1. Religion & Spirituality
Send to a Friend via Email

Discuss in my forum

When atheists and theists debate the existence of gods, atheists generally ask for some sort of proof of the god or gods that the theist claims exist. Why do they do this? That is a difficult question to answer because while it is true that atheists often ask theists for proof that their god exists, sometimes they shouldn't. Asking for proof may end up confusing the important issues, causing distraction, and leading the conversation away from where it should be.

 

Read Article: Why Should Theists Prove that God Exists? Why Do Atheists Ask for Proof of God?

Comments
November 20, 2009 at 4:09 pm
(1) tracieh says:

>Other times, however, the atheist really is asking for “proof,” and this is more serious. It is, as I have indicated above, often an error. We don’t normally ask for such absolute proof for claims on other topics, and while it might be nice to have such proof of the existence of a god, it shouldn’t necessarily be demanded here.

I avoid “proof” for semantic reasons and try to isolate the term to math or logic. I have no objection to “support.” But I usually ask for them to demonstrate their claim.

My reasons for this are many, but my main one is that I don’t know what they mean when they say “god”–so they need to show me what they’re referring to. In this case “existence” is manifestation in objective reality, since the theist is generally taking a stand that god is not a concept in his mind, but something that “exists” independent of human thinking. My response then is, “please refer me to your external referent, so I can see examine what you’re talking about.”

In my view, if the person cannot demonstrate the thing, item, being, what-have-you, “god,” then I can’t comment on any claims they make, because I have nothing to compare them to. And in this case, they are merely saying “X exists.” X is nothing to me because I don’t know what it is. And if they can’t demonstrate it to me, then I have no means of evaluating the truth of any claims about X, since I don’t know what X is. And if they can’t demonstrate X, I wonder how they are able to make claims about X, either, since I don’t know what they’re using to evaluate their claims about X…?

“The Bible says god created the world.”

With no means of identifying “god”–I have just said, “X created the world.” It’s meaningless.

Things that do not exist cannot reasonably be put forward as the cause of other things. If we don’t know what god is, and we can’t examine a god, and don’t know how god works, then when we make this statement, “God created the Earth,” here is what we’ve said:

“Something I don’t know did something I don’t know and the Earth was the result.”

Unless a god can be demonstrated and examined and understood in some way, saying “god did X” is the same as saying, “I don’t know how X was done.” It’s just a restatement of the same idea. A mystery used a mysterious method to make the world–is just another way to say “I don’t know how the world was created” (i.e., how the world was created is a mystery to me).

This is not the same as putting forward something like a singularity–which is based on known things (matter and energy) and known behaviors of those things. Once a claim is made that is coherent–where we can examine something–matter and energy–we can check the claims against the externally existing referents and verify or falsify the claims.

So, in that way, “unicorns exist” is actually _more_ like the claim “a singularity exists” than the claim “god exists,” in this way: We know what constitutes a singularity–matter and energy. And we know what constitutes a unicorn–a horse and a horn. And we can start investigating by examining reality/existence to see if we can confirm the existence of such things as unicorns and singularities. Whether they exist or not, they are verifiable (we can identify them if we see them based on the fact they are described using measurable/identifiable criteria) or falsifiable (we can sufficiently rule them out if they fail to meet predictions about their existence, at least in practical reality).

God lacks identifiable attributes, in most cases, and is described in incoherent ways that are not identifiable, because they are meaningless descriptions.

If someone tells me “god is love,” I will assume that they are saying that love is synonymous with god. The emotion, caused by brain chemistry, biology and social conditioning, is god to them. They will not agree to this most often. So, they will say, “God is a loving being.” And to this I assert that god must then have a brain, since love is a product of brain chemistry, biology and social conditioning. But generally this is rejected–it seems god has no material brain. This leaves me in a quandry since the only “love” I know is a product of a brain. Telling me “brainless love” is like telling me “fireless flame.” I don’t know what that is. So, even while common language is used, it’s used in such a way that I am unable to discern any coherent meaning. What do I do with brainless love? Treeless wood? Fireless flame? Nonmaterial personality or intelligence?

