Does God Exist?

Jean Meslier
Jean Meslier
In my opinion, no. I am not certain that I am right, but none of us can be logically certain of anything. As human beings, we must be satisfied with probabilities, not certainties. There are few things that I consider more improbable than the existence of God, or any other supernatural being, for that matter. I shed my belief in God at age 12. Everything I have learned, experienced, and thought since then has confirmed that very fundamental conclusion.

Why fundamental? Because our conclusions about the nature of good and evil, the reasons for and purpose of our existence, and the logical basis for our goals in life must depend on whether we believe in God or not.

We often see discussions about whether belief in God has been useful to society or not, whether it has lead to destructive behavior or not, whether it has been responsible for one historical disaster or another or not, or whether it is necessary to motivate people to act morally or not. All these are moot points. The question we must answer is not whether belief in God is useful, but whether belief in God is true.

For most people, religious beliefs are not based on logical thought. So much is obvious if we look at the differences between different countries. The population of one might be mainly Moslem, and of another mainly Christian. The disparities do not depend on the ability of one group of citizens to reason more accurately than the other. Rather, they reflect prevailing customs and traditions. Based on this evidence, we must conclude that the majority of people, whether they think more or less about the matter, end up adopting the beliefs of the society or group to which they happen to belong. This behavior is hardly surprising, given what we know about the nature of human beings. However, given the consequences, it is probably not something we should wish to emulate.

For example, most Christians believe, at least nominally, in the Trinity. According to the Koran, those who believe in the Trinity will burn in hell for quadrillions and quintillions of years, and more. In fact, they will burn in hell forever. I take a less drastic view of the matter. I don’t think that either Christians or Moslems will burn in hell forever because they disagree with me. I simply believe that it is better to base ones actions, goals, and the way in which one relates to others on that which is true rather than on that which is false.

Why do I reject belief in the supernatural? There are a great many reasons. I found some of them on my own, but most of them are not original. In the beginning I may have thought they were, but since then I’ve found many others who’ve thought the same thoughts, had the same ideas, and come to the same conclusions. These include Richard Dawkins, Chris Hitchens, and Sam Harris, who’ve all recently published books rejecting religious belief. However, of the many I’ve found whose ideas reflected my own, the greatest thinker of them all was a simple French priest named Jean Meslier. When he died in 1729, he left three copies of his Testament, in which he set forth what I consider the most thorough and the most profound rejection of religious belief ever written. Voltaire admired Meslier and did much to circulate and preserve his work, but commented that he wrote “in the style of a carriage horse.” His condescension was ill-considered. I am grateful to Voltaire. He probably did more to liberate mankind from the shackles of political and religious obscurantism than anyone before or since. However, I consider Meslier the more powerful of the two thinkers. Voltaire was a deist, and somehow found in Meslier’s work a confirmation of his own beliefs. In fact, Meslier demolished deism as thoroughly as the rest of religious belief. Somehow, Voltaire missed the point.

Meslier’s style may have been unpolished, but his case against religion was clear, concise, and thorough. His work includes virtually every argument that has ever occurred to me, and many more. I have read many apologies for religion, but none, in my opinion, that could even begin to stand up against Meslier’s logic. One feels a sense of awe when one recalls he wrote more than 100 years before the publication of “The Origin of Species.” One can occasionally find English versions of his work published under the rather affected title, “Superstition in All Ages.” I will have more to say about Meslier in future. In the meantime, do yourself a favor: read his book and think about it. Here are a few excerpts:

“What is God? What is spirit? They are causes of which we have no idea. Sages! Study nature and her laws; and when you can from them unravel the action of natural causes. Do not go in search of supernatural causes, which, very far from enlightening your ideas, will but entangle them more and more and make it impossible for you to understand yourselves.”

“Nature, you say, is totally inexplicable without a God; that is to say, in order to explain what you understand so little, you need a cause which you do not understand at all. You pretend to make clear that which is obscure, by magnifying its obscurity. You think you have untied a knot by multiplying knots.”

“I would admit without question that the human machine appears to me surprising; but since man exists in nature, I do not believe it right to say that his formation is beyond the forces of nature. I will add, that I could conceive far less of the formation of the human machine, when to explain it to me they tell me that a pure spirit, who has neither eyes, nor feet, nor hands, nor head, nor lungs, nor mouth, nor breath, has made man by taking a little dust and blowing upon it.”

“According to the notions of modern theology, it appears evident that God has created the majority of men with the view only of punishing them eternally. Would it not have been more in conformity with kindness, with reason, with equity, to create but stones or plants, and not sentient beings, than to create men whose conduct in this world would cause them eternal chastisements in another? A God so perfidious and wicked as to create a single man and leave him exposed to the perils of damnation, cannot be regarded as a perfect being, but as a monster of nonsense, injustice, malice and atrocity.”

“But if the choicest work of Divinity is imperfect, by what are we to judge of the Divine perfections? Can a work with which the author himself is so little satisfied, cause us to admire his skill?”

“Does it depend upon man to accept or not to accept the opinions of his parents and of his teachers? If I were born of idolatrous or Mohammedan parents, would it have depended upon me to become a Christian? However, grave Doctors of Divinity assure us that a just God will damn without mercy all those to whom He has not given the grace to know the religion of the Christians.”

“In calling mortals into life, what a cruel and dangerous game does the Divinity force them to play! Thrust into the world without their wish, provided with a temperament of which they are not the masters, animated by passions and desires inherent in their nature, exposed to snares which they have not the skill to avoid, led away by events which they could neither foresee nor prevent, the unfortunate beings are obliged to follow a career which conducts them to horrible tortures.”

“Their (the animals) peaceable ignorance, is it not more advantageous than these extravagant meditations and these futile investigations which render you miserable, and for which you are driven to murdering beings of your own noble kind?”

I am in awe when I read things like this. It boggles the mind to think that “my” reasons, and many more, for rejecting religion were all written down by this genius who lived more than 280 years ago. I will discuss some of those not touched on above in future posts.

What is the consequence of my conclusions regarding religion? Everything else I write here; my ideas concerning good and evil, human nature, the purpose of life or lack thereof, everything. Religious beliefs or the lack thereof matter. There are consequences for getting it right and consequences for getting it wrong, and they are very weighty consequences as far as our lives are concerned. For that reason, we must be particularly zealous in guarding freedom of speech concerning matters of religion. We simply cannot afford to suppress the critical discussion of religious belief because we are afraid of hurting someone’s feelings, or “insulting” their beliefs. There can be few better proofs that an idea is false than its proponents’ fear of criticism. The truth should not be afraid of confronting falsehood.

Author: Helian

I am Doug Drake, and I live in Maryland, not far from Washington, DC. I am a graduate of West Point, and I hold a Ph.D. in nuclear engineering from the University of Wisconsin. My blog reflects my enduring fascination with human nature and human morality.

One thought on “Does God Exist?”

  1. I will not get into an argument with you about the word of The Lord or religion. I will comment that giving my life up to God and believing in his son Jesus Christ changed my life for the better and opened my eyes to a world of better decisions. I would like for you to try something for me, even though you do not know me. Read the bible and live your life according to it for one week at the least (Just consider it a study for future dialoges) and pray for help with decissions and answers to problems for that week. You have to listen with an open mind and at least some belief. Then sit down and just compare that week to your other ones. I wish you the best and will pray for you to see what the Lord has to offer.

    Best Regards,

    Brian

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