One of the most significant parts of the book "Does God Exist?"22
is the portion contributed by Peter Kreeft which attempts to lay out a
summary of all of the arguments for and against the proposition that
God exists. This at least gives a framework for a more extensive
treatment of the subject than that given by Drs. Moreland and Nielsen.
Reproduced in this Section is the summary of the "Pro" arguments listed, along with my own comments from an Agnostic point of view.
"The arguments for the existence of God are a mixed bag. Almost no one holds all twenty-five, and some of them are probably not demonstrative (the first seven here, at least). Here is a quick rundown:
If you happen to be able to fool all of the people, all of the time, you have created your own "truth?" In spite of what scientific investigation might show? Don't make me laugh!
don't happen to believe that the Bible is particularly reliable, which
negates the premise of this argument. My reasons for this are quite
lengthy, but begin with the question of: why is the story of a Jewish
rabbi teaching his Jewish followers in Palestine written down decades
later in an unwieldy dialect of Greek? Why is there no written text in
Hebrew? And just what sort of editing did St. Jerome actually do around
400 a. d.? Inquiring minds want to know the truth!
Sure, some parts of the Old Testament clearly describe actual historical events (albeit badly, such as the distortion into a world-wide flood of a more modest flood in Mesopotamia), but why would we consider those texts to be any more reliable than a modern historical novel? And the old saying about history being written by the victors23 holds particularly true for ancient history of a religious significance.24
The fact that I "feel better," about myself and/or my situation, after a religious experience of some sort argues for the validity of psychological treatment of mental trauma, NOT for the existence of God.
In my opinion, the existence of "mystical experience" is itself debatable. It is easy to see why Peter Kreeft said that these first seven "are probably not demonstrative."
Moreland rested heavily on this one, but it holds no water for me. A
2000 year old story of a bunch of miracles is highly questionable. See
also, number 2, above. Just exactly where is that empty tomb, anyway?
Somebody in the last 2000 years forgot to keep track of it properly.
Now, we have a church built on the supposed site, but who can verify
that the original builders had the right spot in the first place? And
who can say it was not just grave robbers who emptied the tomb?
As a product of Western Civilization, I rely upon scientific method to produce the Truth of any question put to it. For this one, the first question is: Do miracles exist? While I know of no scientist who can prove that they do not, the real proof for them is also missing. To prove that miracles exist, there must be a way to repeat them on demand. In the absence of that ability, few scientists would assert that there is scientific proof of the existence of miracles. If the existence of miracles is itself questionable, then there is no foundation upon which to rest the premise of this argument.
majority of human religions survive so long as the people in whom their
belief has flourished are not forced, by arms or other measures, to
convert to some other set of religious beliefs and, more importantly,
teach those other beliefs to their children.
Given the events of the last five decades, you could probably make a better case from the Jewish experience than from Christian history. But the bottom line is that this argument holds no water, simply because long term success of a religion does not imply that it is based upon truth. This is basically the "common consent" argument, with a twist, so you should also see number 1, above.
Again, this depends upon Jesus being more than a mere historical person. See numbers 1, 2, 5, and 6, above, as this one falls victim to all of those objections.
added this headnote myself in order to insert a general comment about
the use of arguments which lack demonstrative ability. The use of such
arguments assumes a premise which cannot be supported. This is a common
problem for each of the first seven arguments for the existence of God.
In his book, "The Mansions of Philosophy" (1929), Will Durant points out that, while all other branches of organized human thought rest upon a concept of truth as determined by reasoning (which includes experimentation according to scientific method), religion rests upon a concept of truth as determined by pure faith in the truth of certain particular premises. Since premises which must be taken on pure faith are neither open to proof or challenge, religious thought is not open to the rules of reason.
People who derive their thought processes by instruction in the wisdom of thought during a period of Civilization will naturally gravitate towards a rule of reason for the determination of what is Truth. Spengler asserts that a person who is a product of his or her Civilization will simply have no choice but to react in that manner. Once the rule of blind faith again takes hold, we are in the grip of the "Second Religiousness," and despotic rule by Cæsar is closely associated with the religion of blind faith. It is truly unfortunate that anyone would choose to use an argument in a formal philosophical debate which depends upon a premise which cannot be proved or disproved. To me, this displays a clear impoverishment of their thought processes.
This is a word game. While word games can be fun to play, they hold no water for me in a formal debate.
On this particular point, just who says that God (or the idea of God) is perfect? It is yet another unsupported premise which must cause the demise of this argument.
