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The ontological argument
by Sam Isaacson
01/15/13
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One of the arguments to prove the existence of God, 'the ontological argument', goes something like this:

1. If God exists, He must be perfect in every single way.
2. In order for us to measure that perfection, some standard of perfection must exist.
3. Therefore God must exist.

A bit over-simplistic, but it works. Here's another version:

1. If God exists, He must be perfect in every single way.
2. Therefore in concept He must be the greatest thing anyone can imagine.
3. Imagining an ultimately perfect Being only gives you an imaginary Being.
4. Existence is more perfect than non-existence, therefore God must exist.

Now, people have tried to complain that this doesn't work. For example, Gaunilo of Marmoutiers said that he could imagine 'a perfect island', but that doesn't prove its existence. Fair enough, said the ontological argument's supporters, but an island is simply an item; some Being, a Person, is more perfect, therefore God is 'more perfect' than the perfect island, and therefore your imagination of a perfect island only goes to further prove God's existence.

But something about it just seems a bit odd, doesn't it? Bertrand Russell, when he was shown this argument, said:

...the argument does not, to a modern mind, seem very convincing, but it is easier to feel convinced that it must be fallacious than it is to find out precisely where the fallacy lies.

Exactly. 'I can't find a fault in the argument, but I sort of think there is one.' That's like Richard Dawkins' response:

[it's] dialectical prestidigitation

Great. Use a longer word to dismiss someone and hope people will just go with that.

Bertrand Russell ultimately came to a wonderful conclusion, however:

Great God in Boots! the ontological argument is sound!

So...that's a new line for the next dinner party you hold. Anyone fancy helping me out here? Anyone fancy pointing out where the fallacy lies?

If you died today, are you absolutely certain that you would go to heaven? You can be! TRUST JESUS NOW

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