Basic Anglican Teachings

Arguments for the Existence of God: A Summary

The Rev. Canon Patrick S. Fodor

There are several kinds of arguments for God’s existence. These are general arguments, which do not yet address specific questions, such as the historicity of Jesus and His crucifixion and resurrection. Those specific items will be addressed separately under their own topics.


1)       Cosmological  This category includes several arguments, including

a.       the ex motu or “unmoved mover” argument,

b.      the “first cause” or ex causa argument,

c.       the argument from contingency or ex contingentia,

d.      the kalam cosmological argument

2)      Ontological (based on being),

3)      Teleological (based on ends, or an argument from design). There are two sorts of arguments here.

a.       The argument from degrees of perfection is also found in Thomas Aquinas, who sets out his arguments (the Five Ways) in the Summa Theologica, and dwells at length on the first in the Summa Contra Gentiles.  A classic version of the Ontological argument is set out by St. Anselm.

b.      Modern arguments for Intelligent Design, including Fine Tuning and Irreducible Complexity.

4)      One may also add the Moral arguments (based both on the presence of conscience, and the necessary social structures for civil government), the common elements of which suggest a common source (the moral consensus is sometimes known as the Tao[1]); and also

5)      Arguments from “General Consent:” there are indications in human nature itself of the need to believe in a transcendent or divine reality. One might put the very large amount of evidence of Original Monotheism (of monotheistic forms of religion as the demonstrably oldest forms in the vast majority of cultures, from Chinese bone fragment evidence to material from the Middle East, to indigenous materials in North America).[2]


1. A. and 1.B

These two are related arguments. Both have to do with items in a series, considered, not according to time, but in terms of what causes a series of simultaneous acts or events to happen.


The Unmoved Mover (the Uncaused Cause)

The summary of this can be found in Aquinas’ Summa Theologica. Aquinas’ first argument for God’s existence goes like this:

Nothing can be the cause of its own existence.
The chain of causes of things coming into existence cannot be infinite. The reason for this is NOT that nothing can itself be infinite in time, but RATHER that something has to be an initial cause for moving inert (non-being) things to a state of movement (being). The regress is impossible, not on account of time, but, regardless of the amount of time, that something without dependence on something else is needed to start a chain of events or chain of being.
There is a cause of the existence of some things which was not itself caused to exist.
This “first cause” is God.
1. At least one thing has been caused to come into existence.

2. Nothing can be the cause of its own existence.

3. The chain of causes of things coming into existence cannot be infinite. Otherwise there would be no chain (no beginning cause).

4. There is a cause of the existence of some things which was not itself caused to exist. (1,2,3)

5. If there is a cause of the existence of some things which was not itself caused to exist, then God exists.


C. God exists. (4, 5)

We can outline Aquinas' Second Argument, Causality like this:

(1) Some events cause other events.
(2) If an event happens, then it must be caused by something outside of itself.
(3) There can be no infinite cause/effect chains.
(4) So, there is a first, uncaused cause.
(5) Therefore God exists.

One very important principle is that nothing can give what it does not have, either really or potentially. God -Who is perfect Being, pure Existence- gives existence to everything else, and keeps it in existence at all moments. Nothing but a Being that is Perfect Being or Existence, without change, could do so, and so start the existence of other things.

It is not possible to have an infinite causal series in which each element in the chain is here and now dependent upon the influence of a higher cause. Think of a pen which is here and now being moved by a hand, which is here and now being moved by muscles, which are here and now being moved by nerves, which are here and now being stimulated by the brain, which is here and now being sustained by blood and oxygen, etc. If we suppress the first element in this sort of chain, the entire causal nexus would collapse, and the motion (activity) under immediate consideration would not be adequately explained (and would not happen). Therefore it follows that a prime mover exists, which is to say, an un-actualized source of actualization, an un-energized energizer, an ultimate source of all of the change in the cosmos.

That which is truly the uncaused or unmoved source of energy must be fully actualized (actus purus in Latin), which means that it is not capable of further realization. But energy or matter is that which is capable of undergoing practically infinite change. Energy or matter is endlessly malleable, and therefore about as far from actus purus as can be imagined. A rather simple thought experiment shows that such primal physical elements cannot be the unmoved mover. Neither matter nor energy exists as such but always in a particular form or configuration. In regard to either, one could always ask, what color is it, at what velocity does it move, under what conditions does it exist? A given piece of matter is one color, but it could be any other color; energy is at one quantum level, but it could be at any other.

Therefore, we must ask about the cause that made it to exist this way rather than that way. We can appeal, of course, to some other material cause, but then we are forced to ask the same question about that cause, so that moving steps backward in the process indefinitely, moving back to other material movers, won't get us anywhere closer to an ultimate explanation. The philosophical dictum is "act precedes potency." The first cause of change cannot be itself subject to change. The unmoved mover is that which exists in a state of pure realization, that which cannot be improved in its being, that which simply is, that which is utterly in act.

Some further examples: A stone is moved by a stick is moved by a hand, which is moved by muscles, which is moved by firing of neural impulses, which is moved by mental acts, which is moved by the human will, which is moved by  __?___. All the elements in the string of things, which take place simultaneously, are dependent on something ultimate, without which none of the elements in the string (which happen at the same time) COULD happen. The first item is NOT caused. If it were, it would not BE the first item. But without a first item, nothing else happens.


This can, of course, also work in terms of a causal series which is not simultaneous, but has steps over time, such as making a cake. There are a number of steps required, and they must be in particular order, and all of the steps are dependent on others except for the very first one. We can’t change the order, or we destroy the series. If we begin by cracking two eggs and putting them into the mixture, rather than getting the bowl and other ingredients and composing the “mixture” beforehand, we will not have a cake, but just eggs (in a bowl or on the table).  But we need to go back to the blueprint (the recipe), then the mind that created it and the mind of the person who determines to make the cake, and then back to the mental and physical functions which make this possible, and finally to the source of that possibility in the first place. And in many other cases, all the elements are very clearly instantaneous, as for example with an orchestra playing- when the musicians stop playing (with all that that involves), the music instantly stops, too.


As Feser notes: “Change – the actualization of the potentials inherent in things – cannot in principle occur unless there is a cause that is ‘pure actuality,’ and thus can actualize other things without itself having to be actualized.  In addition, whatever has an essence or nature distinct from its existence – so that it must derive existence from something outside it – must ultimately be caused by something whose essence just is existence, and which qua existence or being itself need not derive its existence from another.”


Related to this are the third and fourth arguments:

The third proof is taken from the natures of the merely possible and necessary. We find that certain things either may or may not exist, since they are found to come into being and be destroyed, and in consequence potentially, either existent or non-existent. But it is impossible for all things that are of this character to exist eternally, because what may not exist, at length will not. If all things were merely possible (mere accidents), eventually nothing among things would exist. If this is true, even now there would be nothing, because what does not exist, does not take its beginning except through something that does exist. If then nothing existed, it would be impossible for anything to begin, and there would now be nothing existing, which is admittedly false. Hence not all things are mere accidents, but there must be one necessarily existing being. Now every necessary thing either has a cause of its necessary existence, or has not. In the case of necessary things that have a cause for their necessary existence, the chain of causes cannot go back [not in terms of going backwards in time, but in terms of causation, at any and every moment] infinitely, just as not in the case of efficient causes, as proved. Hence there must be presupposed something necessarily existing through its own nature, not having a cause elsewhere but being itself the cause of the necessary existence of other things---which all call God.


The fourth proof arises from the degrees that are found in things. For there is found a greater and a less degree of goodness, truth, nobility, and the like. But more or less are terms spoken of various things as they approach in diverse ways toward something that is the greatest, just as in the case of hotter (more hot) which approaches nearer the greatest heat. There exists therefore something that is the truest, and best, and most noble, and in consequence, the greatest being. For what are the greatest truths are the greatest beings, as is said in the Metaphysics Bk. II. 2. What moreover is the greatest in its way, in another way is the cause of all things of its own kind (or genus); thus fire, which is the greatest heat, is the cause of all heat. …Therefore there exists something that is the cause of the existence of all things and of the goodness and of every perfection whatsoever-and this we call God.


