A rational examination of a Christian apologetics argument: The argument from first cause

The other day I posted a meme that at least one theist did not agree with. What I’d like to draw attention to today is the comments. One person insisted on wanting to have the last word, and one comment I initially brushed off, but that I gave more attention later, was the argument from first cause…

The basic argument seems to go something like this: Everything that happens comes about because of a cause. The first cause for everything in the universe is God. The commenter then stated that knowing this “is obvious” and that because atheists disbelieve it, they “wouldn’t know logic if it slapped them in the face”. Also this is supposedly a posteriori  argument.

But this argument has a number of problems:

  1. It starts with the assumption that everything has a cause. Yes, we humans like there to be causes for everything and we are happy to fabricate causes when we don’t know any, or assume magical causes, but that doesn’t change that this is an assumption. It may be inconvenient to some minds that anything at all may be random and uncaused, but if anything is, the whole argument falls apart. (And of course, many things are uncaused.)
  2. The argument defines a single rule: Everything has a cause. It then breaks its own rule by assuming a first cause, then connects that first cause somehow with God (more on that further on), but the point is, God is somehow exempt from having a cause. That way, the person making the argument does not have to explain what the cause of God is, and simply states that God exists, expecting this to be accepted without evidence.
  3. Most importantly, the argument itself does not explain what the first cause is. How does one go from first cause to God? How does one conclude that this first cause is not only God, but a particular God? The argument itself does not supply any attributes that the supposed first cause will have. How anyone jumps from cause to God is a non sequitur. It does not follow. This whole argument is a smokescreen, a verbose semantic dance around a basic argument from ignorance: We do not know, therefore God.

It is clear to anyone who thinks rationally that for anyone to conclude not only that there is a first cause, and then take a leap of faith to say that this first God happens to be the God that they already believe in, all that’s going on is some post hoc rationalization, an illogical grasping at a way of confirming a belief that the person already has a considerable personal investment in.

There is nothing logical about this argument. It could only be a posteriori argument if it was based on evidence and observation. Insisting that something exists because you assume it to be so is not logical, not in the least. And while it may be a weak philosophical argument, don’t make this stupid argument with anybody and try to pass yourself off as logical or a critical thinker. That’s just fucking stupid.

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About Jerome

I am a senior C# developer in Johannesburg, South Africa. I am also a recovering addict, who spent nearly eight years using methamphetamine. I write on my recovery blog about my lessons learned and sometimes give advice to others who have made similar mistakes, often from my viewpoint as an atheist, and I also write some C# programming articles on my programming blog.
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6 Responses to A rational examination of a Christian apologetics argument: The argument from first cause

  1. very well argued. The “first cause” argument is always trotted out by theists of all types and they all seem to ignore that they all make the same argument for their particular god. When they are asked “how are we to know it is *your* version?”, they go not so strangely silent.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jerome says:

      I hadn’t heard of this argument until the other day. It’s a silly argument, and I should’ve seen the direction it was heading when the first comment capitalized First Cause. It looks like an argument that they have been instructed on making.

      I have no problem with people believing whatever philosophical nonsense they want to believe, but then they shouldn’t come tell me that I am illogical because I don’t also believe the nonsense that they believe – nonsense that flies in the face of all logic. If they want to be philosophers, they can go write their nonsense somewhere else, but don’t argue philosophy against logic.

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      • all of the supposed “logical” arguments for the existence of God or god(s) are just about as silly as first cause. it seems that they only are taken seriously by theists who don’t think too carefully and who desperately need everyone else to be as sloppy as them.

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  2. Yes, that argument is self defeating.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ben says:

    As you pointed out, even if the argument did work, it would only establish that there is a “cause” to the universe’s existence. It says nothing at all about the nature or identity of that cause, so to assume that it must be a deity is unwarranted. Supplementary arguments are needed to establish that the cause possesses a nature and identity consistent with the theist’s concept of god.

    To avoid special pleading, the argument is usually reformulated to state that only things that “begin to exist” require a cause. God did not “begin to exist,” so god does not require a cause. This is the kalam cosmological argument. The problem with this argument, in my view, centres on the meaning of the term “begins to exist.” As I’ve argued on my blog, if the meaning of “begins to exist” changes between the first and second premises, then the argument commits the equivocation fallacy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jerome says:

      Indeed, I tried to avoid pointing out the special pleading (and infinite regression), and focusing too much on how god is exempt from having a beginning, and focused on the non sequitur instead. I anticipated that any theist who responds might try to make their argument seem as valid as the logical one. I avoided even proposing alternative first causes (even the facetious ones I had in mind) because it might leave me to defend a straw man. (Asking who created god could lead to a chicken and egg argument, and I don’t want to go there.)

      Actually I’m happy to have learned about this argument. At least the theist arguing it wasn’t a troll. He/She seemed to genuinely believe it, and furthered the argument by introducing new points. (Trolls tend to repeat the same shit over and over again)

      I quite enjoy when they actually try to argue logically, because with each subsequent point, they must retreat further down that rabbit hole of cognitive dissonance lunacy and state another point that is closer to them defeating their own argument.

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