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Does God Exist? | A Philosophical Question Essay | 2021


Schrodinger's Cat, a thought experiment, is an example of questioning our knowledge of something without validation.


For this experiment, the physicist Erwin Schrodinger pictures a box containing a radioactive particle detection device, a living cat, and a container of poison. Without lifting the lid to observe the Cat, one cannot know if it is dead or alive (Schrödinger, 1935). Thus, a paradox is presented that the Cat is alive and dead, as both are equally true and false until it is validated. Consider the idea that philosophers have God within a box discussing whether God is in the box or not. It is plausible that God is in the box and not in the box simultaneously.


Unfortunately, philosophers cannot merely look into the box to see if God exists. Unlike Schrödinger, nobody is sure what is in the box, if anything. While everyone is discussing the existence of God, few stop to consider essentially what God is. As arguments of Aquinas's and my argument, there is proof of something that humans don't necessarily understand and have, for centuries, called God, which despite all of the arguments for the evidence of God's existence, it is not necessarily a divine being.


Arguments using a definition of divinity appear unstable as the definition of divinity is vague enough to denote a wide range of possibilities. A religious professor at Boston University, Stephen Prothero, agrees, "Today it is widely accepted that there is no one essence that all religions share" (2010). Christianity, Judaism, Baha'i, and Religious Satanism are monotheistic, while Greek and Roman religions, Wicca and Maya, have multiple deities. Pantheistic religions consist of God as a part of the whole of everything, such as voodoo and Taoism. There are religions without any deity, such as Confucianism, Buddhism, and Philosophical Satanism. With these differences in specifics, proving God is complex and arguably impossible.


As to what God is, there are several different concepts. Firstly, God can be defined as a moral guide seen within religions such as Buddhism, Baha'i, Judaism, Christianity, and Satanism. This creates issues as morality is often interpreted differently depending on the circumstances and the people involved. As Cockerill discusses in the article Definition of God, "the supreme ethical authority of the prophets was not God, but the opinion held by each as to what course of conduct was best for his followers and the human race" (1905). It's also an issue as different religions provide different moral guides. Prothero writes that even the essence of religion and its central moral teachings aren't similar (2010). He simplifies the main issues within the eight major religions: Islam, Christianity, Confucianism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Yoruba, Judaism, and Taoism (Prothero, 2010). Prothero states they are similar in the concept that there are issues that the religion seeks to solve with their teachings (2010). Problems may overlap, such as within Taoism's way of flourishing and Buddhism's way of awakening, but where Taoism wants to solve lifelessness, Buddhism wants to solve suffering (Prothero, 2010). It is also arguable that a divine does or does not have any moral authority, as reasoned by Plato's Euthyphro. It claims that God's whim chooses morality or is not within God's control. To explain this further, if God says murder is wrong because it is morally wrong, then morality is not God's design. Thus, there is a force higher than God. If God designs morality, then anything could be morally wrong or right based on his word alone.


Although several philosophers take up this argument and create variations, including Rene Descartes, Kurt Gödel, Mulla Sadra, and Gottfried Leibniz, the original is provided by Anselm. Anselm's ontological argument begins by defining God as a being in which nothing more significant can be conceived (Perry, Bratman & Fischer, 2016). The premise that follows claims that this being, or God, is a conceivable idea and exists within the understanding. It is understood that there is a difference between existing as an understanding and existing as a reality.


The concept within the imagination is not as good as it would be. The being cannot exist in the understanding alone, for if it exists in the understanding alone, that would contradict the first premise. Therefore, the being than which nothing greater can be conceived must exist in both understanding and reality to be greater than everything else in existence (Perry, Bratman & Fischer, 2016).


My main objection to Anselm's argument is the definition of God. He is arguing for the existence of a God that he defines as the being than which none greater is possible. Anselm claims that this is the lord, most likely of the Christian religion, as Anselm was a Christian philosopher and a saint. Yet, there is not any proof provided that this being is Christ. He may have proven that there is a being greater than all of the universe, but there aren't any aspects of the being that attribute to Christ specifically. This being could be another divinity.


Anselm may respond that there is proof that the being argued for is indeed Christ. He argued that his idea of divinity is Christ itself, that Christ is the being in which nothing can be greater. The omnipotence and all presence of the Christian divinity are essential to the definition of a being that is greater than all. However, this rebuttal needs to include the point. To say that Christ is the greatest being in the world would require the conclusion of the Christian divine existence to be true. Anselm's only claim in the first premise is that a being can be conceived, which means that anything greater cannot be conceived. Anselm claimed that this being is Christ, but there is no proof.


