Which Argument for the Existence of God is Strongest?

Abstract

This essay describes main arguments for God existence. The most common arguments are teleological, cosmological, moral, religious, and ontological. Such arguments as cosmological received support only from a philosophical point of view. Ontological and psychological arguments were ensured by ancient philosophers and churchman. Others were supported separately by science and philosophy or religion. It seems to me that teleological argument is the strongest one due to its credibility and simplicity.

Keywords: argument, teleological, cosmological, ontological.

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Which Argument for the Existence of God is Strongest?

There is no more important question for a person than to understand the meaning of life. However, this issue eventually reduces itself to the question of God's existence. Depending on the nature of the answer to this question, a person changes his attitude to life fundamentally. Some people die in severe ordeals for faith in God but do not deny him. Others are brutally torturing and killing for faith and do not repent. Some argue that they behold God, and they proved it with their lives and deaths. For others, it is nothing more than bigotry requiring ruthless liquidation. Who is right? A relatively small fraction of people has a religious experience, leaving no doubt regarding the existence of God. For the most part, humanity believes in God's existence. By contrast, some believe in his nonexistence whereas the others search for the "perfect knowledge", and they need some clear evidence to believe in God. Consequently, even from a theoretical point of view, there are varieties of arguments that help the open-minded person to see that the recognition of God's existence is not a result of human imagination but a logically justified postulate. Therefore, I will consider main arguments concerning existence of God and choose the strongest one for backing in this essay.

One of the most common arguments, due to its simplicity and credibility, is a teleological argument. It has been known since Ancient Times and is based on rationality and perfection of the observed world. The main idea of teleological argument can be summarized by saying that the world's structure, in parts or as a whole, amazes by its harmony and regularity; this proves the existence of a super-intelligent and omnipotent force that had created the world. Therefore, such force could be God. According to the American scientist Paul Davies (1985), the balance between gravitational and electromagnetic interactions within the stars is observed with almost unimaginable accuracy. Calculations showed that a change in any of the interactions by 10-40 units of its size would lead to a catastrophe for stars like Sun. Professor Ruse (2010), discussing the possible origin of the world, writes "In general, the assumption that behind the veil of the Universe has to hide some intelligence begins to seem more and more plausible these days." The basic tenet, with which the scientist understands a nature, is that people can comprehend and understand it. There is a certain pre-established harmony between the laws of thought, on one hand, and the system of nature, on the other hand. In other words, the foundation of science contains scientist's belief in the rationality of the world. This idea was clearly expressed by Albert Einstein, in 1956, "My religion is deeply felt belief in the existence of Supreme Intelligence, which is revealed to us in the available knowledge of the world." Moreover, according to the anthropic principle, the most insignificant changes in values of light speed, charge and mass of the electron will create a completely different Universe, where our form of life may not exist. As a consequence, the value of the teleological argument shows an alternative: whether to recognize Supreme Intelligence as a useful source of the arranged world or as "something yet unknown". In the former case, such knowledge could open the high and holy meaning of life to a person. In the latter, it leaves a human in a full internal confusion and despair.

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The cosmological argument has already been expressed by ancient Greek philosophers, such as Plato and Aristotle (Reichenbach, 2012). It was subsequently developed by many others. This argument is based on the acceptance of causality as a universal law of life. On the basis of this law, it is concluded that there must be an original cause of all that exists. Such reason can only be explained by Superbeing that exists from eternity and is the "cause" of life in itself. Therefore, this Superbeing is God. However, British philosopher David Hume and German philosopher Immanuel Kant rejected the objective existence of causality in the world. The first considered it as a matter of our habits whereas the second as a priori quality of our mind. Modern physics also demonstrate a number of events, where the usual cause-and-effect relationship is violated. Niels Bohr, Heisenberg, and Dirac are representatives of two schools in quantum mechanics; however, both arguing that the statistical regularities dominate in the world of atoms, and not causal (Heisenberg, 1949). However, most scholars and thinkers still consider causality as a universal law of the world. Should the world have a cause for its existence? Essentially, this is a philosophical question, not a scientific one. The question of the initial conditions is beyond physics to- date. And if you do not accept the postulate that the original is given by divine power, it is necessary to find a scientific approach to the problem of initial conditions. Nevertheless, scientific research addressing the issue of "original" (the root cause of the world) does not exist.

