Existance Of God Essay, Research Paper
Either God exists or He doesn’t. There is no middle ground, and any attempt to remain neutral in relation to God’s existence is automatically synonymous with unbelief. It is far from a “moot” question, because if God does exist, then nothing else really matters; if He does not exist, then nothing really matters at all. This is kind of unfortunate for someone like myself, because I’ve always lived on that nonexistent middle ground. Until now I’ve never been put in a position where it was questioned. The last couple of years I’ve referred to myself as a recovering Catholic, but never redefined my religion (or lack thereof) since then. When I found out I had to take a stand in this paper one way or another, yes or no, black or white, it was unsettling. At that point it became more than a term paper. Can I, with a clear conscience, write a 15 page paper denouncing the existence of God? I kind of cringed as I imagined being struck down Indiana Jones style, and in that, I had my answer. So without further adieu, the next 15 pages is me, making my case (I think) for the existence of God. What better place to start, than Pascal’s Wager.
Pascal’s Wager takes this angle: You must wager. There is no choice, he says, you are already committed. I liked the example he used of the toss of the coin, he wants us to see this choice as the gamble that it is. Before you put your money on either, examine the odds, says Pascal: One on side of the coin, heads: God exists and there is an eternal heaven to be gained and an eternal Hell to be avoided. On the flip-side of the coin: God does not exist, no heaven and hell to look forward to or fear, no rewards and no wrath. Choose God, says Pascal, If you win you win everything if you lose you lose nothing, though the odds are even, the rewards are not. Choose heads and win, and in the words of Willy Wonka, you win the “grand and glorious jackpot.”
Is this true? Is it wrong for me to take a theist’s approach to this paper, and yet still disagree with Pascal’s logic? Pascal says there is a full and happy life to be won, but isn’t there also a full and happy life to be lost, depending on your ideas of full and happy? What if from here on you choose to follow the ways of God, walk the straight and narrow, you’re missing out on a really good time! Let’s face it, sinning is fun, and whether you’ve simply lived it, or continue to live by it, you have to agree. I still see Pascal’s wager as relevant in it’s own respects…..but I can’t supress argument. In other words, if a coin falls in a forest and your dead, will you see if it’s heads or tails? Not if it’s tails you won’t, but that doesn’t mean it’s not still tails.
Pascal takes the stand that God’s existence cannot be proven. One might wonder why it is necessary to present evidence for the existence of God. The belief in some higher presence, other than our own, has existed since man can recollect. Religion was established from this belief, and it will survive and flourish because of this belief. Pascal takes the position that the existence of a God cannot be proven because, in a sentence, ‘we cannot comprehend the infinite.’ It cannot be resolved rationally because God is ultimately beyond our comprehension, the very believing in God is an act free of reasoning — reason can’t be used to choose either, because neither can be proved. I have to agree, assuming God exists, he hasn’t yet jumped out from behind the sofa yelling “Here I am! Here I am!” and Even if he did, I wouldn’t be the first one to say, “Oohhhhhh, so THAT’s the infinite….” I think I’d still have some questions. (the first: what are you doing behind my couch?)
Pascal’s Wager gave way to two major objections. The first objection is what we call the Many Religions Objection, which asks this: there are thousands of religions out there, if we are to be active members of the religious community and participate…..clearly we must choose one, but how do we know if our religion is the right one? Pascal might have told you that even a stab in the dark is better than nothing. If there’s a bomb about to go off , you’re a whole lot better off just picking a wire and cutting it, than just standing there and waiting for Macgiver.
The second objection is referred to as the Hypocrisy Objection, which asks this: will pretend prudential belief really get you into heaven? Does it really count? I guess that depends. If you’re the guy who shows up to church with a discman, and you only shut it off for the wine and cracker….then probably not. Can prudential belief really turn genuine? I guess that’s not for me to decide, but it’s basis of Pascal’s response that it can. Pascal says that participation in religion will convert prudential belief into genuine faith. It’s his view that the prayer and fellowship and new carpet fumes will make you see the light. “That will make you believe quite naturally, and will make you more docile.” Docile?? The same docile that’s in my dictionary? Submissive and easily managed? Is that what religion is all about? Regardless, that’s where the objection lies. Although Pascal’s wager seems convincing at first glance, is it really convincing enough to create genuine belief where before there was none?
