In his essay “Why I am Not a Christian,” Bertrand Russell addresses several arguments frequently made by Christians to “prove” the existence of God. One of the arguments he addressed was the cosmological or first cause, argument. However, in refuting the argument, he first redefines the argument to make it sound ridiculous. Let’s look at what the cosmological argument really is, before looking at what Professor Russell says it is.
In its most basic form, the cosmological argument reads like this: Whatever begins to exist has a cause. The Universe began to exist. Therefore, the Universe has a cause. Christians then go on to say that this Cause is God, and He reveals Himself through the Bible. This argument is backed by scientific evidence, as most scientists would agree that the Universe did begin to exist at some point in the past.
Bertrand Russell, however, says that the cosmological argument reads thus: Everything has a cause. He goes on to say that since everything has a cause, God must have a cause as well, and thus He must not be what Christians claim He is. His second response is that the premise “everything has a cause” is made because humans’ imaginations are so lacking that we cannot imagine anything without a cause. He then posits that the Earth could very well be eternal, and thus the cosmological argument is ‘refuted.’ However, not only does science tells us that the Universe began to exist at some point, it also tells us that the Earth began to be as well. This refutation overly-simplifies the cosmological argument to disprove the argument, but in the end, it misses the point of the argument.