On god: simplified arguments (2016)


A simplified analysis of religious arguments on the existence of god.


A cathedral in Vienna, Austria

A cathedral in Vienna, Austria

1. Does design (teleological) argument prove the existence of god?

There is evidence of regularity, order and purpose. This indicates design. If there was a design, there must be a designer. This designer is god.

+St. Thomas Aquinas thought things are directed to a purpose, and purpose is evidence of design, and concludes the designer is god.

+William Paley used evidence from nature, the way things fit together, and therefore it shows design, and designer is God.

+Anthropic principle: evidence of design from intelligent source. Evolution can be part of design and designer is god.

-David Hume states there may be a designer, but doesn’t mean it’s a god. There could be multiple gods and multiple designers. As there is death and evil, it’s not a good design for an all loving god of classical theism.

-Epicurean hypothesis: random chance gives appearance of design, but not from designer.

-John Stuart Mill: As there is evil and suffering, universe is not a design of benevolent god.

-Charles Darwin- appears to be design, but it’s just evolution from natural selection and survival of the fittest.

2. Does the moral argument prove the existence of god?

Argument states god is needed for our sense of morality.

+Kant: there is objective moral law to obtain highest good (summum bonum). To obtain summum bonum, we need god to assist us.

-Freud: There is no such moral law. Moral awareness is created by the mind.

-Kant points towards a powerful being that is not necessarily god.

 3. Does religious experience prove the existence of god?

Religious experience is a personal mental event that often gives us knowledge of god.

+William James: a union with a spiritual superior is our ultimate purpose. Prayer produces real effects.

-Freud: religious experiences are illusions

-Karl Marx: cannot find purpose in religion.

-Feuerbach: religious experience a projection of people’s needs and beliefs.

4. Does the cosmological argument prove the existence of god?

Cosmological argument states there is a first cause in the universe, things are caused to exist. The cause was god.

+St. Thomas Aquinas: as there is motion and change, cause and contingency, cosmological argument is true.

+Leibniz: had to be a sufficient reason for universe, reason is god.

-Science: things come into existence without a cause.

-David Hume: there may be a first cause, but not necessarily from a god.

5. Ontological argument for the existence of god.

As god is the most perfect, god must exist. A god who exists is greater than a god who does not.

+Anselm: god is that which nothing greater can be conceived. If this definition is accepted, god must exist in reality.

+Descartes: god is a supremely perfect being. To think of god without existence is like thinking of a triangle without its three sides.

-Gaunilo- it is incoherent to conceive of something which cannot be more perfect. There is no intrinsic maximum.

-Norman Malcolm: something that “no greater cannot be perceived” doesn’t bring something into existence.

-One could literally define anything into existence if this is the case.

-Alvin Plantinga: a being only has maximum greatness if it exists in every world. It doesn’t mean a god.

6. How people speak about god.

Verification principle: a statement is logical if we know it can be proved true or false.

Logical positivists state religious language cannot be tested empirically and Is not analytic, therefore rendering it meaningless.

Falsification principle: religious language meaningless as believers will not allow anything to count against beliefs, but a meaningful statement is one which accepts there may be evidence against it.

Antony Flew: “religion dies the death of a thousand qualifications”. He states believers do not allow anything to count against their beliefs.  

Wittgenstein: religious language is a game. If you are not part of the game, you will not understand the language and therefore is meaningless. An unbeliever will see language about god and faith and render it meaningless and without purpose.



Philosophy of Religion by Anne Jordan, Neil Lockyer and Edwin Tate. Nelson Thornes publishers.