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To What Extent Do the Classical Arguments Make It Believable to Have Faith in God?

In: Philosophy and Psychology

Submitted By katysiu
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In arguing the existence of God, there are numerous teachings and arguments, some more rational than others, the classical arguments being the most well known to all. The claim in all these arguments uses a non-religious approach to logically reason the existence of God, rather than argue on the premise of faith to obtain a rational belief; a belief reasoning as justification. The classical arguments are divided into what is considered empirical and rational arguments, with every individual finding their own reasoning to relate to them. In this essay, I will explore the extent of how the classical arguments can proves God existence, and why some people counter-argue they cannot. The first of the classical arguments being Anselm’s Ontological argument, an argument attempting to prove God’s existence through abstract reasoning alone. The argument is entirely a priori as it does not include real evidence or anything factual, seeking to demonstrate that God exists based on the concept of God alone. The outline of the argument is that because we have an idea of God, an idea of a being which no greater can be thought, therefore God must exist. The argument relates to three concepts: the concept of God, perfection and of existence. The three concepts associate with one another, arguing that perfection is part of the concept of God, and that perfection entails existence, therefore the concept of God entails God’s existence. Anselm’s argument is set on the basis of a conception of God as “that than which no greater being can be conceived”, and it is upon this concept that the hypothesis that God exists is presented.

However, this is counter-argued in Gaunilo’s argument of the Perfect Island. Gaunilo criticized the logic in Anselm’s argument, claiming that if the Ontological argument was correct, then a perfect island could easily exist as well, which is evidently untrue. Anselm responded by saying that an island was limited to it’s potential, as a better island can always be thought of whilst God is a distinct omnipotent and omniscient being having no limitations and therefore cannot be compared to the Perfect Island.

I believe that the ontological argument can prove God’s existence to a very minimal extent given that the basis is simply a concept. The argument although weak, can be used to argue the existence of God, considering that it does seem logical that because we have the idea of it, it must exist, otherwise we would not have the concept of God being existent in reality. If disregarding the weak first premise, I still do continue to believe that the reasoning in the argument is logically sound, with each succeeding argument supporting one another putting the argument in deductive form.

On the other hand, many people (in particular extreme rationalists and atheists) may disagree with the argument. Firstly as an atheist, they may not believe in the theist description of God’s perfection, and that it is not a greater being to be thought of. Because of that belief, the first premise cannot be reasoned and the argument will fail making it irrational to believe in God. There are many reasons to why people do not believe in God, with evil and suffering being the most prominent, and in many of the counter-arguments I explore for it to be irrational to believe in God, I will explore the depths of many atheism views.

In support of Anselm’s Ontological argument, René Descartes also came up with a deductive argument to prove God’s existence. It follows the idea that existence is a necessary part of perfection and because God is the most perfecting being, therefore existence is a necessary part of God. The similarity to the fault in this argument is literally the same as Anselm’s; the idea that the definition of God is different to everyone and therefore cannot be rationalized.

The next of the classical arguments is the Teleological argument, also known as the Classical Design argument. The outline of this argument is argued based on the fact that because the universe is so complex there has to be a designer, and then only being powerful and knowledgeable to do so is God. The argument was made prominently by William Paley, who rationalizes that ball intricate things i.e. a watch, must have a designer. He argues that if you were to stumble upon a watch in a field of nowhere, you would not think it appeared out of nowhere and rather think of the origin and how it came into existence. Much like the watch, the universe is as intricate and detailed, all the little pieces coming together and functioning must mean that someone (a designer) must have thought it all out.

However, Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution counter-argues to Paley’s proposition. According to Darwin, the world is not the way it was from the beginning or the way it was “designed”. Throughout the centuries, mammals have been adapting to the environment and their habitats for survival, therefore gaining favourable characteristics, therefore it is evolution and natural selection that has brought the universe as it is today to this complex stage. A noted sceptic, Anthony Flew has also criticized the Design argument. Flew exclaims that if the universe contains design then there must be some intelligence behind it which is simple logic, however there must be something else behind that intelligence to support it at the same time. This minimalizes the extent to which you can believe in God and the idea of the perfect being, however I do not think that it affects the rational belief in God, rather how powerful God is.

