Thoughts on God’s existence
Andrew Sveda | Monday, May 3, 2021
Does God exist?
“Why should we bother?” you might be wondering. “It’s all so complicated, so abstract. I’ve got bigger problems to think about. And some smart people disagree!”
Hopefully the reader can see that this is no real argument at all but a hollow list of assumptions and assertions. Undoubtedly, you do have pressing problems in your life, but it does not follow that you are then somehow “off the hook” for not caring. That’s because God’s existence is not some topic we can think about only if we want to or have the time. If God is the very Source of reality itself and has created us with a purpose to fulfill, then how can one say it’s not important or that they are somehow exempt? God created us with meaning and purpose, one that is concrete and objective. And that central purpose of our lives is to serve God and have a relationship with Him. This obviously entails knowing that He exists, so asking if God exists is anything but an optional consideration. We can see, then, that the statement about having “bigger problems” is quite a man-centered assumption. It assumes that what I’m concerned about right now becomes and is the most important thing for me. It assumes that we are at the center of reality, that our lives are our own, that we can do whatever we like, that we are the highest authority over our choices, and that no one, not even God, can tell us what to do or how to run our lives, come what may. Clearly, this is not some faraway, abstract question. It cuts to the core of who we are most deeply and why we were created.
But what about the complexity of the question? What about the disagreement? Some professors and PhDs believe that God exists, and some do not. “And they’re all so smart,” you might say to yourself. “If they can’t all come to the same conclusion, what chance is there for me?” Well, just because scholars disagree doesn’t mean we can’t know what is true. After all, every worldview, and we all have one whether you actively think about it or not, has its critics, and often quite famous ones at that. Does that mean we can’t know the truth? Of course not! That’s because we don’t discover what is true by vote but by reason and the weight of the evidence.
Fair enough. But is the evidence clear either way? Can we reach a sure conclusion? Yes, yes we can, and such knowledge need not come through some sophisticated argument that only philosophy buffs can understand. Indeed, such evidence is clear to all willing to understand and put some thought into it. But beyond that, we constantly borrow from a theistic worldview without even knowing it. People even argue against God’s existence using assumptions that require God to exist. The question first posed in this column, “Does God exist?” also assumes God’s existence in at least three ways.
To ask “Does God exist?” in a meaningful way, we must assume that our cognitive faculties are reliable, that they can properly evaluate philosophical/theological claims and knowingly determine what is true and what is false. But how could we possibly trust our brain in thinking about such truths if it evolved out of a mindless, unguided process that selected not for truth at all but only survival and advantageous behavior? As David Bentley Hart put it, “if the universe does not depend upon any transcendent source, then there is no reason to accord the deliverances of reason any particularly authority in the first place, because what we think of as rationality is just the accidental residue of physical processes: good for helping us to acquire food, power, or sex but probably not very reliable in the realm of ideas.” Thus, “it makes sense to believe in both reason and God … but it is ultimately contradictory to believe in one but not the other.” Atheists like Nietzsche and Nagel admitted to this clear problem. So did Darwin. Our ability to reason and use logic requires that God exists, so when we wonder if God exists, we must implicitly assume that He does before we can even ask the question.
When asking if God exists, we also assume that it is a good thing to know the truth. It is even our moral duty. But atheism is unable to ground objective moral values and duties like these, as I’ve discussed in previous columns. If our morals are nothing but the product of unguided sociobiological evolution, how could they possibly be objective? Evolution has no idea what right or wrong is, nor does it care. Why, in an atheistic framework, is a bee’s murder of its sibling objectively bad when they see it as a good? To affirm the reality of objective moral values and duties, one must assume God’s existence.
But beyond this, we only ever ask and wonder if God exists because we assume that our lives have meaning and purpose. The reason we say believing the truth is good and knowingly peddling a lie is bad is because we have an idea about the purpose of mankind. But if atheism is true, we have no purpose, no meaning to our lives. It does not matter in the slightest, then, what you, a conglomeration of chemicals and energy, think about God’s existence in an atheistic universe. To even debate God’s existence is to assume that mankind has an objective purpose (not a subjective one because you think the other person should believe what you are saying), and, in that way, they must really assume God exists to exhort people to not believe in Him. To say someone should believe something because it’s true can only hold if man has some objective purpose, which the atheist must deny.
The fact that asking “Does God exist?” assumes God exists is quite important. It reminds us that God’s existence is intuitive and known by everyone. God is not hiding, but maybe we are.
Andrew Sveda is a sophomore at Notre Dame from Pittsburgh, PA majoring in political science. In his free time, he enjoys writing (obviously), reading and playing the piano. He can be reached at [email protected] or @SvedaAndrew on Twitter.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.