Religion Wiki

Existence of God

34,279pages on
this wiki
Add New Page
Add New Page Talk0
Luca Giordano - Dream of Solomon - WGA09004

The Dream of Solomon, late 17th century oil painting by Luca Giordano.

Arguments for and against the existence of God have been proposed by scientists, philosophers, theologians, and others. In philosophical terminology, "existence-of-God" arguments concern schools of thought on the epistemology of the ontology of God.

The debate concerning the existence of God raises many philosophical issues. A basic problem is that there is no universally accepted definition of God or existence. Some definitions of God's existence are so non-specific that it is certain that something exists that meets the definition; in stark contrast, there are suggestions that other definitions are self-contradictory. A wide variety of arguments exist which can be categorized as metaphysical, logical, empirical, or subjective. Although rarely studied scientifically the question of the existence of God is subject to lively debate both in philosophy[1] — the philosophy of religion being almost entirely devoted to the question — and in popular culture.

Philosophical issues

Definition of God's existence

Today in the West, the term "God" typically refers to a monotheistic concept of a supreme being that is unlike any other being. Classical theism asserts that God possesses every possible perfection, including such qualities as omniscience, omnipotence, and perfect benevolence. Other philosophical approaches take a logically simple definition of God such as "the prime mover" or "the uncaused cause", or "the ultimate creator"[2] or "a being than which nothing greater can be conceived"[3] from which the classical properties may be deduced.[4] By contrast, Pantheists do not believe in a personal god. For example, Spinoza and his philosophical followers use the term 'God' in a particular philosophical sense, to mean (roughly) the essential substance/principles of nature.[5]

In monotheisms outside the Abrahamic traditions, the existence of God is discussed in similar terms. In the Advaita Vedanta school of Hinduism, reality is ultimately seen as a single, qualityless, changeless being called nirguna Brahman. Advaitin philosophy introduces the concept of saguna Brahman or Ishvara as a way of talking about Brahman to people. Ishvara, in turn, is ascribed such qualities as omniscience, omnipotence, and benevolence.[6]


Epistemology is the branch of philosophy which studies the nature, origin, and scope of knowledge. One cannot be said to "know" something just because one believes it. Knowledge is, from an epistemological standpoint, distinguished from belief by justification.

Knowledge in the sense of "understanding of a fact or truth" can be divided in a posteriori knowledge, based on experience or deduction, and a priori knowledge from introspection, axioms or self-evidence. Knowledge can also be described as a psychological state, since in a strict sense there can never be a posteriori knowledge proper (see relativism). Much of the disagreement about "proofs" of God's existence is due to different conceptions not only of the term "God" but also the terms "proof", "truth", and "knowledge". Religious belief from revelation or enlightenment (satori) can fall into either the first category, a posteriori knowledge, if rooted in deduction or personal revelation, or the second, a priori class of knowledge, if based on introspection.

Different conclusions as to the existence of God often rest on different criteria for deciding what methods are appropriate for deciding if something is true or not; some examples include

  • whether logic counts as evidence concerning the quality of existence
  • whether subjective experience counts as evidence for objective reality
  • whether either logic or evidence can rule in or out the supernatural
  • whether an object of the mind is accepted for existence
  • whether a truthbearer can justify.

The problem of the supernatural

One problem posed by the question of the existence of God is that traditional beliefs usually ascribe to God various supernatural powers. Supernatural beings may be able to conceal and reveal themselves for their own purposes, as for example in the tale of Baucis and Philemon. In addition, according to concepts of God, God is not part of the natural order, but the ultimate creator of nature and of the scientific laws. Thus, in Aristotelian philosophy, God is viewed as part of the explanatory structure needed to support scientific conclusions, and any powers God possesses are, strictly speaking, of the natural order - that is, derived from God's place as originator of nature.

Some religious apologists offer the supernatural nature of God as the explanation for the inability of empirical methods to decide the question of God's existence. In Karl Popper's philosophy of science, belief in a supernatural God is outside the natural domain of scientific investigation because all scientific hypotheses must be falsifiable in the natural world. The Non-overlapping Magisteria view proposed by Stephen Jay Gould also holds that the existence (or otherwise) of God is irrelevant to and beyond the domain of science.

Logical positivists, such as Rudolf Carnap and A.J. Ayer viewed any talk of gods as literal nonsense. For the logical positivists and adherents of similar schools of thought, statements about religious or other transcendent experiences could not have a truth value, and were deemed to be without meaning, because metaphysical naturalism, the philosophical basis for logical positivism, automatically excludes the possibility of the supernatural.

