Does god exist? Don't know, no idea. Metaphysical problems are not easy
to decide, since our every day experience leaves us without advice and
we have to walk unguided and blind, and the occasions for errors are many.
Our intuition can lead us in wrong directions if dealing with new situations
we do not have any experience -this is what usually happens in mathematics
while investigating a new field of questions and problems: it is possible
to have an intuitiv insight in mathematical problems, and necessary too,
otherwise, without intuition, it would be impossible to know in which direction
we should go and search for a possible theorem or its proof. But in a new
field of questions, intuitions are very often wrong and misleading, and
so there must be proofs for the theorems. Imagine, for example, a rectangle,
it consists of infinite many lines. And a line consists of infinite many
points. So what does contain more points, a line or a rectangle? You may
say that this question is senseless, since infinite sets cannot be compared
like finite sets about "more" or "less". But you are
wrong, infinite sets can be compared, and there are larger and smaller
infinite sets. So you probably say a rectangle contains more points than
a line. Cantor intuitively thought the same as you, but than he proved
that you are wrong: a rectangle contains literarely as many points as a
line. Does the order of summation be important for the result of an infinite
sum? You may ask your intuition and say "no", and you are wrong
again: the order of summation of an infinite sum does indeed play a role
for the result. You built a circle around the aquetor of a perfectly plane
earth, and than you make the perimeter one meter longer. Now the diameter
is also greater, and the circle do no longer touch the ground. How high
above the ground is the circle now? As high that a rabbit can squeeze itself
through between the enlarged circle and the earth, or just a mice, or just
a fly, or just an amoeba? Ask your intuition, and than compute it and find
out that a rabbit is able to squeeze through.
Metaphysic is similar, with the difference that there are no proofs, no way of checking wether an opinion is wrong or right. So I would agree with what Protagoras said about the gods: "About the gods I tell nothing, wether that they exist nor that they do not exist, since the life of a human is to short to settle this and the problem itself is too obscure ."
But I found an argument claiming that god cannot exist, and although I do not think that this argument is a proof, and although I am still an agnostic and not an atheist, I want to communicate and discuss this argument. I can't see any error in this argument, but maybe a reader can.
It is not my argument, I would hesitate to say that I would have invented it: it is based (like many things in philosophy) on an idea of Platon (or even someone older than Platon). The argument itself is very easy, and can be developed within a few sentences, as I shall do immendiatly, without further prologes. It runs, basicly, like this:
God shall be a someone, not a something, a person, not only an object, a being with something making it/him a somebody. Otherwise we may replace the word "god" with the word "big bang" or "universe" or "love" or anything we like and what we believe plays the role god plays. So to be a person, god must have a will, and that means intentions, wishes, thoughts, perhaps feelings, something in that way. But all this is something you have to have within time: wishing something means to wish that the after shall be different from the before, all what makes a person is something that is done within time. Something out of time, not undergoing any change and not refering to past and future is not a personal being. So god has to be within time. On the other hand, we expect god to have played a prominent role in the creation of the universe, and since time is a fundamental part of the universe, that means, that god somehow must have caused time directly or indirectly to come to existence. And that means that god is prior to time, and that means, god itself is not part of it, as god is more fundamental than time. So god has to be out of time. Since these two conditions exclude each other, god can not exist.
Let's have a closer look at this argumentand study it more in detail. First, why should god be anthropomorph? Ain't that a relict of mythological times, when the gods were expected to behave in all regards like humans? So that the excluding conditions are, we could say, conditions of a mythological and a mystic view of god, both irrelevant to his real nature?
