Can Philosophy Prove the Existence of God? Every culture has had its gods. The ancient agrarian cultures had their fertility gods; the Greeks and Romans had their pantheon; Judaism, Christianity, and Islam have their one god of all. At all times and in all places people have thought that there is more to life than the material world around us. Belief in a god or gods, it seems, arises naturally the world over. It seems that there is some element common to all human experience that causes us to look for something transcendent on which to build our lives, to ask the question Does God exist? and to affirm, at least in some sense, that he does. That so many societies have independently come to religious belief requires an explanation. Is this just a coincidence? Or is religious belief a natural psychological defence-mechanism against the difficulties that life inevitably throws at us? Or is there some truth that this widespread instinct to look beyond the physical world leads us towards? Some people have thought that answering such questions as these is and will always be beyond us. Others have thought not only that they have the answers to these questions but also that they can prove to others that their answers are the correct ones.
This site explains some of the philosophical arguments that are offered as proofs that there is a God, and some of the historical arguments that are offered as proofs that God came to earth in the person of Jesus. None of these arguments is uncontroversially successful, of course; many philosophers have considered and rejected each of them. Neither, though, is any of them obviously a failure. The arguments that are described here have been defended by some of the greatest thinkers that have ever lived—Plato, Aquinas, Anselm, Leibniz, and Descartes, for example—and each of them is still defended in some form by leading philosophers today. What this site aims to do is to explain what these arguments are, and what conclusions they would establish if successful. Whether you ultimately accept either the arguments or their conclusions I leave to you. As a preface to the arguments, it is worth noting an argument that the claim that God exists is made more plausible by the fact of wide-spread religious belief. This argument is called the “argument from desire”. It begins with the observation that our natural instincts generally serve us well; every creature is born with an instinct for food because food sustains us, and each of us longs for meaningful relationships because community and friendship allow us to flourish. Generally speaking, if we have an innate desire for a thing then that thing both exists and is good for us.
The natural instinct to look to the transcendent, therefore, which is made evident by the fact remarked upon above that every culture of every time has had some form of religion, suggests that there might well be something transcendent out there to be found. This instinct, according to the argument from desire, hints at the existence of God. Hints aside, though, how could the existence of God be proven? Arguments for the existence of God come in many different forms; some draw on history, some on science, some on personal experience, and some on philosophy. As has already been said, the primary focus of this site is the philosophical arguments—the ontological argument, the first cause argument, the argument from design, and the moral argument—though some of the historical arguments will also be explored. If the existence of God can be proven, I think, then it is by arguments such as these. Even if the existence of God can be proven, though, then how can any of the various conceptions of God be shown to be the right one? If we are persuaded that God exists, then how can we decide which of the fertility gods, the Roman pantheon, the Judaeo-Christian God, and the many other alternatives to believe in? One answer to this is that if any of the philosophical arguments is successful then it supports a specific conception of God. The ontological argument, for instance, is an argument for the existence of a perfect being; the cosmological argument is an argument for the existence of a Creator.
Each of the philosophical arguments, then, if successful, supports any given religion to the extent that that religion’s conception of God matches that supported by the argument. If several, or even all, of the arguments were successful, then this would give us a detailed picture of the nature of God, which could then be compared to the picture painted by each competing religion. The philosophical arguments, then, might tell us not only that some religion is true, but also which religion is true, or at least which religions are closest to the truth. In addition to the philosophical arguments for the existence of God, of course, there are also the historical arguments, which might offer a more straightforward way of confirming or disconfirming specific religions. If the historical evidence indicates, for instance, that the Bible contains accurate prophecies, or that the Book of Mormon was handed down to Joseph Smith by angels, or that Jesus was raised from the dead, then this would help us to move from a general belief in God to acceptance of a particular religion. My primary interest is in Christianity, and so the historical arguments that I have included concern Jesus. The first is an argument that we must not treat Jesus as merely a great human teacher, that he was either a liar, a lunatic, or God incarnate. The second is an argument that only the third of these possibilities allows us to make sense of the historical evidence for the Resurrection.
Also included on the site are several arguments for atheism. Even if some or all of the arguments for the existence of God were judged to be plausible, if there were also convincing arguments against the existence of God then this would be reason to question whether those arguments for God’s existence really are as successful as they seem to be. Included in this section are two indirect arguments against traditional Christianity, the argument that faith is just an emotional crutch for the weak and the argument that Christianity is offensively exclusive, that tolerance requires religious pluralism. The strongest of all the arguments against God’s existence is surely the problem of evil: how can the existence of God be reconciled with the widespread suffering that we see in the world around us? Also disquieting for those who believe in God is the paradox introduced by the question, “Can God create a stone so heavy that he cannot lift it?” Whatever answer to this question is given appears to be in tension with the idea that God is omnipotent; does this show that there can be no such thing as an omnipotent God? Before all of that, however, come the philosophical arguments for the existence of God. To read a summary of the arguments, begin with the overview of the four proofs of the existence of God. To skip the overview and jump right in, go straight to the ontological argument, the first cause argument, the argument from design, or the moral argument. Each explanation of an argument is followed by a survey of objections to it, along with some thoughts about whether or not those objections are successful.
