Evidence? What Evidence?

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The most frequently asked question by atheists who come to this blog is “What evidence do you have for the existence of God?” My reply is always to ask what sort of evidence they require, but not one of them has ever given me a straight answer. My question is an honest one. What sort of evidence would someone be looking for if they wanted evidence for God? I ask this because there are many things in life that we know exist, or whose existence we accept without question for which there is evidence, but the evidence is not of a scientific nature. I’m thinking of Love, Beauty and Truth for example. These virtues are very real, and the evidence for them is solid, but someone who wished to ‘prove’ their existence to a doubter would be hard pressed.

Similarly, we know that certain historical figures existed and certain events took place in the past, but the evidence for them is slim. Historians believe King Arthur existed, for example, but there is scant evidence for him.

We believe in certain scientific principles or properties, but the evidence for them is of a certain kind which is appropriate for that particular principle or property. See here, for example, a discussion on whether energy exists.

Until atheists are willing or able to discuss what they mean by ‘evidence’ and what sort of evidence would be appropriate to show the existence of God it is impossible for theists to answer their question.

 

About Fr. Dwight Longenecker
  • http://goodgrieflinus.blogspot.co.uk/ Mark Jones

    “Until atheists are willing or able to discuss what they mean by ‘evidence’ and what sort of evidence would be appropriate to show the existence of God it is impossible for theists to answer their question.”

    You should already know this, since you are an atheist for all gods but one. The appropriate evidence is the evidence you demand of others who claim that their god, a different god to yours in attribute and intent, exists.

    The problem you face without adequate criteria for believing in the existence of beings is a too liberal ontology, in the sense that you will grant the existence of too many non-existent things. You need to demonstrate how your ontology is not too liberal, without using special pleading for the god you favour.

    This is much more important than the debate over whether or not certain historical figures existed, as you well know, because you and your church are claiming moral authority over humankind based on this existence claim, and no-one is doing that over King Arthur’s existence (apart from, possibly, Monty Python).

    • Thomas R

      Many of the other gods are personifications or explanations of natural events that we can now explain. Thunder, lightening, ocean, sea, sun, stars. Or they do not have the qualities we deem to be godlike. If a super-human being, who was born and can be killed, controlled the sea we wouldn’t think of it as a god.

      Our God, atheist claims to the contrary, is not primarily a way to explain how clouds work or what a super-being would be like. Our God is transcendent and eternal. He is not simply a “human, but moreso” or “Nature, but with a mind.” So proving or disproving is different. The closest comparison might be to Brahma, but Hinduism isn’t universalizing and presumably a transcendent God does not simply exist for one ethnic-cultural entity. (Granted Judaism wasn’t universalizing and there are Universalizing Hindu movements. If you want to get into a deeper Brahma vs God argument I’ll likely need to see how the Host feels as I am quite different than him)

      I doubt any evidence for a transcendent, supernatural, and omniscient being could ever be enough for you so requests for evidence are likely pointless. If one already assumes all things are naturalistic than evidence of the transcendent or supernatural is impossible. It’s about like trying to discuss non-Euclidian geometry with someone who assumes there is no such thing. Still the Universe does have a beginning according to modern cosmology and the interplay of the constants would seem to imply multiple Universes or God. Of these two God has some basis in human experience and reason, multiple Universes are more of a science fiction fantasy.

      • http://goodgrieflinus.blogspot.co.uk/ Mark Jones

        Thanks for the response Thomas R.

        “Many of the other gods are personifications or explanations of natural events that we can now explain.”

        True, so you are beginning to answer for yourself the question of what is ‘appropriate evidence’ for the existence of a god. This is why I pointed out that theists already have a handle on the appropriate evidence.

        “Our God, atheist claims to the contrary, is not primarily a way to explain how clouds work or what a super-being would be like. Our God is transcendent and eternal.”

        That’s fine and I’m familiar with this sort of definition. (Of course plenty of other theists, with whom you disagree, define their god as transcendent and eternal.) I’m just addressing the question in the OP, which asks what the appropriate evidence is to show the existence of God. I observed that the appropriate evidence for establishing the existence of gods is the same evidence theists use to dismiss the existence of gods.

        “I doubt any evidence for a transcendent, supernatural, and omniscient being could ever be enough for you so requests for evidence are likely pointless.”

