Is God Real? Let's look at it rationally.

Written 2007/01/06, last edited 2020/08/17
Contact: David K. Clarke – ©
I'd be happy to discuss any of these points with any rational person.
On a similar subject, Ramblings on religion

God and the Christmas ham

There is a wonderful story about a young southern US girl who asks her mother why she always cuts the end off the leg of ham before she puts it in the oven to roast. Mother tells her that it is the way she was taught to do it by her mother and why not ask her. So the young girl goes to Granny and asks her why the end of the ham is cut off before roasting, and Granny says it is because that is how she was taught by her mother. Finally the little girl goes to Great Nan and asks her about the end of the ham. Great Nan doesn't hesitate with her answer: "Because my pan was too small!"

Why do people believe in God? Because there is a great chain of people that started millennia ago who passed the delusion on from one generation to the next. Religion is a monument to human gullibility.

Either God or rationality

An educated and fully rational person will find no need of a god, nor any reason to believe that any gods exist. However, education, rationality, and criticle thinking (and some degree of intelligence) are needed. The education need not be of the university type, by reading widely and considering subjects logically, one may educate oneself. Critical thinking is the most important attribute of a rational mind; the person must consider why he holds the beliefs he holds, and make sure that the reasons are sufficient.

On and off all my adult life I have read Bertrand Russell's History of Western Philosophy; I highly recommend it to any thinking person. In reading it recently I have been reminded that most, or even all, of the great philosophers up to at least John Locke (1632-1704) seemed to accept that there had to be a god; apparently without seriously questioning the idea. There is very little else that they accepted with apparently so little questioning.

But did they really accept the god delusion, or did they not dare to say that they found the proposition of a God or gods unsupportable?

Faith–the greatest enemy of reason
How very true John. It could equally well be said that faith – the holding of beliefs without supporting evidence, or even contrary to the evidence – is the greatest enemy of reason.
There were times when nobody would dare say that there was no god. From 500 AD to around 1500 AD if a European said such a thing he would at best be ostracized, at worst be killed for his belief; if he wrote a book explaining the reasons for his belief he would be very unlikely to get it published. What a colossal constraint to be placed upon a philosopher!

How could we to try to find out if any of them did realise that there was no god? Would they perhaps avoid the subject of a god or gods in their writing all together? Or were even philosophers so indoctrinated that they took the existence of a god for granted? I find this hard to believe.

Before the great advancement of science around the nineteenth century the god concept could be used to explain anything not otherwise explainable; the reason the world was as it was for example. But surely at least some philosophers would have understood that inventing a god to explain the Universe only put the question one step back; how did the god come about? It seems to me that we are forced to conclude that society gave philosophers no alternative but to believe in god or pretend that they did; or at least to not publicly question God's existence. After the mid twentieth century, when science had explained most of the big questions, there ceased to be any need for a god.

This page aims to show that it is impossible for an educated rational person to sustain a belief in God. If you believe in God you must be, to some extent, either irrational or naïve, or both.

If you are still reading and you believe in God it indicates that there might be at least some hope for you. Those believers who have closed minds are, by definition, not interested in rational argument.

It is not my intention to offend people with this page, but I believe that religion is responsible for much more bad than good; that the world would be in a much better condition than it presently is without religion. This being so it follows that I feel a responsibility to promote the case against religion.
Flying spaghetti monster
The Flying Spaghetti Monster is just as valid a god as any of the multitude of the gods of the world's believers.

Many people who say that they believe, or perhaps really do believe, that they accept one or another of the religions do so because they are terrified of admitting that they have doubts; to have doubts is to risk eternal torture. (I sometimes wonder how these people think of atheists; do they envy the lack of fear that atheists enjoy? Another interesting diversion is to consider that the eternal torture bit was invented for the New Testament, the bit of the Bible that supposedly talks about a loving and forgiving God; the Old Testament was less explicit about Hell.) Getting back to the fear of Hell point, you really don't need to fear Hell because it can be shown that none of us have an immortal soul, so there is no afterlife to fear.

Arguing for Creation Science or Intelligent Design is futile because for argument to mean anything it must rely on the logical evaluation of all the available evidence. To believe in Creation Science or Intelligent Design you must accept some evidence and reject other evidence which is equally, or more, valid. This is irrational. To be able to argue a point in any meaningful way you must be prepared to consider all the relevant evidence on its merits and with an open mind, and you must be prepared to accept and make logical connections from evidence to conclusion.

