The Existence Or The Non-Existence Of God

By: Wome

(This is a religious studies essay I wrote on an interesting topic and I thought it might be of interest to other writers here, who may have other arguments to offer - Feel free to voice them on my forum)

Throughout the short period of the existence of human religion various philosophers, scientists and scholars in general have developed theories that both prove and disprove the existence of God. God will always be referred to as the Christian ‘God' in this essay, despite the fact that if a god does exist he/she/it may not be the Christian God as such.

Thomas Aquinas formed probably one of the most popular and convincing theories attempting to prove the existence of a God - the ‘first cause' theory. It is the nature of such theories that they do not provide undeniable proof, but rather provide proof only if you are willing to believe and accept it (in very much the same way you must accept a religion). Thomas Aquinas stated that ‘Something cannot come from nothing' and thus all things must have a cause - meaning that there must have been an initial cause from which everything in this universe originated. This is the ‘first cause', which according to Thomas Aquinas, must be infinite and eternal as it has no beginning (no cause) and therefore no end. The first cause, being infinite and eternal must be, according to Thomas Aquinas; God. This argument has very little foundation as there is no proof that something cannot come from nothing, nor that something lacking a beginning cannot have an end. Is it possible that, if all objects or things have a cause, that an object or thing can cause itself? If this were the case, then the first cause would not need to be infinite or eternal as it could have a beginning. Thomas Aquinas' theory that all things have a cause would still be correct, however, the fact that a thing could cause itself would disprove the ‘first cause' theory and therefore put the current existence of God in jeopardy.

According to more recent scientific endeavors, matter is not created or destroyed, it is merely converted to and from energy. Perhaps all the matter in the universe has always been present, but not as matter - this would make matter both infinite and eternal. Before the big-bang matter could have existed as pure energy and only through the big bang would it have been able to become physical, tangible, matter. Perhaps, if matter is indeed infinite and eternal it could also be the first (and only) cause, for the universe we can perceive is based solely on matter and therefore all things are caused by matter.

William Paley and Sir Issac Newton along with many others believed that just the sheer complexity of the universe proved the existence of God. If the universe is so complex, it is inconceivable that is should be created by chance, or so they thought. To support this argument the universe was compared to a mechanical watch, which was not created by chance, it did not simply ‘fall together' - someone built it. The watch was far too complex to have simply formed by chance. The same applies to this universe - it is so complex, so intricate, that it could not, conceivably have been created by chance. There must have been divine intervention. The argument against this is that something complicated and intricate can be created by chance - for instance the intricate ripples in a pool of water are not a deliberate creation of some sentient being (as far as we know), but are still incredibly complicated. Or perhaps a leaf tumbling through the air, performing an intricate mid-air choreography before hitting the ground. If God does not exist, then these events are certainly the result of chance, however, if he does exist, then they are possibly (but not certainly) not, but rather the result of His will. Likewise, if God does not exist then the universe must have formed purely by chance, however, if He does exist, then it possibly didn't. There is no way that this argument can be proved or disproved using evidence.

The argument of awe and wonder is similar to the argument of design; it states that if such incredible feats of nature, and indeed, existence (i.e. this planet) are possible God must have caused them. They could not have been caused by chance, or through some non-divine influence simply because they are such awesome feats. Of course, there is nothing suggesting that this argument is correct - like the other arguments, it is equally possible that it is correct, as it is not.

The problem with this sort of argument (over the existence of God) is that without knowing the true nature of God, we cannot extrapolate from this set of argument a most convincing argument in terms of evidence. This is simply because there is no undeniable evidence!

Another argument for the existence of God is probability, although it can be argued that this is an argument both for and against the existence of God, as it states that it is equally likely that there is a God as it is that there is not. The probability of God's existence is equal to that of his non-existence, as there is no evidence supporting or disproving his existence.

The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche disagreed with these arguments, and believed that God was ‘dead', as such. Nietzsche refused to believe that the world was ordered at all, arguing that if there were a God he would not have created a world with so many imperfections - such as tectonic plates which do not fit together precisely. One can argue that God may have intentionally created a disordered world. Nietzsche concluded that there was no God and there were no natural laws or order in this world/universe, again this argument is not founded on any evidence, simply observations. Nietzsche also believed that there is no absolute truth or purpose in existence - this view is known as ‘nihilism'. This argument depends solely on ones perception of the universe, on whether it is ordered, disordered, or neither.

The simple fact that there is no evidence supporting the existence of God is enough, for some people, to prove His non-existence. It can be argued, however, that there is equally no evidence to disprove his existence either. In the past, there may have been evidence, such as the miracles documented in the Bible; however, the Bible cannot be used as a source due to it's heavily biased nature. Others believed that due to the presence of evil in the world, God, at least in the Christian sense, could not exist. This is based on the basic Christian belief that God is "good". For, if God cannot stop the evil in the world, God must not be all-powerful - therefore meaning that God, in the Christian sense cannot exist, unless He chooses not to stop the evil in which case He must not be good, once again meaning that the Christian God cannot exist. If God can stop evil, but does not the only foreseeable reason for this is that God does not exist (in the Christian sense). This does not disprove the existence of a god, simply the Christian God and one can argue that in not stopping evil God may be allowing an even greater good to come forth - thus meaning that He is both omnipotent and good.

The theory of evolution, developed by Charles Darwin is a challenge to the design argument for the existence of God. The theory of evolution states that all life evolves via natural selection, where only the animals and plants best suited to their environment survive to reproduce and pass on their characteristics to their young. According to this theory life designed itself without divine intervention - its complexity was self-induced. Of course, one could argue that through changing the environment to induce natural selection, God evolved life in a way he saw fit and thus it is still his design.

Which is the strongest argument?

Due to the fact that these arguments (except the theory of evolution) lack any substantial backing, there is no way to make a conclusion based on evidence - Instead one must form an opinion solely on what he/she feels is the strongest argument. Not one of the above arguments is without it's own respective problems. Many of the arguments are based on the assumption that God acts, or should act, in a logical manner, therefore stopping evil and creating things directly. It seems more plausible, due to recent advances in science, that God has an indirect effect on all events (such as evolution). Also, God, if He does exist, probably does not act directly on current events - He is omniscient and therefore will act in the way that is most beneficial to the future of his creations (assuming He is good) - This could mean allowing evil to exist.

It seems to me, however, that the probability theory is not only the strongest, but also the most reliable argument due to the fact it is not based on any belief whatsoever. All the other arguments can easily be disproven, as can the probability theory. However, the probability theory, having no basis in belief or in observation is probably the most accurate and plausible argument both for and against the existence of God. The probability theory, in my opinion, is the strongest argument, probably because I lack any belief in the issues raised by the other arguments, and therefore see these as being fatally flawed. If I did, however, believe that the world was completely and utterly disordered nihilism would probably pose a greater appeal to me, and similarly, if I believed it was ordered, design would appeal to me - however, I am indifferent and see the world neither as being completely disordered, or completely ordered. God's is infallible due to His omnipotence, omniscience and omnipresence and thus, there is absolutely no way to prove His existence or non-existence without physical evidence.

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