by Jerry Brown and Jon Nelson
This is correct. It is also irrelevant for it does nothing to prove that God DOES exist, and proof is the responsibility of whoever makes the claim. So, who is making the claim here? The burden (or onus) of proof is on the person who asserts a positive claim. The theist, by claiming that God exists, must supply the evidence for that claim. Atheists are not claiming or asserting anything, and thus have only the burden of rebuttal. All logical arguments are based on an understanding of these burdens. Obviously, it is impossible to examine every nook and cranny in the universe, or to examine every subatomic particle to find "God", however one chooses to describe him/her/it. To carry the theist¹s demand to its logical conclusion, the atheist could demand that they disprove the existence of Zeus, Brahma, Odin, Quetzalcoatl, or any of the other mythological gods and beings that sprang from the fertile imagination of humankind.
Existence is identification.
To prove that something exists, you must describe the object in question. This means detailing its physical attributes; it does NOT mean describing the actions of that object. In the case of God, theists must describe what God IS, not what they think He DOES. Many of the more philosophically-minded believers try to sidestep this issue by describing facts of reality that they feel could only have come about by divine fiat: The "creation" of the universe, for example. This argument presumes that the universe was created, which obviously implies a creator, rather than being a formation from natural causes.
This and other theological arguments have been refuted time and time again; the interested reader is advised to consult the references at the end of this leaflet for more detailed examinations of these arguments. What is worthy of note here is the simple fact that many theologians continue to spew forth these philosophical dinosaurs as if they were the latest theological findings.But most theists are not content with an impersonal creator God; they want a deity that they can have a personal relationship with. And that is where "revealed" religion comes in. The God of the "revealed" religion of Christianity is said to see all, know all, and make it all (in six days) entirely for human benefit. He is said to possess unlimited power and, according to the Bible, commands us to do certain things and behave in certain ways which by some strange coincidence are always beneficial to the ruling class. The evidence supporting this concept is primarily hearsay, contained in various "holy" writings originating so far back in antiquity that they cannot possibly be verified (especially since most of this evidence involves supernatural phenomena witnessed by illiterate, fearful peasant folk who saw supernatural forces at work everywhere), and that must be "interpreted" by a select few for the rest of us to accept "on faith". And right there is a strong indication that something is wrong.
That which exists needs no faith or coercion to be believed. The fact of the Sun¹s existence needs no interpretation; you don¹t need faith to know it¹s out there. If this God exists, has the abilities he is claimed to have, and cares for the beings he has created, the theist is left on the horns of a dilemma, for he or she faces questions that make a mockery of the concept of an "all-good" God: Why did he create a world of so much suffering? The Christian answer that this is due to the "sins" of humankind do not explain the ruthless predatory nature of carnivorous animals. Couldn¹t he have left us some simple instructions on how to improve the quality of our lives on Earth rather than downplaying our earthly existence and extolling the virtues of the "next life?"
Why don¹t we have a reliable source of information that answers our questions about nature? The Bible doesn¹t even come close; for one thing it is riddled with errors and inconsistencies. Why disease? Why chronic pain, making lives miserable and serving no useful purpose? Why did this "creator", who created everything, create an Adolph Hitler? Where was this loving God when millions of innocent people were brutally tortured and killed under a leader who claimed to be doing "God's will"; a leader who, incidentally, was never excommunicated from his church? What happened to the countless prayers uttered heavenward from Auschwitz, Dachau, and the other concentration camps? Theistic answers to these and other questions are not answers at all, only rationalizations.
By contrast, the atheist answer is simple and non-contradictory: There is no one there to answer these prayers. It is up to us, as humans, to prevent these grand human tragedies. It is up to us to ease the suffering here on Earth. We must recognize our responsibilities, and cease shifting them heavenward .This supposedly all-powerful God does not control nature to prevent floods, droughts, and earthquakes. If he made all the beauty and joy, he also made all the ugliness and sorrow, all the viruses and disease, and all the degeneracy and hatred.
Why? How intelligent is this God? He doesn¹t seem to score any better than random chance and repeats the same errors over and over again (witness the countless floods and earthquakes worldwide). The standard theistic responses to these questions are well-known but they are, of necessity only evasions because true and honest answers tend to disprove the existence of their God, and are thus self-defeating for the believer.So, while we can¹t prove with absolute certainty that God does not exist, the balance of the evidence is so strongly on that side as to be proof beyond a reasonable doubt. And from all that¹s known, the probability (for our lives must be based on probabilities, not absolutes) is that we are an insignificant part of a continually evolving universe of unknown origin and destiny, of such incredible vastness that we are barely beginning to understand it. To attribute its origin and operation to something with human-like qualities, and assuming that this "something" would have the slightest interest in one mere speck of dust among billions and billions would seem to be a form of egoism bordering on insanity.
1 Atheism: The Case Against God by George H. Smith. Published by Prometheus Books 1989
2 Atheism: A Philosophical Justification by Michael Martin. Published by Temple University Press 1990
3 Lucifer¹s Handbook by Lee Carter. Published by Academic Associates 1977
4 The Human Agenda: How to Be At Home In The Universe - Without Magic by Roderic Gorney, M.D., Ph.D. Published by The Guild of Tutors Press 1979
Online Reading List
- An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish by Bertrand Russell (1943)
- Bible Teaching and Religious Practice by Mark Twain
- God is Imaginary
- Is there an Artificial God? by Douglas Adams (1998)
- Skeptics Annotated Bible
- The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine (1795)
- Which Way? by Robert Ingersoll (1884).
- Why I Am Not A Christian by Bertrand Russell (1927)