That's not my God

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Skeptics sometimes base their arguments on an attribute or property of God that is assumed for the same of argument. That's not my God is a defensive apologetic response which points out an opponent is using a definition or conception of God that the theist does not share. The apologist essentially accusing the critic of making a straw man argument. In some cases, the apologist may be justified in their defense. In other cases, the apologist may be shifting the goal posts.

"Atheists ridicule magic, miracles and an anthropomorphic God. They remind us that the world is not 6,000 years old, that prayer does not cure cancer, and that there is no heaven or hell. But these are not thoughts. They are self-evident tautologies. These two camps never step outside their narrow intellectual boundaries. The atheists belief they know religions' inadequacies, althoug they have never investigated religious thought. They delight in critiques that are, to any first year seminarian, shallow and stale."

Chris Hedges, I Don't Believe in Atheists
"Simply put: there is no such thing as the God he imagines. It is the flying teapot orbiting a distant planet about which nothing can be said. Such a God doesn’t exist. Nilch. Nada. It’s a nonsense. [1]"

People have a wide variety of beliefs about God. Arguably, Christians disagree with each other on every point of dogma. Confusion and misunderstandings may be avoided by finding out what a specific theist personally believes.

Counter arguments

There are various common ways to redefine God to avoid a skeptics arguments. However, attempting to redefine God often raise other problems and contradictions.

Reducing omniscience

As Stephen Maitzen argues, removing or reducing omniscience does not reduce the responsibility of a being that can intervene in suffering or immoral acts but doesn’t. If this being couldn’t predict the behavior, but still could be aware of it once it began, the responsibility is the same.

If the being is not able to be aware of all suffering, or to intervene in all cases, then what else can’t this God do? Can we be assured of heaven or any brighter future? What good does our acknowledgment of this God accomplish? How does it differ from simply being aware of our planet and fellow beings and working together with them?

Explanation for non-action

If the reason for non-action from God is to teach a lesson, either to an immoral person or for someone who is observing the immoral action or even helping to relieve it, but falling short, that’s actually worse. This makes God more of a moral monster than if I could accept that He has a higher purpose that I can’t comprehend. This is a version of the Divine command theory.

Or as Neale Donald Walsch argued in Conversations with God, God could do anything but he could not experience separation from Himself, so he created the physical universe. We are living out that separation, experiencing all that comes with that separation and slowly finding our way back towards the oneness. It sounds nice until you start thinking about the resulting suffering including millions of horrible tortuous deaths of creatures for millions of years.

Criticism of religion may address common but not universally held beliefs

Critics of religion are sometimes accused of addressing puerile, crude or strawmen arguments for the existence of God. However, criticism may address a widely held belief without necessarily applying to all possible variants of religious belief. To insist that it does is Loki's wager. Theologians and clerics often have more sophisticated beliefs which are not normally addressed by secular apologetics.

"Polls consistently show that around 70-80% of Americans believe in the existence of Heaven, Hell, Satan, and angels. And let’s not even discuss whether the majority of Muslims think of Allah as a “ground of being” rather than as a disembodied ruler who tells them how to behave. [2]"

Of course, when discussing religious beliefs, critics should not simply assume a theist holds a particular interpretation of religion.

Free will

Free will is a common panacea for logical and ethical problems for God. Fundamentalism will offer a very small amount of it and more liberal christians will grant much more. But they can only grant so much. Our free will has to be limited to decisions that are beneath the abilities of God or God becomes unnecessary. But, if God’s knowledge remains so far beyond ours that we can’t understand it, then how do we evaluate it? If we can’t evaluate it, how do we know we are not being led by an evil being? Statements of God being good will always require an a priori statement of its goodness. (Common fallacious arguments involving Begging the question, such as saying "the god of my religion is good because he says so, and he wouldn't lie because he is good", don't count as a reasonable argument; the same goes for ones based on Circular reasoning, such as saying "Scriptures claim to be the word of a perfect god and they really are so, as they cannot tell lies because they are the word of this perfect god, who is proven to exist through these divinely accurate scriptures saying so.")

Decreasing God’s power reduces it to nothing

Either increasing our knowledge of good and evil or reducing God’s knowledge and abilities to the point where we can understand them, to a point where we can be confident that we can make moral judgments opens up the question of the morality of any action. If earthquakes and tornadoes are necessary for creation then God is not all powerful. Either God can command you to sacrifice your children, or you can override that command on moral grounds that you can describe using formal logic.

This is the line. Either we have the ability to determine what is right and how to live our lives, or God has complete power over us. Anything in between is a god that may or may not be getting it right. Above the line, where God’s powers are beyond our knowledge and comprehension, all of the standard arguments apply. Below the line, in a deistic, pantheistic world where God or gods are subject to laws that we can comprehend, or even if god is a race of intelligent super-aliens, arguments are based on a human level of understanding of cause and affect and are essentially no different than an atheist worldview.


External links

Atheism and the Basis of Morality, Stephen Maitzen

How the problem of evil uncloaks Christianity’s total moral bankruptcy, Martin Wagner

v · d Common objections to atheism and counter-apologetics
Personal   Why are you trying to tear down other people's faith? · Why can't everyone just have their own beliefs? · What are your qualifications? · Atheists believe in nothing · You are a communist · Why do atheists inspire such hatred? · That's not my God
Religious   That's not in my Bible · They're not true Christians · You just want to sin · Atheists know there is a God · It takes more faith to disbelieve than it does to believe · God doesn't believe in atheists · Science is a faith · Atheism is a religion · Atheists worship materialism · Hypocrisy of celebrating religious holidays · Atheism is based on faith · Religious belief is beneficial
Science and logic   You can't prove God doesn't exist · Science can't touch god · God can't be defined · So you think we came from nothing / pondsoup / monkeys? · If God didn't create everything, who did? · That might be true for you, but its not true for me · Religion is another way of knowing · Apologetics and dinosaurs