There is a response to the Prime Cause argument for the existence of God…everything has a cause, since nothing can exist without a cause then there must have been a First Cause, therefore, God. The response is “Yes, but who Created the Creator?” And so the debate goes round and round with no solution in sight.
When I was growing up my father, a Christian minister taught me many things that I have since come to discover were not only untrue but harmful to me in a deep psychological sense. But he did teach me a few things that have served me well over the years. One such lesson was: “Nothing exists before it was created.” He was not referring to science, but was talking about the introduction of religious doctrines throughout history. The church he ministered in was the Church of Christ founded by Alexander Campbell and a host of colorful characters in the early 19th Century. The C of C adhered to what they called Restorationist theology. They rejected both Catholicism and the Reformation believing that instead of attempting to reform the church it was necessary to skip over all the intervening centuries of doctrinal development and recreate the doctrine and practice of the early church as it was in the First Century. This meant that historical evidence became a factor in deciding what was and wasn’t acceptable only second to the Sacred Text. For this reason, the C of C accepted the weekly rite of Communion but refused infant baptism. The first has a Biblical foundation; the latter can be dated historically as to when the practice was first introduced.
The response to the argument from Prime Cause “But who created the creator?” has an answer. Since we can trace the development of God over the centuries then we can say with certainty where God came from. He was a development within human society. At one point there were many Gods and Goddesses. Later, the Goddesses were kicked out of Heaven by a wandering warrior tribe in favor of their own Genocidal God. Other Gods and Goddesses existed throughout this period. It was the Our God Is Number One phase, not to be confused with There Is Only One God. The beginnings of Monotheism came from Egypt and later from Babylon where the wandering warrior tribe picked up on the idea while in captivity. When they were sent back to Palestine to establish a client kingdom they were faced with the Canaanites who worshipped Goddess alongside God. At that point, God became a He and the priestesses of Goddess were declared evil. Monotheism can be dated from beginning to end. From the return of the upper class Jewish landowners and priestly caste from Babylon till the creation of the Trinity by Christianity and everyone went back to worshipping three Gods, or Two Gods, or Hundreds of Gods as the saints became. A period of less than a thousand years.
The convoluted and incomprehensible doctrine of the Trinity still let people speak in terms of a singular God even as they added angels and demons and saints until they had more Gods than polytheism ever had. Why the C of C accepted the Trinity when its creation can be traced easily back to a specific moment in history after the 1st Century has always baffled me.
My point is, since we can trace the events leading up to the modern, Christian concept of God back to the beginning then, by applying the “Nothing exists before it is created,” rule there was a time when God did not exist. Even if you trace the creation of God in the minds of human beings back to Eve (who, surprisingly, did exist) then God has only existed less than 200,000 years and could, therefore, not have been the Prime Cause the modern Christian concept of God would have him be.
Supernaturalism itself is fantasy. I am working my way through a series of lectures on CDNTwo (streaming video from the Net to my TV) presented by Professor Shelly Kagan of the Yale University Philosophy department in 2009. He is a materialist and his work is excellent, really worth a watch if you have the chance. Yet still, at one point he referred to an ‘immaterial object.’ Since objects are defined as material, then an immaterial object is an impossibility. Since the supernatural exists as not just a single, but a whole myriad world that mimics the nature, immaterial object then it is a logical impossibility. The correct term would be superstition or, more kindly, folklore.
A while back I received the following comment on one of my posts that I would like to comment on here. The respondent opined:
“Religion in this country is widespread, but it is not deep. Most believers do not really have a firm sense of what it is that their religion is about, aside from a few basic platitudes that are mostly harmless (Jesus loves you, be kind to people in need, listen to your parents, etc.). Fundamentalists, of course, are a different story, and while there are a fair number of them out there and they are clearly attacking science in this country, I am not overly pessimistic about the outcome of this battle.”
From the top let me say I am not talking about science. The only comment I would care to make on the subject is our enemy is writing their own science just as they are writing their own history, economics, psychology and any other school of learning you care to mention. I find scientists of all the atheists out there so damnably ignorant of events in the real world they have taken the attention away from the more serious issues. They get the publishing deals and the headlines, but by attempting to answer the pseudo-science of the Christians they only give credence to what they deny. As such, they do more harm than good. They, above all, need to stop talking to Christians.
What I am talking about is political power, specifically the Tea Party which is a union of Fundamentalist Dominion Theology and Libertarianism. I speak of them as Christianity because Evangelical Fundamentalism has replaced the high church of the Methodist/Episcopalian years as the Social Religion of this country. The people who do not understand the importance of this change are out of touch with history and the times in which we live. My condemnation of the smaller, less influential churches in this country is still valid. But the real problem is the old line denominations are Quislings. They do not stand up and condemn these people; they keep their cowardly mouths shut.
