When one thinks of a religious person these days, they usually think that the religious man possesses a degree of intellectual inferiority, especially since we should be enlightened by things such as technology and Darwinism. The problem with this inaccurate stereotype is with the American misconception of a religious person. Since America’s religious roots can be traced back to Puritans, the two words that come into the typical American mind when describing a religious person are Christian and fundamentalist. The fact that religiosity is associated with Bible-thumping, fundamentalist Christian who reads the Bible literally is a stereotype that needed to be dispelled when the Enlightenment period began. The fact that religious communities were unable to respond to the Enlightenment during its inception is still biting intellectual, rational monotheists in the toches to this very day.
With that in mind, it still begs the question: can one discuss religion, and more specifically, monotheism, intelligibly? The First Commandment in the Decalogue (Ex. 20:2) is to know that G-d exists. If you don’t believe in G-d, who cares about this commandment, and if you do believe in the Torah, why do you need this commandment? Because the underlying message is this: investigate! Knowing G-d exists means that you have done the thorough research, and your proof is beyond all reasonable doubt (this, in contradistinction to beyond a shadow of a doubt, something I will discuss later). Rather than fall back on the argument of “because the Bible told me so,” Jews are commanded to “do their homework.” Maimonides said it was insufficient to just study Torah. For him, to truly understand Torah, one had to study the natural sciences. As an extension, I would also opine that one would need to study other fields such as history, philosophy, sociology, archeology, etc., to get a grasp of reality. An investigative approach to reality for a religious person seems foreign to many because many Christians fall back on "because the Bible tells me so."
With the overt intellectual emphasis in Judaism, we now come down to why not only atheism is an irrational belief, but why G-d’s existence is a logical necessity. Atheism is based on the premise that G-d does not exist. For atheists to make such a bold claim, the philosophical burden of proof is on them to prove that G-d does not exist. When referring to G-d, one refers to Infinite Oneness, something that does not exist within time or space. My question to the atheist is this: how can you prove that an infinite being that transcends all finite borders, physical, spiritual, et al, can actually be disproven by empirical measurements? You can’t! Any attempt to try to disprove G-d’s existence would require the application of measuring G-d, which, by definition, cannot be done.
If the claim for monotheism were solely built on this claim, we would be running into the issue of argumentum ad ignorantiam, which is a logical fallacy that states that a premise is true only because it has not been proven false, or vice versa. The best example of this fallacy would be that of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. For purposes of this argument, if I don’t want to merely disprove atheism, but rather show that monotheism has an intellectual basis, I have to go beyond the argument of “atheists can’t disprove G-d, therefore I’m right.” This means if I am to claim that monotheism is correct, the burden of proof now shifts over to me.
Before delving into the analysis, what is worth bringing up is the extent of my proof, i.e., do I have to prove G-d’s existence beyond all reasonable doubt or beyond any shadow of a doubt? I will contend that nothing can be proven beyond a shadow of a doubt. Shadow of a doubt implies no doubt whatsoever. Although atheists and anti-religious people like to use this tier of doubt in attempts to “disprove G-d,” the truth is that nobody uses such a burden of proof in their daily lives. Just a few examples…..
Did your wife poison your food today? Odds are that a marriage doesn’t get that sour, but maybe she’s jealous of your new job, or it’s possible she found out about the affair you’re having on the side. Or it’s possible that you married somebody who is trying to kill you because she has some mental disorder you don’t know about. There could even be a possibility there is some deadly disease in the food of which you were not aware.
Will the double bypass surgery kill me? Statistically speaking, you’ll come out of that surgery in one piece, possibly feeling better than ever. But there is still a slight change that either the surgical tools aren’t sterile and cause a deadly infection, you unknowingly have a fatal allergic reaction to some anesthetics the doctor gave you, or your doctor ends up killing you because his “degree” is forged and he really is a total quack.
Does the country of France exist? Sure, you’ve heard of people called Frenchmen. You’ve seen pictures of the Eiffel Tower. You even took some time in college to learn this language they call French. But until you’ve been there, how can you know that France is nothing more than conspiracy forged by some intellectual elitists? And even if you do ever go to France, how are you so certain that you're actually in France? Are you sure France really exists?
