Belief

Is Belief In God A Rational Position?

By Ryan Pauly

Is it a rational position to believe that there is an all-powerful God who created the world and gives us purpose? This question has become the topic of many debates over the years. One of the reasons is because its answer has eternal significance. “The existence of a personal, moral God is fundamental to all that Christians believe.”[1]Without a foundation in God, Christianity would crumble to the ground. Without God, man would just be an accident; a result of matter coming together and changing over time. This would create random accidental beings, and there would be no meaning, value or purpose.[2] However, with God, we have meaning, value, purpose, and answers to many questions. But is this a rational position?

Rather than looking at personal likes and dislikes, we need objective arguments based in logic to help us understand if belief in God is rational. To just say, “I feel” or “I think” is not enough. There have been four basic arguments that have been used over the years to prove God’s existence, three of which will be covered here. These are arguments from creation (cosmological), design (teleological), and moral law (axiological). With these arguments we should be able to give a logical and objective approach to see if God’s existence is rational.

1. The Argument Based On Creation

The first argument comes from creation and is called the Kalam Cosmological Argument. It states that whatever begins to exist has a cause. The universe began to exist; therefore, the universe has a cause. The first premise shows to be true because it is clear that whatever begins to exist has a cause. We don’t see things coming into existence every day. Are you able to give an example of anything that came into existence from nothing and without a cause? The second premise stating that the universe had a beginning is supported by philosophy and science. Science and philosophy give us strong evidence that the universe cannot be eternal and has to have a starting point. One scientific example is the 2nd law of thermodynamics. It states that the universe is running out of usable energy. “If the universe is running out of energy, and it has been here infinitely long, it would have run out of its energy infinitely long ago.”[3] Based on the first two premises, the conclusion follows that the universe has a cause. Whatever this first cause was had to be spaceless, timeless, uncaused, all powerful and immaterial. That sounds a lot like God.

2. The Argument Based On Design

The cosmological argument open the door for a rational belief in God, and when added, the second argument strengthens our case for a rational belief in God. The second argument is based on design and is the teleological argument. The design argument deals with the presence of order in the universe. This order can be explained by either scientific laws or personal explanations.[4] Scientific laws explain things like the law of gravity or the laws of motion. Personal explanations describe things like ability, intention, or order. For example, there is no scientific law explaining why your phone is lying next to your computer. It is only the person who put the phone there that can explain why he/she did that.

One thing that all of these scientific laws and personal explanations show us is that there is order in the universe. The universe has been so finely tuned that the slightest change would create a disaster. Science has discovered this delicate balance over the last 25-30 years.[5] For example, if the mass of a proton changed in the slightest, there would be no possibility for life. These numbers are so finely tuned that there has to be an intelligent designer. In the same way that a building has an architect, a painting has a painter, a computer program has a programmer, and a code has an encoder, the universe has to have an intelligent designer to explain its order and intricacy.

One scientific finding that has caused problems for many atheists is the information stored in DNA. “Even atheist Richard Dawkins, in his book Blind Watchmaker, admits that the DNA information in a single-cell animal equals that in a thousand sets of an encyclopedia!”[6] It is hard to believe that someone would stumble across a thousand sets of an encyclopedia and think that they just randomly appeared out of pure chance. One scientist figured that the odds for this type of a single-cell organism to form by chance are 1 in 10 to the 40,000th power, and it is infinitely more complex for a human being to emerge by chance.[7] All of this shows that science does not disprove the existence of God but that the rational explanation is that there has to be an intelligent being that created and designed our highly ordered DNA.

3. The Argument Based On Moral Values

We have seen the need for a cause and an intelligent designer, so now let’s see if we need a moral law giver. The first thing to realize is that there really is right and wrong and everyone expects others to follow that moral code. These objective moral laws don’t show us what is, but what ought to be.[8] Unless you are in a position of authority, you cannot tell someone they ought to do something. You could possibly say you think they should or you think it would be better, but this turns into subjective morality. In order for there to be objective moral values for all people at all times, we need someone in an objective position of authority. Even governments can’t be this authority because then each government would create its own morality and everything would return back to being subjective. The only way to explain objective moral laws is to have an objective moral law giver, God.

