Is There a God?
No one can prove to you the existence of God, as in a mathematical proof. But you still will be able to be certain of His existence:
There are many good, rational arguments. We will make them in a moment.
But if you do not want to believe in God, you never will. There can be no scientific proof, simply because God is not physical or material, He is spiritual and infinite. Science is the observation of material phenomena in this universe, and then applying our reason and logic to understand and control them. By definition, God cannot exist as part of this universe, cannot be composed of matter, and cannot even exist in time. We will explain why later on this page.
But even things in this world cannot really be proven with 100% certainty. Entire books have been written about how the U.S. space program has been faked by the government. All you have to do is set the standards of proof high enough, and absolutely nothing can be proven. Proof is a tricky subject. As the old Greeks like Euclid discovered, all proofs have to rely on at least several assumptions (which they called postulates) which cannot themselves be proven. So a person who demands hard proofs is doomed to failure.
It is a doctrine of the Church that faith does not come to us through reason alone, but by the grace of God. If a person opposes even the possiblity of God's existence, then any arguments or evidence can be rationalized away.
Since it is impossible to "prove" with absolute certainty, any amount of belief in God has to come from your own spirit, from within your own heart, because it is the spirit of God that we are trying to find. The paradox is, you will only find this faith if God gives you the grace to find it.
A person of faith already knows why they believe. It is not for any selfish reason, or because they want to be "saved." It is because they know they are a true child of God, and that we naturally seek Him and know Him as only a child can know their true parents. It is a completion of our lonely existence. It is a feeling of coming home. And it is a certainty that goes far beyond all efforts at "proof." Our faith is a pure gift from God. It is the result of our having accepted the gift of His grace.
Still, there are some very persuasive arguments, and we will make them just after this:
The following is a true personal account, and I remember it like it was only yesterday.
"I am sure there is a heaven, and that my Grandpa is there. Here’s why:
When I was a boy, my mother gave piano lessons to augment our small income. Our piano was an old upright that was so decrepit that it couldn’t be tuned, and had several keys that didn’t play at all. We couldn’t afford a better one.
My grandfather, whose name was Joseph Weber, came to spend the last few months of his life with us. I don’t know what he was suffering from, but he was very ill and couldn’t get up from his bed. He would hear Mother talk about how difficult it was to teach on our old piano. Just before he died, he told her that when he got to heaven, the first thing he would do would be to make sure she got a new piano. Mom told him that she had been saving for years, and that all she was able to put aside was $50.00, not nearly enough even then. “Don’t worry, Ruthie,” he said, “ I’ll make sure you get one. I’ll send it right down from heaven.”
A few days after Grandpa died, Mother got a call from someone who was moving out of our small town. It seems that they had a nice grand piano, almost new, and they had seldom used it and did not want to move it. They had heard that she was a piano teacher, and they wanted to know if she would like to purchase it for $50.00.
Only after it was all set up in our living room, and Mom sat down to play it for the first time, did she notice the brand name of the piano, written in big gold letters above the keyboard. It was a little known maker, the only one of that make that I have ever seen. Mother sat motionless, staring, before bursting into tears.
It was a Weber.
So that is how I know that my Grandpa is in heaven. And that is why I returned to God after a long absence."
[If you are thinking that a coincidence about a piano is not a good enough reason to have faith, please know that remembrance of this incident, many years later, only caused me to open up my heart and mind to the possibility of God, after a long and firm denial. My faith is a gift from God.]
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An "Almost" Proof, Anwering a Reader's Question
"There must be at least some arguments that my reason can understand. It is not our nature to accept anything on blind faith."
There are two questions we must address. Is there a God at all? Then if so, is he a personal God that has an interest in us both now and after we die? Or does he just let us live and then go out like a light; allowing us to exist, but only like a tree or a lizard?
Scientists are quite sure that the energy and matter that constitute this universe we live in could not have popped into existence from absolute total nothingness. Therefore there had to be an entity outside this material universe that we know that caused it to come into existence. This entity is what we call God. So He (or It) positively exists, by definition.
The larger questions are: what is the nature of this God, and is anything about it possible for us to discover? Moreover, is it important for us to do so, or is it just meaningless intellectual curiosity?
Could this universe have come into existence all by itself?
Go outside on a starry night. Look up. Every one of those little dots of light is an entire solar system of planets around a sun that is larger than ours. And there are billions and billions of stars and even galaxies that are not visible without powerful telescopes, and who knows how many more beyond that?
Did you create them? Did they just create themselves? Pick up a rock from the ground. This is the kind of thing most of those planets are made out of. Does it look like it could create itself? The ones in my yard don't look nearly intelligent enough!
But, you say, what if there were "first things" that somehow could exist for all eternity, and also had the ability to spontaneously start up the universe, and were somehow great and smart enough to make it wind up so immense and orderly and beautiful, with intelligence and love and everything? Ah, now you have defined God. See? It wasn’t so hard to discover Him after all.
"Can’t the universe itself be infinite, and without beginning or end?”
Your thinking sounds OK on the surface, but that is just not the nature of the universe we live in. Scientists (whose opinion I am sure you respect) assure us that with ever increasing entropy, our universe has a long but limited time to exist. Everything in this universe changes, and everything has a beginning and an end--even stars and galaxies.
