If you are reading this article it is because you’re seeking some kind of answer to the age-old question, “Does God Exist?” And it is likely that you have already decided whether or not you believe in God. If this is so, then you might just be looking for some confirmation. But I would ask “why?“.
If you are in need of confirmation, then you must be willing to admit that you don’t really know the answer. You may believe one way or the other, but there is still some uncertainty. And this is fine. Actually, it’s a very good place to start, because as long as you are willing to admit your uncertainty then you are open to discovering the truth. If you’ve already decided what is true, without really knowing for certain, then you’re only fooling yourself.
There has been a lot of debate on this topic, and it’s very interesting to note that there has not been any definitive answer from either side of the argument. The reason I say this is because if there were a definitive answer there would not be anything left to debate. And yet the debate goes on.
And while there is a great deal of argument, what you rarely find is open discussion. What I mean is that you have two opponents who are absolutely convinced of their own viewpoint, with no willingness to change their perspective, and only intent on trying only to convert one another. They both offer very intelligent points, and yet the only person they convince is themselves.
Such debates are entertaining but quite pointless. And the truth is that you cannot prove whether or not God exists to someone who has already made up their mind about it. So why do we give so much time and energy to trying?
I think the reason is that when a person is uncertain of anything, yet unwilling to face his uncertainty, he has to do everything in his power to convince himself that he is certain. But he will not be fully convinced so long as others are not equally convinced. As long as there are others who disagree, they offer reason for us to doubt our position. But arrogant as we are sometimes, we don’t want to reconsider. We don’t want to admit that we might be wrong. We have too much ego invested in believing that we are right.
Really, it has little to do with whether or not God exists, and more to do with whether or not we are right about it. I’ve seen a lot of these debates, and taken part in some myself, and I have never seen anyone change their viewpoint. I suppose it might happen once in a while, but I’m sure it’s very rare. And I’m not just speaking in regard to the debaters, but also about the audience. The arguments given by both opponents are so well constructed that everyone walks away feeling that their initial belief has been confirmed, regardless of which side they are on.
I think that many Theists have some doubt about whether God actually exists, and I think that many Atheists have some suspicion that God might exist. And this is why there seems to be so much need to argue about it. Both Theists and Atheists alike are often believers in one regard or the other. But how many of them know anything for certain? I think that very few Theists have had any sort of personal experience that could be interpreted as a direct communion with God. And there isn’t one single Atheist who has explored every region of the universe and beyond and reported back that God was nowhere to be found. And yet, people act as if they have such unwavering certainty about their beliefs.
Now there may be a few people in the audience who are sincere seekers, and what I mean by this is that they come to the debate undecided. They come knowing that they don’t know. They come with a willingness to hear both sides of the argument, to weigh the evidence, and to make a truly balanced conclusion. And maybe, if they are very honest with themselves, they walk away still harboring some uncertainty. And if there is an answer to the question, they are the most likely of anyone to discover that answer, because they don’t presume to already know it.
But I think that this question really cannot be answered satisfactorily, at least not by any intellectual or philosophical standards. All of the arguments are wonderful at offering us more questions and provoking us to think about it by exploring various perspectives. But I don’t think that God can be known by pure reasoning and logic. We can reason as to whether God’s existence is likely or unlikely. That is to say, we can determine whether or not such knowledge is worth pursuing. But to know God as a matter of fact is something deeply personal. It’s experiential. And any experience that takes us beyond the realm of the concrete can never be adequately conveyed in ordinary language. The best one can do is speak in metaphor.
We could argue like this about the existence of love, but who can prove whether or not love exists by purely logical arguments? Who can even define or describe love with any accuracy? It would be like trying to describe color to a blind person.
So this brings me to another question. Does any of this matter? Does it matter whether or not God exists? Or, whether or not God exists, does it matter whether or not we believe?
If God is infinite then God is self-sufficient. That is to say that God doesn’t need anything, and he certainly doesn’t need us to believe in him. Whether or not we believe in him has nothing to do with whether or not he exists. His existence is independent of our belief. Whether we believe or not is for our own sake, but how necessary is it?
Some people have the idea that believing in God is essential to winning his favor, but again, he doesn’t need our belief, so why should he have any interest in rewarding or punishing us for it? Secondly, it is often said that God is Love, and love is forgiving. So if one did not believe in God, due to insufficient evidence, or whatever the reason, would God not forgive that person?
And suppose that one believes in God, only to discover at the time of death that no such being exists, and that death is the final word. Would that have meant that this life was wasted? If death is absolute dissolution, then what does it matter what one believes while they are alive?
Some would suggest that belief in God is essential to living a good and moral life, but this idea is contrary to all the evidence. Not only is it demonstrated that most Atheists have a strong sense of morality, but there have been an enormous number of immoral acts committed by religious people all throughout history.
One might say that the conscience, our moral compass, is driven by God who resides in the heart, but even if this is true, belief or disbelief in God’s existence doesn’t seem to have any effect on how well the mechanism functions. Nor does believing in God prevent us from circumventing the conscience by way of reasoning.
Some people have the idea that belief in God is what gives life meaning and purpose, but I have to disagree. Meaning is what we give to life by how we live it, and purpose is the intent by which we live. You don’t have to believe in God to have either of these. And, in fact, you can believe in God and still not have any real sense of purpose or meaning. You might assume that there is some meaning and purpose to God’s creation, without knowing what it is, and this may bring you comfort in times of uncertainty. But believing that there is meaning and purpose behind everything is not the same as having meaning and purpose right now in the present moment.
Believing in God doesn’t assure anyone peace of mind. And not believing doesn’t thwart our capacity to experience joy and fulfillment. Whether one believes that God exists or whether one believes he doesn’t, either belief may give that person a sense of comfort, which again is why so many people feel the strong need to proselytize.
I think there are many good reasons to believe in God, and just as many reasons not to. But I don’t think that one belief is better than the other. After all, they are both beliefs, and believing is not the same as knowing.
What I encourage is that we recognize our beliefs, whatever they may be, as little more than inferences and assumptions, while remaining open to the possibility of actual knowing through direct personal experience. We need to have this kind of willingness and flexibility in all matters if we ever expect to gain any genuine certainty.
If you really want to know whether or not God exists, and you are truly open to finding the answer, regardless of what that answer may be, then you are more likely to discover it. But even if you never know for certain, there is no reason to believe that your life will be devoid of meaning.
For more information on these topics, please see the following articles: