I have been a Catholic and have attended Church regularly with my family, always believing in God and the stories and tales of the Bible as pure fact that happened long ago, and of Jesus being the savior, etc.
Just this past month I attended a Presbyterian church service with my elderly grandmother in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. The church was small to begin with, and only about one-third of the seats were filled. I would have to say that at least 95% of the people were all over 65, with very few young couples at all. My grandma made a comment on the lack of young people who attend the masses now, and she kept referring to the fact that recently less and less young couples and families ever attended church.
At first I thought that this church would then seriously have to close its doors when the current majority of the parishioners died, but then I realized another aspect of human behavior and psychology.
The characteristic that I see and hear so much about that many humans tend to possess and practice, is the fact that they become "closer to "god"" the older they get. Why is this? It is because of one of the same big reasons that we even have to have religion in the first place: fear about death and what happens to us afterwards. These people seem to be turning to the kind of thinking that inspired the dichotic idea of PASCAL^S WAGER. Even if these people were not very religious during their younger years, we can now see a trend of a large section of our country^s population starting to attend church more and more and become more "religious" as they grow older. What inspires this shift?--plain and simple, the fear of uncertainty.
"QUESTIONING" ONES BELIEFS MUST GO BEYOND JUST WONDERING
When I used to attend Church regularly their was a priest who was an extremely good speaker and extremely intelligent. Even though he was a Catholic priest, serving as the pastor of an extremely large church, he had the courage and brains to disagree with some of the rigid dogma setup and enforced by the Vatican. I remember one sermon he gave that has greatly influenced me since, and I am very happy I was fortunate enough to hear it. In this certain sermon he talked about his thoughts on it being good for teenagers and youth to question the existence of a God in their world. He talked at length about this questioning and finished up the speech with the summation that even though we can question, it all comes back to God.
I continued to believe in this way for a very long time. That there were many questions concerning the actual and true existence of God, however due to certain things like the design of the world, everything had to relate back to an almighty creator. Just recently I have started to realize the problem with my previous concept of "questioning", as well as this particular priest's. In the manner that he was referring to this concept, he was very right in the fact that "everything has to come back to God". The reason that this is true is due to the fact that just questioning is exactly that: if all we do is say to ourselves, is "Gee I wonder?", then we of course will not be able to come up with any alternative except to continue believing in the existence of a "god".
Questioning one^Òs faith must not only encompass asking yourself epistemological and metaphysical questions, but we must explore, learn, and above all gain knowledge about the
evidence and the arguments from both sides of the debate. We must have dialogues with others who believe the same as us, as well as those who share a completely different, even blatantly contrary view. Only by these means can we ever come out with a greater understanding of the issues surrounding the questions about the existence of a supreme being. If this procedure is followed and we always continue to learn and accept new, valid information then we will eventually find our own sense of the truth, and our own philosophy for our lives.
MY JOURNEY TO FIND THE TRUTH, AND SUBSEQUENT "LEAP OF REASON"
This past year I really started examining my own beliefs and faith in "God". As I read Homer^Òs Iliad, information about Mithra (Jesus^Ò immediate mythological predecessor), and many other sources that put questions in my mind about the validity of my faith, I began to seriously doubt whether "God" was something just made up by humans since the beginning of time to explain their world, or was really the truth.
I am sure now in my mind that the images and symbols used to represent "God" and initially "gods", were contrived simply to explain phenomena of the planet, mysteries of life, and to satisfy that extremely strong need of human beings to feel important. This past point I feel is the most pivotal in understanding the human race^Òs majority view of the existence of a supernatural power. There are so many people today that of course we can^Òt all have jobs that most would consider "important" and help lead the holder of that job to "SELF-ACTUALIZATION", so a "god" makes up for that. It is written and spoken by Christians and the Bible that all human beings are equal and that they are all loved the same by "God", therefore everyone is extremely important because the "maker of us all" values them on par with everyone else. A respected businessman who has worked for his fortune is the same as a neurotic drug addict begging for money; often times the former is seen even as more evil.
THE FALLACIOUS ARGUMENTS FOR THE EXISTENCE OF A GOD
In my quest to find the truth about the existence of a "God", which will always be going on and never end, I have also made it a point to study those arguments which are many philosophers^Ò and theists^Ò base for their belief in an almighty creator. I will begin by explaining the thought that goes into each argument, and how the people whom are proponents of these such arguments validate their claims. I will then therefore proceed to point out the mistakes that I believe each of them makes, some more than others. These three main arguments are as follows:
Teleological Argument for the Existence of God
The teleological argument for the existence of God is one that uses the actual existents we know in reality, in this case the entire planet and universe, and uses these in a somewhat well developed theory for the existence of a "god".
The simplest way to define this argument is to use the simple analogy of a clock maker to a clock; or intelligent designer to an intelligent design. This is the conscious basis for a theory that states that due to the fact that we live and exist in a wholly technical and advanced-level world where things such as the existence of life and humans are very "intelligent", then there must be an intelligent creator that first shaped us all and everything around us. This theory has been changed and developed even more over the years into modern versions.
The main ideas that I find inherently wrong with this argument come from the fact that first: theists believe that God just exists and always has, however he too would be an intelligent being, and according to the teleological argument itself, would "He" then not necessitate an intelligent designer? And so on and so forth^Å Therefore theists who believe in the "existence exists" idea in terms of a "God", and also tend to endorse the teleological argument, are contradicting themselves because of a conflict in which the premises of their two parallel beliefs are at odds. Those making this contradiction must check their premises.
