Plato Revisited

A short series

On 12 August 1994 I turned in my final assignment in Mathematics of Physics and walked out of a classroom for the last time in my life. So I thought.

Last fall I had a meeting with Oak DeBerg at the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA). He’s a former Air Force officer who subsequently went over to the dark side and became a professor of philosophy. He told me that this year he would be teaching a course titled Minus Bible. It’s about the philosophy of non-religion—non-belief in God. I could audit the course, and because I’m over 65 the university would waive fees. Except parking.

So, Tuesday I started showing up weekly to learn and to philosophize about atheism. What I have to offer here are some gleanings from the course and excerpts from the reading assignments. Start with Christopher Hitchens.

Christopher Hitchens (now deceased) has written God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. I have not read the book. I need to clear some stuff off my plate before I can take on another review. However, others have read it, and some of the remarks are interesting. Some even object.

No surprise—I already read the book. Here is something from next week’s reading assignment:

I wrote earlier that we would never again have to confront the impressive faith of an Aquinas or a Maimonides (as contrasted with the blind faith of millennial or absolutist sects, of which we have an apparently unlimited and infinitely renewable supply). This is for a simple reason. Faith of that sort— the sort that can stand up at least for a while in a confrontation with reason— is now plainly impossible.

Hitchens, Christopher. God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything (p. 107). Grand Central Publishing. Kindle Edition.

The Hitchens assignment I find interesting, because, although this is a philosophy course, Hitchens did not approach religion as a philosopher. Rather he was like a witness in a criminal trial—accusing and  naming names. For the pure approach we have been assigned readings from others, including the ancients.

Some Internet searching revealed to me that the works of Greek philosopher Plato have largely survived intact. Rather than read the assigned item on-line, I purchased the complete works of Plato, the Kindle edition, for $0.99 (plus tax). Here is an excerpt from Socrates’ dialogue with Euthyphro. So this is not strictly Plato talking, but supposedly quoting from his teacher, Socrates.

SOCRATES: And what is piety, and what is impiety?

EUTHYPHRO: Piety is doing as I am doing; that is to say, prosecuting any one who is guilty of murder, sacrilege, or of any similar crime—whether he be your father or mother, or whoever he may be—that makes no difference; and not to prosecute them is impiety. And please to consider, Socrates, what a notable proof I will give you of the truth of my words, a proof which I have already given to others:—of the principle, I mean, that the impious, whoever he may be, ought not to go unpunished. For do not men regard Zeus as the best and most righteous of the gods?—and yet they admit that he bound his father (Cronos) because he wickedly devoured his sons, and that he too had punished his own father (Uranus) for a similar reason, in a nameless manner. And yet when I proceed against my father, they are angry with me. So inconsistent are they in their way of talking when the gods are concerned, and when I am concerned.

Plato. Plato: The Complete Works . Pandora’s Box. Kindle Edition. [location 2044]

For me this is going to be the fun part of studying philosophy, because a lot of stuff that philosophers do is like this. Plato constructed these extended arguments, using immaculate reasoning and logic, but based on a vacuous premise. Here his premise is the existence of the deities. Many philosophic constructions, especially those of the ancients, are like this. They will presuppose something not in evidence and proceed from there to develop marvelous arguments leading to shimmering conclusions, meaning nothing.

This is going to be fun. The class comprises deep-rooted believers, convinced atheists, and some in between. For the record, Oak DeBerg declares for atheism.

Keep reading. There will be more to follow.

Deconstructing Robert Ingersoll

Number 8 in a Series

 

Continuing a review of Robert Ingersoll’s collected works

He analyzes the route by which we create gods.

Man, in his ignorance, supposed that all phenomena were produced by some intelligent powers, and with direct reference to him. To preserve friendly relations with these powers was, and still is, the object of all religions. Man knelt through fear and to implore assistance, or through gratitude for some favor which he supposed had been rendered. He endeavored by supplication to appease some being who, for some reason, had, as he believed, become enraged. The lightning and thunder terrified him. In the presence of the volcano he sank upon his knees. The great forests filled with wild and ferocious beasts, the monstrous serpents crawling in mysterious depths, the boundless sea, the flaming comets, the sinister eclipses, the awful calmness of the stars, and, more than all, the perpetual presence of death, convinced him that he was the sport and prey of unseen and malignant powers. The strange and frightful diseases to which he was subject, the freezings and burnings of fever, the contortions of epilepsy, the sudden palsies, the darkness of night, and the wild, terrible and fantastic dreams that filled his brain, satisfied him that he was haunted and pursued by countless spirits of evil. For some reason he supposed that these spirits differed in power—that they were not all alike malevolent—that the higher controlled the lower, and that his very existence depended upon gaining the assistance of the more powerful. For this purpose he resorted to prayer, to flattery, to worship and to sacrifice.

