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Is it possible for an ordinary individual possessing sound cognitive faculties and access to publicly available evidence to establish the existence of a God? Is there a prevailing consensus in philosophy regarding this question?

Two disciplines that suggest that God's existence can be established through reason, arguments, and evidence that anyone should be able to inspect and study by themselves are natural theology and apologetics, but my impression is that not everyone would agree with this suggestion.

Note: When I mention publicly accessible evidence, I am referring to evidence that is in principle available to anyone. Additionally, a proper examination of this evidence, with sound cognitive faculties, should ideally lead to substantial degrees of intersubjective agreement.


Related questions

Are most philosophers atheists, monotheists, polytheists or what?

Is the teleological argument for God completely refuted?

Can God make the belief in His own existence justified (if He exists)?


Definitions

In the comments section definitions of evidence and God have been requested. I will provide quotes from a few sources as working definitions of these concepts.

Evidence

The concept of evidence is crucial to epistemology and the philosophy of science. In epistemology, evidence is often taken to be relevant to justified belief, where the latter, in turn, is typically thought to be necessary for knowledge. Arguably, then, an understanding of evidence is vital for appreciating the two dominant objects of epistemological concern, namely, knowledge and justified belief. In the philosophy of science, evidence is taken to be what confirms or refutes scientific theories, and thereby constitutes our grounds for rationally deciding between competing pictures of the world. In view of this, an understanding of evidence would be indispensable for comprehending the proper functioning of the scientific enterprise.

For these reasons and others, a philosophical appreciation of evidence becomes pressing. Section 1 examines what might be called the nature of evidence. It considers the theoretical roles that evidence plays, with a view towards determining what sort of entity evidence can be—an experience, a proposition, an object, and so on. In doing so, it also considers the extent to which evidence is implicated in justified belief (and by extension, knowledge, if knowledge requires justified belief). Then, section 2 considers the evidential relationship, or the relation between two things by virtue of which one counts as evidence for the other; and it explores the nature of their relationship, that is, whether the relationship is deductive, explanatory, or probabilistic. Finally, equipped with this theoretical background, section 3 looks at some of the important problems and paradoxes that have occupied those working in the theory of evidence.

(source: https://iep.utm.edu/evidence/)

God

God and Other Ultimates

What it takes to be ultimate is to be the most fundamentally real, valuable or fulfilling among all that there is or could be. Historically, philosophy of religion in the West has taken God to be ultimate. Over the past century, the field has become increasingly aware that ultimacy is grasped under different concepts in the world’s religions, philosophies and quasi-religious philosophies—so not only as “God” but also as, e.g., “Brahman”, “the Dao”, and more. Moreover, people have thought to conceptualize each of these ultimates in numerous ways across cultures and times, so there are many models of Brahman, many models of God, many models of the Dao, and more; perhaps there is even a model of what is ultimate for each person who has thought hard about it. This entry presents a framework for understanding this vast landscape of models of God and other ultimates and then surveys some of its major sights. Familiarity with this landscape can clarify the long journey to deciding whether there is anything ultimate, among other benefits.

Section 1 defines “ultimate” and “models” of ultimates, discusses reasons to be interested in the project of modeling what is ultimate or alternatively to think it futile, and explains major categories that help organize the field of models. Section 2 uses these categories to relay over twenty models of Brahman, God and the Dao, both for their own sakes and as entrées into the landscape (the models are numbered as they surface to help the reader spot them and to show by example what a model is). Section 3 discusses the significance of the plurality of models once they are juxtaposed.

[...]

The most venerable model of God that is often read dualistically is known as “perfect being theology”, which bears traces of its origin in its name (this is model 8—a general model, species coming). The idea fully grown, as we have it today, defines God as that which is perfect (whether personal or not), where perfection is typically taken to entail being unsurpassable in power, knowledge, and goodness, and several models add being immutable, impassible, a se, eternal, simple and necessary in some sense. Most perfect being theologians take God to have created the universe out of nothing (ex nihilo), and that view can be taken to entail dualism for a variety of reasons. To offer one, as Brian Davies says, “God makes things to be, but not out of anything” (italics his), including not out of Godself, so the cosmos is entirely fresh stuff—a second kind of stuff, distinct from and radically dependent on God (2004: 3).

