God Cannot Not Exist

April 27, 1993

 

 

Introduction: What is the Purpose of This Paper?

            Dating our origins back beyond even the earliest civilizations, mankind has left evidence of his search for meaning through the existence of a greater being, of a creator, of God. The paintings in the caves of Lascaux speak of the human belief in powers greater than their own. Philosophical explorations from Plato to the present have sought answers to the meaning of our lives: Why are we here? What is our purpose? Does God exist?

            This paper is an example of such a search. First, I will explore my own personal beliefs about two related issues: Does God exist, and, is there an after life? Following this examination of my beliefs and their source, I will then follow with a focused exploration of what the literature has to sag about the existence of God; both for and against.

 

PART A:  Life, The Universe and Everything

My Two Most Fundamental Beliefs

            As I set out to put to paper two of my most important ideas or principles, I realized that if I had just recently begun to discuss them with friends, read about them in hooks or reflect about them within myself that I would have had a very difficult time writing this paper. As it was, I found this an enormously difficult task even though I have been actively pursuing what it is that I believe and why since my adolescence. It has been a challenge for me to organize everything into a cohesive whole.

            I have decided to discuss the two most important beliefs that I hold, for these beliefs are the fundamental premises upon which I base my life. I consider them to be two separate, yet symbiotic concepts. They are, that God exists and that there is life after death. The realization of these beliefs came to me all at once, but was preceded by a long period of questioning and reflecting. I remember it as follows...

 

The Beginnings of my Search

            I found myself, at the age of sixteen, compelled to understand what the purpose of human existence is and what the future holds for us. I was brought up in an extraordinarily loving home, but neither my mother nor my father spent any time exploring these ideas with us (I have one sister, Nadine, who is three and a half years younger than me). The reason I state this as though it were an anomaly is because I now find it strange that with so much love and stability that my parents did not devote more time to thinking about such things for it was precisely my love for my family and my fear of losing them that caused me to begin thinking about what life meant and if God and the afterlife existed.

 

A Significant Event

            (At this point, I would like to mention one exception to this that occurred one Christmas during my childhood. At the age of six I had seventeen warts on back of my left hand and twenty- four on the back of my right. We lived in a tiny eight by thirty six foot trailer and I recall this incident: It was Christmas Eve and my mother had just finished bathing me. The bathroom was very tiny, so I was standing in the bath tub as she dried and dressed me for there was not room for both of us on the floor. She had made me new pajamas, white flannel with blue paisley, and as she buttoned up the blouse, I examined my hands. She noticed and asked me what I was thinking. I told her that it was just the same old thing, I was wishing that I didn’t have warts. She then suggested that since it was Christmas Eve, I could wish very hard and God would make them go away. I was thrilled at the possibility and I pressed her to see if she would falter or express any doubt. She didn’t, I believed, and in the morning the warts were gone.

 

The Influences of Others

            This was the only such reference that I can recall that was made to God, but I believe it was a profound event that staged with me in spite of a childhood where the subject was never brought up.) I had always wondered, since I was a small child, what would happen if my mom or dad died, but I did not allow myself to contemplate it very deeply because I don’t think I would have been able to handle it a such a young age. However, at the age of fifteen I moved away from home because there was no high school in the tiny hamlet in which I grew up. I became deeply attached to a boy I met at my new school, and also, to his family. They became my surrogate family and opened up their home to me. This time, I found myself within a family who didn’t just not think about God and the afterlife, but they laughed at those who did. I grew to love these people dearly and found that the more they denied the possibility of God and an afterlife, the more I began to critically analyze what they were saying because it did not resonate within me as the right answer.

            I remember one time I tried to discuss the matter directly with my boyfriend. He became genuinely concerned and told me that I was scaring him. I guess perhaps he thought that I was on the brink of turning into a religious fanatic!

 

Of Course God Exists!

            So, it was within this environment that I realized that God exists and that there is an afterlife. I was driving down the street on a sunny, late winter’s day when the thought gently roused itself in my mind, always having been there, but obscured from me until that moment. I remember thinking: “Oh, of course, how perfectly simple and perfectly true. Of course there is life after death or else I would have nothing ahead of me but despair. Nobody’s life would have any meaning if we were all destined simply to disappear”.

 

Without God and Eternal life: Despair

            Despair that is the word that was in my mind. Without life after death, there could he nothing here on earth but hopelessness and despair. I remember also that the essence of my mother was with me as the thought came to mind. I believe it was because at that moment, all the fears I had had about her existence were resolved. I had always had difficulty accepting that such a refined and beautiful soul as hers could be nothing more than a fleeting accident. I then remember thinking that of course God must also exist for someone had to be responsible for the existence of such a creation.

