If we do our due diligence and try to consider all the most substantial defenses of God seriously it is evident that inadequacies in the arguments leave them at best able to argue for possibilities, not actualities. There are insurmountable objections to the God positions and arguments. But even if we overlook a host of problems, at most they might show that God possibly exists. Even if we are exceedingly charitable and grant these arguments their preliminary conclusions, they still don’t close the circle—they don’t give us grounds to conclude that God exists. What is frequently happening in these situations is that theists acknowledge difficulties on one topic and expect to be able to overcome those difficulties with a successful argument elsewhere. But when we look at the problems with the whole network of justifications, it becomes clear that there is no actual anchor for the whole tenuous fantasy.
Consider the first cause argument. The universe must have begun to exist, it is argued. And everything that begins to exist must have a cause. Therefore, the universe must have had a cause. Therefore the cause of the universe is God.
Consider design arguments: The universe, or objects in it, exhibit properties that seem to indicate planning, purpose, design, or intent. The best or only explanation for the presence of those properties is that some designer was responsible. Therefore, God designed the universe.
Consider miracles: Many people claim to have witnessed miracles performed by other people who claim to have divine powers. The testimony about those miracles is taken to be evidence that some supernatural event occurred. Therefore God exists.
Consider evil: It’s even more damning that when confronted with the problem of evil as counter-evidence for the existence of God, prestigious philosophers and conscientious believers are reduced by their own admission to arguing that it is possible that there is a God and it is possible that this possible God has a plan (that we don’t understand) that justifies all the gratuitous suffering.
Even if we allow that there was a first cause, or that the universe had a designer, or that miracles occurred, the strongest conclusion we can infer from these arguments is that it is possible that God was responsible. It’s possible that an all powerful, all knowledgeable, and all good being was the first cause, but an argument for a first cause doesn’t require that conclusion. There’s always the powerful alien problem, or the possibility of a lesser divine being, or magic dragons, and so on.
It’s possible that the designer of the universe is the all powerful, all knowledgeable, and morally perfect God of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism, but the design argument doesn’t require that conclusion. At most, the design argument would show that some force with a plan introduced order. Again, that force could be aliens, Allah, a lesser deity, an idiot god, a committee of idiot gods, and so on.
It’s possible that miracles (if they occurred) are authored by God, even though having divine properties are not required to perform them. The force that brought them about might only have enough power or knowledge to do that feat, but is a far lesser being than God.
It’s possible that evolution had some supernatural intervention to help it along, even though an argument for intelligent design doesn’t require an omni-God to be that helper. Aliens, and idiot gods again.
It’s possible that the feelings of a sublime, divine, cosmic supernatural force you’re having are brought about by contact by God, even though we know that contact with God isn’t necessary to induce those feelings. Fasting, sleep deprivation, hallucinatory drugs, and aliens again.
It’s possible that your cognitive faculties are working correctly and the feeling of having veridical access to God is in fact veridical, even though it is not necessary for the feeling to be veridical in order for it to feel like it is. History has shown us over and over again that merely having an intense feeling that you are right is an unreliable guide to when you are.
And it is possible that every single instance of suffering in the history of sentience is actually part of the plan (that we don’t understand) of a possible God. It’s also possible that there is no such plan and no such being.
An important note is that I am not alone in singling out these problems with these arguments. Some of theism’s most accomplished philosophical defenders like Plantinga, Hick, Swinburne, and Van Inwagen acknowledge the short comings of these approaches to the God question.
There is a stunning gap in justification here. In order for a belief in God to be justified for a person, that person needs to have grounds that render the belief likely to be true. It won’t be enough to just sketch out possibilities on every side of the topic: Well, possibly God was the first cause. And possibly God had a reason for tolerating evil. And it is possible that the designer was God. And it is possible that if God designed us, then when our cognitive faculties are functioning properly, we will have a reliable, justified belief that there is a God.
If it is possible that one of the winning lottery numbers tomorrow will be 39, and it is also possible that one will be 7, and another one will possibly be 71, we don’t now have reason to think that the group of numbers: 39, 7, and 71 will probably win the lottery tomorrow.
Theism isn’t reasonable until we have some grounds that make it probable. All of these possibilities added up don’t make theism reasonable.
The believer can’t keep dodging the burden of proof forever. They are writing checks all over town to answer the challenges about these different lines of defense, but there’s no money in the account. If a table has 4 possible legs, we can’t expect it to stand up.