The Trustworthy Argument For God's Existence That You've Probably Never Heard Of

The Trustworthy Argument For The Existence of God That You Probably Never Heard Of

Peter Guirguis Apologetics 27 Comments

Does God exist?

So many people of different backgrounds argue about the subject.

People argue about:

So when I came across this video created by Dr. William Lane Craig’s ministry team, about Leibniz contingency argument, I was like, “Leib – who???”

I watched the video, and I found myself thinking, “Huh, what an incredibly compelling argument!”

So here, check out this video about one of the best arguments for the existence of God (in my opinion).

After the video, I’ll give you my take on it.

Here’s Leibniz’ Contingency Argument for the Existence of God

So here’s my take on this:

As a reminder, here are the points of the argument:

1.  Premise:  Everything that exists has an explanation of its existence either in the necessity of its own nature, or in its external cause.

2.  Premise:  If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God.

3.  Premise:  The universe exists.

4.  Conclusion:  The explanation of the universe’s existence is God.

Now, Here Are My Answers to Top Objections

Objection #1 – Who Created God?

To answer this objection, first, let’s look at the definition of the things that exist necessarily, and the things that exist contingently.

Things that exist necessarily are:

  • Things that exist because of their own nature
  • It’s impossible for them not to exist
  • Mathematics is an example of something that exists necessarily
  • They are not caused by something else
  • They just exist by necessity of their own nature
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Things that exist contingently are:

  • Caused to exist by something else
  • For example, you never would have been born if your parents had never met
  • Example #2 – the cookies that I bake today exist contingently because I caused them to exist

You see, God is a Being that exists necessarily and not contingently.

He is eternal.

God was never born or caused to exist.

He has always existed just like it say in 1 Timothy 1:17.

About the existence of God - Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

God is the same faithful God that was, is, and always will be. Click To Tweet

That then brings you to the next objection:

Objection #2 – Maybe Something or Someone Else Besides God Created the Universe?

“Just because we can agree that something or someone created the universe, then that doesn’t mean that God created it.”

That’s what some of my atheist friends tell me.

They try to make the argument that science is still discovering the universe that we live in.

“The universe is a vast and wonderful place.” They say. “And new discoveries about it are being made all the time.”

Maybe there is life on other planets.

Maybe there are other beings in this universe besides us.

Maybe they are the ones that are responsible for creating this universe.

But listen, here’s the thing, that’s an impossibility.


Because whatever caused this universe to exist must exist outside of this universe.

That Being must be:

  • Spaceless
  • Timeless
  • And Immaterial

That’s because the First Cause had to create space, time, and matter.

Space, time, and matter do not exist necessarily, they exist contingently.

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They did not always exist. They were created at a certain point in time.

Make sense?

What do you think of Leibniz contingency argument? Please leave a comment because it will help others who are reading this blog post.


About the Author

Peter Guirguis

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I'm the Technology and Social Media Manager of Calvary Chapel South Bay, a church in Gardena, California. My passion is to see people give their life to Christ both online and offline. I've created the free guide to getting thousands of Twitter followers to show ordinary people how to get extraordinary results on Twitter.


Comments 27

  1. Leibnitz’s second premise has no basis. There’s nothing that says that the universe is contingent on the existence of any god other than his claim that it is so. Despite the video’s claim that the logic of this argument is “air tight” it isn’t. Remove the second premise and you get this:

    Everything that exists has an explanation for its existence.
    The universe exists.
    Therefore the universe has an explanation for its existence.

    You would like to posit God as that explanation, but you have no evidence to make that claim, and that’s assuming that the first premise actually is true. Sadly, wanting there to be an explanation doesn’t mean that an explanation actually exists. Further, you have no evidence that the universe exists as a contingent object beyond your assertion that it does. To claim that the universe is contingent because God is needed to create it and then demonstrate the existence of God by saying that without God there would be no universe is engaging in a viciously circular argument.

    If we assume that the universe is in fact contingent, the argument that its existence relies on a non-contingent being is inherently problematic. Why does it have to be a being? Where’s the proof that intent was required for the creation of the universe?

    Beyond this, even if I give in to all of these premises and agree that the universe is contingent and necessarily created by a being, you have nothing that gets you from that being to the being you claim created everything.

