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    Ontological Argument Essay (2658 words)

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    Most people have not witnessed or experienced God andtherefore are confused about its existence.

    In Westerntheology, three theories have emerged to demonstrate theexistence of God. These theories are the ontologicalargument, the cosmological argument, and the teleologicalargument. St. Anselm of eleventh century, and Descartes ofseventeenth century, have used the ontological argument forproving the existence of God. The God, for them, issupreme, “needing nothing outside himself, but needful forthe being and well-being of all things.

    ” (Pg. 305). St Anselms account of the ontological argument for theexistence of God deals with the existence in theunderstanding vs. existence in reality. He defines God asthe greatest conceivable or possible being.

    He adds thatany person who hears this statement describing Godunderstands what is meant. His argument is that if God didnot exist, then a being greater than God would be possible. This being then would be greater than the greatest possiblebeing, which is impossible. Therefore he proves that thereis no being greater than God and hence God exists. Hisargument is also based on the premise that “the idea of aneternal being who either does not yet exist or no longerexists is self-contradictory, so that the very idea we have ofsuch a being requires existence. ” (Pg.

    307). In his Meditations, Decartes offers the following version ofthe ontological argument. He considers the idea of God, asupremely perfect being, just as real as the idea of theexistence of any shape or a number. His understanding ofGods existence is no less clear and distinct than his proofsfor the existence of any shape or number.

    Therefore headds, “although all that I concluded in the precedingMeditations were found to be false, the existence of Godwould pass with me as at least as certain as I have everheld the truths of mathematics. ” (Pg. 308). Initially, thismight not be all clear, and may have some appearance ofbeing a sophism.

    He argues that unlike other things he mightpersuade himself that existence can be separated from theessence of God, and hence that God can be thought of asnot existing. He adds that when he thinks of it with moreattention, he clearly sees that existence can no more beseparated from the essence of God, than the fact that itsthree angles equal two right angles can be separated fromthe essence of a triangle, or that the idea of a mountain canbe separated from the idea of a valley (Pg. 308). Hence, itis just as much of a contradiction to think of God (that is, asupremely perfect being) lacking existence (that is, lackingperfection), as it is to think of a mountain without a valley.

    His theory is that he cant think of God without it existingand therefore it exists. Also he gives God all kinds ofperfection and because existence is one of the perfection,”God necessarily exists. ” (Pg. 309).

    Kants critique of Anselms and Descartes arguments statethat existence is not a perfection because all perfections arequalities, and existence is not any kind of characteristic,quality, attribute, or property. When we say that somethingexists, Kant argued, we “add nothing to” our concept ofthat thing – we merely say that there is something similar tothat concept. It follows that no matter how manycharacteristics of a thing we list; we will still not haveanswered the question whether there is something having allthose characteristics. “Being is evidently not a realpredicate, or a concept of something that can be added tothe concept of a thing. It is merely the admission of a thing,and of certain determinations in it. ” (Pg.

    311). His argumentis that it is all right to say that God has certaincharacteristics but it is another to say that such a Godexists. Many contemporary philosophers agree with Kantsargument, but many others do not. Furthermore,contemporary logicians have developed versions of theontological argument that can even dispense with thecontroversial notion of existence as a property. It is clearthat, considered simply as a logical argument, theontological argument does not have the power to convertnonbelievers into believers. Or if you are a believer, it isclear that an objection to the “proof” is not going to shakeyour faith in any way whatsoever.

    So the significance of theproof is ambiguous; as a logical exercise it is brilliant, as anexpression of faith it may be edifying, but as an actual proofthat God exists or as a means of converting atheists itseems to have no power at all. (Pg. 313). I agree with Anselm’s argument that in order for God to bethe Supreme Being, the best, He must exist in both theunderstanding as well as in reality. Where did the worldstart? Where did everything start? If we believe that onething came after another then there has to be a startingpoint.

    The only possible answer to this starting point isGod. Thus, there must have been a creator, the God. Fromour experience we know that everything arises fromsomething else, and therefore God started everything. Theontological argument does not clearly prove where God isto show how God started. What characteristics does God possess? Traditionaltheology has believed that God is omnipotent(all-powerful), omniscient (all knowing), andomnibenevolent (all good), Omni-present (everywhere),eternal (with no beginning and no end), etc. In short, God isthe greatest being and none greater is possible.

    Thesecharacteristics have left people to have faith in the existenceof God. When people can not show cause and effect forcertain happenings they attribute their cause to God. Theremust be God to keep order in the world or as some peoplesay to keep the world going in utter disorder. Cosmological ArgumentThe Cosmological Argument: The second “proof” of God’sexistence is a set of arguments that date back to theAristotle’s argument for Gods existence.

