A problem with proofs of the existence of God

By dkl9, written 2024-015, revised 2024-015 (0 revisions)

Many arguments purport to prove the existence of "God". Here are a few.

  1. The world exists, and is interesting, and its existence warrants explanation, or an identifiable cause. Thus there is a creator: God.
  2. A thing is better if it exists than if it does not exist, so the best possible thing is one that exists. God is the best possible thing and exists.
  3. Consciousness is weird. Current physics does not suffice, and maybe physics never will suffice. So something else is going on, which involves God.
  4. Organisms exist, and are very complex. Even once the world exists with its laws of physics, life wouldn't show up by chance. Thus some agent got life started: God.

Those arguments are valid. The premises are questionable but not absurd. Problems show up only before and after the kinds of arguments isolated here.

The main reason to prove the existence of God is to justify a religion. The main problem with these proofs is that "God" is a slippery word with inconsistent meaning. Justifying a religion requires that you prove the existence of not just any "God", but a powerful entity which cares about the actions of humans in a way largely (but not exactly) aligned with common intuitive morality. Justifying any particular religion introduces more constraints (usually many, weirdly specific constraints) on the traits of that "God".

The arguments given above correctly prove that there are things that could reasonably be called "God". Respectively:

  1. something that made a universe
  2. something maximally good
  3. something enabling consciousness to exist and interact with the world
  4. something that made life

Atheists sometimes like to apply Occam's Razor to God, saying that they have no need of that hypothesis. A less drastic application, more valid in light of these "proofs", reminds us that the "God"s introduced in the proofs are most likely the simplest entities fulfilling their role in the proof, and need not have other traits. To prove that there is a powerful entity caring about human actions, one needs further evidence that the entity under concern cares about human actions. Abstract entities concluded from common proofs do not justify any religions.

Juxtaposing the proofs given here doesn't even prove that the creator of the universe is maximally good, or that the creator of the universe also created life, sith there is no evidence — not from just those proofs, at least — that the target of each proof is the same thing. People only think otherwise by sloppily equating the inconsistently-reused word "God".

There exists God, just not at all the God people are supposed to care about.