    In short, beyond “The universe exists” there are problems with every step.

    In other words, I could substitute Elmer the universe creating walrus in for the god you claim and the argument remains the same. And before you ask, Elmer exists necessarily outside of space and time. He is immaterial, exists eternally, and was never caused to exist. He is spaceless and timeless, and as his name implies, he creates univeses by definition.

    Everything that exists has an explanation for its existence.
    If the universe has an explanation for its existence, that explanation is Elmer the universe creating walrus.
    The universe exists.
    Therefore, the explanation of the universe’s existence is Elmer the universe creating walrus.

    1. SJHoneywell, good questions and quality thoughts. So, lets unpack a few of them.

      First, regarding the second premise of the argument you hit and miss the mark. What is meant by “airtight” is that its FORM is what a logician would accept as valid. However, the truth of this premise is not necessarily “airtight” as you showed by your insertion of the walrus. Thus, the real question is, is it reasonable to suggest that a being like GOD (generic mind you) is the necessary answer.

      Second, to your claim that “you(us) have no evidence that the universe exists as a contingent object beyond your assertion that it does” is not correct. SCIENCE has at this point in history demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt that the universe is not eternal. One simple illustration of this is cosmic redshift. Thus, the premise one can be taken as true. So, if it is contingent what might be able to explain its being? Thus, premise two becomes an option. An option that will either grow more or less persuasive as time moves forward.

      Third, premise two is an option becomes at this point there are very few candidates for causality. Beings/agents are the most persuasive. Now, can one suggest that in the future another candidate might be found? They certainly can, but to claim we should abandon our present knowledge on the hope/faith that something else may be found is a “gap” argument. Theists are often accused of positing “God of the gap” arguments, but other are prone to this error too.

      Fourth, why God and not a walrus? The answer here lies in what one requires of evidence. Does one mean Descartes clear and distinct ideas, or mathematical axioms? Or something less stringent like reasons that are “beyond a reasonable doubt”? If the former than very little can actually be known, and thus a devolution into agnosticism and hard skepticism. If the latter than much can be known to be reasonable, just not “absolutely” true in a Descartes kind of way. So, why God and not a walrus? Because God, at least as conceived at the very end of the video, explains contingency more reasonably than Elmer the walrus.

      Good thoughts and questions.

      1. We’re going to disagree on a few points here. I agree that the form of the original argument is structurally valid, and that wasn’t my contention. As you know, though, a deductive syllogism is only sound if the premises can be demonstrated to be true. To me, “airtight” implies that it is both valid and sound, and the soundness here is what is at issue.

        I’ll disagree with your comment on the second point. We have no evidence that the universe didn’t come into existence necessarily. It may well be contingent, but without evidence that it must be contingent, you’re dead in the water here. That this current form of the universe had a beginning is not in dispute, but the existence of this universe could (not is, could) be a result of some other necessary cause. We don’t know, and that’s the point, and that’s what kils the deductive argument in this case–that premise cannot be demonstrated as truth. Sure, if you start from “God exists” you can get there, but you don’t get to start there.

        Premise two still doesn’t work. That this is a possibility doesn’t make it a probability (hence the walrus argument, at least in part), and I don’t honestly see anything persuasive that indicates a being required for cosmic events. Is the creation of a star (for instance) caused by a being with intent or explainable by natural forces? That it is possible or even plausible says nothing to the necessity of a being.

        Incidentally, I’m not suggesting you abandon your faith–that doesn’t exist in what I posted above. All that I am suggesting is that this is a logically flawed argument. Have faith–that doesn’t trouble me a bit. What does trouble me is claiming a logical argument that has flaws is somehow unflawed.

        Regarding the last bit, I’ll disagree with you that any god is somehow more believable than any other, and that was the point of Elmer. Even if I was to agree with all of the points of Leibnitz’s argument, you still can’t get from there to a specific being. You can’t for instance, demonstrate that if a being is required for the universe that the universe wasn’t created as a part of the death throes of that being, or that the universe was created and abandoned. The main point of Elmer wasn’t to suggest that a god is improbable or impossible, but to demonstrate that even if the syllogism works, it still doesn’t get you any further than “a being.”

