Does God exist?

Our recent excursion into the use of rhetoric in defence of the faith, and the subsequent contributions from you, suggests that we should looking at the subject more thoroughly.

In order to do that I have enlisted the help of my friend, who insists on hiding his identity under the nom be blog of Advocatus Diaboli. I should warn you that he probably knows more than most of our opponents about the shortcomings of the Catholic Church. But he has promised to observe the spirit of charity which is a feature of Second Sight.

It will now be up to you to defend or explain the Church. Welcome Advocatus Diaboli.

O O O

Thank you for welcoming me on your Blog. Let me first assure you that I come with goodwill. Some of my best friends, as they say, are Catholics. But I maintain that we all do better when we face up to the facts, and rid ourselves of superstitious habits of mind.  Of course my reasons and evidence for that will become clearer, if I am allowed to write in this Blog again. But I shall start in an area which I hope will not raise too many hackles.

What do we mean when we talk about a fact or a truth? I mean a statement which corresponds to reality. And I can measure this in either of two ways.The first is very simple. It is often called analytical. Thus if I say that bachelors are unmarried men, and that Bill is unmarried – I can conclude with certainty that Bill is a bachelor. What I have done is to apply logic to certain facts and arrive a certain conclusion. In this example the result is trivial but such reasoning can often yield interesting conclusions one might never have expected at the beginning. You can of course attack my argument. For instance you could say that “Bill” might easily be the name of a woman, and so my conclusion does not necessarily follow. That would force me to give a more careful exposition by saying “and that Bill, who is a man, is unmarried”

The second kind of fact is often called empirical. That is simply a statement which can be tested by evidence. If I claim that water boils at 100°C, you can test this with a thermometer. Again, I might be challenged because I have failed to add the phrase “at sea level”. For instance, at 3000m above sea level, water boils at about 91°C. But even that is not right because the crucial factor is not altitude but barometric pressure. While this tends to be lower at higher altitudes the exact level can vary.

So an empirical fact can be measured and refined. We can never be certain that we have it exactly right but each refinement brings us closer and closer to the truth.

But the statement that it is true that God exists comes under neither of these headings. Although many great philosophers have tried to prove the existence of God analytically, they have never succeeded. And no one has even seriously tried to measure the existence of God empirically. The question: “does God exist?” sounds very reasonable until you try to work out how you would test its truth. You will then discover that it has no meaning because there is no way of telling whether the answer is right.

Theists of course claim that their belief gives them certainty that God exists. But all this means is that they have a subjective and unprovable opinion. People have a myriad of different subjective and unprovable opinions – some of them incompatible with the idea of an orthodox God. These opinions can arise from a wide range of motives: upbringing, life experiences, the group of friends they move among, etc. It’s a free world and, as long as it doesn’t affect me, I am happy for them. But objective truth? It doesn’t even get close.

Advocatus Diaboli

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About Quentin

Science Editor, Catholic Herald. Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
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23 Responses to Does God exist?

  1. Horace says:

    First question:-
    What do you mean by ‘God’?

  2. JohnBunting says:

    Ah, objective truth. Freddie Ayer and good old logical positivism.
    “Theists of course claim that their belief gives them certainty that God exists” Well, some of them: the fortunate or deluded ones, according to which side of the fence you are on. But many of us live fairly happily without that much certainty. And don’t we use the word ‘belief’ to refer to things that cannot be conclusively demonstrated, either logically or empirically? I don’t say I ‘believe’ that two plus two equals four; or that Ohm’s Law is true for resistive electric circuits under normal conditions. I know these things are true, beyond reasonable doubt; and I know that religious belief, along with a whole lot of other beliefs, cannot be proved in the same way. One theologian, Paul Tillich, said “Doubt is not the opposite of belief: it is a part of belief”.

    At this point, I have just noticed Horace asking “What do you mean by ‘God’?”; which I was about to touch on myself. As briefly as possible, and trying to stay outside the language of any particular religious tradition, I would say that belief in God is a belief that the natural universe, and all that it contains, is the result of a conscious act of creation, not of blind and unconscious natural forces. And the charge of ‘unprovability’ cuts both ways. The existence of God cannot be proved, but neither can the spontaneous origin of matter, with properties capable of giving rise to a complex process of evolution. With those who think the latter idea is preferable because it is more ‘simple’, I have no quarrel: I can only say that it does not seem so to me.

  3. tim says:

    It is possible to prove the existence of God from reasonable premises.

