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Transcript
DIVINE INJUNCTION
This section deals with the existence of God and the usefulness of religious rules (in general) as
moral guidelines. Material specific to the Judeo-Christian tradition and religious organizations as
social institutions will be found in the chapter called The Church.
Theism and atheism are the only two functional beliefs
Peter A. Facione (prof. of philosophy, Calif. State Univ. at Fullerton), The Student’s Guide to Philosophy
1988, p. 133
“Try as you might, you cannot avoid the issue. For practical purposes, there are only two views: theism (I
believe God exists) or atheism (I believe God does not exist). Agnosticism (I’m not sure whether God
exists) comes to the same thing in terms of practical day-to-day living as either theism or atheism, in most
cases atheism.”
Humans do not have souls
Daniel C. Dennett (Austin B. Fletcher Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Center for Cognitive
Studies at Tufts University), “How to Protect Human Dignity from Science,” in Human Dignity and Bioethics:
Essays Commissioned by the President’s Council on Bioethics, 2008, p. 44
“People have immortal souls, according to tradition, and that is what makes them so special. Let me put the
problem unequivocally: the traditional concept of the soul as an immaterial thinking thing, Descartes’s res
cogitans, the internal locus in each human body of all suffering, and meaning, and decisions, both moral
and immoral, has been utterly discredited. Science has banished the soul as firmly as it has banished
mermaids, unicorns, and perpetual motion machines. There are no such things. There is no more scientific
justification for believing in an immaterial immortal soul than there is for believing that each of your
kidneys has a tap-dancing poltergeist living in it.”
God exists
UNIVERSAL BELIEF
Religious faith is a constant in every human culture
Anthony Layng (emeritus prof. of anthropology, Elmira College; adjunct professor of anthropology at Wake
Forest University), “Religious Beliefs and their Consequences: A Comparative Perspective,” Skeptical
Inquirer, March/April 2004, p. 47
“When defined as something that entails or presumes supernatural power, religion can be recognized in all
cultures, past and present, indicating that such beliefs have played a role in the lives of people for a very
long time. Identifying the supernatural dimensions of religious beliefs in tribal and industrial societies
avoids any ethnocentric distinction between “true” religion (that which we believe) and superstition (that
which we do not believe).”
FIRST CAUSE
The first cause argument demonstrates that God exists
Alfred C. Ewing (Lecturer in Moral Science and Reader in Philosophy, Cambridge Univ.), The Fundamental
Questions of Philosophy, 1962, p. 239
The first cause argument for God’s existence: “The argument is briefly to the effect that we require a reason
to account for the world, and the ultimate reason must be of such a kind as itself not to require a further
reason to account for it. It is then argued that God is the only kind of being who could be conceived as
self-sufficient and so as not requiring a cause beyond himself but being his own reason. The argument has
Prager’s LD Vault: Divine Injunction · Revised July 2010 · © 2010 John R. Prager
an appeal because we are inclined to demand a reason for things, and the notion of a first cause is the only
alternative to the notion of an infinite regress, which is very difficult and seems even self-contradictory.
Further, if any being is to be conceived as necessarily existing and so not needing a cause outside itself, it is
most plausible to conceive God as occupying this position.”
DESIGN
The argument from design shows that God exists
Alfred C. Ewing (Lecturer in Moral Science and Reader in Philosophy, Cambridge Univ.), The Fundamental
Questions of Philosophy, 1962, p. 242
Argument from design: “Suppose we saw pebbles on the shore arranged in such a way as to make an
elaborate machine. It is theoretically possible that they might have come to occupy such positions by mere
chance, but it fantastically unlikely, and we should feel no hesitation in jumping to the conclusion that they
had been thus deposited not by the tide but by some intelligent agent. Yet the body of the simplest living
creature is a more complex machine than the most complex ever devised by a human engineer.”
God’s handiwork can be seen from the fact that the universe so well suits human existence
Kenneth R. Miller (cell biologist, Brown Univ.), as quoted in “Seeing and Believing” by Jerry A. Coyne, The
New Republic, February 4, 2009, p. 37
“The scientific insight that our very existence, through evolution, requires a universe of the very size, scale,
and age that we see around us implies that the universe, in a certain sense, had us in mind from the very
beginning ... If this universe was indeed primed for human life, then it is only fair to say, from a theist’s
point of view, that each of us is the result of a thought of God, despite the existence of natural processes that
gave rise to us.” [ellipsis in original text]
ONTOLOGICAL PROOF
The ontological argument is described
John Allen Paulos (prof. of mathematics, Temple Univ.), Irrelegion: A Mathematician Explains Why the
Arguments for God Just Don’t Add Up, 2008, p. 38
“Finally on to the more serious ontological argument for the existence of God, which is generally attributed
to Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury in the eleventh century. A very rough version of this argument
defines God to be the greatest and most perfect possible being. It continues by assuming that this most
perfect being must possess all the attributes of perfection. Since it’s better to exist than not to exist,
existence is a characteristic of perfection. Hence and presto, God exists by definition.”
Descartes bases his variation of the ontological argument on the concept of perfection
John Allen Paulos (prof. of mathematics, Temple Univ.), Irrelegion: A Mathematician Explains Why the
Arguments for God Just Don’t Add Up, 2008, p. 39-40
“Even the French philosopher Descartes subscribes to a version of the ontological argument. It derives from
his conviction that he has an idea of God as a perfect being. This idea must have as a cause something
external to him since he is not perfect. Therefore, Descartes concludes, the only possible cause for his
having this idea is an external perfect being, God.”
St. Anselm’s ontological proof demonstrates God’s existence
Robert C. Solomon and Kathleen M. Higgins (both professors of philosophy, Univ. of Texas at Austin), A
Short History of Philosophy, 1996, p. 143
“In his ontological proof, Anselm argues that the very definition of God implies His existence. God,
according to Anselm, is ‘that than which none greater can be conceived.’ Even those who do not believe in
God understand that this is what is meant by ‘God.’ God is by definition the most perfect conceivable being.
What follow from this is that God, so understood, must exist. If God were a mere possibility, a glorious idea
without a referent, God would not be the most perfect being that could be conceived. One could conceive of
a still more perfect being, namely, one that shared all the perfections of the idea, but also existed. Once one
Prager’s LD Vault: Divine Injunction · Revised July 2010 · © 2010 John R. Prager
accepts the conception of God as the most perfect conceivable being, one is logically committed to the
existence of God as well.”
St. Anselm’s ontological proof was never meant to convince doubters
Paul Vincent Spade (prof. of philosophy, Indiana Univ.), “Medieval Philosophy” in The Oxford History of
Western Philosophy, ed. by Anthony Kenny, 1994, p. 77-78
“But two things should be noted about Anselm’s use of reasoning. First, he was not trying to prove the
truths of theology as though they were otherwise subject to doubt. His purpose was not to shore up a faith
that might otherwise falter, but rather simply to explore what he already firmly believed. His attitude is
summed up near the beginning of the Proslogion in a famous statement: ‘I believe in order to understand
(Credo ut intelligam). Second, Anselm did not think his appeal to reason excluded the realm of mystery in
religion. In the Monologion, for example, he thinks he can prove that God is a Trinity of persons, but he
does not think he can explain just how this works.”
Refutations of the ontological proof don’t stand up under scrutiny
Paul Vincent Spade (prof. of philosophy, Indiana Univ.), “Medieval Philosophy” in The Oxford History of
Western Philosophy, ed. by Anthony Kenny, 1994, p. 79-80
“Finally, Anselm’s argument has frequently been rejected on the grounds that it illicitly moves from the
realm of pure concepts (the ‘relations of ideas,’ as Hume called it) to the realm of actual existence (‘matters
of fact’). And that, it is said, simply cannot be done; otherwise, one could infer the existences of all sorts of
spurious things from the mere fact that one can conceive them. But this refutation is frivolous. It in no way
follows from Anselm’s argument that one can infer the existence of just anything whatever from its mere
concept. It only follows that one can do this in a certain special case, for the reasons given in the argument
itself. Furthermore, it is not as if we can tell nothing at all about actual existence by examining concepts.
