There are actually only two such arguments, both put forth by Thomas Aquinas some 743 years ago. Each was stated in the form of an actual syllogism, and then answered. They are:
Objection 1. It seems that God does not exist; because if one of two contraries be infinite, the other would be altogether destroyed. But the word "God" means that He is infinite goodness. If, therefore, God existed, there would be no evil discoverable; but there is evil in the world. Therefore God does not exist.
Videtur quod Deus non sit. Quia si unum contrariorum fuerit infinitum, totaliter destruetur aliud. Sed hoc intelligitur in hoc nomine Deus, scilicet quod sit quoddam bonum infinitum. Si ergo Deus esset, nullum malum inveniretur. Invenitur autem malum in mundo. Ergo Deus non est.Objection 2. Further, it is superfluous to suppose that what can be accounted for by a few principles has been produced by many. But it seems that everything we see in the world can be accounted for by other principles, supposing God did not exist. For all natural things can be reduced to one principle which is nature; and all voluntary things can be reduced to one principle which is human reason, or will. Therefore there is no need to suppose God's existence.
Praeterea, quod potest compleri per pauciora principia, non fit per plura. Sed videtur quod omnia quae apparent in mundo, possunt compleri per alia principia, supposito quod Deus non sit, quia ea quae sunt naturalia, reducuntur in principium quod est natura; ea vero quae sunt a proposito, reducuntur in principium quod est ratio humana vel voluntas. Nulla igitur necessitas est ponere Deum esse.
These can be summarized as:
- Life sucks. Therefore, no God.
(Vita sugit. Igitur nullus Deus.)
- Everything seems to work fine. Therefore, no God.
(Omnia videtur ad bene operandum. Igitur nullus Deus.)
"The Answer Wiki" proclaimed that the most up-voted answers on the Quora presented the following arguments for atheism:
- A lack of evidence for god.
- Poor logic in arguments for god.
- The evidence that contradicts claims for god's existence.
- A universe in which god exists does not make sense.
Now, TOF will grant, secundum argumentum, that there can be no argument for atheism, as such. Existentially, one cannot prove a negative, and that little prefix "a-" creates something of a pickle, ontology-wise. Since atheism is merely the stance that there is no God, an argument for atheism must necessarily be an argument against the existence of God. (Often, these folk will write "god," either because of poor spelling skills or because of category error.)
Some have argued in another comm box that atheism means only that they don't believe in God and therefore they need not deploy any argument whatever. This is fine, but then they will neither shut up nor go away, so one may question their commitment to quietism. Besides, it is an argument for indifference (a.k.a. "sloth") and is not really atheism (no-God) so much as it is adoxy (no-belief). As some folks have noted, Nietzsche could look into the abyss and find the abyss looking back; but the Late Modern looks into the abyss, shrugs "whatever," and goes off to watch American Idol. But let us take those four winning arguments and consider them.
|Before looking for evidence, be sure|
establish what counts as "evidence."
TOF will puckishly observe that this is true vis a vis god, but the same does not hold for God (cf. "category error," supra). But in any case, our interest lies in the apparent inability to frame an argument. A lack of evidence is not an argument for (or against) anything. Substitute space aliens for "god" and the point becomes more evident.
Secondly, as becomes clear from some of the individual responses on the site, this evidence is supposed to be physical "scientific" evidence, Science!™ having been substituted for God. As Chastek observes:
"Science in the popular imagination is idealized (science cannot explain everything or solve all our problems now, but just give it time!); and only its successes are seen as integral to it (i.e. vaccinations, space travel, and computers are seen as the direct and proper work of science while Hiroshima, Tuskegee, Mustard gas, scientific eugenics and sterilization programs, Josef Mengele, climate change, industrial pollution, etc. are never seen as the necessary products of “science”). IOW, this is obviously not a scientific view of science but one that makes it into an exalted, inerrant messiah that will set everything right if we only give it our total devotion." -- James Chastek
2. Poor logic in arguments for god.
Again, the failure of an argument for God does not constitute an argument against God. Consider the following illustration added in postscript:
1. If the heliocentric model is true, Venus will show phases;which Faithful Reader will recognize as an invalid syllogism: Asserting the Consequent. This invalidity does not mean the conclusion is false, only that a bad argument has been advanced for it. Likewise, a bad argument for the existence of God does not mean that God does not exist, only that a flawed argument has been advanced.