Maybe. It is not easy to understand the mythological view of things truely. First, it seems to be very easy: our ancestor had a very naive concept of the world, assuming that there are some superhuman people ruling the world, living on Olymp or in heaven, throwing with flashes like ordinary people with spears, and so on. But on second sight, things become a little bit complicated. We learn that with the rise of Babylon (or Babili) the god Marduk becomes the leader of the gods, but also, that the king of Babylon is the god Marduk, as he is the souvereign of the universe, and also, that Marduk insofar he is ruler, he is the god Ea, and he is Sin, the moon god, as he lights the dark. We learn that the face of the god Ninurta is the god Shamash, the sun god, while one of the ears of Ninurta is Ea. The pharao of egypt is identical with god Shu, the son (or, in case of a female pharao, the daughter) of god Re. In the Ramayana (book 119) the gods explain the man Rama: "Don't you know that yourself are the head of all gods? Once you have been the Vasu Ritadhaman, the father of the Vasus! You are the creator of the three worlds, the eighths Rudra and the fifth of the Sadhyas. The twins Ashvin are your two ears, sun and moon are your eyes." Understandably, Rama is astonished, he answers: "I thought I was a human, Rama, the son of Dasharatha; Who am I really? Where do I come from? The ancestor of the world should tell me." And Brahma answers: "You are the great and bright god Narayana, the lucky master with the discus. You are [...] Brahman, [...] Vishnu you are, you are Krishna [...] the Himalaya with hundered peaks [...] You yourself are the creator of the world, you are the refugium and the oldest of the Siddhas and Sadhyas, you are the offer, the holy syllable >Vashat< and >Aum<, the greatest of the great. Nobody knows your origin or your end, nobody knows how you really are." A little bit confusing, isn't it? Is it possible to find some sense in this?
One possible way to find some sense in such a manner of talking could be that we regard the ancient gods less as persons, but more as abstract concepts. An abstract idea can take part of another idea, justice, for example, can be a part of the virtue. And so Ea represents the idea of ruling, and Marduk is the god of Babylon, so if Babylon is ruling the world (or at least Mesopotamia), than this is expressed by saying that Marduk is ruling the meeting of the gods. But ruling he can only by participating in the idea of rulership, that means, if Marduk is the ruler of the gods, he must be Ea. On the other hand, if we think of Marduk as the planet Jupiter, than he must be participating on the idea of enlighting the dark night, that means, he must also be the moon god Sin. But why is this always expressed in terms of relations of human beings? Why is Shu said to be the son of Re? The expression "X being the son of Y" can be regarded as a relation not only applicable between human beings, but also as a relation between abstract concepts. That would mean that the phrase "Shu is the son of Re" need not to be regarded as a metapher, but the phrase "Human X is the biological son of human Y" as a special case of a more general relation.
So this is my attempt to explain the mythological manner of speech different than just claiming that it is the babbling of lunatics. But I freely confess that I am not really sure how to interpret the mythological approach of explaning the world.
An early and radical critic of these mythological gods came from Xenophanes. About Homer and Hesiod he said: "they have listed as many evil deeds of the god as possible:/ stealing and adultering and spoiling one another." And he moked himself about the anthropomorphism of the gods: "The aethiopians claim, their gods are blunt nosed and black,/ the thrakians, blue eyed and blond.// But the humans assume the gods to be born,/ wearing clothes, having voices and bodies, just like themself.// But if cettles and horses and lions would have hands/ and could paint with their hands and create works of art like the humans,/ than the horses would form and paint the gods with the shape of horses,/ the cettles in the form of cettles, and they would built sculptures/ according to their own bodies." So he introduces another concept of god, not having a human body, not moving at all, staying at the same place, motionless.
In some sense, the god of Xenophanes reminds of the god of the so called negative theologie. Not do we get told what god is, but only, what he isn't. God as a being totally different from us cannot be understood with the usual human concepts, so god turns out to be the perfectly strange thing, the alien itself. Nothing can be said about him. Funny enough, this theory was developed mainly by people paid for talking about god.