Ingersoll, Robert Green. The Works of Robert G. Ingersoll, (Complete 12 Volumes) (Kindle Locations 204-214). BookMasters. Kindle Edition.

When people began to employ science to understand the natural world, the usefulness of religion started to become not only absurd, but embarrassingly foolish.

People Unclear

This is number 38 of a long series

What is it with people. Is nobody paying attention. The memo has been out there long enough for everybody to pick it up, but there are more still unclear than there are presidential  mistrisses. If this report is to be believed, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich seems to have missed mail call entirely:

Newt Gingrich: “Atheist Philosophy” More Dangerous to Christianity Than Terrorists

Well… yes. Newt, you did you not get the memo. If you had been paying attention, then you would know that correct information of all kinds is anathema to Christianity. I venture to  say that even correct spelling is a threat. I mean, if Christians like Speaker Gingrich were to start waking up in the morning and saying to themselves, “What an idiot I am. All these years I’ve been believing a magical person in the sky created us and watches over everybody, making sure the innocent as well as the guilty get around to  be being burnt in pits of fire for all eternity. Jesus Christ! What have I been thinking?” Well then, Christianity as we know it, will deflate like a punctured condom. Newt, how long did it take you to figure this out?

I could quit right here and head to the kitchen to  mix up another cup of hot chocolate, but to my delight there is more gold to be mined from this sage of divorce courts past. Here’s some more from the same source:

“Either the radical secularists will succeed in controlling the government and driving religion out of American life or the people who believe in faith will succeed in controlling government and insist that you cannot impose radical values on American people.”

Oh, my God! If sane people take control of the government they are going to run rampant over people’s rights. Really! They are going to enact legislation that can be reconciled with the Earth being  round, forget about being 4.5 billion years old. The suffering will be incalculable. The Inquisition will be as a game of canasta. Future history books will call it The Dark Ages—would call it that, except the name has already been taken.

Whatever atheists and other thinking people are doing to destroy this country, they had better knock it off right now. We already have a person employed in Washington, D.C. to do that job.

Crazy From On High

A Reading Of High Delusion

A few weeks ago I reviewed a posting on Evolution News. It’s a site sponsored by the Seattle-based Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture, and the posting was by somebody not readily identified. Whoever they are, the topic was Dennis Venema’s book Adam and the Genome, and the matter of Francis Collins came up regarding his book The Language of God.

That covered, there is more of interest. The post dips into  a discussion of The Language of God, a book by Francis Collins:

Francis Sellers Collins (born April 14, 1950) is an American physician-geneticist noted for his discoveries of disease genes and his leadership of the Human Genome Project. He is director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland, United States.

Before being appointed director of the NIH, Collins led the Human Genome Project and other genomics research initiatives as director of the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), one of the 27 institutes and centers at NIH. Before joining NHGRI, he earned a reputation as a gene hunter at the University of Michigan. He has been elected to the Institute of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences, and has received the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the National Medal of Science.

In order to continue following the discussion I obtained a Kindle edition and will be covering that in future posts.

As promised, I obtained copies of both books and have finished reading the Collins book. Considering the author’s obvious deep intellect, I can only remark, “What a load of warmed over drivel!” Thank you, Dr. Collins. Now for a brief dissection.

First the book is well written. If Francis Collins ever comes to the point he can no longer find work saving the human race through science and medicine, he has a future as a writer. There are very few unintentional mistakes of fact. This one caught my attention.

William Paley’s parable of finding a watch on the moor—which would cause any of us to deduce the existence of a watchmaker—resonated with many readers in the seventeenth century, and continues to resonate with many people today. Life appears designed, so there must be a designer.

Collins, Francis S.. The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (p. 148). Free Press. Kindle Edition.

It is unclear where the reference to the 17th century comes from, but earlier in the book Collins mentions the Blind Watchmaker theme was published in 1802.

THE “ARGUMENT FROM DESIGN” dates back at least to Cicero. It was put forward with particular effectiveness by William Paley in 1802 in a highly influential book, Natural Theology, or Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity Collected from the Appearance of Nature.

