Is it Rational to Believe in God?

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Introduction

American media outlets propagate the notion that belief in God is simply ludicrous, while boisterous atheists within the scientific community actively echo the accusation. This atheistic sentiment is readily apparent throughout an article published by the Los Angeles Times, which asserts, “Faith is unwarranted belief. Faith is belief without evidence or despite evidence to the contrary…Religious faith is belief despite such logic or facts.”[1] Unfortunately, millions of people are adopting this opinion, with studies indicating that a large percentage of Americans perceive Christianity as anti-intellectual—conflicting with scientific principles and basic human logic.[2] However, a basis for belief in God’s existence results from numerous rational arguments, including the cosmological argument, the teleological argument, the moral argument, etc. Although brevity precludes detailing an extensive argument for the existence of God, this essay will outline the cosmological argument and the argument from design, demonstrating that belief in God is a rational position, supported by scientific evidence.

 

The Cosmological Argument

The cosmological argument is a deductive syntax, comprised of two premises and a conclusion. This means that if the argument is logically valid, and if the premises are true, then the conclusion follows necessarily.[3] The argument states:

1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.

2. The universe began to exist.

3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.[4]

Since this is a logically valid deductive argument, the conclusion follows necessarily, unless, one (or both) of the premises are false.

The first premise is consistent with fundamental human reasoning, and receives foundation from the Law of Causality, the essential principle of science.[5] Moreover, this concept receives confirmation from common life-experience. Within the confines of reality, material objects do not just arbitrarily pop into existence. When you see a laptop sitting on a table, you do not assume the computer spontaneously appeared, uncaused and uncreated. You intuitively understand the computer began to exist, and that it had a cause (i.e. someone created it).

Some opponents (such as the late Carl Sagan) openly challenge the second premise, asserting the universe is eternal.[6] However, this hypothesis is contrary to contemporary understanding within the various fields of scientific research. For instance, Albert Einstein’s theory of special relativity, Edwin Hubble’s discovery that the universe is expanding, and the second law of thermodynamics, all preclude an eternal model for the universe. Moreover, the widely accepted Big Bang model clearly establishes a point of origin for the universe (known as the “singularity”). Cosmologists John D. Barrow and Frank J. Tipler explain, “At this singularity, space and time came into existence; literally nothing existed before the singularity…”[7]

Stephen Hawking, the famous theoretical physicist and cosmologist, further affirms the beginning of the cosmos, declaring, “All the evidence seems to indicate, that the universe has not existed forever, but that it had a beginning, about 15 billion years ago.”[8] While scientist remain divided on exactly when the universe began—and how or why the universe came into existence—all evidence points to a definite beginning.[9] Therefore, the second premise remains intact, complying with both reason and scientific evidence. Furthermore, without either premise proving false, the cosmological argument is sound, and the conclusion follows necessarily. Since the universe requires a cause, it is reasonable for the Christian to believe that God is that cause.

 

The Argument from Design

Since the universe requires a cause, another question arises: is that cause an unintentional force, producing the universe by happenstance, or is that cause an intelligent creator, possessing immense power (i.e. God), who created the universe with intentionality and purpose? When you began reading this essay, you intuitively knew an author created it. Even without knowing anything about the writer, you believe the author exists. Is this unfounded faith, absent of logic and factually void? Of course not! It would defy basic human rationality to assume ink indiscriminately created characters on a page, those characters formed meaningful words, and by chance, those words organized into sentences that communicated comprehensible information.

Accordingly, this philosophy provides the underpinnings for the argument from design, which states:

1. All complex design implies a designer.

2. The universe (especially life) has complex design.

3. Therefore, the universe must have had a designer.[10]

The appearance of design is particularly evident within the life sciences, where methodical examination reveals intricate mechanisms, each functioning with specific purpose, present within each cell of every organism.

Moreover, the presence of sophisticated information within deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) provides the most compelling evidence for design. Richard Dawkins explains, “Some species of the unjustly called ‘primitive’ amoebas have as much information in their DNA as 1,000 Encyclopaedia Britannicas.”[11] Considering such revelations, former atheist Anthony Flew comments, “It now seems to me that the findings of more than fifty years of DNA research have provided materials for a new and enormously powerful argument to design.”[12] Information precedes from an intelligent mind, and it is impossible to account for the origin and existence of information—immensely present within every organic cell—from an atheistic/naturalistic worldview. Everything within the universe operates with order and purpose, demonstrating a great complexity inherent of design, and thereby requires a designer.

 

Conclusion

While this is not an extensive argument for the existence of God, by briefly examining the cosmological argument and the argument from design, one must conclude that belief in God is a rational position. As demonstrated, belief in the existence of God is consistent with contemporary scholarship, and receives support from evidence obtained in the scientific fields of physics, cosmology, biology, and philosophy. Although many people will continue to disbelieve God exists, the charge that Christianity is anti-intellectual—running contrary to scientific evidence and basic human reason—is categorically unfounded.

 

 

[1] Bart Kosko, “The Problem With Faith-Based Funding Is Faith Itself,” the Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles, CA), February 19, 2001, http://articles.latimes.com/2001/feb/19/local/me-27415.

[2] David Kinnaman, You Lost Me: Why Young Christians are Leaving Church and Rethinking Faith (Michigan: Baker Books, 2011), 137.

[3] Patrick J. Hurley, A Concise Introduction to Logic, Twelfth Edition (Connecticut: Cengage Learning, 2015), 33.

[4] Douglas Groothuis, Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith (Illinois: IVP Academic, 2011), 214.

[5] Normal L. Geisler and Frank Turek, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist (Illinois: Crossway, 2004), 75.

[6] Norman L. Geisler and Ronald M. Brooks, When Skeptics Ask: A Handbook on Christian Evidences (Michigan: Baker Books, 2013), 11.

[7] John D. Barrow and Frank J. Tipler, The Anthropic Cosmological Principle (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986), 442.

[8] Stephen Hawking, “The Beginning of Time,” The Official Website of Stephen Hawking, accessed February 08, 2016, http://www.hawking.org.uk/the-beginning-of-time.html.

[9] Dr. Wollack assess the age of the universe to be approximately 13.77 billion years. While his estimate is slightly different from Dr. Hawking’s estimate, both agree on the finite age of the cosmos. Edward J. Wollack, “Foundations of Big Bang Cosmology,” The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, accessed February 08, 2016, http://map.gsfc.nasa.gov/universe/bb_concepts.html.

[10] Norman L. Geisler and Ronald M. Brooks, When Skeptics Ask: A Handbook on Christian Evidences, 14.

[11]Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1996), 116.

[12] Quoted in William A. Dembski and Sean McDowell, Understanding Intelligent Design (Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2008), 24.

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