It is important that rational people – those who believe that we have a right to freedom of thought, to be allowed to appreciate art, to live our lives as we choose so long as we do not disadvantage others – make a stand. If we do not then there is a very real risk that our world will become dominated by religious bigots who will tell us what to do and how to think. Freedom of thought is a right that must be cherished, during most of our history it is a right that religious bigotry did not allow us.

Compartmentalised minds

There are religous scientists and engineers. Somehow they apply open and rational thinking to their work, while suspending any rationallity regarding their religious belief; which they hold on to in spite of having no evidence to support it. This shows a very curious quirk of human nature, they have learned to compartmentalise their minds – the scientific part, where matters are open to reasoning and skeptical enquiry – and the religious part, where dogma is accepted without question.

The reasons that believers give for their belief do not stand up to rational examination

There are many sites on the Internet that purport to give reasons why one should believe in God. Do any of the given reasons qualify as sufficient to justify belief? I think not.


One of the first Internet pages that Google listed when I typed in "Is God Real?" (with the quotation marks) was EveryStudent.com . This page claimed to provide six reasons to believe that God exists. None of them stand up to rational examination. My reasons for not believing them are given below, using the same numbering as on the EveryStudent page.

Another search, this time using the words, 'is there a god?', brought up another EveryStudent site. This page gave a rather different set of reasons for believing in God. I have treated those questions below the first six.

1. "The complexity of our planet points to a deliberate designer who not only created our universe, but sustains it today."

This argument, as expanded in EveryStudent.com, is that the Earth is ideal for human life; therefore it must have been designed for us. It is refuted by the anthropic principle. Very simply, if the Earth was not well suited for us to live on, we would not be here to argue about the point. This is no argument for intelligent design or God at all.

Evolution has modified Man to make him suit his environment. The Earth suits us because we have evolved to suit it.

EveryStudent goes on to make a similar argument about the properties of water. It is very true that water has properties that make it a unique substance and one essential to life. This argument is a strange one: Life evolved on Earth. Water has existed on Earth for billions of years. Water has properties that are particularly useful for living organisms. Why would living organisms not have evolved to use water when it is so wonderfully well suited for life processes? Would the argument against the existence of God be stronger if life used some other substance less well suited for life processes instead of water? I don't think so.

2. "The human brain's complexity shows a higher intelligence behind it."

EveryStudent makes the argument that the human brain is much too complex to have come about by chance.

Of course it is! It evolved by a long series of steps going back three billion years. While every one of those millions or billions of steps depended to some extent on chance, the end result is anything but chance. Each step was a mutation and it was tested by its result. If it caused a change that made the organism more likely to produce viable offspring the mutation was passed on to the next generation; much more often it caused the organism to die.

This argument either completely ignores organic evolution or the people who put if forward have no understanding of organic evolution.

This 'reason' to believe in God is the intelligent design argument. It has been dealt with by authors such as Richard Dawkins in his book The Blind Watchmaker and is also handled on Wikipedia – intelligent design.

3. "'Chance' or 'natural causes' are insufficient explanation."

In part this section uses exactly the same argument of for 2 above, that chance is not sufficient cause for the life we see on Earth. I will not repeat my refutation of that argument.

EveryStudent states that "science confirms" that life cannot arise from non life. This is a false claim. Anyone making such a claim cannot understand the scientific method.

4. "To state with certainty that there is no God, a person has to ignore the passion of an enormously vast number of people who are convinced that there is a God"

An obvious question here is "Which God?" There is a multitude of different gods, even within Christianity the God of the Old Testament is very different from the one in the New Testament.

Flying spaghetti monster
The Flying Spaghetti Monster is just as valid a god as the God of the world's believers.
Few atheists would claim to be certain that there is no God. It is very difficult to mount a cogent argument that anything does not exist. Most well informed atheists would say instead that it is very unlikely that God exists.

Bertrand Russell suggested that the argument for the existence or non-existence of God was similar to arguing that there is a porcelain teapot in orbit around the Sun beyond Jupiter. How to prove it or disprove it? But no-one would take the teapot hypothesis seriously without evidence. Why should we accept the God hypothesis without evidence?