So is the mythological god just an anthropomorphistic error, and should we accept the theory of a god nothing can be said about? It depends on what for we need god. If we don't need god at all or just to play some rhetoric games with him, the theory of negative theology is well acceptable. But most people believing in god have some different positive concepts of god. Ususally, they assume god to play some important role in their lives. For example, to resurrect them after death or having created the world or to listen to their prayers. And if we ask wether god exists or not, we are not interested in an exotic linguistic god nowhere touching the ground, but in a being performing those mentioned tasks, at least in some minimum way. And one minimum task a god should perform at least is that he can be addressed with a "You". So it can't be true that there is no possibility at all to say something about god: once again, we can say about him that he is a someone and not a something. Otherwise, he or better it may well exist, but it is not god. So we can strip god of some anthropomorph properties, like having a beard or sitting on a chair, but not of all.
Now once again, what is it that makes a something a someone?
We living beings do not exist without a purpose. Their is an intention
being responsible for our existence. Strange enough, the thing that gave
us that intention is itself without intention, and therefor not a someone,
but just a something. We all are, in some sense, tools to ensure the surviving
of our genes, and that, one could say, is the meaning of our lives (one
has not to accept that meaning: one can resist and willingly deny to reproduce).
The reason why we exist is that only those genes survive that get themself
some tools to survive, some bodies. And so we eat and drink and search
for eat and drink and a warm dry place for sleep, and a good position in
our social enviroment, and a fit spouse. Everytime we are doing something;
that is why Heidegger could identify being with ,,Sorge'' ["worry"]
(see also the fable quoted by Heidegger, §42 of ,,Sein und Zeit'',
claiming the human to be created by Cura [worry] out of clay: "Tu
Jovis quia spiritum dedisti, in morte spiritum,/ tuque Tellus, quia dedisti
corpus, corpus recipito,/ Cura enim quia prima finxit, teneat quamdiu vixerit."
["You, Jupiter, therefore you gave the spirit, shallst take with its
death the spirit, you, Earth, therefore you gave the body, shallst take
the body. But since Worry has first built this creature, therefore shall,
as long as it lives, Worry own it"]). So a human always have targets,
wishes, hopes and anxieties. And so a human always refers to the future,
all that it does and thinks has a meaning in regard to the future. Being
a being means being within time, and Heidegger maybe would add being only
a limited time. Also note how Plotin describes how the material world came
to existence and the world soul parted from the spirit: "But there
was a nature, busy and reaching being master of itself and owning itself;
it was willing to search more than there was with it: so it started to
move, but also did start to move time, and we moved to the Always-coming
and Later and never itself, but always the other - and if we have moved
along a part of the way, we created time as an image of eternity"
(sorry for the humpling translation, it is Ennead
But do we really have to assume that god created time? Even Thomas of Aquin does not expect god to have created the mathematical triangles or to be able to change their properties, so maybe he also created the world, but not the time.
But since Augustinus, this is hardly imaginable: what has god done, before he created the world, and why didn't he start a week earlier? The answer Augustinus gave was that god created world and time together, "in one single ongoing Now" (as Master Eckhart would say). And if we expect god to have some relation to the genesis of the world, than the genesis of time is one of the most important parts of it. Of course we could imagine a mighty demon creating some stars and planets, but this demon wouldn't be sufficient for our ontological curiousity, we would wonder who created time.
But if god created time, how can this be called "creation"? It is impossible to imagine this creation in a way "first, there was god, than he created the complete spacetime with all its inhabitants, and than there were god and the spacetime", since this is a description of something within time. So maybe we can imagine the complete spacetime, spanning from the beginning of time, from big bang to the end of time, if there is any, laying there in eternity, without a change, and god, also without any change. There could be some special events within the spacetime that emulate a mighty demon interferring with the world according to his will, but god itself has no will, and the demon does not really exist. All what really matters is the spacetime and its effents and its inhabitants (personally, I find it somewhat comeforting to imagine the spacetime preserving all the moments from the big bang and the building of the pyramids to the times still to come: although a certain moment has gone, it is still true that it once existed, and will be true forever, even if nobody will ever remember), but not god.
So that's the reason why god had to become a human, a christ could respond. But again, I can't see how this could be possible: of course one could imagine that somewhere in space and time a human being starts to exist, but what could us lead to the opinion that this human is a reincarnation of god or that this human has a relation with god different from any other human? All I can see is that unmoved god one the one hand and the spacetime world on the other, with an additional person in it.