Nature of relevant proofs/arguments

Since God (of the kind to which the proofs/arguments relate) is neither an entity in the universe nor a mathematical object, it is not obvious what kinds of arguments/proofs are relevant to God's existence. Even if the concept of scientific proof were not problematic, the fact that there is no conclusive scientific proof of the existence, or non-existence, of God[7] mainly demonstrates that the existence of God is not a normal scientific question. John Polkinghorne suggests that the nearest analogy to the existence of God in physics are the ideas of quantum mechanics which are seemingly paradoxical but make sense of a great deal of disparate data.[8]

Alvin Plantinga compares the question of the existence of God to the question of the existence of other minds, claiming both are notoriously impossible to "prove" against a determined skeptic.[9]

One approach, suggested by writers such as Stephen D. Unwin, is to treat (particular versions of) theism and naturalism as though they were two hypotheses in the Bayesian sense, to list certain data (or alleged data), about the world, and to suggest that the likelihoods of these data are significantly higher under one hypothesis than the other[10] Most of the arguments for, or against, the existence of God can be seen as pointing to particular aspects of the universe in this way. In almost all cases it is not seriously suggested by proponents of the arguments that they are irrefutable, merely that they make one worldview seem significantly more likely than the other. However, since an assessment of the weight of evidence depends on the prior probability that is assigned to each worldview, arguments that a theist finds convincing may seem thin to an atheist and vice-versa.[11]

Outside of western thought

Existence in absolute truth is central to Vedanta epistemology. Traditionally sense perception based approach was put into question as possibly misleading due to preconceived or superimposed ideas. But though all object-cognition can be doubted, the existence of the doubter remains a fact even in nastika traditions of mayavada schools following Adi Shankara.[12] The five eternal principles to be discussed under ontology, beginning with God or Isvara, the Ultimate Reality, cannot be established by the means of logic alone, and often require superior proof.[13] In Vaisnavism Vishnu, or his intimate ontological form of Krishna, is equated to personal absolute God of the Western traditions. Aspects of Krishna as svayam bhagavan in original Absolute Truth, sat chit ananda, are understood originating from three essential attributes of Krishna's form, i.e., "eternal existence" or 'sat, related to the brahman aspect; "knowledge" or chit, to the [paramatman]; and "bliss" or ananda in Sanskrit, to bhagavan.[14]

Arguments for the existence of God

  • The cosmological argument argues that there was a "first cause", or "prime mover" who is identified as God. It starts with a claim about the world, like its containing entities or motion.
  • The teleological argument argues that the universe's order and complexity are best explained by reference to a creator God. It starts with a rather more complicated claim about the world, i.e. that it exhibits order and design. This argument has two versions: One based on the analogy of design and designer, the other arguing that goals can only occur in minds.
  • The ontological argument is based on arguments about a "being greater than which cannot be conceived". It starts simply with a concept of God. St. Anselm of Canterbury and Alvin Plantinga formulate this argument to show that if it is logically possible for God (a necessary being) to exist, then God exists.[15]
  • The argument from degree, a version of the ontological argument posited by Thomas Aquinas, states that there must exist a being which possesses all properties to the maximum possible degree.
  • Arguments that a non-physical quality observed in the universe is of fundamental importance and not an epiphenomenon, such as morality (argument from morality), beauty (argument from beauty), love (argument from love), or religious experience (argument from religious experience), are arguments for theism as against materialism.
  • The anthropic argument suggests that basic facts, such as our existence, are best explained by the existence of God.
  • The moral argument argues that the existence of objective morality depends on the existence of God.
  • The transcendental argument suggests that logic, science, ethics, and other things we take seriously do not make sense in the absence of God, and that atheistic arguments must ultimately refute themselves if pressed with rigorous consistency.
  • The will to believe doctrine was pragmatist philosopher William James' attempt to prove God by showing that the adoption of theism as a hypothesis "works" in a believer's life. This doctrine depended heavily on James' pragmatic theory of truth where beliefs are proven by how they work when adopted rather than by proofs before they are believed (a form of the hypothetico-deductive method).
  • The argument from reason holds that if, as thoroughgoing naturalism entails, all of our thoughts are the effect of a physical cause, then we have no reason for assuming that they are also the consequent of a reasonable ground. Knowledge, however, is apprehended by reasoning from ground to consequent. Therefore, if naturalism were true, there would be no way of knowing it—or anything else not the direct result of a physical cause—and we could not even suppose it, except by a fluke.
  • Frank J. Tipler's Omega Point Theory holds that the universe is bound to ultimately end in a Big Crunch, which will create a gravitational singularity that can be exploited to obtain practically infinite computational capacity; Tipler equates this final singularity and its state of infinite information capacity to God.

