The biggest question one could possibly ask and the question that most fully determines many of one’s other beliefs is the question “Does God Exist?”

Arguments for and against the existence of God fall in broader category of philosophy of religion, although the philosophy religion contains other topics as well.

In this section of the course we will cover all the main historical arguments for and against the existence of God:

1. The cosmological/First Cause argument: The first cause arguments attempts to prove that the existence of the world rationally requires the positing the existence of God as the first cause of creation.

2. The Ontological Argument: The ontological argument is curious arguments which attempts to show that because God is the greatest conceivable being he must exist.

3. The Design Argument, including modern intelligent design and fine tuning arguments: The design argument attempts to prove God’s existence by arguing that some aspect of the world showings signs of design and could not have come about without a designer.

4. The Argument from evil: The argument from evil is an argument against the existence of God which argues that the suffering we see in the world disproves the existence of God, or at least the existence of an all loving God.

5. Pascal’s Wager: Pasca’s wager is an argument that attempts to prove that belief in God is rational, practically rational, even if God’s existence cannot be proven by reason.

None of the arguments we will look at will conclusively prove or disprove the existence of God, but by examing the arguments we will gain an idea of some of the conceptual issues that are involved in the debate and get a more clear idea of the intellectual commitments belief or disbelief in the existence of God requires.

Before moving on to discuss the arguments we should address one type of proof that one might be inclined to offer as an argument for God’s existence, scriptural evidence. One might be inclined to offer the Bible (or the Torah, Koran, Vedas, etc) as proof of the existence of God, however such an argument would be question begging or circular in that it assumes what it is trying to prove.

As a formal argument it might look something like this:

1. What ever scripture says is true.

2. Scripture says God exists.

3. Therefore, God exists.

Let’s call the above argument The Scripture Argument. The Scripture Argument is deductively valid but premise 1 is not obviously true. One might be tempted to offer a second argument to prove premise 1 of The Scripture Argument that would look like this:

1. What ever God says is true.

2. Scripture is the word of God.

3. Therefore, what ever scripture says is true.

Let’s call the above argument The Word of God Argument. Notice that the conclusion of The Word of God Argument is the same as the first premise of The Scripture Argument, but The Word of God Argument assumes that scripture is the word of God and therefore assumes that God exists. So the first argument also assumes that God exists and therefore is an invalid argument because it begs the question i.e it assumes what it attempts to prove.

Question for discussion: How might one try to salvage the scripture argument?

Now let’s consider some of the other non-question begging arguments (deductively valid) arguments for the existence of God that have been offered by philosophers and the responses that these arguments have generated.


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