Does God exist? It’s an important question – perhaps the most important question. Yet there is a huge number of people in the world who regard it as an open question, or simply deny the possibility. Among them are some very intelligent people. Indeed the impression I have is that the greater the intelligence the less likely is the belief.
I am assuming that the majority of the regular readers of this Blog do have that belief. So I am asking which of the various proofs (if proof they be) do you find the most convincing?
The first proofs which come to mind come under the heading ‘how did anything start?’. There are different versions but they boil down to the uncaused cause. Thus, if something moves it has been caused to do so. But that cause must have its own cause – and so on in a backward chain – we come to the first cause: and that we call God. From that conclusion we can derive aspects of the nature of God. For instance since there are intelligent people, the first cause must be an intelligent person. But a particular characteristic must be that the first cause’s nature is infinite in all its aspects – starting from its existence in the first place.
A second approach is the proof from design. The classic example is the pocket watch which you happen to find. You examine it. Your companion claims that it came about as a result of several chances. But you show him how, with all its complexity, it works, and is capable of telling us the time. You rightly claim that it has been designed – and so it must have a designer. And that is even more certainly true for the whole Universe. And that designer we call God.
A third approach is called the ontological proof. We start with the concept of an infinite being. But since existence is greater than non existence this concept necessarily exists. While this proof looks a bit too clever, or even simply playing with words, Bertrand Russell, who was of course an atheist, accepted that it was difficult to refute.
My own approach differs from all of these. I start with the certainty of love. I don’t have to prove that it exists I simply see that in all its forms it is the most important good which we know. (I think of course of love for ourselves, and of love for others.) It is an absolute value. And so I see God as the complete existence and source of love. Here, too, this God must be an infinite person because love cannot exist only as an abstract quality. Everything else from creation downwards is an expression of his love. In particular the ultimate creation is the human being because he or she alone has the capacity to love – or, if you like – to express the quality of God through love. It appears to me to be both rational and likely that God would make known more specifically what the expression of love would be. And indeed the Incarnation and Christianity might well be his way of doing exactly this.
Incidentally, though not unimportantly, it follows that the redemption of every human being is literally true. No matter where he lives, no matter what his creed or none, when he loves he expresses God’s spirit (can’t help himself, there is no other source of love). When we get to Heaven, and you can spare a moment from your chat with Bertrand Russell, expect to be surprised by the company there. And do not be surprised by those, a few in dog collars and a few praying their beads, still waiting outside, while St Peter, a loving man, desperately looks for the tiniest excuse to let them in.