Is There a God?

Is There a God?

E-mail debates of newsworthy topics.
Oct. 8 1996 3:30 AM

Is There a God?

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Dear Andrew:

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       You say belief in God is not an answer to a human need. I think it is--and I think the many uses of this myth explain why people persist in accepting it despite their inability to prove it by any rational means. Romantic love gives purpose to life, but romantic love is elusive and often short-lived. Though mentors can provide guidance, they are short on infallible truth. SLATE's many excellent offerings do not include life beyond the grave. Belief in a deity affords great comfort to the many people vexed by the cruel realities of human existence. Accepting that there is no God forces you to look to your own mind for moral answers, and not everyone feels adequate to the task. It also means coming to grips with the bleak fact of death. Most religions, particularly Christianity, provide an appealing alternative. And, of course, they carry a threat: Denial of God can lead to an eternity of suffering, not to mention widespread disapproval in this world.
       You say that we all have faith, in the form of a sense of "something greater and better than ourselves." Isn't that just a way of saying we all have imaginations? I have to say I am mystified by how you get from that sense to a conviction that God exists. Our imaginations, after all, allow us to entertain all sorts of fantasies and impossibilities. Even if we all were naturally imbued with a belief in God, that hardly suggests (much less proves) that there is a God to believe in. Everyone once believed in superstitions of one sort or another, and many still do, but that doesn't mean breaking a mirror will bring you bad luck.
       You say you have never had a moment of unbelief. But surely you have had the occasional doubt to resolve. Two questions that I think you have yet to address squarely: What makes you think God exists? And why should anyone else?

Regards,
Steve

Steve Chapman is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune, and Andrew Sullivan is former editor of the New Republic.