The Instigator
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3 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
9 Points

Theism v Atheism

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 9/5/2013 Category: Religion
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 3,264 times Debate No: 37382
Debate Rounds (5)
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Theism v Atheism

Theism is the view that a supreme being who possess great making properties (the three omni's) exists and is the personal cause of the cosmos.

Atheism is the denial of this view and it assumes that the basic reality is materialistic until proven otherwise. The historic definition of “atheist” is one who “maintains that there is no God, that is, that the sentence God exists expresses a false proposition.” [1] Atheism is “extremely simple to define.” It is “the belief that there is no God or gods.” [2]

For the purposes of this debate I'd like to stick with this definition, despite the controversey that atheism is a "lack of belief." I think we genuinely want to know whether or not God exists.

Burden of Proofs

Con must sufficiently defend why it’s more probable that God doesn't exist.

Pro must sufficiently defend why it’s more probable that God does exist. Certainty isn't required for knowledge here.


Round one for acceptance and definitions and final rounds for objective summaries of arguments, no rebuttals or new arguments.

The principle of charity is to be exemplified as well as adherence to the cannons of logic and facts of experience. These are our common ground. [3]


1.Paul Edwards, ed., “Atheism,” Encyclopedia of Philosophy (New York: Macmillan, 1967), 1:175

2. Julian Baggini, Atheism: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003)




We'll skip over any nitpicks I have with definitions and simply accept them at face, and define atheism as the belief that there are no deities. I'll also add the self-evident point that plagiarism, in whole or in part, is unjust and leads to a full forfeit. I wish good luck to my opponent, and look forward to his opening case.
Debate Round No. 1


Thanks for accepting, Con. Since this isn’t a publication for a professional journal or a term paper, the arguments discussed will be in a more organic form. Nevertheless they will have citations leading any reader to the trail of thinkers responsible for the argument’s development, but since the term “plagiarism” is ambiguous within the absence of a predetermined guideline for determining something plagiarized, I ask that no nit-picking takes place for debate points.

The first argument is a mix of cosmological arguments and leads back to the second, more modal argument. Both should be taken holistically. The former draws from the work of Leibniz and Al-Ghazali and WL Craig’s presentation. The latter draws from the work of Aquinas and Rob Maydole’s reformulation and presentation.

Why Theism is More Probable

I.Whatever exists is either necessary or contingent, and whatever begins to exist is not necessary, so it must be contingent. If the cosmos is not necessary, then there exists a necessary uncaused cause of the it, who is ultramundane at least without the cosmos. But the cosmos is contingent since it came to be. So the cosmos must have an external ground of its existence found in a necessary ultramundane cause. [4]

Philosophers have always tried to answer how abstract objects and moral norms exist, as well as the fundamental cause of the cosmos. Likewise scientists wonder why anything at all exists. If a necessary ultra-mundane mind is possible, then perhaps it can unify all of existence in itself.

II. If only a finite amount of things have existed to date for a finite period of time, then not only are such things contingent, but then there was a state when nothing existed. But if there was such a state, then would presently exists, which is absurd. Thus, a causally necessary reality is possibly required since everything has a sufficient reason for its existence. Yet there is also a sufficient reason for the sufficient reason of anything. (Since anything that has a sufficient reason for its existence also has a sufficient reason for its existence that is a sufficient reason for its own existence). But no temporally contingent being is a sufficient reason for the existence of a causally necessary being. And every causally necessary being that is a sufficient reason for its own existence is a being without any limitations.

Now if God is unlimited in some possible world and also in some different possible world, then God is greater than any other being in both those worlds; otherwise God would be limited by not possessing a great making property possessed by something else. But since the different possible world is an arbitrarily selected possible world, it follows that it is true in every possible world that God is greater than every other being. And since "greater than" is asymmetric, then God exists. [5,6,7]

Lastly, since God is a supreme being, he’ll have certain great making properties. Such properties seem to be, at minimum, the property of knowing all truths (which would ground all abstract concepts), the property of maximal creative power (which the creation of the universe would exemplify this property) and finally the property of all goodness, which grounds objective moral norms. God therefore is a step in simplicity for the three things that have perplexed humans ever since we evolved to reason. God nicely unifies fundamental existence, and this ought to count towards some sort of intellectual virtue. Our diagram then becomes -

Here is the theist's picture of existence, all things that exist are grounded ontologically in God, the ultra-mundane mind.

I shall await to see where Con objects in order to unbox the support for the arguments that I've presented, and I look forward to his case on why it's less probable that theism is true.




6. Maydole, 1980, p.180




Thank you to my opponent. I’ll be running a series of arguments against the existence of God in the Christian sense. My argument shall take the form of a milk stool: the first arguments shall be against the possibility at all of proving that God exists: the two unique arguments from falsifiability: Kierkegaard case and Ayer’s case. The second crutch will be the argument from evil. Finally, my third crutch is against the possible existence of Christian truths, against both miracles and historicity. This is a large number of cases to get through, so I shall start quickly.

The Falsifiability Cases

Kierkegaard’s case runs simply. God is a being which we cannot understand. He has so many complex properties, and each of them so immense they are unexplainable in the normal realm. His omnibenevolence for example cannot be explained from our merely mortal position. To prove something exists is difficult, but we “reason from existence, not towards existence.” We say “A being exists which is omnipotent, omniscient, etc.”[1] and say this is what we call God, rather than prove God in his entirety. Compare how we prove God to how the judiciary works: “A court of justice does not prove that a criminal exists, but that the accused, whose existence is given, is a criminal”1. In other words, we get things which already exist, and ascribe characteristics to them. God already has an infinite number of characteristics, and we cannot prove there is a spiritual force which has them all. There are numerous deities similar to God, including denominations of Christianity which claim God, yet they are certainly not all correct. For every attribute God is shown to have, there are thousands that are unproven. God requires a leap of faith, making belief itself impossible to justify on any rational grounds.

