Welcome to tomthinking.com Thursday, March 22 2018 @ 12:06 PM UTC
There Is No Evidence That God Does Not Exist
In his book, Why There Is No God, author Armin Navabi argues that theists stand on shaky ground when they say, "There is no evidence that God does not exist."
I don't find a lot of disagreement with Navabi about this notion, except to say, as I've said before, that the issue is not whether or not there is evidence for God's existence, rather, what constitutes evidence for God's existence? I'll address that in a moment.
If a person is to claim that God did something and offer that as evidence for his existence, then the proof must coincide with what is already known about that God. For instance, if a person claimed that Jesus told him to kill his children, we can confidently say that Jesus did not say this because it is out of character with what we know about Jesus in the Bible.
This is where the atheist may claim that gods cannot exist because the various religions are all different and contradict one another. One religion may condone murder (like Islam) while another forbids it. How can you know which one is right? To the atheist there is no way of knowing which is true and thus, none must be true, thus, atheism.
We cannot say that there is no evidence that God doesn't exist for the simple reason that the atheist (and the theist) cannot know all there is to know about existence. The atheist claim necessitates this, but cannot fulfill this. Let me offer an example.
In order to say that something exist, all that is required is a partial knowledge about the thing to be known. I can know my neighbor. But my degree of knowing need not be absolute to know my neighbor exists. However, to claim that God does not exist would require knowledge about what God might be made of, where he might exists, to what realms he extends and so on. Since we cannot know existence comprehensively we cannot know with absolute certainty that God does not exist. To claim so is to presume upon what is known, but not to actually know it. Thus, the claim against God's existence is, at the very least, risky.
If we could know existence comprehensively and yet find no god, then we could say with certainty that we have evidence that God does not exist. But this kind of knowledge is impossible. Thus, there cannot be evidence that God does not exist. And as long as there cannot be evidence that God does not exist, the evidence that seems to point to his existence must remain a valid consideration.
This brings us back to the original question, "What constitutes evidence for God's existence?" I'd like to posit several things that we would need to know, in order to know if God exists. Remember, we do not need exhaustive knowledge to know he exists; we only need partial knowledge.
Let's reason together about what we might expect of a god. Let's assume, for brevity's sake, that we include in our description that God is the creator of all things. This is our starting assumption. What would we expect of a being who created the universe and all things? Such a being would have to be:
- Powerful (Creating a universe requires vast power)
- Intelligent (The laws of physics are not for simpletons)
- Creative (Seen in the variety of things in creation)
- Appreciate aesthetics (Since creation has beauty, a creator must be able to appreciate beauty)
- Good (A functioning useful world requires good)
- Intentional (Creation happened on purpose)
- Have purpose (God must have created for a reason)
- Relational (Creating beings who are relational suggests that their Creator is also relational)
Let's stop there and consider, what evidence can we look for to suggest that the God we have described is real?
First, the above statements are a form of evidence themselves. They describe what we expect of a god and what traits we see in creation that match what is expected. Second, if we dig deeper into certain attributes listed above we can surmise further that God exists. For instance, let's take the attributes of intelligence, goodness, and relationship.
If God is intelligent, good, and relational, then it follows that he intends to exercise those traits. Why create intelligent, good, relational people if you don't intend to interact with them? This is a reasonable question. To discover the answer we have to ask if God has actually interacted with people in an intelligent, good, relational way.
There are many millions of people who claim that they have a relationship with God that fulfills these criteria. If there were only one or two, or a small handful of people, it would be easy to dismiss this as irrationality. However, millions of rational people of all stripe each claim the same thing. Since there are so many who make this claim, we must give due consideration to whether or not they are experiencing what they claim to experience.
This is now where we turn to the Bible, because the Bible is a volume of literature which claims to document God's interaction with man from past, to present, to future. These documents are written from a historical and eyewitness perspective. They are not presented as mythologies or schools of philosophy, as many other religions have done.
Now, let's put all of this together. From the attributes of creation we have devised what we expect of god's abilities. Those attributes of creation are our first form of evidence. From the testimony of millions of people through history we have evidence of those who claim to have real-world experience with that Creator. Lastly, we have historical documentation about who that God is, which also coincides with what we expected earlier.
The evidences of creation, history, personal experiences, and documentation all suggest that God exists. We do not need to know existence comprehensively to know he exists, but we do have a great preponderance of evidence that our conclusion is true.
Saying there is no evidence that God doesn't exist is not only a poorly crafted argument, the evidence we do have suggest it is also unnecessary.