Posts Tagged ‘logic’

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Can We Be Good Without God?

Monday, July 26th, 2010

The sign on a New York City subway read, “A million New Yorkers are good without God.”   In Boston, there were signs on the city buses and subways that read, “Good without God?  Millions of Americans are.”  Billboards in Chicago carried the same message.  During the Christmas season, buses in Washington D.C. carried posters that featured someone dressed as Santa Claus with the message, “Why believe in a god?  Just be good for goodness’ sake.”  These were all part of a bold advertising campaign in 56 cities and 29 states that was launched back in 2007 by organizations such as the Freedom From Religion Foundation.  Their campaign included many other slogans such as, “Imagine No Religion,”   suggesting that America would be much better off if we could somehow remove religion (Christianity in particular) from our culture.

For my purposes here, I want to focus specifically on their message that it’s not necessary to believe in God in order to be a good person.  In fact, I’m finding that more and more people in the public square are proudly proclaiming that, as an atheist, they can be good without God.  When I engage someone in conversation and they tell me that they can be a good person without believing in God, they are usually surprised to hear me say that I agree with them!  I realize that it’s not necessary to believe in God in order to be a good person.  In fact, I know of some people who do not believe in God who I would consider to be more moral than many so-called “Christians”.   So, what’s the problem?  The problem is that the person who denies God’s existence cannot make sense out of morality.  It’s important to keep in mind that the question is NOT whether one can be good without believing in God, but rather, can we be good if, in fact, there is no God.

A friend of mine who teaches Philosophy and World Religions in a local community college had invited me and a pastor from my church to come answer some questions regarding Christianity.  One of the students was a lady who identified herself as a practicing Buddhist.  Keep in mind that Buddhists do not necessarily believe that God exists.  During the Q&A, she had commented in a somewhat sarcastic tone of voice, “Look, I am a good person who does good for my community, and I don’t have to believe in your God in order to be a good person!”  In response, I said, “May I ask you a question?  You just used the word ‘good’ three times.  I need to point out to you  that as soon as you did that, you immediately introduced into this conversation some standard by which to measure what ‘good’ is and what it isn’t.  In order for that standard to make any sense, it must be an objective standard.  That is, it must exist outside both of us, and both of us must be accountable to that standard.  Since you’re the one who brought this standard into the conversation, I have to ask you: 1) What is that standard? and 2) Where did it come from-  what is it based on?”

After a long, awkward silence, she replied, “I don’t know.”  A student sitting behind her attempted to help her out.  This gentleman had leaned forward and whispered something in her ear, after which she confidently smiled and said, “I get my morality from Buddhism.”  As I was attempting to reply, another student began to speak, so I’m not sure if she (the Buddhist) could hear my next comment.  I had said to her that I’m pretty sure that if I were to ask her if Buddhist morality is better than Nazi mortality, she would most likely say, “Yes.”  But to say that one is “better” than the other is to measure both of them by some “higher” standard that exists outside both of them.  To compare the two and to say that one is better than the other is to say that one comes closer to meeting that standard than does the other. But to acknowledge some “Ultimate Standard” is to say that there exists a supreme moral law-  this requires a supreme Lawgiver.

Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason makes an insightful observation about this.  He points out that when someone says that they don’t have to believe in God in order to be a good person, it’s like saying that they don’t have to believe in authors in order to read books.  While that may be true, they certainly cannot make sense of books existing apart from authors, nor can they make sense of an objective moral law existing apart from a moral Lawgiver.

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Posted in Ethics | 107 Comments »

Who Made God? – Part 2

Monday, January 25th, 2010

This post is Part 2 in the series “Who Made God?”. Click here to read Part 1 first.

In my previous post, I was talking about a formal debate that I was watching that involved two scientists, one of whom was the famous atheist, Professor Richard Dawkins and the other was Christian theologian, Dr. John Lennox.  I mentioned that they were debating some of the more notable points in Dawkins’ book, “The God Delusion”.  Eventually, the question “Who made God?” came up for discussion and I went on to explain why the question itself was invalid according to the rules of logic.  But no matter how many times it is pointed out that such questions would not apply to an infinite God, people of all ages continue to ask it as if there must be another, more “satisfying” answer to this question.  After all, to say that such questions do not apply to God is really just another way of saying that God was “always there”.  Now of course I realize that such an explanation is totally unacceptable to some people and they would even consider such an answer to be not only too “convenient”, but much worse, they would consider such an answer to be a “cop-out”.  Dawkins, in fact, makes it clear that as an atheist, he really does feel that such an answer is a cop-out.

The irony in all of this is that even though Dawkins considers it to be absolutely ridiculous to suggest that God is uncaused, self-existent, and eternal, He (Dawkins) is apparently willing to believe that matter can possess all of those characteristics!  So, according to Dawkins, God must have a beginning, but matter doesn’t require a beginning. God could not possibly be eternal, yet matter must be eternal.  Dawkins insists that “only an idiot” could accept the statement, “In the beginning God..”, yet he finds it perfectly reasonable to accept the statement, “In the beginning dust and gas….”.

