No Proof that there’s no Proof

My conversation with the Rambling Taoist brought to mind another common one liner that can often stymie the otherwise intelligent believer:

No one can prove God’s existence (or Jesus’ existence, or that the Bible is God’s word, etc, etc…just toss in any number of Christian staples).  There is no evidence whatsoever.  It’s all belief and faith.

You ever get that one thrown at you?  I sure have.  Really bugs me, not because it’s a good retort, but because it’s difficult to know where to start.  There are so many issues and missteps and blatant assertions tied into one that it’s quite a gnarly knot.  I get  tongue tied just thinking about it.

It is important that when someone says that to you, that you never let them off the hook.  It is just too easy to throw it out there without backing it up.  It is a particularly convenient one liner for those who aren’t really interested in God and for those who have not thought deeply about God.  That’s not to say that everyone who says that hasn’t thought deeply about God, it’s just that it’s easy for folks like that to resort to it.  Rather than launching into disproving the “no proof” belief, force your conversation partner to shoulder his responsibility: he made a claim, now he must back it up.  No reason for you to launch into Kalam mode.

Here are some very good questions you can ask, questions that your conversation partner needs to square with in order for the “no proof” assertion to be more than a mere smokescreen:

  • Describe the God that you don’t think exists.
  • what would count as “proof” (i.e. scientific evidence, God writing “believe me” in the sky, or something more reasonable)?
  • what would you do if you  came to know God existed (i.e. would you follow him and obey, or continue in your disinterested state?)?  What would you do if I “proved” to you that God existed?
  • what, specifically, are the arguments and evidence you’ve heard so far, and why do you reject them?
  • similarly: great minds have been writing about evidence and reasons for God’s existence for milennia.  Scientists, philosophers, and historians have all had their say.  Who have you read, and why do you reject what they have to say?

Can you add any?

The third bullet is especially pertinent.  I’ve encountered a good number of folks who admit they would not bend the knee or make a change in their lives, even if they knew God existed.

Actually, all bullets are important.  For example, when you hit on the second one, chances are the person has an unreasonably high bar for proof of God’s existence (example: seeing God, having God appear to him/speak audibly to him,etc).  The bar he sets for all his other beliefs (including his skeptic tendencies, atheistic/agnostic beliefs, or beliefs in any other religion/philosophy) aren’t nearly as high.  By asking the question and then following up with some more astute queries, you can suss out that he’s cheating.

The last two will most likely bring about a most surprising thing: perhaps the person has read and considered a lot of arguments about God’s existence, but most likely, they haven’t.  Some haven’t even read one book!  Some have read strawman arguments set up by their own crowd (like the ones Richard Dawkins sets up), but precious few have read and deeply analyzed the great theistic minds themselves.  Some have read snippets of the Bible summarized in “New Atheist” books, but many haven’t read the whole Bible.  Some have objections to what they find therein, but precious few actually try to seek out and research answers to those objections.

Let’s face it: the “no proof” statement is a bold one, and most people can’t bring what they need to bring in order to strut that statement with confidence.

Keep those questions above in mind when talking to the “no proofers,” for chances are, they will dig up some very interesting and revealing behind-the-assertion information.  My hunch is that a majority of the time, you’ll get more assertions, blank stares, or an evasive changing of the subject.

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46 responses to “No Proof that there’s no Proof

  1. “Describe the God that you don’t think exists.”

    Ooh. Now there’s a good conversation starter. Ask somebody a nonsensical question!

    “what would count as “proof” (i.e. scientific evidence, God writing “believe me” in the sky, or something more reasonable)”

    He could tell me himself.

    “what would you do if you came to know God existed (i.e. would you follow him and obey, or continue in your disinterested state?)? What would you do if I “proved” to you that God existed?”

    Don’t know. I’d have to cross that bridge if it happened.

    Of course, the antithesis of that question could be posed to you. What would you do if I “proved” to you that God didn’t exist?

    “what, specifically, are the arguments and evidence you’ve heard so far, and why do you reject them?”

    Most people wouldn’t answer that question because there are simply too many things to list. Not only that, but in my experience, people who ask that question really aren’t that interested in hearing the answer because they constantly interrupt what you’re trying to tell them.

    “similarly: great minds have been writing about evidence and reasons for God’s existence for milennia. Scientists, philosophers, and historians have all had their say. Who have you read, and why do you reject what they have to say?”

    Just as many “great minds” have written about Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Islam and the list goes on and on. Numbers don’t necessarily add up to truth.

    “Let’s face it: the “no proof” statement is a bold one, and most people can’t bring what they need to bring in order to strut that statement with confidence.”

    Of course, I disagree with this assertion. Because no amount of “proof”, “logic”, other “theory” or anything else will cause you to throw out your mythical belief system, you will find none of these arguments convincing.

    It’s just as bold to state God exists as it is to state he doesn’t exist. And from the perspective of those like me that consider God nothing more than a made-up human construction, “most people can’t bring what they need to bring in order to strut that statement with confidence.”
    So, we’re even in this regard.

  2. Nice one. There is no proof that Bible is God’s words, and there is no proof that pyramids are men’s work.

  3. I think you need to study your history about the existence of Jesus. His existence is recorded by a number of non-Christian historians.

  4. BTW, here’s one site that will help with the non-Christian historians (Flavius Josephus, Tacitus, etc).

    http://www.carm.org/christianity/bible/non-biblical-accounts-new-testament-events-andor-people

  5. Jeffrey,

    Nice try. All of these works were written AFTER the “fact” and third person. Even the Gospels themselves were written after the “fact”. The truth is that we have no eye witness accounts. None.

    What I and many others find is even stranger is the fact that a supposedly literate and well-read teacher (Jesus) didn’t commit one word to paper. No letters. No treatises. No guidebook. Zilch.

  6. Shamelessly Atheist

    Describe the God that you don’t think exists.

