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Religious Studies

How can we know if there is something we call ‘God’?

There are five main arguments used to give proof that God exists. These arguments are usually applied to Christianity.

The classical arguments

Ontological

St Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

  • God can be defined as "that than which nothing greater can be conceived". Therefore God (like unicorns) exists in the mind.
  • It is not possible to think of any being greater than God (as God is "that than which nothing greater can be conceived"). Therefore God must exist in reality.

Cosmological

St Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274)

  • Everything has to come from something. You cannot make something out of nothing.
  • Therefore there must have been a ‘First Cause’ that created the ‘something’ (the universe). That First Cause is God.

Teleological (or design)

William Paley (1734-1805)

A watch

A watch

  • If you were walking on a heath and saw a watch on the ground you would assume that its parts had not come together by chance because it is too ordered and complicated. Therefore someone must have designed it or it would not work.
  • Because the universe is also ordered and complicated, someone must have designed that too. That 'someone' is God.

Religious experience

  • Some people claim that they have had a religious experience eg, a miracle (a fortuitous event believed to have been caused by divine intervention), a vision, or a particular prayer to God answered.
  • Therefore God exists.

Morality

  • Some people say that everyone knows the difference between ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. They describe this as having a sense of morality.
  • This sense of morality has to come from somewhere, and the only possible source is God. Therefore God exists.

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