existence of God
Arguments for and against the existence of God have been proposed by philosophers, theologians, scientists, and others for thousands of years. In philosophical terms, arguments for and against the existence of God involve primarily the sub-disciplines ofepistemology (theory of knowledge) and ontology (nature of being), but also of the theory of value, since concepts of perfection are often bound up with notions of God. The debate concerning the existence of God is one of the oldest and most discussed debates in human history, and has raised many philosophical issues. A basic problem is the existence of both monotheistic and polytheistic views. A wide variety of arguments exist which can be categorized as metaphysical, logical, empirical, or subjective. The existence of God is subject to lively debate both in philosophy—the philosophy of religion being almost entirely devoted to the question—and in popular culture. The Western tradition of inquiry into the existence of God began with Plato and Aristotle, who made arguments for God's existence that would now be categorized as cosmological arguments. Later, Epicurus formulated the problem of evil: if God is omnipotent, omniscientand omnibenevolent, why does evil exist? The field of theodicy arose from attempts to answer this question. Further solutions to the existence of God have been proposed by St. Anselm, who formulated the first ontological argument; Avicenna and Aquinas, who presented their own versions of the cosmological argument; Descartes, who said that the existence of a benevolent God was logically necessary for the evidence of the senses to be meaningful; and Immanuel Kant, who argued that the existence of God can be deduced from the existence of good. Thinkers who have provided arguments against the existence of God include David Hume, Kant, Nietzscheand Bertrand Russell. In modern popular culture, the question of God's existence has been discussed by public intellectuals such asStephen Hawking and Richard Dawkins. Atheists maintain that arguments for the existence of God show insufficient reason to believe. Certain theists acknowledge that belief in the existence of God may not be amenable to demonstration or refutation, but rests on faith alone. Other religions, such as Buddhism, do not concern themselves with the question of the existence or non-existence of God at all. Psychological and sociological explanations for believing in the existence of a deity may point to a shared neurological and cultural framework for belief based on cognitive processes in the brain.