One can correctly infer from the concept of a square circle, for example, that such a thing does not exist.
Why should it be possible to infer the non-existence of things from their concepts, but not their existence?
That would seem oddly asymmetric. In a word, this type of ‘refutation’ of the ontological argument seems
nothing but a dogma that would try to refute the argument without actually taking the trouble to look at it.”
The philosophical community has never refuted the ontological argument
Anthony Kenny (Master, Balliol College, Oxford) in The Great Philosophers, edited by Bryan Magee, 1987,
p. 70
“But the most interesting thing is that while a great many philosophers through history have thought there
was something wrong with the ontological argument, they all give different reasons for saying that it goes
wrong. Today there is no consensus about what is wrong with it; indeed, there isn’t any consensus that there
is something wrong at all.”
EXPERIENCE and INTUITION
Religious experience demonstrates the existence of God
Alfred C. Ewing (Lecturer in Moral Science and Reader in Philosophy, Cambridge Univ.), The Fundamental
Questions of Philosophy, 1962, p. 255
“The mere existence of religious emotion could hardly of itself constitute a valid ground for asserting the
existence of God, but what is meant by the appeal to religious experience is usually the claim in states where
this religious emotion is present to have a direct apprehension, not based on inference, of the existence and
to some extent the nature of God.”
Religious intuition is quite common
Alfred C. Ewing (Lecturer in Moral Science and Reader in Philosophy, Cambridge Univ.), The Fundamental
Questions of Philosophy, 1962, p. 256
“This is a very common situation, I think, of as regards religious intuition. We must not suppose this
intuition to be limited to a few great mystics: it is in some (though a much lesser) degree possessed by the
plain man who says ‘I cannot prove, but I feel there is a God,’ when in saying this he is really sincere.”
Prager’s LD Vault: Divine Injunction · Revised July 2010 · © 2010 John R. Prager
Religious intuition has been quite common in human history
Alfred C. Ewing (Lecturer in Moral Science and Reader in Philosophy, Cambridge Univ.), The Fundamental
Questions of Philosophy, 1962, p. 256
“Intuitive religious conviction has been so widespread and such a dominating factor in the thought of many,
we might indeed say ‘most,’ who were in other respects obviously among the greatest and best of mankind,
and so much the basis throughout history of a whole extraordinarily persistent, fertile, and fundamental side
of life and thought as to constitute a strong prima facie case for the view that there is at least a great deal to
it.”
Religious intuition is just as viable as other strongly-held but unprovable beliefs
Alfred C. Ewing (Lecturer in Moral Science and Reader in Philosophy, Cambridge Univ.), The Fundamental
Questions of Philosophy, 1962, p. 257
“Religious beliefs are after all only in the same position as other fundamental beliefs in not being strictly
provable. By ‘fundamental beliefs’ I mean a belief presupposed by a whole important department of human
thought. When we consider belief in memory, in an external world, in minds other than one’s own, in
induction, in ethics, we are driven back to something which we either cannot prove at all or at least cannot
prove in a way which wins general agreement among philosophers, yet we continue unflinchingly to hold
the beliefs.”
Religious intuition is as valid as other intuitions
Alfred C. Ewing (Lecturer in Moral Science and Reader in Philosophy, Cambridge Univ.), The Fundamental
Questions of Philosophy, 1962, p. 258
“The main positive objections to the claims of religious intuition are made by dogmatic empiricists who
assert that knowledge is limited to sense-experience, but as we have seen this dogma cannot be proved.
There must be some intuition if there is to be inference at all, and there is no way of determining by a priori
argument in what fields intuition is or is not possible.”
Religious intuition is more than wishful thinking
Alfred C. Ewing (Lecturer in Moral Science and Reader in Philosophy, Cambridge Univ.), The Fundamental
Questions of Philosophy, 1962, p. 260
“We may add that it is by no means such a simple task as might be thought to explain religion by a reference
to wish-fulfillment. Religious beliefs are by no means always pleasant to the person who hold them or is on
the verge of doing so. The acceptance of religious beliefs has often exposed those who adopted them to
terrible persecutions, it has often intensified their sense of sin till this became agonizing, it has inspired the
dread of hell. I do not wish for a moment to countenance the morbid exaggerated sense of sin or the belief in
eternal hell which have been far too often prevalent in religious circles, but am merely citing these to show
that we cannot explain religious conviction simply by the desire to believe what is pleasant, because the
beliefs have often been acutely painful.”
OTHER PROOFS
Thomas Aquinas’s cosmological proofs demonstrates God’s existence
Robert C. Solomon and Kathleen M. Higgins (both professors of philosophy, Univ. of Texas at Austin), A
Short History of Philosophy, 1996, p. 146
“Thomas [Aquinas] famously provided his own proofs for the existence of God based on reason’s analysis
of contingent beings (beings, in other words, that depend on something other than themselves to exist or
behave as they do). In general, his arguments take the form of a cosmological proof, an inference from
factual existence to ultimate explanation. For example, the motion of contingent things is causally
dependent on other things that moved them. Believing, with Aristotle, that an infinite regress is
unintelligible, Thomas was convinced that this realization would lead the mind to seek a first mover. This
Prime Mover that the mind concludes must exist is God, according to Thomas. In each of his five proofs of
God’s existence (also called his ‘five ways’), Thomas makes a similar move, concluding that the contingent
being of things in the natural world depends on something that transcends them, namely, God.”
Prager’s LD Vault: Divine Injunction · Revised July 2010 · © 2010 John R. Prager
The existence of moral rules implies the existence of God
Alfred C. Ewing (Lecturer in Moral Science and Reader in Philosophy, Cambridge Univ.), The Fundamental
Questions of Philosophy, 1962, p. 253
“Kant himself in a later work, and many other thinkers, have argued from the existence of the moral law to
a lawgiver, God. This argument has also been used: The moral law is objective. In what, then, does it
reside? Certainly not in the physical world. Nor only in the minds of men. An ethical proposition such that
it is better to forgive one’s enemies than to hate them might be true even at a time when no human realized
its truth at all. Yet it is impossible to see what else the moral law could reside in but a mind. Therefore we
must postulate a super-human mind. Such arguments have the advantage, if valid, or directly establishing
not only the existence but the perfect goodness of the supreme mind. A being in which the whole moral law
resided could hardly fail to be perfectly good.”
Descartes derives God’s existence as an implication of his own self-awareness
Bryan Magee (UK television documentarian, former Member of Parliament, and former philosophy lecturer
or visiting fellow at Yale, Harvard, Oxford, and Cambridge), Confessions of a Philosopher: A Journey
through Western Philosophy, 1997, p. 92-93
“Descartes believed that from the contents of his own consciousness alone he could prove that there must be
an infinite, omnipotent, and perfect being. He believed this because he thought that the greater could not be
conceived by the less. Therefore I, a finite, weak, and imperfect being, would not be able by myself to form
the clear concept of an infinite, omnipotent, and perfect God. The fact that I have this concept means that
something corresponding to it must exist and must have given me an apprehension of itself.” [Reference is
to René Descartes (1596-1650), French philosopher, scientist, and mathematician]
Natural beauty demonstrates God’s existence
Karl W. Giberson (prof. of physics, Eastern Nazarene College), as quoted in “Seeing and Believing” by
Jerry A. Coyne, The New Republic, February 4, 2009, p. 40
“Why is [bird] song so pleasant to hear? Why, for example, does almost every scene of undeveloped nature
seem so beautiful, from mountain lakes to rolling prairies? If the evolution of our species was driven
entirely by survival considerations, then where did we get our rich sense of natural aesthetics?... There is an
artistic character to nature that has always struck me as redundant from a purely scientific point of view.... I
am attracted to the idea that God’s signature is not on the engineering marvels of the natural world, but
rather on its marvelous creativity and aesthetic depth. Scientists are not supposed to talk about God this
way, for it raises questions that can’t be answered.” [Brackets and ellipses in original text]
God does not exist
GENERAL CONSIDERATIONS
The question of God’s existence may not be a question at all, just a misapplication of language
Thomas Cathcart (social services worker and former philosophy teacher at Westbrook Junior College), and
Daniel Klein (former philosophy student, Harvard; professional joke writer), Plato and a Platypus Walk Into
a Bar: Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes, 2007, p. 130-131
“The ordinary language philosophers thought that the centuries-old philosophical struggle over belief in
God grew out of trying to frame the question as one of fact. They said religious language is a different
language altogether. Some said it is an evaluative language like the kind film critics Ebert and Roeper use:
‘I believe in God’ really only means ‘I believe certain values get two thumbs way up.’ Others said religious
language expresses emotions: ‘I believe in God’ means, ‘When I ponder the universe, I get goosebumps!’
