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Proof for the non-existence of God: a rebuttal

28 November 2012, 08:00

Recently, a reader with the username Caliente, posted an article he/she had read, which was thought to be compelling evidence of the non-existence of God. The article was written by Chad Docterman and pasted in its entirety.

I have answered in full by including his post and replying point by point. Be warned, this is a long piece.

I could do a John Cleese and say, ‘…this is crap and it irritates me!’ but that would serve no-one, so get out your popcorn, boys and girls.

Introduction

Christians consider the existence of their God to be an obvious truth. This assumption is false, not only because evidence for the existence of this presumably ubiquitous yet invisible God is lacking, but because the very nature Christians attribute to this God is self-contradictory.

I can see how someone who hasn’t studied the history of the world could find this self-contradictory, as the evidence is there if we care to look. The nature we ascribe to our God is visible in every particle in the universe, and makes statements like this look even more foolish that they at first appear. I would venture that any of Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett and the late Christopher Hitchens were and are more intelligent than the writer of this article and they’ve been severely debunked, but I’ll go for it and prove the foolishness of these assumptions, couched as they are in pseudo-intellectual jargon, as is the case with every third-year philosophy student.

Proving a universal negative

Many Christians, as well as atheists, claim that it is impossible to prove a universal negative. For example, while we may not have evidence that unicorns or dragons exist, we cannot prove that they do not exist. Unless we have a complete knowledge of the universe, we must admit the possibility that somewhere in the universe, there might be such creatures.

But the claim that omniscience is needed to prove a universal negative presumes that the concept which we are discussing is logically coherent. If the attributes which we assign to a hypothetical object or being are self-contradictory, then we can conclude that it cannot exist, and therefore does not exist. I do not need a complete knowledge of the universe to prove that cubic spheres do not exist. Such objects have mutually-exclusive attributes which make their existence impossible. A cube, by definition, has 8 corners, while a sphere has none. These properties are completely incompatible -- they cannot be held simultaneously by the same object.

I intend to show that the supposed properties of the Christian God Yahweh, like those of a cubic sphere, are incompatible, and by so doing, to demonstrate that Yahweh's existence is an impossibility.

This is the common argument of Russell’s Teapot. The fact that there may be a teapot orbiting the sun but, because we cannot see it, we can neither prove nor disprove it. However, this is a fallacious argument, as the author of this piece is saying, without any real knowledge, that the God of the Bible (he is not called YHWH by Christians, by the way, that is the Jewish Tetragrammaton, as His name was too holy to be spoken) is not possible.

I will of course answer this absurd assertion, as many people, especially on this forum, will be taken in by a logical sounding argument, which is, in fact lacking in any substantive logic.

In the 70s, I saw a lovely bit of Graffiti: God is dead – Nietzsche. Someone had written under it: Nietzsche is dead – God.

Of course, this particular argument will go on until the Lord returns, as secular humanism, in the guise of atheism, grows in the Western world. And as it was prophesied. 2  Thessalonians 2:3 Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction,

There really is nothing new under the sun, and the modern atheist worships at the altar of science and, when something is proven wrong or unethical, will say, ‘Science is self-correcting.’ So far, self-correcting science has resulted in the deaths of untold millions, but hey, what does that matter when we look at the great strides made by science?

Defining YHWH

Christians have endowed their God with all of the following attributes: He is eternal, all-powerful, and created everything. He created all the laws of nature and can change anything by an act of will. He is all-good, all-loving, and perfectly just. He is a personal God who experiences all of the emotions a human does. He is all-knowing. He sees everything past and future.

God's creation was originally perfect, but humans, by disobeying him, brought imperfection into the world. Humans are evil and sinful, and must suffer in this world because of their sinfulness. God gives humans the opportunity to accept forgiveness for their sin, and all who do will be rewarded with eternal bliss in heaven, but while they are on earth, they must suffer for his sake. All humans who choose not to accept this forgiveness must go to hell and be tormented for eternity.

These attributes of God are related by the Bible, which Christians believe to be the perfect and true Word of God.

One verse which many Christians are fond of quoting says that atheists are fools. I intend to show that the above concepts of God are completely incompatible, and reveal the impossibility of all of them being held simultaneously by the same being. There is no foolishness in denying the impossible. Foolishness is worshiping an impossible God.

