If there is a God, why doesn’t He seem more real to many people? How can we prove that God really exists? What makes this question so difficult to answer, and how will it eventually be resolved for all who doubt?
The man I was talking with was highly accomplished. He was intelligent, well-read and a successful businessman. But when it came to religion, he was unsure. He said he was an agnostic.
He wasn’t an atheist—someone who is sure that God doesn’t exist. Instead, he simply didn’t know whether God is real, and as a result, he didn’t practice any form of religion.
How do we know God is real when there are so many reasons to doubt?
Agnosticism—not knowing whether God exists or not—is steadily increasing in Western societies. The reasons people don’t believe in God abound.
For starters, unbelief is fueled by widespread acceptance of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, which offers an alternative explanation of our origin apart from God. Many see belief in God as merely superstition for the simple-minded.
Along with the challenge of believing in an invisible God who can’t be seen, some wonder how God can exist when there is so much suffering in the world. People ponder how a loving God could allow natural disasters, wars and inquisitions in the name of religion—things that have killed untold numbers of people throughout the ages.
Others note variations in Christianity and arguments over how the Bible is to be understood as reasons for doubt.
Another contributing factor for unbelief is immoral conduct and hypocrisy by some church leaders who were supposed to be leading exemplary lives.
Additionally, some have considered how the Bible instructs people to live and have disagreed. They want to decide for themselves what standards of behavior are right, and they reject the possibility of a higher Authority having the power to tell them how to live. God’s standards regarding sexual conduct, for example, are considered by many to be overly restrictive, outdated and unnecessary.
Why is there so much confusion regarding God’s existence? The Bible gives some insight, and it also provides two basic ways to prove that God is real.
Reasons for confusion
To understand why it is difficult for people to know whether to believe in God, we need to go back to the beginning of mankind’s history, when an event with ongoing consequences occurred. Though many today think the story of Adam and Eve is just a fable, Jesus Christ and the apostles affirmed that it was a historical event (Mark 10:6; 1 Timothy 2:13; 2 Corinthians 11:3).
The Bible says that after God created Adam and Eve, He told them not to eat “of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil … for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:17).
Their Creator was giving them important advice that, had they obeyed, would have led to profound blessings. One of the chief blessings for believing in and trusting God would have been continued access to “the tree of life,” which represented eternal life (Genesis 3:22-24).
Sadly, Eve fell for a lie told by an evil spirit being called Satan, who was and continues to be the adversary of God and mankind. This evil being, called “the serpent” in this section of Scripture, countered God’s instruction as he told Eve, “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (verses 4-5).
Satan’s deception appealed to Eve’s intellect and desire for the freedom to choose. It implied that humans didn’t need God, that God wasn’t being fair, and that humans had the capability to reason and think for themselves apart from any other guidance. Eve fell for the lie and ate of the forbidden tree. Adam willingly followed Eve’s example (2 Corinthians 11:3; 1 Timothy 2:14).
This misrepresentation of God and His instructions for mankind continues unchecked today as Satan “deceives the whole world” (Revelation 12:9). The philosophy that we can do everything on our own without God is a type of “blindness” or a “veil” that makes it difficult to clearly discern God’s existence (Ephesians 4:18; 2 Corinthians 3:14-16).
And when people reject God, they lose their ability to think soundly. As the Psalms explain, “The fool has said in his heart, there is no God” (Psalm 14:1; 53:1). Paul further explained that rejecting God leads to intellectual unsoundness (Romans 1:21-22, 28).
Proof God is real #1: the benefits of God’s way
God is not against people using their minds to prove His existence. One way to do this is by noting the results of obeying or disobeying His instructions. As God said to people who were rejecting His instructions, “Come now, and let us reason together” (Isaiah 1:18).
What God was asking the people to consider was the fact that as a result of their sins, their nation was in serious decline. Their country did not have good leadership; the land was desolate; the cities were burned with fire; and the nation was being overthrown by strangers (verses 4-7).
“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all those who do His commandments” (Psalm 111:10).The downhill slide of the nation could have been reversed if the people would have changed their ways. “If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land,” God said (verse 19).
In this situation, God asked the people to compare the good results of what would happen if they obeyed Him with the bad results they were suffering for their disobedience. This lesson about blessings for obedience and punishment for disobedience was a timeless, ongoing truth that they were overlooking (Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 28).
Later in history, God suggested this same reasoning through the prophet Malachi. He invited His people to “try” or “prove” Him whether He would bless them for faithfully tithing (Malachi 3:10, also note King James Version). This principle of proving God’s existence by noting the positive results of obeying His beneficial laws continues today.
Unfortunately, many people make the mistake of thinking they need to prove God’s existence before they obey His commands. But according to the Bible, this is backward reasoning.
The psalmist understood this important point as he wrote, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all those who do His commandments” (Psalm 111:10).
When we live as God directs, our thinking becomes clearer. Seeing the results of living God’s way of life compared to other philosophies provides proof of God’s existence.
Proof God is real #2: creation vs. evolution
Another way to prove that God is real is to simply look at the world in which we live. The beauty, complexity and organization of the material world around us point toward a master Designer. Creation itself testifies that there was a Creator. King David said, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork” (Psalm 19:1).
In contrast to the evidence of God’s existence indicated by creation, advocates of Darwin’s theory of evolution often proclaim that evolution is a scientific fact. The truth of the matter, however, is that their assertion is a deceptive half-truth.
Microevolution—small changes within a species such as the different breeds of dogs—is indeed true. Macroevolution—the presumption that small changes within a species can over time produce new species and eventually all the vastly different kinds of life—has not been proven. In fact, the odds against this are astronomical! For additional explanation, see “Microevolution vs. Macroevolution.”
For many thinking individuals, including a growing number of scientists, there are serious deficiencies to Darwin’s theory of evolution. How did matter come into existence? If mankind evolved, where are all the missing fossils showing the gradual improvements of our species?
To receive all the benefits God wants to give us, including eternal life, we must believe that He exists and follow His instructions.The reality is that good science, sound reasoning and the existence of God are not mutually exclusive. For further study regarding science and God’s existence, see the many detailed LifeHopeandTruth.com articles in the section “Is There a God?”
Confusion about the reality of God will be removed
The Bible makes it clear that in order to receive all the benefits God wants to give us, including eternal life, we must believe that He exists and follow His instructions (Mark 16:16; Hebrews 11:6). When we do, the “veil” of confusion about God’s existence and expectations of us disappears. As Paul put it, “When one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away” (2 Corinthians 3:16).
Although the number of people currently being called by God and being able to clearly see through the confusion of this present world is small, a time is coming when this will dramatically change. The return of Christ will bring about clarity for all regarding God’s existence.
The Scriptures explain that at His return “every eye will see Him” (Revelation 1:7). Additionally, Satan will be bound for 1,000 years so he cannot continue deceiving mankind (Revelation 20:1-3). Then all people will be taught God’s ways as He rules over the nations (Isaiah 2:2-4).
Under these utopian conditions, everyone will know that God exists (Hebrews 8:11) and will have the opportunity to receive eternal life. For further study of this wonderful future, read our booklet The Mystery of the Kingdom.