Essay on Does God Exist?
Number of words: 3246
Throughout history, man has tried to prove and disprove the existence of God. Who is right? When it comes to such a difficult question as this it is important to realize that no matter what anyone says, it is never enough to persuade any to believe or not. It ultimately comes to an individual to decide if God does indeed exist. God cannot be proved or disproved because nobody knows him personally. To argue that certain things in the world exist or do not exist cannot in any way prove or disprove God. I have never seen or met Socrates, and neither has anybody else in this world. Who is to say that he did exist? We have his writings, or writings about what he said and did, the same as with God. The only problem is that we are dealing on a higher level and this scares the rational mind.
When arguing whether God exists or not, it is important to understand belief. W.K. Clifford in The Ethics of Belief states, “it is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence” (175). I can understand how accepting something with insufficient evidence can be morally harmful, but what Clifford refers to isn’t a belief; it is more of an assumption. Belief is something that is hoped for but not seen, and part of the trial of life is the exercise of this belief because without belief there is no hope. For example, as a Christian I have a belief in prayer and that through prayer I can find inner peace and answers to difficult questions. Through this belief comes the hope that I can improve myself for the better. It requires that I genuinely recognize that God exists, so I can speak with him on a personal level. No, I cannot see God; I cannot prove it either or that prayer, in fact, really works; there just isn’t sufficient evidence, so should I not bother with it? Without this belief, I don’t have any hope of improvement because ultimately, I would tend to shift to the worldly point of view and negative influence of those around me. However, with this belief, I can improve and find real solutions to my problems after the trial of this belief through personal experience so that I may receive a witness of this, after which it is no longer a belief but a fact.
Now, what Clifford seems to be implying is that assuming is harmful and devastating. As the dictionary defines assumption, “something taken for granted or accepted as true without proof” (“Assume”). If I just assumed that praying to a supreme being would improve my life and my life didn’t by stumbling through pitfall after pitfall, what does that prove? Does that prove God doesn’t exist? Or that God is evil? Or that he doesn’t care about me? Belief leaves it so that even if my prayers weren’t answered and my life wasn’t the way I wanted it, it is according to the will of God, who has greater reasons that we don’t understand. If we just assume that God must do as we ask, we will be left in serious trouble indeed, and this is what Clifford refers to. He thinks more along the lines of the ethics of assumption rather than belief. I assume that my rickety old ship will sail across the ocean because it has before. Is that a belief? Or is it more of an assumption? Because, as Clifford asserts, right or wrong, the assumption gets us into trouble both morally and ethically. Secular belief, the assumption, is not, in fact, religious belief.
In the quest to find the truth it is important to realize that for religious matters one can only use religious ways, for one cannot use science to find God. That’s too easy. Look through a telescope and see a glimpse of heaven, or calculate the amount of faith one has will do no more for us individually than getting the answers to an exam before it is written. If one wants to believe in a God but is not sure, use the method set by God. Kneel and pray to God and ask if a certain thing is true. “Do you exist God?” This is the ultimate purpose of religion, to find deity in our lives. If one asks with a sincere heart, with real interest, and putting faith in God to answer, the truth should be made manifest, and anyone can know the truth of religious things, but it must take belief first and a little trust.
There are many out there that try to use other methods to prove that God does not exist. Many have tried to use the argument for design to show that God does not exist. If we can prove that the world is natural and full of chaos then there is no room for a God who is perfect. Furthermore, nowhere in the Christian religion is there a belief that this earth is perfect. Since the Fall, the sons and daughters of Adam have had to dwell in the world of experience that is in no way fit for man. That is why it is called “the Fall.” This isn’t the well-designed earth Bertrand Russell speaks of in his argument “Why I Am Not Christian.” He purports that if the world is not perfect then God cannot exist. He also points out that “rabbits having white tales to be easy to shoot” is a Christian thought; one, I may add, I have never heard of (Russell 150). This has no bearing on the argument that the location and tilt of the earth have to be so precise as to sustain life. As Cressy Morrison says in “Seven Reasons Why a Scientist Believes in God,” if the sun “gave off only one half its present radiation, we would freeze and if it gave half as much more, we would roast” (121). Morrison lists many examples of why life could not be a chance on earth; this has nothing to do with design for mankind, but design for sustaining life. Russell, on the other hand, gives wives tales and jokes as his evidence, such as the nose were designed to fit glasses (151), and so on, as if only through ignorance can God be dismissed.