I came out of the Charismatic Movement in the winter of 1979. All I took with me were my wife, two sons, one suitcase and a couple of cardboard boxes filled with clothes. What had been done to us by these Christians is a matter for another post. My point is, by leaving the Charismatic Movement I committed the Unforgiveable Sin. I acknowledged to myself and others that the Deeds of the Holy Spirit were the work of Satan. I was still a Christian. I believed then that if only I could tell people in the non-Charismatic churches what had been done to me and by me, explain it to them thoroughly, they would understand. That they would see that Charismaticism was heresy. Simple enough. These people claimed the voice of God speaks through their mouths. If true, then as followers of Christ we would be condemned for not following their example. I knew it was not true, I knew how the trick was done. I had learned the hard way, but when you learn something that way you learn it deep in your bones and not just as a thought floating around in your head.
I gave lectures, wrote a book, presented seminars, was a guest speaker at universities, created a group called Christians Against the Charismatic Heresy, wrote letters to the editor and I even worked with an anti-cult group until they kicked me out with a terse letter saying “There is no way we will consider Charismatic Christianity as a cult” even though all the things they claimed cults did to brainwash people had been done to me by these Christians. I watched as Fundamentalism crept in and took over the church I was attending. I watched as politics was preached from the pulpit as the word of God. It started with abortion, of course. I fought back with a fifty page treatise defending the pro-choice position on abortion from scriptural and historical evidence.
I didn’t get anywhere. I kept running into a brick wall I’ve come to call Getting God Off the Hook Theology. It goes like this:
God is good
People do evil things in the name of God
Therefore, those people are not following the ‘right’ God
I still get that. People will listen to what I have to say then dismiss it out of hand since, obviously, the people who did these things to me weren’t Christians. I finally came up with an answer to this nonsense by taking away the assumed goodness or even existence of God. It goes:
People do both good and bad things in the name of X
Therefore, X is useless in determining good and evil
You want to pretend that Christians are good people with fairly harmless ideas, that their religion is shallow. Oh, you make an exception for Fundamentalists but only because they attack science.
You just don’t get it.
We have an entire generation of children who have been homeschooled or with a school-in-a-box in their church basement from K-12 and then attended a Christian college and got their BS, MA and PhDs. These children have been indoctrinated, not educated, into an entire worldview, not just into their religion. How’s that for ‘deep?’
You drastically underestimate not only the danger this country is in but the level of dedication and commitment they have to their cause.
You have not been one of them. I have. Why is everybody so eager to dismiss me as a fanatic instead of taking what I say seriously? If I were a former member of al-Qaeda would you listen? But the threat of Islamic terrorism is minuscule compared to the assault on liberty that is taking place in our nation today and, from the reaction I get from you and others, you just write my testimony off as if I had nothing to say on the subject.
Moral relativism? I can’t say the religious standard of morality is wrong? I can say it and I will say it and I will continue to say it as long as I have breath in my body. Furthermore, I say that defending their practices is flat out yucky and inexcusable.
Morality is a function of the individual mind in contrast to the other members of one’s tribe, not of religion. This refers to the source of morality. Morality does not come by divine revelation. Divine revelation is an excuse of evil men to impose their will on the helpless. Female genital mutilation? Stoning women to death for going out in public without a man? These things do not come from morality, they come from religion.
Read The Science of Evil: On Empathy and the Origins of Cruelty by Simon Baron-Cohen from Cambridge University. He explains empathy through various functions of the brain. Empathy over the course of time and experience is the source of morality. Empathy is a unique feature of individual minds. His findings form the familiar Bell Shaped Curve with zero empathy on one end and maximum empathy on the other. We all fall somewhere along the curve. We each have less empathy at times due to circumstances; we each have greater empathy at other times. This is why I can say with absolute certainty that the Islamic treatment of women is evil: because I can place myself in the position of a woman living in an Islamic country. This is why Islamic religion is not a moral standard. In order to treat women in this manner their religion has taught men to have zero empathy for women.
Religion, country and culture all survive as a result of imposing zero empathy on their population.
Christians have zero empathy when it comes to others. They see us, not as human, but as demons.
Our culture teaches us to have zero empathy towards other cultures. Multiculturalism is at the root of the culture wars, has been since the very beginning in the Seventies in the same county in West Virginia where I live with a Christian named Alice Moore who objected to the school textbooks on the ground that they taught our culture was just one among many and because they were “too easy on Blacks.”
Country teaches our young men to have zero empathy towards the people the government defines as our enemies otherwise they would not be able to go to war and kill them.
Individuals are born into various religions and cultures and countries. Yet we each have the power to resist the effects of what Baron-Cohen calls empathy erosion. We don’t have to become one of the herd. We can dare to care.
That is morality, that is why even in the darkest of times and situation there are a few individuals who still retain their empathy although they place themselves in grave danger by doing so.
Do I have empathy for Christians? No. Institutions cannot have and do not deserve empathy, only individuals. Do I have empathy for my best friend who is a Christian? Yes, and it is because of my empathy for him that I struggle to find ways to free him.