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I hear many arguments against religion in general, as well as against particular religions. Most of these arguments fall far short of being devastating; however, every so often I encounter an argument that is short, sweet, and very very strong. I'm interested in hearing/reading more such arguments. In particular, they should be:

  • Terse; for example, less than half a page long each; some might be only a few sentences.
  • Logical; for example, breaking into cases is good.
  • Philosophically careful; even a trained philosopher should have difficulty seeing any flaws in the argument, and the argument should be immune to terse rebuttals.
  • Devastating if correct; the conclusion of the argument should be such that if you accept the argument, then there is no scope for believing in that particular religion anymore (if it argues against a particular religion) or that class of religions (if it argues against a whole class of religions).

Question. I'd like to read, purchase or otherwise have access to a compendium of these kinds of terse-but-devastating attempted refutations of religion(s). Does such a resource exist?

A bit of housekeeping:

  • I originally provided an example of the kind of argument I was looking for, but it was distracting people from the actual question, so I removed it. Therefore, I will not provide readers with any examples of the kind of arguments I'm looking for.

  • On the other hand, will happily add clarification as to what I mean by certain terms such as "religion," so long as I'm provided with a concrete context in which ambiguity in these terms becomes problematic to answering the question.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – stoicfury Feb 18 '15 at 2:30
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I think books are always a good go-to for what you are looking for, although some authors are more terse than others. Sam Harris I would say has the most "straight to the point" writing style, with a dash of wit thrown in as well. His book, Letter to a Christian Nation is about 100 small-sized/large font pages and is probably a good start for what you are looking for. He also wrote The End of Faith which is a bit longer, and goes into a bit more depth. Richard Dawkins is a bit more verbose, but he's also a good source of common arguments against god.

If you are looking for website, the general starting place might be the wikipedia page for this topic: Arguments againstthe existence of God. Mostly they seem to focus on the Abrahamic God, so keep that in mind if you are looking for arguments against religions that might not fall under that umbrella.

There's also a few other website that list some of the major arguments, such as The Secular Web and a user-generated, forum-based verion which can be found at nairaland.com.

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    I really appreciate that your answer makes an effort to focus on the actual question asked. I already feel a little happier. Thank you, and +1. – goblin Feb 18 '15 at 7:56
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+25

The problem with arguing against religion is that everyone's view of god is different. In addition, the most logically sound argument can be (and often is) denied by one not willing to listen (or one suspect of the logic used to arrive at that conclusion).

If you are seeking "devastating" arguments against religion, you must hammer out exactly what kind of attributes the opponent claims their particular brand of god has. Is he an all knowing god? All powerful? Perfectly moral? These are things that can be argued against, but you should not assume that every Christian (for example) is claiming all of these things are true. Not all Christians even believe the Bible is entirely accurate.

An awesome argument against a perfectly moral god falls flat against someone okay with their god not being perfectly moral in the first place.

All that being said, I find a good resource for researching specific religious claims and the refutations thereof to be the Iron Chariot's Wiki. It's run by an Atheist group of out Austin, TX that does a lot of counter-apologetics work.

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    Thanks, the Iron Chariots wiki looks useful (+1). As for not all Christians believing that the Bible is entirely accurate; well, if an all-powerful God has an all-important message for us, and if that message is the bible (a collection of propositions that most Christians agree upon), then he would make sure that it does indeed remain entirely accurate. So in regards to most brands of Christianity, we may assume wlog that the bible is 100% accurate. I think people give up way too easily on these things. – goblin Feb 16 '15 at 19:43
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    I am glad it looks helpful, though I disagree with your claim that you can assume the Bible is 100% accurate "without loss of generality" (I like that phrase, fyi). Evidence based on such assumptions sound nice in isolation, but do not stand up to debate or textual interpretation by a "believer." Disproving a religious passage as being literally true does very little against common, non-literal interpretations (such as midrash, or simply being an artifact of historical culture). – immortal squish Feb 16 '15 at 22:30
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    Which Bible are your referring to? The original Greek or the heavily edited multi reinterpreted English? – Swami Vishwananda Feb 17 '15 at 5:36
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    @goblin: the standard counterargument is that you are making quite a lot of assumptions about how a superior being should act or may act. Most religions consider such phrasings very dangerous; some consider them heretical. Using them in the wrong situation may do far more damage than just letting the religious person be, in peace. – Cort Ammon Feb 17 '15 at 16:57
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    @goblin This isn't the place for a debate --we have chat for that, as you seem to be aware. – Chris Sunami Feb 17 '15 at 17:55
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It's not entirely obvious what you're asking for, because it's not clear what you mean by 'arguments against religion in general'. Are you looking for arguments against religious institutions? Or against the belief systems endorsed by those institutions? Or against a particular religion's conception of God? An argument against one of those isn't necessarily an argument against any of the others.

