- Site Feedback
- IDEA Sites
- Digital Freedoms
- 2012 Presidential Debates Guide
- Asia Youth Forum
- Big Apple Cogers
- Debate Changing Europe
- Debate in the Neighborhood
- Debating and Producing Media
- Debating the Future of Youth in Africa and Europe
- Digital Debating Blog
- Free Speech Debate
- Global Youth Forum
- Global Debate and Public Policy Challenge
- International Public Policy Forum
- Online Mentoring
- The Freedom Series
- Youth and Sports Mega-Events
This House believes that God exists
This House believes that God exists
The question of God’s existence forms a fundamental part of theology, philosophy, and life generally. Religion is one of the most profound and pervasive institutions, appearing in virtually every culture and in every time. Serious questioning of the existence of God has only become part of common discourse in the past three centuries, however, as state-sponsored religion and religious crimes have faded from the Western world. Increasing scientific knowledge has also led people to question belief in the existence of God. Since there are many arguments on both sides of the debate about God’s existence, it is necessary to limit the focus of this discussion. This debate will therefore take place largely within the parameters of the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), and will focus on the arguments for and against the Abrahamic conception of God.
|Points For||Points Against|
|If it is possible to conceive of an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent deity that is the greatest possible being, it must exist. This is possible, and the being is God.||There is a great deal of evil in the world which should not exist if there were a benevolent God.|
|Even without proof of God's existence people still believe, pray, and feel their lives are given meaning through faith.||Entirely natural theories can adequately explain belief in God and the development of religions, so an existent God is superfluous to the understanding of the phenomenon.|
|The complexity of the universe and of life cannot be explained by atheism.||Even if God did exist His seeming lack of interest and interaction with the Universe as far as humans can perceive means his existence is irrelevant.|
|Prophets and wise men have recorded credible accounts of direct communion with God.||If there were a God there would be irrefutable evidence of His existence and people would feel compelled to belief by the fact of it.|
|The chances of life being able to come about on Earth are so infinitesimally small, and that of humans evolving even smaller, that the conditions must have been chosen by active agency, namely God.||The nature of God as it is conventionally described is logically contradictory.|
Remember to choose a winning argument!
If it is possible to conceive of an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent deity that is the greatest possible being, it must exist. This is possible, and the being is God.
If it is logically possible for a necessary being (i.e. God) to exist, then it exists. Whatever one clearly and distinctly to be contained in the idea of something is true of that thing. It is clearly and distinctly perceptible that necessary existence is contained in the idea of God. For this reason, God must exist1. One cannot conceive of a God in any context other than one of existence. Clearly, He must exist.
1 Malcolm, N. 1960. "Anselm's Ontological Arguments". Philosophical Review 69.
It is nonsensical to suppose that just because we can mentally visualize something akin to a God that it must exist. Rather, it is clear that the visualization is nothing more than a fantasy until it can be demonstrated 1. Furthermore, it could be that everyone's visualization of God is not of the ultimate being, but only an approximation of the idea, meaning that perhaps the very notion is impossible to conceive at all.
1 : Holt, Tim. 2008. "Hume on A Priori Existential Proofs". Philosophy of Religion.
Even without proof of God's existence people still believe, pray, and feel their lives are given meaning through faith.
People all over the world believe in God. They believe that a higher power watches over them and guides them, and that they will be rewarded when they die for living good lives on Earth 1. Religion of some kind is a constant in virtually every culture, and there is evidence of religious practice almost as far back as we have evidence for humanity. Faith is its own proof, and the willingness of people to make tremendous sacrifices for their beliefs, even dying for them, demonstrates that they must believe in something that is real.
1 Swinburne, Richard. 1997. Is there a God?. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Believing in something does not make it real. People once believed that the world is flat, but their belief did not make it so. Faith without reason is ignorance. Furthermore, many people believe in different deities, and many religions have come into and gone out of existence throughout the ages. These religions are often contradictory, and yet their adherents believe them fervently. At best only one of the groups can be wholly right, meaning the others’ beliefs are unfounded. It is more likely that all the beliefs are untrue.Improve this
The complexity of the universe and of life cannot be explained by atheism.
Nature is marked by clear design. The complexity of the human body, of planets, stars, and galaxies, and even of bacteria attests to the existence of creative agency. It is impossible that such things as interdependent species could come to exist without the guidance of God 1. Likewise, certain organisms can be shown to be irreducibly complex, meaning that if one were to remove any part of such an organism, it could not function. This refutes the gradualist argument of evolution, since there is no selective pressure on the organism to change when it is functionless. For example, the bacterial flagellum, the “motor” that powers bacterial cells, loses all functionality if a single component is removed 2. Besides design, the only explanation of its development is blind chance, which seems less sensible, since in human experience nothing complex can come about without agency.
