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How do believers know there is a god? Because...
"Everything that exists has a cause: therefore God exists."
"My aunt was ill and recovered after I prayed for her; therefore God exists."
"Nature is too complicated to have evolved by chance; therefore God exists."
"The Bible tells us God exists."
"Jesus saved my soul; therefore God exists."
"God created morality; therefore he exists."
"Half an eyeball is impossible; therefore God exists."
And so on and so on... For more "proof" of God on this website, click here; or for 666 "proof of God" arguments on Godless Geeks.)
Believers come up with hundreds of arguments to "prove" that some form of God exists. But every "proof" can be reduced to one of four basic arguments, each of which can be easily disproved. There's also a fifth argument that proves that the Jewish-Christian-Muslim God cannot exist.
Check all five arguments below. By the time you finish reading this page, you should be an instant atheist. And if you're still not convinced, or want a deeper analysis, click on the chapter headings in the column on the left.
Before we start: which God we are talking about? Most people are only familiar with the God or gods they were taught to worship. There are minor differences between the deities - whether they are one god or have three or more personalities, whether they manifest themselves as human, what believers may eat and drink, and so on - but underneath these varied guises, they all share the same presumed qualities.
The first four arguments apply to any god or group of gods that created the universe and human beings and who decides our future in the afterlife. The fifth argument is specific to Judaism, Christianity, Islam and any other religion where god is all-powerful, all-knowing and all-compassionate..
Religious argument 1a: Science proves God created the Universe
"Evolution is impossible: the different species must have been created by God"
Evolution as theory and fact
Evolution is a fact - these changes are observable and predictable in fossils, DNA and the physical characteristics of animals and plants. (Evolution can only be described as a theory in a specific scientific sense: an explanation that has no credible alternative and which has never been proved false. Critics who claim that "evolution is only a theory" understand neither evolution nor science.)
False objections to evolution
Creationists and proponents of Intelligent Design argue that the evidence for evolution is incomplete or minimal. That argument is usually based on ignorance of the full extent of evidence available or on misunderstanding of the principles of evolution. It is true that not all aspects of evolution are fully understood; but any uncertainties and disagreements affect only the details of evolution, not the general principle.
Alternatives to evolution?
Creationists say that the Bible proves that God created the world as it is today. But the stories in the Bible are minimal, uninformative and often contradictory. (To take one example: if the story of the Flood is true, what did carnivores [meat-eating animals] eat while they were on the Ark and in the months immediately after the waters subsided? Noah did not take enough herbivores [plant-eating animals] to both feed carnivores and maintain their own species. And how did the koala make its thousands of miles journey from Mount Ararat in Turkey to its homeland in Australia? It can't swim thousands of miles and the eucalpytus trees it eats are not found in many parts of the world it would have to cross. And so on with many other inconsistencies.) The many convoluted and weak arguments needed to prop up the idea of Creationism are significantly less persuasive than the single, strong statement that defines evolution.
Proponents of Intelligent Design argue that some systems in nature - such as the eye, the bacterium flagellum and blood's ability to clot - are so complex that they could only have been created by a supernatural designer. That argument has two flaws: (a) most of their examples have already been proved to be the result of evolution, not a designer, and (b) the existence of an apparent exception to a theory is not proof that the theory is wrong - it is only proof that the evidence has not been fully understood. Proponents of Intelligent Design assume that because some aspects of evolution have not yet been explained, all evolution is wrong; such an attitude is bad science.
Can we have God and evolution?
Some believers accept evolution but argue that it was triggered by God. That implies that at one point in prehistory God gave evolving humans a soul - in effect granting eternal life to one group of hominids while denying it to their parents. This explanation recognises scientific fact while maintaining the idea of God. It has two implications, however: (a) it confirms that God is unnecessary as an explanation for the origin of species, and (b) it raises theological difficulties for believers who need to identify at what point God gave humans a soul. In other words, the idea of combining evolution with belief creates more problems than it solves.
To summarise this argument:
Despite the objections of Creationists and others, evolution is a fact; God is not needed as an explanation of the origin of species.
For more discussion of this point, read Creationism and subsequent webpages.
Religious argument 1b: Science proves God created the Universe
"The physical nature of the universe is so finely balanced it must have been designed by God"
Does that mean that the universe must have had a Creator?
Believers argue that because the odds are so small that the universe came into being, it cannot have occurred by chance. The universe must have a creator. That reasoning is false. Here is why.
