Cause and effect is everywhere and without this understanding, there is no science or philosophy. When something happens, we automatically expect there to be a cause. There must be a cause for believing or disbelieving something. When someone tells me something, I don’t automatically believe them. To believe every claim someone makes is a dangerous thing to do.
To convince me that something is true takes more than just saying it is true. I require examples of things that I can see, hear, taste, smell, or feel. Another way of saying it is that something is either physical or it does not exist. But what about stuff in the distant past that happened long before I was born? Who do I believe when they tell me about historic events?
In short, I don’t really know which humans I can trust or which history books are true. So you may wonder what method I use to test things. I will explain one such method.
Determinism and God
I generally will believe someone who understands determinism over someone else who things things happen acausally or randomly. Any event that happens must be caused or how can it happen?
All my beliefs must be caused by something. Otherwise I would never believe them. Supposing that I grew up in a society where the word “God” was never used. I would never believe in God just because I had never heard the word.
Supposing that some time later, I encounter a theist who tried to convince me that I should believe in God. I would ask: “What is God”? The theist might tell me that God created the universe. I could then ask: “What created God?”
The usual answer I get to this question is: “Nothing created God because God always existed?”. My response is: “What if the universe always existed and was never created?”.
This is perhaps one of the reasons that the debates between theists and atheists will never end. The debate about God is a lot like the debate about Free Will.
Why does the debate about Free Will continue? I think it is because the compatibilists have tried to redefine Free Will into something that is compatible with Determinism.
I have already written about why Free Will is impossible in my book: “Free Will and Abortion Denial”. The reason I mention this though is to point out that the God debate is similar to the Free Will debate. Atheists have no justification for believing that we can choose independently of prior causes. Theists have even less reason to believe so.
There are two attributes of God that are commonly defended by Christians and Muslims. They are omnipotence and omniscience. First if God is omnipotent(all powerful), what keeps him from making everyone believers of the same religion. To suggest that humans can choose their religion suggests they have an ability that can overpower God and prevent him from doing something. Second, if God is omniscient(all knowing), does that imply God knows what will happen in the future? God’s foreknowledge is a widely debated topic that amuses me. Either way you answer the foreknowledge question causes problems.
The Determinism Test
Answer the following question with a yes or no:
Does God know exactly what I will eat for breakfast tomorrow?
If your answer is yes, then you are a determinist because you understand that the future is already written. Determinism is required for God to predict the future. If your answer is no, what is it that keeps God from accessing this knowledge?
That is the determinism test which reveals what people believe about the concepts of God and determinism.
Some theists redefine omnipotence by saying that God can do anything except that which is not logical. That means that a five sided triangle is not something God could draw because such a thing by definition cannot exist.
Others try to redefine omniscience in an absurd way. They say God knows all possible things that could happen and therefore knows every possible future event even though he can’t know when, where, or if the event will take place. Briefly translated, God doesn’t have a clue what will happen.
Of course this assumes both that God exists and that there are alternative possibilities. This would most likely require time travel.
Either way, my question is why would God need to predict the future if he had the power to create any type of future he wanted?
Another method theists use to maintain their belief in God is to simply drop the attributes of omnipotence or omniscience. This raises the question of what power or knowledge God does have. For the atheist, the answer is of course none at all. God is seen as an imaginary person only has as much power or knowledge as the humans who write the holy books or theology books.
You may wonder: What is the point of me writing all of this? The point is that you need to understand the process someone like me goes through to reach my conclusions. People don’t randomly become atheists. Many of them navigate the chessboard of religion only to find themselves checkmated. At some point, they are in a position with no way out. I lost the game of religion.