Two arguments on the existence of non-existent.
I have been a privy to numerous debates online regarding the existence of a magic man in the sky. And it is interesting to watch the tactics and arguments used by the credulous believers of one faith or another.
One argument I recently saw was rather amusing. A man who likes to think of himself as a deep thinker, in reality he is rather superficial, demanded that his opponent, for arguments sake, accept that their is a deity. From that premises he then set out to prove that a deity, in fact, exists.
It didn’t seem odd to him that he wanted his opponent to accept the conclusion in dispute as the very premise for the arguments used.
I thought of a court room situation where a prosecutor comes in and addresses the jury informing them: “That for the sake of argument you are to accept that the defendant is in fact guilty. I will then show you that from the premise you have no other choice but to conclude he is guilty even if no other evidence is offered here.”
Prosecutors would have a field day with that sort of argumentation. Of course such tactics are forbidden in a court of law. One would have to be a blithering idiot to lose a debate that starts with your conclusion as the premise for the arguments.
There was a second argument I found rather bizarre. And to explain why I need to lay some groundwork. This individual has frequently made statements about the nature of of his deity. You might hear him speak of the “love of God,” “the law of God”, the “judgement of God,” etc. He will make claims that without this God there is no such thing as morality for instance. All these things imply vast knowledge about this deity.
Yet the typical theist, when in a debate, will resort, as did this individual, to the incomprehensibility of God. God, we are told, is beyond our puny human comprehension. His ways can’t be understood with reasoning and rationality. It requires faith because he is so far beyond our ability to understand that the brain fails us.
I could almost accept this if the individual making the argument would remain consistent. If the deity is beyond human comprehension then any assertion about his is contradictory. It is basically a claim to know that which you state can not be known.
You can’t tell me he is comprehensible and claim that the Bible is his book, that his name is Jesus, that he is a trinity of three persons in one, or any thing similar. You can not claim to comprehend that which cannot be comprehended. You can not assert you know his will and claim to me that he unknowable to puny humans.
Also consider what a consistent application of the concept of an incomprehensible god would mean for the theist. If you can not comprehend the deity then you know nothing more about his alleged existence than does the atheist.
An atheist is merely someone who has no reason to accept the conclusion that their is a deity. The believer who argues an incomprehensible god is actually saying that there is no reason to accept that their is a deity as well. If he is truly incomprehensible then we can say nothing about him. If utterly incomprehensible we couldn’t even assert he exists. We can only assert that we have a theory he exists and no evidence to substantiate it.
The moment evidence is assert the concept of the incomprehensible deity flies out the window. And that is why the “incomprehensible” argument is rarely offered at the beginning of the debate. It normally is used toward the end of the debate when the theist is backed in a corner. Because once he plays that game he has conceded the debate except he is never honest enough to admit that is what has happened. The atheist can make no statement about the nature of a deity. He can assert nothing positive about him. The man who claims god is beyond human understanding is making the same claim. The only real difference between them is a relatively minor one.
I, as an atheist, never assert anything is beyond understanding or unknowable. I don’t do so because to claim something is unknowable is to claim to know something about it. There is a subtle, but important, difference between that which is unknown and that which is unknowable. Whether there is other intelligent life in the universe is unknown but unknowable. The first is describes something that is unknown but knowable. The second describes something which can never be known.