“Theism and Ultimate Explanation of the Existence of God” against the countering “Modern Arguments and Suffering of the World”
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Chapter I – Research Context
The term ‘theism’ comes from the Greek word ‘theos’, which means god. The online dictionary describes it what it means to believe in the existence of one or more deities. More specifically, it is the idea of one god being the creator and ruler of the universe who has kept the universe intact to this day. The first usage of the term ‘theism’ came from the 17th-century English theologian, Ralph Cudworth who in his book claimed that people “who are strictly and properly called Theists, (are people) who affirm, that a perfectly conscious understanding being, or mind, existing of itself from eternity, was the cause of all other things” (Harrison, 1845). Therefore, the meaning of this can be implied that a ‘Theist’ would believe in being responsible for creating this earth. This being is believed to embody one of the characteristics that define the God of classical theism. This research will look more specifically at the God of classical theism than any other interpretations of God.
Classical theism is looked at in modern philosophy as a different type of theism where God is characterized by having three divine attributes: all-loving (Omnibenevolent), all-powerful (Omnipotent) and all-knowing (Omniscient). Other contrasting conceptions of God come in the form of Polytheism and Pantheism. One of the main differences between these other conceptions of God to classical theism is that God is looked upon as a metaphysical ultimate being, which is wholly independent of the material universe and therefore beyond all the physical laws (transcendent). Classical theism derives from and is mainly influenced by Greek philosophy. These ideas have since been held and bestowed into their doctrines by the major Monotheistic religions such as Judaism and Christianity in which they all share this belief that God does hold these attributes. Because of these attributes, modern philosophers such as Immanuel Kant, Richard Swinburne coupled with older traditional philosophers such as St. Anselm, Augustine and Thomas Aquinas held discussions of god in classical theism. This discussion of God has been centred on various attributes of God and how problematic it may be. For example, the assumption dating back from the Greek Philosophers up to the Modern Philosophers (previously mentioned) is that God is the perfect being. However, this seems to be a problem already as there are discussions about whether that perfection can really be instilled into one single entity. Can this all-knowing, all-loving and all-powerful being really exist? Arguments for God’s existence have been used for centuries by theologians and classical theists to defend and advance their positions on their beliefs. The cosmological, teleological (design argument) and ontological arguments are the three arguments that have become synonymous in the discussion of God’s existence and are still utilized by contemporary philosophers of religion today.
The design argument is widely used to represent the divine being’s existence or the theological argument in religion’s literature (Davis, 1987). This argument addresses the basic question of creator presence because of the intricate design presented in creating this universe. According to this argument, the intricate detail, purpose, and design led to the supposition of a creator. This argument’s central theme lies in realising that nature’s incredible features and sophistication cannot be generated by chance or exist without a creator. Besides, the theology that provides the argument for God’s presence, the opposite views on atheism and sceptical thinking, always challenged the presence of God the creator of this universe in the form of modern arguments and sufferings of the world. Given the multiple explanations/theories available for natural phenomena, the explanation needs the backing of evidence and concrete arguments, for which much research is being conducted throughout the world. The more recent modern argument,s along with the phenomenon of sufferings of the world, has challenged the classical/traditional theism and ultimate explanation of God’s existence in many ways. Given this, the present research is intended to shed further light on this topic.
Purpose of the Research
There is a need to describe the relationship of theism and the ultimate explanation of God’s existence against the counter-arguments of modern philosophical theories and the suffering of the World. Therefore explanation needs to be backed by evidence from classical and modern literature on theism and modern atheist and scientific theories. Paley (1807) arguments in favour of the existence of God and Morriston (2000) argument about the presence of evil and possible roles of God create the basis for this present research. Hence, the research’s main foundation is based on intelligent design theory against the countering modern arguments. Given this,s the purpose of this research is to justify God’s existence about the world’s suffering.
Research Aim and Objectives
As stated previously, the proposed study’s primary aim is to explore the link between theism and the ultimate explanation of God’s existence against the counter-arguments of modern philosophical theories and the suffering of the world.
The objectives of this proposed study are:
- To explore the literature on theological arguments and the associated counter-arguments.
- To examine the theological arguments supporting the existence of God.
- To investigate the social, religious, and philosophical perspectives related to suffering in the world despite God’s presence.
- To analyse the counter-arguments that link all-powerful and all-good God, the prevalence of evil, and recent concepts that challenge the core of this.m
The research question rose from the above-explained background, and therefore, the research question is as follows:
How significant is the relationship of theism and ultimate explanation of God’s existence, and is this belief in God’s existence facing a considerable challenge given the counter-arguments on the suffering of the World and modern philosophical/scientific/other theories?
