Did you know that some of the most often cited arguments against theism were actually created by religious believers? Crazy, I know. The founders of these arguments would actually roll over in their medieval graves were they to know how their ideas have been reshaped and repurposed as weapons against faith in God.
Galileo the God-Stopper
For starters, there is Galileo whose advocacy for a heliocentric model, the view that the earth rotates around the sun and not the other way around, forever proved that science is at odds with religion. Except for the fact that it didn’t. Skeptics often state that the religious leaders of Galileo’s day refused to look through his telescope. But historian of science James Hannam demonstrates that the evidence for such claims is non-existent. Besides this, many people overlook the quite clear fact that Galileo believed in God.
Quick questions about Galileo:
Was he a believer? Yes.
Did his discovery debunk his faith? No.
Bill’s Razor that Severed Divine Explanations
William of Ockham, a philosopher, is famous for his razor. Not a real one, mind you. A theoretical one. He suggested that we should prefer simple explanations over ones that involve unnecessarily complex causes. Many skeptics will drop this like a trump card in the conversation about God. God is an unnecessarily complex cause. Deploy Ockham’s razor and simplify the scenario. Cut God out. Overlook the fact that so many skeptic scientists today run to multiverse theory to explain away the significance of our galaxy to host a planet that is habitable for intelligent life. If an “infinite number of randomly ordered universes” isn’t an unnessarily complex cause then I don’t know what is. Oh, and look past one other thing, William of Ockham was a devout Catholic scholar who was also a Franciscan friar.
Quick questions about William of Ockham:
Was he a believer in God? Yes.
Did his theory lead him to conclude that God is an unnecessarily complex cause? Absolutely not.
The Father of Probability Who Disproved the Father of All
Well, probability theory, if nothing else, shows how improbable God actually is. In recent history the famed atheist Richard Dawkins put his spin on probability theory in his book The God Delusion stating that he could demonstrate how the probability of God’s existence is almost zero. The word probability gets thrown around flippantly as if just articulating the word, devoid of any real arguments, somehow demonstrates God’s non-existence. The father of this theory is my favorite philosopher, Blaise Pascal, who, by the way, was a deeply religious believer.
Quick questions about Pascal:
Was he a believer in God? Yes.
Did he consider God to be improbable? Cough. Not even close.
Moral of the story: don’t believe the hype. There are a lot of diatribes targeting religious belief that, while being overtly argumentative, fail to advance any real arguments. My advice, scratch the surface a little and see if there is anything deeper down. Such claims could simply be a veneer. At least in the three cases mentioned above, there is often more bravado in their contemporary usage than anything substantive. It’s as though if you could look into the skeptic playbook you might see something scribbled in the margin next to these arguments, “Weak point. Speak loudly.”