My second case is from Ayer, which argues God dies “the death of a thousand qualifications”[2], as God is unfalsifiable. Consider when someone tells us that God loves us like a father loves his child. We are reassured. But then we see a child dying of an inoperable cancer. His earthly father is driven frantic in his efforts to help, but Heavenly Father shows no sign of concern. Some qualification is made — God's love is "not merely human love" or it is "an inscrutable love," perhaps — and this is compatible with the claim "God loves us as a father (but of course…)." We are reassured again. But then perhaps we ask: what is this assurance of God's (appropriately qualified) love worth? What does this love mean? It is not a love we mean when we use the term. When one says “God loves”, qualifications are so endlessly given that God’s love is no different from apathy: the idea of God becomes unfalsifiable liturgy, where every event proves his love. If the child dies, he is in heaven, God is great – if the child lives, though, God saves him; God is still great. What can occur to disprove a character of God? Religion, then, becomes “irrefutable because [it is] untestable; and by this criterion are therefore meaningless”[3].

The Case for Evil

The problem of evil is a simple enough argument. Consider you see a woman being mugged and raped in the corner of an alley. Imagine you have a stun gun in your hand, and now how to use it. You have the ability to stop an evil being committed: therefore, we would all agree, we ought to stop that woman being mugged and raped. Yet God, we are led to believe, has the tools to stop evil taking place, as well as the moral righteousness to stop the rape taking place. So why does evil exist? Some respond that God protects our free will, which justifies his inaction. This has three problems: the woman’s free will of course is being infringed upon, so God’s inaction infringes still upon free will. Secondly, if infringing on the free will of the rapist is immoral, then I must allow these atrocities to continue, which is abhorrent and blatantly ludicrous. And finally, this explains moral evils, but not natural evils: why is it that the world has tsunamis, earthquakes, animals that kill us, diseases that plague our existence, dirty water, nuclear radiation, an endless list of destructive ills that maim, torture or kill us, when a God has the power to stop it?

My second “Argument from Evil” is one from technology. Compare the life of a working class woman in Britain or America a thousand years ago to today. The technological and political advances today give that woman so much more freedom and liberty and happiness and general quality of life. So what reason is there not to have granted that woman a thousand years ago – or the first couple – the boons of technology? Free will of course is a moot point here: we had resources to build these technologies, and in a sense of resources we had some, such as fire and wood, but lacked harder metals and the ability to use them. Instead, we spent thousands of years toiling vainly, doing things that took days in the past that take minutes to do now, like manufacturing clothes or working the land. The lack of technological aid implies the inexistence of a God, similar to the existence of the gratuitous suffering of the innocent.

The Case Against Christianity

My final case is one specifically against the Christian God and religion. I’ll state here my case against the historicity of prophecy, and then later move on to my case against miracles. The prophecy I’ll criticise though is the inflammatory Ezekiel. He is very entertaining to read, but simply fails to be accurate even the most adamant bibliophile must admit. Ezekiel’s prediction was that the city's destruction would be complete and permanent:

"The merchants among the peoples will hiss at you; you will become a horror, and be no more forever". God, according to Ezekiel, states: “I will bring against Tyre from the north Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, king of kings, with horses, with chariots, and with horsemen, and an army with many people. He will slay with the sword your daughter villages in the fields; he will heap up a siege mound against you, build a wall against you, and raise a defense against you. He will direct his battering rams against your walls, and with his axes he will break down your towers… I will put an end to the sound of your songs, and the sound of your harps shall be heard no more. I will make you like the top of a rock; you shall be a place for spreading nets, you shall never be rebuilt, for I Yahweh have spoken,"(emphasis added)(Ez. 26)

He doubly mentions Tyre’s complete permanent destruction by Nebuchadnezzar, yet its falsehood can be verified by a simple visit to your public library. Ezekiel prophesied that Nebuchadnezzar would destroy Tyre and that "you (Tyre) shall never be rebuilt" (26:14) and "shall be no more, though you are sought for, you will never be found again" (26:21). History, however, records the fact that Nebuchadnezzar not only didn't destroy Tyre, he didn't even capture it. The New Encyclopedia Britannica 1978 states: “ and in 585-573 (B.C.) [Tyre] successfully withstood a prolonged siege by the Babylonian king Nebuchadrezzar II”, and Encyclopedia Americana 1984 states: “Nebuchadnezzar II, subjected the island to a 13-year siege (585-572) without success”. The city was only taken by Alexander, hundreds of years later. But even if we are to assume Ezekiel got the name wrong (and catastrophically wrong at that), “The city did not lie in ruins long. Colonists were imported and citizens who had escaped returned. The energy of these with the advantage of the site, in a few years raised the city to wealth and leadership again”[4]. The Bible’s prophecies are bunk.

Now, on to my rebuttals.

To my opponent's argument, which I'll name the cosmological argument for its similarities to each other and the argument of the same name. I first want to point out how there is no reason to suppose that all things must be explained by a necessary thing. A contingent being is one that does not necessarily have to exist. As I am sure my opponent agrees, and as my Kierkegaard case alludes to, there are numerous possible causes of the universe: a good God, a perfectly good God, an evil God, no God, etcetera. Moreover, the argument simply states there must be a "first cause". I see no reason to disagree with this, except the argument does not state what was caused, and what has always existed. God of course did not create liberalism, the political philosophy. Nor did God create time (for such an act involves time, and presupposes its existence, creating a self-refuting claim). This "God" simply created the universe. Even the atheist agrees that the universe began: it began with the big bang, an event resulting from the singularity, which itself is an independent cause.

Furthermore, just as we don't ascribe great intellect or potency to gravity because it causes so much, we have no reason to ascribe omnipotence or omnibenevolence or omniscience to the cause of the universe. We'd say tanks are more powerful than humans, but certainly not that tank builders are immune to their weaponry. Therefore, we have no reason to assume this creator of matter is omnipotent (or even able to manipulate it), omniscient (or even has intellect), or good (or even capable of moral reasoning). God is indeed a supreme being, by the definition of God. Moreover, the kickstart of the universe is its "creator". However, apart from poetic similarity, it is obvious that there are no relation between these two things. There is no reason at all that the universe's kickstart needs to be a person (i.e. something capable of rational thought). Indeed, simplicity dictates this is not true: nothing can be shown to exist which is morally responsible yet not physical, but God is a non-physical moral agent.

