Sunday, December 16, 2007

5 Reasons to Reject Belief in Gods

I offer the following as 5 major reasons to reject belief in gods. They are in order of ascending importance, in my opinion. My goal is not to present a logical proof that gods don't exist, but to give some positive reasons from practical experience why people ought to reject belief. Also, I intend these as applying to all gods, not just the Christian god.

1) Divine silence

If gods were imaginary, then one would expect them not to come around at all. Gods do not intervene in human lives in any objectively detectable way. Usually, the topic of "divine silence" is associated with the Problem of Evil, the issue being why God does not intervene to thwart evil behavior. But no god even drops by to say "hello" in public places. They almost always appear only to private audiences, making their appearances look like private delusions. The point is that gods behave as if they didn't exist. They can only be detected through indirect personal experience, which is how humans communicate with all imaginary beings.

2) God of Gaps

Gods have always been used to explain natural phenomena, but scientific advances have literally stolen their thunder. We now have good non-theistic explanations for natural phenomena such as thunder. Religion often fights tooth and nail to preserve incorrect religious explanations that science has debunked. God always retreats in the face of advancing knowledge. Yet all religions still use gods to explain some phenomena that science has yet to provide answers for, e.g. what reality was like before the "Big Bang". The bad track record that religion has for explaining things should be taken as evidence that religion is unlikely to have any correct explanations.

3) Bad god detection record (failure of revelation)

Humans make phenomenally bad god detectors. They have dreamed up thousands and thousands of gods in their history, and religion exists in all human societies. The problem is that it is not the same religion. Clearly, people are prone to making up false gods and attributing miraculous behavior to them. Moreover, all religions spread from a single geographical location and spread from there to neighboring territories. If there were some objective collection of true gods, or a single true god, then one would expect the same revelations to crop up simultaneously in more than one place. The distribution of religions suggests that they are largely based on human contact and human traditions. Most believers simply believe in the gods that their parents taught them to believe in. If gods truly existed and people were able to detect them, then one would expect that there would be more uniformity of belief in the world. Even within monotheistic religions such as Christianity, there are myriads of competing ideas about what God is like.

4) Argument from Evolution

This is primarily an argument that undermines belief in creator gods such as the Christian god. Until evolution theory was developed by Darwin and others, the apparent design of things in nature seemed one of the best arguments for the existence of gods--as intelligent agencies that designed things in nature. The theory of evolution destroyed that argument, since it was now clear how natural "designs" could have arisen by unintelligent natural selection.

5) Brainless minds

Gods are usually immaterial beings that do not have physical brains. Science has discovered that every mental function that goes into making up the mind is directly linked to physical events in brains. If minds are fully dependent on brains, then it is unlikely that they can survive the death of the brain. Most religions assume that minds are immaterial things that can exist independently of bodies, but we would expect thought not to be so dependent on physical activity in a brain if that were true. Moreover, the evolutionary purpose of brains seems to be primarily as a guidance system for bodies--to help bodies avoid danger. So it is unlikely that minds would even exist but for the existence of bodies and brains. Gods, as spiritual unembodied minds, are therefore unlikely to exist.


You Know Who I Am said...

Welcome to the blogosphere, buddy. :)

Occam said...

At the risk of sounding like a spyware detector, your post contains the following errors:

Argument from speculation. Are you familiar with the "somehow" defense? For any argument that attempts to show that Q is incompatible with an omniscient or omnipotent God, the theist can respond "Q is compatible with God somehow" without providing a reason, because: (a)Omnipotence allows God to resolve any given contradiction *somehow* and (b)Omniscience allows God to know *something* that we don't, so the contradiction must be only an apparent contradiction.

This is an argument for weak atheism, not strong atheism. I am a weak atheist, so I don't dipute this.

This is a dangerous epistemology. I don't think induction can apply to species of beliefs. The premise of this argument is "if a belief of type B has consistently been false in the past, all beliefs of type B will be false in the future". By this same logic, we should discard our current scientific beliefs because our earlier ones were wrong.

Because this argument explicitly attacks a theistic attempt to prove God, it too is an argument for *weak* atheism. I actually like this argument because it forces the fundamentalist believer to either become a moderate or engage in solipsistic speculation ("maybe God planted the fossils...").

"Induction says A, religion says not A, therefore religion is wrong." Seems pretty sound to me.

Good article on the whole.