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Adults who do not believe in God who are nothing in particular
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Visit this table to see approximate margins of error for a group of a given size. For full question wording, see the survey questionnaire. Sample sizes and margins of error vary from subgroup to subgroup, from year to year and from state to state. You can see the sample size for the estimates in this chart on rollover or in the last column of the table. Immanuel Kant directs his famous objection at premise 3's claim that a being that exists as an idea in the mind and in reality is greater than a being that exists only as an idea in the mind.
According to premise 3, existence is what's known as a great-making property or, as the matter is sometimes put, a perfection. Premise 3 thus entails that 1 existence is a property; and 2 instantiating existence makes a thing better, other things being equal, than it would have been otherwise. Kant rejects premise 3 on the ground that, as a purely formal matter, existence does not function as a predicate. As Kant puts the point:. Being is evidently not a real predicate, that is, a conception of something which is added to the conception of some other thing. It is merely the positing of a thing, or of certain determinations in it.
Logically, it is merely the copula of a judgement. The proposition, God is omnipotent , contains two conceptions, which have a certain object or content; the word is , is no additional predicate-it merely indicates the relation of the predicate to the subject. Now if I take the subject God with all its predicates omnipotence being one , and say, God is , or There is a God , I add no new predicate to the conception of God, I merely posit or affirm the existence of the subject with all its predicates - I posit the object in relation to my conception.
Accordingly, what goes wrong with the first version of the ontological argument is that the notion of existence is being treated as the wrong logical type. Concepts, as a logical matter, are defined entirely in terms of logical predicates. Since existence isn't a logical predicate, it doesn't belong to the concept of God; it rather affirms that the existence of something that satisfies the predicates defining the concept of God. While Kant's criticism is phrased somewhat obscurely in terms of the logic of predicates and copulas, it also makes a plausible metaphysical point.
Existence is not a property in, say, the way that being red is a property of an apple. Rather it is a precondition for the instantiation of properties in the following sense: it is not possible for a non-existent thing to instantiate any properties because there is nothing to which, so to speak, a property can stick. Nothing has no qualities whatsoever. To say that x instantiates a property P is hence to presuppose that x exists. Thus, on this line of reasoning, existence isn't a great-making property because it is not a property at all; it is rather a metaphysically necessary condition for the instantiation of any properties.
But even if we concede that existence is a property, it does not seem to be the sort of property that makes something better for having it. Norman Malcolm expresses the argument as follows:.
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The doctrine that existence is a perfection is remarkably queer. It makes sense and is true to say that my future house will be a better one if it is insulated than if it is not insulated; but what could it mean to say that it will be a better house if it exists than if it does not? My future child will be a better man if he is honest than if he is not; but who would understand the saying that he will be a better man if he exists than if he does not? Or who understands the saying that if God exists He is more perfect than if he does not exist?
One might say, with some intelligibility, that it would be better for oneself or for mankind if God exists than if He does not-but that is a different matter. The idea here is that existence is very different from, say, the property of lovingness. A being that is loving is, other things being equal, better or greater than a being that is not. But it seems very strange to think that a loving being that exists is, other things being equal, better or greater than a loving being that doesn't exist. But to the extent that existence doesn't add to the greatness of a thing, the classic version of the ontological argument fails.
As it turns out, there are two different versions of the ontological argument in the Prosologium. The second version does not rely on the highly problematic claim that existence is a property and hence avoids many of the objections to the classic version. Here is the second version of the ontological argument as Anselm states it:.
God is that, than which nothing greater can be conceived. For, it is possible to conceive of a being which cannot be conceived not to exist; and this is greater than one which can be conceived not to exist. Hence, if that, than which nothing greater can be conceived, can be conceived not to exist, it is not that, than which nothing greater can be conceived.
But this is an irreconcilable contradiction. There is, then, so truly a being than which nothing greater can be conceived to exist, that it cannot even be conceived not to exist; and this being thou art, O Lord, our God. This version of the argument relies on two important claims. As before, the argument includes a premise asserting that God is a being than which a greater cannot be conceived. But this version of the argument, unlike the first, does not rely on the claim that existence is a perfection; instead it relies on the claim that necessary existence is a perfection.
This latter claim asserts that a being whose existence is necessary is greater than a being whose existence is not necessary. Otherwise put, then, the second key claim is that a being whose non-existence is logically impossible is greater than a being whose non-existence is logically possible.
This second version appears to be less vulnerable to Kantian criticisms than the first. To begin with, necessary existence, unlike mere existence, seems clearly to be a property. Notice, for example, that the claim that x necessarily exists entails a number of claims that attribute particular properties to x.
For example, if x necessarily exists, then its existence does not depend on the existence of any being unlike contingent human beings whose existence depends, at the very least, on the existence of their parents. And this seems to entail that x has the reason for its existence in its own nature. But these latter claims clearly attribute particular properties to x.
And only a claim that attributes a particular property can entail claims that attribute particular properties.
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While the claim that x exists clearly entails that x has at least one property, this does not help. We cannot soundly infer any claims that attribute particular properties to x from either the claim that x exists or the claim that x has at least one property; indeed, the claim that x has at least one property no more expresses a particular property than the claim that x exists. This distinguishes the claim that x exists from the claim that x necessarily exists and hence seems to imply that the latter, and only the latter, expresses a property.
