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Sunday, March 31, 2013

Horsemen 1737-1776

In Good Without God: What a Billion Nonreligious People Do Believe, Greg Epstein (2007) presented Darwin, Marx, Nietzsche and Freud as the "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" of their time.  Massimo Pigliucci characterized the Pre-Socratics as a "intellectually wild" bunch in his (2010) book Nonsense on Stilts How to Tell Science from Bunk.

Here are four core arguments against God's existence that have persisted since ancient times. Using these four arguments as an organizing principle, I present for your consideration the Four Enlightenment Horsemen of 1737-1776. These years represent the time when all four were alive, but Voltaire was born in 1694 and Paine lived until 1809.

The argument from evil- If the gods are real, they have a lot of explaining to do. Voltaire saw god as a mythical tyrant.

The argument from inconsistent revelations- Sectarian religions are mutually contradictory and internally inconsistent. Benjamin Franklin found Christianity utterly incoherent.

Lack of empirical evidence- Discovery trumps revelation. This is the skeptical or naturalistic argument. As David Hume observed, reliance on miracles is suspect.

The argument from reasonable nonbelief- If the existence of the gods were self-evident, everyone would believe. The burden of proof is on religion. As Thomas Paine observed, special pleading is not evidence.

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