Give Me that Old-Time Kalam! (It’s Good Enough for Me!)
Of all the arguments for God’s existence, the Kalam cosmological argument has given me the most pause. For the uninitiated, Kalam is based on the following principles:
- Premise #1: Everything that has a beginning of its existence has a cause of its existence.
- Premise #2: The universe has a beginning of its existence.
From such principles the following can be reached:
- Conclusion #1: The universe has a cause of its existence.
- Conclusion #2: If the universe has a cause of its existence then that cause is God.
- Conclusion #3: God exists.
I am fine right up until Conclusion #1. Conclusion #2 is an obvious non-sequitur, which renders Conclusion #3 irrelevant. Back to Conclusion #1, this is where I’m not 100% atheist on the Dawkins scale. I ask myself the same thing that theists ask me.
Where did the universe come from?
It may surprise people to know that I actually think that Hitchens’ answer to this, “Who created God?”, is completely false. If the concept of a god is eternal, then there’s no need for its creation — end of story.
I do not pretend to be bright enough to be able to handle astrophysics, nuclear physics, or advanced mathematics. I do, however, know someone who is. I asked her recently, “Is the Big Bang Theory the current scientific view of the origin of the universe?”
She asserted, “yes!” However she proceeded to explain concepts such as universal inflation and time initiating with the universe. The last bit helped me as one of the reasons I have gotten stuck on Kalam is I’ve wondered what came before the “beginning” of the universe. If time began with the universe, then there was no “before” the beginning of the universe in the way we think of one event coming “before” another. This doesn’t entirely help me, though.
Even if we say that time didn’t exist before the universe existed, we still have the problem of the universe existing and why it does. Thankfully, this is usually where I can get theists stuck. ”If you’re willing to believe that God is eternal, what’s the difference if I believe that the universe is eternal?”
But how is the universe eternal?? How is it that anything, be it a god or a universe, can be eternal? And if the universe isn’t eternal and it wasn’t created by a god, then how did it come into existence?
The aforementioned questions are what stops my friend from being an atheist. Her conclusion is that some powerful, intentional force had to have created the universe even if it can’t be described as the Abrahamic God.
I would tend to agree with her. I find concepts such as “powerful” and “intentional” loaded and limited, but I understand why she arrives at such conclusions. This big, complicated thing is here. If it ever wasn’t here, it came to be here somehow. If it always were here, well, this stretches the limits of our cognitive abilities. How could something simply always have been?
WHAT WILL BE, HAS BEEN
As an intellectually honest, critically thinking, skeptical atheist, I recognize that just because I don’t know or understand something, that doesn’t mean that whatever reasonable-seeming cause of that something I can dream up doesn’t automatically become valid just because it seems reasonable or because I have a limitation in knowledge or understanding. But I can’t resolve this issue.
I recently saw a poll on an Atheist Forum in which the question was asked where we all fell on the Dawkins scale of 1-theist to 7-atheist. I put 6, but with a 6.99 leaning towards 7 because the fact that I can’t comprehend an eternal universe and the fact that I don’t know how a non-eternal universe came to be, those two “facts” piss me off! My pissed-off-ness notwithstanding, my atheism remains firmly in tact as my ignorance of the resolution of the above “facts” is not evidence of any god claim I’ve ever heard.