(source: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/god-ultimates/)

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  • Comments have been moved to chat; please do not continue the discussion here. Before posting a comment below this one, please review the purposes of comments. Comments that do not request clarification or suggest improvements usually belong as an answer, on Philosophy Meta, or in Philosophy Chat. Comments continuing discussion may be removed.
    – Philip Klöcking
    Commented Jan 22 at 22:58
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    @Mark You ask about possibility -- this could confuse a tad when combined with additional limits since in general the only threshold for possibility is that it is within one's capacity to achieve or attain. It seems that it would be very difficult in general to falsify that something is possible. I might ask the individual conducting the experiment, what price of effort are you willing to pay to know? How patient are you willing to be? These are not strictly cognitive faculties and yet they have significant bearing even on discoveries that are deemed primarily cognitive in nature.
    – pygosceles
    Commented Jan 24 at 0:24
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    This is probably becoming yet another endless thread of comments (I'm seeing a trend). But in short, I don't see how what you are implying in each of your many questions necessarily follows. This is how I see things: if there is a procedure for getting you from A to B, I don't see the problem in being as clear, straightforward, precise, detailed and exhaustive as necessary in order to make it as easy as possible for people to follow the procedure to get them from A to B successfully. Why make it more complicated than it needs to be? Why the aversion to being straightforward?
    – Mark
    Commented Jan 24 at 1:18
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    -2 on a quetsion with 13 answers, by someone with 2,000+ rep: whoever is voting it down needs to stop
    – andrós
    Commented Feb 4 at 12:16
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    @user66697 -3 now ...
    – Mark
    Commented Feb 4 at 16:16

12 Answers 12

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There are four tactics I have seen applied to this question:

  1. Natural theology in favor of God -- argue from Aquinas-type proofs to a deity of some kind, then argue for a specific religion based on miracles. The best theologian/philosopher I have seen arguing this way is JP Moreland.

  2. God thinking is viable, and a credible alternative to non-God assumptions. This is basically an extension of Lakatos' "Research Programme" approach in philosophy of science, to ontological worldviews. Just as a science field can support multiple viable research programmes, so can philosophic ontology -- and reason and evidences can support a at least plausible God hypothesis. The best theologian/philosopher who I have seen arguing this way is Richard Swinburne.

  3. God thinking is incoherent, and intrinsically nonsense, hence God is not a credible idea. This was the main argument of Anthony Flew. Swinburne's most important pro-theism book "the Coherence of Theism" was admitted by Flew to have refuted this claim. However, despite that admission, most atheists today continue to hold by Flew's conclusion in "the Presumption of Atheism" that atheism is the default view, and should be what one concludes unless theists provide very strong justification for theism.

  4. Natural theology refutes God. Prior to Flew, this was the primary argument used by atheists -- that the contradictions between theology claims and this world are sufficiently extensive, and these falsification tests have been demonstrated in multiple religions, that one can reasonably infer that all religions are false even if not all have yet been explicitly falsified. One work in this line I can recommend is "the Miracle of Theism", by JL Mackie.

I believe that "an ordinary individual possessing sound cognitive faculties and access to publicly available evidence" can review these four sets of arguments and reach a credible conclusion based on them.

That conclusion MAY be that none of these are definitive and convincing arguments, and the question remains open, that one of the four IS convincing, or that several are viable, but not yet slam dunk, etc.

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  • Can different people reach different credible conclusions that are mutually exclusive, after studying the same arguments and having access to the same evidence?
    – Mark
    Commented Jan 20 at 20:21
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    @Mark -- yes, certainly. We are not all identical in our starting presumptions, etc.
    – Dcleve
    Commented Jan 20 at 20:23
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    I think that if different people reach different conclusions using reason, then someone was wrong or something was missing from the inputs. The whole point of reason is to arrive at conclusions reliably. Isn't there a name for doing the same thing and getting different results? "Incompletely Specified" is a term for not doing all that was needed or success.
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Jan 24 at 0:20
  • @ScottRowe -- There are many cases in our world where judgement is called for. Not all of us make the same judgement, when judgment is needed.
    – Dcleve
    Commented Jan 24 at 2:44
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    Right, but it's a question about reason and evidence. The word 'judgment' doesn't appear anywhere else except your comment (and mine of course). It would be great to have a decision procedure that is not affected by individual differences, especially if we are all expected to abide by the results.
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Jan 24 at 2:55
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My knowledge of the subject is insufficiently compendious to allow me to give an authoritative answer to your question, but I assume the answer is no, since were it possible to prove the existence of God beyond any doubt, I am sure we would all know the proof by now.

