Broaching the question of God’s existence is a large task, and one that many have done previously, and will continue to do for a long time to come. Too often it is peppered with ad hominems, straw men, and other fallacies; also too often there is an ungraciousness characterized by the usual Youtube comment section.
But, I must confess, this blog post has little to do with questions of whether theism or atheism sketch a proper view of reality (or whether certain theisms or atheisms come closer than others). Really, I want to provocatively state that God does not exist following then with an importance nuance to the statement, showing that our use of terms and our conceptions can often be rather reductionist, and thereby lead to fruitless discussions or improper conceptions of God.
So, the statement: God does not exist. There, I said it.
But what does that really mean? In fact, what does it mean to say a thing exists or does not exist? And, can we create a close analogy between a mere thing, which we say “exists” and God, which can be described variously as the “fullness of existence” or “pure actuality” or some other philosophically/theologically rich turn of phrase?
To quote from David Bentley Hart,
“the most pervasive error one encounters in contemporary arguments about the belief in God– especially, but not exclusively, on the atheist side– is the habit of conceiving of God simply as some very large object or agency within the universe, or perhaps alongside the universe, a being among beings, who differs from all others beings in magnitude, power, and duration, but not ontologically, and who is related to the world more or less as a craftsman is related to an artifact.” (The Experience of God, pp. 32-33)
In too much contemporary discourse people speak of God as if there is no conceptual difference between ontological distinctives, between the metaphysical description of God (something that is shared between Christians, Jews, Muslims, certain Hinduisms, and certain Buddhisms) and a description of the category of gods, demi-gods, and the like. What is that famous phrase?
“I believe in neither God nor in the fairies at the bottom of my garden.”
But, here we have a brushing away of a serious topic, and the rather crude and incoherent parallel of fairies and God. Maybe fairies and Zeus, but God as an ontologically distinct being, the grounding of existence, is another thing altogether. This is precisely why arguments by some like Dawkins and Krauss and others just fail; there is an error at the outset because they are arguing against some sort of demiurgic being, not God.
But, the problem is also that many defenders of God, reduce God to some being that merely exists in the universe along with all other contingent realities. He is the Intelligent Designer, and this moniker is the premier description of who God is. But, here too often the theist fails by primarily noting God through description as merely the demiurge who has fashioned reality, not as the distinct grounding of being.
The sharp point is that many on any side of the religious divisions (whether theist, atheist, or apatheist) do not realize that God occupies a different ontological realm than all other beings, he is distinct in modality. When we speak of the existence, then, of God, we need to realize that existence carries with it certain baggage and we must to step beyond the simple use of the term and realize that there are different modalities of existence. Some things are contingent, and some things are absolute (though, that isn’t to say that some think these categories are mistaken; I disagree, obviously).
So, through semantical wrangling, it is certainly true that God does not exist, well, God does not exist in the same way that contingent realities exist. On the other hand God is the grounding of existence, or fullness of existence as well, that which upholds contingent realities upon the vertical plane of reality.
(Yeah, I know. The post name was a sort of bait and switch. Did you really think I was coming out of the closet as an atheist??)