        Truthfully, if there were a logical argument that demonstrated the existence of any being everyone would know it and faith in the existence of a being wouldn’t be required. That faith is required–belief without evidence or knowledge–demonstrates the lack of a convincing logical argument. The fact that, according to research done by Bourget and Chalmers, about 3/4 of modern philosophers are atheists would seem to poke a large hole in the idea that a logical argument for the existence of any god is valid and sound.

        Thanks for the thoughtful reply.

        1. I think the point I would like to reiterate here is yes we don’t know 100% that God is the necessary cause. But, there are very few things that humanity actually knows in that sense. So, one could call this an inductive premise rather than a deductive premise. However, it is an assumption based upon a notion grounded in other quality inductive reasoning. For instance, if an agent is not the necessary cause than what is? Very few other options presently exist. I agree we can say we don’t know and continue to look, but we can also say we do have an inkling given what we observe about causality. So, the God hypothesis may not be “airtight”, but it can be suggested as plausible.

          Now moving from plausibility to probability requires data. And I think that is what the video is trying to establish throughout, culminating at the end with the list of attributes of such a being. The agent hypothesis become more plausible if said agent is uncaused, eternal, necessary, non-contingent, and immaterial. How does one get to said agent? Well it seems to flow from simply considering what would be the necessary attributes of a such a necessary agent to cause contingent beings to exist.

          More importantly, I think there is something to be said here regarding the mechanics of the macrocosm. You correctly note that stars do not presently need an agent. Why? Because natural laws are “acting/causing” the phenomenon. These laws are per se efficient causes. They are ALWAYS at “work”. But the question of this video is not about present causation, but about the first cause. Whether said first cause presently needs to or does not need to act in order for every event in the universe to happen is a separate question.

          To the question of faith and moving beyond the first cause to someone more I agree with you. Even if Leibniz argument is “airtight” it still leaves one ONLY with theism. This is why Christian’s believe that said being, God, did not abandon or die. But rather continued to intervene. Is that claim “airtight”? No its not. But I think one begins to see a pattern. Proving God’s existence is not the same as proving gravity exists. The God hypothesis, especially a personal God that continues to intervene, is grounded in observation, analysis, synthesis (as are many other ideas we take to be “certain”) and personal experience. The data is both quantitative and qualitative. (I happen to think this is by design)

          And I will push back on your claim that if a claim is deductively proven than everyone would believe. This just is not true. People still don’t believe that the earth is spherical or that humanity has stepped foot on the moon. The fraction is small yes, but I think these instances demonstrates that even deductive “proofs” do not always carry the weight necessary to convince.

          Finally, faith is not “belief without evidence or knowledge”. No one, on either side of the God hypotheses who understands the data being interpreted, utters such a claim. Also, majority belief matters little. Such a claim is an “appeal to the crowd”. Just as I cannot argue that my view is right because the majority of people on the planet are Christians, you cannot claim that simply because a majority of philosophers are atheists your claim is right.

          Good thoughts. Thank you for the dialogue and pointed remarks. Also, if we keep this up the reply box will be so small we will be reading responses one word at a time. LOL

          1. The problem with inductive premises, as I’m sure you’re aware, is that they don’t lead to necessarily true conclusions. That fact that, as you say, few options present themselves, doesn’t argue in this case for one over the other. I don’t see a reason to select one possible cause over another when there is nothing to distinguish them. I know, for instance, that my front lawn contains either an even or an odd number of blades of grass but there is nothing to suggest that one of those possibilities is true or even that one is more likely than the other.

            Regarding probability, this quickly spins into a circular argument. There’s a more serious problem here as well: you have no evidence that something that has all of those attributes exist. What does it mean for something to be eternal and immaterial? You can posit that such things exist, but you have no ability to demonstrate that they do. And, such a thing creates its own series of problems. If we assume that the universe needs a first cause–an assumption I think is warranted–then we need that first cause. But if you have that first cause as a being with intent that exists eternally, that being has the same issues that an eternal universe would.

