Dear 1585:

    I am a Christian Apologist.  Have you heard of the term?  If not, a Christian Apologist is someone who attempts to logically provide the reasons for what he/she believes.  I didn't write to try to convince you that the Old Testament stories are correct or anything else about my religion you think is ridiculous.  I just want to establish the foundation of the belief that the existence of God *is necessary* for the existence of the universe (and everything in it).

    First, let's assume that there is no God.  Everything in the universe has the potential to not exist.  If we go back far enough in the history of the universe, there was a time when absolutely nothing existed.  This is the part where I ask: If nothing existed, how did you and I come into existence?  Surely you'll agree with the "out of nothing comes nothing" principle.  If my argument is sound, then you should respond to it.  If my argument does not convince you that God exists, I will be content to be labeled "mildly retarded" as you put it.

    By the way, you may have heard of the Jesus Camp people?  Although I don't have any connection to the group at all, I do feel ashamed of what they do because they carry the Christian label.  They are an absolute embarrassment to my faith.  Also, they're bat-shit insane.  That is all,

                                    --David P.


    I'm glad to hear from you.  It cannot be easy for a Christian to read The 1585, and you must be an incredibly strong person to deal with the things we write.  I adopt the tone I do because I want the people who, as you put it, "embarrass your faith" to know how it feels on the receiving end of rhetorical venom at the levels at which they consistently dispense it, and for what it's worth, I am sorry that people like you get caught in the crossfire.  I believe as strongly as I believe anything that you are mistaken about the existence of God, just as I'm sure you believe I am, but you seem like a nice guy.

    Off the top of my head, my answer is that we are dealing with a causa sui (self-caused thing) in either case.  If you can say there must be a God because the universe can't simply always have existed for no reason, then I can turn that around on you and say that God itself can't simply always have existed for no reason, and therefore must have been created by God's God.  Who in turn must have been created by God's God's God, and so on.  No matter what, there has to be something that was just always there for no reason.

    This brings us to the question of whether it is more likely that spacetime and matter always existed for no reason, OR that a perfect and all-powerful being possessed of both consciousness and intentionality did.  I think the first scenario more likely.  I am not going to claim to understand why there is something instead of nothing (although nothing would also be a thing, in the sense of "a specific state of affairs as opposed to any other one," so I suppose it is just as unlikely that there would have been nothing instead of something—and what would "nothing" even consist of, since even empty space would be the existence of empty space and therefore something, especially now that we know that spacetime is actual *stuff* that *behaves* in certain ways; so what would nothing be?  Spacetime minus the time?  Or plus a different kind of time?  Or plus the thing that there would be instead of time if there were a thing instead of time that we can't name because it doesn't exist because time does instead?  Maybe there is in fact no such thing as nothing), but the fact that I can't explain it doesn't mean there is a God.

    You say, “if we go back far enough in the history of the Universe, there was a time when absolutely nothing existed.”  Is this an article of your faith, or are you under the impression that it is a scientific fact?  Because it absolutely isn’t.  We know that at some point all the matter was compressed into an infinitely dense singularity (i.e., the Big Bang definitely happened—this is a settled matter at this point, courtesy of background microwaves), but not what the deal was before that.  Was there a point when all the stuff just wasn’t there at all?  Did existence happen before and then compress and happen again?  And even I don’t get the relationship of the singularity to the fact that time is actually kind of a substance…  Did time not exist then?  And if it didn’t, then what does “then” mean?  How did something happen after something else if there wasn’t time?  Anyway, if time has always existed at least in its capacity as the possibility of sequentiality, and time is actually stuff, then there most certainly was not “a time when nothing existed.”  Plus, as Sam Harris pointed out to Andrew Sullivan in their blogalogue from a while back, the idea that the Universe is a “closed manifold”—i.e., that like a Mobius strip it simply has no “beginning”—is gaining currency.  I am sure I am garbling this, but you are certainly free to read Hawking’s The Universe in a Nutshell if you’d like the non-garbled version.

