The Instigator
Pro (for)
0 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
20 Points

It is irrational to believe that the Christian God exists.

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Post Voting Period
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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 6/2/2012 Category: Religion
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 3,136 times Debate No: 24028
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (26)
Votes (4)




Debate structure:

1st round: Acceptance and definitions
2nd round: Opening constructive (no rebuttals by Con)
3rd round: Second constructive and/or rebuttals
4th round: Third constructive and/or rebuttals (no new arguments)


1. No plagiarism
2. No round forfeits
3. No trolling

Failure to follow the debate structure or rules results in an automatic forfeit by the offending party.

I offer the following for definitions:

Christian God - As outlined in the Christian holy text (The Holy Bible), a conscious, personal being, who created the universe and everything in it, and is omnipotent (all powerful), omniscient (all knowing), and omnibenevolent (all loving).

Irrational - without or deprived of normal mental clarity or sound judgement

Believe - to have confidence in the truth, the existence, or the reliability of something

Exist - to have objective reality or being

I look forward to a fun and interesting debate with whomever my opponent may be.


I accept.

Also, I offer for voters' consideration the following structural annotations:

1. By accepting the traditional omni-God, I assume that my time won't be wasted by low-level trolling (e.g., "If God is all-loving, then how does X bad thing happen?!")

2. I'm not trying to debate biblical inerrancy--I consider the ontological status of God to be an external issue, and want the debate to stay focused on this for volumetric reasons.

3. In terms of the definition of "irrational", I want to note that "normal mental clarity" and "sound judgment" are somewhat arbitrary criteria, because it's difficult to discern necessary conditions for "unsoundness"; plenty of people think that theists are crazy, but that's not something we have the luxury of assuming. For this debate, I want voters also to consider a concept of irrationality as logical incoherence (e.g., P & ~P), since it provides a clearer method for scrutinizing belief in God.

4. The purpose of this debate, as I understand it, is to determine whether belief in God is necessarily irrational. In other words, this debate about whether God actually exists, or whether certain arguments are sound; rather, I am attempting to disprove that it is in principle irrational for an individual to have belief in God.

Anyway, good luck Parkers.
Debate Round No. 1


Good luck, Cody.

Contention 1: Lack of belief in the Christian God's existence is the null hypothesis.

This is the common "Atheism is the default position" argument. Lack of belief in a higher power (or in this case, the Christian God) is the default position, otherwise known as the null hypothesis. The null hypothesis is assumed to be true unless there is sufficient evidence to lead one to the conclusion that the null hypothesis must be rejected. If insufficient evidence is provided to justify the alternative hypothesis (in this case, the Christian God's existence), then one must fail to reject the null hypothesis.

The point of this argument is that as with any falsifiable claim, there must be a good enough reason to accept it in order for it to be considered rational. In most cases, that reason is known as evidence. To date, almost everything that we have learned about the universe, the world, evolution, and how life works, contradicts people's beliefs in the Christian God. From what we have observed over the years, we know that intelligence requires a mind, which in turn requires a physical brain. A non-physical mind or brain that somehow pocesses all of the knowledge in the world without the physical requirements that have been observed defies everything we know about intelligence [1]. This sort of claim requires evidence in order to rationally justify it.

Without evidence, a thiest has no rational reason to believe that the Christian God exists. One might say that a theist has faith, which by definition, is a belief that is not based on proof. It is logically incoherent to have faith, instead of reasonable conclusions based on evidence (the resolution is affirmed).

Contention 2: There are good reasons to lack belief in the Christian God.

The following objections to the Christian God's existence demonstrate that it is irrational to believe that he exists.

Sub-Contention A: The Problem of Evil

I hope this doesn't fall under the category of "low-level" trolling outlined by my opponent in the first round, because it is a problem that has yet to be accounted for.

