Chapter 7: Arguments for Atheism

15 March 2006

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In this chapter, Krueger essentially attempts to provide a few arguments that purportedly show that God does not exist. He mentions the Incoherency Argument, the Argument from Evil, and the Argument from Nonbelief.

Krueger starts out the chapter by claiming that, in the absence of evidence, atheism should be assumed true since belief in God is an extraordinary belief. He defines extraordinary claim as “one requiring you to give up some of your present commonsense beliefs in order to believe the claim.” This seems fair enough, but one must wonder why it is that Krueger assumes that God falls under this category. What “commonsense belief” must one give up in order to believe that God exists? If anything, most people on the planet seem to assume God exists based on common sense alone. Krueger tries to demonstrate that belief in God is extraordinary by quoting three famous Christians. But this goes nowhere in regards to supporting his argument. We are left with absolutely no justification for the claim that belief in God is extraordinary. (For a better treatment of this issue, see HERE)

The Incoherence Argument

We now come to the Incoherency Argument, where Krueger lists off about a dozen “problems” with the traditional definition of God. His first argument is that omniscience is incompatible with moral perfection. He claims that some types of knowledge are experiential in nature, and God would not possess this type of knowledge unless He actually experienced something (for example, the satisfaction of running a criminal empire). Of course, God has no experience of running a criminal empire, so He is supposedly lacking knowledge of this. There are two simple ways around such a “problem”. First, one could simply deny that “experiential” knowledge really is a separate type of knowledge, or second, one could deny that “omniscience” entails that a being have such knowledge. I personally have no problem with assuming that God has no experiential knowledge of certain things- it really makes no difference. Krueger is just trying to use semantics to forge an argument for God’s nonexistence.

Krueger asks the common question: Can God create a stone to heavy for him to lift? The answer to this question is no, because God cannot do things which are logically impossible, and Him creating a stone too heavy to lift is a logical impossibility. This does not “limit” his omnipotence at all, and in fact, this is a common response that even the most novice philosophers should recognize.

Krueger next takes issue with transcendence, and he claims: “If god exists outside of space and time, then god cannot make a decision. A decision takes place in time. At one moment one is deliberating, and at another moment a decision is made.” [168] However, there is no need to suppose that God needs time to “deliberate” a potential decision, for He is all-knowing and would know instantly what it is that He wishes to do. But even if this is not true, many Christians suppose that God is in time following the creation of the universe. 1 If that were the case, then it would seem that Krueger’s supposed problem would be non-existent.

Krueger also argues that God cannot have free will if His actions are already “determined”. By “determined” he means that God already decided what his course of action would be. Somehow it is a contradiction that God cannot act against His own will. This is merely more semantic games by Krueger- there is absolutely no problem in supposing that God is “unable” to act against His own will. He never would wish to act against His own will, since He is omniscient and knows in advance, for absolute sure, what His decision will be.

 

The Argument from Evil

Krueger discusses the Argument from Evil briefly, and then issues his responses to various theistic objections. I will only reply to those theistic objections which I agree with. If a number of theistic objections to the Argument from Evil prevail, then the existence of evil and suffering in the world should not prevent us from belief in God.

One thing should be mentioned before I begin. Krueger, like most atheistic arguers for the Argument from Evil, treats each theistic objection like it is the only response to the problem of evil. They will take one theistic response, and argue that it cannot justify all evil. Then they move on to the next response, claiming that it cannot justify all evil either. But the theist need not claim that any given reason justifies all or even most evil. Rather, each reason need only justify a small portion of evil, so that all of the reasons added together can justify all evil.

1. Evil is necessary so that we can have knowledge of good.

Krueger basically replies to this reason by saying that it does not justify God “slaughtering billions of people”. But this reason need not justify such a large amount of evil and suffering. Despite Krueger’s claim, experience of evil and suffering can help us identify good. It can also help build character, responsibility, and even happiness, in some cases.