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    – Geoffrey Thomas
    Commented Jan 22 at 9:45
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    @pygosceles I would say that a cast-iron proof of the existence of God would be in the same category as a cast iron proof of ESP, of Elvis being alive, of intelligent life on Mars, of Donald Trump being a Russian robot, and any other phenomenon capable of generating world-wide interest and astonishment. Commented Jan 22 at 21:37
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    @pygosceles do I think sensationalism is a prerequisite for knowledge of a fact to be widespread? Only an idiot would think so. Sensationalism can be a trigger for publicity, but there are other reasons for facts being common knowledge, even the least sensational. My point is that certain types of events inevitably attract world-wide attention, and the discovery of cast-iron evidence for the existence of God would surely fall into that category. Commented Jan 22 at 22:39
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    @pygosceles And following the train of your comments to microondas, I have realised there is another massive flaw in my argument. The ceaselessly vigilant Devil might spot that someone has discovered the cast-iron proof and arrange for them to be killed prematurely just as they were about to contact the press. Commented Jan 23 at 20:50
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    @MarcoOcram You want something that can achieve high degrees of intersubjective agreement, right? In a way, that's what I was trying convey with 'publicly accessible evidence' in my question.
    – Mark
    Commented Jan 23 at 22:33
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You would need observations that can be explained by the existence of god, and that have no reasonable explanation if god does not exist. I don’t know of any such observations.

And then there is the possibility that you find an entity that is very powerful, knows a lot, but isn’t quite what we would call “god”. And that could be very hard to distinguish.

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    There does not seem to be a way to prove the existence of God without the assistance of God. Commented Jan 20 at 20:42
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    One could argue about when a being could be reasonably be called "god", but I think the important part is which traits the being has, what they did in the past, and what they would do in the future, which roughly translates to which (very specific variant of a) religion they correspond to. As an example, the problem of evil/suffering suggests that an all-loving all-powerful being is inconsistent with reality as we know it. So one may hypothetically accept that a god-like entity exists long before accepting that they're all-loving and all-powerful, even if they claim to be so (lying is a thing)
    – NotThatGuy
    Commented Jan 21 at 6:06
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    David Hume's section on miracles in his Enquiry is the classic demolition of most arguments from physical observation to existence of God: most observations even if inexplicable prove far less than the existence of God as commonly understood.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Jan 21 at 12:36
  • @IdiosyncraticSoul Our cognitive faculties, the Earth, the Sun, our lives, all of the life support systems built into our environs, our very being, do those qualify as "assistance" from God?
    – pygosceles
    Commented Jan 21 at 23:39
  • This answer seems to have a working definition of God as very powerful (practically omnipotent) and knowing a lot (practically omniscient). It also relates to explaining power as an indicator of godliness, so to speak. This leaves the door open to questions of falsifiability, for example, whether it can be falsified that something that only appears explainable in no other way today may at some point in the future have an explanation that purports to do away with the necessity of God. We are left to wonder whether this criterion can answer the question of establishing the existence of God.
    – pygosceles
    Commented Jan 21 at 23:50
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Well, I have been finding answer to this specific question since I became an adult. I don't think by applying reason we can find God. The existence of God is beyond time and space. We cannot apply a 3D scientific approach to find it. We can only feel it.

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  • I have gone through Guru Sahib and Kabir but they are seldom available in Pakistan. I don't want to drag religion in any thing. Personally, I believe, Budhha was the only one who found truth. We will see what the future holds. My mind is a mess nowadays. Commented Jan 21 at 10:35
  • Access to insightful books is not easy here and I cannot read books on PDF. I'll look more into what I can call myself if not Nihilist. Commented Jan 21 at 10:53
  • yeah sure. I am new on this platform, I have no idea if we have inbox here. Commented Jan 21 at 11:36
  • Let us continue this discussion in chat. Commented Jan 21 at 12:16
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If you're a Bayesian, then absence of evidence is the evidence of absence, although unconclusive. Similarly, if you'd expect God to do X and X indeed happens then it is an evidence for God's existence (so, for example, existence of religion is evidence for God's existence, although, again, unconclusive). Therefore: yes.

