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Why There Is Almost Certainly No God

Copyright © 2015 by Wil C. Fry. All Rights Reserved.

Published 2015.11.25


This is the original version of this page. To see the updated version, click here.



Here, I summarize the longer arguments below (skip to intro). Those unwilling or unable to read the entire document may read just this summary for my main conclusions. Each point has a link to a longer section below.

The Principle Of Certainty

See full argument

Absolute certainty is not possible on any topic. For practical purposes, near certainty is the same as 100% certainty. While no one could ever be completely certain that there is no god whatsoever, being very, very certain is good enough.


The Relevancy Of The God Claim

See full argument

Not all god claims are created equal. Some are too general to prove or disprove, and these generally require nothing of humanity, becoming irrelevant. It is the very specific god claims that are not only easier to disprove, but more necessary to disprove, since they require much of us.


Defining God

See full argument

Lest we fall into unproductive semantic arguments, “God” here refers to the monotheistic creator and ruler of the universe, or the “boss god”, while lowercase “god” or “gods” refer to any being with supernatural abilities.


They Can’t All Be True

See full argument

The first and most powerful argument for me is: Many god claims are incompatible with each other. They can’t all be true. It is rare that any two could be placed side-by-side and found compatible in the specifics. This means that before we even begin, we can know that almost all of them are untrue.


Pascal’s Nightmare

See full argument

Pascal’s Wager is infamously incorrect in its proposition of probability. Not only is it incredibly improbable that there is any god, but any god claim must share that probability with all other god claims, bringing the probability of each to near zero.


Absence Of Evidence As Evidence Of Absence

See full argument

When evidence of something should be expected, and should be abundant, any absence of such evidence is notable. If a particular god claim includes an overwhelming number of assertions about God’s interaction with humanity and promises of continual interaction, then absence of that interaction is evidence the claim is false.


Observable Miracles

See full argument

Personal miracles are regularly claimed by theists, pertaining to present-day events. Despite ubiquitous modern recording technology, their claims are either oddly unimpressive, easily explainable, normal occurrences, unable to be substantiated by any standard of proof, and/or surprisingly undocumented. There is also a complete and utter absence of big, public miracles. Whether there be any gods, it is certain there is not a miracle-working God.


Unintelligent Design Of Life

See full argument

There are a sufficient number of “mistakes” — non-optimal characteristics — in existing living beings to deflate any theory of “intelligent design” operating in nature. Most, if not all of them, are explained easily by the theory of evolution via natural selection.


The Universe Is Hostile To Life

See full argument

Refuting the claim that the universe is “finely tuned” to support life (as a proof of a Creator) is the fact that the universe — almost all of it — is intensely hostile to life, especially human life.


Natural Causes

See full argument

Many things once thought to be caused by the supernatural are now understood to have natural causes. Nothing that was once thought to have natural causes is now explained by the supernatural. This shows that as science, knowledge, and education increase, we regularly find no supernatural influence in the world.


I Love You, So... Burn Forever!

See full argument

The idea of eternal torment for unbelief (or failing to meet any confusing detail of the rules) directly contradicts the idea of a loving or moral God. It does leave open the possibility of a malevolent God, which might explain many things.


Problems With The Omnis

See full argument

If God is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent, then certain other assertions by theists must be false, including “God is moral”, “God is loving”, and “We have free will”.


Free Will In Heaven?

See full argument

Assertions of a perfect, evil-free heaven are nonsensical when combined with the assertions that free will is what allowed humans to sin in the first place and that we will still have free will in heaven.




Introduction

(Back To The Top)


Months after my initial announcement, after further consideration on many topics, I’ve removed the “agnostic” part of my self-imposed label. While I still hold that no one can know with absolute certainty that there is no god, I am prepared to say that 99.99% certainty is — for all practical purposes — the same as full certainty.

In My Journey, I described how I rejected a very specific belief system. In How I Came To Disbelieve The Bible, I dealt specifically with the Christian Bible and how it became obvious to me that it was not true. But these are not the only god claims in the world. What of the other claims, or the god-idea in general?

There is no single argument or proof that wipes out all gods, but there are certainly arguments against specific god claims, and lines of reasoning that bury the others in extreme and justified doubt.
There are a multitude of arguments for God’s existence, all of which failed for me, and none of which attempt to prove a specific deity. Some have asserted there is no way to prove gods don’t exist. It is true that there is no single argument or proof that wipes out all gods, but there are certainly arguments against specific god claims, and lines of reasoning that bury the others in extreme and justified doubt.

Here, I detail some of the thinking that eventually convinced me that the existence of a god or gods is highly improbable, almost certainly not true.

It’s a long read. Feel free to return to the summary, or use the More menu to navigate the page.


The Principle Of Certainty

(Return To Summary)


Underlying the entirety of what follows is the meaning of the word “certainty”. Wikipedia defines it as “perfect knowledge that has total security from error... something is certain only if no skepticism can occur.” However, this is the way the word is used in philosophy, not by the common person in real life. Google’s definition is closer: “a firm conviction that something is the case” or “the quality of being reliably true.”

There is no way to prove the universe is even physically real. Every other “certainty” is based on this complete uncertainty.
In reality, no one is ever absolutely certain of anything. There is no way to prove the universe is even physically real, for example, rather than a product of your mind or a highly sophisticated virtual reality. Every other “certainty” is based on this complete uncertainty.

For practical purposes, therefore, we count near certainty as good enough. When you check both sides of a coin and see a face on one side and (for example) an eagle on the other, you would say you are 100% certain that you know what’s on both sides of it, although you can only see one side at a time. When you put it in your pocket, you would say you are still 100% certain, despite not being able to see either side. You know the probability that one or both sides have changed is very, very slim, close enough to zero to not worry about.

