This was a book project I started a long time ago. I imagined a small, 30 to 50 page book, each page having a new ‘hint’ for the existence of God. A blend of philosophy, religion, and science. Something fun to read but also substantive. I’ll share what I have so far.
I believe that we must all come to the conclusion that it is not 100% certain that God exists or that God does not exist. And if God does exist, it is certainly not certain that you or I know what God is like, or know how God acts (if God “acts” at all). Philosophers have been arguing over this paramount question for millennia, and still no universal agreement. Yet people everywhere, across time and space, have been consumed with the question. Both religious and non-religious think about it. Even without certainty, people take sides; people claim that they know; indeed, they build their very life around it.
This says two things about people. First, that the question of God’s existence is important for many peoples’ lives. Second, that some questions are worth pursuing even if they have no certain answer. This is both normal and ok. Science, after all, is one of the most important endeavors of human knowledge; but it rarely, if ever, comes with 100% certainty. It deals with probability and induction. It produces knowledge, but not certainty. Very few things are certain, and that’s something we are familiar with by now.
So is the existence of God a matter of probability as well? Now we are getting somewhere. I believe (as the title of this book shows) that it is. But here I am not talking about probability in the statistical sense in which numbers and percentages are involved. It seems absurd for anyone to say that it is 75% probable that God exists, or 90% probable that God does not exist (although people have tried). There is no way to put numbers on the evidences and reasons for believing or not believing in God. The evidences and reasons are various in number and weight, and each has a different convincing impact on different people. For example, let’s assume that the existence of evil in the world is a hint that God does not exist. What percentage could we possibly put on this fact as it relates to the existence of God? It doesn’t work. We must carefully look at the hint, judge how strong it is, and proceed from there.
I am optimistic about human nature. I see the bad in all of us because I see the bad in myself. But at our deepest level, I see good. And this carries over to our honest pursuit of knowledge and truth. Yes, some people lie. Yes, some people are wrong about a lot of things and simply don’t know it. But at our deepest level we are all trying to figure out the world the best we can. We are all trying to interpret the world to the best of our ability, with the best we have. We are all seeking the truth the best we know how, with the best resources available to us. Atheists are seeking the truth the best they know how. Theists are seeking the truth the best they know how. Let us respect each other. Let us keep the respect that is required from a decent theory of human nature. We are not trying to deceive ourselves. In general, we are not trying to tell people things that we know are false. There is no conspiracy. In an age of skepticism, political lying, and information overload, this view of human nature is hard to find, and sometimes hard to believe. However, pessimism is not the answer and never will be. At its root, a poor view of human nature is nothing more than a confused form of conceit and pride; because it is always them that are the pathetic, and rarely I. No, friends: people are good. That is the truth. I wish people would at least find it true of themselves, and if not, change; and after they’ve done this, apply it to everyone.
When it comes to God, I think there are several hints that God exists. John Woolman, the American abolitionists and Quaker mystic, tried to describe his experiences with God. But all he could give was “hints.” By “hints” I simply mean there are several reasons, and evidences, and experiences, and arguments. But they are hints because they are not certain, and they don’t come in tight little packages, and they come from all sorts of experiences in life. They are like little clues that I pick up randomly while trying to figure out the quest of life. They come in various forms and through various human faculties. Some are stronger than others; some are more rational than others, some you will find silly. Indeed, some are purely emotional and others inaccessible to most people. In this presentation I tend to keep to the more rational, and therefore accessible, hints that God exists. These are hints that I have collected throughout my life. They have come from personal experiences, thoughts, readings, and movies. Some of them capture what are known as the traditional theistic “proofs” for God’s existence (which I consider hints as well), and others are mind puzzles that suggest a God. They overlap and have similar structures. They all have objections and answers of different strengths. A philosopher could tear a hole in all of my hints; but I know that. If you try hard enough, you can tear a hole in anything. Tearing holes is great, but first we should listen, and see if the hints have anything positive to say. I repeat: all the hints for God’s existence can be questioned, doubted, and objected to on rational grounds. That is why I call them hints. But they still have convincing power, especially taken together as a whole. They are still rational and real. I hope you enjoy reading them.