            I’ll put it this way–the argument against an eternal universe/multiverse is that there’s nothing to get it started. We have an infinite regress of causes and, as the thinking goes, if we go back an infinity then we have nothing that gets us to the present events since we need infinite causes to get us here. Fine–I can see that. But if we posit a being with intent, that problem doesn’t go away. What was God’s first thought? And if He had an infinity of thoughts (since He exists eternally) he couldn’t get to the thought that created the universe without going through infinite thoughts first.

            So we’re agreed that Liebnitz only gets us to a being. I’d argue that Leibnitz doesn’t actually get us to theism but to deism in this case. All of the other things that lead people to one god or another, though, are hugely fallible. Observation, analysis, synthesis, and personal experience can just as easily get you to ailen abduction and spirit photography, the efficacy of homeopathy, astral projection, and more. Those elements are frequently wrong and are subject to confirmation bias at the very least. If you want to find the Christian God, well, seek and ye will find. But the same can be said of Allah, Ganesha, and Zoroaster.

            I’ll also push back on deductive arguments here. Yes, there are a few people who won’t accept them, but things like the shape of the earth aren’t known deductively but through empirical evidence.

            I would, in fact, argue that faith is belief without evidence. I have evidence that I have, for instance, a pair of doves named John and Yoko in my living room. I don’t need faith to believe that. You, on the other hand, have merely my word that this is true. I could post pictures or a video and that would help, but that wouldn’t necessarily prove that they are there to you. We could use Skype or WebEx and I could stand in front of their cage, but that wouldn’t prove I was in my house, but that would help. It would at least be more evidence and you would need less faith for that belief.

            Additionally, faith is the sort of thing that is generally depends on the claim. I could tell you that I have a dog, too. That’s an easier thing to take on faith because it’s a much more common claim than a pair of doves. If I claimed to have a hedgehog (I do) or a prairie dog (I don’t) that might be believed but might also require a greater leap of faith from you because it’s far more unusual. But what would it take for you to believe I have a unicorn? How much proof would you need for that claim to be believed? When the claim is for an eternal, all-knowing, omnibenevolent universe-creating being that exists outside of time and space…well, I need more than someone else’s personal experience. Alien abductions fall into the same category for me.

            Incidentally, Christianity isn’t a majority religion–it does have a plurality, but the majority of the world is non-Christian even if there are more Christians than any other religion. About a third of the world is Christian and a little more than a quarter is Muslim.

            I brought up philosophers here for a specific reason–they are the people most likely to find, deal with, and explore to the deepest level such arguments and the majority remain unconvinced. For the same reason, when people say that the laws of physics prove that a god exists, it’s worth noting that the vast majority of physicists disagree.

            Maybe you should respond to this as a new thread! If you don’t, I will next time.

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  2. Nicely concise, Peter. BTW, my wife says it is against natural law to place a contingent chocolate cake image on an Internet post without supplying the recipe…. Not sure where this is found, by it makes sense…Pinterest, maybe?

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      Ha ha, that’s hilarious Mike! I wish I had the recipe, brother, but I don’t. If I come across it, then I’ll make sure to give to you so you can pass it along to your wife 😊.

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  3. SJHonewell, I am going to list a couple/three things as I want to make sure we are not talking past each other.

    1. Premise 2 is of central concern because it can only be probable, though I think you would say it is not even probable
    2. One solution to the issue of First Causes is no more preferable to another as all solutions, unless empirically verifiable, are to be doubted
    3. Empirical data seems to be your preferred (or possibly only way of knowing) whereas I would argue for humans it is but one way of knowing

    With that said, to the concern of a First Cause having the same issue as an eternal cosmos, namely infinite regress, a first cause who is also an agent would not occupy the same ontological space as the universe, that is they would be transcendent. O the specific question of “What was God’s first thought” as it relates to ontology I would say this questions is like asking “where are all the married bachelors”? The question is meaningless for God by definition is an eternal being, thus God never had a first thought.

    Second, deism is a specific type of theism. It specifies a God who is there but does not intervene. The Bling watchmaker or Watchmaker argument is an example of a deists conception of God. Thus, they are a particular kind of theist. Theism is the more general/generic position. That is why theism and a-theism or atheism are usually contrasted.