    The problem is proving the premises.

  4. Pearce says:

    It is true that the existence of God cannot be proved but this cannot “prove” His non-existence, which is what many atheists try to argue. In other words “The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence”! Whether or not God exists (ie something else other than material things) it is not irrational to think so, as A J Ayer seemed to argue. If “Is there a God” a stupid question there are a lot of nutters around. Inventing “memes” to account for this is itself irrational.

  5. James H. says:

    Some pretty succinct responses, so far.

    Sarah de Nordwall, who runs the Catholic Bard School, once said, ‘Every act of knowledge was preceded by an act of faith, even if it’s only of faith in the senses’*. Even empirical facts have to jump the hurdle of the trustworthiness of the source (global warming, anybody?). So underlying everything is a question of trust. If I told you that water boils at 98.2°C in Johannesburg, and you (for the sake of argument) felt existentially challenged by that statement, but were unable to test it, would you believe it? Would you even be willing to test it? Even if I gave you an airline ticket, and said, ‘See you tomorrow’?

    God, if He exists, created space and time. He must therefore be outside it. Any analytical or empirical evidence we might find of Him will necessarily be circumstantial. The only way we could know about Him is by Him telling us about Himself. And we’re back to the question of, Whom do you believe?

    To fly off on a tangent, this is the point of mythology. Telling a story encourages willing suspension of disbelief. Someone who has suspended disbelief is open to persuasion, which may become conversion, which is why the best myths are always those that correspond most closely to the real world, or best explain it. By that definition, modern ideas of evolution and cosmology are contemporary mythology!

    * Can anyone refute this?

  6. st.joseph says:

    St Joseph 20.11.09.

    Does God exist can’t be proven. Only by Faith do we believe.
    The question to ask is ‘Does God not exist’.
    Who can prove that!

  7. Cunctator tardissimus says:

    O advocate diaboli,

    Thank you for putting your case so succinctly and suitably for a constructive debate. I must say, however, that your criteria for truth seem fundamentally insufficient, and I shall try to explain why.

    You say that you take ‘a fact’ or ‘a truth’ to mean a statement which corresponds to reality (and consequentially, I take it, you take truth to mean the aggregate of truths). ‘Reality’, in this context, I assume, is something beyond the merely mental or linguistic, and may also refer to some extra-mental or extra-linguistic entity or state of affairs. If so, your criteria do not provide sufficient justification for any truth claim. That does not mean that I hold your criteria to be false, merely that they need some additional criteria in order to function as intended.

    The analytic criterion cannot be denied completely without seriously jeopardizing an intelligible account of rationality. What leaves this criterion on its own insufficient, however, is that it is purely conditional in elation to extra-mental and extra-lingual conclusions. If the premises are true and the reasoning valid, then the conclusion is also true. Premisses referring to extra-linguistic entities, however, cannot always be recognized as true or false merely on the basis of such analytical reasoning.

    Hence it all comes down to the empirical criterion, which, as we know, has been an important basis for rejections of both religious truth-claims and metaphysical claims more generally. Yet it seems to rely on the truth of something like the following statement: ‘Our senses are capable to provide us with true information about the extra-mental world.’ I must emphasise that I take this statement to be true – my point is that it can not be proven or justified as true under any of the criteria you seek to establish. It is certainly not analytical, but neither does it admit of empirical measurement or validation. In fact, while the statement ‘God exists’ can conceivably be proven empirically if God should choose to reveal himself to our sensual experience (and we should remember that many human beings have reported just such experiences), the statement concerning the reliability of our senses cannot conceivably be proven empirically.

    What seems to me to lack from your account of truth is not a description of what truth is, but how it might be recognized. In other words, you seem to rely on an implicit anthropology of human beings as knowing subjects rather than on an explicit one. Christian, and more specifically Catholic, thought has long since recognized that a workable and intelligible epistemology must rely on an anthropology of human beings as knowing subjects, and such an anthropology has been worked out by the endeavours of centuries of thinkers. This tradition recognizes the fallibility of human minds, in such a way that it does not try to gloss over it in the manner of naive empiricism, nor surrender to it like postmodernism appears to do. Until empiricism is able to account for the human mind as knowing subject in anywhere near as rich detail as the Catholic tradition does, it cannot justify its own truth claims nor defend itself intelligibly from the vacuous claims of postmodernism.

