Cosmic Genesis And Grousing Of Religious Atheists


Michael Palmer’s The Atheist’s Creed records the first article of faith, which characterizes what I call religious atheism, namely “I BELIEVE THAT the cosmos is all that is or ever was and ever will be.”(Palmer 2012:5, emphasis in original), which is contrary to modern cosmology. I recommend reading the first part: Cosmic Beginning And Grousing Of Religious Atheists, before reading its second.

In The Beginning And Religious Atheists’ Fear

Religious atheists’ fear, as echoed in Steven Hawking’s prerecorded speech played on his 70th birthday, is that “[a] point of creation would be a place where science broke down. One would have to appeal to religion and the hand of God.” (Grossman 2012: 6).

Hawking noticed long ago that the notion of space-time forming a closed surface without boundary “has profound implications for the role of God in the affairs of the universe.” He contended,

So long as the universe had a beginning, we could suppose it had a creator. But if the universe is really completely self-contained, having no boundary or edge, it would have neither beginning nor end. What place, then, for a creator? (Hawking 1988: 140-141)

John Gribbin properly observed that 
”[t]he biggest problem with the Big Bang theory of the origin of the universe is philosophical – perhaps even theological – what was there before the bang?” He went further,

This problem alone was sufficient to give a great initial impetus to the Steady State theory; but with that theory now sadly in conflict with the observations, the best way round this initial difficulty is provided by a model in which the universe expands from a singularity, collapses back again, and repeats the cycle indefinitely. 
(Gribbin 1976: 15).

Even though Gribbin spotted this problem he could not escape its tentacles since he did not only hold that there is no problem with the beginning of the universe from nothing but that in the genesis of the universe we have “[n]ot something from nothing, after all, but nothing from nothing” (Gribbin 1986: 374).

Hubert Reeves concurs with Gribbin’s observation and further explained that, “The problem of the origin involves a certain metaphysical aspect which may be either appealing or revolting” (Reeves et al 1973: 912).

Quantum cosmologist Christopher Isham exlounded well when he wrote,

Perhaps the best argument in favor of the thesis that the Big Bang supports theism is the obvious unease with which it is greeted by some atheist physicists. At times this has led to scientific ideas, such as continuous creation or an oscillating universe, being advanced with a tenacity which so exceeds their intrinsic worth that one can only suspect the operation of psychological forces lying very much deeper than the usual academic desire of a theorist to support his/her theory. (Isham 1988: 378)

I think some of religious atheists’ fear is understandable because, as a former editor of Nature, the late Sir John Maddox put it, the genesis of cosmos is “philosophically unacceptable” since theists would “have ample justification in the doctrine of the Big Bang,”[1]

Does cosmic beginning give theists holding Genesis 1:1 account ample justification? I will let you decide.


Isham, Christopher (1988) “Creation of the Universe as a Quantum Process” in R.J. Russell, W.R. Stoeger and G.V. Coyne (eds) Physics, Philosophy and Theology: A Common Quest for Understanding, Vatican City: Vatican Observatory, 375- 408.

Gribbin, J. (1976) “Oscillating Universe Bounces Back”, Nature, 259: 15-16.

_________ (1986) In Search of the Big Bang, New York: Bantam Books.

Hawking, Stephen (1988) A Brief History of Time New York: Bantam Books.

Palmer, Michael (2012)The Atheist’s Primer. The Lutterworth Press. (Uncorrected Proof Copy Review Purposes Only)

Reeves, Hubert (1973) “On the Origin of Light Elements” Audouze, J., Fowler, W.A. and Schramm, D.N. in Astrophysical Journal, 179: 909-930.

[1] Nature, 340 1989 page 425


DISCLAIMER: Blog entries made by individual authors reflect the views of the author and not necessarily the view of other CAA authors, or the official position of the group at large.
About Prayson Daniel

Prayson delights, enjoys and treasures Christ Jesus above all. He blogs for the love and glory of our Triune God. Reformed theology, apologetics and church history are areas he enjoys reading, pondering and sharing with the motto "when love comes first, disagreement follows at its right and proper place."

  • a_pismo_klamm

    Gibbon’s assertion of infinite regeneration was neatly refuted by St Augustine (City of God-Book XIII) in the 4th Century. Solomon was certainly right-there Is nothing new under the sun….

  • staircaseghost

    In the book from which you take your Hawking quote — which I’m sure you read — does he implore his readers to take the Hawking-Hartle Wavefunction as something one must accept without evidence and believe in no matter what, or does he present any evidence and arguments for its probable truth?

    If the answer is the latter, then don’t you owe someone an apology?

    • Prayson W Daniel

      Thank you for your concern but I am not following. Do you mean I took them out of context?

      • staircaseghost

        I don’t understand what was at all ambiguous about that question.

        Your post title decries the grousing of “religious” atheists. You reference a risible atheist “creed” containing certain “articles of faith”. You make constant references to atheists’ alleged “fear” and “unease” for something they have no real scientific arguments against, but merely find “philosophically unacceptable”. The scientific bankruptcy is so obvious, you suggest, that “one can only suspect the operation of psychological forces lying very much deeper than the usual academic desire of a theorist to support his/her theory”.

        So your thesis couldn’t be clearer. Dumb blind atheists dumbly ignore evidence blindly because their atheism makes them blind and dumb.

        This is a heavy accusation to make. And it would be refuted if they actually were advancing a scientific case which, however deficient, is evidence-based and made in good faith.

        So, once again, I ask: does he implore his readers to take the Hawking-Hartle wavefunction as something one must accept without evidence and believe in no matter what, or does he present any evidence and arguments for its probable truth?

        • Prayson W Daniel

          Easy now. The aim of my article was to show that some atheist scientists fear cosmic genesis. Did you read the first part?

