Issue 12 / October - December 1995
What are the arguments for the existence of God?
M. Fethullah Gulen
The existence of God is too evident to need any arguments. Some saintly scholars have even stated that God Himself is more manifest than any other being, but those who lack insight cannot see Him. Others have said that He is concealed from direct perception because of the intensity of His Self-manifestation.
However, the great influence of the positivist and materialist school of thought on the sciences and thence on the generations of recent centuries makes it necessary to discuss arguments for the existence of God. This way of thinking reduces existence to what can be directly perceived and thereby blinds itself to the invisible dimensions of existence, which are much more vast than the visible. Since we must strive to remove the veil drawn by materialism and positivism, we will review briefly some of the traditional demonstrations of the necessary existence of God.
Before doing so, it is worth reflecting upon the simple historical fact that, since the very beginning of human life, the overwhelming majority of mankind have believed in the existence of God. This belief alone is enough to establish Godâ€™s existence. Those who do not believe in Him cannot claim that they are superior in intelligence to those who do. Among those who believe are innovative scientists, scholars, researchers and, most importantly, saints and Prophets, who are, as it were, the experts in the field. Also worth mentioning here is the fact that people usually confuse non-acceptance of somethingâ€™s existence with the acceptance of its non-existence. While the former is only a negation or a rejection, the latter is a judgement needing proof. No one in the world has ever been able to prove the non-existence of God and cannot do so. Whereas there are countless arguments to prove His existence. This point may be clarified through the following comparison.
Suppose there is a big palace with a thousand entrances, nine hundred and ninety-nine of which are open and one appears to be closed. No one could reasonably claim that the palace cannot be entered. The attitude of unbelievers is like that of one who, in order to assert that entrance to the palace is impossible, confines his (and othersâ€™) attention only to the door which is seemingly closed.
The doors to Godâ€™s existence are open to everybody, provided that they sincerely intend to enter through them. Some of those doors-the demonstrations for Godâ€™s existence-are as follows.
1 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.
2 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. It is transparent because it shows or reflects a creative power. Through both its transparency and its being a riddle, life declares: â€˜The one who creates me is God.â€™
4 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 co-operativeness 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.
5 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 in great abundance. Despite the variety and abundance, only orderliness and art and ease. This shows the existence of One with an absolute power and knowledge.
6 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. 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.
7 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 â€˜natural laws,â€™ 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 and absolute knowledge, wisdom, and power of choice and preference. So, one who has all these attributes has established these â€˜natural lawsâ€™ 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 motherâ€™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.
8 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 tie extraordinarily pre-arranged manner, so also the cells, members and systems of his body cooperate 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.
9 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 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 manâ€™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. This obviously shows one with an absolutely free choice and all-encompassing knowledge, and He is God.
11 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 ifs life?
12 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 â€˜breathesâ€™ 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 seat to the world to be perfected and acquire a state appropriate for the other life.
The conscience of man is the centre of his inclinations towards wise choices between right and wrong and everybody can feel this conscience on some occasions. So, the spirit and conscience are a strong argument for the existence of One God.
13 Manâ€™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.
14 Human intuition
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 fulfilment 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.
If a few liars who we have never heard to tell the truth come to us at different times and report the same news, we may well find ourselves, having no truthful report on the same matter, believing them. But when tens of thousands of Prophets, men who never told a lie during their lives, and hundreds of thousands of saints, and millions of believers who have adopted truthfulness as one of the most essential pillars of belief, have all agreed on the existence of God, is it at all reasonable to reject their unanimous testimony in preference for the individual reports of a few liars?
16 The Holy Qurâ€™an and other Scriptures
The proofs for the Divine origin of the Qurâ€™an are also proofs for the existence of God. (Of the Divine authorship of the Qurâ€™an, you may wish to consult our article in Questions This Modern Age Puts to Islam, 1, London, 1995). The Qurâ€™an teaches with great emphasis and focus, as indeed does the Bible in its uncorupted parts, the existence of One God.
17 The prophets
Tens of thousands of Prophets came and guided mankind to truth. All of them were justly renowned for their truthfulness and other praiseworthy virtues. All of them without exception gave priority in their missions to preaching the existence and Oneness of God.