The Philosophy of Religion Essay Example
For as long as Christianity and like religions have existed philosophers, scientists and all people alike have feuded over the legitimacy of the existence of God. As the years have gone by the tensions between the believers and the non-believers have grown, as well as their resonating opinions of the big question: does God exist? Since we can not see God, hear God, nor touch God, it is hard to conceive him in any way that makes sense, and therefore it is easier to assume that he does not exist. Through the use of philosophical arguments, one can decide on their own if they believe God exists or not. While even some of the greatest philosophical findings in favor of Christianity can be countered with opposing arguments that pose threats to the accuracy of these ideas, many religious people find at least some security in their faith when exploring these theories. Ontological, causal and teleological arguments, stemming from some of the greatest religious philosophers of all time, all do a sufficient job in supporting the idea that God probably exists.
One of the most convincing, and controversial, arguments in favor of Christianity is the ontological argument. The ontological argument was first introduced by philosopher, Saint Anselm, who served as an archbishop to the Church of England. Although at the time, his theories did not earn him much credit, he is now seen as the father of the ontological argument. Anselm stems his argument by first declaring a definition of God as being the greatest possible being in the world. He then explains that if this definition is accepted to be true, that God must exist because if he did not he could not be the greatest being. In other words, a perfect, all good being would fail to be either of these things without the essence of existence. As humans we imagine God in many ways, but no matter how we imagine him, he fails to be God unless he exists. His theory states that God is the greatest being, and because he is the greatest being he must be real.
Critics and skeptics would say that the biggest contradiction to Anselm’s theory is that we as humans can not simply imagine something into existence. Not to mention, if Anselm’s definition of God was not entirely true, than his reasoning behind the existence of God would fail. To counter this major argument one can look at the work of philosopher Maimonides. Maimonides was one of the most astounding Torah scholars of his time, and helped a lot in aiding the public’s understanding and acceptance of the idea of God. Maimonides would argue that God is so great, that his very being is beyond our comprehension.
This being said, as people, we have to acknowledge the fact that we will never be able to truly understand God, for we have no understanding of what the ‘perfect being’ really is. In our Earthly lifetime, we will never encounter a person or thing that even comes close to the greatness of God therefore we shouldn’t try to equate God to anything, because anything we imagine will be less than what He actually is. To counter critics arguments, Maimonides would agree with the fact that we can not imagine God, but this does not mean that he is not real. It simply means that He is beyond our understanding.
Good vs. Evil
Another argument commonly made against this idea that God is the greatest, all- good and perfect being, is the idea that if He is truly all good, then evil would not exist. This argument can be proven unfair by the work of philosopher, Augustine. Augustine was an extremely influential philosopher of his time, and although most of his theories and ideas lacked reason, some of his ideas planted the seeds for other revolutionary religious philosophers. Augustine would tell those who believed God was not good due to the presence of evil on Earth that there is a perfectly logical explanation as to why an all-good God would create a world where evil could exist. Augustine explains two ways in which a Godly world can exist with evil resonating within it. He first makes note of Plato’s Theory of Forms, which suggests that there is a hierarchy in this world which constitutes the realness and goodness of all things. Plato’s idea revolves around the idea that all Earthly things are mere imitations of the real, or ‘ideal’ things.
Augustine uses this theory and ties God to the true real, or ideal entity and believed that everything else simply fell lower on the pyramid of goodness. Augustine says that since God created the world, and God is all-good, the world, and all things in it, can not be evil-they can only be less good. Augustine also introduces the idea of moral evil, and explains that as part of God being all-good, He granted humans the ability to think and do as they please. God gave humans free will. Therefore when a human participates in an act that seems evil, it was their own choice and they were straying from God in the process. Critics and philosophers could go back and forth for centuries on the legitimacy of the ontological argument, but through time it has remained to be one of the most convincing arguments for the existence of God.
Beyond the ontological argument, another theory that has seemed to withstand the test of time and skeptics is the causal argument. The causal argument was first made by the great philosopher Aquinas. Aquinas made many claims in his time attempting to prove the existence of God, and although many lacked reason and therefore were largely discredited, one of his most outstanding arguments was that of the causal. This argument suggests that everything in this universe must have a cause. In other words, everything happened because of something else, and since it is impossible to continue backwards in time and declare the first thing that created the next thing, that in short created everything else, Aquinas declared that there was a greater being that must be responsible for starting it all. He furthers his argument by pointing out that for something to cause itself, it would have to exist prior to itself, which is literally impossible.
Now, critics argue this idea by insisting that Aquinas was contradicting himself completely. Aquinas found that no thing could exist without premise, yet at the same time insisted that God existed without premise. Since Aquinas had no logical argument for these skeptics, many found that his work was flawed, until philosopher Avicenna came along and introduced a new idea that would strengthen Aquinas’ argument. Avicenna birthed the idea that there were two kinds of beings in the world: contingent and necessary beings. A contingent being is a being that could have failed to exist. If things didn’t turn out exactly right for them, then they would have never existed in the first place. For instance, if one child’s parents had failed to meet when they did, then those parents may have chosen different paths and instead chose to mate with different partners, therefore making it completely impossible for that same child to ever come into existence. On the other end of the spectrum, there are necessary beings. Beings that could not have failed to exist. Avicenna explains that the only necessary being known to man is God. There was nothing that caused God to be, he simply was, and everything else that followed, was contingent. This idea directly counters the argument that Aquinas claims were not true because of the fact that he seemingly contradicted himself.
The final argument that seems to remain to this day, is that of the teleological argument, or the design argument. This argument also stemmed from the findings of Aquinas, but has continued to grow and change since it’s initial introduction. This argument explains that the world shows signs of order and purposeful design which could have only been produced by a greater being. For instance, things and beings in nature act in a seemingly purposeful way that all help the greater cause of life, despite the fact that these beings lack awareness or knowledge of any sort. Such a perfectly mapped out world created for sustainable life seems like it had to of been hand crafted by an all-knowing entity. Science argues that life occurs in such a way because of evolution and there is nothing holy or supernatural about it. However it is hard to believe that evolution created a world so perfect that the human race has been able to thrive for 200,000 years and counting. Aquinas would say that science and reason can only explain so much, and the rest of our conceptual knowledge relies on faith. Many people who stake claims to any sort of faith concerning a God hold true to this belief that a greater being created this world in a way so perfectly sculpted for us.
Between teleological, causal and ontological arguments, many followers of all sorts of religions have been able to stay true in their beliefs of a higher being. Assuming God is real, we understand that He has given us the power of free thought and free will, and in short the power to decide if we think he exists or not. As many religions concerning God would tell you, it is up to us as humans to seek knowledge about Him, and decide for ourselves to believe in Him.