Chapter II – Literature Review
Natural Theological Perspective
Field of natural theology normally considered the theists’ proofs or the evidence of theories favouring God’s existence. According to Carnap (1959), natural theology is a branch of social sciences that deals with the evidence to prove god’s existence, irrespective of the religious and revelation proofs of God’s existence found in history humanity. Therefore, this body of knowledge is based on assumptions in natural causes observed in this world. Furthermore, Ayer (1974) claimed that apart from other things proved in social sciences, natural theology concludes sound evidence only from human reasoning and understanding God’s existence.
Design Theory and the Existence of God
The intelligent design theory is based on the teleological argument in favour of God’s existence. It propagates clear evidence in this complex world, which indicates that someone, a superior being deliberately designed it. In this regard, the Paley (1807) argument of the watchmaker analogy supports God’s intelligent design and existence. According to Paley (1807), the watch’s precise arrangement and its intricate parts with precision and accuracy in the measurement created a perfect machine to monitor time. The parts of this precise machine act together in cohesion that supports the simultaneous movements. Similarly, theological argument relates to God’s existence in the universe with human artefacts in the form of intelligent and accurate designs (Dawkins, 1996). The works of nature, such as the human body represent the artefacts meaning that they are design products. Based on the reason that the human body as an artefact is far more complex than a watch, creating it required a far more powerful and intelligent designer than a human being.
However,r this theological argument faced criticism and rejection from several scholars in the realms of atheism and scepticism. Hume (1779) contributed to raising arguments against God’s religious claims and refused to accept the design theory of God’s existence. Hume (1779, p. 167) counter-argued the design theory and considered the smoothly functioning system to be an outcome of “chance permutations of particles falling into a temporary or permanent self-sustaining order, which thus has the appearance of design”.
The religious intentions projected in Hume’s (1779) work are based on the notions that the analogy of human artefacts and the creation of the universe are not compatible and does not originate from a single source. Furthermore, sceptics argued that God’s existence, given theological arguments, has not been proved but declared as probable. Orthodox beliefs in religion also received criticism from Darwin evolution theory (Dennett, 1995) and the Nature of Universe by Lucretius (1951). In his book, Lucretius (1951) provided the argument as a statement of atheism that matter cannot be created from nowhere and exists as “uncreated” and eternal. This assumption, based on the classical saying of “Nothing can come from nothing” (Lucretius, 1951: 31). Hence, both Hume and Lucretius denied the acceptance of the analogy of watch design and God’s existence due to the dissimilarity of the universe and human artefacts. One widely accepted criticism of the arguments for God’s existence is that they do not provide an actual argument for the case of Gods existence; rather, they infer that God must exist. The example of the design argument infers that the world’s creator just as a watch has its creator, but there is no actual evidence pointing to this creator being God.
Because of the design argument’s complications and flaws, contemporary versions were formed to devise a more fitting way to prove that the world is designed. A recent example of a more modern formation of the design argument is the ‘fine-tuned’ concept of the universe which insinuates the universe’s precision. The universe is so precisely made with near-impossible precise values to give the universe that the simpler explanation is that an intelligent designer. In this regards Allen (2010) has quoted a statement of Antony Flew, who was an atheist for most of his life, which says that “an intelligent being as involved in some way in the design of conditions that would allow life to arise and evolve.”
Likewise, famous astronomer Fred Hoyle (1981), an atheist coincidentally, also acknowledged the possibility of an intelligent being in his book, ‘The Universe: Past and Present Reflections, Engineering & Science’. While speaking about the prospect of a designer, he stated that “Some super-calculating intellect must have designed the properties of the carbon atom. Otherwise, the chance of my finding such an atom through the blind forces of nature would be utterly minuscule (Hoyle, 1981).” Hoyle’s theory stems from the fact he does not find evolution to be an adequate explanation for life on earth. Like Flew, Hoyle recognised significant signs of design in the universe as they notice things are too complex for the world not to be designed. Despite being predominately atheists for most of their lives, they both acknowledged what Hoyle (1981) describes as “beyond question,” and that is the intelligent designer’s existence, which probably is God. Consequently, both Hoyle and Flew utilized the design argument to conclude there must indeed be a creator.
Furthermore, scientists have tried various attempts to provide other descriptions of theological arguments (Fieser, 2001). For instance, Intelligent Design Theory counter-arguments Darwin’s theory of evolution by suggesting that natural selection is not visible in complex living organisms with intricate design. The intelligent design theory makes the philosophical claim that it can provide how biological species became through science. Moreover, the works of Stein (1980) and Pigliucci (2000) raised various important questions related to this subject, such as if God is all true and positive then why is the evil not stopped? The kindness feature of God is criticised for not helping those who face suffering. In religious texts such as the Bible, this is demonstrated numerous times. Similarly, the prevention of evil is God’s choice, so sceptics raised the question of whether God trying to stop evil or not.
