Sketches on Atheism

The First Cause Argument for god’s existence

Every effect demands a cause. There cannot be an infinite chain of causes and effects, so an uncaused first-cause, a prime mover, is required. God is that first cause.

Square-ParadoxThis is the crux of the First Cause (Cosmological) Argument; a hypothesis that is at once the most exercised and weakest explanation for the existence of a god. Turning a blind eye to the assertion that “there cannot be an infinite chain of causes and effects” (why not?) if cause and effect is required there can be no uncaused cause. If there can be an uncaused cause (ergo a first mover god), cause and effect isn’t required. To allow an exemption is to say cause and effect is not in any way, shape or form compulsory. The argument however says, “cause and effect is required but because I can’t count to infinity a first cause is also required, and since there cannot be an uncaused cause, yet one is required, ‘God’ exists.” In case you missed it, this is the argumentative equivalent of dowsing yourself in high octane fuel then (with a perfunctory smile) sparking a match. It arbitrarily defines ‘God’ as something that is exempt from the cause requirement, yet the only reason it exists (based on this argument) is for the purpose of satisfying that requirement. The hypothesis circles back in on itself and to anyone with half a brain vanishes in a puff of illogical vapour.

*Parts of this post taken from Existential Atheism.

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84 thoughts on “The First Cause Argument for god’s existence

  1. I am a non-believer honestly said and hypothesis about his possible existence are waste of time if you ask me. Whoever wants to believe in whatever he/she wants to believe without having anything like that. Faith should be something uniting but instead of that, it causes more trouble than solutions.

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  2. Something like this: “We were created by a superior species for entertainment purposes … part of some video game.”

    Is more likely than …

    Something like this: “We were created by an omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent, supernatural something.”

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    • Couldn’t agree more, Chris. Trying to shoehorn some “loving” sky being into this universe is fraught with all sorts of difficulties: logical and moral. I guess the reason why some folk are sooooo determined to try (and in the process delude themselves) all boils down to fear.

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      • I can’t go around asking people to give me money for “magic pills” which grant salvation if taken as directed … without making a disclaimer.

        Why do we let certain spiritual salespeople get away with making claims that cannot be proven true?

        This isn’t exclusively a rhetorical question; I’d genuinely like to know.

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      • Disclaimer? Billy Connolley made a movie called “The Man Who Sued God” … I liked it enough to buy it.

        I’d entertained that premise/theme as a mental exercise for ages: if the damage is caused by “An act of God” then we should be able legally to sue God’s representatives. No?

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      • I think it only seems impossible to most people, because we cannot fully understand it yet. Just need to hold our horses for a couple thousand more years or so …

        Take a computer back to Christ’s time (with a full battery :), and they might crucify you, too.

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  3. When I was little, I would sit and contemplate the edge of the universe. Where did it end? And what was beyond that? I realized I was in trouble when I began to think of God in the same way, wondering what came before him, so I made myself not think about it.
    Verily, verily, thinking is detrimental to faith.

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  4. We need more public debates. Our publicly funded (at least here in Canada) intellectuals should be engaging the citizenry. It is morally irresponsible to allow religious doctrine to rule without inquiry (I realise I’m preaching to the choir here).

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  5. Nicely put. There is also in their argument nothing that prevents Yahweh being the third god in line, that is Yahweh had a createor and the creator of Yahweh had a creator and that being had a creator also. So, who should we be worshiping? And doesn’t this equate to just worshiping an alien, a being of sufficient power to be able to push us around?

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  6. I have never been able to wrap my head around quantum, string theory and the “What came before the Big Bang then, hey, smart Alec?”
    A brain-exploder of the first order.However merely because I am not smart enough to answer I will be DAMNED (sic) if I will posit a Creator/God in the blank space.
    Besides in my book it always returns to the question of where did the NOTION of a Creator come from, and why the hell should I accept a Christian viewpoint on this issue in any case?

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    • Ark, even quantum physicists don’t understand quantum field theory. Just imagine a lot of really quite tiny dancing (broken) rubber bands. Now here’s the tricky part: the bands don’t actually exist, not as ‘things,’ but the dancing does, and the waves (vibration = energy) that dancing gives off creates the first fabric of the smallest ‘things’ imaginable. Well, that’s at least how i understand it.

