5. Sound Reasoning
I recently heard a recorded debate between the late Christopher Hitchens and Dinesh D’Souza about the existence of God. In this debate, D’Souza said he would not use authority, scripture, or other “transcendental” claims when making his arguments. I was pleased to hear this because debates over ideas which are not based on reason, logic, or evidence are ultimately futile, since the only solid ground we have to stand upon which is intellectually honest, demonstrable to a third-party, and can tell us the truth, is sound, non-contradictory logic and reason, as well as the evidence-based scientific method which screens out bias as much as humanly possible to back up the credibility of a given factual claim. While listening to the arguments for God’s existence proposed by D’Souza, I realized there is yet another factor for how and why people can buy in to religious belief, even when applying “logic” and “reason” to back up their claims. It is a lack of sound reasoning and logic.
Deductive reasoning, which is also known as “top-down” logic can only reach conclusions which are necessarily true if the reasoning is sound. For the reasoning to be sound, the individual premises in deductive reasoning must all be factually correct or must not be logical contradictions. A simple example of sound deductive reasoning is as follows:
- All men are mortal.
- Abraham Lincoln is a man.
- Therefore, Abraham Lincoln is mortal.
In this example, we can easily see why this deductive reasoning is sound. Each of the premises are a fact and are not logical contradictions. All men are in fact, mortal. Abraham Lincoln is in fact, a man. Therefore, Abraham Lincoln is also mortal. Very simple. Nobody could reasonably argue against the conclusion from this sound reasoning because each of the premises are undeniable facts. Let us look at another example.
- Everyone who eats peas is a truck driver.
- David eats peas.
- Therefore, David is a truck driver.
In this example, the first premise is not true, because we know as a matter of fact not everyone who eats peas is a truck driver. (There are lots of little kids who eat peas.) Therefore, the conclusion that David is a truck driver because he eats peas is a non sequitur. It may be true that David is a truck driver, but not based on the unsound reasoning as proposed in the example above.
In listening to D’Souza’s reasoning while debating with Hitchens, I found this same flaw in his logic which consisted of one non sequitur after another, because his premises were not factually correct or were contradictory. It is this exact flaw in logic I have found in virtually all religious apologists’ arguments, even from those apologists who are considered among “the best” such as Lee Strobel and William Lane Craig, who is also known as an analytical philosopher and an excellent debater. Not surprisingly, I found this same reasoning problem with another Christian apologist who tried to argue in vain, point by point, against the sound reasoning of Marshall Brian’s argument why the idea of life after death is not true in Chapter 27 of his “God is Imaginary” website. In response to Brian’s factually correct assertion that the chemical reactions powering a human life are no different from the chemical reactions powering the life of a bacterium, a mosquito, or a chimpanzee, this person simply said, “I really doubt that this is true.” Well, it frankly does not matter what this person believes. What matters is what is actually true. It is a scientific matter of fact that all life forms are the same at the fundamental level of existence because all organisms from the simplest single-celled organisms like a bacterium, to the most complex multicellular organisms like a human being, are composed of one or more cells which contain a variety of molecules that react in different ways to create what we call “life.” When these molecular chemical reactions stop for whatever reason, the organism “dies.” This is true whether we are talking about a simple single-celled organism like a bacterium, or a complex multicellular organism like a human being. Period. There is no arguing this matter of fact, just as there is no arguing any matter of fact, therefore to simply say one does not believe a matter of fact is true is irrelevant. What this person is trying to do is pit his faith against facts, which he cannot do since the only way two sides can be on equal ground is if they are arguing from a factual and non-contradictory perspective. Beliefs and opinions are therefore totally irrelevant, and do not make one’s reasoning sound because the reasoning cannot be sound if the premises are not factually correct or are contradictory, as is the case with this person who tried to argue in vain against Marshall Brian’s point by metaphorically saying, “everyone who eats peas is a truck driver.” It is simply an untrue statement to say “the molecular chemical reactions powering a human being are essentially different from the molecular chemical reactions powering other life forms.” That is why his reasoning is unsound and is therefore not correct.