With this, I'll pass over to my opponent for his response. I look forward to it.

[1] Søren Kierkegaard, Philosophical Fragments

[2] Antony Flew, Theology and Falsification

[3] A.C.Grayling, The God Argument

[4] Wallace Fleming, The History of Tyre

Debate Round No. 2


Why Theism is More Probable

I. Atheists have always affirmed that the cosmos is necessary and so not in need of explanation outside of itself. But things which begin to exist are not necessary. What else than explains the cosmos if not a necessary reality? The argument isn’t that because the first cause is causally potent than therefore it’s God, rather it’s that God is the necessary and sufficient cause given the contingency of the cosmos. And the reason God would possess those 3 omni’s as great making properties is because if it’s greater to have such properties then God has them; they're greater to have, so God has them. Con would have to show that such properties aren't great. But the cosmological argument only establishes a necessary personal ultramundane being. The nature of such a being establishes the omni's.

The scientifically naive claim that that the singularity is the cause of the universe fails to understand that the singularity is a mathematical idealization where it's used to make sense to speak of all geodesics becoming nil since any 2 points of distance equals 0 at t=0, it marks the absolute origin of the cosmos. It’s not some preexisting physical state that later exploded.

Now there’s several reasons why the cause is personal. First a scientific explanation of the first cause won’t do, since all matter, space, time and energy came into existence, and so the cosmos’ birth can’t be explained in terms of physics, but rather personal explanations.

Second since time itself began, if the cause is sufficient to produce the effect, then why isn't the effect co-eternal with the cause? The only plausible explanation is agent causation in terms of volition. Here Con mistakes God’s being causally prior with being temporally prior to the cosmos.

Third, the cosmos includes embodied moral agents, why is it the case that this cosmos came into being from an impersonal cause?

Fourth, the cause of the cosmos is ultramundane and necessary, but the only things which are ultramundane and necessary are abstract concepts or a mind. But abstractions can't cause anything, so we're left with a mind.

II. Con affirms that “God is indeed a supreme being” and so he should then affirm that God exists in some possible world. But since God, as a supreme being would be greater than anyother being in that world, and since "greater than" is asymmetric, then God exists.

And the reason I gave that a necessary being explains all reality is based on temporal contingency. "If only a finite amount of things have existed to date for a finite period of time, then not only are such things contingent, but then there was a state when nothing existed. But if there was such a state, then nothing would presently exists, which is absurd.”

Con then asserts that morality depends on physics. But it makes no sense to reduce morality to physics or regard physics as a sufficient explanation of it. It’s notoriously difficult to get an ought from an is, and norms of physics and rationality are norms for what is. Furthermore physics is descriptive whereas rationality and morality are prescriptive, why then reduce prescriptions to a descriptive discipline? Indeed if the laws of physics were different, would it then be ok to rape? Would 2+2=5?

Why Theism is Less Probable?

III. Con attempts to reason that atheism is more probable, but by reasoning, he disconfirms his position in the process. For if atheism is true, then some of the fundamental causes of existence is not mentalistic, but materialistic. Con must first answer why it’s more probable that reason itself should emerge if some of the fundamental causes of the universe are not more like a mind?

Ceteris paribus, worldviews which render it improbable that reason should emerge should be rejected in favor of worldviews according to which it is not improbable. And since materialistic views, like atheism, render it improbable that reason should emerge, then we’ve reason to reject atheism in favor of theism. [8]

A. Kierkegaardian Fideism

Con thinks that we should “prove God in his entirety” in order to know that he exists. But I've already said certitude isn't necessary. Insofar as we can gradually discover God and his properties through either reason or experience of him, then that does nothing to show a belief based on such discoveries is irrational. Con’s misunderstanding of this shines through here,

“God already has an infinite number of characteristics, and we cannot prove there is a spiritual force which has them all.”

Even if it were true that God has an infinite number of characteristics, why would it matter that since we can’t prove them all, then therefore God probably can’t be known? Indeed Con is claiming that nothing about God is known, but at least we know that, so his position is self-refuting. But in fact God's characteristics are qualitatively infinite in the sense that he's all good, not that he has an infinite set of quantitative goodness. That's silly.

I invite Con to show us which deities successfully parody God in the sense that he’s a necessarily existing reality, who has at minimum those three omni's. And all the denominations of Christianity differ over things like hymns and how the sacraments should be taken and free will, they don’t differ over God and his properties, so Con’s bringing up irrelevancies here.

This argument fails for three reasons then. First it's too hasty because it discounts the project of natural theology. Kierkegaard lived in a culture who placed reason above faith, and so it comes to no surprise that his attack on the cold-hearted rationalized Christians would be an attack of knowing God through reason alone. Kierkegaard attempted to show the cold Christians in his time that a leap of faith in God is more important that what they had thought. He failed to properly characterize faith as an experience of God and the reasons to vindicate those experiences against potential defeaters.

Second, the argument is self defeating. If God's properties are unexplainable, how then can Con explain to us something about those properties? Namely that they're so immense and complex and that the normal realm can't apprehend it?

Third, this argument is a strawman, it attacks the proper epistemological foundation of how one knows theism to be true instead of the truth of theism itself. Kierkegaard attacked theological rationalism (today; evidentialism), which states that belief in theism must be based on reason and evidence. But theism for folks is based on a basic belief as an inner witness of the Holy Spirit, which isn’t grounded on arguments. Nevertheless showing theism to be true by way of argument can't be dismissed either, since in this very debate Con is attempting to show that theism is false! Many times we’re shown something to be true and assent to it by way of argument. Then later our knowledge becomes more foundational once we experience that thing. So this objection does nothing to undercut a case for showing theism to be true. It merely questions how we know it.

