So, you don’t believe there’s a God. I understand. I didn’t believe in God either, until May of 1971. Most atheists I’ve talked with about the existence of God during the last 40 years have expressed their concern for me in one way or another. Some have asked if I was ill and on heavy medication at the time of my conversion. Others said I must have been a very poor atheist because good atheists don’t believe in God. I was not ill or on medication at the time and people who knew me said I was a “good” atheist. Something happened that led me to look at various arguments for the existence of God, and once I looked, I found something I had never seen before.
I was a journalist and radio talk show host in the late 60s and early 70s, so I was used to arguing with people. That’s what talk show hosts did then–and still do. I enjoyed talking with people who believed in God because they were passionate about their belief. I was passionate in my belief as well, so it made for heated arguments over the airwaves.
One day I interviewed a science professor on my program who presented some arguments that challenged my thinking about the existence of God. I asked a lot of questions and took many mental notes. I was going to check on what he had to say. I spent spent several months investigating the “God” issue and finally came to a new conclusion that changed the direction of my life.
One of the reasons I didn’t believe in God at that time was because I couldn’t see Him, hear Him, talk with Him or touch Him. If I couldn’t test something with my physical senses, I seriously questioned its existence.
What I came across in my research brought me to an even more pointed question – “why is there something rather than nothing or something else?” Why is the universe the way it is? Why is it not something else or nothing else?
That’s where the Cosmological Argument came in for me. I can see and hear things in the cosmos. The earth, sea and sky are things I can experience with my physical senses. I get the universe. It’s big, it’s there, and we’re part of it. We can see light waves and hear radio waves. We live on one of the small objects in the universe – the earth. We know the earth exists because we can see it, hear it, touch it, smell it and taste it. We can jump up and down on it. We can run around on it. It’s what’s under our feet. We can run our hands through the dirt and swim in the ocean.
We know meteors, asteroids and comets exist because we can see them in the sky. We can touch pieces of them that fall to the earth. I remember as a child standing on a large meteorite that had landed in a field long ago. We know the moon exists. We can see it from the earth and several members of the human race have actually stood on it and touched it. We know the planet Mars exists because we can see it and objects from earth have landed on Mars and sent back information that we can see and study. We’ve also sent deep space probes that have sent back pictures and other data to scientists on earth. We know stars exist because we can see them with our eyes and even better with telescopes. Space exploration has opened our understanding of many things about the existence of the universe and our solar system.
Questions I asked decades ago led to answers and some understanding of arguments for the existence of God. As I understand it the Cosmological Argument is basically that everything that had a beginning had a cause. The universe had a beginning, therefore the universe had a cause.
Other ways I’ve heard it explained are –
- “First, whatever begins to exist has a cause.”
- “Everything begun must have an adequate cause. The universe was begun; therefore, the universe must have an adequate cause for its production.”
- “Everything which has had a beginning was produced by a sufficient cause. The Universe has had a beginning, and therefore must have had a cause sufficient to bring it into existence.”
I read that this is an old argument – dating back at least to the time of Plato and Aristotle. Each had his own view about a “first cause.” The argument is made that the existence of the cosmos requires an explanation and creation by a First Cause would explain it. Other philosophers have postulated their own view of the First Cause through the centuries, but I could see at least some logic to the idea based on the law of cause and effect (causality). It would seem that the universe was the “effect” of some “event.” So, what was the event that caused the universe? Could it be “God?”
Another idea I ran into is called the Principle of Sufficient Reason. I remember reading the various theories of Thales, Anaximenes, Anaximander, Spinoza, Leibniz and others to understand what they viewed as “sufficient reason.” The idea basically states that everything must have a reason or cause. In the cosmological realm it means there’s sufficient reason to accept that something or someone “caused” the cosmos.
The Cosmological Argument deals with both “cause” and “effect.” The cosmos exists, so it makes sense that there is an explanation for its existence. The argument continues that given the immense size and complexity of the cosmos, the “cause” of the cosmos would have to be greater than the cosmos itself.
My early response to the Cosmological Argument was “what caused the cause?” Makes sense. My experience, our experience, is in the physical universe. I did not create myself. I’m not alive today because I made myself a living being. I was conceived because of the biological facts of procreation. I was born and raised because my parents chose to give birth to me and raise me. I have a “cause” that I know well–my parents. The universe is alive and full of life. What was the cause of that life? What are the facts of its procreation, birth and development? Did the universe have a “parent?”
Here’s another question I considered. Could the cosmos create itself? Could something that didn’t exist create itself. It didn’t sound logical to me. How can something that doesn’t exist bring itself into existence? For that to happen the cosmos would have to both exist and not exist at the same time. That’s a contradiction I couldn’t accept as true.
Alright, another question. Could the cosmos be eternal? Many people believed that years ago, but too many scientific discoveries have thrown cold water on the idea–the Second Law of Thermodynamics being one of them. This irrefutable law of physics states that the cosmos, and everything in it, is running out of energy. How could a cosmos that loses energy and is slowly dying be eternal? That theory didn’t work either. If the universe was eternal, it would have lost all its energy in eternity past. That means the universe we think we see no longer exists because it already ran out of energy. If that’s true, then we’re not here. But, we are here, right?
Okay. So, that brings us back to what started the cosmos. What are our best choices? God? Big bang? Causal loops? Infinite causal chains? Something we haven’t considered yet — the “unknown known?”
The Cosmological Argument got me started searching for answers to important questions–questions that had life-altering answers. More about that next time.