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Does God exist? (in just one minute)

October 7, 2013

Another short answer in just one minute (obviously this isn’t going to answer everything definitively, but it’s a starting point).

Does God exist? Well, there are many reasons to accept that he does.

  • Our universe had a beginning. Hence it seems reasonable that an eternal, ‘unmoved mover’ like God, created the universe.

  • There are objective moral values. Without God, an eternal law-giver, we cannot definitively say something is absolutely and always right or wrong. Yet we do say things like murder are always wrong.

  • Yet the most convincing reason to accept the existence of God is that he has revealed himself, initially through the Old Testament, but ultimately in the person and works of Jesus Christ. Jesus was a real historical figure who did the works of God, acted like God, claimed to be God, and was resurrected from the dead by God. I can’t see how resurrection is possible without a God. Also remember Jesus was a strict monotheistic Jew, a person unlikely to ‘invent’ another God figure.

Thus, based on causation, morality and revelation, it seems there really is a God.

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15 Comments
  1. I hate to sound rude, Rob, but attempting to address this question in 59 seconds is pointless.
    For those that have doubts and feel inclined to be swayed by these arguments:

    “Hence it seems reasonable that an eternal, ‘unmoved mover’ like God, created the universe.”
    No, it isn’t reasonable to assume this. Physicists have experimental data to show that matter can appear without the need for an intelligent creator to cause it. The God explanation is nothing more than a superstitious, human attempt to account for our existence. There are better explanations.
    We don’t know all of the circumstances responsible for the origin of our universe. However, rather than assume ‘God did it’, physicists and cosmologists continue to research these questions.

    “There are objective moral values. Without God, an eternal law-giver, we cannot definitively say something is absolutely and always right or wrong. Yet we do say things like murder are always wrong.”
    These assumptions are flawed for a number of reasons. If the God myth is real and God is everywhere and all-powerful, then He has clearly failed utterly in his role as an ‘eternal law-giver’. Otherwise his justice would be meted out fairly. Instead, we see innocent people hurt and killed every day while awful people get away with disgraceful crimes.
    As for ‘murder being always wrong’ – is it really? Is killing enemy soldiers during war time murder? How about during acts of self-defence, or the in the defence of other innocent people..? We’ll always be able to find a circumstance of intentional killing of a person in which not everyone will agree universally about it. Truly objective moral values are a myth.

    “Yet the most convincing reason to accept the existence of God is that he has revealed himself…”
    This is actually the least convincing reason. He hasn’t revealed himself through ‘the works of Jesus Christ’ to the overwhelming majority of human beings that are alive today, or to have ever lived. If He truly wanted us to believe in him, it would have been in his interests to make himself more clear, rather than ‘appearing’ in the context of silly and implausible ancient stories about magically healing people, conjuring up thousands of bread and fish from nothing, walking on water, and raising from the dead.
    If he really is all-powerful, loves us and wants us to accept him, then making it clear to everyone, rather than a privileged few, would make more sense.

    Thus, based on causation, morality and revelation, believing that God exists is telling yourself fibs.

    • Good eloquent answer 😉

    • Paul,

      Always good to hear your thoughts. I don’t think that addressing them in 59 seconds is pointless. It sharpens the point a little – but we can disagree on that one. Don’t worry, you’re a great conversation partner, you speak your mind and you’re not rude.

      Regarding your first comment. A couple of quick reflections. 1. I think you’re referring to quantum events, which I’m not sure are on the same level as the creation of universes. Further it seems as though your atheism is a little ‘atheism of the gaps’ i.e. we can’t explain it, God could be a possibility, but it can’t therefore it isn’t. I’m not sure conceptually it’s physically possible for all the matter in the universe to pop into existence at one moment by itself. I’m not even sure you could develop an experiment to test that.

      Re: moral values. It’s interesting that you (like atomic) reject absolute moral values. I think you confuse moral reality with moral enforcement – the Bible is clear that there will be a future date when God’s justice will be meted out (which unfortunately is never going to happen in the atheist universe). I think that you’ve confused murder and war – the two are different. It’s a good question, but I’d suggest that murdering someone is different to killing in war – and I think our moral sensibilities can determine the difference – hence we have war crimes etc.

      In terms of your comments about revelation – I’ll just say that the Bible is the most printed book ever in history. It’s a value judgement to suggest that the stories are ‘silly’. Have you read an entire New Testament Gospel as an adult?