Then there is the argument that if evil exists God cannot exist. Hitler killing millions of Jews does not disprove Christianity any more than the Romans killing Christ did. For if God is a benevolent God, there is no reason why he would allow the innocent to suffer, or as B.C. Johnson says in “God and the Problem of Evil” about God not miraculously saving those innocent children who suffer, “we are still left without an excuse for God’s inaction” (159). Does God need to be excused? Though Johnson has stated that no one is asking God to interfere all the time, he would like to see God at least save some babies who die outside of the stupidity of man. However, who is to say that He hasn’t? Is there any way to record or find out if God didn’t save the child burning in the building? The child could have died an agonizing death, which is the atheist view, or he could have been taken at the moment before pain, which is the Christian view. Which viewpoint is correct? You can call me evil or morally decedent for believing the child could have been saved before pain, but the truth of the matter is which is more moral?
The question of suffering brings the argument to justice. In dealing with justice in the world or out of it, one must first know what justice is. In the secular world, the courts of man define justice, in Christianity God defines justice. The argument that the “good suffer, and often the wicked prosper” no matter how annoying, has nothing to do with disproving that there is a God (Russell 152). Russell further follows this with his parable of the crate of bad oranges, which misses on the very truth of the matter. To be scientific, as Russell calls it, is to consign all the oranges to the garbage because the top oranges are bad. That is the immorality of science. Just because oranges on top of the box are bad, does not presuppose that the rest are bad as well. In our own judgment, we may wish to throw the entire box away or move on to the more perfect box because of its defect. The real truth of the matter is, in all the oranges under the bad there may be perfectly ripe ones, even just one, and what kind of justice is it to ignore the one in a box of many. That is the truth of Christianity. In a world of bad, God recognizes the good and is willing to purchase the entire box, even with his life, just to save the good ones. The justice that Russell talks of is consigned to worldly views and greed more than anything else.
As far as the moral question of hell in trying to disprove the benevolence, if not the existence of God, I will ask this: where is the morality without a Heaven or a Hell? I am sure that there are some who may question the morality of a Hell, yet what parent wouldn’t wish justice on the man who raped and murdered their daughter. Now I am not preaching Hellfire here. I am talking about a state of mind every human being goes through at some point in life. It is called the turmoil of the conscience. At some point in life, everyone feels utter despair. And I sure hope there is a time that the rapist utterly understands what he had done, even if it is in the next life. If he only suffers for such an action through the anguish of spirit a hundredfold harsher than the parent had to suffer I, as the parent, would feel justice was served. The fact that we feel despair is not evil in itself, it was brought upon us by some other action, perhaps from a mistake in the past. What comes from despair? Enlightenment. I, as a Christian, do not believe in the traditional sense of Hell. I refer to hell that Dante Alighieri, though he wrote of an Inferno, wrote on a metaphorical level, spoke of, “there is no greater sorrow than thinking back upon a happy time in misery” (142). This is a morally sound argument, for such a state is brought upon by the individual and not by any God who tries to deter him or her from this state.
To speak out against Hell, one must know what Hell is, and those who preach Hellfire from the pulpit, rarely know what it means. Superstition breeds off of truth, and it becomes incorporated into the consciousness of society. To understand we must look back at the etymology of the word, its original intention. It is an old word that goes back as far as the Greeks, whose very religion was based on pagan gods. The Bible dictionary explains that in Hebrew it was called Sheol, the Greek word for Hades. The Greeks, with some Christian sects, believed Hades to be divided into a paradise and Gahanna, which is Greek for the Hebrew word Hinnom (“Hell”). What is Hinnom? This was a place of suffering in a valley just outside of Jerusalem where the Jews, in the times of their apostasy, offered children for sacrifice. Christ spoke to the Jews personally. He used references for the Jews to personally strike images in their mind. The use of hellfire comes from the fires of Hinnom where the Jews burnt up their idolatrous artifacts and fire burned there constantly, like a garbage heap. To remind them of the suffering of the children burned there in the name of false gods, Jesus wanted to show them that justice is for all, and hell as real or symbolic is no reason to say that Christ was immoral or cruel. It is just a reminder that justice is for all, imperfect in this life, but perfect in the next.
With Hell seen in the context of our state of mind, it would do no good use the argument against the existence of God. For we create our own Hell with our actions and not God who only wishes to save us from it. Thus, fear as a basis for religion does not work in Christianity. Russell speaks of “fear of the mysterious, fear of defeat, fear of death” in the Christian religion (157). However, he never clarified this point with any doctrine or teaching only his fear. The whole heart of the Christian belief is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The etymology of the word Gospel is rather interesting and in no way refers to mysterious fear, defeat or death. “Middle English, from Old English godspel (ultimately translation of Greek euangelion). See EVANGEL: god, good. See GOOD + spel, news]” (“Gospel”). How could a doctrine of good news distill fear in the public? What kind of good news is burning in a lake of fire? Without this teaching of joy, there is only fear of death and the unknown. Any who teach otherwise can be seen as not accepting the true Gospel. No, this fear of death is not a Christian thought, but a procrastinator’s argument. For if one did not believe in hell, then one would not rage so much against it. It could just be ignored like any other non-existent notion. Only those afraid of hell, either literal or symbolic, try to disprove it and the existence of heaven.
