Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Five bad arguments for theism

Last week, I wrote a post about five bad arguments against theism. Today, I'll cover five bad arguments for theism. The arguments I'm covering are mainly from the street theists. The theists most atheists encounter in their daily lives, you know, the ones that simply say, "Hey, religion helps me," or the famous, "Ya gotta' have faith," like the song by George Michael (or that's what I think of every time I hear someone say that). The problem with that kind of approach is not that folks shouldn't say those things to non-theists. The problem occurs when you use those statements as reasons for proof of God's existence. Not once did I take, "ya just gotta have faith" as a valid reason for believing in God when I wasn't a Christian. To me, it was a cop-out. 

So here are, in my opinion, the top five bad arguments for theism. 

1. Ya Gotta' Have Faith 

I'm never quite sure if the person that uses this reasoning for his belief truly believes you just got to have faith or if he simply doesn't have good reason for his holding theism. If the former, then he doesn't have a proper understanding of faith. If the latter, then the person probably doesn't care about reason and probably thinks it's wrong to have reasonable faith. Telling an unbeliever that you just need faith is foolish. Does the person expect the conversation to go like this: "Sir, how do you know God exists?" she asks the theist. "Well, you must have faith, that's how you know," he answers. "Oh, wow! I never thought of it like that before! Sir, count me in the theist camp!" she exclaims. 

That is not how it goes. In reality, she would dismiss him entirely and most likely theism all together. I did. Growing up, that's all I heard was that I just needed faith and then I would know God exists. Faith is not blind. Faith is not wishing. Faith is actually rational and reasonable. I know I use Greg Koukl's resources a lot, but hey, they're great resources! Check out the following resources to properly understand faith.

2. Theism Helps Me

This reasoning shoots you in the foot. When you talk to unbeliever about Christianity or theism in general, you don't want to use the phrase, "Well, it helps me," I know the phrase is meant to show the benefits of theism and not "shove" theism down the throat of your listener, but the reasoning has many faults. 

A) You slip into relativism. 

When you say, "It helps me," you're actually slipping into a "true for me, not for you" argument without realizing it. You're not arguing for God at all, you're actually proving the relativist's point of "if it helps you, great. It doesn't help me, so I don't need it." 

B) You make theism a crutch 

The "It helps me" reasoning makes theism a crutch instead of a truth finally acknowledged, which is great ammunition for those that say religion is the opiate of the masses. It's for the weak and the downtrodden and not for the strong they say and you're telling them, unknowingly, that they're correct in thinking that. Theism is not a crutch at all. My life would be much easier if wasn't a theist, however, I can't ignore the evidence for it. 

Using this reasoning will not get you anywhere with a clear thinking atheist or skeptic. Honestly, it won't get you anywhere with me either. If this is all you have for your belief in God, what will you do when it's not "helping" you anymore? When I'm at my darkest, at my lowest, knowing Jesus' resurrection actually happened is a great asset to my discipleship. It's not a crutch or blind faith; it's knowledge that is beneficial to my life. If all I had was blind faith and a crutch, then I wouldn't be a Christian. What would be the point?


3. You'll Go To Hell 

So since he won't believe you about the existence of God, then you sentence him to hell? That's classy. If the non-theist isn't going to believe in God, how do you expect him to believe in hell? If he doesn't hear you when you're telling him about God, he is not going to hear you when you tell him about hell. Further, even if you do manage to scare him enough into believing a hell exists, what happens when the fear wears off (it will)? Please don't use this argument. It will not stick. 

Also, the non-theist probably already has a low-view of God, hell will only strengthen that low-view. Using hell will not convert the thinking atheist. Hell won't even stick on the emotionally driven atheist. This is a bad argument. 

4. Prove God Doesn't Exist

This is another bad argument for theism. Why? The reason is because God isn't falsifiable. He can't be tested in a lab or studied under a microscope. This is scratching frantically at the bottom of the idea bucket to try and show the atheist how dumb she is when actually she isn't. The atheist knows she can't prove God doesn't exist and she isn't trying. She wants good reason for believing in God (there are good reasons, this isn't a good reason) and she wants to be taken seriously. Using this argument is not taking her seriously. Throw it away theist! Throw it away!

5. Pascal's Wager

I know some may disagree with me on this, but I have to list Pascal's Wager. If you're unfamiliar with the argument, it goes like this: a person should wager as though God exists, because living life accordingly has everything to gain, and nothing to lose. Pascal also stated that even though some are unable to believe, they should live as if they did believe, which may lead them to belief. At the time, his wager was groundbreaking, but it's not without problems. 

I've heard some atheists and skeptics say that if they lived their life as though God did exist, somehow manage to find that He doesn't, what about all of the wasted time put into belief in God? I know it's not a strong case against Pascal's wager, however I can't help myself from understanding the rebuttal. This is a problem, because if God doesn't exist, then you could have lived your life the way you wanted instead of the way God wanted. 

There are also other problems with the wager, e.g., argument from inconsistent revelations, assumption that one can choose belief, and others. It should be said, in Pascal's defense, he was not trying to prove God's existence by his wager philosophy. 

Those are the top five bad arguments for theism, in my opinion, and I hope that I've put a stone in your shoe with this post. There are good reasons for believing in God. You don't have to resort your belief to one of the five mentioned above. Faith is not blind, God is not a crutch, fear of hell does not produce a firm foundation, trying to get someone to falsify God will not cause them to hold theism as true, and Pascal's Wager only brings criticism. You may ask now, what are the good reasons? Click here to learn.


  1. As a general argument for theism, I would agree with you on Pascal's wager. I think, however, that since he was dealing with a population that primarily was Christian, he was basically trying to get them to stop being so apathetic. In that sense, there may be some worth to it. For instance, I've seen some philosophers who are kind of agnostic, but say that if there is a true religion, Christianity would be it. I think Anthony Flew was in that camp. Perhaps there's some value in it for them?

  2. I agree that if you're dealing with someone in the camp you mentioned, then yes, Pascal's Wager would probably have value for that person. It's interesting that someone would say, "If there is a true religion, Christianity would be it." If you go so far as to say that, then why not gamble on Christianity? Pascal's Wager might convince a person in that situation.

  3. pascal's wager doesn't work because:

    a. there are more than two options
    b. it's only an argument for feigning belief in god. i liken it to a child saying "i believe in santa so i get more gifts at christmas".
    c. if atheism has it right, every theist is wasting the only life they'll ever have worshipping a god who doesn't exist.

    one that probably should have been included is when they use the bible to prove god is real. the bible is the claim, and cannot prove its own statements to be true; it needs independent verification, as does any other holy text.


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