There are many ways in which people perceive themselves and the world around them. This is what is called a worldview. Every human being is unique, and consciously or unconsciously, all people have worldviews. Worldviews help people answer the basic questions of human existence and reality. Some worldviews are scientific in nature, while others are religious. Theism and atheism are two popular worldviews held by many people in the world. Theism opposes atheism. The debate around these two worldviews is tremendous and very interesting as it combines philosophy and religion. This paper is an analysis, evaluation and comparison of theism and atheism.
Theism vs. Atheism
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines theism as a belief in the existence of a god or gods. In theism, the universe appeared through the power of God who actively protects and provides for his creation. Some of the theistic religions are Christianity, Judaism and some eastern religions like Hinduism. For instance, Christians believe that at the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1). Thus, Christians owe their existence to God. Christians also believe that death is a consequence of sin, and since all human beings sin, they must die. However, Jesus triumphed over sin and death when He died on the cross, and so shall all Christians through Him (1 Corinthians 15:22). Christians are taught that God is spiritual in nature, and thus, man cannot see Him. However, through incarnation, God became a man in order to save mankind from its sin. The biblical God defines what is real and true. God was, is, and is to be.
Atheism, in contrast, is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as the belief that God does not exist. An atheist basically does not believe in the supernatural because for him/her, there is no such thing as god, gods demons and angels. Christians, Jews and Muslims believe in supernatural beings created by God like the angels and demons. The debate between atheists and theists is rooted in evidence for the existence of God. Atheists generally dispute theism on two grounds. The first one is that no person has produced evidence that God of Christians and Jews exists. The second one suggests that since no one has any hope to prove God’s existence, God does not exist (O’Leary-Hawthorn 117).
Historically, atheism has never been welcomed in the society. Anyone holding atheistic views was deemed heretic and dangerous, and was banished from the society or sentenced to death. Today, conditions are a little bit more favorable for the atheists, but atheistic views are still highly opposed (Smith 7). Christianity teaches that whenever requested, a believer should be able to give evidence for belief in God (1 Peter 3:15). This is interesting because many Christians condemn the inquirer instead of giving an answer. A theist who cannot give evidence for what he or she believes in suffers from intellectual deficiency (Plantinga 5). For a long period of time in history, there have been attempts to provide logical explanations for God’s existence. From a philosophical point of view, some of such explanations were advanced by such individuals as Plato and Aristotle.
Rene Descartes, a French philosopher born in 1596, argued for the existence of God. For Descartes, everything around him was just an illusion. Nothing was real for him, including himself, but he said that his mind was real because it was reasoning. Thus, Descartes concluded that since his mind was real, there must have been a being that had a more superior mind than his. Descartes could think of himself, which led him to the conclusion that he existed. Likewise, his idea of God led him to the conclusion that God existed (Wang 3). These arguments are commonly referred to as the classical arguments for theism.
Classical Arguments for God’s Existence
The argument known as Pascal’s Wager suggests that it is logical and also in people’s best interest to believe in God (Smith 137). According to this argument, people should believe in God because if people discover that He does not exist, people will lose nothing and will actually win. However, if people reject God and then discover that He really exists, they will lose. The argument also says that those who reject God will face eternal punishment by fire, while those who believe in God will receive rewards in Heaven.
The cosmological argument refutes the evolution theory that proves that the world appeared accidentally by suggesting that there was a clear purpose that brought it into being (Smith 130). The argument was invented by a man called Anselm. The argument says that what caused the universe cannot be anything in the universe. According to Anselm, the world was brought into being by a being that already existed. According to the Bible, this being is God, who is recorded in the book of Genesis as the one who brought the world into being. Those who are not in favor of Anselm’s argument prove that it is misleading to say that everything in the universe was created by somebody, but the creator itself was not created. For the critics, Anselm’s argument is weak because he cannot say who created God.
Another argument was so popular that Paul, who was an apostle of Jesus and a writer of many New Testament books, included it in his writings. Paul says, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse” (Romans 1:20). This is the teleological argument, which shows an amazing way in which the world is created. According to this argument, the complexity of the universe is best demonstrated by the way it sustains life. The main critics of this argument are naturalists who say that a chance brought the world into being. The argument also suggests that the designer of the universe existed before it was created, and it is God. Those who criticize this argument say that the complexity in design is convincing, but a universal order is not. According to them, cases of miracles break natural laws; thus, anybody who believes in miracles cannot really say that there is order in creation as this is self-contradicting (Smith 151).
The other argument advanced is the moral argument. The argument states that there appears to be some kind of moral law that governs the entire universe. In all communities of the world, there are similarities in rights and wrongs. Matters dealing with rights and wrongs are best understood if they are interpreted from an individual’s point of view, or when they are related to the community where an individual lives or has been raised. Smith ascertains that the use of morality to defend religion has no basis. He suggests that issues of morality and religion should be treated as two independent subjects (Smith 159).
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Finally, the argument from miracles is good evidence for God’s existence. Miracles are specially placed in the Bible to convey the message that God exists. Jesus told His followers that He was sent by God and that was the reason why He performed miracles. John records, “Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:30, 31). These miracles are diverse in nature, ranging from healing to giving life and also provisions like food. Miracles point to the existence of a powerful God who can provide almost anything requested by those who believe in Him in accordance to His will. Theists do not need to invoke God to reveal Himself in person as this may be impossible, but they can invoke Him to demonstrate his existence through miracles.
In this paper, theism and atheism have been discussed. Theism is a belief in God, while atheism is denial of the existence of God. Because of constant debates on whether God exists or not, Christian theists particularly have presented sound arguments to defend their belief in God. These arguments have also been counteracted by atheists. This debate still continues with each side developing new theories to counteract the other side’s arguments. However the challenge remains bigger for the atheists than for the theists. Maybe atheists need to understand that not everything that exists can be accounted for objectively. Theists should not fear to give logical arguments for their beliefs when challenged by atheists. Humans are not born religious, but it is something they learn and copy from the society. The atheist’s background or environment may never give him or her an opportunity to understand or experience religion. Nevertheless, God will certainly not accept such an excuse.