A Christmas Gift for William Lane Craig – Five Reasons Your Specific God Probably Doesn’t Exist
On Friday, Christian apologist and philosophical theologian William Lane Craig published “A Christmas gift for atheists – five reasons why God exists,” in which he insists that most atheists “have no good reasons for their disbelief.” He then lists five numbered statements he says are meant to answer atheists’ “repeated slogan” that “There’s no good evidence for God’s existence!”
But Craig’s time-tested “defenses of Christian theism” fail for a number of reasons. His statements do not represent “evidence” for the existence of a God – and certainly not for his particular deity. Instead, his age-old “proofs” consist mostly of long-debunked arguments from ignorance and appeals to philosophical assumptions.
In October, Craig gave some advice to a Christian who read Disproving Christianity and other Secular Writings and was subsequently finding it “hard to believe in God.” Craig’s response was to tell the confused person to, “Quit reading the infidel material.” So, in honor of Craig’s own efforts to limit the availability of secular material to Christians, I thought it would be appropriate to republish Craig’s best defenses of the Christian God in their entirety and make them (and my responses) available to everyone. Since I don’t generally speak in absolutes, I’ve called my response, “A Christmas Gift for William Lane Craig – Five Reasons Your Specific God Probably Doesn’t Exist.”
1. God provides the best explanation of the origin of the universe. Given the scientific evidence we have about our universe and its origins, and bolstered by arguments presented by philosophers for centuries, it is highly probable that the universe had an absolute beginning. Since the universe, like everything else, could not have merely popped into being without a cause, there must exist a transcendent reality beyond time and space that brought the universe into existence. This entity must therefore be enormously powerful. Only a transcendent, unembodied mind suitably fits that description.
Craig makes a number of assumptions in this point, the first of which is that philosophical arguments constitute real evidence. When asked for evidence, for instance, that a particular person committed a particular crime, would a prosecutor merely assert that, philosophically speaking, the crime must have been committed? Craig then uses these vague “philosophical arguments” to misrepresent all atheists’ various positions by asserting that they believe the universe “merely popped into being,” while ignoring the logical conclusion that his deity would have had to do the same. In essence, he makes the centuries old mistake of claiming that the universe is too complex to exist without a Creator. But what is by definition more complex than the universe? A being that is omnipotent, omniscient, and perfect. He somehow doesn’t see the need for a designer there, though.
2. God provides the best explanation for the fine-tuning of the universe. Contemporary physics has established that the universe is fine-tuned for the existence of intelligent, interactive life. That is to say, in order for intelligent, interactive life to exist, the fundamental constants and quantities of nature must fall into an incomprehensibly narrow life-permitting range. There are three competing explanations of this remarkable fine-tuning: physical necessity, chance, or design. The first two are highly implausible, given the independence of the fundamental constants and quantities from nature’s laws and the desperate maneuvers needed to save the hypothesis of chance. That leaves design as the best explanation.
Craig’s (and others’) assertion that the universe is “fine-tuned for the existence of intelligent life” simply plays on the very basic and well-understood illusion of apparent design. It ignores that the fact that earth is our only data point for life, and that even here the environment could easily be less harmful, less wasteful, and much more conducive to life. It also ignores the fact that there could be an infinite number of parallel universes with different physical constants. In the end, this argument is best-refuted by Douglas Adams, who says, “Imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, “This is an interesting world I find myself in — an interesting hole I find myself in — fits me rather neatly, doesn’t it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!”
3. God provides the best explanation of objective moral values and duties. Even atheists recognize that some things, for example, the Holocaust, are objectively evil. But if atheism is true, what basis is there for the objectivity of the moral values we affirm? Evolution? Social conditioning? These factors may at best produce in us the subjective feeling that there are objective moral values and duties, but they do nothing to provide a basis for them. If human evolution had taken a different path, a very different set of moral feelings might have evolved. By contrast, God Himself serves as the paradigm of goodness, and His commandments constitute our moral duties. Thus, theism provides a better explanation of objective moral values and duties.
Saying we get our morality from religion is like saying we get our trees from houses, because it’s completely backward. Religion gets its morality from humanity, not the other way around. We have morals because our ancestors realized the importance of cooperation. Without it they wouldn’t have survived on a long-term timeline. But cultures throughout history fused their religious origin mythologies with their local laws in order to ensure adherence. These various religions’ holy codes are nearly impossible to change, which is why it’s often the religious groups that hold back scientific progress and civil rights progress. The so-called holy books provide moral codes that necessarily become antiquated and irrelevant after a period of time, which is why the stagnant morals of any holy book will always work to inhibit our own moral evolution. Today, in modern times, we have a system in which people are employed by the government to investigate, arrest, prosecute, and detain offenders based on the violation of laws that are as fluid as our ideas and can be amended as such. So, when Craig asserts that the Christian God best explains morality, I’d be forced to ask why, if God gave 10 fundamental rules that outline how human beings can live happy and moral lives, rape and slavery are mentioned in none of them and the first four are about preserving God’s name?
4. God provides the best explanation of the historical facts concerning Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Historians have reached something of consensus that the historical Jesus thought that in himself God’s Kingdom had broken into human history, and he carried out a ministry of miracle-working and exorcisms as evidence of that fact. Moreover, most historical scholars agree that after his crucifixion Jesus’ tomb was discovered empty by a group of female disciples, that various individuals and groups saw appearances of Jesus alive after his death, and that the original disciples suddenly and sincerely came to believe in Jesus’ resurrection despite their every predisposition to the contrary. I can think of no better explanation of these facts than the one the original disciples gave: God raised Jesus from the dead.
Occam’s razor states that among competing hypotheses, the hypothesis with the fewest assumptions should be selected. Aside from the fact that Craig has attempted to misrepresent the understandings of “most historical scholars,” his problem lies within assuming that the most likely result of an empty tomb is a being miraculously resurrected from death through a mysterious connection with its father/self. More likely scenarios include a stolen body, a mismarked grave, a planned removal, faulty reports, edited scriptures, etc. No magic required.
5. God can be personally known and experienced. The proof of the pudding is in the tasting. Down through history Christians have found through Jesus a personal acquaintance with God that has transformed their lives.
“Down through history [Muslims] have found through [Muhammad] a personal acquaintance with [Allah] that has transformed their lives.” Your personal religious experience can and should be disputed in the same way you might dispute the alleged personal experience of a Bigfoot believer or someone who claims to have been abducted by aliens. Your strong feelings, anecdotal accounts, emotional reactions, and scripture are not evidence of the supernatural. Believers often forget that most atheists used to be religious, that many non-believers used to think they had a personal relationship with their God and they used to “feel” the power of prayer. They’ve since learned that it was all a farce, that their feelings were internal emotions and not some external force.