While facts matter when trying to prove deductive reasoning to be sound, those arguments which are made that are logical contradictions are also unsound and therefore cannot be true by virtue of their self-contradictions alone as stated previously. In cases like this, it is not even necessary to cite scientific evidence or theories to prove a conclusion false. An excellent example of this can be found in the Hitchens/D’Souza debate I mentioned earlier in which D’Souza said what makes Judeo/Christian scripture stand apart from that of other religions is the fact it exclusively claims the universe was created from nothing. He also went on to say we know from scientific evidence there was a “beginning” to the universe with a “big bang,” which D’Souza claimed required a “creator” to set the wheels of creation in motion in order to make something out of nothing. Based on what D’Souza said in this debate with Hitchens in regards to the cosmological argument, the essential points of his unsound reasoning are as follows:
- The universe had a beginning.
- The universe was created from nothing.
- Therefore a “first cause” or an “uncreated” God is required to “create” something out of nothing to “begin” existence since all things which exist require a “creator.”
This is once again a non sequitur because there are a number of problems with his unsound reasoning. The first point is ultimately irrelevant whether or not it is true. After all, the “big bang” which supposedly “began” the universe, may not have been the “only one” in a series of countless “big bangs” and “big crunches” which may have taken place over the course of infinity, resulting in myriad different single “universes” which may have come in and out of existence over the course of infinity. The second point is impossible because it is a logical contradiction and is therefore invalid. Logic dictates that from nothing, only nothing is possible. Something is only possible from something. The third point is a false conclusion because the first two premises are either irrelevant or untrue, and the double standard it demands is invalid because all contradictions and double-standards are false. Period. That is the bottom line, and the reason I do not understand why atheists who debate Christian apologists like D’Souza who posit these logically unsound and therefore impossible claims don’t stop them dead in their tracks by simply rejecting any line of reasoning such as this one which is self-contradictory. It is incredibly easy to clearly demonstrate and prove the logical contradiction of the idea of “something from nothing,” thus invalidating it. Once a debater against apologists like D’Souza prove this fact within seconds, they can then stop discussing the cosmological argument altogether because it has already been disproved, and simply move on to other arguments.
Unfortunately and amazingly however, debaters against these apologists are often their own worst enemies since even many atheists who are otherwise excellent critical thinkers do not see this line of reasoning to be self-contradictory. While I mostly agree with Hitchens’ points and reasoning, and very much enjoy his suave and intellectually assured style of debating, even he did not understand this self-contradiction during the D’Souza debate, buying in and referring to Lawrence M. Krauss’ assertion from his book, “A Universe from Nothing,” which states the universe came “from nothing.” What most theists and atheists fail to see is the fact this idea of “something from nothing” is a logical contradiction and is therefore impossible. If there was a “big bang” to “begin” the universe, then there must have been something before that because a “big bang” obviously requires something which enables it to take place. A “big bang” without something before it is therefore impossible. What is this “something?” It is technically not a thing per say, such as a “separate” and “independent” being or entity like the concept of God, but rather I posit it is the cosmos, or All, which has two aspects – stasis and change, that never began and will never end, as will be explored in more depth in the chapter, “The Principles of Oneness.” The principle of stasis is consciousness, which is a state of equilibrium and stability, and the principle of change “creates” energy and all of its infinite manifestations, including matter. That which exists is not actually “created,” but rather manifests itself as a result of the beginningless and endless interplay of stasis and change which “reorganizes” energy if you will, into countless, distinct, yet impermanent manifestations. Our egos are among these impermanent manifestations, which is why the idea of the “immortal soul” or “permanent self” is not true. These impermanent manifestations “appear” and then “disappear” as distinct forms and are not the product of a separate “supreme-being ego-god” who “creates” something out of nothing. They are instead like unique waves of an ocean which are never separate from the ocean that emerge once from the surface, only to then disappear forever under the surface of the same one ocean.