B. Falsificationism

Even if it were true that theism was unfalsifiable that wouldn't matter so much because falsifiability isn't the only method for gaining knowledge. There's also positive justification for a position that may itself be true, yet unfalsifiable! (Justificationism)

But in fact God is falsifiable! One might prove a God as incoherent or evil could disprove God, etc. Indeed how else could Con claim that evil defeats theism, or that Christianity is false if it were impossible to disconfirm theism?

C. 1000 Qualifications?

When it’s said that God loves us, that’s not meant to be taken as an argument or proof. It’s an “in house” reminder to folks who are already theists that God cares for us even in the hard times.

D. Evil

Note what Con is attempting to disprove here, an all knower and all good being. Such a being, if it exists, would have a morally sufficient reason for instances of evil that he permits to happen, regardless if we, partial knowers, fail to know it. Con then must show that God would have no such reason for evils, and that we partial knowers can know about them in principle. Huge BOP which hasn’t even begun to be addressed!

Partial knowers have a duty to act within their moral purview. But a partial knower’s moral purview isn’t an All knower’s moral purview (Con has to show it is), nor is God under any obligation, rather he would act consistently with his all good nature. Con would have to also show that God doesn’t have a morally sufficient reason to keep from revealing advanced tech to humans. But what if iron age men had tech comparable to nuclear energy?

Leave that aside however, Con has to show that God and evils are logically incompatible in the first place. I'm not so sure they are, for if we suppose that a divine resolution of non-interference (with exceptions) is essential to the nature of man or that our essence is such that it requires a binding resolution for God not to intervene on every instance of evil (post-fall) which isn't relevant to his plan of ultimate redemption, then such a resolution can't logically count against the claim that God loves his creation. For whatever is necessary to bring about my existence can't count as morally wrong. Before I exist, God can't be said to have a duty to me. [9]

Secondly, for God and evil to be incompatible it must be possible for any being to know the moral baseline from which God must not cross if he is to fulfill both his plan for humanity and to not allow his creatures to suffer gratuitously. Since God can't know what's impossible to know, then there is no incompatibility between God's knowledge and love, and the evil he permits if it’s impossible to know this baseline. [10]

E. (Objections specifically to Christianity are irrelevant to the general debate about theism)


8. Victor Reppert, 2003, p 96





The Cosmological Argument

Firstly, is a singularity impossible? I can’t go much into depth here, because my opponent’s argument rests on a simple misunderstanding of the singularity: it is “naïve” in the sense that it is the realist understanding of the Big Bang theory that adheres to the laws of thermodynamics. The Big Bang theory states the world expanded from a single point where t=0. Matter must still have existed, due to the conservation principle stating that matter cannot be created nor destroyed. This was affirmed by Hawking and Penrose in their magnum opus on the subject, stating “a joint paper by Penrose and myself [Hawking] in 1970, which at last proved that there must have been a big bang singularity provided only that general relativity was correct”[1]. Apart from this actual difficulty, the rest is awkwardly used jargon. Furthermore, even if it something without physical properties, does this mean it does not exist, as my opponent implies? Most will agree that numbers and morals are actually existent, despite the fact that they do not have dimensions. Moreover, God, who lacks physical existence (being “transcendent” or not limited by mere physicality) is supposed to exist according to my opponent. “Why is it possible for a being of no dimensions or duration [God] to obtain ontological existence, yet an object possessing these properties [a singularity] is merely a mathematical idealization?”[2]

Secondly, does co-existence at causal events cause problems? Yes, as no event has ever been demonstrated to be causally co-existent. This holds the same problem as an event causing an effect in the past: it is nonsensical. If God created the universe at t=0 (t refers to time, and t=0 refers to the moment of time to which there was not a previous moment), and there was no time prior to t=0, then both God began to exist in the weak sense of the word at t=0, and the universe began to exist at t=0. Both the universe and God are eternal! Indeed, “It seems that regardless of whether a mechanical set of conditions or God caused the universe outside of time, the universe 'always existed', since there is no time at which it did not exist.”2

Both the third and fourth rebuttal (regarding morality existing and minds being the only causal effect) are both arguing from ignorance. The moral response is obvious: there’s no reason why the universe could not be caused by an impersonal cause, any more than it being caused by a personal one. There’s no reason either way. The fourth case is just littered with question-begging. Why is the cause of the universe ultramundane (which isn’t a word, nor has even been defined at this point, so I can hardly argue against a non-statement)? Why is it necessary? Why are minds necessary? Why is it that only minds and concepts are necessary? Why are concepts necessary? It’s a series of empty claims with no justification.

The Ontological Argument

No necessary beings exist, as existence is by definition a contingent thing, as empirically we can verify there is no reason why anyone must have existed. As both Hume and Kant demonstrated, necessary existence is a contradiction in terms. It requires there to be no other way for existence to function. “There is no being whose non-existence implies a contradiction”[3], and God’s inexistence is not contradictory. Moreover, as Gaunilo demonstrated, the fact that something is the greatest you can imagine does not mean it exists in reality: I can imagine an Island which no greater island can be conceived. That island does not necessarily exist, though, no matter how much I cross my fingers. It only exists in concept: which is where God also exists. Finally, the parodies demonstrate the ontological argument’s incoherence with reality. Firstly as Gasking points out, a deity is more amazing the larger its handicap. Inexistence, being the greatest handicap therefore, is a property God must have: surely a being which does not exist creating the universe is most astounding indeed! Secondly, if a deity existed which was greater than can be conceived, it would have surely intervened in the universe and surely created a better universe! Possibly one where instead of being made of flesh, we were made of solid metal, with ten inch fingers and perfect memory. Again, the ontological argument relies on the failure of the problem of evil and similar cases to be sound.

The Moral Argument

Firstly, my morality doesn’t rest on physics, this is a blatant strawman. Secondly, a prescriptive moral system (as opposed to descriptive) is non-cognitive and not objective, depending on those who formulate the prescriptions (in other words, all agents) and are not “right” or “wrong”. If I say “Killing is wrong” I express not a proposition, but a command: I am saying “Don’t kill”, rather than stating an objective truth. This argument lacks even a remotely true premise.