    The basis of thesearguments is the concept of intolerability, and theunthinkability of an infinite regress and the need for someultimate explanation. Together, these arguments are calledthe cosmological argument, and their best-knownformulation is by St. Thomas Aquinas, who put forward thefirst three of his “five ways” of proving God’s existence. (Pg. 313)The first part of the argument is based on the concept ofmotion.

    It starts with the idea that it is evident to our sensesand certain that in the world there are things that are inmotion. Now, motion can be also defined as the action thatreduces something from potentiality to actuality. That ismotion leads a thing from being able to go someplace toactually getting there. Next, it is safe to assume that nothingcan be reduced from potentiality of actuality, except bysomething already in a state of actuality. Now it is notpossible that the same thing should be at once in actualityand potentiality in the same respect, but can only be indifferent respects.

    For example what is actually hotcannot at the same time be also potentially hot; but it canbe simultaneously potentially cold. It is therefore impossiblethat a thing should be both mover and moved, i. e. , that itshould move itself. Therefore, another must move whateveris being moved. Therefore, it is necessary to arrive at a firstmover, moved by no other; and this everyone understandsto be God.

    The second aspect of the cosmological argument for theexistence of God comes from nature of efficient cause. Here, Aristotle defines efficient cause, as an event or anagent that brings something about. In our world of sensiblethings we also find that there is an order of efficient causes. Now in efficient causes it is not possible to go on to infinity,because in all efficient causes following in order, the first isthe cause of the intermediate cause, and the intermediate isthe cause of the ultimate cause, whether the intermediatecause be several, or one only. But if in efficient causes it ispossible to go on to infinity, there will be no first efficientcause, neither will there be an ultimate effect, nor anyintermediate efficient causes; all of which is plainly false. Therefore it is necessary to admit a first efficient cause, towhich everyone gives the name of God.

    (Pg. 314). The third aspect of the cosmological argument for theexistence of God is taken from possibility and necessity,and runs as follows. We find in nature things that arepossible to be and also not to be, since they are found tobe generated, and to be corrupted, and consequently, it ispossible for them to be and not to be. Therefore, ifeverything can not be, then at one time there was nothing inexistence. Now if this were true, even now there would benothing in existence, because that which does not existbegins to exist only through something already existing.

    Therefore, not all beings are merely possible, but theremust exist something the existence of which is necessary forother things to follow. So we cannot but admit theexistence of some being having of itself its own necessity,and not receiving it from another, but rather causing inothers their necessity. This all men speak of as God. (Pg. 314)The cosmological argument, in all of these versions, issimilar to the ontological argument as an attempt at “proof”and an expression of one’s belief in God.

    As a logicalargument, two modern objections seem to haveconsiderable weight. First, even if the argument is formallyvalid, it proves only that there is some “first mover” or “firstcause” or “necessary being. ” It does not prove that thisbeing has all of the other attributes that allow us torecognize God. Furthermore, Aristotle, in his Physics,allows that there might be several prime movers, whileAquinas is clear that there can be only one.

    Nevertheless,one might accept the argument and believe only in a “firstcause” and deny the existence of God. This leads us to thesecond objection, which would have been unthinkable toAquinas (or Aristotle), but is generally accepted today. Theidea of an “infinite regress,” that the universe did not have abeginning but has always existed, seemed like an obviousabsurdity until the last century. (Pg. 315). In fact, Aquinasadmits that there is no valid argument against the claim thatGod and universe existed for all eternity, but he has anotherargument to help him here.

    He says that the beginning of theuniverse required an act, which means that the universecould not have been the cause of itself. Therefore, heconcludes, God must exist even if the regress argument byitself does not prove this. Humans like the idea of a creator because it gives themsome security that there is some one out there watching outfor them. They do not like to believe that everything istaking care of itself due to some laws of nature. Thereforehumans like to believe in the cosmological argument thatgives god the stature of first mover, the first cause. Thenatural scientific explanation wants to show that the worldevolved from matter governed by certain scientific laws.

    These laws would also tend to show that the world coulddisappear just like it started. This thought is not comfortingto most humans. Humans are also not content to accept that somethingoccurs. They want to explore as to the reasons of itsexistence. If they are told that God exists, they want to findout why and where. They are not satisfied with the answerthat the world came to existence by certain scientificreasons that are not fully explained.