 

A Deeper Understanding

            Since that day, I have continued to understand my beliefs in a deeper sense. Several gears ago, I had a friend who encouraged me to read about Plato’s notion that we would not be able to conceive of God if he did not exist. I liked the rationality I saw within this belief and have now incorporated it as one of my own. I also believe that God exists because I cannot accept that I or the people whom I love will simply vanish upon the moment of death. That is unacceptable to me and explains nothing. Life after death resolves all unfairness for all people and makes the lives that we now lead worthwhile.

 

Recent Influences

            My ideas about both God and the afterlife have continued to develop because of this psychology 402 class as well. For example, one day we were discussing what we believe to be more real, a dream or a skyscraper.

            I was in agreement with the argument that the dream is more real because the skyscraper’s very existence is contingent upon the dream, but the converse is certainly not true. I then found myself examining why the example of skyscraper’ was given and concluded that it was because it was a physical object. However, not all physical objects (trees etc.) were first thought of and then created by man. It follows rationally that the tree must exist because somebody first conceived of it. If it wasn’t man, then it had to be done by another creator - God.

 

There is Simplicity in Truth

            I was delighted by the simplicity of this argument, but I also realized that in order to accept such a contention, you would first have had to buy into the entire concept of dualism or it would appear as a false conclusion based on a false premise. This served to further reinforce my belief that every single perception that a person holds in this world must be based on either a monistic or dualistic point of view. Is this perhaps the most fundamental concept to mankind?

 

Further Reflection

            Since that discussion in class, I have been following the argument further through my own inner reflection and I have realized that since all physical objects on earth, including the planet itself, were first conceived of and then created by God, this must also apply to, in the words of Douglas Hdams, life, the universe and everything.

 

Am I as Real as God?

            However, does this argument also mean that I am less real than God because I am His creation? There is only one hypothesis that I can think of that would make me equally as real as God and that would be if I were more than just His physical creation. Therefore, I must have the Divine within me. Since I already know that I am more that just a physical object, for I am aware of my own thoughts, it must be that this thinking, non-physical part of me is where the Divine resides. Thus, my spirit is the true and real to me and it is so because the Divine is within me.

 

Proof of Eternal life

            It follows then that this is also the eternal part of me and therefore proves the existence of the afterlife. It cannot rationally be true that God is outside of me. (This also explains to me why my warts went away!)

            Perhaps a legitimate question would be why I think I must be equally as real as God? It is because if I weren’t, I am like a tree or an animal, unable to conceive of such a thing. (It is my guess that a monist would view this as circular reasoning because a monist would not have accepted any of my earlier explanations as proofs.) God and the afterlife: it seems to me that there are no two beliefs more fundamental to human kind. Whether people accept or deny these concepts will determine the nature of their lives.

 

An Opposing View

            In Hergenhahn, Heidegger says that we must accept that upon the moment of death we will become nothing and therefore should live our lives fully because of the urgency created by limited time. He then goes on to suggest that once we fully accept this, we can move on to contemplate the higher values of truth, beauty and justice.

 

My Reaction

            How ridiculous! Truth, beauty and justice cannot exist in the monistic world! Truth, beauty and justice exist because of the spiritual world. Hopefully, any monist who contemplates this long enough will realize that this life on earth gets its only true meaning through the existence of God and the afterlife. I know that all true meaning in my life is within the spiritual realm of myself. Therefore, these beliefs are exceedingly important to me because they validate my very existence.  Furthermore, they give me purpose and direction in my life and they also give me peace and contentment. What more could I ask for?

 

My Conclusions Are My Own

            In having examined the sources of my belief in Cod and in the afterlife, I find it interesting that my conclusions did not develop out of any religious teachings. I am actually happy about that because I feel as though I had the opportunity to decide for myself. Otherwise, I quite possibly would have had to reject my earlier learnings in order to relearn them as my own beliefs and not just as the dogma of an institution. To this day I feel very little affinity to institutionalized religion. I feel as though am on the right road to understanding life and that my success is not contingent upon my being part of a church.

 

Similarities in Hergenhahn

            I also find it intriguing that my dualistic view of the world evolved in response to the materialistic and positivistic views of those around me. It was as though the very presence of these views called me to question them. In Hergenhahn , I see a connection with the development of psychology in a similar fashion. For example, existentialism grew out of a resistance to rationalism, empiricism, sensationalism and positivism. Again, it seems to me that people are either monists or dualists, and, for the time being, never the twain shall meet. Consequently, if you are a psychologist, your theory must be based on either the monistic perspective or the dualistic perspective. Since they are completely opposite, one of these fundamental premises must be completely true and the other must be completely untrue.