Improbable is not impossible
The odds of winning the biggest lottery prizes are very small. We can buy a ticket but we are more likely to die than to win the jackpot. But the fact that the odds of winning are very small does not mean that no-one wins. 99.9999% of people do not win; 0.0001% (or whatever the odds are for each particular lottery) of people do win. It is highly improbable that you or I will win the lottery - but it is not impossible. Highly improbable is possible.
We were lucky
The chance (likelihood / probability) of the universe existing is indeed very small. But it exists. In an ultimate reality that we will probably never fully understand, there may be billions of potential universes, all with different characteristics - perhaps a faster or slower speed of light, a different gravitational force or some other distinguishing feature. But only one matched the conditions that allowed the human race to come into existence. Our universe won the lottery; every other potential universe lost. No creator needed.
What existed before the universe? We don't know. We may never know. But we only need physics - not a supernatural conscious being - to explain the origins of the universe.
To summarise this argument:
The universe is improbable but not impossible; it does not need God to explain its existence.
For more discussion of this point, read The balanced universe.
Religious argument 2a: Philosophy proves God created the Universe
"Something must have created the universe: that something is God.."
If God does not need a creator, neither does the universe
Believers claim that although the universe exists and needs a creator, God exists and doesn't need a creator. Such an assertion is irrational and meaningless. The argument that something can exist and not need a creator is can be applied to the universe as well as to God. If God does not need a creator, neither does the universe.
If you insist on the need for a creator, you have to accept an infinity of creators (this idea is known as infinite regression). If you accept that a creator is not needed, you have to accept that the universe exists alone. It is more rational and more probable that the universe exists alone than there is an infinity of creators - or even one creator.
To summarise this argument:
a) if God exists because the universe needs a creator, then a creator is needed for God and a creator for that creator and so on;
b) if God can exist without a creator, so can the universe - God is not needed to explain its existence.
For more discussion of this point, read God the created?.
Religious argument 2b: Philosophy proves God created the Universe
"Good and evil are defined by God"
The argument supporting that statement is as follows:
Assume that the only life in the universe is found on our planet. Now imagine that the earth does not exist. Throughout the universe and throughout time there is no life, only flaming stars and frozen planets. In such a lifeless universe the concepts of good and evil are meaningless.
Now bring the earth into the picture, teeming with life but with no humans. Polar bears fish in the Arctic, lions devour prey in Africa, birds fly on their five thousand mile migrations, insects and bacteria thrive in tropical forest and frozen steppe. There is life and death for all living beings and pain and pleasure for those of a higher order, but this is a world where every animal lives and dies according to instinct. In such a world, there is no good or evil.
Good and evil are human concepts
The concepts of good and evil only arise when referring to human lives. Conditions and actions which promote human welfare are good; conditions and actions which harm human welfare are bad. ("Bad" is a better word than "evil", which suggests the supernatural, and we are beginning to understand that there is no such thing.)
Believers use God to justify their version of morality, but the idea of God arose from the idea of good, not the other way around.
To summarise this argument:
Good and bad ("evil") are human concepts. They are unrelated to God and they are certainly not proof of his existence.
For more discussion of this point, read A moral code.
Religious argument 3: Personal experience proves there is a god
"Personal experience of God is proof of his existence"
The scientist who claims to have discovered a new element or source of fuel must provide proof. Police who accuse a person of crime must produce proof. And in both science and law, all evidence must be reviewed and independently judged before it is accepted as evidence. The same is true with an individual's claim to have experienced God - it means nothing without proof. And no such proof has ever been produced.
To summarise this argument:
Individuals who claim to have experienced God do not prove he exists; they only prove that they believe he exists.
For more discussion of this point, read Why people believe and subsequent sections.
Religious argument 4: Scripture proves there is a god
"The Bible - or Koran or another religious text - tells us about God"
An alternate version of the argument is that because hundreds of millions of people believe in the Bible or Koran or another scripture ("all these people can't be wrong!"), that scripture must be true. But this new argument is equally false. Millions of people once believed that the sun revolved round the earth, but belief and reality were different. The fact that hundreds of millions of people believe that this or another text is the word of God does not make it true.
What Scripture says about God
In fact, scripture is more likely to undermine than to support the idea of God. People who read the Bible, Quran or other sacred text with no prejudice as to whether God exists, frequently conclude the Word of God is often unclear, inconsistent, contradictory and meaningless. A dispassionate reading of religious texts suggest not that there is a god, but that god has never existed.
