Essay #3

This weekend I had a 600 to 1000 word paper to write: “Explain your position on general metaphysics and the existence of God.  Are you a monist?  A dualist?  A theist, atheist or agnostic?  Why?”

I think I can safely say that this was the first time that I didn’t like the word count because it was too small!

Since I haven’t been writing anything else, I thought I might go ahead and put some of the essay here. This is not all of the essay (I’m totally dropping the monist/dualist argument for now), and it is more than my essay was, because with the 1000 word limit, I had to make short discussions, points and explanations. So I’m taking this chance to explain things more fully (I’ll try not to make it too long for you, though ;). In the green are comments that I added later that don’t really fit into the paper, but I thought I would throw them in to help explain what I was doing. You can skip them and won’t miss anything.

People have speculated about whether there is a God almost as long as humans have existed. Just the fact that so many cultures came up with their own idea of God suggests to me there must be one. Though widespread, the concept of God can be confusing. Several aspects need to be examined, starting with verification that the existence of God is not illogical, then examining who he is and what he is like. Since this would take a LOT of room, I will stick with the three main points that I had in my paper

First, I’m going to define God as a perfect, omnipotent (all-powerful), omniscient (all-knowing) being (the Judeo-Christian God). It is impossible to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that God exists, but the idea is not at all illogical. Descartes demonstrated this. After he boiled everything down to what he could absolutely prove, he examined the existence of God. He knew his life was not perfect, nor was any other human’s life (to err is human), so Descartes reasoned that the concept of a perfect being could not come from himself. But we have ideas of things that don’t exist don’t we? Yes, but those ideas come from other ideas. Unicorns and other mystical creatures, for example, do not exist, but we also did not just come up with them out of the blue. People looked at other animals and combined them to make these creatures. So Descartes could not create the idea of God nor could he “mix” other ideas together to get this idea. So Descartes concluded the idea of perfection must come from a perfect being. This also explains why we feel a need to better ourselves: if there was no perfect being as an example, then why would our consciences hold us to such a standard? Descartes was the one who said “I think therefore I am.”

Other evidence pointing to God is the way the universe is ordered. The subjective order problem says we could randomly toss a hundred coins in a bag, then turn the bag upside-down, and, when the coins stop rolling around, see orderly patterns in the resulting scattered coins similar to patterns we see in clouds, stars, and the universe as a whole. But it is not enough to say the universe is ordered, it is the way in which it is ordered that is special. It is made with extreme precision in order to sustain life. A physics professor I had once showed me a website where I could choose the masses of planets and their locations, and then the computer program would figure out their rotation due to gravity. In a short time of playing with only three planets, I managed (accidentally) to run them into each other and blow them all up. If I had been given the almost endless supply of planets in the universe, we would all be dead! That our universe could have exploded into existence without some powerful force directing it, and still be perfectly balanced for life, is harder for me to believe than the existence of an all-powerful God.

But some people argue God cannot be all-powerful: if everything in the universe has a cause, they reason that God must also have a cause, which means he is dependent on something else so he is no longer an all-powerful being. If we try to make God the first cause, then there would be something in the universe that was not caused – God. Some philosophers have speculated God is his own cause in an endless cycle of creating and existing, but that theory has a problem: William of Ockham’s principle says the simpler of two theories is the right one, and to say the universe itself is the self-caused entity would be the simpler theory. On the other hand, if God made everything in the universe, and therefore made the universe, then we should look at him as being outside of the universe and not needing a cause. William of Ockham was a Christian, so he himself would not agree with this use of his principle.

The biggest problem many people have with the Judeo-Christian idea of God is their belief that a perfect being who knows everything should not allow pain. There are a long list of possible answers to this problem, and the truth is probably some combination of these. I strongly disagree with the privation of good theodicy, which says that there is no evil, there is only good and the absence of good, and that God is simply more good. There is no way I can see Hitler as merely an “absence of good.” As for the necessity theodicy, which says that in order to have good things you need bad things (two sides of the same coin), if bad things happening was necessary for good things to happen, then there could not be a perfect God who had no bad in him. I also disagree with the incomprehensibility theodicy, which states that there is no way that we can understand why there is sin in the world. Since the Judeo-Christian God is described as a father figure to humans, he would not let his children suffer without giving them a reason for it. No matter how parents choose to discipline their children (spanking or just verbal scolding and time-outs), the most important thing is that the parents explain to their children why they are getting punished. If God is the perfect being (and therefore the perfect father), he would not let his children suffer without giving a reason. The Satan theodicy and the free will theodicy are, however, both good theories, especially when put together. People wonder why God would give us free will if he knew what we were going to do. Again returning to the parent theory, how many parents would try to control every single thing their child did? Even if parents want to, it is not good for the child to be controlled like that. Sometimes the only way to learn is through the pain of mistakes. Sure, God could do a better job at our lives than we are doing, but then he would have created robots, not children. He did not originally created us to fail: we started out perfect, which is where Satan comes in, tempting us to sin for the first time. Once sin was introduced into the would, it polluted the world, to the point of no one being good. A VERY important point that I need to make here is that God does not do bad things to people, but he sometimes lets bad things happen. He gave us free will, and he has not taken it away from you, me, or the murderers in jail.

If that seems to end abruptly, I’m sorry. My concluding paragraph was one of the things that got chopped.

Hopefully while I was adding and reorganizing, I didn’t cut anything out in an odd way. This is just scratching the tip of the iceberg. I might go further in another article, but it will have to wait — for now I have a Spanish test to work on.

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  1. Hi Niner,
    Great essay! I like how you explained the suffering in the world.
    It’s wonderful knowing God will not allow the suffering to go on much longer. Soon he will be ruling the world again. He will undue all of the badness and suffering. –Human government under Satan’s influence had its chance…and failed terribly.


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