A few reasons to reject "God did it"

God did it is more or less the cornerstone of all 'sophisticated' theological arguments. The First Cause arguments, the design arguments, the moral arguments... they all fall back on the same appeal. If it sounds like I'm oversimplifying, well, I'm not. Because the thing about using God as an explanatory mechanism is that nobody has the first clue how God actually does anything. He just, y'know, does. Worse, no one can offer the slightest explanation as to why God does anything. It's just, errr, his 'will'!

For example, we now have the theistic camp firmly split into (coincidentally) a trinity: young-earth creationism, intelligent design, and theistic evolution. The last group is by far the least wrong, and make an effort to show that evolution is compatible with faith. But here's the problem: all you can ever do, even if you fully accept modern science, is retroactively make God fit. You can never tell us before hand why or how God would design anything at all. Which brings me to the first reason to reject God did it:

It doesn't actually explain anything

We never had any theologians telling us that God would have designed evolution by natural selection (and genetic drift). The 'intelligent design' advocates can't actually explain why God would design us with eyes that have a blind spot and with retinas that are upside-down. We never had theologians telling us that God would have, obviously, designed an exponentially expanding universe dominated by dark energy. It may be hard to imagine, but until the last century we didn't even know that 'the universe' consisted of anything beyond our own galaxy. And man were we wrong! But where were the theologians telling us just how small and insignificant we really are?

That's the Achilles's heel of theology: it has no explanatory power whatsoever. All a believer can do is observe the facts that science has illuminated, then retroactively agree that God, of course, would do it precisely that way.

But that's not all. Theology complicates things. As much as believers like to rant against 'materialism' or 'naturalism', postulating theological concepts raises more questions than it answers... and I don't think is really answers any questions at all anyway. That's the other problem with God did it:

It makes things more complicated

I'll give a few examples. First, let's take the 'First Cause' arguments. These arguments require that we
postulate the existence of some kind of 'supernatural causality'. Well, what is that? How does it work? How can we test it, measure it, or observe it? We can't, of course. And the only reason its existence is inferred in the first place is because it's required to make First Cause arguments work! The circularity should be painfully obvious.

Dualism is another example. It requires that we postulate the existence of a 'non-physical' substrate that somehow interacts with the physical brain. But what is it? How, exactly, does it interact with the brain? Everything we know about the brain suggests that consciousness is fully the result of material processes. Sam Harris, in a debate with Rabbi David Wolpe, hit the nail on the head: if we damage one part of the brain, we see very specific loss of function. We can lose our ability to feel empathy, to respond to emotions, to recognize faces, to remember names, to solve math problems, etc. We can lose all the functions that make us who we are. And yet the dualist believes that when the entire brain is damaged in death, our consciousness somehow rises from the brain, presumably with all of our memories and faculties intact.

I'll restate a great quote from TheraminTrees:
"My loyalty is not to naturalism or materialism, as some folks suggest; my loyalty is to systems that demonstrate their claims."

Theology – at least 'natural' theology that attempts to fit God into our understanding of the natural world – can never demonstrate any of its claims. It can't tell us anything we don't already know. All it can do is strain logic in a desperate bid to squeeze God into ever-tighter gaps of our ignorance. If that alone isn't a great reason to be an atheist, I don't know what is. 


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