By: Joel Lindsey
We can’t prove or disprove the existence of God. How can we know if he exists?
History is a story written by the finger of God.C.S. Lewis
The god hypothesis is rather discredited.Francis Crick
Long before Galileo turned his telescope toward the stars, men and women had already begun to question their origin and God’s existence. Answers to these questions have been as diverse as the people who asked them.
Many have attributed their lives to some sort of supreme being or God. But increasingly as society progresses, this theistic view is being challenged and rejected on scientific grounds.
Francis Crick, a Nobel Prize-winning molecular biologist, entered the field of science with the intention of proving that there is no God.1 And with his landmark discovery of the DNA molecule in 1953, he believed he’d found evidence for his premise. If everything can be explained by science, there is no need to ascribe anything to God.
Carl Sagan punctuated this thought process. “As science advances, there seems to be less and less for God to do. . . . Whatever it is we cannot explain lately is attributed to God. . . . And then, after a while, we explain it, and so that’s no longer God’s realm.”2
Countering this view is C. S. Lewis, the philosopher, prolific author, and atheist-turned-theist. Lewis suggested that God is the author of life. For much of his own life, Lewis was “very angry with God for not existing,” and he delved into the occult and atheism.3 Yet after nearly twenty years of being antagonistic toward theism, his mind and heart began to change. Finally, he “gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed.”4
How can these men, all highly respected and accomplished in their fields of study, reach such different conclusions about something so fundamental?
The problem, of course, is that it is flat-out impossible to prove or disprove the existence of God. In fact, the only thing we can do is point to evidence for or against a particular view.
Yet there are many things we all—atheist or theist—have in common that could potentially point to the presence of something greater than ourselves.
Most people operate from a set of strongly held moral principles. Those who dispute the existence of God adhere to this moral code without an objective basis for why some things are “right” and others are “wrong.” But the simple claim that there are right or wrong behaviors unavoidably implies that there is some sort of higher standard defining what is good or bad.
For example, most people would say it is wrong to steal a woman’s purse. Regardless of the circumstances surrounding a thief’s action, there is a basic moral standard in operation. Something in us says, “Taking what isn’t ours is wrong.”
Where do we get this moral standard? Within many religions, our idea of right and wrong comes from a God who created the world and established the moral order.
If you’ve ever strongly reacted to a song, a piece of art, or a sunset, then perhaps you’ve experienced a clue pointing to the existence of a supernatural being.
Our reaction to beauty—though it is in part a chemical, physiological event—is more than just our brain’s computation of data. A mixture of colors on a canvas, the ascending notes and crescendo in a musical score, the view from atop a high mountain . . . all these awaken something deep within us. We can find ourselves humbled by the vastness of the cosmos or find peace in the innocence of a sleeping child.
The way we experience beauty—whether in nature, art, or another person—reveals a seemingly inescapable sense that there is something greater, something more than our own existence.
Most people would agree that for each desire we feel, there exists something in the world that satisfies it—as well as a reason for us to feel it in the first place. We experience hunger because food exists and we must eat to live; we desire sex because sex exists and we must reproduce; we crave companionship because other people exist and humans are social creatures. For every desire there is a corresponding objective reality. We do not desire that which does not exist.
And yet, we want something more. It is a universal experience that transcends time, geography, and culture. That feeling after an especially rough situation or monotonous week, an inner monologue that sighs, “I hope this isn’t all there is.”
C. S. Lewis summarized it this way: “If I discover within myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”5
Could it be that we long for purpose and fulfillment because there is ultimate purpose and fulfillment to be found in a supernatural being like God?
The Battle of Science and Faith
It’s worth more broadly mentioning the battle ensuing between science and religion. As our understanding of science grows stronger, so does the assertion that facts render faith superfluous. Science and religion have been facing off for decades now. But why?
Does science’s claim that the universe resulted from the Big Bang nullify the beliefs of those who adhere to the notion that God orchestrates each event in history? Not really. Simultaneously, does a person’s belief in the work of God negate the truth of the science behind creation? Not at all.
Science and religion are not mutually exclusive. The truth of one does not simply, holistically rule out the truth of the other.
In the End
It all comes back to the unfortunate fact that we can neither prove nor disprove the existence of God. Things like beauty and morals may indicate to us that there is something more, but they prove nothing.
We are all complex creatures in a complex world, wrestling with the same fundamental questions. In the end, each of us must choose to take this data, sift through it, and make an informed decision. Is there a God, or isn’t there?
What do you think?
- Roger Highfield, “Do Our Genes Reveal the Hand of God?” The Telegraph, March 20, 2003, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/science/science-news/3306329/Do-our-genes-reveal-the-hand-of-God.html.
- Carl Sagan, The Varieties of Scientific Experience: A Personal View of the Search for God (New York: Penguin Group, 2007), 64.
- C. S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy, (Orlando, FL: Harcourt Brace and Company, 1955), 111.
- Ibid., 221. Lewis goes on to call himself “perhaps . . . the most . . . reluctant convert in all England.” See the full text for insight into Lewis’s journey from atheism to belief in God.
- C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, (New York: HarperCollins, 1952), 136.