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Evidence for atheism?

May 29th, 2014

Sherlock

Why do you believe what you do – about religion, politics, ethics or life itself?

Many sceptics about religion are evidentialists, that is, they believe we should proportion our belief according to the evidence. Different disciplines (e.g. law, science, history, journalism and everyday life) require different types of evidence, but the principle seems reasonable.

But what if the sceptics are ignoring their own creed?

Evidentialism and atheists

Philosopher Michael Antony observes that most atheists criticise religious belief for its lack of evidence, but then notes that many atheists offer little evidence for their own views. He asks: “How can the New Atheists employ evidentialist principles to argue that religious belief is irrational if they are unwilling to apply those same principles to atheism?”

He also notes that several reasons are offered for why atheism doesn’t require evidential support, and discusses five of them.

1. Atheism Isn’t A Belief

It is common for atheists to claim that atheism isn’t a belief at all, but a lack of belief. Antony argues that this isn’t the standard use of the word (it conflates atheism and agnosticism), but says it makes no difference. Evidentialism applies to all beliefs – believing P, or believing not-P, or suspending belief. Only if a person makes no statement at all can they avoid the evidential requirement for evidence.

Most atheists believe it is unlikely that God exists, so evidentialism requires that they only hold this belief if they can offer evidence.

2. You Can’t Prove A Negative like “God doesn’t exist”

This is in fact incorrect. There are mathematical proofs of negatives (e.g. that there is no greatest prime number) and many negative statements that can be shown to be probably true (e.g. there are no snow-capped mountains in the Sahara).

Some negative statements can be shown to be true and some not; ditto for positive statements. There is no valid general argument here, every case has to be argued on its merits.

3. The Burden of Proof Is On The Believer

“Burden of proof” is a legal term, and it isn’t clear how it should be applied in metaphysics. Antony discusses several ways this concept is argued by atheists:

  • “The burden of proof falls on the one making a positive statement.” But most positive statements can be turned into negative statements, and vice versa. For example, “there is no supernatural” can be re-phrased as “everything is natural”.
  • “One acquires a burden of proof if one’s statement runs counter to received opinion.” There is some truth in this, but received wisdom varies from group to group.

But evidentialism says nothing about burden of proof. According to evidentialism, evidence is required for any belief to be justified even if there is no ‘burden’ to defend the belief. So Antony concludes that “in situations in which participants to a discussion are expected to take seriously the claims made by other parties, all participants bear a burden to provide support for their claims, if asked”.

4. Ockham’s Razor

Ockham’s Razor advises “Do not multiply entities beyond necessity”. So, some atheists argue, we shouldn’t add an extra entity (God) into our thinking when we can explain everything without him.

But this is the point. Theists, and some atheists, believe that naturalism cannot explain everything – for example the origin of the universe, or consciousness. Ockham’s Razor therefore doesn’t apply until all these things can be explained.

5. Absence of Evidence is Evidence of Absence

This is a favourite argument of many atheists, sometimes expressed in the supposed comparison between God and the hypothetical Flying Spaghetti Monster (FSM) or Bertrand Russell’s orbiting teapot. There is no way, it is said, to disprove these things, yet no-one takes their existence seriously. So why should it be any different with God.

Antony puts this argument in this form: “When there is no good reason for thinking a [positive existence] claim to be true, that in itself is good reason for thinking the claim to be false.” Then he asks, is this true?

He suggests that we distinguish between strong and weak evidence. Evidence is strong when it provides convincing grounds for a belief, but weak when it is insufficient on its own to compel belief, though it may form part of a cumulative case. Most hypotheses start with weak evidence, which may become stronger as the hypothesis is tested. So is the principle we are discussing based on weak evidence or strong evidence?

Either way, it is in trouble.

If absence of strong evidence is evidence of absence

For example, consider the question of whether earthworms have a primitive form of consciousness. There is little evidence for this (i.e. weak evidence) but some researchers believe it may be true. But since there isn’t strong evidence, we should (according to this principle) believe the contrary, that earthworms don’t have primitive consciousness.

