Believing in God
Atheism - Believing that God does not exist.
Agnosticism - Not being sure whether God exists.
What do Christians believe;
- God is omnipotent, omnibenevolent and omniscient.
- Created the world and everything in it.
- Answers prayers and can perform miracles.
Why do atheists not believe in God;
- Science, not religion, explains how the world was created.
- There is no physical proof of God's existence.
- Many events that theists believe are due to God (such as miracles) can be explained be science or as coincidences.
- Evil and suffering in the world prove that an all-loving God cannot exist.
Why do parents give children a religious upbringing?
- It is their duty to raise children in the Christian faith.
- Christianity gives children a secure basis and helps them through difficulties.
Aspects of a religious upbringing...
- Baptism - Welcomes them to the Christian faith, promise to support them within the faith.
- Worship - Sunday schools, church services, Christian festivals.
- School - Church schools educate children in the Christian faith.
- Confirmation - Confirm and renew vows made at baptism.
- Community - Bible study groups, youth clubs, prayer meetings Offers a sense of belonging, may meet partners in the church community.
- Parents' examples - Parents pray, tell bible stories and attend church with their children.
Some people believe in God because they have had religious experiences. This convinces them that God exists. There are four main types of religious experiences.
- Numinous - Completely amazes, inspires awe and wonder, Words are not enough to explain but it leaves a person feeling greater than themselves. E.g. A sunrise could be a numinous experience.
- Conversion - Causes an individual to change their beliefs, ideas or complete lifestyle. An athiest may suddenly believe in God or a person may change religions. E.g. In the bible Saul originally persecuted Christians. After his conversion he became a Christian.
- Prayer - Communication with God, share ideas with God, to praise him, to thank him, to ask for forgiveness. E.g. Monks have an hour of silent prayer every morning.
- Miracles - An act of God that appears to be impossible, goes against laws of science and nature. E.g. Jesus performed many miracles such as; the calming of the storm, feeding the 5000 and the healing of the crippled man.
The Design Argument
- Design is the result of intelligent thought.
- The universe shows evidence of being designed. E.g. gravity, ozone layer.
- This suggests that a being with intelligence designed the universe.
- The universe is too complex to have happened by chance or be designed by anyone other than God. (He is omnipotent). Therefore, God exists.
Evidence for the design argument is Paley's Watch;
- Paley compared the world to a watch.
- The first time a person saw a watch they would know it had been designed as it is so complex.
- Many parts have been carefully placed together to work successfully, so it must have been planned and designed.
- Paley argued the same of the universe, it could not have happened by chance, must have had a clever designer.
- The only being capable of designing the universe is God. Therefore, God exists.
Arguments against design;
- We cannot 'prove' God exists, the design argument only suggests he does.
- Design could actually be the result of evolution; the scientific theory that everything has evolved and only has the appearance of design.
The Causation Argument
Causation proves God exists by showing that everything happens for a reason.
- Nothing happens by itself, everything that happens must be caused by something else.
- The universe cannot have happened by itself.
- A powerful cause was necessary to cause the universe.
- This cause has to be God (omnipotent). Therefore, God exists.
Arguments against causation;
- Cannot be proved, only suggests God exists.
- Even if everything in the world seems to have a cause. It doesn't mean the universe did.
- There are other possible causes of the universe (big bang).
- If everything has a cause, what caused God?
The Cosmological Argument;
In the 13th century, Thomas Aquinas argued that everything is caused by something else. He argued that there must have been a first cause of the universe. Aquinas believed this first cause had to be God and called him the 'unmoved mover' because he is the start of the universe.
The Big Bang Theory - An enormous explosion started the universe around 15 billion years ago.
Evolution - Species developed gradually over millions of years and adapted to their surroundings.
Natural Selection - The way in which species naturally select the best characteristics for survival.
Scientific theories lead people to doubt God exists because;
- They offer alternative explanations of how the world and humans came to exist with no reference to God.
- Science offers evidence that can be seen and tested whereas God cannot be seen or proven.
Some Christians believe science is compatible with God because;
- The bible's description of the creation of the world is more of a story.
- The six days of creation were 'stages' not actual periods of time.
- Science describes 'how' and the bible explains 'why'.
Other Christians believe that science is wrong as they conflict with what is written in the Bible. These Christians are called 'Creationists'.
Christian responses to unanswered prayers; Positive;
- They may accept that God hears and answers prayers but not always in the way that they hope or expect. They do not fully understand God but go on trusting him.
- They may accept that they do not have enough faith that God will answer their prayer, so they must go on trying.
- Some may believe what they are prayng for is not part of God's will or divine plan.
- Some may accept that God does not answer selfish prayers.
- They may feel that God is not listening to them.
- People who experience pain and suffering in their lives may pray to God, but if this pain carries on they may feel God doesn't care.
- Some people may pray for God to save a loved ones life, if this person dies they could be angry or reject God.
Unanswered prayers may lead some Christians to question their belief in God, to reject him or to believe he doesn't exist.
Evil & Suffering
Moral Evil - Actions carried out by humans that cause suffering e.g. murder, abuse, war and theft.
Natural Evil - Things that cause suffering but have nothing to do with humans e.g. famine, disease, natural disasters.
What does the Bible say?
- Genesis says that God created a perfect world.
- Adam and Eve used their free will in the Garden of Eden to disobey God, which allowed evil and suffering to enter the world.
- God sent jesus to earth to overcome evil in the world and die for our sins on the cross.
- God gave people free will - The ability to make choices for themselves.
- May be a test from God - To see how strong their faith in God is.
- Part of God's plan - People should trust him as he knows why everything happens.
- Allows people to follow Jesus' example - People can strive to do good.
Christian Responses to Evil & Suffering
- Omni-benevolent - If God is all-good he would want to stop evil and suffering.
- Omniscient - If God is all-knowing he would know how to stop evil and suffering.
- Omnipotent - If God is all-powerful he would be able to stop evil and suffering.
Some people do not believe in God as they see evil and suffering all around them. As evil and suffering are present everywhere, either God is not omni-benevolent, omniscient and omnipotent OR he does not exist.
- Praying - Hoping God will give then the strength to cope with what they face.
- Helping Others - Offering aid (becoming doctors or nurses) to help others cope with evil and suffering.
- Volunteering - With a charity or organisation to support others when they are suffering.
- Strengthening their faith - With the knowledge God has a plan for them.
Believing in God - Media
The media can have a powerful influence on how we view the world. There are many different ways in which the media portrays belief in God. These can affect attitudes towards believing in God.
Only Fools and Horses - The Miracle of Peckham -
- Themes; church, priest, faith, confession, miracles and religious experience.
- Summary; Hospice needs to be repaired, statue crying, media circus, roof leak, money raised goes to hospice.
- Supporting belief in God;Yes... Hospice is saved, leak was in the right place, Del gives money away-out of character. No... Leak was not a miracle, Del had a connection with the hospice which was why he saved it, priest supports the theft (led from roof-caused leak).
Potitive - Some religious programmes show the benefits of religion of someones life, and view it as a positive thing.
Negative - Some however, portray religion as something to laugh at and ridicule or question God's existence. They may suggest religious believers are crazy or that their is something wrong with being religious.