Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The “Best” Evidence for God

I have posted on the subject of the evidence for the existence of God a few times in the past, including the following: 
But theists keep asking about why atheists don't accept the evidence for God, what would it take to convince an atheist that God exists, etc. And, since the questions always ask about “God” (as opposed to “god” or “gods”), I can only assume that the people asking these questions are Christians asking about evidence for their particular God and not just some generic notion of some sort of supreme being or divine force or creator of the universe. 

The most recent question I saw on this subject took a slightly different tact by asking, “What evidence for God is the hardest for atheists to ignore?” I honestly don’t know if this was meant as a “trick” question in an attempt to get atheists to admit that there is at least some good evidence for the existence of God (meaning, presumably, that atheists are ignoring or refusing to accept it), or whether it was an honest inquiry. Regardless of the intent of the question, however, the short answer is the same — there is no “best” evidence for the existence of God, nor any evidence that is hard (let alone “hardest”) to ignore. If there were, we wouldn’t be atheists. Despite what many theists apparently (and desperately) believe, most atheists are not atheists because we choose to ignore the evidence for God’s existence or because we secretly know in our hearts that God exists and just want to lead rebellious, sinful lives. It’s just that we really, truly don’t find any of the evidence and arguments offered to be at all convincing. 

Here’s the thing. Theists of all stripes (and, apparently, evangelical Christians in particular) love to claim that there is plenty of evidence for God to be seen all over the place, but whenever atheists actually look at what is offered it seems to vanish like the morning dew on a hot day.

Sometimes it vanishes due to having a wholly natural explanation (“The apparent design of nature is proof that God exists!” No it isn’t).

Sometimes it vanishes due to being wholly unsupported (no corroboration, no verification, etc.).
Sometimes it vanishes in a puff of logic (as when it is noted that the person offering the supposed evidence is suffering from a severe case of Confirmation Bias).

Most of the time, however, it vanishes because the offered evidence is simply not sufficient to rationally support a belief in the idea of an omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent, intelligence that exists outside of time and space, that is not made of matter or energy, that nevertheless cares about each and every one of us and will answer our prayers (but sometimes the answer is “no”), that will reward the faithful with eternal life while punishing the majority of his beloved children with everlasting torment, etc., etc., etc.

It has been said that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and it doesn’t get any more extraordinary than God (especially the Christian “God”). The fact that somebody prayed for a sick relative and that person got better isn’t even close to being slightly sufficient to provide even a glimmer of the evidence necessary to justify a belief in “God”. The fact that somebody “knows deep in their heart that God exists” is even less convincing. Heck — a 20-foot-tall manlike being with a white beard and a flowing robe could materialize in the middle of Times Square and, with the wave of an arm, convert all of Manhattan into a garden paradise, and it still wouldn’t even begin to approach what would be required to justify belief in the “God” most theists talk about.

I dunno. Things were a lot simpler back when theists just talked about gods of thunder and gods of the ocean and the like. It wouldn’t take much evidence to convince an atheist of the existence of one of those gods. For that matter, it wouldn’t have been difficult to provide enough convincing evidence that the God of the Old Testament existed back in the days when people thought the whole world was relatively small and that stars consisted of pinholes poked in the fabric of the night. Sadly, in their hubris, theists have continually expanded the descriptions of the their gods over the years as science has discovered more and more about the scope of the universe, to the point where their gods are necessarily so unimaginably vast and powerful that no amount of proffered evidence could ever suffice to convince most atheists that they actually existed.

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