but in attempting to re-construct the logic of his argument it became apparent that the argument contained several logical gaps which needed to be filled by making explicit various unstated assumptions in the argument.  My previous diagram of the resulting re-construction of Geisler’s argument contains seven clarified versions of Geisler’s original statements plus five additional assumptions, required to make the argument logically valid.  Furthermore, when I evaluated a number of the initial sub-arguments in the overall argument, I discovered further logical gaps, and added three more assumptions to my re-construction of this argument.
Here is the logical structure of Geisler’s longer and more complex argument in support of the claim that “Something exists”, including the three additional assumptions (the numbered circles represent explicit statements, and the lettered circles represent unstated assumptions that I made explicit to clarify the argument): 
In my previous evaluation of this longer and more complex argument, I examined each inference and sub-argument, beginning with the inference from (15a) to (H), through the sub-argument with the inference from premises (N) and (14a) to premise (13a).  In this post I will finish evaluating the final premises and inferences of this argument.
My evaluation of the argument so far is that it is clearly UNSUCCESSFUL even though each premise (so far) appears to be TRUE, and each inference (so far) appears to be VALID.  The problem is that premise (J) is LESS obvious and LESS certain than the conclusion that “Something exists”, which makes premise (K) Less obvious and LESS certain than the conclusion, and the inference from (K) and (M) to (14a) is also not entirely obvious and certain, so by the time we get to premise (14a), that premise is clearly LESS obvious and LESS certain than the conclusion that “Something exists”.  In the case of a deductive proof for a conclusion, the premises of the argument must all be MORE obvious and MORE certain than the conclusion in order for the argument to have any significance or value.  So, this longer more complex argument by Geisler FAILS.
I will continue, nevertheless, to evaluate the rest of this longer argument to determine if there are any more problems or weaknesses in the argument.   The next sub-argument to evaluate is this one:

13a. Any attempt by a person to deny his/her own existence is self-defeating.

L. When a person denies the existence of everything, that person is denying his/her own existence.

THEREFORE:

17a. All attempts by a person to deny the existence of everything are self-defeating.

I accept premise (13a) as TRUE, because it appears to be a VALID deductive inference from (N) and (14a) which I accept as TRUE, although (14a) is clearly LESS obvious and LESS certain than the conclusion that “Something exists”.  I accept premise (L) as being obviously TRUE.  So, the remaining question is whether the inference is deductively VALID.  I believe the inference is VALID, but it is not formally VALID.  That is mainly because of the way I formulated the unstated assumption (L).  I could have formulated a supplementary premise in a way that would have made this inference formally VALID:

13a. Any attempt by a person to deny his/her own existence is self-defeating.

P. IF any attempt by a person to deny his/her own existence is self-defeating, THEN all attempts by a person to deny the existence of everything are self-defeating.

THEREFORE:

17a. All attempts by a person to deny the existence of everything are self-defeating.

The addition of premise (P) turns this sub-argument into a formally VALID deductive inference (called a modus ponens).  The problem is that (P) is not as clearly and obviously true as (L).  I suppose that we can take (L) to be a reason supporting (P), making the truth of (P) more clear and obvious than it would otherwise be, and then (P) makes the sub-argument formally deductively VALID.  I believe that (P) is TRUE, but there is a complexity to (P) that requires some thinking to evaluate it’s truth, and that makes it LESS obvious and LESS certain than the conclusion that “Something exists”.  So, this appears to be a THIRD step-down in the degree of obviousness and certainty that this argument provides relative to the obviousness and certainty of the conclusion (prior to the giving of the argument).
The next inference in the argument is from (17a) to (11a):

17a. All attempts by a person to deny the existence of everything are self-defeating.

THEREFORE:

11a. It is undeniable that something exists.