In most cases, the Problem of Evil doesn't demonstrate that a higher power doesn't exist, rather it demonstrates that if one does, it doesn't pocess the quality of omnibenevolence. However, given my definition of the O3 God that my opponent has accepted, the PoE can be used to demonstrate that the O3 God does not exist.

For those unfamiliar with the PoE, here is the argument:

Premise 1: If God exists, he is omnipotent (He has the power to rid the world of evil)
Premise 2: If God exists, he is omniscient (He has the knowledge of how best to rid the world of evil, and He has objective knowledge of what qualifies as evil and what does not)
Premise 3: If God exists, he is omnibenevolent (He would do anything in his power to rid the world of evil)
Premise 4: If God exists, given 1, 2, and 3, evil should not exist.
Premise 5: Evil exists.
Conclusion: Given 4 and 5, God does not exist.

This argument rests on the idea that there is no rational and concievable reason for evil to exist in this world. If this evil could have been prevented without thereby losing some greater good or permitting some evil equally bad or worse, then why not prevent it? These are questions that don't have a single comprehensible answer, and this argument is almost 2000 years old.

Take a look at the conclusion of the argument. I'm not going to claim that this argument fully demonstrates that the Christian God does not exist, but this argument can easily be made that it is irrational to think that He does. If there is no rational reason for evil to exist alongside the O3 God, then given that evil DOES exist, there is no rational reason to believe that the O3 God exists [2]. Thus, this argument is a good reason to doubt the Christian God's existence (the resolution is affirmed).

Sub-Contention B: The existence of Non-belief (also known as the argument from locality).

This argument is extremely similar to the Problem of Evil, so I shall be brief.

This argument is based around the premise of a God who rewards believers and punishes non-believers. The Christian God does these things (believers go to heaven, non-believers go to hell), so this argument is justified.

1) God exists
2) God is defined as the Christian O3 God.
3) God is rational and wants all humans to be saved (or at the very least, for all humans to be given a chance at salvation)
4) God rewards believers and punishes non-believers

1) The Christian God went from being the God of the Jews to the God of the world. During this transition, God's new plan for humanity was that anyone who followed him could be saved. However, God didn't reveal this revelation right away (thousands of years later, in fact), meaning that anyone living in that time period had no chance at being saved.
2) God only revealed himself to a small group of people in the Middle East, about 2000 years ago. After that point, He left it to those humans to spread the word, meaning that some people recieved better evidence than others. Anyone with a reasonable doubt of objection to these outlandish claims would be doomed.
3) People who understand the nature of evidence have no chance at salvation, because they reject claims without evidence supporting them.

This God does not fit what we would deem "rational". An all knowing and all powerful God would have realized these problems and would have prevented them from happening in the first place. If there really were a one, true religion, none of these things would be an issue[4]. Thus, there is good reason to lack belief that this all knowing and all powerful God exists (the resolution is affirmed).

I had more I wanted to include, but I ran short on time. Apologies.

I'm looking forward to my opponent's opening constructive.




Epistemic Nihilism

Philosophically, this is about whether it is in principle irrational to believe in God; we can formulate this as: “Can we know that God does not exist?” The epistemic question is important because, if it is possible to have knowledge that God does not exist, there would be no justification for “settling” on theism. Hence the distinction between atheism, a metaphysical commitment to non-belief, and agnosticism, an epistemic commitment to non-knowledge. I want to take up the task of the epistemic nihilist: exposing the impossibility of certainty. If I can convince you that one cannot have any knowledge, much less of a divine entity, I submit that one cannot call it “irrational” to place faith in God. One may be tempted to counter that the inability to know makes atheism as irrational as theism, since one is claiming certainty in both cases; however, my case, dealing with faith in God, excepts me from this objection precisely because the nature of faith is commitment to something being true sans certainty (i.e., since faith in God is, definitionally, belief without knowledge-claiming, one cannot object to my case on the basis that some theists do claim knowledge of God).

