Is there a God? How do you know?

by David · 21 comments

That’s the question I asked here on Facebook and I was rewarded with a flood of diverse opinions.

This topic has been debated for thousands of years by many people far more intelligent than myself, and I don’t propose to have the answer. However, I do have some thoughts, and it only seems fair to share my opinions after so many people have been kind enough to share with me. But first, I’ll I share my story:

My Story

I was raised in a Christian household and attended a Catholic secondary school where we prayed daily and attended mass occasionally.

Like most (all ?) young people, it was something I did against my wishes, it was not something I thought about, it was just something I did.

I prayed alone occasionally, sometimes I felt as though it helped, but most of the time I felt nothing — no response, nothing changed, just pure static.

I left my mum’s home at the age of 18 and went through many difficult times. After a few too many ups and downs, I started to wonder if God was what I needed.

These thoughts didn’t appear from nowhere, ‘you need God‘ is what I heard from many friends who seemed to be living happy lives. I fought the idea for a while, but then I decided to give it a try when I didn’t know what else to do to make life better.

I mentioned to few friends that I’d like to go to church with them and they welcomed me with open arms.

My first experience was scary, horrendous and honestly one of my most horrible experiences ever.

I had no idea of what it meant for a person to speak in tongue. At some point, the whole church got up and started making weird sounds. I was freaked out, I couldn’t wait to leave and when I did I never returned.

I’ve been to a few churches since then, one of which had a cash machine in the back where the priest told us we could all go to collect money for donations.

I’ve also had the pleasure and displeasure of speaking to many religious people — some make much sense, some make little sense, but none have ever made complete sense.

And then We have Science

Science makes a lot of sense.

I used to have an image of a man in a white coat whenever I thought of science, but that image has disappeared and I now think of science as a systematic process for figuring out if something is true or false. (I recognise that’s an elementary definition, but I’m sure you get the point)

Science has proved the existence of many laws that govern the universe; gravity, upthrust, ect..

However, science doesn’t know everything, and science hasn’t proven the existence of God. As I see it, this means one of three things:

God doesn’t exists.
God exists but Science hasn’t found a way to prove it, yet.
God exists but it’s something that goes beyond the capabilities of science.

All of these sound like logical possibilities, but then we also have:

The Most Compelling Religious Argument

For me, this is when it’s said that something had to have created the world and that it can’t have couldn’t have come from nothing.

That makes perfect sense to me — perfect.

I love to learn. I spend all day learning. I think  a lot about learning, and when I open my mouth, all I ever want to talk about is what I’ve learnt, what I want to learn and how I plan to do it.

In all my learning it has become clear the world is just as marvellous as it is complicated.

Could all of this have come from nothing? A big bang?

My mind can’t accept that.

Belief, Faith and the Desire for More

My mind also can’t accept the way people use the words ‘faith’ and ‘belief’
What do these words mean?

Here’s what I wrote as a comment in the Facebook status:

‘where I get lost with most explanations is when people use the words ‘belief’ or ‘faith’. What do these words mean? To me, it’s accepting something without proof; letting go. Does ‘believing’ or having ‘faith’ mean not using my mind? If so, how do I/you decide what to believe and what not to believe?’

I also asked:

‘Is believing in something you can’t prove a wish?’

I think the answer to that question is yes.

For most of us, the thought of dying is horrible; the thought that we may come to a point where we never see our loved ones again; the fact that each day we get closer to the end of our lives — horrible.

While I don’t agree with or understand many religious teachings, I can understand and imagine the comfort that must comes with believing in God and an after life.

‘knowing’ that you’ll live on and go to a better place must feel great.

To answer my own question: Is there a God?

As I see it, we can never be sure. But as it stands, I’m inclined to think that something created the world we live in.

I don’t believe the world was created in 7 days and a big bang doesn’t seem more likely.

This is one of life’s greatest mysteries, and as I learn more and  collect more experiences, I’m sure my opinions will change.

Someone / something must have created everything, right?

I would like to believe that when my eyes close for the last time — whenever that may be — I’ll open them again, and somehow life will go on.

But I just can’t be sure…

  • Richard

    David,  thanks for posting your thoughts on this.  It is interesting to hear what you think.  I would like to advise you to look further into the big bang you mentioned.  The term is quite misleading, so it’s worth trying to understand it more.  You can check ou the term “singularity”, which is how science now describes the genesis of the universe.  There are also theories out there on how something can come from nothing too.  My view is, if you think the world needs a creator, then you have to also then figure out where the creator came from.  If you can’t answer that either, then simply save a step and just consider where the universe came from (see Carl Sagan videos on YouTube).   There is not necessarily a need for a creator per se (Potholer54 on YouTube has some good videos to get your started on this). 

    • I think I recall you mentioning singularity when we met at the bookstore. 

      You certainly make a good point ‘who created the creator’ damn I never got that far haha

      I’ll be sure to check out your recommendations too. 

