CHAPTER 3: Doesn’t God need a cause?

[Excerpt from Chapter 3: The Origin of the Universe]

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Other critics of Christianity have argued that God needs a cause for his existence. Agnostic Bertrand Russell writes, “If everything must have a cause, then God must have a cause.”[1] Mills[2] and Dawkins[3] have argued this, as well.

And yet this is a weak objection, because it commits a definitional error. That is, by definition, God is an uncreated and uncaused Being. This question, “Who created God?” is the same as asking, “Why doesn’t a triangle have five sides?” or “Why is a bachelor unmarried?” These things are true by definition. To draw this out, imagine if someone asked: “Who created the uncreated Creator?” When we understand the definition of God, we realize that this question is nonsensical.

Moreover, in 1948, during a debate on the BBC radio, a Christian philosopher asked Bertrand Russell why the universe existed. Russell famously replied, “I should say that the universe is just there, and that’s all.”[4] This “just there” argument was strong enough for atheists back then; they believed the universe existed by necessity. But now, atheists don’t seem to understand how Christians can claim that God is “just there” by necessity in the same way.

In the end, something (or someone) needs to have the attribute of self-existence (or necessary existence); otherwise, nothing would exist. For example, imagine if you needed a loan from a bank. Monday morning, you walk into the bank and ask for $100,000 in cash. Assuming your credit is good, the bank is willing to give you the money. And yet there’s just one problem: they don’t have this much money in their vault. So, in order to give you the loan, your bank decides to borrow the money from a neighboring bank. However, the neighboring bank doesn’t have the cash, either. So, they have to borrow the money from a third bank. But unfortunately for you, the third bank doesn’t have the money either, so they have to borrow from a fourth bank (and so on and so forth).

Now, think about it: if there isn’t a bank with cash in its vault, will you ever get your money? Don’t count on it. An endless string of I.O.U.s won’t work. You need an independently wealthy bank, rather than a chain of dependent banks, which have no money in and of themselves. In the same way, something in reality needs to be self-existent. Either the universe has self-existence, or something beyond the universe does. Otherwise, nothing would exist. Since the universe is not self-existent (it began to exist at the Big Bang), it is logical to assume that something beyond the universe has the attribute of self-existence.

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[1] Russell, Bertrand, and Paul Edwards. Why I Am Not a Christian: and Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1967. 6-7.

[2] Mills writes, “If God created the universe, then who created God?” Mills, David, and Dorion Sagan. Atheist Universe: the Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism. Berkeley, Ca.: Ulysses, 2006. 83.

[3] Dawkins writes, “These arguments… make the entirely unwarranted assumption that God himself is immune to the regress.” Dawkins, Richard. The God Delusion. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2006. 101.

[4] Russell, Bertrand. “A Debate on the Argument from Contingency” Pojman, Louis P. Philosophy: the Quest for Truth. New York: Oxford UP, 2002. 56.