Transcendentalism and A Belief In A “Higher Power”We do not have good reasons to believe in something transcendental. Most
of the arguments in favor of God, or a so-called “higher power” are based on
faith and emotion, and not a clear logical argument. In fact, these arguments
are often in favor of throwing logic out the window. In many ways, this question
is similar to someone attempting to prove the existence of an invisible elephant.
It is far easier to prove that the elephant does not exist than it is to prove
that it does.
Socrates’ principle of examination states that we must carefully examine
all things. The tools we humans use to do this are logic and the scientific
method. In order to believe in something transcendental, you cannot examine your
beliefs using logic and science. If you do, there is no way to prove the
existence of a higher power.
The primary argument against the existence of a Judeo-Christian all-
knowing, all-powerful, righteous God is the argument from evil. This argument
argues against the presence of a higher power using facts of ordinary life. This
argument states that most would agree that some of the pain and suffering (evil)
in this world is unnecessary. To be considered a necessary evil, the occurrence
must be the only way to produce something good, which outweighs the evil. Many
events, such as infant deaths, would not be classified in this category.
If such an all-knowing deity existed, it states, He would know that
this evil was occurring. If He was all-powerful, He would have the power to stop
this evil. If He was righteous, He would stop the evil from occurring
Therefore, the existence of evil cannot be compatible with the existence of this
type of God.
The primary response to the argument from evil is the appeal to human
freedom. This argument states that God sees evil as necessary so that we humans
may be free to choose our own path. The fatal flaw in this argument is that
there are evils that exist not as a direct result of human choice. Natural evils
such as floods, earthquakes, and tornadoes serve no purpose according to this
definition, and are therefore unnecessary evils.
A theist might respond to this with another weak rebuttal, stating that
every evil produces compassion and understanding in others, and creates good in
that regard. This is an overly positive, almost delusional view of evil. Almost
everyone will be able to come up with at least one example of someone who has
suffered an evil that has not directly or indirectly led to anything good.
The other argument for something transcendental is the argument from
faith. It is, however, also a weak argument. It states that we will never be
able to find direct evidence of God’s existence through logic or natural science,
so we must find an alternate method. This argument requires us to suspend
Socrates’ basic philosophical principle of examination. The argument from faith
asks us to leave this idea alone, and simply believe that it works. This basic
lack of logic and reasoning makes this a weak argument.
Another of the arguments is the design argument. This states that the
universe is far too structured and complex to be derived from a big bang, or
another random sequence of events. A transcendental “watchmaker” is the only
explanation for the complexities of the universe, say proponents of this
The weak link in this argument is that for the many structured things
that exist, there are just as many chaotic things. Not everything in the
universe serves a purpose, or has an efficient design. Again, this is connected
back to the argument from evil. Some evils are unnecessary flaws in the watch’s
design. Thomas Paley, a critic of the argument, asked why a higher being design
a flawed watch with so many pointless features. There is no good counter to that
Another argument is the First Cause argument. This argument states that
everything that exists had a separate cause of its coming into existence. This
creates a causal chain, extending backward in time, which cannot be infinite. If
it is not infinite, then there must be a first cause, which must be God. This
seems like a reasonable argument, but one of its premises is shaky. There is no
good reason to state that there cannot be an infinite series of causes.
Scientists might argue for the Big Bang theory as a beginning to our universe,
but it also could have had a cause.
Another shaky premise of the argument is the last one. Why does the end
of the chain have to be the Judeo-Christian god? It could also be a
transcendental force, without the many traits associated to a god. It is also
remarkably self-centered for one religion to believe it has the monopoly on God.
Why could the first cause not be Allah, Buddha, or the like?
Two other minor arguments try to connect physical reality to the
existence of God. The first is the argument from miracles. This argument states
that many people have a legitimate belief that they have experienced miracles.
With so many unexplained phenomena in this world, they argue, it is probable
that God must be causing these remarkable events.
The next argument is the argument from religious experience. Proponents
argue that many people claim to have been “touched” by a higher power. Because
of this direct contact, we must believe in the existence of a transcendental
being. Many people have very similar stories of walking into a bright light in
With all of these occurrences, supporters argue, we must be able to see
the existence of a god. The response to both of these arguments is that there is
not one bit of concrete evidence to support either claim. Every time we have
tested so-called articles of religious miracle, such as the Shroud of Turin,
they have not lived up to their claim. We also cannot prove through any
scientific method that anyone has ever been touched by a transcendental force.
These near-death experiences are probably a simple lack of blood to the brain.
The only tools that we have to prove or disprove the existence of a
transcendental power are our senses, the scientific method, and logic. With all
of our technological advances, we have never been able to find substantial
evidence that this power exists or ever did exist. We also have not found a
logical argument to prove its existence. Without this substantive proof, we
cannot say that we have logical or reasonable reasons to believe in something
transcendental. We humans have not found the invisible elephant, but have
already created the circus for it.