Is there a God?
Most people will say that they believe in God or a “higher power” when asked in surveys. Mankind appears to be almost universally religious and there seems to be an instinct to look for something beyond ourselves.
Even the most sceptical and secular people may have ideas about a guiding principle behind the universe or the hand of destiny or fate and when the pilot announces that the second engine is beginning to fail at 30,000 feet, then the most ardent atheists may start to pray.
Without the existence of God of course, human life and love has no ultimate meaning or purpose. All the universe and everything in it including ourselves would just be the product of mindless laws without any meaning. Indeed some atheist philosophers have said that it is meaningless that we live and meaningless that we die.
But does this fit our human experience? If we asked someone walking down the street “What is the purpose or meaning of you walking down this street?” we would find it very odd indeed if they replied that they did not know. They would be going home or to work or going shopping or even just taking exercise. We would think that they were mad if they did not know the purpose of their actions. Everything we do has a meaning or purpose even sleeping to regain our strength. Yet if we ask someone who does not believe in God what is the meaning of life, they will say that they do not know or that there isn’t a meaning.
How can everything we do in life have a meaning except life itself? Does that make sense? Of course an atheist may say that our sense of meaning is an illusion but that would mean that this most fundamental part of our thinking is an illusion. What would that imply about every other conclusion we might arrive at including one that there isn’t a God?
The existence or non-existence of God cannot be proved either way and so an atheist is having just as much faith in their opinion as someone who believes in God. In a recent atheistic campaign, the slogan was “There probably isn’t a God!”
So what evidence is there to point us towards the existence of God?
The Bible says (Romans 1:20) “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities- His eternal power and divine nature- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”
The beauty and design of nature, whilst not proving the existence of God, give mankind a sense of awe and transcendence, for example the vastness and beauty of the universe, the oceans and mountain ranges and the uniqueness of each snowflake and human being.
Many scientists describe the anthropic principle in the universe. “Anthropos” in Greek means “man” and the anthropic principle is the observation that many physical constants and other factors are set at just the right numerical level for life (and so man) to exist- a slight change up or down would result in no life as we know it being possible in this universe.
There are several of these constants set at just the right level. For example, if gravity was slightly stronger or there was more mass in the universe, the universe would collapse back in on itself but if gravity was slightly weaker, stars would not form to make life possible.
The charges on sub-atomic particles are set just right for the formation of atoms and if the strong nuclear force was slightly higher them all the hydrogen in the universe would be converted into helium and there would no stars or indeed water.
Why have all these forces emerged from the Big Bang just right for life to exist? Someone has said it is equivalent to having an expanse of ocean 1,000 miles square with a leaf floating somewhere on it and by sheer random chance firing a shot from space that hits that leaf!
Is this just chance or is it design? Atheists have been reduced to speculating without any evidence at all that there must be many universes to explain the chance of us existing in this clearly specially favourable one.
In addition to all this, the Earth’s orbit which is influenced by the gravity of various bodies in the Solar System especially the Sun and Jupiter is in just the right zone, neither too hot or too cold, for life. The moon, which is very large relative to the size of the Earth, is also needed to stabilise the Earth’s orbit so that there are not violent fluctuations in temperature. The moon however is unusual as all other moons we have discovered in the Solar System are small compared to the planet they orbit. We think that the moon was formed from an impact of a large body with the Earth early in the history of the Solar System (rather than the gravitational capture of a small object which is how we assume the other planets gained their moons) and this unique event again was crucial to allowing life on Earth.
Our minds can conceive of abstracts such as love and goodness which science cannot deal with although they are the most important things to us. For example, science could quantify and measure the mechanics of a kiss, telling us the angle of the two people’s faces, the pressure on the lips, even the level of hormones in the bloodstream and the heart rates involved but nothing about the meaning of it all or what it actually feels like to be in love.
Someone asked a prominent atheist if he believed that his wife was just a product of her genes and chemistry. He agreed that this was so. The interviewer then asked him if when he went home each night he thought of his wife’s “love” as just a chemical mechanism. He said “Yes” then after a moment’s thought added “But I don’t treat her that way!”
Even if we say we believe these things, we don’t act that way and so our actions are inconsistent with our so-called beliefs. The atheist philosopher Neitsche tried to live consistently with his belief that there was no God or meaning to human life and he became very depressed, went mad and eventually killed himself.
All human beings everywhere in all cultures have a conscience about good and evil with a sense of the rightness of love and doing good to others. This is strange from an evolutionary point of view as real altruistic love could have no evolutionary advantage as, by definition, altruism can have no advantage for the giver or it ceases to be real altruism. Yet such love is universally considered to be the most noble thing by all humanity. To give up one’s life for an unrelated stranger should be selected out by evolution as the dying person’s genes are not passed on but we honour such sacrifice above everything else.
Where do these values come from? The Bible says that God is perfect love and we were created to experience this love and are only fulfilled when we do. This is why there is so much emptiness at the heart of most people’s experience trying to fill a gap with money, success, career or other people that can only be filled by God Himself.
The Bible also says that God came into the world in Jesus and lived a life of perfect love. Both his friends who lived with him (and if you live with someone you soon find out their faults) and his enemies could not find anything wrong in him. His teaching is renowned as the highest moral philosophy and he is universally respected by other religions as a holy man, prophet or even incarnation of God. Even atheists respect his moral teaching to “turn the other cheek”, “love your neighbour as much as you love yourself”, “go sell all that you have and give it to the poor” and even “love your enemies”. Mahatma Gandhi- who was a Hindu- said that nothing had influenced his life so much as the teaching of Jesus in the New Testament.
How do you know someone loves you? You cannot prove it and so, at some point, you have to take it on faith and trust them. If they just say they love you, that’s one thing but you are likely to measure how much they really love you by how much they will give you or suffer for you in difficult times. Will they stand by you when they have nothing to gain and everything to lose?
God demonstrated his love for us in Jesus dying in our place as a sacrifice to pay the penalty for our sins. The Bible teaches that our failure to love and do good the way we know we should means that we fall short of God’s standards and cannot be allowed into God’s perfect presence in heaven when we die. If Heaven is a perfect place and we went there, it would not be perfect any more! Jesus’ death for us is the greatest demonstration of God’s love and such love is certainly trustworthy.
Finally God can be experienced by each of us individually today. Until I meet someone I have to take everything I hear about them by faith but when I meet them I can start to get to know them for myself. We can each get to know God by accepting his offer of forgiveness through Jesus and committing our lives by faith to serving him. He promises that he will come by his Holy Spirit to all those who put their faith in him, forgive all our wrongdoing and start to make us a new person.