Here are summary outlines:


Aquinas' Third Argument, Contingency
(1) Contingent things exist.
(2) Each contingent thing has a time at which it fails to exist (contingent things are not omnipresent).
(3) So, if everything were contingent, there would be a time at which nothing exists (call this an empty time).
(4) That empty time would have been in the past.
(5) If the world were empty at one time, it would be empty forever after (a conservation principle).
(6) So, if everything were contingent, nothing would exist now.
(7) But clearly, the world is not empty (premise 1).
(8) So there exists a being who is not contingent.
(9) Hence, God exists.


Aquinas' Fourth Argument, Properties That Come in Degrees
(1) Objects have properties to greater or lesser extents.
(2) If an object has a property to a lesser extent, then there exists some other object that has the property to the maximum possible degree.
(3) So there is an entity that has all properties to the maximum possible degree.
(4) Hence God exists.


1. C. The Cosmological Argument from Contingency

The cosmological argument comes in a variety of forms. Here’s a simple version of the famous version from contingency:

1. Everything that exists has an explanation of its existence, either in the necessity of its own nature or in an external cause.

2. If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God.

3. The universe exists.

4. Therefore, the universe has an explanation of its existence (from 1, 3).

5. Therefore, the explanation of the universe’s existence is God (from 2, 4).

This is a logically airtight argument: if the premises are true, then the conclusion is unavoidable (100% certain, or “proven”). It doesn’t matter if we don’t like the conclusion. It doesn’t matter if we have other objections to God’s existence. So long as we grant the three premises, we have to accept the conclusion. So the question is this: Which is more plausible—that those premises are true or that they are false?


Premise 1

According to premise 1, there are two kinds of things: (A) things which exist necessarily and (B) things which are produced by some external cause.

(A) Things that exist necessarily exist by a necessity of their own nature. It’s impossible for them not to exist. Many mathematicians think that numbers, sets, and other mathematical entities exist in this way. They’re not caused to exist by something else; they just exist necessarily.

(B)  By contrast, things that are caused to exist by something else don’t exist necessarily. They exist contingently. They exist because something else has produced them. They depend on something else to make them exist. Familiar physical objects like people, planets, and galaxies belong in this category.


Premise 1 asserts that everything that exists can be explained in one of these two ways. This claim is very plausibly true. If you are hiking through the woods and come across a translucent ball lying on the forest floor, you would naturally wonder how it came to be there. If one of your hiking partners said to you, “Don’t worry about it! There isn’t any explanation of its existence!” you would either think he was crazy, or figure that he just wanted you to keep moving. No one would take seriously the suggestion that the ball existed there with literally no explanation. It couldn’t be that nothing ever caused to exist. Something or someone must have made it and caused it to be there.


Furthermore, modifying the size of the ball makes no difference. If the ball were to be made the size of a car, or even the size of a house, it wouldn’t do anything to satisfy or remove the demand for an explanation. The same is true if it were the size of a continent, a planet, or the universe. Merely increasing the size of the ball does nothing to affect the need of an explanation. Since any object could be substituted for the ball, this gives grounds for thinking premise 1 to be true.


It might be said that while premise 1 is true of everything in the universe, it is not true of the universe itself. Everything in the universe has an explanation, but the universe itself has no explanation. But that response commits what has been called “the taxicab fallacy.” For as the nineteenth-century atheist philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer quipped, premise 1 can’t be dismissed like a taxi once you’ve arrived at your desired destination! You can’t say that everything has an explanation of its existence, and then suddenly exempt the universe from this rule, just because the particular example is inconvenient. It would be arbitrary to claim that the universe is the exception to the rule. (God is not an exception to premise 1: see below at 1.4.) The illustration of the ball in the woods shows that merely increasing the size of the object to be explained, even until it becomes the universe itself, does nothing to remove the need for some explanation of its existence.


One might try to justify making the universe an exception to premise 1. Some philosophers have claimed that it’s impossible for the universe to have an explanation of its existence. For the explanation of the universe would have to be some prior state of affairs in which the universe did not yet exist. But that would be nothingness, and nothingness can’t be the explanation of anything. So the universe must just exist inexplicably. This line of reasoning is, however, fallacious (logically faulty) because it assumes that the universe is all there is, and that if there were no universe there would be nothing. In other words, the objection assumes that atheism is true. The objector is thus begging the question (committing another logical fallacy) and arguing in a circle. The theist will agree that the explanation of the universe must be some (explanatorily) prior state of affairs in which the universe did not exist. But that state of affairs is God and his will, not nothingness.


Thus premise 1 is more plausibly true than false, which is all we need for a sound argument.


Premise 2

What, then, about premise 2? Is it more plausibly true than false? Although premise 2 might appear at first to be controversial, what’s really awkward for the atheist is that premise 2 is logically equivalent to the typical atheist response to the contingency argument. (Two statements are logically equivalent if it’s impossible for one to be true and the other one false. They stand or fall together.) So what does the atheist almost always say in response to the contingency argument? He typically asserts the following:

A. If atheism is true, the universe has no explanation of its existence.

Since, on atheism, the universe is the ultimate reality, it just exists as a brute fact.


But that is logically equivalent to saying this:

B. If the universe has an explanation of its existence, then atheism is not true.


So you can’t affirm (A) and deny (B). But (B) is virtually synonymous with premise 2! (Compare them.) By saying that, given atheism, the universe has no explanation, the atheist is implicitly admitting premise 2: if the universe does have an explanation, then God exists.

Besides that, premise 2 is very plausible in its own right. Think of what the universe is: all of space-time reality, including all matter and energy. It follows that if the universe has a cause of its existence, that cause must be a non-physical, immaterial being beyond space and time. Now there are only two sorts of things that could fit that description: either an abstract object like a number or else an unembodied mind. But abstract objects can’t cause anything. That’s part of what it means to be abstract. The number seven, for example, can’t cause any effects. So if there is a cause of the universe, it must be a transcendent, unembodied Mind, which is what Christians understand God to be.


Premise 3

Premise 3 is undeniable, unless one is delusional. If the universe doesn’t exist, then you don’t either, we aren’t thinking about it now.



From these three premises it follows that God exists. Now if God exists, the explanation of God’s existence lies in the necessity of His own nature, since, as even the atheist recognizes, it’s impossible for God to have a cause. God’s uncausability is part of what “God” means. This argument thus proves the existence of a necessary, uncaused, timeless, spaceless, immaterial, personal Creator, responsible for causing the universe.


1. D. The Kalam Cosmological Argument: Argument from the beginning of the Universe


This cosmological argument is commonly referred to as the kalam cosmological argument[3] in honor of its medieval Muslim proponents (kalam is the Arabic word for theology):

1.      Everything that begins to exist has a cause.

2.      The universe began to exist.

3.      Therefore, the universe has a cause.

Once we reach the conclusion that the universe has a cause, we can then analyze what properties such a cause must have and assess its theological significance.


Here again the argument is logically ironclad. The only question is whether the two premises are more plausibly true than their denials.


Premise 1

Premise 1 seems obviously true—at the least, more so than its negation. First, it’s rooted in the necessary truth that something cannot come into being uncaused from nothing. To suggest that things could just pop into being uncaused out of nothing is literally worse than magic. Second, if things really could come into being uncaused out of nothing, then it’s inexplicable why just anything and everything do not come into existence uncaused from nothing. Third, premise 1 is constantly confirmed in our experience as we see things that begin to exist being brought about by prior causes.


Premise 2

Premise 2 can be supported both by philosophical argument and by scientific evidence. The philosophical arguments aim to show that there cannot have been an infinite regress of past events. In other words, the series of past events must be finite and have had a beginning. Some of these arguments try to show that it is impossible for an actually infinite number of things to exist; therefore, an infinite number of past events cannot exist. Others try to show that an actually infinite series of past events could never elapse; since the series of past events has obviously elapsed, the number of past events must be finite.


The scientific evidence for premise 2 is based on the expansion of the universe and the thermodynamic properties of the universe. According to the Big Bang model of the origin of the universe, physical space and time, along with all the matter and energy in the universe, came into being at a point in the past about 13.7 billion years ago (Fig. 1).[4]

Figure 1: Geometrical Representation of Standard Model Space-Time. Space and time
begin at the initial cosmological singularity, before which literally nothing exists.


