This week’s question: “What evidence would force you to admit your belief that God does not exist is false?”

Let me make this clear: Atheism is the absence of belief that any god or gods exist. I am not the one making a positive claim, but rather the theist. Thus the burden of proof lies with them!

But let’s assume that as an atheist, I not only lack a belief in a god, but also posit the claim that God does not exist.

[media-credit name=”Ian Sander” align=”alignleft” width=”250″][/media-credit]Assuming that, I believe that three pieces of evidence would need to be present in order to admit that my claim is false and that the opposite is true:
1. Proof that miracles exist / Proof that natural laws are not consistent, e.g., my tooth fillings disappear overnight after a prayer.
2. Proof that dualism is true / Proof that a mind can exist without the brain, e.g., I die but my mind survives my death.
3. Proof that a particular god or set of deities exists, e.g., I interact with god X or set of deities Y.

Please understand that when an atheist challenges your belief in a god, we don’t posit the claim that “God does not exist.” Rather, we posit the claim that you don’t have good justification to believe that a god does exist. I believe that only those who know that 1, 2 and 3 are true would have sufficient justification for belief in God.
This is why I reject deism and why I presume theistic claims to be unjustified.

David Urzua is a fifth-year philosophy major.

As Christopher Hitchens has said, “Exceptional claims demand exceptional evidence.” However, the evidence I would require before I believed in a god, while exceptional, is not insurmountable. Merely a series of fantastic, inexplicable events tied to some sort of direct and otherwise inexplicable revelation as to their source would do.

For instance, if I saw my Granny Meade alive and walking, or zombies claw themselves out of graves, or if gravity suddenly no longer worked, I would immediately conclude that something fundamentally contrary to my understanding of the world was occurring.

I would probably begin considering the possible explanations. For instance, I would doubt my own sanity, wonder if I were dreaming, being tricked or on a hallucinogenic drug, or whether aliens, higher-dimensional beings or gods were at work.

Some of these explanations I might immediately consider more likely, but for me to believe that any one were true, I would need direct and otherwise inexplicable revelation of one option in order to eliminate the others. For instance, if Jesus Christ appeared and began conjuring loaves and fishes, walking on water, flying, reading minds and destroying Las Vegas or Reno with his mile-high foot, I would say that the most logical explanation of all the above was the existence of Jesus, God and all the rest. And if the vast majority of evidence I collected agreed, I would move past mere belief to assert that I know that God exists.

Connor Oakes is a third-year political science major.

Ignoring for a moment the implication that atheism implies an affirmative belief in a lack of a god, I’ll take this one head-on.

Right off the bat, let me address the “faith” issue. I do not believe that I would or could ever “know” there is a god, regardless of any evidence presented to me. True “faith” is not really in my capacity as a thinking and questioning human — I would have to be a robot to do that. Doubt always exists, regardless of my belief tendencies.

The question of what I would need to convince myself of to believe in the whole “god” idea is very different. The real issue falls on reproducibility. I would need to not only experience, witness or read (from reputable sources) about situations that are explainable only with the presence of a deity, but the event would also need to be reproducible before any consideration. I am far more likely to say “I don’t know,” or “I don’t know yet,” as it would be intellectually irresponsible to posit another level of complexity (as “god” would need to then be explained) without mathematical or logical necessity.

Cameron Moody is a second-year computational biology major.