2. Nothing can be the cause of its own existence.
3. The universe exists.
Therefore: The universe has a cause of its existence which lies outside the universe.
[From Robin Le Poidevin, Arguing for Atheism: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion (Routledge, 1996), p. 4]
Curious title, that. Imagine a book called Arguing for Conservatism: An Introduction to Political Philosophy. Think Routledge would publish it? Me neither.
But precisely for that reason, some might think that this example too is unrepresentative. The guy’s writing a book to promote atheism, after all, even if (unlike Dennett) he actually knows something about philosophy of religion. So here’s one further example, from a book on logic, a subject one would think is as objective and free of partisanship as is humanly possible:
It’s a natural assumption that nothing happens without an explanation: people don’t get ill for no reason; cars don’t break down without a fault. Everything, then, has a cause. But what could the cause of everything be? Obviously, it can’t be anything physical, like a person; or even something like the Big Bang of cosmology. Such things must themselves have causes. So it must be something metaphysical. God is the obvious candidate.
2. Homosexual acts are a kind of sexual activity.
3. So homosexual acts are good.
Suppose he then went on to point out that this is a terrible argument, that it would justify rape, adultery, child molestation, etc. And suppose further that he also acknowledged that “no-one has defended an argument of precisely this form” but claimed that it was somehow nevertheless a good starting point from which to assess the morality of homosexual acts, giving the impression that everything else actual liberals have ever said about the subject was essentially a desperate attempt to patch up this feeble argument.
I submit that any defender of liberal views about sex would consider this an outrage. And rightly so. But the way a great many philosophers present arguments like the Cosmological Argument is not one whit less outrageous.
And yet generations of philosophers have been formed in their thinking about religion by works taking this sort of dishonest (or at least woefully uninformed) rhetorical approach, not only where the Cosmological Argument is concerned (this is just one example) but also where other arguments for religion are concerned, and where arguments for traditional views about sex are concerned too, for that matter. The result is that lots of people who think they more or less know what the basic arguments are vis-à-vis these subjects know nothing of the kind. And as one of their number likes to say, the less they know, the less they know it.