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Philosophers Who Believe In God

The question of God’s existence has puzzled philosophers for centuries. Though the topic remains controversial, many influential thinkers have argued in favor of God’s existence using logic and reason.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Many major philosophers like Thomas Aquinas, Rene Descartes, Gottfried Leibniz, and Søren Kierkegaard used philosophical arguments to demonstrate God’s existence.

In this comprehensive article, we will explore the reasoning of influential philosophers throughout history who logically deduced God’s existence. We will analyze their key arguments and how they arrived at their conclusions.

Read on to gain a deeper understanding of how logic and philosophy have been used to argue for theism.

Thomas Aquinas and His Five Ways

The influential medieval philosopher Thomas Aquinas put forward five logical arguments regarding the existence of God in his masterwork, the Summa Theologica. These five arguments are known as the “Five Ways” and provide a philosophical foundation for the belief in the existence of God.

The Argument from Motion

In the first of the Five Ways, the Argument from Motion, Aquinas argues that nothing can move itself – all motion must originate from an outside force. He reasons that there must have been a first mover which originated all motion but is itself unmoved. This first mover is God.

The Argument from Efficient Causation

The second way, the Argument from Efficient Causation, contends that nothing can cause itself. There must have been a first cause which began the chain of causes leading to all things that exist. This first cause is none other than God.

The Argument from Necessity

Thirdly, Aquinas puts forward the Argument from Necessity. Since contingent beings exist – things that may either exist or not exist – there must be a necessary being from whom their existence flows. This wholly necessary being is God.

The Argument from Gradation

The Argument from Gradation reasons that since some things are better or worse than others, there must be an ultimate standard against which everything is measured. This perfect measure which sets the bar for all qualities is God.

The Argument from Teleology

Lastly, Aquinas argues from teleology, or purpose and design, in nature. Things in the natural world appear to be ordered towards specific ends and purposes. This implies a supreme designer who created and aligned all things – God.

Rene Descartes’ Ontological Argument

The French philosopher Rene Descartes formulated several arguments that aimed to demonstrate God’s existence. His ontological argument is one of the most fascinating and controversial philosophical arguments for the existence of God.

What is Descartes’ Ontological Argument?

In his 1641 treatise Meditations on First Philosophy, Descartes sought to build a foundation for knowledge from the ground up. He aimed to find an absolute certainty upon which to base all knowledge. From this foundation, Descartes tried to demonstrate God’s existence with his ontological argument.

The ontological argument holds that we can demonstrate God’s existence by reason alone, without relying on empirical evidence. Descartes argued that we have an idea of a supremely perfect being. But existence itself is a perfection. Therefore, a supremely perfect being must exist.

If such a being did not exist, then it would not be supremely perfect. So God must exist, since God is by definition supremely perfect.

Objections to the Argument

Many philosophers have raised objections to Descartes’ ontological argument over the centuries. For example:

  • Existence may not be a property or perfection, so the argument is invalid.
  • The argument seems to commit a special pleading fallacy by tailoring definitions simply to reach a desired conclusion.
  • Just because we can imagine a supremely perfect being does not mean such a being exists outside our imagination.

Defenses of the Argument

Yet Descartes’ striking argument still has its contemporary defenders. They make arguments like:

  • It seems intuitively obvious that an all-perfect being would have the perfection of existence, otherwise it wouldn’t actually be all-perfect.
  • Modal logic shows that if God’s possibility implies God’s necessity (e.g. because the greatest conceivable being must exist if it is even possible), then God can be soundly shown to exist.

However one judges its soundness, there’s no doubt Descartes’ ontological argument stands as one of history’s most profound philosophical arguments about the existence of God.

Gottfried Leibniz and the Cosmological Argument

The German philosopher and mathematician Gottfried Leibniz (1646-1716) formulated one of the most influential versions of the cosmological argument for God’s existence. The cosmological argument reasons that the existence of the universe requires an explanation, and the best explanation is an eternal, necessary being that caused the universe to exist – which believers identify as God.

Leibniz’s Formulation

Leibniz argued that everything that exists has an explanation for its existence. This includes the universe itself. He asked, “Why is there something rather than nothing?” The universe exists contingently – it did not have to exist, but it does.

Leibniz argued that there must be an eternal, necessary being that explains why the universe exists. This necessary being is God.

A key premise in Leibniz’s version of the argument is the Principle of Sufficient Reason. This states that everything must have a sufficient reason or explanation for why it exists. The universe exists, so it too requires an explanation.

The explanation cannot be found in contingent things, which themselves require an explanation. Therefore, there must be a necessary being that explains the existence of contingent things.

Objections and Responses

A common objection to Leibniz’s argument is that if everything requires an explanation, then so does God. Leibniz responded that only contingent things require an explanation, not a metaphysically necessary being like God. By definition, God exists necessarily and explains His own existence.