Arguments from historical events or personages

  • Judaism asserts that God intervened in key specific moments in history, especially at the Exodus and the giving of the Ten Commandments, thus demonstrating his existence.
  • The argument from the Resurrection of Jesus. This asserts that there is sufficient historical evidence for Jesus's resurrection to support his claim to be the son of God and indicates, a fortiori, God's existence.[16] This is one of several arguments known as the Christological argument.
  • Islam asserts that the revelation of the miraculous Quran vindicates its divine authorship, and thus the existence of a God.
  • The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as Mormonism, similarly asserts that the miraculous appearance of God, Jesus Christ and angels to Joseph Smith and others and subsequent finding and translation of the Book of Mormon establishes the existence of God.

Inductive arguments

Inductive arguments argue their conclusions through inductive reasoning.

  • Another class of philosophers asserts that the proofs for the existence of God present a fairly large probability though not absolute certainty. A number of obscure points, they say, always remain; an act of faith is required to dismiss these difficulties. This view is maintained, among others, by the Scottish statesman Arthur Balfour in his book The Foundations of Belief (1895). The opinions set forth in this work were adopted in France by Ferdinand Brunetière, the editor of the Revue des deux Mondes. Many orthodox Protestants express themselves in the same manner, as, for instance, Dr. E. Dennert, President of the Kepler Society, in his work Ist Gott tot?.[17]

Arguments from testimony

Arguments from testimony rely on the testimony or experience of certain witnesses, possibly embodying the propositions of a specific revealed religion. Swinburne argues that it is a principle of rationality that one should accept testimony unless there are strong reasons for not doing so.[18]

  • The witness argument gives credibility to personal witnesses, contemporary and throughout the ages. A variation of this is the argument from miracles which relies on testimony of supernatural events to establish the existence of God.
  • The majority argument argues that the theism of people throughout most of recorded history and in many different places provides prima facie demonstration of God's existence.

Arguments grounded in personal experience

  • The Scottish School of Common Sense led by Thomas Reid taught that the fact of the existence of God is accepted by us without knowledge of reasons but simply by a natural impulse. That God exists, this school said, is one of the chief metaphysical principles that we accept not because they are evident in themselves or because they can be proved, but because common sense obliges us to accept them.
  • The Argument from a Proper Basis argues that belief in God is "properly basic"; that it is similar to statements like "I see a chair" or "I feel pain". Such beliefs are non-falsifiable and, thus, neither provable nor disprovable; they concern perceptual beliefs or indisputable mental states.
  • In Germany, the School of Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi taught that our reason is able to perceive the suprasensible. Jacobi distinguished three faculties: sense, reason, and understanding. Just as sense has immediate perception of the material so has reason immediate perception of the immaterial, while the understanding brings these perceptions to our consciousness and unites them to one another.[19] God's existence, then, cannot be proven (Jacobi, like Immanuel Kant, rejected the absolute value of the principle of causality), it must be felt by the mind.
  • In Emile: Or, On Education, Jean-Jacques Rousseau asserted that when our understanding ponders over the existence of God it encounters nothing but contradictions; the impulses of our hearts, however, are of more value than the understanding, and these proclaim clearly to us the truths of natural religion, namely, the existence of God and the immortality of the soul.
  • The same theory was advocated in Germany by Friedrich Schleiermacher, who assumed an inner religious sense by means of which we feel religious truths. According to Schleiermacher, religion consists solely in this inner perception, and dogmatic doctrines are inessential.[20]
  • Many modern Protestant theologians follow in Schleiermacher's footsteps, and teach that the existence of God cannot be demonstrated; certainty as to this truth is only furnished us by inner experience, feeling, and perception.
  • Modernist Christianity also denies the demonstrability of the existence of God. According to them we can only know something of God by means of the vital immanence, that is, under favorable circumstances the need of the divine dormant in our subconsciousness becomes conscious and arouses that religious feeling or experience in which God reveals himself to us. In condemnation of this view the oath against modernism formulated by Pope Pius X says: "Deum ... naturali rationis lumine per ea quae facta sunt, hoc est per visibilia creationis opera, tanquam causam per effectus certo cognosci adeoque demostrari etiam posse, profiteor." ("I declare that by the natural light of reason, God can be certainly known and therefore his existence demonstrated through the things that are made, i.e., through the visible works of creation, as the cause is known through its effects.")
  • Pascal's Wager (or Pascal's Gambit) is a suggestion posed by the French philosopher Blaise Pascal that even though the existence of God cannot be determined through reason, a person should "wager" as though God exists, because so living has everything to gain, and nothing to lose.

