"On The Existence of God."
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"On The Existence of God."

TABLE OF CONTENTS.
  • 1 - The Science of Evidence:
  • 2 - If We Can Imagine a God Then He Must Exist:
  • 3 - The First, or Primary Cause Argument:
  • 4 - Life without God Would Be Meaningless:
  • 5 - The Epicurean Argument Against the Existence of God:
  • 6 - The Attributes of God:




  • [TOC]
    1 - The Science of Evidence
    Before we get started, let me say: I allow that there is a possiblity, that, indeed, a God does exist.

    "'Have you ever given any attention to the Science of Evidence?' said Mr. Grodman. 'How do you mean?' asked the Home Secretary, rather puzzled, but with a melancholy smile. 'I should hardly speak of it as a science; I look at it as a question of common sense.' 'Pardon me, Sir. It is the most subtle and difficult of all the sciences. It is indeed rather the science of the sciences. What is the whole of inductive logic, as laid down (say) by Bacon and Mill, but an attempt to appraise the value of evidence, the said evidence being the trails left by the Creator has (I say it in all reverence) drawn a myriad red herrings across the track. But the true scientist refuses to be baffled by superficial appearances in detecting the secrets of nature.'"1
    Now, let me deal with the classic arguments.

    [TOC]
    2 - If We Can Imagine a God Then He Must Exist
    Anselm's (1033-1109) ontological proof for the existence of God runs like this: "Each of us has an idea of a supremely perfect being, or of a God. Perfection implies existence, for a being with the added element of existence is more perfect than one who is only an idea." The church liked Anselm's approach, so much so, they made him into a saint. It was another saint of the church, the most honoured philosopher to whom the Roman Catholic church can point, Thomas Aquinas, who answered Anselm: "Such an idea of God cannot prove his actual existence, because the idea does not show that there is an objective reality corresponding to it." Simply put a thing does not exist unless it can be observed, or it is provable in logic. Thus, Anselm's idea of God, was, in the final analysis, just that, an idea, with no proof in reality. Aquinas, however, was, as you might well imagine, a believer; he staked his belief in the Aristotelian argument known as the "Cosmological Argument," or "The First, or Primary Cause Argument."

    [TOC]
    3 - The First, or Primary Cause Argument
    This is one of the oldest proofs advanced for the existence of God. It runs as follows: "If I exist there must be some cause of it, and a cause of causes. And the first cause of all is what men call God." This of course assumes that all things must have a cause, and while everything man can observe in this universe has a cause, it is a cause only in the sense that everything is, at any one moment, changing in form. There is absolutely no reason to think otherwise, than that the fundamental elements of the universe have always been and will always be. The fundamental elements, may, -- for all one knows -- be a Fundamental Element or a Single Law of Energy. One may call this Single Law of Energy, God; but describing It in human terms, well, "These be the dreams of baby brains."2 In any event, if everything must have a cause then God must have a cause. One is reminded of the Indian view of things: the world rests on an elephant and the elephant rests on a tortoise -- now, you might ask -- upon what does the tortoise stand.

    [TOC]
    4 - Life without God Would Be Meaningless
    Where would one be without a God? And the answer is: just where we were before we dreamt up the question. Worth and meaning are human creations. Life has no absolute worth or absolute meaning; to those who live it, life has relative worth or relative meaning and in direct proportion to the degree we live it. The worth of life is the value we set on it; and its meaning is that which the liver gives to it. What a shame that anyone should allow another person to dictate what value and meaning one should give to one's own life.

    [TOC]
    5 - The Epicurean Argument Against the Existence of God
    "The gods either take away evil from the world and will not, or, being willing to do so cannot; or they neither can nor will, or lastly, they are both able and willing. If they have the will to remove evil and cannot, then they are not omnipotent. If they can, but will not, then they are not benevolent. If they are neither able nor willing, then they are neither omnipotent nor benevolent. Lastly, if they are both able and willing to annihilate evil, how does it exist?" The Epicurean argument cannot be answered. The religionists simply explain there is 'evil' in the world; and, anyway, who are we to attempt to understand all the ways of God?

    [TOC]
    6 - The Attributes of God
    Assuming one, through faith, can come to recognize an identity which exists entirely outside our known universe, the separate, -- and likely the larger question -- is how one can conclude Him to be omniscient, omnipotent and benevolent, especially when all about us we see -- so, much, human suffering.

    Hedge your bets you say! So there is no good proof of the existence of God, why not gear your life as if One does exist. The difficulty with this approach is that one will then likely lead a stilted life, one without joy. Oliver Wendell Holmes had considerable insight into this aspect when he said:

    "There are not a few who, even in this life, seem to be preparing themselves for that smileless eternity to which they look forward, by banishing all gayety from their hearts and all joyousness from their countenances. ... I don't doubt he (one of Heaven's assessors) would cut his kitten's tail off, if he caught her playing with it. Please tell me, who taught her to play with it?"
    To believe that the universe was formed by a fortuitous concourse of atoms, is, given man's limited horizons as to time and space, to believe, as Swift has said, that "a most ingenious treatise on philosophy" has fallen out through an accidental jumbling of the alphabet. And, yet, all the evidence supports the proposition that life has come about by chance; and, there is no evidence to the contrary. The universe and all that is in it, has come about not by insulated interpositions of Divine power, exerted in each particular case; but, by general laws of nature some of which we only as of late have come to discover, some of which we shall in time discover, and most of which we likely will never discover: natural laws working over an unimaginable length and depth of space and time.

    For me, God is not a single identity to which we might lend imagined attributes; for me, there is no personal God.

    "I certainly reject every anthropomorphic, personal, or animistic interpretation of the term, interpretations through which many people succeed in giving it a meaning. The conception of a man-like or mind-like acting being appears to me rather the product of an arrogant overestimation of the capacities of a man-like mind. ...
    Perhaps what many people mean in speaking of God is just a personification of that tradition of morals or values that keeps their community alive. The source of order that religion ascribes to a human-like divinity - the map or guide that will show a part successfully how to move within the whole - we now learn to see to be not outside the physical world but one of its characteristics, one far too complex for any of its parts possibly to form an 'image' or 'picture' of it."
    3
    I conclude, and say, that, like Plato, I believe in a God in a "far higher sense than that in which any of my accusers believe in Him." I believe in the pantheism of Spinoza: God is to be identified with the whole universe, the sum total of everything that exists.


    For the related topic see, blupete's essay "On Nature."


    [TOC]
    Notes:

    1 Israel Zangwill (1864-1926), The Big Bow Mystery.

    2 "Stanzas from the Kasidah."

    3 F. A. Hayek, The Fatal Conceit, pp. 139-40.



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    2012

    Peter Landry