Another objection questions Leibniz’s claim that contingent things need explanations. Perhaps the universe itself exists necessarily. Leibniz argued that this is impossible, since the universe could have been different or not existed. The universe exhibits contingency everywhere within it.

Modern philosophers continue to debate the merits of Leibniz’s version of the cosmological argument. The core question remains whether all contingent things require explanation by a necessary being. Leibniz made a strong case that appeals to many philosophers.

But disputes over key premises illustrate why it remains a contentious argument.

Søren Kierkegaard’s Existential Perspective

The influential 19th century Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard is widely regarded as the first existentialist philosopher. His writings explored the depths of human existence, subjectivity, and the personal experiences of individuals in relation to God.

Kierkegaard strongly believed in the existence of God, but felt that merely intellectual attempts to prove God’s existence missed the essential point. For Kierkegaard, the truth of religious belief did not depend on external proof, but rather on the passionate inward experience of each individual.

As he famously said, “Truth is subjectivity.”

Central to Kierkegaard’s philosophy was the importance of personal choice in matters of faith and the conception of truth as subjective. He emphasized the “leap of faith” each person must make to move from doubt and skepticism to belief and passionate religious commitment.

This focus on subjective passion set the stage for the 20th century philosophical movement known as existentialism.

Two of Kierkegaard’s most influential books relating to God and religious belief were Fear and Trembling and Concluding Unscientific Postscript. In Fear and Trembling, he used the biblical story of Abraham and Isaac to explore the anxiety, doubt, and “teleological suspension of the ethical” involved in religious faith.

And in the Postscript, he directly confronted attempts to rationally prove or disprove God’s existence, arguing that objective knowledge was less important than passionate inward faith.

Kierkegaard fiercely critiqued the complacent state-sponsored Lutheran Christianity of his day in Denmark. He believed Christianity had been corrupted into a ritualistic institution devoid of authentic individual faith or Christ-like living.

His “attack upon Christendom” was driven by a profound belief in a living God to whom he felt personally accountable.

In the 20th century, theistic existentialist philosophers like Gabriel Marcel built upon Kierkegaard’s ideas. Marcel agreed that concrete existence must come before philosophical abstractions when considering religious belief.

He too rejected rational attempts to prove God in favor of direct personal encounter with the divine.

So while Kierkegaard strongly believed in and wrote extensively about God, he rejected entirely intellectual attempts to rationally prove God’s existence. For him, religious truth was profoundly personal rather than abstract and objective.

This passionate inwardness and “leap of faith” remained foundational to existential perspectives on religious belief in the 20th century and up to the present day.

Other Notable Thinkers and Their Arguments

Immanuel Kant

The influential German philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) made several important arguments regarding the existence of God. Kant argued that God’s existence cannot be proven through theoretical reason, but is a necessary postulate of practical reason.

His moral argument states that our knowledge of morality implies the existence of a morally perfect being, i.e. God, as the source of moral law. Additionally, in his book Critique of Pure Reason, Kant argued that God’s existence is a necessary assumption for the highest good – where happiness aligns with morality.

Though Kant said theoretical reason cannot prove God’s existence, he maintained that there are persuasive moral grounds to believe in God.

G.W.F. Hegel

The 19th century German philosopher G.W.F. Hegel (1770-1831) believed philosophical reasoning could justify Christian beliefs about God. In his work Science of Logic, Hegel presented an argument now known as the “Hegelian Proof.”

This metaphysical argument posits that the concept of God is logically necessary based on self-consciousness. Hegel claimed that for our self-consciousness to be valid, it must be recognized by another self-consciousness, i.e. God.

Therefore, the very possibility of our self-consciousness implies the existence of God’s absolute self-consciousness. Hegel thus argued that God’s existence is rationally necessary in order for our own minds to function properly.

Bertrand Russell

The influential British philosopher Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) went through different phases regarding his views on God’s existence. In his 1927 book Why I Am Not a Christian, Russell presented several reasons for his atheism.

A key argument was that the existence of God cannot be proved by reason and logical argument alone. He was skeptical of metaphysical arguments like the cosmological argument, claiming they rely on shifting definitions of terms like “cause.”

Russell also highlighted the classic “problem of evil” – how can an all-powerful, all-loving God allow suffering in the world? Though deeply critical of traditional proofs for God, he later advocated a more agnostic position, admitting that God’s existence cannot be definitively disproven either.


Throughout history, philosophers have grappled with complex questions about God’s existence using reason and logic. While the arguments explored in this article do not constitute definitive proof, they represent sincere rational attempts to justify theism philosophically.

The enduring fascination with these arguments is a testament to humanity’s continued quest for truth regarding transcendent questions that science alone cannot answer. Whether one finds these arguments convincing or not, they highlight the rich interplay between faith and philosophy that has shaped intellectual history.

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