Psalm 138:2. I will bow down toward Your holy temple And give thanks to Your name for Your lovingkindness and Your truth; For You have magnified Your word according to all Your name.

Isaiah 40:8 The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.

God, by His very nature can change nothing by an act of will, as He has bound Himself by His word. He is unchangeable and unchanging. God’s creation was never perfect but ‘very good’. Now etymology may not be the author’s strong suit, but perfect and very good are fairly different from each other.

God is omnibenevolent, omnipotent, omniscient and all the other oms you want throw His way, but he is not a controlling God. He created us for fellowship with him, not because He needs us, but because He wants us. Therefore, He wants people who want to be with Him, out of choice.

The other assumption made by this author, who does not know the Bible, but has read it, then Googled it extensively, is this.

We were not created to go to heaven: we were created to serve our fellow man, to have a blissful relationship with God, and each other, while here on earth. Hell was not created for man, but for Satan and his followers: man, by rebelling, chooses to spend eternity there.

Psalm 53:1. The fool has said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that does good.

Neither I, nor any respectable Christian commentator, have called atheists fools. I count some of them as friends. I believe they are foolish and pray for them. However, South Africa is the ideal place to look at the concept of freedom without responsibility. We are the most corrupt nation in Africa!

Jesus was speaking of Paul directly when He said, ‘I will show him what he is to suffer for My sake.’

When he spoke of suffering, it was that we would suffer in the way he suffered, because a servant is not greater than his Master. Because we are Christians does not free us from suffering, or the evils of this world.

Perfection seeks even more perfection

What did God do during that eternity before he created everything? If God was all that existed back then, what disturbed the eternal equilibrium and compelled him to create? Was he bored? Was he lonely?

God is supposed to be perfect. If something is perfect, it is complete -- it needs nothing else. We humans engage in activities because we are pursuing the elusive perfection, because there is disequilibrium caused by a difference between what we are and what we want to be. If God is perfect, there can be no disequilibrium. There is nothing he needs, nothing he desires, and nothing he must or will do. A God who is perfect does nothing except exist. A perfect creator God is impossible.

Again the author shows utter ignorance of what the Bible says about God. God needs nothing. God is love. God could have continued loving Himself, but chose to have fellowship. The leaps of logic here would do Monty Python proud.

If God is who the Bible says He is, He can choose to do exactly as He wants, and if that means creating Man for fellowship, it would be His choice. Perfection is such that it does not need to be understandable to the imperfect. God spoke to certain people, who in turn wrote down what He said, and in this way communicated His words to us.

What is impossible, however, is a creature who can understand his Creator. What is foolish, is the creature who would not only refuse an attempt to understand his creator, but dismiss His existence for that very reason.

Einstein dismissed Quantum Physics and was proven wrong: how can we possibly conceive of hoping to understand the mind of God? Are we generally on the intellectual level of Einstein? Something as relatively simple as Quantum Physics was puzzling to a man of the intelligence of Einstein and was dismissed as a result of it. He was proven arrogant and wrong, as is the author of this piece.

Perfection begets imperfection

But, for the sake of argument, let's continue. Let us suppose that this perfect God did create the universe. Humans were the crown of his creation, since they were created in God's image and had the ability to make decisions. However, these humans spoiled the original perfection by choosing to disobey God.

What!? If something is perfect, nothing imperfect can come from it. Someone once said that bad fruit cannot come from a good tree, yet this "perfect" God created a "perfect" universe which was rendered imperfect by the "perfect" humans.

The ultimate source of imperfection is God. What is perfect cannot make itself imperfect, so humans must have been created imperfect. What is perfect cannot create anything imperfect, so God must be imperfect to have created these imperfect humans. A perfect God who creates imperfect humans is impossible.

God did indeed create man as His crowning glory, but nowhere does it say He made them perfect. God was satisfied that what he had created was very good. Jesus said a bad tree cannot produce good fruit, not the other way round.

The moment God created creatures, including the angels, with free will, there had to be a chance they would rebel. If there is no chance of that, it’s not free will.

The Freewill Argument

The Christians' objection to this argument involves freewill. They say that a being must have freewill to be happy. The omnibenevolent God did not wish to create robots, so he gave humans freewill to enable them to experience love and happiness. But the humans used this freewill to choose evil, and introduced imperfection into God's originally perfect universe. God had no control over this decision, so the blame for our imperfect universe is on the humans, not God.

