The question of whether or not god exists is still, amazingly, being asserted in the affirmative, even by some very intelligent men and women. In other areas of their thought, their living, they would not normally consider accepting assertions of a different nature, other than the assertion that god exists, without being convinced by evidence. Usually, the god in question is the god worshipped by adherents of the three monotheistic religions of Islam, Judaism or Christianity.
As I have argued before, most of us, in living our lives, have come to realize that, in the case of our own mental performance, we perform much better in one or more areas than in some other areas. And so we have the student, say, that is brilliant at mathematics but performs badly in another part or parts of his or her intelligence. Perhaps many minds do not handle well the choice of believing or not believing religious dogma. Perhaps one day science will find the answer to the puzzle.
And, indeed, in recent times, the present writer heard on the radio that some psychologist group believes that that may be the case. It is not surprising that the writer has not heard any more on the topic, religion always having been widely protected from scrutiny. On that matter, however, things are slowly improving.
Were they asked to provide proof that god exists, believers could not provide that proof. It is no answer to demand that the atheist has to prove that god does not exist. Is one able to prove a negative, in any case?
We know of the indoctrination of children, a process that occurs in churches, mosques and synagogues. It occurs in homes and schools, and a part is played by the media. Truth is so important! Truth is sacrificed. The indoctrination of religious belief is brainwashing exemplified. It is a widespread and disastrous practice throughout most of our world, producing terribly harmful effects. The world of Islam is probably the leader in that regard in these times. Will the harm done by religious belief ever stop?
Children come into this world and are called Christians, Muslims or whatever, even though, as English philosopher, John Locke (1632-1704), an empiricist, argued, at birth the mind is devoid of innate knowledge. He compared a child’s mind at birth with a blackboard without any writing on it. (He believed in god, even though many of his opinions would persuade the reader to believe otherwise. But, then, note the years in which he lived). That is, children at birth have no religion, but have it foisted upon them as already mentioned. In this area, the Jesuits, especially, have a huge reputation. But even they, it may well be the case, are surpassed by their equivalents in the indoctrination of Islamic beliefs.
Bertrand Russell made the point that since the several major religions disagree in important respects, it is a matter of simple logic that not more than one of them can be true. An atheist, he believed that not one of them is true. He also argued that a statement or opinion may be regarded as true if it is in accord with fact. Is it a fact that god exists?
Most believers do not concern themselves, of course, with opinions that are contrary to their own. Myths and angels and fairy tales are more in their line.
Belief in a supreme being, one can understand, might well arise in the early centuries of humankind’s existence and continue as it has (no doubt there have always been some unbelievers) because general ignorance prevailed about the world, the understanding of that world, and its relationship with the contents of a vast universe.
Despite their huge intellects, men of the great Greek civilization, Plato, for example, were ignorant of many things that even school children have known for a long time now. Examples are hardly necessary. Plato was, of course, not an adherent of one of the three monotheistic religions, but he was religious as is confirmed by his words on the first page of his Republic: ‘I wanted to say a prayer to the goddess.’
There is no valid argument that proves that god exists. That means that at least those three religions are without a sound basis for their belief systems.
Charles Darwin and his evolution findings destroyed what was once, probably, the best argument: the argument from design. English clergyman and theologian, William Paley, (1743-1805), early in the 19th century, in his writings, did much to reinforce the argument for the existence of a supreme being. His book, View of the Evidences of Christianity was extremely influential.
Aristotle’s first cause argument (he, of course, was not a Christian, and Russell wrote of the great philosopher’s 50 gods), and others like it, the contingency argument, for example, is destroyed by the question, ‘If there has to be a first cause, then who caused God?’
Finally, (there are others, in varying degrees of weakness,) the ontological argument, which Bertrand Russell explained briefly as follows: ‘God, being the greatest object of thought, cannot lack existence, else he would not be the greatest,’ Not a convincing argument, is it?
By John Rawson