          • staircaseghost

            I fail to see what is preventing you from answering a very straightforward question. Is it that you don’t know whether or not Hawking presents evidence and arguments in his book?

            • Prayson Daniel

              What I fail to see is that you are taking things out of context. If you read my first article you would understand in what context does Hawking’s words fit in.

              Sadly I think you are looking for a correct to answer to a wrong question ;)

            • Prayson W Daniel

              What is preventing from answering your question is you seek a correct answer to a wrong question.

              If you read both articles you would have understood the context to which I used Hawkings. ;)

  • Zach S

    Thanks for your article. i thiink the Big Bang’s implications are interesting for any theist. And the multiverse argument at least seems like an attempt, by atheists, to keep the divine foot out of the door.

    More to my larger point, though, I think the Aristotle / Aquinas cosmological angle is more useful than relying on Big Bang science. That is, looking at philosophical, “metaphysical” arguments that seek to explain ulitimate causes of here and now (moment by moment) rather than some time in the distant past. If you can getaway the staw men often used to characterize that angle (“everything has a cause…what caused god”), it seems compelling (I only recently discovered it).

    You reference the Kalam version of this in your first entry, the argument that William lane Craig champions. It is similar, though I am not sure I care for its major premise as much. Yes, what begins needs a cause. That is strong. But it almost reads like a circumlocution for whatever isn’t god needs a cause, and I am sure atheists see it as special pleading. I don’t agree, but I think perhaps Aquinas’ essentially ordered series and his Uncaused Cause are better. The EOS necessitates pure Cause in the here and now, moment by moment, without needing to argue anything about the causes of the past, which will always also invite the “god of the gaps” response from naturalists.

    Whatever the case , i think Sound, reasonable, philosophical arguments help us avoid getting caught up in the scientism of our day. Thanks again.

  • tildeb

    Speaking of context, what on earth is a ‘religious’ atheist? Is it like a non male kind of male, a non bicycle kind of bicycle, a non bald kind of bald?

    This is obviously an attempt to misrepresent those who have no religious belief to be another of religious believer. The inclusion of the term ‘religious’ to any atheist must be intentional. This raises the question why such a poster feels the need to start an article with intentional misrepresentation? The obvious answer is: to intentionally mislead. And this is a common behavioural trait exhibited by those who claim to be pious…. right up until the rubber meets the road and the pious one faces an honest skeptic. Then, all bets are off and far too many of the pious show an intellectual paucity (desperation?) to use whatever means is available to malign, misrepresent, and mislead those who dare to legitimately question whether reality supports or refutes faith-based claims made about it.

    • tildeb

      Silly me. Your use of the term ‘religious’ to describe atheists means I should have responded with Blake’s Law.

      • Prayson W Daniel

        Thanks for your input. I did define my term in the first part of this article. I wrote:

        Michael Ruse quoted Ernst Mayr’s noteworthy observation: “People forget that it is possible to be intensely religious in the entire absence of theological belief.” (Ruse 2003: 335) To avoid painting all atheists with a single stroke, an explanation of what I mean by the oxymoron “religious atheists,” as used in this article, is required.

        By religious atheists, I mean atheists who still hide behind the possibility of a past-eternal universe to avoid the cosmic beginning, even though, as cosmologist Alexander Vilenkin put it, “[a]ll the evidence we have says that the universe had a beginning” (Grossman 2012: 7).

        I hope that clear somethings. Thanks for your comment.

        • tildeb

          Accommodationist Michal Ruse perhaps overlooked the common definition of the word ‘religious;’ instead, he says something that reminds me very much of Alice in Wonderland:

          “”When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”

          So one must wonder about the intention to obfuscate language enough to match opposite meanings to pretend they are actually reasonably complementary. This is Ruse’s contribution to the atheist/theist divide in a nutshell.

          Your assertion that this definition somehow pertains to atheists who hide behind the possibility of what you describe as “a past-eternal universe” in order to “avoid a cosmic beginning” describes no atheist I know or have read about. What I have read about are atheists like Hawking (and Stenger, and Carroll and Sagan and Feynman and so on) who speak pointedly about the absurdity of language creationists use to assign words like ‘before’ to the cause of the singularity, as if the notion of a a prior causal designing agent for this singularity is reasonable and understandable.

          It’s not. It’s incoherent.

          No one knows how the universe came about – including atheists and theists – but we follow the post facto evidence backwards as best we can, which does not justify in any way, shape, or fashion inserting made-up supernatural stuff in its stead and claiming it to be necessarily true. The fact is that atheists allow reality to arbitrate claims made about it, whereas the theist seems to think that a priori faith-based belief is the best tool for the job. This fundamental disagreement can be honestly compared and contrasted by what effects each produces, and the conclusion is inescapable: faith-based belief does not produce knowledge. Ever. It produces made up stuff. Always. And that certainly includes any and all theistic claims about the origins of the universe.

          This means that if our goal is to gain knowledge about the universe’s potential origin arbitrated by reality, faith of the religious kind (in spite of Ruse’s abuse of language) is of no practical benefit. There simply is no a priori commitment by those seeking knowledge adduced from reality to rule out anything. This is a typical misrepresentation promoted by theists of those dastardly people who will not grant respect to the ideas of those who insist we need to respect whatever stuff they have made up as a pseudo-answers, pseudo-explanations, pseudo-knowledge and mislabeled as ‘knowledge’… but of the religious kind.

          It’s turtles all the way down, meaning this post is another attempt to play a shell game by abusing words and altering what they mean to suit a very specific intention. That intention of the post’s criticism is not to respect what is true about reality but to malign that attempt and create enough wiggle room to then substitute what is believed to be true as if therefore equivalent.