I had some Jehovah’s Witnesses at the door the other day – and in the ensuing conversation one questions I asked them was about how they knew that their God was the one and only true God out there. They couldn’t really answer that of course, other than by to refer to their bible and inferring that if he indicated that he was the one and only true God out there, we would have to take his word for it.
Not much you can do with an argument like that that – and I guess that is what the nature of religious faith is all about: acceptance without questioning. This is at the core of every religious edifice – rationality has no place here – and as Nietzsche put it once: “Faith means not wanting to know the truth”
However, over the centuries people have attempted to put a rational basis to the foundation of religion, including the claim that God exists. The best known early attempt is perhaps the Ontological argument as presented by St. Anselm (1033-1109), and another version of it by St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) – and represents the claim that God must necessarily exist because he is the greatest being imaginable (!) You might think differently, but I can’t even begin to understand why this would have made any sense to anyone at all as it is clearly utter nonsense. But those were different times then.
Another and more sophisticated yet equally fallacious argument is the Argument from Design that has more recently surfaced as “Intelligent Design”. The world in all its complexity, so it is claimed, clearly shows evidence of having being designed by an advanced intelligence, therefore, it would be a reasonable hypothesis to assume the existence of a powerful being which possesses such intelligence, and that is God.
There is an attractive side to this line of reasoning, because it is true that – despite man’s efforts to flush this planet down the toilet one way or the other in the pursuit of more money and power – the world, with all its perceived complexities, appears to work remarkably well, and it would be difficult to accept the premise that this is all a function of random and accidental interaction between atoms and molecules over billions of years.
Well, at most one might be able to conclude that it is within the nature of the material world to reach the functional state of equilibrium as evidenced here on earth, but it would be an unsubstantiated logical leap to conclude from it that there is or are mysterious beings of some kind out there that can be said to be the designers or creators of this phenomenon. That would be nothing less than concluding a cause from an effect, and nothing more than to commit the most basic of all logical fallacies, and hence an unproven assumption by any other name.