My initial announcement that I was an “agnostic atheist” was explained with this phrase: “I choose to avoid a complete assertion of certainty”, and I noted that because I had been so certain of my religion for so long, it would be difficult for me to be completely confident that there is no god whatsoever. But I have since come to realize that 99.99% certainty is, for all practical purposes, the same as 100%. Especially for the gods that matter.


The Relevancy Of The God Claim

(Return To Summary)


The more general a god claim, the harder it is to disprove, but easier to ignore. The more specific a god claim, the easier it is to disprove, but impossible to ignore.
It isn’t necessary or worthwhile to try to disprove every god claim or belief system. Some are constructed so as to be near-impossible to disprove. Many will never have any effect on our lives — even if true. These can be ignored.

The more general a god claim, the harder it is to disprove, but easier to ignore. The more specific a god claim, the easier it is to disprove, but impossible to ignore. In other words, some assertions are more falsifiable than others, often the same ones that are the most invasive and insidious.

For example, pantheists define God as “the universe” or “everything”. This god idea is impossible to disprove because everything (the universe) clearly exists — ignoring solipsism. It can also be ignored as a semantic issue: if you redefine “god” to mean something that everyone admits exists, then everyone agrees your god exists. If the definition of god is changed to “trees” or “air” or “this pencil”, then you’re simply playing a word game with yourself instead of arguing for the existence of a god.

Also, to my knowledge, pantheism makes no effort to infiltrate government or legislation, makes no demands of society nor of individuals. Therefore, it is irrelevant to our lives.

Likewise, deism can be ignored. Its claims are simple and unfalsifiable: there is one god who created the universe, including the laws of physics, but there the creator’s influence ended. This Creator made no revelations or rules for behavior. (Some deists claim this creator requires humanity to use reason to figure out the universe and morality, but even then no future punishment for misdeeds is asserted.) Deists don’t believe their god is involved in the affairs of humans. It offers no punishments or rewards, no nuggets of wisdom, no miracles. There is no possibility or need to disprove this god, for it is also irrelevant.

(If you ask me, both pantheism and deism are a cop-outs for people who would otherwise be atheists but can’t let go of the idea of god. At least that was the case when I called myself a deist. It is interesting to note that deism reached its peak before humanity acquired much of its current scientific knowledge, including evolution, genetics, atoms, germs, etc.)

These gods are easier to disprove for obvious reasons: their claims often contradict observed reality.
The world’s largest and most-known religions, however, not only make specific assertions about the character and nature of God (or gods), but describe specific ways in which these gods interact with the physical universe. In most cases, they also claim a set of writings (scriptures) are provided by God as a revelation of himself and that these scriptures are the final word. These gods are easier to disprove for obvious reasons: their claims often contradict observed reality. These belief systems also cannot be ignored, since they have specific and often divisive rules for behavior, and regularly are carried out with legal force in major nations.

I will present two examples — both invented by me while I wrote this. Disclaimer: these are fictitious. None of the assertions in the following two examples are to be construed as true or believable. Please do not start a religion based on these.

1. “Atomic God”: atoms are gods, the combination of atoms (molecules) make up stronger gods, and all the atoms in the universe together are one giant, all-encompassing God. This God made everything, makes us feel better or worse depending upon its whims (dopamine is made of atoms!), and what we call natural or physical laws are simply the predictable behavior of this God.

2. This same Atomic God is so powerful that it can reach into the physical observable world, and do things — in defiance of the laws of physics. It can “speak” to me in my brain (you can’t hear it though) so I’ll know what it wants. It also makes oceans rise up out of their beds every night and float over the mountaintops and wants petrochemicals to be prohibited by law in every nation. It also demands occasional human sacrifices.



You can shrug off my first assertion, because that God requires nothing of you, and nothing about my claim can be disproved or proved by science. But the second claim does require something of you — outlaw petrochemicals, human sacrifice — and asserts a disprovable interaction with the physical world. (You can observe, any night, the oceans not floating over the mountaintops.) If it weren’t for the requirement, you could ignore the disprovable part and believe in it anyway; it wouldn’t affect anything except people’s opinions of your mental stability.

It is perhaps no coincidence that the very general, unfalsifiable god claims are the ones that have zero or ignorable requirements for humanity, while the very specific claims — the easiest to disprove — are the belief systems that have the most stringent requirements for human living — including capital apostasy laws.

On this page, I am concerned mainly with the latter, though the former will play into it as well.


Defining God

(Return To Summary)


Unlike the pantheists mentioned above, most people do not define God as “the Universe”, but rather as the creator and ruler of the universe, a supreme, sentient being. This is what I refer to when I capitalize the word. This definition is true of the world’s two largest religions, Christianity and Islam — together accounting for more than half of the world’s population — and also of their forebear, Judaism.

When I use the lowercase version of god, I refer to any of several thousand deities that have been asserted to exist throughout human history, to include the monotheistic God but also the gods of other religions and belief systems, including the Roman, Greek, and Norse pantheons, the numerous gods of various Hindu traditions, the Egyptian deities, and all the others. The lowercase “god” means any being with supernatural abilities. Most of these belief systems have some form of “origin story” for the universe, including a higher, more powerful god or gods that are (or were) nominally in charge of the others.

When I use the term “god claim”, as should be obvious, I am referring to any claim by a person, book, or organization that asserts the existence of a god or gods. For most purposes, it could be considered synonymous with “belief system”.


They Can’t All Be True

(Return To Summary)


I list this argument first on this page, because it is the most powerful and effective for me.

Most god claims are explicitly contradictory with other god claims.
Most god claims are explicitly contradictory with other god claims. As an obvious example, there is no way to reconcile the Christian claim that Jesus Christ is the son of God with the Muslim claim that Jesus was not the son of God. This alone means that one of those two belief systems is untrue.

