Does God exist?
People have been trying to answer this question for thousands of years. As I wrote about in this post, a philosophical novel sets out 36 arguments for the existence of God (listed here; scroll down to read them).
Arguments for the non-existence of God aren't as common. It's tough to prove that something doesn't exist, especially when that entity is supposed to be metaphysical, mysterious, and not particularly eager to reveal itself in an obvious fashion.
I usually argue that it isn't possible to prove that God is non-existent.
Instead, we agnostics and atheists are justified in asking for demonstrable proof that God does exist, since the burden of proof is on someone making a truth claim, not on the skeptic.
But during my evening dog walk today -- when I often ponder deep questions about the nature of the cosmos, not to mention puzzling canine behavior -- I intuited a possible foolproof reason for why God can't exist.
At least not as the entity most people consider "God" to be: the creator of everything (Western monotheism) or the all-pervading essence of everything (Eastern monism).
I say this because Sartre and other existentialists got it right.
Existence precedes essence, though this usually is discussed in a human rather than cosmic sense. Sartre said: "Man first of all exists, encounters himself, surges up in the world – and defines himself afterwards."
Along the same line, how could God create or pervade if existence didn't exist? For God to be, there had to be being. Religious believers imagine God existing in some fashion. They usually don't try to imagine existence itself, which is a hell of a lot more mysterious, inexplicable and intriguing than a God with comprehensible qualities.
My head hurts when I think too much about existence. But I get an enjoyable chill up my spiritual spine when I simply try to wrap my psyche around existence. Not in a wordy way. In, well, an existential way. This happens when I try to let the stark reality of existence blow the roof off all my notions about what exists, when I try to strip away thoughts about all that is until the skeleton of a bare is remains.
For the sake of argument, let's say that God exists. In other words, God exists within existence, just like you and I do. This means that God isn't the creator or essence of everything, because something -- existence -- is more fundamental than God.
A religious believer might respond, "No, you don't understand. God is everything in existence, including existence itself. There is nothing other than God, never has been, never will be."
And I'd reply, "Great. You agree with me. There's no such thing as God. Only existence. What people call God is an anthropomorphic misconception. They should be worshiping the unfathomable mystery of existence."
All we know is that something's happening here: existence. Those who are comfortable with leaving mystery mysterious remain churchless. Others need the warm blanket of religion, because not-knowing gives them a chill.
Something which isn't a thing must have always existed: existence. Otherwise, there would be no place for things to be. How things came to be is an interesting question, one which science is well-suited to explore.
Religions offer up nonsensical answers to this question, such as "God made all things to be, including you and me." Not only is there no demonstrable evidence of this, but using God as an explanation for how things came into existence ignores the Really Big Question:
Where, how, or why did existence itself come to exist, so there could be an existent God?
There's no answer. Never was, never will be. It's impossible to get outside of existence and study it. No one can ever know what might have been if nothing ever came to be. Existence simply is a given.
It is. End of story. Which also brings an end to fantasies about God being ultimate reality. Nope. Existence is.
Our notions about "God" fall to pieces before the concept-shattering mystery of existence. I enjoy this befuddlement. Having my mind blown is a lot more pleasurable and honest than clinging to dogmatic thoughts.
God doesn't exist. Existence exists. That reality is good enough for me.