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Why Believe that There Is a God?

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“Why should we believe in God in the first place?” This was a question that Greg’s father asked of Greg. While there are many ways to respond, Greg’s offered what is called “the anthropological argument.” Here is an excerpt from Letters from a Skeptic.


My basic line of reasoning is this: We human beings are personal beings. This means, I believe, that we are constituted by a mind which is self-aware and is rational, a heart which is free and can love and which is, therefore, morally responsible, and a soul (or call it what you will) which longs for meaning and significance. Consciousness, rationality, love, morality, and meaning: These, I maintain, constitute the essence of what it is to be a person in the full sense of the term.

Now the dilemma we face is this: Either we exist in an environment (viz, the cosmos) which is compatible with these attributes, or we do not. Either our environment is congruous with these attributes—it renders them intelligible and answers them—or it does not. To illustrate, we hunger, and behold, there is food. We thirst, and behold, there is water. We have sex drives, behold, there is sex. Our environment, then, is congruous with our natural hunger, thirst, and sex drive. And given the kind of world we live in, we can understand why hunger, thirst, and have sex drives. Our cosmic environment “answers” our natural drives and thereby makes sense of them. Are you following me?

Well, the question is, does our cosmic environment answer to the basic features of our personhood outlined above? My contention is that unless our environment is ultimately itself personal, unless the ultimate context in which we live is self-aware, rational, loving, moral, and purposeful, then our cosmic environment does not at all answer to our personhood. In other words, unless there is a personal God who is ultimate reality within which we exist, then we humans can only be viewed as absurd, tortured freaks of nature; for everything that is essential to us is utterly out of place in this universe. This, on the one hand, renders human nature completely unexplainable. How could brute nature itself evolve something so out of sync with itself? And, on the other hand, it means that human existence, if we face up to our real situation, is extremely painful. We are a product of a cruel sick, cosmic joke. …

[W]e humans instinctively hunger for meaning and purpose. You can see it all around in the way people behave. We strive to infuse our lives with some sort of significance, some sort of meaning. But if our cosmos is ultimately indifferent and purposeless, all we are, all we do, all we believe in, all we strive for is ‘dust in the wind.’ After we exist, it matters not whether anyone has ever, or ever will again exist. Everything is ultimately meaningless.

So, unless the ultimate source of all existence is at least as personal as we are, my contention is that who we are is both unexplainable and extremely hard to swallow (63-64).

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Why Believe that There Is a God?