Neither of these alternative languages results in the philosophical muddles you get by saying ‘I believe in
God.’ Poof! Puzzle resolved! And 2,500 years of the philosophy of religion down the tubes.”
Belief in God may come from many motives, but truth is not one of them
Bryan Magee (UK television documentarian, former Member of Parliament, and former philosophy lecturer
or visiting fellow at Yale, Harvard, Oxford, and Cambridge), Confessions of a Philosopher: A Journey
through Western Philosophy, 1997, p. 348
Prager’s LD Vault: Divine Injunction · Revised July 2010 · © 2010 John R. Prager
“People hold religious beliefs for umpteen different kinds of reason: because they deep conviction of its
truth, or because it provides a welcome explanation of their experience, or makes them feel better, of
comforts them, or makes them members of a sympathetic social group, or because they imbibed it at a
critical age — or for goodness knows how many other reasons; but from none of these does it follow that
the belief is true. And although I have pressed the question often enough I have never received an answer
that really is an answer. In the end it usually comes down to one thing: people want to believe. But this has
nothing to do with truth. Something I have had occasion to say many times is that ignorance is not a license
to believe what we like: it is ignorance, and renders believing what we like unjustified.”
Scriptures cannot validate their own legitimacy
John Allen Paulos (prof. of mathematics, Temple Univ.), Irrelegion: A Mathematician Explains Why the
Arguments for God Just Don’t Add Up, 2008, p. 64
“Because proponents of the huff-and-puff argument repeat it incessantly, I’ll repeat that claiming that a
holy book’s claims are undeniable because the book itself claims them to be convincing only to the
convinced.”
If God does not exist, then moral action becomes even more important for man
Simone de Beauvoir (1908-1986; French existentialist philosopher, novelist, and dramatist); The Ethics of
Ambiguity, 1964, p. 15-16
“Dostoievsky asserted, ‘If God does not exist, everything is permitted.’ Today’s believers use this formula
for their own advantage. To re-establish man at the heart of his destiny is, they claim, to repudiate all ethics.
However, far from God’s absence authorizing all license, the contrary is the case, because man is
abandoned on the earth, because his acts are definitive, absolute engagements. He bears the responsibility
for a world which is not the work of a strange power, but of himself, where his defeats are inscribed, but his
victories as well. But if God does not exist, man’s faults are inexpiable.”
FIRST CAUSE
The first cause argument is flawed
Alfred C. Ewing (Lecturer in Moral Science and Reader in Philosophy, Cambridge Univ.), The Fundamental
Questions of Philosophy, 1962, p. 239
The first cause argument for God’s existence: “Further, it may be doubted that whether we can apply to the
world as a whole the causal principle which is valid within the world; and if we say that the causal principle
thus applied is only analogous to the latter, the argument is weakened. Finally, and this I think the most
telling point, it is exceedingly difficult to see how anything could be its own reason.”
The First Cause argument cannot explain why God must be the first cause
John Allen Paulos (prof. of mathematics, Temple Univ.), Irrelegion: A Mathematician Explains Why the
Arguments for God Just Don’t Add Up, 2008, p. 4-5
First Cause argument: “The gaping hole in it is Assumption 1, which might be better formulated as: Either
everything has a cause or there’s something that doesn’t .The first-cause argument collapses into this hole
whichever tack we take. If everything has a cause, then God does, too, and there is no first cause. And if
something doesn’t have a cause, it may as well be the physical world as God or a tortoise. Of someone who
asserts that God is the uncaused first cause (and then preens that he’s really explained something), we
should thus inquire, ‘Why cannot the physical world itself be taken to be the uncaused first cause?’ After
all, the venerable principle of Occam’s razor advises us to ‘shave off’ unnecessary assumptions, and taking
the world itself as the uncaused first cause has the great virtue of not introducing the unnecessary
hypothesis of God.”
God cannot be outside the world of phenomena
John Allen Paulos (prof. of mathematics, Temple Univ.), Irrelegion: A Mathematician Explains Why the
Arguments for God Just Don’t Add Up, 2008, p. 5-6
Prager’s LD Vault: Divine Injunction · Revised July 2010 · © 2010 John R. Prager
“Furthermore, efforts by some to put God, the putative first cause, completely outside time and space give
up entirely on the notion of cause, which is defined in terms of time. After all, A causes B only if A comes
before B, and the first cause comes — surprise — first, before its consequences. (Placing God outside time
and space would also preclude any sort of later divine intervention in worldly affairs). In fact, ordinary
language breaks down when we contemplate these matters. The phrase ‘beginning of time,’ for example,
can’t rely on the same presuppositions that ‘beginning of the movie’ can. Before a movie there’s
popcorn-buying and coming attractions; there isn’t any popcorn-buying, coming attractions, or anything
else before the universe.”
DESIGN
The argument from design relies on a slippery use of analogy
Thomas Cathcart (social services worker and former philosophy teacher at Westbrook Junior College), and
Daniel Klein (former philosophy student, Harvard; professional joke writer), Plato and a Platypus Walk Into
a Bar: Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes, 2007, p. 36
“One use of the argument from analogy is found in response to the question of what or who created the
universe. Some have argued that because the universe is like a clock, there must be a Clockmaker. As the
eighteenth-century British empiricist David Hume pointed out, this is a slippery argument, because there is
nothing that is really perfectly analogous to the universe as a whole, unless it’s another universe, so we
shouldn’t really try to pass off anything that is just a part of this universe. Why a clock anyhow? Hume asks.
Why not say the universe is analogous to a kangaroo. After all, both are organically interconnected systems.
But the kangaroo analogy would lead to a very different conclusion about the universe: namely, that it was
born of another universe after that universe had sex with a third universe. A fundamental problem with
arguments from analogy is the assumption that, because some aspects of A are similar to B, other aspects of
A are similar to B. It ain’t necessarily so.”
The creator’s own complexity undermines the argument from design
John Allen Paulos (prof. of mathematics, Temple Univ.), Irrelegion: A Mathematician Explains Why the
Arguments for God Just Don’t Add Up, 2008, p. 12-13
“Creationists explain what they regard as the absurdly unlikely complexity of life-forms by postulating a
creator. That this creator would have to be of vastly greater complexity and vastly more unlikely than the
life-forms it created does not seem to bother them. Nonetheless, it’s only natural to ask the same question of
the creator as one does of the alleged creations. Laying down a recursive card similar to that played with the
first-cause argument, we ask about the origin of the creator’s complexity. How did it come about? Is there a
whole hierarchy of creators, each created by higher-order creators and all except for the lowest, ours,
creating lower-order ones?”