Clifford doesn’t think so. Clifford uses an example about an owner of an emigrant-ship. He knew his ship was old and had seen better days, and although his buddies told him it was time to have her checked out, he pushes his doubts aside. After all, his ship had made it this long, what’s one more trip? (plus he was a tight wad, and didn’t want to spend the cash) So he set her off to sea, and what kind of story would it be if she didn’t sink. (insert Celine Dion song here). So the moral of his tale is this: “You should never believe anything on unsufficient evidence, especially if Leonardo Dicaprio is on your boat.” It’s Clifford’s conviction, that it’s morally wrong and cowardly to believe anything on insufficient evidence, including the existence of God. Non-rational belief in a religion leads to habitual non-rational belief in other areas of life. Believing in God because you think it’s in your best interest, and because it makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside is going to make you continue to believe in things just because they make you feel good. It’s going breed chauvinism, after ‘genuine’ faith is instilled into your chosen religion, you’re going to start to question other ones. Soon after that, you’re going to announce that yours is the best, and that’s probably going to make you feel good. Then you might decide, I’m white, and that must be the best too……This is how Clifford turns something presumably beautiful and healthy and personal, like a belief in ‘our lord and savior Jesus Christ and the heavenly father,’ into something public and dangerous. In a nutshell….god hasn’t jumped out from behind the sofa, therefore, it’s ridiculous to think he’s back there. In fact, it’s immoral to believe he’s back there, so stop it already. If you keep up these silly notions about Christ living behind our sofa, you’re going to become habitually gullible, build up a superiority complex and become a conceited chauvinist pig. Let’s get a couple of recliners instead.
Upon reading The Ethics of Belief, I was baffled as to how I could find something to be so beautifully written and yet so nervy at the same time. He takes your beliefs and thoughts and turns them into a public circus, a fanfare if you will. In only two quotes he tries to rob you of what you always thought to be the only things that you could truly call your own, and makes them a public archive to be feared.
In one quote he says:
“If a man holding a belief which he was taught in childhood or persuaded of afterwards, keeps down and pushes away any doubts which arise about it in his mind, purposely avoids the reading of books and the company of men that call in question or discuss it, and regards as impious those questions which cannot easily be asked without disturbing it – the life of that man is one long sin against mankind.”
“Our words, our phrases, our forms and processes and modes of thought, are common property, fashioned and perfected from age to age; an heirloom which every succeeding generation inherits as a precious deposit and a sacred trust to be handed on to the next one, not unchanged but enlarged and purified, with some clear marks of it’s handiwork. Into this, for good or ill, is woven every belief of every man who has speech of his fellows. An awful privilege, and an awful responsibility, that we should help to create the world in which posterity will live.”
Both beautiful quotes…..but for me to succumb to them and deem them true on the grounds that they’re candy-coated and nice to look at, would be like believing in God because the church is pretty. Both quotes Erinized and put together:
“If a man is Jewish for instance, and never stops to question the beliefs that have been instilled in him since birth by attending a catholic mass, it’s a big charlie horse to mankind, because our thoughts and notions are not our own, they belong to mankind. They serve no purpose but to feed the public archive, to confirm some public beliefs and to bend others, and to feed the evolution of thought. We had better be careful what we think, we have mankind to consider.”
I don’t like the idea that my thoughts are not my own, and that my hands are not my own. I tend to think that most of the time these are the only things that are one’s own. You’re given few things in this life to be held sacred as yours, the rest you have to share. So you’ll have to forgive me if I’m not eager to share these sacred things. I can’t say that I agree with his logic, but if I can say one thing about Clifford, he was probably pretty popular with the ladies. I’ve met a few like him, his ability to candy-coat are most admirable.