If you're looking for arguments concerning the existence of God, then the best place to start is the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. You can access it online. Here are some relevant articles:

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ontological-arguments/

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/teleological-arguments/

Note that these are survey articles: they outline the issues and give you a high-level view of the issues. So they may not be as terse as you would like. That said, it is not obvious that terse philosophy is good philosophy. Either way, the above are worth the read.

  • I think that terse refutations are usually the strongest. Think about it mathematically; to refute a conjecture, you only need a single, well-chosen counterexample. You do not need a big, complicated, elaborate theory. But lets just be 100% clear; I'm not claiming that all philosophy should be terse, just that the best refutations, usually are. – goblin Feb 23 '15 at 6:59
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There are no compendia about the refutation of religion(s) since 'religion' is a factual cultural institution present in all human societies. I believe you are referring to the refutation of God(s), in which case I would recommend you Wikipedia.

If you really meant religion(s) as in Catholicism, Judaism, Buddhism, ... then I suggest you Michel Onfray, Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss who refute religion(s) from an atheistic perspective. But then again, they don't refute the existence of religions, they refute their desirability.

FYI the term 'religion' does not necessarily imply the term 'god': there are religions without gods, such as Buddhism.

  • Just out of curiosity, what do you mean by "factual cultural institution"? Do you just mean that it is a fact that religion permeates all human societies, or are you saying something else? – goblin Feb 23 '15 at 6:53
  • Yes, I mean religions have existed as long as humans have and still permeates most human societies (Western countries are less and less religious though). – Ayar ʕʘ̅͜ʘ̅ʔ Feb 23 '15 at 11:45
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You will easily devastate poorly-founded justifications for the existence of God but you will always struggle to devastate arguments such as these.

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    This is a comment, not an answer (it doesn't attempt to answer the question asked, and furthermore it consists of essentially a link to elsewhere, which is a no-no on SE). Also, in case you aren't aware, there exist numerous credible refutations of Aquinas. – Dan Bron Jul 20 '16 at 10:13
  • @DanBron The question asks if there exists a list, it does not ask for a list to be provided. My answer argues that there does not exist a list which will ever satisfy the OP's criteria for refutation of theism, which I think is his intended meaning; although technically many atheists are religiously atheist if we focus on "religious" to mean as a matter of doctrine; or taking something to be true in the absence of proof thereof. Therefore this is the only answer which does indeed answer the question. – samerivertwice Jul 20 '16 at 10:20
  • @RobertFrost, "proof" is far too high of a standard; we never truly have proof of anything. The problem with that definition of "religious" is that every belief is religious according to your proposed definition. – goblin Jul 23 '16 at 6:57
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    @goblin we can easily have proof of God, especially since God is so badly defined. To an omnitheist the existence of God is as straightforward a fact as the existence of the universe. – samerivertwice Jul 26 '16 at 13:59
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    @RobertFrost, I agree. I'm not "personal". By the way, I didn't make an argument. I just explained why I find that kind of talk cringeworthy. If you want to persuade people to engage with your position in a less superficial way, you'll have to find ways of expressing your position that don't make other people cringe inside. Perhaps try starting a blog where you can express a refined version of your position, and then redirect people there. – goblin Aug 2 '16 at 5:38
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I would say apophatic theology does a fairly good job of demolishing fanciful definitions of God upon which some religions base their teachings.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apophatic_theology#Apophatic_description_of_God

Negative theology has a place in the Western Christian tradition as well, although it is definitely much more of a counter-current to the prevailing positive or cataphatic traditions central to Western Christianity. For example, theologians like Meister Eckhart and St. John of the Cross (San Juan de la Cruz), mentioned above, exemplify some aspects of or tendencies towards the apophatic tradition in the West. The medieval work, The Cloud of Unknowing and St. John's Dark Night of the Soul are particularly well known in the West.

There is also some similarity with this in Buddhism, in the Diamond Sutra:

After these words, the venerable Subhûti spoke thus to Bhagavat: 'O Bhagavat, how is this treatise of the Law called, and how can I learn it?' After this, Bhagavat spoke thus to the venerable Subhûti: 'This treatise of the Law, O Subhûti, is called the Pragñâ-pâramitâ (Transcendent wisdom), and you should learn it by that name. And why? Because, O Subhûti, what was preached by the Tathâgata as the Pragñâ-pâramitâ, that was preached by the Tathâgata as no-Pâramitâ. Therefore it is called the Pragñâ-pâramitâ.

'Then, what do you think, O Subhûti, is there anything (dharma) that was preached by the Tathâgata?' Subhûti said: 'Not indeed, O Bhagvat, there is not anything that was preached by the Tathâgata.'

source: http://www.sacred-texts.com/bud/sbe49/sbe4929.htm

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