What makes the Big Bang interesting is that it represents the origin of the universe from literally nothing. As the physicist P. C. W. Davies explains, “the coming into being of the universe, as discussed in modern science . . . is not just a matter of imposing some sort of organization . . . upon a previous incoherent state, but literally the coming-into-being of all physical things from nothing.”[5]


This initial singularity is the beginning of the space-time continuum. There is no matter, no space, and no time before this.[6]


Of course, cosmologists have proposed alternative theories over the years to try to avoid this absolute beginning, but none of these theories has commended itself to the scientific community as more plausible than the Big Bang theory. In fact, in 2003 Arvind Borde, Alan Guth, and Alexander Vilenkin proved that any universe that is, on average, in a state of cosmic expansion cannot be eternal in the past but must have an absolute beginning. Their proof holds, regardless of the physical description of the very early universe, which still eludes scientists, and applies even to any wider multiverse of which our universe might be thought to be a part. Vilenkin pulls no punches:

It is said that an argument is what convinces reasonable men and a proof is what it takes to convince even an unreasonable man. With the proof now in place, cosmologists can no longer hide behind the possibility of a past-eternal universe. There is no escape, they have to face the problem of a cosmic beginning.[7]


Moreover, besides evidence based on the expansion of the universe, we have thermodynamic evidence for the beginning of the universe. The Second Law of Thermodynamics requires this. The second law of thermodynamics says that the entropy of any isolated system not in thermal equilibrium always increases. In other words, as energy is converted into mass, and from mass into energy, there is a loss. All energetic systems move irreversibly and inexorably toward maximum entropy (molecular chaos) –the universe winds down. In fact, it is this directional flow of things from order to disorder that gives us the notion of an arrow of time. Over time, things deteriorate.


If we work on uniformitarian principles (which are questionable, but let’s leave that aside for the moment) at approximately 1 millionth of a second after the initiating event, the temperature of the universe was about 100 trillion degrees Fahrenheit. At 300,000 years of age, our universe had cooled to a tepid 18,000°F (our sun is just under 10,000°F), and after its first billion years it was dispersed enough to measure 328°F below  zero. Today the universe measures about -455°F, or about 5 degrees above absolute zero. That’s pretty cold. At absolute zero (0 degrees Kelvin, −459.67 °F), all motion, all energy or conversion of energy, ceases. Here is the main point: The universe is entropic, that is, running down. If it had done so eternally or infinitely, the dispersion would mean that all we would have is a vast space in which all energy had been converted to absolutely cold, lifeless matter.


Here is an analogy: if we were to boil water and convert water into steam, then condense the steam back into a liquid state, and then to do this over and over again, the amount of water would gradually decrease. Why? Because the ability to efficiently retain all of the water (to not have any leaks) would mean that some mass/energy escaped. But the universe, scientists think, is a closed system. This means that all that happens is that the energy in the system, which is being converted into matter and back again, is being stretched further and further apart.


This means that in a finite amount of time, the universe will grind down, with such a dispersion of matter and energy that there would be no masses close to one another, and no concentration of energy. It would be in an infinite cold, dark, diluted, and lifeless state. This is not the case. The universe is stretching outward (the scientific basis for this is complex, but includes items such as the presence of red light, which shows movement of bodes away from the earth- analogous to the changes we hear when an ambulance comes closer to us and then moves away, and the sound we hear changes). Scientists have therefore concluded that the universe must have begun to exist a finite time ago and is now in the process of winding down. And this is true no matter what the actual age of the universe is. Whatever else we can conclude, we cannot conclude that the universe has always existed.



It follows logically from the two premises that the universe has a cause.


The prominent New Atheist philosopher Daniel Dennett agrees that the universe has a cause, but, on order to avoid the obvious, Dennett claims that” that the universe created itself.[8] But Dennett’s view is plainly nonsense. Notice that he’s not saying that the universe is self-caused in the sense that it has always existed. Dennett agrees that the universe had an absolute beginning, yet he claims that the universe brought itself into being. But this is clearly impossible. In order to create itself, the universe would have to already exist- to exist before it existed! Dennett’s view is logically incoherent. The cause of the universe must therefore be a transcendent cause- a cause beyond the universe.


So what properties must such a cause of the universe possess? As the cause of space and time, it must transcend space and time and therefore exist timelessly and non-spatially (at least without the universe). This transcendent cause must therefore be changeless and immaterial because (1) anything that is timeless must also be unchanging and (2) anything that is changeless must be non-physical and immaterial since material things are constantly changing at the molecular and atomic levels. Such a cause must be without a beginning and uncaused, at least in the sense of lacking any prior causal conditions, since there cannot be an infinite regress of causes. Ockham’s Razor (the principle that states that we should not multiply causes beyond necessity) will shave away any other causes since only one cause is required to explain the effect. This entity must be unimaginably powerful, if not omnipotent, since it created the universe without any material cause.


Finally, such a transcendent first cause would have to be personal. As we saw in the argument from contingency, the personhood of the first cause of the universe is implied by its timelessness and immateriality. The only entities that can possess such properties are either minds or abstract objects like numbers. But abstract objects don’t stand in causal relations. Therefore, the transcendent cause of the origin of the universe must be an unembodied mind.[9]


Moreover, the personhood of the first cause is also implied since the origin of an effect with a beginning is a cause without a beginning. We’ve seen that the beginning of the universe was the effect of a first cause. By the nature of the case that cause cannot have a beginning of its existence or any prior cause. It just exists changelessly without beginning, and a finite time ago it brought the universe into existence. Now this is very peculiar. The cause is in some sense eternal, and yet the effect that it produced is not eternal but began to exist a finite time ago. How can this happen? If the sufficient conditions for the effect are eternal, then why isn’t the effect also eternal? How can a first event come to exist if the cause of that event exists changelessly and eternally? How can the cause exist without its effect?


There seems to be only one way out of this dilemma, and that’s to say that the cause of the universe’s beginning is a personal agent who freely chooses to create a universe in time. Philosophers call this type of causation “agent causation,” and because the agent is free, he can initiate new effects by freely bringing about conditions that were not previously present. Thus, a finite time ago a Creator could have freely brought the world into being. In this way, the Creator could exist changelessly and eternally but choose to create the world in time. (By “choose” one need not mean that the Creator changes His mind about the decision to create, but that He freely and eternally intends to create a world with a beginning.) By exercising His causal power, He therefore brings it about that a world with a beginning comes to exist.[10] So the cause is eternal, but the effect is not. In this way, then, it is possible for the temporal universe to have come to exist from an eternal cause: through the free will of a personal Creator.


So on the basis of an analysis of the argument’s conclusion, we may therefore infer that a personal Creator of the universe exists who is uncaused, without beginning, changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless, and unimaginably powerful.


2. The Cosmological Argument.


This is an argument which is strictly speaking metaphysical. That is, it is made on the basis of pure logic only. The ontological argument basically functions like this: God is, by definition, the greatest conceivable being. Now, what would the greatest conceivable being be like? Well, he would be omnipotent, he would be omniscient, he would be all-good, and he would be necessary in his existence—he would exist in all possible worlds.


Now, if such a being is possible, that means that a being like that exists in some possible world. But you see, if a being of that nature exists in even one possible world, then it exists in all of them, because that’s part of what it means to be the greatest conceivable being. But if it exists in all of them, then it exists in the actual world. Therefore, God exists.


So, the argument is basically: if you think that God’s existence is possible, then it follows that God exists. To deny that this is so requires proof that God does not exist. But this is not possible.


This is a very simple and abbreviated version of the argument.


Here is another version, by Seraphim (Thomas) Hamilton:


I'm going to say O/O rather than God just to avoid complications, though a person who has these capacities is clearly God.


