Monday, June 16, 2008

Does God Exist?

Can I put God in a box and bring him to show and tell? Not likely, but using a bit of logic and a lot of help from people much smarter than I am I’ll do my best to show that this being called God exist.

Before I get into this issue from an impersonal level I’d like to talk about it on a personal level. I was raised Catholic and lived as a not very good one for many years. I was what most people now a day’s call a Cafeteria Catholic, I picked and chose what I wanted to believe and lived a very relativistic lifestyle. Then a few years ago I had what most Evangelicals would call a “born-again” experience, what I call it is God hitting you square in the face with a 2x4 and telling you to get your shit together. So I started a two prong attack of prayer and study, I reconnected with the faith of my youth and started to develop this relationship with Jesus and his Church. I don’t know if I ever fell into thinking that God didn’t exist, but I guess I felt that as long as I wasn’t hurting anyone I could do pretty much whatever I wanted and let the chips fall where they may. What I quickly learned was that my actions were hurting people and more so they were hurting my relationship with the one person who had given up everything, even death on a cross to save me. So people ask me how can you believe in something/someone who may or may not have been who he said he was. I believe because I know him, I speak with him; I have a relationship with him. As sure as I know my wife and child exist because I love them and have a relationship with them, I know Jesus exist and is alive because he loves me, cares for me, listens to me and speaks to my heart every day.

Obviously, my personal view on this may have little impact on someone who does not believe there is a God one way or another. For those reasons we’ll move forward with a bit of help from Saint Thomas Aquinas and the good people at Catholic Answers:

I’m going to start off with the “Brain in a Vat” scenario. In the interest of people’s short attention spans I’ll do my best to summarize it. If you’d like to read the full article you can find it here:

Let’s start by taking a position of radical doubt. Suppose for a moment that you are not really a human being with an actual body. In reality, you are nothing more than a brain floating in a vat of fluids, with electrodes attached to various parts of your exterior that allow evil scientists to manipulate you into thinking that what you perceive is actually there, when in fact it is nothing more than an imaginary world constructed by the scientists. Right now, they are making you think that you are reading this article when in fact you are not.

1. One cannot deny one’s own existence -- Even if you’re just a brain in a vat, your own existence can be verified simply by the fact that you perceive
2. There is at least one thing that exists -- If nothing you think exists actually exists—you still must exist. Entity is the word we have for anything that exists. You exist, so you are an entity.
3. There is such a thing as existence -- As Aquinas would say, there must be an "act of being" in which all entities participate. This act of being must itself exist; it must be an entity. Thomas calls this entity esse, which is Latin for "to be" or "to exist."
4. The nature of esse is actuality. -- Now that we have established that esse is an entity, we must ask: What is the nature of this entity? What is its definition? Actuality is the fullness of existence. So, again, taking the brain-in-a-vat hypothesis, you know that you are actual, even if nothing else you perceive exists.
5. Esse is nothing but pure actuality -- Thomas argues that all entities participate in esse insofar as they are actual. Therefore, that in which they participate—esse—must be actual.
6. Esse not only does exist but must exist -- Existence itself is pure actuality, with no potentiality in it. This means that the essence of existence is nothing other than existence. Existence is its own essence. From this it follows that esse itself must exist, for if it did not, it would violate its own essence, which is
7. Esse is distinct from everything else that exists -- You can know from step 1 that you exist, and we know from step 3 that esse exists. But we also know that the two are not identical.
8. Esse must be one -- Since esse is pure actuality, it has no limitations, which means there is no distinction in esse. Therefore, there is only one esse.
9. Esse must be immutable -- Since esse is purely actual, it has no potential to change. Therefore, esse is unchanging.
10. Esse must be eternal -- Because esse does not change, it does not change from the future to the present to the past. It must be outside the realm of time, which means that there is no future, present, or past with esse. In other words, esse is non-temporal, or eternal.
11. Esse must be infinite -- Because esse is immutable, it must be outside the realm of space. It has no spatial constraints—that is, esse is infinite.
12. Esse must be omniscient -- Even if you’re a brain in a vat, you can perceive that you have the capacity to know. Because you are only partly actual, and esse is purely actual, esse must know all there is to know. That is, esse is all-knowing, or omniscient
13. Esse must be omnipotent -- You can perceive that you have the capacity to do some things that are logically possible. Since you are only partly actual, and esse
is purely actual, esse must be able to do all things that are logically possible. That is, esse is all-powerful, or omnipotent.

Thus proving the existence of a being (esse) that not only does exist but must exist and is one, unchanging, eternal, infinite, omniscient, and omnipotent. This matches the definition of God.

We can conclude, then, that even if all of your sense perceptions are false, even if you are nothing but a brain in a vat being manipulated by scientists into believing that you are reading this article right now when in fact you are not, there are two things you can know with absolute, 100 percent certainty: (1) You exist, and (2) God exists.