1. Ratzsch, Del. 2009. "Teleological Arguments for God's Existence" The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
1. Behe, Michael. 1996. Darwin's Black Box. Glencoe: Free Press.
There is no design in the Universe. People tend to anthropomorphize their environment, trying to assign human-like qualities to animals and nature. All of the complexity in the Universe can be attributed to natural processes; the Universe, stars, and life are all the product of physical and chemical interactions. There is no mystery in the basic process. Furthermore, there are no irreducibly complex organisms. Every example offered by theists of irreducible complexity has been found inaccurate. The bacterial flagellum, for example, when several key components are removed loses its functionality as a motor, but becomes a form of secretory system that has a separate function1. Clearly, complexity is not indicative of a creator.
1 Miller, Kenneth. 2004. "The Flagellum Unspun: The Collapse of 'Irreducible Complexity'" in Ruse, Michael and William Dembski (ed.). Debating Design: From Darwin to DNA. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Prophets and wise men have recorded credible accounts of direct communion with God.
Throughout the ages many people have claimed that they have observed and spoken with God. All the major religions of the world speak of individuals who have walked with God and derived divine insight. These prophets are the authors and subjects of many holy books, such as the Bible and the Qur’an. The revelations provided in these books can only be the work of God 1. God’s commandments to act morally, God’s philosophical wisdom, is recorded for any doubter to see.
1 Swinburne, Richard. 1997. Is there a God?. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Improve this
Virtually every holy book is full of errors. They were often written long after the fact from second and third-hand accounts of the exploits of their subjects. This leads to the development of embellishments and legends, with the supernatural elements of stories always beginning to take precedence once all actual witnesses to events have died. Ancient holy books are nothing more than the moral frameworks of the time in which they were written. They are not transcendent in their wisdom, but very much a part of their time. This is why many of the moral sentiments expressed in such texts as the Bible are not practiced in Western states any longer, because to do so would now be considered morally repugnant. No one in Europe would consider it acceptable, for example, to stone someone to death for working on the Sabbath. Moral sentiment clearly evolves over time1. Holy books and prophets show no divine wisdom, which would have to transcend the time of writing and be applicable always.
1 McGinn, C. 1979. "Evolution, Animals, and the Basis of Morality". Inquiry 22: 92-98.
The chances of life being able to come about on Earth are so infinitesimally small, and that of humans evolving even smaller, that the conditions must have been chosen by active agency, namely God.
The probability of life beginning on Earth is tiny. The chemical composition of the planet had to be perfect for the development of life, as did its position of orbit around the sun, since if it had been slightly farther away it would have been too cold for life to develop, while it if had been slightly closer, it would have been too hot. Furthermore, the evolution of human beings, with free will and intelligence, was even less likely. Had the universal constants – e.g. gravity, strong and weak forces – been different, the Universe would have been very different, and might well have been unable to sustain life 1. Only through design could the Universe possibly be the way it is, conducive to life on Earth.
1 Davies, Paul. 2003. "How Bio-Friendly is the Universe?" International Journal of Astrobiology 2(2).Improve this
The fact that our planet supports life seems remarkable to us only because we are here to observe it. There are many other planets which do not support life; we just happen to live on one on which the conditions are conducive to life. We do not need to appeal to a divine designer to explain this.Improve this
There is a great deal of evil in the world which should not exist if there were a benevolent God.
If God were good there would be no evil in the world. Disasters would not kill millions of innocents, disease and hunger would not claim the lives of children every day, war and genocide would not slaughter people indiscriminately as they have done for countless millennia. The world is awash with blood, pain, and suffering. No loving God would make a world so imperfect and troubled 1. The world’s ills are perfectly explained by the natural, amoral development of the Universe, of life, and of humanity. The reality of the Universe, however, is incompatible with a God of goodness.Improve this
Evil may be thought of as the absence of good. It is a privation of goodness, just as darkness is the absence of light. God is good and the embodiment of goodness, but humans have been endowed with free will; they can make the choice not to follow the path of good. People have the ability to make both good and bad choices; if they did not then they would not truly be free. God’s greatest gift to humanity is thus also a heavy burden 1. Many believe, also, that there are rewards for suffering in this world that will be repaid in the next. Most religions acknowledge a form of afterlife that will give justice to those who were the victims of wrongs in life. In the case of natural “evils”, like hurricanes and disease, people too often think their limited knowledge to be absolute wisdom 2. It is impossible to know God’s will; God may work in mysterious ways, providing for the greater good of the future with perceived ills in the present.
1 Kekes, John. 1990. Facing Evil. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
2 Polkinghorne, John. 2003. Belief in God in an Age of Science. New Haven: Yale Nota Bene.
Entirely natural theories can adequately explain belief in God and the development of religions, so an existent God is superfluous to the understanding of the phenomenon.
