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The Existence of God or Questions for Theists

Charles Watts (1894)

THEISTS of marked intellectual ability persistently avoid any attempt to defend the Christian's notion of their God as he is delineated in the Bible. The reason, no doubt, of this is that the character given to the deity by the "inspired writers" is so contradictory and repulsive that no amount of reasoning will harmonize it with modern ideas of justice, purity, and morality. Now is it not inconsistent upon the part of Christians to preach to credulous congregations about the virtues of God, while they dare not endeavor to defend, in public discussion, the same Being before a critical audience? Surely orthodox exponents, to be consistent, should, when they undertake to prove the "existence of God," confine their attention to the God of the Old and New Testaments. If they feel that they cannot do this, it is their duty to say so; and further, to be honest they should inform their followers that the character of he "Heavenly Father," as depicted in the Bible, can not be defended by reason and ethical science. Is it not a sham and a delusion to profess to believe in a being whose nature and conduct are indefensible?

Feeling their utter inability to argue in favor of the Christian deity, Theists shelter themselves behind some metaphysical creation of their own, which they call "An Infinite, All-powerful, and Intelligent Being distinct from the material universe." Now' supposing there is such a being, where is the proof of his existence? Do not the varied and contradictory conceptions that are alleged to obtain as to his nature and attributes show that no idea of such a being really exists? It occurs to us that, if there be a God who is all-powerful and infinite in intelligence, he must know that the human race have no knowledge of him. Moreover, if he wishes us to have this knowledge, be, being all-powerful, could impart it. But he has not imparted it; therefore are we not justified in believing one of two things -- namely, either that this supposed Being lacks the knowledge of our ignorance of him, or that he has not the power to make himself known? In either case he could not be a God of infinite power and wisdom.

We have had quite enough of mysticism associated with this question. Hence. Agnosticism upon this subject appears to us to be the more reasonable position to take. Agnostics, refusing to profess a knowledge they cannot command, aim to differentiate the knowable from the unknowable, and then devote their time and energies to widening the sphere of that within human gnosis. Whatever else is possible, it is certain that we can never extend the domain of the known by indulging in wild flights of the imagination respecting the unknown, and to us the unknowable. As Socrates observes: "Fancies beyond the reach of understanding, and which have yet been made the objects of belief -- these have been the source of all the disputes, errors, and superstitions which have prevailed in the world. Such national mysteries cannot be made subservient to the right use of humanity."