1. If it is possible that O/O exists, then O/O exists in some possible worlds.

2. If O/O exists in some possible worlds, then O/O exists in all possible worlds.

3. If O/O exists in all possible worlds, then O/O exists in the actual world.

4. It is possible that O/O exists.

5. Therefore, O/O exists in the actual world.

6. Therefore O/O exists.


The key premises, of course, are two and four, and I'll look at premise two first. The way I'll prove this is by demonstrating the impossibility of the contrary. The contrary is that there are some possible worlds where God exists and some where it does not. Now, omnipotence by definition means that the person in question has the capacity to actualize any possible world. The matrix of possible worlds simply derives from logical necessity, and is going to remain the same throughout. Thus, if there are some possible worlds where God exists and somewhere God does not exist, then, with the matrix of possibilities remaining the same, it entails that in the possible worlds where God does exist, God has the capacity to realize a possible world where He never existed. But this entails a self-contradiction, since for God to actualize a possible world requires Him to exist. Thus, to say "God exists in some possible worlds but not all possible worlds" entails a contradiction. Therefore, if God exists in some possible worlds, then God exists in all possible worlds.


As for premise four, I've done less thought on this, but the key point here seems to be that there is nothing intrinsically contradictory about a mind who possesses both the capacity to realize all possibilities and the knowledge of all things. Indeed, the former requires the latter, because for God to have the capacity to realize all possibilities, He must have comprehensive knowledge of the matrix of possibilities. The arguments here seem remarkably thin: one might try to suggest the so-called "omnipotence paradox." This is a question like "Can God create a rock so heavy He can't lift it?" Either way, God is not omnipotent, thus, omnipotence is necessarily possessed by no person. But a little reflection reveals that such a conclusion is merely the artifact of a poorly formed question. Essentially, it is: "Can an omnipotent person do a thing which an omnipotent person can't do?" Such a question is intrinsically incoherent, and nobody should be surprised that it results in an incoherent answer. I don't know if there are any philosophers who still defend this, but I see it popping up on the Internet sometime.


The other argument, a bit more famous, has to do with evil. If God has all perfections, and if goodness is a perfection, then the problem of evil entails that God cannot exist. What's interesting to me about this objection is that it doesn't demonstrate the existence of God to be incoherent, only that it is incompatible with evil. Thus, as far as the formal logic of the ontological argument goes, the ontological remains sound. If both the ontological argument and the problem of evil were sound, it would entail a host of odd conclusions, such as "evil is an illusion" or "the present world is not the real world" or even "those minds who experience suffering do not actually exist." We'd like to avoid such conclusions, but here I'm making the point that the problem of evil doesn't deal with the ontological argument as such, only the existence of God with respect to what is apparently the actual world. Most critiques of the problem of evil suggest that there is some possible world where God has a morally sufficient reason for allowing each act of evil that He does. All one needs to prove here is that the concept of a "morally sufficient reason for allowing evil" is coherent, and also that the possibility where God has such reasons for actual evil is coherent. The former can be demonstrated in parenting: it is ethical for a parent to allow a child to make mistakes in order to bring about a greater good. So the concept of a morally sufficient reason is coherent, the naturalist needs to argue that there aren't any such morally sufficient reasons for actual evil in the world: but proving that would be tough. How does he know? Without comprehensive knowledge, it doesn't seem that he could know. As far as an argument for the logical incoherence of God with respect to the actual world, it fails. If one tries to formulate it as a probabilistic argument, it still fails, since the ontological argument is not probabilistic, but necessary. As such, it defeats any probabilistic argument if it is sound.


But let's say that the problem of evil is perfectly sound. The form of the ontological argument I've developed above actually doesn't have anything to say about perfections as such. All it deals with is the concept of an omnipotent, omniscient mind. And as we saw, omnipotence entails omniscience. So really, we're talking about a person with the capacity to realize any possible world. If the argument from evil is successful, it would demonstrate God to be "beyond good and evil" but not nonexistent.[11]


3. B. Teleological Arguments: General Design and Intelligent Design[12]


We now come to the teleological arguments from design.

General Design

Here is the outline of Aquinas’ Fifth Argument, “From Design:”

(1) Among objects that act for an end, some have minds, whereas others do not.
(2) An object that acts for an end, but does not itself have a mind, must have been created by a being that has a mind.
(3) So there exists a being with a mind who designed all mindless objects that act for an end.
(4) Hence, God exists.


Intelligent Design

Although advocates of the Intelligent Design movement have continued the tradition of focusing on examples of design in biological systems, the cutting edge of the contemporary discussion concerns the remarkable fine-tuning of the cosmos for life.


Before we discuss this argument, it’s important to understand that by “fine-tuning” one does not mean “designed” (otherwise the argument would be obviously circular). Rather during the last forty years or so, scientists have discovered that the existence of intelligent life depends upon a complex and delicate balance of initial conditions given in the Big Bang itself. This is known as the fine-tuning of the universe.


This fine-tuning is of two sorts. First, when the laws of nature are expressed as mathematical equations, you find appearing in them certain constants, like the constant that represents the force of gravity. These constants are not determined by the laws of nature. The laws of nature are consistent with a wide range of values for these constants. Second, in addition to these constants, there are certain arbitrary quantities that are put in just as initial conditions on which the laws of nature operate, for example, the amount of entropy or the balance between matter and anti-matter in the universe. Now all of these constants and quantities fall into an extraordinarily narrow range of life-permitting values. Were these constants or quantities to be altered by less than a hair’s breadth, the life-permitting balance would be destroyed, and no living organisms of any kind could exist.[13]


For example, a change in the strength of the atomic weak force by only one part in 10100 would have prevented a life-permitting universe. The cosmological constant which drives the inflation of the universe and is responsible for the recently discovered acceleration of the universe’s expansion is inexplicably fine-tuned to around one part in 10120. Roger Penrose of Oxford University has calculated that the odds of the Big Bang’s low entropy condition existing by chance are on the order of one out of 1010(123). Penrose comments, “I cannot even recall seeing anything else in physics whose accuracy is known to approach, even remotely, a figure like one part in 1010(123).”[14] And it’s not just each constant or quantity that must be exquisitely finely-tuned; their ratios to one another must be also finely-tuned. So improbability is multiplied by improbability by improbability until our minds are reeling in incomprehensible numbers.

So when scientists say that the universe is fine-tuned for life, they don’t mean “designed”; rather they mean that small deviations from the actual values of the fundamental constants and quantities of nature would render the universe life-prohibiting or, alternatively, that the range of life-permitting values is incomprehensibly narrow in comparison with the range of assumable values. Dawkins himself, citing the work of the Astronomer Royal Sir Martin Rees, acknowledges that the universe does exhibit this extraordinary fine-tuning.


Here, then, is a simple formulation of a teleological argument based on fine-tuning:

1.       The fine-tuning of the universe is due to either physical necessity, chance, or design.

2.       It is not due to physical necessity or chance.

3.       Therefore, it is due to design.


Premise 1

Premise 1 simply lists the three possibilities for explaining the presence of this amazing fine-tuning of the universe: physical necessity, chance, or design. The first alternative holds that there’s some unknown Theory of Everything (TOE) that would explain the way the universe is. It had to be that way, and there was really no chance or little chance of the universe’s not being life-permitting. By contrast, the second alternative states that the fine-tuning is due entirely to chance. It’s just an accident that the universe is life-permitting, and we’re the lucky beneficiaries. The third alternative rejects both of these accounts in favor of an intelligent Mind behind the cosmos, who designed the universe to permit life. The question is this: Which of these alternatives is the best explanation?


Premise 2

Premise 2 of the argument addresses that question. Consider the three alternatives. The first alternative, physical necessity, is extraordinarily implausible because, as we’ve seen, the constants and quantities are independent of the laws of nature. So, for example, the most promising candidate for a TOE to date, super-string theory or M-Theory, fails to predict uniquely our universe. String theory allows a “cosmic landscape” of around 10500 different possible universes governed by the present laws of nature, so it does nothing to render the observed values of the constants and quantities physically necessary. With respect to this first alternative, Dawkins notes that Sir Martin Rees rejects this explanation, and Dawkins says, “I think I agree.”[15]


So what about the second alternative: the fine-tuning of the universe is due to chance? The problem with this alternative is that the odds against the universe’s being life-permitting are so incomprehensibly great that they can’t be reasonably faced. Even though there will be a huge number of life-permitting universes lying within the cosmic landscape, nevertheless the number of life-permitting worlds will be unfathomably tiny compared to the entire landscape, so that the existence of a life-permitting universe is fantastically improbable. Students or laymen who blithely assert, “It could have happened by chance!” simply have no conception of the fantastic precision of the fine-tuning requisite for life. They would never embrace such a hypothesis in any other area of their lives—for example, in order to explain how there came to be overnight a car in their driveway.