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Modern Philosophical Theories
In modern philosophical approaches, the concept of God’s existence and its relationship with suffering in the world is discussed in detail. Thus, Ayer (1952) claimed that it is not possible if ‘god’ even exist, even if God is termed metaphysically. As the claim of God’s existence related to the physical state of existence, philosophers like Ayer denied it. As no proof of God’s physical existence is shown in history; therefore, the claim of God is present has been argued in modern philosophy. Furthermore, Carnap (1959) asserted that;
“In its metaphysical use, the word ‘God’ refers to something beyond experience. The word is deliberately divested of its reference to a physical being or to a spiritual being, which is imminent in the physical. And as it is not given a new meaning, it becomes meaningless.” (p. 63)
Given the criteria of verifiability, the debate on God’s existence remained meaningless for many centuries. Smart (1955) argued in a study that the actual threat for this argument does not come from those who deny God’s existence. Still, the actual threat is the assumption of people who declared existence or non-existence of God equally absurd. This debate on God’s existence reached until mid of the twentieth century on the assumption of scholars such as Carnap and Smart.
The 18th century was a significant period in philosophy. The Enlightenment period marked a period where philosophy began distancing itself from religion in favour of reason. This meant a change to the society in religious issues. Things like reason and individualism became seen as the primary matter of the Enlightenment movement and tradition was thrown out of the window. Kant’s famous essay “An Answer to the Question: What is Enlightenment?” (1784) defines the term ‘enlightenment as being “man’s emergence from his self-incurred immaturity.” Enlightenment required that one think things for themselves using their own understanding and without anyone’s guidance.
Deism, which was formed through the enlightenment period, and is a philosophical version of theism used reason as its main source of knowledge. Deists hold the view that God is the creator of the universe and that once he created it, he did not intervene after. They also reject all things supernatural (i.e. miracles & revelations) as sources of religious belief. Although not a deist, Issac Newton (1952) endorses deism when writing his ‘Opticks’ as he claimed that you could conclude God as the creator of this earth and it cannot be denied based on the ordered beauty that we see in this world.
Locke (1695) presents a similar argument that also links the idea of God to reason. However, Locke went a step further and held the view that anything that goes against reason cannot be considered a revelation. Like Newton, Locke is also not a deist as he believed in the supernatural such as miracles. But most of Locke’s works were influential to deists. Theologians of the enlightenment period simplified their faith to avoid debates and controversy but maintained God’s concept. Locke did this by abandoning mysticism and focusing on giving an “unprejudiced examination” of God’s word. Equally, to Newton, Locke infers based on the natural reason that God is the creator.
In recent times, Searle’s (1998) argument is important in denial of the claim of theism as he declares that the world becomes ‘demystified’ for the educated people in western society. The development of technology and changes in the people’s style partly affected God’s perception in the minds of moral people. Searle (1998) further argued that the belief in God’s existence or the questions about this existence is out of context and religion is declared as personal preference.
God and Suffering in the World
In this situation, one of the most prominent atheist scholars Martin (1999) is important in this discussion. Martin’s work was renounced in atheist literature by his extensive publications related to religious philosophy and his contribution to the debate of God’s existence can be declared significant (Martin, 1999). Despite Martin beliefs as an atheist, some meaningful questions were raised from his detailed work on atheism. The moral argument related to God’s role in the suffering of the world and the spread of evil has risen in mid of the twentieth century. Martin (1999) argued that if God is true and all-powerful, God should not allow mishappening and worsening morality in the world. The evil should have no such powers to create the sufferings in the world. Similarly, it was argued by Holden (2010) if God is too perfect to design this precise universe, then the concept of evil and the suffering of the world need further descriptions (Holden 2010).
Many scholars use inductive reasoning to come when discussing the world’s suffering to conclude that God does not exist. An example of a direct inductive formulation for the argument of suffering is set out like this:
- Incidents in our world occur — such as an animal’s dying excruciating deaths due to other animals and children undergoing persistent suffering such as being born disabled and eventual death due to cancer – even more recently footballer, Marc Batra who is a key player for the German club, Dortmund involved in a terrorist bomb attack the day before his football team played a cup match which they lost — such that the actions of allowing those events, when one could prevent them, all three examples (a) have severe, immoral characteristics and (b) have no right making characteristics to potentially balance out the immoral characteristics.
- Therefore, it is probable that such actions make the immoral properties outweigh the potential moral properties’ entirety.
Schopenhauer is considered one of the prominent and influential researchers under this debate. His work “On the Sufferings of the World” in 1851 claimed that misfortune and suffering are immediate “a direct constituent of life”, therefore, life cannot be completed without suffering (Schopenhauer, 1851). Unlike the work of other atheists who denied God’s existence and its role in the creation of humanity based on suffering in this world. Further, Schopenhauer accepted the presence of evil in life as reality and declared that goodness is the absence of evil. Therefore, Schopenhauer declared that pleasure is always accompanied by pain and pain relief is a pleasure. Suffering is the reality of life that everybody must experience no matter how unknown this reality is for the people who experience it suddenly on one day or the other.
