Let’s talk about atheism and religion. I’m an atheist. Being so, I spend a fair bit of time looking at debates between religious apologetics and atheists. This accords me a great deal of familiarity with the major arguments proffered by apologists in defense of their beliefs. While doing so, I’ve noticed a disturbing similarity in the arguments employed.
There is a tendency; it seems, amongst believers, to use logic and reason only when attempting to discredit the atheistic view, and to quite conveniently forget about them whenever their views come under reason’s knife. The way this tactic is usually implemented is through definitional fallacies, and seemingly deliberate misinterpretations of opposing premises. So in this piece, I’m going to demonstrate the absurdities inherent in the major religious arguments.
Now, let me make it clear, what I am not here to do, is to bash on some 70 year old traditionalist boomer who is sure beyond any doubt that gay people are “doing the devils work”, but doesn’t quite recall where he kept his dentures. I am not here to make fun of religious people (previous comment excluded, of course), who make terrible non-arguments for their beliefs.
So if you expect to see me spend half a page talking about how people will demand proof that God does not exist (ugh, those ones really are the most tiresome), then please feel free to leave.
I’m here to talk about the smart theists. The folks who make logical cases for their beliefs, those who decide that, yes, evidence is in fact required to make such sweeping claims.
Now let me make it clear, I get a bit snarky in my arguments. It’s just the way I write. So to any theists reading this, I mean you no disrespect. In fact, I have a great deal of respect for anyone who dares to jump into the arena of debate, and decides to flesh out their worldviews using evidence and logic.
Before we begin though, we must get some terminology out of the way. Let’s first just define what an atheist is, and what the mechanics of philosophical debate are.
An atheist is not just somebody who believes that there is no God.
An atheist is somebody who sees no evidence for the proposition that a ‘God’ exists, and therefore, finds no material reason to hold the view that God exists.*
*Not to be mistaken with an agnostic, who is somebody who sees no evidence for the proposition that God exists, and therefore, holds the view that they do not know, whether or not God exists. The atheist will hold that without supporting evidence, the claim should be dismissed as false, while the agnostic will hold that without supporting evidence, the claim cannot be seen as true or false.
It may seem like a difference without a distinction, and to a degree it is, but I make I must make it clear, lest, the tiresome argument I have mentioned above demanding “Proof of Non-existence” be trotted out.
I cannot prove to you that God does not exist. Because I cannot, in debate, prove a negative. That’s simply not how argument works.
At this point, dear reader, you may feel inclined to point out any number of negatives that can be proven. For example, the Sun revolves around the Earth; well, this is demonstrably false. So, this should logically entail, that negatives can be proven.
In that example, you have actually proven instead, a positive case, i.e The Earth actually revolves around the Sun. As a logical property of that case being proven true, it necessarily implies that the Sun cannot revolve around the Earth. You proved a positive case, which implied the falsehood of the negative. You didn’t prove the negative.
It is quite akin to demanding proof that Santa Claus does not exist. I cannot prove that. I may be able to prove that in fact it was your parents who bought and snuck the gift under the tree. Which would then imply that a fictional fat man from sub-zero Antarctica with magical red-nosed reindeers and a magical sleigh didn’t in fact, get you that gift; which would imply that he does, in fact, not exist.
But this raises another question. Why can’t I do the same as I have done above, with God? Why can’t I, through a series of positive proofs, imply that he does not exist as I have most unkindly done to Santa?
I can’t because the God debate occurs at the very edge of human knowledge. When we’re debating Santa, I can prove it was Mom who bought you your favorite video game. I can use payment records, receipts, and a host of other evidence (not to mention common sense). But when we’re debating how the Universe came to be, I can’t prove that God wasn’t involved, because I can’t prove the positive case of whom or what was involved.
I simply don’t know.
What I can do, however, is look at the evidence for God being involved, and inspect it. If, upon inspection, the evidence reveals that it does not make sense to believe that God was involved, and that a different theory is just as possible, then I will hold that view. But I cannot conclusively prove to you, that there is no being such as the one you call ‘God’.
I will leave that work to my successors in the intellectual tradition. I hope at some point, they figure out the myriad complexities of the Universe, and of space and time, and finally put to bed the fallacious and childlike notion of God.
But until then, I will do what I can and what I must.
Look at the evidence, and eviscerate it.