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The question “Does God exist?” is a pretty big one in my personal life. My answer to that question determines all kinds of things about me — my ethics, my career, how I spend my time, how I relate to the world around me. Same goes for you, I assume. But as big of a question as it is, it’s not one that many people ponder.
Because most people in the world believe they know the answer to it. Religious folks will say, yes, OF COURSE God exists. Most believers can answer that question in the affirmative with a great amount of certainty.
Same goes for atheists. The atheists I know are pretty certain, too. No, they’ll say. God most definitely does NOT exist.
(And, to cover all bases, occasionally you’ll run into an agnostic who doesn’t really believe God exists but is open to the idea. Or a Christian who has bet his life on it but can respond to the does-God-exist question with only a sigh and “I hope so.”)
But I’m less interested today in HOW you answer that question. What I want to know is WHY you answer the question one way or another. Why do you believe or disbelieve in the existence of God?
For years, theologians and philosophers have come up with proofs, theories, and hypotheses for the existence of God. Some are better than others. Here (quickly) are a few of the major ones:
The Ontological Argument: The fact that we can come up with the idea of God is proof that God exists. If God is the epitome of a perfect being — if we can’t think of anything more perfect than God — then how can a perfect being not exist? How do we come up with the idea of perfection if there isn’t something perfect in the first place? Wouldn’t non-existence of that perfect being nullify its perfection? Therefore, it’s rational to believe in God.
The Transcendental Argument: The existence of morality and ethics points to the reality of a higher, ultra-ethical absolute. Almost all humans agree that things like murder or genocide are wrong. Why? The standard must come from somewhere. Supporters of this argument say the source of this morality is God.
The Teleological Argument: The complexity, order, and apparent purpose seen in nature seem to indicate a designer. This is the well-known “Divine Watchmaker” theory. You don’t look at a shiny new Brietling and assume it came to existence due to natural processes. You know there’s a craftsman behind it.
The Anthropic Argument: The fine-tuned universe theory. The universe and planet where we live seems to be specially calibrated for carbon-based, oxygen-breathing humans like us. Almost as if someone knew we were coming and set the table just so.
These are just a few of the best-known arguments. For some people, these are more than enough to suggest the existence of God. For others, they can quickly be debunked. There are enough logical and philosophical (not to mention theological) holes in these arguments to drive a busload of atheists through.
In introducing these, I want to open up a discussion and get your perspective: which “proofs” of God make sense to you? And which ones don’t?
If you are a believer, please tell us why it is you believe in God.
If you are a nontheist, please tell us why it is you don’t believe in God.
And let’s all do it with courtesy, por favor.