Tag Archives: universe

Problems with Theism

First and foremost, to clear any potential misunderstanding; I do not count any of the following points as disproof of the existence of God, they do however outline the major problems that I have with accepting theism. Cumulatively they may provide an argument for atheism, but they do not necessarily disprove God, merely outline the major problems that I have with the concept.

 

1. The Problem of Insignificance

The diameter of the observable universe is 93 billion light years, there are 350 billion large galaxies in the visible universe – each containing around 100 billion stars. Theism requires one to believe that our tiny planet is the reason that all of this exists. In the face of those aforementioned figures Earth is so insignificant that it is is extremely difficult to accept that the remaining 99.999999 (etc.) % of the cosmos is just unnecessary fluff.

 

Furthermore, the universe consists of 75% dark energy, 25% dark matter, and the remaining less than 5% goes into making visible matter (stars, planets etc.), so in light of this the entire observable universe is just the thin layer of icing on the top, decreasing our significance even further.

 

How does one consolidate these facts with the theistic notion that our planet, and our species is the sole purpose of existence?

 

2. The Problem of Pointless Suffering

Malaria kills more than 3000 African children every day. This is but one example of the kind of pointless suffering that is rampant all over the world. Theism posits the existence of an all loving being, who is concerned for the welfare of living things. How do you console the notion of an all-loving God with thousands of needlessly suffering people all over the globe?

 

Some theists would argue that we cannot know the mind of God, so who are we to judge what he does and does not allow. Some even have the audacity to claim that this suffering occurs to pave the way for some future glory, or to prevent even worse things from happening in future. However this still doesn’t fit with the notion of an all-loving being. A loving parent does not subject their child to a painful injection without explaining the purpose of going through the pain, and reassuring them that their suffering is not ultimately pointless, what reassurance is given from God? And anyway, who is God to cause suffering in one person to ultimately relieve the suffering of another in future? This doesn’t seem like the behaviour of an omnibenevolent deity.

 

Let’s not forget that God can supposedly do anything, so why would he need to let others suffer to achieve some future goal? Surely that goal could be achieved without suffering?

 

I’ve heard it said that in certain places in Africa, by the age of 5 you’re either immune to malaria or you’re dead. How can one consolidate such horrendous and pointless suffering with the existence of an all-loving God? There is no reassurance, no comfort, what kind of loving being allows suffering without offering any explanation to the bereaved?

 

3. The Problem of a Hidden God

Theism posits the existence of a loving, all powerful God who wants our worship. This notion is contradicted by the fact that God does not let his existence be known to all in an inconspicuous manner. A booming voice from the sky, a simultaneous appearance to everyone in the world is within the bounds of what God can possibly do, why, if he desires our adoration, does he not do so and confirm his presence to all beings?

 

Why would he allow a state of affairs in which there is some considerable doubt as to whether or not he exists? Surely, as a loving being he does not want to punish disbelievers, so why does he not allow his presence to be known universally? The current state of affairs is not what you’d expect if an all-powerful, all-loving God exists, however it is precisely what you’d expect if God was not there.

 

4. The Problem of Disagreement

This problem is expounded well enough in my post ‘How Am I Supposed To Believe?’. In short; seeing as there are many different religions, with different sects all disagreeing with each other, what reason is there to suppose that one particular interpretation is correct whilst all others are false?

 

These are a few of the major reasons that I find it difficult to accept the central tenants of theism. We live in an insignificant planet, racked with pointless suffering, with no apparent sign of a God, and countless religions all disagreeing with one another whilst all claiming to be absolutely true. In light of these problems, theism makes no sense.

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Killing the Kalam Cosmological Argument

1.Β  In order for the Kalam Cosmological argument to be valid, it must deny that the universe has an eternal cause. If it does not deny this then the argument can be refuted by positing that the universe was caused by an event in a prior eternal, or timeless state. There is no evidential reason to make this assumption therefore it must be assumed as a logical impossibility.

 

2. In order for the Kalam Cosmological argument to be valid, it must assume that something springing into existence from nothing without cause is logically impossible. If this assumption is not made then the argument fails because it could simply be refuted by positing a universe which sprang into existence from nothing without cause.

