The Philosophical Question of Religion

A professor of philosophy speaks to his class on the problem science has with God, the Almighty.
He asks one of his new students to stand and….

Prof.: so you believe in God?

Student: absolutely, sir.

Prof.: is God good?

Student: sure.

Prof.: is God all-powerful?

Student: yes.

Prof.: my brother died of cancer even though he prayed to God to heal him. Most of us would attempt to help others who are ill, but God didn’t. how is this God good then? Hmm?

Student: (student is silent)

Prof.: you can’t answer can you? Let’s start again, young fella.. is God good?

Student: yes.

Prof.: is Satan good?

Student: no.

Prof.: where does Satan come from?

Student: from….. God.

Prof.: that’s right.. tell me son, is there evil in this world?

Student: yes.

Prof.: Evil is everywhere, isn’t it? And God did make everything…. Correct?

Student: yes.

Prof.: so who created evil?

Student: (student does not answer)

Prof.: is there sickness, immorality? Hatred? Ugliness? All these terrible things exist in the world, don’t they?

Student: yes sir.

Prof.:
so, who created them?

Student: (student has no answer)

Prof.: science says you have 5 senses you use to identify and observe the world around you. Tell me son… have you ever seen God?

Student: no, sir.

Prof.: tell us if you have ever heard your God?

Student: no, sir.

Prof.: Have you ever felt your God, tasted your God, smelt your God? have
you ever had any sensory perception of God for that matter?

Student: no, sir. I’m afraid I haven’t.

Prof.: yet you still believe in him?

Student: yes.

Prof.: according to empirical, testable, demonstrable, protocol, science says your God doesn’t exist. What do you say to that, son?

Student: nothing. i only have my faith.

Prof.: yes, faith, and that is the problem science has.

Student: professor, is there such a thing as heat?

Prof.: yes.

Student: and is there such a thing as cold?

Prof.: yes.

Student: no sir. There isn’t.

(The lecture theater becomes, very quite with this turned of events.)

Student: sir, you can have lots of heat even more heat, super heat, mega heat, white heat, a little heat or no heat. But we don’t have anything called cold. We can hit 458 degrees below zero which is no heat, but we can’t go any further after that. There is no such a thing as cold. Cold is only a word we use to describe the absence of heat. We cannot measure cold. Heat is energy…. cold is not the opposite of heat, sir, just the absence of it.

(There is pin-drop silence in the lecture theatre).

Student: what about darkness, professor? Is there such a thing as darkness?

Prof.: yes. What is night if there isn’t darkness?

Student: you’re wrong again, sir. Darkness is the absence of something. you can have low light, normal light, bright light, flashing light . . . . . but if you have no light constantly, you have
nothing and its called darkness isn’t it . . . , if it were you, would be able to make darkness darker, wouldn’t you?

Prof.: so what is the point you are making, young man?

Student: sir, my point is your philosophical premise is flawed.

Prof.: flawed? can you explain how?

Student: sir, you are working on the premise of duality, you argue there is life and then there is death, a good God and a bad God. You are viewing the concept of God as something finite, something we can measure. Sir, science can’t even explain a thought. It uses electricity and magnetism, but has never seen, much less fully understood either one. to view death as the opposite of life is to be ignorantof the fact that death cannot exist as a substantive thing. Death is not the opposite of life: just the absence of it. . . . Now tell me, professor. . . . . . . . Do you teach us students that they evolved from a monkey?

Prof.: if you are referring to the natural evolutionary processes, yes, of course, i do.

Student: have you ever observed evolution with our own eyes, sir?

Prof.: (the professor shakes his head with a smile, beginning to realize where the argument is going.)

Student: since no one has ever observed the process of evolution at work and cannot even prove that this process is an on-going endeavor, are you not teaching your opinion sir? are you not a scientist but a preacher?

Narrator – class in an uproar

Student: is there anyone in the class who has ever seen the Professor’s brain?

Prof.: (the class breaks out into laughter.)

Student: is there anyone here who has ever heard the professor’s brain, felt it, touched or smelt it?…… no one appears to have done so… so, according to the established rules of empirical, testable, demonstrable, protocol, science says that you have no brain, sir.
With due respect, sir, how do we then trust your lectures, sir?

Narrator: (the room is silent, the professor stares at the student, his face unfathomable. )

Prof.: I guess you’ll have to take them on faith, son.

Student: that is it sir… the link between man & God is FAITH. That is all that keep things moving & alive.

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15 comments
  1. Dili said:

    That is just brilliant. Student’s presence of mind and intelligence is quite impressive, even if this is just a story or not.