Moreover, denial of God’s existence is sometimes taken as analogous to the denial of morality. Martin (1999) strictly debated that moral behaviour is in line with the principles of life. Even most rigid atheists observed exercising morality in routine life. The modern perspective of Martin denied the immoral behaviour of these persons, even if they did not believe in God. Hence, the modern perspective defined moral and social obligations as an individual to function properly in society’s institution (Plantinga, 1974). The role of religion and belief in God existence is suggested to be limited to individual perception only. Furthermore, Morriston (2000) argues that if every creature is subjected to act according to inert nature, God is no exception. Therefore, if God has not stopped the sufferings in the world, then He must have desired it (Bailey & Dan, 2012). However, the gracious description of God in theological argument never portrayed unkind features, i.e. it is impossible to assume that God lacks moral responsibility; as such theories suggest a balance between good and evil which is maintained to judge the attributes of life in this Word.
Mawson (2005) claims that the world’s evil and suffering cannot be put down to God. “The occurrence of evil in the world provides us with no reason whatsoever to think that there’s not a God.” (Mawson, 2005: 216). Mawson, just like most Christian apologetics, claims that God cannot be blamed for the evil and suffering in the world. Similarly, in his soul-making theory, John Hick (1977) states that God cannot be blamed, but rather the human that mistakes the world for a paradise should be.
The concept of free will is an argument that much Christian apologetics use to justify suffering in the world. Scholars believed the free will to be a gift from God gives us the freedom to choose to act how we want. It is then with that free will that people have used to act morally wrong. Why does God not stop a person acting morally wrong and causing harm and suffering to his fellow creations? Peterson (1998) explains the common Christian answer when he writes,
“if a person is free concerning an action A, then God does not bring it about or cause it to be the case that she does A or refrains from doing A. For if God brings it about or causes it to be the case in any manner whatsoever that the person either does A or does not do A, then that person is not really free. (p.39)”
Alvin Plantinga (1974) offers a very similar answer to this question in his famous free will defence argument when he writes,
“A world containing creatures who are significantly free (and freely perform more good than evil actions) is more valuable, all else being equal than a world containing no free creatures at all. Now God can create free creatures, but He can’t cause or determine them to do only what is right. For if He does so, then they aren’t significantly free after all; they do not do what is right freely” (p. 166-167).
So, both Plantinga and Peterson draw upon how vital maintaining the free will concept is at the expense of the world’s evil and suffering. However, Plantinga goes a step further on the matter in his free will defence when he states,
“To create creatures capable of moral good, therefore, he must create creatures capable of moral evil; and he cannot leave these creatures free to perform evil and at the same time prevent them from doing so (Plantinga 1974, pp. 166-167).”
On the other hand, Mackie (1955) disregards Plantinga’s ‘Free will defence’ as he believes God’s idea attributes to be problematic with the suffering in the world. Mackie was the main contributor to evil’s logical problem, and he questions why God could not have created men that always choose freely to do morally good. Fellow atheist Antony Flew (1955) also argued that God should have no problem creating a world with only good people to inhabit it when he states that, “If there is no contradiction here then Omnipotence might have made a world inhabited by perfectly virtuous people (p.149).”
Scientific Evidence and The Existence of God
Scientific researches provide evidence in support of the existence of God and intelligent design argument. Behe, Dembski, and Meyer (2000) conducted research to explain intelligent design in the light of biological sciences. Based on the evidence from biological sciences, it was concluded that the biological system, such as blood coagulation is so much complex that it is evident enough to prove that it is a result of intelligent designing. While countering the theory of evolution, it was argued that individual biochemical elements couldn’t come together and form such a complex system by chance. This research provided evidence to reject evolutionary change and supports the intelligent design theory.
O’Connor (2007) had found classical theism to be the best justification for the natural world’s existence. It was concluded that there must be a God who is omnipotent, who have designed and sustained this world. Benzmüller conducted Computer-based research, and Paleo (2014) to test the ontological argument of Kurt Gödel to verify the existence of God. A higher-order automated theorem was automated on a computer to evaluate God’s existence. Based on the results of the theorem, it was evident that God exists. Benzmüller and Paleo (2015) conducted another research to test Gödel’s argument of God’s existence. Various experiments based on computational Metaphysics were conducted using the computer-supported analysis to test Gödel’s argument of God’s existence. It was concluded that the automated theorem based on computer-supported analysis proves the existence of God.
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Chapter III – Research Methodology
This chapter elaborates the selected research design, research approach, data collection and analysis procedures used for conducting this research. Moreover, the ethical issues encountered and addressed in this study are also discussed in this chapter.
The selection of appropriate research design facilitates the planning and conducting of the research (Creswell, 2003). According to Zikmund (2010), the methodology is examining used methods in any particular research. As this present research is based on theism and deals with theoretical contexts of God’s theology and existence, such a research method was required to use, which would enable the researcher to analyse the past empirical and theoretical literature related to the research topic.
