Saturday, January 18, 2014

Who created God?

My faith in the ability of those with non-theistic convictions to comprehend and accurately present the position they are opposed to (i.e. theism) is constantly eroded. The fact that such a judgment can be predicated even with regards to respected members of academia (see below) makes me wonder how much time skeptics actually spend researching the convictions they so militantly oppose. The reality that such blatant mischaracterizations are promulgated demonstrates that atheists (though not simply atheists) truly do not understand the position they claim is irrational; and if they do not understand the opposing position, then how can their rejection of said position be warranted?

The title of this post highlights a common objection, predicated on the above misunderstandings of atheists, brought forth when, usually, discussing the philosophical arguments (usually the Cosmological Argument) for God’s existence. After attempting to arrive at a deductive conclusion for God’s existence—the validity of this procedure must be discussed at a later time—the Christian interlocutor is, consistently, bombarded with this question of “who created God?” Not only is this a common objection with internet atheists, but it is an objection put forth by such well-known skeptics as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and (surprisingly) the great philosophers Bertrand Russell and David Hume—though, to be fair, Hume’s objection was more along the lines of “who designed the designer?” It would seem to be the case that such great minds as these would be able to present an objection free of elementary misunderstandings of the subject (God) under discussion--the very subject they claim is riddled with incoherency.

Yet the cogency of this question is tremendously wanting. For the question, as will be demonstrated presently, engages in blatant question-begging. Moreover, not only is it a bad objection to make, but it turns out that the objection is in itself incoherent.  Let’s take these assertions one at a time.

Supposed I ask you “what created my truck?”, “what created my computer?” or “what created the sun?”. All of these questions contain an implicit assumption, namely, that the subject in question was indeed created. Anyone making the inquiry “what created (x)?” is assuming the (x) in question has a cause of its existence. In contrast, if one harbored no such assumption of the contingency of the subject then the question would never be put forth. So, the one who asks “what created God” is already assuming the contingency and dependency of God on some ontologically prior entity. Such an assumption is blatant question-begging and is therefore fallacious.

Moreover, the question invites an even worse attack than above: the question is itself incoherent. For any person well-versed in the beliefs of classical theism—which obviously most atheists are not—knows that the very essence of God is existence itself. Hence, God’s very nature is existence and he, therefore, cannot fail to exist; thus, God who is existence itself and, therefore, a necessary being would by definition not require a cause. So the skeptic’s question amounts to nothing more than asking “who created the uncreated?” or “who caused the uncaused?” Surely these questions make no sense. This is tantamount to asking, “who has seen that which is not seeable?” or “who has knowledge of that which is unknowable?” These questions are all in the same boat: they are incoherent.

Now let me also articulate the fact that the above definition is not some arbitrary brute fact that the theist has attached to the concept of God in order to absolve said concept of any refutation—though no doubt most skeptics think this. This concept of God—that which is pure actuality, pure being (read: existence) and necessary—has been arrived at by logical deduction. Now if this logical deduction is invalid then the skeptic must demonstrate this by refuting one of the premises in said deduction. But it must be observed that the question “who created God?” does not attempt to do this. Rather, it is an incoherent question posed after the deduction has already arrived at a being that is necessary and, therefore, the question remains senseless.

My hope is that this incredibly empty and ridiculous argument will be disposed of by those who see themselves as the “champions of reason” (i.e. skeptics); but if the history of the philosophy of religion has taught us anything, it’s that this objection will, unfortunately, continue to be raised by the skeptic community.

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