How do we prove something exists?
•Personal experience => ‘I’ve seen it so I know it exists.’ •Reliable evidence => ‘I haven’t seen it but others have convinced me that they have, so I believe it.’ •Logic => ‘I haven’t seen it but there must be a logical reason to believe in its existence.’
First Cause argument
•Existence of the Universe to prove God’s existence => Personal experience
–Everything that exists was caused to exist
–The Universe exists, so it too must have a cause
–There had to be something eternal that wasn't caused by anything
–The eternal first cause is God
–Therefore God exists •St Thomas Aquinas, a Christian, believed that the Universe had a beginning and as things can’t come into existence by themselves, there must be a cause (GOD). He used the visible existence of the universe to ‘prove’ his argument.
•First Cause and time: Some theists use the fact that we can measure
time as evidence that the Universe had a beginning, because to measure
time you need a starting point. The Universe must have had a beginning
and this was God.
•Problem of the Big Bang:Most scientists accept that the Universe came
into existence through the Big Bang. Atheists use the it as an argument
against God as they say it occurred by chance and had no first
cause. Theists argue that God triggered the Big Bang and use it to
support the first cause argument. •Atheists argue that the f c argument contradicts itself. If everything had
a cause what caused God?Theists counter-argue that God is outside of
time and space and therefore doesn’t need a cause.
The Design (Teleological) Argument
•Universe wasn’t made by chance, it’s too ordered and complicated;
must have been designed by God. –Christians say Genesis account
supports this. •William Paley: –Argued that if we found a watch and a stone in the field
we would question the existence/purpose/design of the watch but not
the stone as the watch is complex and must have had a designer. He
links this to the Earth and God; the Earth is complex there are millions of
species of animals and plants that work together. Therefore Paley
assumes that the Earth must have had a designer => GOD –It’s nonsense to assume that the watch came about by chance so why do we argue that our complex world came about by chance too?
•Isaac Newton (Thumbs): –Only humans and primates have opposable thumbs which is evidence of God’s design –We all have different patterns on our thumbs which shows that God has planned each human separately. •Anthropic principle: –Developed in the 1930’s by F.R.Tennant. Argued that God
planned the world so that everything was just right for human
life. E.g. our proximity to the sun; any closer would be too warm,
any further away too cold. This fine tuning can’t have occurred by
chance and must be the deliberate action of God.
–Evolution caused us to develop opposable thumbs and not
design by God.
•Theists argue that if we developed through natural
selection then we wouldn’t write books, paint etc as it
isn’t needed for survival. But we do write, paint etc so we
were designed. –Atheists argue that the existence of evil and suffering proves
that the world isn’t designed as a designer wouldn’t have
included these flaws.
•Theists reply that God is beyond human understanding
and there is an explanation for evil and suffering that we don’t
Argument from Miracles for God’s existence
Theists use them to prove God’s existence by arguing that, as there is no natural explanation for what happened, then they must be supernatural events. The miracle must have been caused by something outside nature and, as only God is outside nature, then it must be the result of God’s intervention in the world. Therefore, God exists.
Two types of miracles:
- One which breaks the laws of nature; T => God is outside of time and space so the laws don’t apply to Him. A => Something that science cannot yet explain. E.g: Illness was once thought to be result of sin but now scientists understand the causes of disease.
- One which is a result of great coincidence; T => God’s intervention. A => pure coincidence, no interference from an outside source.
-There are too many accounts of miracles
-They’re accepted by doctors as genuine
-Miracles are not for the benefit of individuals but for everyone
-Miracles can convert people to God
-Theists over-exaggerate ordinary events to make them appear miraculous
-They are pure coincidence
-Some ‘miracles’ are fake, made up by people wanting money or fame
-God is picking and choosing who to help => not benevolent
- The doctors may have wrongly diagnosed an illness and the person may have been cured naturally
-Cure of illness may be result of mind of matter and the belief that the person would be cured
Argument from Personal Experience for God’s existe
People claim to have experienced God and therefore, argue that God exists. Examples of experience include:
- Communicating w/God through prayer/meditation; speaking to God and waiting for His reply, people have felt his presence.
- Feeling God’s presence in worship. Charismatic event (Receiving gifts of the holy spirit => Pentecostal W). Or Sacrament (Outward sign of inner gift from God => Catholic Mass).
- Feeling the presence of God in nature; feeling the wonder and awe while looking at God’s creation and gift to us.
- Experiencing a conversion; E.g St Paul, Jewish => Christian
- Involvement in a miraculous event
- Influence is so great that it must be genuine
-Direct personal proof is clear evidence of God’s existence
-Sometimes several people share an experience, can’t all be lying
-People are willing to die for their faith
-Person experience can convert people to God (E.g St Paul)
-There is a lack of evidence to prove that they are genuine
-Under the influence of drugs or alcohol, causing hallucinations
-Religious believers have different interpretations of an event
-People are mistaken or misled
-Events are imagined out of desperation
-People are twisting the truth => looking for money or fame
Argument from Morality for God’s existence
Morality is the sense of right & wrong which help guides people’s behaviour. Our conscience tells us whether we are doing right or wrong; theists believe it comes from God as:
- People have an inbuilt sense of morality
- This sense comes for a source outside of them
- This source is God; therefore God exists
They also believe that guilt feelings are God telling them they’ve done wrong:
Atheists counter-argue that guilt feelings are a result of us going against moral rules provided by society and our families. Also, not everyone gets guilt feelings.
Theists also claim that morality takes priority. We do things that are morally right because its how we ought to act even when we’d prefer to act in another way. This command comes from God, therefore He exists.
- Atheists claim that the command comes from the expectations of society and our families.
Theists claim that moral behaviour is rewarded in the afterlife, therefore God exists.
- Atheists argue that there is no evidence to support life after death so this can’t be used as evidence for God’s existence.
- Bible => There is evidence from the Bible, it shows God acting in the world
- Miracles and personal experience => Show God acting in the world
- Prayers => People have had their prayers answered and this leads them to believe in God
- God the creator => God must have created us because we are all unique
- Good exists => Good things happen in the world and this proves that a benevolent force acts in the world