Some people falsely believe that it is impossible to prove the unexistence of anything, but they are wrong. It can, for example, be proved that there is no even prime number greater than two. Other people use to say that there is no way to prove if there is a god or not, or even that we cannot get any knowledge of god (agnosticism). My opinion as a strong atheist, is that we can in fact prove that god does not exist in the physical world. This document is my attempt to do so.
Definition of the word "god"
To prove the non-existence of god we first need to define the word "god". When christians talk about god they mean an almighty being. This, I think, is the only god that holds, since it is the only god that can be logically justified.
I think it makes most sense if god is female, because only women can give life. Something that even people in the Stone Age understood. Later when wars affected the cultural evolution, and men took control of society, god became male, but the female god still lives on in the expression "Mother earth". It should also be pointed out that an omnipotent god must be either androgyne or sexless. However, in most religions god is male so I will refer to god as 'he', 'him' etc.
Some people (Einstein for instance) believe in a god who is not a personal god, but a Spinozan kind of god. I claim that this god is not a god! To say that god is universe - by getting knowledge of the universe we get knowledge of god - is to redefine the meaning of the word god. This has nothing to do with the word god as it was defined by the "primitive" cultures which preceded our present civilization. He can be excluded with Occam's razor, and most important: Such a god does not hear prayers.
If god is not omnipotent there is nothing that prevents him from being a product of the universe. If that is the case, what makes god divine? Then god would only be an alien, a being of matter; probably containing flesh, blood and DNA like all life we know of. Everything god is able to do would be things that human beings also will be able to do, all his knowledge would be knowledge we will also achieve. In fact humans would be gods, which should lead to some strange kind of humanism!
Many people justify their faith with god as an explanation. What is the meaning of life? Where does time and space come from? Who created the physical constants? et cetera. Because we lack knowledge of these things - and maybe never will, since they are questions like "what is the color of a second?" or "how does sound taste?" - god is there as an explanation.
Let's say that god is the meaning of life, what then is the meaning of god? If god has a nature, who created that nature? If god created time and space, how can god exist without it? Since creation is an event in time, how could god create time? and who created god? To answer these questions god must be almighty, or else you can't explain them. In fact you can if you say god stands above time and space and so on (which he indeed does if he is almighty), but to be able to prevent god from being tied to future phenomena, you must give him the quality of omnipotence so he can stand above everything.
The qualities of an omnipotent god
If god is almighty there are several qualities he must have. They are as follows:
He must know everything. Everything that is, everything that has been and everything that will be. To be able to know everything that will be he must know every position and every momentum of every particle in cosmos (Laplace's "World Spirit").
He must be worth our worship. A being that is not worth worshipping is no god.
He must be able to do anything. If there are things that god can't do, he certainly is not omnipotent.
He must be above time. Something that even St. Augustine deduced. But not only that, god must stand above all possible dimensions.
He cannot be 'good' or 'evil' or, indeed, have any subjective characteristica. If god is all good, he cannot do evil things and cannot be almighty. Most people would object and say that good can do evil but chooses not to do it. Well, if god is all good he can't choose to do evil things, can he?
The theodicé problem
We also have the theodice problem, stated by David Hume:
If the evil in the world is intended by god he is not good. If it violates his intentions he is not almighty. God can't be both almighty and good. There are many objections to this, but none that holds since god is ultimately responsible for the existence of evil. Besides, if only god can create he must have created evil. If somebody else (the devil) created evil, how can one know that god, and not Satan created the universe?
Neccesary a god is a being that is worth worshipping, so if there is no being worth worshipping there cannot be a god.
Not any of the existing religions can provide such a god. How do we know if there are no undiscovered beings worthy our submission? Well if there is a being that has either failed or not tried to communicate with us that being is not worth worshipping either, so the ontological evidence against god holds, even without complete knowledge of the world.
There is a test, based on the ontological evidence against god, that you can do to try the existence of god. Pray, and ask god to provide you with a clear proof for his existence within a week. After that week, if you have got a proof that god exists, send me the evidence. If not, there are only three reasons I can think of that are plausible: (1) God does not exist, (2) God does not want to or (3) God can't give you this evidence. Because of the ontological evidence, alternative (2) and (3) are not worth your worship and thus they equal alternative (1). So if you get no response there is no god.
