editor’s note: This is an excerpt from Out of God’s Closet by Dr. Stephen Uhl.
In this exciting book, Out of God’s Closet, a former faithful Roman Catholic priest-become-psychologist shares his inviting journey through agnosticism to atheism and The 21st Century Golden Rule. Dr. Uhl’s Journey was quite unique. Yet he clearly shows most of us how to get free and drop childhood prejudices and myths. This can deeply enrich individuals and families throughout our pluralistic society.
If you’d like to get the book or listen to Dr. Uhl read it to you, you can do both right here.
Emotional Arguments for God’s Existence
Beauty and order in the universe argue for God’s existence. It is easy to say, “Look around you, Stupid Writer. See all the wonderful beauty and precision in the universe! Where did it come from?” Yes, of course, I see a lot of beauty and order in the universe much bigger than humanity. I also see a lot of ugliness and disorder or chaos much bigger than humanity. Humankind wrestled with this problem of ugliness and evil in the world long before the biblical allegory of the Book of Job.
Can man make a sunset? Of course not; but realize the most beautiful sunsets are not mysterious or divine creations but are totally natural refractions and reflections of sunlight by the various levels of pollution and moisture in the atmosphere. The human creation of the selfless smile of a caring nurse or friend helping a cancer victim outshines the most gorgeous sunset. A sunset may be ugly for the person who desperately needs more time or daylight to find his way home; an artist at leisure may see great beauty in the very same sunset. Beauty and ugliness are created in the perception of the beholder, not by some mysterious Force beyond or above nature.
Perceived mysteries, as mysteries, argue for the supernatural. Early man looked at nature and, because of his ignorance, saw all kinds of mysterious wonders. Because of his limited understanding, he could be excused for letting his mystifying world convince him of the existence of lots of superstitions, devils, and Gods. He was surely overwhelmed by his limited knowledge of his world. Like an inexperienced child, he feared the unknowns of his mysterious world that he knew so little about, unknowns that he could neither control nor understand. So when ignorant and desperate pre-scientific man felt helpless, he prayed. In a drought he prayed to his rain-God; when hungry because the hunting was bad, he prayed to his God of the hunt; when fearful or desperate, he begged for help from the God of storms, the God of war, the God of love and more. His faith was intermittently reinforced by bountiful nature, so he believed ever more strongly in his many Gods.
When the rains came late, or the hunt was so unsuccessful that the villagers were going hungry, manipulative leaders, shamans or priests easily convinced the desperate believers to make sacrifices and give generously to appease the angry Gods. Understandably the earliest belief systems of such awe-inspired folks included an abundance of superstitions. These simple folks created lots of Gods to be respected, thanked, feared and appeased. Of course, the rains eventually came, and the hunters eventually found food; this convinced the believers that their sacrifices and offerings to the Gods and their representatives were effective.
What might have developed as our cultural heritage if ancient man, with his lack of scientific knowledge of nature, had he imagined himself as a very tiny part of magnificent nature, perhaps as an ant or a little bug? The ant finds a nice crumb or bit of food dropped in its way. Does the natural ant worship or thank the unknown “litterbug” for dropping the gift from above? Or does the dung beetle worship the cow that defecates so that he has a place to roll around and have a ball? Not likely. I suspect that both the ant and the dung beetle just enjoy what came their way without any evidence of a leftover obligation to the big crapper in the sky. As far as we know, these natural animals simply appreciate nature’s gifts and go on being part of nature.
Much later in human development, after appreciable philosophical development, by the time Marco Polo was traveling to China (1271), and by the time St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) was writing his Summa Theologica, the majority of humankind had reached the conclusion that there must be only one God, one Highest Power in charge and that they had to worship and obey that one unknown Power.
St. Thomas Aquinas, reputedly one of the greatest philosopher-theologians of Catholic Christianity, saw the need to prove God’s existence philosophically or logically. He proposed five formal proofs of God’s existence; four of them being emotion based ad hominem arguments which I will not bother to address beyond what has already been done above. The only so-called proof that even approaches a logical proof of God’s existence is “the proof from causality”; this is the one that is still seen as an effective proof by millions. This causality proof gets a bit abstract, but because it is still accepted by serious thinkers today, it must be dealt with carefully and adequately.