Is there anything in the argument of design to suggest that the designer or "Higher Power" of the universe is religiously significant? Is there anything in the argument of design to suggest that the designer of the universe is omnipotent, benevolent, and/or omniscient and cares about its creation? Is it possible that the designer could be a disinterested creator (deism) and without the characteristics attributed to the Judaic, Christian, Muslim God?
Moreover, is it logical that we infer through the nature of a cause from the nature of its effects? What types of fallacies of logic are the results of such responses? How often do we attempt to explain the occurrence of an event by reference to a few antecedents which rendered its occurrence probable? How often do we mistake correlation for cause? How often do we reduce a complex causal inquiry to simplicity and confuse the necessary cause with the sufficient cause? In short, is it logical to infer the nature of a first cause from the nature of its effects?
The aforementioned questions are logical inquiries and so are the following questions: How do we examine an abstract concept (like God) using the real world for our basis of empirical knowledge? Should our faith be subject to reason and logic? Why shouldn’t we ask questions about what we hold sacred? Can we be right about what we believe is true since there are many religious beliefs with a myriad of contradictions among them?
If we ask more questions, they might be the following: Shouldn’t we determine whether our disagreements are about facts and evidence or about our underlying values and beliefs before proceeding? Can we evaluate a claim that we make without access to the facts in question? In other words, should we pledge ourselves to that which are presuppositions and without certainty?
Finally, can anyone be so sure as to have an unreasonable certainty that one has the answer to some of the oldest questions? Why is it that most of us do not think we need to logically examine the details of religious fundamentalist's propositions? Why is it a value and meaning for us to preserve our belief in a God at any cost? Is it logical for us to believe, for instance, what Christ or any other prophet actually said, or whether they even existed? Is it logical for us to believe "that the creator of the universe would personally impregnate a Palestinian virgin in order to facilitate his son into the world as a man?" (Hitchens). Is it logical for us to believe that a God created the entire universe, but its chief concern is whether we worship it or not here on earth, and that our sins have some sort of “cosmic significance” in a universe that contains billions of galaxies, each galaxy with billions of stars, and each star with perhaps a planetary system and other possible life forms? “If God wanted to forgive our sins, why not just forgive them?” (Dawkins, Richard, The God Delusion).
As stated by British philosopher, logician and Nobel laureate Bertrand Russell: “Many orthodox people speak as though it were the business of skeptics to disprove received dogmas rather than of dogmatists to prove them. This is, of course, a mistake. If [we] were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to disprove [our] assertion provided [we] were careful to add that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes. But if [we] were to go on to say that, since [our] assertion cannot be disproved, it is intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it, [we] should rightly be thought to be talking nonsense. If, however, the existence of such a teapot were affirmed in ancient books, taught as the sacred truth every Sunday, and instilled into the minds of children at school, hesitation to believe in its existence would become a mark of eccentricity and entitle the doubter to the attentions of the psychiatrist in an enlightened age or of the Inquisitor in an earlier time.”
The Problem of Natural and Moral Evil and the Suffering of Innocent Children:
Seeing the natural wonders of the world as proof for God's existence is also through use of selected evidence to prove a point. Does this argument assume what it claims to prove; in other words, does it beg the question? If there is a designer or "Higher Power" of the universe, is it responsible for evil as well? Our world contains viruses, bacteria (Clostridium botulin), smallpox, cholera, typhus, meningitis, tuberculosis, plague, tsetse flies, Chagas (parasites), malaria-ridden mosquitoes, screw worms, dengue fever, venereal disease, heart disease, Alzheimer's disease, cancer, cruel and indifferent people... Our world also reveals catastrophic destruction by earthquakes, tornadoes, tsunamis, hurricanes, cyclones, floods, drought, famine, wildfires, and volcanic eruptions; the universe reveals astronomical destruction among comets and planets, stars that explode and then destroy everything in their wake... We would have to ask: did the "Higher Power" create them too, and for what purpose?
In the opinion of Christian theologian Aurelius Augustinus: This world serves only as a testing ground for reward and punishment in the afterlife; life on earth is a punishment for original sin; natural evil is simply imperfection that makes variety possible; evil is the privation of goodness. We need evil in order to understand goodness; God gave man free will and thus the capacity to choose between good and evil.
Poppycock! Evil is not a punishment; it is not an imperfection or a deprivation. It is not a thing or essence. It is never "pure." It is not an entity that exists outside of the laws of nature and human behavior. Rather it describes human behavior. To believe that God allows for evil because it provides us with the knowledge of good and evil and free will is not a logical or moral rebuttal. Of course, not all evil is the result from a misuse of free will. Moreover, to believe that "freedom consists of the ability to choose evil as well as good and that human freedom is therefore diminished to the extent that God disposes us to choose good rather than evil... is highly questionable... If we define freedom as the ability to choose between good and evil, is freedom so supreme a value as to compensate for the evils to which it leads? Does the value of Hitler having been able to choose the deaths of millions of Jews outweigh the sufferings he imposed upon his victims?" (Olson).
Surely, the whole world of knowledge of good and evil is not worth the suffering of one child. As Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky once wrote: "If everyone must suffer, pray tell me what have children got to do with it?... It is not worth one little tear of even one tormented child who beat her chest with her little fist and prayed to 'dear God' in a stinking outhouse with her unredeemed tears! Not worth it because her tears remained unredeemed... Can they be redeemed by being avenged? But what do I care if they are avenged; what do I care if the tormentors are in hell? What can hell set right here if these children have already been tormented? And where is the harmony if there is a hell? I want to forgive, and I want to embrace. I don't want more suffering" (Brothers Karamazov).
Why do we thank God for the good things that happen in our life (however trivial they might be), but we don't blame God for the bad things that happen in our life? Indeed, we know there are no scientific studies done about the efficacy of intercessory prayers. "We can assume no religious organization would want a scientific confirmation either because of the high risk for logical refutation."
So Why Do People Believe in a God (or gods)?
Why are some people more religious than others? Recent research of the brain reveals that "believing a proposition to be true is associated with greater activity in the medial prefrontal cortex, an area important for emotion and reward... Religious thinking is associated with greater signals in the anterior insula (pain perception) and ventral striatum (reward)... Dopamine receptor genes play a role in religious belief as well. People who have inherited the most active form of the D4 receptor are more likely to believe in miracles and be skeptical of science... [Conversely], uncertainty is associated with the anterior cingulate cortex" (Harris, Sam, The Moral Landscape).
Anderson, Elizabeth. “If God Is Dead, Is Everything Permitted?” Philosophers Without Gods. Ed. Louise M. Antony. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007, pgs. 215-30.
Augustinus, Aurelius. The Confessions of Saint Augustine. New York: Random House, 1949.
DeNicola, Daniel R. "Morality and Religion." Moral Philosophy. Ontario: Broadview Press, 2019.
Dostoevsky, Fyodor. Brothers Karamazov. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1990.
Hitchens, Christopher. The Portable Atheist. Boston: De Capo Press, 2007.
King, Martin Luther. "Letter from a Birmingham Jail." in Why We Can't Wait. New York: Signet Classics, 1963.
Olson, Robert G. A Short Introduction to Philosophy. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., 1967.