The answer is no. I will elaborate.
We don’t need to believe in God to be good people. I have known many good people who didn’t believe in God, including most of my relatives. We don’t need to know God to live good, complete, satisfying lives.
We don’t need God to explain how animals and plants and bacteria came to be (Dawkins has said that Darwin made it possible to be an “intellectually fulfilled atheist”, and that is true). We don’t need God to explain how the planets move, how rainbows form, how birds or airplanes fly, what makes water boil, where thunder comes from, how cells grow and divide, how babies are born, or how it is that human beings live the way we do. Or why dogs are so smart and why we love our kids.
We might not need God to understand the origin of the universe. Stephen Hawking says once we have gravity, we don’t need God – so there is still gravity to explain, which is why I said we might not need God. The same is true for life. We might not need God to explain how DNA appeared as an information-coding molecule that allows modern life, evolution and us. We might not need God to explain why human beings have consciousness and have overcome the restraints of biological evolution. We might not need God to explain things about the universe we find strange or counterintuitive, like the fine tuning of the physical constants or the observer effect or quantum mechanics.
So, either we don’t need God, or we don’t need to believe in God, or we don’t need to consider God at all. Does this mean there is no God?
No, it doesn’t. For most of human history, nobody knew about or believed in the existence of molecules, DNA, supernova, black holes, radiation, electrons, or germs, and yet all of these things exist and are critical to us. Some people alive today do not believe in some of these things, and they are doing just fine. So, no, the fact that we don’t need to believe in God to live our lives or to explain anything says nothing at all about whether God exists. The Darwinian theory of evolution by natural selection, well established by decades of scientific findings in many disciplines, is often taken to suggest that the processes it describes do not need an intelligent, conscious agent. They can function automatically, because the selection is done by “nature” and works quite well.
But does that prove that there is no agent involved, ever? No, it doesn’t. We already know that intelligent agents can step in, direct evolution using willpower, and easily overcome nature in the process. We humans have done this repeatedly, for centuries. Wine grapes, wheat, cattle, dogs, tomatoes, and many more living creatures have resulted from intelligent design by humans. The fact that natural selection works without a conscious agent doesn’t mean a conscious agent is always ruled out. The fact that we either don’t or might not need God says nothing at all about whether God is real.
In other words, we cannot answer the question of God’s existence by finding direct evidence that only God can explain something. That is not the right path to know if God is real. It is also not the way to show that God isn’t real.
The only way to know that God is real is to use an entirely different approach. It isn’t a scientific approach at all. First, understand that not all approaches to truth are scientific. Most scientists used to agree with that concept, and most good ones still do. Second, open your heart, mind and soul to the possibility that God exists. And then wait to see what happens. You have nothing to lose, and possibly (if you are lucky, or deserving or whatever, I have no idea) God will find you and you will know that He is real, that He loves you, and your life will change.
No, you don’t need God. But He needs you, and that is a truly wonderful, miraculous thing.
I say that we need our Lord Jesus everyday onto eternity. I am an historic premillennialist in the tradition of the American Baptist Church minister George Eldon Ladd. I believe that Jesus is ruling now on the throne of David in heaven with the triumphant Universal Church known also as the New Israel. When he returns with the souls of Christians from heaven and they are resurrected, and Christians who have never died are glorified, we will live in the earthly millennial kingdom until it is time for the last judgment. The unsaved dead will be raised along with those who are saved during the millennium. Afterwards, all the redeemed will live on the new earth, the eternal stage of Heaven. That will be a glorious world.
I fully agree with everything you wrote, Charles. The post was originally targeted to atheists, one in particular who used to tell me that we dont need God to explain anything or to live good lives on Earth. I sort of agreed with him, (not so much on the second point), but the issues of theological concern about life after death were not part of that conversation. So thanks for adding this.