is god real?

god isn't overwhelmingly obvious

A lot of things in life are obvious - we can see them. But some things are not so easy to see - atoms, Neanderthals, love, honest politicians, etc - and we may need to search a little harder, and use the right methods, to find them. God (if he/she/it exists) seems to be like this.

how can we find god?

People have tried several methods, the main ones being:

  • looking around us at the universe and asking whether god is the reason it exists;
  • looking inside ourselves and asking 'what does it mean to be human?';
  • experiencing God, by asking him to show himself, asking for healing or help, or attending religious activities;
  • investigating whether God has shown himself in history through some prophet, guru or teacher.

I have found all four approaches helpful.

look around

When we look up at the stars at night, we are only seeing a small fraction of our universe. Scientists tell us two important things about our universe:

  1. It began about 13.7 million years ago with the "big bang", and has been expanding ever since. But they cannot tell us what caused it or if there was anything before it. But either something caused it, or it happened for no reason and no cause, something that is contrary to all our experience and contrary to reason.
  2. The development of the universe since the initial moments of the big bang has been controlled by a number of physical laws and the formulae which describe their operation, including about a dozen important constants. And the cosmologists tell us that if some of these numbers were even minutely changed, the universe would not exist with stars and planets and the potential for life to form - either it would have collapsed back into nothing or it would be spread out like thin soup. It is impossibly unlikely this could have happened by chance, they say.

Why is the universe like this? No-one knows for sure, but one possibility is that it is a sign of God's creation. To me, God is a better explanation for the universe than any other.

look within

We human beings are more than just animals - we are conscious, we experience love and beauty, we seem to be able to choose what we believe and do, we can think rationally and we understand right and wrong. That is all what we might expect if God exists, but is much harder to explain satisfactorily without God.

If we are no more than the products of natural processes, how can anything be truly right or wrong rather than simply expedient? How can we escape being controlled by the laws of physics operating in our brains and make genuine choices? It is significant that modern neuroscience tends to undermine our humanity in areas like freewill, ethic, personal responsibility and criminality.

experiencing god

Most believers can tell you about times in their life when God has made himself very real to them, whether through healing, comfort in distress, guidance or a communication of his love. Some healings have been well documented. Many of these experiences may have natural or psychological explanations, but I find it hard to believe that every single one of them can be explained that way. It seems that God is answering those who call on him - in fact, possibly the best single way to 'find' God is to ask him to make himself known.

understanding jesus

There are many views about Jesus, from christians who will tell you he was, and is, the son of God, to sceptics who say he never existed. How can we find the truth?

Jesus was a character in history, so the starting point is to check out what the unbiased historians say. And almost unanimously, they say that Jesus did exist, we have several good historical sources about his life, and we can know pretty much the course of his life and what he taught. The "agreed facts" include where and when he lived, his role as a teacher who was believed to be a miracle-worker, his claim to be representing God on earth and bringing in a new age of God interacting with people, his execution by the Roman authorities, and the amazing claim by his followers that he came back from the dead.

Where there is not so much agreement is in what we conclude from these historical facts. Some say he was a failed prophet who tried to bring in a new age. Some say he was indeed the Son of God, others simply don't know or can't say.

I believe he was divine, because he made claims that can only be explained by his being either divine or crazy (and he doesn't seem to have been crazy!), he impressed his followers so much they continued to believe even when undergoing great persecution in the years ahead, and because it is difficult to find any plausible explanation for the resurrection claims apart from that it actually happened. But each person has to decide for themselves.

adding it up

None of these observations constitutes proof (there is very little in life we can prove!), but they cumulate to a strong case, for me at least, to believe God is indeed real.

reasons to disbelieve

Believing in God isn't all plain sailing. It is sometimes hard to believe when we see so much evil in the world he created. But because it is hard to explain how the word even got here without God, and because we can't even say the world is really full of evil without God's ethics, the evil in the world cannot counter the conclusion that God is indeed there. So for me, the evil is a terrible thing that I cannot explain fully, but is not a barrier to belief.

so why does God keep himself in the background?

I think God has made us to be like "little gods", having the ability to think and love, know right and wrong and make choices, just like he can. But we can only have those abilities if he doesn't force himself on us. In the end, Jesus said all who seek him find him, regardless of their journey.

so is god really real?

I think there are good reasons to think so. And I have found it true in my life. This blog and this website share some of my conclusions for those who want to find out for themselves. I hope that includes you. Thank you for reading this, and best wishes in your journey.