William Irwin’s God Is a Question, Not an Answer, and Bertrand Russell’s Is There a God?: Comparative Analysis
Throughout the earth’s existence humanity has questioned the validity of God’s presence. In the Judeo-Christian religion, there are numerous stories in the Old and New Testament dedicated to enhancing our relationship with God. In both Testaments, God reveals Himself to His followers and shows them how to live a life of faith. These biblical stories help teach humanity to comprehend what religion is and how it relates to our inner self. To question a personal belief with God is not wrong and in the end, it may lead a certain individual to form a closer relationship with Him.
William Irwin’s God is a Question, Not an Answer, and Bertrand Russell’s Is There a God? challenges a believer’s an atheist’s uncertainty about their faith. According to Irwin and Russell’s passages, humanity continues to debate over the existence of God because there is no concrete definition of religion and no physical evidence to prove if God is real. William Irwin begins his passage with Albert Camus’s existentialist novel The Stranger, the protagonist character Meursault, is an atheist who claims God is not his life and rejects visitation from a Catholic priest the night before his execution. Irwin then focuses on a novel written 70 years later by Kamal Daoud, his novel continues Camus’s story. In Dauod’s novel, a character declares “God is a question, not an answer”, this character’s statement resonated with Irwin and now he argues that uncertainty is a popular trait amongst humanity and it is quite common for believers and nonbelievers to question their faith and relationship with God. Irwin says, “any honest atheist must admit that he has his doubts, that occasionally he thinks he might be wrong, that there could be a God after all – if not the God of the Judeo-Christian tradition then a God of some kind” (Irwin 1).
Irwin also writes, “The believer should concede that she does not know with certainty that God exists. There is no faith without a doubt” (Irwin 2). He believes that it is okay for believers and atheists to question their doubt in whether there is a God or not, he says that by living in a state of doubt and uncertainty leads individuals to an honest view of their relationship with the God of their choosing. Irwin mentions Bertrand Russell, who is a nonbeliever in religion, Russell was asked what he would say to God if they met during judgment in Heaven, Russell responded with God gave humanity insufficient evidence to believe that He was real. God does not reveal himself easily to humanity, if he did people would not doubt His presence. Irwin believes there are two types of doubts, a “doubt of indifference” or a “doubt of desire.” A doubt of indifference is to simply a lack of interest in something and a doubt of desire is a certain way of thinking and feeling, it is the desire to ask questions with the hope that a higher power can answer them and provide meaning to humanity.
Nonbelievers tend to favor scientific theories, like evolution and the Big Bang to explain how the earth was formed and where humanity came from. Believers rely on their faith to explain the unanswered discoveries of the world. When an individual doubts their faith it can either strengthen or weaken their personal opinion but whether the individual is a believer or nonbeliever their mind has to be open to accepting the fact that humanity may never know if there is a God or not. British philosopher and atheist Bertrand Russell like Irwin believes that God means something different for every individual and community. Russell questions whether there is one true God and if His intentions with humanity are pure. He says, “…Omnipotent Creator, than that Creator, so far from being loving and kind, as we are told, must be a degree of wickedness scarcely conceivable. A man who commits murder is considered to be a bad man. An Omnipotent Deity, if there is one, murders everybody” (Russell 547). He believes that God must be a wicked individual since he afflicts humanity with cancers and diseases that kill men, women, and children. If God exists and choices which members of society He will torture and kill with disease and slavery humanity cannot look upon Him witch such high graces.
Russell mentions a theory by Plato, he believes Christians are being called to a more Modernist form of theism, where God is not considered to be all-knowing and He does not have the ability to control everything that happens on earth, for example, wind, water, and gravity. Russell also likes Irwin and believes that people spend more time trying to disprove theories rather than try to prove them. He says, “Many orthodox people speak as though it were the business of skeptics to disprove received dogmas rather than dogmatists to prove them. This is, of course, a mistake” (Russell 547). He creates a teapot analogy to discuss the existence of God and His effect on society. Russell wants his readers to imagine a China teapot orbiting the sun between Earth and Mars. Since the teapot is too tiny for human eyes to see there is no way to prove that the teapot is floating throughout space, we have to assume it is there. Russell argues that the burden of proof is on the person who is claiming the teapot is in space, the person needs to provide evidence that the teapot exists in space in order for society to believe him. Using the teapot analogy Russell claims that since we cannot prove that God is real, society should not believe in Him unless provided evidence that He does exist. History tells us that throughout humanity people have believed in either the traditional Christian God or multiple Gods. Both Irwin and Russell’s articles state that having doubt in religion is common. Irwin believes that an individual can be a believer or a nonbeliever it us up to the person to decide what religion means to them. Russell believes that the burden of proof is placed on the atheist community to explain why followers of God should reject His preaching and accept Atheism as the truth of the world.
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