There is a Chinese proverb: "If a thousand people say a foolish thing it is still a foolish thing".

Thousands of (religious) people believed that witches were real hundreds of years ago; most people, religious or otherwise would now say that witches exist only in the minds of superstitious people.

The fact that millions of Christians believe in the existence of the Christian God, millions of Hindus believe in the existence of thousands of Hindu Gods, etc., etc., suggests that they can't all be right. Could it not be that they are all wrong?

5. "We know God exists because he pursues us. He is constantly initiating and seeking for us to come to him."

This argument is based on a completely unprovable feeling that the author of the EveryStudent page has. Millions of people have bizarre superstitious beliefs, they prove nothing.

6. "Unlike any other revelation of God, Jesus Christ is the clearest, most specific picture of God pursuing us."

Here EveryStudent claims that Jesus said he was God and no other prophet or teacher, such as Buddha, Mohammed, Confucius or Moses did so. This is seen as proof that the others might have been profits, but Jesus really was God.

Jesus did not leave us any written record of what he claimed. All the records were written decades or more after his death; most of them by people who never knew Jesus. Can we be sure of what he claimed?

I'm sure that many deluded people have believed themselves to be someone or something that they most definitely were not. If you met someone who claimed to be God, would you take his/her word for it, or would you suspect mental illness?

Answers to EveryStudent "Is there a God?" page

This page is similar to the EveryStudent "Is God Real" page. It seems that the writers wanted to have a page with each of the two variations on the title.

"Throughout history, in all cultures of the world, people have been convinced there is a God"

This argument is similar to number 4, above. The Chinese proverb I quoted in that section can be repeated here: "If a thousand people say a foolish thing it is still a foolish thing".

There are other flaws in the argument.

  1. There are many who do not believe in God. We will never know how many. A huge number of atheists are not willing to make there skepticism known because they expect, for good reason, to be badly treated by the believers. For example, a black man could become president of the USA, a woman will probably one day succeed, a Jew and even a Muslim or a homosexual would have a slight chance, but an atheist would not have a hope. So if you live in the USA and have any thought of ever entering politics, don't tell anyone you are an atheist. The same argument would probably apply for an atheist who hoped for promotion in business or the public service. I suspect there have always been good reasons for atheists to be secretive.
  2. The god or gods that people have believed in have varied hugely. Consider the harsh God of the Old Testament, the loving god of the New Testament, the many gods of the Hindus, the Buddhist gods who have to share the indefinite round or reincarnation with us mortals, the squabbling gods of the ancient Greeks, and the war-like gods of the Vikings. To say that there must be a God because people have always believed in a god or gods is like saying that superstitions such as being afraid of black cats must be true because people have always been superstitious.
  3. Throughout a majority of history people believed the world was flat. Does that make it so?

"Humankind's inherent sense of right and wrong cannot be biologically explained"

Richard Dawkins explains in his book "The God Delusion" how most of us do, in fact, come by an inherent sense of right and wrong due to our evolution; see Recommended reading below. His arguments are too long for me to repeat them here, but in part it is about improving your chances to pass on your genes to the next generation by living an exemplary life and thus gaining the approval of the society in which you live; survival of the fittest where fitness to live in harmony with your society is important.

The great majority of us learn the difference between right and wrong as we grow up, usually with a lot of help from our parents. We learn that if we expect people to treat us well, we must treat them well. Some of us seem not to have a sense of right and wrong at all (did God forget to provide it to these people?).

We certainly could not get a sense of right and wrong from the Old Testament, which teaches that killing non-Jews is good, killing homosexuals is good, and slaughtering whole races of people who do not believe in your god (saving only the virgin girls for your own 'use') is wonderful. (I have written about biblical examples such as these elsewhere.)

Some theists (believers in god) argue that if you abandon religion then you abandon all reason for living a good life. This argument, of course, would contradict the argument that humankind has an inherent sense of right and wrong. The implication of this argument is that the only reason religious people live an ethical life (supposing that they do live an ethical life) is that they fear retribution from God if they do not live well. This gives a very poor impression of the character of these people.

Finally, I would point out that research has indicated that atheists are, in general, more ethical than religious people.


All About Philosophy

Another of the top responses to the search question "Is God real" that I put to Google was All About Philosophy.

