Empirical and rationalistic arguments for the existence of God

Rationalists and Empiricists have both argued in their own fashion in supporting the existence of God.  Differences in their views are based on the extent of emphasis each side lays on human sense experience.  Empiricists claim the existence of God based on information and knowledge gathered through sense faculties endowed to humans.  Rationalists on the other hand knowledge and truth lay outside/independent of human perception, but yet offer support for the existence of God. Rationalists generally develop their view in two ways.

“First, they argue that there are cases where the content of our concepts or knowledge outstrips the information that sense experience can provide. Second, they constuct accounts of how reason in some form or other provides that additional information about the world.” (SEP, Aug, 2008)

Using this framework, rationalists argue that although no one can claims to have ‘seen’ God, there is enough circumstantial evidence to prove his/her existence.  For example, the beauty and splendor of the natural world with its own myriad of complexity and design suggests the existence of a benevolent creator.  This is the argument some creationists employ to counter evolutionary biologists’ theories of random genetic mutations.  The regularity of natural phenomena such as the rising of the Sun, the waxing and waning of the moon, the presence of other life-forms on earth, are all examples of the work of the omnipresent (yet unobservable) creator or God.  Rationalists further argue that the tendency for higher animals to exhibit altruistic behaviour and unconditional love can be taken as more proof.  At a broader level, the evil forces in the world need a countervailing positive force in the form of God.  Empiricists, on the other hand, present complementary lines of thought.

“First, they develop accounts of how experience provides the information that rationalists cite, insofar as we have it in the first place. (Empiricists will at times opt for skepticism as an alternative to rationalism: if experience cannot provide the concepts or knowledge the rationalists cite, then we don’t have them.) Second, empiricists attack the rationalists’ accounts of how reason is a source of concepts or knowledge.” (SEP, Aug, 2008)

According to Empiricists, some of the transcendental experiences that occur to humans, whereby the realm of consciousness if elevated to another higher level is proof enough of God’s existence.  Indeed, most such transcendental experiences coincide with a religious event such as prayer or divine music, making the associations between the two quite strong.  These divine experiences of God’s presence are not usually grasped through sense organs in the course of daily life, but require special dedication to the faith and divinity for the revelation to occur.  Moreover, such revelations are not uniform or homogenized among people, as it has a strong personal flavour attached to it.  Since Rationalists deal with generalized ideas and concepts applicable to all human beings, their analytic framework would not be sufficient to account for these individual experiences.  And as countless religious faithful assert, they carry a deep, intimate and personal interaction with God, which cannot be verified by rational investigation.


Rationalism vs. Empiricism, (Aug 6, 2008) Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, retrieved from <http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/rationalism-empiricism/>, on 18th June, 2011.

Maxwell, Nicholas (1998), The Comprehensibility of the Universe: A New Conception of Science, Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Anthony Gottlieb (July 18, 1999). “God Exists, Philosophically”. The New York Times: Books. Retrieved 2009-12-07.