Not that this is anything new, really, but (somewhat) recently BJ Cope published an article called 10 Reasons God Exists in order to point to some of the more, in his opinion, plausible reasons why a god is likely to exist. To be fair, this was a 2-sided article in which 10 Reasons God Does Not Exist appeared alongside the first one. As an atheist, I appreciate these investigations into both sides of the issue. My reason for responding to the first, however, is simply because I find the arguments to be rather elementary in terms of theological reasoning, and worthy of refute. So let's do this.
1. EVERYTHING IS CREATED: "Everything is created. There is nothing that didn't have a beginning, and whatever is in motion was originally put into motion. Thus, there must be a thing that is perennial and doesn't need a creator - God."
We don't know that there is nothing that didn't have a "beginning." As human beings, we have a very rudimentary understanding of our universe and how it works, and to apply our limited knowledge to the vast expanse of it is presumptuous, at best. For all we know, there is plenty that exists which did not have a "beginning" as we define the term. The fact that we do not understand something, or cannot comprehend something, only means that we don't currently understand it. It does not mean that we should assume a god, or anything supernatural, as a default answer.
But beyond that, this argument really begs the question: If everything must have a beginning, then what was God's beginning? If everything must have been created, then who or what created God? And if the answer to these questions is that God alone doesn't have to have a beginning, then you are special pleading (a logical fallacy) for your own particular belief structure. Why is it acceptable that a god may have always existed, but not possible that the matter of the universe may have always existed?
2. THE ARGUMENT OF DESIRE: "C.S. Lewis revived interest in this one. The main premise is as follows: Everything a human desires has an object in this world. In other words, hunger has food, lust has sex, thirst has water and so on. We have another desire, for we know not what or for a creator, a deity, and thus its object must be God, whom in fact exists."
I don't think that it's fair to categorize the unknown facets of human want into a "want for God." There are different types of human needs and desires, and they include both physical needs (such as food, water, shelter, etc.) and emotional and mental needs (such as love, acceptance, belonging, etc.). Throughout the journey of the human experience, we go through times in which we feel fulfilled in most areas, and times in which we feel unfulfilled. Sometimes, we cannot place why we feel unfulfilled.
But all of this is a byproduct of the human experience. There is so much to see and do, and our daily human interactions leave us in constantly shifting states of fulfillment. None of this means that we're longing for any kind of deity. We may be longing for answers within our personal stories, or justifications and validations for ourselves and those around us, but an all-powerful deity does not have to figure into that mix. This is why atheists go through periods of extreme fulfillment and unfulfillment alike, and religious people (Christians, Muslims, Wiccans, etc.) all go through the same. Nobody is ever 100% fulfilled and happy simply because they are religious, and nobody is ever 100% unfulfilled and unhappy simply because they are nonreligious. We all have ups and downs and various coping strategies.
The idea of a creator that we're seeking after makes sense only if you don't think about it very deeply. After all, any god that is omnipresent, omnipotent, and all-powerful already has a plan in place, which would mean that we are no more than cogs in a machine. Either we truly have free will in this world to carve our own destines, or there is a god who has a plan that has been laid out since day 1. If the latter is true, then nothing we do matters very much ... everything is scripted, anyway. And while the idea of this kind of deity seems comforting on the surface, it's not a reality that I would at all desire.
3. THE ARGUMENT OF WATCHMAKER: "You find a watch washed up on the beach, on a deserted island. Though you know not by who or when, you know this watch has a creator, because it is not a naturally occurring object but rather one assembled deliberately with naturally occurring materials. We are watches, and God is the watchmaker."
This argument fails so heavily that I don't even know where to begin.
Yes, when we see a watch we know that it was created by a watchmaker. When we see a painting, we know that there was a painter. When we see a house, we know that there was a builder. And on, and on.
But why do we know that these things have a creator? It's not because of any special attributes that magically spell out "creator." It's because we have a basis through which to gauge things that are created: a comparison to that which is not created.
We know which things happen naturally and which things don't. Watches, paintings, and buildings all arise from parts of nature, which human beings put together to create something new. No watchmaker simply created watch parts. No painter simply snapped her fingers and created paints or canvases. And so on. They used tools which already existed in order to create something new, and thus I'm not sure why an analogy to a divine creator that magically snapped everything into existence holds any water. Perhaps this one goes back to my first refutation here.
Again, if everything was created, we would have no basis in which to know what was created and what was not. But we do happen to understand the process of differentiating between created and non-created materials because we know, instinctively, what is not created, but occurs naturally.
And, again ... if everything was created, then where did God come from? Don't go special pleading on me.
4. NDE (Near Death Experiences): "Many people, whose brains are proven to be effectively dead - far more "off" than when you're passed out or asleep - claim they experience similar phenomenon, and often know things that transpired in other buildings or that they couldn't possibly have known beforehand. These are called NDEs or Near Death Experiences and many believe they prove God and Heaven's existence."
