Demonstrating God’s Existence Through Desire

All of us face many trials and difficulties in this world that serve to remind us that we are really in a foreign land, far from home. The world can bewilder us, and beguile us, disappoint us and demand of us.

But what if our dissatisfaction with this world was not merely a selfishness, or a lack of gratitude for what we have? What if this dissatisfaction is supposed to be there?

Consider for a moment that your desire is infinite. Honestly, it is. When was the last time you were perfectly satisfied and needed nothing? Never happened, did it? We are a vast and limitless sea of desire. Yes, if we are honest, our desires are quite limitless, clearly  infinite.

But does this not show forth  God’s existence and that he wrote his name in your heart? Does it not give clear evidence  that you were made for God?

How does this demonstrate the existence of God? Well, consider the following:

1. Nothing can give what it does not have (Nihil dat quod non habet). For me to give you $20, I must first have at least  $20.

2. Hence that which is  finite cannot give what is infinite. That which is limited cannot give something that is unlimited.

3. Our desire is demonstrably infinite, unlimited.

4. But the Material world is finite. It is limited.

5. Thus the Material world did not confer this infinite desire upon us.

6. Hence someone or something infinite must have conferred this infinite desire upon us.

7. That Someone we call, God.

If your desire is infinite and insatiable, unlimited and unremitting, maybe its about God!  Why should this world satisfy you? It is puny and passing compared to your heart’s truest longing. Maybe it’s God you are really longing for! Think about it.

This song has a verse that says, God and God alone, will be the joy of our eternal home. He will be our one desire. Our hearts will never tire, of God and God alone.

38 Replies to “Demonstrating God’s Existence Through Desire”

  1. I’m not sure that I agree with the premise that human desire is always infinite. Indeed, when speaking of present desire, we are often completely satisfied. Many people reach a point where, after a long career, they do not need or desire any more money. And there does come a time at dinner when we have had enough to eat. We do not desire more. True, later on, the next day, we desire food again, and all along we might have a future desire for food in the future, i.e. a sense of security, but speaking of the present, we do not have that desire. Rather, we are often content, even if only temporarily. But to the extent that this could be considered a constant and infinite desire, it is no different than the animals, who also have an ongoing desire for food.

    But leaving that aside, where does dissatisfaction come from? Is it something that God put into us to draw us toward Him and the transcendent?

    God certainly placed within us a desire and longing for him, a thirst and hunger for Love and Truth, largely as part of our being made in His image and likeness, and thus He did place in us a desire for that which is beyond the world. But is that “dissatisfaction” with the world?

    God made the world. And when He finished making it, He said that it was “good.” And He placed us in the Garden and we had all that we might ever need or want — we had Him. There was no dissatisfaction there in the Garden. At least, not at first, and not from Him.

    The dissatisfaction arose only when we ourselves became dissatisfied with being mere creatures. We wanted to be like gods. The One True God did not put that dissatisfaction into us — that dissatisfaction is entirely the result of our own Original Sin. Dissatisfaction with “good” is a species of evil, including dissatisfaction with the good that is the world as God made it. If the world is not now “good,” that is not God’s doing, it is ours. God did not cause the evil that is dissatisfaction with His good Creation, we did.

    That said, can our dissatisfaction, a desire for more than the good that God already gave us, caused entirely by us, still be evidence of His existence? Perhaps. Sentience and the capacity for rational thought, hence the ability to comprehend moral truth and thus, to “sin” and be dissatisfied, the ability to somehow transcend the physical workings of our brains, do point toward a Creator, as opposed to an impersonal and determinist origin of the universe.

    1. I suppose that the some get to a place of material satisfaction but it has not been my experience that anyone I have ever met no matter how rich etc was really fully satisfied. YOur point as to the Garden etc. does seem leave out that the original beauty of creation was marred and we were exiled from paradise to this valley of tears. At any rate I appreciate the distinctions you have made here since it is clear that there are many ways to look at this question of desire in us.