    Humans are happierwith a religious explanation because it rests in the idea of aSupreme Being that people are afraid of, and feel secure in,like a child is to a parent. Most humans are religious and generally speaking olderpeople are more religious than younger people are. Whydo people turn to religion? There are many differentanswers given to this question. Some do it for givingguidance to their lives. For others, it gives them hope, orgives them rationalization for the lack of justice in thisworld.

    Others turn to religion as a kind of irresponsiblereaction to a world we cannot cope with. This reaction issimilar to a childs unwillingness to give up an illusion ofsecurity that he or she should have outgrown inadolescence. Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud were critical ofreligion and believed it to be an obstacle to mansself-determination and self-realization. Their basic idea wasthat humans invented religion to escape their intolerablesocial conditions. I do not believe in their premise becausereligion gives humans an understanding of their purpose inthis world.

    Religion keeps people sane and makes thembelieve in the order of things. The basis of Marxs religious criticism is that man makesreligion; and that religion does not make man. It is the manthat is the human world, a state, society. This state, thissociety, produces religion, which is an inverted worldconsciousness, because they are an inverted world. Religion is the general theory of this upside-down world.

    Itgives the world its logic, its spiritual guidance, itsenthusiasm, its moral sanction, its solemn complement, itsgeneral basis of consolation and justification. The struggleagainst religion is, therefore, indirectly a struggle against theworld whose spiritual aroma is religion. According toMarx, religious suffering is at the same time an expressionof real suffering and protest against real suffering. (Pg. 347).

    Marx advocated that the abolition of religion as the illusoryhappiness of men, is a demand for their real happiness. Hewas appalled at the masses flocking to religion. He said, “itis clear that the arm of criticism cannot replace the criticismof arms. ” Material force can only be overthrown bymaterial force; but theory itself becomes a material forcewhen it has seized the masses. Theory is capable of seizingthe masses when it demonstrates ad hominem and it isdemonstrate ad hominem as soon as it becomes radical.

    (Pg. 348). Marxs criticism of religion ends with the thought that manis the Supreme Being for man. This thought desires tooverthrow all those conditions in which man is an “abased,enslaved, abandoned, contemptible being – conditionswhich can hardly be better described than in theexclamation of the Frenchman on the occasion of aproposed tax upon dogs: Wretched dogs! They want totreat you like men!” (Pg. 348). Friedrich Nietzsche was another critique of religion.

    Hecalled the “Bible,” the book that is perhaps the greatestaudacity and “sin against the spirit” which literary Europehas on its conscience. (Pg. 348). According to him theChristian conception of God – God as god of the sick, Godas a spider, God as spirit – is one of the most corruptconceptions of the divine ever attained on earth.

    Notsurprisingly, Nietzsche saw the decline of Christianity andreligion in general, with great enthusiasm. It is Nietzschewho popularized the old Lutheran phase, “God is dead,”but with an anti-religious twist and a shout of delight thatdeclared open war on all remaining forms of religious”weaknesses. ” (Pg. 349). This call for “God is dead,” wasbased on the belief that the Christian God had becomeunworthy of belief.

    Many philosophers and “free spirits” feltredemption in this event. Another person to attack religion was Sigmund Freud, whoreduced the grand aspirations of religion to, mere illusions,but, even worse, the illusions of an insecure child who hasnever properly grown up. According to him, religious ideasare given out as teachings, are not precipitates ofexperience or end results of thinking; they are illusions,fulfillments of the oldest, strongest and most urgent wishesof mankind. An illusion is not the same thing as an error;nor is it necessarily an error. What is characteristic ofillusion is that they are derived from human wishes.

    In thisrespect they come near to psychiatric delusions. He calleda belief an illusion when a wish-fulfillment is a prominentfactor in its motivation, and in doing so we disregard itsrelations to reality, just as the illusion itself sets no store byverification. All three philosophers agree that the only proper concernof man is humanity. They believe in man and not God. These philosophers did not outright hate religion. Freudwas fascinated by Jewish mysticism and Nietzsche offeredextravagant praise of Buddhism.

    But they felt that thebalance is very important. They argue that no one can denythat there have been thousands of atrocities – to both spiritand body – in the name of religion. I believe that religion has taught humans to behave like aman. The self-determination and self-realization of man isnot hindered by religion. If people did not believe in God,there might be lessening of good deeds.

    For some,realization of god is like self-realization. Many peoples inthe east believe in re-incarnation and believe that soul neverdies. For them this gives continuity to life as a chain ofthings. These people want to believe in God and immersethemselves in God.Religion

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