    Finally, philosophy, unlike physics or molecular biology, or any other specified field of study, does not require specialized information or tools/instruments. Rather, all cognitively and physically healthy human beings are philosophers. Maybe this is not there profession and maybe they do not understand the specialized jargon, but philosophy is accessible to everyone. So that the possibility so many “professional” philosophers see no place for God is again irrelevant, it carries no weight, at least not for me. They can be just as wrong as I can.

    I know I did not address the concerns regarding circular arguments, inductive reasoning, and faith. But I did so intentionally as to do so would require more length to an already lengthy discussion.

    I am really curious about your personal epistemology, and what produces truth in your worldview. Again good thoughts and thank you for the helpful thoughts.

    1. I’ll go point-by-point.

      I think we are going to talk past each other on premise 2. You see it as probable. I see it as possible with no way to determine its actual probability. I don’t see how you get to probable for any being let alone the one you want to claim because I don’t see there being a way to actually calculate probability. Again, which is more probable–that there is an even number or an odd number of blades of grass in my front yard?

      Regarding first causes, I have the same issue. I’m not well enough versed in such topics to honestly have much more of a layman’s opinion and wouldn’t pretend to. Again, I don’t see any argument that persuades me that the first cause is a being of any type as being probable or even more probable than something else.

      Since we know that human beings are prone to making mistakes, suffering from hallucinations, and are otherwise fallible, I think empirical data is clearly the best way to know anything. I don’t think that personal experiences that cannot be otherwise verified or events that happen inside my own head are things that are specifically trustworthy. I would consider myself very close to an apistevist. The idea that we can “know” something because we feel it is true is something that is routinely shown false in the everyday experience of millions of people. How many people “know” they are married to a faithful spouse only to discover that they are not?

      If the “first thought” idea isn’t relevant to God because God is an eternal being and doesn’t occupy the same ontological space, then the same would be true for an eternal multiverse. I’ll accept that as clearing up that objection, but it immediately creates a new objection.

      I tend to think of deism as a belief in some sort of god, but that god being unknown, unknowable, or indefinable. That could be an idiosyncratic definition on my part, but it’s a quibble either way. I’m happy in this case to use your definitions if only to prevent us from arguing the same point because our definitions don’t match.

      And yes, philosophy is accessible to anyone, but in the same respect, so is physics. So is biology. I don’t have the tools at my disposal to hunt for the microwave background radiation, but I do have the ability to read about and stay current on the subject. My point again in bringing in philosophers is that these are people who specifically do deal with these subjects and who spend their lives and careers making sense of them. If you’re going to downgrade the philosophers as being meaningless in questions of philosophy, we should do the same for theologians, since “maybe they do not understand the specialized jargon, but [theology] is accessible to everyone.” If they have value, it’s in deciphering these questions. It also brings up the question of this–if 75% of philosophers disagreed with me, would their input still be without value to you? Or are you willing to pitch the ideas of theologians into the “not relevant” pile? With respect to what you’re considering makes philosophers irrelevant in this case, theologians seem to fit every criterion.

      I’m a little sad you’ve decided to ignore faith. For me, that’s the central issue.

      1. Very Good, then lets proceed to faith.

        I work off of the definition of faith as “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

        God is a hope, not an established fact. I believe this to be by design. This does not mean that I don’t believe evidence/signs exist that point people toward God. Case in point, I find Leibniz argument persuasive to a point. Why? Because my definition of evidence is more broad than yours. I am a realist not an idealist when it comes to epistemology. Thus, things such as intuitions, emotions, perception, language, and reality itself (not to mention the sciences and arts) can provide knowledge. Are they sometimes fallible? Of course, but this does not mean they are always fallible. In fact, the better one becomes at interpreting the data (no matter where it is derived) the better one becomes at sifting out error and mis-conception.

        More importantly, I find the testimony of Jesus of Nazareth persuasive. His worldview, grasp of reality, and understanding of the human condition are perceptive. This for me, coupled with what nature relays, is persuasive.

        Am I open to new information? Yes, always.

        1. I don’t honestly see the difference between “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things unseen” and the two-word phrase “wishful thinking.” In other words, while we claim different meanings for “faith,” there’s not that much of a difference in application.