 

Monism Equals Confusion

            It is also evident to me that those psychologists whose theories are based on the monistic point of view are the ones who appear to be confused and contradictory. For example, Skinner very strenuously rejected dualism and in his quest to justify monism had to resort to insane postulations. Because he could not explain behavior from a monistic perspective, he said that explanations were not required. He believed that facts existed separately from explanation and that it was therefore pointless to ask ‘why’ about anything. I wonder what he was afraid of.

            The monism/dualism issue would also explain why it is so difficult for psychologists to see the views of one another. It is only logical that a radical behaviorist would merely scoff at the mention of God if He cannot even accept the notion of the human mind and its thoughts. I wonder what will stop this continual swinging of the pendulum.

 

The Future of Psychology

            I believe that one day, psychology will become more rational and cohesive as a discipline and that a deeper understanding of ourselves will be revealed to us because of it. I too, as an individual, plan to continue to examine myself and learn more about who I am and why I am here. I still have many unanswered questions, and therefore will ever be seeking the answers to life the universe and everything!

 

PART B:  THE VOICES OF AUTHORITY

An Introduction

            Having completed an examination of two of my most fundamental beliefs, where they came from, and why, I will now present my exploration of what the literature - the voice of authority has to say. Although I have chosen to narrow the topic to the question of whether or not God exists, it is impossible to separate this question from the notions of immortality and dualism, so I will also make many references to these topics in pursuit of the question: Does God exist? I will present the views and arguments contained in six sources, three that agree with my point of view, and three that disagree. I shall also attempt to choose references from the past through to the present in order to give the reader some sense of the historical development of mankind’s search for an answer to the question of God’s existence.

 

Plato (428 B.C. - 348 B.C.)

            Having been personally influenced at an early age by the writings of Plato, I decided that I would like to pursue his beliefs further. The sources in Hamilton library both by Plato and about Plato were bountiful. The difficult part was in choosing! My UH Carl search turned up several titles, many of which were not on the shelves. In my browsing, I came across Ancient Beliefs in the Immortality of the Soul by George Depue Hadzsits, Ph.D., and David Moore Robinson, Ph.D., LL.D., both professors of the University of Cambridge. I believe this constitutes a valid voice. The book was first published in 1931, and refers to itself as both a work of philosophy and of theology. Its library of congress subject heading is ‘Immortality’, and its call number is BLS3O.M6. The book is written in a scholarly and objective fashion, but leans toward praising the contributions of the ancients from Greece and Rome. I would not say the book comes from any particular psychological school of thought itself, rather it points out the schools of thought of its subjects, i.e. Plato’s dualistic point of view.

I selected this book as it is contains an interpretation of Plato versus choosing a primary source document because I do not yet feel as though I have the experience or authority to interpret solely on my own until I listen and learn from others first. Also, it meshes with my notion that not all proof is physical and external, rather proof is often spiritual and internal.

           

            As Hadszits and Robinson say of Plato:

                                                Plato was by nature a poet, with a deep strain of religious mysticism in his nature. He

                                                starts with the concept of the soul as something apart from the body, belonging to a

                                                different world from that of the body, and therefore pre existent and independent.

                                                Hence, his thorough going dualism . . . was parallel to his doctrine of “forms” of “ideas”

                                                which can be apprehended only by reason. . . and this world of “ideas” of ‘forms,”

                                                exists quite apart from the phenomenal world; coming into being only through . . the

                                                mind of God. (Hadszits and Robinson, 1931, p.31).

 

My Thoughts

            This quote illustrates the notion from Part H of my essay wherein I state my belief that the human ability simply to conceive of God is a solid argument for His existence. (p.4) In the above interpretation, I believe that Plato is interpreted as saying that we are all born with the ability to understand concepts that we can never experience here in the physical world. This ability comes from our mind which in turn comes from God.

The logical question that follows from this is: ‘Why would we be able to conceive of things that could not possibly exist either in the past, the present or the future? I believe the answer is that we cannot. Therefore, since we can conceive of the possibility of God and God’s omnipotence that spans all space and time, He therefore must have always existed and necessarily always will. For, if we can conceive of the possibility of God, it is not enough to say that lie possibly exists. The conception of the possibility of God as timeless merits the acceptance of His infinite existence.

            Doing this part of my research served to reaffirm and clarify beliefs that I originally got from Plato, but now carry as my own. I also learned that Plato was a pure rationalist (see glossary); he believed that truths could be found through reason alone and that sensory experience was unnecessary. I disagree with Plato on this point, for I see value in both rationalism and empiricism. Also, it is evident that Plato was an idealist (see glossary) as is obvious in his postulation of ‘ideas’ and ‘forms’ as the divinely given reality from God. Reading this source was a rediscovery for me and I am going to thoroughly re-read Plato’s Republic over the summer simply for my own enjoyment.