The meaning of the word existence
What do we mean by existence? The very definition for existence is that a thing is said to exist if it relates in some way to some other thing. That is, things exist in relation to each other. For us, that means that something is part of our system ('The known world'). God is defined to be infinite, in which case it is not possible for there to be anything other than god because "infinite" is all-inclusive. But if there is nothing other than god then either god cannot be said to exist for the reason just explained, or god is the known world, in which case, by definition, god is not a god.
Occam's razor was formulated by William of Occam (1285-1349) and says: "Non est ponenda pluralites sive necessitate" or in english: "Do not multiply entities unless necessarily". It is a principle for scientific labour which means that one should use a simple explanation with a few explanatory premises before a more complex one.
Let's say that everything must be created, and that was done by an omnipotent god. A god which stands above time, space, moral and existence, which is self containing and in it self has it's own cause. This entity can surely be replaced by the known world. The world stands above time, space, moral, existence, is self containing and in it has it's own meaning. Most theists agree that god has a nature. Then we must raise the question, who created god's nature? If we just accept that god has a nature and exists without a cause, why not say that the known world just is and that the laws of physics are what they are, without a cause?
God is not really an explanation, only a non-explanation. It is impossible to gain information from non-information so God as an explanation is a dead end. When we have said that the reason for something is that 'god did it that way' there is no way to understand it any further. We just shrug our shoulders and accept things as they are. To explain the unknown by god is only to explain how it happened, not why. If we are to investigate the world and build our views of life from the world, we cannot assume a god. Because adding god as an explanation leaves as many, if not more questions than it explains, god has to be removed with Occam's razor if we are serious in investigating the world.
Some things are impossible to do
There are things that are impossible to do. For example nobody can cover a two-dimensional surface with two-dimensional circles, without making them overlap. It is impossible to add the numbers two and two and get 666. You can not go back in time (without passing an infinite entropy barrier). The number of things that are impossible to do are almost infinite. If god were to be almighty he would be able to do them, but it's impossible to do so.
Some people say that he can only do things that are logically possible to do, but what is? Is it logically possible to walk on water? Is it logically possible to rise from the dead? Is it logically possible to stand above time, space and all other dimensions - and still exist? I'd say that everything which violates the laws of physics are logically impossible and thus omnipotence is logically impossible. Besides if omnipotence is a relative quality there is no way to tell omnipotence from non-omnipotence. For omnipotence to be a valid expression it must be absolute, but we have no objective criteria to measure omnipotence so the word itself is useless.
Omnipotence is impossible due to paradoxes
Another way to disprove the almighty god is that omnipotence leads to paradoxes. Can god make a rock that is too heavy for him to carry? Can god build a wall that even he can't tear down?
Also, if god knows everything, he knows what he will do in the "future" (in any dimension, not necessary the time dimension). He must have known that from the very start of his own existence. Thus god's actions are predestined. God is tied by faith, he has no free will. If god has no free will god is not omnipotent. Another way to put it is that to be able to make plans and decisions one must act over time. If god stands above time he can not do that and has no free will. Indeed, if god stands above all dimensions god is dimensionless - a singularity, nothing, void!
Besides there can exist no free wills at all if god is almighty. If you had a free will, god wouldn't know what you would do tomorrow and wouldn't be omnipotent.
The void creator
If everything must have been created, then god must have been created as well. If god is not created, then everything mustn't have a creator, so why should life or cosmos have one?
Besides this argument has another leap. If everything has a source and god is that source, then god must have existed without it before he created it. So if god created time and space, he must live outside of time and space. Thus he is non-existent. If all life must come from something and that is god, god is not alive and hence non-existent. If moral must come from god, god lacks moral. If logic comes from god, god is illogic. If nature comes from god, god is unnatural. If existence comes from god, god is non-existent. If god is the cause of everything, god is void
We would never notice god
This is not an evidence against god, but rather describes the lack of sense in praying to a god who stands above time.
If god stands above time and created time and space he can not be the first link in a time dependent chain of events. Rather he would affect every step in all chains, and we would only see god in the laws of physics (Davies, 1983, chapter 4). This god is an unnecessary entity to describe the world and should be removed with Occam's razor
If somebody would pray to god and god would listen, the laws would change to achieve the desired result. Thus the world would be different and the prayer would never have been said. Besides god would already (in an "above time" sense of view) know that you would pray, and already have changed the world. Prayers would be totally meaningless. We would already live in the best world possible, and any prayer would be to doubt the wisdom of god.
