Over at Debunking Christianity, John Loftus answers a question. Specifically, the question of “what would it take for you, an atheist, to believe in god?”, and the objection that in reality, our answers are all lip service, that we are closed-minded and unwilling to budge. You can go take a look at his answer, but mine is a bit different. For me, this is one of those questions better answered with another question: What would it take for you, a christian, to believe in someone else’s god?
The same evidence that should be sufficient to convince an atheist, will necessarily disconfirm some religions, given that they disagree with one another, and positively proving one of them may well violate fundamental tenets of another (come to think of it, it might support none; there may be a very real deity that every single religion gets wrong). Gods are intentionally fuzzily-defined; if they were clearly defined, they would be easy to disconfirm. Absolute proof of a specific God would be a believer’s worst nightmare! With so many options, the odds that their own god is the right one are better in the absence of evidence. Besides (he said, cynically), old habits die hard, and the habit of denying empirical evidence has a long history.
Can you imagine what the various reactions of atheists and believers might be, to the sort of evidence that would make PZ check himself into a padded cell? My version, after the jump:
As if it were magic, it happened last night,
And we woke to a very improbable sight—
It certainly got our attention, all right—
A mile-high statue of Christ.
We looked for its makers, but none could be found;
The atheists saw it, and termed it “profound”;
What’s more, it was floating, two feet above ground;
As evidence goes, it sufficed.
They called out the networks, and went on the air,
Admitting it seemed as if something was there,
And if some called it God, now, they thought it was fair
Cos the burden of proof had been met.
“To be perfectly fair, we have always maintained
That no proof could be found”, disbelievers explained,
“But the God explanation from which we’ve refrained
Is a likely hypothesis yet!”
“Though it seemed, till last night, our position was strong,
When new data come in, we admit we were wrong!
We admit it! So now, could we please get along?
There is much now that needs to be done!”
“If the theist hypothesis now is the best
We have new variations to put to the test—
For if one God is real, well then, what of the rest?
What a marvelous path we’ve begun!”
But believers were hesitant, slow to agree,
They ignored, for the most part, the atheists’ plea—
A demeanor, on their part, which none could foresee—
You’d have thought they’d be head of the line.
“Are we sure that it’s Jesus? We’re not being played?
We haven’t confirmed that it isn’t man-made—
(And I’m sure that His skin is a much lighter shade)
It’s too early to call this divine.”
“This isn’t the Jesus that my people follow;
His hair is too long, and his cheeks are too hollow.
If anything, maybe it might be Apollo,
A false god, who doesn’t exist!”
“Some billionaire made it, to make us lose face,
Or aliens, maybe, from far outer space—
Examine the evidence! Every last trace!
There are too many left on the list!”
In the meantime, the Muslims were busy denying,
And Orthodox Jews accused newsmen of lying,
While Wiccans, world-wide, began weeping and crying
And chaos pervaded the day.
The Christians, confused about what they were seeing,
Found one point on which every sect was agreeing:
“With each bit of faith, every ounce of our being,
We’re praying it just goes away.”