Common Objections against God: A Cursory Analysis

Introduction

The existence of opposing views in rational beings, as us, is inevitable given the complexity of the nature in which we live in. Thus, debates discussion and reasoning regarding the difference has been an integral part of human history. Islam, as a religion, promotes the concept of rational discussion and dialogue between different groups who have opposing views to us. The Quran in Surah Nahl (Chapter 16) says:

 “Invite to the way of your Lord with wisdom and good instruction and argue with them in a way that is best. Indeed, your Lord is most knowing of who has strayed from His way, and He is most knowing of who is [rightly] guided.” (16:125)

Not to mention, there are multiple instances in Prophet’s(saw) life and the life of Sahabas (companion of the prophet), where they engaged in discussion and discourse and reasoned with the interlocutor to spread the message of Islam. Not to mention, we see in the history of Islam our scholars actively arguing against different worldviews that are at loggerhead with Islam. In the past the biggest clash both intellectually and in physical combat with Muslims was with Christians given their might in both scholarship and empire. With the advent of 20th-century atheism as a worldview began to flourish like no other time. The rise of communism in USSR, a major world power, along with the separation of church and state in the west created a fertile ground for atheism as a movement.

Fast forward to 21st-century atheism is a form of alternate cool lifestyle, if you claim you are an atheist or agnostic it is as if your IQ goes 20 points higher. It has the added effect of being rebellious to a system that somehow people still think is still in control and the feel that they are thinking freely and for themselves while parroting the very mantra ‘show me where is God’ in many different ways. The trendy atheist of today follows an aberration of a recent philosophical school called Verificationism or Logical Positivism. However, their allegiance to that movement is somewhat contentious as they follow a rather sophomoric version of it. They are usually spearheaded by people who have contempt for the field of theology and barely spent any time taking the contention by religious scholars seriously. These people would rather represent and argue against a cartoon version of the position held by theologians rather than address the central and core issues of theism.  As the book “There is A God” notes [1]:

“The chief target of these books (books from Sam Harris Dawkins and others) is, without question, organized religion of any kind, time, or place. Paradoxically the books themselves read like fundamentalist sermons… In the first place, they refuse to engage the real issues involved in the question of God’s existence.”

(words in parenthesis in the quote are mine to elucidate the context)

“It would be fair to say that the “new atheism” is nothing less than a regression to the logical positivist philosophy that was renounced by even its most ardent proponents. The positivists were never so naive as to suggest that God could be a scientific hypothesis- they declared the concept of God to be meaningless precisely because it was not a scientific hypothesis”

This write-up is aimed at some of the most ludicrous ‘arguments’ against theism by the new atheist camp. The list isn’t exhaustive and thus in future, if there is an incentive a follow up will follow!

Argument 1: Yeah, I don’t believe in God, just like I don’t believe in Santa.

Arguments as such are not given in argument format and at best what can be exhumed from this vitriol is that God is akin to beings like Santa and thus a rejection of God has similar intellectual worth as rejecting Santa. The argument, if it can be called such, is highly flawed. Let’s just ask, if there was evidence for Santa would the atheist disbelieve in it because of their worldview? I would like to think they are a bit more honest than that. Thus, the core issue itself is the availability of evidence. So, let’s ask ourselves is there any evidence that can be given to Santa or tooth fairy? I would think the answer is no. So far, we have no positive evidence that can establish Santa or tooth fairy as we conceive of them. One can redefine Santa and tooth fairy as the air around us and claim ‘there, now you believe in Santa too’? But that’s a ridiculous way of arguing. If you redefine Santa or the like to fit an existence that is already proved rationally/empirically then why are you arguing against it in the first place? In the same vein, if you redefine God as a spagetti monster or whatever, you are essentially doing nothing other than reattributing things to make a point.

Are there positive evidences for God? Yes. Gods existence has been discussed debated in many levels of society from very uneducated to the most educated people in the social echelons. We can give a positive argument for God. Accepting those or rejecting those are the privilege of the listeners but to conflate imaginary beings with no evidence with a being whose existence can be argued positively is a ‘facepalm’.

Argument 2: God doesn’t exist because of SCIENCE

This form of reasoning usually takes many forms the common message in it, however, is you cannot use science to prove God, ergo no God. This claim comes with a presupposition that science is the only way to establish the truth and thus any claims that cannot be scientifically assessed isn’t true. This is where present day atheism takes their cue from the logical positivists. However, the position that neo-atheists take is a bit more sophomoric than their intellectual precursors. They take the existence of God as a scientific hypothesis and tries to debunk it using the scientific method. This is highly flawed in many ways, primarily science works in a paradigm that we called methodological naturalism, in that it will seek to actively reroute any claims of supernatural to any form of natural causation and if it’s not possible then reject it as pseudoscience. For example, if any claims of the miracle of past are talked about it will be rejected as a ridiculous story that never happened but followers made up.

So, we can see that a tool that actively avoids any claims of supernatural will not be able to assess the divine and thus arguing that Gods existence is a scientific hypothesis is a circular venture to disprove it. Its almost akin to

Mr. X: let’s measure if there is a sound by using this instrument.

Mr. Y: But what we are trying to measure is in ultrasound range, this instrument can only work in the audible range.

