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Atheism v. Theism


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The classic "Does God Exist" debate

I will be arguing for atheism in this debate.


1. Opening arguments only
2. Rebuttals only
3. Defense
4. Closing argument

For the purposes of this debate, the term "God" will be defined broadly as to include the general attributes (ie: omnipotence, omniscience) commonly associated with Judeo-Christian monotheism. That is to say, I am not referring to any specific deity. Hence doctrines such as the incarnation and Trinity are irrelevant to this debate. "Probable" will be defined as being more likely than not.

The time limit between replies is 2-weeks. If special circumstances arise, one side may ask the other to wait out his or her remaining time. If one side explicitly concedes or violates any of these terms, then all seven points will be awarded to the other. By accepting this challenge, you agree to these terms.

The burden of proof is shared.

Round 1
Many thanks to Safalcon7 for accepting this debate. I am looking forward to a lively exchange! In this debate, I will be using two main arguments against the existence of God: 1) The Problem of Evil; and 2) Naturalism is a better model of our universe.
I. Problem of Evil
“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?”– Epicurus x
For the purpose of this debate, I will be defining evil as actions or things that are harmful to the well-being of persons. The Jewish philosopher Maimonides identifies three categories of evil: natural evils such as earthquakes and hurricanes; evil done to others, such as murder and rape; and evil we do to ourselves, such as a smoker developing lung cancer.
Let’s look at his first category of evil. In 2017 a hurricane Maria ravaged through Puerto Rico killing more than 4,000 people [1]. Where was God? Why wouldn’t an all-loving God divert the hurricane to the Atlantic Ocean for it to dissipate? Why did God an all-loving allow thousands of people to be left without power for months? If God truly is all-powerful, then He could have created a world without hurricanes or diverted the hurricane out to the Atlantic Ocean so no-one dies. Another good example is childhood cancer and diseases. All you have to do is walk into a children’s hospital and you can clearly see that there is no God. According to the National Cancer Institute, it is estimated that more than 11,000 children were diagnosed with cancer in 2019 and more than 1,000 innocent children died. Again, I ask where is God?
In the second category of evil, we have evil done to others. In the holocaust, more than 11 million Jews were killed. They were starved, beaten, forced into labor, and died brutal deaths in the gas chambers. Again, where is God? In the words of Israeli Supreme Court justice Halam Cohen, “If there is Auschwitz, there is no God.” [4] In The United States, thousands of children have died in school shootings. In 2012, 27 innocent children and teachers were killed in Newtown [5]; in 1999, 13 innocent children were killed in Columbine [6]; and in 2018, over 18 innocent people were killed in Parkland [7].  If God had the ability to prevent genocide and shootings but chose not to, then he is an accomplice. In law, an accomplice is “A person who knowingly, voluntarily, or intentionally gives assistance to another in (or in some cases fails to prevent another from) the commission of a crime.” [8] If God chose not to intervene, then he certainly is an accomplice.

I will readily concede that the third type of evil is the most justified. If we have free will, then we have the free will to inject harmful substances. We should not be surprised when we face the consequences. However, this evil often kills innocent people. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 30 people die each day in drunk driving accidents [9]. According to the American Lung Association, 2.5 million innocent people died from secondhand smoking between 1964 and 2014 [10]. Again, I ask where is God in this evil?

II. Naturalism is a better model
The scientific method is all about the search for models, creating predictions with those models, and confirming or refuting those models. Naturalism claims that the Universe is entirely self-contained, that only the natural world exists, and this natural world is governed by laws that science can discover. Theism, on the other hand, says that in addition to the natural world, there is God, who is outside this universe, can interact with this universe, and can perform miracles.
I contend that Naturalism is a far better model than Theism, for several reasons:
First, the scope of our universe is best explained under naturalism. In our galaxy alone, there are at least 100 thousand million stars [11], and over 4,000 confirmed exoplanets [12]. Finally, the Hubble space telescope confirmed the existence of over 100 billion galaxies [13]. This is exactly what we would expect under naturalism.

Second, under theism, you would expect the universe to be created to sustain life. However, the universe is a finely-tuned cosmic killing machine. Our very source of light and heat causes cancer, thousands of killer asteroids nearby that could wipe out life, gamma rays, supernovae, and harmful radiation can easily wipe out life. This is best explained under naturalism. 

Third, under naturalism, you would expect the Earth and the universe to be billions of years old to allow sufficient time for life to evolve. Guess what? That's exactly what we observe. 

Fourthly, under naturalism, you would expect various religions to evolve and develop. Under Theism, you would expect that any divine revelation would have useful information like how to cure cancer, the germ theory of disease, and teach us the fundamental nature of our reality. Naturalism wins. 

Finally, under Theism, you would expect to find a way to objectively verify the existence of God, have an objective definition for God and have an objective way of interpreting whatever scripture God gives you.  Once again, naturalism wins. 


 12. 13.