    Hope you have a few years. There are an uncountable number of possible gods and I reject them all, but I reject only one more than you. As Stephen Roberts once said, “When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”

    what would count as “proof” (i.e. scientific evidence, God writing “believe me” in the sky, or something more reasonable)?

    Honestly, I don’t know. It depends on which of the many claims that religions make. All I can tell you is that the currently available evidence is woefully below the bar required for an extraordinary claim. If you are attempting to convince me of the veracity of Christianity, it is up to you to provide the evidence for me to examine. The evidence must be such that it is verifiable, repeatable and unequivocal in terms of the conclusions which may be drawn. What I’m reading here is an attempt to shift the burden of proof away from the claimant and onto the one maintaining the null hypothesis (me). Sorry, I don’t play that game.

    what would you do if you came to know God existed (i.e. would you follow him and obey, or continue in your disinterested state?)? What would you do if I “proved” to you that God existed?

    I would acknowledge that god exists, though not necessarily your god. Certainly, if you could demonstrate that any of the Abrahamic versions of god is correct, I would never worship such a monster.

    what, specifically, are the arguments and evidence you’ve heard so far, and why do you reject them?

    Again, you are trying to switch who has the burden of proof. It is not up to me to tell you why I reject the claim. It is sufficient for me to acknowledge to myself that I have yet to hear a argument which isn’t ridiculously easy to tear to shreds. It is up to the claimant to provide the evidence for me to consider.

    similarly: great minds have been writing about evidence and reasons for God’s existence for milennia. Scientists, philosophers, and historians have all had their say. Who have you read, and why do you reject what they have to say?

    And great minds have written and discussed why they reject it. What’s your point, besides another logic fallacy – Argument from Authority? I am a free-thinker. That’s who I am. And in coming to my own conclusions through a reasoning and rejection of dogma I am exercising my independence of thought. I will consider what others say and why they say it, but I will not robotically accept it just because they are a big name.

    Oh, and Jeffrey – Neither Josephus nor Tacitus were even born when Jesus supposedly lived. This hardly fits any definition of the word “contemporary”. Heck, the entry in Tacitus is likely a later addition. For instance, Tacitus calls Pilate a ‘procurator’ in Judea, when he was actually a prefect. This is not an error he is likely to have made.

    There were dozens of historians from the region alive during the supposed lifetime of Jesus, yet we do not have one reference to him or his amazing fetes. Odd, no?

    Even if I give you that the historical Jesus existed (I don’t, but someone had to write the Q document…), that is a completely separate issue from demonstrating the existence of the biblical Jesus. Because the gospels were written decades after the supposed crucifixion of Jesus (John may not even have been written till the 2nd century CE!) and were based on oral tradition, I reject the claim of the existence of eyewitness testimony (not that that would be sufficient for anything more than the existence of a historical Jesus anyway).

    As for the claim that we have no ‘proof’ that the pyramids were man-made, I agree. But we have a huge body of evidence which points to this conclusion. We have historical records backed up with archeological evidence. We know why they were built, how the blocks were moved, we can see the tool marks on the blocks, physical evidence of the methods used to align the blocks. We even have evidence from the workers’ living quarters near the pyramids (the builders were not slaves – a common misconception). In essence, we have a convergence from many lines of evidence to one conclusion. For Christianity, however, the lines of evidence do not support the conclusion that a biblical Jesus existed.

  7. “Ooh. Now there’s a good conversation starter. Ask somebody a nonsensical question!”

    How is that a nonsensical question? I’m not asking you to produce a square circle. You could quote Richard Dawkins’ famous “description” of the Old Testament God in his book *The God Delusion,* or you could describe the Christian God or something like that. The reason why I ask is because I want to know if you reject the God I believe in (the God revealed in the Bible). There’s no point in going further until we get that straight, b.c we’ll be talking past each other. Happens all the time: one person rejects an old benevolent man in the sky, the other doesn’t even believe in that kind of god. What’s the point in talking if that’s the case?

    “He could tell me himself.”

    Isn’t that a bit unfair of a standard? I bet you don’t hold a standard that high for *any* of your other beliefs, including your other beliefs about the existence of other people (in history, for example…do you believe Socrates or Aquinas or Bertrand Russell existed?).

    “Of course, the antithesis of that question could be posed to you. What would you do if I “proved” to you that God didn’t exist?”

    I think you spoke too soon when you supposed that nothing would make me throw out my “mythical belief system.” I’m with the apostle Paul on this one: if Christianity is bunk and I become convinced of that, I’d jump ship. I’ve got better things to do than peddle a placebo.

    So if you give me arguments and evidence that outweighs the arguments, evidence, and experience I already possess, that would give me pause, yes. Of course, I’d have to ponder for a while and spend some time weighing your evidence and seeking out answers–it would be unfair to expect me to abandon my beliefs immediately, as it would be unfair for me to expect that of you…and one argument wouldn’t do; it would have to outweigh the cumulative case I have now–but yes, if you brought it, I’d reckon with it.

    “Just as many “great minds” have written about Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Islam and the list goes on and on. Numbers don’t necessarily add up to truth.”

    Granted….where did I say that numbers add up to truth, though? I don’t recall saying that. I have claimed that a) you are being contradictory in your affirmation of pluralism, and b) you really have to know your stuff in order to reasonably say “there is no proof that God exists.” That is a BIG claim.

    “It’s just as bold to state God exists as it is to state he doesn’t exist. And from the perspective of those like me that consider God nothing more than a made-up human construction, “most people can’t bring what they need to bring in order to strut that statement with confidence.”
    So, we’re even in this regard.”