In the ocean illustration, the ocean represents stasis, ALL, consciousness, and the waves represent change and the product of change. The principles of stasis and change are not a defined entity, being, or ego, and are instead simply aspects of an egoless One, which is not a “being,” an ego, or a god, but ALL. This is not at all the same as the concept of a “supreme-being” ego such as the God of the Judeo-Christian tradition who has specific attributes which define an ego, as stated previously in this book. All does not have these attributes because the cosmos, or All is no thing, no “being,” which means it does not and cannot have anything to do with relativity, time, space, attributes of “selfhood,” or any limits whatsoever like the Judeo-Christian God because there is nothing separate from ALL. All is ALL. To argue that saying “All” was never created is an example of special pleading, or a double standard, just the same as the double standard for an “uncreated” God is incorrect, because special pleading involves separate “things” and/or beings which exist. However, All is not a “thing,” nor a “being” which is therefore relative due to its defined existential nature, but ALL which is not relative and therefore does not exist, but simply IS. This obviously bears no resemblance whatsoever to the God of the Judeo-Christian tradition who has several attributes and characteristics, just the same as any other ego does, which by definition are limits. There is no such thing as an “unlimited being” because in order to be classified as a “being” at all, whatever it is we are speaking of must necessarily be limited since a being must have attributes which define and therefore limit that being in order to be distinct and “separate” from other beings. An “unlimited being” is therefore a contradiction of terms and is therefore false, as stated previously in this book.
If we do not want to contradict ourselves, then as long as we classify something as a being, such as God, we therefore cannot speak of it in terms which would contradict the very definition of what a being is – such as having attributes (limits), being subject to the laws of physics, as well as non-contradictory logic and sound reasoning. Once we engage in special pleading by creating an existential double standard about any type of being whatsoever – whether we say it is a “god,” a “spirit,” a person, a “soul,” an “angel,” or any other type of being – real or imagined who has “special powers” or is not subject to the laws of physics as well as non-contradictory logic and sound reasoning, we then create a contradiction because in order for an existential double standard to exist, the concept of dualism would have to be true – that is, there would have to be two opposite “separate” and “independent” existential “realities,” which logically cannot exist since if this was the case, then one “reality” would cancel out the other, resulting in only nothingness, which is obviously false. Opposites are nothing more than two “sides” of the same one coin, which explains how we can have opposites, while also having something rather than nothing at the same time. Oneness is the only True Reality because it is only in Oneness where there are no “two independent sides” to contradict each other. Furthermore, since all things coexist in dependence on everything else, all is truly One. Therefore, all notions of “individual permanence,” or “individual essence” – the idea we are separate from and independent of everything else, and are “eternal” as an individual form is simply not true. This is not an opinion. It is a logical matter of fact. This matter of fact deals a crushing and devastating blow to our egos, as well as to all dualists such as Christians and Muslims who depend on dualism being reality for their theological and egotistical beliefs to be true. Since dualism is provably false, all theistic and egotistical beliefs which depend on the reality of dualism are provably false as well.
The bottom line is, all beings are egos. Period. It does not matter whether we are talking about human beings, animals, plants, or so-called “spiritual beings.” All beings – all manifested forms and defined entities are egos by definition, and all egos are illusions since all forms are impermanent because All is One. So-called “spiritual beings” is a contradiction of terms and therefore cannot exist because that which is “spiritual” is by definition not of time, and therefore cannot be of space and therefore possess shape, form, and attributes of “selfhood,” since time and space are the same illusion – not separate illusions. The idea of “spiritual beings” is nothing more than a projection of our ego – our self-concept – onto an idealized or demonized version of itself. Since all ego – all beings are illusions, and God is also supposedly a “being” – an ego, then God is also an illusion, just the same as any other being or ego. The sound reasoning which demonstrates this point is as follows:
- All beings are egos
- God is defined as a “being” and is therefore an ego.
- Ego is illusion
- Therefore, God is an illusion.
D’Souza’s unsound reasoning claims that all things which exist require a cause or a “creator.” The problem is, if all things which exist require a cause or a “creator,” and D’Souza claims God is also a being who exists, then sound reasoning demands God also necessarily requires a cause or a “creator.” This renders the idea of a “first cause” or “Creator God” impossible, because it is a contradiction to say all things which exist require a creator, while at the same time say the creator who is also a “thing” which exists does not itself require a creator, which is another example of special pleading. The only view of reality which does not contradict itself is to say there can be no creator whatsoever because the very concept of creation itself – the concept of “something from nothing” is false because what we call “creation” is actually nothing more than an endless cycle of change in which already existing components are reorganized into different forms – not the manifestation of “something from nothing.” The supposed “infinite regression problem” theists often cite to justify why a “first cause” is necessary does not exist because there can be no beginning and no end to the cosmos, or ALL since All is not relative and therefore does not exist, but simply IS. All therefore always is, always was, and always will be. The principles of stasis and change of ALL were never created since they are fundamental, as I posit and will be further explored in the chapter, “The Principles of Oneness.” They have always been and will always be, and therefore have no “cause,” rendering the concept of a “first cause” completely irrelevant.