The only way out of this is to define God as an entity that exists outside this universe.
Then "God," as we have defined him, cannot have the same nature as the rest of the universe that we see. If he did, our argument is circular and we must still search for a first beginning. Our language has no clear words to describe his nature, we usually fall back on "spiritual." By this we simply mean that he is different from anything that we have direct knowledge of, and that, unlike the world that is temporary and constantly changing, he is capable of being eternal. In fact, logically, he must be eternal. This is the only way he could have brought our universe into existence.
But the best argument is this:
Assume there is no God: then this world, and happiness in it, is extremely important. Indeed, it is all there is. So it is a great tragedy whenever anyone does not have a long and happy life here. The death of a child, or a painful life in a third-world country, is an unimaginable tragedy, which nothing can mitigate.
If you have seen your own grandchild killed by a car, or have traveled in poor countries and have seen the misery of people starving slowly to death, your own sense of justice demands that there be more to life than the vale of tears we experience in this life. It is just not fair that the only life a small girl knows should end almost before it is begun, in an agony of injuries. It is just not fair that so many millions of people be born into circumstances that they have no control over, and that condemn them to unimaginable suffering every day of their lives.
Are we ready to say that this beautiful universe, which is so incredibly orderly, is also diabolically unfair? That would make us only a great cosmic joke. That is not acceptable.
Our sense of justice demands that these wrongs be righted. But by whom? Not by us, that's impossible: only by a Supreme Being.
We have a conscience that lets us know right from wrong. Yet in this world, the people who do not follow this guide and commit murder and cheat and steal and lie and are selfish and mean are often the ones who are the most successful. Honest, good people living quiet lives of loving and charity often have horrible illnesses, or lose loved ones, or are born into abject poverty. Our sense of justice tells us that there will be, there must be a future time of accounting, when the books will be balanced and the inequities of this world will be resolved. Yet with no God, no Divine Justice, this is impossible.
Many of our readers ask: how can there be a God if He allows children to be raped and murdered? We ask: how can there not be a God, in a world where this in fact happens? It is only His Divine justice that can right this wrong. It is only a God with infinite power that could bring any good out of this unspeakable evil.
(Christians know that any child who dies has gotten a free pass. She will be ushered automatically into God's presence and be happy for all eternity.)
The following is from a newspaper obituary of a twenty year old girl, written by her parents:
“After four years, our cancer warrior Alice has left her earthly bounds and gone to heaven, where her body is healthy again, where the wind can blow through her hair, and where she can finally ride a horse on the beach and swim with dolphins. She was embraced in heaven by all the inspiring teens and children with cancer she met along the way.”
My question to atheists is: if her parents asked you for your true beliefs, would you really take that away from them? Would you really tell them that their daughter was just unlucky, and suffered heroically for years only to go out like a candle and be nothing more than dirt in the ground? If beautiful, loving Alice had been your daughter, would you really take that away from yourself? Would you really believe it? And don’t say that people have to face facts: atheism is not a fact, because no one can “prove” there is not a God any more than we can "prove" to you--by your earthly, material standards--that there is one.
"Sensible thinking tells us that everything has to be created. Therefore a God who has always been around is impossible. On the other hand, scientists tell us that matter can neither be created nor destroyed, and yet before the Big Bang there was no matter at all.
We now have two theories for our existence, both of which collapse."
And yet... the universe does exist. So your problem is not a true dilemma, only a seeming one.
It is true that scientists are firmly convinced that matter and energy cannot be created or destroyed, only changed from one state into another equivalent state, or transformed back and forth into each other. So a universe that pops up all by itself is scientifically impossible. Yes, scientists are quite right, everything has to be created. But by "everything," their knowledge is of course limited to this universe. We are led to the only possible explanation. Logic and science are both products of this universe. God is not.
So God cannot be a part of this material universe. We define God as the one and only entity that did not ever have to be created, and who brought this universe that we live in into existence from outside of it.
In mathematics we define things in this way all the time. When people only knew of "counting" numbers, there was no solution to a problem like: what is 3 minus 7? 7 minus 3 is easy, but how can you take away 7 objects from a pile of 3 objects? It is impossible. It makes no sense. So we define the question as being the solution. There is a set of questions that are all the same: 3-7, 2-6, 1-5, 0-4 and so on in the other direction. We take the lowest one, 0-4, and define it as our solution. We drop the zero by custom, leaving us with negative four. By now people are well aware of how useful this "impossible" number is. It exists, even if beyond our "normal" thinking.
Similarly, since all numbers multiplied by themselves yield a positive number, it is impossible to comprehend the square root of a negative number. So we make the question itself the solution. We define i as the square root of negative one. Even mathematicians at first thought that this could not really exist, or have any practical value, and so called it "imaginary." No such thing in the universe? Electrical engineers work with i every day, and could not do without it in solving very real problems. All electrical currents depend on it. It exists, even if beyond our "normal" thinking.