Thank you David for the opening. As a part of the conditions, I will also only open my arguments and save the rebuttals for the next rounds. To defend Theism in this premise I am also willing to provide two arguments as following-


1. The Cosmological Argument: The cosmological argument stands the test of time as it dates back to the period of Aristotle during Neo-Platonism surging through early-Christianity period and medieval Islamic period to the modern era. I will discuss the most reliable aspects that the cosmological argument deals with as follows-

  • In causa (Causality): Causality is the most convincing and scientifically plausible argument for the cosmological approach. Aristotle was the earliest propounder of the argument known as he figured that there must be a reason why the universe exists. Aquinas in his 5 ways stretched the line and made it the most popular by bringing in the discussion of the First Cause and the argument from contingency.  So, even according to naturalists following randomness in existence, something might not have existed instead of existing but it did. This form of existence has been billed as the contingent form of existence of a thing or an object according to Aquinas. And because it stands upon that contingency, it must have a cause- not necessarily another contingent being but probably a non-contingent one proving to be the ultimate causation behind the creation of the universe. But how does he prove that it must be a non-contingent being? Well, following the same theory, since anything could not have existed instead of existing, there must have been a time when nothing ever existed. Therefore, the possibility of conjuring a contingent being out of nothing or another contingent being goes nil and so there must be a Necessary being that has to be there for all the contingent beings to come to life. Because nothing comes out of nothing, this Necessary being is rationally attributed to be the omnipotent God. Interestingly, even if it's regarded that the universe has no beginning, this formulated argument of Aquinas still operates and reasons for an Uncaused Cause behind the universe. There has been a variation of this argument in place by German philosopher Gottfried Leibniz who articulated the "Principle of Sufficient Reason" in the early 1700s. He quotes-     
“There can be found no fact that is true or existent, or any true proposition without there being a sufficient reason for its being so and not otherwise, although we cannot know these reasons in most cases. Why is there something rather than nothing? The sufficient reason […] is found in a substance which […] is a necessary being bearing the reason for its existence within itself.”
  • In Fieri (Becoming): This variant of the cosmological argument retains the basic spirit of the First Cause and states that the First Cause is the ultimate and every single effect afterwards can be rooted back to it. The Leibniz Principle mentioned above is basically an In Fieri argument that explains the First Cause being independent of all the created contingent existence. It often goes with an analogy of a house that asks for a builder to be built in the first place but it holds even after the builder is gone or more like a set of dominoes pushed by an individual [All analogies are flawed; therefore this one is not to be regarded to be something fundamental to my argument]. However, the pure First Cause theory on its own carries the burden over and the Becoming variant just adds to the credibility fitting into the modern understanding.
  • Kalam Cosmological Argument: William Lane Craig has a very strong and one of the most solid cases to present in this regard. According to him,
1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause;
2. The universe had a beginning and
3. So, the universe had a cause.

     Something cannot be derived out of nothing and therefore for the first thing in the universe to begin to exist has to be derived out of something of a unique character. WLC attributes this unique character to no one but God because only He by definition is regarded to be that (Omnipotent, Creator, Eternal, Self-Sufficient). Craig also represents the second claim with Al-Ghazali's proposition that an Actual Infinite which would imply an infinite number of causes and effects; is impossible to achieve. Therefore, the universe not having a beginning would result in an actual infinite which is not possible and so it must have a beginning. And according to his first proof, it then has a legitimate cause to it in the rightful name of God. 

2. The Teleological Fine-Tuning Argument: All the classical Teleological arguments are deemed to be controversial and are vastly based on probabilistic methods. While I don't dismiss any of them, for the sake of transparency and space limits in this debate, I'm taking the modern formulation of causes behind fine-tuned universe of the teleological argument that appeals to a certain bit of cosmological approach.

What we understand of this fine-tuning is that-

“Fine-tuning refers to the surprising precision of nature’s physical constants, and the beginning state of the Universe. To explain the present state of the universe, even the best scientific theories require that the physical constants of nature and the beginning state of the Universe have extremely precise values.”- Biologos
This serious and marvelous precision of natural and physical existence along with the sustenance to provide and maintain biological systems or life advocates for an intelligent design itself. George N. Schlesinger has famously rationalized this idea as "the fine-tuning intuition" through an analogy of random lottery-

If John wins a 1-in-1,000,000,000 lottery game, you would not immediately be tempted to think that John (or someone acting on his behalf) cheated. If, however, John won three consecutive 1-in-1,000 lotteries, you would immediately be tempted to think that John (or someone acting on his behalf) cheated. Schlesinger believes that the intuitive reaction to these two scenarios is epistemically justified. The structure of the latter event is such that it… justifies a belief that intelligent design is the cause… Despite the fact that the probability of winning three consecutive 1-in-1,000 games is exactly the same as the probability of winning one 1-in-1,000,000,000 game, the former event… warrants an inference of intelligent design.
Antony Flew, a former atheist supported this particular postulation of the universe stating that the chances are too slim to be random in case of fine-tuning and therefore he concluded in his work to

"go where the evidence leads."
His reversion to deism has been attributed by him to

“an intelligent being as involved in some way in the design of conditions that would allow life to arise and evolve.”
One has to gather that the randomness is not contained in "any combination" after it has been drawn. Ending up with a setup as we have now is where the fine-tuning cause lies. So, where the science has proven to be a fact that a 5% difference in Big Bang interactions could grow nothing on the earth and have no life to ponder upon, it is safe to conclude that without an intelligent being, the causation of the Big Bang or the beginning of any contingent existence has no evidential basis to account for. In fact, Fred Hoyle rightly remarked in one of his articles that the universe was too early to have collected lives by mere chance of a lottery draw. To assemble the blueprint for developing life in an order that it was conditioned in must have had an intelligent design to accredit to. In his book, Engineering and Science, The Universe: Past and Present Reflections, Hoyle mentions-

"Would you not say to yourself, “Some super-calculating intellect must have designed the properties of the carbon atom, otherwise the chance of my finding such an atom through the blind forces of nature would be utterly minuscule.” Of course you would… A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question." [1]

I, therefore, end my first round opening statements with the two arguments I saw best fitted to the debate spirit. I demand an open mind and a just and impartial consideration from the judges as they progress.



Round 2
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Round 3
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Round 4
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