Here is why the argument is weak. First, if God is omnipotent, then the assumption that freewill is necessary for happiness is false. If God could make it a rule that only beings with freewill may experience happiness, then he could just as easily have made it a rule that only robots may experience happiness. The latter option is clearly superior, since perfect robots will never make decisions which could render them or their creator unhappy, whereas beings with freewill could. A perfect and omnipotent God who creates beings capable of ruining their own happiness is impossible.

Second, even if we were to allow the necessity of freewill for happiness, God could have created humans with freewill who did not have the ability to choose evil, but to choose between several good options.

Third, God supposedly has freewill, and yet he does not make imperfect decisions. If humans are miniature images of God, our decisions should likewise be perfect. Also, the occupants of heaven, who presumably must have freewill to be happy, will never use that freewill to make imperfect decisions. Why would the originally perfect humans do differently?

The point remains: the presence of imperfections in the universe disproves the supposed perfection of its creator.

‘Christians say people must have freewill to be happy.’ Either the author of this piece has not read the Bible, or read into it what he wanted. The pursuit of happiness is the American Dream, not Biblical teaching. Obedience to God’s Word is man’s purpose. And if Adam had been obedient to God, we would not now be in the mess we’re in.

So to ask how perfect humans would choose evil is to be purposely ignorant: if we evolved we could not be perfect, and the Bible does not say we were created perfect. And man did not choose evil, he chose his own way, and that ends up in evil.

Being made in God’s image means we have freewill, which ends up with our wanting to be the captains of our own ships, and that excludes obedience to God. So it’s not an imperfect God, but an imperfect, created being deciding what he wants, as opposed to what God demands.

When my son was two, we lived in flats that did not allow pets, so I bought him a battery operated dog, that barked, whined, wagged its tail and sort of ran. My son soon became bored with it. When we moved, we bought him a kitten, which soon grew up to do what all cats do: ignore him, walk away when he called and love him when she felt like it. Of her own free will. He adored her. 

That is why God, the perfect God, created imperfect humans with free will. If we can’t ignore Him, hate Him and rebel against Him, we cannot truly love Him.

All-good God knowingly creates future suffering

God is omniscient. When he created the universe, he saw the sufferings which humans would endure as a result of the sin of those original humans. He heard the screams of the damned. Surely he would have known that it would have been better for those humans to never have been born (in fact, the Bible says this very thing), and surely this all-compassionate deity would have foregone the creation of a universe destined to imperfection in which many of the humans were doomed to eternal suffering. A perfectly compassionate being who creates beings which he knows are doomed to suffer is impossible.

Again, the Bible does not say it would have been better for those humans never to have been born. Jesus is speaking of specific people in this instance. God does not make choices for us. He warns us, and tells us of the consequences.

The Oprah version of God would have everyone living their life any old way they chose and still going to heaven. This would have to include Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot and so on. Very soon, heaven would become hell.

God is so pure that He cannot stand one sin before Him, which is why He cast Lucifer and a third of the angels down from heaven. The problem we, as humans have, is that we try and understand a perfect God with our puny brains.

Blood had to be sacrificed to cover the first sin, when animals were killed for coverings for Adam and Eve’s nakedness. The price for sin has been blood ever since. Our sins were paid for by the blood of Christ.

Infinite punishment for finite sins

God is perfectly just, and yet he sentences the imperfect humans he created to infinite suffering in hell for finite sins. Clearly, a limited offense does not warrant unlimited punishment. God's sentencing of the imperfect humans to an eternity in hell for a mere mortal lifetime of sin is infinitely unjust. The absurdity of this infinite punishment appears even greater when we consider that the ultimate source of the human's imperfection is the God who created them. A perfectly just God who sentences his imperfect creation to infinite punishment for finite sins is impossible.

There is nothing like a finite sin. Sin, by its very nature, is eternal, because man was created to live for eternity, in one way or another. We make the choice here and now. Any sin we commit, remains with us for eternity, through our choice. God made a plan for us to rid ourselves of that sin.

