There are a handful of famous arguments for the existence of a god. Some have been around for centuries, and new arguments are popping up every day. One such argument is the kalam cosmological argument. A classic which has recently been re-polished and re-popularized, it has withstood the test of time in its field.
The kalam cosmological argument sounds a lot more complex than it really is. There’s not much more to it than a simple, yet flawed, syllogism of three steps. They are:
- Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
- The universe began to exist.
- Therefore, the universe has a cause.
A bit of a stretch as it is, apologists usually stretch it even further to infer that this cause is a personal god who happens to have also revealed himself in whichever holy text it is that the apologist chooses.
In the early days of this argument, that holy text was the Quran. Muslim theologian al-Ghazali is known for his role in shaping the kalam argument in his work The Incoherence of the Philosophers around the year 1000 A.D. “The Philosophers” were Plato and Aristotle, who believed that the universe had existed eternally. Al-Ghazali not only believed that the universe had a cause, but that God is the cause of every event with a cause.
In recent years, the argument has gained a new face: that of Christian apologist William Lane Craig. He published a book named The Kalam Cosmological Argument in 1979 which caused al-Ghazali’s old ideas to resurface. Admittedly, I have not read this book myself, so it’s not quite clear to me how it differs from al-Ghazali’s original proposition. After doing some online research as well as reading Lee Strobel’s interview with Craig in The Case for a Creator, I do know one thing: Craig is very interested in the non-existence of the infinite regress.
Craig repeatedly says, and actually give a coherent argument for, the fact that time itself cannot go in any direction forever. Thus, the universe can’t have existed eternally. In his words, “The idea of an actual infinity is just conceptual; it exists only in our minds. Working within certain rules, mathematicians can deal with infinite quantities and infinite numbers in the conceptual realm. However—and here’s the point—it’s not descriptive of what can happen in the real world” (Strobel 2004).
As the mathematical amateur that I am, this logic seems sound to me. It begins to break down, however, when you consider where Craig is going with it. He uses this logic (indeed, it’s what he is known for) to extrapolate the idea that there must have been some supernatural entity which caused the beginning of the universe and of time. Is his god not infinite? As a matter of fact, is not the everlasting experience of an afterlife in heaven or hell eternal? Why can his god exist infinitely before time did, when an infinite existence is logically impossible, even according to Craig himself?
Asinine as it may sound at first, there’s a reason why you hear the question “Who made God?” from atheists so often, even when theists tend to always have some (however poorly) cobbled together answer ready. It’s the same reason why you’ll probably never stop hearing atheists ask, “Why does a loving God allow evil?” Because we have yet to hear a sufficient answer to these questions.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I don’t understand how the Big Bang happened. All I know is what I’ve read about it from Stephen Hawking. Even if I don’t know what would absolutely satisfy my desire to understand the answers to this big question, I do know that “God did it” does not satisfy, and I don’t think that it ever will.
I’ve seen Occam’s Razor being used by both theists and atheists in order to defend their reasons for believing one argument or explanation over another. The idea that the simplest explanation is probably correct is appealing, and most often it is true. And it is also certainly true that the simplest answers to “Where did the universe come from?” and “Where do we get our morals from?” are “God made it” and “From God.”
But just because the answers are simple does not mean that they’re both correct. In fact, I find that the greatest flaws in both of these explanations are that they are too simple. These questions in both physics and psychology are incomprehensibly complex. Scientists and philosophers have literally been trying to figure both of them out since humans could think symbolically. This would not be the case if “God did it” was the answer. There have been countless times in which religious apologists have accused atheists of being close-minded because we won’t take supernatural explanations as possibilities when trying to answer questions like these, but indeed every venture in so many fields would be unnecessarily cut off if we were to accept the simplest answer just because it was the easiest.