Is belief in God's existence universal?

(Matt Western) #1

I stumbled upon a Jordan Peterson video who joined a normally political discussion program called Q&A in Australia. I would not have watched it except I saw Peterson’s name as it’s usually a left wing, very anti-religious program.

I was astonished towards the end that there was a question that was even allowed to be asked of this panel by a person on Skype:

One thing I’ve noticed that the topic of human dignity seems to be one that the whole panel agrees upon.

Do you believe in God?; because as a Catholic I don’t see any other way we can have a universal dignity beyond there being a God who’s created us.

The panel consisted of:
Alex Hawke (Liberal MP), Terri Butler (Labor MP), Cathryn McGregor (a transgender author and activist who served as a member of the Australian Defence Force. She has also worked as a cricket commentator.) Van Badham (feminist and Marxist) and Jordan Peterson.
(info from wikipedia)

All the panels gave an answer and I was hugely surprised at the answers. None were atheists, only one was agnostic. Interestingly Jordan Peterson was the only one that didn’t give an answer and said he doesn’t like the question. Peterson said “I act as if God exists, and I’m terrified that he might.”

Video below will play at the start of the question. (Apologies, but the discourse platform only seems to play 5 mins of youtube videos so you may need to watch on youtube for all answers)

A couple of quite eye-opening answers for me personally was one panelist was a devout Christian who was a Marxist, and also a strong feminist. Another prays daily who was brought up Catholic, was then a militant atheist, and now devoutly religious and is welcome in the Anglican church…

Do you think that belief in God is self-evident for all humanity? If this is the case, then perhaps the message of who Jesus Christ is, and what he has done really not that far away from people that we might think?

I’m really interested in others comments regarding this. I’m not interested in discussing the individual people on the panel or their backgrounds as that’s probably not appropriate for this forum, other than to note that with such a wide variety of views, nobody confirmed they are an atheist. The fact that this question was even allowed on the show, and that all the panelists gave answers astonished me somewhat.

(Kathleen) #2

This is a fascinating video! Thanks for posting it, @matthew.western. I would love to look more at other questions asked, but I am first and foremost interested in what these folks believe about God. What does God look like to them? What kind of God do they believe in? What are the character attributes of this God? Do they worship and serve this God or just acknowledge its existence?

God is a very broad term, so I’m not all that surprised that a majority of people may believe in one (or many) in some form or fashion. As is often said round these parts: ‘I’m spiritual, but not religious.’

But to your own question… I hesitate on the term self-evident. The apostle Paul does contend that

…what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. (Romans 1)

However, I’ve spoken to many agnostics/atheists who contend vehemently that it is not evident to them that God exists. They hold that if it was evident he existed, then they would believe in him…whatever that means.

For myself, I have to admit that I find that the non-obvious nature of God in the western world today evades my understanding. I know that God has been very obvious in the past, and I believe that, in certain parts of the world, He makes himself more obvious, but I have no larger explanation for why that is. I have some possible explanations, but no hard and fast ones.

And to your second question, I do think that, if we establish some sort of common spiritual ground with someone, then we can get to the message of Jesus Christ pretty quickly. But some personal obstacle-clearing must happen before we get there! :slight_smile:

(Jimmy Sellers) #3

Do you mean it as in the argument for natural theology? or for an argument that innately all men sense a higher power? I ask because the arguments are similar but could end up in entirely different places. For me the argument for natural theology depends on one’s ability to be able to take in the whole of creation an appeal to the senses. For me this for leaves out the possibility of experience to those who are deprived of all their natural abilities if you will the 5 senses and locomotion.

The argument for innately sensing God must include a sixth sense intuition. I think that this is what
Schleiermacher appealed to human experience of dependence rather than the Bible.

(Matt Western) #4

Hi @Jimmy_Sellers, I’m not sure (yet) what natural theology is, but yes I wonder if innately everyone sense a higher power - which must be ‘pushed down’ or deliberately rejected and suppressed on purpose as in Romans 1. Creation (existence of reality itself) points to God ‘outside’ us, and our conscience points to God ‘inside’ us. Just the conscience we all have intuitively we know we ‘ought’ to behave in a certain way, but we can’t get there. You can appeal to a child that you know you ‘ought’ not to hit another child in the playground.

Interesting you mention the 5 senses, yes they are what gives us information flooding into our brains to process what the real external world is. I’ve never met anybody (or heard of anybody) that has lost all 5 senses - actually you remind me of the story of Hellen Keller, who was blind, deaf from birth and mute. People thought she was insane, until the nurses reached out to her in love, and we know the story of Anne Sullivan who taught her finger-writing. I don’t think people who are missing a sense cannot appreciate creation.

(Jimmy Sellers) #5

I am fan of NT Wright. Last year he gave a series of lectures on Natural Theology, the Gifford Lectures. This has been going on for over 100 years.

This is not fast watch there are 8 one hour lectures. I think you will enjoy them.
Also on the Members Lounge @Rachel_Shields had a very lively thread on this very subject. I would post a link but only Connect member would be able to view.
I am sure you are a member go check it out, “Is Natural Theology Really enough”.

(Matt Western) #6

Thanks @KMac some great insights, I have some other thoughts but just one to start with… :slight_smile:

When you say God is non-obvious, what do you mean?

I think that there is a possibility that everyone is presented with a balance of evidence on both sides of for and against the existence of God. No matter what our intellectual capacity, emotional makeup and everything else that makes us individual - we still have a choice at the level of our understanding. We weigh up the balance of evidence. If the ‘scale of evidence’ is tipped towards either direction (in an intellectual sense), then there is no room for faith?