I personally believe that it is rational to quite an extent to believe in God given this argument given the reasoning within the argument is logical. Paley’s analysis of the watch out of nowhere presents a logical point. I believe this to be a better argument in comparison to the Ontological argument given it has a more defined first premise. If the universe is as complex as it is, you would naturally expect there to be a designer.

However, some may argue that given the universe is so complex, it is also immensely flawed, examples being natural disasters, global warming and so on. If there really was a God to design it, God would be omniscient, omnipotent and omnibenevolent, so why would a being of perfection design a world full of flaw? This leads to the conclusion that there is simply no God at all. This shows the extent to which the teleological argument can proves God existence, as if a watch were to be a faulty product, you would simply just doubt the designer of it and question whether or not you may have just found a piece of junk on the field.

The last of the classical arguments is the Cosmological argument, otherwise known ad the “First Cause” argument. The cosmological argument is the argument that the existence of the world or universe in itself is strong evidence for the existence of God who created it. The existence, the argument claims, is in need of an explanation, and the only adequate one being that the existence was created by God. The cosmological arguments like the rest is argued in deductive reasoning form. The first premise argues that everything that exists has a cause of its existence and given that the universe exists, it must therefore mean that the universe has a cause of its existence. If the universe has a cause of its existence, then that cause has to be God, therefore God must exist.

I personally find this argument to be the strongest out of all three of the classical arguments given that it uses deductive reasoning following a reasonable and logical first premise. It is easy to argue that because the universe could not have existed by itself, God must have made it exist. God can do this because God is an omnipotent and omniscient perfect being. However some would argue that if God were the first cause of the universe, what is God’s first cause? I would then like to rationalize that because God is omnipotent and the perfecting being that God does not need a first cause, if he did exist he would be the greater power and therefore could make himself exist. I also find this argument to be the most powerful and logical in its deductive reasoning, each premise following the other. Without God there would be one entity the existence of which we could not explain; with God there would be one entity the existence of which we could not explain, namely God.

However many people would disagree with the rationalizing of this argument. If God were thought not to have a cause of existence, for example if God were to be thought of as an uncaused being, then his existence would be a counter example to the first premise, If God exists but does not have a cause of his existence, then premise one is false, in which case the rest of the cosmological argument cannot be rationalized. If some things that exist do not have a cause, then the cosmological argument might be resisted on the ground that the universe itself might be such a thing. Many non-believers argue that there is no factual evidence to support the first premise and that it is just an assumption rather than a rational reasoning. As well as that, scientific discoveries has also provided more evidence about the Big Bang Theory as a cause of the universe, another instance of science weakening an argument for the existence of God.

Another argument making it irrational to believe in God is the argument of Evil and Suffering. The Evil and Suffering argument basically explains that there is no logical reasoning to how there could be an omnibenevolent perfect being when there is so much suffering occurring and no-one stopping it. This is considered the strongest argument to prove that God does not exist. However, Many religions respond to the counter arguments in response that God puts everyone under the test of faith. This is unrelated to the classical arguments as they do not involve any religious perspective and rather rationalizes the existence of God through logical thinking, therefore more powerful than religious arguments.

I personally believe that if there were a God, it would be a perfect being with omniscience, Omni benevolence and omnipotent powers. I don’t believe that there is anyway there is a greater being than us that isn’t perfect, otherwise it would just be equal amongst us. I believe that the argument for free will that God gave us is immensely powerful and that you can argue that with the idea of evil and suffering. If there were never and evil and suffering then people would never no how to appreciate the truly lucky and good times, just like if you never felt sad you wouldn’t know what it felt to be happy. I think that the idea of evil and suffering could also be in a form of punishment or “Karma”, or simply just part of a greater plan.

In conclusion, I believe that it can be rational to believe in God, but not with all of the arguments given. I believe that the Ontological argument is weak and I personally cannot rationalize any belief of God with the argument. The cosmological and teleological arguments are similar in the way with the idea of the first premise being similar of a designer and a first cause. I believe that these arguments are easier to rationalize that there is a God as it explains all the uncaused causes with God. Despite the flaws in the world, the universe too is complicated for there not to be even a basic design, and if ever there is anything we do not understand, it is rational to argue that God will simply because he is the perfect being. However I do believe that there is a certain extent to how the arguments can prove the existence of God, but it is how a person rationalizes the deductive reasoning’s of the classical arguments that enable them into believe in it..

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