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Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Burden of Proof

There is a great debate raging in the world between Atheists and Theists on whether or not God exists and whether or not there is an afterlife at all. Each side makes its points with passion, and with a mixture of intelligence, good sense, and illogical rants. The question is; who needs to prove God anyway?

Let us assume for a moment that Atheists are correct in every assertion. What harm is caused to the theists? None at all. If oblivion is all tat awaits then it doesn’t mater what you believe spiritually, and if your religion makes you happy and gives you purpose then it is a good thing and you should enjoy it.

Now let’s assume that the Theists are right. Setting aside the many different religions with competing ideas of God, how does this affect the Atheists? If the Theists are right then the Atheists may well be screwed depending on which group of Theists are right. This is especially true since most Theistic religions promise condemnation for unbelievers.

This, I believe, is why the Atheists spend so much time and effort trying to “prove” the improvable; the non-existence of God. It is a defense mechanism to help them remain firm in their belief against the arguments of pious folk who are busily trying to convert everyone.

I must admit to being biased in this argument. As an evangelical Christian I have very strong religious views and a very firm conviction in the existence of God as He is described in the Bible. I also believe that God can choose to prove Himself to anyone he wishes, but that he person who He reveals Himself to may not be able to convince others of what he has been shown. Atheists would argue the any experience of God is a hallucination, drug induced, a dream, misattribution of an event, or the result of a weak and impressionable mind being convinced of something that never happened. It is their God given right to think this if they want to, and it is their God given right not to believe in God they don’t want to. The God I worship respects our choices enough to let us do that.

15 Comments:

  • Amen and Amen.

    By Blogger C R Mountjoy - GDF, at 2:15 AM  

  • "This, I believe, is why the Atheists spend so much time and effort trying to “prove” the improvable; the non-existence of God. It is a defense mechanism to help them remain firm in their belief against the arguments of pious folk who are busily trying to convert everyone."

    This isn't the only reason that many atheists, agnostics, deists, and others speak against religion. Many of them feel that organized religion is actually a force for evil in the world.

    We need only look at the current war to see signs of this. In this country we have televangelists soliciting money from lonely shut-ins who need that money for food and medicines. We have preachers who spout hate and intolerance from the pulpit. We have dominists who wish to follow in the footsteps of the Islamic fundamentalists. They want to turn this country into a theocracy based on their own narrow interpretation of the Bible.

    Yes, there is much good in religion - charitable works, moral lessons, lessons of love and tolerance. Unfortunately, religion can and has been used as a justification for wars, genocide, torture, and other much less desirable actions.

    Assuming those who reject organized religion do so only because they see it as myth and superstition is a far too common mistake made by theists.

    By Anonymous John, at 8:45 AM  

  • You've made some fine and commendable points here, RC. As has John, above.

    Thank you both.

    By Blogger Dan Trabue, at 10:49 AM  

  • In general, the person making an assertion is the one who bears the burden of proving it. That's certainly the way it works in science and in law, for good reason.

    I've known many atheists and I have never met one who seeks to "prove" that there is no deity. They simply don't buy it. "Atheism" means "without God," not "No God." The burden of proving an unlikely proposition doesn't shift just because a skeptic stands up and disputes it.

    And I don't think you can simply "set aside" the fact that there are and have been an enormous number of mutually incompatible propositions about God. That fact makes skepticism about any particular propsition completely rational (it doesn't need to be explained by some snarky suggestion that the doubter secretly fears that the proposition is true). I suspect that you and all of your commenters are atheists when it comes to Shiva, Zeus, Odin, etc. etc.

    Only one of the contending propositions CAN be true. That strongly suggests that any particular one isn't. Including yours. If you expect people to believe your proposition, then the burden falls on you to prove it.

    Now you may be comfortable accepting your proposition without proof (aka Faith), but that doesn't justify sniping at others who aren't.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:03 AM  

  • You missed an important point. If the the Theists are right, most of them are screwed too. As you pointed out, "most Theistic religions promise condemnation for unbelievers." So, Mormon was the right answer? Ya'll screwed.

    Of course, I don't know if this is true. I know a lot of Christianity sects, Jewish, most "eastern" religions, for example, do not propose eternal damnation for nonbelievers.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:38 AM  

  • I didn't miss that point actually, it just goes wothout saying that most based on certain religions, assuming them to be correct, that anyone not affiliated with tha religion is screwed, atheist or theist.

    By Blogger Daniel Levesque, at 10:06 AM  

  • I agree, believers do not require proof. That which cannot be proven requires faith. Faith does not require proof, nor evidence, nor logic. Where as, proof requires all of these but faith. Faith and proof are in essence mutually exclusive. This means that arguing from either position against the other will forever feel like a meaningless effort in futility.

    I cannot speak for all atheists, but for myself I agree with what John said above. Religious fundamentalism, no matter where it originates is incapable of incorporating conflicting world views. This lack of tolerance inevitably leads to violence. As an atheist my goal in discussing the absence of God is to try and promote tolerance. It is not only possible but is actually quite common to be an atheist and a good person. The same is true of Muslims and Jews and Buddhists, etc..

    That is the whole point of the God or Not carnival. The hope is not really to convert anyone but rather to open a civil dialog that may help to diffuse some of the fundamentalist hatred generated by religious beliefs.

    By Blogger LBBP, at 10:05 AM  

  • If oblivion is all tat awaits then it doesn’t mater what you believe spiritually, and if your religion makes you happy and gives you purpose then it is a good thing and you should enjoy it.

    Even if your purpose is to blow up big buildings and kill all non-believers?

    By Blogger Aeger, at 4:50 PM  

  • Antigone-

    You're forgetting something (Not to mention, horribly simplifying Pascal's Wager).

