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Column 102
Lack of cause

Debating God's existence (ii)

By © Martin Foreman
Word Count: 794 words
Publication date: April 8, 2007

Believers defending their faith give five primary reasons for the existence of God. 

One is personal experience – God has spoken to me. Another is the existence of miracles. The third is the First Cause argument. The fourth is the apparent impossibility of evolution. The last is the stability of the universe.

The first two arguments are easily demolished. The last three appear to be on stronger ground but their foundations are illusions.

Personal experience is just that: personal. No matter how strong the presence of God in our lives, no matter how convinced we are that that presence comes from outside us and exists independently of us, at the end of the day, all experience of God comes from within and is nothing more than self-created delusion.

Miracles are equally irrelevant. Miracles were frequent in ancient history when events were rarely and uncertainly recorded and people were more credulous. Over years stories grew and changed in the telling and small incidents or outright lies metamorphosized into interventions of the almighty. 

As we learn about the world about us and record our history better, miracles have shrunk. Instead of global floods and plagues of locusts, John Paul II’s claim to sainthood is based on the fact that a nun prayed to him after his death and her Parkinson’s disease disappeared.

Two facts: the cure appeared inexplicable and she prayed to the late Pope. Ergo, she was cured by a miracle. Any ten-year-old with reasonable intelligence and a decent education would spot the fallacy in that argument, but sound reasoning is not a trait normally associated with the Christian faith.

For the benefit of nine-year-olds who may be reading this column and uncertain of the illogicalities, let me make it clear.

Start by asking for the medical evidence, including dated and witnessed brain scans pre- and post-“miracle” that prove both that the condition was Parkinson’s and that it has been permanently cured. Prove that no other condition could produce the same symptoms and disappear in the same way.

IF the disease was Parkinson’s and it has been cured, examine all the circumstances in which the disease pro- and re-gressed. Compare other potential contributing factors such as diet, sleeping habits, chemicals in the environment (eg from cleaning fluids or nearby factories) and so on to eliminate all other causes of regression.

Compare this case with other situations where patients have unexpectedly made a recovery without resort to prayer.

Compare all other prayers made to John Paul after his death, no doubt with equal or greater fervor, and ask whether they have been granted – particularly those that would qualify as miraculous. Explain why the dead Pope would single out Marie Simon-Pierre for work of wonder.

And if after you have done all this and are still convinced that God, or one of his saints, has performed a miracle, explain why God and his saints ignore all the pleas of the millions of other human beings who suffer illness and tragedy on a daily basis.

In short, recognize that two events may be connected (prayer and cure) but connection is not proof of cause.

God, of course, might exist and be very different from the miracle-working deity pictured by the Catholic faith.

Among other arguments for his existence is the First Cause – God caused the universe to exist.

For centuries philosophers and scientists have looked into the origins of the universe. As we explore ever deeper, our understanding continues to develop, change and confuse.

All very interesting, but not very relevant. Underlying all the debate and scientific evidence, at the end of the day, there are only two key points.

The first is our ability to understand the universe in which we live is inherently limited and our concept of “cause” may be flawed or meaningless.

Given that caveat, we move to the second point: we have to decide whether all entities can or cannot exist without a cause.

If some can exist without a cause, we accept that the universe does not need a creator.

If all entities must have a cause, then God created the universe. And something created God. Something else created the creator of God and so on into infinity. 

The argument that the universe needs a cause but God does not is both poor and hypocritical.

Given these two choices – a godless and a god-created universe - the more intellectually honest conclusion is that the universe makes more sense without God.  

Two arguments remain -  the apparent impossibility of evolution and the stability of the universe (the fact that a few minor alterations in the physical structure of the universe would make it impossible to exist).

Superficially, these arguments are attractive, but close up, they’re hollow. We’ll take a look at them next week.

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If God existed, he would...

admire the beauty of a universe that he did not create

recognize that eternity is meaningless

deny both heaven and hell

disown all men and women who speak in his name

denounce the harm caused by religious "morality"

help the human race to thrive without him

If God existed, he would be an atheist.

What is the difference between science and faith?

science is certain of nothing and requires proof of everything

faith is certain of everything and requires proof of nothing

Which do you trust?

"I know there is no God"
"I believe there is no God"

Check the answer

wear the Scarlet letter

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