Philosophy 101, 2 October 1997

On the Existence of God

To this day, there are rumors of people living in the West who contend that the earth is flat. Any evidence or proof that is offered in defense of the "Earth is a sphere" claim is viciously attacked. Photos from space can be forged, the appearance of objects on the horizon are distorted, etc. We consider their belief to be ludicrous, but it illustrates a good point: Despite any evidence put forth, humans will believe something because they want it to be true, not because it is true. Then they will attempt to rationalize their belief. Depending on the strength of our desire to hold to our belief, even when good evidence or even a proof is set forth for an opposing claim, we may "suspend judgment" or attack the reliability of the evidence itself.

How, then, can we arrive at a truly reasonable belief? Recognize that a particular belief is held in this fashion and test it against the evidence along with other beliefs. The belief that provides the simplest yet most accurate explanation of the evidence is the one that is most likely to be true.

This procedure forms the basis of the "scientific method": 1st - hypothesis, 2nd - experimentation, 3rd - explanation/revision. A theory is not formed out of facts, but rather the facts are interpreted in light of the theory.1 If the theory appears to work, then it is upheld. Otherwise, the evidence will be discredited, special adjustments to the theory will be made, or the theory is rejected.

The belief in God/No God is one that should be examined in this way. It is often held without much regard for the evidence, although when questioned, someone who makes the decision that God exists can create a reasonable basis for that belief. Someone who decides that God cannot or might not exist can create reasons to support that theory. However, only one of these theories is true. God either exists or he does not.

Let us take each of these beliefs in turn and view some facts in light of them.

Starting with the belief that God does not exist, each of these facts can be interpreted as either not viable or supporting the belief that God does not exist. For the first fact, doctors do not know everything about cancer and some other cause may have been involved. The people mentioned in the second case may have been fulfilling some kind of psychological need or may have been temporarily insane. As far as the girl is concerned, there must be some other factors involved that have not been made known. The fourth and fifth facts indicate that there is no one or no thing sustaining the universe and it works/has worked on its own. The sixth fact is often flaunted by people who believe that God does not exist and are attempting to provide a reasonable basis for their belief. How can evil exist when God is supposedly all-powerful and all-good?

Taking the view that God can exist, we see these facts entirely differently. Instead of making excuses for facts one through three, we can take them at face value. There must be something beyond the "normal" that can account for these occurrences. Something (or someone) is "out there". This something (or someone) listens to and communicates with human beings and is capable of interfering with our world. The fourth fact can lead us to conclude that the universe must not have existed forever and must have had a definite beginning. Without a definite beginning, the universe would be infinitely old, but an infinitely old universe would have degenerated by the present. Adding to this the fifth fact, we can determine that our current natural laws are insufficient to explain how the universe could begin. If the total mass-energy cannot be altered, there is no way the universe could have had a beginning while at the same time the universe must have had a beginning. An outside force like God, who can operate outside of the natural laws, can explain this. The sixth face definitely adds to the claim that God must indeed exist, because evil cannot exist without God.

When dealing with dichotomies, the two items must be definable and at least one must be definable in terms that do not depend on its "opposite"; otherwise the terms are meaningless. If one of the two is not an absolute, it depends on an absolute definable counterpart for definition. For example, one cannot define Hot without Cold. Either Hot or Cold must be defined in outside terms in order for both of them to make sense. Absolute Cold, therefore, is defined as the point where all motion is halted.4 The introduction of motion is indicative of heat. An object with more motion than another can be considered to more Hot than the other object. Conversely, the other object can be considered Cold when compared to the first object. Hot cannot be an absolute as there cannot be absolute motion.

In the same way as Hot and Cold, one cannot define Light and Darkness without establishing one as a definable absolute. Darkness is the state where no electromagnetic waves with frequencies between 1011 and 1018 Hz are present.5 Light can then be defined as the presence of such electromagnetic waves. Light cannot be absolute since there is no maximum limit to the number of electromagnetic waves that can exist in a given area.

There is no such thing as absolute evil. For every evil deed (say, killing a man), there is an even worse deed that can be thought of (torturing the man before killing him or killing two men). Since evil is not an absolute, it cannot be defined on its own without an absolute good to compare it to. There is no concept on earth that can provide an absolute good to be a basis for comparison. However, absolute good is definable by God.6 With this as an absolute, evil can therefore be defined as that which is not God or of/by God. What is difficult to explain, then, is the definition of evil if God does not exist.

After examining the results of our method, we must decide which belief provides a better explanation. The belief that there is no God has to be explained away or discredit some of the evidence while providing explanation other parts of it. The belief that God does exist fits well without undermining the evidence. This experiment can be tried again with other facts, but the result will be similar. The belief that God does exist provides the best explanation.


  1. Marvin L. Lubenow, Bones of Contention (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1992), 110-111.
  2. Raymond A. Serway, Physics for Scientists & Engineers Third Edition (Chicago: Saunders College Publishing, 1992), 589.
  3. Ibid., pg. 197-198.
  4. Hans Christian von Baeyer, "The Riddle of the Third Law" rpt. in Physics for Scientists & Engineers Third Ediiton (Chicago: Saunders College Publishing, 1992), 618.
  5. Serway, pg. 973.
  6. 2 Chronicles 7:3, Psalms 86:5, Psalms 100:5, Psalms 119:68, Micah 6:8, Mark 10:18, 1 Peter 2:3