This is a curiously named page because I'm sure any philosopher worth his salt would pick many holes in its reasoning.


The main argument for the existence of God given on this page is that many scientists believe, for good reason, that the Universe started with the Big Bang. What, then, set things up so that the big bang could happen?

There are sound reasons in physics that make it impossible, or at least very difficult, to 'scientifically' know what came before the Big Bang (indeed, time before the Big Bang might have been meaningless; time quite probably started with the Big Bang). But if we were to say that God must have come before the Big Bang it does not solve the problem. How did God get there? It just adds one more level of detail and places the problem one more step back.

You could say that God has always been, he is beyond time and space, the question of where he came from is unanswerable. Using this argument confirms my primary theses, that if you want to believe in God you must put rational argument aside.

AllAboutPhilosophy wrongly equates evolution with natural selection, this turns a blind eye to over a hundred years of the science of evolution. While natural selection is an important part of evolution it is far from the whole story, Charles Darwin understood that natural selection could not entirely explain evolution. As AllAboutPhilosophy rightly states, natural selection is a conservative process, it can only shuffle genes that already exist. Mutation of genes was not known in Darwin's time. It provides the innovation that is essential for organic evolution to work.



"Is God real? How can I know for sure that God is real?"

The answer given on this page is "We know that God is real because He has revealed Himself to us in three ways: in creation, in His Word, and in His Son, Jesus Christ."

I have argued that creation does not prove the existence of God above.

Neither does the "Word" of God prove that he exists, for the following reasons.

  • How can we know that what is written in the Bible is "the word of God"? The writings in the Bible were written by people. You might claim that these people were divinely inspired. How do you know? How did the people who selected what to include in the Bible know which writings were divinely inspired and which were not? How would you recognise someone who was divinely inspired if you met one?
  • What justification can we give for believing the Bible and rejecting the holy books of other religions?
  • The God described in the Bible is very inconsistent. The bloodthirsty God of Moses is very different to the loving God of the Gospels. Which one would you chose to believe in?
  • A great amount that is written in books is wrong; how can we know that the Bible is true?
How sure can we be of Jesus Christ?

Jesus did not leave us any written record of what he claimed. All the records were written decades or more after his death; most of them by people who never knew Jesus. Can we be sure of what he claimed? Can we be sure that he did work miracles, the Gospels vary greatly in their records of these? Can we be sure that he was resurrected after the crucifixion? Again the Gospels are not consistent.


Why I do not believe in God

In this section I will discuss some reasons why I do not believe in a God, other than those that have already been covered above.

I was brought up a (Methodist, Protestant) Christian. I believed in God until I was in my teens, then I realised the error of my ways.

Divine revelation has revealed nothing

"Laid out end to end, all the nuclear DNA in a whole human body would stretch the distance between the earth and the sun and back again about 100 times." A wonderful and fascinating fact! Where did it come from? Devine revelation? Of course not; it was discovered by the application of science and printed in the Scientific American, February 2011.

What has 'divine revelation' shown us about the world we live in? Where, in any 'holy book', was knowledge revealed to Man by god? Nothing and nowhere. We learn about the world and the Universe by observation and by the application of science.

There is no evidence for the existence of a god or gods

There could be a god; a god who very rarely or never gets involved with anything happening on Earth or in other parts of the Universe. A god who either does nothing or is very careful to hide any evidence of his activities.

Science has explained most of what people used to ascribe to the work of God. Some people still believe in miracles, but miracles have never been convincingly proven to happen.

A long standing tenet of science is 'Ockham's Razor'. Ockham's Razor tells us that if more than one hypothesis fit the available evidence then the simplest one is to be preferred. The god hypothesis is no more productive than Bertrand Russell's teapot. Why hypothesize the existence of a god when that hypothesis answers no questions?

There is no scientifically verifiable evidence that a god or gods exist and hypothesizing a god does not answer any questions.

The Universe is amenable to scientific investigation

It was probably about the time of Isaac Newton that people started to realize that the Universe could be understood by studying it and proposing rational hypotheses to explain what one saw. It must have been about then that people started to see that it was not necessary to suppose that there had to be a god to move the planets around and to make seeds germinate. (Perhaps the ancient Greeks had similar inklings?) A god is not needed to explain how the Universe works.

