In this post, I would like to consider what I believe to be the strongest arguments for theism, atheism, and agnosticism. By doing so, I would like to consider just how one might go about showing that God exists, or that He does not exist, or that we cannot have any reasonable belief about whether or not He exists.
To begin with, then:
There are three positions that we can take in regards to the existence of God: theism, atheism, and agnosticism.
Theism is the belief that God exists.
Atheism is the belief that God does not exist.
Agnosticism is the absence of any belief about the existence of God, either “for” or “against.”
At each moment, each of us is either a theist, an atheist, or an agnostic.
For, either I have a belief about the existence of God, or I do not.
If I do not have a belief about the existence of God, then I am an agnostic.
But, if I do have a belief about the existence of God, then either I believe that He exists, or I do not.
If I do believe that He exists, then I am a theist.
But, if I do not believe that He exists, then I am an atheist.
Hence, at each moment, each of us is either a theist, an atheist, or an agnostic.
Thus, if we wish to have a reason for the position that we have adopted at this moment – for atheism, agnosticism, or theism – then it is important to ask what the best argument for our position actually is, and what the strongest arguments are for each of the other two positions.
That is the task that the rest of this post will be concerned with. I will not say much about my own views, but just let the arguments speak for themselves. To begin with, then:
5: The strongest argument for agnosticism
The strongest argument that I am aware for agnosticism is that there is no evidence either for or against the existence of God. But, if there is no evidence for either side, then it is unreasonable to hold either belief. Hence, we should not believe either that God does exist, or that He does not.
This is a very simple argument, but it is a very powerful one. It is by far the strongest argument that I am aware of for the agnostic position.
6: The strongest arguments for atheism
I am aware of two strong arguments for atheism, both of which are worth considering.
The first argument is a variation of the agnostic argument. According to the atheist, there is no evidence either for or against the existence of God. But, if there is no evidence that something exists, then it is reasonable to believe that it does not exist. Hence, from the absence of evidence for a thing, we can reasonably infer the absence of the thing itself.
The second argument is that there is actually evidence that God does not exist, contrary to the claims of the agnostic. An atheist might make this argument in the following manner:
If God existed, then there would have to be certain consequences of His existence, and these consequences would be apparent in the world that we observe. For instance, if an all-powerful and all-loving God were to exist, then there would have to be certain consequences that each of us could see – like the way that each of us would be cared for, and looked after, and guided by Him. But, according to the atheist, it is just manifest that these consequences are not present in the world that we can observe. Hence, if the effects are not present, then we can know with absolute certainty that the cause does not exist – there can be no existence of a cause without the existence of its effects. Thus, the atheist would conclude, God does not exist, and we can know that He does not exist.
Both of these arguments are strong, but in my judgment, the second argument is stronger than the first.
7: The strongest argument for theism
The strongest argument that I am aware of for theism begins by disputing one of the basic starting points of both the agnostic and the atheist. According to both kinds of non-believers, we do not have any evidence that God exists. But, according to the theist, we do have evidence for the existence of God. It’s just that our evidence does not come to us through the senses. Rather, each of us has an inner light, or a higher spiritual faculty, that allows us to glimpse or to behold the existence of God, as well as the law or the duties that He gives to us, which constitute our highest purpose on this Earth. It is this inner light that reveals to us the highest and the most spiritual things, like the moral law, and the presence of the divinity; and it is this light that allows us to become aware of our exalted place in the universe, and of the true existence of the soul, and of how the soul is separate from the body, and how it shall live on even once the body has been destroyed. From the theist’s point of view, then, the atheist and the agnostic are both refusing to listen to their heart, and stubbornly refusing to acknowledge all of these different divine things, even though they are aware of them. But, the theist would say, the atheist and the agnostic both just want things to be simple, and not complex – intelligible, and not mysterious – tangible, and not ethereal – even though, deep down, they know that the world is complex, and that it is mysterious, and that there is more to the world than merely material nature. For the theist would claim that we really do know that we are not just our bodies, but that we have souls, and that we are spirits, and that we have a free will that is not just the result of “matter in motion.” Hence, the theist would claim, it is just not true that there is no evidence for the existence of God. It’s just that the atheists and the agnostics are choosing to ignore this evidence, because it does not admit of being perceived through the senses, or proven through mere logic – which is the only sort of “evidence” that either the atheist or the agnostic is willing to admit. For both of them have become so lost in the tangle of their minds, and in a certain arbitrary way of dividing up the realm of Being, that they have ceased to listen to what they know deep down in their hearts, at the very depths of their existence.
There have been many other arguments for theism, like the watch-maker argument, or the ontological argument. But, I believe that this is by far the strongest argument for theism, and the one that poses the most direct and convincing challenge to the beliefs of both the atheist and the agnostic.