This discourse is a result of my son asking me ‘Mama, how can I know that God exists?’ A very simple question it may seem, but it led me on an exploration of my own belief.
There are several philosophical arguments most scholars use to prove the existence of God. Following is most common one, and how it can be easily refuted. My proof is that God’s identity is intrinsic to my being a conscious and intelligent being.
There is the ontological argument which tries to prove the existence of God by pure reason alone. The 11th century philosopher and archbishop of Canterbury St Anselm and French philosopher René Descartes both use this argument. ‘It argues that once we mentally grasp the concept of God we can see that God’s non-existence is impossible. This argument, if it is successful, demonstrates the existence of a perfect being that could not possibly fail to exist.’ The argument follows that there are some statements that do not warrant exploration to deem them false. Example a circular square cannot exist. If it is circular it cannot be a square! Or a four sided triangle! Everyone knows that a triangle by its very nature can have only three sides. In the same tune, just knowing the concept of God knows that He exists; we do not need any proof as the non-existence of God is impossible. Since a God that exists is greater than a God that does not exist.
Immanuel Kant offers the most influential and well known criticism of this argument. He says that because the ontological argument rests on the judgment ‘that a God that exists is greater than a God that does not, it rests on a confusion.’ According to Kant existence is not a property that a thing can ‘posses’ or ‘lack’. For example if you describe a chair, you describe its texture, color, size, material etc… When you add that it exists, the fact does not change that, and we add nothing to the concept of the object. The object is the same whether it exists or not; it is the same size, the same weight, the same color, etc. If Kant is correct in his view that existence is not a property of objects, then it is impossible to compare a God that exists to a God that does not. Kant says ‘a God that exists and a God that does not are qualitatively identical.’ A God that exists is omnipotent, omniscient, etc. A God that does not exist is omnipotent, omniscient, etc. Both are the same. ‘If this is right, then Anselm’s claim that an existent God is greater than a non-existent God is false—neither is greater than the other—in which case the ontological argument fails.’
So how do we know? We know deep inside, we know from the way the universe is ordered and functions on laws. We see signs everywhere, we just know.