"The Judeo-Christian god as described in the Bible does not exist."
(This is the transcript from the opening case of a spoken debate; this opening statement covers approximately 10 minutes and thus does not go into extreme detail. Certain names and comments have been omitted, but nothing that had to do with the discussion was taken out.)
To deviate a bit from the usual Christian/atheist discussion, I preferred to make things interesting, and put the burden of proof on myself. The proposition we have agreed to debate is “The Judeo-Christian god as described in the Bible does not exist.” I will be taking the affirmative in support of this statement for my opening case.
Often times, I have heard the fallacious statement made by Christians that “you cannot prove a negative.” However, I will gladly take them up on that challenge and I will attempt to prove the validity of my proposition by using three main lines of evidence:
First, I will examine what exactly a Christian means when he uses the word “god.” Upon examination I suspect that we will not find a coherent or meaningful definition of this word. However, I will accept for the sake of my second argument that this god has certain characteristics. I will demonstrate that the characteristics attributed to the Christian god are contradictory or lacking in some way, and render the god in question nonexistent as such. Thirdly, allowing the contradictory definitions to remain, I will attempt to show that one attribute in particular (although it can be done with any attribute) does not coincide with reality as it is, and thus again, the Christian god ceases to exist. Of course, I expect my opponent to adequately refute all three lines of evidence, lest his case for the existence of his god fail.
For my first argument, we must understand it’s relevance to the debate: if “god” fails to be defined as a meaningful term, then my case for atheism is true by default. A definition, in order to be coherent, must be both applicable and specific to the word in question. Allow me to show you what I mean by specific and applicable, and then why this is a pitfall of the word god.
Specific means that a term allows you to know exactly what something is, as opposed to what something is not (negative defining). For example: I am not Benjamin Franklin. While you do know something about me, you know absolutely nothing specific. I could be any other person on Earth, or indeed any conscious being in the universe. As such, negative defining lacks critical specificity needed in order to have a coherent term.
Applicable means that a definition must be able to apply to the object in question. This is due namely to its substance. For example, consider these three statements:
1. The ball is red.
The first statement, “the ball is red,” seems reasonable enough. We know that a ball has the ability to be red since we know it is made out of a material (i.e. plastic). In the second statement, “the sound is red,” we know that sound travels in the form of waves, which do not have color, and so the proposition is meaningless. Lastly, “the god is red.” Now, we cannot say whether or not this statement is meaningful. We do not know if God has a substance that can have the quality of red, or loving, or powerful, etc.
When looking at typical definitions of God, for example Creator, all-powerful, all-knowing, and loving, we see that these problems all apply. Do we know if God has the ability to do or be these things in any meaningful sense, as we do not know his substance? Do we know what exactly God is when we say “all-powerful,” or “infinite?” All we know is what he is not: limited. Limits, however, are fundamental in allowing for definitions, and as such the word “god” remains fundamentally undefined. This is the most fatal flaw in the Christian’s concept of god – it is meaningless.
Allow me to grant a definition of the word god, specifically that definition which is abundant throughout the Bible, and the definition I suspect most Christians attribute to the word god. I will consider the word “god” to mean the one being that is: all-knowing and all-powerful, perfect and creator, all-just and all-merciful.
First, how can an all-knowing god also be all-powerful? God must be either one or the other, but he cannot be both, please allow me to demonstrate how. Let us pretend for a minute that Joe is God’s puppet. Joe wants a drink, and he can choose either tea or coffee. God knows which drink Joe will choose; let’s just say its coffee. Since God knows this as a fact of reality which must happen, Joe will choose coffee. If this is the case, then God is powerless to change Joe’s decision, and make Joe choose tea. However, let’s assume that God made Joe drink tea anyway. Now we have a problem, because God didn’t know from the start which drink Joe would choose. Again, God can either be smart or strong, but not infinitely both.
Next, how can a perfect being be creator? Perfection entails a state of immutability: that is, unchanging. A perfect God cannot have any needs, wants, or desires by definition: because he is already perfect. Once infinite perfection is attained, there can be no more change. Creation is an act due to a need, desire, or want in some way. If God created the universe, he certainly is not perfect, or he would have had no desire to do so. If he is indeed perfect, we certainly could not be here. God can either be perfect or the creator, but not infinitely both.
Finally, how can God be both just and merciful? Just can be defined as giving someone exactly what they deserve: for example 10 years in prison for a crime deserving of 10 years in prison. Merciful is giving someone more generosity than they deserve: for example 5 years in prison for a crime deserving 10. God cannot give someone both exactly what they deserve, and more than what they deserve at the same time. He can give someone either 10 years in prison, or 5 years in prison. God can either be just or merciful, but not infinitely both.
My last line of evidence will be to examine one specific attribute of God, assuming that he is definable, and that his attributes are not self-contradictory. This attribute, I propose, is contradictory with the facts of reality, and thus disproves God’s existence. That attribute is omni-benevolence: the quality of being all-good. As the ancient riddle of Epicurus says:
Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
This is referred to as the problem of evil, and is the final nail in the coffin of the Christian god. Assuming that God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and most importantly all-good, how could evil exist? He would have the know-how, the ability, and the desire since he is all-good, to rid the world of evil. Because evil obviously does exist in the world (just look at the Holocaust or 9/11 for a good example of evil) something has to give. There are three possible options for the Christian at this point: he can either a) admit that God is not perfect and is lacking in some way or nonexistent, thus conceding the debate, b) use semantics to attempt to disguise the fact that there is evil in the world, or c) admit that God is an irrational belief he holds anyway, and is outside the playing field of reality and reason.
At this point I submit that the proposition, “the Judeo-Christian god as described in the Bible does not exist,” has been adequately proven, and is true beyond reasonable doubt.
Last updated: June, 2004