What Are the Main Traditional Arguments for God’s Existence?
The doors to God’s existence are open to everybody, provided that they sincerely intend to enter through them. Some of those doors—the demonstrations for God’s existence—are as follows.
Contingent nature of the creation
Whether as a whole or separately, all things are contingent, that is, it is equally possible for something to come into existence or not. Also, it is possible for any thing to come into existence at any time, in any place and in any form and with any character.
We see that nothing or no-one in the world, whether conscious or unconscious, living or non-living, has any role to determine the way, and the date and place of its coming into existence, and its character and features. So, there must be some power that chooses between the existence and non-existence of any particular thing and gives it its distinguishing, individual characteristics. This power must be infinite, have absolute will and all-comprehensive knowledge. Necessarily, this power is God.
Finite nature of things
Everything in the universe is changeable. Anything changeable is contained by time and space; it has a beginning and end. Anything which has a beginning needs a beginningless one who brings it into existence. For the one who has a beginning cannot be the originator of things, since such a one will, evidently, need another originator. As an unending regress through the originator of each originator, is unacceptable, reason demands one who is infinitely self-existent and self-subsistent, who undergoes no change, namely God.
Life* is a riddle but transparent. It is a riddle in that scientists, who cannot explain it with material causes, are unable to discover its origin. It is transparent because it shows or reflects a creative power. Through both its transparency and its being a riddle, life declares: ‘The one who creates me is God.’
*A. C. Morrison writes:
Life is a sculptor and shapes all living things; an artist that designs every leaf of every tree, that colors the flowers, the apple, the forest, and the plumage of the bird of paradise. Life is a musician and has taught each bird to sing its love songs, the insects to call each other in the music of their multitudinous sounds.
Life has given to man alone mastery over combined sound vibrations and has furnished the material for their production.
Life is an engineer, for it has designed the legs of the grasshopper and the flea, the coordinated muscles, levers and joints, the tireless beating heart, the system of electric nerves of every animal, and the complete system of circulation of every living thing.
Life is a chemist that gives taste to our fruits and spices and perfume to the rose. Life synthesizes new substances which Nature has not yet provided to balance its processes and to destroy invading life... Life’s chemistry is sublime, for not only does it set the rays of the sun to work to change water and carbonic acid into wood and sugar, but, in doing so, releases oxygen that animals may have the breath of life.
Life is a historian, for it has written its history page by page, through the ages, leaving its record in the rocks, an autobiography which only awaits correct interpretation.
Life protects its creations by the abundance of food in the egg and prepares many of its infants for active life after birth, or by conscious motherhood stores food in preparation for her young. Life produces life—giving milk to meet immediate needs, foreseeing this necessity and preparing for events to come.
‘Matter has never done more than its laws decree. The atoms and molecules obey the dictates of chemical affinity, the force of gravity, the influences of temperature and electric impulses. Matter has no initiative, but life brings into being marvelous new designs and structures.
What life is no man has yet fathomed; it has no weight or dimensions... Nature did not create life; fire-blistered rocks and a saltless sea did not meet the necessary requirements. Gravity is a property of matter; electricity we now believe to be matter itself; the rays of the sun and stars can be deflected by gravity and seem to be akin to it. Man is learning the dimensions of the atom and is measuring its locked-up power, but life is illusive, like space. WHY?
Life is fundamental and is the only means by which matter can attain understanding. Life is the only source of consciousness and it alone makes possible knowledge of the works of God which we, still half blind, yet know to be good’ (Man Does Not Stand Alone, New York, 1945, pp.31—6)
Orderliness in creation
From tiniest particles to huge spheres and galaxies, everything in the universe and the universe as a whole display a magnificent harmony and order. Not only in things themselves but also between all things there is a harmonious relation, so much so that as the existence of a single part necessitates the existence of the whole, so also the whole requires the existence of all its parts for its existence. The deformation of a single cell may lead to the death of a whole body; similarly a single pomegranate demands for its existence the collaborative and co-operative existence of air, water, earth, and the sun and a well-balanced co-operation between them. This harmony and cooperation in the universe point to a creator of order, who knows everything in all its relations and with all its characteristics, and who is able to put everything in order. That creator of order is God.