      Sounds as though this is going to be a real long journey of discovery. 

      Let’s hope I come out on the other side ok 😉 

  • Alex

    Very nice blog post. Like Richard said you might want to look into scientific theories in greater detail as to how our universe is built up. Whenever you have the time you should search for “Project TUVA”, its a series of lectures by Dr. Richard P. Feynman on physics, it might not be directly related to the origin of the universe but i highly reccomend them as he was excellent at teaching physics without insanely complex math. 🙂

    • Thanks for the recommendations!  I actually have Feynman on my reading list, I hear he’s the best at breaking complicated ideas into everyday English.  

      I can’t wait to dive in ^^

  • Etienne

    Nice blog post, man. I agree that the world being created in 7 days is an absolute joke. I also think that the Big Bang theory is a joke too. Something cannot come nothing. Newton’s third law(I think) explains this. It states that matter and energy cannot be created or destroyed, but it can be changed or transformed. The universe is considered matter and energy, therefore, it could not have been created. It must have always been here in one way, shape or form.

    • Are you saying that you believe the world has always been here and that there was  no beginning? 

    • ghost

      Did you read in the same bible where it says that God’s day is equal to a thousand years? so it’s very possible that the world was created in 7 thousand years.

      • See that’s something I find confusing. Should the bible be taken literally or figuratively? It seems to switch between the two.

      • Alex

        This seems unlikely still as it takes millions of years for a solar system to form and “settle”, 7 thousands years is nothing in the time scale of the universe.

  • rene

    But I think God is the grand Architect of the physical laws of the universe, and as such, reserves the right to leap over these laws and intervene when he wishes, but other wise “declares it good”.

    Scientists should keep an open mind.  It is the basis of the scientific method.  The greatest experiment of them all – is the one each of us lives.

    Here is a counter question:  What made all the people intervene – who helped me and you along the journey of life to make us what we are – despite the very tough experiences that are thrown our way?  

    • I agree that good Science is open to different possibilities, but ultimately Science is about proving facts and making intelligent guesseses. 

      I’m not an expert on ‘the bib bang theory’ so I can’t critique the science — until I do I can only say it make little sense to me. 

      You’re question is interesting and it sounds as though you’re questioning the origins of human morality. 

      That’s something I’ve also questioned. As a rule of thumb, it’s safe to say that morality is universal among all humans.  I’m sure evolutionary psychology has something to say about this. I just haven’t gotten around to looking it up. 

      Do you have any more thoughts? 

      • Correction:  Science is not about making good guesses.  Rather, science is a defined logical process by which we accept answers that can be proven, and we do not accept things that can not be proven. No more, no less.

        • You’re not entirely correct Randy. Not all theories can be proven and not everything science offers is fact.  For example, the big bang theory can’t be proven. It’s a theory based on what we’ve learnt about the world, there’s much that’s assumed and gaps that can’t be answered. 

          That’s what I call an intelligent guess.

          • I think you’re misunderstanding my point.

            Science isn’t what led to that “intelligent guess”. Rather, science is merely the means by which we ruled out countless other guesses, so that we could know this one has more merit.

            In other words, science isn’t the theory, it’s the method.

  • Kevin Winston

    If you are confused there is a lot of evidence that God left all over for us to find historically. Check out “Master Science” by Meek Godmanseed. I will definitely open your eye’s. It focuses on the Identity of God. Check it out at http://www.masterscience.webs.com

  • The problem with the “what created the universe?” argument is: if there was a creator, where did he/she/it come from? Who created the creator? Hence, and infinite loop of causality that makes as little sense as any other explanation.

    There must come a point in any rational mind, at which we simply accept the lack of an answer, rather than blindly, faithfully believing in whichever hypothesis we find easiest to accept. Personally, I find more comfort in knowing that the answer is unknown than I do in accepting a flawed proposal solely on the merit of the fact that all other proposals are harder to understand or accept.

  • I take the position of atheist, although I admit all atheists are to some extent agnostic (eg I can’t “prove” God isn’t out surfing on some wave on some planet five galaxies away).

    Do yourself a favor and don’t simplify things too much, the commenter above that calls the big bang a singularity has obviously read up a little on these things. Other commenters haven’t really thought things through, for example: “Newtons third law(I think)” perhaps thinking or reading about the subject would enlighten this person a bit more.