So nobody created the world. And if you expect god to have created the world, than there is no god.
Some people use an argument one could call the "It would be so
terrible"-argument. For example, they proof the existence of god like
that: "it would be so terrible if god would not exist, so he have
to exist". In the same manner, live after death is proofen. Obviously,
this argument is not a logically proper one. A similar argument is that
god is said to be needed to establish an ethical system. Since we want
an ethical system, we should accept god: "without god, everything
would be allowed, and that would be so terrible that god has to be",
this argument runs. Strange enough, I think it is just the other way round:
that is, that the belief in the existence of god can be a real obstacle
for an ethical system.
First, it should be noted that if we assume that god has some requirements, that does not mean that those requirements are identical with the ethical good. His requirements can be identical with the good, but only by random: either is it the case that god requires something that would be the good even if god wouldn't require it, than we don't need god to define good, or we use the requirements of god to define the good: than his requirements could be different and would lead to a different definition of good; obviously, nobody needs such an arbitrairy definition of the good.
We can assume that god does not define what good and evil is, that good and evil are earlier than gods requirements, and that god only enforces and supports morality by threatening people with hell and luring them with heaven. But aside from the uncertainty wether heavan and hell really exist (see my appendix to the english version of my essay on chastity belts), this does not establish any kind of morality (remember also Farid ud-din Attar and Master Eckhart and some other mystics declaring that does who love god only because they fear hell and long for heaven do not really love god, but want to make a good deal).
But this is not the worst concern. Maybe the believe in the existence
of god does not have evil consequences, but the believe that god is the
source of morality does. First of all, we have to decide what gods ethical
believes are. We could do this by rational interferring, but since we know
little about god, this will not lead to practical results. Another way
is to search gods opinions about morality inside the own heart. Since this
leads to different results for different people, this will probably increase
conflicts between people, and not lead to an enhanced morality. For the most
important religions, the source of our knowledge of the divine moral is
some kind of book, like the column with the divine laws that felt from
the sky and landed in Hammurabis front garden, or the Thora or the bible
or the Koran. But this does not alone lead to conflicts, since there are
different divine books, it also leads to serious problems within one religion.
If we have an ethic made by human beings, and if we change our meanings
about morality, than we may change our ethic. If we have a divine ethic,
and if we change our views about morality, than there is no chance to change
our ethic. Assume, for example, there is a divine book claiming that homosexuality
is a crime that should be punished with death. Some centuries after the
book was written, people start to change their minds, and now they think
homosexuality to be nothing to shout about. But since their ethic denying homosexuality
is a divine one, there is no possibility to change the ethic and allow
homosexuality. The only possibility to do this would be to reinterpret
the divine text to find a new interpretation that allows homosexuality.
Since every text can be interpreted in many different ways and maybe in
every way, some skills in exegese assumed, this can be done, but the consequence
if we allow the freedom of interpretation is that we do not have a divine
ethic, but many different ethics made by human beings by interpreting a
divine text in an arbitrairy way. So we have either a text that does not
allow every arbitraire interpretation, and can be therefore an obstacle for
ethical reformations, or we have a text that does allow any arbitraire
interpretation, so it fails to give ethic a divine source.
(Another example instead of homosexuality, in case you think homosexuality to be indeed a crime that should be punished with death: the Koran and its related texts is in many ways the ethic of nomadic people, moving around. Nomadic people can not punish people by sending them to prison, so criminals are punished by physical harms. People not being nomadic have the possibility to punish criminals by sending them to prison, and in most case, they prefer this method: today, many people in western culture think cutting of the hand of thiefs to be a barbaric way of punishment; but since this is the punishment demanded by texts thought to be divine, it is very difficult to alter this punishments.)
Often it is thought to be an advantage of a divine ethic that it cannot be changed arbitrairily, but in fact, this is a serious disadvantage, since it can disable ethical progress. So taking god as the source of moral can have unpleasant results and should be avoided.