Arguments Against God


My opponent puts two criticisms towards my Kierkegaardian case (which is not Fideism, so I’d ask my opponent not to reference it as something which is ludicrously false). Firstly, he invites me to show which “deities successfully parody God in the sense that he’s a necessarily existing reality, who has at minimum those three omni's”. Well, other than the non-denominational God, there is Allah (not Trinitarian, many prophets), Vishnu (one of many Gods), Ahura Mazda (one prophet). The Calvinist God moreover is vastly different to the Catholic God, which is further different from the Gnostic God, who is still more different from the Cathar God. These Gods disagree on trinitarianism, God’s intervention in the world, and even gender. Secondly, he claims my Kierkegaard case is self-defeating, for I claim properties of God. Yet I do precisely do not do this: my opponent does. Our complete ignorance of God forces us into the niche of atheism called “ignosticism”, or the rejection of God not as false but as a completely meaningless concept. Thus, theism is surely false on this ground.

My case of falsification here is important, for I want to refer to it for my argument from evil.


Consider firstly that my opponent’s response is God works in mysterious ways: “Such a being, if it exists, would have a morally sufficient reason for instances of evil that he permits to happen, regardless if we, partial knowers, fail to know it.” In short, I as a merely rational thinking person cannot comprehend how God acts morally. Is this not a defence of every action? When I explain to the theist judge how I shot the Prime Minister, can I defend myself by saying “I have morally sufficient reason, but you as a partial knower, fail to know it”? Such a response is just claiming ignorance as a shield. I hoped we discarded this defence of despotism back in the Enlightenment era alongside Divine Right and slavery. Again, this argument is unfalsifiable: any event that occurs in the world, or potentially occurs, is the best possible thing for God to allow by this model.

My argument here however is evidential. As my opponent keeps stating, we are arguing about probability, not certitude. So ask yourself this: when 180,000 small innocent children die every year of malaria in Africa alone[4], are we to believe this is for the greater good, the great moral plan that is in store for us, and our benevolent dictator knows what is best? Or that in fact we do not have such a deity ruling over us to defer responsibility to.

The ignorance defence of God is not sound. Consider the case of a woman about to be raped. "Look, there's really no point in my trying to explain the details to you," said the fifth officer, who we had nicknamed 'Brainiac' because he had an encyclopedic knowledge of literally everything and an IQ way off the charts. "There's an excellent reason for why I did not intervene, but it's just way too complicated for you to understand, so I'm not even going to bother trying. I mean, you admit you are nowhere near as knowledgeable as I am, so what right do you have to judge? Just so there's no misunderstanding, though, let me point out that no one could care about Ms. K. more than I did, and that I am, in fact, a very good person. That settles that."[5]

With my case firmly restated, I pass over to my opponent for his next round. Thank you.

[1] Hawking, A Brief History of Time

[2] Scorzo, A Discussion of the Kalam Argument

[3] Hume, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion

[4] Singer, The life you can save

[5] Vuletic, The Tale of Twelve Officers

Debate Round No. 3


Why Theism is More Probable


Ultramundanity & Necessity

Ultramundane means “outside the sphere of physical existence.” [11] So the first cause without the cosmos, is spaceless and timeless, beginningless, changeless, necessary, uncaused, and enormously powerful; since the first cause of all causes is by definition transcendent from its effect.

I gave 3 reasons for the causes necessity but Con only deals with the third, that since God’s property of “maximal greatness” is asymmetric, then such a being would be necessary if he’s possible.


The initial singularity shouldn’t be construed in realist terms since there is no physical state in which 0 is the distance between any two spatio-temporal points. And this is independent of thermodynamic laws or any early description of the cosmos. Also the Borde-Guth-Vilanken theorem says that any space-time reality which is in a state of inflation must have came to be. [12]

A physical object existing for no time and having no extension or spatial volume is not a physical object at all, but rather a mathematical conceptualization. But Con thinks the singularity existed abstractly or necessarily; but how? It isn't eternal in the past: it has a beginning, it's ephemeral and impermanent (vanishingly so) it ceases to exist as soon as it comes into being. Plus the conservation principle of matter only applies to an isolated system, it doesn’t speak to transcendent causes. And Con conveniently forgot to finish the Hawking quote,

“... having changed my mind, I am now trying to convince other physicists that there was in fact no singularity at the beginning of the universe...” (p. 50)

But even if it were true that the singularity is an actual event, fine! God’s creating the universe was then coincident with the singularity at the boundary of spacetime, and by creating the contingent singularity God created the cosmos. Con just pushes the problem back one. [13]

Why The Cause is Personal

First, Con fails to address how the nature of personal v scientific explanations regarding the cosmic origin implies that the cause is personal. Extend Argument.

Second, if the cosmic cause is timeless and so exists permanently, agent causation is the only explanation for why the effect isn’t also timeless and permanent. Just because God was in a timeless state without creation doesn’t imply that at the instance that he created time that both the universe and God are eternal in the same sense. The contingent cosmos didn’t exist in a transcendent timeless state like God; whose free act of creation would be simultaneous with the cosmic origin. Thus God enters into time at the moment of undertaking in his creation; making him causally prior to the big bang, not temporally prior as Con mistakes.

Third, in addressing how cosmic inclusion of embodied moral agents implies that the cause is not impersonal, Con claims that this is arguing from ignorance. But it’s arguing from what we do know! That given a non-sentient cause, the cosmos could have existed in many different ways, all of which don’t include the possibility of embodied moral agents. Yet what do we get but a cosmos with fine-tuning parameters resulting in the regularity and reliability of that regularity that science demands for intentional action. We get a cosmos in which our cognitive faculties are adequated to this particular reality, this disconfirms non-sentient creation over what theists have always affirmed, that God is mindful of man. PCW Davies therefore concludes that,

"the existence of mind in some organism on some planet in the universe is surely a fact of fundamental significance. Through conscious beings the universe has generated self-awareness. This can be no trivial detail, no minor byproduct of mindless, purposeless forces. We are truly meant to be here.” [14]

Fourth, the nature of the first cause as ultramundane and necessary implies a personal cause since abstract concepts can’t cause anything. Concepts like 2+2=4 are necessary because it’s impossible for it to be 5. But since such necessary concepts are causally impotent, if they exist, then the cause isn’t a concept, but a necessary mind with those concepts. This isn’t at all question begging, the argument takes the form of a disjunctive syllogism from which a reason is given against one of the disjuncts that’s distinct from its conclusion, that necessary abstracta can’t cause anything, so we’re left with a necessary mind.