    If this life is all you get, then you waste it being afraid of some intangible being when you could be busy enjoying it (sex, and drugs come to mind). Not to mention, the justification of violence towards others and yourself.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:42 PM  

  • Here's my entry point:

    "a very firm conviction in the existence of God as He is described in the Bible"

    Which one are you convinced of? There seems to be a plethora of personalities forwarded as God in that book.

    Let me change the question slightly: are you convicted of the truth of a man inside the belly of the fish? Are you convicted of the truth of a woman transformed into a pillar of salt? Are you convicted of the truth of a man struck dead after touching the ark of the covenant? Are you convicted of the truth of a man's dream of a sheet descending from heaven containing a variety of food?

    I ask these not to discuss the multivalence of the language or the ethics of a deity, but to ask, sincerely, if you really have a sense that event x in history actually happened. That is, is there something within your being that recognizes the story as an actual happenstance? I found that I had no sense one way or another of any of the events in the vast Judeo-Christo-Greco amalgamation. None of them could I objectively or subjectively authenticate. The whole of the faith commitment came from the other end: accept the entire story first, and then the particulars became unquestionable.

    If this is the case for you, that is, if you do not have a personal memory of the events in question, doesn't it follow that the deity you find described in the Bible and of whose existence you are convicted of (whatever that may mean) correlates to some immaterial and non-temporal recognition within your being? That is, does not the deity you recognize correspond to an inner sense of an Omniscient, Omnibenevolent, Omnipotent being? Does not this being with which you resonate generate the response in you regardless of the specific events of the text in which you claim to find him/her?

    This may be a long way to get to this point: does it not sound like (if you agree with the foregoing) that this deity and your recognition of the same has at least as much to do with your own mind as it does with some external text or object? If you do not recognize all the events in the book ascribed to this deity and his minions, why do you grant any of the events axiomatic status?

    To return to your point: the burden of proof lies with the positive assertion--which is to say with the theist. Why do you require Muslims or Mormons to prove their case? Because they are making a positive assertion and accordingly they bear the burden of proof.

    But those without a sense of a supernatural being are not required to demonstrate the grounds and rationale for their position--they have no position to defend. I do not have any ducks in my back yard, so I will not waste my time cleaning up their sh*t.

    Again, Christianity rests on Special Pleading, and the rest of us wouldn't care, but here's why it matters, and it's not just because we are afraid of Yahweh.

    Rather, it's because multi-millions are paralyzed by faith. Mutli-millions are never allowed to live because they are crippled by the self-consciousness and fear foisted on them by religion, of which x-tianity is an exemplar.

    There's also the problem of irresponsibility that religion fosters, because, at core, this world is disposable since there will be a new one after the millenium. In the meantime, environmental issues are not really taken seriously by the powerful, our children are not really planned for--all because Jesus will be back any day now.

    Then of course, we've got the competing claims of inerrancy armed and committed to Armageddon. We have no reason to expect to survive the horrors your religions prophecy for our planet.

    Theists, your special pleading is dishonest, irresponsible and dangerous. You should be ashamed. You will kill us all.

    Love the Carnival :)

    By Blogger LJ, at 7:42 PM  

  • Should this really about proof? I would like an answer to this question? Scripture says "The fool says there is no God" or literally "NO GOD...", or "NO GOD FOR ME". Isn't that the real crux of atheism. I don't mean the "fool" part but the "NO GOD FOR ME"//"I WILL NOT HAVE GOD RULE ME" part. I really don't think "proof" or lack thereof is the dominant motivator for becoming an atheist.

    By Blogger 2Tal, at 8:48 PM  

  • 2tal said: " I really don't think "proof" or lack thereof is the dominant motivator for becoming an atheist."

    Do you have proof for that statement?

    Re. becoming an atheist (i.e., lacking god belief): It's about being as intellectually honest as possible and being able to diferentiate between one faith claim and another or no god belief at all. How does one distinguish? (This matters only if bearing true witness is a concern.)

    Conversely, there is no amount of evidence to convict some theists of the error of their own vapid claims. In fact, much of what they claim is categorically unfalsifiable. How convenient.

    Christians, ask yourself: what proof would you require to come to the conclusion that your claim on reality is false?

    By Blogger LJ, at 6:30 AM  

  • "if your religion makes you happy and gives you purpose then it is a good thing and you should enjoy it."

    But what about theists who are not happy in their religions but who stay in them for fear of rejection by peers or of a hell that may not even exist?

    "The God I worship respects our choices enough to let us do that."

    But then he throws us in hell later, doesn't he? Respecting someone's decision and burning them for the same decision seem contradictory.

    By Anonymous Stupid Anonymous, at 3:40 PM  

  • It seems to me that many "atheists" are actually agnostics. An atheist (despite how people want to change the definition nowadays) means that one posits that there is no God. That, of course, puts them in the unenviable position of having to prove the claim that no God exists.

    Atheists don't like to admit it, because in order to posit a negative claim as such, you have to have absolute knowledge.

    More often than not, they are agnostics rather than atheists. When you claim ignorance (not in the "stupid" sense- in the "I don't know" sense), you don't have to prove anything.

    By Anonymous JT, at 5:33 PM  

  • I didn't realize I had so many peopel swing by after I stopped checking. Allow me to (belatedly) respond.

    LJ, Yes I do believe that the events recorded in the Bible happened as they are written.
    And as to why God drew me to HIm; who can say?

    2tal, of course proof matters, on both sides, primarily because the case for the right choice should be convincing enough to open the minds of people with contrary beliefs. Not to convert them, Only God or the Devil can really do that, but to open them up.

    Thank you all for coming by.

    By Blogger Daniel Levesque, at 10:39 PM  

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