3. B. Fine Tuning of the Universe


Evidence for the Fine Tuning of the Universe
by Rich Deem

According to Carl Sagan, the universe (cosmos) "is all that is or ever was or ever will be." However, the idea that the universe is all is not a scientific fact, but an assumption based upon materialistic naturalism. Since Carl Sagan's death in 1996, new discoveries in physics and cosmology bring into questions Sagan's assumption about the universe. Evidence shows that the constants of physics have been finely tuned to a degree not possible through human engineering. Five of the more finely tuned numbers are included in the table below. For comments about what scientists think about these numbers, see the page Quotes from Scientists Regarding Design of the Universe.


Fine Tuning of the Physical Constants of the Universe
Max. Deviation
Ratio of Electrons:Protons
Ratio of Electromagnetic Force:Gravity
Expansion Rate of Universe
Mass Density of Universe1
Cosmological Constant
These numbers represent the maximum deviation from the accepted values, that would either prevent the universe from existing now, not having matter, or be unsuitable for any form of life.
Degree of fine tuning
Recent Studies have confirmed the fine tuning of the cosmological constant (also known as "dark energy"). This cosmological constantis a force that increases with the increasing size of the universe. First hypothesized by Albert Einstein, the cosmological constant was rejected by him, because of lack of real world data. However, recent supernova 1A data demonstrated the existence of a cosmological constant that probably made up for the lack of light and dark matter in the universe.2 However, the data was tentative, since there was some variability among observations. Recent cosmic microwave background (CMB) measurement not only demonstrate the existence of the cosmological constant, but the value of the constant. It turns out that the value of the cosmological constant exactly makes up for the lack of matter in the universe.3

The degree of fine-tuning is difficult to imagine. Dr. Hugh Ross gives an example of the least fine-tuned of the above four examples in his book, The Creator and the Cosmos , which is reproduced here:

One part in 1037 is such an incredibly sensitive balance that it is hard to visualize. The following analogy might help: Cover the entire North American continent in dimes all the way up to the moon, a height of about 239,000 miles (In comparison, the money to pay for the U.S. federal government debt would cover one square mile less than two feet deep with dimes.). Next, pile dimes from here to the moon on a billion other continents the same size as North America. Paint one dime red and mix it into the billions of piles of dimes. Blindfold a friend and ask him to pick out one dime. The odds that he will pick the red dime are one in 1037. (p. 115)

The ripples in the universe from the original Big Bang event are detectable at one part in 100,000. If this factor were slightly smaller, the universe would exist only as a collection of gas - no planets, no life. If this factor were slightly larger, the universe would consist only of large black holes. Obviously, no life would be possible in such a universe.

Another finely tuned constant is the strong nuclear force (the force that holds atoms together). The Sun "burns" by fusing hydrogen (and higher elements) together. When the two hydrogen atoms fuse, 0.7% of the mass of the hydrogen is converted into energy. If the amount of matter converted were slightly smaller—0.6% instead of 0.7%— a proton could not bond to a neutron, and the universe would consist only of hydrogen. With no heavy elements, there would be no rocky planets and no life. If the amount of matter converted were slightly larger—0.8%, fusion would happen so readily and rapidly that no hydrogen would have survived from the Big Bang. Again, there would be no solar systems and no life. The number must lie exactly between 0.6% and 0.8% (Martin Rees, Just Six Numbers).

Fine Tuning Parameters for the Universe[16]

strong nuclear force constant
if larger: no hydrogen would form; atomic nuclei for most life-essential elements would be unstable; thus, no life chemistry
if smaller: no elements heavier than hydrogen would form: again, no life chemistry
weak nuclear force constant
if larger: too much hydrogen would convert to helium in big bang; hence, stars would convert too much matter into heavy elements making life chemistry impossible
if smaller: too little helium would be produced from big bang; hence, stars would convert too little matter into heavy elements making life chemistry impossible
gravitational force constant
if larger: stars would be too hot and would burn too rapidly and too unevenly for life chemistry
if smaller: stars would be too cool to ignite nuclear fusion; thus, many of the elements needed for life chemistry would never form
electromagnetic force constant
if greater: chemical bonding would be disrupted; elements more massive than boron would be unstable to fission
if lesser: chemical bonding would be insufficient for life chemistry
ratio of electromagnetic force constant to gravitational force constant
if larger: all stars would be at least 40% more massive than the sun; hence, stellar burning would be too brief and too uneven for life support
if smaller: all stars would be at least 20% less massive than the sun, thus incapable of producing heavy elements
ratio of electron to proton mass
if larger: chemical bonding would be insufficient for life chemistry
if smaller: same as above
ratio of number of protons to number of electrons
if larger: electromagnetism would dominate gravity, preventing galaxy, star, and planet formation
if smaller: same as above
expansion rate of the universe
if larger: no galaxies would form
if smaller: universe would collapse, even before stars formed
entropy level of the universe
if larger: stars would not form within proto-galaxies
if smaller: no proto-galaxies would form
mass density of the universe
if larger: overabundance of deuterium from big bang would cause stars to burn rapidly, too rapidly for life to form
if smaller: insufficient helium from big bang would result in a shortage of heavy elements
velocity of light
if faster: stars would be too luminous for life support if slower: stars would be insufficiently luminous for life support
age of the universe
if older: no solar-type stars in a stable burning phase would exist in the right (for life) part of the galaxy
if younger: solar-type stars in a stable burning phase would not yet have formed
initial uniformity of radiation
if more uniform: stars, star clusters, and galaxies would not have formed
if less uniform: universe by now would be mostly black holes and empty space
average distance between galaxies
if larger: star formation late enough in the history of the universe would be hampered by lack of material
if smaller: gravitational tug-of-wars would destabilize the sun's orbit
density of galaxy cluster
if denser: galaxy collisions and mergers would disrupt the sun's orbit
if less dense: star formation late enough in the history of the universe would be hampered by lack of material
average distance between stars
if larger: heavy element density would be too sparse for rocky planets to form
if smaller: planetary orbits would be too unstable for life
fine structure constant (describing the fine-structure splitting of spectral lines) if larger: all stars would be at least 30% less massive than the sun
if larger than 0.06: matter would be unstable in large magnetic fields
if smaller: all stars would be at least 80% more massive than the sun
decay rate of protons
if greater: life would be exterminated by the release of radiation
if smaller: universe would contain insufficient matter for life
12C to 16O nuclear energy level ratio
if larger: universe would contain insufficient oxygen for life
if smaller: universe would contain insufficient carbon for life
ground state energy level for 4He
if larger: universe would contain insufficient carbon and oxygen for life
if smaller: same as above
decay rate of 8Be
if slower: heavy element fusion would generate catastrophic explosions in all the stars
if faster: no element heavier than beryllium would form; thus, no life chemistry
ratio of neutron mass to proton mass
if higher: neutron decay would yield too few neutrons for the formation of many life-essential elements
if lower: neutron decay would produce so many neutrons as to collapse all stars into neutron stars or black holes
initial excess of nucleons over anti-nucleons
if greater: radiation would prohibit planet formation
if lesser: matter would be insufficient for galaxy or star formation
polarity of the water molecule
if greater: heat of fusion and vaporization would be too high for life
if smaller: heat of fusion and vaporization would be too low for life; liquid water would not work as a solvent for life chemistry; ice would not float, and a runaway freeze-up would result
supernovae eruptions
if too close, too frequent, or too late: radiation would exterminate life on the planet
if too distant, too infrequent, or too soon: heavy elements would be too sparse for rocky planets to form
white dwarf binaries
if too few: insufficient fluorine would exist for life chemistry
if too many: planetary orbits would be too unstable for life
if formed too soon: insufficient fluorine production
if formed too late: fluorine would arrive too late for life chemistry
ratio of exotic matter mass to ordinary matter mass
if larger: universe would collapse before solar-type stars could form
if smaller: no galaxies would form
number of effective dimensions in the early universe
if larger: quantum mechanics, gravity, and relativity could not coexist; thus, life would be impossible
if smaller: same result
number of effective dimensions in the present universe
if smaller: electron, planet, and star orbits would become unstable
if larger: same result
mass of the neutrino
if smaller: galaxy clusters, galaxies, and stars would not form
if larger: galaxy clusters and galaxies would be too dense
big bang ripples
if smaller: galaxies would not form; universe would expand too rapidly
if larger: galaxies/galaxy clusters would be too dense for life; black holes would dominate; universe would collapse before life-site could form
size of the relativistic dilation factor
if smaller: certain life-essential chemical reactions will not function properly
if larger: same result
uncertainty magnitude in the Heisenberg uncertainty principle
if smaller: oxygen transport to body cells would be too small and certain life-essential elements would be unstable
if larger: oxygen transport to body cells would be too great and certain life-essential elements would be unstable
cosmological constant
if larger: universe would expand too quickly to form solar-type stars[17]
Irreducible Complexity. This is the massive amount of evidence at all levels of biological life, proving that various systems, all the way down to the internal structures of the cell and DNA are systems which work together, and which cannot have any element removed without causing the whole destruction of the entire system. There is no possible materialist explanation for these phenomena, which fulfill all the requirements of design by intelligence. They could not exist or come into existence, without the work of a superior mind, which programmed the language/information systems on which they are absolutely dependent for existence.


