So why do Progressives pretend there are no rational arguments for the existence of God?
The various arguments in favor of the existence of God and the truth of Christ do not find favor among secular, that is, antichristian philosophers of this generation. However, such arguments are not any more nor less sound and clear as arguments in favor of the existence of the law of cause and effect, the existence of an objective external universe, the existence of a universal standard of morality, the prudence and fairness of the death penalty, the gold standard or any other topic debated and settled by argument.
The fact that such arguments are rarely discussed is not a sign of the alleged enlightenment of this generation. It is not a sign that this generation is too savvy to waste time discussing abstract matters.
Rather, it is a sign that this generation suffers from severe educational retardation, and no longer regards the use of the faculty of reasoning as a proper method to distinguish true from false. Look on any modern talk show. Now they are shout shows.
The intellect of the intellectual class has diminished sharply within the last fifty years.
Next time you come across an argument for or against the existence of God, look and see what standard is being used. Before you pass judgment on the merits of the argument itself, look at the form of the argument, and see whether it is sound. Make sure you understand what the argument is trying to say before you decide whether you personally find it persuasive.
Is the Argument from First Cause, for example, any less reasonable than whatever argument you can provide to defend, for example, a belief in female suffrage, or a belief that quantum mechanics will one day be reconciled with relativity?
Whole books have been written about every nuance of these deep questions for centuries, but in the final analysis, there are four strong philosophical arguments for the existence of God.
The first is the cosmological argument, which proposes that every change of causation must have a first cause which defines the resulting effects. A train car takes its speed from the train car before it, but if the whole train has no first car, if it is a train infinite in length with no engine, there is nothing to give the infinite line of train cars one speed as opposed to another. Why is it going 60 MPH versus 120 mph? The resulting effect in this case is the entire universe; that only cause sufficient to define it would be omnipotent; and this all men know to be God.
The second is a teleological argument. Objects in nature which demonstrate an end-purpose could not exist without a designer who designed them deliberately for that purpose. Objects such an as eyeball or bird’s wing are obviously are meant for sight or flight, and the presence of blind men or ostriches does not obviate the need for an end result to explain what the organ is meant for. The idea of a nondeliberate process serving a deliberate purpose is a contradiction in terms. The idea of a nondeliberate natural process, such as natural selection, creating an organ as a tool that serves a purpose is logically impossible. It is also a category error, because it attributes a human characteristic, purpose, to a nonhuman set of events, natural selection. This category error is called anthropomorphism. Only a supernatural being of sufficient power to create all of nature could design nature; and this all men know to be God.
Please note that this is not an argument for or against speciation via natural selection. This argument is that natural selection, if it is natural (that is, unintentional) cannot logically produce intentional results. To be consistent, the agnostic argument is forced to defend the idea that organs like wings or eyeballs do not demonstrate any end purpose, flight or sight. It is merely unintentional coincidence that organism use organs for such purposes.
The third is a hierarchical argument. It proposes that all concepts derive from a higher concept, but than an infinite hierarchy cannot exist, since the lesser concepts could not be defined without the higher. Therefore for each graduation, there must be an absolute concept that exists to define it. Degrees of goodness exist, therefore absolute goodness exists; and this all men know to be God.
There is an ontological argument which parallels this line of reasoning, arguing that contingent being logically implies a necessary being.
The fourth is the moral argument, which proposes that moral laws are not manmade, but deduced or perceived from the nature of reality itself; but that moral laws would have no authority if they were not deliberate, that is, ordained by a legislator. Without an authority who legitimately can demand obedience to moral rules, all we humans can debate is long term versus short term self interest, which is clearly not what moral law consists of, or else there would be no situations were moral law calls for self sacrifice. Hence moral law must be made and maintained by a supernatural authority who is sovereign over all creation: and this all men know to be God.