    True, claiming God exists is pretty bold. Check out the following posts of mine:

    http://pugnaciousirishman.com/2009/02/26/skeptics-answered-no-evidence-for-god/

    http://pugnaciousirishman.com/2009/03/05/skeptics-answered-no-evidence-contd/

    http://pugnaciousirishman.com/2009/03/02/skeptics-answered-jesus-is-a-copy-cat-mythso-there/

    http://pugnaciousirishman.com/2009/04/05/craighitchens-post-debate-analysis/

    http://pugnaciousirishman.com/2009/03/11/skeptics-answered-why-so-hidden/

    http://pugnaciousirishman.com/2009/04/15/what-about-other-gospels/

    –Actually, all the “Skeptics Answered” posts will be of interest to you. I hope you see by those posts that I’ve thought about this question considerably.

    In your last comment in the previous post, you commented that the Bible is full of inaccuracies. Ok, I’m game–try me. Give me an example.

    You also directed me to your blog for reasons why you think God doesn’t exist. Tell you what: why don’t you just do what I just did? That is, send me one link–your best shot. I’ll read it, comment on it at your blog, and I’ll do a post here on it with a link back to your post. It’s a win-win for both of us.

    SA:

    About the existence of Jesus: my Skeptics Answered posts on the Copycat myth view and my “other gospels” post I linked to above both tackle your assertions about Jesus’ existence.

    As far as the burden of proof goes: the burden of proof lies with the person making the claim. In a conversation, if I claimed God existed, yes, I’d have to bear the load. However, the person who states, “there is no proof” makes a claim, and that claim needs to be backed up, not just asserted. The person who claims that needs to explain how he arrived at that conclusion. For someone to say “there’s no proof” and then just leave it at that…well, its just too easy for that person to simply stand back, and no matter what evidence I give, say “not enough.” Before I engage with him and try to give evidence, he needs to clarify and answer the questions in my post. I have no interest in trying to nail jello to a wall.

    About the null hypothesis: even if I buy your way of stating it, that you simply lack a belief in any deity, your lack of belief entails beliefs about the nature of the world–in your worldview, you have beliefs about what is real (do immaterial things exist, or is it just nature?), the nature of morality, why is there something rather than nothing, etc, etc. In the battle of worldviews, you have something to defend.

  8. I have to go pickup my wife from work, so I’ll work on a response later.

    However, I did want to take this opportunity to compliment you. I have enjoyed the civil nature of our discussion. To often when I have visited or commented on blogs of this nature, I find myself being screeched at and called every name in the book. I applaud you for your thought out and reasoned responses. Of course, I don’t agree with most of them, but I appreciate the tone nonetheless.

    If we lived in the same town, I would have no problem whatsoever meeting with you for a beer (well, soy milk, in my case). :)

  9. Right back atcha, RT…and I’d take soy milk over beer any day. :)

  10. Pingback: Roundup « 4Simpsons Blog – Eternity Matters

  11. There are an uncountable number of possible gods and I reject them all, but I reject only one more than you.

    That is a common sound bite that I’ve even seen “Christians” use. It really doesn’t advance the conversation, though. It is like saying, “I’m just like a bachelor, I just married one more woman than they do.”

    He could tell me himself.

    He did. Genesis through Revelation.

    . The evidence must be such that it is verifiable, repeatable and unequivocal in terms of the conclusions which may be drawn

    Ah, the “I only accept scientific evidence” reply.

    Can you use science to prove that only scientific evidence is reliable? (Hint: No, it is a circular reference).

    Do you create your own test equipment from scratch and replicate every single experiement you rely on? If not, you are also trusting the historical evidence of witnesses. Whether your trust is well placed is another story. It might be, it might not. But the fact is that we rely on non-scientific evidence all day, every day.

    And you don’t use material measurements to measure immaterial things, any more than you’d use a scale to weigh the color blue.

    There were dozens of historians from the region alive during the supposed lifetime of Jesus, yet we do not have one reference to him or his amazing fetes. Odd, no?

    We have at least four, in the Gospels. You are just reflexively dismissing the Bible. Using your logic, I’d reject everything you say because you are an atheist and “must” be biased.

    Even if I give you that the historical Jesus existed

    Deny his existence if you like, but the vast, vast majority of historical scholars believe Jesus existed.

    If skeptics don’t find the evidence satisfying that is their call. But when they claim there is “no proof” then methinks they doth protest too much. We can point to teleological, cosmological, historical, archeological, moral, etc. arguments.

  12. “How is that a nonsensical question? I’m not asking you to produce a square circle. You could quote Richard Dawkins’ famous “description” of the Old Testament God in his book *The God Delusion,* or you could describe the Christian God or something like that. The reason why I ask is because I want to know if you reject the God I believe in (the God revealed in the Bible). There’s no point in going further until we get that straight, b.c we’ll be talking past each other. Happens all the time: one person rejects an old benevolent man in the sky, the other doesn’t even believe in that kind of god. What’s the point in talking if that’s the case?”

    I’ve never read anything by Richard Dawkins. I simply reject the notion of a God, any God, period. I don’t know how much clearer to state that.

    “Isn’t that a bit unfair of a standard? I bet you don’t hold a standard that high for *any* of your other beliefs, including your other beliefs about the existence of other people (in history, for example…do you believe Socrates or Aquinas or Bertrand Russell existed?).”

    I don’t think it’s unfair in the least. The guy is supposed to be omnipresent and omniscient. Consequently, it wouldn’t require any effort on his part. He could just pop into my head, say “Trey, here I am” and then go about his business. If I’m supposed to be one of his children, parents spend a tremendous amount of face time with their kids, so I don’t think asking for a little one-on-one time is asking for much.

    “I think you spoke too soon when you supposed that nothing would make me throw out my “mythical belief system.” ”

    You assume wrong. It was merely a question.

    “In your last comment in the previous post, you commented that the Bible is full of inaccuracies. Ok, I’m game–try me. Give me an example.”