 

3. In order for these assumptions to be consistent then God can neither be eternal, nor have sprung into existence from nothing without cause. If these assumptions can be invalidated in the special case of God then there is no reason why the opponent cannot claim that the assumptions are invalid for the universe.

 

4. The Kalam Cosmological argument is invalid if it doesn’t assume point’s 1 & 2, but it is invalid if it does assume them. Therefore it fails on it’s own terms.

 

Try harder next time…

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The Place We Call Home: Part Two, A Sense of Perspective

Our star, the sun

Our star, the sun is the giver of life on this planet. It is the very root of the food chain that sustains all of us. We might be tricked into thinking that there is something special about this immense ball of gas, but really it’s pretty average.Β  When we look up at the night sky those tiny dots we see are stars, not that different from our own. Some are different sizes and ages, but there is nothing about our star to distinguish it from the backdrop of the night sky.

 

Much as our species would wish to believe otherwise, we are not the centre of everything. From a different vantage point our star would be just another dot in the sky. This deflates our conceits somewhat, but also opens our eyes to an amazing possibility. Who knows how many of the stars we see above us on a clear evening have civilizations on the planets orbiting them. We might not be special, but the upshot of this is that we might not be alone.

The Pinwheel Galaxy, a spiralled ocean of stars similar to our Milky Way

 

Our sun is in vast sea of stars. A spiral galaxy consisting of 10o,000,000,000 stars. The Milky Way is so vast that it takes light approximately 100,000 years to cross it. This ocean of stars is vast beyond comprehension, but this is nothing compared to what lies beyond.

 

Beyond our Milky Way we find another vast galaxy, Andromeda – our closest neighbour in our local group consisting of over 30 other galaxies. This local group has a radius of 10,000,000 light years. This is dauntingly vast, and one can be forgiven for feeling overwhelmingly insignificant, but there is something fantastic and wonderful about considering the vastness of space. The sheer number of stars. The number of other forms of life which may have evolved to be able to ponder the same things. But if you think this is where it stops, think again.

The Hubble Ultra Deep Field, the most important image ever taken

 

Between September 2003 to January 2004 astronomers pointed the Hubble Space Telescope at what appeared to be a blank region of sky. What they saw was truly astonishing beyond words. The image produced was the deepest image of the universe ever taken, peering back approximately 13,000,000,000 years. There is an estimated 10,000 galaxies in the image, all consisting of billions of stars. Yet this is only a tiny fraction of the sky. The implications of this are sensational, we live in a universe far, far grander than anything we can possibly imagine. What lies beyond our universe isn’t known, but we could be dwarfed further in a vast sea of universes – a thought that I find deeply stirring.

 

This is what happens when we step back and try to establish a sense of perspective. The place we call home may be wonderful, but it is dwarfed enormously by the vast cosmos we inhabit. There may well be other planets out there with other civilizations and stories to tell, but for now lets zoom back in to our little rock, with our sense of perspective firmly established.

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The Most Important Picture Ever Taken

Take a moment to gaze at this photo:

 

There are over 10,000 galaxies in this photograph. Each made up of billions of stars. Every single point of light that you can see is a galaxy, a galaxy that may be home to worlds very much like our own. How many triumphant civilizations are there? How many races on the brink of self destruction? How many wonders that we shall never see? We live in a universe that is unimaginably vast, and this picture gives us the merest glimpse into that incredible enormity.

 

This picture was taken when scientists decided to point the Hubble telescope at an apparently blank area of sky, and this is what they saw. The most incredible sight. As Carl Sagan once said of the tiny image of Earth as a pale blue dot, taken from the Voyager space craft as it drifted away from its home; “astronomy is a humbling and character building exercise”. This is perhaps the most profoundly humbling thing that we shall ever see in our lifetimes. Profoundly humbling, and profoundly inspiring. We might be small, and insignificant on this massive scale, but how can one not be filled with awe at the beauty and grandeur of the cosmos we inhabit?

 

This is the most important image ever taken.

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