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Q. What are your reasons for thinking there is no creator?
The first is a general philosophical one, does there need to be a creator in the first place? The Aristotlean chain of reasoning that says everything has to have a cause, up to the First Cause, which must be an uncaused one, is cute logic but may simply be a failure on our part to appreciate the depth of a reality that is really mysterious (from quantum theory to infinities that can be bigger than others). But even assuming there must be a prime cause, why can’t the universe itself be that Uncaused Cause (UC)? Yes, you can flip the card around and pencil in your particular God as the identity of the UC if you like, but that’s just a signal of your own preferences, not an unavoidable logical imperative.
So logically, there could be a creator behind everything, or creators (can’t assume just one), but need not be. Which leads to the next layer of reasoning, if there are particular creators in mind as candidates, how can these be evaluated as to whether they are viable for penciling in on the UC card.
Clearly, the more the universe seems to run on without special intervention, the less there seems for a creator to do. In the old days gods tended to be seen as terribly extrovert, causing earthquakes and lightning, with demons responsible for epilepsy and such, which phenomena have been drawn off the magic spirits list and placed on the modern mechanistic natural phenomena list. The modern ID movement has staked out their own turf on Irreducible Complexity and Specified Complexity, but my awareness of the details of modern biology and paleontology knocks that stuff into a cocked hat.
If I don’t need a designer to account for how multicellular organisms developed, or later mammals, and finally big brained cusses like us who ponder whether there are Uncaused Causes, then an awful lot about the universe seems not to warrant a designer label. The origin of life is still a logically open question here, until scientists actually generate a living organism from the raw materials, but even if that should occur believers can still just recalibrate their argument to contend how clever the designer was to have constructed a universe where matter can self-organize into life. So even the origin of life doesn’t resolve the UC line of reasoning.
The same situation occurs regarding whether our universe is the only one, or whether it is just one of many in a multiverse or even a metaverse composed of many multiverses, and on and on you can go. The UC belief can always just move the card to wherever they want an intervention to take place, and reposition it at leisure should new evidence make it politic to do so. Yet more evidence that the UC argument is an arbitrary philosophical one, not a genuine requirement of the system.
All this is separate from the dreaded theodicy argument, where even if (or especially if) a creator exists, it has to be asked whether the deity in question is refraining from intervening in ways (such as during the Holocaust or the assorted persecutions that have littered human history) that are morally suspect, and therefore whether the deity deserves to be worshipped even if it does exist.
An atheist like me at this point takes a comparative religion approach to arrive at a provisional position on candidate creators. Bertrand Russell used logic like this, but as I came to it independently I don’t have to defer to his authority here. If all creator candidates are taken as representing their religious doctrines, it comes down to the fact that they come from mutually exclusive positions. The creator of traditional Protestant Christianity cannot be the same creator(s) found in Hinduism, or the non-Jesus Allah of Islam, or Native American creators, and so on.
That being the case, there are only two alternatives: either one of the stories is true, or none are. Can’t be more than one, if they are taken as doctrinally distinct. Given the oh-so-human character of these competing stories, the simplest Occam’s Razor solution is that none of them are true. Hence no Creator, or at least none identified by any of the available stories. Of course you can start mushing some of the doctrines together, or whittling off differences to argue for a generic “Judeo-Christian” creator, or some other syncretic faith, but at this point the tail is wagging the god, so to speak, where human reasoning is playing theistic shuffleboard to arrive at something the person already wants to be true.
Now if there is a Creator of All Things that is currently extant (and isn’t it curious that people nowadays tend not to suppose there could have been a creator that subsequently disappeared in a poof of boredom or angst long before we came on the scene) I presume he/she/it/they could read blog postings and maybe could come by for a nice one-on-one chat to clarify things — or do they need bus fare? I’m always ready for this, but not holding my breath on this prospect, sorry.
Jim Downard is a Spokane native (with a sojourn in Southern California back in the early 1960s) who was raised in a secular family, so says had no personal faith to lose.
He’s always been a history and science buff (getting a bachelor’s in the former area at what was then Eastern Washington University in the early 1970s).