Within Christianity alone, there are many hundreds, if not thousands of denominations, many of them holding incompatible beliefs. (Obviously, I do not here refer to denominations that split off because of personal issues or organizational disagreements, but to the ones that split because of doctrinal arguments.) For example, trinitarian Christians disagree with nontrinitarians about the very nature of the God they worship. From the outside looking in, it appears they’re not even worshipping the same God — which means this is two god claims. At least one of them is untrue. This disagreement alone led to 15 centuries of persecution. Other doctrinal disagreements led to wars.

It should also be noted that those calling themselves “Christians” either believe the Bible is literally true, or believe much of it is allegory, or believe in its God but discard most of the stories. This division alone amounts to three separate god claims.

The same is true for Islam, which early separated into three distinct branches — each of which splintered further. These branches disagree on their history, on societal rules, and on moral codes required by their God. They disagree so strongly that wars have been waged over these points of doctrine. Members of one branch will assert that the other branch is blasphemous. In countries where one branch is in the majority, the other branch will sometimes not be allowed to pray or even enter buildings where they might pray (source).

It is not the same religion if you can’t agree on what God is like, or what he requires of you.
It is not the same religion if you can’t agree on what God is like, or what he requires of you. If one group says “you’re saved by faith alone; what you do doesn’t matter”, and another group says “no, true faith is evidenced by works”, then you’re looking at two different god claims.

(Even the Bible disagrees with itself on the above topic, for what it’s worth. In Galatians, Paul writes: “...we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we may be justified by faith in Christ, and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law shall no flesh be justified." But James wrote that belief isn’t enough, because “the demons also believe”, that it’s “as a result of the works” that faith is perfected. If the demons believe in God, but can’t be saved, then belief is not enough, yet Paul says it is.)

And it should go without saying that not only are Islam and Christianity incompatible with each other, but with the Judaism that came before them (which is also divided into disagreeing sects).

Every doctrinal disagreement creates another god claim which has an increasing chance of being false.
So I can categorically state that two of those three religions are untrue. For arguments’ sake, let’s say Judaism and Islam are untrue, leaving Christianity as a possible truth. Even then, most Christian claims are wrong, because they can’t all be true. God is either one, or three, or three-in-one. Either the Holy Ghost still makes people speak in tongues, or it doesn’t, or it never has. Either God still heals through the “laying on of hands” or he doesn’t, or he never has. And so on. Every doctrinal disagreement creates another god claim which has an increasing chance of being false.

Seen this way, what appear to be giant, monolithic god claims accepted by billions each are actually categorical groupings of hundreds (or thousands) of competing, contradictory god claims. Without even researching, we can know that at all-minus-one are untrue.

We know without even debating or considering the tenets of each that almost all of them are not true.
And all of the above is without considering the thousands of god claims that arose before Judaism or simultaneously with it. The god claims of Native American civilizations are (for the most part) not compatible with the god claims of Islam or Christianity, and often not with each other. And the god claims of Africa, and prehistoric Europe, and the Far East, and Pacific Islanders... We know without even debating or considering the tenets of each that almost all of them are not true.

Take as an analogy a hundred people standing on an overpass. You approach the overpass, and the first person tells you they saw a single automobile drive along the highway underneath them. But the next person tells you it was actually 12 vehicles, all identical. The third person agrees on the number 12, but asserts each vehicle was different in appearance and ability. The fourth person says it was a motorcycle. The fifth person said there was no vehicle. Or a hundred vehicles. By the time you’ve interviewed everyone who was standing on the overpass, you have a hundred competing claims, none of which agree with each other, and all of which are incompatible. A theist apologist would say: “But at least you know there was a vehicle, because almost everyone saw it.” I would say instead that all I know is that 99 of the people are telling untrue stories.

I see this as the best argument against most god claims, because it destroys almost all of them. Of course, if one of them is true, then the trick is to figure out which one.

Rebuttal


There is no good rebuttal to this argument. The best one I’ve heard is along these lines: “They’re all referring to the same God, but each one interprets it differently.” Alternatively: “Every religion on Earth began with the same truth, but humans changed it over time and developed different mythologies to explain God in different ways.”

It’s a poor argument, because (even if believed) it still leaves us wondering which one is correct. We’re talking about our (alleged) immortal souls here, heaven and hell according to many. If there’s even a nugget of truth to any of it, we need to know which one is correct. For those who say “any of them are fine” or “what’s really important is that you’re a good person”, I need evidence of that too. Who says so? God? Which one? When did it say this, and how can I verify that? They’re really just making a separate god claim.


Pascal’s Nightmare

(Return To Summary)


French philosopher Blaise Pascal infamously posited that God either exists or doesn’t exist (“heads or tails”), and that everyone wagers one way or the other, and finally that you should wager on his existence because of the consequences (heaven or hell). As critics noted, the wager was formulated within the paradigm of Christianity rather than in the universe as a whole.

You could choose God, but the wrong one.

If I tell you there is an invisible dragon god that sleeps in my car, there is not a 50% chance of it being real.
The wager itself was set up incorrectly (though perhaps honestly) as a fifty-fifty chance. Any time an ancient culture asserted a god, that doesn’t automatically mean its god has a 50% chance of existing. If I tell you there is an invisible dragon god that sleeps in my car, it is highly improbable. You would have no qualms about disbelieving my claim, unless I could show tangible proof. There is not a 50% chance of it being real. But Pascal insisted that my invisible dragon has a 50% chance of existing.

But even if the “yes-no” question is still 50/50, a “yes” doesn’t automatically mean it’s the God who has a heaven and hell. “Yes” could mean one of the thousands of other gods that has been asserted over the course of known human history, or even one of many claims we’ve never heard about because they were invented before writing was known and thus never passed on. The “real” god could even be one that humanity has never known about, because it never revealed itself.

If half the possibility goes to “no”, then the “yes” half is divided between each of these many claims — each god claim gets something like 0.015 percent, because they can’t all be true, can they? (If Islam is true, then the Roman pantheon is not true, for example.) In fact if any belief system is true, then it’s likely to be the only one.