Argument from fulfilled Bible prophecy

Isaiah argues that only the God of the Bible can foretell specific future entities and events without fail when he accredits God saying, "Present your case," says the LORD. "Set forth your arguments, … tell us what the former things were, so that we may consider them and know their final outcome. Or declare to us the things to come, tell us what the future holds, so we may know that you are gods.”[21] "The LORD says … I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God. Who then is like me? … Let him declare and lay out before me what has happened since I established my ancient people, and what is yet to come—yes, let him foretell what will come.”[22]

The Bible declares that “all scripture is inspired by God”[23] and He “does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets.” [24] The prophecies of Daniel (chapters 2, 7, 8, 9, and 11) and Revelation purport to tell a select history of the world and God’s plan for it from the 6th century BCE to the establishment of the “kingdom of God” after the end of the world. If subsequent history fulfills every point of the prophecies up to the present then, as Isaiah states, "we may know that you are God," else not. This does not say what kind of God could do this, but only that there would be a God. So the argument asks, "Have the prophecies been fulfilled?"

Arguments against the existence of God

Each of the following arguments aims at showing either that a particular subset of gods do not exist (by showing them as inherently meaningless, contradictory, or at odds with known scientific or historical facts) or that there is insufficient reason to believe in them.

Empirical arguments

Empirical arguments depend on empirical data in order to prove their conclusions.

  • The argument from inconsistent revelations contests the existence of the deity called God as described in scriptures — such as the Jewish Tanakh, the Christian Bible, or the Muslim Qur'an — by identifying apparent contradictions between different scriptures, within a single scripture, or between scripture and known facts. To be effective this argument requires the other side to hold that its scriptural record is inerrant, or to conflate the record itself with the God it describes.
  • The problem of evil contests the existence of a god who is both omnipotent and omnibenevolent by arguing that such a god should not permit the existence of evil or suffering. The theist responses are called theodicies.
  • The argument from poor design contests the idea that God created life on the basis that life-forms, including humans, seem to exhibit poor design.
  • The argument from nonbelief contests the existence of an omnipotent God who wants humans to believe in him by arguing that such a god would do a better job of gathering believers.
  • The argument from parsimony (using Occam's razor) contends that since natural (non-supernatural) theories adequately explain the development of religion and belief in gods,[25] the actual existence of such supernatural agents is superfluous and may be dismissed unless otherwise proven to be required to explain the phenomenon.
  • The analogy of Russell's teapot argues that the burden of proof for the existence of God lies with the theist rather than the atheist.

Deductive arguments

Deductive arguments attempt to prove their conclusions by deductive reasoning from true premises.

  • The Ultimate Boeing 747 gambit is a counter-argument to the argument from design. The argument from design claims that a complex or ordered structure must be designed. However, a god that is responsible for the creation of a universe would be at least as complicated as the universe that it creates. Therefore, it too must require a designer. And its designer would require a designer also, ad infinitum. The argument for the existence of god is then a logical fallacy with or without the use of special pleading. The Ultimate 747 gambit points out that God does not provide an origin of complexity, it simply assumes that complexity always existed. It also states that design fails to account for complexity, which natural selection can explain.
  • The omnipotence paradox suggests that the concept of an omnipotent entity is logically contradictory, from considering a question like: "Can God create a rock so big that he cannot lift it?" or "If God is all powerful, could God create a being more powerful than itself?".
  • Another argument suggests that there is a contradiction between God being omniscient and omnipotent, basically asking "how can an all-knowing being change its mind?" See the article on omniscience for details.
  • The problem of hell is that some consider the existence of Hell in several religions to be morally indefensible, or inconsistent with God's omnibenevolence or omnipresence.
  • The argument from free will contests the existence of an omniscient god who has free will - or has allotted the same freedom to his creations - by arguing that the two properties are contradictory. According to the argument, if God already knows the future, then humanity is destined to corroborate with his knowledge of the future and not have true free will to deviate from it. Therefore our free will contradicts an omniscient god. Another argument attacks the existence of an omniscient god who has free will directly in arguing that the will of God himself would be bound to follow whatever God foreknows himself doing in eternity future.
  • The Transcendental argument for the non-existence of God contests the existence of an intelligent creator by suggesting that such a being would make logic and morality contingent, which is incompatible with the presuppositionalist assertion that they are necessary, and contradicts the efficacy of science. A more general line of argument based on this argument seeks to generalize this argument to all necessary features of the universe and all god-concepts.[26]
  • The counter-argument against the Cosmological argument ("chicken or the egg") takes its assumption that things cannot exist without creators and applies it to God, setting up an infinite regress. This attacks the premise that the universe is the second cause (after God, who is claimed to be the first cause).
  • Theological noncognitivism, as used in literature, usually seeks to disprove the god-concept by showing that it is unverifiable by scientific tests.