      But you’re right, just plopping a god in the “I don’t know” box get’s no one nowhere.

      Hey, is that the real Hendrix on the cover?

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      • Smile..No, the cat’s name is Chingachgook, or Chinga for short. Last of the Mohecans?
        I’ll see if I can dig out the set of originals and post them, for you.
        We did have a cat named Hendrix a long time ago but it ran away.

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      • One points at a swimmer on a poster, and it looks scary. One resembles something you might find with a construction worker. One shares a name with a team whose colors are purple and gold.

        until we know that they are all this word “skrahs” (which is spelled backwards), the first sentence is referring to the movie swaJ (which is spelled backwards), the second sentence is referring to a hammer head, the third sentence is referring to the LSU tigers … we probably couldn’t make much sense of it. Then, we might ask, well, why use those 3 sentences in the first place?

        We crave the feeling of knowing. Perhaps if we took better care of each other as a species, the craving for the feeling of knowing “why we are all here” … would not be so strong, as we would be surrounded by the reason every day.

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  7. If “god” can be an uncaused cause for the convenience of theists then the singularity that preceded the big bang can just as easily qualify.

    Circular logic can be applied anywhere I suppose.

    The big difference is that science is never satisfied with an uncaused cause. It will keep looking and asking “how” and “why” until the cause of the singularity is discovered. And then it will start looking for what caused that.

    “Belief” is a massive cop-out. Apathy supreme.

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    • You’re spot on, Richard. Theists really don’t like it when their logic is simply turned back on them. And anyway, people far brighter than me now know a great deal of activity takes place in a quantum vacuum (the perceived “no thing”). There is a naturalistic explanation forming, and even better, we’re becoming more confident in using (and understanding) terms like infinite. Here’s hoping the march continues!

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    • The white flag of surrender. It’s curious how so many of us are frightened to understand more. Dogma, by its nature, is rigid… but I don’t think I’ll ever understand how these dogmatic folk can actively work to smother human advancement. It’s remarkably selfish.

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      • They have been sold that it is “freedom” to believe — that if they don’t have “faith” they might burn in hell for eternity — and, all their friends and family told them this. Trying desperately to believe in this crock of shit, I think, is survival instinct at work.

        Everyone cannot be a leader. It’s a selfish, manipulative few who are to blame — in my mind.

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      • Yeah, we talked about this somewhere else: the great majority of theists aren’t assholes, just frightened individuals. It’s the crazy circus leaders (the money-men) who are the real enemies of progress.

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  8. Hi John, well thought out article. Let me start my comment by making two declarations. One, I did not read all the previous comments so I do not know what has already been discussed, sorry I am late to the discussion. Two, I am a follower of Christ Jesus.

    I think you analysis of the “first cause” argument was very well done. The only mistake I think you made is that the argument does not say that God is a first cause in line with all other causes and effects. The argument is, like you said, that every effect must have a cause. Here is where I feel you made a mistake, God as a first cause does not exist in the same way that all other causes and effects exist because He created the first effect (Gen 1:1) that started the chain reaction that leads to our current law of cause and effect. Because God exists outside the chain He did not require a cause to become, He is the cause that starts the chain.

    Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing your thought on this, if the idea of God existing ‘outside” the chain changes your idea in anyway.

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    • Hi! Right off the bat, I won’t hold it against you if you choose to follow a metafictional character… although I would be interested to hear which Jesus you actually follow. There are many. As long as you don’t abuse children or animals we can chat.

      So, by the sounds of things you’re just repeating the ordinary premise of the first cause argument: Your god is an uncaused cause. By this you’re giving your god an exemption from cause and effect, but you’re failing to explain why. Just saying “god” isn’t an answer. You’d have to explain why your god is not subject to the immutable law of cause and effect. That is, of course, if you agree cause and effect IS in fact an immutable law.

      My question to you would simply be, why can’t there be an infinite chain of causes and effects?