    Yours cautiously,

    Cunctator tardissimus

  8. Superview says:

    I can see a deconstruction epic in the making following the last contributor, whose Latin name I am terrified of mispelling, throwing down the gauntlet.
    So a few quick observations from a safe position in the bushes: two thousand years of history has great possibilities in terms of ‘rich tradition’, but the risk is that you can’t see the wood for the trees. There is simply too much information and no means of managing it. One result is imperfect selection and elimination, with the appeal being to Divine assistance, which, evidentially, is not always demonstrated. Another is a profoundly pessimistic ‘anthropology of human beings’, because we’ve seen it all before and it’s so depressing. The final result of all this history is a risk averse state, so that the institution becomes frozen for centuries in outdated positions.
    For the optomist, which Christians should be, it is a reality that there are many wonderful things in the modern world, never before seen or understood. Criticism of modernism and postmodernism is meaningless unless some other way is found to describe this reality.

  9. Advocatus Diaboli says:

    Thank you for all your comments so far. I find them gratifying because, if I have understood them correctly, you appear to agree with me. That is, you do not offer any hard evidence of belief, confirming my claim that it is arbitrary. You happen to believe in a God who is, I imagine, along the lines described by John Bunting (20th November). But this might just as well be a belief in polytheism, or the Wicked Witch of the West, or a natural force we have yet to establish.
    There also seems to be a confusion about the word “belief” itself. Are you referring to the simple alleged fact that Bunting’s God exists? Or something more?
    I wonder whether Cunctator T. could unpack his last paragraph for me. He appears to be saying that thinkers over the centuries have provided an adequate answer, but then he doesn’t tell me what this is. Is he, perhaps, relating, at least analogically, to Kant’s synthetic a priori propositions?

  10. Cunctator tardissimus says:

    Superview, even an intelligent and knowledgeable person would struggle to make a reasoned and justified appeal to tradition in a brief blog comment – I’m certainly not up to that. But this task has been achieved in what I think is an intelligible and illuminating way – by such people as John Rist, Alasdair MacIntyre and Tracy Rowland among others. There are means to manage this, but they are complex and require thorough arguments. I can try to sum them up (in a later post, Quentin’s rules contain requirement of brevity), but the authors already mentioned does it better than I ever could.

    A.D.: The main point in my ineptly formulated and overly prolix post above was that it is impossible to give hard evidence for what you call hard evidence without at least implicit entailment of statements that under your criteria would be termed meaningless. If belief is the only alternative to hard evidence, then no epistemology can be devised without some element of belief. We can’t demonstrate empirically or analytically that our senses provide sufficient information for reasonable truth-claims about the extra-mental world – we have reason to believe it is so, but if you want to exclude belief you’ll have to give a stronger foundation for your analytical/positivist epistemology than you did in your first post.

    And no, I certainly did not have Kant in mind – I was actually thinking of something like Thomist Aristotelianism. Within this tradition, but not exclusively in this tradition, there exists an epistemological anthropology explaining what sensation and intellection are, how and why human beings are capable of such, and how error is to be explained and limited. Can you give an alternative account based on empiricism?

  11. Pearce says:

    Your reference to the “Wicked witch of the West” reminds me of one of the most frustrating habits of atheists: “I don’t believe in God; neither do I believe in fairies or Father Christmas”. (Aaaaaargh!) If a celestial teapot were discovered floating round Mars I would be surprised but amazed if it transformed my life in the same way that the discovery of God would. (I believe Truth is discovered and not “proved”). Anyway, teapots, fairies and Father Christmas would be material objects in a material universe and it is difficult to understand how they get compared with God in the first place. Surely, not all atheist are idiots.

