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Bertrand Russell's arguments agains the existence of God - my philosophy paper.


jlemaster1 1 / -  
Apr 14, 2010   #1
Prompt:
Provide a counterargument to one of Bertrand Russell's arguments agains the existence of God.

and thusly, my paper.

I have been asked to provide a counterargument to one of Bertrand Russell's arguments against the existence of God, a task that I humbly accept. I have chosen to discuss Russell's rebuttal to the Argument from Morality, or The Moral Argument for the Existence of God. Much care has been given to the idea that the truth must be preserved and that the character and motives of the person with whom I am arguing have little to do with the argument itself and therefore will not be covered in this writing. Instead I will provide an objective appraisal of the facts of the argument. To do so I must first present my interpretation of the argument:

1. If God did not exist, there would be no good or evil,
2. good and evil exist,
3. therefore, God exists.
4. If good and evil exist because God exists, then good and evil either came from God's fiat, or they did not
4a. If good and evil came from God's fiat, then to God there is no difference between right and wrong.
4b. If good and evil did not come from God's fiat then God is not the Supreme being that controls everything and therefore is not omnipotent.

4c. If premise (4a) is true, then morality would be arbitrary, and God is not good.
5. If God is not good then everything the gospel of the Christians says is false
6. Therefore God does not exist.
Russell's argument is comprised of two parts: the moral argument for deity and the Euthyphro Dilemma. Although it is unclear who first posited the moral argument, Immanuel Kant is recognized by Russell to have "invented" it. Essentially it points out a very basic moral intuition that is imbedded in all man and grounded in the immutable nature of God. This idea (that morals cannot exist in a world where God does not exist) has been attacked by several groups including the atheists, and the agnostics. The atheists and agnostics believe that it is possible for someone that is not a believer in God to have morals. The part of the argument that they have misconstrued is that existence is independent of belief, God can exist even if no one believes in Him. So even though the atheist has morals, that does not disprove the argument. For without God, there would be no moral intuition, and therefore no inherent concept of what is right and what is wrong.

The Euthyphro Dilemma stems from Plato's dialogue Euthyphro in which Euthyphro is asked "Is the pious loved by the gods because it is pious, or is it pious because it is loved by the gods?". (Plato) This commits the Bifurcation Fallacy and thusly presents a false dilemma. It is not the case that either piety is pious because it is loved by the gods or is loved by the gods because it is pious.

Upon first glance one would be inclined to agree with Russell, but after reading, rereading, and several conversations with my peers, I have identified three ways to defeat Russell's argument.

The first way is to point out that the fourth premise of the argument (also Russell's first assumption) is false. It is not the case that good and evil must come from either God's whim or a standard above God. Good and evil are according to God's character and nature. It is to say that God is good by definition, and it is not valid to say that God realizes no difference between right and wrong or good and evil. It would perhaps be easier to identify the fallacy if we turn the statement into a mathematical equation:

Objective Morality "is greater than" God, "is less than" God, or "is equal to" God.
This way it becomes apparent that presenting only two options becomes problematic. With this change the argument would go as follows:
4. If good and evil exist because God exists because good and evil are an essential part of the nature of God then what God chooses will in fact be good in nature.

The second way is to show that premise (4c) also jumps to a false conclusion: it assumes that if we accept that Russell's argument is sound and we take the first horn of the dilemma that it proves that God is not omni benevolent. This is also false on the grounds that it confuses what God could do and what God would do. God could have chosen to will something that would contradict his nature, after all he is omnipotent, but would not. I suggest that it is perfectly reasonable to say that God chose what is to be good and what is to be evil based on His will. This assertion would not conflict with the previous statement that good and evil came from God's nature but instead support it: God's will would coincide with His nature. It would be unlikely for God, having within Himself a standard for what good and evil is, to will rape or murder to be good. Given that, it would not be significant to argue the validity of good and evil based on the possibility of what is in fact being the opposite. To deny the possibility of the first horn being true would be to limit God's power. He was in fact able to choose whatever He wanted to make good or evil in our world, but chose according to His divine nature.

The third way is to say that the Christian view of what God is is incorrect. This way we can fully accept the soundness of Russell's argument and still not disprove the existence of God. Just because He is not good does not mean He does not exist. At best it proves that the Bible may not be true and therefore what we think we know about God may also be false. The Bible is in fact where we get the notion that God is good after all. Throwing that out as evidence makes handling this argument exponentially easier. But how would one disprove the Word of God and still preserve God Himself? The concept of free will provides a perfectly reasonable explanation for this:

1. God did not write the Bible himself
2. God instead inspired man to write the Bible
3. God instilled in man Free Will
4. Man had the option to translate the Bible however he would like
5. Therefore it is possible that the exact words of God were not put in, or left in the translations of the Bible that we have, or have had in recorded history.

In order for God to keep man from creating a dirty translation of the Bible, He would have had to suspend man's free will. To eliminate Free Will would be to remove the entire concept of Love and this would violate one of the basic dogmas of the Christian religion, it would not however prove that God does not exist.

Philosophers have been attempting to prove or disprove the existence of God for centuries. Russell is just one of many that have attacked the Christians, or more specifically the Catholic church, but when logical reasoning is applied, no one has been able to refute conclusively that God exists. My analysis of the argument has pointed out a breakdown in Russell's reasoning. This is much the same way that car dealers and politicians attempt to spin the facts of an argument to make their respective opinions seem correct long enough to accomplish the end goal of getting you to do what they want. This is often effective in the short term, but when sufficient time is given to analyze the premises involved, the truth will ultimately make itself evident.
EF_Kevin 8 / 13,321 129  
Apr 16, 2010   #2
I have been asked to provide a counterargument to one of Bertrand Russell's arguments against the existence of God, a task that I humbly accept. I have chosen to discuss This introduction makes you seem like the opposite of humble. Also, the fact that you mention having been asked suggests that you are only doing it because you have been asked, but you do not specify what you really think.

This is also false on the grounds that it confuses what God could do and what God would do. --- wow, good explanation here...

My analysis of the argument has pointed out a breakdown in Russell's reasoning. Instead of this, how about a sentence that lists the main points you made, so th reader will remember.

...one has been able to refute conclusively the assertion that God exists.

Having recently written this, you might enjoy the intro to C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity, because it is all about this same topic. :-)


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