God (Part 2)

Last time, I looked at the first three of the half dozen 'intellectual' arguments for the existence of a god or gods. This is the second half of the set.

  • The Argument from Morality (1): Right and wrong exist, but aren't corporeal, so must be spiritual, so must come from a spiritual source, which must be god.


    People can make laws but not morality. Therefore something else made it, therefore god did.

This is really about transcendental authority. Your boss has power over you, which is given by their boss who has power over them, and so on to the top of the tree. But who awards and justifies the power of the man at the top?

Does he have it by right of inheritance? But where does that right come from? Of conquest? Of just being born with 'natural authority'? Same problem.

God is the obvious super-authoriser and self-authoriser. He's also conveniently invisible, and unavailable to answer questions. We have to be content with his subordinates, who are presumably instructed by him when we're not looking.

There is a parallel between this transcendental authority and the transcendental origin of the Cosmological argument. And the two have the same problem - that once the notion of self-authorisation (or self-creation) is permitted, the whole need for a super-authoriser (or super-creator) disappears.

Morals come from people applying imperfect intellects to imperfectly defined goals in imperfectly understood circumstances.

  • The Argument from Morality (2): People are evil, so will only be good if frightened into it, and the only thing capable of doing that is god. Therefore he exists.


    All atheists are sinful. All christians are sinless. Therefore god.

Yes, there are actually two arguments from morality - though people making them often smudge them together. This second one isn't actually an argument about the existence of god - rather it's about the social utility of the masses believing in a vengeful god.

Thus, like the first morality argument, it's about ultimate authority.

The obvious empirical facts that nonbelievers are, if anything, more moral than believers - and indeed the secular nations are uniformally the ones with the lowest crime rates - are easy to ignore.

In its benign form, you often find this argument used by people whose reason pushes them to reject the religion they were raised in, but whose emotional attachment to its moral certainty or financial dependence on its power structure compel them to remain.

It's a sort of halfway house - a notion that although there is no god up there, we should all behave as though there were. It therefore sometimes shades into the 'religions for atheists' - humanism, or the 'spiritual unbeliever' movements.

Either way, it relies on the authoritarian notion that humans are born morally defective and with insufficient intellect to recognise the ethical good, and insufficient willpower to act on it even if they do. Thus they need a ruthless but benevolent dictatorship, to control them for their own good.

Obviously, those who hold such a position don't include themselves in the common mass - they see themselves as 'middle managers' in the dictatorship. Unsurprisingly then, it's a doctrine popular in the middle class.

  • The Argument from Revelation: God changed my heart. Therefore I know with absolute but incommunicable certainty that he's real.


    I had a powerful vision, and only true visions are powerful, so god exists.

Also called the argument from personal experience, this is a fallback position for when logical or empirical arguments fail. It attempts to locate the proof of god in a place where the skeptic can never reach it. Namely in the private experiences, conveniently inexpressible, of the believer. And in this one case, the experiences are declared to be self-guaranteeing, though for reasons which are also conveniently inexpressible.

The argument ultimately just pushes the burden of proof one stage further back. The believer is saying "You need to believe X and my proof is Y, but I can't tell you what Y is. You need to believe Y."

Plus, any argument from revelation can be blocked by another argument from revelation.

I've listed the six 'respectable' arguments for the existence of a deity. Each has many variations, which try to avoid the pitfalls I've outlined.

The most common evasive strategy is to word the arguments in far more oblique, slippery and insinuating ways that I've given. However, once the verbiage, vagueness and meaningless qualifications are burned away, the central arguments become clear - and so therefore do their refutations.

Of course, there are many other arguments commonly used - in fact, these are the ones that ordinary believers tend to produce. And some of these will form the final part of this unholy trinity of essays.


  1. You're quite a philosophical Dude, really.

    Me like The Church of Kapitano. Worldly, wise and musical, too (though not, as yet, gospel).

    Camy ;)

  2. Thankyou. I'm not sure whether my first love was music or philosophy - I discovered them both at around the same time.

    Most of the content of these philosophical posts I learned 20 or 25 years ago. But back then, I didn't know how to explain it.

    The church of Kapitano might have plenty of Hims, and kneeling to worship :-). But the music is always whatever the parishoner's into at that moment, and there's a minimum of silly hats.