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    • Thank you for giving the benefit of the doubt, and I won’t hold it against you that you ignore the obvjous to justify your sin. As for which “jesus” I follow, I would say the Jesus that died for your sins even knowing you would deny him, and he has never given instruction for me to hurt babies or animals (except to eat, animals that is and not babies).

      I give an exemption to God based on the fact that He exists outside the chain of cause and effect, and that is based on the fact that he created the chain.

      Could their be an infinite chain of causes and effects? Theoretically there could be. My only objection to that is that a random chain of causes and effects would not result in the laws of physics we can observe, that would require an intelligent first cause, Jesus.

      My question to you would be, why can’t there be an intelligent ‘First Cause’?

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      • Hi FL

        You do realize you’re not advancing any argument here. You’re just adding a word, “god,” into the chain of cause and effect because you can’t count to infinity.

        “fact that he exists”…. Ok, show me the “fact” you speak of.

        “My only objection to that is that a random chain of causes and effects would not result in the laws of physics we can observe”…. How do you know that? You have no evidence, and if you do then you should release it immediately to the world.

        “why can’t there be an intelligent ‘First Cause’?”… Why does there have to be?

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      • ““why can’t there be an intelligent ‘First Cause’?”… Why does there have to be?” Are you in the habit of answering questions with a question?

        Let me ask my question to you again, why can’t there be an intelligent ‘First Cause’?

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      • Perhaps I should remind you that the first cause argument is an apologist’s supposition to prove their particular god exists. It is up to you, the theist, to prove why one must disregard infinity and permit a magical interloper in, not me. When making a scientifically unfalsifiable claim (such as pink elephants exist, god exists, alien life exists) the burden of proof is on the positive. Unless the claim can be tested and proven (which, being unfalsifiable, it can’t) it need not be proven false, it should be assumed false, until proven true. You’re innocent until proven guilty. Pink elephants don’t exist, unless there is a good reason to think they do.

        Therefore there is no need for atheism to prove the non-existence of god, nor for naturalism to prove the non-existence of the supernatural. These unfalsifiable claims must be assumed to be false, unless they can be shown to be true.

        So, over to you. Looking forward to your answer….

        and BTW, you didn’t answer my other questions….

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      • Man, I had such high hopes. You seam like a very intelligent person John and I thought we could have an honest discussion. You used a lot of words in your first paragraph just to avoid answering one question, that seams to be a typical tactic by someone unable to answer a question. Since you asked, I purposefully ignored your other questions because you ignored mine. In an honest discussion you get to ask a question and after I answer it I get to ask a question. Once you answer my question you can ask another question.

        Let me ask my question one more time and see if we can get this great discussion back on track, why can’t there be an intelligent ‘First Cause’?

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      • Lad, you’re ignoring the fact you’ve not advanced the argument. You’ve simply regurgitated the cosmological argument, which is precisely what this post demonstrates is false. Perhaps you have trouble with reading and comprehension? It’d “seem” (yes, that’s how it’s spelt) you came here only to ask your question…. A question the post has already answered if you’d bothered to read it. So, to your question, as the post has already demonstrated, there can’t be a first cause for the quite simple, rather obvious reason that it negates the entire premise of cause and effect…. Which I remind you (again) is the single reason why this argument even exists in the first place. Seems you’re having trouble understanding this. Let me say it again. If you’re going to use cause and effect as the argumentative vehicle to prove your god exists you cannot then simply dismiss the ENTIRE PREMISE of cause and effect to satisfy your desired answer.

        You might as well be saying “Santa Claus exists because I WANT him to exist!!!”

        That brings us to the issue of burden of proof… which I already know you’re going to ignore. Still, we can only hope, can’t we? A positive claim (unicorns exist) requires evidence. A negative claim (unicorns do not exist) requires a complete lack of evidence. “Unicorns do not exist” is negative so it depends on the complete lack of evidence for unicorns. It is easily falisifiable; all you (the unicorn believer) need is one piece of evidence for the existence of unicorns. The one making the positive claim has to produce the evidence. So, for you to advance the first cause argument (already shown to be illogical) you’d first (at the very least) have to demonstrate why there can’t be an infinite chain of causes of effects. It’s really quite simple. Can you demonstrate why there can’t be an infinite chain of cause and effect?

