Arguments For Atheism: The Argument From Assailability

By R.N. Carmona

The following argument is the most commonsensical among the four. Given its limitation, it’s also the weakest of the four. The argument, given god categories, doesn’t apply to all gods as we’ll see later. Understanding the argument, however, doesn’t require as much research and/or esoteric knowledge. As we’ll see soon, the argument attacks the notion of perfection, which is a prevalent characteristic attributed to the gods of some of the major world religions. As a primer, I’ll briefly discuss how god categories work.

The difficulty with god categories is that they don’t work in a columnar fashion–thus making it difficult to maintain separation between god concepts. There’s an intersectionality that takes place when we consider creative agents, emanations, demigods, and so on; also, intersectionality happens when we consider their attributes (e.g. omnipotence, omniscience, transcendence, merciful, consisting of one or more modes). Let us consider five god concepts: YHWH (G-d of Judaism), Jesus Christ, Ahura Mazda, Waheguru, and Krishna. At this point, I’m not concerned about the equivocation of the first two (i.e. Christians think those two are one god in the same). I’m more concerned with similarities, if any, and differences.


Briefly, an emanation is an incarnation. Again, since I’m not focusing on how Christians view YHWH, I’m ignoring whether Christ can be considered an emanation of YHWH. That is, of course, arguable, but too tangential for our purposes. All of them are, no doubt, creative agents since each are viewed as the creator of the universe within the scope of the religions they pertain to. According to some Hindu schools of thought, Krishna is an emanation or avatāra of Vishnu.1 He is near universally considered to have taken the form of a man and is therefore, a demigod. The same is the case with Jesus Christ.

The above chart is an example of intersectionality. This, of course, makes analysis difficult. As previously stated, this happens when we consider attributes and this is how god categories relate to The Argument From Assailability. Formally stated, the argument can appear as a hypothetical syllogism:

P1 If we find in any being, a characteristic that is assailable, then we have no reason to call it perfect. (A -> B)

P2 If we have no reason to call it perfect, then it is like human-like. (B -> C)

P3 If it is like human-like, then we have no reason to worship it. (C -> D)

P4 If we have no reason to worship it, then we have no reason to call it a god. (D -> E)

C Therefore, if we find in any being, a characteristic that is assailable, then we have no reason to call it a god. (∴ A -> E)

There are two senses of my use of the term assail: censure and beset.  Censuring is formal disapproval that is usually written. To beset is to trouble or persistently threaten. With that said, let us turn our attention to a brief defense of the argument.

P1 is arguably the most straightforward premise. If a characteristic is assailable, then it is flawed or repugnant or what have you. It follows that a being with such a characteristic isn’t perfect. Humans aren’t perfect and therefore, this being is like us. Unless one wants to argue that it’s apt to worship other people, then it makes sense that we shouldn’t worship, for example, an alien that murders a person who offended him. Gods, almost universally, are worshipped in one form or another and thus, if this being isn’t worthy of worship, it also isn’t worthy of being called god.

With that said, let us consider a simple god category of attributes:


We can, for example, evaluate whether Waheguru is just. In the Guru Granth Sahib, one is told to “[r]enounce selfishness, conceit and arrogant pride, and your love for your children and spouse.”2 We can now evaluate whether that’s just or merciful. We can evaluate whether an omnipotent god would require such renouncement. This deity is said to be above humans in terms of mercy and justice. If one can show that this deity’s concept of mercy and justice is assailable, one has shown that this deity is wrong and that effectively, it cannot and doesn’t exist. Suffice it to say, there’s nothing merciful or just about such a demand. There’s also the notion of omnipotence. It’s clear that an all-powerful deity wouldn’t require one to denounce one’s love for one’s children and spouse.

A limitation of The Argument From Assailability is that it isn’t applicable to all god concepts. Some of them aren’t assailable in any discernible sense. Furthermore, some of them aren’t considered perfect. However, the fact that a god concept isn’t assailable doesn’t mean that said deity exists. There might be other ways of evaluating the possibility of its existence. In this manner, god categories remain a useful tool. Also, since perfection is a hallmark of some of the more prevalent concepts throughout history–Christian, Muslim, Judaic, Sikh, Hindu, and Zoroastrian–the argument is useful when highlighting the difficulty in squaring a given god’s words or actions with the notion of its perfection.

When discussing, in particular, The Argument From Cosmology, god categories will again play a central role. That argument will focus on creative agents and in doing so, it will pretty much eliminate the possibility of such an agent. Aside from question begging and extraneous speculation, we will see that a creative agent plays no role in the universe.

Works Cited

1 Ambaa. “The Ten Avatars of Vishnu: A Guide”Patheos. 2013 Jul 2. Web. 28 Nov 2014.

2 See the Fourth Mehl

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