Pascal’s Wager means the probability for every god claim drops very close to zero. And the chance of a “no” is still at 50%.
Looked at in this light, Pascal’s Wager means the probability for every god claim drops very close to zero. Therefore, it is highly improbable, statistically, that any of these gods exist. So, while the “no” side is still at 50 percent probability, this is incredibly more probable than a specific “yes”. Had Pascal admitted Christianity wasn’t alone in making a claim about a god, he would have said “no” was a much more sure bet.

Think of a coin toss. Heads means God is real, and tails means there’s no god. Fifty-fifty, right? But if the coin comes up heads, we still have a raffle drawing with thousands of names in the box.

No theist wants to think of it this way, because each is pre-convinced her religion is the right one, the only one with a high probability.

Thinking of Pascal’s Wager this way does not, of course, disprove any particular god claim. Improbable things occur regularly. Many things are unlikely, yet are true. It’s improbable you would survive falling from the top of an 11-story building, but it has happened.

But combine this argument with the previous argument, that almost all god claims are known to be untrue because they’re incompatible claims. Even the single leftover claim that might be true still has only Pascal’s 50-50 chance.


Absence Of Evidence As Evidence Of Absence

(Return To Summary)


Whenever an atheist begins to mention evidence, a theist is always sure to trot out “but absence of evidence is not evidence of absence”. It’s tired and trite and doesn’t mean anything in this context.

In cases where you wouldn’t expect to see evidence, they might be right. Just because you can’t see something doesn’t mean it’s not there. “I didn’t see John at my birthday party” is not evidence that John was absent. He could have been there; you just didn’t see him.

When applied to the question of God’s existence, theists have used the phrase to mean “My lack of proof for God doesn’t mean he’s not real.”

When evidence is expected, then its absence is notable and powerful.
But in fact, the opposite is true. When evidence is expected, then its absence is notable and powerful. If your best friend John is the kind of person who shows up to birthday parties loud and boisterous, and causing a scene, then not noticing him there could certainly be considered evidence that he wasn’t there. If you were alone at your birthday party, you probably would have noticed anyone who showed up, so not seeing him is evidence that he wasn’t there.

The gods claimed by many theists and scriptures are not the type to hide silently. They are gods who get involved, who do stuff. They stop the Sun from moving across the sky, for example (which would have destroyed the Earth and everything living on it, of course). They move mountains. They kill every firstborn child in an entire nation in one night. They make donkeys talk. They raise people from the dead. They destroy entire cities for desiring men.

These are gods that should be evident on a daily basis. When you’re about to disobey them, your modern equivalent of a donkey (your car) should magically speak to you about it and refuse to follow your instructions. When you win a great victory, the Earth should cease its rotation. When you need landscaping done, you should just tell the dirt to move, and it should.

This might be why the modern concept of faith is absent in the Old Testament of the Bible. It would have been absurd to mention believing without evidence as a virtue when the book regularly mentioned a visible, audible God. By the time the New Testament came around, God’s works seemed much less nation-spanning and earth-shaking. The miracles in the Gospels, attributed to Jesus, were small and personal in comparison to the Old Testament YHWH. By the time the epistles were written — a generation or more after Jesus’ death — everyone was regularly reminded to “have faith”.
“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see... And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

Hebrews 11:1,6

This New Testament admonition is nonsensical in the context of the Old Testament, but was required for its audience, for whom the absence of evidence was becoming more obvious. For them, God was something that “we do not see”. His existence must be believed.

There is never a need to say “just trust me” if you have provided evidence for trust. If I were starting a bank account, I would become immediately skeptical if the bank manager kept uttering “Just trust us with your money. I promise it will be safe here.” If, on the other hand, the bank has been around for years without issue, the manager would never say such a thing — the bank has earned the trust of the community.

If you’re a Major League Baseball scout, do you hire the player who says “I won’t promise anything” but has a track record of hitting in the .400s, or do you hire the guy who has never played before but swears on his life he will hit the ball every time he steps up to the plate? Of course you hire the guy who has done it.

If evidence is expected, then its absence is ominous.

No, this lack of evidence does not disprove all gods. It does disprove all gods for which there should be evidence.


Observable Miracles

(Return To Summary)


Is it a coincidence that the really obvious interventions of God are asserted to have happened in the distant past, while today’s “miracles” are things that are almost always explainable in some other way?

Focusing on the Bible — the religious text with which I’m most familiar — what types of supernatural occurrences should we expect to see? I will arbitrarily divide the miracles into two categories — personal miracles and public miracles — though there is some overlap. I would describe the first set as those miracles that affect one person or family, often unobserved by others, while the second kind takes place in full view of many witnesses, often affecting large crowds or everyone on the planet.

For example, Jesus healing a woman of leprosy is a personal miracle, while God stopping the Earth’s rotation for 24 hours is a public miracle.

It is notable that almost all modern “miracle” claims can be accurately described as surprisingly undocumented and unable to be substantiated, or things that happen normally, easily explainable, and oddly unimpressive.
There are fairly regular claims of personal miracles among theists today. It is notable that almost all of them can be accurately described as surprisingly undocumented and unable to be substantiated, or things that happen normally, easily explainable, and oddly unimpressive. It is an extremely rare “act of God” that does not fit at least one of these descriptors. Faith healings, for example, usually fit all of them.

I’ve been told, by completely serious people, that God healed them of illnesses — the kinds that other people recover from without supernatural help on a regular basis. If this was the work of God, he probably didn’t want you to tell anyone about it, because he clearly made the effort to disguise it as the normal healing process.

I regularly see in news reports that people “give all the credit to God” (source) for things that actual people did — verifiably. These claims are immediately dismissable.

Other claims are less falsifiable — claims that someone at a prayer meeting was healed, that God saved a person from certain injury or death in a car accident, that he helped you find a job, and even smaller stuff like locating car keys, discovering extra money in the budget, or passing a test without studying. (These are actual claims I heard during my years in church, and many of them still pop up on theists’ Facebook timelines.) No one could ever prove that God wasn’t involved, but at the same time they cannot be used as evidence that God exists since his involvement — if any — was so insignificant as to be pointless.