But suppose we then say ‘the boundary between conscious and non-conscious creatures is above the level of earthworms’. But there is no strong evidence for this either so, following this principle, we again have to believe the contrary, that the boundary between consciousness and unconsciousness is below the earthworm. But this means we are affirming two contradictory statements, which is obviously wrong.

If absence of weak evidence is evidence of absence

This is a more reasonable statement. But of course it then doesn’t apply to the existence of God. For there is certainly evidence that might point to the existence of God – “religious experience, the fine-tuning of physical laws and constants, the apparent contingency of the universe, etc”. Atheists may contest all or any of these evidences, but they clearly can be seen as evidence.

Thus, Antony argues, the atheist case for this principle is based on finding examples (like the FSM) which fit easily with the principle, but ignore examples where the principle obviously doesn’t apply. So the discussion must return to the place where it should always have been – what is the evidence for God?

Antony’s conclusion

The five ways which atheists sometimes claim exempt themselves from providing evidence of their belief all fail. Unless they make no statements about God at all, they have as much a requirement to support their statements with evidence as anyone else does. He concludes:

the various positions that can be taken on the existence of a divine being – theism, atheism, agnosticism, and variants – are in principle no less intellectually legitimate than positions in disputes in the sciences and other fields in which none of the positions enjoy strong evidential support.

That is, each position has to show why it is more probable than the others if it wants to gain support.

What do you think?

Photo Credit: paurian via Compfight cc

53 Comments

  1. Fair enough…probability.

    Is it probable that a man was born of a virgin impregnated by a spirit and involving no sexual intercourse, walked on water, was raised from the dead, dematerialized and went up into the sky and is then claimed to be a god
    by a group of corrupt men who are emphatic they have been inspired by this god; write it down,and make it a “book”, claim it is innerrent, prohibit anyone but them from reading it, and then, with the collusion of the state embark on one murderous campaign after another to enforce this belief on as much of humanity as they are able?

    So, is it probable that such claims made by these men and their book are true

    OR….it is more likely that we are dealing with a fictionalized piece of nonsense?

  2. My positive claim is that I don’t believe in the existence of gods. And I admit that this is merely a brain state and I don’t have any evidence that that is what I believe.

    I also agree that I believe that gods don’t exist but that belief, which I agree I can’t prove, is not what makes me an atheist. I agree that some negatives can be proven but I haven’t thought of a way of proving this one.

    I also agree that positive claims can be ignored if they are presented without evidence.

    I agree that Ockham’s razor is only pertinent if the simpler explanation is as explanatory as the more complex one. But I point out that an omnipotent superbeing can be used to explain anything and therefore explains nothing. Note my comment about the need for evidence.

    I agree that absence of evidence is only good evidence for absence if we have good reason to expect that existence would generate much evidence. And I agree that it is possible to postulate the existence of a god who would lack an evidentiary trail.

  3. One Skeptic is, of course, entitled to his opinion. And I appreciate the fact that this poster has added an extra category to the list of fallacies in the article, namely, the straw man argument. Well done.

  4. Hi Gordon, that is a most interesting group of statements. I can understand most of them, from your viewpoint, even though I disagree with you basic position. I would like to comment on just one statement:

    “an omnipotent superbeing can be used to explain anything and therefore explains nothing”

    I’ve heard this said many times, but I think it merits elaboration. What do you mean by “explains”? Do you mean a full scientific explanation of exactly how (by what physical mechanisms) a state of affairs came into existence? Or do you mean a statement of causation? Or something else? Thanks.

  5. @unkleE
    One of the original advantages of gods is that they represented explanations of the unknown. Despite the fact that science has replaced many supernatural explanations for natural phenomenon with scientific explanations which have the advantage of being able to be tested, the practice of using God as an explanation for the unknown has persisted. This is commonly called “The God of the gaps” by unbelievers because of the apparent habit of believers of tailoring their gods to provide explanations for those things for which the scientific explanation is thought inadequate.

