Is doubting God's existence a sin (mortal/venial)?

Personally, I'm starting to doubt God's existence very much again. I think that either God doesn't exist, or if He does, He's incredibly clumsy and not as intelligent as Christian theology makes Him out to be (omniscience).

So with that said, is doubting God's existence a sin? I was intrigued by Stephen Hawking' recent comments that God does not exist. I understand that he isn't the purveyor of Truth, but if an incredibly smart man like Mr. Hawking can deny God's existence, and many Catholics argue that God's existence can be arrived at through logic, what could have possibly caused Mr. Hawking to deny God's existence?

Not sure if it adds anything to the post, but I'm possibly going to this year's World Youth Day. Maybe I'll find something there that is absolutely undeniable.

Thank you,
Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk

Intelligence doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to follow the correct logic. For starters, logic and intelligence are totally different things and intelligence itself is an erroneous concept - it would be more accurate really to describe him as knowledgable. And again, knowledge doesn’t keep you from flaws. I would argue that sometimes knowledge can make you more flawed because it can make you self-important and loose focus of the bigger picture.

What could have possibly caused Mr. Hawkings to deny God’s existence?: what causes anyone to deny God’s existence? Ignorance, denial, temptation of sin, desire to conform to societal norms, arrogance, I could go on. Just because you say Stephen Hawkings is intelligent (and as I have already said knowledgable is more accurate) doesn’t make whatever made him deny God legitimate.

I’m curious as to why you think God is not omniscient?

I do not think that doubting God’s existence can be a mortal sin if the situations you are going through are very difficult. It is definitely a venial sin.

Intelligent doesn’t mean wise. Hitler was a very intelligent man, but he wasn’t wise. Hawking might be a similar case. His argument in his book, the Grand Design, was actually quite laughable.

I would regard Dr. Hawking as intelligent. Besides, I think it boils down to a matter of semantics on how you differentiate between intelligence and knowledge. Most psychologists would agree however that those with higher intelligence can accumulate knowledge much more rapidly than those with lower intelligence.

I just find it very odd that many of these intelligent men doubt God’s existence. There has to be something deeper to this. Surely God blessed these people Himself with intelligence, and in a sort of dramatic way, it ends up backfiring on God. If God was intelligent, or better word, “rational”, why bless a man you know is going to deny your own existence? If God was rational, why bless a man who is committing the sin of scandal by potentially leading others down the wrong path?

This of course isn’t to deny those who have had experiences where they believe God was at the centre of it all. Not at all…there are some people like that in the world. But I find it difficult to reconcile how God is incredibly reticent for a lot of people yet expects us to believe in Him so much.

Thank you,
Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk

Catholicism supports questioning of values and teachings in the context of not only how they can be interpreted for the modern world but also how do they apply to me and are they valid.

While it has been quite a few years since Grade 12, from what I remember our Religion teacher telling us about where the Church stands on questioning faith, it is quite a natural and healthy phase of all Catholic upbringing and life within the faith.

At times, misguided questions and feeling surrounding our world will lead us astray, or questions which we cannot answer will make us anxious and stressed, but as far as I'm aware, since the Church itself supports posing questions internally toward God and ourselves about God and the Faith, it would mean that it isn't a matter of sin but of growing in our faith and maturity.

As for a matter of God's existence, the idea of 'him' being somehow clumsy or incapable of matching the intellect of Dr. Hawking is ridiculous. Personally, atheism is an extreme radical outcome of misguided questioning of our own personal values and beliefs. In many ways, those who come to believe in the doctrine of atheism and come to support it as their religion, tend to be angry at God and blame him for some sort of problem or short fall. Dr. Hawking or Mr. Dawkins while undoubtedly intelligent feel great anger and have much to justify that anger at God. Just like any other major atheist out there. They're simply angry and the questions of why and why me were not answered in the form they wished.

Personally, I would be less concerned about whether something is a sin. I think your focus needs to remain on whether you can argue against the Atheist skepticism and faith, over your inability to answer questions which are the doing of God.

At the end of the day, I think it's important to understand that your relationship with God is your own, even after reading scriptures, gospels, catechisms and all other Church and non-denominational literature, proof of God or the lack thereof is not going to suddenly arrive. Neither can be proven to be foolproof. You have to believe in either or, God or Atheism, their's nothing in between (as much as Atheists wish to claim otherwise).