          We do have very different ideas of evidence as well. Your method of evidence has no way of discounting alien abduction stories (for instance). Further, language provides no specific knowledge. Language is arbitrary, changable, and constantly changing. The idea that “words mean things” is strictly untrue in the linguistic sense. Words don’t have concrete definitions; they mean what we agree they mean. There’s nothing about the word “website” that must specifically define how we use it–but if we all use that collection of letters and phonemes the same way, it has that meaning for us. The idea that a given word must mean something specific is immediately countered by the idea that there are thousands of languages with different collections of phonemes and letters that refer to the same concept. Outside of empiricism, you’re on shaky ground.

          As for getting better at interpretation of non-empirical sources of knowledge, I think this is something that has been addressed above. If you go into this sort of search with the goal of finding a god, you’ll find the god every time; it becomes a self-fulfilling conclusion. Ghost hunters get better and better and interpreting what they see as being conclusive of ghosts, too. That doesn’t mean that they’ve ever located something provable. Bigfoot believers can talk endlessly about the various proofs they have of bigfoot. Of course they have proof–they’re looking at what they find through the lens of wanting to reach that conclusion. I don’t think you’re doing anything different.

          I don’t see the testimony of Jesus as being any more convincing than that of Confucius or Siddhartha Gautama, who were equally perceptive and understanding of the human condition; both developed the ethic of reciprocity centuries before any New Testament writing, just by way of example. I don’t see the necessity of lifting any of them to divine status.

          1. It seems I am wrong and you are right, or rather I am diluted and you are intellectually superior. I have been suckered into a non-existent faith.

            I think the central issue at work throughout our dialogue is epistemology.

            I am very much a pre-Descartes realist who is not skeptical about how humans know or that some language is fixed. You seem very skeptical of all knowledge that is not empirical, which is much of reality, but more importantly skeptical about how one knows what they know (epistemology)

            To the point of Jesus of Nazareth your response is surface. By this I mean I wonder if you have really considered his claims, or do you worry about being suckered into the black whole of self-fulfilling faith? Here I have very little patience, because those who critique Jesus often seem to know very little about his thoughts and actions except the platitudes of others. It makes dismissing his work and life convenient, but not compelling.

            So, educate me. Point me to a resource (book, article, manuscript) that you find compelling and I will read it with an open mind. I am sincere in this.

            Again, quality thoughts and conversation.

  4. Well, that escalated quickly. I’ve never claimed intellectual superiority. I have no idea how smart you are or how smart I am (or am not) relative to you or anyone else. I do think, though, that you’ve come to a conclusion on insufficient grounds. I’ve tried to demonstrate that; you disgree. You’ve tried to demonstrate that your position is more epistemologically sound; I disagree. That opening paragraph pity party wasn’t necessary and certainly doesn’t conform to the tenor of this discussion or of anything I’ve posted. I’ll leave that as it is. I have genuinely tried to disagree as respectfully as I can. In fact, my entire case here has never been to disabuse anyone of his or her faith, something I’ve said at least once. It’s that the argument offered here has significant problems. You’ve agreed at least in part, saying that Leibnitz’s argument is persuasive “to a point.” Had I the same faith as you, my point would remain–Leibnitz’s argument is flawed and not the end-all/be-all it is made out to be in the video. The creator of that video, the original author of this blog, and you are putting far more on it than it will bear. You find it convincing, but you do so because it reaches the conclusion you’ve already reached. There’s nothing that prevents a Muslim from changing a few words and making the same argument. And that was my original point.

    Regarding language, I’m sorry but it’s not fixed. I’m willing to admit my ignorance or my layman’s-level knowledge in plenty of areas, but not this one. I have an MA in linguistics and teach communication and writing. This is my subject. You’re free and welcome to disagree with me. There is nothing in particular that says that plurals should be formed with an “s”; it’s just the way English tends to do things–there is a system, but the creation of that system was entirely arbitrary. Try reading Beowulf in the original Old English to see just how “fixed” our language is. English has roots in German, Greek, Latin, and French and those are systematized as well, but the languages themselves are no less arbitrary. Our words mean what we agree they do; if we all decided to call pork chops “mergs,” that’s what “merg” would mean, because we all agreed that it does. Further, words change meaning, gain and lose connotations and denotations all the time, and are created and disappear from the vocabulary. It’s the nature of language.

