Does God Exist
Is it irrational to believe in a god we cannot see?
Some would argue straight away that this is an invalid question. Of course we can see God! He created the earth and the stars, he even created you! Others would claim that we can only see God when he wants to be seen, and that otherwise he must remain hidden from the world. The fact is that God’s visibility will depend on who is looking.
In ancient times, when man had barely left the primate stage, there were many questions that were seemingly impossible to answer. Nobody knew why the sky was blue, or why the moon appeared at night. Prior to this point, we would never have thought about such matters. All that was important to us would have been to hunt, eat and mate. Now, however, we had begun to develop sentience. For the first time, we were able to ask questions about our very existence. Unfortunately, the answers did not come easily. Cavemen would have had no concept of water evaporating, or of light refracting in the sky. To our ancestors, there seems to be no possible answer that humans could understand. It must have come from someone or something higher, something more advanced, more intelligent than we could ever imagine. It must have come from God. Throughout the ancient world, primitive tribes developed ideas about the various deities who watched over the earth. These ideas then became “truth”, and so society was built upon rituals and worships in order to please the gods.
Were they right to live in this way? Were all of the ceremonies, offerings and sacrifices truly necessary? Today we would not think so. Today we look at Egyptian burials, with the bodies embalmed and the organs placed into canopic jars, KNOWING that it was all in vain. Nobody today would blame Poseidon for a stormy sea, or ask Thor for rain. When we look today at ancient beliefs, we know that they were lies.
Yet today, many of us still believe in Jesus, Allah, Vishnu, Ganesh, Buddha, and many others. I find it quite odd that we still worship these deities, even though we are able to dismiss the gods of the ancient world, without a moment’s consideration, as mere superstitions. However, before I delve into the reasons that people choose to be religious, I wish to first discuss some of the details concerning the nature of the Almighty.
The topic in which I am writing this essay is “The Nature of God”. From this we can extrapolate one point: God has a nature. This is a reasonable assumption to make, since anything outside of nature cannot exist. However, God’s nature has never been precisely defined. If we assume that he is made of matter and/or energy (as all things with a nature must be), then he is bound by the universal laws of physics. It is conceivable that such a being could create a planet, but inconceivable that such a being could create the universe itself, because such a being would have to, at first, be outside the universe (since you cannot invent what already exists). This is not possible however, since the universe is a synonym for all of existence and nature, so if God created existence, then God cannot exist. If he does exist, he cannot have created the universe, and he can only be an alien, not a god. Through this we can see that no deity worthy of worship may actually exist.
Many theists and deists might claim that it is foolish to try to work out the nature of god through human logic, because the Lord exists outside of what humans can conceive of. Firstly, this is a mere cop-out designed to steer away the argument and, secondly, it rests on an unfalsifiable hypothesis. For example, I could suggest that there was an elephant behind you, watching you browse this website. If you turn around, you will see nothing, because the elephant is invisible. It is also silent, intangible and odourless. I, however, know that the elephant is there because it has appeared to men many times, and spoken to me telepathically. Of course, you cannot see or otherwise sense him, but that is only because you do not believe. You must start to believe now, because the elephant has promised to me that he will re-enter our universe and trample you to death if you copy and paste this essay.
Obviously, this is nonsense. It is true you cannot disprove the existence of the invisible elephant, because I have produced an unfalsifiable hypothesis, but by the same token I cannot prove the elephant exists, either. Unless the elephant were to actually appear in a provable form, we have no reason to assume that such a creature exists and thus no reason to believe in it.
If we translate this metaphor back into religious terms, then we have no reason to believe in any god either. Certainly, there have been countless books written about him/her/it/them, but these were all written thousands of years ago by unconfirmed authors, and then translated (often rather haphazardly) into thousands of languages. This, and the fact that they include things which we know are not true (the great flood, talking snakes and “miracles” which can be outdone by modern magicians), means that they are not reliable sources of information. We therefore have little proof of god’s existence beyond shaky stories from so-called witnesses. For all we know there could be thousands of invisible, intangible, undetectable deities (known henceforth as UFH gods), but without solid evidence of their existence, we have no reason to believe in them, let alone worship them.
Why then do people still follow religions? Is it because they have had it indoctrinated into them during early childhood (consult Richard Dawkins)? Is it because they cannot understand the world not having a creator? Or is it out of fear…
A major reason for people following a particular religion is that they fear going to hell (or its equivalent in other faiths). Indeed many devout believers in a particular religion (especially fundamentalists) are willing to go to great lengths (even so far as murder) just to ensure that they please their god, and thus will be “saved”. Appropriately, they preach that anybody who does not comply with their religion will “Burn In Hell!”. Though these people make up a small portion of each religion, there are many people from other variants of the faith who worship because they fear damnation. Yet even if you believe that your religion is right, you have no way of guaranteeing the afterlife you want, because the criteria for entry into the kingdom of God are never explained. In the Holy Bible, for instance, Jesus says that in order to be saved, one must;
Simply love God, and thy neighbour (Luke 10: 25-28)
Sell all of your possessions (Luke 18: 18-22)
Obey the commandments (various)
Hate everything about your life – including everyone you know (Luke 14: 26-33)
Drink the blood and eat the body of Christ (John 6: 53-54)
As you can see, Jesus gives a different set of instructions every time, some of which are reasonable, some are idiotic, and the rest blatantly contradict each other: How, exactly, are you supposed to love everyone and everything, yet also hate it. Also, why is it necessary to sell all your possessions? This jarring lack of consistency shows that Jesus (or, indeed, whoever was posing as Christ) had no idea what he was talking about, much like when criminals try to concoct alibis but cannot keep their stories straight. If the Bible is to be taken as perfect truth, then access to heaven is impossible.
In fact, access to a good afterlife is worse than impossible, because, even if there is a God, it would probably not be Yahweh: It would most likely be one of the UFH gods. Since we know nothing about them, we have no idea as to what the divine criteria might be. For all we know, God might want us to send our entire lives dressed as chickens. In fact, because there are potentially infinite UFH gods, the chance of picking the right one and correctly worshipping it are - mathematically speaking- zero, and if the one true UFH god is anywhere near as petty as Yahweh or Allah; we will surely have displeased him and will be sent to Hell for all eternity.
To conclude: It is deeply irrational to believe in a god we cannot see, because not only can we not see it, but we also cannot taste, hear, touch or smell it, and because, if there does happen to be some sort of god,
WE ARE ALL DAMNED!!
Originally written September 2011 by Robin Taylor. Scored at 12/12 A* (for GCSE).
Note: Some alterations were made between the original essay and the one seen on The Homework Shed: The invisible elephant joke was originally addressed towards the teacher (with the deadly sin being to give the essay a low grade). The bullet points for heavenly criteria were completely re-researched and re-written, as the originals were deemed too vague and inaccurate (though the essay was not marked down). The questions about the feasibility of fulfilling said criteria were also inserted at this stage, to make the point clearer. Finally, the final paragraph had a minor correction to remove a gratuitous repetition of "also" and "because".