II. Con repeats that existence is a contingent thing while appealing to instances of existing contingent things, while forgetting necessary existence, which is a non-contradictory property. Just because 2+2 can never be 5, doesn’t imply it’s incoherent.

Con’s maximally great island is indeed logically incoherent though, since there could always be a better island, plus better islands are a subjective matter. Anselm anticipated such objections long before Hume and Kant in his proslogion. The concept of God however differs crucially from such parodies; for the properties comprising maximal excellence possess intrinsic maximum values. Whereas things like islands don’t possess such values. Failed parody.

Now how is a handicap a great making property? How is inexistence itself a great anything? Gasking’s word-play is meaningless here. Inexistence is no more a property than contingent existence.

Also, the burden is on Con to show that there could even be a “better universe.” (Fallacy of false precision) All he does is ask about metal skin and perfect memory, this is just a ridiculous reply. Humans have great potential in self-creation which necessarily involves certain vulnerabilities that are worth the price, all things considered (sex with metal skin?). We even make for ourselves armor, and computers with memory.

Con begs the question on behalf of atheistic moral Platonism when he asserts that a prescriptive moral system is non-cognitive but then begs the question of nihilism when he asserts morals are not objective. On theism, moral values like kindness are objectively good and the moral duty to be kind issues forth from a competent authority; which are reflections from a maximally kind being for example. Anyhow, such morals were claims by Con to be dependent upon physical humans, but that doesn’t at all seem to be the case, there are possible worlds in which humans don’t exist and yet kindness is still objectively good. Nor has Con dealt adequately with the prescriptive-descriptive distinction.

Why Theism is Less Probable?

III. Con never responds to the argument from reason which undercuts his whole case. Extend Argument

A. Kierkegaardian Fideism

Con drops the point about certitude as a requirement for knowledge yet brings up more irrelevancies: Allah, Vishnu, Ahura Mazda, trinitarianism, God’s intervention, and gender are not relevant to whether a maximally great being exists.

Recall that Kierkegaardian Fideism is too hasty, self-defeating and a strawman anyhow.

Too hasty: Con says it’s ludicrously false that Kierkegaard argued for Fideism. Yet the term is most commonly associated with Kierkegaard, who argued that “If I am able to apprehend God objectively, I do not have faith; but because I cannot do this, I must have faith. If I want to keep myself in faith, I must continually see to it that I hold fast the objective uncertainty, see to it that in the objective uncertainty I am ‘out on 70,000 fathoms of water’ and still have faith” (1846, 204). [15]

Self-defeat: Con says that our ‘complete ignorance’ of God doesn’t imply he’s a false concept, but a meaningless one. But how could God be meaningless if we know we’re ignorant of him? And how could theism be false if it has no content? But then Con says that, theism is surely false on the meaninglessness ground. So theism is not false, but it is, and it’s meaningless to talk about it? This is confused.

Theism clearly has content since we’re debating it, and so arguments leveled at it like from evil are meaningful to speak of. Anyhow, I’ve clearly defined God, what in that definition is meaningless?

Strawman: Con drops this point. Kierkegaard’s case is in response to evidentialism, not foundationalism, which is compatible. Extend Argument

B. Falsificationism

Con failed to reply to why Falsifiability isn’t essential to knowing or showing theism’s truth. Extend arguments.

I know that Con wants to reference falsifiability in light of his problem of evil, but since the world is morally ambiguous in its moral happenings, no theologian argues that God exists from the moral good in the world. Likewise Con can’t argue that God doesn’t exist from the moral evil, for it’s an argument from ignorance to state that God has no morally sufficient reason for permitting some instance of suffering given that we’re limited in time and space. But despite this fact, there’s still a justified theism (see above) even if it’s not falsifiable, which it is anyway, at least in principle.

C. 1000 Qualifications? - Extend arguments

D. Evil

Con never attempts to show that God would have no morally sufficient reason for those evils. Nor does he attempt to show that partial knowers can know about them in principle or that a partial knower’s moral purview is identical to an all knower’s. This isn’t an appeal to mystery, this is a charge of Con arguing from ignorance! He hasn’t dealt with this charge. Rather he continues to presuppose what he ought to first prove. But yet the bulk of my case doesn’t even rest on this skeptical theism! Rather I gave two arguments for the compatibility of pointless evil and theism. The resolution argument and moral baseline argument. So Con never responded to show that God and evils are logically incompatible in the first place, how then can evil count as evidence?





14. Davies, The Mind of God, p 306



The Improbability of Theism

The Singularity and the Cosmological Argument

My opponent’s case against the singularity has been reduced to the BGV theorem, which he claims “says that any space-time reality which is in a state of inflation must have came to be”. This is just false. The BGV theorem claims in fact: “Thus inflationary models require physics other than inflation to describe the past boundary of the inflating region of spacetime.”[1]. In other words, it shows simply that the Big Bang Theory, without an explanation of the ‘past boundary’ (the beginning of time), “is not sufficient to provide a complete description of the Universe”1. The singularity is the explanation of the past boundary.

Moreover, I ignored the Hawking quote because it was redundant to my case: but of course, my opponent can also argue against Hawking’s belief that there was no beginning to the universe, if he so wishes. It does not change the fact that singularities are not mathematical abstracts but actual physical things. What my opponent cannot do, however, is concede a simultaneous creation, without debate. Are we really going to assume that, contrary to reason and intuition, a cause does not have to precede the effect? Craig states the causation principle is “philosophically unobjectionable”, yet my opponent must deny it in order to make his case work. I’d urge him to pick up this point he dropped regarding simultaneous causation, instead of brushing it under the carpet. Causation requires the cause to be temporally prior to the event, yet my opponent circumvents this basic law to justify his hypothesis.