  12. RMBlaber says:

    Can _advocatus diaboli_ prove that he exists? An existential proposition is clearly not analytical, but nor – if it is self-referential – is it straightforwardly _a posteriori_ synthetic. Does the verb ‘to exist’, in any event, actually add anything to the subject of a sentence? Is it, in other words, a meaningful predicate?
    On the face of it, one would immediately say, ‘yes – what are you talking about, Blaber?’ However, in the predicate calculus, propositions can take the form (?x)(Px) (read: ‘for all x, it is the case that P is true of x’ or (?x)(Px) (read: ‘for some x, it is the case that P is true of x’).
    Suppose the thing we are talking about is a pig – not just any pig, but a blue pig, with pink spots, that flies. So, in predicate calculus terms, we have (?pig)(blue)(pink spots)(flies). Does it add anything to say that this pig does (or does not) exist? No, because to deny its existence, all we have to do is put an operator sign in front of the (?pig), thus: ~(?pig), so that the whole reads:~(?pig)(blue)(pink spots)(flies) (‘there is no pig that is blue, with pink spots, that flies’). To put it another way, in the predicate calculus, existence is not a predicate, but an operation (as is non-existence!).
    When we theists say that ‘God exists’, we are simply affirming or positing the reality to which we believe the name and/or title ‘God’ refers. As to do that is not to state a proposition, as such, we cannot prove what cannot, by itself, possess a truth value. To do that, it would have to say what was meant by the term ‘God’, something which can only be stated analogously or negatively (hence defining God in terms of his infinity, his eternity, his omnipotence, his omnipresence, omniscience, and so on).
    _Advocatus diaboli_ would find himself in exactly the same pickle the late Sir Freddie Ayer found himself in if he stuck to his insistence on the sole meaningfulness of empirical or analytical propositions. On what basis can he assert that only those propositions are meaningful which are empirically or logically provable or disprovable? Is that proposition empirically or logically provable or disprovable? If not, how can it be meaningful, on its own criterion?
    He will have to do much better than that – and he hasn’t even given us his replies to St Anselm’s (or Descartes’) ontological argument, or the Thomist Quinque Viae!

  13. RMBlaber says:

    Alas, the wretched website has refused to reproduce my predicate calculus symbols! If you go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universal_quantifier; and
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Existential_quantification;
    you will see the two symbols (an upside down ‘A’ and a backwards ‘E’ respectively) there.

  14. Trident says:

    A thought occurs to me. I met a new neighbour of mine today. Or, to be precise, I received certain light waves and certain sound waves. And yet I was conscious of actually encountering a human being.
    I find that I cannot account for this by a deductive process in which I inferred that this must be a human being.
    No, it was a perception of another personality in direct relationship to me. What I met was not sound and light waves, although they were necessary elements of mediation.
    Advocatus Diaboli asks what we mean by belief. My best answer is that just as I had to believe, without hard evidence, that I was in relationship with another person so I believe, without hard evidence, that I am in relationship with God.
    If AD shares my experience of personal encounter then he shares my experience of faith. Of course God mediates himself through other, and higher, ways. But essentially it is the same thing.

  15. Ion Zone says:

    That’s what I often think, Trident, though I have never found such a good way of putting it!

  16. Horace says:

    At the beginning of this discussion I asked “What do you mean by ‘God’?”.

    RMBlaber states “something which can only be stated analogously or negatively”.
    James H. is a little more positive “God, if He exists, created space and time”.

    The only trouble with this last is that it is not really different from the atheist position that this is just the way things are, except that we acknowledge – perhaps – the existence of a Creator.

    JohnBunting’s comment is a lot more interesting “I would say that belief in God is a belief that the natural universe, and all that it contains, is the result of a conscious act of creation, not of blind and unconscious natural forces.”

    Now; “a conscious act of creation” implies that there is a MEANING to space and time and life, which is a good deal more believable than the atheist position which, even if it is more ‘simple’, is rather depressing!

    But this word ‘conscious’ is very difficult. The atheist position is that consciousness simply evolved [but even Dawkins is not quite happy; “why this should have happened is, to me, the most profound mystery facing modern biology.”]

    Consciousness is intimately related to memory – at least in the short term – and to ‘free-will’ both of which are dependent on ‘time’ (as also is the idea of an ‘act’). But to make any sense the creator of ‘time’ must be outside of time.

    Consciousness outside of time? “It hath not entered into the heart of man to conceive”?

  17. Cunctator tardissimus says:

    Horace,

    your points are really well made – at least as long as you’re preaching to the converted, as it were. But aren’t we skipping important stages of the debate here, if the purpose of this exercise is that we’re to stand our ground against committed atheists? What what reasonable belief is, what God is, and how, if at all, we can talk about Him, are moot as long as A.D. rejects belief tout court. Shouldn’t we first establish that some form of belief is necessary for any epistemological account, and then move on to discuss to what extent Christian belief is reasonable? If we skip directly to outlining our belief without arguing the case for the inclusion of belief in the first place, we are not engaging in debate with A.D.’s central claim: that any form of belief is arbitrary unless backed up by hard evidence (at which point, of course, it ceases to be belief).

