I am neither a strong believer nor a strong disbeliever. Sure, I do not really believe in God’s existence yet, because I have quite a few unanswered questions about that. Usually, the theists I have had discussions with preferred to call me an agnostic. However, the debate over definitions ultimately reduces to wordplay. I myself prefer to stick with the dictionary definition, the one with a key term ‘lack of belief’. Nevertheless, there are many theistic objections to that definition, and I will write about that soon. For now, I ran into this blog post, and I felt that responding to it will be a great way to ask some of my questions elaborately to the right person (“according to her Twitter account”, the author has a PhD. in philosophy, also 25 years of teaching experience, while I am just a confused kid who doesn’t know what to believe in). I am technically a freshman, and arguing with a qualified philosopher may be a little kinky from my side. But, she says all the objections she addressed in that post is of freshman level. If a qualified philosopher can respond to a freshman, why not vice versa?
Note: This could have been a very long post. But after realizing that, I thought it would be better if I divide this response into parts.
Note: I will not be challenging all of her points, since some of the 22 reasons given from The Atheist Voice is indeed quite idiotic.
Reason 1: If God knows everything we are going to do in the future, then we don’t have free will. But we do have free will.
Her answer: God does not exist in time, so He knows the future in the sense that He can see the future as we see the present. Therefore, He is just seeing our future actions, but not controlling them. (Read her post to get a more elaborate account for her case)
My response: The problem is that there is a definite future at all. If we have free will, we are as able to do an action as any other. So, I am as able to stop writing as I am to continue. The choice is mine, it is independent of anything physical and it does not exist prior to the moment I make it. Now, that is freedom. Therefore, there can be possible futures, not a definite one. It depends entirely on my choice whether I actualize future X or future Y. But if God can see me making my choice, it means I cannot fail to make that choice, the future is already that way for me. If I cannot fail to make a choice, what kind of free will do I have?
Reason 2: If God doesn’t know what we are going to do in the future, he isn’t omniscient.
Her response: Same as above.
My answer: You get it, don’t you?
Reason 3: God couldn’t stop a murder when there were only four people on earth.
Her response: He could have, he didn’t. He must have had a reason we cannot think of, after all, we’re not omniscient but God is.
My answer: This type of reasoning always seemed to be a great cop-out for me. The thought is seductive, but probably wrong. If I am a beginner in chess, I should not expect to understand the ideas behind Tal’s dumbfounding sacrifices. If I am ignorant about epistemology altogether, I should not expect to understand the arguments for coherentism. Of course, just because I cannot comprehend something doesn’t mean it isn’t there. However, the problem comes when we see God as not only all-knowing, but all-loving as well. I will give you Rowe on this one;
Being finite beings we can’t expect to know all the goods God would know, any more than an amateur at chess should expect to know all the reasons for a particular move that Kasparov makes in a game. But, unlike Kasparov who in a chess match has a good reason not to tell us how a particular move fits into his plan to win the game, God, if he exists, isn’t playing chess with our lives. In fact, since understanding the goods for the sake of which he permits terrible evils to befall us would itself enable us to better bear our suffering, God has a strong reason to help us understand those goods and how they require his permission of the terrible evils that befall us.
We may not know the reason for which God allows certain evil acts, but we do have a very strong reason to suspect that somebody both Omniscient and Omnibenevolent should tell us the reason.
Reason 6: Virgins can’t get pregnant.
Her response: God can make anyone to be able to do anything, even this.
My answer: What needs to be understood here is that this is an argument from common sense, or more specifically, induction. The point is that if you do not already have the presupposition of God’s existence in your mind, then that story seems far more unlikely. Again, it is not to be taken as a deductive argument. I will give you Hitchens on this one:
Reason 14: The proof people give that God exists is often based on their personal experiences. “It’s the sort of proof we would NEVER take seriously if it were applied anywhere else.”
Her response: The problem of other minds, therefore, God.
My answer: This is a great cop-out. I cannot emphasize it enough. First, we sure do not have deductive arguments for the existence of other minds, we do have evidence. The best explanation for the behavior of others is accepting that they are conscious, because everybody in themselves are conscious and they can relate, unlike religious experiences. In fact, most of the offered solutions of the problem of other minds is based on the ability to relate. There are many people who do not seem to have any “personal experience” with God.
Basically, if you believe that the personal experiences can be justified as being genuine by poking in with the problem of other minds, then you can logically do it with any proposition. Like, if a terrorist says “God personally told me to kill infidels”, it is as valid as your personal experience. Of course, you do not really believe in this kind of inference. And believe me, neither do I. However, let me entertain your claims without subscribing to them.
“And if you don’t believe in other minds, you are a manifestly irrational person who has ridiculous standards of belief, probably due to some sort of ideology.”
How? You just said the only reasonable way to conclude other minds exist is them telling us. What’s wrong if someone finds this kind of inference wrong? How exactly does that make him “irrational”?
“I really don’t believe them when they deny believing in other minds, not least because they are bothering to TELL ME, a presumably mindless automaton, all about it.”
All right, you don’t believe that they believe it. But how does that hold any bearing over the belief itself?
I do not lack belief in other minds, for reasons of my own. But I cannot see what can possibly be your reason for that, given the claims you just made.
That’s it. It is already 1220 words. I don’t want drag your attention any further, since it is very much possible that my responses have been naive and hard to read, but of course I do not think so. If you think so, feel free to criticize.
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