Arguments for and against the existence of God

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The presence of God has sparked passionate disputes in a variety of academic and social domains, including philosophy, philosophy of religion, and popular culture. The debate over God's existence began with philosophers like Aristotle and Plato, whose arguments are now regarded as cosmological. St. Anselm, who developed the initial ontological argument, advanced further grounds for God's existence. Ibn Rushd who presented his own version of cosmological argument that was commonly known as the kalam argument, Emmanuel Kant according to whom God’s existence can be inferred from the existence of good, and Rene Descartes who argued that the existence of God is logically necessary in order to derive any meaningful conclusion from the evidence of senses. This paper has discussed the ontological, cosmological and the design arguments which support the existence of God, as well as the rationalistic and the empirical arguments which are against God’s existence.

Arguments for the existence of God

Ontological arguments

The ontological arguments are associated with Saint Anselm of Canterbury who lived between 1030 and 1109, and they are unique compared to other arguments of God’s existence because they are based on ideas that can be known without the experience of the world, and they can be termed as a priori arguments. They all start with the notion of God and arrive at a conclusion that God must exist. According to Anselm, God is the greatest being that can be conceived. It is clear that there is a being which exists in reality and in understanding and it’s the greatest that can be conceived. It would be a contradiction to argue that the greatest being exists only in the mind and not in reality because existence in reality is bigger than existence in the mind. This, therefore, leads to the conclusion that God exists.

This argument has various strengths and among them is the fact that empirical evidence is not required to prove the existence of God, and that this argument stimulates intellectually and satisfies logically. In addition, the argument makes a believer to consider, in a careful way, what is meant by the term God. Furthermore, Plantinga, a strong supporter of this argument, supports his view with a scientific hypothesis and, therefore, avoids the problems that are related to the existence as a predicate and the definition’s rejection. His argument is mathematically and logically true if the multiverse theory is correct.

However, there are various objections to the ontological argument and one of the most commonly known is based on the analogy of the biggest island and was put up by Gaunilo, who argued that if we accept the conclusion by Anselm, then we must also accept that there is the greatest island existing. However, this conclusion is absurd, and so is Anselm’s. In addition, if one supposition is proved to be inaccurate in a priori argument, then the whole argument becomes false. Also, Kant argues that the definition can easily be rejected and that existence is not a predicate because if existence is added or taken away from something, the definition does not change, and therefore, God cannot be defined into existence. In addition, existence is only contingent and, therefore, necessary existence is not coherent. Furthermore, the characteristics of God are contradictory. For instance, God is omnipotent but could create a stone that he was not able to lift. Moreover, if the multiverse theory is proved wrong, then the ontological argument becomes incorrect.

Cosmological Argument

Also known as the First cause argument, Cosmological argument argues that God exists and explains that there is a cause for everything. That the first cause must have existed and that the first cause was uncaused. One of such arguments is the Kalam Cosmological Argument, which has been essential in the defense of the philosophical position of theists. ‘Kalam’ is an Arabic word which means ‘speaking’ but generally it can be viewed to mean ‘theological philosophy’.

The cosmological arguments were developed by Plato and Aristotle. According to these arguments, there is a cause behind everything that occurs or exists, and therefore, the first cause can be discovered by going back in time. Aristotle argued that the creator of the universe was the first cause. This was further explained by Thomas Aquinas, who shaped the initial cause-concept to form a framework according to which the cause of the universe is uncaused, and God is the initial cause. This reasoning is also supported by Kalam cosmological argument that was put up by Muslim philosophers. The argument was formulated based on the ideas that whatever exists has a cause, the universe exists, and therefore, there is a cause for the existence of the universe.

The Kalam Cosmological Argument is in line with the bible accounts that explain the beginning of the universe. For instance, according to the Bible, the universe was created by God (Genesis 1:1), and the heavens were made by God (1 Chronicles 16:26). The bible further demonstrates that God is the first cause and is uncaused. For example, according to 2 Chronicles 2:6, God cannot be contained by the heaven and heaven of heavens. In addition, God is everlasting (Genesis 21:33) and is unending and limitless, and that His mighty potency reigns forever (Psalm 66:6).

There are various philosophical and scientific objections against the kalam argument, and they include the fact that we have other cosmological models apart from the Big Bang according to which the universe is eternal, such as the multi-verse theories. The philosophical objections raised against the kalam argument include the use of mathematical systems and set theory which utilize real infinite sets. Also, the fact that this argument is based on four assumptions makes it unstable since these assumptions can easily be rejected. The first assumption is that there is a cause behind every event, then it is also assumed that an explanation of the universe is needed outside the universe, that the cause of God is illegitimate, and this raises questions on which ‘God’ the argument is referring to. For instance, is it referring to one or many gods?

The Design argument

This can be termed as the easiest argument that supports the existence of God. According to this argument, the universe was created by a wise designer since everything in nature is put together in the most appropriate way. This is the most respectable proof due to the fact that it is the oldest, clearest, and the most harmonious with the usual reason of human beings (Kant, 623). The argument has various explanations, with the earliest one being the analogical version, according to which mankind artifacts are as a result of intelligent design, and the universe has a resemblance to these human artifacts. The universe, therefore, is most likely a result of the intelligent design. This leads to a conclusion that the creator of the universe is most likely an intelligent being (Plantinga, 97).