ONTOLOGICAL PROOF
The ontological argument implies the existence of all manner of perfect things
John Allen Paulos (prof. of mathematics, Temple Univ.), Irrelegion: A Mathematician Explains Why the
Arguments for God Just Don’t Add Up, 2008, p. 39
“As with some other alleged proofs for the existence of God, this one ‘proves’ too much. Even Gaunilo, one
of Anselm’s contemporaries, notes this. Gaunilo asks us to imagine the most perfect island conceivable, the
island than which no greater island can be conceived. The same argument as above now demonstrates that
this most perfect island must exist.”
EXPERIENCE and INTUITION
Contradictions between believers make religious inspiration unreliable
John Allen Paulos (prof. of mathematics, Temple Univ.), Irrelegion: A Mathematician Explains Why the
Arguments for God Just Don’t Add Up, 2008, p. 77-78
Prager’s LD Vault: Divine Injunction · Revised July 2010 · © 2010 John R. Prager
“A sighted person’s directions, for example, to take eleven steps and then to turn left for eight more steps to
reach the door of the building can be checked by a blind person. How can an agnostic or atheist learn
anything from someone who simply claims to know there is a God? Unlike the situation with sighted
people, whose visions and directions are more or less the same, the ‘knowledge’ that different religious
people and groups claim to possess is quite contradictory. Blind people might wonder about the worth of
being sighted were different sighted people to give inconsistent directions to get to the door. Instead of the
directions just mentioned, say a different sighted person directed someone to take four steps, turn left for
seventeen more steps, and then right for six more steps to get to the door.”
Religious epiphanies are insufficient to demonstrate the existence of God
Alfred C. Ewing (Lecturer in Moral Science and Reader in Philosophy, Cambridge Univ.), The Fundamental
Questions of Philosophy, 1962, p. 255-256
Religious emotion: “It has, however, been objected that the assertion of an intuitive conviction can be of no
help in a discussion on the ground that, if I have the conviction already, I do not need to be convinced of it,
while if I do not have it, the mere statement of the fact that somebody else has it will be no ground for my
accepting it apart from any argument he may give.”
Religious intuition is inadequate as a proof of God’s existence
Charles Larmore (W. Duncan MacMillan Family Professor in the Humanities, Brown University), “How
Much Can We Stand?” The New Republic, April 8, 2008, p. 43
“We may hope that there is something more to things than is contained in the disenchanted picture of
modern science. There may even be moments in our experience when we feel moved by what may be some
deeper spiritual reality. (Weber himself might have acknowledged such a feeling if he had reflected on his
own passionate devotion to truth.) But intimations are not an adequate basis for jumping to metaphysical or
religious conclusions. They should be seen for what they are: inklings, no more. In such situations, leaping
is precisely what we ought not to do.”
SCIENCE
Scientific advances make God an increasingly remote hypothesis
Bart Kosko (philosopher; prof., Univ. of Southern Calif.), Fuzzy Thinking: The New Science of Fuzzy Logic,
1993, p. 277
“And where is God in all this? We see deeper and deeper into nature and we find no sign of him. NO
EVIDENCE. No God in math. No God in fact. We have not seen or measured Him with microscope or
telescope. He does not seem to be in the observable universe. And He seems to have left no footprints. We
find only the smooth flow of events according to physical law.”
Science and religion seem fundamentally incompatible
Jerry A. Coyne (professor in Dept. of Ecology and Evolution, Univ. of Chicago), “Seeing and Believing,” The
New Republic, February 4, 2009, p. 33
“True, there are religious scientists and Darwinian churchgoers. But this does not mean that faith and
science are compatible, except in the trivial sense that both attitudes can be simultaneously embraced by a
single human mind. (It is like saying that marriage and adultery are compatible because some married
people are adulterers.) It is also true that some of the tensions disappear when the literal reading of the Bible
is renounced, as it is by all but the most primitive of Judeo-Christian sensibilities. But tension remains. The
real question is whether there is a philosophical incompatibility between religion and science. Does the
empirical nature of science contradict the revelatory nature of faith? Are the gaps between them so great
that the two institutions must be considered essentially antagonistic? The incessant stream of books dealing
with this question suggests that the answer is not straightforward.”
Science resolves questions, but religious questions are immune to the scientific method
Jerry A. Coyne (professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago),
“Creationism for Liberals,” The New Republic, August 12, 2009, p. 42
Prager’s LD Vault: Divine Injunction · Revised July 2010 · © 2010 John R. Prager
“On one hand we have Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, and the whole panoply of faiths with their
irresolvably conflicting claims, and on the other hand we have science, and only one brand of science.
Independent scientific observers can decide whether electrons are real, but there is no way to decide
whether Jesus was the Son of God or Muhammad was the Prophet.”
God’s existence is immune to the key test of science, falsifiability
Jerry A. Coyne (professor in Dept. of Ecology and Evolution, Univ. of Chicago), “Seeing and Believing,” The
New Republic, February 4, 2009, p. 39
“Most scientists can tell you what observations would convince them of God’s existence, but I have never
met a religious person who could tell me what would disprove it. And what could possibly convince people
to abandon their belief that the deity is, as Giberson asserts, good, loving, and just? If the Holocaust cannot
do it, then nothing will.”
Strategies to reconcile science and religion only undermine religion
Jerry A. Coyne (professor in Dept. of Ecology and Evolution, Univ. of Chicago), “Seeing and Believing,” The
New Republic, February 4, 2009, p. 33
“Theologians sometimes suggest a reconciliation by means of naturalistic deism, the idea that the creation
of the universe — and perhaps the laws of physics — was the direct handiwork of a deity who then left
things alone as they unfolded, never interfering in nature or history again. For the faithful, this has been
even more problematic than pantheism: it not only denies miracles, virgin births, answered prayers, and the
entire cosmological apparatus of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and much of Buddhism, but also
raises the question of where God came from in the first place.”
Presuming the existence of God has no positive effect on science
Jerry A. Coyne (professor in Dept. of Ecology and Evolution, Univ. of Chicago), “Seeing and Believing,” The
New Republic, February 4, 2009, p. 38
“There was a time when God was a part of science. Newton thought that his research on physics helped
clarify God’s celestial plan. So did Linnaeus, the Swedish botanist who devised our current scheme for
organizing species. But over centuries of research we have learned that the idea ‘God did it’ has never
advanced our understanding of nature an iota, and that is why we abandoned it. In the early 1800s, the
French mathematician Laplace presented Napoleon with a copy of his great five-volume work on the solar
system, the Mechanique Celeste. Aware that the books contained no mention of God, Napoleon taunted
him, ‘Monsieur Laplace, they tell me you have written this large book on the system of the universe, and
have never even mentioned its Creator.’ Laplace answered, famously and brusquely: ‘Je n’avais pas besoin
de cette hypothese-la,’ ‘I have had no need of that hypothesis.’ And scientists have not needed it since.”
Scientific tests of religious claims have always failed to find evidence of God
Jerry A. Coyne (professor in Dept. of Ecology and Evolution, Univ. of Chicago), “Seeing and Believing,” The
New Republic, February 4, 2009, p. 39
“Many religious beliefs can be scientifically tested, at least in principle. Faith-based healing is particularly
suited to these tests. Yet time after time it has failed them. After seeing the objects cast off by visitors to
Lourdes, Anatole France is said to have remarked, ‘All those canes, braces and crutches, and not a single
glass eye, wooden leg, or toupee!’ If God can cure cancer, why is He impotent before missing eyes and
limbs? Recent scientific studies of intercessory prayer — when the sick do not know whether they are being
prayed for — have not shown the slightest evidence that it works. Nor do we have scientifically rigorous
demonstrations of miracles, despite the Vatican’s requirement that two miracles be proven for canonizing
every saint. Holy relics, such as the Shroud of Turin, have turned out to be clever fakes. There is no
corroborated evidence that anyone has spoken from beyond the grave.”
