In this Prager University course, I want to
focus not on the evidence for God’s existence, but on the benefits of belief. If God exists, then the world didn’t just
evolve by chance, but by deliberate design. There’s an Artist behind this incredible work
of art, this big, and beautiful world. If God exists, we’re living in a great story,
an epic like “The Lord of the Rings,” with real heroes and heroic tasks. Ultimately,
all the twists and turns of this epic narrative will be paid off, everything will make sense.
It will even have a happy ending, not necessarily, or even likely, in our own lifetime — even
Moses didn’t get into the Promised Land — but over the grand course of time in an
afterlife, which exists as surely as God exists. If God exists, the presence of evil, hard
as it is to accept, makes sense. God allows it for a reason — namely, to preserve our
free will. And God will reconcile all injustices in the end. If there is no God, life is one
big crapshoot. If God does exist, morality is a real, objective
feature of the world. If there is no God, morality is just the rules we make up for
this little game of life we play. If God exists, love is the nature of an eternal
reality. If there is no God, love is just a fleeting feeling, no more than a bunch of
chemical and neurological interactions. If God exists, you are of infinite value.
He knows you — as a parent knows his child. He’s accessible to you. If there is no God,
each of us is as insignificant as a rock on an unknown planet. If God exists, death is conquered because
if there is a God there is a reality outside of space and time. If there is no God, there
is nothing immortal, and all the good things in life are destroyed forever. You, and everyone
you love, and everything you think matters are all consigned to oblivion. If there is
no God, life is pointless. Everything we’ve done and lived for will ultimately be in vain. Can I prove with an absolute certainty that
God exists? I can make the case that overwhelming evidence suggests that he does. But no I can’t
prove that He exists with absolute certainty. That’s likely part of His plan. God deliberately
doesn’t give us absolute proof so that we’re free to choose or not to choose to believe
in Him. So which way do you want to go? Be honest. Doesn’t your heart at least hope
that there is a good God, a transcendent validator of love and all the highest human values?
Of course it does. Why would anyone not wish that life has some ultimate purpose, that
good and evil are real, that there is ultimate justice, that our love for others means something? If you choose to live as if there is a God
— even if you are not sure there is a God — you lose nothing and you gain everything. Religious Christians and Jews are happier,
live longer, and are more charitable than their less observant or secular fellow citizens.
These are not my opinions — these are the findings of a multitude of scientific studies. If you have been an atheist for a while, it
may be difficult for you to change your thinking, even if you find some merit in the many rational
arguments for God’s existence. But you can change your behavior. You can live as if God’s
exists, even if you hold doubts. Why not? As I said, you lose nothing and you have everything
to gain. This behavioral approach is far from new.
The Jews have long had a saying, “We will do, and we will understand,” which acknowledges
that action often precedes understanding. So why not begin with an action? Why not pray
the prayer of the skeptic? “God, if you exist, you must know that I’m not a believer. So, please, God, give me the gift of faith,
in your time and in your way. I want to believe whatever is true. Amen.” If you say that
and mean it, and give it some time, be prepared, because He will not ignore that prayer. Go on, say it. Find a private place and say
it. Your Creator is listening. I’m Peter Kreeft, Professor of Philosophy
at Boston College, for Prager University.