  2. Augustinus, I think. Wasn’t it Augustinus (Christian theologian) who brought up that idea the student is expressing?

    But the prof doesn’t ask the right questions, I think.
    You can cut of the profs head to proof he has a brain. You can define something as “cold” and it’s there. You can get a clue that evolution happens. That’s so-called “science”.

    But you cannot proof there is any God. And if you can’t get any proof of something, but you believe in it, we call it “faith”.

    Faith is for those who are too shy to ask questions: They want answers.

  3. gukseon said:

    Simon’s right, it was Augustine of Hippo who claimed that evil is simply “the privation [i.e. abscense] of good”.

    Having said that, we can and do observe evolution. Likewise with the brain comment—the professor’s brain can be observed in any number of ways, using any number of instruments. The student, I think, got a little carried away—although I think the basic premise of his argument concerning “good” is sound.

    I think this story shows that it is perfectly reasonable not to believe in God, and it is perfectly reasonable to believe in God. Reason is useful, but I think the deciding factor must be something more.

  4. Really enjoyed reading this post! Very good. Sometimes I hear “God is evil for letting all the bad things happen.” Personally I think this naive. As a parent (analogy of me being the supreme being-the infinite, in my home) often my children don’t understand WHY I do something, or allow something to happen. Sometimes
    they think my behavior is “mean” or “bad”. The truth is, they don’t get it. They
    are children and can’t see the big picture….that what I do / or don’t do….is for
    their benefit, in the long run. They will understand some day.

    Perhaps if we understand the infinite creator in that way it will explain some of the things we don’t get at this moment in time.

    Ahhh, faith – “Have faith in my kiddos, mama knows what she is doing.”

  5. Really enjoyed reading this post! Very good. Sometimes I hear “God is evil for letting all the bad things happen.” Personally I think this naive. As a parent (analogy of me being the supreme being-the infinite, in my home) often my children don’t understand WHY I do something, or allow something to happen. Sometimes
    they think my behavior is “mean” or “bad”. The truth is, they don’t get it. They
    are children and can’t see the big picture….that what I do / or don’t do….is for
    their benefit, in the long run. They will understand some day.

    Perhaps if we understand the infinite creator in that way it will explain some of the things we don’t get at this moment in time.

    Ahhh, faith – “Have faith in me kiddos, mama knows what she is doing.”

  6. janusis said:

    Ok, so the brain question might have been pushing it. But you can’t really observe all the functions that form the thought process of the brain. Also, evolution is not as observable as you would think. What is observable is a limited adaptation to environment as opposed to a complete reworking of the genes.
    Before, atoms did not exist because we could not measure them, and now they do because we measure them. Mankind just doesn’t have the capability of measuring a ‘God’, but that doesn’t disprove His existence.

  7. @ janusis:

    Atoms “didn’t exist”, because we didn’t know them – that’s correct. But: Now they exist because 1) somebody “found” them and 2) he gave proof of it so that (most) people believe in that theory which says atoms exist. If now someone comes and finds a way to give proof that atoms do not exist – and his theory is better than those which call atoms existing – people will believe in this theory. That’s what makes something existing in they eye of people: They either experience it
    themselves (i.e. an apple) or they are told about it (i.e. evolution).

    Most people believe in God because they are told to. That’s a fact, if the parents are atheists, the children are more probably too.
    As well, many believe they experienced God.
    So God does exist?

    No.

    Because – and that’s what makes something really existing – nobody can give proof of God existing. Proof means: a scientific test, done two, three, hundred times, which shows the same result every time.

    God’s just something in the heart or soul (not too bad) or mind (pretty annoying sometimes) of an individual human being. Every single time individual and new.

  8. janusis said:

    But before atoms were ‘proved’, people would think you were mad if you suggested such an idea. Religion is similar. You have not been able to prove a God, but you have not being able to prove that one cannot exist either. Until one or the other is settled, it is simply a matter of opinion.
    The apple falling on the head is an experience which led to a theory which led to ‘proof’.
    Religion is an experience which may run the same path. It remains to be seen..

  9. Java Junkie said:

    This argument is too simplistic to warrant a rebuttal but to not do so would be a crime against intelligence.

    There are several factual errors in the statements of the “student”; the lack of “evidence” for evolution being chief amongst them.

    Leaving aside all the fossil evidence uncovered, whoever came up with this garbage clearly hasn’t read or even heard of the research carried out by Rosemary and Peter Grant (Princeton). They have spent 30 years of their lives measuring the changes to the size and shape of the beaks of the finch population of the Galapagos in relation to drought and scarcity of food. They have documents evolutionary change in a span as short as 30 years. Imagine what changes could take place in 30 million!

