If God exists and he knows it all, even the future, then he knew Hitler would go to hell before Hitler was even born. Why would God give someone life, just to send him to hell for all eternity? Is this fair to Hitler and all those doomed to go to hell or is this proof that God doesn't really know it all, not the future at least?

Assume God knows that Hitler will go to Hell, because God knows all truths and it's true that Hitler will go to Hell. Does it follow that Hitler was "doomed" to that fate, that he had no say in it? I'm not sure that it does. For the reason it's true that Hitler will go to Hell might just be that Hitler freely chose actions that will condemn him to Hell. Some of the truths God knows may well have been made true by free actions on our part. See also Question 7 and Question 579 .

If I believe that God does not exist, but at the same time think that the idea of God is meaningful, am I an atheist? If not, then what position - philosophically - do I take?

It would be natural to describe you as an atheist, yes. You find the proposition that God exists intelligible (because you find the concept of God intelligible), but you believe that proposition is false. You'd be in the position of someone who had a concept of the Loch Ness Monster, who understood what the world would have to be like for there to be such a creature, but who believes that there is no such creature. What would we call someone who believes that the concept of God makes no sense? Perhaps an atheist too. But labels aren't important. Understanding differences is. You and such a person would both refrain from asserting that God exists, but for different reasons: you, because you believe that God does not exist, and he, because he believes that any proposition involving the concept of God is unintelligible.

How can God exist if every thing that exists is finite? If an entity is infinite does that not conclude that it does not exist? My question is, have I even scratched the surface at disproving the existence of God? Descartes said that an infinite essence created all living things, but if this is the case, how can nothingness create existence? A comment would be much obliged. This is driving me crazy. Any opinions?

If everything that exists is finite and God is in some way infinite, then you're right that it follows that God does not exist. Does this prove that God does not exist? Well, the argument establishes this if its assumptions are true. The problem is that most people who believe that God exists will not acknowledge that your first assumption ("Everything that exists is finite") is true. So, in order to convince them, you'll have to give an argument for that assumption. Now that assumption isn't the same claim as the conclusion of your argument ("God does not exist"), but it is close enough that debates about it might well recapitulate debates about the original issue, namely whether God exists. So in sum, the logical form of your argument is great, but it's doubtful that it moves us much closer to settling the central question you raise about God's existence.

In relation to the debate raging in the US about evolution and Intelligent Design, I would like to know whether positing the existence and prior activity of an intelligent designer is a scientific or a philosophical question. Is it scientifically conceivable that the existence of a designer and of things having come about purposefully as opposed to randomly could ever be deduced from available or putative evidence?

Right, the judge did argue that ID wasn't science. But one of his grounds was that there couldn't be evidence for it. So I wonder whether Richard's first paragraph in fact ought to make one pause about at least one of the judge's arguments. Perhaps one way of addressing your question would be to say that the hypothesis about a designer is -- if you insist -- scientific. But if so, it's a lousy scientific hypothesis (like astrology, alchemy, parapsychology, etc.): vague, hard to test, in so far as it can be tested it hasn't been confirmed, and there's a deep, highly confirmed, more parsimonious account that's available as an alternative. Given all this, the insistence on teaching ID in the science classroom must be explained in terms of the School Board's religious motivations. And that's something that we should take to be ruled out by the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. (The justice in Pennsylvania also ruled in favor of the Plaintiffs on the grounds that the motivation behind...

If archaelogy or some other science were to prove in some manner or another that God really existed, would faith still be necessary? Would faith still exist? I'm not sure if this is a proper philosophical question, but could you guys/gals find it in your hearts to respond? Bernie Hebert Lafayette, LA

Neither archeology nor any other science "proves" the existence of anyobject — if by proof one means considerations that are incompatiblewith the object's non-existence. At best, science will give one goodgrounds for believing in God's existence. Should that happen, I suppose there mightstill be work for faith to do: it could be needed to take you from goodgrounds to absolute conviction.

Is anyone ever truly an atheist? In extreme conditions someone who has never in their life prayed to, or believed in, a God of some kind or another will openly worship them. There is a very good quote that goes with this. "There are no atheists in foxholes and it isn't an argument against atheism, but an argument against foxholes." So can anyone ever truly be an atheist?

It is interesting that many people, when they think of thosecircumstances that almost compel an adoption of a religious outlook,think of the death bed. They rarely think of how the world of theliving might strike one (and I'm not thinking here about arguments from design). But to turn to your question of whether anyone can ever look death in the face and remain an atheist, David (" le bon David ")Hume is a fine example. He used to drive James Boswell mad in hisrefusal to embrace the Christian faith: "Read Hume till you was sick,"one of Boswell's journal entries reads. Boswell even had dreams of Humeconfiding in him that he really was a believer. But it was all a dream.When Hume was dying, he used to entertain a veritable procession ofclerics eager to witness his conversion. But they all left himdisappointed. When Boswell told Samuel Johnson of this, the latterframed a most ingenious explanation ( The Life of Johnson , 16 September 1777): Boswell : Isaid, I had reason to believe...

Jesus claimed that he was the son of God. Why is it that if one did that nowadays then they would get sent to a mental institution, instead of being praised and worshipped as that? Isn't it the same thing as what Jesus did but not in ancient times? -Jessica and Elise

1) We don't really know how people responded to this kind of claim in the very distant past. The events recounted happened so long ago, passed through so manymouths – many of them eager to believe, eager to impress their audience – that it's very difficult to be confident about them. It wouldn't really be surprising to learn that many who made such claims in the distant past were in fact swiftly dispatched. 2) That said, even today some who make comparable claims are indeed "praised and worshipped". In the late 20th Century in New York City, thousands of people convinced themselves (and many remain convinced) that Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson was the Messiah. That's in the past twenty years in one of the most technologically advanced and intellectually sophisticated cities ever to exist. If you can make it in New York .... To paraphrase David Hume, you'll never go broke overestimating the "propensity of mankind towards the marvellous." 3) And following on that, we don't...

I'm a high school student and the question I may be asking might seem dumb to others, but nevertheless. If matter cannot be created or destroyed then how could God create our world and everything surrounding it?

Well, if it's true that matter can't be created, then it follows that it can't be created by God. Presumably those who believe that God did create the universe also believe that matter can be created. Perhaps your central worry is how that's possible, how matter can arise from nothing. That sounds like a good question. But the question can be directed to cosmologists as well, for it seems that Big Bang theories raise the same kind of question.