A per literature the exploratory research design can utilize qualitative research methods such as in-depth interviews. However, it is possible to conduct exploratory research only based on literature review and thematic analysis. This indicated that by using an exploratory research design, it was possible to conduct this study based on the past literature analysis. Therefore, it was suitable to use this research design in this study. By employing exploratory research design, the secondary data comprising the past literature related to the research topic were analyzed and interpreted to determine research findings (Creswell, 2003). The subjective approach of data collection will be employed to collect secondary data (past literature).
Exploratory research design is based on interpretivism philosophy, and so it provides the basis for this interpretive research. The interpretivism school of philosophy is suitable for complex, vague, and unknown areas in any research context. The selection of interpretivism as the philosophical base of this research concentrated on secondary qualitative data (past literature). In literature, God’s existence and the association of different perspectives with God’s presence and sufferings in the world are much explained in theoretical and philosophical aspects. Therefore, in this research, past literature was analyzed to evaluate both sides to the argument of the God’sstence of identifying key components of the arguments. Given this, the theism and modern approaches in religion related to God’s existence are outlined in this study. In the words of Jasper (1994) “true meaning of phenomena can be explored through the experience as described by the individual” (p. 309). This interpretive research is designed to collect and analyze only credible research literature sources.
The research approach, which is used in this study, is based on an inductive approach. The inductive approach is based on reasoning where strong evidence is provided to draw probable conclusions. The drawn conclusions are uncertain though they are based on some theory of evidence. This research is ideal to use in situations where it is impossible to draw conclusions with certainty or based on the logical argument (Creswell, 2003). Given this to conduct this research, it was ideal to use an inductive approach to conclude.
An inductive approach is prescribed in interpretive research as it is a bottom-up approach to exploring any vague and complex issue. The objectives of this research comprised the evaluation of the link between theism and God’s existence. The consideration of modern philosophical theories of atheism considered the evidence of theism and exploration of God’s role in the suffering of humankind as argued by atheist scholars.
Qualitative research methodology based on inductive, subjective, and thematic analysis supports interpreting a phenomenon and developing theories in a systematic order. This subjective qualitative data collection approach supports detailed and theoretical research related to critical situations or experiences in life. The nature of the design argument about God’s existence and the modern theories built to deny this argument provided a counter-argument of denial of God existence. This qualitative data in the form of past literature spread in hundreds of academic journals and books. A focal issue of qualitative research is the credibility of the work found. Lincoln and Guba (1985) describe several of the most relevant methods in establishing the credibility of the literature found. Therefore, it was difficult and inappropriate to select a quantitative data approach, as research is not intended to collect primary data. Thus, the past literature about God’s existence and the assumptions of theists, atheists, and the more recent scientific arguments about the responsibility of world sufferings are included in the qualitative data.
Data Collection Procedure
Given Saunders et al. (2012), the interpretation and deep understanding of the research problem are better facilitated by reviewing the secondary data (past literature) in exploratory studies. Therefore, in this research, the qualitative data (literature) related to the theories of theism and modern perspectives on God’s existence was collected from academic journal articles and books on religion and philosophy. The study’s conceptual basis focused on the design theory of God existence, Humes (1779) moral atheism approaches Darwinism claims of evolution, and modern conceptual approaches of Bailey and Dan (2012). The other literature exploration is based on the ideas induced from these writings and important assumptions drawn based on moral atheism, Darwin approach, and counter-argument of design theory. Literature directly related to these important theories was included in the literature review and data analysis. The arguments are selected based on the volume of evidence supported in related literature.
Saunders et al. (2012) suggested thematic analyses as a suitable strategy for theoretical and conceptual data analysis. Therefore in this study, the past literature was arranged and analyzed in terms of similar themes. The alignment of these themes has been done concerning the raised objectives of the research. The literature classification was completed on the basis of accuracy, relevance, importance, and updated versions. The elimination of the data was decided on the basis of non-relevance and old pieces of researches. However, historical sources such as Humes (1779) provided the basis of this argumentative research. Therefore old and relevant researches are used extensively. Another important consideration in data analyses was the comparison of theism and modern approaches for God’s existence. This comparison is highlighted and presented in tables and exhibits. The pieces of evidence in favour of both arguments and against these approaches are included in the analyses sections. The answer to the raised question is derived from this review of the literature review and thematic analysis.
According to Bryman (2008), ethical consideration for a research-based review of the literature focuses on the relevance and credibility of reviewed information. As no primary research is included in this research, the credibility of the collected information and its rightful interpretations are the primary and most important ethical considerations for this type of research. To ensure the credibility of the collected information, the past literature reviewed includes the research journal articles and published books. Moreover, all the reviewed literature was paraphrased and interpreted by the researcher while referencing actual sources. Credit to each quoted and used literature is properly given to the actual writers.
