Inspired and Blessed by Bob Acebedo
Inspired & Blessed

Does God exist or not?

May 19, 2021, 12:40 AM
Bob Acebedo

Bob Acebedo

Columnist

Can faith be justified philosophically, or can it be said that what is of faith is reasonable? Is faith superior to reason – and that which cannot be reached by reason, may be attained by faith? Or is God, after all, not necessarily a “being” but just an “idea” that brings happiness, peace and spiritual satisfaction?

ONE fundamental and seemingly undying question humans have grappled with since time immemorial is the belief or nonbelief in a supreme being.

I myself, having studied long in the seminary, have thought I would have successfully resolved this nagging question on the existence or nonexistence of an omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent supreme being, what with all the mundane defects, natural and moral evils, pain and suffering like the present abattoir of Covid-19 pandemic, and what not.

No, I’m not done yet with my struggle on this subject of God. And until now, my doubts are inevitably precipitated by my continuing life’s struggles and problems, unanswered prayers, missed and lost opportunities, and recurring disappointments.

Thus, once again, I am prompted to walk myself back through the various philosophic pathways and arguments on the existence or nonexistence of God.

Generally, the term “God” applies to a “supreme” and “ultimate” being.

Hence, for God to be God, he or she must be “supreme” and “ultimate” – that is, all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good, and all-present in the beginning, now, and forever.

If God is supreme and ultimate, a lesser ascription to God would contradict the idea of the “goodness” of God. Which is a sound and logical proposition about God in an objective and transcendent sense.

But in the subjective or immanent sense, it would largely be dependent on the subjective or personal concept an individual has of God – on what or who God is, or what kind of God one believes or wants to believe in – subject to the attendant social, cultural or psychological influences he or she has been subjected to.

Arguments for Atheism

Yes, atheists deny the existence of God. But it does not necessarily follow that atheists shun morality or that their refusal to believe in the existence of God includes their abhorrence of what is good.

On the contrary, atheists argue that true morality springs from “reason and compassion” rather than from the will of God or fear of God.

In pushing their disbelief in God, atheists advance the following arguments, among others:

1. The world is a chaos. Instead of an orderly universe, the world is devoid of meaning and significance. Shakespeare put forth this argument (not perhaps that he believed) in picturesque language: “To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow; Creeps in this petty pace from day to day; To the last syllable of recorded time; And all our yesterdays have lighted fools; The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle! A poor player; That struts and frets his hour upon the stage. And then is heard no more.”

This argument repudiates the significance of science – as scientists extract from our orderly universe such meanings as the laws of science.

2. Foxhole Atheism. God originated only from man’s fear. Religion or belief in God only sprung from fear. If man did not sense fear, he would not be religious; in his fear he created his God. The fundamental view is that religion grew out of lowly beginnings – like fear, superstition and magic. Therefore, belief in the existence of God must be false.

3. Sigmund Freud. God is but a product of man’s thinking – anthropomorphic thinking. Man’s need for God caused him to construct a superhuman being, a great father-God, the transference of a father image. Religion is an illusion, a father complex and an obsessional neurosis; it falls in with our instinctual desires.

The foxhole atheist’s “religion from fear” and the Freudian objections to religion suffer a genetic fallacy. Mere emotive hang ups, like fear or instinctual desires, cannot bring about or necessitate the actual existence of God. That a person has arrived at a given belief – after travelling a particular road that has led him from internal fears amid feelings of helplessness to the comforting and reassuring belief in God which he conveniently needed during difficult times – is logically infirm or inconsistent.

4. Karl Marx. Religion serves as a “police force”, an “opium of the masses”, the “sigh of the oppressed creature”. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness. Religion is a fiction created by man – man makes religion, religion does not make man.

Marx’s “opium of the masses” religion is impractical and smacks of futility. In real life, organized religion favors the worker’s cause. To reject religion as false because it functions as a “police force” is not to the detriment of organized religion, but to its credit. Sine fundamento in re, or without a foundation in reality.