It should also be noted that intelligence doesn't mean that the person is humble. Some of the most proud people are highly intelligent. Believing in God requires humility and a proud mind rejects that no matter how intelligent it is. It therefore seeks other explanations that does not require it to be subject to anything.

That's why you will see that many intelligent people are unwilling to see the mistakes in their theories because of their pride no matter how intelligent the counter-arguments are.

It’s not semantics. Actually psychology is finding that intelligence really is a misleading concept and there is no such thing as fixed intelligence, so-called intelligence is dependent more on how the individual views intelligence and the amount of effort they put in and how much they search for knowledge. (I’m a psychology student).

As I’ve already pointed out, there’s no such thing as fixed intelligence. And there are just as many ‘intelligent’ people who profess the truth of God’s existence. Being ‘intelligent’ doesn’t mean you’re going to deny God - I’m an intelligent person but I don’t deny God. There’s no correlation and certainly no causation. It comes back to the issue of free will - we have the choice to follow God or not. Some people turn away from Him - some of them intelligent, some of them not. Some people follow Him - some of them intelligence, some not.

No, if God wanted us to be certain of His existence, He would provide certainty. The uncertainty of His existence is by His design to suit His purposes.

Hawkings and other 'New Atheists' can deny God's existence by confining themselves to materialism- that is, they deny the existence of anything that can not be proven by empirical evidence. Interestingly enough, in earlier centuries this attitude would have led to denying modern physics because of an inability to provide proof.

The problem with their thinking is lack of evidence for existence is not proof of non-existence. Their appropriate stance should really be agnosticism as opposed to atheism. A neutral stance until evidence can be provided one way or the other.

They can not deny the existence of a first cause, because whatever theory they propose for the creation of the universe acknowledges there has to be a cause. Unfortunately, in this universe which includes time/space/causation they can't explain how the universe came into existence- even the singularity/big bang theory can't explain what caused the singularity/big bang - only what came after the bang, so nothing about why the bang happened when it did. For this universe to exist, there has to be a level of existence/reality where time does not exist- that is- a reality which is eternal and cause/effect/time rules don't apply.

[quote="Bohm_Bawerk, post:1, topic:240601"]
Personally, I'm starting to doubt God's existence very much again. I think that either God doesn't exist, or if He does, He's incredibly clumsy and not as intelligent as Christian theology makes Him out to be (omniscience).

So with that said, is doubting God's existence a sin? I was intrigued by Stephen Hawking' recent comments that God does not exist. I understand that he isn't the purveyor of Truth, but if an incredibly smart man like Mr. Hawking can deny God's existence, and many Catholics argue that God's existence can be arrived at through logic, what could have possibly caused Mr. Hawking to deny God's existence?

Not sure if it adds anything to the post, but I'm possibly going to this year's World Youth Day. Maybe I'll find something there that is absolutely undeniable.

Thank you,
Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk

[/quote]

Yes doubting the existance of God in any sort of serious way is a sin. Whether it is venial or mortal will depend on the degree of doubt. Your confessor would need to address this with you.

Basically though doubting the existance of God is a violation of the First Law of Love which is to Love God above all else (Mt 22:36-40). As such it cannot be seen as anything other than sin.

I wish to note here that the term "sin" in it's Greek and Hebrew roots means, not only a violation of law, but also "error" and "missing the mark"...It is in this sense that I tell you it is sin - for it is error that endangers your soul. Christ's teaches that our way is narrow and that it is easy to get off the right path.

Be careful though to deliniate between "doubts" and "questions". This is why I say it is very important to talk this over with a good, orthodox and trusted Priest.

One last point - Jesus does not wish us to receive teh kingdom like "Smart men" but like "little children".

Peace
James

My friend :)

Don't forget to delve into Aquinas over and over. He puts all the "smart men" of the world to shame. Mr. Hawking is a great genius when it comes to particle physics, but what does that have to do with his authority to speak on philosophical matters? A man who can beat a thousand people at Chess and has every mathematical equation memorised, with total understanding in the mind, can still be wrong when it comes to logical thought processes. Who cares what Stephen Hawking things about God? If he believes God does not or cannot exist, he is simply not speaking the truth of the matter (whether he knows it or not).