    In Genesis, there are two different chronologies of how God created the world. The order of creation is markedly different. Both can’t be accurate, yet if a person believes in the inerrancy of the Bible, both have to be correct or it means that God is loopy,

    “Tell you what: why don’t you just do what I just did? That is, send me one link–your best shot.”

    I’ll have to think on this a bit. I’ve written over 1,100 posts on my blog and it will take me some time to sift through them.

    That said, the standard you’ve set doesn’t seem to be fair. You’ve offered me 6 examples, but you want to limit me to one. I don’t think I have written one comprehensive post of this nature. I usually try to address a limited topic per post.

  13. nice list of questions –

    The honest atheist would at least confide he’s an agnostic…

  14. Re Neil

    “He did. Genesis through Revelation.”

    The books of the Bible were written by humans, plain and simple. So, try again.

    “We have at least four, in the Gospels. You are just reflexively dismissing the Bible. Using your logic, I’d reject everything you say because you are an atheist and “must” be biased.”

    SA was stressing eye witness accounts. It is now fairly well established by biblical scholars that none of the Gospels were written a) by the person whose name adorns it and b) at the time these supposedly happened.

    Be that as it may, you conveniently sidestepped his main point. During the supposed life of Jesus, there were numerous people writing down what was going on in the neck of the world. Not one of them mentions Jesus. You would think that at least one of them would have written something about the weird or kooky or evil things (if they were opposed to his message) that were going on or, if they believed his so-called message, they would include info to lionize the man.

    And yet, there is absolutely nothing. A complete dearth of information. Silence often speaks volumes.

  15. Your username is RamblingTaoist so do you believe in Taoism? Isn’t Taoism the belief in deities? My grandfather is a Taoist and he prays to many different deities.

    Oh, Rich, what’s “Kalam mode” mean?

  16. Jules,

    There are two forms of Taoism (also true of Buddhism): philosophical and religious. The former has been around for thousands of years and worships no deities whatsoever. The latter is a more recent invention. It was started, I believe, in the 2nd century AD by folks who wanted to be “compete” with religious Hindus, Buddhists and Christians.

    I’m as critical of religious Taoism as I am of Christianity or Islam.

    I sure wish this blog allowed for preview of comments — I think I’d catch more of my typos that way.

  17. “I don’t think it’s unfair in the least. The guy is supposed to be omnipresent and omniscient. Consequently, it wouldn’t require any effort on his part. He could just pop into my head, say “Trey, here I am” and then go about his business. If I’m supposed to be one of his children, parents spend a tremendous amount of face time with their kids, so I don’t think asking for a little one-on-one time is asking for much.”

    This reminds me of an apocryphal e-rumor: an atheist philosophy prof performed a parlor trick every semester to his freshmen class. He said, “anyone who believes in God is a fool. If God existed, he could stop this piece of chalk from hitting the ground and breaking. Such a simple task to prove he is God, and yet he can’t do it.” The professor then proceeded to drop the chalk each time, and each time it broke on the floor.

    Koukl has a good rejoinder: “If you meet anyone who tries this silly trick, tell the person you will prove that *you* don’t exist. Have someone take a piece of chalk and hold it above your outstretched palm. Explain that if you really exist, you would be able to accomplish the simple task of catching the chalk. When he drops the chalk, let it fall to the ground and shatter. Then announce, ‘I guess this proves I don’t exist. If you believe in me, you’re a fool.’ Clearly, this chalk trick tells you nothing about God. The only thing it is capable of showing is that if God does exist, he is not a circus animal who can be teased into jumping through hoops to appease the whim of foolish people.”

    Much the same applies in your instance. Why should God jump through any hoops you toss up, especially when He’s given so much evidence in the first place (see the “skeptics answered: no evidence for god” posts one and two, as well as the “why so hidden” post. The links I provide in the “no evidence” posts will give you a good glimpse of some evidence.)?

    Plus, though I don’t know you and can’t say for sure, would you *really* believe that’s God, or would you write it off as a hallucination? People are capable of explaining away pretty much anything they don’t want to square with.

    Intent comes before content. That is, one’s heart posture is more important than the evidence available. An earnest seeker will see the evidence for what it is, while someone who wants to justify his own lifestyle will write everything off; even if God appeared to him, it wouldn’t be enough for the self-justifier. Which are you (not a rhetorical question, by the way)?

    “In Genesis, there are two different chronologies of how God created the world. The order of creation is markedly different. Both can’t be accurate, yet if a person believes in the inerrancy of the Bible, both have to be correct or it means that God is loopy,”

    Before I get to an answer, let me ask a question: have you honestly sought out an answer to this conundrum? If so, can you explain the process of your seeking for me?

    These two links should take care of it:

    http://www.tektonics.org/jedp/creationtwo.html

    http://www.carm.org/bible-difficulties/genesis-deuteronomy/dont-genesis-1-and-2-present-contradictory-creation-accounts

    “SA was stressing eye witness accounts. It is now fairly well established by biblical scholars that none of the Gospels were written a) by the person whose name adorns it and b) at the time these supposedly happened. During the supposed life of Jesus, there were numerous people writing down what was going on in the neck of the world. Not one of them mentions Jesus. You would think that at least one of them would have written something about the weird or kooky or evil things (if they were opposed to his message) that were going on or, if they believed his so-called message, they would include info to lionize the man. And yet, there is absolutely nothing. A complete dearth of information. Silence often speaks volumes.”

    Ok, you’ve got to explain the “scholars have established” bit. I beg to differ. And even if there is a consensus of scholarship, I’m more interested in *why* the scholars say what they do. I want their arguments and reasoning process, not just their conclusions.

    You made a claim you need to back up, namely: none of the gospels were written by the named authors.

    There were actually lots of references to Jesus by writers of the time. When you apply normal historical standards to Jesus (standards you would apply to any other person of antiquity), Jesus comes out quite well. For starters, check out the “Skeptics answered: Jesus myth” and “SA: what about other gospels” posts…that should get you started.

    Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are quite reliable sources. Treat them like you would any other historical document of antiquity, and they come out pretty solid. Only by discounting the books in the Bible from the start can you toss them out…again, the links I’ve provided go into that a bit.

    These others should be of interest too:

    http://christian-thinktank.com/jesusref.html

    http://christian-thinktank.com/jrthal.html

    “That said, the standard you’ve set doesn’t seem to be fair. You’ve offered me 6 examples, but you want to limit me to one. I don’t think I have written one comprehensive post of this nature. I usually try to address a limited topic per post.”

    Ok, fair enough, give me as many as you want…go for it.

    Oh, one more link I want to add in about the Bible:

    http://pugnaciousirishman.com/2009/04/17/skeptics-answered-more-on-the-bible/

    Seriously, before you get back to me again, you need to at least look at one of the links I’ve referenced. I’ve done the hard work there, and if you are going to come to my blog and make the bold assertions you have, I think you should at least check out the previous writings I’ve made on the subjects. It’s pointless to talk back and forth with witty one liners when there’s other, thicker writings out there. Again, are you a serious seeker, or do you just want to ramble?

  18. Jules,

    That was a reference to the Kalam Cosmological argument, one argument in a cumulative case for God’s existence. I was just saying that there’s no need for someone to jump to giving that (or any other) argument.

  19. “Why should God jump through any hoops you toss up…”

    I’m sorry, but I don’t see how an earnest, straightforward request could be viewed as a “hoop”. I’m not asking for a circus trick or a miracle to be preformed. I’m not asking for some wild demonstration or fire in the sky.

    I’m simply saying to my supposed father that, if he exists, then why not come and parlay a bit with one of your sons. If this kind of simple and gentle request is viewed as asking far too much, then that right there tells me that a) if he exists, he’s not so caring and b) he doesn’t exist at all.

    “Before I get to an answer, let me ask a question: have you honestly sought out an answer to this conundrum? If so, can you explain the process of your seeking for me?”

    I don’t know what you mean. I’ve read Genesis several times and the chronologies in Chapters 1 & 2 simply don’t jibe. What’s there to investigate?

  20. Wait a minute here… If someone says he does not believe your assertion that God exists, he must answer questions to validate his disbelief?

    Methinks, good brother, that you have it backward.

    And for Neil, your bachelor argument would work… if you are supposing that there is but one true wife for all of us men.

  21. I’ve been contemplating this question of proof a bit more. I think I’ve hit on something that would prove it once and for all.

    God could simply and unambiguously announce himself to the world. At a certain time on a certain day in the next few months, his voice could boom from the heavens, “I am the Lord, your God.” Wherever people are at this time, they would hear the message in their own language and their own tongue.

    Now some might suggest that a lot of people would be suspicious and claim that it’s some sort of techno trick. But I have confidence that an omnipotent being could do this in such a way that it would be clear that it was coming directly from him.

    Another question that might arise is why should he do this? Well, throughout the Old & New Testament there were a lot of people who doubted him and, in many cases, he went out of his way to prove himself. (Remember the great flood, for one example?) So, if he was more than willing to do it then, I see no problem in doing it now.

    Here’s another example. Remember when he was incarnate on earth in the person of Jesus and the disciple Thomas doubted that he had indeed been resurrected from the cross? Jesus/God didn’t say to Thomas, “I ain’t performing no tricks for you, buddy. Believe me or else.”

    Oh no. He invited Thomas to walk over to him and to stick his fingers in the holes of his hands. Well, I’d like to stick my fingers in the holes and I bet a lot of other people would too. If he was gracious to the “doubting” Thomas in this way, I see no reason he wouldn’t be as gracious to the “doubting” Trey now.

    Finally, I realize that some will argue that there are “signs” of God all around us already. The problem with these signs is that they are ambiguous. They can be interpreted in all sorts of ways by people both outside AND inside the faith.

    I’m not suggesting a circus trick, merely something that is straightforward and unambiguous. A sign or a message that everyone can easily understand. I don’t think that’s asking too much at all.

  22. I forgot to add something. Just because everyone would know once and for all that God is God, I’m certainly NOT suggesting that everything would all of a sudden be hunky dory. Just like it is today, there would be countless denominations, churches and sects who would argue incessantly about the best ways to serve God. We’d still have all these doctrinal disagreements.

    The only difference would be that all the people of the world would know that the Christian God — not the God of the Jews, Hindus, Muslims or anyone else — is THE God.

  23. Thanks Rich for the explanation. I think I can find out more about that on WinteryKnight’s blog as I’ve seen that word used there before… Unless you have a link for me?

  24. Chris,

    I’ve already covered this…the person making the claim needs to back it up. “There’s no proof that God exists” is a claim. It needs to be backed up, plain and simple.

    For me to let someone make such a grandiose assertion as that is to give disingenuous people too much leeway (I’m not calling RT disingenuous).

    It’s not too much to ask for someone to explain to me how he arrived at such a conclusion.

  25. I’ll get back to RT later.

  26. “There’s no proof that God exists” is by no means a claim, It is a rejection of yours, and begs a proof from you.

  27. I agree with Chris. When we’re born, we’re pretty much a blank state. As we come into contact with other beings and stimuli, the people in our lives present us with information as to why and how we should interpret these things in particular ways.

    For example, if little Billy comes into contact with what we know as a dog, but everyone around him tells him it’s a giraffe, he has to decide if he’s going to accept their proof. If he does, then other animals of the nature will be giraffes.

    If, for whatever reason, he decides not accept the idea that such are giraffes, then it falls back to the null position. Those things are simply unnamed things.

    In this same vein, no one is born Christian, Muslim or Taoist. If a person finds resonance in a religion or belief system, then they adopt this perspective as their own. However, if a person finds none of the evidence compelling or interesting, they remain in the null position.