Arguments for the Existence of God:
Over the centuries, there have been many attempts by religious philosophers to prove the existence of God, and a canon of classic arguments has been developed. Not all of these arguments have their origins in Christian philosophy; Jewish and Muslim philosophers have made significant contributions to the philosophy of religion, and both Plato and Aristotle have influenced its development. Recent decades have seen a rise in interest in natural theology and the philosophy of religion. Each of the classic theistic proofs has been revived and refined, presented in revised form and defended afresh. Whether any of these arguments for the existence of God is successful, of course, remains controversial. The Arguments for the Existence of God section sets out to explain each of the common philosophical arguments for theism, and so to explore the case for the existence of God. The arguments themselves are arranged under the following headings: Pascal’s Wager, The Ontological Argument, The Cosmological Argument (including the first cause argument), The Teleological Argument (i.e. the argument from design), The Moral Argument, and The Argument from Religious Experience. There are, however, two preliminary issues to be dealt with: the intrinsic probability of the existence of God, which will bear on the degree of suspicion with which we view the purported theistic proofs, and reformed epistemology, which holds that belief in God can be rational even if it cannot be supported by evidence. Pascal’s Wager is an argument for belief in God based not on an appeal to evidence that God exists but rather based on an appeal to self-interest. It is in our interests to believe in God, the argument suggests, and it is therefore rational for us to do so. The claim that it is in our interests to believe in God is supported by a consideration of the possible consequences of belief and unbelief. If we believe in God, the argument runs, then if he exists then we will receive an infinite reward in heaven while if he does not then we have lost little or nothing. If we do not believe in God, the argument continues, then if he exists then we will receive an infinite punishment in hell while he does not then we will have gained little or nothing. Either receiving an infinite reward in heaven or losing little or nothing is clearly preferable to either receiving an infinite punishment in hell or gaining little or nothing. It is therefore in our interests, and so rational, to believe in God.
The Ontological Argument
The ontological argument is an argument that attempts to prove the existence of God through abstract reasoning alone. The argument begins with an explication of the concept of God. Part of what we mean when we speak of “God” is “perfect being”; that is what the word “God” means. A God that exists, of course, is better than a God that doesn‘t. To speak of God as a perfect being is therefore to imply that he exists. If God’s perfection is a part of the concept of God, though, and if God’s perfection implies God’s existence, then God’s existence is implied by the concept of God. When we speak of “God” we cannot but speak of a being that exists. To say that God does not exist is to contradict oneself; it is literally to speak nonsense.
The Cosmological Argument
The cosmological argument is the argument from the existence of the world or universe to the existence of a being that brought it into and keeps it in existence. It comes in two forms, one modal (having to do with possibility and the other temporal (having to do with time).The modal cosmological argument, the argument from contingency, suggests that because the universe might not have existed (i.e. is contingent), we need some explanation of why it does. Whereever there are two possibilities, it suggests, something must determine which of those possibilities is realised. As the universe is contingent, then, there must be some reason for its existence; it must have a cause. In fact, the only kind of being whose existence requires no explanation is a necessary being, a being that could not have failed to exist. The ultimate cause of everything must therefore be a necessary being, such as God. The temporal kalam cosmological argument, begins by arguing that the past is finite. The idea that the universe has an infinite past stretching back in time into infinity is, the argument notes, both philosophically and scientifically problematic; all indications are that there is a point in time at which the universe began to exist. This beginning must either have been caused or uncaused. It cannot have been uncaused, though, for the idea of an uncaused event is absurd; nothing comes from nothing. The universe must therefore have been brought into existence by something outside it. The kalam argument thus confirms one element of Christianity, the doctrine of Creation.
The Teleological Argument
The teleological argument is the argument from the order in the world to the existence of a being that created it with a specific purpose in mind. The universe is a highly complex system. The scale of the universe alone is astounding, and the natural laws that govern it perplex scientists still after generations of study. It is also, however, a highly ordered system; it serves a purpose. The world provides exactly the right conditions for the development and sustenance of life, and life is a valuable thing. That this is so is remarkable; there are numerous ways in which the universe might have been different, and the vast majority of possible universes would not have supported life. To say that the universe is so ordered by chance is therefore unsatisfactory as an explanation of the appearance of design around us. It is far more plausible, and far more probable, that the universe is the way it is because it was created by God with life in mind.
The Moral Argument
The moral argument is the argument from the existence or nature of morality to the existence of God. Two forms of moral argument are distinguished: formal and perfectionist. The formal moral argument takes the form of morality to imply that it has a divine origin: morality consists of an ultimately authoritative set of commands; where can these commands have come from but a commander that has ultimate authority? The perfectionist moral argument sets up a problem: how can it be that morality requires perfection of us, that morality cannot require of us more than we can give, but that we cannot be perfect? The only way to resolve this paradox, the argument suggests, is to posit the existence of God.
The Argument from Religious Experience
The argument from religious experience is the argument that personal religious experiences can prove God’s existence to those that have them. One can only perceive that which exists, and so God must exist because there are those that have experienced him. While religious experiences themselves can only constitute direct evidence of God’s existence for those fortunate enough to have them, the fact that there are many people who testify to having had such experiences constitutes indirect evidence of God’s existence even to those who have not had such experiences themselves.
The Argument from Miracles
The argument from miracles is the argument that the occurrence of miracles demonstrates both the existence of God and the truth of Christianity. If the Bible is to be believed, then Jesus‘ ministry was accompanied by frequent miraculous signs that his claims and his teachings were endorsed by God the Father. His resurrection from the dead was, of course, the greatest of these, and is still taken by many today to be a solid foundation for their faith. Miracles typically involve the suspension of the natural operation of the universe as some supernatural event occurs. That can only happen, of course, given the existence of some supernatural being. For more information on this interesting argument we really invite you to visit the links below.