    Regarding Jesus…if you read what I’ve written again, you’ll see that I didn’t dismiss him. What I said was that I see nothing about his testimony that is exceptional; perhaps that constitutes dismissal in your vernacular. It also seems that you conveniently dismiss Confucius and Siddhartha as casually as you claim I have for Jesus. I don’t give any of them a free ride; I find it worth my time to judge each on his respective merits.

    I’d suggest reading Daniel Dennett. “Breaking the Spell” is as good a place to start as any. I find it difficult to disagree with the cases he makes in general.

    1. Forgive me for the opening bit, was driving towards a point in a tongue-in-cheek fashion, that is, it was meant to be humorous…witty, not pity. I guess it wasn’t. Forgive me.

      I will give Breaking the Spell a try. I know of Dennett, his writings, and worldview. So, it should be interesting.

      With Jesus, to say nothing he did or claimed as exceptional (even if you deny it) is the definition of dismissal. I wonder, do you assume nothing he did is exceptional because your worldview does not allow for anything he did to be understood as exceptional?

      You assume I casually dismissed other religious thinkers/leaders for predisposed preference for Christ because he fills some psychological need…an easy believism perhaps. Or better put, I a priori concluded. Also it seems you assume I have not weighed other religious leaders thinking, their worldview, their conception of reality because of the same a priori prejudice. I wonder, do these assumptions betray something of your lack of knowledge in this area? If not, if you have weighed their “merits”, what aren’t they?

      Here again is a subtle hint that you believe I perceive the world through inferior means “You find it convincing, but you do so because it reaches the conclusion you’ve already reached”, that is, I must conclude a priori. For if I didn’t, if I proceeded along a more rigorous route, say one like yours on Dennett’s, I would have concluded similar to the two of you. I admit the opening of the last post was poorly witty, but perceptive it was.

      Finally, the bit on language is clarifying. I agree too that words exist and have meanings, and by this I reference the meanings behind the words. Certainly the ink marks can change, and even the meanings come to have semantic range, and yes some words do fall out of use. But when people reference water with the multiplicity of ink marks of their choosing they have always indicated the substance H2O in its liquid state. They have never, at least to my knowledge, referenced sand, or stone, or tree bark. Water, aqua, agua, eau, voda, etc. always references the thing that is H20. Why?

      Take for instance the following illustration of words in all their richness. 1) is words do correspond to reality; 2) words do not correspond to reality

      1) If “RED”, “red”, and “rojo” have different meanings because they have different physical shapes then words do not exist. They are nothing more than ink marks without verbal significance. If “RED”, “red”, and “rojo” are instances of the same word then something else besides their shape gives these words their meaning. Something other than their physical, human given characteristics is being referenced. How is this so if SOME words do not reference a reality outside of themselves and the human observer? If there is a reality outside the human observer that is real/objective, than what else is objective besides redness? What has informed reality with this objectivity? Certainly it is not humans, we did not “think up” H2O or redness, for both proceeded us. Was it natural laws? Natural laws don’t produce. What was it then?

      2) Ok, well maybe this is all the coalescing of an arbitrary system around arbitrary ink marks that indicate an arbitrary thing, that is, “they only mean what we agree they do”. Is the word arbitrary arbitrary? If so, than it means nothing. Your only saying what you want to say, not something substantive. Opinion, endless opinion is all we are left with. For, even science depends on language that means something, that is not arbitrary, language that is not just people saying what they want to say. In such as system empiricism doesn’t mean anything, it only means what you want it to mean. So, if someone co-opts empiricism to mean “bread” they can, given that they and their friends agreed it should. More importantly, they and their friends are more “powerful” than you and your friends so not only do they get your word they get to use it how they want, because they have agreed upon it and are the most powerful group. But what does powerful mean? You see, if words only have meanings because “we all agreed”, and do not at some point touch reality than its all nonsense, or rather its not, because maybe that isn’t what “we all agreed” nonsense to mean.

      Reality (in some cases) not the “herd instinct”, dictates meaning. More importantly, when one moves away from realism and into some other worldview (in these cases) reality will always be there to “catch” the error. Just like it does here. Language is a tool used to describe reality and be used for human expression and creation. If one does not practice balance in this crucial area than they will wind up saying either all words are human creations “we agree upon” or all words are fixed in reality. Realists say yes to both.