Another more abstract theory that can act to somewhat disprove the validity of this argument is that of the "OSCIALLATING UNIVERSE THEORY". This theory in a nutshell states that the universe is constantly either expanding or condensing, as long as matter is present in the universe. A corollary of this theory also says that there is substantial evidence that the universe has expanded to its limit and then shrunken down again into one point of infinite density, temperature, and curvature, only to explode again (the big bang), a total of 100 times! With the potential of an entirely new universe being created each time this has happened, with the potential of completely different laws of physics and the behavior of matter, then there is definitely the increased possibility of our planet simply existing and being able to support life by a chance creation of the universe we live in, created by the current expansion and creation that has been happening for an estimated 10 billion years. The fact is, with that many worlds being created over time, there is a sure chance that out of all those planets created, at least one, ours, could support life.
The Ontological Argument for the Existence of God
The Ontological argument for the existence of a "God" is more complex, and more utterly unfounded then the one, previous argument that we have examined. This argument basis its entire "proof" on floating abstractions made about the brain of man, his conscious, and the things it is unable to do. This argument is commonly referred to St. Anselm, its primary creator. The argument goes like this: We all have somewhat of an image or idea of what "God" is in our minds, even atheists who don^Òt believe in any "god" still have somewhat of a conception of what a "god", if one existed, would have to be like and capable of. Our conception of a "God" is fairly limited because to conceive of a being so great and powerful is hard for us to do in the first place. Anselm holds that because we can therefore conceive nothing greater than "God", one must exist.
Let^Òs look at that in simplistic form: due to the fact that I can neither think nor conceive of anything greater than this entity, the particular entity which I can not go beyond therefore must exist. How absurd of an argument is this? Its only foundation lies on some unconnected idea of a philosopher, randomly applied to reality. The main problem that I have with this argument is that it takes a rule and law of reality and reason, and applies to something that we simply can have no conclusion ever made on while living on earth. If I say that there is nothing worse and more scary that I can conceive of beyond death, so therefore death must exist, I am right because death does exist. In this case the ontological argument for the existence of death works. How do I know it works?--because I can see and perceive death in reality and I can know it beginning with my sense perceptions. The existence of, and my knowledge of death, is hierarchical. However the concept of "God" can^Òt not be traced back to basic sense perceptions (where all concepts must be originally derived from), and is therefore unable to be grounded in reality and truth. In order to gain higher knowledge of something as complex as a "God", we fist must perceive basic facts of reality. There are no basic facts of reality to perceive when it comes to the concept of "God".
Think of any concrete that almost all men believe in and their can be no real intellectual debate about without one of the parties being totally irrational in even disputing the fact^×that concrete concept can be traced back to the traced down on through the line directly to man^Òs ability to perceive. "God"^×this concept can not be broken down into anything close to reality and perception. It is because of this fact that even if you do believe in "God", in order to retain any sense of being able to think, you must remain agnostic. If we refuse to recognize the fact that the existence of "God" is impossible to perceive, then human knowledge will perish into an abyss of unconnected and unsupported beliefs in irrational and ungrounded faiths, which we will fool ourselves into believing is reality.
The Cosmological Argument for the Existence of God
The Cosmological argument hinges on a property which is a corollary of the axiom of existence. This law is the law of causality^×which states that all things that occur do so because they are caused. The proponents of this argument then take this law, which we apply to every day reality on Earth, to the beginning of the universe. They say that the universe just couldn^Òt have existed for all time, but that it would have to had been created just like everything else. They then take these beliefs even farther when they assert that the process of creation and existence can not be infinite in either moving forward, or looking backward.
For instance, these people believe that "God" created the universe^×therefore the universe has a cause. However they do begin to get into contradictory waters as soon as they are confronted with the fact that they believe of their God^Òs existence^×was God created too? No^×they say that there has to be some beginning that just was and always will be^×there can be no infinity in either going forward, and no infinite progression backwards through ages of cause after cause. This first contradiction is plain and obvious to the educated interpreter of the argument, the others are more deeply involved with other problems.
If these people believe in the phrase "existence exists" when it comes to their God, then why can^Òt this just be applied to something such as the universe? Why do we need a fanciful "God" to explain the beginning of the universe when the cosmological argument already asserts that things can not simply progress or regress infinitely? The reason is due to the concepts we discussed earlier of the need of human "self-actualization" and the reassurance of an afterlife where we can finally fully enjoy our humanity and existence.
This argument is right in one respect: the very entity that initially created the universe itself was not caused or created. In this correctness however they fail by failing to correctly identify that thing which did create the universe^×it was not "God", but something which contained the entire universe and still is a part of that universe. (FOR A CLARIFICATION OF WHAT I AM REFERRING TO HERE, READ THIS.)
My final conclusions so far in my quest to understand the basis for beliefs and proof for the existence and non-existence of "God" are short, small, and completely unfinished. They are my final conclusions for this paper, at this point in my life. One^Òs true final conclusions on these matters will only be able to made some day if there is some place, perhaps not necessarily a heaven, where we will have time to think and reflect on what we have learned during our lives, and perhaps even after them.
For now I know that no matter what paths we follow as human beings on journey to cognitive understanding about "God", we must always remain agnostic for the complete duration of our mortal lives, primarily because of the lack of a hierarchy of knowledge which we can see and deduct for the concept of "God". Finally, we must all learn as much as we possibly can and can volitionally motivate ourselves to in order to understand this debate and conflict in human belief.
Question everything^×learn from the answers.