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.
If that is the case, why do some atheists always ask for proof? I think that there are two reasons вЂ” one a question of semantics and one a question of principle. First, however, it would be easier to explain what atheists should be doing and why.
If a theist claims that a god exists, an atheist is justified in asking for that claim to be supported. Support is not the same as proof, although proof is a type of support (a very good type, in fact). Claims need to be supported if they are to be taken seriously.
Many of the people who label themselves as atheists are not atheists at all. They are just reacting to a negative religious upbringing. Having finally seen the conflicting nonsense that religion told them as a lie, they assume that everything that religion told them must be a lie too. God included.
So they sort of throw the baby (God) out with the bath water (religion)
If you ask these people to describe the God that they don’t believe in they invariably describe an angry judgmental punishing god that lives on a far off cloud called heaven.
This I can understand because I don’t believe in that God either.
Love and blessings Don
As an Atheist, I would always ask for proof in such a situation. I wouldn’t just settle for ‘support’ either since that could be anything. I can support any view I wish by bending the truth in a certain way to suit my needs.
Proof however, is reliable. If you can prove something, you can show it to be true. You simply cannot argue with the evidence/proof.
Unless a theist was able to present some solid evidence to prove the existence of a god, why should anyone accept this? Also, what are the important issues that may be distracted from when the discussion turns to proof of existence? In a debate about the existence of gods, surely there is nothing more important to the debate… The fact that it is a very difficult question to answer is no excuse.
Claims do indeed need to be supported if they are to be taken seriously. Claims ought to be proved if they are to be believed. I suggest that the argument in favour of the existence of a god fails on both counts.
By asking why theists should prove that God exists, that’s assuming they can. I don’t believe they can. As to why atheists ask for proof of God, it seems to me that the primary reason is that theists are going off into some statement which assumes that God exists, when in fact, this has not been established. So before we can really go into whatever that statement or question is, it’s necessary to establish the truth of the suppositions or premises it’s based upon.
Most atheists will be glad to stop asking for proof that a god or gods exist, just as soon as the theists stop asking atheists to believe in them. Which of course, will probably be never.
Take a look at two claims: 1. ":The sun rises in the east and sets in the west.": and 2. ":Humans are good at heart.": The first claim can be proven both experimentally and theoretically. To deny the claim would be to deny reality. The second claim probably can not be proven, but it could be supported. You can disagree with the second claim because there is room for disagreement.
The existence of a god or gods can not be proven. If one adheres to a scientific standard of quality, I would argue that such existence can not even be supported. And in fact, given some of the claims made about the characteristics and events surrounding their deity, some have argued that it is indeed possible to prove the *non-existence* of most, if not all gods, on logical and/or evidential grounds. (See, for example, Victor Stenger’s ":God: The Failed Hypothesis": http://www.amazon.com/God-Failed-Hypothe… )
Carl Sagan famously remarked that claims require evidence, and extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. The deities of the major religions are among the most extraordinary claims ever made, and yet they have pretty much nothing whatsoever to justify belief in any of them. Despite this, theists keep on proselytizing and evangelizing, and are constantly trying to get their religious beliefs and moral codes written into law and taught as fact in schools. Theists aren’t just asking, they’re almost demanding that everyone believe in their god(s). Proof of the existence of said deities should be at the top of the list of reasons to accept belief: it is the most basic and fundamental of prerequisites.
Phew – talk about semantics. You’re tripping all over yourself here.
It’s really simple. Person A points to the horizon and says, ":There’s a giant mountain standing there. It rules our lives. It exists. I live my life by it.":
And Person B says, ":I don’t see any mountain. And if you’re going to ask me to live my life according to whatever it wants, I’d like to know it exists first.":
And Person A says, ":It exists.":
And Person B says, ":Prove it.":
This isn’t semantics. This is pure plain common sense. Religion isn’t some little stamp club that you join on Thursday afternoons: it is a whole life agenda, with rites and rules and commentary and duties and responsibilities that go into every area of life. Atheists quite reasonably ask, ":Why should I follow something that’s based on a God I can’t even see or hear or touch or smell?": To which theists answer, ":You have to have faith.": To which atheists respond, ":Why should I have faith in something that probably doesn’t even exist? I value my life and faith more than that.":
If you point to the horizon and there’s a real mountain, the objections disappear very quickly. Only a crank denies that Mt. Everest is standing there. But if you point to that flat horizon and claim the mountain is there … well I say, frankly it baffles me why anyone would find it unreasonable that people object.
An Atheist asking for proof of God’s existence is admitting defeat. Atheism is a denial of God’s existence which can only be done by reasonable people when they have empirical evidence. When someone accepts the opinion that God does not exist he needs proof of this newly embraced ":fact":. Without proof he is maintaining this belief based on faith in his own correctness. Since it is easier to attack other peoples evidence of God than to find any evidence against God the less secure individuals take this tact rather than facing the fact that they really don’t know. Meanwhile they assume a superiority over those who believe although both sides are maintaining an opinion based on faith alone. Religions make the matter worse with an insistence on embracing scriptures as God given when obviously they are a product of man just as the religion itself is.
This is a very odd way of thinking. When you say push the conversation were IT SHOULD BE, what on earth do you mean. It seems that you want to be able to tell people what to think and what to do without them being allowed to question the validity of your claims.
If your claims of a God are groundless as they seem to be then it is important that we look for moral guidance from ourselves.
When you look at history it seems obvious that all moral guidance comes from man, and that the bible and ideas about god are secondary. So why should we listen to you, when what you are actually doing is cherry picking bits of the bible you like whilst rejecting others – like the law that adulteresses ought to be stoned to death: or that having cheese or milk on the same table as meat products is punishable by death.
The other thing -why should we take your version of God. Why not the Egyptian Gods, or the Greek ones. Why not Mohammed rather than Jesus?
As an atheist I am not looking for proof. I am looking for a way to live without having to listen to people like you that want to tell me how I should behave.
Burden of proof rests on the person making the positive claim. Otherwise, we’d believe every possibility that fluttered into our minds until we could prove it wrong and accusation alone would be seen as sufficient proof for criminal conviction. And that would be an altogether insane way to operate.
If someone tells you that Mohammed is god’s prophet and you should accept the Koran as a holy book, do you just believe that?
Humans need more than faith to show us something is real. Thats why we have these things called senses, if you can see touch smell taste or hear it, it’s real. But faith is using your imagination and that isn’t real.