The existence of God

ThinkBuddha has an interesting post on an invitation to debate the existence of God.

It brought up a few things for me, which as usual feel very basic and only scratching the surface, but it is good to get it out. It creates an opportunity to take the next step.

First, about the form of this debate, which was the traditional one with two parties each arguing (apparently) opposing views. There is a beauty in this form. We get to investigate each view, including some of the practical consequences of each, and the strengths and weaknesses of each. We have an opportunity to find the validity in both, and then find a wider and more inclusive view. It is the beauty of the dialectical process. And if we happen to be in the debate, we have the opportunity to do this there and then: To acknowledge the strengths of the “opposing” view, the weaknesses of ones “own” view, and start to chart a view that includes and embraces the validity and strengths of both.

As an audience member, I always have the opportunity to find the validity and strength and weaknesses of each view, and add some others ones I am familiar with, and find a view that seems to include the gold in each of them. As a participant, I can do the same. And I can do this independent of whether others take a similar view or not.

Then, about the existence of God. It all depends on the definition, of course. From a Buddhist view, we can say that Buddha mind – emptiness + play of form – is God. From an evolutionary spirituality view, God is all there is, reality as it is, unfolding through evolution. And if we see God as something “transcendent”, then it is the possible existence of that aspect of reality we are talking about.

We can frame the stories about God as an experiment, as something to investigate for ourselves. Which facets can I explore for myself? What do experienced people have to say about how to best explore it? What do I find when I apply Christian practices, for instance the heart prayer? What do I find when I engage in Buddhist practice, such as Shikantaza? What do I find through self-inquiry?

We can explore the everyday consequences of different views, and how we hold them. What happens when I apply certain stories as guides for attention and behavior in my own life? What happens when I take them as absolute truths, holding them rigidly? What happens when I take them as temporary guides only, as tools and an invitation for exploration?

There is always an opportunity to explore the practical consequences of views and how we hold them. And whether or not these views have consequences we are not (yet) aware of, we can take a look at the consequences we can be aware of. It is a good starting point.

It is clear that a traditional debate style has its drawbacks as well, especially if taken as a “win-lose” situation. That tends to make us more entrenched in our most familiar views and polarize further. But going one step beyond this, as described above, is something we all can do in such a situation, whether it is a formal or informal debate.



  • the existence of God
    • debate
      • traditionally: argue each side, opportunity to find validity in both + view including both
      • if one side: can do the same, acknowledge validity on the other side + find view that embraces both
      • investigate each view, the consequences of each, strengths and shortcomings, then find wider and more inclusive view (dialectical process)
    • existence of god
      • all depends on definition
      • can define as reality, as what is – physical world + whatever else may be
      • can frame as experiment, something to investigate for ourselves
      • can explore the consequences of different views + how we hold them (practical consequences)

We take certain stories as guidelines for attention and behavior, and see what happens.

If I assume that the essence of religion, whichever it may be, is to live from a measure of wisdom, kindness and maturity, which approach seems more helpful to me?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.