Artistry in creation
The whole of the creation exhibits an overwhelming artistry of dazzling worth. Yet it is brought into being, as we see it, easily and in a very short time. Furthermore, creation is divided into countless families, genera and species and even more smaller groups, and each of these exists in great abundance. Despite the variety and abundance, we see only orderliness and art and ease in creation. This shows the existence of one with an absolute power and knowledge, who is God.
Finality in creation
Nothing in the universe is for nothing, pointless. As ecology in particular shows, everything in creation, no matter how apparently insignificant, has a very significant role in existence and serves a certain purpose. The chain of creation up to man, the last link in creation, is evidently directed to a final purpose. Just as the purpose for growing a fruit-bearing tree is to obtain fruits and the life of that tree is directed toward the fruit, so too the ‘tree of creation’ has yielded as its final and most comprehensive fruit. So, nothing is in vain in the universe. There are many purposes for every thing, every activity, and every event in it. Since this requires a wise one who pursues certain purposes in creation, and since nothing in the world—except for man—has the consciousness to pursue those purposes, the wisdom and purposiveness in creation necessarily point to God.
Mercy and providence
All living and even non-living beings are in continuous need of many things, even a small portion of which they are unable to supply by themselves. For example, the operation and maintenance of the universe demand the existence of certain universal laws, such as growth, reproduction, gravitation and repulsion. However, these laws, which we call ‘natural laws’, have no external, visible or material existence; they exist nominally. Something with a nominal existence only, which has no knowledge and consciousness, can evidently not be responsible for a miraculous creation, which requires absolute power and absolute knowledge, wisdom, and power of choice and preference. So, one who has all these attributes has established these ‘natural laws’ and uses them as veils before His operations for a certain purpose.
Also, plants need air, water, heat and light for their life, none of which they are able to meet by themselves. As for the needs of man, they are too many to enumerate. Fortunately, all his essential needs, from the very beginning of his earthly existence in his mother’s womb to his death, are met beyond his own capacity and intervention. When he enters into the world, he finds everything prepared to meet all the needs of his senses and intellectual and spiritual faculties. This clearly shows that one who is infinitely merciful and knowledgeable provides for all created beings in the most extraordinary way and causes all things to collaborate to that end.
Mutual helping in the universe
As is mentioned above, all things in the universe, including those remotest from each other, run to the help of one another. This mutual helping in the universe is so comprehensive that, for example, as almost all things including air, water, fire, earth, the sun and skies, help man in the extraordinarily pre-arranged manner, so also the cells, members and systems of his body co-operate for the maintenance of his life. Earth, air, water and heat and bacteria in earth co-operate for the life of plants. This co-operation and mutual helping, observed among unconscious beings but displaying knowledge and conscious purpose, show the existence of one who arranges them in that miraculous way.
Cleanliness in the universe
Until recently, when human beings began to over-pollute air, water and earth, the natural world has been continually cleansed and purified. Even now, it still preserves its original purity in many regions, mostly where the ways of modern life have not yet taken hold. Have you ever considered why nature is so clean, why forests, for example, are so clean although many animals die there every day? Have you ever considered if the flies born in a single season of summer were all to survive, the face of the earth would be covered with many layers of fly bodies? Have you ever reflected on the fact that nothing is wasted in nature? Every dying is the beginning of a new birth. For example, a dead body is decomposed and integrated into earth. Elements die to be revived in plants; plants die in the stomachs of animals and human beings to be promoted to the higher rank of life.
This cycle of death and revival is one of the factors which maintain the cleanliness and purity of the universe. As well as bacteria and insects, the winds and rain, and black holes in the heavens, and oxygen in organic bodies, all serve to sustain the purity in the universe. This purity points to one who is all-wholly one, whose attributes include cleanliness and purity.
Thousands of millions of human beings have lived since man’s first appearance on the earth. Despite their common origin—a sperm and ovum, which are formed from the same sort of foods taken by parents—and although they have all been composed of the same kind of structures or elements or organisms, every human being has an individual countenance distinguishing him or her from the others. Sciences are unable to explain this miraculous difference between countenances. It cannot be explained by attributing it to DNA or chromosomes, since this difference dates back to the first differentiation of men in the world. Moreover, this difference is not only in countenances but all human beings are different from one another in character, desires, ambitions, and abilities, etc. While the members of an animal species are almost the same, without displaying any difference in behavior, each member of human race is like a different species and has a particular world of his own within the world of humanity. This obviously shows one with an absolutely free choice and all-encompassing knowledge, and He is God.