A man hopping up out of a wheelchair at a prayer meeting isn’t a miracle any more than it’s a miracle that I got over the flu a few years ago. Sometimes we heal ourselves. If that never happened, our species would not have survived as well as it did, or at all. “The doctors said I would never walk again!” is almost never accurate, when looked at closely. What the doctor actually said was “probably not” or “unlikely”, which means some people with that particular condition actually do walk again, while many don’t. They didn’t give a prediction of your future, but tried to prepare you for your probable future.

In my evangelical past, I often witnessed such scenes at impressionable ages, and they indeed impressed me. When folks argued that God wasn’t real or didn’t interact with the world today, my defense was: “I’ve seen miracles myself!” It took years before I evaluated these scenes — and my own stories — with any degree of skepticism.

As it turns out, “miracles” are whatever people believe them to be.
As it turns out, “miracles” are whatever people believe them to be. But they’re so often mundane things that make life easier but that no serious theologian would consider a miracle. They’re perfectly explainable via natural processes.

It also turned out that we tried really hard to count only the times it worked and ignore the times it didn’t. If someone recovered, it was a miracle, because we had prayed for it. If someone didn’t recover (which oddly, occurred at the same frequency for those who weren’t being prayed for), then God must have other plans for them, or “the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away” — “Mysterious Ways”.

But it’s not just the lack of credible personal miracles that is evidence of God’s absence. The really big ones are missing — like God speaking to an Army commander within the hearing of all his troops, earthquakes or tidal waves swallowing up the enemies of the righteous, destroying entire cities that have fallen into sin, etc.

If any of us could feed 5,000 people with a few loaves of bread, a bunch of us would be on airplanes to other nations, spreading our miracle of food among the starving masses.
None of us ever saw a single public miracle such as Jesus performed or promised. We never brought five loaves of bread to a picnic for 5,000 people and were miraculously able to feed everyone. If we could have done that, a bunch of us would have been on airplanes to Ethiopia and Bangladesh, spreading our miracle of food among the starving masses. Instead, we were forced to believe it was God’s will for those masses to starve while we threw away scraps after every meal.

Throughout my life, I’ve read in the news that natural disasters are “Acts of God”, like this recent claim about a flood-prone, swampy area that flooded every few years. It boggles the mind. The reason they’re called “natural disasters” is because they have natural explanations.

If any of the more well-known god claims were true, there should indeed be regular and indisputable evidence of their existence, or at least a good explanation for why God suddenly went silent. The absence of such evidence functions as evidence for the absence of these gods.

Does the lack of miracles prove there are no gods? No, of course not. But the lack of observable miracles does most certainly prove there is no God who regularly performs observable miracles. In this day of ubiquitous recording devices and televised church services, substantiated miracle claims should increase, not disappear entirely.


Unintelligent Design Of Life

(Return To Summary)


If you ignore quite a bit about the human body, it’s really fantastic. It can heal itself of an awful lot. It can see and hear and taste and smell, as well as determine temperature and detect movement. It can run and jump, walk and crawl, dig and climb. The brain is amazing, and the things we can think of with it have changed the face of the world forever. As a group, we survive massive natural disasters, wars, and unspeakable crimes. Some have looked at the very complex system we call our bodies and determined it could not have happened naturally, that it must have been designed.

All is not well with the human body.
But all is not well with the human body. It can’t see what other animals can see. We don’t have night vision like the cat or owl. We don’t have sonar like bats, whales, or dolphins. Nor can we sense infrared radiation as do some snakes, bats, or bed bugs. We have a blind spot because our optic nerves are attached in such a way as to block light receptors.

We can’t hear all the sound frequencies, and our hearing is easily damaged by continued exposure to certain frequencies. We breathe, eat, and talk through the same opening, which is why so many of us choke. Not all animals share this poor evolutionary “feature”. We can’t regrow severed limbs as lizards can do with their tails. We can’t eat what some animals can eat. We have an internal organ that is mostly useless and sometimes ruptures to kill us. We have four extra teeth that don’t fit well in our adult jaws, which can cause extreme pain and damage to other teeth if not removed (though not all humans have all four). Ninety percent of us have the plantaris muscles, which is unnecessary for any purpose. Unlike most other animals and plants, humans can’t synthesize their own Vitamin C due to a defective gene — causing scurvy and sometimes death unless we regularly ingest it.

There is no point to the pain of deadly childhood diseases.
Pain can be a feature or a bug. Pain can teach us to not touch hot or sharp things, for example, and let us know when something is wrong inside. But in the case of many cancers and other conditions, the pain shows up way too late to be of any service and the seemingly endless suffering that follows is of no use whatsoever. There is no point to the pain of deadly childhood diseases, and no “design” explanation for inherited diseased like Harlequin-type ichthyosis. In some instances (heart attacks, for example), the pain is in the wrong place and therefore sends a faulty message.

Reproduction has always been tricky. Even with today’s medical marvels, more pregnancies are terminated by nature than result in a live birth. Of those who are born, as many as five percent have a defect, and about the same percent are infertile — though many cases of infertility are medically treatable. We have a long gestation period, relative to many other mammals of similar size — six times longer than kangaroos, two and half times as long as tigers and lions, and longer even than bears, bison, hippos, elk, and moose. Unlike many of those critters, humans can’t walk for nearly a year after birth. Two or three of every hundred full-term pregnancies are ectopic, which prior to modern medicine resulted in the death of both baby and mother. Not to mention that the birth canal itself passes through the bones of the pelvis, a design complication that could have been avoided.

We humans live to an average of 70-something years, with the oldest of us never making it past 122 years, while the rougheye rockfish and red sea urchins can live over 200 years, the ocean quahog lives well over 300 years, and the Great Basin bristlecone pine tree is known to live as long as 5,000 years. Other life forms on earth are known to be biologically immortal, including some bacteria, hydras, and one kind of jellyfish.