 

The Cosmological Argument

            In my UH Carl search, I also found another source that relates to Part 0 of my essay. It is: The Cosmological Argument from Plato to Leibniz by William Lane Craig, call number 8T98.C7. It is under the Library of Congress categories of: God, Proof, and Cosmological History of Doctrines. The book was edited by John Hick and H.G. Wood, both professors of Theology at the University of Birmingham who write in a scholarly and impartial fashion.  The book is part of a series of books put out to explore contemporary religious understandings of man and the universe. I believe the source is credible.

            This book was one of my favorites to read for it is a collection of cosmological arguments (see glossary) and their subsequent interpretations by the authors. It was difficult to decide which ones to cite.

 

Benedict tie Spinoza (1632-1677),Thomas Aquinas (1255- 1214) and G.W.F. Leibniz (1646-171 6):  God Necessarily Exists

            I decided to choose Benedict de Spinoza’s , Thomas liquinas’ , and 6.W.F. Leibniz’s arguments because I see similarities between them and a currently popular form of argument (which I will refer to later) for the existence of God. Spinoza’s logic can be summarized as follows:                                                                                                                          

                                                                        1. Inability to exist is impotence, while ability to exist is power.

                                                                                    a. This is self-evident.

                                                                        2. If only finite beings exist, then finite

                                                                        beings are more powerful than absolutely infinite being.
                                                                        3. But this is absurd.    

                                                                        4. Therefore, either nothing exists or being

                                                                        absolutely infinite necessarily exists.

                                                                        5. But we ourselves exist.         

                                                                        6. Therefore, being absolutely infinite, or God,

                                                                        necessarily exists. (Craig, 1980, p. 244)

           

            The significance of this argument is the notion that God must necessarily exist, for this is a much more powerful conclusion than simply stating that He possibly exists. From the above quote, I believe it is rational to conclude that Spinoza must hate embraced pantheism (see glossary) for does he not separate man from God, rather he insinuates God’s infiniteness in everything, and that nothing is finite.

            I would like to add the argument of Thomas Aquinas to further support the idea of necessary existence:

 

                                                            1. We see in the world things that exist but do not have to exist, that is to say,                                                                                                                            their existence is not necessary but merely possible.

                                                                        a. For we see them coming into being and going out of being.

                                                            2. All things cannot be merely possible things because:

                                                                        a. if a thing is merely possible, then at some time, it did not exist,

                                                                        b. and if all things were merely possible then at some time all things did

                                                                        not exist, there was nothing.

                                                                        c. But if at one time nothing existed, then nothing would exist now

                                                                                    1. because something that does not exist cannot bring itself into

                                                                                    existence.

                                                                        d. But this contradicts observation.

                                                                        e. Therefore, all things cannot be merely possible things; there must be

                                                                        some thing necessary.

                                                            3. H necessary thing may owe the necessity of its existence either to another thing

                                                            or to itself.

                                                            4. The series of necessary things which owe the necessity of their existence to

                                                            another thing cannot be endless because:

                                                                        a. (See the reasoning in the second way concerning things caused by another.)

                                                            5. Therefore, there must be an absolutely necessary thing which is necessary of itself

                                                            and causes the necessity of existence in other necessary things. (Craig, 1980, p.182)

 

           

             I believe that both of these arguments support my contention that life is meaningless without the existence of God. (Part H, p.4) Spinoza and Aquinas have taken my idea one step further, and argue that there would be no life, in tact, there would be nothing without God. This caused me to think beyond what I had thought before. I had imagined that life would exist as a meaningless and despairing endeavor without God. Out, after having read Aquinas and Spinoza, I realize that rationally, without God, there would be no life at all.

            Regarding Aquinas’ school of thought I believe his following statement makes it clear that he was both a rationalist and a empiricist: “We can know the existence of God by our natural powers of reasoning, and . . . God’s effects . . . serve to demonstrate that God exists , , ,” (Craig, 1980, p. 159) If we assume Cod to be omnipotent, then his ‘effects’ constitute both physical events and mental events.

 

G.W.F. Leibniz (1646 - 1716)

            I chose to include Leibniz at this point of my essay, because it is his argument specifically that I will later present an opposition to. Also, Leibniz used both a cosmological argument and an ontological argument for the existence of God. The ontological argument will be the next topic of this essay following my discussion of Leibniz’s cosmological argument.

