I suppose this could fit into the "Religion: The Deuce" thread, or even the "Is Atheism a Rational Stance?" thread. It seemed, however like a separate issue from the Atheism discussion, and a very specific aspect of "Religion" in general. Please merge if this thread is redundant.
A seemingly common claim is that once you have reasoned your way to Monotheism, the step to God of the Old Testament is a small (but significant one). Whether or not this argument is supportable, it seems to implicitly assume that Monotheism has been reasoned to. Clearly, if we use any religious doctrine to reason to monotheism, the step back to the doctrine in the assumption is trivial, so the argument seems to require that monotheism is supportable as the most rational
explanation before any doctrines are examined.
Obviously this isn't new, there are many arguments for monotheism dating back to at least Aristotle. But do these really point to monotheism as the most rational explanation? I suppose the most likely explanation is that I don't understand a crucial step that's not being spelled out in a number of these arguments, hopefully someone here can clarify them for me. I'll address, briefly, my questions on each.
1) Ontological Argument
(Being greater than any other conceivable being) - many famous objections, the most potent to me seeming to be the definition of a maximally great being. Classic example of "maximal mercy" vs "maximal justice". In any situation where a being practices maximal mercy, he is not practicing maximal justice, therefore could practice "more justice" and is therefore not maximal.
2) Cosmological Argument
(Argument for an uncaused cause) - Even if we accept the argument as stated, it appears to be an argument for deism rather than theism and appears to have no preference for mono- rather than poly-. In fact, when applying a posteriori observations of causality (nothing has a single sufficient cause, but a combination of necessary causes) is a stronger argument for polydeism.
3) Teleological Argument
(Argument from design) - Even if we accept the argument as stated, it appears to be an argument for deism rather than theism and appears to have no preference for mono- rather than poly-. Nothing in the argument requires the "designer" to be eternal, regardless of other properties, could have started the process and left. Nothing in the argument requires that the "designer" was singular.
Reference: This page
discusses many of the following from a pro-monotheism stance but fails to address questions I have.
4) Argument from Divine Simplicity
- I'll be honest, I'm not sure I understand this argument at all. It seems to create a new meaning for "Simple" and describes it using terms like "...can only appear to the finite mind as infinitely complex" and "can only be spoken of by analogy." The reference link above rejects this argument and states that many theists do as well, but I don't even seem to understand the premise, can anyone explain how the most complex being in existence can be the simplest?
5) Argument from degree/perfection
- Raises the same questions about defining perfection as the Ontological Argument... a perfect being must be maximally great.
6) Argument for single designer (reference link above: section 4.1) - Summarily: If there were multiple independent creators, we would have things that appear at cross purposes or laws that behave differently in different situations. Newtonian physics vs Relativistic physics seem to demonstrate this conceptually. All sorts of things in nature appear to work at cross purposes as well. If we accept creation, observing war between societies would seem to imply that the societies had distinct creators.
7) Argument from total causality (reference link above: section 4.2) - Presupposes monotheism with "Necessarily, if anything is a god, its creative volition is the necessary and sufficient causal condition of every other concrete object." which defines "if anything as god" as "if there can be only one god". Circular argument. Logical fallacy. Or am I missing something?
8) Argument from omnipotence (reference link above: section 5) - If omnipotence is a property of god, there can't be multiple else one would necessarily be less powerful than the other. Omnipotence requires the same sort of response as the Ontological argument... "an omnipotent being would have the power to possess both maximal mercy and maximal justice". Further, omnipotence isn't required non-doctrinally. Multiple creators could exist with the functional appearance of omnipotence but with the properties that god A can create Alpha, which god B can't undo, and god B can create Beta which god A can't undo. Neither are "more powerful" than the other in the absolute sense. The strongest conclusion I can draw is that omnipotence isn't a property of god.
9) Argument from Total Devotion (reference link above: section 6) - Subset of Argument from Perfection without requiring maximal perfection, just relative perfection. Resolves the apparent paradox, but presupposes that God must be "More perfect than any other being" which is a restatement of monotheism creating another circular argument.
Obviously, some people accept these or a subset of these... so what am I missing that makes these seem "wrong" to me? I've discussed these with theist friends, but starting with a dogmatic belief makes it difficult to come at these discussions with the same assumptions. My questions have yet to be satisfied.