James seems to agree with Clifford, except in the instance that you are faced with what he calls a ‘genuine option.’ We decide that a genuine option is a decision between two hypotheses, when the question is of the forced, living, and momentous kind. A forced question is one where your obligated to choose one way or another, like, do I have corndogs for lunch, or do I not? quite obviously you must choose one or the other, when even doing nothing is choosing. A living question is one where both hypotheses are live ones, and both live and dead depend on the individual thinker, like do I skip lunch and have ice cream, or do I skip lunch and have cake? both options have their appeal, and are therefore, live. Finally, a momentous question is one of great significance, like when posed with the option of going on the next mission to Mars. It seems quite momentous, it’s almost certainly a once in a lifetime opportunity.
A genuine option of sorts, is this; do I take a semester off of school and tour with Phish? It’s forced question, if you wait to long to decide, it’ll be too late. you have to decide one way or another, there isn’t anyway of being indifferent. It’s a live question, if you’re me. Naturally you’ll jump at the chance and drop education like a hat. It’s momentous, the Phish experience is bigger than all of us, and you know that they’re taking next year off to go backpacking in Europe. If you don’t go now, the world will end and time will cease, and life will no longer have meaning. If you’re not a Phish phan, and God help you if you’re not, than this does not pose a threat to your post-secondary education.
It seems as though religious faith could also be a genuine option. It is forced, you ultimately have to decide, because seemingly choosing to be an agnostic and choosing not to choose, you’ve still spoken volumes. Choosing to have no part in religious faith in itself seems to be choosing. It can be an option of the live kind, for almost everyone, I believe. Even Tarzan who was raised by monkeys, having never been to monkey Sunday school, must have lied on his back some nights and stared at the stars and wondered how they got there. It has some appeal, ‘however small, to your belief’ for most of us. It can also be a question of the momentous kind, ‘we are supposed to gain, even now, by our belief, and to lose by our non-belief, a certain vital good’, says James. I’m going to have to agree. I myself believe that we have the right to believe anything we so choose. More specifically, we have the right to believe at our own risk any hypothesis that is live enough to ‘tempt our will.’
So then, with that in hand, let us now discuss the relevance of Taylor and the Cosmological Argument. “It is strange indeed that a world such as ours should exist; yet few men are often struck by this strangeness, but simply take it for granted.” Most things that strike us as odd would evoke the thought, “How did that get here?” You might not have a clue how it came to be, but there would probably never be a moment when you thought there should be no explanation at all. Few times do we consider the possibility that perhaps it came about all by chance, or came from nothing. As Taylor points out, the nonexistence of anything never requires a reason; but existence of something, that always requires a reason. This basic idea that to every truth there is a cause is referred to as the Principle of Sufficient Reason. Other truths, however, are dependent on something else, and called contingent, while some things depend only on themselves, and they are called necessary.
Apply this of this to the question of the existence of God and you get the Cosmological Argument: the idea that a contingent world requires the existence of God as its ultimate cause. The physical laws and initial conditions of the universe are fine-tuned to make possible the evolution of intelligent life. Everything it seems has a scientific cause, it must, says Taylor. One would think it ludicrous to say that my left sock came to be of it’s own free will, that it came from nothing. If I told you that there was a hot flash, and suddenly time and space and my left sock were created, you’d be pretty unsatisfied. So why then, is this an acceptable analogy for the universe? Surely the universe requires a First Cause. This is basically the point Taylor was trying to make when he used the example of the translucent ball in the forest; an unlikely object in an unlikely place. You would hardly question that this translucent ball (and my left sock) came to be all on it’s own, that it didn’t owe it’s existance to anything or anyone. You might not have any clue as to how it came about, but you would be relatively certain that there was an explanation. This illustrates what Taylor calls a metaphysical belief “that seems to be almost a part of reason itself”, the belief that the existance of anything requires an explanation, some reason why it should exist rather than not. The non-existance of something never requires an explanation, but this is not to be confused with the end of existance of something. If you looked into a bathtub and asked, ‘why isn’t there a toaster in there?’ Unless the tub-owner has some issues, one would expect an answer like, ‘why should there be?’ If there did happen to be a toaster in the bathwater, and people wanted answers, it would seem unlikely that anyone would answer, “why not?”