            Leibniz based his argument on two principals, the law of contradiction and the principle of sufficient reason. Leibniz sags: “Our reasoning are founded on two great principles, that of contradiction, in virtue of which we judge that to be false which involves contradiction, and that true which is opposed or contradictory to the false. find that of sufficient reason, in virtue of which we hold that no fact can he real or existent, no statement true, unless there be a sufficient reason why it is so and not otherwise, although most often these reasons cannot be known to us.” (Craig, 1980, p.258-259)

Again, I see the notion of rational reason in Leibniz’s principles. Heading Leibniz made me aware of get another solid argument that contends that our rational mind has validity, and that although we may not be aware of all of the answers, we are inherently capable of learning by looking inward. Leibniz was also not opposed to physical, empirical data and evidence. He once remarked: “I believe also that nearly all the means which have been employed to prove the e of God are good and might be of service, if we perfect them (Craig, 1980, p. 257).”

            It is not surprising then that Leibniz also made use of the ontological argument. Basically, Leibniz concluded that there is nothing with a reason, or no effect without a cause. In effect, this also means that in every truth, “... the predicate is contained in the subject; therefore every truth can be demonstrated a priori (see glossary) by the simple analysis of its terms.” (Craig, 1980, p. 265) Herein lies the basic assumption of the ontological argument. 

 

The Ontological Argument

            The final source that I chose that was in agreement with my point of view presents an argument for the validity of the ontological argument for the existence of God. An ontological argument is an a priori argument for the existence of God, asserting that as existence is a perfection, and as God is described as the most perfect being, it follows that God must exist (Webster’s, 1991, p. 1007).

            As a result of my CD RUM search, I found many appropriate journals. I ended up choosing an article entitled: Has the ontological argument been refuted?, by William F. Vallicella in the journal, Religious Studies.  The journal is published by the Cambridge University Press and although I am unfamiliar with it, the articles were all well written and correctly substantiated through cited resources. I therefore concluded that the article I chose was like-wise valid. The argument presented by the author is powerful and well-argued in a very rational and scholarly manner. The journal is based in the discipline of religion and it falls under the Library of Congress categories of:  Religious Periodicals and Theological Periodicals. Its call number is BL1.R43.

            The author of the article is definitely coming from a rationalist’s point of view, so his voice is certainly not impartial. However, I believe his argument is properly presented and therefore has credibility.

 

An Opposition to the Ontological Argument

            At this point, I am also going to make references to two sources that disagree with my point of view:  John C. Wingard Jr.’s, On a not quite yet “victorious” modal version of the ontological argument for the existence of God, International Journal for Philosophy of Religion.  I located the journal through my CD ROM search; its call number is BL51.l65 and its Library of Congress subject headings are: Religious Periodicals and Philosophy Periodicals.

            The author of this article is also comes from a rationalist’s point of view and he presents a well-argued and well-cited paper. He is very scholarly and very thorough. The reason I selected it was because it provided an opposing view to mine.

 

A Brief History of the Ontological Argument

            The ontological argument was originated by Anselm and later used by nuns Scotus, Descartes, and, as I mentioned above, Leibniz. (Webster’s 1991, p. 1007) Throughout history, the argument has taken many different forms in an effort to make it infallible. Of course, for every brilliant form, there has always been someone with an equally brilliant counter argument. I decided to choose very recent articles, both for and against, so that I could give an account of the present status of the argument both in the minds of those who agree and those who disagree. Also, both articles contain references to their contemporaries and to those in the past who made significant contributions. On the whole, I found these two articles to be outstanding representations of the current ponderings about the question of this essay, Does God Exist’?”

 

A Case For the Ontological Argument

            A ‘bare-bones’ example of the ontological argument is the following:

                                                                        If God Exists, then necessarily God Exists.

                                                                        It is possible that God exists.

                                                                        Therefore, necessarily God Exists.

                                                                        (Wingard, 1993, p. 47)

 

            The argument stands on the premise of pre-defining what God is. I read through many versions of the argument and God was referred to in several wags. In one case, He was called ‘the being with unsurpassable greatness’, and in another, ‘the greatest conceivable being’. These terms are aimed at keeping the reader in mind of what writer means when he says God. God is perfection, omnipotence and timelessness. Therefore, if we look at the first line, ‘If God Exists, then necessarily God Exists’, the assumption is that an omnipotent being would not exist by accident alone, or He would not be perfect. “Most theists would want to deny that God just happens to be a being than which none greater can be conceived. What theists usually mean by “God” is not a being who is contingently such that it exemplifies unsurpassed and unsurpassable greatness, but one who necessarily is such (Wingard, 1993, p. 49).”