4.   Moral Arguments for God’s Existence: These include both positive and negative arguments. We will treat them together.

1.      Positive Arguments from the Tao/Dictates of Practical Reason and Human Nature

2.      Negative Arguments from the Consequences of Relativism


Human beings are aware of actions as being right and wrong, obligatory and forbidden. Such awareness carries with it the thought that they are “bound” to do some things and bound to avoid doing others. Moral qualities have a binding force attached to them which shows itself in the natural sense or awareness of categories such as “right and wrong” and ideas about what “should” or “ought” to be done or not done, and the sense, in many cases, of moral requirements- that some things “must” be done or not done. If I make a promise, the promise creates (ceteris paribus) an obligation to deliver what is promised. The normative fact is, first, not dependent on my own goals and ends and, second, possessed of a universal force. The fact that I am bound by the normative truth “do what you promised” does not hold because I have ends (goals) which I cannot achieve unless I fulfill my promise. It binds no matter what my particular goals are. It is a universal truth, the expression of a universal rule, holding at all times and places and applying to any human being as such.

This fact points to a reality which is then unpacked in moral arguments for God's existence: there appear to be objective moral norms in the world, which are not dependent on culture, time or location. Many arguments in this category claim that the existence of God provides the best (and probably the only coherent) explanation of this fact.

A very basic form of the argument is thus:

1.      Moral facts exist.

2.      Moral facts have the properties of being objective and non-natural.

3.      The best explanation of there being objective and non-natural moral facts is provided by theism.

4.      Therefore the existence of moral facts provides good grounds for thinking theism is true.

So, as C. S. Lewis said, “conscience reveals to us a moral law whose source cannot be found in the natural world, thus pointing to a supernatural Lawgiver.” Accepting the validity of human reason as a given must include accepting the validity of what is known as “Practical Reason,” the working out of morality on the basis of natural law. Thus morality cannot be sound (true and logically valid) without reference to a higher cosmic moral order which could not exist without a God to create and establish it.

Positively, the Moral Code which has been manifested from the beginning, and which shows up with little variation throughout space and time, is known by various names. While there are many differences between the teachings of the various world religions, the majority of religions have very close similarities in many areas of their ethical/moral prescriptions. The description of this general agreement has been called the Tao (also spelled Dao, but pronounced “Dow” to rhyme with “cow,” in either case). Tao simply means “Way.” The Tao in this more general sense should not, however, be confused with the religion called Taoism (Daoism). This moral consensus of most religions prior to the modern period is also known by other titles, including “Natural Law,” and “Traditional Morality” (though these can refer to broader systems, too). It is known by the Chinese as the Rta. More usually and broadly, this consensus is referred to as the “First Principles of Practical Reason,” the “Laws of Practical Reason,” or the “First Platitudes.”[18] In more recent years various more or less official attempts have been made to repeat, in broad summary form, these principles. One major example came out of The Second Parliament of the World’s Religions, held in 1993, which issued a document titled, The Declaration of a Global Ethic. After listing some of the behaviors which the various religions agree were flagrantly unethical, this document declared:

[These conditions} need not be because the basis for an ethic already exists. …

We affirm that a common set of core values is found in the teachings of the religions, and that these form the basis of a global ethic.

We affirm that this truth is already known, but yet to be lived in heart and action.

We affirm that there is an irrevocable, unconditional norm for all areas of life, for families and communities, for races, nations, and religions. There already exist ancient guidelines for human behavior which are found in the teachings of the religions of the world and which are the condition for a sustainable world order.[19]

Negatively, none of the alternatives to objective morality work properly or consistently, and they only work at all by borrowing from objective moral norms. The two real proposed alternative explanations are Utilitarianism and Instinct.

The failure of UTILITARIANISM as a grounds for the new morality (and the is/ought fallacy). If the traditional, absolute morality of the TAO, which Lewis equates with genuine Reason, is rejected, what then can serve as the basis for a new set of values? Lewis uses the example of dulce et decorm, a phrase from the Odes of Horace that meant that it is a sweet and becoming to die for one’s country. He also invokes Jesus’ phrase that greater love has no man than that he lay down his life for his friend. If these values are not real, true, absolute, objective, and rational, then on what basis might they be promoted? Why die for your country or your friend if it is not, indeed, a right and good and truly noble thing to do? Lewis says that two platforms are possible, but neither succeed:


Utilitarianism is the argument that we should follow certain moral rules because they work. They save society. Some must die for the benefit of others. But just because this helps or works for society is no basis for ME laying down MY life for country or friend. If it is not a right thing to do, why should I do it and not someone else? Let others sacrifice for the country!

Utilitarianism commits the is/aught fallacy. If this martyrdom is practiced, then it will work and it will preserve society. Therefore it “ought” to be done. But Lewis says that just because something helps or works or is done is no rational justification or basis for concluding that it ought to be done, must be done, or has to be done. Something truly absolute like “society ought to be preserved” as a rational foundation for action is necessary to move people to such self-sacrifice, not just that it works and helps.

If the Utilitarian proposal lacks a solid foundation in Reason, then what alternative foundation is left to them to establish their new program of ethics?  All that remains is the doctrine of instinct.

The failure of INSTINCT as a grounds for the new morality. If the new morality cannot be grounded in reason, which is the basis of the old morality, and if Utilitarianism fails as a basis as well, then what other option remains? Instinct becomes the last resort: following an unreflective or spontaneous impulse widely felt by members of a specie as the basis for values. But using instinct as the basis for values leads to major problems:

o   If instinct is a natural, inescapable impulse that is naturally obeyed, why write books to try to try to convince people to obey it? Wouldn’t people do it anyway, if it were instinctual? And why praise those who have submitted to injury or death if they couldn’t really avoid acting according to their instincts anyway?

o   If we say that if people obey instinct, they will be happy and satisfied, why does this matter? In the case of dying for country or friends out of instinct, those doing so will only be able to have such happiness and satisfaction after they take action, i.e. after they are dead, which means that there is no satisfaction or happiness at all, if the materialist basis for the argument is right.

o   If instinct OUGHT to be obeyed, why? What is the basis for obeying instinct? Another instinct? Why obey that instinct? There is no final foundation for obeying instinct.

o   Some instincts ought to be resisted, not obeyed. In fact, there are many instincts, just as there are many people, telling us what to do. They are at war. How do we choose which ones to obey and not obey? We need some criterion or basis to use to determine which instincts to obey and which not to obey. Something outside instinct is needed in order to determine which instincts to obey and which to suppress.

o   Finally, regarding the test case of dying for country or friends, there seems to be no such instinct at all. Most people only have an instinct or impulse to sacrifice for one’s own children or grandchildren, not posterity and not for future generations in some abstract sense. You need another law outside of instinct to encourage us to such action.


