Sunday, March 21, 2010

on religion. What would it take to make me believe?

A very kind person started complaining one day that I had convinced her that I had made up my mind and was really not interested in finding out if God is provable or not. Followed by,
"But I am not worried because I believe that God WILL make Himself known to you, when the His time comes.  And then you will acknowledge Him when you know the truth about Him.  But it won't be the way you were taught years ago."
I think the last line was in reference to her religious sect being different from the evangelical one that I was brought up in. I replied,

I am only committed to reason and evidence. I told you that you are always welcome to try to prove to me the existence of God because I am always more committed to reason and evidence than I am to any particular idea, including the idea that God does not exist. If you were to give me an actual good argument for the existence of God, I would agree with you. Up till this point, you have not. It is not my responsibility to prove that God does not exist because one can NEVER truly prove a negative. I can never even prove to you that Santa Clause does not exist. He may exist somewhere in the universe and just be really really bad at his job. No, the burden of proof rests on the person making the positive claim. If you think Santa Clause or the tooth fairy or God exist, then you must provide positive proof that they do. 

The conversation ended there aside from some pleasantries. I pick up a point of clarification from a conversation I had in a youtube thread on a video referred to me by a good friend, Ben Carver. The video is a 2-hour debate that is quite interesting and will no doubt spark great conversation.
youtube user: "When you say that the atheist proposes a negative claim and that it is the person making the positive claim who must provide positive proof, where does this law come from? What standards of debate are you drawing from?"
This is because one can never prove a negative. For example, I can make the claim that there is no Santa Clause, but there may actually exist a Santa Clause...There is no evidence for Santa existing though and as such, we are perfectly justified in being a-Santa-ists. It is absurd to believe in something on the grounds that there's no evidence for it. Using that criterion, we should believe in fairies, unicorns, reincarnation, and all sorts of magical or fantastical things.
TOTAL RUBBISH...Like one can't prove there is no water on the surface of the moon? Like there is no sack of potatoes growing in place of your brains? We can just cut you open.
Of course it isn't rubbish. You are working with two positive claims there (i.e. There is water on the Moon/There is a sack of potatoes...) You disprove both by providing evidence of what there is. Ex: Could you prove the statement: "There is no sack of spiritual potatoes in my head"? Of course you can't. So then by D'Souza's logic, I would be justified in believing that there are spiritual potatoes in my head simply because I can't prove they aren't there. This is ridiculous. 

Absence of evidence may not be evidence of absence, but either way, you still have no evidence. 

Furthermore, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and people who are comfortable believing in such things that they have no extraordinary evidence for should not be taken seriously.


  1. Source: Merriam Webster

    Science = knowledge or a system of knowledge covering general truths or the operation of general laws especially as obtained and tested through scientific method

    Law = a statement of an order or relation of phenomena that so far as is known is invariable under the given condition

    God = the supreme or ultimate reality

    If you study science to discover the realities of our universe, you are in fact in your own way coming to know God... only in your own, but equally valid and unique search. You do believe in evolution, right? Don't look now, Jared, but you're the Benedictine monk of our 21st century :)

  2. Lol Ronnie. You're equivocating quite a being on that definition of God. Fun comment though. And yes, I acknowledge the truth of evolution. I don't like saying "believe in" when it comes to scientific fact haha. It's like asking someone if they "believe in" gravity.

  3. Nah what I mean to say is that humans are led by the instinct to connect all the dots to figure out the world that we live in. So science and religion actually have the same intended goals, to explain the world that we live in. To discover "ultimate truths". The only difference is the way in which we derive these truths (or axioms, laws, whatever). Science is logic based and religion is based on feeling perception.

    If you argue against religion, you're essentially arguing that it is not possible to know something by *feeling* that it's true. Ask just about any mother or identical twin and they'll tell you, absolutely it's possible to know things without any real logical basis. Call it intuition, divinity, love, whatever.

    Is it a science? Quantifiable? No. Religion should not be intended as a replacement for science. Even Einstein would tell you, "Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind." It does have a very necessary place though. (no, not in science classes lol)

  4. "people who are comfortable believing in such things that they have no extraordinary evidence for should not be taken seriously."

    really? so you don't take me seriously? because I believe in something just because I have a feeling? that seems a bit rude and judgemental.

  5. Ronnie: I agree that science and religion have the same *intended* goal, but only one actually achieves that goal. Feeling that something is true never makes it true. Yes, mothers and twins who have experience with their children or siblings are going to have a much more refined intuition about certain behaviors, but it may actually be completely scientifically explainable. We don't know yet. So yes, neither religion nor simply feeling is a viable method of discovering truths about the world. Is feeling a science? Absolutely not. Is it quantifiable by scientific methods? Maybe.

    Julia: Would you take someone seriously that truly believed in the existence of unicorns? The flying spaghetti monster? Zues? Thor?
    I think you'll be interested in reading the upcoming post "Well, it makes sense to me!"

  6. I think the world would be a much sadder place without unicorns thank you very much!!

  7. Hi Jared, I would like to say what it was that I meant when I said, "But it won't be the way you were taught years ago" (in the last line of the 1st quote above). It was not a reference to how my church is different from the way you were brought up. It was more a reference to what the scriptures REALLY say. I was talking about the old, yet popular belief that all you have to do is accept Jesus Christ as your savior and then you are saved. That belief also states that if you haven't been saved before you die, you'll burn in hell for eternity. This belief is not supported by scriptures. Scriptures are taken out of their context to makes these claims, instead of putting all the scriptures on this subject together.

    If God is love, then it would not be fair for Him to allow people who never hear of Christ or have their chance to know about Him, to be condemned to an eternal fire. Even people who have been supposedly "saved" and yet struggle with sins that seem impossible to overcome still have hope. Because after one declares a belief in Christ as savior then we need POWER from God to be enabled to overcome. This is the SAME power that God used to create the universe. Imagine if someone had this kind of power, couldn't they then overcome their sins? But it is HARD work. It is NOT easy. And it requires a lifetime of effort. No human will ever die "sin free." But if one is fighting their sins WITH the POWER of God, then that person will be given unimaginable things which God has promised in the next life.

    The majority of people have more hope than they realize because God is more merciful than humans will ever be. Even many evil ones we've heard of throughout history will be given a chance. I don't have that kind of mercy yet. God does and he will call each and every one who has not truly KNOWN Him when the right time for them comes. Then they will be given the POWER to overcome and the opportunity to have eternal life!