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Who's in the Video

Bishop Robert Barron

Bishop Robert Barron is the founder of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries, Auxiliary Bishop of Los Angeles, and the host of CATHOLICISM, a groundbreaking, award winning documentary about the Catholic[…]
In Partnership With
John Templeton Foundation

The best arguments against the existence of God have been formulated by believers.

The author of the Book of Job, St. Thomas Aquinas, and Fyodor Dostoevsky — all believers — elaborated convincing reasons against the existence of an all-loving, all-good God, which centered on the problem of evil.

It’s easy to dismiss religion if you conceive of God as an old man in the sky. But many atheists simply do not know what serious believers mean by the word “God.”

BISHOP ROBERT BARRON: You know, I think the very best arguments against the existence of God have been formulated by believers. Now here's what I mean. The story of Job is one of the great arguments against God's existence because of the awful suffering that Job, a righteous man he's a good righteous man follower of the Lord, and yet he goes through every type of suffering. And it leads Job to question, at least the goodness of God if not the existence of God. Go forward many centuries to Thomas Aquinas. When Thomas sets up the question, does God exist? He first lays out objections. 

If one of two contraries be infinite the other would be altogether destroyed. So if there were an infinite heat, there'd be nothing cold but God is described as infinitely good. Therefore, if God exists there wouldn't be any evil, but there is evil. Therefore God doesn't exist. That's a darn good argument. Dostoevsky was a deeply believing Christian. And yet he puts on the lips of his character Ivan Karamazov this awful argument against God, and Ivan is trying to convince his brother Alyosha who's a, who had been a monk and was a devoutly mystical religious person. And he says, look at all these examples of innocent children being tortured in some cases, tortured to death. 

I mean read that and it's as convincing as anything. So three believers, the author of Job, Thomas Aquinas, and Dostoevsky all lay out this argument, which is if there's so much evil in the world, let's face it, there can't be an all good God. These are very good arguments against God. They're the best that the atheists have is the argument from evil. I think a lot of people are tripped up by a misunderstanding what we mean by God. 

If you imagine God as one more big contingent thing among others, well then there's just, there's no evidence for that reality. But what's extraordinary is when you look at the surveys of a lot of young people who are disaffiliating, it's amazing how many say some version of, well, I don't believe in this old man in the sky anymore. Well, I would've hoped you let that go when you let go of Santa Claus. I mean, it's the same kind of thing. 

And the fact that so many young people have been co-opted by these really inadequate understandings of God, of faith, of the Bible, of suffering, of all that. He's a reason I'll put it more philosophically. Why there's something rather than nothing. Why there is a contingent finite world at all. 

So I think that's the fundamental mistake that a lot of atheists, both old and new tend to make. They don't understand what serious believers mean by the word God. That's to a degree our fault. We've been lousy at teaching and catechesis and preaching. 

Catholicism is a deeply intelligent tradition but why do we hide those treasures away from young people? Young people are saying the stupidest things about their own religion. Well, I mean that's to a large degree, our fault. So there is a crisis in preaching, teaching and catechesis and we gotta take some responsibility for that.