    So given the almost limitless breadth of the human imagination it is possible to invent explanations for anything. So unless you can provide good evidence for a proposed divine explanation the unbeliever is reasonable in concluding it explains nothing because it is itself unexplained.

  6. @ UnkleE and AL

    Hi Al, thanks for visiting and for your pertinent comment!

    And you consider the comment pertinent? Why?
    Because it agrees with your obvious bias?
    But this exactly what happened, according to the bible and to history?

    If anything I wrote is incorrect will be more than I am willing to retract the statement.
    Simply point out, please where I am in error?

  7. But are you able to define what you mean by “explains” in this context? This isn’t a ruse or a pointless question, for I believe it can mean several different things and I’d like to know what you mean by it please.

  8. @unkleE

    But are you able to define what you mean by “explains” in this context?

    Well, as an example, one of your explanations as to why we are able to exist is because God fine tuned the physical constants of our universe so that life has a suitable environment in which to evolve.

    Many Christians maintain that their moral values are objective because God decided what they are or influenced those who did.

  9. Hi Gordon, you have still not given me a definition of what you mean by “explain” in this context. At the moment, your statement “an omnipotent superbeing can be used to explain anything and therefore explains nothing.” is to me like a phrase that lacks meaning. Taken literally it is contradictory. So can I ask my question again, but in a different way:

    Can you express that statement in other words without using the word “explain” please?

  10. @unkleE
    explain: be the cause for
    Anything which is postulated as a cause for anything and everything is itself going to lack a satisfactory cause for its own existence. It therefore can’t be used as a valid explanation for anything.

  11. Who made god…in plain English.

    Smile…the next response to Gordon’s comment should be quite interesting.

  12. Hi Gordon, thanks for that. I’m glad I asked, because I think that is an unusual usage of the word explain. If a correlation between two sets of data explains 81% 0f the variance, it certainly doesn’t cause that variation – it simply measures it. That is the usage that I am familiar with. But let’s go with your definition.

    “explain: be the cause for. Anything which is postulated as a cause for anything and everything is itself going to lack a satisfactory cause for its own existence. It therefore can’t be used as a valid explanation for anything.”

    Taken at face value, this doesn’t seem correct. If something is in fact a cause for everything, how can we say it is then a cause for nothing? It doesn’t make any sense to me, grammatically or logically, and requires some sort of argument to support it, surely?

    On top of that, I can think of an obvious example where your principle doesn’t seem to apply. Physicists look for a ‘Theory of Everything’ (in Wikipedia’s words: “a single, all-encompassing, coherent theoretical framework of physics that fully explains and links together all physical aspects of the universe”). Now suppose physicists found such a theory. Would you then say it explained nothing because it explains everything? Would you say that the mechanisms and forces involved in that Theory of Everything caused nothing?

    So it seems to me that you have to present quite a serious argument before anyone would accept such an counter intuitive proposition. Can you supply that argument please?

  13. @unkleE
    I think you are being a little obtuse. Something cannot be the explanation of the existence of itself. Therefore an all embracing explanation is itself unexplained and its use to explain anything is therefore invalid. If physicists come up with a unified field theory they will test it against empirical data and will thus have evidence for it. Its popular title “a theory of everything” is an exaggeration.

  14. “Therefore an all embracing explanation is itself unexplained and its use to explain anything is therefore invalid.”

    Gordon, your explanation here implies that if we can’t explain something, then it is of no further use in any other explanation. But we can immediately see that this is untrue.

    Everything depends on other things for an explanation. So if we follow the chain back and find that we can’t explain the beginning of the chain, then everything is unexplained, which is ridiculous.

    Or take a hypothetical. Suppose Earth’s first manned (excuse the sexism) spaceflight to Mars discovers a tractor on Mars. They have no explanation of how it got there. But it is still an interesting fact, it means something and it tells them something.

    This is why I wanted to examine what you said, because it is clearly based on a principle that you cannot prove, and in fact on examination turns out to be untrue, even ridiculous.

