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Dec 15 2011

Proof Of God?

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.”

16 comments

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  1. 1
    John W. Loftus

    Ya know, I like your answer better than what I had said. Your answer is reflective of my Outsider Test for Faith which I have argued for before.

  2. 2
    Cuttlefish

    Aw, thanks!

  3. 3
    Blupp

    Honestly, nothing could convince me to abandon atheism, because I would believe in psychosis rather than miracles every time.

  4. 4
    Cuttlefish

    I must say, in Lewis’s trilemma (Liar, Lunatic, or Lord), it has always been patently clear to me that we have no shortage of the first, great experience with the second, and bugger-all for the third, the one Lewis concludes must be true. No Bayesian, Lewis.

  5. 5
    Mimmoth

    Gee.

    My thoughts were along the lines of teleport here in front of me, answer a few questions, and demonstrate its abilities.

    As befits a being who claims to be all-knowing, the questions will be toughies.

    As befits a being who claims to be all powerful, the demonstrations will be toughies too.

    I was thinking of starting with “cure all cases of cancer instantly, simultaneously, and permanently, starting” (check watch) “now. No backsies, and naturally you know damn well exactly what I mean, so don’t you try to wiggle out on a technicality.”

    Now, would be good, though I can fit it in anytime, really.

  6. 6
    rorschach

    Parsimony. Not only kills gods, but also any possibility of evidence for any ever showing up.

  7. 7
    markr1957

    I’m thinking along the lines of giving me answers not known to modern science, and preferably beyond the capability of modern science, which would then be used to improve and advance the welfare of humankind by showing a way to render anyone stupid enough to follow any religion sterile, reducing the world population to more comfortable numbers in 2 generations without having to kill anyone. Do that for me and I’ll believe in ya.

  8. 8
    jasonmartin99

    One thing is certain: the evidence for the existence of a god or gods would have to be of the objective kind. Personal revelation would not be a good way to get me to believe since I know how easily the brain can make mistakes or be deluded through lack of sleep, mental illness, disease, drugs, etc. I have always thought it would be nice for a god to rearrange the stars into some sort of message (in English, of course). If that were to happen one fine night, I think I would believe. Yes, I know that an extremely advanced alien race could have some sort of technology that could seem miraculous to us less-advanced bipedal apes, but I think a rearranging of the stars would be sufficient proof for me to believe in a God, at least provisionally.

  9. 9
    Andy.scicluna

    Good answer. I have written various posts like this on my blog. God is an unfalsifiable hypotheisis. Any miracle that supports the Christian God is accepted, while any miracle that goes against it be explained away by Demons, ESP, etc.

  10. 10
    Retired Prodigy Bill

    Anyone ever read Poul Anderson’s novella “A CHAPTER OF REVELATION?” In it someone calls for a sign from god, like the sun standing still, and the scientifically verified phenomenon of the Earth stopping rotating for 24 hours (with no other effects) happens.

    Of course, nobody knows what the hell to think of that, since there is no other message, just the sign.

  11. 11
    The Lorax

    There are plenty of things a being can accomplish in order to prove that it has abilities far beyond the sum of the knowledge of all the humans on earth regarding science. These things can be tested and verified and repeated. I myself can think of several (bring Voyager 2 home, for instance), and I know all of you could as well.

    I’m not quite sure how said being would go about proving, without doubt, that it is also the Christian god, since if said being can completely destroy everything we know about physics, who is to say that there is any truth to any claim it may have? How could we possibly test the evidence of such a claim with nothing to test it against? I’m reminded of a Star Trek TNG episode…

    However, even if said deity appeared and performed said feats, and convinced me that it was the Christian god, it wouldn’t matter one minutia because I would not worship a bully.

    So next time a creationist asks you what it would take to believe in a deity, explain to them quite simply the standard scientific regimen, then remind them that it wouldn’t matter; the question is moot, because their god is a douche-bag, and not worth the consideration even if it did exist.

  12. 12
    robert landbeck

    Debunking ‘Christianity’ is like shooting fish in a barrel, unfortunately knowing what is false doesn’t tell us anything about what yet may be true?

    Proof of God, in the theological sense, is of course a misnomer, a philosophical contrivance to avoid accepting our ignorance of such a reality. As a humanity, we have all been conditioned or indoctrinated, for all of history by ‘theological’ exegesis, particularly by those with their own religious claims and agendas, to accept that a literal proof of God is not possible for faith. And thus all discussion of morality and apologists ‘theodicy’ is contained within this self limiting intellectual paradigm and bubble of presumption, especially evident in the frictions between science and religion. It would now appear that all sides squabbling over the God question, religious, atheist and history itself have it wrong! That bubble could now burst at any time!

    The first wholly new interpretation for two thousand years of the moral teachings of Christ is published on the web. Radically different from anything else we know of from history, this new teaching is predicated upon a precise and predefined experience, a direct individual intervention into the natural world by omnipotent power to confirm divine will, command and covenant, “correcting human nature by a change in natural law, altering biology, consciousness and human ethical perception beyond all natural evolutionary boundaries.” So like it or no, a new religious claim testable by faith, meeting all Enlightenment criteria of evidence based causation now exists. Nothing short of a religious revolution is getting under way. More info at http://www.energon.org.uk

  13. 13
    JesseW, the Juggling Janitor

    Sigh. Cuttlefish, you’ve got a spam-nut (above, one “robert landbeck”) in the comments section again. Do you want us to logically dismember, or just ignore, it?

  14. 14
    robert landbeck

    Probably the most intellectually dishonest reply to any comment is to call someone a spam nut. Too Bad! At least I have the advantage of having already tested and proved the material I refer to.

    Trials of this new teaching are under way in many countries, confirmations have already taken place. It’s only a matter of time before sufficient numbers of confirm this teaching, and establish this new teaching and moral insight as absolute, irrefutable fact.

    Time is on my side and vacuous opinion of little value.

    To test of not to test, that is the question?

  15. 15
    Cuttlefish

    Jesse, consider him a cephalopodmas cat-toy. Cats, by apparent law of nature, can dismember or ignore as suits their mood.

  16. 16
    Die Anyway

    I’ve thought of it more along the line of “the true religion”. A plane crashes into a mountainside at 400 mph totally obliterating everything… Except 3 passengers who are members of the WXYZ church are completely unscathed as is their luggage. In any natural disaster, the lives and property of WXYZ members are unaffected. WXYZ members never get cancer, heart disease, diabetes, or even so much as a hangnail. In the meantime members of every other religion, and atheists, are suffering the standard consequences of life. But if you join the WXYZ church and participate in the rituals and follow the rules and regs you suddenly are part of the charmed group.
    Would anyone be able to stay away? Who would cling to their old God with only faith to go on when there was a religion with patently obvious and serious benefits? A few maybe… But most would be swayed.
    On the other hand, this is not going to happen, and is the basis of one of my arguments against gods and religions. In any disaster people of all religions suffer equally. People of all religions get sick, are poor, are unhappy, etc. At the same general rate as everyone else.

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