Inductive arguments

Inductive arguments argue their conclusions through inductive reasoning.

  • The atheist-existentialist argument for the non-existence of a perfect sentient being states that if existence precedes essence, it follows from the meaning of the term sentient that a sentient being cannot be complete or perfect. It is touched upon by Jean-Paul Sartre in Being and Nothingness. Sartre's phrasing is that God would be a pour-soi [a being-for-itself; a consciousness] who is also an en-soi [a being-in-itself; a thing]: which is a contradiction in terms. The argument is echoed thus in Salman Rushdie's novel Grimus: "That which is complete is also dead."
  • The "no reason" argument tries to show that an omnipotent and omniscient being would not have any reason to act in any way, specifically by creating the universe, because it would have no needs, wants, or desires since these very concepts are subjectively human. As the universe exists, there is a contradiction, and therefore, an omnipotent god cannot exist. This argument is espoused by Scott Adams in the book God's Debris.
  • The "historical induction" argument concludes that since most theistic religions throughout history (e.g. ancient Egyptian religion, ancient Greek religion) and their gods ultimately come to be regarded as untrue or incorrect, all theistic religions, including contemporary ones, are therefore most likely untrue/incorrect by induction. It is implied as part of Stephen F. Roberts' popular quotation:
    “I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”

Subjective arguments

Similar to the subjective arguments for the existence of God, subjective arguments against the supernatural mainly rely on the testimony or experience of witnesses, or the propositions of a revealed religion in general.

  • The witness argument gives credibility to personal witnesses, contemporary and from the past, who disbelieve or strongly doubt the existence of God.
  • The conflicted religions argument notes that many religions give differing accounts as to what God is and what God wants; since all the contradictory accounts cannot be correct, many if not all religions must be incorrect.


Conclusions on the existence of God can be divided along numerous axes, producing a variety of orthogonal classifications. Theism and atheism relate to belief about the existence of gods, while gnosticism and agnosticism relates to belief about whether the existence of gods is (or can be) known. Ignosticism concerns belief regarding God's conceptual coherence.


The theistic conclusion is that the arguments indicate there is sufficient reason to believe that at least one god exists.

God exists and this can be demonstrated

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, following the Thomist tradition and the dogmatic definition of the First Vatican Council, affirms that it is a doctrine of the Catholic Church that God's existence has been rationally demonstrated. For the proofs of God's existence by Saint Thomas Aquinas see Quinquae viae. Many other Christian denominations share the view that God's existence can be demonstrated without recourse to claims of revelation.

On beliefs of Christian faith, theologians and philosophers make a distinction between:

  1. doctrines arising from special revelation that arise essentially from faith in divinely inspired revelations, including the life of Christ, but cannot be proved or even anticipated by reason alone, such as the doctrines of the Trinity or the Incarnation, and
  2. doctrines arising from general revelation, that is from reason alone drawing conclusions based on relatively obvious observations of the world and self.

The argument that the existence of God can be known to all, even prior to exposure to any divina revelation, predates Christianity. St. Paul made this argument when he insisted that pagans were without e|cuse because "since the creation of the world [God's] invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made".[27] In this Paul alludes to the proofs for a creator, later enunciated by St. Thomas[28] and others, but that had also been explored by the Greek philosophers.