I have wondered this too even in my own life - sometimes when I have a question that is bothering me it depends on how I ask it. What is my starting ‘posture’ - am I asking from a humble position and genuinely searching for an answer; or am I putting God on trial and asking a question in order to ‘judge’ Him. Is it as simple as ‘God resists the proud, and gives grace to the humble?’

I don’t know - the story of Namaan in the Old Testament comes to mind. He wanted Elisha to come out and perform some sort of grand ceremony (I presume) in order to heal him of leprosy. Elisha didn’t even come out of the house, but sent Gahazai out to tell him to go and wash in the Jordan river 7 times. Namaan got quite upset and was on his way home in a huff, and his Israelite handmaid said ‘if it was a hard thing to do, would you have done it?’, then why not humble yourself and go and do this simple thing… (something along those lines as I didn’t go now and read the account to get it perfect).

In terms of God being non-obvious in the western world, is it because we generally are so reliant on ourselves (intellect, money, resources, our communities etc) that when we come to look for God we are coming in a state of pride. Maybe this is the purpose of personal suffering - for God to quietly get our attention with a ‘little tap on the shoulder’ in love??

Another verse I’ve been pondering is 2 Timothy 3:7-9 - in particular the phrase ‘always learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth’. This seems to be quite a disturbing place for a person to be.

always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. 8 Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith; 9 but they will progress no further, for their folly will be manifest to all, as theirs also was.

It starts 2 Tim chapter 3 out with ‘in the last days perilous times will come’. So we don’t sidetracked into a prophesy debate on ‘in the last days’ perhaps can we say that ‘the last days’ might just be the same as in Hebrews ‘in times past, God has spoken through the prophets, but in these last days has spoken through His Son’… It finishes up the chapter with the well known verse 2 Tim 3:16 "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable… "

sorry if this is a bit of an unstructured train of thought… :slight_smile:

(Matt Western) #7

One quick connecting thought to the first video. I’m really interested in Jordan Peterson’s response “I live as if there is God, but I’m terrified that He might exist”.

I remember watching a year or so ago, a discussion between William Lane Craig, Rebeca Goldstein, and Jordan Peterson - Is there meaning to life?. Very interesting… What was the most fascinating is when Jordan Peterson recounted a dream he had regarding the person of Jesus Christ.
(video will start just before his account of the dream as he makes some interesting points before hand)

I certainly don’t want to try to understand where Jordan Peterson stands before God!! - but I do like how he just ‘thinks out loud’ to questions asked to him.

I guess I’m still a little surprised that the original question was asked of the panel in the Q&A, and the fact that they all answered it. I wondered if the fact that Jordan Peterson didn’t like the question, because if the answer is ‘Yes’, then it follows that a person has to give an account of their life. Again, to reiterate - I certainly do not want to judge where anyone else is in their journey as I only want to look at my own standing before God. Occasionally, though, I have prayed that Jordan Peterson will become a Christian.

(Matt Western) #8

Yes I agree completely (and to reassure you I’m not going off on some tangent here, changing views towards universal salvation or anything like that). :slight_smile:

I wrote this short reflection below a few years ago (the context was whether I voted ‘yes’ or ‘no’ in the Australian same sex marriage plebiscite):

Either there is or there isn’t a Creator God, and he has or hasn’t revealed himself in the Bible. As a Christian, I can’t just go and treat the Bible like a buffet, picking and choosing which bits I like and which I chuck out. If I do that, I run the risk of worshiping a ‘god’ which is just a construct of my own mind, not the one true God revealed in the Bible who revealed himself on earth in the Person of Jesus Christ who made a way for us to be reconciled back to Him (brought back into a relationship). I’m not interested in worshiping a ‘god’ (idol) ‘made’ in my own image (an idea of my own mind based on what I pick and choose from various parts of current society’s prevailing ideas)

Yes, and I agree with your last point. Once we establish some spiritual common ground, we can move towards the message of Jesus Christ - but giving time for some personal obstacle-clearing.

thanks for the replies to both you and Jimmy. :slight_smile: :slight_smile:

(Stephen Wuest) #9

The almost universal use of OMG, seems to say something. (Joke)

Curiously, they say that there are no atheists in the trenches, when the mortars start to fall.

The Bible uses the argument that, when we see the beauty and order of the natural world, then we can infer that there is a creator.

(Stephen Wuest) #10

Mortimer Adler wrote the book How to Prove There is a God.

This is philosopher’s logical approach, after 50 years of thinking on the subject. I have read the book. Adler doesn’t believe that Aquinas 5 ways will lead to a complete picture of God (intro, X). But Adler does believe that philosophy can lead us to believe that there is a God, beyond a reasonable doubt (p. 3).

In the West, the collapse of apologetics based on sound reasoning, and our shared reality, may give the impression that we could never seriously examine this question. I think that this conclusion is wrong.

I think that there is accessible evidence pointing to the existence of God. But, like all evidence, our free will is in the middle of carefully examining it, or not. And I think that the current trend is not to examine the accessible evidence.

(Matt Western) #11

Absolutely. To deliberately not think about the evidence. Wasn’t this the best that the highly funded atheist campaign could come up with?

“There’s probably no God; now stop worrying and enjoy your life” (

Goes right back to the greatest commandment ‘to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength’. Separating faith into only ‘intellectual pursuits’, or into only a ‘heart/emotional’ response is wrong. It encompasses our entire being, and it rests on evidence in all areas.