Belief more important than action

Consider all of the people who live in the remote regions of the world who have never even heard the "gospel" of Jesus Christ. Consider the people who have naturally adhered to the religion of their parents and nation as they had been taught to do since birth. If we are to believe the Christians, all of these people will perish in the eternal fire for not believing in Jesus. It does not matter how just, kind, and generous they have been with their fellow humans during their lifetime: if they do not accept the gospel of Jesus, they are condemned. No just God would ever judge a man by his beliefs rather than his actions.

Romans 2:14-15.(Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.)

This passage quite clearly states that those who have not heard the Gospel, but lived a good and honourable life, will be judged by how they lived their lives. So they are not condemned for not having heard the Gospel.

Perfection's imperfect revelation

The Bible is supposedly God's perfect Word. It contains instructions to humankind for avoiding the eternal fires of hell. How wonderful and kind of this God to provide us with this means for overcoming the problems for which he is ultimately responsible! The all-powerful God could have, by a mere act of will, eliminated all of the problems we humans must endure, but instead, in his infinite wisdom, he has opted to offer this indecipherable amalgam of books called the Bible as a means for avoiding the hell which he has prepared for us. The perfect God has decided to reveal his wishes in this imperfect work, written in the imperfect language of imperfect man, translated, copied, interpreted, voted on, and related by imperfect man. No two men will ever agree what this perfect word of God is supposed to mean, since much of it is either self- contradictory, or obscured by enigma. And yet the perfect God expects the imperfect humans to understand this paradoxical riddle using the imperfect minds with which he has equipped us. Surely the all-wise and all-powerful God would have known that it would have been better to reveal his perfect will directly to each of us, rather than to allow it to be debased and perverted by the imperfect language and botched interpretations of man.

Once again, someone who does not know the Bible at all, but has read enough to believe it to be self-contradictory, claims that God is unjust for relaying His word to us in this manner. When God originally spoke to man face to face, man rebelled against Him. God then spoke through His prophets, who wrote down His words, which have been conserved over the centuries, as confirmed by, amongst other things, the Dead Sea Scrolls.

These writings are not jumbled or self-contradictory, but form a marvellous historical record, along with books of poetry and prophecy. God is sovereign and chooses how He will reveal Himself. The writings have nothing whatsoever to do with avoiding the fires of hell: they are instructions on living life to the full in fellowship with God and man. Living that life will ensure hell is avoided. The so-called botched interpretations of man have been confirmed to be reliable by more scholars and experts than could be put in an article of this nature, but both the translations and the content can be trusted.

Contradictory justice

One need look to no source other than the Bible to discover its imperfections, for it contradicts itself and thus exposes its own imperfection. It contradicts itself on matters of justice, for the same just God who assures his people that sons shall not be punished for the sins of their fathers’ turns around and destroys an entire household for the sin of one man (he had stolen some of Yahweh's war loot). It was this same Yahweh who afflicted thousands of his innocent people with plague and death to punish their evil king David for taking a census (?!). It was this same Yahweh who allowed the humans to slaughter his son because the perfect Yahweh had botched his own creation. Consider how many have been stoned, burned, slaughtered, raped, and enslaved because of Yahweh's skewed sense of justice. The blood of innocent babies is on the perfect, just, compassionate hands of Yahweh.

One needs look no further than the Bible to see God’s manifest justice and long-suffering patience. Although I, as a Christian, have wrestled with many of these matters, none of these punishments has been meted out lightly. In each case there has been ample warning, some of it for hundreds of years. Those raped, slaughtered, stoned, burned and enslaved have often been in spite of God’s word, not because of it.

God’s Son was killed as a propitiation for our sins; that is not wanton slaughter. That was a plan of salvation, and was planned before the beginning of creation.

Contradictory history

The Bible contradicts itself on matters of history. A person who reads and compares the contents of the Bible will be confused about exactly who Esau's wives were, whether Timnah was a concubine or a son, and whether Jesus' earthly lineage is through Solomon or his brother Nathan. These are but a few of hundreds of documented historical contradictions. If the Bible cannot confirm itself in mundane earthly matters, how are we to trust it on moral and spiritual matters?

This has been covered so many times by so many different authors that it hardly warrants a reply. To answer the question of Jesus lineage, which seems to bother the author so much: according to Jewish law, an adopted son was of the household and bloodline of his father, which is why Jesus was referred to as the Son of David. The Bible confirms itself as an accurate history of a people and an area and has been proven to be trustworthy in these matters.