Nothing could exist outside of time? We define an entity that simply does exist outside of time, that has to exist outside of time and this material universe, because science knows that matter cannot create itself, or even destroy itself. Something outside of time and the material universe, and not subject to natural laws, has to exist to bring it all into existence. This is what we call God. God exists just as surely as negative and imaginary numbers exist: because they have to. God exists, even if beyond our "normal" thinking.
The difficulties here stem from trying to apply the reasoning and experiences of this world to God, who is not of this world at all. It is a similar situation as the ancient Greeks found themselves in when they tried unsuccessfully to explain Zeno's paradoxes. You will recall the one about how if Achilles gave a turtle a hundred foot head start in a race, he could never overtake it, even if he could run ten times faster. The reasoning went thus: in the time it took Achilles to run the first hundred feet, the turtle could run another ten feet. Then in the time it took Achilles to run that ten feet, the turtle would run another foot. Then in the time it took Achilles to run that foot, the turtle could run another tenth of a foot. And so on and on, to trillionths of a foot. But Achilles would never actually catch up to the turtle, because there is no limit as to how small fractions can become.
Ancient Greek mathematics could not recognize or handle the sum of an infinite series. By reasoning, they had to conclude that fleet Achilles could never overtake a slow turtle in a race, just as atheists must conclude that no one at all made them.
Now, what we know about God is another story, one that we go into in great detail on the site. We recommend reading all fourteen pages.
The larger question is our relationship with this God that we have postulated. Consider the two alternatives:
First, he may have no interest in what we do, as he plans to discard us when our lives are through. Or he may be nothing like a person at all, and is not even capable of thinking about us. Either way, common sense tells us that our lives would be essentially worthless and meaningless. There are no consequences of our actions other than the pleasure they bring us in the here and now. There would be no Divine Justice, and this is not acceptable.
Second, he may be personal, and have an interest in us and in how we lead our lives. If this were true, he will either make certain that part of our built-in instinct tells us how to lead our lives, or he would make a personal appearance here on earth, and tell us directly what it is that he expects from us. If we were lucky, he would do both.
Do we instinctively want to avoid being mean? Not kick kitty-cats and children? Well, of course. We call this instinct our conscience. It is how we know God is personal and has an interest in us.
Did He ever make an appearance here to fill us in on details himself? Well, I would have, if I were Him. We can easily ignore our conscience, and rationalize almost anything we want to do.
During his “visit” here, he would have told us what he expects from us: a set of rules for our lives. We would expect these rules to be in complete and absolute agreement with our conscience. Did we ever get such a visit?
Yes. The actual words of Christ are in complete agreement with the conscience of every person of good will, and have been for two thousand years.
But please remember that religion, even for Catholics like myself, is not complicated. It is simply love and forgiveness. The details that matter will come to you in good time.
"Isn’t the notion of a God who cannot exist within our universe a device that merely allows people to find purpose and meaning within their lives, allowing them to solve the problem of their existence?"
If there is no God, there is no problem of existence. We simply satisfy our appetites to the best of our abilities and then go out of existence. To say there is a problem is to say there is a God.
Purpose and meaning are concepts that can only be defined within a larger context. That larger context is what leads us to God. It is no wonder that you find it difficult to ascertain meaning in your life if you yourself are the arbiter of all meaning and morality.
God does not exist within this universe. This universe exists within God.
”Can you prove that God exists without the bible?"
From the viewpoint of an atheist, the Bible proves absolutely nothing. If you believe it is the Word of God, you already believe in God. If you do not believe it is the Word of God, it is just another book.
God is not of this world, and our rules of evidence and proof do not apply to Him. It is a doctrine of the Church that faith in God comes only from grace, a gift from God. Our reason alone cannot prove the existence of God or furnish us with faith in Him. But if you are a good person, and love and help others as your conscience tells you, and keep an open mind, God will give you that gift of faith.
”Doesn’t God want for us all to live in peace? If he could show himself to everyone today and maybe do something to prove his identity, we would believe more in him.”
Miracles? What, for everyone individually? God did become man and performed numerous miracles. A lot of good that did, few people even at the time believed them, fewer do now. Can you imagine the press furor that would accompany even one small miracle now? Or, more likely, it would be totally ignored. Maybe make the National Enquirer.
Stop war? That is our job. That is precisely why we are here. We are here, together with our pettiness and our hate and our intolerance and our jealousies, and we are expected to rise above them and live in peace. If we do, we are evolving into true children of God. Some will, some will not. It is up to us. God was self-made, and so His true children also have to be. No one can do it for us.
And if God were to cause a great majestic figure to appear before our leaders and be so awesome that they could not help knowing it was from God, and this figure told them to stop making war or else, sure they would stop (maybe!) But why would they? Fear and self-interest. Well, big deal. A true child of God has to do it out of love, not fear; out of interest for others, not himself.
"Why do we need a God to be good? Why can't we do the right thing just because it is the right thing to do?"
To be "good" implies that there is a higher, external authority of what is good and bad, independent of the entity (mankind) seeking to be good. You cannot even aspire to a good life unless you acknowledge that there is a standard against which "good" is to be judged. By acknowledging that there is indeed a "right thing to do," you acknowledge a standard of right and wrong that exists independent of mankind on whom it is applied. That standard is what is called God.
