Poll results consistently show that approximately three-quarters of American adults believe in God, with some polls reporting more than 90 percent belief. Given such a strong majority, what is the value of studying arguments for the existence of God? Far fewer people believe that Jesus is the only way, or that the Resurrection was an actual, historical event. Why not concentrate on apologetic arguments targeted at religious pluralism or historical evidence for the Resurrection?
Simply this. There are powerful arguments for the existence of God, and the value of learning these arguments is not limited to being able to defend theism against the minority of adults who believe atheism is true. Studying these arguments can produce strong reinforcement of the Christian faith, and a much deeper appreciation for the nature, power, and character of God.
A more insightful question might be, “Why are there so many Christians who have never heard or considered the classical arguments for the existence of God?”
Does God Exist?
We have addressed this topic in a previous Veracity post, and have considered corollary questions such as how does God reveal himself and the nature of general and special revelation. We have also addressed how people search for God, their inability to consider the question objectively, and their conclusions (don’t skip the preceding hyperlink—it never ceases to amaze me how many agnostics and atheists can conclude that the case for God’s existence is overwhelming, but can’t commit themselves to faith). Now we’re getting to the heart of the matter.
Undoubtedly, one of the most prolific and effective proponents for the existence of God is William Lane Craig, who has produced an amazing amount of material on this topic. Three of his favorite arguments for the existence of God are presented in the following videos.
Most of us aren’t as skillful at making arguments as William Lane Craig, even after reading his books and studying his material on the Internet. Fortunately, there are some shortcuts. Of the 20 or so historical arguments for the existence of God, Dr. Craig routinely uses only four or five of them in his debates. For really good presentations and discussions of the arguments for the existence of God, check out David Work’s summaries on his Reasons for the Hope blog:
Part 1 The Kalam Cosmological Argument
Part 2 The Vertical Cosmological Argument
Part 3 The Teleological (Design) Argument
Part 4 The Moral Argument
Part 5 Intelligent Design
Part 6 The Argument from Need
Spend a little time studying these arguments. They do produce strong reinforcement of the Christian faith, and a much deeper appreciation for the nature, power, and character of God.
Various polls have been conducted to determine Americans’ actual beliefs regarding a god:
- A 2006 CBS News Poll of 899 U.S. adults found that 76% of those surveyed believed in a god, while 9% believed in “some other universal spirit or higher power”, 8% believed in neither, and 1% were unsure.
- A 2007 Gallup Poll found that 86% of Americans believe in a god, with 8% saying they are not sure, and 6% saying they don’t believe in a god.
- According to a 2008 ARIS survey, belief in god varies considerably by region. The lowest rate is in the West with 59% reporting a belief in God, and the highest rate in the South at 86%.
- Mark Chaves, a Duke University professor of sociology, religion and divinity, found that 92% of Americans believed in God in 2008, but that significantly fewer Americans have great confidence in their religious leaders than a generation ago.
- A 2008 survey of 1,000 people concluded that, based on their stated beliefs rather than their religious identification, 69.5% of Americans believe in a personal God, roughly 12.3% of Americans are atheist or agnostic, and another 12.1% are deistic (believing in a higher power/non-personal God, but no personal God).
- A late 2009 online Harris poll of 2,303 U.S. adults (18 and older) found that “82% of adult Americans believe in God”, the same number as in two earlier polls in 2005 and 2007. Another 9% said they did not believe in God, and 9% said that they were not sure. It further concluded, “Large majorities also believe in miracles (76%), heaven (75%), that Jesus is God or the Son of God (73%), in angels (72%), the survival of the soul after death (71%), and in the resurrection of Jesus (70%). Less than half (45%) of adults believe in Darwin’s theory of evolution but this is more than the 40% who believe in creationism….. Many people consider themselves Christians without necessarily believing in some of the key beliefs of Christianity. However, this is not true of born-again Christians. In addition to their religious beliefs, large minorities of adults, including many Christians, have “pagan” or pre-Christian beliefs such as a belief in ghosts, astrology, witches and reincarnation…. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the Harris Interactive panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.”
- A 2010 Gallup poll found 80% of Americans believe in a god, 12% believe in a universal spirit, 6% don’t believe in either, 1% chose “other”, and 1% had no opinion. This is down only slightly from the 1940s, when Gallup first asked this question.
A 2011 Gallup poll found 92% of Americans said yes to the basic question “Do you believe in God?”, while 7% said no and 1% had no opinion.
- A 2012 Pew Research Center survey found that doubts about the existence of a god had grown among younger Americans, with 68% telling Pew they never doubt God’s existence, a 15-point drop in five years. In 2007, 83% of American millennials said they never doubted God’s existence.
- A 2012 WIN-Gallup International poll showed that 5% of Americans considered themselves “convinced” atheists, which was a fivefold increase from the last time the survey was taken in 2005, and 5% said they did not know or else did not respond.
Religion in the United States, Wkipedia Article retrieved March 1, 2015
HT: Joe Webers, William Lane Craig, David Work, Torsten Muehlbacher