Moreover, one can plausibly argue that necessary existence is a great-making property. To say that a being necessarily exists is to say that it exists eternally in every logically possible world; such a being is not just, so to speak, indestructible in this world, but indestructible in every logically possible world - and this does seem, at first blush, to be a great-making property.
As Malcolm puts the point:. If a housewife has a set of extremely fragile dishes, then as dishes, they are inferior to those of another set like them in all respects except that they are not fragile. Those of the first set are dependent for their continued existence on gentle handling; those of the second set are not. There is a definite connection between the notions of dependency and inferiority, and independence and superiority.
To say that something which was dependent on nothing whatever was superior to anything that was dependent on any way upon anything is quite in keeping with the everyday use of the terms superior and greater. Nevertheless, the matter is not so clear as Malcolm believes. It might be the case that, other things being equal, a set of dishes that is indestructible in this world is greater than a set of dishes that is not indestructible in this world. But it is very hard to see how transworld indestructibility adds anything to the greatness of a set of dishes that is indestructible in this world.
From our perspective, there is simply nothing to be gained by adding transworld indestructibility to a set of dishes that is actually indestructible. There is simply nothing that a set of dishes that is indestructible in every possible world can do in this world that can't be done by a set of dishes that is indestructible in this world but not in every other world. And the same seems to be true of God. Suppose that an omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent, eternal and hence, so to speak, indestructible , personal God exists in this world but not in some other worlds. It is very hard to make sense of the claim that such a God is deficient in some relevant respect.
God's indestructibility in this world means that God exists eternally in all logically possible worlds that resemble this one in certain salient respects. It is simply unclear how existence in these other worlds that bear no resemblance to this one would make God greater and hence more worthy of worship. From our perspective, necessary existence adds nothing in value to eternal existence.
If this is correct, then Anselm's second version of the argument also fails. Even if, however, we assume that Anselm's second version of the argument can be defended against such objections, there is a further problem: it isn't very convincing because it is so difficult to tell whether the argument is sound. Thus, the most important contemporary defender of the argument, Alvin Plantinga, complains "[a]t first sight, Anselm's argument is remarkably unconvincing if not downright irritating; it looks too much like a parlor puzzle or word magic.
There have been several attempts to render the persuasive force of the ontological argument more transparent by recasting it using the logical structures of contemporary modal logic. One influential attempts to ground the ontological argument in the notion of God as an unlimited being. As Malcolm describes this idea:. God is usually conceived of as an unlimited being. He is conceived of as a being who could not be limited, that is, as an absolutely unlimited being.
In this conception it will not make sense to say that He depends on anything for coming into or continuing in existence. Nor, as Spinoza observed, will it make sense to say that something could prevent Him from existing. Lack of moisture can prevent trees from existing in a certain region of the earth. But it would be contrary to the concept of God as an unlimited being to suppose that anything … could prevent Him from existing. The unlimited character of God, then, entails that his existence is different from ours in this respect: while our existence depends causally on the existence of other beings e.
Further, on Malcolm's view, the existence of an unlimited being is either logically necessary or logically impossible. Here is his argument for this important claim.
Either an unlimited being exists at world W or it doesn't exist at world W ; there are no other possibilities. If an unlimited being does not exist in W , then its nonexistence cannot be explained by reference to any causally contingent feature of W ; accordingly, there is no contingent feature of W that explains why that being doesn't exist. Now suppose, per reductio , an unlimited being exists in some other world W'. If so, then it must be some contingent feature f of W' that explains why that being exists in that world.
But this entails that the nonexistence of an unlimited being in W can be explained by the absence of f in W ; and this contradicts the claim that its nonexistence in W can't be explained by reference to any causally contingent feature. Thus, if God doesn't exist at W , then God doesn't exist in any logically possible world. A very similar argument can be given for the claim that an unlimited being exists in every logically possible world if it exists in some possible world W ; the details are left for the interested reader.
Since there are only two possibilities with respect to W and one entails the impossibility of an unlimited being and the other entails the necessity of an unlimited being, it follows that the existence of an unlimited being is either logically necessary or logically impossible. All that is left, then, to complete Malcolm's elegant version of the proof is the premise that the existence of an unlimited being is not logically impossible - and this seems plausible enough.
The existence of an unlimited being is logically impossible only if the concept of an unlimited being is self-contradictory. And the devil knows it. Now I will tell you what to do. When there is light in a room, it is no problem at all to walk around.
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As long as the light is there, you can walk fine. But with all the lights out on a dark night, you may stumble and fall over objects in that room. The reason many fall and fail is because they have left the light of the Word of God. They are walking in presumption or folly. Find out what it says. Find the scriptures that promise you the things you are praying for. Believing God is believing His Word. Oh, how necessary it is to know the Word of God. Thank God, He has given us His Word. We need not be in the dark. What does it mean to walk in the light? It means to walk in the Word!
Walking in the Word is walking in the light. To walk away from the Word means to walk into darkness. Make these confessions aloud today:. I am a believer. I am not a doubter. I do have faith. My faith works. My faith is in God the Father. My faith is in the Lord Jesus Christ.
My faith is in the Holy Bible, the Word of God. I believe the Word of God. Therefore, I believe God. Account Login. Partner Login. Hagin Faith—Bible faith—is based on the Word of God. Make these confessions aloud today: I am a believer.