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Why atheists can believe in a virgin birth

July 9, 2014

Yesterday at the RZIM Summer school we heard from Vince Vitale on the cosmological argument. I outlined most of his presentation yesterday. In it he also discussed a fascinating proposal for atheists to consider concerning the virgin birth.

Atheists generally don’t believe in a virgin birth. Atheists claim a virgin birth is impossible because there is nothing to cause the birth to occur.

Yet playfully, Vitale pointed out that atheists believe that the universe came into existence without a cause. Atheists believe that the universe began from nothing and that self-replicating molecules formed by themselves in a primeval soup without any agent. Vitale quoted Quentin Smith who said, ‘we came from nothing, by nothing, and for nothing’. In some respects this is a form of virgin birth!

So my question is, how can an atheists reject the virgin birth as without cause, yet also maintain rationally that the universe (and all matter and engergy) came into existence without cause? 

I’m keen to hear how philosophically, these two events are different? Why is the origin of the universe different to the origin of a child?

For it seems that if an atheist can maintain that a universe can exist without caused, then so could a virgin give birth!

  1. There is nothing to cause a quantum vacuum fluctuation to occur, yet the Casimir Effect demonstrates they do. Your argument is invalid.

  2. It’s the “came into existence” bit that needs to be addressed, in my opinion. Even if the universe has a finite past, that does not mean that it “came into existence.” The phrase “coming into existence” implies a temporal point at which a thing did not exist, followed by a temporal point at which that thing does exist. However, since time is one of the physical entities which we include as being a part of the universe, it is completely non-cogent to assert that time could “come into existence.” There may be a past-finite boundary, but that does not imply that the universe “came into existence.”

    This is a wholly separate situation from the process of human embryology, wherein a human egg combines chemically with human sperm to produce an embryo. Asserting that a mechanical process requires its mechanisms in order to occur is very different from asserting that the universe may have a past-finite boundary.

  3. First of all, most atheists simply say: “We don’t know.” Was there a first cause (which doesn’t have to be one or many gods)? We don’t know. Can something come from nothing? We don’t know. That may be unsatisfying to you – but at least it’s honest, without randomly giving an answer for which you have no evidence. “We don’t know” simply doesn’t lead to “Thus any explanation must be true:”

    We have no experience with the beginning of universes. But what we do have is experience with child birth. And little details like the fact that it is much more plausible to assume that the gospel writers simply wanted to make what they believed to be ancient prophecies come true by making Jesus born by a virgin.

    So, considering billions of births, a virgin birth doesn’t seem likely, especially with better explanations around. Of course, that doesn’t make it impossible – but neither is the existence of Zeus, so that’s not a point in favor of any specific god…

  4. Yeah, you’re way off here, Rob.
    “Vitale pointed out that atheists believe that the universe came into existence without a cause.”
    Not actually correct, Rob. I know of no atheist that “believes” this at all.

  5. Consistency is a sign of a failed argument. If Atheists are going to accept the “virgin” Universe, they’re going have be consistent and accept the virgin birth of Jesus..

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