- Beyond Belief
- A.L. De Silva
WHY GOD CANNOT EXIST
We have seen that the arguments used to prove God's existence are inadequate. We will
now demonstrate that logically an all-loving, all-knowing and all-powerful God such as the
one in which Christians have faith cannot exist.
The Problem of Free Will
For the religious life to be meaningful we must have free will, we must be able to
choose between good and evil. If we do not have free will we cannot be held responsible
for what we do.
According to Christians, God is all-knowing - he knows all the past, all the present
and all the future. If this is so, then God must know everything we do long before we do
it. This means that our whole life must be predetermined and that we act not according to
the free exercise of our wills but according to our predetermined natures. If we are
predetermined to be good we will be good and if we are predetermined to be evil we will be
evil. We will act not according to our will or choice but according to the way God has
already foreseen we will act. Although Christians will insist that we do have free will,
God's omniscience simply makes this logically impossible. And that people will act only as
God determines is verified in the Bible (e.g. 2 Thess 2:11-12; Rom 9:19-21; Rom 9:18).
If people are evil it is because God has chosen to make them evil (Rom 1:24-28) and
caused them to disobey him (Rom 11:32). If they do not understand God's message it is
because he has made their minds dull (Rom 11:8) and caused them to be stubborn (Rom 9:18).
God prevents the Gospel from being preached in certain areas (Act 16:6-7) and he fixes
long before it will happen when a person will be born and when he or she will die (Act
17:26). Those who were going to be saved were chosen by God before the beginning of time
(II Tim 1:9). If a person has faith and is thereby saved, their faith comes from God, not
from any effort on their part (Eph 2:9-10). One may ask "If a person can only do what
God predetermines them to do, how can God hold them responsible for their actions?"
The Bible has an answer for this question.
But one of you will say to me: "If this is so, how can God find fault with anyone?
For who can resist God's will?" But who are you, my friend, to answer God back? A
clay pot does not ask the man who made it: "Why did you make me like this?"
After all, the man who makes the pot has the right to use the clay as he wishes, and to
make two pots from one lump of clay, one for special occasions and one for ordinary use.
And the same is true of what God has done (Rom 9:19-22).
So apparently in Christianity a person's life and destiny are due purely to the whim of
God and as mere humans we have no right to complain about what God has decided for us. The
idea that we are all predetermined is quite consistent with the idea of an all-knowing God
but it makes nonsense of the concept of making an effort to do good or avoid evil.
The Problem of Evil
Perhaps the most potent argument against the existence of an all-powerful, all-loving
God is the undeniable fact that there is so much pain and suffering in the world. If there
is really a God of love who has unlimited power, why doesn't he put an end to all evil?
Christians try to answer this question in several ways.
Firstly, they will say that evil is caused by man not God and that if only man would
follow God's commandments there would be no pain, evil or suffering. However, while it is
true that evils such as war, rape, murder and exploitation can be blamed on humans, they
can hardly be blamed for the millions who die each year in earthquakes, floods, epidemics
and accidents, all of which are natural events. In fact, according to the Bible, the germs
that cause hideous diseases like TB, polio, cholera, leprosy etc. and all the misery,
deformity and suffering to which they give rise, were created by God before he
created man (Gen. 1:11-12).
Another way Christians will try to explain away evil is to say that it is God's
punishment for those who do not follow his commandments. However this implies that
terrible things happen only to bad people, which is certainly not true. We often hear of
painful sickness or disasters befalling good people including good Christians, and
likewise we often hear of really bad people who seem to have nothing but good fortune and
success. So it cannot be said that suffering and evil are God's way of punishing sinners.
Next, Christians will say that God allows evil to exist in the world because he wants
to give us the freedom to choose good over evil and thereby earn salvation. Evil, they
will say, exists to test us. At first this seems to be a good explanation. If a man sees
someone being beaten up by a bully he has a choice between turning away (doing wrong) or
deciding to help the victim (doing right). If he decides to help then he has been tested
and found good. However, as we have seen before, an all-knowing God must already know what
choices a person will make so what is the point of testing us? Also, even if suffering and
evil exist in the world to test us, couldn't an all-loving God think of a less cruel and
less painful way to do this? It seems unloving and unfair to allow pain to be inflicted on
one person so that another person can have the opportunity to choose between good and
Some Christians will try to free God from responsibility for evil by saying that it is
not created by God but by the Devil. This may be true but again if God is so loving why
doesn't he simply prevent the Devil from doing this? In any case, who created the Devil in
the first place? Surely it was God.
By this stage the Christian will start to get a bit desperate, shifting the argument
from logic to pragmatism. He will say that even though there is suffering in the world we
can use it as an opportunity to develop courage and patience. This is undoubtedly true but
it still does not explain why an all-loving God allows babies to die of cancer,
innocent bystanders to be killed in accidents, and leprosy victims to suffer deformity and
pain. In fact the existence of so much unnecessary pain, misery and evil in the world is
very strong evidence that there is no all-loving all-powerful God.
Christians claim that God is perfect, that he is complete in every way, but if God
really did create the universe this would prove that he was not perfect. Let us examine
Before God created the universe there was nothing - no sun, no earth, no people, no
good or evil, no pain - nothing but God who was, according to Christians, perfect. So if
God was perfect and nothing but perfection existed, what motivated God to create the
universe and thus bring imperfection into being? Was it because he was bored and wanted
something to do? Was it because he was lonely and wanted someone to pray to him?
Christians will say that God created everything because of his love of man, but this is
impossible. God could not love humans before he created them any more than a woman
could love her children before she had conceived them. God's need to create indicates that
he was dissatisfied in some way and therefore not perfect. Christians might then say that
God created spontaneously and without need or desire. However this would mean that the
whole universe came into being without purpose or forethought and therefore it would mean
that God was not a loving creator.
The Problem of the Hidden God
Christians claim that God wants us to believe in him so that we can be saved - but if
this is so why doesn't God simply appear and perform a miracle so that everyone will see
and believe? Christians will say that God wants us to believe in him out of faith, not
because we see him with our eyes. However, according to the Bible, God in the past
performed the most awesome miracles and often intervened dramatically in human affairs so
that people would know his presence. So if he did so in the past, why doesn't he do so
Christians will say that God does perform miracles today (healing, solving personal
problems etc) but being stubborn and evil most people refuse to believe. However these
so-called miracles are individual and minor and leave much room for doubt. If God
performed a really impressive miracle which could have no other possible explanation, then
most people certainly would believe.
According to the Bible when the Israelites wandered in the desert for forty years, God
fed them by making food fall regularly from the sky (Ex 16:4). During the 1980's, several
million Ethiopian Christians died slowly and painfully from starvation due to a prolonged
drought. God had then the opportunity to make food fall from the sky, as the Bible claims
he did in the past, in order to prove his existence, his power and his love. Buddhists
would say that God did not manifest his presence because he does not exist