Mr. X: Well if we cant get anything from this meter then it proves there is no sound. Case closed

Even in science, proper tools must be used to detect the right property. We don’t use a thermometer to measure height nor do we use a weighing scale to measure time; despite both the quantity to be measured and the output type of the measuring device is quantitative.  Gods existence is an issue in metaphysics and thus tools of metaphysics should be used to argue about the merit of the belief.

Argument 3: I believe God doesn’t exist it’s a negative belief and so I don’t have to give any evidence to support my claim

This is a very popular line of reasoning that many neo-atheists take. Essentially the claim is only positive claims can be supported by evidence or has the onus to give evidence as (according to this camp) negative cannot be proven. This is a very shallow and bad critique from them mainly because it is very counter-intuitive. Mainly because it is very easy to prove or disprove a negative claim. I can prove my blood is not blue in color despite veins at times seem to be blue/green in color. I can prove Sky has no color despite we see it to be blue in the morning. We can prove that there has been no attempt of humans going to Mars by simply checking the history. It is curious that the atheists who champion science comes up with this kind of reasoning because its common knowledge that scientific endeavor involves works to refute established yet contentious theories. This is because scientific theories come up with the prediction of what will and will not happen. To establish the veracity of a theory both the affirmative and negative claims can be tested. Frankly, in many cases, such tests become necessary to access the weight of the theories predicting capability.

However, some might get a light bulb moment and try to argue ‘but-but you said God isn’t scientific hypothesis so your counter to our proving negative which is empirical proof is not applicable. CHECKMATE’. To their disappointment, it isn’t a mate, not even a check. Philosophers have distinguished propositions based on their nature for quite a long time. Observable or proposition that can be analyzed empirically is called a synthetic proposition while accessing the truth of a proposition by its claim itself i.e. the nature of claim makes it an analytic proposition. Though, Immanuel Kant in His Critique of Pure Reason showed that the issue is not a dichotomy and rather there can be a synergistic nature between the two [2]. The point of this backdrop is one can attempt to prove the claim of God’s non-existence despite the claim being not scientific in nature. For those who didn’t follow the paragraph just muse over this ‘disproving of a negative’, we can prove triangle with 4 sides does not exist!

Argument 4: Who created God!

This is another very common argument thrown at the face of theists. The problem with this argument is to imply God came into existence. The theists posit the following when talking about the law of causality:

‘Anything that comes into existence has a cause’

God never ‘came into existence’ God is fundamentally an eternal being without a beginning or an end. We are not talking about Zeus and Odin or any other mythical figure rather a necessary being that created the whole universe. The concept of necessary being requires a bit more attention and will be delved into a future topic Insha’Allah, but the fact is God according to Muslims is unlike His creation. He is not contingent and is eternal and uncreated by nature, and thus requires no prior cause.

Argument 5: Can God create a Stone he can’t lift!! Gotcha

Nope, you didn’t get me. This problem has been a running gag among many atheists to note and creates a sense that the concept of God is illogical. To be blunt the problem isn’t with the concept of God here rather the question is extremely malformed. To illustrate the issue lets rephrase the question to a more visual example which will aid in the explanation.

‘Can God create a 4-sided triangle’

To begin the answer, omnipotence for theists never included logical impossibilities. If the logical construct dictates triangles are 3 sided, or God is without a beginning, it is not possible for God to create a 4 sided triangle nor another God but that doesn’t make God any less omnipotent. That’s because Omnipotence deals with the logically possible construct. The logically impossible construct is not seen as something rather they are categorized as nothing [3]. Thus, inability to do it is not seen as an inability to do something rather the inability to do a ‘nothing’ and as such the quality of omnipotence is not breached.

Coming back to the triangle example, God can’t create a 4-sided triangle because triangle by definition is 3 sided. In a universe where such is the case creating a 4-sided triangle is impossible because the premise presupposes the triangles property. But for argument sake let’s say God did create somehow a 4-sided triangle, how will we appreciate that? By what qualifier can we judge it given we ourselves don’t view anything 4 sided as a triangle? The problem isn’t much to do with God rather how we put limiter to the issue itself. Similarly, in a universe where God is omnipotent (every conceivable universe) objects such as a rock being not under Gods active command to be lifted contradicts the nature of the universe itself and thus is a logical impossibility. Thus, it can’t be created not come into existence. However, it doesn’t weaken the view of God.

Final words

With the argument no 5 I will draw the curtain for this article. The argument in no way is an exhaustive list of claims made against theists by neo-atheists. On the face of it, some of the ‘arguments’ might seem (to some) as heavy objections, however, in reality, they are very sophomoric and are not seen as major criticism by atheist philosophers themselves. I hope the article catered to the believers who are spammed by regular troll atheists. May Allah keep us steadfast in our adherence to Allah’s commands and fortify us from the mirages of success from worldviews that contradict Islam. Ameen

References

[1] A. Flew and R. A. Varghese, There is a God: How the world’s most notorious atheist changed his mind., New York: Harper Collins, 2007.
[2] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, “The Analytic/Synthetic Distinction,” [Online]. Available: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/analytic-synthetic/#Kan. [Accessed 18 03 2018].
[3] A. i. ʻ. I. A. al-ʻIzz, “Vol-1,” in Sharh al-‘aqidah At-Ṭaḥāwiyyah, Riyad, 2000, pp. 62-63.

 

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