Without this higher authority, we could logically define "good" for each of us as that which makes us each the happiest. Bad would be what makes us unhappy. That leads to problems. It might make me happy to kill Bill Gates and live in his house and enjoy his money and power. But that would not be good for Bill Gates. So we have to reject that line of thought, because we are seeking a universal good, not just an individual good that might be bad from other perspectives. A universal good must come from outside ourselves.
Nothing any animal does is "bad." Animals act on instinct. For them there is neither right nor wrong. It is only because we are children of God that we perceive right and wrong, and can choose either. With no God, we would be like animals: everything we do would be free from any question of right or wrong.
We cannot substitute "human race" for God. A sentient "human race" is not reality. We are all individuals; all separate, sentient beings, with completely separate free will. There is no collective consciousness.
Can God do wrong? If He can, He is no longer perfect. If He cannot, He has no freedom of choice.
"Wrong" means violating our moral code.
Our morality, as we have just seen, must come from a higher moral authority than ourselves. Good must be good universally—we are not seeking a relative good that is good for one person but may be not good for another person.
What is a higher authority than humans? Only God. Good as defined as an acceptance of God's will. Evil is defined as turning away from God.
God is therefore above wrong, or evil. It is nonsense to apply these words to Him. He cannot turn away from Himself, and there is no higher authority to whom He must answer, as we define Him as the Supreme Being. Because His will defines good, He is infinitely good. He does not need to choose. He simply is. If God "chooses," He changes. He cannot change. He is eternal and unchanging.
And do not forget, we are His children, created in His image, and He is our Father. We know what is good and what is not. So we know a great deal, in this way, about our Father, and it is all very reassuring.
"But I still think that if we can call God eternal, we can call the material universe eternal too, and we all just evolved."
The noted astronomer Sir Frederick Hoyle demonstrated clearly how improbable a "natural" formation of the universe through random events would be, even if somehow material things could be eternal. Talking about the chances of amino acids coming together to form a human cell, he said, "What are the chances that a tornado might blow through a junkyard containing all the parts of a 747, accidentally assemble them into a plane, and leave it ready for take-off? The possibilities are so small as to be negligible even if a tornado were to blow through enough junkyards to fill the whole universe!" Maybe not impossible, true, but not enough of a chance for a reasonable person to bet their entire eternal life on.
Besides, we would still have to account for love, and hate, and heroism, and enjoyment of beauty, and our conscience, and everything else that we find inside ourselves that are found nowhere else in nature. When all is said and done, an intelligent God is our most logical answer.
And one footnote: If God does indeed exist, we do not need any "scientific" evidence to discover Him. Billions of people were born before science was even thought of. They all were His children too, and had to be capable of finding their way to Him. If God does exist, He would see to it that something built into us could recognize Him as our Creator and Father. Everyone would have this capability, not just present day college grads.
If you think you might want to believe in God, and you went through all the arguments that we presented and remain unconvinced, then you will have to do something that will seem very strange. |
You will have to realize that faith is a gift from God, the same God whose existence you are unsure about. And you will have to ask him for it.
As with all gifts, you can’t demand it. As with many gifts, you may not even think that you want it, that you have always gotten along quite well without it. But it is a good gift indeed, one that will provide you with comfort and happiness in this world, and usher you into an eternity of happiness in the next.
But you must ask for it. Not in an adversarial way, but in the way you would ask for any gift of great value. Go to the house of the giver, cap in hand so to speak. Go into a church and kneel down. Talk to God about your life and troubles. Just take our word for it that he will hear you. Very sincerely ask if he does indeed exist. He will let you know. Not with actual words, or a clap of thunder, or anything like that. Probably not even at that time. Maybe not until you are on your deathbed. But he will give you, in His own sufficient time, the gift of faith: a gift more precious to you than all the money in the world.
The good things like faith that come to us because of God's infinite love for us is called his grace. His grace is free, to anyone who will accept it. We can refuse this gift if we wish. But it is only with his grace that we can find eternal happiness.
"There are so many different gods around the world, which one should I believe in?"
If there were more than one god, the best one would be God and the others would not be. They would be like us, and have to do as the best god said. Therefore there is only One.
What you perhaps mean is, there are many ways to praise and worship Him. That is true. See our page at Being a Christian.
"I want to find God. Where do I start looking?" |
In other people. Everyone is God's child. We are to see God in all of them. We are commanded by God to treat them as we would treat Him. We are to love them as much as we love ourselves.
As long as there is one hungry person in the world, and we are fed and do not share, it is to our eternal shame. As long as there is one cold and homeless person in the world, and we are snug in our houses turning our backs on them, that is also to our eternal shame.
Christ said, "Whatever you do for the least of your brethren, you do for Me." When someone thanks you for helping, that is Christ thanking you.
When you do these things, you will not have to find God. God will find you, and rejoice in you.
“I just feel that God is in everything.”
God’s goodness can be found in animals and children and nature, to be sure, and what you feel may be something that we feel too—that this material universe, with its atoms racing about in space being able to be converted into pure energy, is perhaps simply the energy of God as seen through our eyes.