      Because Realists say yes to both when we use words to describe God we are saying that some words do relay reality as it is, not as we want it, not as we wish it. But we are also saying this is how we think it is, maybe it actually is, and maybe it actually is not. Thus, both fact and faith, reason and intuition, science and the arts, the corporeal and immaterial speak truth. A realists noetic web is seeking to be exhaustive of human experience, not merely dismissive of what we may perceive to be exceptional.

      1. We’re talking past each other on language. Sure, the word “water” signifies H20 in a liquid state. What I’m saying is that there is nothing inherent in those sounds or letters that means what it signifies. We could change what we call liquid H20, could we not? We could decide that the letters “w-a-t-e-r” in that order mean something else, could we not? That we attach that meaning to that sequence of letters/sounds is, ultimately arbitrary. There is nothing inherent in them that signifies what we take them to stand for.

        What does “red” signify to us? Generally, it signifies a color. No, humans didn’t invent “red,” but we did invent the word(s) we use to signify it. In terms of objectivity, I don’t see the basis of this argument. Sorry. Why would I need to posit something that “informs” reality in this way? In a universe without minds but with the same physical laws, objects would still reflect light from a particular part of the spectrum and would still be red, even if there were no minds to thus label it. I don’t seen the necessity for a mind to create objectivity.

        The idea that words mean nothing if their meaning is arbitrary is, frankly, silly. I do think there is an objective reality, but that doesn’t mean that everything I think or experience is objectively real. The quest for certainty seems to lie at the heart of a great number of religious ideas–having something we can know for absolutely sure. I don’t think we can; there’s no argument that I see that clearly solves the problem of hard solipsism, even if I think that’s a ridiculous idea (which I do). Maximal certainty is enough–I want to be as sure of things as I can possibly be, even if absolute certainty isn’t truly attainable. This idea of arbitrariness seems to lead to the idea of meaning beyond language–if there is no god of any sort, there can be no ultimate meaning. And? That doesn’t make things nonsense.

        Language reflects reality, certainly. But language shapes reality as well. Ben Whorf went too far with the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, but there are some ideas there that are worth investigating. The language we have to describe the world around us in some ways reflects how we see and experience that reality.

        I perhaps misspoke when saying that Jesus claimed nothing exceptional–the word I should have used was “convincing.” I’d rather not dip into the reliability of the Bible beyond saying you seem to think that the accounts are reliable and I do not. The claims may be exceptional, the ethics are not exceptional, and the reliability of the text is suspect at best. I’ll leave that there. We’re going to disagree on that, so it’s probably not worth discussing.

        As for noetics, I’m uninterested.

        As for why you find the original argument convincing and I do not, I think it does come down to worldview. You almost certainly didn’t start believing because of Leibnitz and I find it difficult to think of anyone else who didn’t believe finding this argument compelling enough to believe because of it. It’s possible, I suppose. in the same way, arguments from the Bible are compelling to people who believe the Bible and unconvincing to those who don’t. I don’t doubt that you’ll find Dennett’s arguments unconvincing. I find them compelling at least in part because I’m starting from a position already similar to Dennett’s. I’m not claiming I’m better or smarter. In fact, I’m claiming I’m no different.

        Not trying for sympathy here, but you’re tending to read a lot more into what I’m saying than is honestly intended.

  5. Good video Peter. From a personal viewpoint I just knew God existed from the time I was a very small child. What a blessing that has been for me not having to have such thoughts as Who made God? or how long is eternity ?, etc roll around my mind. I just knew He was their and later in life totally submitted to Him. Scripture says He has put eternity and a knowledge of himself in every heart but our sinfulness wants nothing to do with God, thus the excuses and arguments to try and disprove His existence.
    Its like someone sitting on a basketball in a pool, pushing it under the water and then saying where is the ball ? where is the ball?
    That’s what people do with God.. supress the truth in unrighteousness. God bless. Geoff, Australia.

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  6. Pingback: 3 Mind-Bending Reasons Why the Scientific Method Can’t Prove God’s Existence

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