It is also interesting that in order to deny moral absolutes; you have to make an absolute denial.[9] It is very hard and sometimes even impossible to hold to the point that there are no objective morals. As soon as someone does something you don’t like and you tell them that they shouldn’t do it, you are making a moral statement. You are claiming that there are objective morals and we ought to obey them. Any time someone claims there is evil in the world or that the world is unjust, they are affirming objective morality. So in fact, the attempt to deny the existence of God by using evil in the world actually confirms his existence. Without God there would be no right or wrong, just different decisions. It is easy to claim relativism and say there are no objective moral laws, but it is nearly impossible to live it. “A moral atheist is like someone sitting down to dinner who doesn’t believe in farmers, ranchers, fishermen, or cooks. She believes the food just appears, with no explanation and no sufficient cause.”[10]

These three arguments combined show us the need we have for a cause, an intelligent designer, and a moral law giver. There is no possible way that our universe could begin to exist, be intricately designed, and have objective moral laws without God. These scientific and philosophical arguments make a very strong case that belief in God is a rational position. The odds of having what we have without God would be too large to count. Even if life could be possible, without God it would be meaningless. The best explanation for all of the evidence that we have is that there really is a God and therefore it is a rational position to believe that God exists.

 

Ryan Pauly is a CrossExamined Instructor Academy Graduate.

Original Source For This Article: Is Belief In God A Rational Position?


 

[1] Norman Geisler, When Skeptics Ask (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2013) 9

[2] William Lane Craig. “The Absurdity of Life Without God.” Lecture

[3] J.P. Moreland, “Arguments for the existence of God.” Lecture

[4] J.P. Moreland, “Arguments for the Existence of God.” Lecture

[5] J.P. Moreland, “Arguments for the Existence of God.” Lecture

[6] Geisler 15

[7] Geisler 16

[8] Geisler 16

[9] Geisler 287

[10] Francis J. Beckwith and Gregory Koukl, Relativism (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998) 168

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29 replies
      • Andy Ryan says:

        Kalmaro: “How so?”

        I’ll take one: “The only way to explain objective moral laws is to have an objective moral law giver, God”

        How would the existence of a God explain objective moral laws?

        Here’s another: “Any time someone claims there is evil in the world or that the world is unjust, they are affirming objective morality.”

        Saying that the world is unequal is a simple statement of fact.

        And another: “The attempt to deny the existence of God by using evil in the world actually confirms his existence”

        One can argue that suffering in the world is inconsistent with the existence of the Christian God without ‘confirming his existence’. You can argue that it is NOT inconsistent or find fault with the person’s argument, but that doesn’t affect the fact that their argument doesn’t in any way ‘confirm his existence’.

        Here’s one of the worst arguments in the piece:
        “It is hard to believe that someone would stumble across a thousand sets of an encyclopedia and think that they just randomly appeared out of pure chance.”

        No-one argues they came about by pure chance or even mainly chance, so this is a complete straw man of the non-theistic position.

        “Are you able to give an example of anything that came into existence from nothing and without a cause?”

        One might as well ask if you are you able to give an example of a God creating a universe. Or give any attested example of anything happening at all from a supernatural cause.

        “We need objective arguments based in logic to help us understand if belief in God is rational. To just say, “I feel” or “I think” is not enough”

        But the evidence for objective morality here comes down to pointing out that people ‘feel’ things are moral or immoral. Where are the logical arguments for the existence of objective morality.

        Reply
          • Andy Ryan says:

            Mark, I made my points pretty clearly. Feel free to argue against any of them. Until you do, they all stand.

          • Mark says:

            I am arguing against them, Andy. If objective morality doesn’t exist, THEN YOUVE NEVER DONE ANYTHING WRONG. Is that what you are claiming, that you’ve never done anything wrong?

          • Andy Ryan says:

            Mark, you’ve not addressed a single one of my points. Read through my post again (or for the first time if you’ve not read it yet). And you’ll have to define what you mean by ‘wrong’ for me to answer your question – the false dichotomy you present suggests to me that you define it differently to me.

          • Andy Ryan says:

            Mark, I’ll point you again to the quote I was questioning:
            ““We need objective arguments based in logic to help us understand if belief in God is rational. To just say, “I feel” or “I think” is not enough”

            In reply, you’re asking me if I feel like I’ve ever done something that I feel is immoral. If the above quote is correct then you shouldn’t need to reply on my feelings about whether something is right or wrong or not, or whether I ‘feel guilty’ about anything I’ve done.

            However, you also ask this:
            “Ever treat anyone differently than you want to be treated?”

            Sure. But why is that evidence for God? Why would the rightness or wrongness of doing that be contingent on a God existing? If it was objectively wrong to do that, then that means it would be wrong regardless of whether a God exists. Or you’re saying it’s only wrong SUBJECT to the existence of a God.

