Impossible to believe – or just hard?

April 1st, 2024 in clues. Tags: , , , , , , ,
Alice & the queen

In Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, Alice met the Queen who had no trouble believing “as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

Some people find belief in God impossible. When I consider the many arguments and evidences for and against believing in God, I find some things impossible and others just hard to believe, or unlikely.

Here’s a very personal view of the value of some arguments about God.

Probability vs certainty

Very few things in life are certain, though we can often feel certain about our opinions. Theistic and anti-theistic arguments are no exception. My strong feelings may be different to yours, yet may be based on the same evidence.

So there are a few things in the God-debate I find impossible to believe and many things I find in varying degrees probable or improbable. There are reasonable arguments on both sides of the debate, but the impossible things really sway the outcome for me.

Three things impossible to believe?

1. Something coming from nothing?

Logically, something can’t come from nothing. If there’s nothing, there’s no cause. So no way to start anything off. So, logically, the universe must have a cause outside itself. (Some people say the universe could have appeared out of “nothing” in a giant quantum event. But quantum events can’t happen out of nothing, they require a quantum field to exist – which isn’t “nothing”.)

The only way to avoid this impossibility is if the universe didn’t have a beginning, but has always existed. But this seems impossible because our universe exists in time, with its energy slowly running down over time. That’s a known fact about our universe. So if it was infinitely old, everything that could happen would long since have happened, the universe would have “run down” – which obviously hasn’t occurred.

This raises the obvious question: how did this cause begin out of nothing? But if, unlike our universe, this cause exists outside of linear time, then the same arguments don’t apply to it. It could reasonably have always existed.

So I believe it is virtually certain that our universe was caused by a timeless, creative force or being.

2. Free will is compatible with materialism?

Materialism is the view that everything is material, there is nothing beyond the stuff of the universe – nothing spiritual and no God.

I feel certain that, if materialism is true, we can have no genuine free will because the processes in our brains are determined by physical laws and there is nothing in us outside those physical processes to change them and make a genuine choice. It seems that most philosophers and neuroscientists agree with this conclusion.

Nevertheless, most people feel they experience the ability to make genuine choices, and we find it almost impossible to live without that sense.

It would be strange indeed if our brains had evolved to make it necessary to believe something that actually isn’t true! So our ability to reason logically is another reason to doubt that our brains are purely material, using processes determined by physics rather than logic.

So we face a choice (so to speak! 🙂 ). Either we discount our common human experience and try live as if choice is an illusion. Or we trust our common human experience and accept that materialism isn’t true. I can’t see any way we can have genuine choice if materialism is true.

Some say that we have to trust the science about neurological processes, which hasn’t discovered anything in our brains apart from the physical processes. But I say science can only investigate the material, and if there was something more than the material, science cannot detect it.

Materialism is only an assumption of science, and I prefer to trust common human experience more than an assumption.

So I believe free will is incompatible with materialism, and common human experience points to free will being real. Thus I conclude that materalism is false and there is something beyond the material.

3. There is nothing that is truly wrong?

This is a similar argument to free will. If the universe is purely material, there is nothing to make anything truly right or wrong. Something may be inconvenient, or it may hinder our tribe’s progress, and that makes it feel wrong to us, but it is just as likely to make it feel right to another person or tribe.

But human society and our individual moral senses can’t think that. Almost all of us believe some things are truly wrong – things like genocide, killing someone else’s baby, pedophilia, etc. If someone didn’t think those things were wrong, we’d probably call them a psychopath.

So I can’t believe that objectively true ethics are compatible with materialism, and I can’t believe that some actions aren’t really wrong. So, again, I can’t believe materialism is true. There is more.


These impossibilities lead me to conclude that materialism is false. There is some creative force or being outside of linear time that has caused our universe. And this universe has produced humans which experience free will and awareness of genuine right and wrong.

This cause is not of course, necessarily a God, though it is suggestive – I can’t think of other options. But it leaves unanswered questions of what this being is like.

Two things very hard to believe?

1. A good God?

There is a lot of pain, suffering and grief in the world, a lot of evil. It sometimes feels like this pain has gotten worse in the last few years, but that is likely subjective.

So the obvious question is, if there’s a good God, why did he create a world that allows so much suffering, and why doesn’t he step in to reduce it? It seems to most of us that this isn’t the best of all possible worlds, and surely he could do more to fix things.

Christians have answers to some of these questions, which go some way to blunt the argument. But in the end I don’t think they change the basic conclusion: it is difficult to believe in a good God when we see so much suffering.

This argument isn’t decisive for me for two reasons:

  1. The “impossible to believe” arguments have so much greater weight – they are based on logical impossibilities rather than difficulties for belief.
  2. Before we can have suffering we need to have a universe, and before we can call suffering evil we need objective ethics. The argument from evil can only begin once we have these things, and both of them point to God.

Nevertheless, the occurrence of so much suffering definitely leads me to question God and to wonder why.

2. A “fine-tuned” universe by chance?

It is a scientific fact that of all the possible universes that can be investigated by theoretical physics, a vanishingly small number would have structure and longevity and so allow life to form and evolve.