An argument, which is classified by two types, is called a moral argument. First type comes from the fact of moral sense presence in the human ("the moral law"). The other comes from the idea of man's moral and spiritual perfection as the highest goal in life. According to the first type of moral argument, the fact that there is a moral "law" commanding to do good and condemning evil in the voice of conscience is a certainty. The personal experience of each person assures it. There are different points of view about the source of this law, the main ones are: biological, autonomous, social, and religious. Biological point of view explains the origin of the moral law in the person from his desire for pleasure, comfort, and material success. Adaptation to life is the only criterion for distinction of good and evil. Everything that contributes to person is good and moral. Conversely, anything that impedes him is bad. The very aspiration for God is explained by dream of pleasures. Completeness of so-called happiness on earth is the only criterion of truth. This point of view is too primitive. It ignores the obvious facts of real life that a person can give wealth, fame, pleasure, and life for the sake of truth. Moreover, not every act that brings pleasure or benefit to a person is considered to be moral in a society, by contrast, is rarely assessed as an immoral deal. Even "free" societies seem to limit moral "liberation". Kant (1996) put forward the hypothesis of so-called "autonomous morality", according to which a person, as a rational and absolutely free being, sets the moral law. And this law is independent from any external conditions, interests and goals. Thus, Kant argues, such independence of individual conscience formulates the universal moral norms exclusively on the internal belief. Kant called this moral principle that should guide all people as "the categorical imperative". It has two complementary formulations. First, "Do only according to that maxim by which you wish to become it as a universal law." The second, "Act so that you are always concerned for humanity in your face, and in the face of every other, and never apply to people as a means (Kant & Gregor, 1996)". The idea of autonomous ethics follows naturally from the deistic views of Kant. However, this is its vulnerability. From the recognition of God as Creator follows that all laws (physical, biological, psychological, rational, moral, and spiritual) are given by God, and not created by the will of man. As such, they exist to maintain connection of a human with God. Social point of view was based on the fundamental idea that the moral law is generated by the social life of people. It is dictated by the interests of the dominant social groups and classes. It is changing throughout the course of historical development. The source of a man's moral law and conscience is a society. Therefore, this point of view is nothing more than a synthesis of the previous two concepts. Its weaknesses are obvious. What is a Christian view on the origin of the moral law in a person? It follows from the Biblical doctrine of a man as the image of God. The moral law is an expression of God-like talents and attributes that a person is endowed from the beginning of creation. The moral law is a kind of holiness and purity guardian for the person. "Conscience is the voice of God", is the best expression of the Christian teaching about the source of the moral law for a man.

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The second type of moral argument is proposed by Kant who called his argument postulate of practical reason (Kant & Gregor, 1996). This is a true reflection of argument's nature, the essence of which is as follows: the ultimate goal that a reasonable and moral being should seek is the highest good, or an absolute perfection. Its main characteristics are knowledge of the truth, the full implementation of righteousness (holiness), and the pursuit of happiness. These three elements encompass all aspirations of man as a rational, moral and feeling creature. However, it is clear that achievement of absolute perfection is not possible for humans. This raises the question, whether the desire for God is a universal deceit of our nature, or it has a real-life ideal? If we imagine the first thing, than all human activity would be pathetic, tragicomic pursuit of shadows, the desire for which does not exist. Indeed, if all knowledge, virtue, and happiness are only an illusion of our consciousness, but not a real ideal, the life of a person loses all meaning. To avoid such unnatural understanding of our nature, man should achieve the ultimate goal of all aspirations only by recognizing the existence of God as the highest good. On the other hand, fact of discrepancy between the degree of their virtue and happiness in the lives of people is also required to postulate the existence of God as a being omnipotent and fair, who is willing and can establish such a correspondence for all people in the future eternal life. In "Metaphysics of Morals", Kant wrote that nature cannot establish harmony between virtue and happiness. This encourages us to recognize the existence of reasons other than the nature, which are independent of it. Such reasons must possess not only the power, but also the mind, and it should be the force which is above the nature by the power, the will, and the mind. Therefore, this creature is God. He can approve the union between virtue and happiness. Ineradicable human need for constant spiritual and moral perfection makes postulate of immortality of the human soul as the ultimate necessity.