Religion is in conflict with rationality, not merely with science
Jerry A. Coyne (professor in Dept. of Ecology and Evolution, Univ. of Chicago), “Seeing and Believing,” The
New Republic, February 4, 2009, p. 40-41
“With his usual flair, the physicist Richard Feynman characterized this difference: ‘Science is a way of
trying not to fool yourself. The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest
person to fool.’ With religion, there is just no way to know if you are fooling yourself. So the most
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important conflict — the one ignored by Giberson and Miller— is not between religion and science. It is
between religion and secular reason. Secular reason includes science, but also embraces moral and political
philosophy, mathematics, logic, history, journalism, and social science — every area that requires us to
have good reasons for what we believe. Now I am not claiming that all faith is incompatible with science
and secular reason — only those faiths whose claims about the nature of the universe flatly contradict
scientific observations. Pantheism and some forms of Buddhism seem to pass the test. But the vast majority
of the faithful — those 90 percent of Americans who believe in a personal God, most Muslims, Jews, and
Hindus, and adherents to hundreds of other faiths — fall into the ‘incompatible’ category.”
VARIOUS DISPROOFS
The fact that there are no public miracles is indicative of God’s nonexistence
Jerry A. Coyne (professor in Dept. of Ecology and Evolution, Univ. of Chicago), “Seeing and Believing,” The
New Republic, February 4, 2009, p. 38
“There are so many phenomena that would raise the specter of God or other supernatural forces: faith
healers could restore lost vision, the cancers of only good people could go into remission, the dead could
return to life, we could find meaningful DNA sequences that could have been placed in our genome only by
an intelligent agent, angels could appear in the sky. The fact that no such things have ever been
scientifically documented gives us added confidence that we are right to stick with natural explanations for
nature. And it explains why so many scientists, who have learned to disregard God as an explanation, have
also discarded him as a possibility.”
The existence of free will demonstrates that God does not exist
Peter A. Facione (prof. of philosophy, Calif. State Univ. at Fullerton), The Student’s Guide to Philosophy
1988, p. 138
“God is all-knowing. As all-knowing, God knows the truth or falsehood of all statements. Statements about
the future as well as the past or present. So God knows the future even before it happens. This implies that
God knows what I will choose even before I choose it. Therefore, I am not free; I must choose what God
knows I will choose. Given the fact that I am free, there can be no all-knowing God.”
The misery of human life proves that the world was not created by a benevolent god
Arthur Schopenhauer, German philosopher (1788-1860)], as quoted in The Consolations of Philosophy, by
Alain de Botton, 2000, p. 172
“In my seventeeth year, without any learned school education, I was gripped by the misery of life as Buddha
was in his youth when he saw sickness, old age, pain and death. The truth... was that this world could not
have been the work of an all-loving Being, but rather that of a devil, who had brought creatures into
existence in order to delight in the sight of their sufferings; to this the data pointed, and the belief that it is so
won the upper hand.” [Ellipsis in original text]
We cannot know whether God exists
God cannot be disproved
John Allen Paulos (prof. of mathematics, Temple Univ.), Irrelegion: A Mathematician Explains Why the
Arguments for God Just Don’t Add Up, 2008, p. 41-42
“The above argument notwithstanding, there is no way to conclusively disprove the existence of God. The
reason is a consequence of basic logic, but is not one from which theists can take much heart. In fact,
existential statements, those asserting that there is a nonmathematical entity having a certain property (or a
set of noncontradictory properties) can never be conclusively disproved. No matter how absurd the
existence claims (there exists a dog who speaks perfect English out of its rear end), we can’t look
everywhere and check everything in order to assert with absolute confidence that there’s no entity having
the property.”
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Religious rules are the foundation for moral rules
God is the inspiration for the human moral sense
Lewis B. Smedes (instructor in theology and ethics, Fuller Theological Seminary), Choices: Making Right
Decisions in a Complex World 1986, p. 20
“We intuit the moral dimension in human life because we still have the sense for genuine humanity that God
created us with.”
Moral rules, having come from God, are meant for everyone
Lewis B. Smedes (instructor in theology and ethics, Fuller Theological Seminary), Choices: Making Right
Decisions in a Complex World 1986, p. 51
“Since moral rules come from the Creator of the human family, they are meant for everyone who belongs to
that great family. They are not exclusive rules for special people. God’s moral rules are mirrors of how all
his human creatures are meant to live. The point is of the essence. The Creator of humanity is not a tribal
God and his rules are not tribal laws.”
God is the foundation of love as morality
Alfred C. Ewing (Lecturer in Moral Science and Reader in Philosophy, Cambridge Univ.), The Fundamental
Questions of Philosophy, 1962, p. 254
“If anything is evident in ethics, it is that love and benevolence are better than hate and indifference, and
therefore we may be quite confident that a good God will love and concern Himself closely with the welfare
of the beings dependent on him. The argument is: God is good, goodness entails love, therefore God loves.”
Belief in God is the closest man has come to making the world understandable
Alfred C. Ewing (Lecturer in Moral Science and Reader in Philosophy, Cambridge Univ.), The Fundamental
Questions of Philosophy, 1962, p. 241
“Now theism cannot indeed completely rationalize the universe till it can show how God can be his own
cause, or how it is that he cannot need a cause, and till it can also overcome the problem of evil completely,
but it does come closer to rationalizing it than any other view. The usual modern philosophical views
opposed to theism do not try to give any rational explanation of the world at all, but just take it as a brute
fact not to be explained, and it must certainly be admitted that we come at least nearer to a rational
explanation if we regard the course of the world as determined by purpose and value than if we do not.”
God is not merely “good,” he is beyond goodness
Paul Vincent Spade (prof. of philosophy, Indiana Univ.), “Medieval Philosophy” in The Oxford History of
Western Philosophy, ed. by Anthony Kenny, 1994, p. 75
“For the Latin West, Pseudo-Dionysius is the proximate source of the familiar doctrine that there are three
ways of speaking about God: (1) the via affirmativa, in which predicates are affirmed of God; (2) the via
negativa, in which predicates are denied of him; and (3) the via eminentiae, which reconciles the first two
ways and in which predicates are affirmed of God only with an indication of some kind of super-eminence.
Thus (1) we may call God ‘good’ in so far as he is the source of all the goodness we find in creatures; but
(2), if we wish to speak about God as he is in himself, not as he is related to creatures, we must deny all
predicates of God, since he is not like any of the familiar things languages is used to describe. In that sense,
then, God is not good, and in fact does not even exist! But the via negativa does not amount to outright
atheism, as (3) shows. God in himself is not good and does not exist. But that does not mean that he is less
than good or less than existing; rather, he is ‘super-good’ or ‘hyperexisting’ — more than good, more than
a being.”
Augustine places God at the peak of the moral hierarchy
Paul Vincent Spade (prof. of philosophy, Indiana Univ.), “Medieval Philosophy” in The Oxford History of
Western Philosophy, ed. by Anthony Kenny, 1994, p. 59
“In the best Platonic manner, Augustine views the world as hierarchically arranged. The principle of
ordering is one of intrinsic value. Thus the better or more worthy something is, the higher it stands in the
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hierarchy of things. God is at the top (like Plato’s form of the good), physical objects occupy a very low
position, and human souls are somewhere in between, the souls of good people higher than those of wicked
ones.”
Christian ethics are consistent with other moral systems
John Macquarrie (prof. of philosophy, Oxford Univ.), Three Issues in Ethics, 1970, p. 88
“Christianity, I wish to assert, is not a separate moral system, and its goals and values are not fundamentally
different from those that all moral striving has in view.”
God is a necessary check on the human impulse toward evil
Charles Colson (former special counsel to President Nixon; founder and chairman, Prison Fellowship),
“Can We Be Good Without God?” Imprimis, April 1993, p. 2
“In his classic novel, The Brothers Karamatzov, the 19th century Russian novelist Dostoyevsky asked
essentially, ‘Can man be good without God?’ In every age, the answer has been no. Without a restraining
influence on their nature, men will destroy themselves. That restraining influence might take many abstract
forms, as it did for the Greeks and Romans, or it might be the God of the Old and New Testaments. But it
has always served the same purpose.”