There is an intuition, stronger than any argument yet which cannot be put into words, that beauty implies or adumbrates the existence of God. But whatever cannot be put into words must remain in the realm of the mystic, not of the philosopher, so I make no comment on this intuition here.
Again, with all due respect for the depth of the question, there are only two strong arguments against God: one is the argument from evil. It says that if God is benevolent and omnipotent, He could not or should not allow evil to exist. If evil exists, God either lacks the power to obliterate it, in which case He is not omnipotent, or has the power and lacks the desire, in which case He is not benevolent.
The other argument is the argument from nature. It says that since everything in the universe acts according to the physical laws of nature, no explanation requires God, and the principle of seeking the most elegant explanation therefore demands we cut God out of any explanation.
The short answer to the argument from evil is the even a benevolent and omnipotent God should not rob us of our free will to choose evil even if He could, and that once He has provided a cure for pain and a salvation from evil, He has done all that benevolence and omnipotence requires. He has incarnated His son and freely offered Him as sacrifice for our sins, which, if we accept, obliterates all evil and all its side effects, so that even wounds now suffered will in retrospect retroactively be coveted badges of glory, like the nail prints in the hands of the Savior.
The short answer to the second is a simple negative. The laws of nature do not explain everything in life, not everything human nature demands we humans attempt to explain.
They do not explain why there are laws of nature, why there is beauty in nature, why human nature, including our moral nature, cannot be honestly explained or even adequately described by the physical laws of nature.
The demand that we not be curious about anything aside from physical facts about physical objects is vain, ignorant, incurious, inhuman.
If life were nothing but nature, then Darwin’s law is the only moral law there is, survival is the goal of all our efforts.
Since all men, all civilizations, all races and all worlds eventually die or go extinct, this is a goal which mortal men can neither achieve nor, aside from suicide or mass suicide, renounce.
If nature is all there is, we do not know whence we come nor where we go, nor do we know what we should be doing in between.
If nature is all that there is, nothing means anything. Certainly human rights mean nothing, human freedom means nothing, and truth is not only ugly, truth is an unending nightmare of emptiness, a triumph of the void, a night sky with no stars.
Life in this nightmare is intolerable.
There are only two ways to ameliorate the intolerable.
The one way is to ignore the future and live for present pleasure, hoping the stupefying intoxicants, loud music, diverting antics, amusing fireworks, vicious games or frolicsome yet buxom harlots will distract you from the hungry, open grave silently awaiting you. This is the way of hedonism.
The other way is face the future and to stare unblinkingly into your hungry, open grave silently awaiting you, and with an iron willpower force yourself nonetheless to be content to do your duty, control your emotions, live your allotted span, and die without tears or word of complaint. This is the way of stoicism.
If human beings were merely apes with too little hair and too much brain, one or the other of these ways would serve. Human experience amply shows these two ways are vain and worthless. The laws of nature cannot explain why this is the case. The laws of nature cannot even address the problem.
Now, despite the contempt which the know-nothings and the ignorant heap on philosophical speculations of this type, whether one is convinced by any of these arguments given above, no one can seriously maintain that the arguments for one side or the other are so frivolous that they merit being dismissed out of hand.
Monotheists, at least those I’ve met, seem willing to treat the arguments against God as serious arguments that deserve a frank and thoughtful reply. It has been my misfortune never to meet an atheist willing to treat the arguments for God as if they deserved a frank and thoughtful reply.
And these arguments for and against concern ultimate reality: They concern not this topic nor that, but everything.
John C. Wright is a retired attorney and newspaperman who was only once hunted by the police. He is a graduate of St. John College (home of Mortimer Adler’s “Great Books Program“). In 2004 he foreswore his lifelong atheism and joined the Roman Catholic Church. He has published over 10 SF novels, including one nominated for a Nebula award, and was described by Publisherâ€™s Weekly as “this fledgling centuryâ€™s most important new SF talent.” He currently lives in fairytale-like happiness with his wife, the authoress L. Jagi Lamplighter, and their four children.