  15. @uncleE
    No anything that is explained by something else which cannot be explained is contingent on that unexplained thing for its cause. It therefor remains unexplained.

    In your example the tractor remains unexplained. That doesn’t mean its existence is not factual because its material presence is enough to validate that.

  16. So then everything in the world is unexplained because the big bang is unexplained and everything follows from that?

  17. So then everything in the world is unexplained because the big bang is unexplained and everything follows from that?

    Ah, now you’ve finally got it. The cause of everything is contingent on the explanation for the big bang. At the moment, we have reasonable evidence for the big bang but we don’t have an explanation for it.

  18. So then, everything in the world is unexplained? Yes you say.

    God is unexplained you say. So we shouldn’t believe in him you say.

    So God is exactly as much explained as everything else – follows from the above. So God is just as believable as everything else.

    I’ll accept that conclusion.

  19. So God is exactly as much explained as everything else – follows from the above. So God is just as believable as everything else.

    And which god would this be, unklee?

  20. So God is just as believable as everything else.

    Well he would be if there was any credible evidence for him. Unfortunately this is a crucial difference.

  21. Well, Gordon,this conversation has taken an interesting turn, don’t you think? You have made these two statements:

    “an omnipotent superbeing can be used to explain anything and therefore explains nothing”

    And in response to my statement “So God is just as believable as everything else” you said: “Well he would be if there was any credible evidence for him.”

    These are two quite different arguments. The first says that we cannot posit the existence of God because he explains nothing (by which you say you mean that he causes nothing because he causes everything). The second says we can’t posit God’s existence because of lack of evidence.

    Q1. Do you agree that the two are very different arguments?

    We can also note that the second statement agrees that on its own, the first statement actually tells us nothing about God that isn’t true for everything else. It is thus useless as an argument against the existence of God.

    Q2. Are you now agreeing that is the case?

  22. For such an argument to have any genuine meaning is is only fair that you explain how the god you worship, Jesus of Nazareth, is the same creator you refer to as God.

  23. The fact that everything lacks an ultimate reason for existence is nothing new. It’s just a restatement of the old question: why is there something rather than nothing? But in fact, the God question is in a special category. Because it is claimed that God is the cause of everything and yet can clearly not be the cause of his own existence we have a situation that makes God somewhat illogical as well as lacking an explanation for existence. Add that to the lack of empirical evidence for his existence and he’s in a bad way.

  24. Gordon, I think you have avoided the question. If God is the same as everything else, and all lack an explanation, then that argument against God’s existence doesn’t work, unless we are happy to use it as an argument against the existence of everything.

    And so we can dispense with that argument, and go back, as you have done, to other arguments like evidence and first cause.

    So let me ask you this. If there is no God, as you believe, does everything else (i.e. the universe) have a cause for its own existence, or is it the cause of its own existence?

  25. @unkleE
    But God is not the same as everything else. By the claim that he created the universe and everything in it theists have marked him off from the rest because he cannot have created himself. So either God doesn’t exist or his claimed existence is extra shaky because he becomes the only thing in the universe without explanation or indeed empirical evidence.

    From an atheist’s point of view the cause of everything is unknown. That’s why we can’t answer the question: why is there something rather than nothing?

  26. @IgnorantiaNescia
    Logic and mathematics are creatures of the human brain. Therefore they are contingent on the evolution of man.

  27. @Unklee.
    It would seem only fair that rather than trying to dismantle Gordon’s argument with semantics a more sensible way forward is simply to demonstrate the veracity of your god claim.

    How did your god come into existence?

  28. So Gordon, God can’t exist because he has no explanation for his existence, but the universe does exist but also has no explanation for its existence?

  29. @unkleE
    It is your philosophy that leads to the anomaly. By your estimation God is the only thing without explanation, not mine.
    In my view I cannot answer the question: why is there something rather than nothing?

    Recognizing existence is not dependent on knowing its reason for being but on evidence for its being.