  18. Ion Zone says:

    One thing often said is that not believing in God is scientific, in fact this is a fallacy, for a start it is the polar opposite, and therefor will still affect your judgment, more so, possibly, as people who believe in god cautiously look for evidence, while those who do not, tend to bend or disregard evidence to fit their conclusions, and often don’t even look or check, and have been known to write whole books about the beliefs other faiths on the basis of no research whatsoever.

    There are also hundreds of thousands of things that might influence someones decisions that are not related to religion at all, but these don’t matter, apparently, because, in their eyes it isn’t opinion, but fact, that the world is the way they see it, that religion is always behind every evil (There’s some psychology of hate there). You get the same thing with creationists, which is what they think we are. Of course atheist opinion is fact, so we have to provide contrary evidence constantly and in pedantic detail. It is not enough that we state that creationism is the fault of Protestant archbishop Ussher who ‘worked out’ the age of the Earth in 1650, something that should have stopped at being a theory, they would try to wiggle round that, no, you have to give sources from the beginnings of history, when they cite nothing.

    They will laugh it down, but we must ask them for proof of their misleading false histories. We must demand it. We must demand to know why *they* get to define what ‘religious thinking’ is and means, and what a religion is. We must demand to know why they perpetuate myths about us. We must probe their reasoning and psychology. After all, they encourage each-other to hate religion in a way that is irrational to the point of phobia, they then have the bowls to claim *we* are brainwashed, deluded, conned, pick your insult.

    We may have our own polarizations, but at least we know it.

  19. Ion Zone says:

    We must also stop calling ourselves ‘apologists’. What precisely have we to apologies for?

  20. Ion Zone says:

    (Ironic apologies for sounding a little cold, I was in an irritable mood 😛 )

  21. Superview says:

    I’m grateful to C.T. for referring me to John Rist, Alasdair Macintyre and Tracey Rowland for their work on tradition, not least because it has provided me with more information on the ‘counter-reformation’ within the Church, otherwise known as the reform of the reforms. I have merely scratched the surface of each, but this review of one of Tracey Rowland’s works is particularly revealing:

    http://www.catholic-church.org/ejtyler/catholic_life/RatzingerTheologyTraceyRowland.html

    Amazon should also be delivering Jaroslav Pelikan’s ‘The Vindication of Tradition’ any day now, which should be interesting given this quote from him:

    “Tradition is the living faith of the dead; traditionalism is the dead faith of the living. Tradition lives in conversation with the past, while remembering where we are and when we are and that it is we who have to decide. Traditionalism supposes that nothing should ever be done for the first time, so all that is needed to solve any problem is to arrive at the supposedly unanimous testimony of this homogenized tradition.”

    The more central ‘Does God exist’ discussion is illuminating and frustrating at the same time. If God is God (a saying of our local bishop) he doesn’t need us to defend him or prove his existence. Yet whether God exists is an utterly compelling and noble quest for humanity. It is also a quest undertaken in various ways, from the ordinary person in the street (not only in the pew) to the great minds of the past. Picking up threads here and there within the blog has led me to Socrates, Plato, Aristotle (and a host of other ancient Greeks), Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Thomist Aristotelianism, epistemological anthropology, Neo-Platonists and so on, as well as some modern philosophers, including a post-structuralist hermeneutic philosopher who I quite liked, and resulting in a fog of information and little progress.
    A wise and good man advised that one could really only talk about God with a friend, with whom there was no winning the arguments or defeating the other. So with great cordiality, and in plain language, I ask A.D., if I say ‘There must be a Creator’ do you say ‘There cannot be a Creator’? Let me say I was troubled by the notion that the statement ‘God made everything’ begged the question ‘Who/what made God?’ John Polkinghorn’s response on this is to say that from a philosophical point of view God might or might not exist, but unless you can show that God is logically impossible you cannot meaningfuly ask for an explanation of his existence. Do you agree?