If I have the freedom to define God as the chair upon which I now sit, it then will be obvious, at least to me, that God exists. All arguments which proceed from any quirky definition of God will fall victim to Atheist argument number 3 (see the next Section of this Book).
Ditto. See number 8, above.
This is the "design" argument (see number 18, below), with the added premise of an absolute moral law. However, I believe that if the complete history of the 20th century proves anything at all, it would prove that there is no absolute moral law. In any case, the alleged "absolute moral law" is yet another unsupported premise, and an unsupported premise must cause the demise of this argument.
This is basically the argument that if God did not exist, mankind would be forced to invent God in order to have some sort of "perfect" moral law. Does this imply that if I decide that I really do need an anti-gravity field generator, one will magically pop into existence at that instant in time? Of course not. So, this argument is a clear loser.
There are at least two objections to this argument. First, history seemingly would prove that atheists are MORE moral than theists, not LESS moral. Second, "if the complete history of the 20th century proves anything at all, it would prove that there is no absolute moral law." (see number 10, above.) In fact, everything IS permissible. Just ask Hitler, Stalin, or any other despot you can contact.25
epistemology is the association of the question "how do I know this?"
with every single thing which you believe that you know. So, how do I
know that there is an eternity of truth? Answer: I don't know this at
all! So, this argument fails. Even if you could establish that an
eternity of truth existed, I fail to comprehend how that would lead
inevitably to the conclusion that an eternal Mind must exist to contain
This argument is further complicated by the idea that all truth is somewhat subjective in nature. By this I mean that each individual develops his or her own Philosophy, which is based upon their own subjective perceptions of what is Truth.
believe music is a function of nature, and this argument is just a
version of the "design" argument, once removed. (see number 18, below.)
In other words, God designed nature such that it appropriately inspired
Bach to write his music, or else God designed Bach to create his music,
therefore God (the designer) must exist.
Bach is not a necessary element of this argument. I might personally favor Handel and his "Messiah." Others might cite to the prodigious works of Mozart during his all too brief life. But Mozart was a vile little man, with nothing exemplary in his morals while he lived. How could he be an aspect of a perfect God? The movie "Amadeus" dealt somewhat with that question.
But, as you will find out in my discussion of number 18, below, I basically accept the "design" argument for reasons based upon the various laws of Thermodynamics. The aesthetic argument, presented here, is merely a special case of the design argument, which focuses upon a particularly appealing part of the "design" of the Universe. In my opinion, it diverts attention from the general rule (number 18, below) to focus too much upon the special cases of that rule (this argument).
This is a variation on Kant, number 11, above (which see).
I personally favor this quote from "The Lessons of History" (1968), by Will and Ariel Durant:
"The historian will not mourn because he can see no meaning to human existence except that which man puts into it; let it be our pride that we ourselves may put meaning into our lives, and sometimes a significance that transcends death. If a man is fortunate he will, before he dies, gather up as much that he can of his civilized heritage and transmit it to his children. And to his final breath, he will be grateful for this inexhaustible legacy, knowing that it is our nourishing mother and our lasting life."
Yes, indeed: "let it be our pride that we ourselves may put meaning into our lives, and sometimes a significance that transcends death."
22 "Does God Exist?" by J. P. Moreland and Kai Nielsen, with Contributions by Peter Kreeft, Antony Flew, William Lane Craig, Keith Parsons, and Dallas Willard; Prometheus Books, 1993.
23 A saying repeated by one of the Klingon leaders in a recent episode of Star Trek: Deep Space 9.
24 One fascinating exception to this is the historical works of Josephus. He was hired by the victorious Romans to write the history of his own people. While Josephus obviusly refused to say anything offensive to Roman sensibilities, so too he would have refused to say anything viewed as blasphemous by Jews. This forms the basis for rejecting the glowing comments about Jesus Christ as later insertions by Christian copyists into the works of Josephus.
25 Along these lines, I would assert that Stalin (atheist?) was more moral than was Hitler (theist!). Stalin only killed those who opposed his rule in some significant way. That at least qualifies as a moral rule of self survival. Hitler killed Jews for the greater good of the German people, even though most Jews were never going to be any threat to Hitler or his government. In my mind, killing for an abstract moral ideal is much less morally justifiable than is killing for the sake of survival, either personal or political. The rape of Constantinople during the crusades is yet another example of morally reprehensible killing performed for an allegedly high-minded ideal.
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