        • craig says:

          Where are the logical arguments for the existence of objective morality

          If they were were presented to you to your satisfaction, would you embrace them?

          Reply
          • Andy Ryan says:

            “If they were were presented to you to your satisfaction, would you embrace them?”

            Why not start by presenting them, Craig? Both you and Mark are long on questions, short on arguments.

          • Mark says:

            When I say wrong Andy, I mean immoral. Have you ever done or said anything you knew was immoral? Ever lie? Ever cheat? Ever steal? Ever treat anyone differently than you want to be treated? Ever felt guilty about it later?
            You ask for logical proofs. If, as you seem to believe, objective morals do not exist, then it follows LOGICALLY AND INEVITABLY that you’ve never done or said anything really immoral. In fact, NO ONE, including Hitler, Stalin Mao, etc. has ever done anything immoral. There is no evil in the world right now, if objective moral values do not exist. Do you believe that?

  1. Mark says:

    Andy: “If it was objectively wrong to do that (treat others differently than you want to be treated), then that means it would be wrong whether or not a God existed.”

    FALSE. Objective right and wrong means BEYOND HUMAN OPINION. If no God exists, then there is NOTHING beyond human opinion. And yet everyone knows that even if the whole world saw nothing wrong with the Holocaust, IT WOULD STILL BE WRONG. And you cannot have an objective moral law without an objective moral lawgiver.

    Andy, you admit to having broken the Golden Rule (as have we all). Therefore you admit to the existence of at least one objective moral law. Therefore God, the objective moral lawgiver, exists, for He has written His law into your heart.

    Reply
    • Andy Ryan says:

      “FALSE. Objective right and wrong means BEYOND HUMAN OPINION. ”

      Who says? If it’s objective then it shouldn’t rely on anyone’s opinion, even a deity’s. By definition if it subject to an opinion then it’s not objective.

      “And yet everyone knows that even if the whole world”

      That sentence kind of contradicts itself. You’re saying that everyone in the world agrees that this would be true even if everyone in the world disagreed on it. If human opinion is to be disregarded on it then how can you affirm the truth of it by referencing human opinion on the issue? Your own argument defeats itself.

      “Andy, you admit to having broken the Golden Rule (as have we all). Therefore you admit to the existence of at least one objective moral law.”

      No Mark, that doesn’t logically follow at all. To say I have treated people other than I would wish to be treated is just a statement of fact. It doesn’t mean that an objective moral law exists, it just means that I have treated people other than I would wish to be treated. That’s like a Muslim saying that a person eating bacon means objective moral laws exist – all they’ve done is shown that someone has breached a rule that they believe to be an objective moral.

      And again, if you’re saying that that would only be morally wrong if a God existed then you can’t also argue that it’s objectively wrong, as you’ve placed a condition on the moral law’s existence.

      Reply
      • Mark says:

        Andy: “To say I have treated people other than I would wish to be treated is simply a statement of fact. It doesn’t mean that an objective moral law exists.”
        You seem to be claiming no objective moral dimensions to your mistreatment of others, If breaking the Golden Rule isn’t really, truly wrong,
        then you haven’t broken the Golden Rule, you’ve broken the Golden Opinion.

        If moral values are not objective (beyond human opinion), then they are subjective (subject to human opinion). Therefore they are subject to a vote.

        Do you believe the evil of the Holocaust is subject to a vote, Andy? The Nazis at Nuremberg did. They claimed they were just following “German morality” when they slaughtered their millions. The Allies disagreed, saying thàt there was a HIGHER MORAL LAW that they should have obeyed. Do you agree?

        If there is no higher moral law, then we shouldn’t have hanged these men. Who says our values are better than theirs? What right do we have to force our values on them? Awaiting your reply.

        Reply
        • Andy Ryan says:

          “You seem to be claiming no objective moral dimensions to your mistreatment of others”

          I never claimed that.

          “If moral values are not objective (beyond human opinion)”

          Objective means not subject to ANY opinion. Why specify human? Where in the definition of ‘objective’ is human opinion singled out?

          “Do you believe the evil of the Holocaust is subject to a vote, Andy? The Nazis at Nuremberg did”

          Do you believe that if God backed the Nazis, that would mean they were ‘objectively moral’?

          “They claimed they were just following “German morality” when they slaughtered their millions”

          Actually they claimed to be “Doing the Lord’s work”.