  30. But Gordon, you have avoided the question again.

    Let us consider this logical argument:

    1. The universe exists (I presume you agree).
    2. We have no explanation for its existence (you have said this).
    3. Therefore something can exist even if we can’t explain its existence (follows from 1 & 2)
    4. Therefore God can exist even if we can’t explain his existence (follows from 3).
    5. Therefore the argument that “because God’s existence is unexplained, he doesn’t exist” is invalid.

    Yet you have suggested exactly this (“either God doesn’t exist or his claimed existence is extra shaky because he becomes the only thing in the universe without explanation”).

    Does this mean your statement was wrong? Or can you show me where the above argument is wrong? Thanks.

  31. @unkleE

    We have no explanation for its (the universe) existence

    No I have no explanation for the universe existence but, according to you, you do.

    Therefore God can exist even if we can’t explain his existence

    He certainly can exist but whether his existence is credible depends on evidence.

    Therefore the argument that “because God’s existence is unexplained, he doesn’t exist” is invalid.

    It’s a good job I didn’t make that argument then.

    The argument I made was that not only is there no evidence for God but the fact that his existence can’t be explained makes the claim of his existence extra shaky.
    Remember in your world he does exist and becomes the only entity which lacks explanation. This makes your conception of reality extra shaky.

  32. Logic and mathematics are creatures of the human brain. Therefore they are contingent on the evolution of man.

    Then what business do we have on your view to apply logic and mathematics to the distant past? It can only work if our logic and mathematics can approximate the functions that operated during the distant past (Big Bang, inflation period). But if so, they have an existence independent from the human brain. (Besides, other animals can also do arithmetic.)

  33. @Gordonhide

    Therefore the argument that “because God’s existence is unexplained, he doesn’t exist” is invalid.

    It’s a good job I didn’t make that argument then.

    The argument I made was that not only is there no evidence for God but the fact that his existence can’t be explained makes the claim of his existence extra shaky.
    Remember in your world he does exist and becomes the only entity which lacks explanation. This makes your conception of reality extra shaky.

    Hmmm…check-mate, I believe?

    Excellent explanation.
    Commonsense at its best.
    Well done , Gordon.

  34. “It’s a good job I didn’t make that argument then.

    The argument I made was that not only is there no evidence for God but the fact that his existence can’t be explained makes the claim of his existence extra shaky.”

    I think it is time for me to give up this conversation, Gordon. For here in two sentences you contradict yourself. The statement “the fact that his existence can’t be explained makes the claim of his existence extra shaky” is an argument that you think lessens the probability that God exists. So you have made that argument.

    It seems to me that this sort of inconsistency has marked your statements in this discussion. Doubtless you will feel differently. But since I see it that way, I think further discussion would just go round in more circles.

    Thanks.

  35. @unklee
    And when push comes to shove you cut the cord.
    Gordon did a fine (sic) job of demonstrating that the argument you have presented has no legs.

    If there has been any obfuscation it has been by you, unklee.
    Gordon has, at all times, been honest in his approach, whereas you have – as always – a god agenda simmering on the back burner.

  36. @IgnorantiaNescia
    Logic and mathematics are extremely successful modelling tools. They can be applied to any field of human learning or endeavour with profit.

    You are in danger of making the mistake of imagining that mathematics has a life of its own because of its high utility in dealing with reality. Remember there are no numbers, no straight lines and no perfect geometric shapes in the real world. Also note that mathematics has branches for which no real world practical applications have yet been found.

  37. @One Skeptic

    Excellent explanation.
    Commonsense at its best.
    Well done , Gordon.

    Well thanks for that vote of confidence One Skeptic but there is actually a flaw in my logic which at least partly nullifies my claim of extra shakiness. Either unkleE was unable to spot this or was unable to successfully articulate it.

