by William Lane Craig
Are there good arguments for God’s existence? Have the so-called New Atheists shown that the arguments for God are no good?
It’s perhaps something of a surprise that almost none of the so-called New Atheists has anything to say about arguments for God’s existence. Instead, they to tend to focus on the social effects of religion and question whether religious belief is good for society. One might justifiably doubt that the social impact of an idea for good or ill is an adequate measure of its truth, especially when there are reasons being offered to think that the idea in question really is true. Darwinism, for example, has certainly had at least some negative social influences, but that’s hardly grounds for thinking the theory to be false and simply ignoring the biological evidence in its favor.
Perhaps the New Atheists think that the traditional arguments for God’s existence are now passé and so no longer need refutation. If so, they are naïve. Over the last generation there has been a revival of interest among professional philosophers, whose business it is to think about difficult metaphysical questions, in arguments for the existence of God. This resurgence of interest has not escaped the notice of even popular culture. In 1980 Time ran a major story entitled “Modernizing the Case for God,” which described the movement among contemporary philosophers to refurbish the traditional arguments for God’s existence. Time marveled,
In a quiet revolution in thought and argument that hardly anybody could have foreseen only two decades ago, God is making a comeback. Most intriguingly, this is happening not among theologians or ordinary believers, but in the crisp intellectual circles of academic philosophers, where the consensus had long banished the Almighty from fruitful discourse.1
According to the article, the noted American philosopher Roderick Chisholm opined that the reason atheism was so influential in the previous generation is that the brightest philosophers were atheists; but today, he observes, many of the brightest philosophers are theists, using a tough-minded intellectualism in defense of that belief.
The New Atheists are blissfully ignorant of this ongoing revolution in Anglo-American philosophy.2 They are generally out of touch with cutting-edge work in this field. About the only New Atheist to interact with arguments for God’s existence is Richard Dawkins. In his book The God Delusion, which has become an international best-seller, Dawkins examines and offers refutations of many of the most important arguments for God.3 He deserves credit for taking the arguments seriously. But are his refutations cogent? Has Dawkins dealt a fatal blow to the arguments?
Well, let’s look at some of those arguments and see. But before we do, let’s get clear what makes for a “good” argument. An argument is a series of statements (called premises) leading to a conclusion. A sound argument must meet two conditions: (1) it is logically valid (i.e., its conclusion follows from the premises by the rules of logic), and (2) its premises are true. If an argument is sound, then the truth of the conclusion follows necessarily from the premises. But to be a good argument, it’s not enough that an argument be sound. We also need to have some reason to think that the premises are true…
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