Divine teaching and directing
For man to direct himself in life and distinguish between what is good or bad for him needs a minimum of around fifteen years. However, many animals can do this very soon after they come into the world. A duckling, for example, can swim as soon as it hatches. Ants start to dig nests into the earth when they get out of their cocoons. It does not need a long time for bees and spiders to learn how to make their honeycombs and webs respectively, which are each marvels of handiwork beyond the capacity of man. Who teaches young eels born in the waters of Europe to find their way to their home in the Pacific? Is the migration of birds not still a mystery for man?* How can you explain all these astounding facts other than by attributing them to the teaching or directing of one who knows everything and has arranged the universe with all creatures in it in a way that enables every creature, big or small, to direct its life?
*Amazing facts from the lives of animals
The robin that nested at your door goes south in the fall, but comes back to his old nest the next spring. In September, flocks of most of our birds fly south, often over a thousand miles of open ocean, but they do not lose their way. The homing pigeon confused by new sounds on a long journey in a closed box, circles for a moment and then heads almost unerringly for home. The bee finds its hive while the wind waving the grasses and trees blot out every visible guide to its whereabouts. This homing sense is slightly developed in man, but he supplements his meager equipment with instruments of navigation. The tiny insects must have microscopic eyes, how perfect we do not know, and the hawks, the eagle and the condor must have telescopic vision. Here again man surpasses them with his mechanical instruments.
If you let old Dobbin alone he will keep to the road in the blackest night. The owl can see the nice warm mouse as he runs in the cooler grass in the blackest night.
The ordinary scallop whose muscle we eat has several dozen beautiful eyes very like ours, which sparkle because each eye has unnumbered little reflectors which are said to enable it to see things right side up. These reflectors are not found in the human eye. Were these reflectors developed because of the absence of superior brain power in the scallop? As the number of eyes in animals ranges from two to thousands, and all are different, Nature would have had a big job in developing the science of optics unless [God, the All-Knowing, the All-Determining and the All-Powerful had predestined, predetermined, everything].
The honey bee is not attracted by the gaudy flowers as we see them, but sees by the ultra-violet light, which may make them even more beautiful to bees. From the rays of slower vibrations to the photographic plate and beyond are realms of beauty, joy and inspiration. The honey-bee workers make chambers of different sizes in the comb used for breeding. Small chambers are constructed for the workers, larger ones for the drones, and special chambers for the prospective queens. The queen bee lays unfertilized eggs in the cells designed for males, but lays fertilized eggs in the proper chambers for the male workers and the possible queens. The workers, who are the modified females, having long since anticipated the coming of the new generation, are also prepared to furnish food for the young bees by chewing and predigesting honey and pollen. They discontinue the process of chewing, including the predigesting, at a certain stage of development of the males and females, and feed only honey and pollen. The females so treated become the workers.
The dog with an inquiring nose can sense the animal that has passed. No instrument of human invention has added to our inferior sense of smell, and we hardly know where to begin to investigate its extension.
All animals hear sounds, many of which are outside our range of vibration, with an acuteness that far surpasses our limited sense of hearing.
The young salmon spends years at sea, then comes back to his own river, and, what is more, he travels up the side of the river into which flows the tributary in which he was born. If a salmon going up a river is transferred to another tributary he will fight his way down to the main stream and then turn up against the current to finish his destiny. There is, however, a much more difficult problem in the exact reverse to solve in the case of the eel. These amazing creatures migrate at maturity from all the ponds and rivers everywhere—those from Europe across thousands of miles of ocean—all go to the abysmal deeps south of Bermuda. There they breed and die. The little ones, with no apparent means of knowing anything except that they are in a wilderness of water, start back and find their way to the shore from which their parents came and thence to every river, lake and little pond, so that each body of water is always populated with eels.
Animals seem to have telepathy. Who has not watched with admiration the sandpiper flying and wheeling till every white breast shows in the sunlight at the same instant? A female moth placed in your attic by the open window will send out some subtle signal. Over an unbelievable area, the male moths of the same species will watch the message and respond in spite of your attempts to produce laboratory odors to disconcert them.
