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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 12, No. 4. May 4th 1949

Reply to an Atheist

page 9

Reply to an Atheist

Dear Swen,

Of course answering you is taking an obvious bait—nay I fear an over obvious one. . . .

To be truthful it is not easy to answer the questions you pose so tortuously especially since the essentials of the problem are ignored. In any such argument it is unusual for either person to concede anything but I shall begin by conceding that the problem is not simple because too many people imagine that it is or should be. It is impossible for anyone to give a full explanation of an infinite problem, for God if He is at all is infinite and our finite minds cannot fully grasp the concept of an Infinite Being.

This is not illogical, although it may be humiliating for Junior Atheists, and yet you would have no shame in admitting that your mind is not as great as that of Einstein. (Yes—I know it may be) When it comes to God, however, you feel differently—that you should fully understand God, be able to explain His works and see no inconsistencies. But why should you? It is inconvenient and dissatisfying but it is also logical that limited minds cannot fully comprehend an Infinite One.

The essence of any arguments about God is not the statement of facts considered inconsistent but a consideration of the proofs of His existence. It is on this basis that I intend to argue with you. I intend to do two things:
1.Comment briefly on your article—which has been done above in part;
2.Postulate two proofs of God's existence.

You must either demolish these proofs or be faced with the illogicality of admitting the proofs and denying them at the same time. The issue is not first what you think God should do and second whether there is a God but just the reverse.

Your Article

You must know that the definition of Christianity you quoted from Oxford (The Christian Faith, doctrines of Christ and His apostles) is convenient but too vague, but why quote it when no use is made of it? It distinguishes Christianity from Buddhism but nothing much else.

Every complete idea in your article is either unproved assertion or ideas conditioned by what you think God should do. On what authority do you assert that "the idea of hell-fire was introduced as a threat and heaven as a bribe"? Who introduced them and when? Is this the authority that leads you to assert that "the Church has imposed taboos on sex, science, amusement, in fact everything"? What do you mean by Church. "Take away this religion" (what religion?) "and let people" (non-Christians—that is Buddhists and other religionists as well?) "act normally" (what exactly do you mean, normally?). What have the taboos you assert were imposed to do with the "natural desire to help ones fellows"—a desire which you state is only fulfilled by burstirig through these taboos? In your philosophy why help human beings at all?

But answers to these questions still avoid the base of the problem and recreate the problem. For a fine example of this type of controversy see "Is Christianity True?" a discussion between C. E. Joad and A. Lunn which is in the College Library (BT 1101. L. 963. I).

Your article works on the same method as Joad's—you question His works but do not disprove His existence. I called you a paper-waster because you made rash statements, you question Christianity and do not bother to examine its credentials and because reasoning is not your method, proof is not your basis and you offer no solutions except advice to act normally ... a term you do not bother to define. Purely destructive people waste paper.

Two Proofs Stated

All of the five traditional proofs of the existence of God depend upon the principle of causality. Therefore, if this can be disproved then these proofs collapse, but the operation of the principle is obvious from common experience. It can be stated thus: Every effect has a cause and every cause has an effect.

Proof I—Proof from Movement

Movement in its strict sense is best defined as the gradual process of becoming. The world for example moves into another place in its orbit, a person moves from one place to another. This definition applies to any change, gradual or instantaneous.

From this definition it is clear that the object must either itself possess power of movement or be moved by another. The series of movers cannot be produced into an infinite number and motion cannot create itself. The cause which does move and has created for example the motion of the earth must itself be perfect and changeless or the problem is set up again. This immutable mover is an eternal Being called God,

Proof II—Argument from Final Causality

It is obvious in everything without intelligence that there is what architects and industrial designers called the ordering of structure to function. All the planning is the adaptation of a means to an end, the end in unintelligent things being hearing or seeing or being green coloured.

Only an intelligence can use means to gain an end, for the end must be known in the first place and the relationship of the means to the end clearly seen. This order we find in things requires a final ultimate cause or the problem is recreated. This final uncreated, uncaused and unplanned Cause is God.

For a fuller setting-out of these proofs see a book in the College Library called simply "God" (BT101: L. 364; G.—p. 37 onwards.)

And that is case for the prosecution and for the defence. Must I bait you too or will the Junior Atheist be content with—

Yours sincerely,