CONCLUSION: Neither utilitarianism or instinct is an adequate basis for morality. But that basis IS found already in the Tao itself.


The unavoidable supremacy of the Tao as the basis for all moral values.[20] The Tao, the moral consensus of almost all religions across space and time, is the foundational, axiomatic, self-evident set of first principles for all morality. It is not the result of moral arguments, but rather the basis for them. Also, any attack on the Tao presupposes the Tao. There is no way to remove oneself from the Tao or to select certain things from it and reject the rest. If we accept parts, we must accept the whole; if we reject parts, we must reject the whole. But that cannot be done!


The Tao therefore is the basis of all value systems. If it is rejected, all value is rejected. If any value is retained, it is retained. No value system can be erected except on the basis of the Tao. All such efforts will merely be fragments from the Tao itself. Rebellion against the Tao is a rebellion of the branches against the tree or its trunk. There are no new primary colors, or a new sun or sky in which it may move.


If we are to have any values at all, then we must (at the very least) accept the validity of the Tao.


The absolute indispensability of the Tao or the loss of everything. You can’t explain everything away: if you do, you have no ground to stand upon and in doing so you destroy it all. The Tao is the first principle, and without it you have nothing.


But what is the source of the common Tao? No explanation exists which is not self-contradictory, is we suggest that it is accidental, or comes from nowhere, or which is not circular, by saying that it comes from itself.


Arguments from “General Consent:” there are indications in human nature itself of the need to believe in a transcendent or divine reality. One might put the very large amount of evidence of Original Monotheism (of monotheistic forms of religion as the demonstrably oldest forms in the vast majority of cultures, from Chinese bone fragment evidence to material from the Middle East, to indigenous materials in North America).[21]


While the popular theory for discussing and explaining the creation of religion in history, and among various societies, says that the earliest form of religion was animism, gradually replaced by polytheism, and that monotheism emerged much later, the evidence shows conclusively that this is not what happened. The explanation given by "Original Monotheism" shows, in great detail, across cultures, that in the vast majority of cases the earliest known form of religion is devotion to a single deity, usually identified as the High God or God of/in the Sky.

This single High God is identified as the Creator, but over time is given a smaller and smaller role in dealing with the world. The way that this initially happens usually seems to follow one of two patterns. (1) The attributes or characteristics of the High God are eventually personified and made into independent, lesser gods. Love, wisdom, justice, etc. become gods of love, wisdom, justice, etc. These lesser gods are seen as being more directly involved in the events of the world, so that the High God is mentioned less and less in prayers and other forms of ritual and worship. (2) Servants of the High God, such as angels, grow in their role as mediators (They act more and more as go-betweens for the High God in dealings with humanity). Eventually these other spiritual beings become lesser gods as in the previous scenario.

The presence of the devolution from a High God to polytheism is evident all over the globe in a variety of time periods. Examples of cultures which seem to have begun with a High God and then moved to the idea of many gods include, just as a few examples:

Tribe/People Group(s):                                      High God
Kikuyu (Africa)                                                    Ngai
Zulu        "                                                             Inkosi Yezulu (aka Unkulunkulu)
[meaning "Chief of the Sky"]
Yoruba     "                                                             Olorun
Nuer         "                                                             Kwoth Nhial
Nigerian Ibo people                                                  Chi/Chineke: (Creator), Name for Supreme

Creator High God.

Nigerian Yorubu                                                     Oludumare/Olurun: Supreme High God

Numerous African tribes                                        Leza: A name used for God as the Supreme

Being in many parts of Africa.

Numerous East African tribes                               Mulungu/Mungu/Murungu is the name for

God as the Supreme being in

numerous East African languages.

Tropical African tribes                                            Nyambe/Zambe/Nzambe: Supreme God Ghana                                                                      Nyame:  The supreme High God. It means

“the shining one.”

Dogon people (Upper Volta, W. Africa)                Amma: Supreme high God. He made the sun

and the moon out of clay then joined them to

the earth to make man.

Oglala (Nat.N. America)                                        Nagi Tanka (aka Taku Skanskan)
[The "Great Spirit" & "Great One of

the blue" - ie "sky"- respectively]
Cree & Ojibawa "                                                    Manitou or Gitche Manitou

["Great/Old Spirit"]
China                                                                        Sheng-Ti     ["Supreme Ruler"]
Santal (India)                                                           Thakur Jiu
Incas (S. America)                                                   Virococha ["The Lord"]
Egypt                                                                        Neter (the Sky God's 9 primary

characteristics in Egyptian

mythology became the neteru, or

primary gods, of later Egyptian

Indian Vedas                                                            Dyaus Pitar[22] (“The Shining Father”)

Brahmanical people of India                                  Brahma:The Creator God, to whom alone

sacrifice was originally made.

Arabian Peninsula                                                   Allah  Creator God long before Muhammad,

among the “pious ones” non-Jewish


Norse peoples                                                          The All Father. The oldest of the gods,

originally the only one, His attributes were

later taken over by Tyr and Odin.

Sumeria                                                                    Anu: The sky god of ancient Sumaria and high

god of the Sumarian pantheon. He had little

to do with human affairs and delegated his

authority to Enlil. He was called King of

gods and Father from about 2000 BC

Jabem and Bakave people of Papua New Guinea    Anatu: the High God and Creator

Aboriginals of SE Australia.                                     Baiame: High god and Creator in the

Mende people of Sierra Leone                                  Ngewo: The supreme High God. He has

neither temples or priests because he

has distanced himself from the

everyday world since people were

becoming too familiar with him.

Incan peoples                                                               Viracocha/Cocha: Uncreated Creator God.

Pachachutec, the ninth Inca,

worshipped him as the supreme deity.

Madagascar peoples                                                     Zanahary: The Creator God

We can note that later, during the reign of Pharaoh Akhenhaten, monotheism was reintroduced. Akhenhaten worshipped only "Aten," the "Sun Disc" as the only real God, who created the cosmos, was eternal and infinite. The other gods were forbidden for the remainder of his reign, probably 1375- 1358 BC.


Please note that we are not talking about the question of biological evolution, which is a different subject for another time, but about whether religions have evolved from animism to polytheism to monotheism (and some would say, to atheism), OR whether the available linguistic and archeological evidence suggests that most of the earliest forms of religion were monotheist, from which some groups then degenerated into polytheism and animism. It is a question about the general direction of development.

For example, the earliest records and linguistic analysis of the earliest known writings in the area of China suggest that the worship of a single deity, Shang-Ti, was later changed, the characteristics of the deity being anthropomorphized and, eventually, treated as individual deities. Likewise, study of the earliest Egyptian civilization suggests that one divine being was worshipped, but that the attributes (neteru), which were pictured, eventually came to be thought of as distinct deities (Isis, Osirus, and Horus, for example, were first divine "energies," but later became distinct deities, each with a separate realm of responsibility for life in Egypt). In most (but not all) cases, the earliest High God (most often associated with the sky) was so separate from everyday life and experience that little explicit attention was paid to him. The abstract attributes of the High God were transformed into closer, concrete, and more approachable deities.

For details regarding China and the study of Chinese bone fragments (the earliest medium for Chinese writing), see Genesis and the Mystery Confucius Couldn't Solve by Ethel Nelson and Richard Broadberry. For an analysis of the evidence in Egypt, see Egyptian Divinities: The All Who Are The One by Moustafa Gadalla. As one North American example, the Native American tribe known as the Seneca people held five feasts per year in which they had sacrifices and gave thanks to the Great Good Spirit, the Creator of the World (called, in Seneca, Nau-wan-e-u). He was the great, all powerful King. He had a lesser brother, who was evil, and lived in a barren land apart by himself, but who tried to bring evil into his brother's land. The all-powerful Nau-wan-e-u always was able to defeat him, however. (See the Appendix, "Of their Religion- Feast- and Great Sacrifice" in The Life of Mary Jemison, James Seaver, edition of 1824, reprinted 1982 by The American Scenic and Historic Preservation Society.)  A broader survey of evidence is located in the works of Wilhelm Schmidt. Though much of this is currently out of print or available only in German, some has come back into print. See especially The Origin and Growth of Religion, Wythe-North Publishing:2014.