Another apologetical school of thought, a sort of synthesis of various existing Dutch and American Reformed thinkers (such as, Abraham Kuyper, Benjamin Warfield, Herman Dooyeweerd), emerged in the late 1920s. This school was instituted by Cornelius Van Til, and came to be popularly called Presuppositional apologetics (though Van Til himself felt "transcendental" would be a more accurate title). The main distinction between this approach and the more classical evidentialist approach mentioned above is that the presuppositionalist denies any common ground between the believer and the non-believer, except that which the non-believer denies, namely, the assumption of the truth of the theistic worldview. In other words, presuppositionalists don't believe that the existence of God can be proven by appeal to raw, uninterpreted (or, "brute") facts, which have the same (theoretical) meaning to people with fundamentally different worldviews, because they deny that such a condition is even possible. They claim that the only possible proof for the existence of God is that the very same belief is the necessary condition to the intelligibility of all other human experience and action. In other words, they attempt to prove the existence of God by means of appeal to the alleged transcendental necessity of the belief—indirectly (by appeal to the allegedly unavowed presuppositions of the non-believer's worldview) rather than directly (by appeal to some form of common factuality). In practice this school utilizes what have come to be known as transcendental arguments. In these arguments they claim to demonstrate that all human experience and action (even the condition of unbelief, itself) is a proof for the existence of God, because God's existence is the necessary condition of their intelligibility.

God exists, but this cannot be demonstrated nor refuted

Others have suggested that the several logical and philosophical arguments for and against the existence of God miss the point. The word God has a meaning in human culture and history that does not correspond to the beings whose existence is supported by such arguments, assuming they are valid. The real question is not whether a "most perfect being" or an "uncaused first cause" exist; the real question is whether Yahweh or Vishnu or Zeus, or some other deity of attested human religion, exists, and if so, which deity. Most of these arguments do not resolve the issue of which of these figures is more likely to exist. Blaise Pascal suggested this objection in his Pensées when he wrote "The God of Abraham, God of Isaac, and God of Jacob — not the god of the philosophers!". Philosophical debate has also included Pascal's Wager, the idea of belief without evidence, based on possible rewards in the afterlife.

Some Christians note that the Christian faith teaches "salvation is by faith",[29] and that faith is reliance upon the faithfulness of God, which has little to do with the believer's ability to comprehend that in which he trusts.

The most extreme example of this position is called fideism, which holds that faith is simply the will to believe, and argues that if God's existence were rationally demonstrable, faith in its existence would become superfluous. Søren Kierkegaard argued that objective knowledge, such as 1+1=2, is unimportant to existence. If God could rationally be proven, his existence would be unimportant to humans. It is because God cannot rationally be proven that his existence is important to us. In The Justification of Knowledge, the Calvinist theologian Robert L. Reymond argues that believers should not attempt to prove the existence of God. Since he believes all such proofs are fundamentally unsound, believers should not place their confidence in them, much less resort to them in discussions with non-believers; rather, they should accept the content of revelation by faith. Reymond's position is similar to that of his mentor, Gordon Clark, which holds that all worldviews are based on certain unprovable first premises (or, axioms), and therefore are ultimately unprovable. The Christian theist therefore must simply choose to start with Christianity rather than anything else, by a "leap of faith." This position is also sometimes called presuppositional apologetics, but should not be confused with the Van Tillian variety discussed above.

An intermediate position is that of Alvin Plantinga who holds that a specific form of modal logic and an appeal to world-indexed properties render belief in the existence of God rational and justified, even though the existence of God cannot be proven in a mathematical sense. Plantinga equates knowledge of God's existence with kinds of knowledge that are rational but do not proceed through proof, such as sensory knowledge.[30]


The atheistic conclusion is that the arguments indicate there is insufficient reason to believe that any gods exist.

Strong atheism

Strong atheism (or positive atheism) is the position that no gods exist. The strong atheist explicitly asserts the non-existence of gods.[31] Some strong atheists further assert that the existence of some or all gods is logically impossible, for example claiming that the combination of attributes which God may be asserted to have (for example: omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, transcendence, omnibenevolence) is logically contradictory, incomprehensible, or absurd, and therefore that the existence of such a god is a priori false.

Redemptive A/theism (as developed by Ludwig Feuerbach in The Essence of Christianity suggests all forms of apriorism (as the omni-predications tout up) are a fundamental impediment in salvaging the notion of divinity or its relevance to believers.  To avoid supercilious predications (which jeopardize even the notion of God) 'true Christianity' requires us to take 'the way of manifestation' (the via manifestissima over the via eminentia), so requires us to hold in suspension any such 'definitional' approach to religion as dogma and doctrine employ.  Hence the first stage in 'redeeming' the idea of divinity is A/theism in order to empty the bilge of meta-physical ontology from the idea of abstract gods and find the source of divinity instead in the sublimity (a) contained in the images of nurture Christianity employs and (b) the mind detects in self-realization. 

