Whether you are a committed materialist, a believer in God, or something quite different—knowing why you come down where you do on this question is a mark of a good character, of a thoughtful soul, of a person who cares about what reality is like.
Today we hit what I think is the best reason to believe in a God.
P1 If materialism is true, love is a chemical reaction in your skull.
P2 Love is not simply a chemical reaction in your skull.
C1 Materialism is false.
Very few of us are able to look at our beloved, at our child, at our comrades and actually believe that our connection to them is *exclusively* chemical activity. Certainly some of it may be. But I would suggest many of us experience something more.
P3 If materialism is true, all our thoughts and actions are determined by the unthinking, non-rational movement of chemicals in our skulls.
P4 If P3, then if materialism is true we have no freedom of thought and action.
P5 We experience freedom of thought and action (we are in fact free of total coercion in both our thinking—what we believe—and our behavior—what we do).
C2 Materialism is false.
We think the human beings around us ought to do certain things (“avoid abusing children” for example) and believe certain things (“other human beings are valuable”). But if materialism is true our beliefs and actions are all determined by the unthinking matter in our skull over which “we” have no control.
Yet this is not what we experience. We experience freedom of thought and action. It is as natural for us to choose certain courses and ideas to affirm as it is to breathe, and such choices are not illusions. We may go further then and say:
P6 Immaterial realities that are gift-like (such as love, freedom of action and freedom of thought) require an immaterial gift giver of significant power.
C3 Given P2,P5, and P6, an immaterial gift giver of significant power exists (and this gift-giver we call God).
Love, free will, meaning in pain (which we looked at before), freedom of thought, human significance (which we could add) are each anomalies given materialism, and must be seen as illusions if only matter in motion exists.
If we actually think love, free will, freedom of thought, etc. are “real”–are not simply the predetermined result of chemical movement in your skull, then not only must you reject materialism–such everyday experiences give us a good reason to believe in a being with both the power to create such realities and (more importantly) cares about you and your ability to love and to reason.
Jeff Cook teaches philosophy at the University of Northern Colorado. He is the author of Everything New: One Philosopher’s Search for a God Worth Believing in(Subversive 2012). You can find him at everythingnew.org and @