But God is more than just the sum total of the energy of this universe. That is one aspect of His nature. But He is also a separate, sentient Being that loves us and created us to share His eternal happiness with Him. If we are to be His true children, we must emulate His love. Just as He does, we must love all of our brethren and show our love by feeding and sheltering them.
Are "miracles" in the Bible really supposed to make me have faith?
No. Faith comes from deep inside us, by the grace of God, from our conscience. Our conscience tells us that this message of Christ's, this new beginning of love and forgiveness, is the truth. Our conscience tells us that there is no other rational way for us to lead our lives and be happy. Our conscience tells us clearly and positively that Christ is the Way, the one and only Way. That is why we believe.
The miracles that are described in the Gospels cannot make us believe that He is God. The literature of the world is full of tall tales and miracles, in every culture and religion. Christ's miracles were primarily intended to convince the disciples and chroniclers of His life that accompanied Him of His divinity. They needed to believe strongly and quickly, so that they would be able to pass on His message to future generations in the face of hardship and martyrdom. So we do not now have faith because of miracles; au contraire, we understand that miracles occurred because we have faith that He was God.
| But what if we are wrong, and there really is no God?
If it turns out to be all just a fairy tale, and you go out like a candle when you die, you will never know. There is no penalty for believing the wrong things all your life. In fact, psychologists will tell you that strong faith in God and leading a moral life is the best way to achieve happiness here on earth for ourselves regardless of what happens when we die. So it is a win-win.
On the other hand, suppose you choose not to believe in God or lead a good, moral life and you are wrong! You will have all eternity to regret turning your back on God. And in addition, your life here will (in all probability) be much less happy. It is lose-lose. The best you can hope for is that in His infinite love for you, God will somehow lead you to Him.
We are not asking you to "pretend" to believe in God. But this is a good reason to open up your minds to the possibility of His existence, and to pray for His grace to find faith.
"I find that I cannot love God as much as I fear Him. But if I do good just to be saved, isn't that pretty selfish? How can God approve of that?"
Don't be the least bit afraid of God. The heart of Christianity is love and forgiveness and mercy. It is a doctrine of the Church, written in an official Papal Encyclical by the late Pope John Paul, that God's mercy and love is far greater than His justice. You are His child. You are His little boy. He loves you far more than any human father ever loved his child. That is saying a lot, because I am a father and a grandfather, and there is nothing I would not do for my children. I would give up my own life for them in an instant. God's infinite, passionate love for you is unconditional and complete.
Do not split hairs about your motives. God understands you very well. He made us all a great bundle of anxieties and doubts and fears and instincts for self interests and survival. Doubt and fear are not sins. He just wants you to acknowledge your need of Him, and do the best you can to follow His commands, no matter what you think your motives are. His great command is this: Love the Lord thy God, and love your neighbor as yourself. Yes, it is plenty good enough to treat your neighbor like you love him, even if you think you do not feel anything. That is better than 99% of people do, and God will love you hugely for it (if His love for you right now is even capable of any increase!) And when you mess up, do not ever worry. Ask for forgiveness, in Christ's name. It will always, always be given.
"I am an atheist, trying to find out what to believe in. Do atheists go to Hell?"
Do not confuse being an atheist with being an agnostic. An agnostic looks around and says to himself, "OK, I acknowledge that someone or something probably made this grand and glorious universe, but I do not know who or what. Perhaps someday he or she will be revealed to me. Until then I will wait, and perhaps look into the matter and try to figure things out." The typical agnostic thinks that since there are so many different religions, and not all of them can be true, then it is a hopeless job to sort it all out and pick one.
This is all understandable. Eventually you will find God. But the atheist says, "There is no God. I am the highest form of life I can see, so I will lead my life according to my own rules."
This is serious. A lot of people are praying right now that atheists can eventually accept the gift of God's grace.
"Why are some people atheists, if a belief in God is so much a part of who we are?"
We are also God's true children, and an almost God-like ego is even more a part of who we are. We do not like being told what to do.
There are at least four common reasons to reject God:
First, some people argue that since the world is such a mess, there could not be a God who cares, which (to them) is no different than no God at all.
If this world were our whole existence, this would be a valid argument. So to an atheist, it makes good sense. But if we are eternal children of God, and are trying to live our lives in such a way as to gain infinite and eternal happiness, the travails of this world are essentially meaningless. All that matters is that we love and take good care of people less fortunate. Nothing ever prevents us from doing this.
Second, some others say that it would be too much of a coincidence if the religion they were born into were the one correct one, and since they can't know which is the one correct one, they will just ignore the whole thing.
If you think about it, there cannot be more than one Supreme Being, just by definition. So why are there so many different religions? It is because mankind has been spread out over an enormous world with virtually no contact with different groups, for so large a percentage of our history. But He gave each of us precisely the same conscience, so that we would be able to recognize the Truth when we heard it.
Religion is not exclusionary, nor is it a set of rigid rules. It is the realization that God loves us with a passion that is infinite, and the response that we make as loving children.
Is there one true religion? Of course, how could there not be? God by definition is perfect; he would not give us conflicting messages on how to lead our lives. But the vast majority of the world's religions are not wrong, they are merely incomplete. There is one God and one only, and He oversees them all and hears the prayers and the pleas of all. Your conscience is the voice of the One God within you. It directs you to be a good person, kind and caring. When you do that, no matter what religion you were raised in, you open yourself to the acceptance of God's loving grace. That grace is all you need for your faith and your salvation.