            Therefore, since it is possible that God exists, given the nature of what God is, He must necessarily exist. In Leibniz’s words we find that: “... God alone (or the necessary being) has the privilege of existing necessarily, provided only that He is possible. Now since nothing can hinder the possibility of the substance which contains no limits, no negation, and hence no contradiction, this provides a sufficient reason for the knowledge a priori of God’s Existence (Vallicella, 1993, p. 102).

            It is God’s noncontingent modal status, i.e. He needs not depend on anyone/anything else, that drives the argument so that “... all one would need to assume is the possibility of the Greatest Possible Being to derive its existence (Vallicella, 1993, p. 102).”

            This argument appeals to me and intuitively, I can see validity in it. 11 I reflected on it, it also appears to me that the argument is saying that if we can conceive of something, then possibly it exists. However, God cannot be both possible and not exist, for to be God, lie must exist. God could not not exist. This makes sense to me, however, in order to accept the argument, one has to first swallow the premise, and I found in my research that not everyone does.

 

Kant’s Objection

            Kant says that “…. in his proof of the possibility God, Leibniz confused the possibility of this concept with the possibility of the thing itself. Leibniz should have concluded only that the idea of such a thing is possible. For the tact that there is nothing contradictory in a concept of a thing does prove that it is the concept of something possible, but it does not yet prove the possibility of the object of the idea.” (I 1995, p. 103)

            I can see Kant’s reasoning here, but if I understand it correctly, I believe it is incorrect. I will address this issue at a later point in conjunction with a similar finding elsewhere.

 

A Case Against the Ontological Argument

            In Wingard’s article refuting the validity of the ontological argument, he attacks Alvin Plantinqa’s “victorious’ modal version of it:

                        1. There is a possible world in which unsurpassable greatness is exemplified.

                        2. It is necessarily true that a thing has unsurpassable greatness if and only if it has maximal excellence in every possible world.

                        3. It is necessarily true that whatever has maximal excellence is omnipotent, omniscient and morally perfect.

                        4. From (1) and (2) if follows that unsurpassable greatness is exemplified in every possible world.

                        5. Therefore, there actually exists a being who is omnipotent, omniscient, and morally perfect, and who exists and exemplifies these properties in                     every possible world. (Wingard, 1993, p.49)

            Wingard believes that the argument is invalid because it has not succeeded in giving us adequate reason to believe that God’s existence is and must be necessary.” (Wingard, 1993, p. 48) As it stands, according to Wingard, all this argument gives us is a necessary being which is possibly maximally great, but not necessarily guaranteed to be so. This being may in fact fall short of maximal greatness.

            Furthermore, Wingard believes that the transition from the claim that the greatness of being depends upon what it is like in other worlds to the claim that the greatest possible being must have maximal excellence in every possible world is inadequately unjustified. He feels that existence is being treated as a necessary condition for perfection and not as a great-making property. Wingard says that “. . . there might be no reason to deny the inclusion of necessary existence in the definition of unsurpassable greatness; but on the other hand, there is no reason given here to think that an unsurpassable great being must necessarily exist, either.” (Wingard, 1993, p. 51)

 

A Question

            Immediately after reading this refutation, I questioned it. My bias is already evident, but part of the purpose of this essay is to examine if reading something changes you in any way, or makes a difference. This, and Kant’s objection both served to reinforce my bias. My question is: How can something be unsurpassable great if it does not exist? Of course it has to exist. As I earlier quoted Spinoza on page 15 of this essay, ‘Inability to exist is impotence, while ability to exist is power. This is self evident.’ I agree with Kant that the possibility of something existing does not guarantee the existence of the object, except in the case of God, for in my mind, God cannot be both possible, get non-existent. My exploration of the ontological argument has caused me to see it as valid and rational.

 

Another Opposing View

            Not all views against the existence of God take the form of a logical argument. Such is the case of my next source entitled: How Jesus got a life, in the journal, American Atheist I found this journal in my CD RUM search. Its library of Congress Subject Headings is: Atheism Periodicals and Humanism Periodicals. Its call number is BL2700.443.

            This journal purports itself as nonprofit, nonpolitical, educational organization that is dedicated to the separation of church and state based upon its interpretation of the First Amendment. The journal is not impartial and it contains a variety of scholarly articles written by highly educated individuals as well as ‘popular’ contributions such as poetry submitted by readers and photographs of the society’s recent annual convention. I believe the source is valid in that it is a representation of the views of many Americans.