Collins, Francis S.. The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (p. 86). Free Press. Kindle Edition.

Beyond all that, this is an argument for God by a person who grew to maturity absent any push in that direction, becoming committed to non-belief well into adulthood. His rise to greatness in human endeavors left him unfulfilled, but he could not reconcile the richness of the human spirit and the beauty of natural wonders with strictly natural explanations. There must be more. He became convinced of the existence of God:

I had started this journey of intellectual exploration to confirm my atheism. That now lay in ruins as the argument from the Moral Law (and many other issues) forced me to admit the plausibility of the God hypothesis. Agnosticism, which had seemed like a safe second-place haven, now loomed like the great cop-out it often is. Faith in God now seemed more rational than disbelief.

Collins, Francis S.. The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (p. 30). Free Press. Kindle Edition.

That should have been satisfactory, and that  should have been the end of the book. Unfortunately Collins feels the need to rationalize, and it is in this effort he stumbles badly. Some citations are in order. Consider what he accepts as true in an effort to shore up his faith. Here is an example:

All religions include a belief in certain miracles. The crossing of the Israelites through the Red Sea, led by Moses and accompanied by the drowning of Pharaoh’s men, is a powerful story, told in the book of Exodus, of God’s providence in preventing the imminent destruction of His people. Similarly, when Joshua asked God to prolong the daylight in order for a particular battle to be successfully carried out, the sun was said to stand still in a way that could only be described as miraculous.

Collins, Francis S.. The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (p. 48). Free Press. Kindle Edition.

It would be generous to allow that these are put up to illustrate what is deemed to be miraculous and no more. The problem is there is little doubt left by the context that he believes these miracles occurred. Elsewhere, his interpretation of reality goes askew, as with his reference to “Mother Teresa.”

Mother Teresa has consistently ranked as one of the most admired individuals of the current age, though her self-imposed poverty and selfless giving to the sick and dying of Calcutta is in drastic contrast to the materialistic lifestyle that dominates our current culture.

Collins, Francis S.. The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (pp. 25-26). Free Press. Kindle Edition.

The cold fact is that Mother Teresa never seemed to have given physical aid and comfort to the “sick and dying.” Collins seeks to illustrate the benefit of religion by pointing to the good works done by famous religious leaders.

As just one example, consider how religious leaders have worked to relieve people from oppression, from Moses’ leading the Israelites out of bondage to William Wilberforce’s ultimate victory in convincing the English Parliament to oppose the practice of slavery…

Collins, Francis S.. The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (p. 40). Free Press. Kindle Edition.

He goes on to include the martyrdom of Martin Luther King. The obvious problem with this line of argument is that Moses is a fictional character. No such person ever led the Israelites out of Egypt.

Religion (and by this I assume his favored blend) Collins asserts is essential to answer the matter of Moral Law. An actual scientist, he believes we came about by biological evolution, but that does not explain the existence of Moral Law, an innate morality, traces of which are found in all Earth’s people, regardless of region, culture, or religious environment. God must be the answer, and religion must be the vehicle. How then does Collins explain the evil committed by religious people. No problem for Collins. Here’s how:

But the second answer brings us back to the Moral Law, and to the fact that all of us as human beings have fallen short of it. The church is made up of fallen people. The pure, clean water of spiritual truth is placed in rusty containers, and the subsequent failings of the church down through the centuries should not be projected onto the faith itself, as if the water had been the problem.

Collins, Francis S.. The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (p. 40). Free Press. Kindle Edition.

He invokes the “rusty container” at multiple points in the book, and that, in itself, is a crock of poop. In various instances the origin of the universe is attributed to God, and people are the special creation of a caring and loving God, one for whom human well-being is held dear. How then does one explain how an omniscient, all-caring God fails to show himself (itself) in times of great human suffering? May I never eat another chocolate ice cream bar, but Collins invokes the principle of “stress makes strength.”

This notion that God can work through adversity is not an easy concept, and can find firm anchor only in a worldview that embraces a spiritual perspective. The principle of growth through suffering is, in fact, nearly universal in the world’s great faiths.

Collins, Francis S.. The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (pp. 46-47). Free Press. Kindle Edition.

Yes. Yes! I’ve seen that before.

