Arguments for Atheism

In addition to the various arguments for God’s existence, there are a number of arguments against it. There are, broadly speaking, two kinds of argument for atheism: a priori and a posteriori.

A priori arguments for atheism claim that there is some logical contradiction in the theistic conception of God, and so that it is impossible for such a being to exist.

A posteriori arguments for atheism claim that the world is other than it would be if God existed, and so conclude from it that there cannot be a God.

The Problem of Evil

The most weighty of the arguments against God’s existence is an a posteriori argument: the problem of evil. Of all the atheistic arguments, this is the one that has been around for longest, that has had the most words written about it, and that draws the most diverse responses from Christians.

In brief, the problem is that the traditional conception of God implies that if God exists then he knows how to, wants to, and is able to prevent all suffering. If such a God existed, though, then we would expect him to prevent all suffering. Suffering, though, is a familiar part of the world around us; it has not been prevented. There is, therefore, the argument concludes, no such God.

Other arguments for atheism are of the second kind, claiming that the concept of God is incoherent, that there are logical problems with the existence of such a being, and that God therefore cannot exist.

The Paradox of the Stone

Perhaps the best known of these is the paradox of the stone: Can God create a stone so heavy that he cannot lift it?

Either he can or he can’t. If he can’t, the argument goes, then there is something that he cannot do, namely create the stone, and therefore he is not omnipotent. If he can, it continues, then there is also something that he cannot do, namely lift the stone, and therefore he is not omnipotent.

Either way, then, God is not omnipotent. A being that is not omnipotent, though, is not God. God, therefore, does not exist.

In addition to these arguments for atheism, there are several less direct criticisms of Christianity, such as the view that belief in God is just an emotional crutch for the weak, or that Christianity is offensively exclusivist.

Belief in God is Just an Emotional Crutch

One of the most common arguments for atheism is the view that religious belief is mere wishful thinking. According to this view, Christianity is just an emotional crutch for those who are unable to deal with the reality of life without God. Those that are strong enough to do without religion, this argument concludes, should do without religion.

Christianity is Offensively Exclusivist

Another objection to theism is that Christianity is offensively exclusive. On this view, we ought to be tolerant both of those of other faiths and of those of no faith, and the only way that we can do that is by embracing religious pluralism, the view that all views of religion are equally valid and equally true for those that hold them. This, strictly speaking is not an argument against the existence of God but an argument against the objective existence of God, an argument that it makes no sense to talk of absolute religious truths because all religious truth is relative.