Creator of The Creator: The Problem of the Infinite Regress

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Problem of Infinite Regression: Who Created God?
The question of who created God, a rather simple question, is often reiterated by neo-Atheists in order to disprove God’s existence. Contemporary intellectuals by the likes of Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris have constantly used the following premises as arguments against the cosmological proof for God’s existence:

1. Everything that exists needs a cause.
2. God exists.
3. Therefore, God has a cause.

As appealing as their argument may seem at face value, upon brief critical thinking, it is easily refutable. Theists are often stereotyped to inheriting their religious beliefs or being indoctrinated from childhood to believing in God. There is some merit to that claim as the earthly religious distribution testifies greatly to it. To many, the existence of God is a given, even a default. Many often accept His existence and other religious beliefs without question, blindly following ancient interpretations which have been passed down for generations. Unfortunately for Dawkins, we theists don’t need to take a leap of faith when it comes to this question. Although some traditionalist scholars like Malik Ibn Anas, the fourth jurisprudential leader, observed the attitude of having blind faith and not asking questions when challenged with difficulty, the holy Qur’an has repeatedly told mankind to ask questions and reflect.

إِنَّ شَرَّ الدَّوَابِّ عِنْدَ اللَّهِ الصُّمُّ الْبُكْمُ الَّذِينَ لَا يَعْقِلُونَ
Truly, the worst of all creatures in the sight of Allah are the deaf, the dumb, those who do not use their reason/think. [Qur’an 8:22]

Who created God?
Richard Dawkins dedicated an entire book, The God Delusion, on answering the question: “If you believe God created the universe, then who created God?” There is an immediate problem in the wording of that question that must be addressed before trying to answer it: It postulates that God is “created,” thus ruling out an explanation which is most plausible–that God wasn’t created. Now if Richard Dawkins wrote a book called The Created God’s Delusion, I doubt any theists would have any problem with that, because they’re typically called idols. The reason why the syllogism is fallacious is because it creates a strawman of the cosmological argument, claiming everything needs a cause instead of everything that comes into existence needs a cause. The cosmological argument’s first premise is only inclusive of entities that begin to exist, not those who have existed eternally. So the question of who created God is equivalent to the question of “What caused an uncaused thing?”  Islamic and Judaeo-Christian scriptures have all consistently stated the notion of God’s eternal existence.

قُلْ هُوَ اللَّهُ أَحَدٌ
Say: He is Allah, the One and Only
اللَّهُ الصَّمَدُ
Allah, the Eternal, Absolute
[Holy Qu’ran 112:1-2]

The eternal God is your refuge
[The Bible, Deuteronomy 33:27]

How can an entity eternally exist?
Suppose we ask what caused God, then, staying philosophically consistent, ask the next question: what caused the cause that caused God? And after that, what caused the cause that caused the cause that caused God? This method of questioning leads to an infinite regress, a causal relationship transmitted through an indefinite number of terms in a series, with no term that begins the causal chain. Suppose we go on forever, will anything ever exist? Logically speaking, no, because everything will always be dependent on something else to create it, so this dependency will go on endlessly, and nothing will ever be created. Here is a simple intuitive analogy that’ll explain it more clearly:

Imagine there is a big, red bus, and this bus is the means by which I go home every day. For me to go home, I have to get on the bus. One day, I do not have any money with me to pay for the bus, so I will have to borrow some. I decide to ask the person behind me if I can borrow a dollar. The person behind me says: “I will give you a dollar if the person behind me gives me a dollar,” and the person behind him says the same thing, “I will give you a dollar if the person behind me gives me a dollar.” If this went on for infinity, would I ever get on the bus?

Logically speaking, I would not ever get on the bus because the dollar would never reach me since the chain would go on for infinity. This is a clear example of infinity not being traversable.

By the same token, however, since we know you and I exist, it is necessary for there to have been an uncaused cause starting this entire chain reaction. If you and I are a cause of God, and God is the cause of God2, and God2 is the cause of God3, and this went on for infinity, you and I would never exist since the chain would go on for infinity. Per contra, our mere existence testifies to the necessity of an initially uncaused cause.

There is no doubt that the burden of proof for God’s existence lies on the theists to prove. The theists should, however, worry not, because this question has been answered by myriads of philosophers from the late Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (as), Avicenna, Aristotle, Immanuel Kant and many others. As the fields of science and philosophy advance with time, they only reveal the intricacy and divine design of the universe. This is the precise reason why God demands people to reject blindly accepting beliefs but to ponder and reflect on the signs of God.

سَنُرِيهِمْ آيَاتِنَا فِي الْآفَاقِ وَفِي أَنْفُسِهِمْ حَتَّىٰ يَتَبَيَّنَ لَهُمْ أَنَّهُ الْحَقُّ ۗ أَوَلَمْ يَكْفِ بِرَبِّكَ أَنَّهُ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ شَهِيدٌ
‘We will show them Our signs in the horizons and within themselves until it becomes clear to them that it is the truth…’ [41:53]

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Amir Ghafarian

Amir M. Ghafarian, born in Iran, has an unconditional affinity towards shawarma and kabob. He reads too, sometimes, and occasionally writes.

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