If we follow closely the history of science, it becomes clear that it consists of the struggle with the worship of evidence, which has always acted on behalf of everyday common sense (Boyer, 2001). In fact, the so-called common sense is a compilation and synthesis of people's everyday experience for centuries. It would seem pointless to go against it because it is the only criterion of truth. With a great difficulty, people are starting to realize that their everyday experience is not absolute since it covers only some superficial side of events and phenomena; moreover, the everyday common sense is limited. Religion as a living personal relationship with God, in the words of Fathers of the Church, this is a "science of sciences". It is primarily because of its exceptional importance for humans, which is further proved through compliance with the science and based on the experience. The existence of God is a fact that was proven countless times (Boyer, 2001). People from different historical periods, from ancient times till now, people of different races, nationalities, languages, cultures and levels of education, with striking unanimity show real, unspeakable, the most profound personal experience of God without knowing anything about each other. Therefore, an argument of religious experience does not contain simple opinion, adopted hypothesis or tradition since it is the experience of the perception of God (Alston, 1991). The main religion experience, an encounter with God, has a victorious force of conviction, which leaves all other evidences far behind. It could be forgotten or lost, but it cannot be denied. If we do not recognize that humanity relies on a truthful religious experience, the whole history of mankind, with regard to its religious consciousness, could turn into a completely unsolvable mystery and absurdity. Knowledge of God is an exact science, and not a painful exaltation on the basis of increased nervousness (Alston, 1991). Moreover, the knowledge of God has its own sequence, conditions, and criteria. How does the knowledge of God work? Firstly, in a selfless search for truth, meaning of life, moral purity, and forcing a person to do well for the sake of good. Without this, the beginning of "experiment" of comprehending of God cannot be successful. In the Gospel, this condition is expressed succinctly and clearly: "Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God."

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In 1109, Saint Anselm (Archbishop of Canterbury) first formulated the ontological argument for the existence of God, which is based on the idea of a perfect being. Its logic contains that if our mind has the concept of the all-perfect-being, such creature must necessarily exist, because if it did not have the characteristic of being, it would not be all-perfect. People think that God is a perfect being. Therefore, he should have a characteristic of being (Saint Anselm, 1996). Descartes (1988) supplemented that it is not impossible to imagine the idea of God's origin in man's mind if He did not exist. Leibniz (2008) attached to it the argument that God must exist because the concept of its existence does not contain internal contradictions. The main idea of the ontological argument is closely interconnected with a psychological one. The basic idea of psychological argument was already expressed by Saint Augustine and Descartes (1998). The idea of God as the perfect being, is presented eternally in the human mind, and it could not have come either from the impressions of the outside world, nor as the result of the mental activity of man, and, consequently, the source of this thought belongs to God. The famous Roman orator, statesman and philosopher Cicero (1829) expressed a similar idea. He wrote, "If the truth of God's existence has not been understood and recognized in our soul, this opinion could neither be permanent nor grow old with the centuries and generations of people as we see that other fictional and empty opinions disappeared over time. Time exposes the false opinion, confirms the truthful ones." This argument is particularly relevant in relation to the historical argument.

In this essay, I have encountered a variety of arguments for the existence of God. Such arguments as cosmological received support only from a philosophical point of view. Ontological and psychological arguments were ensured by ancient philosophers and churchmen. Others were supported separately by science and philosophy or religion. It seems to me that teleological argument is the strongest one, due to its credibility and simplicity. Moreover, as distinct from others arguments, it is supported on the part of science, religion, and philosophy simultaneously. This knowledge could open high and holy meaning of life to a person. Personally, I think that teleological argument appears to be the unquestionable truth as one cannot dispute rationality and perfection of the observed world. All in all, it cannot be argued that super-intelligent force had created such a balanced world.

References:

Alston, W. (1991). Perceiving God. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press.

Boyer, P. (2001). Religion explained: The evolutionary origins of religious thought. New York: Basic Books.

Cicero, M. (1829). Of the nature of the gods. London: William Pickering.

Davies, P. (1985). Superforce. New York: N.Y.: Touchstone.

Descartes, R. (1988). Descartes: Selected philosophical writings. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Heisenberg, W. (1949). The physical principles of the quantum theory. New York, N.Y.: Courier Dover Publications.

Kant, I., & Gregor, M. (1996). The metaphysics of morals. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Leibniz, W. (2008). Discourse on metaphysics and the Monadology. Cosimo, Inc.

Reichenbach, B. (2012). Cosmological argument. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Ruse, M. (201). Science and spirituality: making room for faith in the age of science. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Saint Anselm. (1996). Monologion: and, proslogion: with the replies of Gaunilo. Hackett Publishing Company

Seeling, C. (1956). Albert Einstein: A documentary biography. London: Staples Press.

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