And that’s just humans. It says nothing of blind cavefish having useless eyes, pandas not being interested in or knowing how to mate, beetles having rudimentary wings trapped under hard shells, vestigial pelvises and hindlimbs in snakes and whales, and a thousand other known vestigial or “rudimentary” organs and features. Emus can’t fly, but have light and hollow bones like other birds; bats can fly, but have solid, heavier bones like other mammals. Flightless birds like ostriches and emus have apparently unnecessary wings. The route of the recurrent larngeal nerve is extremely odd — especially in giraffes — if it was designed, though it makes perfect sense if it happened via evolution over millions of years. Whales, dolphins, and some other water animals cannot live out of water, but can only breathe air.

These are all phenomenon that shout evolution via natural selection and fly in the face of the idea of a perfect and all-knowing creator.
These are all phenomenon that shout evolution via natural selection and fly in the face of the idea of a perfect and all-knowing creator.

As for illness and death in humans, a Christian will point to the concept of Original Sin. Humans were perfect, they’ll say, until they disobeyed God and were cursed. But this does not explain the rest of what could be called — in the context of design — mistakes.

Again, this does not disprove all gods. But it disproves, at least for me, the concept of a perfect Creator God who brought all of life into existence. It leaves open the possibilities of a universe-creator (and life evolved later), a simple-life-creator (and more complex life evolved from it), or a super-but-not-perfect-being who planted life on Earth.


The Universe Is Hostile To Human Life

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Reality is a direct contradiction of the theist claim (example) that “The Universe Is Finely Tuned to Support Life”. I heard this claim repeatedly while I was a Christian and I still see it today: the Earth is at exactly the right distance from the sun, the atmosphere is exactly what we need, gravity works for us, if the temperature were just one degree off we’d all die, etc. I actually saw someone post on Facebook recently that “if the Earth was 10 feet closer to the sun, we would all die”.

There are two things wrong with these claims, and they are almost opposites: (1) the Universe is actually hostile to life, and (2) there is actually a lot more leeway than some people claim.

When you see one of these “finely tuned” claims, look out for these made-up numbers.
The second is easier to dispense with. The Earth already varies in its orbit quite a bit, and parts of the Earth are always a few thousand miles closer to the sun than other parts. If the “10 feet claim” was true, you could not live if you climbed a tall tree or descended into a valley. Gravity varies measurably from low elevation to high elevation. Temperatures vary throughout the day and throughout the year, not to mention longer cycles. When you see one of these “finely tuned” claims, look out for these made-up numbers.

As for the idea that “there must have been a creator because conditions here are perfect for life”, it breaks down easily with a little information.

In real life, most of the Universe, including most of the Earth, is inhospitable to us. We haven’t yet found another planet where humans can live, though we hope to. In space, without special protective suits, we would die immediately. Conditions on all other planets in our solar system are deadly to humans.

In real life, most of the Universe, including most of the Earth, is inhospitable to us.
Here on Earth, we have a relatively narrow vertical band of habitability, from just under the surface to just above it. Higher than about 4,000 meters, humans can’t breathe without technology to help. Go below the surface of the ocean, and you can’t breathe there either. Underground gets less hospitable the deeper you go. Not to mention that even on the Earth’s surface, the great majority of it is uninhabitable — you can’t survive in the Arctic, in the desert, or on the surface of the oceans without technology. Much of where humans live now was uninhabitable for many thousands (perhaps millions) of years, but we’ve expanded into them recently due to technological innovation.

Even in habitable zones, where the temperature is survivable, where there is fresh water and air, there are thousands of things trying to kill us: bacteria, viruses, poisonous spiders and insects, predatorial reptiles and mammals. If other life forms don’t kill us, then the natural world itself has plenty of weaponry too: lightning, floods, wildfires, earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, and volcanoes. Every year, lives are lost to these natural disasters, even in the most technologically advanced nations. And every so many thousand years, just for fun, an ice age sweeps across the planet, drastically narrowing the choices for survivability. Very occasionally, a large meteorite collides with the planet, causing mass extinctions.

This is why human populations remained low until the development of tools, agriculture, construction, weaponry, and clothing. Taming fire helped too.

The facts that the universe is hostile to life and that Earth itself is mostly inhospitable to human life do not disprove god claims per se. They disprove the specific claim that the planet and/or the universe was designed with us in mind. And thus the question is raised: if God did not finely tune the universe for human life, then why not? Why did he create it in a way that could be explained by natural forces?

It is much more reasonable to say that the kind of life that exists here evolved to fit the conditions — the least beneficial variations are bred out over time.


Natural Causes

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Many things that we now know have natural causes were once thought to have supernatural causes. Thunderstorms (lightning, thunder), drought, floods, earthquakes, mental illness, disease, pestilence, and so on. As humanity learned to observe the natural world, we slowly began to learn about the causes of each.

We’re still learning. For example, we don’t know the exact causes of all mental illnesses, but we know several causes (genetic, chemical imbalances, trauma, etc.) And it appears certain that others will end up with natural causes as well, something in the brain or body’s makeup, and certainly not demon possession. We don’t yet know all the causes of cancer, but we’re studying them.

Many things that we now know have natural causes were once thought to have supernatural causes. But one can list nothing that was once thought to be natural and is now understood to be supernaturally caused.
But one can list nothing that was once thought to be natural and is now understood to be supernaturally caused.

This also does not prove the nonexistence of gods. It does show that increasing knowledge and education of humanity consistently and regularly finds no supernatural influence in the world. This does not bode well for god claims that assert regular influence.