  38. @ Gordon

    😉

    Well, you are correct in your assertion: Unklee already believes his god exists.
    A premise that is based on faith, for if evidence is required then what is the need for faith? And there is no evidence.
    Simply stating that the universe is evidence of a god is a claim that is merely conjecture.
    And even if he were able to square away the argument and we were to allow for a creator….as far as the Christian is concerned, this is not any old world-maker, but Jesus of Nazareth himself.
    And to bridge that gap will require a miracle(sic).

  39. @One Skeptic:MAY 29, 2014 @ 10:16:01

    That is a Pauline concept of God; and sure it is mythical.
    If you were born a Christian; you should have tried to reform such creeds and then you would have reached the true concept of God that Jesus and Mary believed in.

    This does not provide one any excuse to leave the religion you were born in; unless you could give positive arguments, proofs and evidences favoring Atheism.

    Regards

  40. Hi paarsurrey. Yes please feel free to re-blog it. Of course I would hope you would give a link back to this blog. Thanks.

  41. I think some people have trouble grasping that atheism is a lack of belief, and not a belief, because of the existence of the term “atheism.” We don’t have words for people who don’t believe in bigfoot, fairies, unicorns, or aliens. If I said that, “I don’t believe in fairies, because I’ve never seen any evidence they exist,” I would be surprised if any rational person responded that my statement was not valid unless I could show proof for my “belief.” There is no difference, here. The lack of positive evidence *is* the proof, or basis, of my non-belief.

    If you still don’t understand, or just don’t think I’ve made a valid statement, then please explain to me *how* I should prove that I have never seen evidence for the existence of any god.

    And, by the way, this is not conflating atheism with agnosticism. Agnostic generally means “doesn’t know” – which could mean they’re just refusing to take a position, but it could be that they don’t think you can scientifically prove the supernatural. I’m actually taking a position, but also stating that my views (on everything I believe) are open to revision, based on my understanding of the evidence.

  42. Hi Raymond, thanks for visiting and sharing your thoughts. I wonder whether some of the matters you raise here are the result of lack of agreement about definitions, on two words?

    Belief. I think some atheists think that belief = thinking something without good reason. But philosophers generally mean belief = thinking something is true, whether with good reason or not (see the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. So saying atheism is a belief is no more than saying that some people think it is true.

    Atheism. It seems to me that most philosophers use the word as Antony does, to mean disbelief in God or gods, while agnosticism means lack of belief or no particular belief – see for example the Stanford Encyclopedia again. However many atheists these days use the term as you do, to mean lack of belief. This seems to me to be unhelpful, for it leaves no word for strong disbelief, but I don’t think it helps to argue over definitions.

    So perhaps I could ask you to clarify please. You don’t agree with the statement “Gods exist”, but do you agree with the statement “No gods exist”? Do you reject each statement with equal conviction? Or would you reject one more strongly than the other?

    Thanks.

  43. I think we’re on the same page with “belief.” However, I do think of “faith” as belief without sufficient (or sometimes any) evidence (if there was sufficient evidence to make a case for something, you wouldn’t need faith).

    I think this might help with the “atheism” thing:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Negative_and_positive_atheism

    You would consider my position to be “negative” (or, weak) atheism. I consider it to be the only rational position for any atheist, but there probably are atheists who will say, “there are no gods” (strong atheism).

  44. Hi Raymond,

    I think your statement on faith uses a definition I and most thoughtful christians don’t use, and since it is our belief we are talking about, I think we should be allowed to define our terms. But that is another discussion.

    Yes, I understand the terms in that Wikipedia article, and I understand some philosophers use them. But it seems more use the Stanford definitions. So it is confusing if people use different definitions and don’t realise it. That is why I tried to clarify exactly what you think without using the confusing terms.

    So I’m still not sure. Would you agree or disagree with the proposition “No gods exist”? And would your agreement or disagreement be as strong as your disagreement with the statement “God exists”?

  45. Strange that you think Christians should be left to define “faith” as they see fit, because you’re the Christian here, but you seem to want *me* to accept definitions for “atheist” and “agnostic” from some website. I guess it’s easier to control the outcome of the discussion if you get to define all the terms.