Physics and cosmology explain the development and evolution of the Universe and the bodies within it. Chemistry explains the interactions of substances and the origin of life. Biology explains the development of life’s complexity through the long process of evolution. God is a superfluous entity in discussions about existence; God is entirely unnecessary to human understanding 1. At best, believers can point to various missing links in the explanations offered by science, using God to fill the gaps. The God of the Gaps is a weak God whose domain grows smaller each day as science progresses. Furthermore, there is no evidence of the supernatural existing at all, if that is what God is meant to be. The burden of proof in a debate concerning the existence of something is on the individual making the positive claim. In a debate about the existence of God, it is up to the believer to provide evidence for that belief 2. The rational position in the absence of evidence is disbelief. If believers claim that God lives outside the Universe, or that God cannot be empirically identified due to God’s ethereal nature, then in truth they are saying nothing. Only the natural world exists because only the existence of the natural world can be demonstrated. The supernatural is pure fantasy.
1. Boyer, Pascal. 2001. Religion Explained: The Evolutionary Origins of Religious Thought. New York: Basic BooksImprove this
Science cannot explain everything. People have spoken of the existence of God and the soul through the ages because logic and reason are sometimes not enough to explain the complexity and depth of the human experience. God is far more than the occupier of the gaps in scientific knowledge. However, the gaps are indicative of the limitations of science and show that faith and God can still have a place in human comprehension of the world.Improve this
Even if God did exist His seeming lack of interest and interaction with the Universe as far as humans can perceive means his existence is irrelevant.
Life goes on whether God exists or not. Theologians, philosophers, and laypeople have been fighting both in academia and on the actual battlefield over the question of God’s existence, yet in all the centuries no definitive answer one way or the other has been given by either side 1. It seems that there is little value to belief one way or the other, so arguing for God’s existence is simply a waste of time. If God were proved to exist, or not to exist, little in life would change at all.
The question of God’s existence does matter, not only to those who believe, but to an understanding of life and its meaning. If there is a God who has a plan for humanity and the Universe, then in order to understand the plan and to become an active part in it, one must try to understand in some sense the nature of God. Though it is of course impossible for a human being to fathom God entirely, it is possible to understand some aspects of God. Without accepting God’s existence, this understanding can never be attained. To ignore God is to ignore the search for truth.Improve this
If there were a God there would be irrefutable evidence of His existence and people would feel compelled to belief by the fact of it.
Many people do not believe in God, and the ranks of unbelief are growing every day, particularly in the developed world. It seems that as human knowledge of the Universe expands and as social institutions develop and improve, people feel less dependent upon the crutch of religious faith, and place greater store in reason 1. If God existed God would make God’s existence clear to all humanity, not just to a chosen few. In so doing, God’s wisdom would naturally drown out an earthly knowledge, which would obviously be inferior to any that might be furnished by an omniscient being 2. God has clearly never imparted God’s wisdom to people, since no such divine wisdom exists in any holy book. Were there a correct holy book currently in use, it would necessarily be the only one, because everyone would acknowledge its superiority at once.
1 Drange, Theodore. 1998. "Nonbelief as Support for Atheism". Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy.
2 Schellenberg, John. 2005. "The Hiddenness Argument Revisited". Religious Studies 41.
It is unreasonable to suggest that God must reveal Godself to humanity, or make God’s existence manifestly clear, because that would undermine the value of faith 1. Belief is an important component of all religious teachings because it is what allows the soul to transcend the material world and to commune with the divinity. Without faith, life is meaningless. Furthermore, if God were to make God’s desires and commands known, then free will would be undermined. It is necessary to the exercise of individual human agency that God does not dictate every command. That is why God leaves life, at least on the surface, up to humans.
1 Maitzen, Stephen. 2006. "Divine Hiddenness and the Demographics of Theism". Religious Studies 42.Improve this
The nature of God as it is conventionally described is logically contradictory.
God is a logical absurdity, as demonstrated by empirical fact and rational reflection. Certainly God cannot exist outside of the Universe, as such a concept is effectively meaningless. In fact, physics explains that when the Universe expanded as an inflating field of space and time as the result of a quantum fluctuation, causality itself arose from the process, making a causative agent “prior” to the Universe not only unnecessary, but also impossible. Furthermore, the idea of an omnipotent God is logically contradictory because if God were omnipotent God would be able to create an entity greater than God, which is impossible 1. The very attribute is logically unfounded, making the conventional explanation of God invalid.
1 Savage, C. 1967. "The Paradox of the Stone". Philosophical Review 76(1).
Although God cannot be understood in terms of conventional understandings of physics and logic, this does not invalidate the claim that God exists. In fact, it is not surprising that any attempt to discuss the attributes of God will confound human reason. That is why faith is essential to understanding, and why science and reason are limited tools.Improve this
Proposition:Adams, Robert M. 1987. "Moral Arguments for Theistic Belief". The Virtue of Faith and Other Essays in Philosophical Theology. New York: Oxford University Press.