Since Anselm's first premise claims for a being of that which none can be greater, it fundamentally argues for a concept of that kind of being. It doesn't argue that one can conceive of Christ as the only being of which nothing can be greater than. It could be a divinity other than Christ, as the premise is based on infinite greatness, unfortunately not profoundly defined. Greatness doesn't seem to mean the minor aspects of god, such as the promised afterlife, moral teachings, the number of followers, or rewards of devotion. Consider that Anselm's infinite greatness is defined as unlimited power for creation, destruction, interference and so on. In this case, each religion's deity could be said to exist with equal probability. Thus, a being of some sort exists, but there is no definition beyond the ideology that they are great. There is no proof of identity. Some could argue that even this infinite greatness may not take the form of divinity.


The most logical argument within the realm of religion is that of Thomas Aquinas. He brings forward the cosmological argument, providing five proofs to prove God's existence.


The first three are arguments that avoid an infinite regress. The first is the argument from change which argues that things change and must be changed by something else. Thus, something is required to start the chain reaction.


The second is the argument from efficient causation, which argues that there are cause and effect, and thus an initial cause is required.


The third argument is from necessity, which claims that things have the potential to not exist and, therefore, there must be a being that exists out of necessity to exist in a time, even if nothing else exists. These lend themselves to the creation of Earth, Humans, the Universe etc. Aquinas is saying that nothing happens spontaneously. There is always a cause. Thus, what is the cause of the universe's beginning? This is an argument that many religious believers share that divinity created the world as we know it.


The fourth is the argument of gradation, stating that every finite thing has degrees of perfection. Thus, there needs to be a maximum perfection example that not only is perfect but causes perfection.


The fifth is the argument from design which is similar to Paley's design argument. It claims the world is so complex and intricate that it could not have been created by chance. Aquinas agrees with Paley that the universe requires a creator. Aquinas provides a sound argument for the existence of God. However, the conclusion that it is indeed God isn't sound. Even within his findings for each of his arguments, he ends with similar phrases: "and this everyone understands to be God" or "and this we call God" (Perry, Bratman & Fischer, 2016). The thing Aquinas proves to be true may be interpreted as God but isn't necessarily the divine.


Like Aquinas's argument, I focus on observable results and question their beginnings, referring to the following argument as the inspiration argument. This considers the enormous amount and diversity of the world's religions. They all agree that there is more to this world than human beings and evolutionary instincts. Beyond that, there are similarities across religions that focus on specific stories, moralities, and ideals. The inspiration argument's first premise is that every culture has spirituality in one way or another. The next premise states that each culture has striking similarities among one another between traditions, stories and teachings. The third premise states that these similarities can be explained by human activity and human similarities. The next premise reveals that each religion's cores and subjective aspects are similar; there is something beyond humans. It expresses that there must be a similar starting point for religions and their traditions based upon the similarities.


The conclusion states that for all religions, there needs to be a common starting point at which the story of the religion begins. Although, even this does not denote the existence of God. This argument implies that God may not even inspire the basis of religion and religious faith.


One objection is that the second premise, similarities between traditions, stories and teachings, are easily explained by aspects of human history such as colonization, exploration, missionaries, cultural interactions and so on. This continues to the beginning of core ideals as well. Thus, the conclusion may not be as mysterious as it could merely arise from human cultural activities. There are explanations for the start of religion from a psychological, anthropological, sociological, and evolutionary position. To respond to this objection, various human activities undoubtedly influence religions. There is proof of that very thing.


While these are proven and observed phenomena, people are still determining strictly how religious core values began and why they began so similarly. It denotes a subjective inspiration upon which all religions and their stories are based.


Humans only see the constant conjunctions of supposed divinity, such as miracles, prophecies, creation, natural laws and so forth. However, the necessary connection or reason they go together is unobservable. Humans presume various explanations without understanding a topic or knowing the explanation behind an action. All of them have a degree of probability until one of them is proven for sure. The concept is the same for God. God is not the only option for the presented arguments.


Does God exist? God is only a possibility and, arguably, not the most probable candidate.


Citations

Cockerill, R. (1905). Definition of God. Monist, 15(4), 637–638. http://dx.doi.org/10.5840/monist190515410
Perry, J., Bratman, M., & Fischer, J. (2016). Introduction to Philosophy (7th ed.). New York: Oxford University Press.
Prothero, S. (2010). God is not one (1st ed.). New York: HarperOne.
Schrödinger, E. (1935). Die gegenwärtige Situation in der Quantenmechanik. Die Naturwissenschaften, 23(50), 844–849. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/bf01491987

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