          “If breaking the Golden Rule isn’t really, truly wrong,
          then you haven’t broken the Golden Rule, you’ve broken the Golden Opinion.”

          If you don’t think the Golden Rule would apply in a Godless universe then you don’t really believe in the Golden Rule. It’s just a Golden Edict. What makes it actually moral, rather than just an instruction or no greater validity or lesser arbitrariness than ‘Don’t eat bacon’?

          Reply
          • Mark says:

            There are no rules, Golden or otherwise, in a Godless universe. Only opinion. That’s the whole point of the Moral Argument. Do you believe the evil of the Holocaust is subject to opinion, Andy? Yes or no?

  2. Mark says:

    P.S. I never asked you if you “felt” like you’d ever done anything you “felt” was immoral, Andy. I asked you if you’ve ever done or said anything you KNEW was immoral. You answered in the affirmative.

    Reply
    • Andy Ryan says:

      I answered in the affirmative to: “Ever treat anyone differently than you want to be treated?”, which is a yes or no question that doesn’t need ‘objective moral values’ to be true or false.

      As for ‘knowing’ something to be ‘immoral’, you’re using loaded terms. When does ‘believing’ something or ‘feeling’ something to be the case turn into ‘knowing’? If for you ‘moral’ means ‘reflects the character of the Christian God’ then you and I mean different things by the words. For me, if the right or wrongness of something depends on the character/opinion of a God, then it’s not objective right or wrongness. I don’t even see how that adds up to a moral system at all.

      Reply
        • Andy Ryan says:

          Again, I said nothing remotely like that. You seem to be ignoring everything I say to ask me questions irrelevant to my points.

          Reply
        • Andy Ryan says:

          Mark, I don’t know what you mean by immorally, as I have the feeling you mean something completely different to me when you use the word. I get the feeling you mean ‘contrary to the will or nature of God’, which doesn’t mean immoral to me.

          You never addressed any of these points I made before:

          “If moral values are not objective (beyond human opinion)”

          Objective means not subject to ANY opinion. Why specify human? Where in the definition of ‘objective’ is human opinion singled out?

          “Do you believe the evil of the Holocaust is subject to a vote, Andy? The Nazis at Nuremberg did”

          Do you believe that if God backed the Nazis, that would mean they were ‘objectively moral’?

          “They claimed they were just following “German morality” when they slaughtered their millions”

          Actually they claimed to be “Doing the Lord’s work”.

          “If breaking the Golden Rule isn’t really, truly wrong,
          then you haven’t broken the Golden Rule, you’ve broken the Golden Opinion.”

          If you don’t think the Golden Rule would apply in a Godless universe then you don’t really believe in the Golden Rule. It’s just a Golden Edict. What makes it actually moral, rather than just an instruction or no greater validity or lesser arbitrariness than ‘Don’t eat bacon’?

          Reply
  3. Vladimir says:

    Interesting article. Even though I believe in God and I agree with those arguments, I think this article is too short to explain the whole matter. Lot of the books are written on that matter, and the attempt to tackle so big question in this short article is nearly impossible.
    I’m not going to try to convince you that God exist, but let me make a challenge for anyone who is skeptic.
    If God does not exist, oh well, you can continue with your life. But If he does, it have really deep impact on your whole life. It will change from the grounds up.
    1. Get rid of all presupositions. This is critical, to be open to all conclusions you come across.
    2. Be objective, use scientific approach.
    3. Use your own logic when you investigate.
    4. Don’t make decission based on what would you like to be the solution, but seek the truth sincerely.
    5. Trust no one, investigate everything, even some “scientific” assumptions might be faulty.
    6. Don’t confuse priests, Christians, believers, pastors, crusaders, inquisition and their “attempts” to follow God… with God. Very often they were blinded by their ambition, their greed, lust or hunger for power. Also, they often misinterpreted the word of God. They weren’t true seekers. It make more damage to Christianity.

    I am investigating everything myself, and it is long road to walk, but it’s worth it. In my journey, I’ve went through: historic, mathematic, linguistic, archeological, genetics, behaviorism, science, chemistry, periodic system of elements, anatomy, astronomy, biology, geography, nations migrations, architecture, design and aesthetics proof. I investigated everything thourally. I’m desinger myself, and trust me God put his fingerprint on everything. But you need to look closely. It is hidden in the plain sight. You can see it, but you need to be sincere.

    I hope you will accept the challenge nd start your own journey.

    Reply

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