Behe, Michael. 1996. Darwin’s Black Box. Glencoe: Free Press.
Clack, Beverley and Clack, Brian R. 2008. The Philosophy of Religion: a Critical Introduction. Cambridge: Polity Press.
Craig, William Lane. 1979. The Kalam Cosmological Argument. London: MacMillan.
Craig, William Lane. Articles on the existence of God. http://www.leaderu.com/offices/billcraig/menus/existence.html.
Davies, Brian. 2004. An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Davies, Paul. 2003. "How Bio-Friendly is the Universe?" International Journal of Astrobiology 2(2).
Eshleman, Andrew (ed.). 2008. Readings in Philosophy of Religion: East Meets West. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.
Guessoum, Nidhal. “The Design Argument in the Islamic Tradition”. Science and Religion in Islam. Available: http://science-islam.net./article.php3?id_article=914&lang=en.
Fakhry, Majid. 1986. “‘The Ontological Argument in the Arabic Tradition: The Case of al-Fārābi”. Studia Islamica 64.
Fakhry, Majid. “The Classical Islamic Arguments for the Existence of God”. http://www.muslimphilosophy.com/ip/pg1.htm.
Hare, John. 1996. The Moral Gap: Kantian Ethics, Human Limits, and God's Assistance. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Hare, John. 2010. “Religion and Morality”. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/religion-morality/.
Mackie, J. L. 1982. The Miracle of Theism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Malcolm, N. 1960. "Anselm's Ontological Arguments". Philosophical Review 69.
McGinn, C. 1979. “Evolution, Animals, and the Basis of Morality”. Inquiry 22.
Meister, Chad. 2009. Introducing Philosophy of Religion. Abingdon: Routledge.
Meister, Chad (ed.). 2008. The Philosophy of Religion Reader. Abingdon: Routledge.
Miller, Kenneth. 2004. “The Flagellum Unspun: The Collapse of ‘Irreducible Complexity’” in Ruse, Michael and William Dembski (ed.). Debating Design: From Darwin to DNA. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Joad, C. 1944. Guide to the Philosophy of Morals and Politics. London: Victor Gollancz.
Peterson, Michael; Hasker, William; Reichenbach, Bruce and Basinger, David (eds). 2007. Philosophy of Religion: Selected Readings. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Ratzsch, Del. 2009. "Teleological Arguments for God's Existence". The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/teleological-arguments/.
Swinburne, Richard. 1997. Is there a God? Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Yaran, Cafer S. 2003. Islamic Thought on the Existence of God: Contributions and Contrasts with Contemporary Western Philosophy of Religion. Washington: The Council for Research in Values and Philosophy.
Zagzebski, Linda Trinkaus. 2007. Philosophy of Religion: An Historical Introduction. Oxford: Blackwell.
Borne, Étienne. 1961. Atheism. New York: Hawthorn Books.
Boyer, Pascal. 2001. Religion Explained: The Evolutionary Origins of Religious Thought. New York: Basic Books.
Dawkins, Richard. 2006. The God Delusion. London: Bantam Press.
Drange, Theodore. 1998. "Nonbelief as Support for Atheism". Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy.
Kekes, John. 1990. Facing Evil. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Law, Stephen. 2010. “The Evil God Challenge”. Religious Studies 46.
Maitzen, Stephen. 2006. "Divine Hiddenness and the Demographics of Theism". Religious Studies 42.
Martin, Michael and Monnier, Ricki. 2006. The Improbability of God. New York: Prometheus Books.
McGrath, Alister, and McGrath, Joanna Collicutt. 2007. The Dawkins Delusion? Atheist Fundamentalism and the Denial of the Divine. London: SPCK.
Peterson, Michael L. 1998. God and Evil: an Introduction to the Issues. Boulder, Colorado; Oxford: Westview Press.
Polkinghorne, John. 2003. Belief in God in an Age of Science. New Haven: Yale Nota Bene.
Russell, Bertrand. 1952. “Is There a God?”. Campaign for Philosophical Freedom. http://www.cfpf.org.uk/articles/religion/br/br_god.html.
Russell, Bertrand. 1927. “Why I Am Not a Christian”. http://www.positiveatheism.org/hist/russell0.htm.
Savage, C. 1967. "The Paradox of the Stone". Philosophical Review 76(1).
Schellenberg, John. 2005. "The Hiddenness Argument Revisited". Religious Studies 41.
Smart, J.J.C. and Haldane, J.J. 1996. Atheism and Theism. Oxford: Blackwell.
Tooley, Michael. 2009. “The Problem of Evil”. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/evil/.
Be a debatabase editor
Idebate needs editors from around the world to check, moderate and create content for debatabase and the site more generally. Editors are vital in making the site run smoothly and ensuring that debates are as informative as possible.