The brain is an interesting thing. As such, there have been a number of scientific explanations of near-death experiences, some of which are outlined here.
But beyond this, I'll also point out that scientists have tried to document studies of near death experiences and out of body experiences multiple times. But whenever anyone is placed within a controlled environment, nothing seems to happen. Evidence for near death experiences is dubious.
Further, people's claims about near-death experiences are not universal. We're used to hearing about the bright light and such, but around the world people's experiences tend to mimic what they've been socialized to believe about the afterlife. Here in the west, people claim to see loved ones who have passed, and some Christians claim to have visited heaven or hell. But in other parts of the world, near death experiences can include glimpses of past lives, or any number of other things. Again, experiences that take place in the brain tend to mimic what we've learned as individuals.
Not too long ago, I read Amy Silverstein's memoir about being a heart transplant recipient. In this book, she detailed a number of close calls and even one time when she literally died during a procedure and was brought back. According to current medical knowledge, she was dead for a very short time. And she claims to have experienced nothing. There was no consciousness during this time as her brain had shut down, and she experienced absolutely nothing. Why should her experience as someone who actually died be taken into less consideration than those who claim to have had a near death experience?
5. MIRACLES: "Obviously early history is riddled with miracles, and many detractors point to the lack thereof with the advent of photography and modern journalism however, it is worth noting some serious exceptions including Saint Padre Pio, who passed in the middle of the 20th century, and the miracle of the sun in 1917. Links to both are below: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miracle_of_the_Sun; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Padre_Pio"
I don't have much to say on this, except that no "miracle" has ever been documented.
How does one classify a miracle? Is it just something that's highly unlikely? If a person's cancer goes into remission, is that a miracle? If someone gets shot in the head and survives, is that a miracle? Or does it have to be something deemed scientifically and medically impossible? Does a person's lost limb need to grow back? Or, perhaps, does a permanently brain damaged person need to experience full recovery? Because nothing within the latter category has ever happened within documented history. All "miracles" that we know of have scientific explanations.
However, you'd think that if God did exist, there would be plenty s/he could do in terms of miracle workings in the lives of humanity. On close inspection, we don't see that happening.
Further, what does a "miracle" actually say about anything? A person recovering from terminal illness is no more proof of a god than someone dropping dead unexpectedly being proof of no god.
6. THE ARGUMENT OF HISTORY: "Jesus almost certainly existed, even atheist historians don't dispute this, but that's where similarities end. However, many believers rhetorically ask how a single man, killed in his early thirties, could rise from obscurity, preach a philosophy, and literally see that faith adopted by the entire known (at the time) Western world in the course of 100 years. Bear in mind, there was no internet, telegraph or even daily periodical. Obviously, something pretty fantastic happened. It would be akin to a no-one preaching a brand new outlook on life in the United States, being sentenced to death, and posthumously seeing his world view endorsed en masse only a few decades later."
Um ... the above account is probably the same reason why Muhammad is still being followed. And Buddha. And the multitude of other people worshiped and respected around the world, justifiably or not.
Also, it's pretty disputed whether Jesus existed, and certainly disputed whether Jesus-as-portrayed-in-the-Bible existed. Read up on this. There is a huge discrepancy between a man named Jesus having existed, and a man named Jesus who brought people back from the dead, walked on water, and healed blindness having existed. There is zero evidence for the latter (no, the Bible is not evidence, any more than the Koran is evidence that Muhammad disappeared into the heavens on a winged chariot).
It's worth pointing out that there are absolutely no contemporary documentations of Jesus Christ (no, Josephus was not a contemporary, and was likely a forgery). All writings about him were written years and years later, which is highly suspicious. If someone truly healed and cured people the way he did, fed and taught people the way he did, and rose from the damned dead into heaven the way he did, you'd think that there would be plenty of contemporary writings about him. We have found exactly none.
Richard Carrier has written multiple books on the historicity of Jesus, and I recommend them if you'd like to learn more. His extensive research has been based in ancient history, and he makes a compelling case that Jesus as a man may have never even existed.
7. THE ARGUMENT OF INTELLIGENCE: "While it's of course evolutionarily advantageous to be intelligent, our level of intelligence doesn't seem to necessarily make sense. In other words, how is it that humans so rapidly outstripped the other members of the animal kingdom, and is ours a level of smarts that actually has benefits? For instance, while knowing what is and isn't a predator, or how to sew shut your own wounds is helpful, does a brain with room for existential crises and daydreaming really assist your reproduction and survival? Why does capacity for this level of thought exist?"
Why do we even place such a heavy importance on intelligence?
If we were to gauge all the animals on the planet on speed, we'd lose. If we were to gauge on the ability to fly, climb trees, or burrow, we'd lose. If we were to gauge the ability to swim, we'd lose. If we were to gauge the ability to hunt as a predator using only our natural abilities, we'd lose. Head to head against a bear, we'd lose. There are a great many talents and abilities that the animals on this planet claim, and we happen to claim a high level of intelligence. So what?