It also shows the dishonesty of religions, who regularly “move the goalposts”. For example, at one point, almost all Christians believed demon possession was responsible for what we now know as various mental illnesses or behavioral disorders. As our understanding of these conditions have changed, today’s religious people no longer make those claims. In fact, many freely admit that their forbears were mistaken, laughing at the ancient ideas. Yet they cling to every other claim made by those same forbears. With each generation, new discoveries prove incorrect the assertions of religious sages; new generations of religious people accept this and change their claims.


I Love You, So... Burn Forever!

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Not every religion posits a hell, a place of eternal torment and punishment, but the major ones do. The idea is that if you don’t obey God, or if you follow the wrong God, or if you don’t believe in any gods, then you will — after death — be sentenced to an inescapable place of torment. Descriptions differ, but they’re all bad.

Christianity might be the worst in this regard (with Islam a close second), with God promising: “I love you unconditionally. So obey me or burn forever.” Today, it is difficult to imagine that I once believed this wholeheartedly, because it has now seemed absurd for so long.

No just God, no loving God, no moral God, would set up the universe in this way, with these rules.
No just God, no loving God, no moral God, would set up the universe in this way, with these rules. Why infinite punishment for a finite crime? Why not mention Hell earlier? Very little is said about the afterlife in the Old Testament; Hell as a concept only arose in the New Testament. There are also disturbing passages like II Thessalonians 2:11-12, which indicate that unbelievers were tricked by God so that he could punish them. And there are plenty of scriptures showing that God chooses the saved, not the other way around.

This leaves us with few options: (1) God/hell doesn’t exist, (2) God exists but there is no eternal torment for sinners, or (3) God/hell does exist as described in at least one major religion. The first is the simplest explanation for this quandary. The second removes the major tool of fear that many religions use to manipulate followers — especially children. The third possibility means God is neither loving, just, nor moral, in which case he is unworthy of worship. Notably, all three options mean major religious texts and doctrines are false — especially those of the world’s two largest religions.

Is there a possibility that God exists but is malevolent? Sure. That would explain a lot, actually. But there is zero possibility that a loving God would be forced by his own rules to create a place so bad that stories about it cause nightmares but then not announce it for a few thousand years, spread confusing and contradictory descriptions of it throughout his holy book, and be as vague as possible about how to get there and how to avoid it.


Problems With The Omnis

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Many god claims — Christianity for example — assert that God is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent. These are the three most-used descriptions of God, and each is repeatedly claimed in the Bible. Examples: “he knows everything” (I John 3:20), “Do I not fill heaven and earth?” (Jeremiah 23:24), “with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:16).

On my Contradictions page, I dealt with the Biblical problem of claiming God is omniscient while not knowing everything, and also discussed the claims to omnipotence alongside stories of God not being powerful enough to accomplish certain things. But those are merely problems with an old book cobbled together from hundreds of old scrolls written by many different men. The biblical contradictions don’t prove the nonexistence of such a God; they just prove that the Bible is nonsensical and imperfect.

It is conceivable (possible to imagine) a God that is both all-powerful and all-knowing, and by virtue of being all-powerful, that it is also present everywhere (or has the power to be, if it wishes). But if you add one more characteristic to God, then it doesn’t work.

For example, add “moral” or “loving” or “gave us free will”. Not all of them, but any of them. Just one.

Free Will


If God is omni-all, then there cannot be free will. God already knew the choice you would make, because God exists at all times, past and present, and knows all things. You might feel like you have a choice between A and B, but if God has always known you would choose B, then it was not really a choice. You cannot possibly choose A; if you did, then God would be wrong and is therefore not omniscient.

Someone once tried to rebut the above argument by saying “imagine you’re watching an instant replay during a football game”. You know what the player will do, because you saw the original play. The player still had a choice, yet you know in advance of the replay what his choice will be. This is true, but I’m a human. For an omniscient God, all of time is an “instant replay” of sorts. Can that football player make a choice while you’re watching the instant replay? No. The recorded image does not have free will.

Moral


If God is omni-all, then he cannot be moral. If you, as a moral human, see someone being raped or tortured, and you have the power to stop it, would you stop it? Of course you would. You have a moral imperative to act. An omni-all God would not only see every rape and torture that ever happened, but would know about them ahead of time, and have the power to stop them. But God does not stop them. Therefore either God is not moral, or God does not have the power to stop them, or God does not know about them, or some combination thereof (or God does not exist, which is the simpler conclusion).

Theists have answered this with “Mysterious Ways”, by which they mean God has a plan that he won’t ever tell us, some higher moral good that will be accomplished by the thousands of rapes and tortures around the world.
Theists will answer (and have answered) this with “Mysterious Ways”, by which they mean God has a plan that he won’t ever tell us, some higher moral good that will be accomplished by the thousands of rapes and tortures around the world. Sorry, but if God is omni-all, then God can think of a way to accomplish the greater moral purpose without the rapes and tortures.

Further, if morals are objective and absolute, as most theists claim, then does God have a different rule book? Is it okay for him to allow these rapes and tortures (or child abuse, starvation, etc.), but not okay for us to allow them (assuming it’s in our power to stop them)? If so, then how are morals absolute/objective? God having a different moral code sounds very much like non-absolute, relative morality.

Loving


If God is omni-all, then he cannot be loving. Children suffer from painful diseases in infancy and/or childhood that kill them. It could be argued that brief periods of intense pain build character or teach lessons that lead to wisdom or empathy, but only for people expected to survive beyond the pain. There is no lesson to be taught, no character to be built in a child that will die in intense pain. The same would be true for children born with AIDS or into a society where they will starve to death. Elderly people close to death also sometimes suffer intense pain, despite a lifetime of building character and learning lessons. An omni-all God who also loves humanity would not permit this needless suffering.

What Does It Prove?


None of these prove God isn’t omni-all, just that God cannot be omni-all and have one of the other listed attributes.