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    Given there are many religions, your argument suggests there are therefore many gods. I also expect god made me post this comment, therefore this is proof that god exists.
    – Bib
    Commented Jan 21 at 12:02
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    @Bib Your remark is ridiculous. I explicitly said that the evidence is unconclusive. And, no, the plurality of religions is evidence that there is no God, that there are many Gods, that he (or they), if exists/exist, doesn't/don't intervene. Again, it's unconclusive evidence. Your reasoning here is the philosophical equivalent to "if X takes 2h for one person to do, then X takes 4h for two people to do".
    – user71009
    Commented Jan 21 at 17:55
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TL;DR: No, because such evidence would limit God‘s omnipotence.

Assuming God exists as described in the Hebrew bible, and is omnipotent, then His omnipotence also includes the ability to reveal or not reveal Himself to mankind. Evidence that could be established by pure reason would take away the possibility to not reveal Himself. The idea that such evidence could exist is therefore at odds with the concept of omnipotence.

UPDATE: @pygosceles rightfully pointed out in a comment that this argument implicitely uses an inconsistent definition of omnipotence and is thus not sound.

Interestingly, this sort of supports the refutation of OP's question on another level. The debate on how to understand omnipotence in a non-contradictional way has been going on for centuries (see for instance the omnipotence paradoxon). The same is true for the concept of God itself, so all attempts at proving God will suffer from the same problem.

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    What's established is God's existence, not evidence. What would be used (hypothetically) to establish it is evidence + reasoning based upon that evidence. If God is omnipotent, in particular He should be able to provide that evidence. I see no contradiction.
    – Mark
    Commented Jan 24 at 0:11
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    But if God is omnipotent in this sense, then He can also prove His reality to everyone purely by reason and evidence. This contradiction stems from a self-contradictory definition of omnipotence.
    – pygosceles
    Commented Jan 24 at 1:14
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Is evidence an objective criterion?

  1. There are two rather different interpretations what it means that “a statement is evident”.

    • Objective definition: Evidence is an objective property of a statement. The truth of the statement S is obvious, no further proof is necessary. Every morning the sun rises in the East out of the ocean.
    • Subjective definition: Evidence is a relative property, it is a property of the belief of a given person p about the truth of a statement S. Person p believes S, i.e. that every morning the sun rises in the East out of the ocean.

    In both cases of evidence it is claimed that the truth of the statement does not need further proof, the truth can be recognized by intuition. In the first example above the statement about the sun is false, in the second example the statement about the belief of the person concerning the sun is true, but the belief is false.

    Historical experience with statements like above shows that evidence is not sufficient for truth. Intuition can be a good or a bad guide. Intuition has to be verified.

  2. Concerning the OP’s question my answer is: No one has presented objective evidence for the existence of God. There are several persons who claim subjective evidence. But in neither case evidence replaces further inquiry.

    Also the majority of philosophers does not accept the claimed proofs of the existence of God.

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  • "Also the majority of philosophers does not accept the claimed proofs of the existence of God." - Do you know statistics backing this up that you could cite?
    – Mark
    Commented Jan 21 at 12:37
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    @Mark You may have a look at survey2020.philpeople.org/survey/results/4842?target_group=
    – Jo Wehler
    Commented Jan 21 at 13:11
  • +1 Evidence use is important as well. Evidence can be used for confirmation ( scientific method) or for justification (epistemology) Confirmation and justification are not equivalent. Commented Jan 21 at 18:11
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I think the answer is 'no', but it took me a bit of time to appreciate what the question actually was. I can't answer for everyone else, but suppose someone showed me they could work 'miracles'...

These miracles are happening in our universe. They are part of it, even if I do not see how they are done. It could be a trick or it could be advanced technology.

The miracle is not performed by us; it is only done by appealing to some higher power. Fine: there are technically advanced aliens but they are still part of our universe.

The miracles come from outside our universe. Hard to prove conclusively, but maybe there are causes that lie outside our universe. Again, this is possible but it may just stretch our idea of 'universe'. If the miracle generation comes from 'heaven in response to prayer, then we have two-way cause and effect between heaven and earth. Heaven is a part of the universe, even if it is not a place we can physically travel to.

