In debates about God, a lot of time is wasted on discussion of whether one could prove or disprove God’s existence. This is not going to happen. So it is really about whether the existence of God (or a particular concept of God) is plausible (or very plausible) and thereby worthy of our belief.
In a couple of short paragraphs on this blog I will cut through centuries of debate and draw conclusions about the plausibility of God’s existence by looking at some of the evidence we see (or don’t see) in our world.
In my view, the positive evidence for the existence of God is the widespread belief which exists among billions of folks. I think there is something to the religious experiences people have reported which provides support to the concept of a divine essence in the world, i.e. a sense of connection with something large accompanied by feelings of purpose and value. I believe these experiences provide much less support for the existence of any detailed conception of a divine being, since the more specific features get reported after passing through a filter of preconceptions about God and religion.
Most of the other traditional philosophical arguments for the existence of God have been adequately countered and don’t offer plausible reasons for belief. Because it continues to make hay in our culture let me comment on one: I give no credit to design-based arguments for a transcendent personal God, given that we can easily conceive of rich but impersonal processes giving rise to the world we experience (I’m not claiming today’s science has this all figured out of course).
The main evidence against the existence of God comes from the well-discussed problems of evil and suffering and the related general problem of divine hiddenness. The existence of evil and the suffering of the innocent makes the existence of a God which is both benevolent and omnipotent (able to intervene) extremely implausible. Philosophers of religion these days have to resort to tortured exercises in modal logic to try to defend against this argument. Importantly, this is not an argument against a deity which lacks one of the specified attributes, say, omnipotence.
Divine hiddenness asks why God doesn’t reveal his or herself in a straightforward way. The answer is usually that God is playing a game to see who will believe anyway for use in judging us, or simply that the reasons for this (as well as for allowing evil) are beyond our comprehension. Given the weakness of these arguments, this problem again leads me to conclude the existence of God is implausible. Again I must note that this issue has traction against the God with the particular package of attributes of traditional monotheism, and is not an argument against all kinds of theism. Actually, I can’t see that any traditional arguments against the existence of God apply to pantheism.
So, I conclude that the existence of some impersonal and limited divine essence in the world is plausible. However, the existence of a God with the particular attributes offered by traditional monotheism is extremely implausible.
Sometime soon I will follow up with thoughts about the case for pantheism (and/or its relative, panentheism).