In fact, it’s not the other characteristics that cause the logical problems here, but the omnis themselves. “If God is all-powerful, then surely He could have...” is a legitimate argument that works many times. It applies to the story of Noah’s Ark, for example. If God is all-powerful, then of course he could have brought animals from all over the world and safely redistributed them later. But if he was all-powerful, then he wouldn’t have needed a globally devastating flood that killed all life just to wipe out the human sinners; he could have simply executed the human sinners.

For me, these arguments effectively disprove any omni-all god claim that also asserts God is moral or loving, and any omni-all god claim that asserts humans have free will.


Free Will In Heaven

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The following assertions cannot all be true.


Ask a Christian “Is there free will in heaven?” and they’ll almost always answer “yes”. In their worldview, the three assertions I listed above are all accepted as true, yet they cannot all three coexist. At least one of them must be false.

If there is free will in heaven, and free will is what allowed evil/sin in the first place, then there can be evil/sin in heaven. If there cannot be evil/sin in heaven, then either there will not be free will there, or free will is not what allowed it in the first place.

The idea of not having free will in heaven is repugnant to many people, even most Christians. It means the believers who made it to heaven would no longer have choice. They would become automatons, robots, acting purely upon their programming to be righteous.

There is either no free will in heaven, in which case its inhabitants are choiceless automatons, or there is free will in heaven, which means its inhabitants could choose to sin.
But if there is free will in heaven, then there is the possibility of sin/evil — this is what free will means. Therefore heaven will not be free of evil/sin, since any human who goes there could choose to sin at any time. This makes heaven basically the same as Earth.

During my theist years, I heard a couple of explanation attempts, including the “but we won’t want to sin” explanation (example). This theory says that when someone is “born again” (saved), they become an altogether new kind of person. While we’re still on Earth in this life, this new nature competes with our old “fallen” nature. Upon death, the theory goes, the “old man” will die, leaving only the new creature that can only obey God’s laws. Therefore, they say, there would still be free will in heaven, but no sin. Examples are given of God, who cannot sin but has free will, and of Jesus during his time on Earth, who had free will yet could not sin.

Of course, this only means that they’ve changed the definition of free will in regard to sin. It also means that they’re mistaken about both God and Jesus. Either God can sin, or he also does not have free will. By definition.

Further, it calls into question the original Creation. If we stipulate the possibility that humans could have free will yet be incapable of sin (as we will allegedly be in heaven), then why were not Adam and Eve created this way? Many have asserted it was necessary. When apologist William Lane Craig was asked this very thing in 1994, Craig answered:
“No, heaven may not be a possible world when you take it in isolation by itself. It may be that the only way in which God could actualize a heaven of free creatures all worshiping Him and not falling into sin would be by having, so to speak, this run-up to it, this advance life during which there is a veil of decision-making in which some people choose for God and some people against God...”
His debate opponent, Dr. Ray Bradley, asked for clarification, whether heaven “had to be preceded by this actual world, this world of vale of tears and woe in which people are sinful and the like.” Craig clarified: “I’m saying that it may not be feasible for God to actualize heaven in isolation from such an antecedent world.”

It’s easy to see how he locked himself into that corner. Now he’s saying that some things aren’t possible, even for God. Of course, this is just one guy’s opinion, but it’s where many Christians will end up.

Here is another example of an apologist saying something (sin) is impossible for God. This one actually posits that heaven was created first, for the angels, and that they sinned. He also admits it “may indeed have been impossible” to create humans “in a way that it would be certain that he would have freedom but not rebel.” But he goes on to say that in the future heaven, humans will have “glorified minds and bodies, [and] they cannot possibly choose evil.” He says it was necessary for humanity to have “experienced the full effects of sin”, and that with that “experiential knowledge”, those in heaven will simply choose to not sin.

In other words, they could choose to sin, but they won’t.

All of this is an example of the hoops Christians force themselves to jump through to answer a relatively simple question. The Bible could have easily answered these questions, but it didn’t.
All of this is presented as an example of the hoops Christians force themselves to jump through to answer a relatively simple question. The Bible could have easily answered these questions, but its writers either chose not to, or didn’t realize the questions would arise. (If your viewpoint is that God inspired the scriptures, then it was God who left this part out.)

Another way to go is to say that there isn’t free will, that God predestined everything. That answers all these questions easily and logically, but it would force one to admit that God is evil, since he predetermined who would sin, and by how much.

So, while again not disproving all gods, we’ve established many god claims as untrue — all those that posit an evil-free heaven wherein the residents have free will. Or, we’ve again shown that God is responsible for all evil.


Conclusion

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There are other arguments, most attacking specific god claims or belief systems, which I might add to this page later, but I’ve attempted to include the ones that most impressed me during the past year. These are what changed me from an “agnostic atheist” into a “strong atheist”.

I want to repeat and emphasize that no argument disproves all god claims, but this is only because the claims vary so widely in nature. But it is precisely because the claims vary so much that almost all of them are incompatible with each other — which automatically means the great majority of them cannot be true. And it is because there are so many of them that each has such a miniscule probability of being true. Some, like pantheism, can be eliminated from arguments because they invent new and useless definitions of the word “god”, while others, like deism, can be ignored because they are irrelevant. The tiny percentage of incredibly improbable claims that remain can be dismissed easily because there would be abundant evidence if they were true, and there is no such evidence.

Additional arguments above more soundly eliminate all of today’s major god claims due to inherent inconsistencies and contradictions.

Strangely, one thing I could not cast doubt on is the possibility of a malevolent (evil) God. The hostility of the universe (including the Earth) to life, the many “design” mistakes, needless suffering, painful childhood diseases, the great effort to hide evidence of its existence, the threat of eternal damnation for failing to obey contradictory (not to mention nonsensical and immoral) rules — or for disbelief, and several other factors show there could very well be a powerful, knowledgeable being outside our detection who does not have our best interests in mind and does not play fairly.

A theist might read these same words and conclude: “So it’s still possible there’s a God, right?” I would say that possibility is so slim as to be ignored, and that any God who exists certainly isn’t the one asserted by your belief system.




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