There are two perspectives in research; ‘etic’ (outsider) perspective where the researcher is culturally neutral and an outsider, in contrast ‘emic’ (insider) perspective where the researcher would be looking at things from his/her own perspective, which would be biased (Headland, 1990). Given these ‘emic’ perspectives, an ethical issue that continues to arise is can a researcher really be non-biased and distance him/herself from his/her religion fully? It is argued that our beliefs are the way we live and influence our ideas about life; therefore, it is tough to be non-biased. Although the researcher may try as hard as possible to be as objective as possible, the researcher will still hold their beliefs and ideologies in their head. Therefore it means completely being non-biased may not necessarily be possible. Nevertheless, it was ensured in this research that the results are free from the researcher’s biases, and the researcher remains completely neutral as much as possible while interpreting the past literature.
Chapter IV – Data Analysis and Discussion
The literature analysis has been completed to follow a structured approach of classification, and this analysis of the past literature is presented in this chapter. From the literature reviewed, it was observed that various forms of literature are published, which highlights such arguments and counter-arguments for the existence of God. However, there is a need for a consistent study that evaluates both sides of the arguments and provide some form of a fact-based evaluation under this topic. Hence, this section of this study provides a detailed analysis of theism against the countering concepts systematically.
The belief in God and his role in the suffering of this world analysed in this thesis has been based on the past literature review. The belief in God concerning theories of religions and scientific evidence and the countering scientific perspective requires a perception of mind and acceptance from human beings’ conscious experience. God is viewed as a supreme authority, responsible for everything that happens worldwide through a precisely engineered nature. The existence of God needs to be accepted before God is considered responsible for human suffering. On the other hand, the theists’ believers faced an argument that questions God’s merciful role as the creator of this universe as to how He can be isolated from the suffering of His own creation. Therefore, multiple views of God existence and human sufferings were presented in Chapter 2 of this paper.
Understandably, the argument of God’s existence and the required evidence may not be achieved through laboratory or courtroom presence. However, the argument should be more plausible and based on a reasonable understanding of God’s presence in nature (Carnap 1959). Furthermore, the literature reveals that many scholars and works simultaneously follow the single argument of God’s existence; therefore, it is challenging to associate a single argument to anyone scholar unanimously. In the presence of multiple claims, there is no universally acclaimed proof of God’s presence. Another important concern of theism arguments of god existence is the attempts to attain proof of these claims. However, the attempts of theists to attain rationality may not impress atheists for conversion to theism. As the belief level in general people is quite high, people tend to believe arguments easily. Therefore, natural theology is quite successful for common people to believe in theism. In this regard, Farrer (1943) asserted that the reasonable beliefs accompanied by a sound reason and other people’s job are to conclude only.
This chapter extends these views while critically analysing the research and the modern perspectives of God’s existence and His role in Human sufferings. The atheists’ and theists’ perspectives can be explained with the help of the following distribution:
From the information gained through knowledge, particularly the esoteric mystical knowledge and science, referred to as Gnostic Atheists that truly deny God’s presence completely. These Gnostic Atheists include the researchers and scholars who claimed to found no evidence in science or another form of knowledge for the presence of God. In contrast, Gnostic theists certainly believe in the presence of only one God. These Gnostic theists include the believers of Islam, Judaism, and Christianity, who all potentially fall in this category. Gnostic theist category also includes scientists and scholars who reflected on the optimum designing of the universe around us and the laws of nature; to be the work of supreme power and provide scientific evidence that indicates God’s existence. This included Newton (1952) who accepted God’s presence according to whom this organized universe could not be formed without a creator. However, the lack of knowledge leads to the non-believing and uncertain Agnostic Atheists, who believe in many Gods with various uncertainties referred to as Agnostic Atheists (Polytheists).
The information based on this ‘categorisation’ is not available in the literature completed so far. It is important to note that based on this model, a higher proportion of the population may fall either under uncertain category (Polytheists) or the believing category (Theists) since the influence of religion still prevails in the majority of the countries around the world, especially the densely populated underdeveloped regions of the world. It is also important to note that the world population is expected to grow at drastically higher levels in underdeveloped countries, which may strengthen these categorisations in the years to come.
Therefore, the views on God existence can only be classified based on analyses of available literature and the religious basis of these beliefs. Table 4.1 below shows a comparative summary of findings of the much ‘debated religious and scholarly perspective’ about the reality of this life and universe and the existence of God.
