THE BLOG
10/18/2005 08:16 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

The Existence of God

In a recent piece, the claim was made not merely that God does not exist, but also that all of us “really know” that he does not. Imagine my surprise to read that the One in whom I (and many, many others) have long invested personal trust not only does not exist, but also that my faith was a conscious delusion (I suppose that’s what it would mean to really know that one’s belief is false--a profound dishonesty at best). In what follows, I will not pretend to provide a “proof” of God’s existence in rebuttal to the earlier claims offered by erstwhile interlocutor. Given that God (yes, I am still a believer) takes us quite seriously and intends us to freely develop characters of our own choosing, there are good reasons why He would maintain a certain level of epistemic distance from us, i.e., maintain a level of hiddenness such that he can be known to all who so desire, but can also be denied by those who do not. To maintain this level of hiddenness, it must be the case that neither arguments for nor against God’s existence will be decisive. Some have argued that belief in God can only be rational if one could provide empirical evidence of his existence. Unfortunately for those who so argue, this is to impose an empirical imperialism that we strictly enforce in very few areas of human knowledge. However, in this particular post, the denial of God’s existence rested on the so-called problem of evil. According to this theory, an all-powerful, perfectly loving God’s existence is impossible to affirm in the light of the presence of suffering in the world. Well, let’s see.

Arguments of this type generally proceed along one of these lines: 1) that there is a contradiction between saying that an all-powerful, perfectly loving God exists while affirming that evil exists, 2) that it is unlikely that God exists in light of the amount of suffering in the world, and 3) that, at least, the existence of evil is counter-evidence to the existence of such a God. Let’s consider the arguments in this order.

To assess the claim that there is a logical contradiction between God’s existence and the existence of suffering in the world, we must formalize the argument to lay out premises and conclusion. Then, in order to establish a logical contradiction, one must show that the argument contains two premises that, well, are contradictory. Here are the premises for the argument:

1. God is perfectly loving.
2. God is all-powerful.
3. Suffering exists.

(Given that the complete presentation runs longer than the normal blog piece, I have posted the longer argument here. Please feel free to check it out and, then, return here for your comments.)