The reason there was never a “first cause” is because ultimately there is no time and there is no space. Without the concepts of time and space, relativity itself does not exist, rendering all concepts of “beginnings” and “endings,” of “firsts” and “lasts” meaningless. Time and space are the same illusion, and not separate illusions as we discovered earlier, because ego is a form of energy – like a human being, and/or a concept born from this form of energy, which is constantly changing and is therefore impermanent, while “time” is an illusion as well since time is nothing more than the measurement of change upon ego. Because time and space are provably an illusion, then the entire “first cause” argument is ultimately an invalid one. Because all theistic concepts depend on the reality of ego, time, and space, and all concepts of ego, time, and space are provably an illusion, all theistic concepts are therefore also illusions. The fact and the truth of egolessness and therefore timelessness invalidate all theistic concepts automatically. The problem with the idea of a “first cause” is it can only work if we accept special pleading – a self-contradictory double standard that all things require a creator except for the Creator itself. The problem with this proposition, as we have discovered several times before, is the fact that special pleading is a logical fallacy, and all contradictions and double standards are false and are therefore invalid.
William Lane Craig’s version of the cosmological argument is more sophisticated than D’Souza’s, and follows a clever line of reasoning which strictly speaking is in and of itself sound, but is ultimately irrelevant because his deductive reasoning alone does not account for how and why the Judeo-Christian conception of God in particular is this “first cause.” Notice how Craig carefully avoids the logically unsound “something from nothing” argument. Craig’s reasoning is as follows:
- Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
- The universe began to exist.
- Therefore, the universe had a cause
Craig also carefully sidesteps the problem of the “all things require a cause or “creator”” argument by saying “whatever begins to exist has a cause” – and not “whatever exists has a cause.” The latter phrase is an obvious contradiction which D’Souza could not avoid in his unsound reasoning we looked at earlier. Craig’s logic is a clever workaround because his deductive reasoning is again in itself valid. However, his logic reveals the fact he is still trying to defend a special pleading case – a double standard that all things except for God require a creator, which invalidates his argument automatically because again, special pleading is a logical fallacy, and all contradictions and double standards are false. Assuming the universe as we know it probably did have a “beginning” with the “big bang,” I would not argue with Craig the universe had a “cause,” but so what? To say the universe had a cause is a very different thing than to conclude that cause was the God of the Judeo-Christian tradition – something he cannot prove based solely on his logic above. All he has done with his deductive reasoning is prove the universe had a cause. I agree with him. Still, his reasoning does not account for what had to have necessarily come before our specific universe since something cannot come from nothing, nor does his argument prove this “cause” was the God of the Judeo-Christian tradition who is omniscient, omnibenevolent, omnipotent, etc. As Christopher Hitchens use to say, Craig still has all his work ahead of him to prove this “cause” is the God of the Judeo-Christian tradition. Simply proving the universe had a cause does not in any way justify the quantum leap from deism to theism and certainly not a specific version of theism such as that of the Judeo-Christian tradition since this “cause” might not even be a “being” at all, or any kind of “god” to begin with, and neither Craig nor any other theologian or apologist has provided adequate justification for this presupposition. If anyone had, then they would have won a Nobel Prize for proving the existence of God. Simply asserting a position does not demonstrate the fact of the position.
Again, in the bottom line what ultimately invalidates both D’Souza’s and Craig’s cosmological arguments are the ultimate truths of Oneness and timelessness. Both apologists assume time and space are ultimate realities when they are not, as we discovered earlier. While time and space appear to be reality, they are an illusion because what we call “beginnings” and “endings” are only our observations of the change of manifested forms into different forms, and our measurement of this change is what we call “time.” But ultimately it is the same One that is transformed, and not “separate” and “independent” entities, which is why time and space is ultimately an illusion, and why the notion of the existence of a “separate” and “independent” “supreme-being ego-God” is false. The way we know it is the same One which is transformed into countless forms, is exactly the same way we know that many slices from the same one pie do not change the fact it is still one pie from which they originate. The reason why time and space is ultimately an illusion is because all things are dependent on other things for their existence. Only if things had “separate” and “independent” existence could Oneness and timelessness not be true. Since all things coexist in dependence on everything else, All is truly One, inseparable, and timeless.