There are two questions here: 1) What kind of development took place (what were the stages)?  and 2) what were the reasons for the changes? We have to establish the answer to the first before tackling the second. According to the evolutionary theory of religious development, the changes were from animism to a more sophisticated polytheism, and then to the belief in a single God or to the belief that everything is divine, and finally to atheism. The reasons for the changes are identified as the progression in man's understanding of the world (science). According to Original Monotheism (also known as Primitive Monotheism), the earliest forms of religion usually documented are actually monotheist, with polytheism developing later. The reason for the development is the evidence suggesting that the High God or God of the Sky (the most usual kinds of titles) became separated in the common mind from his attributes or characteristics. These characteristics were then anthropomorphized- they began to be seen as distinct beings. Usually they are intermediary beings at first, similar to angels. Later, because people deal more and more with them and less and less with the far away High God, these intermediary beings are seen to become gods themselves.


Major Videos from C. S. Lewis

The Poison of Subjectivism by C.S. Lewis Doodle


‘Right & Wrong’ – A Clue to the Meaning of the Universe by C.S. Lewis Doodle (BBC Talk 1/Chapter 1)


The Reality of the Moral Law by C.S. Lewis Doodle (BBC Talk 2 / Mere Christianity Chapter 3)


What Lies Behind the Moral Law by C.S. Lewis Doodle (BBC Talk 3, Chapter 4)


We Have Cause to be Uneasy by C.S. Lewis Doodle (BBC Talk 4, Chapter 5)

Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis Doodle (BBC Talk 5/Chapter 2)


The Rival Conceptions of God by C.S. Lewis Doodle (BBC Talk 6, Mere Christianity Chapter 6)


On 'Sexual' Morality by C.S. Lewis Doodle

Religion and Science by C.S. Lewis Doodle

The Laws of Nature

The Humanitarian Theory of Punishment by C.S. Lewis Doodle


'Men without Chests' by C.S. Lewis Doodle (Chapter 1 of 'The Abolition of Man')



[1] While there are many differences between the teachings of the various world religions, the majority of religions have very close similarities in many areas of their ethical/moral prescriptions. The description of this general agreement has been called the Tao (also spelled Dao, but pronounced “Dow” to rhyme with “cow,” in either case). Tao simply means “Way.”  The Dao in this more general sense should not, however, be confused with the religion called Taoism (Daoism).  An example, an appendix to C. S. Lewis’ book, The Abolition of Man, can be found here: < >.
[2] E.g., see the extensive material in Wilhelm Schmidt’s The Origin and Growth of Religion: Facts and Theories, tr. H. J. Rose, Methuen, London, 1931, xvi and 302 pp. For a recent analysis see In the Beginning God: A Fresh Look at the Case for Original Monotheism, Winfried Corduan, B & H Academic, 2013.
[3] On the contemporary scene philosophers such as Stuart Hackett, David Oderberg, Mark Nowacki, and William Craig have defended the kalam cosmological argument. See Stuart Hackett, The Resurrection of Theism: Prolegomena to Christian Apology (2nd ed.; Grand Rapids: Baker, 1982); David Oderberg, “Traversal of the Infinite, the ‘Big Bang,’ and the Kalam Cosmological Argument,” Philosophia Christi 4 (2002): 303–34; Mark Nowacki, The Kalam Cosmological Argument for God (Studies in Analytic Philosophy; Amherst, NY: Prometheus, 2007); William Lane Craig and James Sinclair, “The Kalam Cosmological Argument,” in The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology (ed. William Lane Craig and J. P. Moreland; Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009), 101–201.

[4] While the basis for the precise measurement of time is debatable, for a variety of reasons (including, from the scientific perspective, the fossil record, numerous geological factors, and problems with the arrangements of the celestial bodies- which should not be able to still exist, to have collapsed in on themselves, etc.), this figure is the one most often assumed by scientists on the basis of uniformitarian presuppositions. We will pass by this at the moment, since the time measurement it is not essential to the argument being made.
[5] “In the Beginning: In Conversation with Paul Davies and Philip Adams” (January 17, 2002). <>.
[6] The Principles of General Relativity, and of Quantum Physics based on this, say that time and space are organically related realities, and that the physical characteristics or velocity and gravity affect time (so that time itself is slowed down as velocity or gravity or both, increase). Time literally passes more slowly, the less gravity is present. Or, to put it a little differently, gravity warps time and space.[6] This is known as “Time dilation.” This is a mathematically precise equation, which can even be measured by comparing the actual passage of time from the lowest to the highest points on earth, which is a very small change- of only a fraction of a second difference. Time passes more slowly the closer one gets to the gravitational center of the planet- the greater the gravitational pull, the more slowly time passes. GPS satellite clocks move at a different rate than clocks on earth- the difference is calculated and corrected for with very precise instrumentation.  Note: this is not a difference caused by problems in accuracy of the different clocks and their mechanical parts, but an actual difference in the rate of the passage of time. A time-space dilation calculator is found here: <  >. One of the many implications here is that the measurements of the age of the universe as usually performed conventionally do NOT make significant references to how this affects the calculations based on the speed of light (itself bent or warped by gravity), and other factors. The calculated age of the universe itself is greatly affected by these calculations if they are applied, so that 13.7 billion years collapses into a matter of thousands of years when all factors are included.
[7] Alex Vilenkin, Many Worlds in One: The Search for Other Universes (New York: Hill and Wang, 2006), 176.

[8] Daniel Dennett, Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon (New York: Viking, 2006), 244.
[9] For a discussion of the possibility of atemporal personhood, see William L. Craig, Time and Eternity: Exploring God’s Relationship to Time (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001), ch. 3.
[10] Such an exercise of causal power plausibly brings God into time at the very moment of creation.
[11] See also <  >.
[12] See, for more evidence connected with ID, the two large books by Dr. Stephen C. Meyer, Signature in the Cell:   DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design, and Darwin’s Doubt (HarperOne, 2010 and 2014 respectively). Video presentations by Meyer can be found, including the following: <>, <>, <>, <>, and <>.
[13] You might think that if the constants and quantities had assumed different values, then other forms of life might well have evolved. But this is not the case. By “life” scientists mean that property of organisms allowing them to take in food, extract energy from it, grow, adapt to their environment, and reproduce. The point is that in order for the universe to permit life so-defined, whatever form organisms might take, the constants and quantities have to be incomprehensibly fine-tuned. In the absence of fine-tuning, not even atomic matter or chemistry would exist, not to speak of planets where life might evolve!
[14] Roger Penrose, “Time-Asymmetry and Quantum Gravity,” in Quantum Gravity 2 (ed. C. J. Isham, R. Penrose, and D. W. Sciama; Oxford: Clarendon, 1981), 249.

[15] Dawkins, The God Delusion, 144.

[16] Big Bang Refined by Fire by Dr. Hugh Ross, 1998. Reasons To Believe, Pasadena, CA.

[17] See < >.
[18] Here is a link to a famous little book which unpacks these in a popular way: <   > and <    >. The appendix <  > is a nice summary introduction to the common elements in moral systems through time and space. For more see the end of this paper.
[19] A Global Ethic: The Declaration of the Parliament of the World’s Religions (New York: Continuum, 1993).
[20] The following is a reworking and summary of material found at < >.
[21] E.g., see the extensive material in Wilhelm Schmidt’s The Origin and Growth of Religion: Facts and Theories, tr. H. J. Rose, Methuen, London, 1931, xvi and 302 pp. For a recent analysis see In the Beginning God: A Fresh Look at the Case for Original Monotheism, Winfried Corduan, B & H Academic, 2013.
[22] The direct counterpart in Greek is “Zeus Pater,” and in Latin “Ju-Piter.” Also, Norse Tyr of Tius (as in our day of the week, “Tuesday”)