 

Atheism and Materialism

            In terms of its school of thought, I believe they express it best themselves:

                                                Atheism may be defined as the mental attitude which unreservedly accepts the                                                                                                                            supremacy of reason and aims at establishing a life-style and ethical outlook                                                                                                                                    verifiable by experience and the scientific method, independent of all arbitrary                                                                                                                                    assumptions of authority and creeds. Materialism declares that the cosmos is

                                                devoid of immanent conscious purpose; that it is governed by its own inherent,

                                                immutable, and impersonal laws; that there is no supernatural interference in

                                                human life; that man — finding his resources within himself - can and must create

                                                his own destiny. Materialism restores to man his dignity and his intellectual integrity.

                                                It teaches that we must prize our life on earth and strive always to improve it. It

                                                holds that man is capable of creating a social system based on reason and justice.

                                                “Materialism’s faith” is in man and man’s ability to transform the world culture by

                                                his own efforts. (American Atheists, Inc., 1992)

 

            The author of the article I chose, How Jesus got a life, is an ex—professor of biology and geology, but the journal does not cite at which institution. Currently, Frank R. Zindler is a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Chemical Society, and the American Schools of Oriental Research. Zindler’s writing meshes with the journal’s school of thought in that the author is materialistic and he is an atheist. I recognize the validity of the author’s education and his research, and I believe his argument is well constructed. However, I do not trust the author because of my own personal bias against the tenets of both atheism and materialism.

            This article relates to part A of my essay in that it completely opposes my belief in the notions of ‘mind’, ‘spirit’ or anything for that matter that exists beyond the physical world.

 

lnventing Christ

            The question asked by the article is “If Jesus never existed, whence came his biography?” (Zindler, 1992, p. 46) Zindler wrote this article as a ‘taste of what is to come’ for he is currently awaiting publication of his forthcoming book entitled, Inventing Christ The basic premise of his article is that Christianity evolved for a variety of reasons, none of them having anything to do with God or the Divinely inspired. For example, Zindler says: “There is no convincing evidence to make one suppose that any of the surviving ‘Gospels” were written by eyewitnesses. Indeed, study of the Gospels shows quite conclusively that they were not. For example, the authors of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke incorporate nearly the entire Greek text of the Gospel of Mark, adding sayings taken from yet another document (the so-called “0-Document”), and generally make the miracles recounted by Mark even more miraculous. Had Matthew and Luke been eyewitnesses, they would have written their own accounts, without recourse to plagiarism.” (Zindler, 1992, p. 46)

 

The Vacuum That is Christ

            Zindler cites some nine well-documented anomalies or inconsistencies in the recordings of the biography of Jesus Christ. He offers a non-divine explanation for each of them to explain where the fictitious Jesus ‘really’ came from. He concludes his piece by saying that, “It is time now for the vacuum that is Christ, not the footprints of scholars, to be filled in with sand. It is past the time when mythical beings should be taken seriously. The time has arrived for biblical scholars to stand upon the same solid foundation on which the Marquis de Laplace stood when questioned by the Emperor of France. When asked about the historical Jesus, all should be able to reply: I have had no need of that hypothesis.’ (Zindler, 1992, p. 54)

 

My Response

            I have no doubt that there are problems with the recorded history of Jesus Christ and that a lot of confusion does exist. I’m also convinced that Mr. Zindler has thoroughly done his homework. However, I place no credence whatsoever in his argument for in my eyes, he is not a rational person. To begin with, Zindler completely denies everything but physical evidence. It is my understanding that many of the stories surrounding Christ are just that - stories to illustrate a point. Consequently, no matter how deeply Mr. Zindler digs, he will never find the Ark.

            Also, I believe he destroys the credibility of much of the research he has done due to his unchecked editorializing. He criticizes Christianity for drawing conclusions without evidence, so my question to Mr. Zindler is how is it that he knows that ‘had Matthew and Luke been eyewitnesses, they would have written their own accounts, without recourse to plagiarism.’ Perhaps this is a conclusion 01 common sense, but he states it as though he was there or that someone told him. He makes the same error as the one he is criticizing.

 

The Illusion of Immortality

            The final source that I chose comprises my sixth source and it presents an opposing view to my belief in God and Eternal Life as presented in part H of my essay. I found The Illusion of Immortality during my UH CARL search. Its Library of Congress subject heading is: Immortality, and its call number is:

BT921.L167.   It is a complete volume written by Corliss Lamont and first published in 1935. The author is still living and he has continued to revise and rewrite the volume extensively for four subsequent editions, including the 1990 edition which is the one I will cite from. In the preface, Lamont sets the tone for the book by stating that, “I take the position that death is the end of the human personality. I would welcome heartily any concrete evidence or valid reasoning tending to establish man’s immortality. In reaching my ultimate conclusions, however, I have constantly tried to keep in mind George Santagana’s saying that true wisdom ‘consists in abandoning our illusions the better to attain our ideals’.”(Lamont, 1965)

            In an introduction by John Dewey, the tone is further solidified: “While the conclusion of this book is that belief in immortality is an illusion and upon the whole a harmful one, the book is pervaded with a strong sense, one may sag a sympathetic sense, of the things in human life that , quite apart from arguments, have created the longing for personal immortality and built up the illusion.”(Lamont, 1965, xi)

            I chose this book because it seemed to have more of a ‘searching tone, versus the manipulative tone of American Atheist.  Rather than displaying the factual inconsistencies in the history of Jesus Christ, it takes a look a people and tries to explain why the ‘illusion of immortality’ arose.