      Thanks again and hope you’re going well

      Rob

      • Thanks Rob,
        On universe origins, there is compelling empirical data that demonstrate what the universe was like right up to sub-millisecond scale of its formation. The specifics of the very start are not fully clear, but they are a heck of a lot clearer than they were a mere decade ago. This is due to the observations and measurements of cosmologists and physicists. Lawrence Krauss, with whose work I thought you were somewhat familiar, is the public-facing side of an entire community of scientists that are exploring these questions which have been partially summarised in his recent book A Universe from Nothing.
        “I’m not sure conceptually it’s physically possible for all the matter in the universe to pop into existence at one moment by itself…” Conceptually, anything is possible, Rob. But there are already models of quantum events that can account for universe formation, and there is experimental data showing that quantum particles can and do behave in ways that fit those models.
        I won’t pick on your ‘atheism of the gaps’ comment here and now, but I will say that it made me snigger. I’ll leave you just a one word reply for now: Parsimony.

        On the subject of morals, my reference to wartime killing was intended to illustrate that if absolute morality was true, then we should expect not only consensus on moral good vs. moral bad, but also clarity. We have neither. You used the word “murder” to make the point that we can agree that there are some things that are always wrong. But definition of “murder” becomes subjective when you start testing it with both hypothetical and real examples. The laws of western civilisation recognise that the wrongful taking of human life is actually a spectrum (hence there are different categories of murder and different penalties with a range of severity).
        Consider the example of an ordinarily peaceful person, driven by unusual circumstances (eg., the preservation of the safety of his children) to make a split-second decision to take a human life. Most – but not all – of us would agree that this decision is not morally wrong. But alter the circumstances slightly and find an example that is less clear-cut.
        You’ll find that there is no precise point on this spectrum of wrongful killing where you’re comfortable with your assumption about it being morally good or bad. And clearly no dividing line where everyone will agree about it.
        Moral absolutes are a nice thing to believe in if you need a reason to hold on to your theology. But like a lot of things, merely believing they exist doesn’t make them real.

        On the Bible and revelation, “the Bible is the most printed book ever in history”. Rob, I’m sure you heard me say “so what?!” before you even finished typing that sentence! Sure, it’s a value judgement to say Bible stories are “silly”. But consider this: The NT is only a subset of the Bible. The OT is even more widespread than the NT, so arguably it is this that is the most printed book ever in history. Is it silly for us to take literally the six-day creation story? Talking snakes? The cramming of millions of species of animals (and enough food) onto a big wooden boat? Turning curious ladies in salt statues…?
        I repeat the point I made earlier. If God expects us to believe in Him, He needs to give us a break and come up with something a little more convincing.

  2. The question is: Who do you want to convince?

    Nonbelievers? Honestly, I doubt that. Even if you don’t know it, you surely assume that these arguments are, in the end, pretty weak. They have been addressed again and again and again…

    – Even if we accept the idea that there was some first cause (which cannot be concluded from the whole argument, as it’s not valid, but that’s just another detail), calling it god and attributing a personality to it is simply speculation. If there was a first cause (remember: No proof for that here), it could be completely impersonal. (Cosmological Argument, already completely destroyed as an Argument for god)

    – From an unproven claim you cannot conclude anything. So, unless you have some proof for the existence of “objective moral values”, we do not need to read any further. And you will have a hard time finding any. (Argument from objective morality, doesn’t even pretend being an argument, just trying to prove something with another unproven claim)

    – Your “most convincing reason” is an old story from a guy that appears in no historical text, only in texts written by his followers? Really? (“Because the bible says so.” – Erm… No).

    Ok, so you don’t want to convince nonbelievers, obviously, because your attempt is quite… lame. What else could you want? You only want to convince BELIEVERS that they have a good reason to believe, which is as easy as telling Children there’s Santa Clause if they want sweets… They already want to believe and will accept any nonsense as an “argument”, if if confirms their belief. This is human nature, something that will confirm things you already think of as true will be though of as much more important, valid and sound as things that contradict your belief.

    • Hi Atomic,

      Thanks for your comments. Much appreciated. I am trying to engage thoughtful minds. Partly I write these answers because I engage these questions quite often on YouTube and 500 characters helps you make short, pithy answers. I thought it would be a good idea to try to condense and distill into just a couple of ideas. It is helpful for me to work through the issues carefully. This blog is designed to be a thoughtful place to engage these questions – so thanks for commenting and contributing to the discussion.

      Regarding your comments – interesting reflections. I’m not sure I did attribute personality to ‘god’ in the first cause argument. I suggested it was an ‘unmoved mover’ – god seems to fit the bill pretty well. I completely agree it could be completely impersonal, but if there was a first mover, this is consistent with a God. You can check out some other posts on this blog dealing with the deism/theism.

      Youc comments on objective moral values are interesting. Do you really think that there aren’t objective morals or duties?

      Regarding the Bible, umm, are you suggesting that the Bible isn’t an historical text? How did it come to be written? Why? What caused the followers to be convinced? This is important because to reject the Bible because it’s the Bible seems a fairly weak argument.

      How should I attempt to convince non-believers? I’m keen to hear. Let me know what evidence and argument you’d be willing to listen to (and be convinced by) I’d be happy to give it a crack. Thanks for commenting.