The writer above commented that our intelligence doesn't seem to have a natural purpose in this world. This writer seems to be under the misunderstanding that evolution has a cause, or an end-game. It doesn't. It doesn't even necessarily serve us well. Evolution happens to cater to whatever genes survive against others. It doesn't matter if this writer cannot see any "natural" benefits to our intelligence; it happens to be a part of our species. I fail to see any proof of god in that.
8. THE ARGUMENT OF TIME AND CONTINGENCY: "Things exist, then they cease to exist. We observe this in nature all day long. However, nothing can come from nothing. Thus, there must be something that has and always will exist. This is God."
This seems to be a rehashing of argument #1. Yes, everything has a natural lifespan. That's not proof of god.
Again, how do we know that "nothing can come from nothing?" We have scientific studies that demonstrate life springing from non-life, albeit simple forms of life. And, once again, you cannot just claim that "nothing can come from nothing," but then plead a special case that god did just that. If you think there is no reasonable justification for the universe to have always existed, then you need to come up with a damn good reason why God could always have existed, and it needs to extend beyond magic.
9. ULTIMATELY, BAD THINGS GET WHAT'S COMING TO THEM: "Gandhi hit on this one, when he said (and I paraphrase) "Whenever I despair, I remember that good ultimately wins out." It's true, while bad things happen every day and very horrible things happen every so often, the perpetrators (ultimately) are brought to justice or see their wrongs for what they are. It may take one or one hundred years, but this observation is proven correct time and time again."
Um, no. This is simply not true. We live in a world in which bad things happen to good people, and bad people get away with murder and beyond. We live in a world in which young children are raped and tortured and killed, and sometimes the perpetrators never face a consequence. We live in a world in which the rich and powerful gain at the expense of the poor and weak, and never have to answer for it. People die every day without justification, and are sometimes never remembered let alone avenged. We live in a world where lives are cut short -- at times, severely short -- because of disease or other elements from the world around us. The idea that there is some kind of natural balance in which everything works out in the end is a pipe dream, and a slightly offensive one.
But that's part of what makes religion so popular -- the idea that the bad will pay, and the good will be rewarded. Never mind the fact that things considered "good" by some are considered "bad" by others. What I'll stick to here is a common Christian belief that throws #9 on its head.
Many Christians, see, believe that all you need is belief in Jesus and you will be rewarded. That is, you'll go to heaven. This means that it doesn't matter what you do or don't do in life. If you're a rapist and murderer who kills themselves -- but believes in the grace of Jesus -- then you're good to go for heaven. If you've lived a good life and helped others, but die without believing in Jesus ... well, you're doomed for hell. This is based on a presumption that the most basic "sins" (as they call these slices of humanity) such as lying and lust are the exact same level of evil as murder, rape, and torture. So it doesn't matter what you do -- all that matters is whether you believe.
For these Christians, at least, #9 is meaningless. The game has nothing to do with whether you are "good" or "bad." It's all about making yourself accept a claim as true.
10. DEATH: "Death is a necessity, and the editing mechanism of Natural Selection, but that refers to possibility of death - not it's inevitability. So is it a God-created denouement to our lives? It seems that humans are programmed to die after no more than, at very most, about 120 years of life. However, by the laws of nature, a species is most fit when it has the best chance of survival and thus reproduction. One would think, after such a rapid intelligence explosion among humans, that we would also extend our lifespans equally as fast. After all, the longer we live, the more children we can have (well, at least in the case of men procreating) and thus the more environmentally "fit" we become. Yet, this doesn't appear to be happening. Is death a God - devised expiration date, forcing us to live as we will before being judged as He/She/It will? Or, is it just a natural phenomenon?"
This premise makes as much sense as asking why we cannot keep produce from rotting, or why we cannot keep bread from growing mold. Our human bodies, like the above examples, are organic and begin to wither away and expire with age.
We have certainly come a long way in terms of food preservation, just as we have also come a long way in terms of extending human lives. Our lifespans are longer now than at many points throughout history. We have a better understanding as to how to take care of ourselves. We can cure or treat diseases that, in years past, were death sentences (I know -- I live with one such disease). We've used our intelligence to preserve multiple things, humans included.
But everything organic does die eventually. The fact that we haven't been able to use our intelligence to grant ourselves immortality is certainly not evidence of any gods.
In conclusion, many arguments for god's existence rely on application of our own limited understanding of the world (and the universe) to everything. Many people believe that because we don't understand something, the supernatural must be a default answer. Because a specific person cannot think of "anything coming from nothing," the idea of a supernatural creator must, therefore, be plausible. But keep in mind that humans have thought this way since the beginning of documented time. Throughout the years, we have begun to understand more of the world around us, and the need for god explanations has begun to wither. Even though there is still much we don't understand, is it so illogical to assume that there are perfectly natural answers out there to satisfy our deepest questions, just as we've been experiencing with ancient questions in recent years? My consensus is that this premise is far less illogical than a reliance on the supernatural.