St. Thomas said "The study of philosophy does not consist in the knowledge of what men think, but in the understanding of the truth". If Hawking is right, he's right... if he's wrong, he's wrong. Don't let human respect colour your opinions. Use your head. :) In the end, Christianity subsists in the logical knowledge that God cannot not exist.

Ponder and remember this:

God's nature is, itself, pure existence. He is the only substance that is truly real, the only essence that needs no other essence to create or sustain it. God's perfection rests in the fact not that God is glorious or majestic (adjectives), but in that He is Glory and Majesty (nouns), though being One Sentient Being. The most mind-boggling thing to contemplate is: God is all of His attributes, and all His attributes are totally simple, blended into one attribute, which is Himself. His essential nature is to exist, and His existence is His very essence; contrarily, we humans have an essential nature which is not to exist. We all come from - and are driving toward - non-existence, and that is essentially our natural state. God's natural state is to exist. His essence is to lack non-existence. Non-existence is not in God's purview or 'parameters' (were He to have any). He has no circumstances. He has no predicates. All existence is predicated on His existence.

Once the above notions are firmly established, it becomes easy to see that there cannot be another being that is omniscient and omnipotent. Please distinguish between "God cannot do it" and "it cannot be done". If God did not exist, this hypothetical omniscient, omnipotent being would be God. If God were to create it, however, God would not be God: because there would be another being extant that has divine attributes, which would then nullify God's own unique essence (which is to exist), meaning He isn't God anyway. This paradox isn't some clever wrap-around, but an easily refuted non-entity of an argument. It's not that God cannot do it; it's that the very nature of reality makes the idea stupid and impossible.

The answer to the question "can God create a boulder so heavy He could not lift it?" is, as always: "there's no such thing as a boulder so heavy God could not lift it; consequently, it cannot be created here, now, or ever, in any reality or by any power because it is a contradiction". In the same and likewise fashion, two omnipotent and omnipresent beings simply cannot exist; logically, causally, and metaphysically, it is an impossibility. This puts no constraints on God, but is a proposition at the very foundation of being itself. God does not contradict.

[quote="Bohm_Bawerk, post:1, topic:240601"]
Personally, I'm starting to doubt God's existence very much again. I think that either God doesn't exist, or if He does, He's incredibly clumsy and not as intelligent as Christian theology makes Him out to be (omniscience).

So with that said, is doubting God's existence a sin?Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk

[/quote]

Hello Eugen,

Just to answer the original question, deliberate doubts against Faith, which are motivated by a desire to disbelieve, can be a mortal sin. It goes without saying that that's not a comment on your particular case.

It depends on whether the doubts are an unwilled struggle with the questions that rise naturally to an inquiring mind, or whether they represent a deeper desire to leave the Faith for either worldly sorts of motives (sexual permissiveness for instance), or for more intangible motives (intellectual pride). Seeking out doubt and avoiding faith by reading only skeptics would be a bad sign. Not reading, praying or struggling at all would be another bad sign.

The best solution to the first sort of doubt is to pray and read good and intellectually satisfying materials. Lots of excellent Catholics have struggled with doubt, including saints. Some doubts are more emotional than intellectual; you just have a hard time "feeling" that God is there.

Intelligence has nothing to do with it. Some of the most intelligent scientists in history allied themselves with Hitler, or the Communists. They commited severe moral and philosophical errors in spite of intelligence.

I hope you find this helpful.

God Bless,
Joan

[quote="Bohm_Bawerk, post:4, topic:240601"]
I just find it very odd that many of these intelligent men doubt God's existence. There has to be something deeper to this. Surely God blessed these people Himself with intelligence, and in a sort of dramatic way, it ends up backfiring on God. If God was intelligent, or better word, "rational", why bless a man you know is going to deny your own existence? If God was rational, why bless a man who is committing the sin of scandal by potentially leading others down the wrong path?

[/quote]

True God did bless them with these gifts of knowledge, however, they have the free will to use this knowledge for or against God...obviously Hawkings chose his path.

