(A Simplified Critique of Popular Religion)
Lee Carter, PhD
*(loo si fer) n. [L. "Bringer of Light." fr. lucis, light +
ferre, to bring.] Satan, as identified with John Milton’s
fictitious rebel archangel who brought enlightenment to
man in the epic poem “Paradise Lost.” See "Prometheus."
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© Copyright, 1977, by Academic Associates. All rights reserved.
Library of Congress Catalog Number 76-55893
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To Satan, that indispensable invention of theists which endows them with
the illusion of theological infallibility.
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
Part One: Arguments for the existence of God
Part Two: Arguments against the existence of God
A "culture" is a body of values, habits and religious assumptions which
individual members of a society hold in common. When a person is
transplanted from one culture to a more advanced one, he undergoes a serious
disturbance called "cultural shock." He cannot function in the new society
because his personality structure is at odds with what is expected of him. In
order to adjust, he must first find out what the unstated assumptions are in his
new environment; then he must reconstruct his personality in conformity with
The university is expected to be the vanguard of cultural change. So the
intellectual community is an advanced culture within the midst of an older one,
developing ideas that will gradually be accepted by the larger community only
after the graduates of that generation attain positions of power.
There is consequently a cultural lag of many decades between the university
and the establishment. With knowledge now increasing at an explosive rate,
the gap between the two cultures becomes ever wider. So when a freshman
enters the university environment, he invariably experiences cultural shock to
some degree. And those from lower socio-economic strata experience the most
severe shock. It is difficult enough for a student to adjust to the university
milieu, but to compound his problems, he finds that when he does revise his
assumptions enough to function within the university, he is then in conflict
with his parents. This is the now-famous "generation gap." Several recent
surveys have shown there is no gap between parents and offspring who have
not attended college. But there is a severe gap between parents and college
students; and the better the student, the wider the gap.
Religious assumptions are the very essence of a culture, because religion
hypothesizes (often without realizing it is only hypothetical) a certain
metaphysical framework by which man conceptualizes his place in the
universe. It is upon this foundation of metaphysical assumptions that all other
behavior rests. Laws, morality, and political, scientific and educational
institutions all rest on these religious assumptions. So when people see the
world from different religious viewpoints, virtually everything they do or say
will be in conflict. This religious conflict is therefore the most basic part of the
Ever since the Reformation, the intellectual community has been rejecting
more and more aspects of Judeo-Christian supernaturalism. And during the
twentieth century, there has been scarcely a famous thinker who admitted to a
belief in the supernatural. Within the intellectual community, therefore,
virtually all thinking for the last 75 years or more has simply begun with the
assumption of a non-theistic universe and then gone on from there, building
ethical systems on the basis of an existential, scientific humanism. Professional
Defenders of The Faith have been the first to admit such to be the case and
have bemoaned it loudly-declaring it as all part of a gigantic Communist
The larger American society is still basically Christian in its assumptions. So
when a freshman discovers that the best professors simply ignore his most
fundamental assumptions, he is at a loss to understand why. Few students
have the courage to ask a professor if he rejects theism altogether; and if a
student did ask, few professors would have the courage to give an honest
answer. In those cases where honest answers have been given, enraged
parents have exerted pressure to have the professor removed from his
position. So it is safer to ignore the issue and let students struggle alone.
As a professor it has been my observation that the conflict between a student's
religious background and twentieth century thought creates much mental
anguish and often accounts for his "inability to understand" many of his
courses. He is afraid to understand them for fear of supernatural retribution. A
vague malaise often continues for years, reducing the student's efficiency as he
flounders about trying to define what his conflicts are and looking for answers.
Eventually I began to realize that distraught students kept having the same
problems with such regularity, that they could all be condensed into a few
basic themes. Usually a conference would begin with the student asking about
something in class. He would vaguely feel that what he learned was somehow
in conflict with his religious assumptions. Then with great effort he would
attempt to formulate some permutation on one or more of the basic
"arguments" presented in Part One.
After analyzing the theological literature I was able to isolate about fourteen
basic arguments in favor of theism. For nearly twenty years I have made
every effort to find additional arguments, but none has been found. Every
sermon and "inspirational" book I have reviewed has simply restated one or
more of these fourteen ideas. Of course they are always elaborated with
anecdotes, parables and poetic language, but when boiled down to essentials,
there are only these primary arguments – which the various ministers usually
think they invented for the first time.
