Logic, Belief, and Unbelief

There is no proof that God exists.

Some of my religious friends may be surprised or offended by this statement, but it is true. The existence of God simply has not been proven in any scientifically valid way. Many have made valiant and thought-provoking efforts at ‘proofs’ of God’s existence, most notably the five proofs (Quinque viae) of St. Thomas Aquinas, and these are worthy of serious study and contemplation. They do not, however, withstand serious scientific scrutiny because they cannot be tested in any meaningful way.

‘So why,’ asks the non-believer, ‘does a college-educated, well-read, scientific-minded guy like yourself believe in God?’ My answer is simple. Science has not disproved God either, nor could it (yes, I know all about the scientific method and null hypothesis). My faith does not need or demand scientific proof; it is rooted not in science, but in natural law and my human instincts, emotions, and reason. I don’t need scientific proof of God’s existence to believe in God any more than I need scientific proof of love’s existence to believe in love. Science tells me many things about the universe; it does not, however, tell me much of anything useful about love. That does not mean that love doesn’t exist, or that it has no worth in our lives.

The doctrine of the theist—broadly defined here to mean ‘somebody who believes in a deity of some kind’—boils down to a logically consistent core: “I believe in God; proof is unnecessary.” One may, of course, criticize this doctrine, but you cannot argue that it is somehow inconsistent or logically invalid. It asks for no proof, so the lack of it doesn’t matter. If God’s existence were somehow proved by science, many theists would (hopefully politely) say they told you so, but that proof would still not be a bedrock necessity of their faith. Faith transcends science into the realms of natural law, instinct, emotion, and reason . . . things that cannot be quantified or measured, and yet they exist.

Theism is not, however, the only morally consistent position on the existence God. One may take the position of agnosticism—the position that the existence of God is something that is unknown, or unknowable. The doctrine of the agnostic, like that of the theist, boils down to a logically consistent core: “I demand proof. Because there is none, I am not sure if there is a God, and will remain neutral on the matter.” Once again, though one can criticize this doctrine, it is consistent and logically valid. If the existence of God were somehow proved by science, the agnostic would become a theist. If the existence of God were somehow disproved, the agnostic would become an atheist.

Earlier in my life, when I struggled with my faith, my interior debate was between these two positions—the only two that held up to my logical scrutiny. Either I believed in God, or I admitted that I just didn’t know. Ultimately I made the leap of faith and became a believer, for reasons that initially resembled the infamous Pascal’s Wager (though I didn’t know it at the time).

But there is, of course, one last position on the existence of God: atheism. Even early in my faith journey when I questioned the existence of God, the atheist position never sat well with me. Its core doctrine can be expressed like this: “I demand proof. There is no indication God exists, so I don’t believe in God.” It begins identically to the agnostic position in its demand for proof as the determinant of faith, but then does something quite surprising . . . it makes a leap of faith from ‘there’s no indication that God exists’ to ‘I don’t believe in God.’ Proof is the determinant, and yet the final position is one that is yet unproved (and probably unprovable).

My distillations of these three world-views are obviously oversimplified for the purposes of this brief discussion, but it is clear to me that the atheist position suffers a fatal logical disconnect. Ultimately, the atheist position that there is no God is no more defensible than the theist position that there is one, because neither position is supported by scientific proof. If one demands proof as the prerequisite for their beliefs in the existence of a deity or deities, then logic demands agnosticism. Any other position, theist or atheist, requires a leap of faith.

In my humble opinion, if you are willing to make a leap of faith in the absence of proof, you might as well believe that there’s something more to our lives than a meaningless evolutionary accident with no intrinsic worth and no objective moral purpose. I choose to believe that we are here for a reason, that I owe my existence to God, and that I ought to serve him by loving him and loving my neighbors—the two greatest commandments. Even if the atheists are right and there is no God, my life—and the lives of those around me—are better by these basic theistic precepts . . . precepts that are shared (to varying degrees) by almost all major world religions. In other words, even if we are nothing more than a happy evolutionary accident, we evolved religion because we are better with it than we would be without.

Scott Bradford is a writer and technologist who has been putting his opinions online since 1995. He believes in three inviolable human rights: life, liberty, and property. He is a Catholic Christian who worships the trinitarian God described in the Nicene Creed. Scott is a husband, nerd, pet lover, and AMC/Jeep enthusiast with a B.S. degree in public administration from George Mason University.