The concept of an immortal soul is demonstrably false

Plainly, if there is nothing beyond the death of the body, there is very little use for religion. See immortal soul.

Religions have caused great harm

Many wars have been fought over religion. Countless people have been killed for reasons of religion.

Since Martin Luther broke away from the Catholic Church there have been many other people and groups forming branches of the Christian religion. Why are there no break-away Christian groups, other than the Eastern Orthodox, that date back from the institutionalisation of Christianity by Emperor Theodosius I around 390AD (Rome's Christian Emperors) to 1517 when Luther produced his 95 Thesis? This is a period of over 1100 years. There are no surviving break-away groups because those who started such groups were sooner or later ruthlessly forced to remain in the main-stream, with the authorities often using torture or execution for those who resisted. They were called heretics and were forced to believe, or at least to pretend to believe, the same as the dominant group.

After Martin Luther there were wars in Europe between Protestants and Catholics for hundreds of years, each group trying to force their beliefs onto the other. Many of those who migrated to the New World did so to escape religious persecution.

In my life time there has been:

  • The 'troubles' in Northern Ireland, Catholics against Protestants;
  • Civil war in Lebanon, Christians against Muslims;
  • Since the establishment of Israel Jews have fought against Muslims;
  • When Yugoslavia broke up most of the fighting was between Eastern Orthodox Serbs and Catholic Croats or Muslim Bosnians;
  • In Somalia it is Christians against Muslims;
  • In India around the time Pakistan was created millions died in fighting that was mainly between Hindus and Muslims; In beautiful Kashmir this has continued up to the present; Sikhs have killed many in an attempt to establish their own state in India – it was a Sikh who murdered Prime Minister Indira Gandhi;
  • In Iraq Sunnis kill Shia and vice-versa – one branch of Islam against another;
  • In the Malacca area of Indonesia there has been killing of Christians by Muslims and Muslims by Christians;

Some advocates of religion put forward what they believe to be the counter claim that more people have been killed by atheists than by religious people. While there have been very bad atheists, just as there have been very bad theists – the point is that atheists have very rarely killed people because of their beliefs; religious people have killed untold millions because of their beliefs. No wars have been fought by atheists trying to force their beliefs onto others.

I have written more on Christian intolerance on another page.

Why isn't God good?

We are told that God is good, that he knows everything (is omniscient) and that he has unlimited powers (is omnipotent). Why, then, is the world such a terrible place, with people cheating, maiming, torturing and killing each other and animals living in pain from parasites, disease and injuries? If God knows all this is happening, and he can stop it from happening, why does he do nothing? Certainly, if there is a God, he cannot be omniscient, omnipotent, and good.

If God is good, why did he allow (or even encourage) some of the terrible crimes done in his name in the Bible?

Christianity contains huge contradictions

Jesus taught that God is good, loving and forgiving. Yet for centuries the Church has taught that, if you do not believe in God and Jesus Christ, when you die God will send you to Hell where you will suffer eternal torment. Give that a little thought. If some nation in today's world publicly admitted that it was continually and routinely torturing its prisoners, just for the sake of punishment, it would immediately be condemned as barbaric and shunned by all conscientious people. Yet we are to believe that our God, who is loving and forgiving, will send those people who do not believe in him, no matter how exemplary their lives may have been, to eternal torment? I can easily live without that sort of love.

The God of the Old Testament is not the same as the God that Jesus taught about. The God of the Old Testament was cruel, unforgiving, and looked after only his chosen people. Consider, for example, the way that Moses treated the Midianites. The God of Jesus was a much more enlightened and kind entity. I wonder, did Jesus teach about Hell, or is that some invention of those who came later? I don't know.

Even the Old Testament contradicts itself. As most Christians will know, one of the Ten Commandments is "Thou shalt not kill". This is simple and unambiguous. Yet there are a great number of references in the Old Testament to people killing other people with God's sanction. There are even at least three places where it is written that a man has the right to kill his son if that son is not obedient! (Exodus 21:15, Leviticus 20:9, Deuteronomy 21:18-21).

The Bible is a hodge-podge. Not only does the New Testament largely contradict the Old, but within the New Testament there are writings from many people. 'Saint' Paul never knew Jesus, yet he played a very large part in shaping Christianity. Emperor Constantine I, with his Council of Nicaea in 325 AD, also played a big part in redefining Christianity. The anonymous authors (note the plural) of Revelations (the last 'Book' in the New Testament) added their slant to the forming Christianity. Why should we accept, without evidence, that all these people new exactly who God was and what he wanted?