For the convenience of students who want to understand why most
contemporary philosophy begins with the assumption of a non-theistic
universe, and for the convenience of parents who want to understand why
their college offspring reject the religion of their fathers, I have attempted to
systematize the basic theistic arguments and the primary objections to them in
the most succinct and simplified manner possible. Heretofore, it has required
years of study even to find all of the classical arguments and counter-
arguments, much less to understand them. With this book, hopefully, a person
with no more than a high-school education can sit down in one evening and
understand what spokesmen for the counterculture and radical theologians are
talking about when they maintain that "God is dead." Now, when parents
begin their interminable harangues, students can point out that they are merely
re-phrasing the Biblical Argument C, which is answered on page 31, or the
Teleological Argument 1-B, which is answered on page 96, etc. There is no
guarantee that such a device will eliminate all religious conflicts, but it should
reduce the round-robin disputes which go over the same ground again and
again. If the parties are capable of rational discussion at all in this area, the
book will provide a solid base upon which to build new ideas and further
discussion, thus eliminating the necessity for each person to re-invent the
wheel, so to speak. But if either party is determined to repeat the same
arguments over and over like a broken record, simply ignoring the other
person, I have numbered the arguments so the disputants can at least save
their energy by shouting numbers at each other. This may sound flip, but it is
remarkably difficult to argue with a number.
Some supernaturalists will complain that the emphasis of this book is wholly
negative. It is true that the main point is to show why traditional religion is no
longer valid. But let us draw an analogy: In urban renewal it is necessary to
clear the ground of old structures before new ones can go up. It is futile to
build on old and crumbling foundations. In the religious community new
structures are already going up. This book is only an attempt to show those
still living in the old religious structure why the edifice is falling down.
Remodeling is no longer possible. It is now necessary to "clear the ground" so
new structures can be built. I felt there was no book that adequately cleared
this ground for people who were still stumbling over metaphysical refuse. I
leave to more competent hands the task of reconstruction; and for that task
there are already many excellent books. I also hope that upon careful reading
of this book, the positive, humanistic values upon which the criticisms rest will
Lee Carter, PhD
Los Angeles, California, 1977
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|ARGUMENTS FOR THE
EXISTENCE OF GOD
(a) The Bible is the inspired Word of God. We know it is true because it
says so in 2 Tim 3:16, and 2 Pet 1:20
(b) We know it is true because millions of people have believed it, lived,
and died by it
(c) We know it is true because it has survived all these thousands of
(d) We know it is true because every day scientists come closer and
closer to agreeing with everything it says
(e) We know it is true because it is the basis of Christianity, and we
know Christianity is true because it works
(f) And since it is true, God therefore exists
1. Teleological Argument
(a) Nature is orderly. "The planets move in regular orbits, planted seeds grow
uniformly into complex structures, the seasons succeed each other in order.
Everything conforms to pattern, is governed by law. Now this gigantic order of nature
cannot have ordered itself in this way, nor can it have been a huge accident. It
requires the existence of an intelligence responsible for it. The presence of a pattern
or structure necessitates our assuming a designer or architect whose purpose it was to
create this." (Randall and Buchler, Philosophy, an Introduction, College Outline
Series, 1942, p. 161.)
(b) Everything has its purpose in the scheme of nature. Every object in nature could
not have consciously chosen for itself what its function is to be, therefore the
coordinated action of all the various elements of nature proves that they were
designed by a single, universal mind. (Ibid, p. 162)
(c) The Theory of Evolution proves that the world's progressive development is
because of an underlying direction and purpose.
2. A Priori Argument
There are eternal and necessary truths of logic and geometry which presuppose an
eternal intellect. (Liebnitz)
3. Cosmological Argument
"Any event whatever must have had some cause; it is contradictory to say that
anything brings itself into existence. But by the same reasoning, the cause is itself the
effect of some previous cause. Now this chain of causes must have had a beginning.
There must consequently have been a first or ultimate cause, itself uncaused,
responsible for the initiation of the series of events. This series of events is nature,
and the first cause, God." (Randall & Buchler, op. cit., p. 160) In other words, since
the world exists, and scientists say that it is of a definite age, it must have had a
beginning and a creator.
4. Ontological Argument
(a) God, by definition, is perfect. Perfection includes existence. Nothing can be
perfect unless it first exists. (St. Anselm)
(b) Partial degrees of perfection exist, therefore a most perfect must exist. Or since
there are degrees of good, there must be a best: God.
"Among beings there are some more and some less good, true, noble, and the like.