Note, this is about philosophical rigor, rather than mere practical concerns. As Hume might put it, we cannot have knowledge that the sun will rise in the morning—the Earth could explode or stop spinning; the Sun could fizzle out or fly out of orbit; demons could pop out of some higher plane of existence and steal the sun for sustenance. We can’t rule out such possibilities, no matter what probability score we try to assign them. Yet, it is nevertheless practical to retain our expectation that the sun will rise tomorrow, because our brains and daily lives leave us little choice.

So, let’s investigate what we use to arrive at truth claims. Our primary tool is the justification, In this process, we demonstrate the truth of a proposition by gesturing to an external referent. If I claim to have brown hair, I might justify this by meeting you in person. Or, if I claim that all dogs have hair, I might structure my argument this way: “All mammals have hair. Dogs are mammals. So, dogs have hair.” This is why the classical idea of knowledge—as “justified true belief”, barring Gettier cases, etc.—is so-formulated.

For the nihilist, this is problematic. If every true proposition must be verified by reference to an exteriority, chains of justification eventually reach a point at which a proposition must be acknowledged as unjustifiable. Anyone who has endured a young child’s endless questioning is familiar with this frustration. The problem manifests in three ways, articulated as Agrippa’s (or Munchhausen’s) Trilemma. On this view, justificationalist attempts to gain knowledge are always doomed by one of the following conditions:

  1. Infinite regress: given proposition P1, justify with P2. Justify P2 with P3, P3 with P4, ad infinitum. In other words, if all propositions require justification, the chain of exteriorities required to continue justification will stretch out infinitely.
  2. Vicious circularity: two propositions, A and B, rely upon each other for justification, establishing an endless loop of other-justification. That is, “A can be justified by reference to B; B can be justified by reference to A.”
  3. Axiomism: some particular proposition—P—at the "end" of a justificatory chain is asserted as self-evidently true, or is taken as given/assumed. “Given X, Y.” Alternatively, “X is useful/non-X is inconceivable; therefore, act/reason as if X.”

One might see how this affects our ability to make knowledge claims. We can do some interesting footwork here. A fallacy often attributed to believers is the “You cannot disprove God” argument. Despite dubios conclusions associated with this statement, the argument per se is difficult to contend with. One really cannot determine whether a God exists. With all our experience of the universe, all the space we’ve observed, and all the observational equipment we use, we can never say “I have found that there is no God.” The best we get is “I have not yet found God”. On the one hand, we are forced to acknowledge that it is in principle an impossible task—one can always imagine having not looked somewhere, not having had some instrument, etc. One can even imagine finding God, and not recognizing him. While we might have some idea of what God is “supposed” to be like, nihilism forces us to make the following concession: we are barred from knowing not only whether God exists, but also anything about what God is like.

For this debate, I accepted omni-God (omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent). Certainly, we might have ways of defining these terms (omnibenevolent as “all-loving”), but, for the nihilist, a problem remains. What does it mean to say that God is any of these things? We can assign these words—love, potentiality, knowledge—a specific meaning, but we cannot be so sure that our understanding corresponds to God’s nature. A frustrated and scared person might ask, for instance, “Why would a just and loving God stand idle while I get assaulted?” There, we see the way in which profane understanding of love and justice imposes itself upon God, reconfiguring the ius divinum as a mere extension of human institutions. Even with stipulated definitions God, the content of the definitions is subject to nihilistic limits. More than being unable to know whether God exists, we cannot, given his nature as a divine being, meaningfully discern what his attributes are. We cannot know what it means for God to “love all”, or to “be able to do anything”, or to “know all that can be known”. We have definitional templates, but arguments like the paradox of the stone, the problem of evil, divine foreknowledge, etc. demonstrate how we are forced to “fill in the blanks” in God’s nature when it comes time to talk about his ontological status.