It is also told to me the following was found scratched into a cell wall in some Nazi death camp: “If there is a God, He will have to beg my forgiveness.” I also note an incident recounted by Richard Dawkins:

This grotesque piece of reasoning, so damningly typical of the theological mind, reminds me of an occasion when I was on a television panel with Swinburne, and also with our Oxford colleague Professor Peter Atkins. Swinburne at one point attempted to justify the Holocaust on the grounds it gave the Jews a wonderful opportunity to be courageous and noble. Atkins splendidly growled, “May you rot in hell.”

Dawkins, Richard. The God Delusion (p. 64). Houghton Mifflin Company.

Dawkins is one of Collins’ least favored atheists. Collins considers Dawkins to be doing harm to the atheist cause due to the stridency of his attacks on religion (see above).

Even stronger words have emanated from Richard Dawkins. In a series of books beginning with The Selfish Gene and extending through The Blind Watchmaker, Climbing Mount Improbable, and A Devil’s Chaplain, Dawkins outlines with compelling analogies and rhetorical flourishes the consequences of variation and natural selection. Standing on this Darwinian foundation, Dawkins then extends his conclusions to religion in highly aggressive terms: “It is fashionable to wax apocalyptic about the threat to humanity posed by the AIDS virus, ‘mad cow’ disease, and many others, but I think a case can be made that faith is one of the world’s great evils, comparable to the smallpox virus but harder to eradicate.”3

Collins, Francis S.. The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (p. 163). Free Press. Kindle Edition.

If you can get past Collins’ inexplicable acceptance of the supernatural, you will find a scientist unwilling to accept the absurdities of religious apologetics. His debunking of creationists of the first and second kind is just short of scathing. Particularly the young Earth creationists (YEC) are called out as a disgrace to the Christian faith.

Assisted by Henry Morris and colleagues, Young Earth Creationism has in the last half century attempted to provide alternative explanations for the wealth of observations about the natural world that seem to contradict the YEC position. But the fundamentals of so-called scientific Creationism are hopelessly flawed.

Collins, Francis S.. The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (p. 176). Free Press. Kindle Edition.

Collins’ diagnosis of the Intelligent Design movement is practically complete.  Collins properly characterizes ID as a God-in-the-gaps argument, all the while laying out the history and the substance.

ID’s founder is Phillip Johnson, a Christian lawyer at the University of California at Berkeley, whose book Darwin on trial first laid out the ID position. Those arguments have been further expanded by others, especially Michael Behe, a biology professor whose book Darwin’s Black Box elaborated the concept of irreducible complexity. More recently, William Dembski, a mathematician trained in information theory, has taken up a leading role as expositor of the ID movement.

Collins, Francis S.. The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (p. 183). Free Press. Kindle Edition.

The exception I take to the foregoing is the reference to Dembski as being trained in information theory. No evidence of that appears in his c.v. Also, not mentioned is Dembski’s severance from Intelligent Design, which came about recently.

Besides all that, this book provides a first rate read of how studies of genetics point to the common ancestry of life on Earth. Particularly explored is the close relationship between humans and chimpanzees and the relationship between those and the other apes. There is an appendix, which I did not read, but the book’s closing lines come off as a special pleading for giving religion a place at the table.

It is time to call a truce in the escalating war between science and spirit. The war was never really necessary. Like so many earthly wars, this one has been initiated and intensified by extremists on both sides, sounding alarms that predict imminent ruin unless the other side is vanquished. Science is not threatened by God; it is enhanced. God is most certainly not threatened by science; He made it all possible. So let us together seek to reclaim the solid ground of an intellectually and spiritually satisfying synthesis of all great truths. That ancient motherland of reason and worship was never in danger of crumbling. It never will be. It beckons all sincere seekers of truth to come and take up residence there. Answer that call. Abandon the battlements. Our hopes, joys, and the future of our world depend on it.

Collins, Francis S.. The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (pp. 233-234). Free Press. Kindle Edition.

A truce? Never. We continue to lie in witness to The Years of Living Stupidly.

Stronger Than Dirt

Restating the obvious – 2

Many months ago I posted the following:

Would that you had provided more of a challenge. I congratulate Michael Snyder, who is credited in the post I copied these from. He has dredged up what may be the most comprehensive collection of creationist nonsense I have come across in many years. This has been a refreshing tour and a reminder to me, and others as well, of the shallowness of the creationist argument. If there is any demonstration of the standing of modern science with respect to superstition and myth, these kinds of postings stand out. They are sorely appreciated.

