7 Philosophical Arguments Trying To Prove The Existence Of God

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Nietzsche is famous for saying that God is dead, but news of The Almighty's demise may have been greatly exaggerated. Here are some of the most fascinating and provocative philosophical arguments for the existence of God.

To be clear, these are philosophical arguments. They're neither rooted in religious scripture nor any kind of scientific observation or fact. Many of these arguments, some of which date back thousands of years, serve as interesting intellectual exercises, teasing apart what we think we know about the universe and our place within it from what we think we're capable of knowing. Other arguments, like the last two listed, are attempts to reconcile questions that currently plague scientists and philosophers.

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1. The very notion of an all-perfect being means God has to exist.

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This is the classic ontological, or a priori, argument. It was first articulated in 1070 by St. Anselm, who argued that because we have a conception of an all-perfect being — which he defined as "that than which nothing greater can be conceived" — it has to exist. In his essay, Proslogion, St. Anselm conceived of God as a being who possesses all conceivable perfection. But if this being "existed" merely as an idea in our minds, then it would be less perfect than if it actually existed. So it wouldn't be as great as a being who actually existed, something that would thus contradict our definition of God — a being who's supposed to be all-perfect. Thus, God must exist.

Do you think this is a logical argument?

Yes.
No.
I don't quite know.

2. Something must have caused the universe to exist.

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Philosophers call this one the First-Cause Argument or the Cosmological Argument, and early advocates of this line of reasoning included Plato, Aristotle, and St. Thomas Aquinas. It's predicated on the assumption that every event must have a cause, and that cause, in turn, must have a cause, and on and on and on. Assuming there's no end to this regression of causes, this succession of events would be infinite. But an infinite series of causes and events doesn't make sense (a causal loop cannot exist, nor a causal chain of infinite length). There's got to be something — some kind of first cause — that is itself uncaused. This would require some kind of "unconditioned" or "supreme" being — which the philosophers call God.

Do you think the First-Cause Argument is logical?

Yes.
No.
I don't quite know.

3. There has to be something rather than nothing.

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Called the Cosmological Argument from Contingency, this is a slightly different take on the First-Cause Argument. The German philosopher, Gottfried Leibniz, put it best when he wrote,

"Why is there something rather than nothing? The sufficient reason... is found in a substance which... is a necessary being bearing the reason for its existence within itself."

Because it's impossible for only contingent beings to exist, he argued, a necessary being must exist — a being we call God. Writing in Monadology, he wrote that "no fact can be real or existing and no statement true without a sufficient reason for its being so and not otherwise."

Do you think the Cosmological Argument is logical?

Yes.
No.
I don't quite know.

4. Something had to have designed the universe.

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The Design Argument, or teleological argument, suggests we live in a Universe that surely had to be designed. The cosmos, goes the argument, exhibit orderliness and (apparent) purpose — for example, everything within the universe adheres to the laws of physics, and many things within it are correlated with one another in a way that appears purposeful. As William Paley argued, just as the existence of a watch indicates the presence of an intelligent mind, the existence of the universe and various phenomena within it indicates the presence of an even greater intelligence, namely God. Needless to say, this line of argumentation was far more compelling prior to the advent of naturalism (the idea that everything can be explained without the benefit of supernatural intervention) and Darwinian evolution. Indeed, Darwin served as a kind of death knell to the Design Argument, at least as far as the biological realm is concerned. We know that the human eye — in all its apparent complexity and purpose — is not the product of a designer, but rather the painstaking result of variation and selection.

Do you think the Design Argument is logical?

Yes.
No.
I don't know.

5. Consciousness proves that immaterial entities exist.

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We still don't have a working theory of consciousness, giving rise to the notorious Hard Problem. Indeed, subjective awareness, or qualia, is quite unlike anything we normally deal with in our otherwise material universe. The weirdness of consciousness, and our inability to understand it has given rise to the notion of substance dualism, also known as Cartesian dualism, which describes two fundamental kinds of stuff: the mental and the material. Dualists say that material on its own is incapable of producing qualia — one's capacity to have internal thoughts, subjective awareness, and feelings.

Do you think the Consciousness Argument is logical?

Yes.
No.
I don't quite know.

6. We're living in a computer simulation run by hacker Gods.

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God is in the eye of the beholder. Unlike Anselm's take on God as something "that which nothing greater can be conceived," gods can also consist of entities vastly beyond our comprehension, reach, and control. If the Simulation Hypothesis is true, and we're the product of posthuman ancestors (or some unknown entity), we simply have no choice but to recognize them as Gods. They're running the show, and our collective (or even individual) behavior may be monitored — or even controlled — by them. These hacker Gods would be akin the Gnostic Gods of yesteryear — powerful entities doing their own thing without our best interests in mind.

Do you think Simulation Argument is logical?

Yes.
No.
I don't quite know.

7. Aliens are our Gods.

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We have yet to make contact with an extraterrestrial intelligence, but that doesn't mean they're not out there. A possible solution to the Fermi Paradox is the notion of directed panspermia — the idea that aliens spark life on other planets, like sending spores or probes to fertile planets, and then leave, or monitor and control the process covertly. By definition, therefore, they would be like God is to us.

Do you think the Extraterrestrial Argument is logical?

Yes.
No.
I don't know.
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