    Thus, the burden of proof resides with those who make claims for substance beyond the blank slate.

  28. Pingback: Can anyone prove God’s existence? Is there any evidence? « Wintery Knight Blog

  29. RT,

    “God could simply and unambiguously announce himself to the world. At a certain time on a certain day in the next few months, his voice could boom from the heavens, “I am the Lord, your God.” Wherever people are at this time, they would hear the message in their own language and their own tongue.”

    –My “why so hidden?” post answers this.

    “I’ve read Genesis several times and the chronologies in Chapters 1 & 2 simply don’t jibe. What’s there to investigate?”

    –Your reply surprises me! Many times people miss stuff, RT. How many times have I read something, either from the Bible, history, philosophy, or another religious text, only to miss some details that others catch? Lots! In my phil classes, when we write papers, it’s a given that we go to the library and search out other books and papers that have been written on the same subject before we comment ourselves. You yourself have admitted that there’s lots we don’t know. Can’t other people help?

    You’ve read Gen, that’s a good start, but there’s much more to honest searching for an answer than that. Isn’t it reasonable to think that others who have studied it more indepth (i.e, they’ve examined it with more than just a read-through) might have some insight to give? If I read the Mormon Scriptures without consulting any authorities on the subject, that’d be pretty presumptuous of me…same here. There are commentaries and concordances to use that delve into the cultural and linguistic details that you might miss as a 21st century western.

  30. Fellas,

    Do you know how much knowledge you’d have to possess in order to claim that “there is no proof that God exists”? A lot. A much better and more defensible position is “I don’t know if there is a God. I haven’t heard any good arguments. All the evidence I’ve heard isn’t convincing.” That is a much less dogmatic claim, and a much easier hand to handle, though it would still prompt some questions from me.

  31. One more thing that the “why so hidden” post doesn’t hit on: absence of evidence (and I think there is plenty…I’m just assuming for the sake of argument) does not mean evidence of absence.

    It is very presumptuous to assume we know what kind of calling card God would leave.

    This link is relevant to your comment: http://www.paulcopan.com/articles/pdf/presumptuousness-of-atheism.pdf

    Also, I’m not saying you only have the burden of proof. I do too, since I also make a claim. But when I give evidence (as I’ve done…see my links in the comments section…there are also links within those posts that go into more detail), it is incumbent upon you to give a substantive response and explain why you reject it…it is not good enough just to sit back and parrot “no proof, no proof, no proof!”

    Lastly, this is one reason why my questions in the beginning are so important: without the person further clarifying (example: what kind of proof she would accept) and without making sure she is being fair (often the standard of proof is too high…this has been the case with RT), it is too easy for her to disingenuously squiggle out of a substantive response.

  32. “My “why so hidden?” post answers this.”

    It may answer the question in your mind, but I find your arguments categorically unconvincing. Knowing unambiguously that God exists does not necessarily mean that all people would choose to have a relationship with him and, even if everybody did, it certainly wouldn’t mean that all people would agree with what kind of relationship entailed.

    So, this idea that God needs to tease out this supposed relationship seems farcical.

  33. “Do you know how much knowledge you’d have to possess in order to claim that “there is no proof that God exists”? A lot. A much better and more defensible position is “I don’t know if there is a God. I haven’t heard any good arguments. All the evidence I’ve heard isn’t convincing.” That is a much less dogmatic claim, and a much easier hand to handle, though it would still prompt some questions from me.”

    Rich,

    “Truth” is in the eye of the beholder. You talk of evidence simply being unconvincing to some; I have yet to see ANY evidence presented. What constitutes evidence for you is speculation, conjecture, dogma, and opinion to me. If I was presented with evidence, then there’s great chance I would alter my view on this topic.

    I realize that you will immediately ask me to define “evidence” and I’m not going to do it. There is no fixed definition. Most humans know when something feels right and nothing you’ve presented thus far feels right to me.

  34. “Your reply surprises me! Many times people miss stuff, RT. How many times have I read something, either from the Bible, history, philosophy, or another religious text, only to miss some details that others catch? Lots! In my phil classes, when we write papers, it’s a given that we go to the library and search out other books and papers that have been written on the same subject before we comment ourselves. You yourself have admitted that there’s lots we don’t know. Can’t other people help? ”

    Now, this sort of reply bothers me. The Bible is supposed to be the inerrant word of God, yet you’re suggesting that I not take the word of God as is and instead confer with other humans in order to be able to ascertain what my all powerful father might happen to mean.

    And this, of course, quickly becomes a slippery slope type of argument. If I need to consult with other humans to figure out what one or two passages mean, then I and others should have to do this for every single passage. Yet, often when we adopt just such a tact, we are then told that a given passage means exactly what it says on its face and that, by consulting others, we are trying to subvert the meaning.

    From my perspective, what this boils down to is a very convoluted process. When a particular passage agrees with a person’s own perspective, then it is to be taken verbatim. When a particular passage disagrees or undermines a person’s own perspective, then it’s NOT to be taken literally at all and people must go through all sorts of hi-jinx to massage the text so that it will be understood to agree with a person’s own beliefs.

    I would find it far more convincing if Christians would simply state that there’s much in the Bible that resonates with them, but there’s also a lot of stuff in there which is completely ambiguous and unintelligible.

  35. And for Neil, your bachelor argument would work… if you are supposing that there is but one true wife for all of us men.

    To clarify, I wasn’t saying my bachelor argument demonstrated there was a God. I was pointing out how the “We’re pretty similar, I just disbelieve in one more God than you” argument proves nothing.

    Saying there is no God is the opposite of saying there is a God.

    I don’t know what you mean. I’ve read Genesis several times and the chronologies in Chapters 1 & 2 simply don’t jibe. What’s there to investigate?