All of this reminds me of a similar situation that I encountered a few years ago when I was invited to speak at a Christian club at one of the local high schools.  I had just finished presenting evidence for the existence of God, and I opened it up to Q&A time.  There was one particular student in the audience who was an atheist and he was a very intelligent young man.  He had a reputation for asking tough questions in order to make the speaker look bad and that was obviously his intent on that day.  He raised his hand, so I called on him, expecting a question.  Instead, he had a comment.  He said, “Basically, what you’re trying to say is that nothing caused God, nothing created God, and that He didn’t come from anywhere-  He was just…..always there”.  I responded, “Yes.  That is exactly what I’m saying”.  The atheist student sat down in his chair and was laughing at me, expecting that I would simply move on to the next question, but I stayed with him.  I said , “May I ask you a question?  I understand that you are an atheist”.  He replied, “That’s right.  I don’t believe in God because I believe in the Big Bang”.  I said to him, “That’s fine.  The problem is that you’re trying to start in the middle of the story and I refuse to let you get away with that. In fact, I’m going to “push you backward in time“, back, back, back before the Big Bang.  The point is, what you’re really trying to say is that prior to the Big Bang, there was a “particle” that never, ever, ever had a beginning.  Nothing caused this particle, nothing created this particle, it didn’t come from anywhere, it was just……always there. So, why is it that when I say that God was always there, you think that it’s ridiculous, yet you are willing to accept, by faith, that the particle was always there?”.   Not having a response, he looked at me and said, “Fine.  You can go on believing that God was always there and I’ll go on believing that the particle was always there.  We’ll just call it even-  our views are equal”.  I went on to point out to that young man that there is nothing “equal” or “even” about those two ideas.  As we will see in future posts, the evidence for God is very compelling, whereas the evidence for “eternal matter” requires a tremendous amount of faith.

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Posted in Theology | 3 Comments »

Who Made God? – Part 1

Monday, January 11th, 2010

It was one of those rare nights when I didn’t have any commitments, no meetings, no place where I had to be, and no particular plans. I sat down in front of the t.v. with a plate of buffalo wings that I had just picked up on the way home, and reached for the remote. I’m so busy these days that I don’t have a lot of spare time to watch television, and after only a few minutes of searching through the channels, I realized that I really hadn’t missed anything worthwhile anyway. I decided to watch a dvd that I had purchased a while back and even though I had already watched it once, it was worth viewing again to pick up on any details that I may have missed the first time.

The title was “The God Delusion Debate” which was an actual debate that took place in 2007 in an auditorium in Birmingham, Alabama and was filmed before a sold-out audience. One of the debaters was Dr. John Lennox, a scientist, mathematician, author, and Christian theologian who was representing Christianity. Dr. Lennox holds doctorates from Oxford, Cambridge, and the University of Wales, as well as an MA in Bioethics from the University of Surrey. The other speaker was scientist, author, and well-known atheist, Richard Dawkins. Dawkins is the Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at the University of Oxford. As an author, he has written several best-selling books. In fact, his most recent book, “The God Delusion”, was the topic of that evening’s debate as the two speakers gave arguments and counter-arguments over some of the points that Dawkins had presented in his book.

One of the points from Dawkins’ book that they discussed was the question, “Who made God?” (“Where did God come from?”, “What caused God?”, etc.). Apparently, Dawkins had devoted a considerable amount of time to this in his book, so he must honestly feel that this is a difficult and serious argument against the existence of God. Even though this question is often asked by the average person on the street, I was both disappointed and surprised to hear such a question put forth in a best-selling book by one of the world’s leading atheists who obviously prides himself on his great intellect.

The question itself is really not all that difficult and it involves a couple of issues. First of all, the question is invalidated by the fact that it commits an error in logic by confusing two different categories. Dawkins’ question would be similar to asking, “Who is that bachelor married to?”, or “What does the color red sound like?” In both cases, the question makes the mistake of attempting to mix two distinct and separate categories. Such questions are therefore invalid because they violate this foundational rule of logic. The same rule applies to this question about God. Such questions as, “What caused this?’, “Who made this?”, and “Where did this come from?” are perfectly legitimate questions within the category of that which is finite. However, God, by definition, would be in the category of that which is infinite, therefore such questions would not apply to God. So, the obvious answer to Dawkins’ question is that no one and nothing “made” God. Nothing “caused” God, and He didn’t “come from” anywhere. Nevertheless, even though we understand that the question itself is invalid, we still feel the need to ask it. And so, many people such as Dawkins continue to ask it. Is there another, more “satisfying” answer to this question? I believe that there is, and we will explore it in my next post.

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Posted in Theology | 7 Comments »

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