They are like Buddhist Koans in that regard–nonsensical statements meant to be unanswerable, incoherent, but seemingly coherent.

If you take any item X, claim it exists, then describe it in incoherent ways, that is unhelpful. I still have no clue what you’re talking about. You simply have to demonstrate this thing, or I don’t see how a dialogue can be had. How can I discuss a thing I can’t even understand? And how can anyone claim to believe in a thing they can’t even explain or understand themselves except as an incoherency?

November 21, 2009 at 4:03 pm
(2) sornord says:

Why Should Theists Prove that God Exists?

Very simple: because THEY are the ones making the wilda** claim!

November 23, 2009 at 1:36 pm
(3) Turner says:

Why not believe in God? I’m fourteen freaking years old and I can seem to understand it better than you. If you believe in Him, and he is real, you go to heaven. If He is not, you die like everybody else. So what harm does it do to believe? You might as well. Miracles happen everyday. It makes me really sad to see a great person who doesnt belive in God. To know that they wont end up in heaven, despite all they’ve done. Though I believe in heaven and God, lets say it doesn’t exist. Then I would die the same as you. But if it did, I would be there, in paradise, and you wouldn’t. Its not my place to judge, I’m not saying your a bad person. I just feel terrible that people die everyday, refusing to believe in Him. Why not?

November 23, 2009 at 1:45 pm
(4) Turner says:

I’m sorry, but I cant help but laugh at everything on here. I feel horrible that you refuse to accept Him, but the statements you make, and your reasons for not believing are pretty pathetic. I will never understand why you all refuse to accept Him, but I think maybe something horrible has happened, and you blame God for it. I understand why you think we are making a “wilda” claim. I think it is wild myself. Its amazing how God could have created all of this. Its “wild”.

November 23, 2009 at 4:19 pm
(5) Austin Cline says:

Why not believe in God?

Why not believe in Odin?

I’m fourteen freaking years old and I can seem to understand it better than you.

Feel free to show how.

If you believe in Him, and he is real, you go to heaven. If He is not, you die like everybody else. So what harm does it do to believe?

Pascal’s Wager, quite possibly the worst apologetics argument ever devised.

Miracles happen everyday.

Please define “miracle” and cite a few.

It makes me really sad to see a great person who doesnt belive in God.

Why?

To know that they wont end up in heaven, despite all they’ve done.

Not everyone who believes in gods is in heaven, at least according to most religious orthodoxies, so this is hardly a reason to be sad about atheism.

Though I believe in heaven and God, lets say it doesn’t exist. Then I would die the same as you. But if it did, I would be there, in paradise, and you wouldn’t. Its not my place to judge, I’m not saying your a bad person.

So you believe that people do, will, and should suffer for all eternity even though they aren’t bad people?

I just feel terrible that people die everyday, refusing to believe in Him. Why not?

For the same reason I don’t believe in Odin.

the statements you make, and your reasons for not believing are pretty pathetic.

Feel free to explain how or why.

I will never understand why you all refuse to accept Him, but I think maybe something horrible has happened, and you blame God for it.

That’s a popular myth among theists who are unable or unwilling to directly address any of the arguments atheists offer. It’s easier to dismiss atheists because of alleged events in their past rather than take seriously the possibility that they have a valid point to make.

I understand why you think we are making a “wilda” claim. I think it is wild myself. Its amazing how God could have created all of this. Its “wild”.

About as “wild” as ancient stories of Odin, or contemporary stories about astrology.

November 24, 2009 at 12:39 pm
(6) tracieh says:

In addition to Pascal’s Wager failing on the level Austin points out (which god do I accept of the innumerable concepts of gods?), it it also simply a false on two other painfully obvious fronts:

1. I can’t ‘choose’ to believe things in the fashion Pascal tries to express. I can _pretend_ to believe a thing that is not credible, but I can’t really believe it until it’s sufficiently credible to my mind (whatever that may take for me personally). So, the idea that a sufficient reward is enough to force belief into my brain fails to demonstrate a real-world understanding of what belief is and how brains function to come to believe things. This is not that surprising, since theistic belief is often the product of browbeating a child’s psyche rather than an idea arrived at by observations and reason; so it does make sense that a theist might have a warped sense of what constitutes “belief” to those outside his religion, or how others arrive at beliefs (not drilled into their tiny child minds, but concluded based on observation and reason).

