In conversations with theists, here are a number of ideas I’ve been told are “proof of god”. I will start with saying a few things:
First, this discussion cannot exist in the scientific realm. The reason? A scientist does not start with an answer and then cherry pick observations that support that answer. It can only exist in the philosophical realm where both sides present arguments for and against the existence of a god.
Second, If one were to actually prove the existence of a god, then everyone would be compelled to believe in the god. Then, if everyone knows this god exists, and this god has rules for people to follow, then everyone must follow these rules in order to gain entry to heaven (or nirvana, whatever). This defeats the purpose of free-will, the idea that a believer must come to god by their own free will.
1. God’s Love
“I know God exists because I can feel his love.”
I know personal testimony or the testimony of others is compelling to some people, but it simply doesn’t sway me. My question in response is, “How do you know he loves you?”
2. God’s Word
“The bible is the inerrant word of God.”
In this statement, the bible is the positive claim and therefore requires support. I would start by asking how it is that you know the bible is the inerrant word of God. And using the bible itself (i.e., the bible says it is, therefore it is) isn’t sufficient.
3. Intelligent Design
“If I come across a cabin in the woods, I don’t wonder how it randomly came to be there, I think that it must be because it was deliberately designed and made by someone”
This is called the Paley’s Watchmaker analogy.
I’m a graphic designer. If this blog’s design is any indication, I have impeccable taste. Excuse me while I get over myself. LOL Okay, seriously. I’d like to pay special attention to the argument of intelligent design because people these days still find it to be a compelling argument. It does seem to make a lot of sense, after all.
I may come back and add more of my own notes to this section, but for the time being, please enjoy this short video:
“The human eye is so complex and it couldn’t have evolved piece by piece or it would have been useless without all the parts.”
The specific example quoted is just one of the many things a believer of might mention. They might also point to the vastness of the universe, our inability to know how life began on this planet, our misunderstanding of how a human can evolve from a fish, or even what set off the “big bang”. All of these arguments can be filed under one heading: personal incredulity.
Look, here’s the deal. There are things about our planet and universe that we will never understand fully in our lifetime. It is tempting to point to the gaps in our knowledge and say, “There, see? That’s how I know god did it.” It’s a nice and convenient explanation, but lazy. Even as recently as a hundred years ago, people didn’t fully understand mental disorders and you might have been described as “possessed by the devil”. Due to the massive amount of research done since that time, we have a much broader understanding of the way the human mind works, and various ways to treat mental maladies.
If we had stuck with the explanation of “the devil did it,” we would not have advanced our knowledge. Humans are a curious, and we don’t accept “god did it” as a satisfactory answer. God is running out of “knowledge gaps” to hide in.
4. Gambling with God
“I’d rather believe and find out there isn’t a god, than not believe and find out there is one.”
This is called pascals wager.
First, I understand that the person who is making this argument is a believer in one particular god/religion, so actually this rationale makes perfect sense from their perspective. However, I would remind a believer that when this argument is made I will answer, “Which god should I believe in?”
Quickly, two more things: 1) I can’t make myself believe in god. I could fake it by following his commands anyway, and hope that my deception gets me into heaven. However, that’s not the way faith works. 2) Even if there is a god, (since I’m usually talking to someone of the Abrahamic religions) I wouldn’t want to worship him because I find his actions and commands to be immoral. I’d go to his hell to spite the nose on my face.
Read a complete refutation of this argument at Rational Wiki.
Back to what I said in the beginning, we can’t (or shouldn’t) ever prove that god exists, because that would defeat the purpose of free will. Believers of god present these arguments more for themselves than for the unbeliever. Believers are the ones that find themselves needing to rationalize their ideas, and I personally don’t find their rationale very compelling, especially since it’s easy to find the fallacy in their logic. I’d be interested to hear your counter-refutations if you got ’em. Please leave your response below.
Image source: mosoma