Stipulating an idea of God, then, is only an attempt to avoid the vast knowledge problems by taking the axiomist route: “Given O3 God…” But, as soon as we regard specific conceptions as axiomatic, and take the theist exit (placing faith in this conception, and its instantiation as the Christian God), you’re above questions of rationality and irrationality—first, because of the nature of faith. If you never claim to have certainty or to prove anything, you are, for better or worse, exempted from “rationality” constraints. Second, taking the axiomist route automatically exempts the proposition in question from arguments over rationality, because rationality deals with derivations, not first principles. It is not “rational” or “irrational” to place one’s confidence in the unproven proposition that A is A, for instance—rationality is judged precisely by conformity to this axiom. This can be mimicked by the theist as: “I don’t know that God exists—but I have faith that He does.”

Concluding with a return to my earlier remarks on my task, the direct relevance of the above reflections emerges:

  1. Because of regression problems, we cannot have certainty about anything, including God’s existence and properties, or that what we perceive and interact with is “objective reality”—even the proposition that we cannot have knowledge is subject to this constraint. Supposing Pro makes the “nihilism is self-refuting” objection, I am prepared to deal with it. I do not have the space here.
  2. Taking the axiomist route, in which one commits to faith in a particular conception of God, exempts one from discussions about rationality and irrationality by situating the proposition at the level of a starting point, rather than a derivation (much like our faith in questions of sense validity, the uniformity of nature, etc.).
  3. Hence, because we cannot have knowledge of God’s existence or properties—because we are relegated to an epistemic realm preceding rationality and irrationality—we must accept that it is not in principle irrational to believe in the Christian God.
Debate Round No. 2


Mrparkers forfeited this round.


I'm sorry to see that my opponent has, for the moment, deactivated his account. Extend my R2.
Debate Round No. 3


Mrparkers forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 4
26 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Mrparkers 4 years ago
Yeah I probably should explain myself. I had unforeseen real life issues to attend to at the time, and I know myself well enough to know that if I didn't deactivate my account, I wouldn't have been able to deal with those issues properly (I get easily distracted).

Posted by Cody_Franklin 5 years ago
1. There isn't irrationality, because nihilism is prior to questions of "(ir)rationality". Nihilism indicts logic and justificationalism generally, which situates it somewhere before those judgments become possible.

2. With nihilism, the whole point is non-conclusiveness. Avoid conclusions, stick to study.
Posted by The_Fool_on_the_hill 5 years ago
you irrationality is unconclusive, you can wiggle out anytime.
Posted by Cody_Franklin 5 years ago
I was actually super-pumped for this debate. I haven't really taken out epistemic nihilism yet, but one of my friends and I were talking about nihilism (he's smarter/a much better nihilist than I am), particularly with regard to how it applies to religious belief. We concluded that it didn't make sense to even have religious arguments because of the insane epistemic constraints, in a nutshell.
Posted by Kinesis 5 years ago
This is what happens when someone has learned a couple of canned arguments and the typical responses to them but doesn't have the intelligence to evaluate new information. They can't deal with atypical responses.
Posted by socialpinko 5 years ago
I suppose you spend all that time reviewing your argument for nothing then. Also, could you share your planned refutation of he had responded that the assertion of epistemic nihilism is contradictory?
Posted by Cody_Franklin 5 years ago
"Mrparkers' account is no longer active"

Posted by Cody_Franklin 5 years ago
Posted by Cody_Franklin 5 years ago
Guh. I cut out an ENTIRE argument, and I'm STILL 1,600 characters over. Damnit damnit damnit.
Posted by Mrparkers 5 years ago
Completely understandable, I almost forfeited mine for the same reason. If you're absolutely strapped for time, simply writing "pass" in the next round will allow you to continue the debate without the automatic forfeit.
4 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Vote Placed by vmpire321 5 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: ):
Vote Placed by socialpinko 5 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Instead of actually responding to Con's argument, Pro chose to leave. Arguments and sources go to Con for no attempted refutation and Con also gets conduct for multiple forfeits by the opponent.
Vote Placed by Kinesis 5 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Interesting argument from Con. Fail from Pro.
Vote Placed by unitedandy 5 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Forfeit.