EVERYBODY knows that there are no proofs of the existence of God. Everybody? Only because that is what we have been told. It is not something I could ever have worked out for myself. The various classical proofs of the existence of God, the Ontological, the Cosmological and the Teleological among them, are powerful and impressive.
As proofs, they are much sharper, more incisive and intelligible than the highly complex and technical ‘proofs’ of mathematics. They are neat, convincing and comprehensible. But they are no longer named ‘proofs’; at best they are called ‘arguments’; more usually they are looked on as museum pieces from an earlier, credulous age.
I can grasp the reasons for this, the reasons why talk about God and proofs of his existence has declined, but reason has very little to do with it. They are no longer proofs because we say they are not. They do not convince us because we do not want to be convinced. That is just how it is: wanting is not a matter of logic.
If God, for no particular reason, has lost his power to convince, what else might also be vulnerable? The agnostics would say, ‘Only he; humans are safe.’ I am not so sure. God yesterday, Free Will tomorrow? Our shared fascination with our own Free Will only developed as our interest in God declined. In the days when the Free Will – Determinism debate was real, philosophers put forward serious proofs of our freedom and choice.
With all that we have learned from psychology and sociology, with all we have yet to learn from our genes, are we still convinced that we have Free Will? Is it just me, or is there truly a loss of confidence even in that? The problem is a real one. When God commands you to do something, you do not have to prove your will, you have only to use it. When there is no one to command you, how do you know it exists; how can you prove the power of your own Will?
It is ironic that we should need something outside of ourselves to prove something so essential to being ourselves, but it may be that if there is no God, there is no Free Will, only appetite, desire, passion.