Table 4.1: Summary of findings from the literature
|Paradigms||Religious Basis||Reality of life||God Existence|
(Schopenhauer, 1851; Martin 1999)
|The universe is the only material that exists, and there is no explanation for the soul, afterlife, and heavens. Natural law can explain everything. (Stein, 1980; Pigliucci, 2000; Hawking, 1999).||Truth is the five senses and their proof of the natural phenomenon of existence, no God existed anywhere in the universe. (Mosheim, 1845; Hume, 1779).|
New Age Consciousness
|Spiritual dimension only exists other aspects are an only illusion; Mayaa is the only Spiritual reality, with Brahman’s impersonal and eternal presence. God is part of everything, and everything can be worshipped as God (Borg, 1997; Olsen et al., 2006).||Unity experienced in the case of the Universe, but the truth related to God is beyond explaining the human mind. The western thought related to the truth of God existence cannot guide human beings. (Olsen et al. 2005)|
|A personal and infinite, God exists. He is the creator of this finite, organized, and material world. Reality explained with both material and spiritual bases. The universe has a beginning and a proper end (Paley, 1809; Newton, 1952)||Revelation helps to understand God. The presence of the material world and five senses of living beings help t identify God’s existence (Mawson, 2005).|
|Thousands of Religions||Spirit beings populated the world and governed the affairs of the world. Natural events have reasons for the presence of Gods and evil. Spirits are associated with material things than can explain the presence of spirituality (Humes, 1777; Stein, 1980)||Gods’ presence verified with the presence of evil and good deeds in the material universe. Spirituality helps to discover the actions of Gods and evil.|
|The social construction of reality which can be interpreted with the cultural and social paradigms (Allen, 2010; Searle, 1998)||Truths about the presence of a mighty creator or God linked with individual norms and culture.|
Hence, the above-presented perspectives show that the theists’ perspective completely accepts the presence of an omnipotent and omnipresent God in the universe. The other perspective based this acceptance on the provision of scientific evidence and denied either the presence of a single God or accepts many gods’ presence. In this case, the responsibility of world sufferings is also an important factor which must be considered in these multiple perspectives. Because of literature, the case of human sufferings can be shown in table 4.2 below:
Table 4.2: Summary of findings on the argument of World’s sufferings
|Frames||Basis||Stance of suffering||Evidence in literature||Explanation|
|Centred as God is responsible for the suffering||Individual||As Punishment||Dormandy 2006;||Suffering is the price for their own actions in this world|
|As a Reward||Beke 2011; Ghadinian 2012||How a person learn what not to do in the World|
|Centred as God is not responsible for the suffering||Collective focus||as Natural Destiny||Ferrell & Coyle 2008||Encountering destiny written in your fate|
|Suffering as Manageable||Pinker (2011)||The suffering can be made bearable due to inventions in science, e.g. disease cure in medicine|
The above views on suffering explained different stances of the suffering concerning the arguments present in literature when suffering is treated as God’s action. In these perspectives, the causes and implications of suffering are identified that it can be as a punishment of one’s own accords, can be given as a reward to ‘gain further in life and the afterlife. According to theists perspectives, suffering generates rewards in the afterlife as God balances the acts in the world with hell and heaven. On the other hand, atheists denied this fact and not believed in heaven or hell. Their argument that if God existed, he would not let his creation to suffer give, and his presumably supreme powers on nature could well manage these conditions, has influenced many around the world. Hence they suggested that sufferings in the world can be seen as the repercussions of one’s own actions that can be acted as a natural destiny/phenomenon (Ferrell & Coyle, 2008) or to the extent where it can be manageable by themselves (Pinkers 2011).
In recent times, Searle’s (1998) argument is important in denial of the claim of theism, as he declares that the world becomes ‘demystified’ for the educated people in western society through advancements in physical science. The researchers logically relate the science of biological naturalism with consciousness and suggest that such beliefs have largely been a product of ‘culture’ and understanding of the ‘physical world’ the humans relate to. However, as scientific relation is yet to be discovered that could explain mind and consciousness, it can be argued that concrete or collusive evidence on any of the presented concepts is not available to humans thus far. Hence, we must search more deeply to understand the physical and biological aspects of materials and the universe structure, to gain answers on what holds the ultimate truth.
The reviewed literature indicated that both 20th Century atheist philosophers have argued that the idea of a God is problematic as if he was omnipotent he would be able to create a world with “perfectly virtuous people” as Flew put it. This concept was counter-argued by various theists such as Plantinga (1974). Plantinga interestingly states in his Free Will defence that God cannot completely remove the evil from the world without eliminating some good as well. Thus, evil and suffering need to remain. Many contemporary scholars consider Plantinga’s Free Will defence to have defeated the logical problem of evil and suffering globally – that claims it is not possible for suffering and God to co-exist.
In this regards, Hick (1977) also argued that this world is designed with the purpose of soul-making and the person who views evil as the problem is one who mistakes the world for a paradise. Thus, both Hick and Mawson disregard God as the cause of evil and suffering in the world. Given Peterson (1998) argument, God, therefore, cannot interfere in the world to stop morally bad actions as that would and eliminate evil and suffering as that will withdraw the gift of free will. Based on the above argument, the claim of atheist seems weak in measuring God’s existence with the prevalence of evil and suffering of the world. It was also found people do not feel as confident in discussing religion and beliefs in public. Therefore, this matter of God’s existence has become a matter of scholarly decision in theism and atheist literature.