  22. I have no intention of acting as umpire between Advocatus Diaboli and contributors, but I thought it might be useful to note a few points which made an impression on me. So this is a personal reaction and you are, as usual, free to take me to task.
    Horace opened up by asking for a definition of God. This was a wise move because, more often than not, a definition of terms will solve a dispute on its own. Remember Professor Joad and the Brain’s Trust?
    John Bunting came in with a theme which was to reappear in different forms later on. He summed it up for me with the phrase “Ah, objective truth. Freddie Ayer and good old logical positivism.” Logical positivism largely dominated philosophy in the middle of the 20th century. It took precisely the view which AD put forward: that facts are either analytic or empirical or empty of meaning. It had many champions but Freddy Ayer was the one most of us probably knew best. He wrote beautifully and was clearly a likeable man. The logical positivist tradition (which certainly made a big contribution to clarity in philosophy) was refuted by pointing out that to claim that the only truths were the analytical or the empirical was itself neither analytical nor empirical. Professor Ayer did eventual have the courage and integrity to admit that he was unable to prove his position on this issue.
    I am struck by the irony that our very modern secular humanists repeat, almost parrot fashion, a philosophical position which lost any respectability about 50 years ago. They really need to get up to date.
    James H put in a point which is obvious once you see it written down: “God, if He exists, created space and time. He must therefore be outside it.”
    I think most of us scratched our head a little over Cunctator tardissimus’s first contribution, but AD clearly thought, in the light of James H’s view, that Cunctator’s reference was to Kant. (Kant of course used the extensions of space and time as the necessary spectacles through which we can view the world. They are not provable but a necessary condition for knowledge.) I thought that AD had handed a hostage to fortune here, but Cunctator preferred a different tack.
    But further comments began to focus in, effectively I thought, on the difficulty of claiming any knowledge with out a number of “givens”, that is, assumptions which cannot of their nature be proved.
    I could continue. For instance Trident’s description of everyday faith had an impact on me, and defined more closely what we mean by the word “faith”. A neat Tu quoque here. And I enjoyed Pearce’s loss of patience with the Wicked Witch of the West. I think it was Russell who first used the idea of the teapot, but your modern Daw-kin (kin to Dawkins) favours fairies. In truth, though, I think AD did not intend to be trivial but merely to ask that if we do not produce empirical evidence than we can make any claim we wish.
    Interestingly, Superview ends up with a challenge which brings us back to Horace’s first question, and James H’s remark about God being outside the universe he made.
    I would also want to note Ion Zone’s reminder that we are thinking here about refutation, and so we need to consider how these considerations can be forcefully, and in short compass, communicated.
    Did we convince Advocatus Diaboli? I don’t know. I can only tell you that he is a little quieter on the subject than heretofore. But that may be because he is scribbling away, and so I expect we shall hear from him again before long.

  23. Ion Zone says:

    I think I have mentioned this before, but we need to escape quickly from the word-trickery employed by our opponents in these debates, particularly straw doll arguments, a long-time favourite of our opponents.

    A straw doll argument is one where a ludicrous, but seemingly plausible, portrait of our faith is erected for use as an easy target. These need only resemble our beliefs in name and shadow, but are major tripping points. This is because, though that which they argue against bears no relation to the actual thing, they sound plausible to an audience of the like-minded and the non-practising.

    One often used is a comparison to Santa-clause (or faeries or orbital teapots). This is as good as arguing that because elves do not exist, neither do longbows. Fortunately, these are easy to dismiss if you are ready for them, they are ridiculous non-arguments. They are not, though, to be ignored or underestimated, straw doll arguments must be recognised for what they are by the audience and culled with vigour. Though most are very stale, they often come packaged as flashy and memorable quips that become ‘true’ through repetition. They resemble logic, but they are not it.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Straw_man

    The hardest nut is to get atheists to acknowledge that their system lacks firm ethics (often leading to nihilism), as well as their own past wrongdoings. Shattering their illusion of moral high-ground is paramount. The crux of this is to cement the idea that phrases like “For reason\progress\Natural Selection (See the Jokela school shooting)” are valid indicators, not to mention religious purges, etc, and to rubbish the idea that ‘religious thinking’ was to blame for massacres committed by atheists in the explicit, but, again, disputed, name of atheism.

    http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1282/is_4_59/ai_n27165613/

    http://voxday.blogspot.com/2009/01/dispatches-from-clueless-atheist.html

    (Quote from above, sorry if I have linked to this before)

    1. People were slaughtered.
    2. Those people were ruled by atheists.
    3. But those people were not slaughtered in the explicit name of atheism.
    4. Therefore, atheism does not cause slaughter.

    And now for the Marlboro analogy utilizing the same Dawkinsian logic:

    1. People died of cancer.
    2. Those people smoked Marlboros.
    3. But those people did not smoke cigarettes in the explicit name of Marlboro.
    4. Therefore, Marlboros do not cause cancer.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poisoning_the_well

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fallacies

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