For about a thousand years, Christianity’s grip on Europe was so firm that no challenge to the faith was really possible: challenge Christianity and you would be fired, ostracized, run out of town, or just plain killed dead.
Then Martin Luther and Henry VIII came along, and suddenly it was possible to argue about belief. At first, it was a battle between Christians. But then people began to wonder whether all that God stuff was even accurate. And Christian philosophers felt compelled to defend their faith. And not by saying “I’m right and you’re wrong, and if you keep arguing I’m going to have you arrested and tortured.” So they tried to argue the logic of Christianity on its own merits. Using the best minds of Christian civilization. And it didn’t go so well.
Thomas Aquinas gave us five arguments “proving” God’s existence. Three of his five arguments essentially repeat the fallacy that something must have created the universe; the other two arguments are that there must be one being whose existence is necessary, and that there must be one being of infinite goodness. Um, yeah.
Descartes, who proclaimed to the world that he was a thinking man, said that God is the greatest conceivable being, and it is greater to exist than not to exist, and therefore God exists. Seriously.
The Inductive school of philosophers essentially punted and said God exists because…um, he just probably does.
William James said God exists because believing in him simply “works” for believers.
The argument from reason claims that there would be no way to know anything without God.
The anthropic argument claims that God is just the best explanation for our existence.
Teleology argues that only God could make a universe so perfect.
Intelligent design insists that only an intelligence could create the universe.
Some argue that only a universe with God could contain morality and beauty.
The transcendental argument insists that God is necessary, for logic to exist.
The argument from degree states that a property has no meaning unless there is a being that is perfect in that property – i.e. beauty is meaningless unless there is one thing that is perfectly beautiful.
Interventionists insist that God intervened in human life when he gave us the commandments and raised Jesus from the dead and then gave us the Qur’an and the book of Mormon. Notwithstanding the fact that all those books contradict each other.
The testimonialists rely on witnesses who say God exists and they experienced him. In other words, delusion.
The majority argument asserts that throughout history most people believed in him, so it must be true. Just as, throughout history, men believed the world was flat.
The Scottish school argues that belief in God is just common sense.
Rousseau, one of the true fathers of the American revolution, one of the great minds of the 18th century, said men’s hearts tell us God exists, despite what our reason tells us.
Saint Anselm said God is the thing that nothing can be greater than.
Spinoza said God is the whole universe.
A.E. McGrath admitted that science cannot prove God, which for many agnostics is the deal-breaker: until science shows them God, there is no God.
And of course Immanuel Kant, proclaimed as the Big Daddy of all philosophers, smarter than the rest of us put together, the guy college philosophy teachers throw at you when they really want to put you in your place. So this smart guy Kant must be really good at illuminating all this, right? Kant stated the practical necessity for a belief in God; “we do not have the slightest ground to assume in an absolute manner ... the object of this idea"; the idea of God cannot be separated from the relation of happiness with morality as the "ideal of the supreme good….One cannot provide objective reality for any theoretical idea, or prove it, except for the idea of freedom, because this is the condition of the moral law, whose reality is an axiom. The reality of the idea of God can only be proved by means of this idea, and hence only with a practical purpose, i.e., to act as though there is a God, and hence only for this purpose". God and immortality are also knowable, but practical reason now requires belief in these postulates of reason. Proving God’s existence is impossible because the various arguments for God's existence all depend essentially on the idea that existence is a predicate inherent to the concepts to which it is applied.
Glad we sorted that out!
So for 500 years, Team God has wheeled out its greatest minds, to defend their beliefs. And failed.
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