Vegetation makes subtle use of involuntary agents to carry on its existence—insects to carry pollen from flower to flower and the winds and everything that flies or walks to distribute seed. At last, vegetation has trapped masterful man. He has improved nature and she generously rewards him. But he has multiplied so prodigiously that he is now chained to the plow. He must sow, reap, and store; breed and cross-breed; prune and graft. Should he neglect these chores starvation would be his lot, civilization would crumble, and earth return to her pristine state’ (Morrison, 49-57).
Are all these habits or distinctive ‘instinctive’ acts, which must have their origin deep at the beginning of life on earth, the result of chance or of an intelligent provision? Should we reflect on why certain animals are more developed than man in having certain faculties? Among all living creatures that have roamed the earth none has a record of reasoning power which may compare with that of man. What we call nature is utterly blind, senseless, unconscious and ignorant. Man, who is the only intelligent being on the earth, can do nothing other than to try to explain all these miraculous phenomena and he has no control over his own body even. Does all this not display a supreme determination, all-encompassing knowledge, and an absolute power and thereby One Who has these?
The spirit and the conscience
Despite enormous advances in the sciences, man is unable to explain life. Life is the gift of the Ever-Living One, Who ‘breathes’ a spirit into each embryo. We know little concerning the nature of the spirit and its relation with the body but our ignorance of its nature does not mean it does not exist. The spirit is sent to the world to be perfected and acquire a state appropriate for the other life.
The conscience of man is the center of his inclinations towards wise choices between right and wrong and everybody can feel this conscience on some occasions. Also, almost each human being feels inclination to turn to God especially or certain occasions. The inclination toward God and even belief in Him are intrinsic in man. Even if man denies God consciously, his unconscious belief in Him shows itself on certain occasions. The Koran mentions this in some of its verses:
It is He Who enables you to travel on the land and the sea; and when you are in the ship, and the ships run with a favorable wind and they rejoice in it, there comes upon them a strong wind, and waves come on them from every side and they think that they are encompassed. Then they cry unto God, making their faith pure for Him only, (saying): ‘If you deliver us from this, we truly will be thankful!’ (Yunus, 10.22)
Then [Abraham] broke them [the idols of his people] into pieces, all except the large one, so that they might turn to Him. [When they returned and saw the state of their idols] they said: ‘Who has done this to our gods. Surely it must be some evildoer.’ They said: ‘We have heard a youth talk of them; he is called Abraham.’ They said ‘Then, [at once] bring him before the eyes of the people, so that they may testify.’ [When Abraham was there] they said: ‘Is it you who has done this to our gods, O Abraham?’ He said: ‘Nay, this is their chief, has done it, so ask them, if they can speak.’ At once they turned to themselves and said: ‘You, you are the wrongdoers!’ Then they were utterly confounded, and said: ‘O Abraham! You have known that these do not speak.’ Abraham said: ‘Do you then worship, besides God, those things that cannot profit in anything at all, nor harm you?’ ‘Fie upon you, and all that you worship instead of God! Do you not use your intelligence?’ They said: ‘Burn him (immediately) and protect your gods, if you are doing anything.’ (al-Anbiya’, 21. 58-68)
So, the spirit and conscience are a strong argument for the existence of One God.
Man’s innate dispositions and history of mankind
Man is innately disposed to good and beauty and averse to evil and ugliness. He is also inclined to virtues and moral values. Therefore, unless corrupted by external factors and conditions, he seeks the good and moral values which are universal. The values man naturally seeks are the same virtues and morality which the Divine inspired religions have promulgated. As history witnesses, mankind have never lived without a religion. Just as no other system has so far been able to supersede religion in the life of mankind, so too it has always been the Prophets and religious people who have been most influential in the life of mankind and left indelible marks on it. This is another irrefutable proof for the existence of One God.
Man feels many intuitions and emotions which are a sort of messages from immaterial realms. Among them, the intuition of eternity arouses in man a desire for eternity, for the fulfillment of which he strives in diverse ways. However, this desire can only be realized through belief in and worship of the Eternal One Who inspired this intuition and desire in man. It is in the satisfaction of this desire for eternity that true human happiness lies.
This article has been adapted from Risale- i Nur Collection.