    More simply, I’ll remind you that the “First Cause” argument originated with ancient philosophers who were talking not about matter, but about motion—i.e., they theorized that a God must exist who set everything in motion, because otherwise it would be standing still.  This is a great example of something that must have sounded very persuasive to people 2,400 years ago, but that is laughably unpersuasive now.  Even a child now understands that the planets etc. have not been pushed, but that they are all sort of “falling towards one another,” and that there is indeed no center relative to which anything else is “moving” in the sense that we perceive it on earth, where it appears that some things are moving while others are standing still (obviously, I am talking about electromagnetism and gravitation, whereas the motion of living things, constructed machines, thrown objects, etc. is different).  Much later, even Aquinas gives the motion argument equal standing with the matter argument.  And the motion argument is rendered transparently ridiculous by elementary-school level physics.  Eventually, so will the matter one be—to the extent that it even makes sense; but as I have tried to show, our poor understanding of what does or doesn’t count as “stuff” may actually render the question itself uselessly inaccurate.

    Finally, there is the easy-to-forget but very important fact that nothing had to exist.  It happens to be the case that there is three-dimensional spacetime, and as a result of the fact that this is what happened to have happened (plus a bunch of other stuff that happened to have happened), here we are to have a conversation about it.  If it hadn’t, then we wouldn’t be, but it did.  The Universe as we know it didn’t have to exist, life didn’t have to exist, and humans didn’t have to be a result of life existing.  You, of course, must believe that we did—unless you think your God would have been equally cool with governing a bunch of bacteria or whatever, even though ethics are inapplicable to lower life forms, and your belief in God compels you to regard the existence of existence itself as an ethical playing field.   

    Now, perhaps most importantly, I'll remind you that you called yourself specifically a CHRISTIAN apologist, not merely a *theist* one—so why would the existence of something instead of nothing mean specifically that the Christian God exists, as opposed to the Muslim one, the Hindu one, the Mandaean one, the Zoroastrian one, etc. etc.?  The fact that matter exists proves that Jesus of Nazareth rose from the dead after three days?  Please.  And why would there necessarily even be a *God* in the sense of a conscious specific self-aware being, as opposed to, say, the mere existence of certain "divine forces," as in the Buddhist way of looking at things?  And if you're one of those people who doesn’t define God as a specific conscious self-aware being, but instead say "God is Love" or something along those lines, then I'm afraid I have to ask you how "Love" caused the universe to come into being.  If you're leading with the argument that existence requires a designer, then you're pretty much stuck arguing a being who desires X to happen but does not desire Y or Z to happen, and chooses to make P happen but not Q.  If you think it is just a nebulous force that simply behaves in a certain way instead of "choosing" something, more like the Buddhists do, then I would ask you, Why call this force "God?"  Why not just simply call it one of the forces that makes the universe work how it works, like gravity or electromagnetism, and say it is a part of science that we just really, really, really don't understand yet?  In other words, what needs to be true of Thing X for you to say that Thing X is "God/divine" as opposed to "a scientific thing that we just don't get yet?"

    You characterized yourself as “someone who attempts to logically provide the reasons for what he believes.”  This implies that you are a rational person who has dispassionately examined the facts of the case and come to the conclusion that there must be a God, regardless of whether you want there to be one.  And, frankly, I don’t think that this is actually what you have done.  And I say this not because of anything personal to do with you necessarily, but simply because, well… it is impossible.  It is impossible that someone (possessed of sufficient intellectual ability, as you seem to be) could dispassionately examine the facts of the case and come to the conclusion that there is a God.  This is because all—no exaggeration, all—the “facts of the case” point to the conclusion that there is not one, and there is no fact—not one—that is even slightly persuasive to the conclusion that there is one, at least not to someone who is not bending over backwards in an attempt to reach that conclusion.  You are trying to convince yourself that if we had some kind of infinitely logical, disinterested, unbiased Sherlock-Holmes-ass machine, and fed it all the information about existence, the Sherlock Holmes Machine would spit out the answer that there must be a God.  And I don’t think you really believe this.  No-one really can, unless they are quite stupid, and you do not seem to be stupid (I am sure you will respond that Thomas Aquinas and C.S. Lewis were not stupid, and you are correct; they were not stupid—they were lying to themselves, just as you are).  And, as I have already implied, this goes considerably more than double for any specific God (e.g., the Christian one as opposed to any other religion’s).

    I really cannot stress that last point enough: if your position is that there is a deity, period, of any kind, then the odds are already astronomical against your being right; but if your position is that there is a deity in some sense that is specifically Christian (or specifically religion X as opposed to religion Y in any way), then the odds are—what?—astronomical times astronomical against your being right.  I believe it futile for you to continue along this pseudological path, but if you insist on continuing to do so, for your sake I strongly suggest that you drop the Christian and adopt the designation merely of theism apologist. 

    Thanks Again for Writing,

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