God is infinitely loving, and merciful, and kind, and fair, and compassionate. He will offer each and every one of His children sufficient grace for salvation. To the extent any church preaches that, it is right.
The only really wrong choice of churches is none at all.
Third, many people have so much arrogance and hubris that they have a difficult time acknowledging any authority higher than themselves.
These are the same people who have trouble with all authority, including parents, teachers and drill sergeants. They fight their way through life quite unhappily, and nothing will ever change them or convince them that they are not the center of the universe.
Fourth, still others are comfortable not having to bother to go to church every week and don't want to stay away from the temptations of the world.
They know that admitting there is a God who expects certain behavior from them would be inconvenient and not nearly as instantly gratifying, so they look the other way by demanding "proof" of His existence which they know fully well they are not going to get to their satisfaction.
I am 76 years old and I am more confused about my situation every day.
I feel that it would be simpler to get through life by believing in God. I am not choosing to not believe, Heaven knows I have been searching all my life. I have been on my knees in tears begging God to hear me for direction, but I never seem to feel he is hearing me.
He hears you fine. But maybe you are not listening to him.
This whole world, your entire life, is an orchestra of God’s sounds and sights and beauty. Listen and look. He is in the laughter of the children playing outside your window. He is in the roses in your garden and the majesty of a starry night. And most of all, he has been right there inside of you ever since you were born, telling you when you were doing something wrong and when you were doing something right.
Did you ever have children? I can remember when my sons were small. One day we were on a hike and we wanted to cross a ravine. There was a water pipe of about 18 inches diameter spanning it, easy enough for me to walk on. But my four year old son was afraid, and rightly so. I took both his hands, and led him across safely. He didn’t hesitate; he had absolute and complete confidence in me.
It is time for you to become like a child again, and put away your hair-splitting arguments and your doubts. God is your father, and you must simply place complete trust in him. Put your life in his hands, and allow him to lead you to eternal happiness.
Don’t ask him for signs and miracles. In this world we are on our own, and the voice of our conscience is the only voice that God chooses to speak to us with. What he wants from us, as his children, is extremely simple. Do your best to make other people happy. Do not even think about your own happiness. God will take care of that in due time. Trust him.
Treat each day as another miracle of his creation, in which we have the opportunity to help our souls grow and mature. Make difficult choices. Do what others want to do. Share food and shelter with those less fortunate. Be cheerful, even when sickness causes us great pain. Never berate God for our misfortunes, always thank him for our lives and for our faith. Ask him only for his grace and for the faith we need. Soon God will be proud to call you his son for all eternity.
If God already knows what we are going to do and if we are going to go to heaven or hell, how can we have free will?
Suppose there were no such thing as God, so that no one knew the outcome of our actions or our lives. Our free will is then very obvious, as we are always free to make whatever choices we wish. Now suppose our most brilliant scientists one day make a time machine, allowing people to go back in time and observe the past. They would have to be invisible, and not be able to change anything, of course, because what happens is a matter of record and cannot be changed. They would just be secret observers.
But if the time travelers were students of history, or had in their possession a diary of someone of the earlier time, they would be able to know in advance everything that person did, just as God does. Does this mean that the observed person did not have free will, that they were somehow forced to do what they did? No, our original hypothesis was that they had absolute free will. The fact that some unseen person had prior knowledge of their actions did not in the least way detract from their complete freedom to do as they chose.
And so it is with God.
The idea of predestination has been argued about for a long time. Some Christians stress that God has knowledge of everything, therefore He knows before He creates us who is going to heaven and who is going to hell. The feeling is that we may be trapped by God's foreknowledge.
Catholics stress that we are made in the image and likeness of God, and possess free will, like He does, and we have absolute complete control to shape the outcome of our own lives.
We have difficulty reconciling these viewpoints because we exist in a material world of time, and God does not. We try to apply our rules of temporal order to Him, and this cannot work. With God there is no past, present or future. Those are words that indicate relative time, and He exists outside of time. He simply is.
How can He know what we are going to do before we do it, even though we have complete freedom of choice? The error in our language is the word "before." That word does not apply to God. So that question is meaningless.
Note that if preachers who believe in predestination actually practiced what they preach, they would not preach at all. What would be the use? Nothing that they could do would affect anyone's destiny. They would not bother to baptize you, because if you were pre-ordained to go to heaven you would go there no matter what, and if your were pre-ordained to go to hell you would go there no matter what.
We should not bother to try to figure out just how God can do things. We are like ants trying to build a computer. Just trust that what He told us about how we must lead our lives is true.
"God Resting on the Seventh Day"
Painted by an eight year old.
"If God created everything, then who created God?"
If I were able to tell you who created God, you would then want to know who created that entity. No matter how many times I came up with a previous creator, you would always just want to know who created them. So you have to throw out that whole line of thinking.
Logically, the only possible way out of that endless dilemma is to assume that whoever we call God is the one, first and only entity that did not need to be created, that simply always was, for all eternity. There was never a time when He was not.