Religious people tell others how to live

In the West in the early twenty-first century we have a high level of freedom to do and say what we choose so long as it does not interfere with the rights of others. This is reasonable, ethical, and is as it should be.

Under Islam it is unacceptable for an artist to portray any other life-form, even plants. This is because Mohammed was trying to steer people away from worshiping idols – as was commonly done in the Mecca of his youth. He reasoned that if people could not make images of any plant or animal then they could not use that as an image to be worshipped. I suspect that most Westerners don't realise how much poorer fundamentalist Islamic countries are for this; most of what we call art is banned! Under the Taliban in Afghanistan even music – other than in praise of Allah – was also banned.

Under Christianity, when the Church ran the Western World, the situation was not much better. Religious art was acceptable, but secular art was frowned upon. Music praising God was OK, music simply as an art form was thought somehow sinful. (There are still hangovers from this sort of thinking; traditional Irish dancers don't move their arms because the Catholic Church held that that was too sensual and therefore sinful.)

There are Christians in most or all Western countries, but especially in the USA, who do not allow their children to go to public schools, watch television, listen to the radio, or read newspapers because they want to force their own deluded beliefs onto their children. They are allowed to force their children to do what they would like to force the rest of us to do, if they could.

What a terribly poorer place the world would be for thinking, art appreciating, people if Christian or Islamic fundamentalists had their way!

Religion is another superstition

If one is to make the most of one's life, one must try to work out which of one's beliefs are true and which are false. More accurately, one must try to decide values for all one's beliefs.

I suspect that most of us do this all the time; for everyday beliefs. For example, I believe that the rain that has been falling off-and-on over the past couple of days is nearly finished. I am not sure of it, but I think it more likely than not. If pressed I'd say something like I'm 90% sure that there is less rain to come in the next 48 hours than there has been in the past 48 hours. This opinion is based on what I know of the Bureau of Meteorology's weather forecast and the impression I have built up over the years on the accuracy of those weather forecasts.

How firmly a belief is held should depend on how much evidence there is for that belief and how much reliance can be placed in that evidence. A belief that is held in spite of not being supported by any valid evidence is a superstition.

I know of no evidence that I could rely on that supports the existence of a god or gods.

Religious bigots would ban science

Science has shown us a huge amount about how the world works. Ever since the Golden Age of Greece – when philosophers were first allowed to think and say what logic and observation lead them to believe – those who were not under the thumb of religious bigotry have slowly, falteringly, advanced the state of knowledge. There have been dark ages – caused either by barbarism or bigotry – in different parts of the world at different times, but above this there has been a gradual advancement toward an understanding of the Universe.

Religious fundamentalists – like those in the USA who claim that 'Creation Science' or 'Intelligent Design' is just as valid scientifically as the truly scientific study of evolution – would corrupt science and ban all those fields that they felt might lead to conclusions that didn't suit their preconceptions, if they had the power.

Science answers most of the big questions

Many things in nature – the way that plants grow, the way animals reproduce, why the stars shine, why the planets move through the sky, where we came from, and very many other questions – were once explained as being the work of God. Science has now provided answers to most of the big questions.

The Christian God and love

Christians would have us believe that God loves us; He loves us unconditionally. Yet they would also have us believe that if we do not believe in Jesus and God then this same loving God will condemn us to eternal torment.

Isn't there a contradiction here? Are we to believe that, no matter whether you live an exemplary life or not, you must believe in God and believe that redemption can only be achieved 'through Jesus' (whatever that means) or your loving God will torture you for all eternity?

I have written more on religions and other superstitions in Ramblings on religion.

Recommended reading

Richard Dawkins
The God Delusion – Dawkins looks into all the reasons for believing in God, disposes of them one by one, and does it much better than I can. If you have an open mind read this book.
The Blind Watchmaker – Disposes of the intelligent design argument for the existence of God.

Christoper Hitchens
God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything – How did mankind come to believe, and why do they continue to swallow, the lies and dreams of those who created our religions?


If your mind is sufficiently open to want to read more rational arguments about whether God is real, look at Why won't God heal amputees?.