Even worse: For every prayer said, god has not acted, or else the prayer had been undone. This means that the more people have prayed, the more bad things in the world have persisted. Therefore, the more you pray, the more evil persist (provided god exists and stands above time).
A much better way to change the world is to do it yourself. Then you would know that it was you who made the world better. The effect of prayers are not scientific provable, whilst the effect of actions are. Instead of praying you should set to work at improving your situation. This is what humanism is about.
Nobody really believes in god
Schopenhauer once said something like:
"Man can do anything he wants, but he can not want whatever he wants."
My thesis is that people who claim to believe in god do not really do so. They just wish to believe in god. They somehow feel that their lives are meaningless without god, so they choose to close their eyes to evidence against the existence of god. The christian view is well expressed by Cardinal Ratzinger:
"Religious liberty can not justify freedom for divergence. This freedom does not aim at any freedom relative truth, but concerns the free descicion for a person to, according to his moral inclinations accept the truth." (The times, June 27 1990, p9) [Translated to Swedish in the Swedish version of (Baigenth, Leigh, 1991) and then translated back to english by me]
It's as clear as it can be! For a christian you accept the "truth" according to your moral, and then have to be strong in your faith to keep your believes. You decide a priori what to believe and then try to convince yourself and others that it is true. But theists don't really believe, because to believe something is to take it for true, and just like in Nazareth's song Sold my soul there is no sign of god in the world. When you have the evidence for and against something your sub-conscious works on it and makes a conclusion. The process can't be affected by your will, only delayed or suppressed, which will lead to psychoses, and those are far more common among (catholic) priests than any other group..
I have personal experience of this believing what you want to believe. When I was a child I believed in a lot of crazy things. I thought my stuffed animals were intelligent. I believed in Santa Claus. I thought there were monsters under my bed at night. I even believed in god after I heard some of the tales from the old testament. Then I became older and realized that these things weren't true. When I look back I don't understand how I could believe in them, it must have been that I wanted to do so. (Except for the monsters, which had to do with fear of the dark)
When many religious people are confronted with criticism of their religion they convert to atheism or agnosticism. Examples of people who became critical to the dogmas of christianity are Charles Darwin (Darwin, 1958), Dan Barker (Barker, 19??), Ernest Renan plus many former "Catholic modernists" in the 19th century such as Alfred Loisy and Antonio Fogazzaro (Baigenth, Leigh, 1991). The Catholic modernism evolved in the late 19th century and was banned in 1907 by the Vatican (Baigenth, Leigh, 1991). These people are to me clear evidence that an enlightened person will after considering the facts, reject christianity and other religions that contain deities.
Note: This is not the "Plead to authority" fallacy. I'm talking people here, who were trying to prove the existence of god and turned atheists. They did not want to do this, but had to after reading a lot of books and doing a lot of thinking on the subject.
I have tried to define the only god that can be philosophically justified and show some examples why this god cannot exist. After reading this document you may object and say that god is beyond human understanding and can't be defined in scientific terms. This is the view of agnosticism.
If god is so mysterious, how can we know anything about him? Through the Bible? How do we know that the Bible and not the Koran or the Vedha books, for example, are the words of god? (or the bible if you believe in any of the other two books). Considering the cruelties that have been made in the name of god, how do we know that not all religions are made by Satan?
If there is no way to know this but to trust people who claim they have had "divine experiences" there is no way to tell true from false prophets. One has to give up his free mind and follow the authority of a dictator. Remember also that it is the person making a positive claim who has to prove it.
"I wish to propose for the reader's favourable consideration a doctrine which may, I fear, appear wildly paradoxical and subversive. The doctrine in question is this: that it is undesirable to believe a proposition when there is no ground whatever for supposing it true." -- Bertrand Russell
"We shall not believe anything unless there is reasonable cause to believe that it is true" -- Ingemar Hedenius
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Atheism for Dummies
We must question the story logic of having an all-knowing all-powerful God, who creates faulty Humans, and then blames them for his own mistakes.
- Gene Roddenberry
To surrender to ignorance and call it God has always been premature, and it remains premature today.
- Isaac Asimov
"It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it."
- Albert Einstein
"The church says the earth is flat, but I know that it is round, for I have seen the shadow on the moon, and I have more faith in a shadow than in the church."
- Ferdinand Magellan (1468-1521).
"The divinity of Jesus is made a convenient cover for absurdity."
- John Adams [1735-1826] 2d President of the United States