        Now, as I’ve answered your question (twice already), I believe you have claimed to be in possession of some evidence (“facts”) which I do hope you won’t ignore. Namely:

        1. “Fact that he (god) exists”…. Please, show me this “fact”

        2. “My only objection to that is that a random chain of causes and effects WOULD NOT result in the laws of physics we can observe”…. How do you know that? What evidence do you have to support this rather wild claim?

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      • Question 1 and 2 can be answered at one time. In our observable world there is no evidence that random events can create ordered causes. Of course when you look at something as detailed as DNA is shows that there is a purpose to it’s order and random chaos can create purpose.

        Romans 1:20 “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”

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      • Ah, so you just fall back on quoting scripture, huh? Here’s a beauty:

        “And the UNICORNS shall come down with them, and the bullocks with the bulls; and their land shall be soaked with blood, and their dust made fat with fatness.” Isaiah 34:7

        I love unicorns, don’t you?

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      • Didn’t fall back to scripture, I answered your question first and then provided scripture that shows your question was answered 2000 years ago.

        Unicorns? Never seen one, but I am not much of a fan of horses so I probably wouldn’t care for them if they still existed.

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      • If you think you answered anything then I’m afraid to say you’re dafter than I first suspected.

        “I give an exemption to God based on the FACT that He exists outside the chain of cause and effect, and that is based on the FACT that he created the chain.” “My only objection to that is that a random chain of causes and effects would not result in the laws of physics we can observe”

        I asked for the FACTS you seemed so sure about. All I got was some weird, entirely unsubstantiated claim of random events not creating ordered causes. For your information, life itself is evidence of random events creating ordered causes. What about genetic mutations, or do you not believe in evolution? Like I said, your argument literally all boils down to, “Santa Claus exists because I WANT him to exist!!!”

        So you actually believe in unicorns, eh? WOW! I suppose then that you also believe in talking donkeys? (Numbers 22:30)

        Quite the book you’re basing your entire life on….

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      • FL, I know am joining your conversation quite late.

        You say god created the chain of cause and effect. How do you know this? If he exists out of cause and effect, how then could he cause anything to occur?

        To believe in the concept of sin one has to believe that Adam and Eve were the first man and woman, do you take this as true? If you consider it metaphorical then you realize there is no original sin and thus the Jesus you claim existed died for a metaphor.

        Could their be an infinite chain of causes and effects?

        There is absolutely nothing that would prevent an infinite chain of course and effect! The laws of physics are man’s attempt to explain the world as he observes it and as such to claim that random causes and effects can’t lead to is simply erroneous to say the least.

        My question to you would be, why can’t there be an intelligent ‘First Cause’?

        Nothing stops a first cause and it doesn’t have to be intelligent. We just have no reason to postulate one for very simple reasons
        1. The universe is matter in motion and since matter can’t be created or destroyed then we need not posit a situation where matter doesn’t exist.
        2. In the continuum of cause and effect, there is no time when this chain can be broken
        3. The metaverse is a sufficient cause. It doesn’t need to have been caused
        4. positing your god as a first cause does not even begin to explain how he caused the first cause!
        5. lastly even if we were to posit a first cause, it could be one god or a bazillion of them. They may have caused the cause and died while at it and it would require theology[ a study of nothing] to make this cause the Abrahamic god.

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  9. What your missing with my answer to the unicorn question is that I am not arrogant enough to say that unicorns never existed because I do not have all knowledge. You take the stand that nothing can exist unless you know it to, that is arrogance.

    Proverbs 1:7 “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

    Notice it says “beginning” not ending. I think you may like this image: http://www.answersingenesis.org/assets/images/articles/nab2/bible-believers-scientists.gif

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      • It is an image, who care where it is linked from. Talking donkeys? I am only aware of one in recorded history, so no I do not believe in talking donkeys.

        Did you even bother to look at the image or are you so narrow minded that you dismiss anything that goes against your world view? The FACT is that you can not dispute what is on the image, so you will marginalize it with ad hominem attacks on the source.