5. Stephen Hawking. “Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing... (Hence), there is no God. No one created the universe and no one directs our fate.”

Hawking argues that the Big Bang was an inevitable consequence of the laws of physics. But, laws themselves do not create anything; they are merely a description of what happens under certain conditions. And neither gravity nor any other law of physics provides a mechanism by which the universe can be spontaneously created. What Hawking failed to answer was why such laws of physics exist? Who made them? Where did those laws come from?

Arguments for Theism

That indeed one, supreme and ultimate being, called God, exists is set forth by the following thinkers:

1. Plato. In his writings, “Phaedrus and Laws”, Plato contended that things change and are in motion. But not all changes come from outside; some changes are spontaneous and must be due to a “soul” and ultimately to a “supreme or perfect soul”. For Plato, God fashions the world in immutable patterns and, above all, on the supreme “good”, which is beyond being and knowledge – meaning, transcendent and beyond the grasp of thought.

2. Aristotle. He made the “argument from motion” more precise, but he coupled it with a doubtful astronomical view and a less theistic notion of God – who, as the “unmoved mover”, is the ultimate source of all other movements, not by expressly communicating it but by being a supreme object of aspiration, all appetites and activities are in fact directed to some good.

3. St. Thomas Aquinas’ Causal Argument. In his “Five Ways of Proving God’s Existence”, Aquinas argued that God is the “unmoved mover” or prime mover and the “uncaused cause” or primal cause of everything.

4. St. Anselm’s Ontological Argument. The very idea of God implies his existence. God is the “being none other than which can be conceived”. Other things equal, a thing that has the attribute of existence is greater than the thing that does not. Thus, if God did not exist, it would be possible to conceive a being greater than him – namely, one that has all of God’s attributes plus existence. Therefore, God exists.

5. Argument from Design or Teleological Argument. Worth and purpose, or apparent design, can be found in the world. This purposiveness is taken to imply a “supreme designer”. If God can be known through his works, or if God’s creation is a manifestation or is reflective of God himself, then man can in some way relate to God in the “immanence” of his creation.

Reason, faith, and suffering

From the above arguments for and against the existence of God, can we find one single, fool-proof or tenable argument that can solidly hold in the objective and subjective spheres, in the transcendent and immanent realms?

Apparently, as reason itself poses to be incomplete, not a single argument can be absolutely devoid of any infirmity or defect – in the rational sphere, at the very least.

Can it be said then that proving or disproving the existence of God cannot be achieved completely by reason alone? Or, does “believing in the existence of God” presuppose or include the act of faith, not just an exercise of reason?

Can meaning or significance in everything that we see, sense or experience in this world – including pain and suffering – be found or attained not only through reason but also by faith?

Can faith be justified philosophically, or can it be said that what is of faith is reasonable? Is faith superior to reason – and that which cannot be reached by reason, may be attained by faith? Or is God, after all, not necessarily a “being” but just an “idea” that brings happiness, peace and spiritual satisfaction?

St. Thomas Aquinas argues that the existence or reality of God may be incomprehensible to the finite human mind, but it remains reasonable. In this sense, knowing or reason precedes faith (for example, you can readily believe and love a person if you would know him or her first).

On the other hand, St. Augustine of Hippo, contends that “credo ut intelligam” (I believe in order that I may understand). In other words, believing is possible even before knowing or understanding (thus, for example, if faith or love encompasses all, then it is possible to love a person even if you do not know him or her).

Capping thus all these rational ramifications, given the inevitability of human incompleteness and imperfection, of natural and moral evils, of pain and suffering in this world – isn’t it more meaningful or practicable indeed to have a comforting belief in a supreme being, or God, who is an “incomprehensible yet reasonable”, a “transcendent yet immanent”, a “mysterious yet real” companion in our life journey? After all, to my mind, what is more important is not proving or disproving but experiencing the reality of God – and live a meaningful, fulfilled, and satisfying life.

Tags: #commentary, #columns, #InspiredAndBlessed, #philosophy, #theism


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