Mr. Blue Sky and Zagadka even though you both say you haven’t encountered ‘good’ arguments against your belief system you must, logicaly, have encountered ‘best’ arguments against your beliefs even if they are not what you would call ‘good’.
Unfortunately, the few conversations I’ve had come down to “Yes, it is”, “No, it isn’t” type exchanges.
As for the “proof” thing, I’m afraid it’s almost impossible to get around this.
Theist: “There is a God.”
MBS: “Proove it.”
Theist: “Just look around, There’s proof of God’s existance everywhere you look.”
MBS: “That’s rather vague.”
Theist: “You just have to believe.”
MBS: “Well, I don’t. You’ll have to convince me.”
Theist: “How can I do that?”
MBS: “Give me some solid evidence.”
Theist: “Just look around, There’s proof of God’s existance everywhere you look.”
My opinion is that the best argument that either has against the other is “That isn’t in accord with my experience”; given that, I don’t understand why anyone bothers with the argument in the first place. It’s like an abstract philosophical “My boyfriend’s better” slapfight, and about as dignified.
I can’t say I’ve heard a convincing argument for Theism. After all if I heard one I’d be convinced! That said here are some arguments that might point at some sort of divine being. Note again that I don’t really buy them, they’re just the best arguments I can think of, per the OP’s request.
The intricate mathematical laws of the universe. The mathematics of the universe are extremely complex and also seem (IIRC) to be “fine tuned” for the existence of human life. Furthermore, if the entropy of the universe is running down, then it must have proceeded from a more highly ordered state. Perhaps this order points to some kind of superpowerful architect.
cons: This doesn’t prove anything. Furthermore the existence of life supporting order in the universe may simply be the result of chance, particularly if the many worlds theory is correct. We may be simply in the position of drawing the lucky lottery ticket without being aware that there is a lottery going on. The odds seem stupendous until you think of the many Universes where life might not exist. Also even at its best this argument merely points to some cosmic superintelligence, not to the personal God of the major religions.
The existence of the self. When you subtract everything you have in common with other human beings and even subtract the differences of inheritance and experience you are left with one thing that separates you from everyone else: Namely that you are you! This may take some thinking to get your head around; What is it that’s looking out your eyes? Why am I me and not Lobsang or Zagadka or my Dad or my Cat? This doesn’t point to God per se, but it does lead to thinking about the soul, which is in the same ballpark.
Cons: again this doesn’t prove anything. We have no idea where self consciousness or consciousness in general arises from. It may simply be an epi-phenomenon of the brain. The most you can get after meditating on this for a while is a feeling of “whoa, dude, Freaky!!” which is not a proof for the existence of anything.
The pull of the heart. This is in a different ballpark entirely. Say I can’t prove the existence of God. I still feel a apiritual hunger and a desire to connect with the universe, a desire to impose meaning on the Universe. If I believe I will fill a hole in my soul and probably lead a better healthier life. I will fear death less and maybe like life more. Thus I believe even though I know it to be absurd.
cons: This isn’t a proof or argument at all. Also it’s a bit dangerous. What if one starts by attending a meeting once a week and ends up drinking poison to board the mothership behind the comet. Also some of us have a hard time forcing ourselves to believe in something which we highly doubt to be true.
No, seriously, most discussion about this go as said for me:
“God doesn’t exist.”
“There is no proof. No evidence.”
“The god-force is beyond the physical world. You can’t prove it, you can only feel it.”
“You’re mentally ill and religion corrupts every mind it touches.”
“You heard me. Religion has done nothing but evil.”
“But most churches run charities and support groups. They help people with everything from starvation to alcohol-”
“But the Church repressed people and there were some wars.”
“You have a very narrow view of what religion is.”
“You have a very narrow nose.”
Yep, that’s about it.
I don’t consider “I haven’t experienced it” an argument against theism. It is merely a statement of personal experience. Not everyone experiences it.
Well, I’ll actually seriously answer the question. Here is the argument that got me interested in theism- not a particular form of theism, just the idea that there might be something else out there. The argument by itself didn’t convert me (and I doubt any argument can do that) but it got me curious.
It’s a pretty straightforward thing- the idea being that everyone seems to recognize that the world is a fairly gritty place; that life is filled with injustice. And it was suggested that if we were born into this world, and that this world was all that there was to life, then we shouldn’t notice all the things that are wrong- as they would be completely normal and expected. But, we each seem to have an idea of how the world should be- sort of a Platonic conception of the ideal world.
This doesn’t strike me as a watertight argument nor is it terribly convincing on its own. But then, I don’t think there are any epiphany-inducing arguments when it comes to religion. Approaching or leaving theism seems more like a gradual walk than a sudden leap.
But in anycase, the above line of thinking got me curious about the idea of absolutes in the world- and how those absolutes might have come about. That I should then start contemplating religion was only natural.
I’ve never encountered a “best” argument for the literal existence of an invisible magic god in the sky just like I’ve never seen a “best” argument for the existence of goblins.
Havind said that, I do believe there is such a thing as genuine religious experience which can transform people’s lives. I just don’t extropolate a necessary supernatural explanation for that experience.
I don’t find the Argument from Morality (“If there’s not God, everything is relative–you might just as well rape and kill!”) the least bit convincing–on the one hand, the existence of moral absolutes doesn’t prove the existence of God (if God could say rape and murder are good, then theistic morality isn’t absolute; if God could not say rape and murder are good, that implies an absolute morality beyond God, so, as with the Argument from Design, we’re right back where we started); on the other hand, the cold fact is that there may not be moral absolutes. Arguments from bad consequences (or alleged bad consequences) fail to convince–If the house is on fire, saying “No it isn’t” won’t save you.
That said, I don’t really like that second part. I would prefer that there were some objectively existing standard of morality that I could be absolutely sure of and could refer to, rather than just having to make it up on my own.
So, I guess that’s about the best the theists can do, from my perspective. That and “But I just feel God in my heart”, which as already pointed out is pretty well unanswerable, though that doesn’t make it convincing. (Reply: “Well, I don’t. So there we are.”)
The best arguments for theism I’ve heard have been of the “who else but god can cause this,” but most of them have become far less convincing when we find that it can happen without a deity. The best current one is a weak deistic argument, about how can we know that a god didn’t start off the Big Bang and disappear.
Any atheist asking for proof of god is using the term very loosely. Convincing evidence, with predictive value, would be more like it. Believing in holy books that get it all wrong is not very convincing. Spirtual experiences unlike everyone else’s spiritual experiences don’t do it for me either. I find it like the case of five UFO contactees whose aliens come from totally different places. If the spiritual experience produces something better than I could get from a cheap self-help book, I might be more convinced.