Scientists and philosophers have tried to explain why this is so, and there seems to be only two feasible options. Either God created it this way, or there are zillions of actual universes, each with different physical laws (the “multiverse”), and of course life evolved only in the one (or maybe a few) that had laws that allowed it.

Like them, I find it impossible to believe that this universe on its own evolved by chance. The odds are beyond believable.

Ockam’s Razor makes it hard to think a multitude of universes we cannot see or measure is a simpler, and thus more believable explanation, than a creator God. Nevertheless, cosmologists say it may be possible. But if so, I then have to believe that this amazing multiverse with a number beyond imagining of separate universes (some cosmologists say 10^500 of them), each with different physical properties, is more probable without God than with God.

I can’t believe that!


Many philosophers believe these two arguments balance each other out. I think that is probably true, though I find the suffering in the world more powerful emotionally

Two less believable things

1. I can understand why God did it this way?

If Christianity is true, it seems an odd way (to me, at any rate) for God to have done things. A religion focused for a long time on a small insignificant part of the world? Stories of incredible events that leave little mark in history and sometimes seem more legendary than real? A divine man who came into that backwater and left no writings of his own, only 4 accounts by little known eyewitnesses? A mission entrusted to a church that can’t be trusted, but argues and splits and gets taken over by power-hungry men? An uncertain set of criteria to please God?

Why would God do it that way? Is it possible to believe that this story is God’s gift to the world?

And yet the story has changed lives. It has made a difference to the world, more positive than negative, though something of each. I can think of reasons why God might have done it this way, but it still seems surprising, risky and sometimes hard to believe.

2. People don’t experience God?

Billions of people believe they have experienced God in some way.

  • Hundreds of millions believe God has healed them, or healed someone else in their presence, after prayer.
  • Many people have plausibly seen visions of Jesus or of angels.
  • Many, many others have had experiences of great joy, or comfort, or guidance, which they conclude has come from God.
  • And of course there are countless others who have experienced God turning their lives around, giving them meaning and hope.

Were every last one of these people mistaken? We know they weren’t all delusional, because psychologsists report that people who have such experiences are generally quite normal, often physically and mentally healthier than average.

So I can’t believe people don’t experience God, even though I can’t explain all the reports and I’m sure many reports may not be accurate. There is enough that is well documented to make it easier for me to believe (unlike Nick Cave) that the creator God is also an interventional God.


Both these thoughts make God seem less predictable, less easy to understand. But together they point me towards God rather than away from him.

Things that don’t bother me (but bother others)

Theists and atheists point to many other facts in support of their belief, but which don’t speak much to me, either way:

  • Some say if a loving God exists he would make himself clear. But for me, thinking about why God placed us in a physical world helps us understand that. God had his purposes (I think).
  • Do the existence of music, beauty, mathematics and love show that God exists? I think they are expressions of God and point to him, but I don’t find them strongly persuasive as arguments for his existence.
  • Does evolution, or science in general, disprove God? Like most other Christians these days, I find they enhance my belief rather than diminish it.
  • Then, does the beginning of life out of chemicals and the complexity of the DNA code show there must have been a designer? Maybe, but maybe not.
  • Do errors and inconsistencies in the Bible prove it isn’t from God? Or does Bible prophecy prove God? I find both arguments are based on a prior expectation of the Bible rather than understanding it on its own terms.


Nothing really to see here. The arguments might work if I agreed with the presuppositions people have about God. But without those, the arguments say little to me.

The icing on the cake

The cumulative effect of the above facts and arguments leads me to conclude:

  1. A creator God exists, who created the universe for a purpose which included life.
  2. This God intend for humans to live with free will and autonomy; the ability to love; an ability to discern right and wrong; the ability to reason and observe and create, and to modify the world.
  3. This God is a mystery and his/her/its purposes can only partly be discerned by us. But it seems God wanted us to use our abilities to do good and not evil, to care for others and not ourselves. And to seek him, and find him.
  4. Sometimes God intervenes in our lives, but not so often or so obviously that it takes away our autonomy.

With all this in mind I look at the life of Jesus and find these beliefs reinforced.

Historians agree that Jesus was a real person whose life is told in the 4 gospels, though they don’t all agree on how much of the gospels is historical and how much is uncertain. But however we carve it up, there is enough there to know that Jesus taught on both ethical and spiritual matters and he claimed to be on a mission from God.

He was a believable and admirable man, and if there is truly a creator God, it’s not too hard to believe that Jesus brought God close to us. And so, while dead men don’t normally come back to life, it’s not too hard for me to believe that in this case, God made an exception.

So I find in Jesus the way into the creator God. I find someone who makes sense of all the arguments, the science, history and philosophy. Someone who lessens the doubts. The one who makes God come alive in my thinking. A person I want to follow because I find he is indeed the way, the truth and the life.

Check it out

None of this is just in my head. It all comes from information that is available to us all. For reflections on this information and more details on the ideas in this post, check these out:

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