    Either way science is proving more and more every year that at the very least a creator isn’t necessary, this is one of the next books on my reading list: “A Universe From Nothing”

    http://www.amazon.com/Universe-Nothing-There-Something-Rather/dp/145162445X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1325808551&sr=8-1

  • Fahed

    Good question, good post!I think the best way to find the answer to this question is to sincerly ask it to yourself, and never put your reason away. But as you said in your post, at a point, science can simply not solve the equation because science is part of the equation. When it comes to religion, we always think that it’s not a field where you can let your intellect talk. So why did God gave us that intellect and at the same time will be asking us to turn it off when it came to the most important field of our lives. I think that our reason is a good way to know our Creator. and the best way is through Its creation. Let’s have a look to the nature around us, how all species are reliable one to each other. Look at yourself when you was in the belly of your mother, and how you make you way out of it. Simply think about how hard it is for a spermatozoïd to reach an ovule (it is as hard as reaching the moon from the earth).. And many other things, contemplation I mean afterall. Contemplation might be the best way to know your creator, and after contemplation, let’s do some meditation, but not like we are used to see it on films. Real meditation, take the sun and its position, its heat, the fact that if it was some kms nearer we would have all burnt, and some kms further we would have all freezed. Religion will come after that, because, once you trust in God and Its power, and the logic being Its creation, you will start to look for a religion of the same kind. Some things are better said and discussed, that’s why I let you with this for the moment? Hoping you’ll find your way to God. Because, let’s be honest, we can’t live with the knowledge that we will certainly die, and think that all of thse things around us so perfectly organised are just here to go back to dust with us.

  • Ethan Alano

    Greetings David!

    I wandered onto your website when I was looking up information about speaking multiple languages, and seeing this post peaked my interest. Just as some background, I have been Catholic my whole life and therefore have believed in God, but it wasn’t until a year ago when I began to discover some of the vast, rich, intellectual tradition for this belief. I know this is an old post, but if I may I’d like to share just a few insights on this coming out of the Catholic Christian tradition.

    One of the most fundamental, and in my opinion, compelling proofs for God’s existence is called the “argument of contingency” of St. Thomas Aquinas. Contingent things are those which depend on other things in order to exist, or those things which come into being and then pass out of being. Thus, everything in the universe is, in fact, contingent. Think of a cloud on a summer day that appears in the morning and then disappears in the afternoon. Because it does not contain the means within itself to maintain its existence, the cloud is contingent, so we appeal to outside sources to explain. Now we could say that the cloud exists due to water vapor, the airstream, etc, but these things are also contingent. They depend on the earth itself, which came into being and will pass out of being, hence its contingency. We could then appeal to forces in the galaxy or the universe itself, but these things are also contingent, as the universe came into existence about 13 billion years ago or so. We’ve appealed so far yet have not definitively explained the existence of the cloud. Aquinas said that in order to avoid an endless list of appeals, we must finally arrive at the understanding that there is a noncontingent reality, something that DOES explain the reason for its own existence, as the ground for the contingent universe. This noncontingent reality is what we call “God.”

  • Ethan Alano

    (continued)

    Based on this proof, Aquinas did not describe God as a being, as God goes beyond even that genus or categorization. Rather, he defined God as “Ipsum Esse Subsistens,” which you could translate as “the sheer act of Being itself.” God as the ground for ALL existence perhaps sheds some light on this idea of the Creator and the argument of “Who created the Creator.” If God were just one other “being,” even the “Supreme Being” IN this universe, then that would be a valid critique. However, understanding God as “Ipsum Esse Subsistens” prevents us from falling into a ridiculous, never ending set of appeals.

    Regarding your commentary on Science, I think you’re most correct when you state that “God exists but goes beyond the capacities of science.” Science draws conclusions based on empirical observations in the universe, but as I mentioned before, God is not ingredient in his creation, so exploring the far reaches of the galaxy will never find “God.” Thus, science, operating under its own methods of observation, can never “prove” the existence of God. On the flipside, science can neither disprove the existence of God. I’m not sure why, but it seems like in contemporary culture there is often an effort to drive a wedge between religion and science, when in fact the two are completely compatible. For example, for scientists to work in any scientific field, they must assume that being is intelligible and can be known. As a side note, I think you might also find it interesting that the founder of the so-called Big Bang Theory was actually a Catholic priest, Father Georges Lemaitre of Belgium.

  • Ethan Alano

    (final part of commentary)

    Concerning your question about “faith” and “belief,” I would first tell you that you should never negate your reason!! In fact, quite the opposite is true. In the Christian understanding, God is not just one true thing, but the Truth itself. So, anything you learn that is true tells you something about God, which is why we can exalt God through studying his creation through the sciences. In the Catholic understanding, reason can confirm the existence of God, as I’ve tried to explain through the argument from contingency, though there are many others. Oftentimes, I think “faith” is seen as a leap into the dark without any base, which I would label as superstition. However, “authentic faith” is that which is indeed a leap, but on the far side (or the ultimate limits) of reason. A good example I’ve heard of to explain this concept is the idea of falling in love. When you meet someone, you certainly use your reason to learn as much about that person as possible, but there comes a point when, in order to really know that person, you must “fall in love.” So it goes with authentic faith. I could literally continue to write comment after comment on this post, as I have a real passion for questions like these. Pretty much all I have written has come from what I’ve learned from a great Catholic priest named Father Robert Barron. Look him up on YouTube and you’ll quickly find some really intellectually stimulating material about this topic and many others. Thanks for letting me take up a lot of space on your comments section!

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