    If you studied any the many, many places where one can find explanations for that Bible 101 question and didn’t find any of them intellectually satisfying, then that is your call — e.g., http://www.tektonics.org/jedp/creationtwo.html . [ha — just paged up some more and saw that someone else already put the link here, but I left it anyway]

    But just for the record, that question didn’t just come up in 2009. Most of the objections raised by atheists have been addressed by Christians for centuries. That doesn’t mean we’re right or that they questions aren’t reasonable, just that they aren’t particularly newsworthy. I went through hundreds of those before becoming a believer.

    The books of the Bible were written by humans, plain and simple. So, try again.

    Gee, since you said so. Actually, we have many reasons to believe they are accurate transmissions from God (fulfilled prophecies, archeology, etc.).

  36. “Actually, we have many reasons to believe they are accurate transmissions from God…”

    Right here, you’re underscoring the point I made in a previous post. In essence, you’re utilizing opposing sides of the same argument. On one hand, you state that you believe the Bible is the word of God, yet, when contradictions are pointed out, then you want questioners to believe the interpretations made by humans and to NOT rely on the word of God itself.

    You can’t have it both ways or, if you do, then you’ve got to understand why a lot of us think you (in the collective) are full of you know what.

    So I’m asking Neil, Rich and anyone other Christian reading this, is the Bible the word of the most holy God or is it not? If you answer it’s the former, then why should I need to rely on mere humans to understand it?

  37. On one hand, you state that you believe the Bible is the word of God, yet, when contradictions are pointed out, then you want questioners to believe the interpretations made by humans and to NOT rely on the word of God itself.

    I don’t see how that follows. Just because the Bible is capable of being misunderstood doesn’t mean it is incapable of being understood.

    The Bible clearly demonstrates that despite God speaking directly to people they may still disobey or play dumb (not a winning strategy, btw).

    Yes, the original writings of the Bible were inspired by God, just as it claims. But it makes no claims that anyone could have some magical understanding of it — i.e., if you can’t read, you can’t read the Bible. If you can’t read Greek, then you wouldn’t have been able to read the originals.

  38. “but I find your arguments categorically unconvincing.”

    Categorically? I think you are trumping up your case with heavily connotated words.

    “Knowing unambiguously that God exists does not necessarily mean that all people would choose to have a relationship with him and, even if everybody did, it certainly wouldn’t mean that all people would agree with what kind of relationship entailed.”

    This actually makes my point for me…God isn’t interested in people who know unambiguously that He exists yet choose not to have a relationship with Him. He’s not interested in just producing belief “that.”

    ““Truth” is in the eye of the beholder. You talk of evidence simply being unconvincing to some; I have yet to see ANY evidence presented. What constitutes evidence for you is speculation, conjecture, dogma, and opinion to me. If I was presented with evidence, then there’s great chance I would alter my view on this topic.”

    First, I have provided much evidence in the links I’ve provided. Those posts have other links giving more detail. Why repeat myself?

    Secondly, if truth is in the eye of the beholder: I guess I can just shrug off everything you’ve said too, with a “truth is in the eye of the beholder.” When you say, “what constitutes evidence to you is speculation and dogma to me,” I reply, “that’s just in the eye of the beholder.” Same thing with your “there’s no proof that God exists” assertion.

    “I realize that you will immediately ask me to define “evidence” and I’m not going to do it. There is no fixed definition. Most humans know when something feels right and nothing you’ve presented thus far feels right to me.”

    If that’s the case, then nothing you’ve presented so far feels right to me. What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

    If you aren’t going to tell me what you mean by basic terms of the discussion, there’s no point in continuing talking with you. I’m not interested in a discussion where two ships pass in the night and where one side bobs and jukes with ambiguous words. Without you being clear and ambiguous, I can give historical evidence, and you can say “not scientific!” I can give scientific evidence, and you can say “not a deductive proof!” I can give a deductive proof, and you can say, “He’s not appearing to me!” You can see a miracle or hear solid testimony of one, and you can reply “my senses are deceiving me,” or “testimony is automatically unreliable!” You see how unappealing this is to me? We’ve got to nail down the terms of discussion; I am not interested in trying to nail jello to a wall.

    I think this is it for me. If you want to give me some links to your blog concurrent with my invitation above (“give me your best shot”), I’ll go ahead and examine them, think about them, and reply to them, otherwise, I’m gonna let you have the last word and I’m bowing out.

  39. “This actually makes my point for me…God isn’t interested in people who know unambiguously that He exists yet choose not to have a relationship with Him. He’s not interested in just producing belief “that.”

    But knowing that he exists is the first step in having a relationship. If, for example, a friend tells me that Mary wants to have a relationship with me, I can’t begin that relationship until I meet here in some form.

    “First, I have provided much evidence in the links I’ve provided. Those posts have other links giving more detail. Why repeat myself?

    You have provided “information” that you deem to be incontrovertible evidence. In my view, all you have provided are opinions and suppositions. Of course, this works the other way as well. What I have presented as evidence you have dismissed as being no evidence at all.

    Secondly, if truth is in the eye of the beholder: I guess I can just shrug off everything you’ve said too, with a “truth is in the eye of the beholder.” When you say, “what constitutes evidence to you is speculation and dogma to me,” I reply, “that’s just in the eye of the beholder.” Same thing with your “there’s no proof that God exists” assertion.

    Well, of course you can. That should go without saying.

    “If that’s the case, then nothing you’ve presented so far feels right to me. What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.”

    That may well be the case. No arguments here.

    “If you aren’t going to tell me what you mean by basic terms of the discussion, there’s no point in continuing talking with you. I’m not interested in a discussion where two ships pass in the night and where one side bobs and jukes with ambiguous words.”

    It’s not that I’m not going to tell you because I’m trying to be obtuse. It’s more that you’re asking a question that can’t be adequately answered.