      1. THanks for this contribution and the distinction of Thomas. Let me say however, I am not saying that even infinite desire is necessarily uncreated. Hence I would fully concur with Thomas here.

  2. Your proof is flawed in two respects.

    First, you have not demonstrated that human desire is unlimited. You have merely stated it.

    Second, desire is not a condition of having, but of not having. The Material world is perfectly capable of conferring a condition of not having.

    1. Well, I didn’t call it a proof. I do not merely state that desire is infinite, I ask you to consider it. As for me, it is clear that my desire is limitless. Finally, do you do what you condemn in your second point in simply reducing desire to a state of not having? Is this definition simply to be accepted. You have not even invited us to consider if this definition is true you merely state it.

  3. Interesting argument for God. But what exactly is the desire? If it’s for something temporal, it’s a temporal desire. I think a better argument would be like this:

    1. Man desires eternal and universal realities (eternal love, universal peace, etc.)
    2. Man would not reasonably desire this if it were not possible
    3. Man is a rational creature, i.e., he is endowed with human reason
    4. If only a few men desired something, this desire could be brushed aside as mere trifles
    5. If all men desire something, this desire must be both natural and reasonable
    6. Since all men desire eternal and universal realities, these realities must exist somehow
    7. Science demonstrates that nothing in the continuum is eternal
    8. Ergo, even if something is universal, it is not eternal, so does not satisfy man’s desire
    9. Therefore something without the Universe must be the end of man’s desire
    10. This something must have had an effect on man’s nature given his desire is natural
    11. This something must have a connection to man given his desire is rational
    12. This something must not be bound to time if it is to be eternal
    13. This something must be unchangeable if it is not bound to time
    14. This something must be perfect if it is unchangeable – or else, imperfect, it could not be without time
    15. This something must be infinitely perfect if it is perfect – or else, finitely perfectly, it could not be without space
    16. This something must be self-existent
    17. This something must be living self-existence
    18. This something must be existence
    19. This something must be not an existence as we know it but an infinite, eternal, perfect existence of being
    20. This being would fit the category of God

    Yet as Dawkins argues (my paraphrase), “How can you know it is God? Why not Buddha or another god?” This is why in addition to philosophy and reason, one must study religion. We know Jesus Christ, but we must pray for those who search for Him and those who do not know Him.

    1. Well this is a very good elaboration of what I am trying to do in seminal form. As to your final point I would agree more is needed here. I do not propose this little article as a fully developed “proof” to use Cassandra’s word. Just a blog to provoke thought. Hence, it’s brevity. Thank you thought for fleshing out the arguments so well.

  4. Just because no one has ever not desired something does not mean that one cannot be desireless. Lack of experience does not constitute the impossibility of having said experience.

    No one (for the sake of arguement) has ever meet intelligent extraterrestrial life, but that does not mean that intelligent extraterrestrial life does not exist..

  5. Father Charles, I have made your site my home page in order to start the day with your encouragement and reflections. Thank you for your work.
    P.S. I don’t know if you want typo info or not, but this sentence has one: “Does it not give lcar evidence that you were made for God?”

  6. I’m a Catholic, but couldn’t an atheist argue that desire, like all existence, ends with death and is therefore finite? I don’t think that this disproves the notion that if one really thinks on it, he is never really satisfied with what he’s got. ie… I’m full and I’m comfortable, but I could do with a million bucks, I guess. Do we have a good response to this?

    1. Well, the point isn’t to focus on length of the desire (i.e. it will end with death) but on the breadth and depth of it. Here and now I have something that seems quite evidently infinite. Where, did the very notion of infinite come from, and how can the finite confer something infinite here and now.

  7. Isn’t our thinking about our desire a proof of God itself?

    Personally I think Descartes was close but way off. The formula should have been, “I think therefore He is.”

    “Think” about it. The purely-natural explanation for the universe and our creation can only be coherent in the absence of meaning. The natural creation position says that accident (no meaning) created us. The fact that we search for meaning, and find many various meanings, is proof of this.

