Theism and Naturalism: Two Competing Views
The two competing views regarding God's nature or truth are theism and naturalism. Naturalism claims that there is no God and that everything happens naturally, while theism claims that there is a God. According to theism, there is only one perfectly morally decent and almighty being that exists out of necessity (Layman 11).
God's Nature: Personality and Morality
When we conclude that God is exactly one thing, we mean that there is only one God who is worshipped by Jews, Muslims, and Christians. Second, since God is perfectly moral, He is a personality entity with values, a reason, and the ability to make decisions. God is perfectly morally good because He has the moral virtues of love, justice, and wisdom. Therefore, God knows what is important and how to achieve it, He cares and has everlasting good interests for the people He created and will never fail to keep His promises. God is almighty meaning He has maximal power which has a logical limit (Layman 12). He is not physical since He is not governed by laws of nature. Traditionally, God is regarded as the creator of the universe and is capable of performing miracles such as raising the dead. Finally, He is an entity of necessity since He never fails to exist.
Naturalism: A Rival to Traditional Theism
Naturalism is rival to the traditional theism. Naturalism claims that there is the self-organizing physical reality which exists either necessarily, eternally or by chance. It also holds that if we were to leave aside possible special cases, all entities are physical entities. According to Thomas Nagel, new properties are regarded as physical if they are discovered by explanatory inference from those already in the class (Layman 27). Naturalist believe that physical things have inherent tendencies that allow them to organize naturally. Naturalists may say that physical reality was uncaused, or it is eternal and without beginning, or yet it exists out of necessity. Naturalists argue that there are no nonphysical agents.
Test for God's Reality
Most of the people do not have vivid religious experiences. Sense experiences can be tested while religious experiences cannot be tested. For instance, if you think you have seen a tree, you can touch it to test your visual experience. However, for religious experience that is not possible. Religious experiences can be caused by psychological as well as physiological factors. There are many different religious experiences, and some are not reliable since some experience reports contradict others (Layman 58). Mystical writers and spiritual directors have shown a lot of interest in distinguishing genuine experiences of God from false ones. A test for religious experience is that, if someone claims to have experienced God's presence, results such as interior peace, trust in God, sincerity, patience with trials and self-forgetful charity follow. On the other hand, false religious experiences yield anxiety, presumption despair, impatience with the trial, duplicity and being too much concerned with matters that are useless. Conclusively, certain benefits accrue with someone experiencing the presence of God (Layman 61).
Freud's Perspective on Theistic Mystic Experiences
According to Freud, Theistic mystic experiences are caused by natural factors such as psychological needs. For instance, as children, we learn to go to our parents for help when faced with something that we cannot handle by ourselves. However, when we become much older, we encounter difficult situations that are beyond our parents so we desperately long for a greater authority that can help us solve such problems as death. Freud hypotheses are just imaginative and are not established scientific theories since there is no evidence of the strong, desperate desire (Layman 66). Several conditions make religious experiences unreliable. Firstly, if the religious experiences conflict with sensory experience, then they are not reliable. Secondly, the reports of some religious experiences are very obscure such that we cannot understand the content of such experiences making them unreliable. Besides, reports of some religious experiences are contradictory thus unreliable. If the subject is insane or wicked, then his experiences should be doubted. Finally, an experience of someone who claims to have experienced God as morally evil is unreliable.
Scientific Models of Testing the Reality of God
Many arguments have been made regarding the inability of science to test the existence of God. Science is applied to the questions that are associated with the observation. The human brain has no capacity to capture every detail such as the time, direction and energy of everything that passes before the eye. However, it operates on pictures of objects that have been simplified whether they are studying rocks or trees and assign them attributes that do not entail every detail (Klemm and Klink 496). In other words, science only rationalizes procedures and communicate the precise speech and writing among individuals who then try to reach a consensus of what they have all observed as well as the best way to represent their collective observations. Therefore, scientific models are actually theories. Although religious follows a similar process in which the agreement is asserted by the authority, the agreement is not reached by collective consensus. From the ancient times, people have imagined god as one who possessed such attributes that they could understand as well as relate. The spirits and gods took the forms of objects such as the sun, the moon, animals as well as humans (Klemm and Klink 497). For instance, the gods of the Greeks were immortal humans while those of Egypt were animals. Similarly, the God of Islam, Judaism and Christianity took the form of an autocratic being who was enthroned high above his subjects.
Whenever we are dealing with the models of gods that are just conceptions of human beings, it is necessary to avoid objection that there is a possibility that the true God lies beyond our human cognitive abilities. When we argue that a given god has been rejected by evidence, we do not imply that all gods which are conceivable or inconceivable do not exist (Klemm and Klink 499). We only show that a certain model which has explicit characteristics is not real. The scientific model works well in describing observations as well as allowing the practical application. Such models do not seek to prove the reality of a concept, they describe what people observe, and that is what is real. Besides, scientific models do not seek to establish whether there is similarities or resemblance of God and other gods (Klemm and Klink 501). The best way to test God is through religious experience rather than using the scientific models. Religious experience leads to the traditional theism which holds that there is exactly one entity that is perfectly morally good and almighty, and that exists of necessity.
Klemm, David E., and William H. Klink. "Constructing and testing theological models." Zygon® 38.3 (2003): 495-528.
Layman, C. Stephen. Letters to Doubting Thomas: A Case for the Existence of God. Oxford University Press, 2006.