We all have had that argument before where we have questioned the existence of God. Whether he exists? Is he the creator of all? Or What if there is no God? The big bang theory? However, when it comes to philosophy, Philosophers believe in something that has an argument something that has facts. Philosophers take nothing as a given – and that includes religious belief. Some people say religion is the one area where you don’t need arguments – that faith alone is enough. But we can’t believe in faith for our answers. For example, I have faith that the sun revolves around the earth instead of the opposite, but that doesn’t prove it to be correct. Faith is definitionally unprovable, which makes it, from a philosophical perspective, not valuable. So, let’s look into how philosophers have tried to prove the existence of God and discuss about various types of ideologies.
When we think about God what do you all think he looks like? Tall, big beard, in a robe? We all can have different perspectives about that. However, a French monk Anselm of Canterbury thought that God is the best possible thing out there. In his word,
“God is that than which no greater can be conceived.”
His argument was, it is a conceptual truth (or, so to speak, true by definition) that God is a being than which none greater can be imagined (that is, the greatest possible being that can be imagined). God is the greatest thing we can think of. Things can exist only in our imaginations, or they can also exist in reality. Things that exist in reality are always better than things that exist only in our imaginations. If God existed only in our imaginations, he wouldn’t be the greatest thing that we can think of, because God in reality would be better. Therefore, God must exist in reality. Sounds crazy? I know.
But one of his contemporaries, a fellow French monk named Gaunilo, wasn’t satisfied. Gaunilo of Marmoutier, a monk and contemporary of Anselm’s, is responsible for one of the most important criticisms of Anselm’s argument. He suggested that we could run the same line of reasoning to prove the existence of literally anything we can imagine.
He came up with an argument with the exact same formal structure as Anselm’s, to prove that a mythical Lost Island exists.
He proposed: The best island I can imagine is one where I can swim and relax on a tropical beach and ski down snow-covered mountains all in one afternoon. I can imagine it, so it must exist. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be the best island – there would be one better and that one would have to be real. Basically, Gaunilo said, you could make the same kind of argument to prove the existence of whatever you wanted most – but it wouldn’t make it real.
Anselm responded to Gaunilo’s criticism by saying he’d missed the point, that the argument only works for necessary beings, of which there is only one – God. By adding this idea of “a necessary being” to his definition of God, Anselm made God’s existence a part of the definition of God. A necessary being is one that must exist, so Anselm’s himself contradicted his own statement. So, to prove the argument that God exists, you have to assume that he is a necessary being and he exists? Wait what? Yeah. It doesn’t make sense. Other philosophers since Anselm have tried to save his argument by tweaking it in various ways, and dissenters have continued trying to deflate them.
There is also a very famous parable that I love, called the “The Parable of The Invisible Gardener”, which was published by Antony Flew in 1968. This has become famous for its supposed devastating critique of Christianity and other faith systems.
According to the Parable,
Once upon a time, There were two explorers who return to a garden after a long absence, and notice that a few of its plants are still thriving. One explorer says, “Some gardener must tend this plot while we were gone.” The other explorer agrees. So, they pitch their tents and agree to wait to see if a gardener shows up.
After some time passes, they see no gardener, so one of the explorer says: “The gardener must be invisible!” So they set up a barbed-wire fence. They electrify it. They patrol with bloodhounds. (For they remember how H. G. Wells’ The Invisible Man could be both smelt and touched though he could not be seen.) However, no one is found, no shrieks ever suggest that some intruder has received a shock. No movements of the wire ever betray an invisible climber. The bloodhounds never give cry.
Yet still the Believer is not convinced. So the first explorer claims “But there is a gardener! the gardener must be invisible, intangible and unsmellable, a gardener who comes secretly to look after the garden which he loves.”
At last the Sceptic despairs, “Just how does what you call an invisible, intangible, eternally elusive gardener differ from an imaginary gardener or even from no gardener at all?”
I am sure you must have guessed who the gardener was, our beloved God.