To say that God is the first cause is to say that, in short God is the creator. In calling Him the first cause, we do not mean first in time, as in God sitting down in front of his home computer and creating time and space. To say that God is the first cause is simply calling him what Taylor calls a primary rather than a secondary cause, or “a being upon which all other things, heaven and earth, ultimately depend for their existence.”
This piece of evidence is supposed to seal into the minds of the masses, that since the universe must have had a first cause, that first cause must have been God. I’m not going to attempt to make or break this argument, because I think it fits into what I like to call the ‘Popeye Equation.’ Meaning, it is what it is. I think it’s a respectable theory in it’s own right, and I’m not going to say that God wasn’t the first cause of the universe; I like the idea just as much as the next guy, but I don’t think that this necessarily seals the envelope. It seems to me, that if I found a pie and I couldn’t figure out where it came from, I would be no closer to understanding it’s origin by announcing that since every pie must have a first cause, it was made by my Mom.
And in the other side of the ring, we have Morris and the Big Bang theory, which is the theory that time and space were created in a hot flash – everything was in the same spot, and just blew up. The first evidence he presents is Earth’s constant microwave radiation bath. Equally strong, day or night, from every region of the sky, the Earth is under constant and unvarying radiation. There has never been any significant disagreement among scientists as to the origin of this radiation; it is the afterglow of the big bang explosion in which the universe was born some 10-20 billion years ago. This is just the tip of the iceberg when talking about evidence in support of the Big Bang; in 1929 it was discovered that the universe was in a rapid state of expansion, that the galaxies are speeding away from eachother, like raisins in a rising loaf of bread, says Morris. This should not lead one to belief that the universe has boundaries like a loaf pan, the raisins of the universe could seemingly expand into the infinite. The thought of expanding raisins makes the whole thing seem sort of arbitrary, but not so; it doesn’t end here. Here is where redshifts come in. Since the longest light waves in the visible spectrum are seen by us as red, while the shortest are blue, light emitted by a source moving away from us will be seen as red. This doesn’t mean that galaxies are going to appear red to the eye, but it’s in this respect that redshifts can be accurately measured. By looking at these redshifts we can determine the speed of recession, and chemical composition of an object.
It also happens that there are substances in the universe that could only have been generated by the big bang. Namely, helium lithium and deuterium. Hydrogen and helium are among the most prominent and abundant elements in the universe. Everything else Morris describes as “cosmic impurities.” To paint a better picture, the universe is more than 25 percent helium, and a little less than 75 percent hydrogen. Helium is created in stars, and could have only existed in the one minute span after the big bang occurred, adding another piece of evidence that the bang took place. The presence of Deuterium in the universe gives us another piece. The only place that deuterium could have been created is in the big bang.
However, it hasn’t been disproven that the universe is infinitely old, and in a constant bang-crunch cycle, like one of those stress relieving squishy things people have on their desks. There are things to be considered with this theory as well. First, is there enough matter in the universe? It’s not hard to imagine the universe with one less star, or a box of Lucky Charms with one less marshmellow, but can either of these things exist without? The second thing to consider, is that there has to be a ‘repulsive force’ that decides when the universe would reverse itself, but what is it?
One other thing is apparent when dealing with the crunch bang theory; if this were so, clearly the first cause argument would fail, because an infinitely old universe wouldn’t need a first cause; and the theist would here fail.
With that being said, it wouldn’t be complete without making clear that’s absolutely crucial that Omega = 1. The mere formation of stars requires that this is so. Let us imagine a universe where Omega > 1. This would deem a subatomic pancake-like universe, it would flatten and expand to infinity. The opposite can be said in a universe where Omega