    Meaning = God. Our search for meaning = Faith. Finding the right meaning = Hope. Finding the wrong meaning = disorder.

  8. An interesting case for God. I’m not sure an atheist would agree with your argument because he wouldn’t recognize that longing as a longing for God.

    Although I tend to be content and happy, once I turned towards God, I felt complete. Nothing could have filled that God-shaped hole in my life — not my work or family or music or books. But until I turned towards God, I didn’t even know there was a hole.

    1. Yes, to be sure the argument is a humble one, and subtle too. It’s more about sowing seeds of thought than attempting a slam-dunk argument. Hence I tried to keep the post more brief (which is a challenge for a motor-mouth like me).

  9. Excellent article, Msgr. I have always been impressed with our ability to always seek what is perfect, even though nothing in this world reaches perfection. For me, this parallels the argument for God that you illustrate here. We live in this imperfect world, but we compare things to perfection. Perfect love, a perfect flower, a perfect sphere, etc. Perhaps some of Plato’s theory of forms is applicable here, but I believe our desire for the perfect comes from God (and, perhaps, a built-in craving for the Eden we lost).

  10. The dissatisfaction arose only when we ourselves became dissatisfied with being mere creatures. We wanted to be like gods. The One True God did not put that dissatisfaction into us — that dissatisfaction is entirely the result of our own Original Sin. Dissatisfaction with “good” is a species of evil, including dissatisfaction with the good that is the world as God made it. If the world is not now “good,” that is not God’s doing, it is ours. God did not cause the evil that is dissatisfaction with His good Creation, we did.

    Does this mean Adam and Eve were created imperfectly-with some form of original sin? Or what would you attribute as the root cause of their their desire for more

    1. Well the point is that I DON’t equate desire with sin. Now it is true, in our fallen condition we can misdirect our desire either to incorrect objects, or to good things but in excess. But desire in itself is not wrong. That it is infinite is ultimately evidence we were made for God. That is my point. SO I don’t agree that dissatisfation is sin or the result of sin necessarily. I think some forms of it can arise from inordinate desires for earthly things but in essence, our dissatisfaction arises from the fact that this world cannot satisfy what is, unltimately a desire for God. That desire is of course God and our hearts are restless (dissatisfied) until they rest fully in God.

      1. our dissatisfaction arises from the fact that this world cannot satisfy what is, unltimately a desire for God

        But we already had God, until we decided that we did not want Him, we wanted ourselves instead. In our original state, before sin, we had no cause for dissatisfaction. We had everything that He chose to give to us, until we decided that we something other and more than what He gave us, until we decided that “our will be done” instead of His will be done.

      2. until we decided that we something other and more than what He gave us

        That should be — “until we decided that we wanted something other and more than what He gave us”

  11. That is why Freedom and Participation are objective principles of endurance…it is successfully managing the struggles of life.

  12. I am amused that the photo you attached to this thread is of a young child.

    Perhaps we parents should regard in a different light the “Buy Me This” demands with which we’re faced whenever we go shopping?

    1. Yes, though I didn’t develop the notion, the point of the picture is that our infinite desires are not something that develop as a cultural impression on the soul but something that is there from the start due to the fact that God has written his name in our heart. We are conceived with this desire, it is not learned.

  13. God is beyond proof.Faith is a gift. All we can do is to present strong rational evidence for the possibility of his existence. Logic in itself is a limited exercise. If you don’t agree, I would recommend familiarizing oneself with the work of Kurt Godel.

      1. First, thank you for a lovely post. And I don’t blame you for avoiding calling something a proof unless you are rock solid sure of it. But the second sentence of your reply here (“If I could ‘prove’ God exists, i wouldn’t need faith”) makes me suddenly remember an interesting and convincing argument I once heard that indeed you must be able to prove or otherwise have knowledge of the existence of God in order to believe any other truth with divine Faith.