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Chapter V – Conclusion
The findings of the research are concluded in this chapter, along with the limitations of the research. This study aimed to explore the link between theism and the ultimate explanation of God’s existence against the counter-arguments of modern philosophical theories and the suffering of the world. The literature review related to theism and existence of God indicates that the proponents of intelligent design theory argue that the world is so complex that it cannot be self-created and must have a designer, a superior being, a God who is Omnipotent. Paley (1807) argument based on the watchmaker analogy provides a logical justification to deduce God’s existence.
Paley tried to be logical while arguing that when an object like a watch cannot come into existence without a designer, then how can it be possible that a complex system of the world can come into existence without having a designer. It is a fact that this universe has an accurate system on which it works. For instance, the sun, moon, and star have their own orbits, and they do not go beyond certain parameters, which indicates how accurately they are designed. These facts also support the theological argument that a superior being, God intelligently designed this world. The universe is so precisely made with near-impossible precise values that it can’t be created independently. Therefore based on the watchmaker analogy, it is arguable that this world must have a creator.
Besides the logical argument provided by the theists, scientific research also provides evidence that supports the intelligent design argument and indicates God’s existence. In this regard, the research results based on the biological sciences by Behe, Dembski, and Meyer (2000) also justify that the blood coagulation in the human body is so complex that individual biochemical elements can’t come together and form this complex system by chance. Therefore such a complex system cannot be created unless it is intelligently designed. Moreover, Benzmüller and Paleo (2014, 2015) research using computer-supported analysis based on automated theorem also proved God’s existence.
However, the theological argument of intelligent design faced criticism from atheist researchers and scholars. Hume (1779) claimed that this world was created by chance, and the system which is appearing as well designed was developed just by a coincidence. The critics of intelligent design arguments supported the Darwin theory of evolution as they argue that this world was created by evolution. However, the Darwin theory of evolution has never been witnessed in complex living organisms. So any argument based on the theory of evolution cannot be regarded as logical or convincing.
Regarding God’s physical existence, some philosophers like Ayer (1974) argue that as there is no proof of God’s physical existence; therefore, the existence of God can be denied on its basis. However, theists counter-argued that God is something beyond experience because it is a spiritual being with no physical form. Moreover, it is argued by the sceptics that the existence of God is not proven by the theist’ researchers or scholars but inferred based on probability. However, it can be counter-argued that as God’s existence is not yet proved, similarly, there is no evidence to disprove the existence of God or God does not exist. The atheists and sceptics are also inferring that God does not exist, in the same way, the theists infer the God does exist. The present literature provides limited evidence to prove or disprove the existence of God. However, based on the established and proven scientific knowledge, God’s existence as an intelligent designer can be comprehended. Maybe this concept can be explained by the Islamic view as per the following verse of the Quran which says;
“Indeed, in the creation of the heavens and earth, and the alternation of the night and the day, and the [great] ships which sail through the sea with that which benefits people, and what Allah has sent down from the heavens of rain, giving life thereby to the earth after its lifelessness and dispersing therein every [kind of] moving creature, and [His] directing of the winds and the clouds controlled between the heaven and the earth are signs for a people who use reason.” (Quran, Al-Baqarah, Verse 164)
Moreover, regarding God’s existence about the suffering of the world, it is argued that if God is all true and positive, then why evil is not stopped. God’s kindness feature is criticised for not helping those who face sufferings, or the prevalence of evil is inferred as the non-existence of God. Bailey and Dan (2012) and Morriston (2000), while questioning God’s love and graciousness, argued that God desires the world’s suffering because God has not stopped it. Therefore it is argued that how it is possible that God who is portrayed as kind and gracious can allow evil to prevail in this world. However, it is counter-argued by Islam and Christian supporters like Mawson (2005) that God cannot be blamed for the evil and suffering in the world because God has given humans free will which gives them the freedom to choose and to act how they want. This life is a test and humans are free to do good or evil in this world to be judged and rewarded in the hereafter based on their deeds. If this free will was not given to humans and there was no evil existing in this world then there would not be any basis to identify which human is better than the other and who should be rewarded or punished in the hereafter. However, modern philosophers and atheist researchers raise considerable challenges to relate to the World’s suffering with God’s absence. Nevertheless, based on the theist’s arguments, it was logically evident that the suffering of the world cannot be inferred as the absence of God. The theists still seem firm in propagating the ultimate explanation of God’s existence based on intelligent design argument, and the scientific developments also support this viewpoint. Even still the science and research is still unable to prove or disprove the existence of God.
The limitations of this research are that it was based on a review of past literature. Therefore, the results that were interpreted from previous research and any evidence analyzed and discussed in this research are limited to the reviewed literature. Moreover, as the reviewed literature was interpreted and inferred by the researcher, if the researcher had not correctly interpreted it, then there is a chance that the research findings are invalid or inappropriate or were influenced by the researcher’s biases.
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