Now, whether the cause is personal or not my opponent has to prove, not I. To simply assume it is personal is nonsensical. As I’ve already stated, the universe’s existence has been easily explained in scientific causes: the Big Bang Theory being one among many (The Many Worlds hypothesis, for example, or Oscillating Universe).

Secondly, agent causation gives no justification for a timeless cause: this just begs the question of “why so?” What is it the agent can do, that an object cannot? Moreover, why is it that a non-sentient cause can do things in any other way? In my experience, sentient beings like animals act in many more differing ways than gravity. Similar to the moral agent case, and despite my opponent’s platitudes to dissuade the rebuttal, there is no reason to suppose a sentient creator of the universe.

Moreover, my opponent’s fourth point brings up an interesting point: name a non-physical cause. None come to mind. Just like numbers, they are useful tools for analysis, but are not real like, say, your computer, or your eyes. Yet God is not physical – he does not take up space nor is in time. Therefore, we’re left with something in the same category as numbers: an abstract. By contrast, the singularity, being an object which takes up space and acts within time (being the first cause at t=0), is neither a mind nor an abstract, yet still the most viable explanation for the universe.

The Ontological Argument

My opponent fails to give any examples of necessary existent beings (apart from his God-exception), revealing Hume is correct that existence is not a property. 2 for example does not exist like my eyes exist, yet again God is closer to the abstract than anything physical. Moreover, any mathematician will tell you that “2+2=5” isby definition not just logically incoherent but inconsistent[2].

Second, my opponent claims God’s greatness has maximum values, yet islands do not. I say: says who? Anselm’s objection was discarded quickest by Aquinas, another Christian, by pointing out that God is too great to be conceived, and has no limits. Maimonides before him said the same thing. This again begs the question why the excellence of the island is distinct from the excellence of a deity.

Finally, the idea that there could be a better universe is intuitively obvious. My opponent is in essence claiming the universe is perfect: no improvement can be made. For if a single child did not have to suffer so badly from malaria, the universe would be a worse place. This is absurd, if not just abhorrent.

The Moral Argument

Firstly, my opponent has not shown morality exists. Secondly, he has not shown that the commands from an authority count as morality, and not simply despotism in practice. Thirdly and finally, I never stated morality is not objective, I stated his prescriptivism from an authority is de dicto not objective. My opponent needed to show atheism leading to moral nihilism, and not simply assert it without foundation.

The Case Against God


First, I never stated Kierkegaard was not fideist: I stated my case is a Kierkegaardian one – it comes from an argument made by Kierkegaard that God cannot be proved. The contingency argument is Thomist, yet I’d be wrong to assume my opponent is Catholic as a result. The “Too Hasty” case seems to just quote how Kierkegaard believed arguments cannot prove God, and his strawman response repeats the fact. While it is interesting to note this due to how my opponent is using evidentialist apologetics, the only real criticism is the self-defeating claim: that God is meaningless means God cannot be inexistent. Yet, what else can we conclude? My opponent even claimed “Inexistence is no more a property than contingent existence”, implying inexistence is not a property. A meaningless statement certainly cannot be true, so how can this argument leave room for God’s existence?

I want to move my opponent’s rebuttal of falsification mostly into evil, where it is more appropriate, but I want to refer to two key things first. Firstly, my opponent stated God’s love is “It’s an “in house” reminder to folks who are already theists that God cares for us even in the hard times.” I’ll quote Flew’s response:

“We are reassured. But then we see a child dying of inoperable cancer of the throat. His earthly father is driven frantic in his efforts to help, but his Heavenly Father reveals no obvious sign of concern. Some qualification is made — God's love is "not merely human love" or it is "an inscrutable love," perhaps — and we realize that such suffering are quite compatible with the truth of the assertion that "God loves us as a father (but of course…)." We are reassured again. But then perhaps we ask: what is this assurance of God's (appropriately qualified) love worth, what is this apparent guarantee really a guarantee against? Just what would have to happen not merely (morally and wrongly) to tempt but also (logically and rightly) to entitle us to say "God does not love us" or even "God does not exist"? I therefore put to the succeeding symposiasts the simple central questions, "What would have to occur or to have occurred to constitute for you a disproof of the love of, or the existence of, God?"”[3]


My opponent seems to complicate my case by adding in segments he has surely heard from others who propose it. My case is simple. Consider the Boxing Day Tsunami: hundreds of thousands of people died suffering painful horrible deaths. Is it more reasonable that an infinitely powerful being existed who could stop the act, and "There's an excellent reason for why [he] did not intervene, but it's just way too complicated for you to understand”[4], or that there is not an omnibenevolent, omnipotent deity. The moral maxim of “prevent evil” is universally binding, and so we must conclude that if evil occurred under the watch of a being which could stop the evil, that person is certainly not good. Just as we’d condemn an armed man watching a rape and not attempt to stop it, we can condemn any omnipotent deity for doing the same thing a million fold.

Therefore, the question only is: has an evil act taken place? If my opponent wishes to argue so, then I shall be very interested in the gymnastics. A “threshold” of evil of course is nonsense: if an act is morally better to have occurred than not, then it is a morally good act. Evil, necessarily, requires the lack of good, so all evil is an infringement on benevolence, so any evil is incompatible with omnibenevolence. The idea that God has a plan goes along the same lines: what is more likely? God has a plan too complex for us to understand, or that the rape of children and painful death of hundreds of thousands of innocent people is wrong? And my opponent’s final theodicy was “it’s impossible to know this [moral] baseline”. Again, is it more likely that God has a baseline too complex for us to understand to justify evil, or that arbitrary luck depends on whether someone is brought up in a rich family in Sweden or a child soldier in Sudan?