 

Lamont’s Conclusions

            Lamont concludes that primarily we contemplate the existence of God simply because we can - we possess the intellectual capabilities to do so. Furthermore, we contemplate God because we want immortality and that God is in fact less important to people that the eternal life that he provides. “.

God’s existence is important chiefly as a warrant for personal continuance.” (Lamont, 1980, p.276)

            Lamont also says that accepting the fact of our mortality can be liberating in that it frees us from debasing fear and shallow optimism. He believes that one who accepts his death is courageous for doing so. ‘Man alone knows that he must die; but that very knowledge raises him, in a sense, above mortality, by making him a sharer in the vision of eternal truth . . . The truth is cruel, but it can be loved, and it makes free those who to the welfare of society. “The knowledge that immortality is an illusion frees us from any sort of preoccupation with the subject of death. It makes death, in a sense, unimportant. It liberates all our energy and time for the realization and extension of the happy potentialities of this good earth.” (Lamont, 1980, p.278)

 

A Difference

            Reading Lamont’s book made a difference in my outlook. Whereas I felt somewhat hostile toward Zindler, I found myself feeling the same pity for Lamont that Dewey reported Lamont feeling for people like me (those of us who cannot accept that Cod does not exist). I believe that all of the consequences that Lamont talks about such as liberty and happiness in fact come from realizing that we are eternal, not from realizing that we’re not.

 

Conclusion

            Doing the research necessary to complete this paper did not change my fundamental views in any way. It primarily served to reaffirm them. Regarding opposing views, my research certainly made me consider them more thoroughly, but I was not able to accept the contention that Cod does not exist.

As I did the research, it was obvious to me that most of ‘my’ ideas in fact originated somewhere else and I assimilated them through the books I’ve read and also simply by living within the culture that I do. It was also apparent to me that for every idea/value/moral that I hold, there is an opposing one available to me through literature and culture. Therefore I must conclude that although we are influenced by our environment, we are ultimately responsible for any views we hold because we have the freedom to accept them or to reject them.

            This was a valuable, albeit painful experience for me. In the beginning, I swamped myself with resources and then had the difficult task of narrowing it down to six. Also, the articles I chose concerning the ontological argument were very complex and sophisticated pieces of writing. It was a challenge to understand and interpret them correctly. I would recommend this to other students for two reasons. First of all, because the expectations for format were so strict, I learned a lot about APR style, and I really tried to follow it to the letter. Most importantly though, this exercise forces you to get in touch with your fundamental beliefs and to examine their sources.

 

 

Glossary

a priori: from cause to effect; trim a general law to a particular instance; valid independently of observation.

cosmological argument: an argument for the existence of God, asserting that the contingency of each entity, and of the universe composed wholly of such entities, demands the admission of an adequate external cause, which is God.

 

idealism: treatment of subject matter in a work in which a mental conception of beauty or form is stressed.

pantheism: the doctrine that God is the transcendent reality of which the material universe and man are only manifestations: it involves a denial of God’s personality and expresses a tendency to identify God and nature.

 

 

References

 

Craig, William Lane. (1980). The cosmological argument from Plato to Leibniz. London: The Macmillan Press Ltd.

 

Hadzsits, George Depue and Robinson, David Moore. (1963). Ancient beliefs in the immortality of the soul. New York:  Cooper Square Publishers.

 

Hergenhahn, O.K. (1992). An introduction to the history of psychology, 2nd Ed. Belmont California: Wadsworth Publishing Company.

 

Lamont, Corliss. (1980). The illusion of immortality. New York: The Continuum Publishing Company

 

Vallicella, William F. (1993). Has the ontological argument been refuted?  Religious Studies. 29, 97-110.

 

Webster (1991). Webster’s encyclopedic unabridged dictionary. New York: Gramercy Books.

 

Wingard, John C.Jr. (1993). On a not quite yet ‘victorious” modal version of the ontological argument for the existence of God. International Journal for Philosophy          of Religion. 33 47-57.

 

Zindler, Frank K. (1992). How Jesus got a life. American Atheist. 34, 46-55.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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