If you're looking for a growing community of "intelligent" or "knowledgeable" scientists than simply look. A good start is a book by Lee Strobel "Case for a Creator," while it's a general take on the concept it does directly interview world renowned scientists with theories (scientific) for the proof of God. The book provides a plethora of scientific journals and books to support each argument.

Bohm, there is a vast amount of data, articles and scientists who support the existence of God, and unfortunately a large amount of those that choose to walk the opposite path. But at the end of the day the question will come back to you...Do you want to find information to support God's existence? Or are you looking for reasons to deny Him?

You are in my prayers brother! :thumbsup:

[quote="GloriousOrder, post:10, topic:240601"]

The answer to the question "can God create a boulder so heavy He could not lift it?" is, as always: "there's no such thing as a boulder so heavy God could not lift it; consequently, it cannot be created here, now, or ever, in any reality or by any power because it is a contradiction". In the same and likewise fashion, two omnipotent and omnipresent beings simply cannot exist; logically, causally, and metaphysically, it is an impossibility. This puts no constraints on God, but is a proposition at the very foundation of being itself. God does not contradict.

[/quote]

One of the most interesting response to that old question of Can God create a boudler so heavy He could not life it that I have ever ran into and left me speechless was the following given to me by a priest. I always asked this question to people when I was not a Christain and it is still most interesting to ask.

I asked the priest this question and without a moment's hesitation he responded back "If He did, would you know about it?" Just wondered what you thought of this.

And great post by the way. You seem to be quite knowledgeable in philosophy, do you know of any good logic textbooks out there. The only one I have read is being logical by D.Q. McInerny and am doing Dialects and Criteriology by Monsignor Glenn. Thanks.

Little One0307

I went through something similiar recently and I found this online:

Pride is the most effective way to block out God so that one doesn’t see him at all"

Also this:

  • "Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity means that the universe had a beginning and was not eternal as he had previously believed (Einstein was originally a pantheist). His theory proved that the universe is not a cause, but instead one big effect—something brought it into existence. Einstein disliked his end result so much that he introduced a “fudge factor” into his theory that allowed for an eternal universe. But there was only one problem. His fudge factor required a division by zero in his calculations—a mathematical error any good math student knows not to make. When discovered by other mathematicians, Einstein admitted his error calling it “the greatest blunder of my life.” After his acknowledgment, and upon confirming further research that showed the universe expanding just as his theory of relativity predicted, Einstein bowed to the fact that the universe is not eternal and said that he wanted “to know how God created the world.” *

[quote="Little_One0307, post:13, topic:240601"]
One of the most interesting response to that old question of Can God create a boulder so heavy He could not lift it that I have ever ran into and left me speechless was the following given to me by a priest. I always asked this question to people when I was not a Christain and it is still most interesting to ask.

I asked the priest this question and without a moment's hesitation he responded back "If He did, would you know about it?" Just wondered what you thought of this.

And great post by the way. You seem to be quite knowledgeable in philosophy, do you know of any good logic textbooks out there. The only one I have read is being logical by D.Q. McInerny and am doing Dialects and Criteriology by Monsignor Glenn. Thanks.

Little One0307

[/quote]

The answer to the "Boulder" question is actually quite simpler than most imagine. The answer is NO God cannot create a boulder so big that he cannot lift it. But it is not a limit on God in any way because the answer lies in our human definitions. A Boulder is defined as:
*1. a smooth rounded mass of rock that has a diameter greater than 25cm and that has been shaped by erosion and transported by ice or water from its original position.
probably of Scandinavian origin; compare Swedish dialect bullersten , from Old Swedish bulder rumbling + sten stone;
1610–20; short for boulder stone; Middle English bulderston < Scandinavian; compare dialectal Swedish bullersten big stone (in a stream), equivalent to buller rumbling noise (< Old Swedish bulder ) + sten stone;
*
One can quickly see that a boulder is limited in size to that which can be moved by ice or water. By this definition WE create the design parameters and limitations.

Thus any boulder that can be moved by the natural forces of water or ice, can be lifted by God.

Peace
James

James,

You know in all my time I have pondered that question or asked it I have never heard that answer either lol. Sometimes it is interesting that I have overlooked the obvious. Like for several years when this question was the bane of my life. :blush:

Hum...so so many extremely intelligent men and women have believed in God...

Just to note a few here (i am short on time got to run...)

