I recently picked up a copy of a new book, The God Argument: The Case Against Religion and For Humanism by A. C. Grayling. In seeing the book, my first thoughts went to the common and tired refrain from many atheists who try to claim that atheism is merely non-belief, that they never make a case for anything, but always express a lack of belief in something. Such a position only holds up briefly, until one considers that the majority of modern popular atheist writers are doing nothing but building a positive case against religion. Grayling’s book is a case in point, but others are easy to come by.
Grayling’s book is yet another attempt to build a case against Christianity. He also uses the same level of poor argumentation that is common to modern atheist writers. Claiming their arguments are based in reason, we actually find more rhetoric and persuasion than logic. For example, we do not get far into the book before we find the claim that “The word ‘god’ is just too vaguely specified.”(p.25) I have heard several atheists claim that the idea of God is vague, imprecise, and even impossible to define. Never having seen a clear explanation for why this is so, I hoped that Grayling’s book would tell me why atheists believe God is not clear. This claim seems to be repeated often in atheist circles, and when I saw Grayling’s book, had hoped I would get a clear explanation by a trained atheist on why they believe such a thing.
However, in support of his claim that God is undefinable, the only support Grayling gives is about two pages of allusion to the problem of evil, not even dealing with the many responses that have been given to it. With this one brief point, Grayling then concludes “These points are intended to indicate the problems with the concept of an omnipotent being, and of a ‘necessary being’. These are phrases that appear to have meaning but on examination turn out to make no sense.” (p.28). Up to this point, Grayling had said nothing about necessary beings, and had made little reference to any issues of omnipotence. Even if we give him the benefit of the doubt that he may have been referring to an assumed issue with God’s power and the existence of evil, certainly Grayling should have at least dealt with the responses that Christians give, answers that adequately resolve God’s power with the existence of evil.
Such is the tone of the book. In the chapter titled Theistic Arguments, one would have expected Grayling to attempt to logically dismantle the Christian apologists’ main arguments, but he does not. The chapter gives a one-sentence description of four arguments for God: the teleological, ontological, vertical cosmological, and moral arguments. Surprisingly, the chapter does not deal with trying to refute these arguments. There is really nothing there at all that tries to explain why the arguments for God might have problems. The entire chapter is a mere seven pages, most of which can only be described as persuasion.
One example will suffice. Of the four arguments for God listed, the only half-hearted refutation is of the ontological argument. Grayling’s case? Since, in the ontological argument, God would have all power, and since other beings have some power, God could not have all of it. (p.70). Such a defense is worse than weak, for Grayling is using an obvious equivocation of the terms — God having unlimited power does not mean all other beings would have none. The rest of the chapter is a persuasive case concerning Grayling’s views of whether God’s attributes are clearly defined, summarizing his case as “Think of trying to get an investor to put money into a scheme which cannot be described or talked about.” (p.71). Even if the chapter were to be about God’s attributes, the pages quote no theologians that supposedly cannot explain God.
Therefore, claiming God cannot be explained is a mere assertion by Grayling, not one he proves. He then uses terms such as “scheme,” an emotion-filled word that is not a logical argument. Such writing is built upon persuasion techniques, not on logic or reason. Failing to deal with the rigorous arguments for the existence of God, then using persuasion techniques, makes atheist writings fail in their attempts at reason, but succeed in evangelizing some readers into their atheist belief system.
An excellent counter-argument from Christians is the book True Reason, by Tom Gilson and Carson Weitnauer. The book is excellent anthology of Christian apologetic responses to to modern atheists, written in a very readable and concise manner. Introducing the collection of works in the book, Gilson explains:
These atheists’ claim to reason, however, is becoming harder and harder to sustain. We who have contributed to this book believe reason is much more a weakness for them than a strength. Their books, articles, and debates are riddled with fallacies, appeals to emotion, and mishandling of evidence. Their claim to reason is often a matter of public relations rather than of competence in reasoned discourse. (p.15)
To those who are persuaded by modern atheist writers such as A. C. Grayling, I would encourage you to pick up a Bible and read it afresh, for it is much more logical and reasonable than you will find in any modern writer.