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.
In reading these three statements, I am struck not merely by their similarity to each other, but also to the statement of the disciple Thomas who likewise made clear the practically insurmountable hurdle that would have to be overcome in order for faith to be forthcoming. Indeed the three of you may one day have such an expererience, but I pray that long before that you will realize that what you regard as faith is quite distant from the faith we see Jesus call for in the New Testament. In fact, He teaches that you are better off letting your… Read more »
Thanks for the response Mike! They’re similar because we are all of a similar, rational, empirical mind. “In fact, He teaches that you are better off letting your reason lead you to faith than letting a miracle lead you there.” This is a meaningless and ridiculous statement, using common definitions of “faith.” How, precisely, does reason lead one to religious faith? What chain of reasoning culminates in faith? Most would argue that faith is definitionally NOT derived from reason. If you would like to reverse that definition of “faith,” please do. “Everyone is going to heaven, but, unfortunately, many will… Read more »
If one dies and their body or portions of their body go to heaven… They’re Dead!!! Light switch is off! Complete Power Failure! Gone!
Yes, this is what Connor, David, and Cameron are saying, too. I’m just telling the four of you that things aren’t that bad.
Connor, “…using common definitions of ‘faith’.” Mine comes from Hebrews 11:6 (…the conviction of things not seen.”) “How, precisely, does reason lead one to religious faith? What chain of reasoning culminates in faith?” I read the New Testament and found it logical, credible, and persuasive – so persuaded that I became convinced that the things Jesus said about the unseen dimension are true. “Again, you misuse a word, this time, “believe.” If I die and go to Heaven, I will know, I will not believe.” Here, I stand corrected on my grammar. However, I will add that if you believe… Read more »
“I read the New Testament and found it logical, credible, and persuasive” This is so, so unhelpful. How about, “I read the Koran and found it logical, credible, and persuasive.” Are you convinced now, Mike? Did I open your eyes to the truth of Islam? Do you see the pointlessness of a statement like this, that provides nothing in the way of either fact or reason? You need to either say WHAT ABOUT the bible convinced you of its logic and truth or you’ve said nothing at all. Please do. “However, I will add that if you believe now, you… Read more »
“You need to either say WHAT ABOUT the bible convinced you of its logic and truth or you’ve said nothing at all.” It gave reasonable answers to the most important questions of life: death, morality, and love – and adequately explained how these answers apply to every person regardless of religion or lack thereof. “There is no reason to say that one can know just because one can believe.” You and I distinguish “believe” and “know” differently. I can know something by my own direct experience, or I can know it because someone I trust tells me from their direct… Read more »
We’re not going to agree on the definitions of knowledge or belief, but that really doesn’t matter; we have different definitions, so we cannot establish who is right or wrong. “It gave reasonable answers to the most important questions of life…” Thank you for answering honestly. But let’s try the same thing we tried last time. “The Koran gives reasonable answers to the most important questions of life.” Are you convinced? Of course not, because you need to tell me what the reasonable answers are, and why you should believe them. What does “reasonable” mean? are you basically using “reasonable”… Read more »
That’s a lot of questions, but they’re all reasonable. Check out my blog and you will see that it has a lot of these answers. To the degree that it doesn’t ask me there, and I’ll answer you there.
Otherwise, just remember that one of your fellow human beings recommended Jesus Christ as the way, the truth, and the life.
I’ll remember that. I’ll also remember that other fellow human beings have recommended Allah, Xenu, Satan, Vishnu, and Thor, and I’ll be giving your advice no particular weight because I don’t believe things simply because someone told them to me. I’ll be sure to check out your blog though, because I have infinite free time and don’t mind wading through neck-deep logical inconsistencies, and would love to learn how to draw my morality from a two thousand year old book that celebrates murder and rape.
annnnd this is why most people don’t like to talk about religion
I don’t particularly like talking about murder or rape, either.
I am very impressed with the first article.