Now, my question to the atheist is where is morality without any afterlife? For as the Marquis de Sade, one of the champions of atheism, says in L’Histoire de Juliette, ou les Prospérités du Vice, “once his life is over, there’s an end to it: his annihilation is final and entire, of him nothing survives” (“De Sade”). Where is the humanity of the annihilation of all humanity? God seeks to save us by wiping away our ignorance; nihilists seek to just wipe away humanity. Within the Christian faith, there is justice and hope, with heaven being the opposition of Hell, or our fallen state. We can overcome the grave as well as our weaknesses. In this, there is humanity, because it counters the natural man, and for any atheist, this goes back to evolution and our nature as an evolved animal and shows us the way to be more divine.
This role of opposites plays in all things. There cannot be dark without light, a Heaven without Hell. There cannot even be good without evil. How is this possible? As John Hick in “The Problem of Evil” says, “Evil – whether it be an evil will, an instance of pain, or some disorder or decay in nature has not been set there by God but represents the distortion of something inherently valuable. Whatever exists is, as such, and in its proper place, good; evil is essentially parasitic upon good, being disorder and perversion in a fundamentally good creation” (166). If one is to point blame on evil, go to the source and not the solution of this problem; concentrate on what is demoralizing our society and not the religions seeking to find the cure.
For Christians, the solution is God and Christ. The argument that without God there is no right and wrong goes without saying. Without God, there is nothing, a void. Right and wrong are human concepts and nothing more. God is good, plain, and simple. Man, as a natural man, is an enemy to God. If we were not an enemy to God there wouldn’t be any evil to speak of. This is the role of opposites. Just like the shadow is not set upon the ground by the sun, but by the tree blocking the light. Evil is set upon the earth because of some disorder in our own lives and not by the good itself. Adam, in the Garden of Eden, was free of evil until he chose to disobey God’s law, or if one is not religious, anyone at the beginning for that matter. God didn’t bring this evil upon the world; it was Adam’s choice, man’s choice, as it is our choice today. And to deny this is to deny our role in this world. It is just as bad to say it is my father’s fault I crashed my car while driving under the influence because he spawned me into this life, and allowed me to leave home to go out on my own. Responsibility is a hard pill to swallow especially when a benevolent God is giving us such a thing. In any case, no one can refute God through the existence of evil. If this were a sound argument I could just as easily list cases of good, and unexplained miracles to prove there is a God and that would get us nowhere either.
Instead of listening to some religious weirdo who wants our money, or some nihilist who is just angry at the world telling us whether God exists or not, why not let the source tell us. If any go to the source they will find the answer, and if someone is not interested in trying this and must stick to scientific methods, God will remain hidden. That’s fine as long as I remain free to pursue my findings of the soul without the jealousy and hatred of others who refuse it, but no one will ever find God in a laboratory under mortal limitations, and none will ever convince any with belief otherwise, and vice versa. It is a dead-end. Does God exist? You bet he does, and as long as there are people who believe despite the skeptics, and name-calling, he will continue to exist.
“Assume.” American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. 3rd ed. 1992.
Clifford, W. K. The Ethics of Belief. Ed. John R. Burr and Milton Goldinger. Philosophy and Contemporary Issues 7th. Ed. New Jersey: Simon, 1996. 171-176.
“Gospel.” American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. 3rd ed. 1992.
“Hell.” Bible Dictionary. Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, 1988.
Alighieri, Dante. Inferno. New York: Bantam Books, 1982.
“De Sade.” The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations. 1993.
Hick, John. “The Problem of Evil.” Ed. John R. Burr and Milton Goldinger. Philosophy and Contemporary Issues 7th. Ed. New Jersey: Simon, 1996. 165-170.
Johnson, B. C. “God and the Problem of Evil.” Ed. John R. Burr and Milton Goldinger. Philosophy and Contemporary Issues 7th. Ed. New Jersey: Simon, 1996. 159-164.
Morrison, A. Cressy. “Seven Reasons Why a Scientist Believes in God.” Ed. John R. Burr and Milton Goldinger. Philosophy and Contemporary Issues 7th. Ed. New Jersey: Simon, 1996. 121-124.
Russell, Bertrand. “Why I Am Not a Christian.” Ed. John R. Burr and Milton Goldinger. Philosophy and Contemporary Issues 7th. Ed. New Jersey: Simon, 1996. 147-158.