Religion can be a profound socializing agent
Phil Zuckerman (associate professor of sociology at Pitzer College), “The Virtues of Godlessness,” The
Chronicle of Higher Education, Jan 30, 2009.
“Here in the United States, for example, religious ideals often serve as a beneficial counterbalance against
the cutthroat brand of individualism that can be so rampant and dominating. Religious congregations in
America serve as community centers, counseling providers, and day-care sites. And a significant amount of
research has shown that moderately religious Americans report greater subjective well-being and life
satisfaction, greater marital satisfaction, better family cohesion, and fewer symptoms of depression than the
nonreligious. Historically, a proliferation of religious devotion, faith in God, and reliance on the Bible has
sometimes been a determining factor in establishing schools for children, creating universities, building
hospitals for the sick and homes for the homeless, taking care of orphans and the elderly, resisting
oppression, establishing law and order, and developing democracy.”
Historically, philosophy has been bound closely with religious teachings
Robert C. Solomon and Kathleen M. Higgins (both professors of philosophy, Univ. of Texas at Austin), A
Short History of Philosophy, 1996, p. 15
“Similarly, one should carefully consider the relationship between religion and philosophy. Some of the
ancient Greeks cautiously separated the two, but for most of the past two thousand years Western
philosophy has been inseparable with the Judeo-Christian tradition, even in the case of those philosophers
who spend their lives attacking that tradition. It is only in the past two hundred years that many American
and some European philosophers have presupposed a separation, and in many other cultures, the identity of
religion and philosophy remains entirely intact. In many societies, including most tribal cultures, the
religion defines the philosophy.”
Philosophy does not necessarily conflict with religion
Robert C. Solomon and Kathleen M. Higgins (both professors of philosophy, Univ. of Texas at Austin), A
Short History of Philosophy, 1996, p. 79
“The close identification of philosophy with science during certain periods has encouraged the sharp
opposition of philosophy and religion, but it is worth remembering that many of the greatest scientists and
mathematicians, Pythagoras and Isaac Newton, for example, refused to accept that opposition.”
Religious rules do not serve well as moral rules
Religious decrees are not subject to logical analysis
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Pascal Boyer (Henry Luce Professor at Washington University), “Why Is Religion Natural?” Skeptical
Inquirer, March/April 2004, p. 26
“Religious concepts are irrefutable. Most incorrect or incoherent claims are easily refuted by experience or
logic, but religious concepts are different. They invariably describe processes and agents whose existence
could never be verified and are subsequently not refuted. As there is no evidence against most religious
claims, people have no obvious reason to stop believing them.”
Claiming to know God’s will on an issue is no guarantee you’ll get it right
Patricia S. Churchland (University of California President’s Professor and Chair of the Department of
Philosophy at the University of California at San Diego), “Human Dignity from a Neurophilosophical
Perspective,” in Human Dignity and Bioethics: Essays Commissioned by the President’s Council on
Bioethics, 2008, p. 112
“There are plenty of other examples of religious condemnations of scientific technologies that have greatly
benefited mankind, including contraceptive techniques, in vitro fertilization (which allegedly violates
human dignity, division (dissection) of the dead body (Boniface VIII in 1300) and organ donation by living
donors (Pope Pius XII, 1956), as well as religious blessings of such practices as female subjugation,
slavery, forced conversions, and genital mutilation of females. Part of the point of these historical interludes
is that claims to know what God wants are no guarantee against moral failure. Humility, whatever one’s
religious inclinations or moral convictions, is surely appropriate.”
Secular rules must govern, because religious questions can never be resolved
Jonathan Chait (senior staff editor), “Pray Tell,” The New Republic, November 19, 2007, p. 5
“The depth of American religiosity is precisely why secularism is so important. Since religion is premised
on faith, theological disputes cannot be settled through public reason. Even the most vicious public policy
disputes get settled over time. (Americans now agree on slavery and greenback currency.) But we’re no
closer to consensus on the divinity of Jesus than we were 200 years ago.”
We accept the moral laws of religion only because they agree with our moral instincts
Paul Kurtz (prof. of philosophy, State Univ. of New York), “Humanist Ethics: Eating the Forbidden Fruit,”
Free Inquiry, Spring 1989, p. 26
“In the Old Testament, Abraham’s faith is tested when God commands him to sacrifice his only son, Isaac,
whom he dearly loves. Abraham is fully prepared to obey, but at the last moment God stays his hand. Is it
wrong for a father to kill his son? A developed moral conscience understands that it is. But is it wrong
simply because Jehovah declares it to be wrong? No. I submit that there is an autonomous moral conscience
that develops in human experience, grows out of our nature as social beings, and comprehends that murder
is wrong, whether or not God declares it to be wrong. We should be highly suspicious of the moral
development of one who believes that murder is wrong only because God says so. Indeed, I believe that we
attributed this moral decree to God simply because we apprehended it to be wrong.”
God cannot be our sole standard for measuring goodness
Jerry A. Coyne (professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago),
“Creationism for Liberals,” The New Republic, August 12, 2009, p. 41
“But since the fourth century B.C.E., philosophers have shown convincingly that our considerations of
what is moral or immoral cannot be derived from religion. In Plato’s Euthyphro, Socrates argues that the
statement ‘God is good’ has meaning only if we have a standard of good that is independent of God. If it
were otherwise, anything that God sanctioned would be good by definition. This would include, in the case
of Abraham, the readiness to murder, and in the case of Jephthah the actual murder of, one’s children.”
Acting morally without God is superior to those who act morally out of religious belief
John Allen Paulos (prof. of mathematics, Temple Univ.), Irrelegion: A Mathematician Explains Why the
Arguments for God Just Don’t Add Up, 2008, p. 140
“An atheist or agnostic who acts morally simply because it is the right thing to do is, in a sense, more moral
than someone who is trying to avoid everlasting torment or, as is the case with martyrs, to achieve eternal
bliss. He or she is making the moral choice without benefit of Pascal’s divine bribe. This choice is all the
more impressive when an atheist or agnostic sacrifices his or her life, for example, to rescue a drowning
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child, aware that there’ll be no heavenly reward for this lifesaving valor. The contrast with acts motivated
by calculated expected value or uncalculated unexpected fear (or worse, fearlessness) is stark.”
Natural moral intuitions supersede religious moral rules
Pascal Boyer (Henry Luce Professor at Washington University), “Why Is Religion Natural?” Skeptical
Inquirer, March/April 2004, p. 29
“Indeed, it is difficult to find evidence that religious teachings have any effect on people’s moral intuitions.
Religious concepts do not change people’s moral intuitions but frame these intuitions in terms that make
them easier to think about. For instance, in most human groups supernatural agents are thought to be
interested parties in people’s interactions. Given this assumption, having the intuition that an action is
wrong becomes having the expectation that a personalized agent disapproves of it. The social consequences
of the latter way of representing the situation are much clearer to the agent, as they are handled by
specialized mental systems for social interaction. This notion of gods and spirits as interested parties is far
more salient in people’s moral inferences than the notion of these agents as moral legislators or moral
exemplars. In the same way, the use of supernatural or religious explanations for misfortune may be a
byproduct of a far more general tendency to see all salient occurrences in terms of social interaction. The
ancestors can make you sick or ruin your plantations; God sends people various plagues.”
Religious belief limits the human mind
James Madison (fourth U.S. president, architect of the Constitution), letter to William Bradford, April 1,
1774; from The Madisons by Virginia Moore, 1979, p. 43
“Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind, and unfits it for every noble purpose.”
The worshiper sets the limits of the religion
Ralph Waldo Emerson (American transcendentalist philosopher, essayist, and poet, 1803-1882), “Worship”
in Essays: The Conduct of Life, 1860, reprinted in The Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Black’s Readers
Service: 1928, p. 379
“But the religion cannot rise above the state of the votary. Heaven always bears some proportion to earth.
The god of the cannibals will be a cannibal, of the crusaders a crusader, and of the merchants a merchant.”
Making God’s will the standard of ethics is too arbitrary
Peter Singer (prof. of philosophy, Monash Univ., Australia), The Expanding Circle: Ethics and Sociobiology,
1981, p. x
“If all values result from God’s will, what reason could God have for willing as he does? If killing is wrong
only because God said: ‘Thou shalt not kill,’ God might just as easily have said: ‘Thou shalt kill.’ Would
killing then have been right? To agree that it would have been right makes morality too arbitrary; but to
deny that it would have been right is to assume that there are standards of right and wrong independent of
God’s will. Nor can the dilemma be avoided by claiming that God is good, and so could not have willed us
to kill unjustly — for to say that God is good already implies a standard of goodness that is independent of
God’s decision. For this reason many religious thinkers now agree with the non-religious that the basis of
ethics must be sought outside religion and independently of belief in God.”
Religion makes truth a matter of geography
Richard Dawkins (Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at the University of Oxford), “The
Religion of Science,” from The Tanner Lectures on Human Values, Delivered at Harvard University,
November 19 and 20, 2003, p. 70; Online:
www.tannerlectures.utah.edu/lectures/documents/volume25/dawkins_2005.pdf, accessed May 1, 2008
“One of the most striking features of religion is that it runs in families. This country, like my own, has many
Christians and Jews. If we lived in Pakistan or India we’d be worshipping Allah or the Hindu pantheon of
hundreds of gods. If we’d been brought up in ancient Greece, we’d be worshipping Zeus and Apollo. If
Vikings, Wotan and Thor. Out of hundreds of possible religions, the vast majority of people just happen to
end up in the same religion as their parents. And isn’t it a remarkable coincidence: whichever religion you
are brought up in, it always turns out to be the right religion. We are all familiar with those maps of the
world, colour-shaded to denote predominant language. Atlases use the same kind of colour-coding to
designate predominant religion. Since religions hold contradictory beliefs about important truths, it is as if
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those truths depended upon the geographical location of the believer. We have become so accustomed to
this that it doesn’t seem strange.”
Different religions promote very different ethical rules
Joshua Halberstam (prof. of philosophy, New York Univ.), Everyday Ethics, 1993, p. 174
“Traditional Buddhism is atheistic, Hinduism has thousands of gods, and Manichaean religions see the
world as a constant struggle between the force of good and the force of evil, with no supreme God to decide
the battle. Animists and pantheists don’t view the gods or God as the creator of the universe but
synonymous with it. These theological differences spill over into ethical ones. You can’t tell people to
sacrifice their lives in the service of a god if they don’t believe in one. Buddhists do not postulate a god, but
they certainly preach an ethics based on their understanding of the human condition. It isn’t the same ethics
as Calvinism, of that you can be sure.”
Even the three major Western religions are incompatible
Joshua Halberstam (prof. of philosophy, New York Univ.), Everyday Ethics, 1993, p. 174-175
“The three major Western religions, in chronological order, are Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. These
theistic religions not only believe that God exists and that He wants us to live our lives a certain way, but
also that he’s already told us how to live our lives. When did God reveal His will? That depends on your
religious persuasion. For Jews, God revealed His will when he gave the Torah to Moses at Mount Sinai; for
Christians, God’s will is manifested in the life of Jesus; for Muslims, God’s will is found in the Koran as
dictated to Muhammed in the cave. All three major Western religions share many values and oppose much
of the teaching of Eastern religions — the fatalism and the caste system of Hinduism, for example. But
you’ll also find significant differences between the Western religions themselves when you get down to
specifics — and that’s where the action is, after all. The Catholic prohibition against divorce strikes Jews
and Muslims as harsh, Islamic restrictions on women are abhorrent to non-Muslims, and many Christians
and Muslims are offended by the tribal underpinnings of Jewish ethics.”
It’s not clear religion is good at either explanation or moral guidance
Richard Dawkins (Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at the University of Oxford), “The
Religion of Science,” from The Tanner Lectures on Human Values, Delivered at Harvard University,
November 19 and 20, 2003, p. 64; Online:
www.tannerlectures.utah.edu/lectures/documents/volume25/dawkins_2005.pdf, accessed May 1, 2008
“Theistic religions have traditionally offered answers to questions that today we hand over to science:
questions of cosmology and biology, which are nowadays answered by, for example, the Big Bang theory
and the theory of evolution. What has happened today is that sophisticated theologians wisely abandon
explanation — which religion does badly — to science, which does it well. Instead, theology concentrates
on topics like morality and guidance for life. Science doesn’t pretend to do morality, and it doesn’t do it
well. It is by no means clear that religion does it well either. Indeed, I think a powerful case for the opposite
can be made, but that is not my topic here.”
Even religious leaders recognized that religious truths and moral rules are not the same
Jerry A. Coyne (professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago),
“Creationism for Liberals,” The New Republic, August 12, 2009, p. 41
“The distinction between religion and morality was recognized by rational theologians in all the
monotheistic faiths, even if their views did not always carry the day. Aquinas wrote that ‘right is not right
because God wills it, but God wills it because it is right.’ If this is true, then we need to look elsewhere to
determine what is right — and religion may be viewed not as the origin of morality, but a vehicle for
conveying moral values or feelings that arise elsewhere.”
Unlike other human endeavors, religion has failed the test of providing new answers
Milton Rothman (prof. emeritus of physics, Trenton State College), “Realism and Religion,” Skeptic, Vol. 2
Number 2 (1993), p. 73
“In conclusion, the ironic fact is that religion has no ability to explain anything. While scientific discovery
has increased exponentially during the past century, religious discovery has remained a flat zero. There
have been important historical discoveries, but no improvements in explaining where the gods reside, how
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they interact with man, where the gods lived before the universe was formed, and how they learned to create
the universe. (I use the plural gods, because each religion has its own variety of god). Recent attempts to
claim that a god caused the Big Bang really do not explain anything. They just push the unanswered
questions back into the past.”
There is a distinct division between religion and ethics
Ralph Waldo Emerson (American transcendentalist philosopher, essayist, and poet, 1803-1882), Essay on
Nature, 1836, reprinted in The Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Black’s Readers Service: 1928, p. 547
“Ethics and religion differ herein; that the one is the system of human duties commencing from man; the
other, from God. Religion includes the personality of God; Ethics does not.”
The history of religion shows lessening tolerance and flimsier ethics
Jerry A. Coyne (professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago),
“Creationism for Liberals,” The New Republic, August 12, 2009, p. 40
“One can in fact make a good case that, contrary to Wright’s claim, ethics went downhill as religion evolved
— specifically, that it declined in the transition from polytheism to monotheism. Hume insisted upon this,
expounding admiringly on ‘the tolerating spirit of idolaters.’ He maintained that a plurality of gods led to
social and intellectual pluralism, whereas the belief in a single god led to exclusiveness and intolerance.
‘The intolerance of almost all religions, which have maintained the unity of God, is as remarkable as the
contrary principle of polytheism,’ he wrote in The Natural History of Religion. And he added pungently that
‘if, among Christians, the English and Dutch have embraced the principles of toleration, this singularity has
proceeded from the steady resolution of the civil magistrate, in opposition to the continued efforts of priests
and bigots.’ This is sound intellectual and religious history, belying Wright’s view of theology’s linear
march toward goodness and light.”