Feuerbach thus predates Freud and not only allows, but insists, there is projection in religion as in ancient healthy notions of aspiration (expressive of precisely what the soul of persons is 'after').  Projection of 'gods' in human form is what we have 'gods' for and how we use ideals in exploiting their aspirational value.  Possibly even the way 'smart God' arranged it; to work through the very development of our spiritually natural sensibilities and their appetite for moral suasions. 

Redemptive A/theism is logically akin to Austin Farrer's salutory agnosticism: 'The person who speaks about God with any degree of philosophical or theological confidence is an utter fool'.  Both Farrer and Feuerbach regulated 'talk about God' with the creativity inherent in language itself, structuring a form-of-life or way of living analogous to Wittgenstein's 'linguistic naturalism'.  Farrer proposed a 'causeological' or pragmatic theology: 'No God save one about whom we have something to do'.  Quoting Luther, Feuerbach reversed the implication.  If God remained in heaven in a state of heavenly bliss or absolute perfection, God would not be God; merely a 'clod' of outmoded substantival thinking.  Without some form of 'predicate principle', we could say nothing about the 'reality' of God; in line with Quine's entification principle, ot 'that' without some 'what'; or 'No entity sans identification or identity'.

Metaphysical naturalism is a common worldview associated with strong atheism.

Weak atheism

The term weak atheism (or negative atheism) is used in two main senses, describing those who (a) do not assert strong atheism ("no gods exist") but rather the more minimal statement that for a variety of reasons (principally the lack of credible scientific evidence) there are no good reasons and no credible grounds for believing that gods exist ("I do not believe that any gods exist"); or (b) neither believe that gods exist, nor believe that no gods exist. This is orthogonal to agnosticism which states that whether gods exist is either unknown or unknowable. It should be noted that there is some controversy about this use of the term.


Agnosticism is the view that the truth value of certain claims—especially claims about the existence of any deity, but also other religious and metaphysical claims—is unknown or unknowable.[32] Agnosticism as a broad umbrella term does not define one's belief or disbelief in gods, agnostics may still identify themselves as theists or atheists.[33]

Strong agnosticism

Strong agnosticism is the belief that it is impossible for humans to know whether or not any deities exist.

Weak agnosticism

Weak agnosticism is the belief that the existence or nonexistence of deities is unknown but not necessarily unknowable.

Agnostic theism

Agnostic theism is the view of those who do not claim to know the existence of any deity but believes that at least one deity exists.

Agnostic atheism

Agnostic atheism is the view of those who do not claim to know the existence of any deity but do not believe in any.[33]

The theologian Robert Flint explains: "If a man have failed to find any good reason for believing that there is a God, it is perfectly natural and rational that he should not believe that there is a God; and if so, he is an atheist, although he assume no superhuman knowledge, but merely the ordinary human power of judging of evidence. If he go farther, and, after an investigation into the nature and reach of human knowledge, ending in the conclusion that the existence of God is incapable of proof, cease to believe in it on the ground that he cannot know it to be true, he is an agnostic and also an atheist, an agnostic-atheist—an atheist because an agnostic."[34]


The apatheist considers the question of God's existence or nonexistence to be of little or no practical importance.

Psychological aspects

Several authors have offered psychological or sociological explanations for belief in the existence of God. Many of these views have been sought to give a naturalistic explanation of religion, though this does not necessarily mean such views are exclusive to naturalism.

Psychologists observe that the majority of humans often ask existential questions such as "why we are here" and whether life has purpose. Some psychologists have posited that religious beliefs may recruit cognitive mechanisms in order to satisfy these questions. William James emphasized the inner religious struggle between melancholy and happiness, and pointed to trance as a cognitive mechanism. Sigmund Freud stressed fear and pain, the need for a powerful parenteral figure, the obsessional nature of ritual, and the hypnotic state a community can induce as contributing factors to the psychology of religion.

Pascal Boyer's Religion Explained, (2002) based in part on his anthropological field work, treats belief in God as the result of the brain's tendency towards agency detection. Boyer suggest that because of evolutionary pressures, we err on the side of attributing agency where there isn't any. In Boyer's view, belief in supernatural entities spreads and becomes culturally fixed because of their memorability. The concept of 'minimally-counterintuitive' beings that differ from the ordinary in a small number of ways (such as being invisible, able to fly, or having access to strategic and otherwise secret information) leave a lasting impression that spreads through word-of-mouth.