2. Venus shows phases;
3. Therefore, the heliocentric model is true.
At best it would be an argument for remaining unconvinced, which is not atheism but agnosticism. Kepler's argument for his second law was invalid, but that did not mean that the Equal Area Law was wrong. (It fell to Mercator to actually prove it.) TOF was also amused to note that none of the correspondents on the Quora site actually stated what was wrong with the logic of the arguments for God. They did not even correctly state the arguments!
3. The evidence that contradicts claims for god's existence.
This might have been the beginnings of an argument. (It's really just #1 with a more promising phraseology.) But it should have read "The evidence that contradicts claims for god's existence IS..." followed by like, you know, evidence. Of course, evidence is never self-explaining, so any such evidences must be accompanied by an interpretive duenna. The phases of Venus supported the Tychonic system as much as the Copernican.
4. A universe in which god exists does not make sense. This is an expression of sentiment, a cri de coeur, rather than an actual reductio. None of the commentariat explain why such a universe would not make sense, or even what "make sense" means. TOF assumes a logical contradiction -- which makes this a more emo version of #3 -- but it might have to do with the senses, or with individual aesthetic sympathies.
|Commenter on Quora forum|
- Joe Dixon, Spent a lot of time thinking
- John Henry Warren, thinker
- Billy Hemp, Atheist, writer, pilot, sage
Joe Dixon, who spent a lot of time thinking, deployed the following "arguments":
|Five worshipers with different conclusions prove|
there is no such thing as Elephant
a) Most people don't believe the same thing about the same "god" that they worship.
-- There are at least five different theories explaining quantum mechanics. So physicists "don't believe the same thing about the same phenomena that they study." This is not an argument that there is no such thing as quantum mechanics. That the blind men have disagreed over what they have touched is not argument the elephant does not exist.b) The sheer number of religions that preceded the current crop and the likelihood that many others will follow the current incarnations.
-- This is often deployed by people who don't understand probability and statistics. The sheer number of religions is not an argument that none of them are correct. In fact, the more such religions, the more likely that at least one of them will hit the mark. But again, this is a statement (not an argument) about religion, not about God. Every religion that may ever be might be wrong and still God could exist.c) The relative lack of fear that even the most ardent adherents to religion have to flouting even the most stringent prohibitions of their religion.
-- This is called "original sin" by at least one major religion, and is really only a statement about individuals' depth of belief, not the existence of that in which they believe.d) The fact that more people are currently living than when the events described in every religious text occurred and yet NO similar events occur now, when there are more people alive to witness them.
-- Actually, there are still a great many catastrophic floods, migrations of people, kings and revolutions, unfaithfulness, jealousies, unjust executions, hypocrisy, and spontaneous acts of charity.
e) There are a nearly 100 streaming video outlets available on the Internet, many people have access to computers and digital cameras are almost everywhere, yet no "miraculous" events ever occur when a camera is handy to record them.
-- This is really a complaint, not an argument. Waaah! Show me a miracle! But if miracles were a dime the dozen, they would not be miracles. In fact, one might look at all sorts of everyday occurrences and see them for the miracles they are. Einstein, for example, once wrote to M. Solovine that the very fact that the universe has a natural order is a miracle, since chaos is much more to be expected.
f) Everything that exists in the natural world can be explained without a supernatural cause or origin.
The world is entire explained by the
Big Compass Theory
-- This is actually close to Aquinas' Objection 2. But that God has endowed natures with the ability to act directly upon one another is hardly an argument against the existence of God. It is however an argument against immanent nature gods.
John Henry Warren, thinker
g) Nothing exists purely as a category, but the various religions of the world disagree about many of the most basic characteristics of God and agree only at the conceptual level. If God is defined as that which the major monotheistic religion believe in, then God is only a category, lacking specific attributes. It's stretching the definition of "exists" to say that anything could exist without possessing specific attributes.