Also, as we discovered before, the very concept of dualism itself, which is the idea that opposites are “separate” and “independent” realities is a contradiction and is therefore false, because if opposites were “separate” and “independent” realities from each other, than one would cancel out the other, and there would be only nothingness, which is obviously false. That is why all notions of the supposed “separation” and “independence” of the so-called “spiritual world” and the “material world,” of “Heaven” and “Hell,” of “God” and “Satan” are also invalid. All is One. Opposites are not “separate” from and “independent” of each other, but rather different “sides” of the same One coin. This is yet another way we can prove the fact and the truth that Oneness is the only True Reality. Therefore all notions of “separateness” and “individual permanence” is an illusion of appearance and nothing more.
As we also discovered earlier, the only view of reality which does not contradict itself is to say there is no beginning and no end to All, and whether or not our particular universe had a “beginning” or will have an “end” is ultimately irrelevant, because there can never be a “beginning” and an “end” to the cosmos, or All because as we discovered before, All is simply a whole with the two principles of stasis and change that never began and will never end. It is possible our current universe is only one of countless others which have existed over the course of infinity, as stated previously. It is also possible our current universe came into existence from only one of countless “big bangs” which may have taken place over the course of infinity, as also stated previously. This would make sense since the cosmos, All is indeed cyclical, “breathing” if you will, like a wave of “expansion” with a “big bang,” and “contraction” with a “big crunch,” without beginning and without end, because there is no beginning and no end to All and its Oneness. Again, whether or not our universe had a “beginning” or will have an “end” is ultimately irrelevant, and is a distraction from the fact of the self-contradictory, unsound logic of the cosmological argument to begin with. Getting suckered in to putting out all kinds of distracting fires during a debate with a Christian apologist by attempting to cite yet more scientific evidence and theories about the origins of the universe to “prove” one’s point when it is not necessary to do so is to play their game and is a complete waste of time. Apologists count on atheists doing this. All anyone has to do is simply prove the fundamental logical contradiction of the cosmological argument and move on. No scientific evidence or information whatsoever is required to prove this point.
D’Souza also said in this debate that religion deals with other issues and “answers” other questions science does not such as…
- Why are we here?
- Where are we going?
- What is life’s meaning?
- What happens after we die?
His sarcastic answer to how an atheist answers each of these questions was, “Don’t have a clue.” First of all, D’Souza is incorrect in his belief on how an atheist necessarily “answers” these questions. Secondly, he is incorrect in assuming religion provides a “real answer” to these questions.
What happens after we die? When we die, our fate is the same as that of an insect, a bird, or a plant. When we die, our individual ego ceases to exist while our body decays into dust as is the case for all life forms since at the fundamental level of existence, human beings are no different from other life forms, as we discovered earlier. There is no scientific or logically sound basis for us to assume that just because we happen to be at the top of the intellectual food chain there is a “special exception” for human beings who somehow have “souls” and get an “afterlife” while other life forms do not. And when we consider how conveniently these afterlife theories serve our deepest and most primal ego needs for justice, survival, and not being alone, that should be our cue to give pause, think critically, and honestly ask ourselves whether our afterlife theories are actually true, or if they are merely an invention of our own making – a wish-fulfilling expression of our greatest hopes and fears.