Scott Atran's In Gods We Trust: The Evolutionary Landscape of Religion (2002) makes a similar argument and adds examination of the socially coordinating aspects of shared belief. In Minds and Gods: The Cognitive Foundations of Religion, Todd Tremlin follows Boyer in arguing that universal human cognitive process naturally produces the concept of the supernatural. Tremlin contends that an agency detection device (ADD) and a theory of mind module (ToMM) lead humans to suspect an agent behind every event. Natural events for which there is no obvious agent thus may be attributed to God.

See also


  1. see eg The Rationality of Theism quoting Quentin Smith "God is not 'dead' in academia; he returned to life in the late 1960s". They cite "the shift from hostility towards theism in Paul Edwards's Encyclopedia of Philosophy (1967) to sympathy towards theism in the more recent Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  2. A modern re-statement, see
  3. Following Anselm's Ontological argument
  4. See Swinburne's Does God Exist? or Polkinghorne
  5. See the articles on them, and especially Einstein's 1940 paper in Nature
  6. Hebbar, Neria Harish. "The Principal Upanishads". Retrieved 2007-01-12. 
  7. Those holding this range from Dawkins to Ward to Plantinga.
  8. Polkinghorne, John (1998). Belief in God in an Age of Science. Yale University Press. ISBN 0300072945. 
  9. see his God and Other Minds: A Study of the Rational Justification of Belief in God Cornell (1990) ISBN 0801497353 and Warranted Christian Belief OUP (2000) ISBN 0195131932
  10. See e.g. the Beale/Howson debate published in Prospect May, 1998
  11. see eg The Probability of God by Stephen D. Unwin and its criticism in The God Delusion.
  12. Klostermaier, Klaus K. (2007). A survey of Hinduism. Albany: Sate University of New York Press. pp. 357. ISBN 0-7914-7081-4. 
  13. Sudesh Narang (1984)The Vaisnava Philosophy According to Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa, p. 30
  14. Maria Ekstrand; Bryant, Edwin H. (2004). The Hare Krishna movement: the postcharismatic fate of a religious transplant. New York: Columbia University Press. pp. 7. ISBN 0-231-12256-X. 
  15. PLANTINGA, ALVIN (1998). God, arguments for the existence of. In E. Craig (Ed.), Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. London: Routledge. Retrieved March 3, 2007, from [1] he attributes this to Charles Hartshorne
  16. Polkinghorne, John. Science and Christian Belief. pp. 108–122. 
  17. (Stuttgart, 1908)
  18. Swinburne, Richard (1997). Is there a God?. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0198235453. 
  19. (A. Stöckl, Geschichte der neueren Philosophie, II, 82 sqq.)
  20. (Stöckl, loc. cit., 199 sqq.)
  21. Isa. 41:21-24
  22. Isa. 44:6-7
  23. 2 Timothy 3:16
  24. Amos 3:7
  25. Religion Explained: The Evolutionary Origins of Religious Thought, Pascal Boyer, Basic Books (2001)
  26. Introduction To Materialist Apologetics
  27. Epistle to the Romans 1:20
  28. For the proofs of God's existence by Saint Thomas Aquinas see Quinquae viae.
  29. Second Epistle to Timothy 3:14-15NIV "But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus." (Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.)
  30. Plantinga, Alvin (1974). The Nature of Necessity. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 63. "An object has all its world-indexed properties in every world in which it exists. So if we take an object x and a property P and worlds W and W* such that x has the properties of having-P-in-W and having-non-P-in-W*, we will find that x also has the properties of having-P-in-W-in-W* and having-non-P-in-W*-in-W" 
  31. Richard Dawkins is the most famous contemporary example, in a line stretching back through Bertrand Russell and Karl Marx to the 18th century
  32. Carroll, Robert (2009-02-22). "agnosticism". The Skeptic's Dictionary. Retrieved 2009-10-17. 
  33. 33.0 33.1 Cline, Austin. "What is Agnosticism?". Retrieved 2009-01-08. 
  34. Flint, Robert (1903). "Erroneous VIews of Agnosticism". Agnosticism. C. Scribner sons. pp. 50. Retrieved 2009-11-15. 

External links

This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Existence of God. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.

Also on Fandom

Random Wiki