To summarise this argument:
Scripture does not prove the existence of God; it only proves belief in God.
For more discussion of this point, read In the Bible and subsequent sections.
Rational argument: The Jewish-Christian-Muslim God is impossible
"The idea of Yahweh/God/Allah is self contradictory"
The all-knowing, all-powerful and all-compassionate God cannot exist
Believers who argue that the Quran and Bible are the literal and complete word of God are accepting an imperfect deity. In psychological terms, they are worshipping a human father not a supernatural god.
Some Jews, Christians and Muslims argue that the Bible and Quran are not to be taken literally. These texts do not represent the reality of God but the failure of human beings to truly understand him. Irrespective of what the scriptures say, God is indeed perfect.
Unfortunately for those same believers, this God is also impossible. A perfect God would be all-knowing, all-powerful and all-compassionate. The problem is that in the world we live in, he can manifest any two of these qualities but he cannot manifest all three.
God does not prevent disease or natural disaster
The evidence for this comes from disease and natural disasters which year after year kill millions of human beings, many of whom are young, even infants, who suffer both physical and mental pain.
An all-knowing God knows these events will occur. An all-powerful God can prevent the volcano from erupting or the disease from spreading, or he can ensure that it only affects those who have transgressed his laws. And an all-compassionate God wants to prevent human suffering, particularly of the young and innocent.
Yet disease and natural disasters still occur and people still suffer and die. This means - if God exists - that he does not know such events will occur or he cannot prevent such events from occurring or he does not want to prevent such events. Whichever case is true, it reveals Yahweh's / God's / Allah's imperfections.
We are left with a choice: either (a) God exists and is not perfect, or (b) God does not exist. But because the definition of God, for most believers, is that he is perfect, we have to exclude the first option and we are left with the conclusion that God does not exist.
We do not understand God?
To non-believers, earthquakes are proof that God lacks compassion and that therefore he cannot exist. But believers are reluctant to give up their faith, so they rationalise and say that God demonstrates his compassion by letting us learn from suffering.
"Okay," says the non-believer. "I can understand that a 35-year-old woman whose back is broken in the earthquake may learn from suffering. But how does God show his compassion by killing babies, or by letting a four-year old child live while his parents die? Or by destroying an old man's home and watching him freeze and starve to death while he waits for rescue?" Believers cannot answer that; they can only say that sometimes God is beyond our understanding.
Compassion is not conditional
But that explanation - God is beyond our understanding - makes no sense. God created us in his image; scripture tells us he has communicated with us very clearly in the past. People who pray believe they talk directly to God. God is irrelevant if we cannot understand him. Furthermore, compassion is not conditional, and compassion does not wait. If we fallible human beings are moved to relieve suffering as soon as we observe it, it is impossible for a perfect God to ignore suffering when he observes it.
God's qualities cannot co-exist - and without them, God cannot exist
God's failure to save human life in an earthquake or any other natural disaster demonstrates that he lacks at least one of the three qualities - he cannnot predict disasters or he cannot stop them or he has no compassion. The world we live in proves that God's qualities cannot co-exist - and without these qualities, God himself cannot exist.
To summarise this argument:
a) the Jewish-Christian-Muslim God described in the Bible and Quran is human, not divine.
b) disease and natural disaster and the deaths of the young and helpless are proof that an all-knowing, all-powerful, all-compassionate God does not exist.
Want more? Other arguments on this website demonstrating that God does not exist are examined at greater length in Problems with God. For other reasons to reject belief, see Clinging to faith, Lack of cause and Ignorance is not evidence.
For another perspective online, see Mark Thomas' Why Atheism?.
Still not convinced? Still hankering for God? That's ok. Old habits are difficult to break. Cigarettes make you feel good and it's difficult to stop smoking. Junk food is tasty and healthy food just doesn't hit the spot. After ten or twenty years praying and worshiping a comforting father-figure, we don't expect you to turn away from God just like that.
All we want you to do is think a little. Keep going to church or the mosque or temple or synagogue. But while you're doing that we'd like you to think about what you read here. Explore the site a little. Start at the beginning (How to reason), and take it a page at a time. If you come here with a truly open mind, you may not be an instant atheist, but we suspect that in time you'll have a healthier attitude about religion in general.
And don't forget, you can always get Religion!, as Eddy Goombah points out in this video...
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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