THE CONCEPT OF GOD
THE CONCEPT OF GOD
Nathaniel Branden With a Ph. D in psychology
and a background in philosophy, Nathaniel
Branden is a practicing clinician in Los
Angeles. He lectures and consults with corporations
all over the world, teaching the application
of self- esteem principles and technology
to the challenges of the modern business
organization. He is the author of many books,
including the classic The Six Pillars of
Self-Esteem and, most recently, The Art of
The following argument by Nathanial Branden
does, I think, counter successfully ANY "creationism"
or "big bang" idea: "FIRST
CAUSE" IS EXISTENCE, NOT GOD
Question: Since everything in the universe
requires a cause, must not the universe itself
have a cause, which is god?
Answer: There are two basic fallacies in
this argument. The first is the assumption
that, if the universe required a causal explanation,
the positing of a "god" would provide
it. To posit god as the creator of the universe
is only to push the problem back one step
farther: Who then created the god? Was there
still an earlier god who created the god
in question? We are thus led to an infinite
regress - the very dilemma that the positing
of a "god" was intended to solve.
But if it is argued that no one created god,
that god does not require a cause, that god
has existed eternally - then on what grounds
is it denied that the universe has existed
It is true that there cannot be an infinite
series of antecedent causes. But recognition
of this fact should lead one to reappraise
the validity of the initial question, not
to attempt to answer it by stepping outside
the universe into some gratuitously invented
This leads to the second and more fundamental
fallacy in this argument: the assumption
that the universe as a whole requires a causal
explanation. It does not. The universe is
the total of that which exists. Within the
universe, the emergence of new entities can
be explained in terms of the actions of entities
that already exist: The cause of a tree is
the seed of the parent tree; the cause of
a machine is the purposeful reshaping of
matter by men. All actions presuppose the
existence of entities - and all emergences
of new entities presuppose the existence
of entities that caused their emergence.
All causality presupposes the existence of
something that acts as a cause. To demand
a cause for all of existence is to demand
a contradiction: if the cause exists, it
is part of existence; if it does not exist,
it cannot be a cause. Nothing cannot be the
cause of something. Nothing does not exist.
Causality presupposes existence; existence
does not presuppose causality. There can
be no cause "outside" of existence
or "anterior" to it. The forms
of existence may change and evolve, but the
fact of existence is the irreducible primary
at the base of all causal chains. Existence
- not "god" - is the First Cause.
Just as the concept of causality applies
to events and entities within the universe,
but not to the universe as a whole - so the
concept of time applies to events and entities
within the universe, but not to the universe
as a whole. The universe did not "begin"
- it did not, at some point in time "spring
into being." Time is a measurement of
motion. Motion presupposes entities that
move. If nothing existed, there could be
no time. Time is "in" the universe;
the universe is not "in" time.
The man who asks, "Where did existence
come from?" or "What caused it?"
is the man who has never grasped that existence
exists. This is the mentality of a savage
or a mystic who regards existence as some
sort of incomprehensible miracle - and seeks
to "explain" it by reference to
Existence is all that exists, the nonexistent
does not exist; there is nothing for existence
to have come out of - and nothing means nothing.
If you are tempted to ask, "What's outside
the universe?" - recognize that you
are asking, "What's outside of existence?"
and that the idea of "something outside
of existence" is a contradiction in
terms; nothing is outside of existence, and
"nothing" is not just another kind
of "something" - it is nothing.
Existence exists: you cannot go outside it;
you cannot get under it, on top of it, or
behind it. Existence exists - and only existence
exists: There is nowhere else to go.
-- Nathaniel Branden.