2. Free will causes evil.

Firstly, Krueger mentions the problem of foreknowledge, but he cannot deal with the intricacies of this subject in a mere paragraph. He next states:

“Even if it were granted (which it is not) that free will causes all the suffering in the world, could the supposed goodness of free will be so good as to justify god allowing all the suffering that occurs?” [180]

This is exactly the sort of argument I was referring to- Krueger assumes that the free will defense needs to explain and justify all cases of evil, when in fact it need do no such thing in order to be a successful addition to an overall Christian theodicy. In any case, Krueger’s argument that free will isn’t “worth it” is rather questionable. For if human beings have no free will, then what are we really? It seems to me as though we would be nothing, robbed of any meaning, simply robots acting as though we think we have control. Free will is the most important aspect of humanity, in my mind.

Krueger also argues that the free will defense does not address the issue of natural evil (earthquakes, floods, etc.) However, as said before, the free will defense need not cover every instance of evil and suffering in order to be valid.

Other Reasons for Suffering

There are many reasons for the existence of evil that I find quite compelling which Krueger does not even mention. For instance, evil could help bring people closer to God and ultimate salvation (which I find to be more important than temporary human happiness). Some evil could lead to greater good or prevent worse evil (someone breaking their leg may prevent them from driving a car and getting in a deadly accident). 2 Some suffering may be punishment for the wicked acts that humans commit. In any case, there are many rational reasons to suppose that there is no contradiction between the existence of suffering and the existence of an all-good God. Many such reasons Krueger does not even address. (For a detailed treatment of the Problem of Evil, see HERE.)

 

The Argument from Nonbelief

The last atheological argument Krueger discusses is the Argument from Nonbelief. He considers many possible theistic objections to the argument. I will only respond to the critiques of those theistic objections which I support. If it can be shown that enough theistic reasons for nonbelief exist, then the existence of nonbelief in the world should not prevent us from belief in God.

1. The Bible is sufficient evidence.

Krueger objects to the Bible’s convincing power in a number of ways, but most of his objections are just repeated assertions as those found in CHAPTER 4. In my view, the Bible, along with other outside evidences, is sufficient to compel belief in Christ’s resurrection, and thus Christianity.

2. Nature is sufficient evidence.

It is my opinion that nature provides sufficient evidence for the existence of God, although it may not prove the existence of the Christian God. Krueger references his supposed refutation of the arguments for God’s existence found in CHAPTER 3, but I have already dealt with his arguments in detail there. In any case, I think that nature leaves us with no excuse to not be theist. Additionally, the evidence found in nature can make believing in Christianity more tenable (for instance, the existence of a monotheistic God is obviously supported in the Christian Bible, and natural evidence for the existence of such a being makes believing the claims of the Bible easier.)

3. God wants people to believe through free will.

I find it reasonable to believe that God values our free will and would not impose belief upon us. Krueger responds that God could simply provide a ridiculous amount of evidence for His existence and free will would not be violated. That may be true (in most instances), but God providing a lot of evidence is not necessarily a good idea. This is due to multiple reasons, such as the following:

a.) Persons may accept salvation not out of love and respect, but for completely selfish reasons. It is not clear if these types of individuals would achieve salvation anyways.

b.) Persons may know that God exists, but end up hating him and being unable to achieve salvation.

Moreover, though not interfering with free will per se, God may interfere with our “significant free will” by making belief in Him trivial and easy.

Overall, it seems to me as though God has provided evidence clear enough to compel the sincere person to believe, but vague enough to be ignored by those who wish to do so. This gives humans significant free will. God requires us to be rational beings in order to find and recognize the evidence for His existence. In any case, Krueger has certainly not provided sufficient evidence that we should regard the nonbelief of some as evidence against God’s existence.

Conclusion:

Krueger discusses three of the most common and successful atheological arguments- The Incoherency Argument, The Argument from Evil, and the Argument from Nonbelief. However, there are very successful responses to all three of these arguments, so that even the combined force of all the three arguments is minimal at best. They certainly do not compare to the strong theistic arguments, which demonstrates that belief in God appears to be the most rational.


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NOTES:

1. See Craig’s articles on Divine Eternity HERE.

2. It may seem as though this reason is unsatisfactory, for it does not explain why God could not just prevent the greater evil (i.e., prevent the car crash). But this reason is meant more as a supplement to the other reasons, for God’s prevention of the crash may interfere with other reasons, such as free will. So, God allows a situation to occur (someone breaks their leg) which seems evil but which actually prevents further suffering.




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