The debate regarding the existence of God may have started since time began. The existence of God has been questioned based on two grounds, first there is so much suffering, injustice, and chaos in the world that it is hard to believe that there is a Supreme Being watching over all mankind.
Secondly, there seems to be no scientific proof that God does exist. It has become a mental and moral problem that requires a solution. It is not just a religious problem but it is also a human problem that has to be resolved for the sake of knowledge and for the sake of those who may have labored in vain serving a God that does not exist. This study will look into arguments made by men of superior intellect to determine if there is basis to the claim that God does exist.
Intelligent people question the existence of God based on the study of evidence and the use of the power of observation to learn more about human nature and the natural world. A scientist can use the scientific method to discover God, and like a researcher in a laboratory experiment he can create a study to prove that there is no God.
Since there seems to be no physical evidence that a Supreme Being is in existence then it is easy for this scientist to declare that God is non-existent. A philosopher and social thinker on the other hand look at human history and declare the same thing. Karl Marx epitomized this view as he cannot reconcile the fact that a Sovereign Lord has no power to change the plight of the needy and the oppressed.
It is not surprising to discover that there are many intelligent men who believed in the existence of a Supreme Being. They also seek evidence and they also use their power of observation to understand human nature and human history. They offer a dissenting view as what was proposed by atheists like Marx and Freud.
According to a well-known Bavarian philosopher named Feuerbach, “religion is not an absurdity, nor pure illusion, as our conception of God reflects the being of man” (Schirmacher, 1997, p.1). Although Feuerbach’s statement is not an outright admission on the existence of God, his comment is a typical response for those who are not prepared to make absolute judgments regarding the existence of God.
Feuerbach knew how to stay in the middle, but the same thing cannot be said about Freud and Marx. Freud argued on the basis of religion and he believed that religion is an illusion created to serve a desperate need for protection and he wrote:
As we already know, the terrifying impression of helplessness in childhood aroused the need for protection – for protection through love – which was provided by the father; and the recognition that this helplessness lasts throughout life made it necessary to cling to the existence of a father, but this time a more powerful one (Plantinga, 2007, p. 50).
Freud looked into human nature and he discovered an insecure human being.
He formulated various theories regarding the cause and implications of this insecurity. Finally, he turned his attention to religion and concluded that it is the byproduct of deep-seated insecurities and fears. He provided a good argument against religion but it is not enough to contend that there is no God because religion is not equal to God.
At the same time his theory is full of holes because there are people who are secure and unafraid and yet they worship a Supreme Being. Take for instance an innocent child who is secure in the care of loving parents and yet this same child offers a prayer every night before he goes to sleep.
Karl Marx, another famous thinker who shook the world with his ideas about economics, provided a strong counter-argument against the existence of God and he wrote:
The basis of irreligious criticism is man makes religion, religion does not make man. In other words, religion is the self-consciousness and the self-feeling of the man who has either not yet found himself, or else having found himself, has lost himself once more. But man is no abstract being squatting outside the world. Man is the world of man, the state, society (Pantinga, 2000, p.60).
Freud said that believers are insecure and fearful. Marx on the other hand asserted that believers are weak-minded. However, hurling insults at those who profess belief in God is not enough. Marx knew that by declaring that God does not exist he has created a power vacuum and that someone must occupy that throne. Thus, Marx had to say that man is the highest being and that there is none that compares to man – he is society and he is the state.
The arguments of atheists, agnostics and critics of religion can be easily obliterated if these philosophers begin to accept the fact that man is not the most powerful being in the whole universe. If they allow a certain level of humility then they will realize that they have not proven and may not be able to prove the non-existence of God. It is one thing to say that religion has destroyed civilizations and that religious leaders and shamans had created a system to enslave mankind; but it is quite another to disprove the existence of God.
The ability to disprove the existence of God requires not only superior intellect but also the ability to think and move like God. A human being must be able to travel at the speed of light and cross the expanse of the universe to make a final judgment that he can prove the non-existence of a Supreme Being. Therefore humans must become God first before he can accurately declare that there is no God.
It can be argued that Anselm of Canterbury began his analysis from the perspective of humility and as a result he was able to figure out that the mere thought of God is enough proof that God exists. Anselm wrote the following:
The definition of God is indeed so true that it cannot be thought of as not being true. For it is quite possible to think of something whose non-existence cannot be thought of. This must be greater than something whose non-existence can be thought of (McGrath, 1999, p.90).
It is important to believe that the mind has limitations. Anselm has pointed out one major limitation of the mind and that is it cannot conceive beyond the truth. Even if the thought of man is defective, the ideas that spring forth from his thinking are based on something truthful.
For example, man cannot think of an island if there is no such thing as an island. He can exaggerate his conception of an island but the basic premise is present which is: a body of land surrounded by water. Since God is not like any other physical thing or being man’s thoughts about God are different and yet follows the same principle described by Anselm.
Anselm’s argument however can only stand if critics are willing to submit to the idea that man is not the most powerful being in the Universe. Pascal adheres to this thought and according to one commentary, “For Pascal, knowing God requires acknowledging God’s supremacy and confessing our own human powerlessness to embrace God through our own resources alone” (Peters, 2009, p. 184).
It is not only Anselm who believed in the existence of God. There are other like-minded people like him who through the use of their intellect had to agree that there is a Supreme Being. Plato a man who was ahead of his time and credited with revolutionary ideas could not help but declare that God is the reason for everything.