And in fact, this is the answer that God Himself gives. When asked for His name in the Old Testament, He said simply “I am the One who is.” Is, now and for all eternity, without beginning or end.
Our problem is that we are used to living in a material world of material things, where time is measured by the change in those things. God is not material, he is spiritual. He does not follow our “rules.” He does not exist in "time," so we cannot ask time-related questions about Him. For God there is no before, no after. He simply is.
By definition, there has to be some Being who exists outside of time and our material universe, who brought everything into existence at the point when time started. That is who we define as God.
"Why didn't God just make us so that we would be good and love Him?"
I own a little programmable toy that is very clever. It is a little bear that you can record any message into, and then it will play it back. So I can make it say "I love you, I worship you, you are the greatest!" whenever I want it to. No, I don't bother. Why? It would mean nothing. It does not have the free will to not love me, to not say those things.
Faith and love of God would be meaningless without our free will. We would all be puppet toys.
"If people grew up on their own, away from all humans, would they discover God?"
Yes. God loves each and every one of his children equally, whether they lived in Egypt ten centuries before Christ, or in India in the ninth century, or today in America. He gives each of His children an absolutely equal chance of spending eternity in complete happiness with Him.
"Would they all discover the same God?"
Yes. There can only be one Supreme Being. Of course, they will know nothing about His nature, because no one has told them. God understands this problem, and will not hold it against them. They will still have the same conscience as you and I, and the same obligation to heed it.
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"Why does God allow evil to exist?"
Evil is not a thing; it does not have a separate existence. It is how we describe someone who has free will, and who uses that free will to decide for himself to turn away from God and hurt other people, or to have so much pride that he thinks he is better than God and can make his own definition of right and wrong.
God can and does create good out of evil. Without the Nazis in WWII, how could there have been thousands of great heros, hiding Catholics and Jews at risk of their own lives, refusing to kill even though they had orders from the government, helping fellow prisoners remain cheerful in the face of torture and death? With no evil people, the world would offer no opportunity for heroic goodness. It is a great moral good to forgive people who are mean to us, and return their hatred and abuse with kindness and help.
Another reason he does not destroy evil people right away is that they always continue to have free will and complete freedom, and so can choose at any moment, right up to their deaths, to renounce their evil ways and embrace God. We are sure that God fervently roots for them to do so, because he continues to love them.
It is a very good thing to pray for all the people and angels that made the wrong choices. God will hear our prayers, and be very happy that we love them, even as He does. Parents always love their children, no matter what bad things they do.
Are devils real? Why would God permit the existence of creatures who can only be evil?
Devils are a part of Christian theology. But we do not have a clear idea of just what they are. Certainly not the medieval painting type of little horned creatures that go skulking about, no. All we know for certain is that they were once angels, beloved by God, with free will. They are the ones who chose to be without God for all eternity. So God grants them their choice. We also have free will, and some of us also choose to be without God for all eternity, in just the same way. Will God permit us to continue in existence? Of course. We make the bed, we lie in it. That is the way it must be to satisfy His infinite justice.
Are devils responsible for making us sin? No. We cannot shirk our responsibility that easily. They are responsible for the predicament they are in, and likewise we must shoulder our load for ourselves.
So in this world, devils are strictly a non-event. Take control of your own life, and forget about them. God permits evil because it is a necessary consequence of free will, which in turn is a necessary condition of being a child of God, which in turn is a necessary condition of enjoying heaven. But the evil of this world is ours, and ours alone. To be good, we have to enlist the help of God, and when we fail, we must ask for His forgiveness in Christ's name.
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[The following is one of the most beautiful and moving poems in the English language. The author has tried to deny God all of his life, but realizes finally that it is impossible to hide forever from His love.]
The Hound of Heaven
by Francis Thompson
I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears
I hid from Him, and under running laughter.
Up vistaed hopes I sped;
And shot, precipitated,
Adown Titanic glooms of chasmèd fears,
From those strong Feet that followed, followed after.
But with unhurrying chase,
And unperturbèd pace,
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
They beat -- and a voice beat
More instant than the Feet --
"All things betray thee, who betrayest Me."
I pleaded, outlaw-wise,
By many a hearted casement, curtained red,
Trellised with intertwining charities;
(For, though I knew His love Who followèd,
Yet was I sore adread
Lest, having Him, I must have naught beside.)
But, if one little casement parted wide,
The gust of his approach would clash it to :
Fear wist not to evade, as Love wist to pursue.
Across the margent of the world I fled,
And troubled the gold gateways of the stars,
Smiting for shelter on their clangèd bars ;
Fretted to dulcet jars
And silvern chatter the pale ports o' the moon.
I said to Dawn : Be sudden -- to Eve : Be soon ;
With thy young skiey blossoms heap me over
From this tremendous Lover--
Float thy vague veil about me, lest He see !
I tempted all His servitors, but to find
My own betrayal in their constancy,
In faith to Him their fickleness to me,
Their traitorous trueness, and their loyal deceit.
To all swift things for swiftness did I sue ;
Clung to the whistling mane of every wind.