-- Mr. Warren has evidently spent a lot more time thinking than Mr. Dixon, because he has actually framed an argument! It fails only in the sentence "If God is defined as..." Since God is not defined in that way, the argument is immaterial and irrelevant. The existence of X is independent of the unanimity of believers in X. Consider "atoms."h) Although descriptions of God vary, they're fairly consistent in ascribing to Him infinity, usually through some combination of eternity, ubiquity, omniscience, omnipotence, or omnibenevolence. If God is infinite, any interaction of His with the world would have infinite effect. If He created the world, He interacted with it. Where, then, did finiteness come from?
-- Again, this is an honest attempt at framing an argument; but it depends on a misapprehension of what classical theology means by "infinite." (For one thing, it is not "some combination" of the other attributes he cites.) In the second place, it is not self-evident that an infinite God must have an infinite "interaction" with the world. Creation is not an inter-action in any case. When the bat hits the ball, the ball hits the bat. That is an interaction. But creation is not an interaction, since the thing created has no existence save in the act of creation.i) There are various arguments for the existence of God, but most of them don't so much prove the existence of a specific being as define Him into existence, and because each one is different, each one defines something different. Because they're incoherent, they can't be independently confirming the existence of a single coherent entity. They could, however, be arbitrary, and if they're arbitrary, we can agree the argument is a good one, even unrefutable, and still be perfectly justified in forgetting about it soon after.
-- This argument was somewhat inchoate since the thinker did not specify what arguments he referred to. The traditional Five Ways do not do what he claims, but he evidently thinks that the Prime Mover, the Prime Cause, the Necessary Being, etc. are somehow distinct things. They are not. It is Thomas' case that they are the same being. To make his argument successful Mr Warren would have to show why the Prime Mover does not cohere with the Necessary Being, etc. Otherwise, he would have to explain why proofs that John Smith is a father, a son, and a husband could not possibly refer to the same being.
-- The traditional proofs do not "define into existence" (unless Mr. Warren is thinking of the ontological proof, which Thomas rejects). They demonstrate the existence of something; and further proofs then demonstrate that this being has the divine attributes.
Billy Hemp, Atheist, writer, pilot, sage-- Mr. Warren does not show how the various proofs are incoherent; he only claims that they are.
j) The best argument for atheism is what we've learned about the effect of randomness on our world and our lives. Along with all other living things, we humans are the result of random evolution, although we have tended to have an inflated sense of our own importance.
-- Randomness is not a thing, but an abstract category and per John Henry Warren, thinker, a category does not exist. (/Fe) Randomness is the description of an effect, not a cause.
Another poster:-- Evolution is not random, as Darwinians are fond of explaining, but is given direction by natural selection. Even genetic mutation may not be as random as previously believed, given recent advances in genetics. Besides, as casinos illustrate, randomness must be carefully arranged and intelligently designed.
k) I find it hard to believe a divine being would be either so vindictive or incompetent to design the world we live in.Another poster
-- Much as the creationist finds it "hard to believe" that natural selection could account for the variety of biological and microbiological processes. But the commenter's incredulity neither proves or disproves the existence of God.
-- If the designer of the world were incompetent, we would expect parts of the world not to work, or not to work smoothly together. It would require miracles as patches. Yet as far as we can tell, gravity, electromagnetism, oxidation, biological growth, and the rest of the world functions with no problem.
-- "Vindictive" is the wrong word, but this can be taken as a tendentious version of the Argument from Evil, the First Objection considered by Thomas Aquinas centuries ago.
l) Am I a Believer or Atheist? I am neither. I am beyond either of those.
-- Surely, this raises the bar for self-congratulation to a whole new level.
Added in PostscriptThomas' answers to the two actual arguments presented at the beginning of this post run as follows.
Reply to Objection 1. As Augustine says (Enchiridion xi): "Since God is the highest good, He would not allow any evil to exist in His works, unless His omnipotence and goodness were such as to bring good even out of evil." This is part of the infinite goodness of God, that He should allow evil to exist, and out of it produce good.
Reply to Objection 2. Since nature works for a determinate end under the direction of a higher agent [per 5th Way], whatever is done by nature must needs be traced back to God, as to its primary cause. So also whatever is done voluntarily must also be traced back to some higher cause other than human reason or will, since these can change or fail; for all things that are changeable and capable of defect must be traced back to an immovable and self-necessary first principle, as was shown in the body of the Article.
some spelling and phrasing corrected, additions as indicated.