The best explanation of the design argument is the one that utilizes evidence derived from contemporary science to support its claims. In this case, the presented data is examined and the most appropriate explanation for the improbable happenings is that a personal, preeminent being in possession of astonishing might and intellect is directly responsible for deliberately causing them. For instance, the energy received by the earth from the sun is the exact quantity needed to support life. If the earth receives less or more energy than the required 2 calories per minute per square centimeter, then the water in the oceans would turn into vapor or ice and this would leave planet earth with no water that can sustain the evolution of life (Richard, 244). In addition, the well-calculated charging and decaying process of the neutrons and protons in the formation of stars show that there is a perfect designer who is responsible for the process. For example, if every existing proton was changed into a neutron in an irreversible manner, then the universe would only have the black holes and neutron stars. This kind of a star does not support life. Thus, the universe is tuned to the needs of life (Leslie, 25). A universe that is finely tuned can only happen if God exists than if he doesn’t. Therefore, the existence of a finely tuned universe strongly confirms that a conscious designer exists, and that is God.

Arguments against the existence of God

These arguments are aimed at justifying that a certain set of gods is nonexistent. This is done by demonstrating that these gods are naturally meaningless, contradictory, or contradict known historical or scientific facts. In addition, these arguments try to prove that there is not enough proof to show that these gods exist. The rationalistic and the empirical arguments are some of the arguments against the existence of God.

Rationalistic argument

This is a philosophical view that the acquisition of knowledge is via reason, with no aid of the senses. This argument has supporters mainly from Europe and they include Nicholas Malebranche, Gottfried Willhelm Leibniz, and Baruch Spinoza. However, there are some who seem to add a different twist of the rationalism movement and among them is Rene Descartes, whose most beliefs are based on the senses and according to him, everything he has learnt is either through the senses or from the senses.

Descartes argues that the sensory illusions we often experience are not a challenge since we can get used to them and trust the senses for more crucial things. In addition, the senses’ reliability becomes undermined when one considers the possibility of whether or not they are dreaming but according to Descartes, this does not undermine the reliability of the senses, since whatever we perceive most likely exists. Also, he argues that God may not be the fountain of truth and supremely good, but a genius who is evil and not less powerful than deceitful. This is because he can make somebody to doubt his own ability to do things as well as doubt that a three-dimensional world exists. Rene Descartes is the only philosopher who puts up a strong case against the existence of God in the rationalism argument school of thought and this, therefore, translates to lack of enough evidence among the rationalists against God’s existence.

Empirical arguments

The empirical arguments rely on observations or experiments to get to conclusions. One such argument is that there is inconsistency in the scriptures including the Christian Bible, the Hindu Vedas, the Baha’i Aqdas or the Book of Mormon, the Jewish Tanakh and the Muslim Qur’an. The contradictions identified between scriptures, within a scripture, or between a scripture and common knowledge contests that a deity called God exists. In addition, the challenge of evil brings controversy in the existence of an omnibenevolent and omnipotent God with the argument that a god with these qualities should not allow evil or suffering to exist. Furthermore, the argument that those people who don’t follow the saying of a particular scripture will be harshly punished despite the fact that they may have never heard of it, contests the existence of God.

The argument of the poor design also contradicts the view that life was created by God on the basis that all lifeforms, human beings included, exhibit a poor design. In addition, the argument from nonbelief contradicts that an omnipotent God exists and that He wants human beings to have trust in him by raising an argument that a god of that kind can do good work of gathering the believers. The theist and not the atheist has the burden of proof that God exists and this argument is supported by Russell’s teapot analogy. This is an extension of the argument from parsimony (that uses Occam’s razor) which contest that since natural theories explain very well the growth of religion and belief in gods, the idea that such supernatural agents exist is extraneous and can be rejected unless it is proven to be needed to expound the phenomenon.

Based on the analysis of this paper, the most convincing argument for the existence of God is the design argument. This is because it is backed up by facts based on common knowledge and very strong scientific evidence. The scientific discoveries, which have a very small margin of error, are in support of the creation of a universe that is able to sustain life. This is in accordance with the claim by theism, that the universe was made intentionally by a personal, excellent being who possessed might and intelligence. This being is God. Normally, science contests theistic beliefs but in this case, there is some form of agreement between the two and given the great success achieved through scientific enterprise, then one can conclusively say that the design argument is more compelling compared to others.

Works Cited

Brennan, Richard. Heisenberg Probably Slept Here: The Lives, Times, and Ideas of the Great Physicists of the 20th Century. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1997.

Kant, Immanuel. Critique of Pure Reason, trans. N. K. Smith. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1965.

Leslie, John. Universes. London: Routledge, 1989.

Plantinga, Alvin. God and Other Minds: A Study of the Rational Justification of Belief in God, paperback edition. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1990.

May 10, 2023

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