Time and time again I have had conversations with people who completely misunderstand the burden of proof, so I though I might state it as clearly as I can here, once and for all.
Imagine, if you will, that there are two people in a room. At first no one is speaking to the other. No one has made a claim which they need to back up with a logical argument, or (shock/horror) even evidence. No one at this stage bears the burden of proof. Then one of them pipes up:
“This table is made of wood.”
Not a massive claim, I know, but a claim none the less. A claim which is easily verified by the other person observing the table and concluding it is indeed made from wood. There is evidence to support the gentleman’s claim and the claim is accepted. Now let’s suppose he adds:
“The wood came from Noah’s Ark.”
Now this is a hell of a claim, with many ramifications for it presupposes Noah’s existence and a global flood. Notwithstanding, should we accept his claim on face value, or request the evidence that leads inescapably to this conclusion? If no evidence or even a logical argument can be presented to support this claim, why accept it as truth?
Same goes for a God.
If you claim there is a mystical invisible entity residing outside of space and time, then please provide evidence this is actually the case. If you further claim that this entity took human form and killed himself to wash away something called “sin” with his blood – well you certainly have your work cut out for you.
Keep in mind it is NOT up to the sceptic to disprove your claims. Take, for example, this conversation:
You: “There are no diamonds in the trunk of my car”
That’s it. Why should anyone investigate the claim any further? Do it make any difference to anyone if there really are not diamond in your car? Do I have any reason to suspect otherwise? In a recent conversation the response to this question was:
“What if you were a thief and believed I did have diamonds in the truck of my car? Then you might get mad and assault me.”
What the author of this comment failed to realise is that the thief holds a belief for which there is no evidence. He is in error and acts upon his illogical and unsupported beliefs with horrible results. To anyone familiar with religions, this should sound very familiar.
So why do so many theistic arguments go along these lines?
Me: “I can see no evidence of god”
Theist: “You’re not looking had enough”
This is a response I made to someone on Facebook a while ago – thought I might share it with you.
“I supposed you might know him because he used basically the same non-conclusive arguments you did.” – Carl
My first reaction to this was that my arguments do reach a conclusion, it is just that you disagree and write them off. I am sure that this line of reasoning would get us nowhere, however I am more than happy to truly explore the evidence and reasoning behind any scientific theory to discover why we have reached conclusions such as the big bang, evolution, or radio-active dating. Name one so that we can explore the evidence for it together.
In mathematics (a self contained semantic referential language with logic and proofs at its heart) 1+1 will always equal 2 regardless of who performs the function. It is hardly surprising that those who hold logic and self evident proofs in high regard often reach the same conclusions. Can the same be said for religious beliefs?
Taking an holistic view of Christianity and it is plain to see that even within this subset of religious beliefs there is much disagreement on how scripture should be interpreted and what it all means. I predict that even within your church there is disagreement on biblical passages – hence the need for bible study groups and church meetings to discuss the relevant passages. If the religious organizations of one faith cannot agree, how can a third party observer?
It is somewhat bewildering to see the degrees people are willing to bend, twist, and distort the actual text in order to make it conform to modern understandings of the world. Surely the all knowing creator of the universe may have made things a little simpler for us to understand? Perhaps he is deliberately making it difficult so he can watch billions burn in hell for failing his test (something he would have known would happen)?
Others have stated in our other discussion that Christianity is NOT about churches and organized religion – it is about a personal relationship with Jesus. From this standpoint I can see why you believe Catholics are not “real Christians”, however there is no reason to believe the Catholics are wrong. Just as you contend that they are wrong, they can equally contend that you are. What is required to make a decision is evidence for either party, unfortunately I cannot even conceive on how this evidence would be obtained. That same can be said for any other denomination or religion.
Taking this a step further, a “personal relationship with Jesus” is a neat self-fulfilling prophecy as anything good is your life can be attributed to God, while anything bad can chalked up against the devil or your own wicked sinfulness. I do not like to consider myself a pawn is some cosmic game of chess for my eternal soul, or a miserable sinner who needs to grovel to his ego-centric creator for a chance at salvation. You want to belief that your sky daddy will take care of you even when you know you just don’t deserve it? Go ahead, just don’t expect me to.
A personal god leaves it to the individual to mould their own god and beliefs of him. There is no way you can escape from this intellectual black hole once you pass the event horizon of true personal belief in scripture.
“But hey, if you are going to get rude about, forget it.” – Carl
As a society we are so unaccustomed to criticizing religious belief that when anybody does they are automatically labeled as rude, hateful, intolerant, or even racist (although how anyone can convert to another race is beyond me). There is no other realm in which such a reaction is received – politics, economics, sports, book, film, restaurants, or coffee blends. Progress can only occur in fields where debate is not stifled, lest we return to the dogmatic servitude of some musty old book.
“Don’t think I’m a doormat type christian.” – Carl
Interesting. Jesus teaches love, compassion, understanding, generosity, tolerance, service, honor, and peace, yet many so-called Christians fail to live up to their own teachings. No wonder Ghandi once said:
“I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ.”
Do not think I have not examined the Christian faith. I grew up in a house that was not overly Christian, but was constantly surrounded by the faith. My grandfather spoke many times of his service to Christ, my father grew up in the rectory and continued to play the pipe organ until they closed the church, deconsecrated the ground (what an arrogant act – telling god what is holy ground and what isn’t!), and put up a sign reading “It’s all about Jesus”, I spent my entire education in Christian schools learning the stories, attending services, listening to the chaplain, and studying the bible every week. I was a true believer (though you may dispute that), but there were always questions for which the answers supplied were never satisfying.
Recently I revisited my faith and took a good, hard, long look at what I believed and why. It may come as a shock to you, but I reached the conclusion that there is no god. Never was. We invented him, not the other way around. Frankly, I do not care if you waste your life worshiping a non-existent deity, but do not expect me to respect your views in the same way I would disrespect someone who contends aliens seeded life on this planet (creationists belief the exact same thing, they just substitute god in place of aliens).
Where myths impact the happiness or inflict suffering on real people, we have a duty to speak out. Where someone denies condoms because they believe they encourage adultery which is a sin in the eyes of the Lord (why not design us to sprout a penis when we get married?) I will speak out. Where someone prevents stem cell research because the soul enters the zygote at the moment of conception (although what happens with identical twins? Does god supply another soul? What about chimera? Does god take away one of the souls again? Where does it go?) I will speak out.
You may believe you beliefs are harmless (and they probably are), but they most certainly are not when they are used as a basis for the policies we all must live by. Just think of how you might feel if your Muslim friends tried to impose Sharia law here in Australia. Think it can’t happen? Have a look at what they are trying to do in Britain or Turkey right now.
I will not backdown where I see intolerance, injustice, and cruelty. On that I am sure we both can agree.