I want to also revisit my argument from technology. Think: the greatest luxuries of the aristocracy in the 19th century pales in comparison to the luxuries of the working class today. The kings in the 10th century would be jealous even of the lives of the average person in Bosnia or Botswana. When God created the world, surely life would be better if it started, say, last Wednesday, instead of so many thousands of years ago, with so many tormented, suffering lives? This is not, to be clear, a case from ignorance: I put it that the average life today, by any meaningful standard, is objectively better than hundreds of years ago. Any right-minded creator would not force humanity through such suffering for some indeterminate end. Unless the creator, simply put, does not exist.

I pass over to my opponent for his final input, which ought to be a short summary of the debate. Thank you.

[4] Vuletic, The Tale of Twelve Officers

Debate Round No. 4


Agathon forfeited this round.


It is very unfortunate my opponent has not had enough time to finish the debate, as it was very rigorous and enjoyable. In common standards of the site, voters ought to take the debate into account normally, with exception to of course the conduct point. With that in mind, I end this great debate, and look forward to seeing the results and opinions of the readers. Thank you.
Debate Round No. 5
38 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Stephen_Hawkins 5 years ago
John, one of the findings of the work (it was a piece of experimental philosophy) is that philosophers also tend to exaggerate the number of people in contention over an issue (completely the opposite with, for example, history I think was given). So while something like 70% again were materialist monists, the physicalists generally saw themselves as a minority (I cannot remember the exact figure, but it was teens or twenties). Same with God.

When some philosophers (generally the religious in this case, or any dogmatic side like the reductionists) claim to have solved the issue immemorable, then it tends to have the effect that the opposition seems larger than it is. God isn't actually that popular.
Posted by Sagey 5 years ago
We don't need to prove God doesn't exist.
The absence of God is almost strikingly obvious to most, which is why there is a constant stream of individual drifting away from belief in God.
Unless God provides a sign that it still exists, the movement towards Atheism is likely to continue, unabated.
Those who Irrationally cling to God's robe tail will become considered by society as more and more Irrational and silly, as the general population move to agnosticism and Atheism.
It's caused by education and the Rationalization of the population.
The more Rational people become, the less likely they will cling to Irrational concepts like religion.
It's just how things are and will likely be in the future.
Religion (God) is losing, God's absence is becoming obvious to many and maybe, some day, All.
It's called PROGRESS!
Posted by johnlubba 5 years ago
No worries Steven, I understand some things can only be accessed through membership, I took a look at the link and it wasn't clear on how to get the stats, but never the less, I do not accept that all or even a majority of philosophers have proven God definitely doesn't exist, This question has been an open case since time immemorial and if it was settled it would be worldwide news, and I don't believe it is, in fact I believe the debate is still very much alive, and now more than ever perhaps.

I believe God exists, but I accept this as my faith, and those who claim he doesn't exist, have nothing but faith also. I stick by my claim that you can not prove God doesn't exist. even with a majority vote of philosophers.
Posted by Sagey 5 years ago
Well Philosophy is mostly only Rational conjecture.
It's a nice thinking exercise, but often has nothing to do with nor affect on reality.
Though I did find philosophy an interesting subject, it's just about trying to think outside the box.
But not as far out of the box as Theology.
On the other hand Theology is completely IRRATIONAL conjecture,
Mostly based on lies: That's why over here we call theology Pondering Porkies.
And Religious Apologists (who create more lies) Porky Producers.
But, both are only Conjecture, not constructively examining reality.
That's the job of Science.
Posted by Stephen_Hawkins 5 years ago
John, it's TPM, 2013, 3rd quarter (The most recent), page 8, "What philosophers believe". I'm sorry but I don't have an electronic copy, as I have to buy my issues in hard form.

That is the only online version that is free that I can find. I can't help you more than that, except point out this is a good enough citation for anyone with university library access to be able to find the section.
Posted by Rational_Thinker9119 5 years ago
*like a

Just ignore science and claim alternative motives...
Posted by Rational_Thinker9119 5 years ago
Would you like me to site the peer-reviewed papers? Or are they just all "lying for money" hhaha You sound a creationist.
Posted by Rational_Thinker9119 5 years ago
So, you just wand-wave away confirmed experiments in science because you don't like the conclusion Stephen? That sounds pretty lame bro... Retro-causality has been confirmed.
Posted by johnlubba 5 years ago
I could contest that survey, ask for sources for one, and also state that it doesn't include all philosophers worldwide, probable only in Europe, so the results can be bias, Also a majority vote is not enough, it's not proof. Just buy declaring God doesn't exist even through philosophy is not actuall evidence that God doesn't exist, only an argument.

I'm sorry I replied, I just couldn't help myself. But has God been proven not to exist. certainly and absolutely not.
Posted by Sagey 5 years ago
Yes Stephen, Quantum Mechanics is like Theology.
The rules are vague, unproven.
You can basically make it state anything you want others to believe.
Quantum Mechanics is open to conjecture because there is too little empirical data to disprove anything.
4 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Vote Placed by Rational_Thinker9119 5 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Agathon didn't have any good rebuttals to the PoE, and Con successfully knocked down the important arguments from Pro. Take the Kalam for example, Con pointed out that even with a finite past, the universe has still always existed by definition. The universe has never been out of being, so claiming it came into being would be a misnomer. While I agree with much of what Stephen_Hawkins said, he ultimately won this debate.
Vote Placed by johnlubba 5 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Haven't read the debate but a last round forfeit should lose point for arguments as well as conduct, but as I haven't read the debate I will only award a conduct point as their is a request from Steven to vote on the content apart from the conduct point.
Vote Placed by Projectid 5 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Conduct to Con because Pro forfeited a round. Arguments go to Con because they were based on scientific evidence and were more convincing.
Vote Placed by johnnyvbassist 5 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: The thesis was set, and the Pro succeeded. Con ranted on exceptions but did not present and evidence for no God, but rather a lack of God. Rather then spending his time on the problems with God, he should have spent more time on the logical reason for atheism.