What about these miracle workers themselves. Are they aliens? Where did they come from? Did something else create them and their world? If so, they are faced with the same regression to an origin as we are. We can only get out of this if they somehow are responsible for all worlds and all existence including their own.

At this point the argument has wholly moved from the material realm, and we cannot pursue it any further. You might believe they are gods; I might believe they are actually aliens who say what we want to hear.

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    All you've succeeded in doing is demonstrating how one can invoke philosophical presuppositions in order to make the evidence say whatever you want it to say.
    – Matthew
    Commented Jan 22 at 3:38
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I would say that some things have to be accepted axiomatically. Axioms don't have proof. Axioms are held to be true without being able to prove them.

As a fundamental rule the the most fundamental rule proves the derived rules. If God by definition is the most Fundamental Thing, there is no way to prove God or God's existence by any derivation.

Since you have mentioned sound cognitive abilities, it is implied that you are expecting the reasonableness of reason or any reasoning provided. The question that now remains is why is reason considered to be of value or meaningful or worth pursuing or even thinking about or why it should be considered sound or unsound. (Note: We are entering recursion. Reason is trying to reason about itself.)

Pure naturalism cannot explain the reasonableness of reason. In pure naturalism there is no reason for reason to exist. Which means reason and reasoning do not exist. Pure naturalism does not have any purpose or meaning or end goal.

Or to take naturalism to an extreme, like some people argue, pure non-rational (non purposeful and non-intentional) causes, suddenly caused reason to come into existence. However anyone with sound cognitive abilities will likely find this kind of argument distasteful and irrational. Its like ex-nihilo non-reason brought forth reason.

And this reason went on to question the source of its existence and found out that the source of its existence was actually non-reason. Funny, isn't it? The same applies to truth and morality and goodness. Out of something that doesn't care about truth or morality or goodness came forth truth and morality and goodness?

Is there a distinct "I", as distinct from the great naturalistic process which can think about the naturalistic process or is the thinking itself still part of the naturalistic process therefore making all contemplation and thinking itself meaningless and hence non-rational?

I hope this answer helped you in some way, pointing to theism as the more reasonable and axiomatic explanation for the existence of reason.

References:

Miracles by C.S. Lewis https://www.fadedpage.com/books/20150616/html.php#c3

The Abolition of Man by C.S. Lewis : https://www.fadedpage.com/showbook.php?pid=20150135

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argument_from_reason

http://dangerousidea.blogspot.com/2006/07/argument-from-reason-and-lewiss-post.html

https://appearedtoblogly.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/the-argument-from-reason.pdf

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  • Your answer could be improved with additional supporting information. Please edit to add further details, such as citations or documentation, so that others can confirm that your answer is correct. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center.
    – Community Bot
    Commented Jan 23 at 11:47
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According to Romans 1:19-20, the answer is "yes":

What can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 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.

Consider a simple child's question, "Daddy, who made the flowers?". We instinctively know that the flowers (and us humans!) have a Designer, just as we instinctively know right from wrong. Life is absolutely abounding in indicators that it was Designed, while attempts to explain life without resort to a Designer run into any number of problems. This answer goes into some additional details. Also see the Discovery Institute for more.

Consider, also, the second point above; that we know right from wrong. Science struggles to explain altruism (as seen not just in humans but in animals as well), yet the scope of human morality extends far beyond that.

All of this points to a Designer, and, while the nature of that designer is more difficult to arrive at, such designer would necessarily be superior to any known existing life. Said designer must either have an origin, which would in turn have to be a higher-order designer and so on ad infinitum, or would have to be uncaused, i.e. would have to be "God". The lack of evidence of any other life in the universe also argues for the latter. (Additional cosmological arguments could be made, but it's arguable whether that's in scope. Moreover, if we invoke Christian Scripture, we could present evidence of the accuracy thereof, which would further support the existence of not just a Designer as a general entity, but the Christian God specifically. However, that is definitely stretching the scope of the question as I understand it.)

(At this point, it may be interesting to consider R. Kirk's answer; in particular, how he uses an a prior philosophical assumption — that nothing immaterial exists — to define "God" as being necessarily material. As noted, this takes us into infinite regress land, which in turn casts doubt on the axiom and therefore serves as positive evidence that "God" does, in fact, exist.)