    If evidence was as easy to define as you seem to think, why do we have courts, juries and judges? Everything in this life should be cut and dry. There would be no need for trials and hearings.

    But we have courts, juries, judges, trials and hearings precisely because evidence is not a fixed and static concept. What constitutes evidence for one person may not constitute evidence for the next. What constitutes evidence in one case may not be allowed in the next.

    Consequently, in each given situation in life, the various participants must view the information before them and then decide what constitutes evidence and what constitutes opinion.

    “I think this is it for me. If you want to give me some links to your blog concurrent with my invitation above (“give me your best shot”), I’ll go ahead and examine them, think about them, and reply to them, otherwise, I’m gonna let you have the last word and I’m bowing out.”

    Eventually, we each need to make that call and, since you have decided to bow out, then we can close this particular thread.

    Again though, I do wish to compliment you for remaining respectful and civil throughout this discourse. There are a lot of things we don’t see eye-to-eye on, but we have at least discussed our disagreements as gentlemen.

    I’m still trying to figure what one post of mine would suffice your previous request.

  40. OK, I can’t come up with one singular post of mine that encapsulates an all encompassing point. In fact, because I’ve written over 1,100 posts, I don’t have the time to read through all of them. So, I’m going to list 3 that deal with 3 different topics.

    No More, No Less

    Is the Biblical God Possible?

    Will the Circle Be Unbroken?

  41. “What I and many others find is even stranger is the fact that a supposedly literate and well-read teacher (Jesus) didn’t commit one word to paper. No letters. No treatises. No guidebook. Zilch.”

    Strange, maybe. But it does happen. Ever hear of Socrates?

    According to the Wikipedia article on him:
    Credited as one of the founders of Western philosophy, he is an enigmatic figure known only through the classical accounts of his students.

  42. “There were dozens of historians from the region alive during the supposed lifetime of Jesus, yet we do not have one reference to him or his amazing fetes. Odd, no?”

    Cool. Got a source on that?
    I’d like to know
    1. What historians from the region were alive and had access to the info on Jesus.
    2. Your sources on them. Maybe just a book or a site would be sufficient.

    I’ve heard assertions that most historians agree that Jesus existed. I would be interested in your evidence that either:
    1. Most historians don’t say that
    or
    2. They say that but they’re wrong.

    Note: I’m not asking about anything here but the evidence for a historical Jesus.

  43. “The evidence must be such that it is verifiable, repeatable and unequivocal in terms of the conclusions which may be drawn. ”

    Wow.
    Let’s start with the third item and go backwards.

    “Unequivocal in terms of the conclusions which may be drawn.”
    Is there anything at all like that? I mean, on any subject? I mean, some people aren’t even sure THEY exist, let alone a god.

    “Repeatable.”
    Oops. There goes all historical evidence. In fact, their goes all history. Despite the well known saying, actual historical events don’t repeat. Although if you believed in reincarnation, I suppose you could say that individual soul repeat.

    “Verifiable.” Yeah, there’s lots of verifiable evidence.

  44. “Because the gospels were written decades after the supposed crucifixion of Jesus (John may not even have been written till the 2nd century CE!) and were based on oral tradition, I reject the claim of the existence of eyewitness testimony (not that that would be sufficient for anything more than the existence of a historical Jesus anyway).”

    So, to believe that there is eyewitness testimony for Jesus, it would have to be:
    Written when? Apparently within a few decades of the event isn’t sufficient. While Jesus was still alive? While people who knew Jesus were still alive?

    And you don’t accept evidence based on oral tradition. Is that oral evidence in general? In not, what are your criteria for accepting oral evidence?

    And finally, how do you apply these criteria in general to other historical figures?

    My questions pertain only to the existence of eyewitness accounts.

  45. Rambling Taoist
    no more, no less
    “How can one truly suffer from human misery and terror if part of that self knows everything is going to work out a-ok in the end?”

    Wonderful post about problems with the dual nature of Jesus. That is exactly the problem with Docetism: if Jesus isn’t really human, then how can we possibly believe he understands us? And certainly, doubt is a huge part of the human experience.

    You might want to get hold of a book called “The Logic of God Incarnate” by Thomas V Morris, especially section 2. The Properties of the God-Man in Chapter 4: Jesus and the attributes of deity.

    To quote a passage:
    “It is a standard kenotic claim that God the Son temporarily gave up his omniscience for the course of the earthly state of the Incarnation. From all eternity, he had been omniscient. For roughly three decades he was not.”

    So for roughly three decades, God the Son did not “know” everything was going to work out ok in the end; he “trusted” that it would.

    Then you said:
    “What pushed me over the edge, however, was the Christian belief in knowing God. The very idea that a mere mortal could understand the breadth of the complex universe is not a sign of devotion but complete egocentrism!”
    Absolutely. Christians claim to know certain things about God, and to be able to enter into a relationship with him. They do NOT claim to know everything about God, nor do they claim that having a relationship with God means that they know everything (or even a lot) about God.

    The claim that a human being can enter into a relationship with God is a pretty amazing and hard-to-believe claim right there.

    But the fact that you can never know EVERYthing about a subject doesn’t mean you can’t know ANYthing about it. And it certainly is not necessary to know even another human being completely to have a relationship with them.

  46. I think that it is right that there is no proof that God exists. But I also think that there is also no proof that ANYTHING exists. How can you demand empirical evidence for existential claims? Even following Descartes logic carefully, you can reason your own existence, but you are unable to reason the existence of anything else. I think an appropriate answer to the claim that there is no proof that God exists is that there is no proof that YOU exist. I can’t see any way for a person to prove their own existence over the internet. Send me a photo? How do I know that it’s actually you?
    Call me up on the phone? You could be anyone! How do I know that I’m not talking to a computer program or a ghost? There’s no way to tell.

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