There are some missing steps of logic here.  The denial of “the existence of everything”, implies the claim that “nothing exists”, so the FALSEHOOD of the denial of “the existence of everything” implies the FALSEHOOD of the claim that “nothing exists”, and if the claim that “nothing exists” is FALSE, then that implies that the claim “something exists” is TRUE.  So we can get from the FALSEHOOD of the denial of “the existence of everything” to the conclusion that “something exists” is TRUE.
However, this inference from (17a) to (11a) is not quite that simple.  It talks about “attempts” by a person “to deny the existence of everything”, not about the denial itself.  It talks about such “attempts” being “self-defeating” as opposed to being FALSE.  Furthermore, the conclusion is not that “something exists”, but that it is “undeniable” that something exists.
In any case, this inference is NOT a formally VALID inference.  There may be a chain of deductive inferences that could link (17a) to (11a), but it is not at all clear what the steps of reasoning would be here.  The main problem is going from the concept of a denial being “self-defeating” to the concept of a claim being “undeniable”.  Geisler has once again introduced a new term in (11a), a term that does NOT appear in the previous premises of the argument.  That messes up the logic of the argument.
Once again, we need a premise that clarifies or defines the new term that Geisler has thrown into the argument: “undeniable”.  I think Geisler was assuming that if the denial of a claim X is self-defeating, then claim X is “undeniable”:

Q. IF the denial of claim X is self-defeating, THEN claim X is undeniable.

THEREFORE:

R. IF the denial of the claim “Something exists” is self-defeating, THEN the claim “Something exists” is undeniable

S. The denial of the claim “Something exists” is self-defeating.

THEREFORE:

T. The claim “Something exists” is undeniable.

THEREFORE:

 11a. It is undeniable that something exists.

The final inference from (T) to (11a) is still not formally VALID, but it seems so clearly to be logically implied by (T), that I will accept this inference as being a VALID deductive inference.  So, this is how I would repair the inference from (17a) to (11a), except that we still need to show that (17a) logically implies the additional premise (S) above.
I take it that (Q) is a partial stipulative definition of “undeniable”, and is thus TRUE, and I take it that (Q) logically implies (R), so (R) is also clearly and obviously TRUE.  So, the only thing that remains questionable in this revised sub-argument is whether (17a) logically implies premise (S):

17a. All attempts by a person to deny the existence of everything are self-defeating.

U. To deny the existence of everything is the same as to deny the claim “Something exists”.

THEREFORE:

S. The denial of the claim “Something exists” is self-defeating.

Premise (U) is obviously and certainly TRUE, and the inference from (17a) and (U) to (S) is VALID, so this sub-argument is SOUND and acceptable.
The final inference in Geisler’s argument is this one:

11a. It is undeniable that something exists.

THEREFORE:

18a. Something exists.

As it stands, this inference is NOT formally VALID.  In order to determine whether the inference from (11a) to (18a) is deductively VALID, we need to understand the logical implications of the term “undeniable” in premise (11a).  If a claim is “undeniable”, does that necessarily mean that the claim is TRUE?  We need a clarification or definition of “undeniable” that allows us to bridge the logical gap between premise (11a) and the conclusion (18a):

11a. It is undeniable that something exists.

V. IF claim X is undeniable, THEN claim X is true.

THEREFORE:

18a. Something exists.

My first inclination is to say that we simply don’t know whether premise (V) is true or false, because we simply don’t know what it MEANS for a claim to be “undeniable”.  But in evaluating an earlier part of this argument, we had to supply a premise that partially defined this term, in order to make one of the inferences in this argument logically valid.  So, here is the premise that we added in order to repair a logical gap in Geisler’s reasoning:

Q. IF the denial of claim X is self-defeating, THEN claim X is undeniable.

But because this was only a partial definition, and because it only stated a sufficient condition for a claim being “undeniable”, this will be of no help for our evaluation of premise (V).
We need to know the logical implications of a claim being “undeniable”, which means we need to know the NECESSARY CONDITIONS for a claim being “undeniable”, not the sufficient conditions.  Specifically, we need to determine whether a claim must be TRUE in order for it to be “undeniable”.  But Geisler gave us no clarification or definition of the term “undeniable”, and the argument up to this point only assumes (Q) which provides us with just a sufficient condition.
Recall that we get to the conclusion that “Something exists” is “undeniable” on the basis of the previous claim that the denial of the claim “Something exists” is “self-defeating”:

R. IF the denial of the claim “Something exists” is self-defeating, THEN the claim “Something exists” is undeniable

S. The denial of the claim “Something exists” is self-defeating.

THEREFORE:

T. The claim “Something exists” is undeniable.

So, perhaps if we understand what it MEANS for the denial of a claim to be “self-defeating” we could determine whether all such claims must be TRUE.
It is now becoming clear to me that there is an important distinction that we need to keep in mind between “the negation of claim X” and “the denial of claim X by person P”.  On the one hand, the denial of the claim “Something exists” by a person P is “self-defeating” because person P is something that exists.  But this contrasts with the negation of the claim that “Something exists”, which is “It is NOT the case that something exists”, which means the same as “Nothing exists”.
The claim that “Nothing exists,” as Geisler himself points out, is a logical possibility.  It is logically possible for it to be the case that nothing exists.  So, there is no intrinsic logical self-contradiction involved in the statement “Nothing exists”.  The self-defeating aspect of the claim “Nothing exists” occurs only when a PERSON affirms this claim.
In other words, the “undeniable” character of the claim “Something exists” has to do with the existence of a PERSON who either affirms or denies that “Something exists”.  It has nothing to do with the intrinsic logic of the statement “Something exists”.
Therefore, even if we grant the assumption that the claim “Something exists” is “undeniable”, it remains logically possible for the statement “Something exists” to be FALSE.  Therefore, the additional premise required to make the final inference of Geisler’s argument logically VALID is a FALSE premise:

11a. It is undeniable that something exists.

V. IF claim X is undeniable, THEN claim X is true.

THEREFORE:

18a. Something exists.

It is logically possible for the antecedent of (V) to be TRUE, and yet for the consequent to be FALSE.  Premise (V) is thus FALSE, so the final sub-argument in Geisler’s long and complex argument for the conclusion that “Something exists” is an UNSOUND argument!  Therefore, Geisler’s argument for the conclusion “Something exists” clearly and definitely FAILS.
CONCLUSION
This argument is very much like a “Shaggy Dog” joke, where the punchline is really stupid, or where the person telling the joke forgets the punchline after they are already five minutes into telling the joke story-line.
Here is my final diagram of the logical structure of Geisler’s argument for the simple and obviously true conclusion that “Something exists”: 
This argument consists of twenty-two statements, seven of which were explicitly asserted by Geisler (the statements identified with numbers), and fifteen of which were unstated assumptions (the statements identified with letters), plus thirteen inferences (indicated by red arrows).  It should come as no surprise that, given the length and complexity of this argument, some of the premises and inferences in this argument are LESS obvious and/or LESS certain than the obviously true conclusion that “Something exists”.
The final sub-argument involves an unstated assumption that is clearly FALSE, so this final sub-argument is UNSOUND, which means the whole argument FAILS.  But there were also earlier problems with the argument that also make it so this argument FAILS, even if all of the premises of the argument were accepted as TRUE and all of the inferences were accepted as VALID.
Some of the premises and inferences were LESS obvious and LESS certain than the conclusion of the argument “Something exists”, and with a deductive proof, ALL of the premises and inferences in the argument need to be MORE obvious and MORE certain than the conclusion of the argument (or at least AS obvious and AS certain as the conclusion).  So, even without the FALSE premise in the final sub-argument, this argument still would have FAILED to provide a legitimate proof of the conclusion that “Something exists.”
Specifically, the sub-argument that infers (14a) from premises (K) and (M) has two problems that make it so that premise (14a) is definitely LESS obvious and LESS certain than the claim that “Something exists”.
The truth of (K) is based in part on the previous premise (J) which is LESS obvious and LESS certain than “Something exists”, making (K) similarly LESS obvious and LESS certain than “Something exists”.  Furthermore the VALIDITY of the inference from (K) and (M) to (14a) is LESS obvious and LESS certain than the truth of the claim “Something exists”.  So, the sub-argument supporting (14a) clearly FAILS to make (14a) anything other than LESS obvious and LESS certain than the conclusion that “Something exists”.  Therefore, the problems with this sub-argument for (14a) are also enough all by themselves to make Geisler’s overall argument here FAIL.