Terrible Atheist Arguments – Part 2

Hello everyone! It is time for the second installment of the newly created Terrible Atheist Arguments series.

If you want to read the first one which addresses the omnipotence paradox, the claim that atheists believe in “one less God” than theists, verificationism, and the Flying Spaghetti Monster… click here! In this post, we’re going to be addressing another set of horrendously stupid claims made by atheists who simply have not done their homework.

I’m going to address in this only one because… well, because it’s my post and I do what I want!

The first one (or 5th?) I’d like to address is the question, “Who made God?

Generally speaking, this question is asked when a skeptic encounters an argument for God from the origin of the universe. The conversation may begin with a theist claiming that he believes God exists because God created the universe. To which the skeptic may reply, “Oh yea, if that’s the case, who created God?”

This is an interesting attempt at a “gotcha question,” because let’s imagine that we don’t have answer to that.

Who cares? In order to know that X caused Y, we don’t need to know what caused X. If this were the case, we’d be constantly at a point of scientific stalemate in all of our theories because we don’t know every single cause of every single effect.

But we actually do know the answer to this, but we have to take a step back and remove the barriers built into the loaded question.

Imagine if I asked you, “Have you stopped beating your wife?” Your response would rightly be to take a step back and clarify that you’ve never started beating your wife. In the same way, the question, “Who created God?” assumes that God is the kind of entity that has been created.

There’s a philosophical principle known as the principle of sufficient reason which states that the reason for X’s existence is either A) an external cause or B) the necessity of its own existence.

The key point here is that there *must be* something from which all things arise; an uncaused first cause. Something that is “metaphysically necessary,” or that exists due to the necessity of its own existence.

If you do not have a metaphysically necessary *something*, you have an infinite regress of prior causes, and that’s not allowed.

(If there was an infinite number of prior causes, we would have never reached today because we cannot traverse an actual infinite).

So to answer the question directly:

“Who created God?” No one created God. God is not the kind of entity that is created. God exists because he is metaphysically necessary. He cannot not exist.

The step the skeptic might take here would be to suggest that the universe is metaphysically necessary and God is unnecessary, but all you have to do is take a basic look at the overwhelming scientific and philosophical evidence for the contingency of the universe (meaning it is finite in the past and had a beginning) and that argument falls apart.

The second terrible atheist argument I’d like to address is the ever persistent assertion that “Faith is belief without evidence.

One of the most important things you can do (as intellectually honest human beings) is to represent your opponent’s argument accurately. Doing this not only gives you credibility, but it prevents you from attacking a straw man. And for the most part (outside of some unfortunately popular speakers), faith is not belief without evidence. Faith is a behavioral response to the evidence we have.

Let’s use an airplane pilot as an example. Would you say that you are exercising your faith in a pilot if you’re sitting at home on your couch? No, of course not.

Would you say you’re exercising faith in the pilot when you step onto the plane, buckle your seatbelt, and don’t freak out when the plane starts to move? It certainly seems that way.

This is because the normal usage of the word “faith” (outside of fringe opinions on religious faith) is not contrary to evidence at all. It is something you display when you are confident in something.

  • I have faith in the pilot.
  • I have faith in my wife.
  • I have faith in these car jacks.
  • I have faith in God’s faithfulness.

These examples are all in the same general category. This isn’t to say that all faith is necessarily reasonable. Someone may have rusty old jacks that couldn’t support the weight of a toddler, yet he decides to use them on his truck. Bad idea. Misplaced faith.

But not all faith is unreasonable. And the justification for the faith in your wife or in the pilot or in God is another discussion altogether. I’ve written on it here!

Yes, I know. You can point to a dictionary and say, “Ha! See! You’re wrong!”

Language is dynamic. Dictionaries are descriptive texts that reflect how a word is currently being used in society. It is not a prescriptive text that tells us how we ought to use words. So many people have asserted that faith is belief without evidence that it has become a part of our common parlance. Somewhat like how “literally” can also (apparently) mean “virtually”, according to the dictionary.

Thus concludes Part Deux of terrible atheist arguments! Have any favorite awful atheist arguments? Have a comment or question? Do you disagree with me? Let’s hash it out in the comments.



Photo by allen watkin via Flickr

Elijah Thompson
Comments 3
  1. Hi Elijiah,

    I agree with you that in most cases “who made god?” is a pretty terrible argument, so nothing to dispute there. But I’m not sure about your claim about the universe being contingent since it has a beginning. As far as I know, the evidence from cosmology is ambiguous: physicists like Carroll, Vilenkin and Maudlin seem to be agnostic about whether the universe had a beginning.

    More importantly, if the B-Theory of time is true, the universe could be finite in the past (i.e., have a first moment in time), but that doesn’t mean it began to exist the same way a house or a person begins to exist. If the B-Theory is true, the universe exists as a spacetime block and only has a beginning in the same way a ruler has an edge/beginning. If this is the case, I don’t see why the universe itself couldn’t be metaphysically necessary in some sense.

    Finally, you say that there must either be a necessarily existent entity or an infinite chain of causes/explanations. But there is a third option: I could simply deny the PSR and claim that the chain of causes/explanations terminates with a simple brute fact that doesn’t have any external explanation. Now, you might find that intuitively implausible, but I feel the same way about a metaphysical necessary being – i.e., a being whose very nature is to exist. Sonce intuitions can pull different people in different directions, it seems to me that you’ll need a separate argument to show that the existence of brute facts is impossible or incoherent in order to make your case. Let me know what you think. 🙂

  2. “One of the most important things you can do (as intellectually honest human beings) is to represent your opponent’s argument accurately.”

    So much irony in that statement that now I need to get my carpet cleaned.

    1. Hey Bill,
      By the way you’ve said this, I’m assuming you think I’ve misrepresented something. Although without your correction, I can’t know what I’ve done wrong. But I can assure you that the two that I’ve addressed here have been represented accurately.

      The “who made God?” question has been asked by a very large number of self-labeled skeptics, including people like Richard Dawkins in his book, “The God Delusion”. Additionally, the idea that faith is “belief without evidence” is held by a very large number of people (not all atheists either), and has been promoted by many relatively high-profile people such as Peter Boghossian, in his book “A Manual For Creating Atheists”

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