Romans 1:18-25 tell us that the existence of God is obvious from the very creation itself. However, human beings, seeking to suppress the knowledge of the wrath of God, retreat into the creation and refuse to even be thankful to their creator. In short they are willing to believe the lie:
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. 24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. Romans 1:18–25 (ESV)
Now, one may contend that Paul is simply arguing for his own position without any merit.
With that question in mind, consider the essay by Alvin Plantinga, reviewing atheist philosopher Thomas Nagel’s new book, Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False (Oxford University Press, 2012) in The New Republic. Plantinga sets forth Nagel’s argument and its implications. What is interesting is not Nagel seeing the problem with naturalism, it is the reason on which Nagel rejects God:
Materialist naturalism, says Nagel, cannot account for the appearance of life, or the variety we find in the living world, or consciousness, or cognition, or mind—but theism has no problem accounting for any of these. As for life, God himself is living, and in one way or another has created the biological life to be found on Earth (and perhaps elsewhere as well). As for the diversity of life: God has brought that about, whether through a guided process of evolution or in some other way . As for consciousness, again theism has no problem: according to theism the fundamental and basic reality is God, who is conscious. And what about the existence of creatures with cognition and reason, creatures who, like us, are capable of scientific investigation of our world? Well, according to theism, God has created us human beings in his image; part of being in the image of God (Aquinas thought it the most important part) is being able to know something about ourselves and our world and God himself, just as God does. Hence theism implies that the world is indeed intelligible to us, even if not quite intelligible in Nagel’s glorified sense. Indeed, modern empirical science was nurtured in the womb of Christian theism, which implies that there is a certain match or fit between the world and our cognitive faculties.
Given theism, there is no surprise at all that there should be creatures like us who are capable of atomic physics, relativity theory , quantum mechanics, and the like. Materialist naturalism, on the other hand, as Nagel points out, has great difficulty accounting for the existence of such creatures. For this and other reasons, theism is vastly more welcoming to science than materialist naturalism. So theism would seem to be a natural alternative to the materialist naturalism Nagel rejects: it has virtues where the latter has vices, and we might therefore expect Nagel, at least on these grounds, to be sympathetic to theism.
SADLY ENOUGH (at least for me), Nagel rejects theism. “I confess to an ungrounded assumption of my own, in not finding it possible to regard the design alternative [i.e., theism] as a real option. I lack the sensus divinitatis that enables—indeed, compels so many people to see in the world the expression of divine purpose.” But it isn’t just that Nagel is more or less neutral about theism but lacks that sensus divinitatis. In The Last Word, which appeared in 1997 , he offered a candid account of his philosophical inclinations:
I am talking about something much deeper—namely , the fear of religion itself. I speak from experience, being strongly subject to this fear myself: I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers…. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.
Here we have discomfort and distress at the thought that there might be such a being as God; but this discomfort seems more emotional than philosophical or rational.
Nagel finally – it seems – it seems, grounds his atheism in desire – is the desire for the creation (the universe) to be without a Creator.
Btw, Nagel writes in his book (as quoted by Plantinga):
“I find this view antecedently unbelievable—a heroic triumph of ideological theory over common sense. … I would be willing to bet that the present right-thinking consensus will come to seem laughable in a generation or two.”
For another review see, “Do You Only Have a Brain? On Thomas Nagel”, by Brian Leiter and Michael Weisberg, October 3, 2012, The Nation, http://www.thenation.com/article/170334/do-you-only-have-brain-thomas-nagel# Here is a portion:
Nagel opposes two main components of the “materialist” view inspired by Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection. The first is what we will call theoretical reductionism, the view that there is an order of priority among the sciences, with all theories ultimately derivable from physics and all phenomena ultimately explicable in physical terms. We believe, along with most philosophers, that Nagel is right to reject theoretical reductionism, because the sciences have not progressed in a way consistent with it. We have not witnessed the reduction of psychology to biology, biology to chemistry, and chemistry to physics, but rather the proliferation of fields like neuroscience and evolutionary biology that explain psychological and biological phenomena in terms unrecognizable by physics. As the philosopher of biology Philip Kitcher pointed out some thirty years ago, even classical genetics has not been fully reduced to molecular genetics, and that reduction would have been wholly within one field. We simply do not see any serious attempts to reduce all the “higher” sciences to the laws of physics. ….
The second component of the thesis Nagel opposes is what we will call naturalism, the view that features of our world—including “consciousness, intentionality, meaning, purpose, thought, and value”—can ultimately be accounted for in terms of the natural processes described by the various sciences (whether or not they are ever “reduced” to physics). Nagel’s arguments here are aimed at a more substantial target, although he gives us few specifics about the kind of naturalism he opposes. He does characterize it as the attempt to explain everything “at the most basic level by the physical sciences, extended to include biology,” and the one named proponent of this view is the philosopher Daniel Dennett. Although Dennett would not characterize his project as trying to explain everything at the “most basic level,” he does aim to show that phenomena such as consciousness, purpose and thought find a natural home in a picture of human beings inspired by Darwin. In the absence of any clearer statement of the argument, we will assume that this is the so-called “neo-Darwinian” picture that Nagel opposes.