2. Very few Christian sects, despite what they might claim, practice a doctrine of salvation through belief. In fact, in the Bible, malevolent demons and even Satan are believers–but I don’t know of any church that preaches they are saved through their belief. Generally god demands that one hand over one’s life to his service, praise and glorification. And this means, as the song states, “trust and obey.” This means that most believers in standard Christian doctrine hand over their life, their morality their will (not my will, but thine, right?), to this “god” which is defined most often by their church group (who might claim the Bible, the pope, some prophet, or direct personal revelation) as the means of arriving at the doctrine. But the fact is, you give up your life to this system. And if it’s false, then, it’s untrue you’ve lost nothing or little. If it’s false, this is the one and only life you’ve got–and you just blew it in service to a religious organization that controlled your entire life, your mind, and your resources to no small degree. You lost your one chance to live your life the way a human being should live if we are humans in a godless universe. And you gave it all up to a cult instead; simply because you were afraid a baseless claim might be true. That fear is also the result of childhood browbeating, as is the lack of trust in yourself to make good judgements about the truth value of religious claims.

Don’t feel sorry for me. I’m ready to answer for my choices, because I arrived at them through long consideration. If I’m wrong, I can offer plenty of justification to a god who requested belief in his existence, but then did his best to hide from evidence and reason. He might send me to hell, but he does so at the cost of calling himself just and fair. Powerful? OK. But I don’t see the honor in worshipping Hitler just because he has control of the guns.

On the other hand, if I’m right, I lived my life as a free human with a level of human dignity that no one who accepts the doctrine of “salvation” can ever have or even grasp (as they must accept themselves as unworthy beings, deserving of nothing good, and groveling for the acceptance and love of a brutal and fearsome image that defines blood lust and threats as “love”). Even if I thought such a being did exist–why in the world would I worship it except out of pure cowardice?

November 24, 2009 at 1:42 pm
(7) Turner says:

If Iím wrong, I can offer plenty of justification to a god who requested belief in his existence, but then did his best to hide from evidence and reason.

So are you admitting that there could be a God somewhere?

November 24, 2009 at 1:51 pm
(8) Turner says:

You are saying that if there is a God somewhere, he would forgive you because you gave logical reasons for not believing. That sounds like maybe you do believe a God exists somewhere. Sorry if I misunderstood you. I have a hard time understanding your beliefs and statements about my faith. I think everyone has a right to believe in whatever they want, and no one should stop them. If atheism is your choice, so be it. We attack what tou say because we love you. Now, I can understand some of what you say, and you make some good points. I’m a Christian and I will openly admit that. But my faith says otherwise. I believe in God, you don’t. I have nothing against you. You seem to hate all Christians, I will never know why. I’m sorry that we all disagree. Go ahead and quote everything i say from this message too.

November 24, 2009 at 2:10 pm
(9) Austin Cline says:

You are saying that if there is a God somewhere, he would forgive you because you gave logical reasons for not believing. That sounds like maybe you do believe a God exists somewhere. Sorry if I misunderstood you.

It’s a standard test of a person’s position to take some premise of theirs and treat it as true to see where it leads. That’s what’s happening here. It doesn’t mean that one actually believe the premise is true, though.

I have a hard time understanding your beliefs and statements about my faith.

Like?

I think everyone has a right to believe in whatever they want, and no one should stop them.

Is anyone here trying to stop you?

If atheism is your choice, so be it.

It’s no more a choice than I “choose” to not believe there is a dragon in my basement.

We attack what tou say because we love you.

Yes, attacking others is always a sign of deep love.

Now, I can understand some of what you say, and you make some good points. I’m a Christian and I will openly admit that. But my faith says otherwise.

So, you admit that atheists make some good points, but your faith says that they aren’t really good points and that’s what you’re going with?

I believe in God, you don’t. I have nothing against you.

You just attack what we say.

You seem to hate all Christians, I will never know why.

Well, I don’t know why you say that. You certainly don’t bother to cite any examples of this hate.

