Not "everything" but "every effect" has a cause

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Parent debateThis argument is used in the debate Does God exist?.
Argument againstThis argument is an objection to Everything has a cause, and God in particular.
Keywords: Cosmological argument, First cause, God[ edit ].



“The favorite argument of the opponents of theism is well known: they accuse theists of using the principle of causality like a "cab". You get in it to get where you want to go (in this case, to the existence of God) and when you've reached your destination, you get out (in this case, you fail to apply the principle of causality to God). From Schopenhauer to Dawkins, Comte-Sponville to Daniel C. Dennet, amateur anti-theists claim that theists rely on the axiom that "everything has a cause", but that by dishonest manipulation, they make an exception for God, once this principle has led them to him. Hence the question that atheists ask mockingly in the belief that they're embarrassing theists: "But who caused God?" The problem is that this presentation of the argument is totally fanciful. Not only has no serious theist ever relied on the principle that "everything has a cause", but any rigorous metaphysician, atheist or theist, must begin by refuting it to clear the ground for his or her research. After all, it's impossible for everything that exists to have a cause. And it is precisely the examination of this impossibility that has led us to recognize the existence of an incausal being. Let's repeat it once again: the first achievement of our philosophical research is very simple, but it's also very robust: it's that an incausal being necessarily exists. On this point, we contend that agreement must be reached among all philosophers, atheist or theist. The only solid principle is that "every effect has a cause", or that "every contingent being has a cause". From there, the real question is whether the universe, for example, is a contingent being, or whether it exists by itself. But the existence of at least one incausal being is beyond doubt. The anti-theists' mischievous question - who caused God? - is therefore totally absurd. Indeed, it boils down to asking: "Who caused the incausal being?" For serious atheists and theists alike, it goes without saying that an incausal being necessarily exists, and that this incausal being, by definition, cannot have a cause. The whole dispute among serious atheists concerns the identification of this incausal being. The really good question is not: "Who caused God?", but: "Why should the incausate being be a transcendent being and not the universe?". Or: "Why shouldn't the universe be God?" The question is no longer whether or not there is an incausal being. The dispute on this point is not between atheists and theists, but between scientists and philosophers.”

Frédéric Guillaud, God exists, p.118-119, Éditions du Cerf, Paris, 2013.


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