Cardinal Ratzinger ( now Pope Benedict XVI) (prob one of the most intelligent men around!)

Edith Stein

St. Thomas Aquinas

The Scientist Louis Pasteur

Jacques Maritain (who wrote the tome "The Degrees of Knowledge" and Approaches to God many many other works (and of course his wife Raissa)

Bookcat....(oh oh how did that get there...)

etc etc

[quote="Little_One0307, post:16, topic:240601"]
James,

You know in all my time I have pondered that question or asked it I have never heard that answer either lol. Sometimes it is interesting that I have overlooked the obvious. Like for several years when this question was the bane of my life. :blush:

[/quote]

hehehe...This is what happens when you go to "technical school" like I did...:D

I also was able to settle the chicken egg question - though the right answer depends on whether one believe in evolution or creationism...
If one holds with creationism (biblical account) then the obvious answer is that the Chicken came first.
However - if one holds to evolution, then the answer is the egg came first.
You'll note that in the question, "which came first, the chicken or the egg", no one specifies that it is a "chicken egg".

Reptiles, dinosaurs etc were laying eggs long before the development of what we today call a "chicken".

So now - if someone asks you which came first, ask them if they believe in evolution and their response will tell you which answer to give to satisfy them. ;):p

Peace
James

[quote="JRKH, post:18, topic:240601"]
hehehe...This is what happens when you go to "technical school" like I did...:D

I also was able to settle the chicken egg question - though the right answer depends on whether one believe in evolution or creationism...
If one holds with creationism (biblical account) then the obvious answer is that the Chicken came first.
However - if one holds to evolution, then the answer is the egg came first.
You'll note that in the question, "which came first, the chicken or the egg", no one specifies that it is a "chicken egg".

Reptiles, dinosaurs etc were laying eggs long before the development of what we today call a "chicken".

So now - if someone asks you which came first, ask them if they believe in evolution and their response will tell you which answer to give to satisfy them. ;):p

Peace
James

[/quote]

James,

Wow. I love that chicken and the egg bit. I have never thought of that. And thanks to you I now have a sure-fire way of avoiding the evolution and creationism questions I run into all the time. I was one class away from a philosophy degree, I think ya can understand why I never even thought of the obvious.

Have a good one. God bless.

Little One0307

I'm afraid I can't provide any logical textbooks, Little One. :) Any ability I have to think logically comes from listening to people read C.S. Lewis' books, reading bits of St. Thomas Aquinas' Summa myself, and listening to endless lectures by Aristotelian priests. Please submit yourself to the works of Frank Sheed (especially Theology and Sanity) and a book about the life of St. Thomas by M.C. d'Arcy, S.J. (written in 1930, the last edition was 1953, I think... a very good book).

Sheed and d'Arcy both delve into the very simplest and most basic Aristotelian and Platonic ideas in their respective books. We should always be careful never to go too deep into abstruse cryptograms of theories, though. Remind yourselves of the damnation our blessed Lord has in store for those who estimate their intellect above its real capacity. The intellectual faculty is what it is... we're not angels or God. All the endless philosophies of the last 300+ years (of "Enlightenment") are just tools of Satan to confuse us, and tools of unscrupulous men who want to obscure goals and proper objects. We absolutely must guard against learning "everything", in our arrogance. Humility will lead us to exactly what we need to know. :)

Here are two short stories from a work written in the 1260's about the early Dominican Order that may help:

An English friar, having to preach before an assembly of students, made up his mind to introduce as many philosophical reasonings and axioms as possible into the matter of his sermon. As he slept during the night before the sermon, Christ our Lord appeared before him showing him a bible having a very foul binding. On the brother remarking its unbecoming condition, Christ opened it and showed the internal beauty and spotlessness of its pages, saying at the same time in tones of severe reproof: 'My word is fair enough, but it is you who have defiled it with your philosophy.'

A friar from Lombardy who was studying in England was in doubt as to whether he should give his chief attention to theology or philosophy. As he slept he saw a figure holding in its hands a long scroll from which it read an interminable list of the damned, who are bound down in endless torments. On the brother venturing to ask for the reason of their doom, the figure replied: 'They are damned solely on account of their philosophy!' This taught him which was the more profitable study.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.