    I might add, however, that I was *not* referring to “faith” in Christianity. I was referring to faith in general – Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Zoroastrian, etc. So, while you may argue that my definition of faith does not fit in the Christian context, the word does not belong to your particular religion.

    I have been perfectly clear in what I mean when I discuss my atheism, or lack of belief. I have stated it in very clear terms, and even provided you with a reference on positive vs. negative atheism. Your insistence that you’re “still not sure” either means you’re not very bright, or you’re trying to get me to take some particular position, so that you can attack my comments with some canned response. Sorry to disappoint you.

    For the last time, I do not believe in the existence of any supernatural beings – gods, demons, fairies, ghosts – because I have not seen sufficient evidence to warrant such belief. I remain unconvinced. However, my beliefs on any subject – the supernatural, politics, UFO’s, whatever – are subject to revision, based on my understanding of the available evidence.

  46. Hello again Raymond

    “you seem to want *me* to accept definitions for “atheist” and “agnostic” from some website”

    I just looked through my comments and I cannot see anywhere that I asked you to accept the definitions I prefer. Can you point to any? What I said was that there were differing definitions, and rather than argue about them, I thought defining what you think in other words might be more useful.

    “Strange that you think Christians should be left to define “faith” as they see fit, because you’re the Christian here”

    The same here. If there are different definitions of faith (as there clearly are) then you can define what you mean by it but I am not necessarily going to accept it, because when I talk about my faith, I mean something different. Again, moving beyond words with uncertain definitions is the best way forward if we were going to discuss that.

    “I have been perfectly clear in what I mean when I discuss my atheism, or lack of belief. I have stated it in very clear terms, and even provided you with a reference on positive vs. negative atheism. Your insistence that you’re “still not sure” either means you’re not very bright, or you’re trying to get me to take some particular position, so that you can attack my comments with some canned response. Sorry to disappoint you.”

    I’m sorry that you think that way, but you are mistaken. I was simply trying to clarify what you think.

    A person’s view is defined by both what they affirm and what they deny. Expressing only one of these can leave things unclear. For example imagine two people who we ask what they think of the statement “God exists”. Both say “I don’t have any belief about God’s existence”.

    So then we ask them what they think of the statement “No gods exist”. Person A replies “I agree with that” whereas person B replies “I don’t have any belief about God’s non-existence”.

    Clearly the two think similar to you about the first statement but think very different things about the second statement. I was simply trying to ascertain into which category you fitted. I genuinely don’t know, and I would prefer to respond to what you actually think rather than what I might guess you think.

    I’d still be interested to hear your response to the second statement, if you were willing to do so. Thanks.

  47. “A person’s view is defined by both what they affirm and what they deny.”

    I affirm that my beliefs about religion, etc., are based on my current understanding of the available evidence, and are subject to revision on that basis.

    I deny that there is sufficient evidence (for me, at this point in time) to warrant belief in a supernatural being referred to in Christianity as “God.”

    As for definitions, you wrote, “many atheists these days use the term as you do, to mean lack of belief.” And, yet, you seem to want it to mean something else, or something *more*, since you keep digging. But for me, it’s that simple.

  48. OK, thanks. I’m not sure why you were unwilling to answer my question about your response to the “God does not exist” statement, but I won’t keep pressing.

  49. OK, thanks. I’m not sure why you were unwilling to answer my question about your response to the “God does not exist” statement, but I won’t keep pressing.

    He has answered it. Maybe not in the way you want, but that is what he is getting at. He refuses to kow tow to your definitions and terms.

    The bottom line is very simple, unklee. You believe in a god, Raymond does not.
    Yet,all you have to do is provide verifiable evidence that will validate your god claims.
    If you cannot, then your claims are based solely on faith and can be dismissed as non-evidentiary.
    So far, in all the time humans have been around, those of a religious bent have not provided a single morsel of verifiable evidence that would convince a skeptic, from any walk of life.
    In fact the insidious practice of indoctrination is generally required to ensure its survival.

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