But whether they swept, smoothly fleet,
The long savannahs of the blue ;
Or whether, Thunder-driven,
They clanged his chariot 'thwart a heaven,
Plashy with flying lightnings round the spurn o' their feet :--
Fear wist not to evade as Love wist to pursue.
Still with unhurrying chase,
And unperturbèd pace,
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
Came on the following Feet,
And a Voice above their beat--
"Naught shelters thee, who wilt not shelter Me."
I sought no more that after which I strayed,
In face of man or maid ;
But still within the little children's eyes
Seems something, something that replies,
They at least are for me, surely for me !
I turned me to them very wistfully ;
But just as their young eyes grew sudden fair
With dawning answers there,
Their angel plucked them from me by the hair.
"Come then, ye other children, Nature's -- share
With me" (said I) "your delicate fellowship ;
Let me greet you lip to lip,
Let me twine with you caresses,
With our Lady-Mother's vagrant tresses,
With her in her wind-walled palace,
Underneath her azured daïs,
Quaffing, as your taintless way is,
From a chalice
Lucent-weeping out of the dayspring."
So it was done :
I in their delicate fellowship was one --
Drew the bolt of Nature's secrecies.
I knew all the swift importings
On the wilful face of skies ;
I knew how the clouds arise,
Spumèd of the wild sea-snortings ;
All that's born or dies,
Rose and drooped with ; made them shapers
Of mine own moods, or wailful or divine ;
With them joyed and was bereaven.
I was heavy with the even,
When she lit her glimmering tapers
Round the day's dead sanctities.
I laughed in the morning's eyes.
I triumphed and I saddened with all weather,
Heaven and I wept together,
And its sweet tears were salt with mortal mine ;
Against the red throb of its sunset-heart
I laid my own to beat,
And share commingling heat ;
But not by that, by that, was eased my human smart.
In vain my tears were wet on Heaven's grey cheek.
For ah ! we know not what each other says,
These things and I ; in sound I speak--
Their sound is but their stir, they speak by silences.
Nature, poor stepdame, cannot slake my drouth ;
Let her, if she would owe me,
Drop yon blue bosom-veil of sky, and show me
The breasts o' her tenderness ;
Never did any milk of hers once bless
My thirsting mouth.
Nigh and nigh draws the chase,
With unperturbèd pace,
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy ;
And past those noisèd Feet
A Voice comes yet more fleet --
"Lo ! naught contents thee, who content'st not Me."
Naked I wait thy Love's uplifted stroke !
My harness piece by piece Thou hast hewn from me,
And smitten me to my knee ;
I am defenceless utterly.
I slept, methinks, and woke,
And, slowly gazing, find me stripped in sleep.
In the rash lustihead of my young powers,
I shook the pillaring hours
And pulled my life upon me ; grimed with smears,
I stand amid the dust o' the mounded years --
My mangled youth lies dead beneath the heap.
My days have crackled and gone up in smoke,
Have puffed and burst as sun-starts on a stream.
Yea, faileth now even dream
The dreamer, and the lute the lutanist ;
Even the linked fantasies, in whose blossomy twist
I swung the earth a trinket at my wrist,
Are yielding ; cords of all too weak account
For earth with heavy griefs so overplussed.
Ah ! is Thy love indeed
A weed, albeit an amaranthine weed,
Suffering no flowers except its own to mount ?
Ah ! must --
Designer infinite !--
Ah ! must Thou char the wood ere Thou canst limn with it ?
My freshness spent its wavering shower i' the dust ;
And now my heart is as a broken fount,
Wherein tear-drippings stagnate, spilt down ever
From the dank thoughts that shiver
Upon the sighful branches of my mind.
Such is ; what is to be ?
The pulp so bitter, how shall taste the rind ?
I dimly guess what Time in mists confounds ;
Yet ever and anon a trumpet sounds
From the hid battlements of Eternity ;
Those shaken mists a space unsettle, then
Round the half-glimpsed turrets slowly wash again.
But not ere him who summoneth
I first have seen, enwound
With glooming robes purpureal, cypress-crowned ;
His name I know, and what his trumpet saith.
Whether man's heart or life it be which yields
Thee harvest, must Thy harvest-fields
Be dunged with rotten death ?
Now of that long pursuit
Comes on at hand the bruit ;
That Voice is round me like a bursting sea :
"And is thy earth so marred,
Shattered in shard on shard ?
Lo, all things fly thee, for thou fliest me !
"Strange, piteous, futile thing !
Wherefore should any set thee love apart ?
Seeing none but I makes much of naught" (He said),
"And human love needs human meriting :
How hast thou merited --
Of all man's clotted clay the dingiest clot ?
Alack, thou knowest not
How little worthy of any love thou art !
Whom wilt thou find to love ignoble thee,
Save Me, save only Me ?
All which I took from thee I did but take,
Not for thy harms,
But just that thou might'st seek it in My arms.
All which thy child's mistake
Fancies as lost, I have stored for thee at home :
Rise, clasp My hand, and come !"
Halts by me that footfall :
Is my gloom, after all,
Shade of His hand, outstretched caressingly ?
"Ah, fondest, blindest, weakest,
I am He Whom thou seekest !
Thou dravest love from thee, who dravest Me."
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