But "more" and "less" are predicated of different things, according as they resemble in
their different ways something which is the maximum, as a thing is said to be hotter
according as it more nearly resembles that which is hottest. There is then, something
which is truest, something best, something noblest, and, consequently, something
which is most being; for those things that are greatest in truth are greatest in being, as
it is written in (Aristotle's) Metaphysics. Now the maximum in any genus is the cause
of all in that genus; as fire, which is the maximum of heat, is the cause of all hot
things as is said in the same book. Therefore there must also be something which is to
all beings the cause of their being, goodness, and every other perfection. And this we
call God." (St. Thomas Aquinas)
(c) I have the idea of God. Nothing can come from nothing. Moreover, cause must
have as much reality as the effect. Effect cannot be greater than the cause. I am
finite, therefore I could not have been the cause of the thought of an infinite being.
Therefore, God was the cause of the thought. (Descartes)
(d) In nature, all things arise from their opposites; from day comes night, from the
lesser the greater, etc. This change continues in a cycle – is reciprocal. For every
action there is an equal and opposite reaction. If it were not so, if all things occurred
in a straight line (one way), soon the cosmos would "run down" and cease to
function. From life arises its opposite, death. And since the cycle must continue, from
death, life must necessarily arise.
5. Argument from Man as a Moral Being
(a) All men have moral and esthetic values. These are things which cannot be seen,
touched, weighed, or otherwise explained in terms of the physical world. Therefore
these values must have been implanted by God. (Kant)
(b) All men desire to be good. Atheists try to destroy religion because even atheists
want men to be good. And they think that atheism is a better religion for making men
good. But if there is no God, why should men have the desire to be good?
(c) If God did not exist, anything would be permissible, and human life would be
"In a blind, brute nature, since all things must ultimately perish, what is done by
human beings would not matter one way or another. Without an absolute supernatural
standard, universal license would prevail." (Randall and Buchler, op. cit.)
Life would not be worth living. But men do have morals; therefore God exists.
6. Argument from Mysticism
There are certain persons who have seen, heard, or otherwise experienced God
directly, through prayer, fasting, isolation, pain, approach of death, pharmacological
7. Argument from Miracles
The Bible relates many miracles. Even today, especially in India and Catholic
countries, miracles are an everyday occurrence. Hindus often report Saints who can
be in several places at once, teleport themselves over vast distances, change the
smells of flowers, be invisible to photographic paper, raise the dead, etc. The shrines
at Lourdes and other Holy Places abound with histories of miraculous cures.
8. Argument from Intuition
Anyone who is truly religious simply "knows" that there is a God. Proofs are not
necessary. Anyone who genuinely loves God, and dedicates his life to serving Him
may not be granted the privilege of actually seeing Him as the Mystics are, but deep
in his heart he "feels" God's continued presence.
9. Argument from Instinct
All peoples of the world believe in some kind of God. They don't all call Him by the
same name, but "what's in a name?" Everyone would not have this instinctive
knowledge if God did not actually exist.
10. Argument from Immortality
Since man is immortal, there had to be a God to create Heaven and Hell for him. And
the following are proofs of immortality:
(a) Life is incomplete: "We have a craving to fulfill ourselves, but the force of events,
and our own limitations, leave us with a sense of frustration and this a future life will
counterbalance." (W. Somerset Maugham, The Summing Up, 1938, Mentor Books,
(b) "If we conceive immortality and if we desire it, does not that indicate that it
exists? Our immortal longings can be understood only by the possibility of their
(c) Evil is not always punished in this life, and goodness is not always rewarded.
Since God is just, we must assume that there is another life in which everyone
receives his just rewards. (Ibid)
(d) "Consciousness cannot be extinguished by death; for the annihilation of
consciousness is inconceivable, since only consciousness can conceive the annihilation
of consciousness." (Ibid)
(e) If God is Love, man must be of value to Him, and it cannot be believed that God
would let perish anything of value to Him. (Ibid)
11. Argument from Faith
Scientists say they cannot really "prove" any of their axioms; they must accept them
on faith. And we see every day the miracles that this faith can produce. Why, then,
should we demand that religious principles be proved? Why shouldn't they also be
accepted on faith?
12. Pascal's Wager
Even if the Christian conception of God cannot be proved, the wise and prudent man
will accept it for the following reasons:
If it is true, and he believes it, he has gained Heaven.
If it is true, and he does not believe it, he goes to Hell.
If it is not true, and he believes that it is, he has lost nothing.
If it is not true, and he believes that it is not, he has gained nothing.
So there is everything to gain and nothing to lose by believing it is true.
13. Argument from ESP
Rigidly controlled scientific experiments in psychic phenomena have now proved
conclusively the existence of some form of survival after death.