25 Barriers to Belief in God, Part 1

I recently had the pleasure of a direct conversation with Athiest Bob Seidensticker. I previously wrote a two part refutation of his article on DNA-as-software, but had never had any direct interaction with the man. This time around the discussion has centered around a common theist/atheist sticking point: What would it take for an atheist to accept the theists stance that God exists? In our discussion, Mr. Seidensticker made to me the following challenge which I will take up:

These are some of the problems that you need to sweep away for me to accept that God exists: (link)

Before I begin, some caveats are in order. Mr. Seidensticker has shown evidence that he is not genuinely interested in a constructive debate, that his mind has been made up already.[1] That’s fine with me. It’s still useful to highlight some of the arguments being made. Next, I’m not going to quote him because it takes too much space. Go read his posts if you want to make sense of what I say here. Lastly, I’m going to use my editorial license to pick-and-choose which topics to put into this first part. If this proves fruitful and he wasn’t just trolling, I may turn this into a multi-part refutation of all 25 reasons.

Barrier #3: Because God needs praise and worship

With progressively increasing wisdom a person’s need for adulation generally diminishes.[2] One facet of wisdom is understanding our own limitations and relative value. Humility is built on this. Calls to humility are common in the Bible. Lack of humility shows at minimum a lack of wisdom and at worst sin. In a human lack of humility indicates imperfection: a lack of wisdom.

The key problem with this barrier is that God does not need anything from his creation. It is a strawman.[7] God does, however, demand certain things. Among those things is a demand that his creation show him the respect that he is due. Does this make him vain and capricious? No. Praise is an acknowledgment of one’s worth. God is worthy of praise and honor. God does not suffer from limitations or deficient value, so there is no need for humility. Humility would actually be misplaced if God attempted it: such humility would be a lie.

Misplaced praise is morally equivalent to plagiarism. Not praising God is not giving him the honor, respect, and credit that he is due. Plagiarism is theft.

The reason for worship incorporates the same reasons for praise.

God needs no worship. Worship is about transformation of the worshipers. It is a matter of focus, attention, joy, etc. The demand for worship is logically equivalent to the demand to contemplate good. Inversely, lack of worship leads eventually to contemplation of evil.

This barrier fails for these reasons: (1) God does not need praise and worship, he is owed it; (2) God is not human and has no failings so humility would be wrong; and (3) praise and worship are for the benefit of the participant.

Mr. Seidensticker also claims that Biblical genocide and slavery constitute evidence that God is not worthy of praise and worship.[3] Nobody is forced to agree that God is owed praise and worship: this is the point of free will. But one clue that God exists would be that he demanded what he thought was his due. This would be the case even if God were, hypothetically, capricious and cruel. God’s demand for praise and worship is as much a clue that God does exist.[4] Once we get to that point, we can quibble over details like whether or not God is good, evil, or both. Either way, this barrier falls.

Barrier #4: Because there’s a map of world religions

First, science and religion are not the same discipline. There is no logical reason why the mechanisms of one should correspond to the mechanisms of the other. This barrier does not follow logically.[5]

Second, there is a map showing varying levels of atheism across the world. If God did not exist, we’d expect a single universal understanding of this worldwide. The most atheist country, China, enforces its atheism by imposed consensus and violence.

Third, why should there be a universal religious sect?[6] There is no evidence, even within the Bible, that the Christian church was ever unified in the sense that is meant here. The very notion of selected “gifts of the spirit” implies differentiation among the congregations. Christianity has always been culturally agnostic in the sense that it incorporates diverse members. The number of sects and denominations is irrelevant, an arbitrary requirement. Expecting to see a single understanding of God worldwide is naive at best, and that’s without even considering philosophical notions such as free will.

Fourth, as a corollary to the third point, divisions within the church, the “popularity contest”, imposed consensus, and religiously inspired violence, have no bearing on this barrier. In this context, they are red-herrings.

Fifth, widespread religious expression has been a near universal constant over all of time. This speaks to the irrational arrogance of rejecting theism because It’s The Current Year. The fact that we have a map of world religions tells us that God is trying to break through in as many ways as possible. What you see as splintered and divided is a unified world of spirituality. Atheism is the outlier, not theism.

Sixth, as a corollary to the fifth point, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam worship the same God and make up the vast majority of the world’s religious adherents, providing evidence for that particular God among all the others.

Seventh, flat-earthers, geocentrists, climate deniers, and young earth creationists are sects of science. Each is an area in the domain of science governed by the scientific method. Conveniently excluding them from their rightful scientific domain is cherry-picking.

Notes

Both barriers ultimately fail because they are primarily logically fallacious. Barrier #3 is a poorly constructed strawman and barrier #4 is a false analogy. Yet even beyond that there are still additional issues and fallacies with each one. As of publication time, only 14 of the 25 reasons have been written so far. Since it was not difficult to sweep these two away,[8] I don’t expect a lot of trouble from the rest.

These barriers are in the realm of subjective personal opinion. There really is no purpose in trying to change someone’s opinion if they have no desire for a change of opinion. I am not trying to do so here. If you don’t want to believe in God? That’s your choice. If you don’t like my opinions here? That’s fine too. My goal is to point out the logical fallacies and errors in reasoning while giving a few my own opinions as alternatives. As always, any errors that I make will be fixed.

[1] You can see this by reading the comment thread on the Wintery Knight blog that inspired this post. I won’t repeat it here. You can also read the refutation of his objections to DNA-as-software where I make a similar claim. Alternatively, you can just read his own posts where he makes this clear in his own words.

[2] This is ironically stated from someone who runs a blog whose income stream is based on sufficient adulation from fans.

[3] Refutations for both of these claims are easily found elsewhere, but it is not required to make the central argument here: that this constitutes evidence for God.

[4] The philosophical claim that praise and worship are incompatible with God is a very weak argument. This is evidenced by the fact that the argument can be trivially inverted.

[5] Another way to highlight this false analogy is to compare science with mathematics. There is little controversy in mathematics, and yet it can take decades or centuries to resolve scientific controversies. Should we reject the utility of science because mathematics is less controversial? Of course not.

[6] Science and religion follow similar paths: controversial items change over time (cosmology, evolution and the origin of life, climate science, Newtonian vs. quantum mechanics, etc.) as consensus is built around the accepted items. Christian denominations, like theories, are created, merged, accepted, and discarded.

[7] Christianity does not teach that God needs anything. Quite to the contrary, it teaches that God needs nothing from us. See Acts 17:24-25.

[8] Of course the rebuttals won’t be accepted. I’m not naive.

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