Religious scriptures promote actions we would consider deeply immoral
John Hartung (social science and medical writer; assoc. prof. of anesthesiology, State Univ. of New York),
“Love Thy Neighbor: The Evolution of In-Group Morality,” Skeptic, vol. 3, no. 4, 1995, p. 96
“There is a stark contradiction between abhorring genocide and paying homage to a god who commanded
his followers to commit genocide. There is a deep structural discrepancy between outrage over persecution
of people because of their religious beliefs and simultaneous reverence for scriptures that condemn
non-coreligionists to death and damn them to hell.”
Moral progress occurs despite religion, rather than because of religion
Jerry A. Coyne (professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago),
“Creationism for Liberals,” The New Republic, August 12, 2009, p. 41
“Finally, consider what most of us agree are real improvements in ethics over the last several centuries: the
idea of democracy; the elimination of more horrible punishments; the adoption of equal rights for racial and
ethnic minorities, homosexuals, and women; the disappearance of slavery; the improved treatment of
animals; and the increasing view that adult sexuality is a private matter. In each case, the impetus for change
came overwhelmingly from secular views. Religion either played no role, or it played a small role, or it
opposed the moral innovations, or it came aboard only when change was underway. (It is true that the
American civil rights movement was supported by many churches, but we should also recall that in earlier
times the faithful cited the Bible as support for slavery.) If a part of the world has improved morally, this
change may have occurred not because of religion, but in spite of it.”
Religion is not a prerequisite for morality
John Macquarrie (prof. of philosophy, Oxford Univ.), Three Issues in Ethics, 1970, p. 97
“I believe that there is a connection between religion and morality, and that this connection is intrinsic and
important. However, we must look for a way of interpreting it which will not do violence to the integrity of
either religion or morality, and will not impugn the undoubtable achievements of secular morality. It can
never be a question of subordinating religion to morality, or the other way around: nor can there be any
question of claiming that morality is dependent on religious faith, in view of the plain fact that many
nonreligious people are highly moral.”
Prager’s LD Vault: Divine Injunction · Revised July 2010 · © 2010 John R. Prager
Atheists are just as moral as believers
Jerry A. Coyne (professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago),
“Creationism for Liberals,” The New Republic, August 12, 2009, p. 41
“If religion promotes morality, moreover, we can confidently predict that atheists will be less moral than
believers. But the prediction fails. Consider a statistic: atheists constitute roughly 10 percent of the
American population, but only 0.2 percent of our prison population. Now there are confounding factors,
such as socio-economic status, at work here, but these data are clearly in the wrong direction. And consider
that atheistic Europe, rather than being a hotbed of barbarism and immorality, is at least as moral as
America. In his book Society Without God, the sociologist Phillip Zuckerman shows that Sweden and
Denmark, two of the most atheistic countries in the world, are also two of the most moral, at least in terms
of their lack of crime, high levels of government aid for the disadvantaged, and large amounts of per capita
aid to other countries. There is certainly no evidence that many atheists have a qualitatively different type of
morality than many believers. A survey by the biologist Marc Hauser and the philosopher Peter Singer
showed that believers of many faiths did not differ from one another, or from atheists, in how they resolved
hypothetical moral dilemmas.”
Nations with high numbers of atheists seem to be just as moral as ‘godly’ nations
Phil Zuckerman (associate professor of sociology at Pitzer College), “The Virtues of Godlessness,” The
Chronicle of Higher Education, Jan 30, 2009.
“Many people assume that religion is what keeps people moral, that a society without God would be hell on
earth: rampant with immorality, full of evil, and teeming with depravity. But that doesn’t seem to be the
case for Scandinavians in those two countries [Denmark and Sweden]. Although they may have relatively
high rates of petty crime and burglary, and although these crime rates have been on the rise in recent
decades, their overall rates of violent crime — including murder, aggravated assault, and rape — are among
the lowest on earth. Yet the majority of Danes and Swedes do not believe that God is ‘up there,’ keeping
diligent tabs on their behavior, slating the good for heaven and the wicked for hell. Most Danes and Swedes
don’t believe that sin permeates the world, and that only Jesus, the Son of God, who died for their sins, can
serve as a remedy. In fact, most Danes and Swedes don’t even believe in the notion of ‘sin.’ So the typical
Dane or Swede doesn’t believe all that much in God. And simultaneously, they don’t commit much murder.
But aren’t they a dour, depressed lot, all the same? Not according to Ruut Veenhoven, professor emeritus of
social conditions for human happiness at Erasmus University Rotterdam. Veenhoven is a leading authority
on worldwide levels of happiness from country to country. He recently ranked 91 nations on an
international happiness scale, basing his research on cumulative scores from numerous worldwide surveys.
According to his calculations, the country that leads the globe — ranking No. 1 in terms of its residents’
overall level of happiness — is little, peaceful, and relatively godless Denmark.”
Justice does not depend on the will of God
John Macquarrie (prof. of philosophy, Oxford Univ.), Three Issues in Ethics, 1970, p. 100
“Men have sometimes complained that God is unjust to them. Their complaints may have been unfounded,
but it is interesting that such complaints can even be made, for it implies that those who make them do not
identify justice with what God wills. Justice is such an ultimate notion that it cannot depend even on the will
of God. That does not mean that it is more ultimate than God, but rather that it is not external or subsequent
to God, for it belongs to his very being or nature.”
It’s a cheap tactic to presume to dictate behavior according to ‘God’s will’
John Macquarrie (prof. of philosophy, Oxford Univ.), Three Issues in Ethics, 1970, p. 101
“In any case, it would be hard to imagine a more abused phrase than ‘the will of God.’ People have
committed all kinds of wickedness and folly in the belief that they were carrying out the will of God. In
milder but no less objectionable ways, they still pressure other people into adopting their policies by
representing their own idiosyncrasies as God’s will which it would be wrong to disobey — a favorite tactic
in ecclesiastical debates.”
The reward-and-punishment framework of religion makes it a poor grounding for morality
Prager’s LD Vault: Divine Injunction · Revised July 2010 · © 2010 John R. Prager
Daniel C. Dennett (Director, Tufts Univ. Center for Cognitive Studies), “Consciousness Revisited,” Free
Inquiry, Fall 1995, p. 20
“Nietzsche was wonderfully scornful of the vision of Christianity that made morality depend upon pie in the
sky: that is, be a good boy or girl now and in heaven you’ll get your reward. On the face of it, this is an
ignoble foundation for morality. It concedes the selfishness of the agent. It abandons the hope of an agent’s
conceiving of his or her own acts as worthy in their own right, independent of any reward. The idea that a
reward in heaven or a punishment in hell is a necessary foundation for morality is a deeply pessimistic,
almost nihilistic idea. And yet, of course, there it is, enshrined in many aspects of the Judeo-Christian and
Islamic traditions.”
Belief in God opens up the option to sin deliberately
Simone de Beauvoir (1908-1986; French existentialist philosopher, novelist, and dramatist); The Ethics of
Ambiguity, 1964, p. 16
“The believer is also free to sin. The divine law is imposed upon him only from the moment he decides to
save his soul. In the Christian religion, though one speaks very little about them today, there are also the
damned.”
Religion can be toxic to society
Phil Zuckerman (associate professor of sociology at Pitzer College), “The Virtues of Godlessness,” The
Chronicle of Higher Education, Jan 30, 2009.
“In other instances, however, religion may not have such positive societal effects. It can often be one of the
main sources of tension, violence, poverty, oppression, inequality, and disorder in a given society. A quick
perusal of the state of the world will reveal that widespread faith in God or strong religious sentiment in a
given country does not necessarily ensure societal health. After all, many of the most religious and faithful
nations on earth are simultaneously among the most dangerous and destitute. Conversely, a widespread lack
of faith in God or very low levels of religiosity in a given country does not necessarily spell societal ruin.
The fact is, the majority of the most irreligious democracies are among the most prosperous and successful
nations on earth.”
Prager’s LD Vault: Divine Injunction · Revised July 2010 · © 2010 John R. Prager