        Side question, how old are you?

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      • Lad, anything from Answers in Genesis deserves to be mocked and ridiculed for the utter nonsense that it is. Seeing AIG was enough to just laugh and move on.

        So you do believe in talking donkeys AND unicorns! Impressive!

        If you read through my posts you can discover my age.

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      • @ FLPatriot

        You do the same things that you criticize others for doing. You call others “sheeple,” yet blindly follow the most ridiculous collection of nonsense ever composed.

        You present no solid arguments, and now you are asking John how old he is?? Why, so can you can criticize his character?

        I have a question for you … what is your net worth?

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      • Oh, I don’t mind him knowing… just thought it’d be more fun if he had to read EVERY post just to discover it. It’s there, lurking inside one, but which one??? 😉

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      • I know you don’t care. But, I’d still like to know the circumstances in which he formulates his perspective. It would be interesting to know if he’s defending his own way of life, or one of those people whose blind belief system works against their own interests.

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  10. Seeing as you are resorting to the typical atheist tactic of ad hominin attacks, I wil be moving on. I originally had hope you where old enough to not sink to childish name calling, guess I was wrong.

    As for my net worth.. enough that I am not in debt and can support my family. I owe no man anything and God everything.

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    • @FLPatriot

      I must admit … you are one interesting creature … never sinks to “childish name calling” … what is this from your latest post?

      “What I do care about is when sheeple like you fall for the lies and still defend Obama.”

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    • FL, for a guy whose avatar is Auguste Rodin’s the thinker, you seem not to do the thinker justice. You accuse my friend here of calling you names and in the same sentence you commit a fallacy by saying it is a typical atheist tactic!

      You owe your fellow men respect, kindness, honesty and gods nothing since they don’t exist!

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  11. Pingback: Who is blind? | Random thoughts

  12. A common way to state this that is considered a ‘show stopper’ by some is ‘Why is there something rather than nothing?” Well why not? “Something must have created it” Who created that thing that created everything else “well he is god, nothing created him, he was always there”

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    • Yeah, that logic is maddening. I can at least understand why people fall into the trap… We’re geared to perceive things as superimposed against something else. Black is not-white, that makes sense. Accepting there’s something without there first being nothing is hard for us, physically speaking. That said, simply inserting “god” doesn’t make any more sense. All it does is stop the count going on to infinity without actually explaining why the count has to stop. This is otherwise known as the Great Headfuck 🙂

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  13. I haven’t even read it yet—comment now, go back and read, poss comment again later.
    Yesterday I was reading a whole babble of quantum mechanics (actually most of it went waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay overhead) but I freaked into head-spin mode when the guy was telling us that something comes from nothing.

    Dammit, I’m still a Newtonian (if that’s the right word) (otherwise try dinosaur). And he wanted the universe to end in just twenty billion years (USA billion, not ye olde British) … which disturbed me ‘cos in one of my recent posts I quoted something I’d read somewhere sometime (I’m hopeless at keeping records) that ended the universe in several trillion trillion years. A thought—if we ask the Pope, he can ask God for us, and get a ruling?) (it was just a thought).

    God it’s complicated, I tell you! And now to read …

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  14. Of course God is exempt! Silly man.
    That’s ‘cos He’s God, see~? If He weren’t God then He’d need to be caused; don’t fret, it’s all entirely logical and rational and stuff.

    BUT:
    If He did need a cause, that’s not a problem either.
    He was created by a Godier God than Him. He. It (actually in the earliest writings, Her …). Don’t interrupt, I know exactly what you’re about to say but we got that one covered too:
    Godier God was created by a More Godier God. And MGG was created by a Yet More Godier God; and so on ad infinitem. (I keep thinking—if God is omnipresent, and all the MGGs etc likewise, it must get awfully incestuous …)

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  15. You make some good points… however the argument is accepted since ages … ha….
    I think Aristotle was the first one to refer to the First Cause as you state above… Of course this applied to our experinces in the real world. It was also a way to away the reductio ad absurdum…. Then it was used with other purposes, far different from Aristotles´—- Great post here John! … sending love & best wishes 😉

    Liked by 1 person

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