Chris: Yeah, that’s right.
Adam: That’s all very well. But then what caused God?
Chris: I’m not entirely sure I understand your question. Can you elaborate a bit?
Adam: Well, take the so-called argument for a personal cause of the universe from the origin of physical reality that believers love to use:
(1) Everything that exists has a cause.
(2) Physical reality exists.
(3) (So) physical reality has a cause.
(4) If physical reality has a cause, physical reality has a personal cause.
(5) (So) physical reality has a personal cause.
Do you see how, if everything that exists has a cause and God exists, God must have a cause?
Chris: Yes, I can see what you mean. But where did you get that argument from, Adam?
Adam: A Christian friend of mine sent it to me just after I became an atheist.
Chris: Ah, I see. There’s something you need to understand, though: no philosopher of religion has ever made that argument. Instead, philosophers of religion tend to formulate arguments for a personal cause of the universe from the origin of physical reality like this:
(6) Everything that comes into existence has a cause.
(7) Physical reality came into existence.
(8) (So) physical reality had a cause.
(9) If physical reality had a cause, physical reality had a personal cause.
(10) (So) physical reality had a personal cause.
Can you see the difference?
Adam: Sure. Okay, let’s run with that argument. It still doesn’t say what caused God.
Chris: No, it doesn’t. But I don’t think it really makes much sense to ask what caused God. After all, God is supposed to be eternal, which means—among other things—that he never came into existence and never will go out of existence. This argument only says that things which come into existence have causes, right?
Adam: Oh, I see. Special pleading strikes again! God can be eternal and physical reality can’t be? Come on! Why not say that physical reality never came into existence rather than that God never came into existence?
Chris: Well, there happen to be good reasons for thinking that physical reality isn’t eternal. There are philosophical arguments and scientific evidences which suggest that physical reality must have come into existence.
The screen fades.
Originally posted on my blog.