Wednesday, June 10, 2015

What Would It Take to Convince Me?

OK, so I've been watching more theist vs. atheist debates, and one question that often gets asked of both sides is "what would it take to convince you the other side was correct?" Typically, when the theists are asked what it would take to convince them that God doesn't really exist, the answer is that nothing could shake their belief in God. Which is, of course, rather telling, since it means that they admit their beliefs are neither based on evidence nor even rational to begin with, despite all their attempts to provide proof the existence of God.

Conversely, when the atheists are asked what would convince them of the existence of God, they usually start off by giving a snarky response along the lines of "a single shred of empirical evidence" and then say something like "if I looked up one night and all the stars had rearranged themselves to spell out a message saying, 'I am here.'"

Personally, however, I'm not sure a single bit of empirical evidence would sway me, no matter how impressive. Even if, say, somebody prayed to have an amputated limb restored and it grew back, I'd have to weigh that evidence against all the times when people prayed to have their limbs restored and it didn't happen.  And even if the single shred of evidence was overwhelmingly amazing, like the aforementioned message in the stars, I'd have to wonder whether I was hallucinating.

No, I think what would probably convince me more than anything else would be if the promises made in the holy scriptures actually and unequivocally happened on a consistent basis.  The Bible states repeatedly, for example, that if anybody prays for something in faith it will be given to them (not just that their prayers will be "answered").  The fact that most people don't actually get what they pray for, no matter how sincerely they believe, is just more evidence for the non-existence of God.  But if it were the case that Christians who prayed for things routinely received what they asked for (whether it be the health of a loved one, enough money to pay their rent, a safe trip, or even for a mountain to move from one location to another), I'd have to seriously consider the fact that maybe there's something to this whole God thing after all, despite how otherwise ridiculous it might seem to me.

Similarly, I'd be pretty convinced if faithful Christians routinely handled venomous snakes and drink poison with no ill effects as promised in the New Testament.  Sure, I know there are some fringe sects that do just this (well, they handle snakes, at least -- I'm not sure about the poison drinking), but the leaders have a tendency to die of snake bites after awhile...

Of course, believers will say that we shouldn't test God and that God purposely chooses not to reveal himself in such incontrovertible ways so as to not rob us of the ability to have faith in him.  To which I respond, "Then why did Jesus and his disciples make all those testable claims in the first place?"  I'm sure there are many other justifications why the things promised in the bible usually don't happen as promised ("God moves in mysterious ways", "the age of miracles is past", "it's all metaphorical", etc.), and that's fine.  The purpose of this post is not to point out the inherent inconsistency or hypocrisy involved, it's simply to state what would personally convince me that the God of the Bible actually exists.

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