Where are we going? We are going nowhere because there is nowhere to go. Why does life have to necessarily “go somewhere” or “progress” towards some “goal?” Why do we assume All must be linear with a “beginning” and an “end,” instead of cyclical without a beginning and an end? Even a casual examination of everyday phenomena shows us the fact All is cyclical as stated previously. The changing seasons, birth and death, precipitation and evaporation, the rotation of the Earth and its orbit around the Sun are only some of countless examples of the cyclical nature of All. In much commentary on human life, it is often said that history tends to repeat itself. This again is an example of the cyclical nature of All. If life was linear and we truly “got better” and “progressed” towards some ultimate “goal,” then humanity as a race would not continue to repeat our mistakes time and time and time again for millennia. While we have evolved over millions of years to become what we are today, and have made perhaps the most mind boggling rapid technological advances in the history of the human race over the past 150 years, that does not necessarily mean we have become “better” as a race. We are still selfish, greedy, lustful, fearful, hopeful, violent, needy, jealous, etc. In many ways, despite our technological advances, we really haven’t changed what we are at the core of our being. The reason we have not changed is because we cannot change the core of what we are since we, like everything else in the universe are a manifestation of the two aspects of oneness – stasis and change. All that we do and all that we are come down to these two fundamental aspects of All.
What is life’s meaning? The meaning of life is what we define it to be. Our values define our life’s meaning and purpose, and can therefore have no “objective” meaning outside what we assign it. D’Souza presupposes that concepts like “meaning,” “purpose,” and “going somewhere” are necessarily objective realities which actually exist independently of our minds, when this cannot be demonstrated to be the case. It is his assumption of these non-falsifiable ideas as facts, which makes his reasoning unsound. While it is true our human brains are wired to look for and invent meaning, intent, purpose and such, that does not necessarily mean these things actually exist outside our minds.
The only one of these four questions the atheist cannot answer because there is no answer to this question is, “Why are we here?” As in the words of the great Yoda, and as we will examine further in an upcoming chapter, “There is no why.” While religion attempts to “answer” these questions such as the four proposed by D’Souza, what he fails to see is the fact that in reality, religion answers nothing. Religion simply invents answers to that for which there are no answers, or to provide more palatable “answers” when the truth is either too painful or too disturbing for our vain and emotionally fragile egos to handle. In doing this, religion satisfies our strong, primal ego needs for closure, comfort, and certainty for those of us who cannot live without an answer or deal with the truth when it hurts. The problem with these “answers” posited by religion however, is they must necessarily be false since they are based on logical fallacies such as special pleading, as well as a self-contradictory and therefore impossible foundational belief in a separate “self,” and with this, belief in a separate ”supreme-being ego-god” to begin with. As for the ultimately meaningless question of “why,” there is never an answer to this question since the “why” of existence is ultimately unknowable, as will be explored in more depth in the upcoming chapter, “The Principles of Oneness.” Only that which is relative has answers. All is not relative, which means it therefore cannot have a knowable “answer” for it, rendering the “why” question meaningless. The other problem with the “why” question is it assumes intent and/or “purpose.” That is the very reason we ask the “why” question – to ascertain the “purpose” of something. As we learned earlier, there is ultimately no knowable objective “reason” or “purpose” for existence itself. It simply is. Any “meaning” and “purpose” we have in our lives is of our own invention as stated previously. That is yet another reason there is no “why,” and yet another reason the “why” question for existence itself is ultimately meaningless. Let us look at another example of sound deductive reasoning we will explore in the next chapter.
- All contradictions and double standards are false.
- All religious beliefs in the supernatural are contradictions and/or double standards.
- All religious beliefs in the supernatural are therefore false.
In this example, it is a logically verifiable matter of fact that all contradictions and double standards are false. It is also a logically verifiable matter of fact that all religious beliefs in the supernatural are contradictions and/or double standards. Therefore, all religious beliefs in the supernatural are false. As we discovered earlier, the deductive reasoning is sound as long as all of the premises are factually correct or are not logical contradictions. When each of the premises are factually correct, the logical conclusion of that deductive reasoning is necessarily a matter of fact. This is how we can be certain as a matter of fact that religious beliefs in the supernatural are necessarily imaginary and false even though we do not have “omniscience” to technically “know” they are false. It is the self-contradictory, unsound logic evident in all religious beliefs in the supernatural which invalidate them automatically. No omniscience or scientific data whatsoever is required to see this fact clearly.
The truth is actually very simple, but we complicate it simply because we cannot accept the truth which is right in front of us. That is why we invent all of these religious theories, concepts, logical fallacies, unsound reasoning, and self-contradictory, logically impossible ideas. They are all nothing more than intellectual “loopholes” and distractions invented for our egos, by our egos, to keep us from facing the truth.