In 1948, when the nation of Israel was established, they moved into a virtual desert. They used the Torah as their agricultural manual, and turned Israel into one of the most agriculturally productive regions in the world.

Unfulfilled prophecy

The Bible misinterprets its own prophecies. Read Isaiah 7 and compare it with Matthew 1 to find but one of many misinterpreted prophecies of which Christians are either passively or wilfully ignorant. The sign given by Isaiah to King Ahaz was meant to assure him that his enemies King Rezin and King Remaliah would be defeated. The prophecy was fulfilled in the very next chapter. Yet Matthew 1 not only misinterprets the word for "maiden" as "virgin," but claims that this already-fulfilled prophecy is fulfilled by the virgin birth of Jesus!

The fulfilment of prophecy in the Bible is cited as proof of its divine inspiration, and yet here is but one major example of a prophecy whose intended meaning has been and continues to be twisted to support subsequent absurd and false doctrines. There are no ends to which the credulous will not go to support their feeble beliefs in the face of compelling evidence against them.

The Bible is imperfect. It only takes one imperfection to destroy the supposed perfection of this alleged Word of God. Many have been found. A perfect God who reveals his perfect will in an imperfect book is impossible.

I was fortunate enough to spend time with a Hasidic Jewish scholar, and that was one of the objections he brought up, and it is easily disposed of. Any woman who was not a virgin, and known as such, was judged a harlot. If she was unmarried, she was a virgin, therefore replacing ‘maiden’ with ‘virgin’ is absolutely acceptable, as it was translated for people who would not necessarily be able to make the distinction. Different cultures require different translations. In the Sudanese translation of the Bible, Jesus says, ‘Your sins will be white as salt.’ They’ve never seen snow, so it’s been altered culturally: it’s no less accurate for that.

The Omniscient changes the future

A God who knows the future is powerless to change it. An omniscient God who is all-powerful and free-willed is impossible.

God chooses not to change the future, because He says His Word is to be honoured above His name. Omnipotence is not licence. God binds Himself by His word. Because we are fickle and changeable, we tar God with the same brush. This is a common mistake.

The Omniscient is surprised

A God who knows everything cannot have emotions. The Bible says that God experiences all of the emotions of humans, including anger, sadness, and happiness. We humans experience emotions as a result of new knowledge. A man who had formerly been ignorant of his wife's infidelity will experience the emotions of anger and sadness only after he has learned what had previously been hidden. In contrast, the omniscient God is ignorant of nothing. Nothing is hidden from him, nothing new may be revealed to him, so there is no gained knowledge to which he may react emotionally.

We humans experience anger and frustration when something is wrong which we cannot fix. The perfect, omnipotent God, however, can fix anything. Humans experience longing for things we lack. The perfect God lacks nothing. An omniscient, omnipotent, and perfect God who experiences emotion is impossible.

The Bible says we are made in God’s image, therefore the emotions we experience are those experienced by God. God is delighted by His faithful servants; His anger burns against those who continually oppose Him. It is not because of surprise, it is righteous anger, the sort of anger we should feel when we see the downtrodden oppressed. God’s anger burns against the oppressors; so should ours.

The conclusion of the matter

I have offered arguments for the impossibility, and thus the non- existence, of the Christian God Yahweh. No reasonable and free thinking individual can accept the existence of a being whose nature is as contradictory as that of Yahweh, the "perfect" creator of our imperfect universe. The existence of Yahweh is as impossible as the existence of cubic spheres or invisible pink unicorns.

While believers may find comfort in being faithful to impossibilities, there is no greater satisfaction than a clear mind. You may choose to serve an impossible God. I will choose reality.

While choosing reality, your version thereof, you also choose your eventual destination. The so-called unthinking believers include some of the greatest minds in history. Christopher Hitchens replied to William Lane Craig, when asked what he would say to God on Judgment Day. ‘I will say, “I’ve used the mind You gave me and seen no evidence for Your existence, so I rejected You on that count.”’

Regardless of how we feel about the matter, the debate will continue raging until Jesus returns, with more and more people joining the atheist side, as has been prophesied.

There really is nothing new under the sun.

                              

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