      Robert

      • Let’s start the with last question… The first point would be to read all the existing arguments and the responses to them, understand where the failed, why they failed. Because otherwise you’re forcing me just to repeat, for example, why the cosmological argument simply doesn’t hold. It may sound great to you, but only, because you already believe, so something that confirms that belief of course sounds great. Viewed from the outside, on the other hand, it simply has to many problems to ignore.

        So, personally I don’t know. Of course, a miracle would be nice, for example, a mass healing of amputees would be nice. But besides from that, I am open for arguments. You could start trying to define your god in a falsifiable way, because before that, I don’t see much sense in discussing something with someone who defines it in a way that he cannot be proven wrong no matter what the facts are.

        The bible is a book, written not by neutral historians, but by followers of a specific religion who were not eye-witnesses to the things that happened. If a follower of an obscure sect in america wrote a book about how his guru was god and did miracles – would that be enough to convert you? Would something change if you read this book in 2.000 years and the book got at least the description of New York right, thus “proving” it to be “historical”?

        And no, if you ask me, there is no objective morality. Where should it come from? There are some basic moral rules that have been proven to be useful to societies, so societies tend to got along in similar ways (for example, a society where murdering your neighbor because you want his wife probably don’t survive the first week), but that doesn’t make it an absolute rule, just a good idea that evolves socially and tends to improve the stability of societies.

        And last, but not least, god doesn’t fit at all, if you ask me. First of all, he is more complex than the universe itself, so simply excluding him from having a cause seems a little bit… anticlimactic – it’s a special pleading. I tend to think that the first cause, if there was any (which cannot be concluded from the cosmological argument, because it isn’t valid) to be something quite simple and not something very complex. But of course that depends on your god. The christian god, for example, is more like a 2.000 year old barbarian with super-powers… Surprise.

  3. “Our universe had a beginning. Hence it seems reasonable that an eternal, ‘unmoved mover’ like God, created the universe.

    There are objective moral values. Without God, an eternal law-giver, we cannot definitively say something is absolutely and always right or wrong. Yet we do say things like murder are always wrong.

    Yet the most convincing reason to accept the existence of God is that he has revealed himself, initially through the Old Testament, but ultimately in the person and works of Jesus Christ. Jesus was a real historical figure who did the works of God, acted like God, claimed to be God, and was resurrected from the dead by God. I can’t see how resurrection is possible without a God. Also remember Jesus was a strict monotheistic Jew, a person unlikely to ‘invent’ another God figure.”

    The problem is that it’s very easy to dispute all three. From the very first premise in the first sentence (let alone what follows), to the statement that there are objective moral values (let alone murder always being wrong), and the third with the idea that Jesus was unequivocally admirable or in any way espoused the paragon of life philosophies. I remember Russell offering Socrates as an alternative historical figure who was a more exemplary moral figure; with which I would be inclined to agree.

    I could see how someone could proffer the above three points but, in all likelihood, they would be generally ignorant of various other cultures *or* be of the opinion that their own culture is superior in some way. These views could make sense to a great many people if they, too, belonged to a culture that was predominantly, say, Christian, as would be the case here. Otherwise, the points would suffer from the poetic ‘poverty of the imagination’ to which Russell referred.

    • Jayno permalink

      Hi Rob, thanks for your one minute summary, it’s amazing to be able to fit so much info into such a short time! I have enjoyed reading all the comments you and the others have written in response too, so much food for thought. Must admit a bit over my head in terms of physics though, it’s definitely not my area of expertise!

      Sorry this is a bit unrelated, but have you ever written anything Rob on whether we as people disbelieve in God and Jesus because we think there isn’t enough proof, or that rather even if we could prove his existance beyond doubt (ie. walk and talk with him), we would still hate him and want to get rid of him? So then in many ways proof isn’t so much the issue as our feelings of hostility and fear toward the idea of this almighty person who can tell us what to do. Anyhow, let me know if you have written anything, it’s something I’ve been thinking about. Thanks again for your writing, it’s always thought provoking! Jane

      • Jane,

        Thanks for your comment. Great to hear from you. I can’t think of anything I’ve written on that directly, but I think it would be a worthwhile post. I’ll let you know when I put something together. My initial thoughts are that I think that sometimes they are related. i.e. regardless of the ‘evidence’ before us, our hearts reject what is before us. A classic example is the Pharisees – they saw lots of miracles but they wanted to kill Jesus (consider Mark 2). Also the parable in Luke 16 which suggests that for some ‘even if someone was raised from the dead’ they wouldn’t believe.

        Thanks for the ideas and I’ll incorporate that into a future post.

        Rob

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Why does God not exist? | Atheist Forum
  2. Can you rule out a natural cause for the origin of the universe? | Atheist Forum
  3. Are decisions about God always based on evidence alone? | Atheist Forum

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