According to a biographer who carefully studied the life and works of Plato, this world-renown philosopher said that: “no human affair is worth serious consideration, but God alone is worth serious thought, God the measure of all things” (Mueller, 1936, p. 457). When Plato knew that the end of his life was near, he made the concession that without the knowledge of God the mind can only encounter chaos instead of clarity.
Aside from Plato, Anselm, and Pascal another famous thinker was unafraid to declare his belief regarding a Supreme Being. He is none other than Aquinas. Just like Pascal, Aquinas understood that the path to the knowledge of God can only be discovered through humility because he said that it can only be attained through faith and revelation.
Faith is a stumbling block for many atheists and agnostics because they believe that it is similar to asking a person to believe without reason. But in the case of Aquinas faith is not a blind obedience to a certain creed. He proved that he is not weak-minded as Karl Marx would label a believer. Faith is an acknowledgement that there is something out there that is beyond the capability of the human mind to comprehend and appreciate.
Aquinas asserted that God can be known by faith and by revelation (McInerny & O’Callaghan, 2009, p. 1). Faith is submission to a higher power and the self is not made the center of the universe. But humility can also be found in the acknowledgment that man can only realize the existence of God through revelation that comes from him. Therefore, Karl Marx does not know God not because he is weak-minded. Karl Marx does not know God because it was not revealed to him.
It is foolish to argue that intelligent people are atheists and agnostics while intellectually inferior people believe in the existence of God. The arguments of critics were examined earlier and it was found to be overly simplified as compared to the solutions provided by those who believe that there is indeed a Supreme Being that created the heavens and the Earth.
In other words there are many intelligent people who are passionate believers and willing to defend what they believe in. Anselm used the ontological approach which is the contention that God is a priori argument. It is an idea clarified by Anselm when he said “that being than which nothing greater can be conceived” (Warburton, 1999, p.19).
Aquinas on the other hand used the cosmological and teleological argument to prove the existence of God. Aquinas said that there are five ways to prove the existence of God. The first way is to argue that an object in motion cannot be in motion unless something or someone has moved it (Magee, 2007, p.1). Aquinas said that this phenomenon cannot go on forever because the object cannot be the mover and the object of the force at the same time. There must be someone who caused the object to move.
Aquinas also said that there is the concept of the efficient cause because an object cannot be the cause of its existence. In other words there is a source of all the physical things that can be perceived in the natural world. The third and fourth way is related to the first and second argument because it is Aquinas cosmological view of the universe. It pertains to the idea about the origin of all things and that God is the highest standard which objects must be compared with (Magee, 2007, p.1).
The fifth way however is understood from a teleological perspective. It can be appreciated if one looks at the perfect order of this planet and the Universe. It is clear that there is a Supreme Being that controlled these things. Aquinas clarified his argument even further when he said that “there are objects and things in this world that lack intelligence and yet they move with purpose” (Magee, 2007, p.1).
The critics must produce a similar type of argument that does not only rely on the criticism on the failure of religion and the boastful conclusion that believers are fools and does not have the mental capability to disprove the existence of God.
It requires a great degree of hubris to proclaim that he can prove the non-existence of God. This is the reason why it is hard to adhere to the belief system developed by Freud and Marx when it comes to the existence of God. They try to disprove the existence of the Supreme Being by exposing the failure of religion.
But what if God is more than religion? Although Freud and Marx focused their attack on the hypocrisy of religious leaders and the failure of religion to address the problems of humanity, the most significant hurdle that they may not be able to overcome is the overreliance on their mental capabilities.
The only way that a human being can declare with finality that there is no God is for him to investigate the outer realms of the Universe and using his senses examine from end-to-end that there is no sign of God. However, this may not even be enough because he also needed to be endowed with the attributes of God to know for a fact that there is nothing beyond the physical realm.
He has to be like God in the same way that Karl Marx has exalted the value of man and debased the position of God. Nevertheless, this is not enough and therefore it is wise be humble and acknowledge that the human mind has limitations and that without revelation there is no way to know God.
It is easier to believe in God rather than to believe that God does not exist. The declaration that there is no God is similar to the declaration that man knows everything. The declaration of unbelief is the same as the acknowledgement that mankind has figured out everything there is to know about this planet, the Universe and the realms beyond the physical.
Critics like Freud and Marx failed to provide a convincing argument because they simply equated religion with God. But even a person with an average intelligent quotient can tell them that religion is not synonymous to God. But those who are humble enough to acknowledge that they are not yet aware of everything there is to know, they were given the revelation about a Universe that could never have been possible without the existence of God.
McGrath, A. (1999). Science & religion: an introduction. MA: Wiley-Blackwell.
McInerny, R., & O’Callaghan, J. (2009). Saint Thomas Aquinas. Stanford Encyclopedi of Philosophy. Retrieved from http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/aquinas/
Mueller, G. (1936). Plato and the gods. Philpapers. Retrieved from http://philpapers.org/rec/MUEPAT
Peters, J. (2009). The logic of the heart: Augustine, Pascal, and the rationality of faith. MI: Baker Academic.
Plantinga, A. (2000). Warranted Christian belief. New York: Oxford University Press Schirmacher, W. (1997). German socialist philosophy: Ludwig Feuerbach, Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels. New York: The Continuum Publishing Company.
Warburton, N. (1999). Philosophy the basics. New York: Routledge.