Now, naysayers will of course deny that God exists, which tells us something else about God; namely, that He has arranged for the evidence of His existence to not be incontrovertible. In fact, He has arranged for humans to have Free Will, which includes the ability to disregard the evidence of His existence. Nevertheless, such a position is full of problems and inconsistencies.

A relevant question is whether those who deny God's existence have an ulterior motive for doing so... and the answer would appear to be 'yes'. Just as most humans acknowledge some form of obedience-debt to their parents, the existence of a Creator would imply some degree of subservience, as well as the existence of standards of right and wrong. One need only look at the rampancy of moral relativism to understand how most humans feel about those ideas!

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  • Interesting perspective. What do you think of Christians such as Blaise Pascal who would contend that God's existence cannot be established using reason alone? See this question.
    – Mark
    Commented Jan 22 at 4:12
  • @Mark, I think it's directly contrary to Romans 1:20. I think that what Pascal saw, rather, was that humans are entirely able to creatively reinterpret the evidence that exists such that one cannot rely on evidence to "prove" God's existence. Those who don't want to believe are simply not going to believe, period. It is impossible for Free Will to exist and for there to exist some body of evidence which cannot be rejected. The two states are logically incompatible. (I think we've had this conversation before? 😉)
    – Matthew
    Commented Jan 22 at 4:17
  • What are your thoughts on reformed epistemology?
    – Mark
    Commented Jan 22 at 4:25
  • By the way, a related question.
    – Mark
    Commented Jan 22 at 4:29
  • @Mark, I think the claim that "(any!) belief can be rational without any appeal to evidence or argument" is using a definition of "rational" that is not the definition I use. I also think Scripture encourages reasoned (i.e. rational) belief. (FYI, I actually got here via the related question, but I don't have an answer for that one. "Consensus" is going to be problematical there.)
    – Matthew
    Commented Jan 22 at 4:31
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Through reason? No, the existence of God cannot be shown through logic alone, for any reasonable choice of axioms. The obstacle is that all-powerful beings are logically impossible; I explain one proof in this answer. Word usage in holy texts would then preclude the existence of several deities as described; see this question and answer for one relevant example.

Through evidence? Well, it's unlikely, because quantum mechanics is indeterminate (see this question and answer) and contextual, and thus forbids classically all-knowing or all-seeing beings. The evidence in favor of quantum mechanics includes Bell tests, GHZ tests, and everyday objects like semiconductors in computers. Additionally, if any creator were to grant any of the typical definitions of free will to us, then by virtue of the Free Will Theorem and the interaction between the cells in our eyes and photons, we would be spreading free will throughout our surroundings, which sometimes is considered a conflict with being all-knowing. (See also "Omniscience and Free Will" on WP as a relevant portal.)

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  • "Through evidence? Well, it's unlikely, because quantum mechanics is indeterminate (see this question and answer) and contextual, and thus forbids classically all-knowing or all-seeing beings" - Can you please unpack this entailment a bit more? How does one thing follow from the other?
    – Mark
    Commented Jan 22 at 0:20
  • @Mark: Sometimes particles are in states where nothing has observed them over a span of spacetime. They are indeterminate; their properties aren't just hidden, but undefinable. This is one of the tough parts of QM, and I can only recommend WP's excellent summaries of the topic. There's also six hours of lectures on the topic from JH Conway.
    – Corbin
    Commented Jan 22 at 0:47
  • Do you know any authors who explicitly make this argument against all-knowing or all-seeing beings? Do you know authors who have responded to those authors?
    – Mark
    Commented Jan 22 at 0:51
  • I believe this answer to be flawed because it relies on an incorrect assumption, namely, that a self-contradictory definition of a term applied to God therefore makes the idea of God logically incomprehensible. A generalization of the purported omnipotence paradox is "There is a thing Y that can do X that cannot do X. Therefore Y cannot exist." It is absurd on its face. Reasonable definitions of omnipotence exist, such as for example, "The ability to do all sensible and worthwhile things". Steelmanning the nature of God by using a more sensible definition will ameliorate this flaw.
    – pygosceles
    Commented Jan 22 at 18:17
  • @pygosceles: Sanity check: I can do all sensible and worthwhile things which are within my ambit, right? You're committing the fallacy of special pleading, where the same logical description applies to both us and also to proposed other beings, but those other beings are given an exemption from the rules of logic and the experience of physics.
    – Corbin
    Commented Jan 22 at 22:39
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Is it possible for an ordinary individual possessing sound cognitive faculties and access to publicly available evidence to establish the existence of a God?

