This post is in response to an earlier post by another member who recalled visiting Speakers corner in Hyde Park, London and coming across a situation where a couple of speakers got challenged on the existence of God.
That debate was shut down by populist rhetorical devices which speakers will often use to close debate when they are not knowledgeable or confident in debating a topic.
I will not suggest that I am knowledgeable enough or have the eloquence to do the topic justice, but there were a couple of topics I wanted to reply on.
Firstly, not everyone has experience of debating or considering debating the topic wheter God exists. For most (all?) people this is a deeply personal topic where they must come to their own conclusion.
I believe that God exists and (alhamdulillah) I am fairly strong in that belief (though very weak in application of it), but if I was put on a stand and asked to prove the existence of God, my response would be gibberish.
The problem with open questions such as this is that the topics are vast and dipping your toes in to discuss an aspect of it can be hard to do.
Further, most people lack historical context to the whole discussion. Most people know that early greek philosophers were Athiests who did not accept that God existed.
Now what is less well known is that future generations of philosophers DID accept that God existed and the athiest theories were abandoned until translated in the Muslim world where they once again comprehensively debunked before becoming popular in Western philosphy in the past couple of centuries.
The arguments for there being no God are milennia old and most people who debate this topic are unaware of the history of the debate. WIthout the history it is dificult to understand the present position of the arguments and weigh them on their merits.
One of the basic arguments about the existence of God has been discussed in the discussion of the universe. You will rarely hear this argument being made now the why of which will be explained further down the post.
The atheists argued that there is no God and the universe is eternal. The (at least Muslim) theists argued that there is a God and the universe has a beginning and an end.
The atheist argument was that there is no God and as there is no God, the universe cannot have a beginning. If it does not have a beginning, since there is no God, it cannot have an end and the universe is also static in size. This theory was popular with atheists for millennia.
The theist argument was that the universe has a beginning as it was created by God. This meant that the universe was not static nor eternal.
Historically, any discussion would have to be less based on observed cosmological facts and would focus more on scientific theory. The most famous one is currently popularly known as the Kalaam cosmological argument.
There are many forms of this formula for the discussion of the universe and these are based on observational science – since we cannot see the whole universe, its start or future etc, observations about the universe were used to discuss the nature of the universe.
In its most simple form the argument is that we are in a causal universe. Everything has a cause. Every event has a cause, every piece of matter has a cause. Things do not simply appear like magic and disappear.
If the universe is not eternal and had a beginning, then the cause of the universe cannot be of the universe – as that would just extend the beginning of the universe to an earlier time. As the universe is not eternal, its cause must be something that is outside of the universe.
Taking the premise further, if it is accepted that the universe had a beginning, and was caused by something outside the universe, the cause cannot be the same as the universe. This universe consists of matter/antimatter/dark matter/energy. What caused the universe cannot be of the same.
If it was the same as the universe, it would be a part of the universe, therefore it could not cause the universe to come into existence but would require a cause to bring it into existence.
An example to illustrate the point why the cause having to be different from the universe is water. If there is a jar with water in it and you add more water to it, you still have a (maybe overflowing) jar of water. It is still water.
If the cause of the universe is the same as the universe, it is a part of the universe.
It is further argued that while this universe is causal add has a beginning, what caused it (or the cause of the cause, going back to the first step) is eternal. It cannot have a beginning.
While you can find debate and discussion and YouTube videos going into a lot more detail, the conclusion of the Kalaam cosmological argument is that the universe has a cause, which was caused by a being that is eternal and is not of
Modern extension of the debate
In the past century scientific exploration reached the point the two theories could be tested.
It may not be commonly known but Einstein when he developed his theory on relativity came to formulas which suggested that the universe was expanding. As this was not a popular view among many western scientists, he amended the formulas to add a magic constant in order to show the universe as static and not expanding.
However, observational science caught up and it was observed that the universe was in fact expanding. Einstein amended his formulas to remove the magic constant and this matched the observed universe.
Now if you look at many cosmologists in the 20th century, you come across a peculiar situation until recently. Many refused to accept the science and observation that the universe was expanding. This was because while they considered themselves scientists they were also atheists and could not accept an expanding universe as this would clash with their beliefs.