Although there are some instances in which the abnormal occurs, statistically speaking, occurrences, nature, and a myriad of other things follow certain general predictabilities. Realizing this shifts the burden of proof ever so slightly. Rather than burden oneself with the unrealistic expectation of proving something reasonable beyond a shadow of a doubt, it's much more tenable to prove it beyond all reasonable doubt. The question then becomes whether or not we can prove G-d's existence beyond all reasonable doubt, especially since G-d cannot be proven by empirical measurements, i.e., we cannot perceive G-d with our five senses because G-d’s infinite nature transcends the sensory.
Since we cannot use the five senses to prove His existence, we have to proceed with our logical faculties, much like the rabbis of yesteryear had done millennia beforehand. Upon proving this conjecture, I will use logical deduction to prove that ever-so profound question of “How did the universe begin?” I attribute this exceptionally important insight to R. Moshe Zeldman, upon my studying of Derech Hashem by R. Moshe Chaim Luzzatto. Upon asking ourselves about primum movens, or the first cause, we have to realize that there are only four possibilities: 1) nothing began the process, 2) something finite created the universe, 3) the universe is eternally old, and 4) an infinite being created the universe.
Let’s see where logic takes us……
1) Nothing began the universe. Rabbi Bachya ibn Paquda challenged this flawed thinking in Duties of the Heart almost a millennium ago: “When we say that something created itself, we have to ask: When did this act take place? Before it came into existence or after it came into existence? If before, there was nothing there, and from nothing, nothing can come. If after, then it doesn’t need to create itself. It’s already there!” This theory defies Newton's Third Law of Motion, not to mention common sense and scientific observation. This disqualifies Option #1 from being a possibility.
2) Something finite created the universe. It doesn’t matter if you try making some elaborate, convoluted scenario, may it be a micro-universe within a macro-universe, “this is all a dream,” or something based off the movie The Matrix. If something finite did create the universe, the only retort that one can have for this postulation is “what created that?” If more intelligent aliens created our universe, what created those more intelligent aliens? And what created that which created the more intelligent aliens? Needless to say, we can do this ad nauseam and it still doesn’t answer the question of what ultimately was the primum movens. Option #2 is out, which leads us to the latter two options.
3) The universe has no beginning because it is eternally old. Who is to say that the universe even had a beginning in the first place? After all, we should take this option seriously since many scientists have believed it since the days of Aristotle. Something in modern-day science changed that notion—the Big Bang. What was shocking about the Big Bang Theory, which is no longer a theory, is that it provided incontrovertible evidence that the universe began about ten to fifteen billion years ago. Even without the cosmological proof for a beginning of the universe, how can one prove that an eternal universe is logically flawed?
For argument's sake, let's say that Maimonides met Aristotle one day and as they were walking along, they came across a huge pile of marbles. This pile is so vast that as they look with telescopes in every direction, it seems as if there were no end to the pile.
Aristotle: "I believe that this is an infinitely large pile of marbles."
Maimonides: "Look, I have no idea how many marbles are here, but logically it must be finite. Here's my proof: What would happen, Aristotle, if I removed one marble from the pile? How many marbles would be left now? An infinite number or a finite number?"
Maimonides: "Well, if it's finite now, then what will happen when I put this marble back into the pile? Will the pile go from being finite to infinite? Impossible! Finite-plus-one is just a slightly bigger finite!"
Aristotle: "Okay then, if you remove one marble, I say the pile must still be infinite."
Maimonides: "Well then, you've got an even bigger problem. Because now the pile is infinite -- but it's a little smaller then it was before?! How can an infinite pile change in size? And if I add three more marbles, it will be bigger yet just as infinite? There's only one logical possibility: The pile must be finite. It might be uncountable, but there must be a specific, finite, number of marbles in the pile."
The shorter version of this argument is asking how it’s possible for a universe to be eternally old and simultaneously get older with each day (i.e., the universe is a day older than it was yesterday). Answer: It’s not possible! Therefore, we take out Option #3.
4) An infinite being created the finite universe. We've already eliminated all other options, so this is what we have left. You know why it's hard to imagine? Because such a being (i.e. G-d) is beyond our senses, beyond our imagination and ultimately, beyond our grasp. Even if we cannot grasp G-d, that doesn't exclude us from being able to believe in His existence. Au contraire! Precisely because of the aforementioned logical deduction, we must conclude that an infinite being, primal and eternal, had to have created the universe. Any alternative scenario, as proven above, is beyond the realm of possibility--it is downright impossible. As to analyzing the nature of G-d, the existence of evil, whether Judaism per se is right, or the extent of G-d's involvment in the world, those are arguments that must be saved for another time. Even with these quandries in mind, we cannot ignore that G-d's existence is truly a logical necessity.