20 November 2016

God . . .

The Bible at this point attributes the origin of the material universe to a supreme non-material being that the Hebrews call Elohim, Yahweh, and several other names.

The Bible offers no explicit argument for the existence of God. Genesis takes the existence of “the heavens and the earth” as evidence for God. In this respect the Hebrews did not think any differently from other primitive peoples. Arguments for the existence of a supreme being came much later.

Many philosophers—Christian and non-Christian have constructed different arguments for the existence of God based upon the presence of the material universe. The most common and enduring are different versions of what are called cosmological arguments. They rest on the concept of causation. Everyone recognizes the law of cause and effect within our universe. Is the universe itself subject to that law? Below are two versions of cosmological arguments reduced to their most simple forms without sub-arguments.

The first is the Kalaam cosmological argument based upon causation:

(1) Everything that begins to exist has a cause of its existence.

(2) The universe began to exist.

(3) Therefore The universe has a cause of its existence.

(4)The universe cannot cause its own existence.

(5) If the universe has a cause of its existence, then that cause is God.

(6) God exists.

The second more esoteric cosmological argument is based upon the contingency of existence and the assumption of an eternally existing universe. But once the existence of a preserver of the universe is established, then one can supplement this argument to establish the existence of a creator.

(1) The existence of an effect requires an efficient cause implies the existence of that cause

(2) The cosmos exists. But it exists contingently. That is, it is one of many possible universes. It could exist differently that it is. And anything that can exist differently can also not exist.

(3) Because the cosmos exists eternally, it requires an efficient cause to preserve it and prevent it from being replaced by nothingness.

(4) If the cosmos exists contingently and requires an efficient cause of its preservation, that cause must be supernatural rather than natural.

(5) That supernatural cause must itself be uncaused, that is, a supreme being.

So far so good. Philosophers have challenged these arguments and evoked revisions to accommodate objections. This to-and-fro no doubt will continue indefinitely. Both of these arguments seem reasonable to me and actually make me open to the idea of the existence of some kind of creator. That is why I call myself an agnostic rather than an atheist. They do not go very far to establish, however,  the existence of a personal deity that has any interest in me and anyone else. The more religious philosophers refine their arguments down to prove the divinity of Yahweh, Jesus, or Mohammed specifically, the less certitude they possess. This is especially true when the argument must ultimately rely of the sacred scriptures of these religious traditions. The truth claims of these writings have fallen one by one to the conclusions of modern science.

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