Heartening to witness, a number of people commented. Most recent has been a comment from Reece Stevens:

All I’m seeing are some uneducated responses to famous scientists. And were they supposed to be arguments or just some one silly sentence with your uneducated opinion? Because all I was seeing were true scientific facts from Snyder, which you couldn’t even rebut, and silly little one sentence opinions from someone who doesn’t want to believe God exists.

That was worth a response, and I approved Reece’s comment, and I sent him an email:

I invite you to amplify on your statement. I will also respond in more depth where you believe clarification is necessary. For example,you mention “someone who doesn’t want to believe God exists.
On this point you completely misunderstand me. I have no desire to believe one way or the other. I am content to believe or not to believe. It just so happens I do not believe, since that is the way the evidence points.
Additionally, you may want to bring up why there should be a connection between God and biological evolution. The two would appear to exist in different fields of study. Can you expand on your thoughts about this?
Thanks for reading, and especially thanks for taking the time to comment.

Best regards and all that sort. He responded:

The reason I connected God into it is because I am just shocked by the fact there is lack of any evidence for evolution, and you’d expect people to recognise it straight away, but they still believe it. And really the only explanation as to why this is comes down to a quote from zoologist, D.M.S Watson: “Evolution is a theory universally accepted not because it can be proved by logically coherent evidence to be true, but because the only alternative, special creation, is clearly incredible.” It makes me think the reason evolution is accepted despite lack of evidence is because the only alternative requires believing in a God.

My response:

I finally got your name right. My apologies.
Your response is appreciated. I will post this dialog to a future item on Skeptical  Analysis.
First, I need to dispute D.M.S. Watson. There are alternatives besides God. That said, I do not believe in  God, and I have good reasons for doing so, and those reasons do not involve biological evolution. Details on request.
You mentioned “true scientific facts from Snyder, which you couldn’t even rebut…” I am thinking that at the time I made no attempt to rebut Snyder, because I wanted to give other readers the opportunity to chime in. In my future post I will address Snyder’s remarks.

So I promised  to  spell out at some length why I don’t believe in God, and biological evolution is not at the heart of it. To start, we need some definition. When we say “God,” what do we mean. We will assume we mean the God of Abraham, as described in the Bible. I’m going to say I do not believe in that God, and I will ignore all other Gods, besides which I do not believe in them either. And we start.

Before I can believe in God I need to know about God. You can’t not believe in something if you have never heard of it. There are a number of ways you can know about God in order to not believe:

  • You never heard of God before, but you made him (it?) up on your own.
  • You observed God first hand.
  • Somebody told you about God, else you would never have known about God.

I’m picking the third choice, because that’s how I learned about God. Somebody told me. If I want to believe in God I have to believe what somebody told me. This sort of thing generally needs some convincing. Here is something you would not consider on your own without outside advice from dsomebody, and it’s also something you never observed. Somebody told you. Are you convinced?

That depends. That depends on how convincing is the presentation from the person who told you about God. Is this person’s word reliable, and should you take this person’s word at face value without investigating? That depends. If the person is known to tell a fib from time to time, or if the claim is so outlandish as to boggle the mind, you might want additional evidence. In my case the person who first told me about God was a family member known to fabricate stories, but not often. Also, the story about God turned out to very hard to believe, with emphasis on very.

Of course I was informed I should not merely take this person’s story about God. There must be a higher authority. I will gloss over the number of church people of high standing who vouched for God, and I will go to  the ultimate source, because that is the source these preachers always gave. That source is the Bible. There is where God ran into  real trouble. If the Bible is the ultimate and true source, and if the Bible turns out to be an unreliable source, then it is going to be difficult to believe in God, especially when the concept of God lacks credibility. Let’s start with the Bible.

Genesis 1:1-5 King James Version (KJV)

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.

And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.

And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.

And also:

Genesis 2:4-9 King James Version (KJV)

These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens,

And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew: for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground.

But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground.

And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed.

And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

On the very first page the Bible gets into trouble both with fact and with internal consistency. To begin with, the two stories do not agree with known facts. They presume this planet is slightly more than 6000 years old. Also, here you have conflicting stories of the same events. There are additional places where the Bible contradicts itself. Take this example of the Bible attempting to tell who incited David to count the fighting men of Israel:

Who incited David to count the fighting men of Israel?