Absolutely yes. The first question to answer is whether or not this person knows anything. What does it mean to know something? It is the same meaning as to have a Conscience. All people have a Conscience to begin with. The very word "cognitive" is cognate with conscience. The root of both words is "knowledge", with the prefix con- meaning "together; with". Therefore a person possessing sound cognitive faculties by definition must have a functioning conscience. The Latin verb cogitare is further extended by etymologies showing a connection to words such as consider, examine, and so on. All of these are grounded in Conscience because in order for anything to be known, it must be contained within or distill upon the Conscience (by definition). Taken together, Conscience and observation prove to all people that there is a God. If he knows anything, he knows there is a God, or can know it by connecting to what he knows.

Interestingly the philosopher René Descartes equated this inner knowledge with a proof of being:

Cogito, ergo sum

In other words, in plain Latin, I have a Conscience (implied by the use thereof by perception or consideration in the verb cogito), therefore I am.

We all know this at least to the degree that we personally think, but how does one think or know anything?

Philosophy alone is unqualified to opine on this subject, and this proves the existence of a Power superior to oneself, or even one's faculties for cognition. Therefore the ultimate proof of existence implies a syllogism consequent from something greater than self or even than thought itself.

Revelations from God state:

For in Him (God) we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring. Acts 17:28

Our faculty of cognition is a gift. We did not and could not create it ourselves, therefore Who gave it to us? This is good logic. Nothing short of this admission or question can be good logic, depending on circular or ungrounded presumption instead.

Further revelations from God equate the Conscience with something called "the Light of Christ", or in other words, the ability to perceive things as they really are, through the power of the Son of God to give and to be the Light and Life of the world. This is the Conscience, the basis of cogito in "cogito ergo sum".

Putting two and two together with these revelations, in the Spirit of true science we may proclaim,

I am a child of God, therefore I am.

This is immediately consequent from the observation that we think or know some things, and that God has claimed authorship of this gift, and proves it to our own selves to the very undeniable and personal repository of the Conscience.

All proof is personal. The work of proving is the act of connecting a proposition "under test" to the corpus of what we personally already know, demonstrating it by the same standard of Conscience, or proving its inconsistency with what one already knows. When such knowledge or proof is delivered, it simply becomes a matter of whether one (1) recognizes what he knows (it is possible to know a thing but not presently remember or recall it, as the condition of temporary amnesia proves), and (2) is honest with oneself and others about this proof. This handily explains why, even when something is known to one or to millions, both relative handfuls or billions depending on the ebb and flow of secular thought, there are holdouts who do not acknowledge what is true, whether they be a minority or a majority.

An infinite number of proofs of the reality of God exist, and every one of them is verifiable by the appropriate application of Conscience to the question.

All things denote there is a God. From planets and comets to skin grafts and the chirality of molecules, every alternative argument requires suspending what we know to pursue ungrounded speculation or circular claims. Belief in God, on the other hand, has its roots in what we do know.

Is there a prevailing consensus in philosophy regarding this question?

Consensus is not a very meaningful indicator in the realm of philosophy. "Philosophy" means love of wisdom, not love of popularity or consensus. If there is wisdom in consensus as contrasted with certain other value systems is a question which deserves an answer in its own right, but it cannot otherwise or generally be taken for granted that consensus among philosophers is inherently meaningful. Many such consensuses in the past have proven to be fads. Whether few or many embrace wisdom does not change the nature of it, nor is it any less valuable because fewer appreciate it. All are entitled to seek it.

As the example from Acts 17 illustrates, many respected philosophers and poets may hint at, touch on, or even agree on the reality and nature of God, and yet still fail to clinch a widespread or unwavering consensus from a populace. This is because of the mutability of how people treat Conscience relative to other considerations, for example, the wavering principle of deference to consensus or apparent consensus.

my impression is that not everyone would agree with this suggestion.

And as we have just demonstrated, whether or not everyone agrees is immaterial.

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