Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Who Pushed the Button?

Blogging has been on the back burner for a week now, with a few different ideas simmering. Ernie appears to be busy with other things, so I really should be taking this time to cover some topics not so directly related to our ongoing conversation. I want to cover very briefly some thoughts I have on various arguments for the existence of God.

The details of various ontological, teleological, cosmological, moral and other arguments for God can be found in numerous places; I linked to Wikipedia but has a large body of material too, ranked even higher by Google than Wikipedia. So I am not going to cover the details. What I want to address instead is, even supposing one or more of these arguments were compelling, what would that tell us?

The ontological argument would tell us that God is the greatest. Cosmological and teleological arguments might tell us that God is creative. Moral arguments might tell us that God is moral, or at least that he authored morality. But I have already claimed too much. Do any of these arguments actually require that god be singular? The ontological argument, as I understand it, might require multiple gods to be equal. Teleological arguments (arguments from design) on the other hand have been used (only half in jest) to suggest that there are in fact multiple designers, since some of the design is so poor that it must be the work of a committee.

What if I found one or more of these arguments compelling? Would I return to Christianity? No. I would be a Deist or perhaps a panentheist. These sorts of arguments are plainly insufficient to prove Christianity true, because they are not specific to Christianity. Even if Christianity were the only theistic religion in existence, they would be insufficient because these arguments demonstrate no need for religion. Christianity rests on the truth of more specific claims. (What claims those are will depend on exactly what flavor of Christianity you are describing.)

As it happens, I think that the ontological argument is complete bunk. The cosmological, teleological and moral arguments are inconclusive at best. But they do not particularly concern me because they have no practical implications. The most that they can establish is the existence of a (possibly) disinterested creator, a god that "pushed the button" and then left. To believe more than that requires more specific evidence, and the evidence for Christianity is simply not there.

4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42. Push the button.

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