  • God did (2 Samuel 24: 1)
  • Satan did (I Chronicles 21:1)

The Bible appears to give differing accounts of the same event. It’s worth seeing the exact wording:

2 Samuel 24:1 King James Version (KJV)

24 And again the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah.

1 Chronicles 21:1 King James Version (KJV)

21 And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel.

And this goes sort of thing recurs in multiple instances. One source cites 100 more such instances. Here are some:

  1. In that count how many fighting men were found in Israel?
  • Eight hundred thousand (2 Samuel 24:9)
  • One million, one hundred thousand (I Chronicles 21:5)
  1. How many fighting men were found in Judah?
  • Five hundred thousand (2 Samuel 24:9)
  • Four hundred and seventy thousand (I Chronicles 21:5)
  1. God sent his prophet to threaten David with how many years of famine?
  • Seven (2 Samuel 24:13)
  • Three (I Chronicles 21:12)
  1. How old was Ahaziah when he began to rule over Jerusalem?
  • Twenty-two (2 Kings 8:26)
  • Forty-two (2 Chronicles 22:2)

God is omnipotent:

Genesis 1 King James Version (KJV)

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.

And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.

And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.

And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.

And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.

And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.

And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.

10 And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.

And God has limited abilities:

Judges 1:19 King James Version (KJV)

19 And the Lord was with Judah; and he drave out the inhabitants of the mountain; but could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley, because they had chariots of iron.

There is all this and more. The Bible does not seem to be a reliable source of information.

But suppose. Suppose one of the following:

  • The Bible was transcribed by people, and from  time to time they made errors in transcription. The original intent of the Bible is correct, even if the wording is sometimes confusing.
  • The Bible was written by godly people who wanted to tell their story and to establish a basis for orderly life. What they wrote was a work of fiction with good intentions.

Other possibilities may exist, but the Bible should not be taken literally as a set of instructions for righteous living. That needs to come from those who interpret the Bible. But that abandons the Bible as a testimonial for the existence of God, and it’s the existence of God that is in  question.

We have to justify the existence of God (the God of Abraham) without resorting to the Bible. How?

First turn to the wonders of nature. How did all this marvelous stuff come into existence all by itself? The argument goes something like this.

  1. We don’t see airplanes assemble themselves.
  2. Animals, even the simplest living cell, are all more complex than an airplane.
  3. If an airplane cannot be assembled by purely natural means, it’s absurd to think a living cell can be.
  4. Some supernatural power must be at work here.
  5. That supernatural power must be the God of Abraham.

The argument for the existence of God moves steadily from points 1 through 4, but it hits a road bump at 5. It does not logically follow that God is the supernatural power argued for in 1 – 4. Any supernatural power of sufficient capability will suffice.

But then it will be argued that God is the only supernatural power acclaimed by people far and wide. And that’s your argument for God? But now you need to ask why God is acclaimed by people far and wide, and the answer is the biblical tale, demonstrated (see above) to be insufficient to demonstrate the existence of God.

You may argue that what is important is not the existence of God (the God of Abraham), but the divinity of Jesus. Really? Supposing Jesus was a real person, and I do not intend to disprove that, then we can conclude that at the least Jesus was a worthy philosopher and teacher, and we should live according to Jesus’ teachings. But not all of them. If the Bible is accurate in what it says, then Jesus had some distinctly unrighteous views. Jesus saw nothing immoral with slavery and never preached against it:

Luke 12:47-48 King James Version (KJV)

47 And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.

48 But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.

Additionally:

Ephesians 6:5 King James Version (KJV)

Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ;

A group called Focus on the Family a few years ago produced a series of videos featuring creationist Stephen C. Meyer. The first came out in 2009 and is titled “Does God Exist?” That “season” comprised 10 episodes, and I reviewed each, hoping to settle the question. My conclusion was that, at the very least, Meyer failed to make his case for the existence of God. If God exists, God exists without the benefit of creationist Stephen C. Meyer. The postings are back-linked, and you can start with Episode 11, which is a bonus feature concerning challenges fundamentalist Christians encounter when they leave home and venture into the outside world, particularly to college. A link to the previous post heads each posting, and you can click links until you arrive at the review of Episode 1. Then follow the entire series.

Focus in the Family released another video, this time in 2010, and the title is “Is the Bible Reliable?” There are ten episodes, and I reviewed them over four postings. Again you can start with number 4 and work your way back to the beginning and then review the entire series.

Readers can follow the remainder of my argument against the existence of God by reading these 14 reviews. Comments and questions are invited.