The Existence of God

Ever had one of those conversations where an atheist friend asked you to prove the existence of God? They were probably being annoying about it, thinking they had come up with the best argument ever…

The Creation of Adam
The Creation of Adam, 12th-century mosaic

Although one could argue for the existence of God from various directions, one possible direction would be to take a raw logical approach as a starting point. In order to prove a hypothesis, one does not always need to prove it but could instead disprove it. This obviously depends on the wording of the hypothesis. For this question, one could instead ask: Why not prove that God does not exist? After all, God either does exist or does not exist. Admittedly, telling your friend to prove that God does not exist when he/she had just asked you to prove that God does exist sounds very immature. But it is a more interesting thought exercise.

When trying to prove something one way or another, one must consider the parameters or boundaries. For example, imagine you have lost your set of keys. You think it is in the house and you want to find it, in turn proving beyond doubt that it is in the house. You start by looking in one room and if it is not there you keep on going. Once you find it you obviously stop unless you are really silly. If the keys are actually in the house, then chances are you will not have to search the entire house. (Of course, it is possible you might have to search the entire house anyway, with the keys situated in the last place that needs to be searched.)

Now, imagine that the set of keys are not in the house and you want to prove that it is not in the house. You need to search the entire house because the house is the parameter. Searching half the house only proves that the keys are not in that particular half of the house. You need to search the entire house and not find the keys in order to prove that the keys are definitely not in the house. So, if we need to prove that God does not exist, where would we need to search?

By so-called definition, God must be omnipotent, infinite in every respect, otherwise it is not God. God may be anywhere and everywhere, we do not know. He does not seem to be visible to us or detectable in some measurable way right now. Last time I checked, He is not some figure wearing a white robe sitting on the clouds. Of course, just because we cannot see Him from where we are now is not enough, we need to search harder. So, let us search the world, not to mention the entire universe. Is that enough? Probably not. What if, hypothetically, he is only detectable in some other dimension or plane of existence? We really do need to search everywhere. Unlike the example with the keys, we are not confined to the house.

Clearly, we lack the ability to search all of reality. However, just because we cannot prove God’s inexistence practically now does not mean we cannot do it at some other time or that others are unable to do so. Before we try to prove something practically, we should be able to do it by reason. So, let us assume that one can search everywhere. If one can search everywhere and anywhere, then what does that make one? The only way to prove that God does not exist is to be all-knowing and all-seeing. If you are all-knowing and all-seeing, then what are you? So, the only one who can say “There is no God” is God Himself and that is the flaw in the logic. It is self-contradictory and absurd; and since God either exists or does not exist, one can therefore within reason say God must exist.

Another angle of this argument is that God, by so-called definition [1], is “that which cannot be contained.” (This does not logically exclude that He can and may chose to be, but that’s another discussion.) So, in order to prove “that which cannot be contained” does not exist, one has to search everywhere. Again, the ability to search everywhere and be all-seeing makes one a god.

This, of course, is just a refutation of the universal negative statement “There is no God”—it is admittedly not an affirmative argument for the existence of God. Despite the undeniable logic that God cannot not exist, for some it is hardly an emotionally satisfying conclusion even if it is intellectually acceptable. To the issue of proving the existence of God, we have to again consider what it is that we are trying to prove. If the set of keys are in the house, and assuming the keys cannot move on their own and that someone else has not moved them, then you will eventually find them. Keys are inanimate objects and contrary to our suspicions, they cannot run away.

Let us imagine that I am at a social gathering and I walk up to a lady. Will she talk to me? Possibly, or maybe not—she could just tell me to go away. She may or may not have her reasons either way and even if she does, they may not be apparent to me. Given that she has free will, logic alone will be insufficient. If we assume God to be an intelligent being with a will, then proving His existence will require Him to act. The only way then to prove the existence of God is for Him to willingly reveal Himself. One cannot with logic alone prove the existence of God anyway.

The next, and more meaningful, questions are: “Why does God seem hidden then?” or “Has God ever revealed Himself? And if so, in what way?” Those questions, however, are another discussion altogether.

[1] The word “definition” is derived from the Latin verb definire, meaning something like “to set boundaries to”, which admittedly is (or can be) self-contradictory when talking about God. Here, I am using the word loosely in a way most English speakers would use it most of the time. Perhaps a more suitable term is “description”.


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