        According to this argument, God’s existence cannot be a matter of faith if you are to have Faith at all. If you take something on faith, you are believing it on someone’s authority (that’s the definition of faith). Well enough to take various points of the Creed on divine authority. But if you try to take God’s existence on his authority, well, that’s circular. And if you take his existence on some human authority, then all the points of the Creed you think you are taking on Divine authority are ultimately resting on human authority. So, to be able to hold anything on divine authority (to have Faith with a capital ‘F’), you must have knowledge of God’s existence.

        This didn’t make sense to me when I first heard the argument (which I seem to remember came from something in Aquinas), because I thought the “knowledge” of God’s existence that the argument refers to meant perfectly understanding things such as Aquinas’ five proofs for God’s existence, and surely there are many people who possess Faith who lack the intellect to perfectly understand those proofs (myself included!).

        But I can’t dismiss the circularity pointed out above. So I am left concluding that it just might not be so silly after all for people to say they “just know” that God exists. If a person has Faith, then it must mean they also have the knowledge upon which it is based – howsomever they came to that knowledge. There are surely many ways God can and does gently and lovingly (or powerfully and strongly! :)) communicate the prerequisite knowledge of his existence, if he desires a person to hold to the rest of the points of the creed on Faith.

        (Oh, and another difficulty is that the Creed itself states “I *believe* in one God…” But from what I understand, that phrase can be explained in a few different ways that fit with knowledge of his existence being prerequisite for Belief. [The most convincing of which, if I remember correctly, has to do with the use of “in” and case endings in the Latin, so that the “in” means something like “unto” and not just “believe in” in the sense of taking something on faith; and another of which is to say that “believe” there refers not to God’s existence, but his to various revealed attributes that begin to be named a bit later after He’s identified with existence assumed]).

      2. ***Your comment is helpful and makes some distinctions that are necessary in this discussion. I was reminded of a quote from the Catechism that should be included here to balance my remark that we would not need faith if we could simply prove the existence of God. My statement as it stands is in need of clarification and distinction. The Catechism supplies it so let me allow it to speak:

        Though human reason is, strictly speaking, truly capable by its own natural power and light of attaining to a true and certain knowledge of the one personal God…and of the natural law written in our hearts by the Creator; yet there are many obstacles which prevent reason from the effective and fruitful use of this inborn faculty…The human mind…is hampered in the attaining of such truths, not only by the impact of the senses and the imagination, but also by disordered appetites which are the consequences of original sin. So it happens that men in such matters easily persuade themselves that what they would not like to be true is false or at least doubtful. That is why man stands in need of being enlightened by God’s revelation about…religious and moral truths…so that they can be known by all men with ease, with firm certainty and with no admixture of error (Catechism 37-38).

  14. <>

    Well not every desire is ‘infinite’, but I agree that ONE particular desire is. Without a doubt no matter how much a man (or woman) acheives he still will be longing for more.

    I think that the same concept of ‘perfect satisfaction’ is something that nothing material can give.

  15. “God is beyond proof.Faith is a gift. All we can do is to present strong rational evidence for the possibility of his existence. Logic in itself is a limited exercise. If you don’t agree, I would recommend familiarizing oneself with the work of Kurt Godel.”

    Godel was primarily talking about mathematics and mathematical logic., although his theorems, I think might be extended beyond mathematics, possibly.

    What Godel proves, in my opinion, at least in regard with mathematics, is that (human) logic has limitations. This has the consequence that we can never fully understand the material o the non-material world.

    Logic however is not useless, many things can be understood through logic, even things about God (look at the first part of the Summa Theologica by Thomas Aquinas!).

    Interestingly Godel was a convinced theist, believing in a personal God and the afterlife.

  16. Msgr. Pope,
    Makes sense to me. St. Augustine breaks this down in length in his “tractiles” on the Gospel of “John.” You are far more brief than he.
    Thank You, I loved it.

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