    The professor’s brain argument is a joke. All you need is a CAT scan machine.

    Furthermore, the “evil is an absence of god” argument is pure semantics. Cold may be an absence of heat and darkness an absence of light, but critically, cold, heat, darkness and light are all states that can be identified by measuring the absence of the positive factor (i.e. heat and light). I fail to see how this is at all relevant to the existence of god.

    Evil isn’t the lack of god. In this day and age, “evil” is most often a result of nutcase trying trying to fulfil his/her god’s plan. As the Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg put it:

    “Religion is an insult to human dignity. Without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.”

    To conclude, arguing whether or not god exists is a waste of time as neither position can be successfully defended. A far more worthwhile discussion would be to consider whether or not the existence of god is PROBABLE.

    PS: I have been spammed with this infantile argument before and that time, someone was sacrilegious enough to attribute the student’s words to Einstein. The sheer nerve!

  10. Hey Java Junkie – I guess we have more in common than that first name! Couldn’t agree with you more.

  11. janusis said:

    It is funny how ‘intelligence’ sometimes resembles a god in how people view it.

    None of the scientific evidence supporting evolution is air tight. The reason it is so popular is because it is based purely on human intelligence and whatever it is that can be observed. That may not be seem to be wrong to you, but unless man is capable of perfect intelligence and perfect observation, then whatever theories they come up with is imperfect.
    As for the finches, of course an organism can adapt to its environment. Adaptation is what is observed, not evolution. The finches will not turn into a different species altogether in a million years.

    Your argument on evil being a nutcase trying to fulfill God’s plan is as bad as the student talking about the professors brain. There are people who would use anything as an excuse to do something extremist. Religious extremists are no different. The fault doesn’t lie in the religion but rather in the person who applies it. If there were no religion then another excuse would surely be used for these ‘nutcases’. If God were to symbolize all things good, then surely the absence of God would be evil. There is no ‘zero’ in this number line, no neutral point. It is either good or evil.

    And also, as another Nobel Laurette puts it:
    religion and science “deal with large, unproved mysteries, and operate on the best knowledge available today. Faith is a central tenet of religion, but Townes said a certain amount of faith is also shown by scientists, applying theories that they know have shortcomings in an effort to understand the vast amount of the universe that remains unknown”
    Charles H. Townes

    At least you are right about one thing; it would not be possible at this time to conclusively prove the existence of God or the absence of him. But it is simply rubbish to argue whether his existence is probable. By the arguments of probability the Big Bang never should have taken place. Judging by its complexity and sheer persistence, life should not exist. It never ceases to amaze me how people put so much trust in their intelligence, and summarily dismisses any point of view that has no basis in their versions of science or logic. These theories are but organized opinion sprinkled with fact. Religion is opinion sprinkled with history and faith. Neither can be conclusively proven at present, but simply disregarding either is pure foolishness, especially when you never have the complete picture.

  12. In the end everything is ‘opinion’ and everything is subject to change. So if you can fit God in there, you’ve got an ‘opinion’ that’s subject to change – just like the rest of the universe ad infinitum. It’s really a pointless argument in the end.

  13. Java Junkie said:

    I agree that this is an argument that can never be “won” in any sense of the word and I am willing to concede that followers of religion have every right to do so.

    Unfortunately, those of faith are rarely content with following the invisible man in the sky and letting us of no faith peacefully get on with our lives. Most of the time, the religious feel obliged to shove their beliefs down the unbeliever’s (or the wrong type of believer’s) throat. Not only are we expected to put up with this, we are also expected to bend over backwards to accommodate their superstitious nonsense.

    As Christopher Hitchens points out in the subtitle of his best seller: “Religion poisons everything”; but we are not supposed to seek an antidote.

    I am more than happy to let “sleeping gods lie” as it were, if their acolytes were willing to keep their beliefs to themselves and not use archaic texts as authority for pushing their way of thinking on the world at large.

  14. janusis said:

    Its not just the theists that are venomously forceful about their beliefs. I have been on the receiving end of abuse from atheists who think that those with religious beliefs are retarded. In the end it is about the person. A good person whether he be a theist or atheist is not going to force belief down your throat. Forcing one’s views on another is just an excuse for the misguided and those with an agenda.
    But I agree with both of you. It is an argument that will never come to a conclusion..

  15. Java Junkie said:

    Hear hear!!!

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