I’m sorry that we all disagree.

So, you’d prefer that no one ever disagreed? Interesting.

November 24, 2009 at 4:11 pm
(10) Dean says:

Hey, Turner! I think Tracieh is actually saying a JUST God would forgive her. Since eternal agony for finite crimes is a great example of something obviously unjust, she shouldn’t expect justice from the God described in the Bible. And she’s just allowing the possibility of God existing for the sake of argument, in an ‘even if it WERE true, then’ sense.

November 25, 2009 at 1:28 pm
(11) Turner says:

I attack everyting you say? This entire website is nothing but attacks on Christians. And since you cant seem to be mature about what I say, I’ll explain it to you. “We attack what you say because we love you”. Maybe we don’t want good people to end up in hell? And when I said everyone should have a right to believe ( or in your case, dont believe ) what they want, I was defending you. But, once again, since you cant seem to be mature about anything I say, I’ll just leave you alone. You are a hippocrite Austin.

November 25, 2009 at 3:59 pm
(12) Austin Cline says:

I attack everyting you say?

I didn’t say “everything,” but I did quote you when you said that you “attack what you [atheists] say.” Or did you forget that you wrote that?

This entire website is nothing but attacks on Christians.

Feel free to explain how criticism of Islam or Hindu extremism qualify as “attacks on Christians.” Do tell everyone how explanations about the history of agnosticism and humanist philosophy are “attacks on Christians.”

Or, perhaps you would prefer to reconsider and retract your accusation?

And since you cant seem to be mature about what I say, I’ll explain it to you.

Since when is it not “mature” to challenge and question what a person claims?

“We attack what you say because we love you”. Maybe we don’t want good people to end up in hell?

So, you think that attacking other people will keep them from hell? Perhaps they think that a “heaven” full of people who behave in such a manner would be the real hell.

And when I said everyone should have a right to believe ( or in your case, dont believe ) what they want, I was defending you.

Given the context, that was hardly clear.

But, once again, since you cant seem to be mature about anything I say, I’ll just leave you alone.

If you think that it’s immature to be challenged in what you claim, then I submit that it is you who has the problem.

You are a hippocrite Austin.

Hypocrisy is to promote values or principles that one does not believe in or personally follow. I’ll point out that you do not even attempt to demonstrate that this is true about me, making your accusation hollow at best. Indeed, it’s arguably quite immoral to make such unfounded and unsupported accusations about others.

If that’s the sort of behavior and attitude required to get into your heaven, I’d be happier to be excluded.

November 26, 2009 at 5:15 pm
(13) AtheistGeophysicistBob says:

Turner (3, 4, 7, 8, 11). You have to be somewhat intellectually unsophisticated to think you can flaunt your ignorance on this site without being challenged.

November 29, 2009 at 7:16 pm
(14) Crocusj says:

Turner.

Perhaps it is because you are 14yo that you think we should all live in a perfect world of peace, love and understanding. And why not – we should! However, those of us who have been around the block a couple of times can see the rose tinted glasses with which you see that it will be Christianity that can lead us to this Utopia.
Remember, an atheist does not believe in any god. If you choose to believe in a god that is up to you, an atheist will not care (apart from good product for an argument). The problem arises when your belief system has a invasive and/or detrimental effect on peoples lives and the stability and possible progress of humans as a species. Your religion (and others) has a shameful history of murder, torture and subjugation of people. Your religion has a shameful history of censorship, lies and duplicity. Your religion has a shameful history of blocking at all cost (usually by an employment of the shoot the messenger technique since that also act as a deterrent to further heresy) any scientific progress unless it suited its own ends without a single thought as to what this has meant for the rest of humanity.
An atheist does not see Christianity as dangerous to his beliefs (or lack of them) he sees Christianity as dangerous to his actual well being and therefore you are not nor should you be immune from “attack”. So feel free to hold your beliefs and feel free to argue about them just please do not try to save me from your fiery pit, it costs me and mine way too much.

PS. Never use pascals wager, it insults your god!

Leave a Comment

Line and paragraph breaks are automatic. Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title="">, <b>, <i>, <strike>

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.