Some like to dismiss the issue of religion by claiming we can’t know if God exists or not. I have always found this to be a strange position to take because it is intellectually indefensible. How might we respond to such an assertion?

The best weapon of any apologist is the question. The first question we might ask is one of clarification: “Are you saying it is logically impossible to know whether God exists, or are you just saying it is practically impossible? Relatively few would opt for the former. Most recognize that there is nothing inherently contradictory between the existence of God and our ability to know of His existence.

The second question to ask is one of justification: How do you know that, and why do you believe it to be true? I doubt you will get a coherent response. Most people who make this assertion have not given much thought to the matter. It’s not as though they have thoroughly investigated the question, and after having completed an exhaustive study of the matter were forced to conclude that religious knowledge is simply impossible. No. It’s a pat answer that usually works to silence those who would try to convert them, and gives them the justification they need for intellectual laziness and/or ungodliness. If we can’t know whether God exists, they reason, there is no reason to explore the issue. [Pascal’s Wager is enough to show the fallacy underlying this sort of thinking. It confuses epistemology with ontology. Even if we could not know for certain (epistemology) whether God exists, the fact remains that He either does or He doesn’t (ontology). The possibility that He does is reason enough to consider the question, particularly when our post-death existence might be affected by our beliefs about the answer. See my April 24th post entitled Pascal’s Wager Under Attack for further reading.]

The person who believes no one can know whether God exists presupposes only two possible sets of reality: (1) A world in which there is no God; (2) A world in which there is a God, but one who does not reveal Himself to man. Neither state of affairs would afford us the ability to answer the question of God’s existence. The problem with this line of reasoning is that it sets up a false dichotomy. There is at least one more possibility: (3) A world in which there is a God who reveals Himself to man. If (3) is a logical possibility then it would be possible to know if God exists. To answer the question of God’s existence all we would need is a legitimate revelation of Himself to man. This is where the intellectual leg-work comes in. Many claim to have received revelation from god(s). These claims must be examined. Their truth-value must be based on the quantity and quality of the evidence. If there is good reason to believe that one or more of these supposed revelations is indeed from god(s), then we can possess knowledge of God existence.

For further reading see my article entitled How to be a Good Agnostic