        Thanks for telling me what I think would be enough evidence! But I’m asking theists to reflect on how they think about this question of evidence for gods, and how they approach it in their lives. Lots of theists from different religions, and different sects of religions, claim that their god is transcendent and eternal, but that it has slightly different attributes and very different intents (such as the Jewish God, the Christian God and Allah). Just consider how you differentiate between these ‘grounds of all being’. Either you dismiss the existence of the other ones on some grounds that still allow the existence of your god (without special pleading, of course), or you allow that they do exist and you are, as a consequence, too liberal in your ontology – you have too many ‘grounds of all being’.

        Or perhaps you would say that by definition there is only one ground of all being, so you’re talking about the same one? But then you must accept that some humans, at least, are fallible in describing what this ‘ground of all being’ is like, and what it wants. How do you differentiate between these competing claims? Either you use the ‘appropriate evidence’ or you are not in a position to justify your belief among many. Which is it? If it’s the first, then you know what the appropriate evidence is without asking an atheist. If it’s the second, well; enough said.

        “If one already assumes all things are naturalistic than evidence of the transcendent or supernatural is impossible.”

        This is only true for ultimist naturalists; the vast majority of naturalists I’ve spoken to hold the position contingently, so are happy to consider the possibility of supernaturalism. After all, one could argue the very possibility of supernaturalism is built into the term ‘naturalism’! But, of course, by the same token there could also by a hypernaturalism, so hopefully you’re prepared to be trumped by a hypernatural god. But I’m asking theists (who don’t assume naturalism, obviously) to examine how they differentiate between different god claims. Do you use the appropriate evidence, or what?

        In the end, I would ask theists to stop calling atheists sub-human and to consider how they are similar to atheists when it comes to such things as evidence for god (for all gods but one!).

        • Thomas R

          I first interacted online at science fiction forums so I’ve dealt with atheists, online at least, for about 14 years I guess. I do feel atheists have changed a bit since 9-11. Before they were a bit more “live and let live” or “don’t try to convert me I won’t try to convert you.” (This is where I’m in a different position. As a priest Father Longenecker maybe kind of has to be a preacher, I’m freer to be more of just a “teacher” and be okay with whatever you take from what I try to teach others)

          Anyway I don’t think I can give you compelling evidence for God because I don’t really think I believe in a God who compels/forces anyone. I think that might be like Jansenism. I can tell you I think the Christian God is the most satisfactory explanation to me and I have considered atheism at points in my life. The Christian God is applicable to all peoples, has attestation in history through miracles and/or human experiences, is not simply a natural phenomenon writ large, could not really be confused with a legendary king (Even Brahma does things like get married, etc that a purely human king could have done), and provides an answer to “why” rather than just “how” questions. As well as allowing for an objective reality that is known and knowable. (Atheism doesn’t allow for that. A vast amount of information will be inaccessible to all species due to relativistic limits of travel and other factors inherent in the natural world)

          Most other gods do not have all these features. I suppose the God of Baha’i and Islam kind of does, but they also worship a kind of Abrahamic God. However both, I think, see humans as naturally good. To me that’s obviously not true even from a naturalistic standpoint. From the natural perspective humans have evolved tendencies which may have been useful at one time, but are now maladaptive. Evolution is a mindless process anyway and wouldn’t create a species to be “naturally good.”

          Much of this isn’t proof, but to me Christianity (and Catholicism specifically) is the most satisfying explanation to be conformable to reality and history. Possibly atheism is also conformable, but it’s unsatisfying on many levels. So in competing equal claims I go with the one that’s satisfying and best fits human accounts as I know them.

        • Ted Seeber

          Nobody ever called atheists sub-human. That was a bad reading of something Fr. Longnecker wrote- sub-species is not equal to sub-human.

          A Chimpanzee is sub-human. Asian is a subspecies of homo sapiens. Get the difference?

  • http://petersbarque.blogspot.com/ The Ordinary Catholic

    I never thought of it that way, in asking what they will accept for evidence. As of now, once you provide some evidence, they begin to change the playing field where the faithful have to find a new ball and again try to score it over an ever changing goal line.

    • Gordon

      It’s called shifting the burden of proof. It’s a fairly common strategy when you have the weaker position. Why prove your god is real when you can sidestep the whole business with distractions.

      The moving goal post is on your end. Gods seem to recede under investigation. The unverifiable ground of all being weathers the storm of enquiry and then turns back into the specific interventionist god the person actually believe in.

      • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

        We’re not moving the goal posts. We’re asking the atheists to set one. What sort of evidence do you require for the existence of God?

        • Gordon

          What sort of god do you believe in? I cannot set any standards without a clear definition.

          • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

            The Christian God. You can do some research for a clear definition.

  • Ashley

    This is very, very simple, Mr. Longenecker. You claim there exists a particular god. If you wish me to believe it, you need to provide evidence that will convince me. It’s not my job to tell you what that evidence is or what it should look like. If I claim that the universe is 13 billion years old, or that the heat at the center of the earth is primarily the product of radioactive decay, it’s my job to provide the evidence for that. If you want to convince others of something, YOU have to do the work. If I want to convince others, I have to do the work.

    If you don’t care whether or not others believe in your god, then of course you don’t need to do anything. But I doubt that is the case, given what I’ve read of your blog. I’d suggest you work to obtain a better grounding in basic reasoning and philosophy, because this is pretty basic stuff.

    • Jack

      you want evidence Ashely?

      Try reading Edward Feser’s “The Last superstition , a refutation of the new Athiesm, read his blog, examine the evidence for the Divinity of Jesus and the fact that he founded the Catholic Church. No offense but you sound like someone who reads Dennit, dawkins and hitchins, or as I like to call them “Miscillanious oxford midgets” who shame their forfathers at that Great University

    • Glenn Juday

      “You claim there exists a particular god. If you wish me to believe it, you need to provide evidence that will convince me. ”

      Incorrect – and a disheartening statement coming from an obviously educated person. Why? All people – all – have an obligation to conform what they believe to that which is true. There are no disinterested masters, standing well above the struggles of the human intellect, who have a right to order about fellow participants in the arduous, and often enough halting, effort to advance our lives toward the truth. In this quest, we are truly all equals.

      It is axiomatic that for this this process to proceed, all – all of us , have an obligation to keep our minds attuned to the truth, to seek it out and to appropriate the truths encountered. The great enemy of this process, a process of opening the mind, is pre-judgment or in its contracted form, prejudice. This usually takes the form of a contention that some contingent matter cannot, a priori, be true and therefore does not deserve attention.

      Refusing to accept any evidence other than a single one of the many forms that truth can be encountered is, itself, a negation of the spirit of scientific inquiry. Science is not a prop for private philosophies, even trendy modern ones, much less dispositive on the question of religion. Which is not to say that a non-prejudiced review of actual scientifically credible data has nothing to say on the truth claims of the Catholic Church. It does. But even if a person does the requisite intellectual labor and accesses that body of data, in the end, and as a strictly scientific matter, it will simply indicate that the Church’s claims are reasonable, plausible, and worthy of consideration.

      Where critics go wrong is to resist the start of the process on account of the faith proposition. Scientific evidence and the faith proposition are two separate issues. I know people who concede that the scientific evidence on behalf of the Catholic belief system is very substantial, any yet cannot be counted a believers. Science itself cannot coerce faith. All it can do, in and of itself because of its inherent character (and limitations), is to demonstrate that belief is reasonable. Accepting the Catholic faith proposition is another step, based on the intellect surely, but mobilizing the will to align one’s life to the truths encountered. It is best not to confuse the two. Once this principle is clear, the dodging, twisting resistance to the facts and logic associated with the Catholic faith can be set aside. In the end, conceding the various truths of such matters still leaves the act of free will about what to do about it – and the Catholic Church teaches that it can be no other way. You are still free, even in the face of the truth. Truth has a claim on you, as stated at the start of this post, but only you can fulfill your obligation to the truth.

    • Ted Seeber

      In other words: “I can be completely insane and not have any standard of evidence, but you need standards and to be rational and sane”, correct?

    • http://www.thecatholicbeat.com Gail Finke

      “It’s not my job to tell you what that evidence is or what it should look like.” Actually, it is.

  • http://jenniferfitz.wordpress.com Jennifer Fitz

    What I remind my kids is that God is a person, not a scientific principle. The proof of his existence is of the same kind as the proof for the existence (and character) of any other person. [We then talk about ways you know someone exists, or did exist, and what constitutes sufficent proof.] And that if someone were determined to not believe in my existence, they could certainly explain away all the evidence for it. But whether I exist has nothing to do with whether someone believes in me or not.

    • Korou

      I think that’s quite right. God is a person, and you can therefore provide evidence that he exists, if he does.

  • http://wdmt.blogspot.com/ Mike

    Hey look, the atheists are making your point right in your combox. Nice post.

  • Jerry

    “You should already know this, since you are an atheist for all gods but one. The appropriate evidence is the evidence you demand of others who claim that their god, a different god to yours in attribute and intent, exists.”

    That’s not a statement by an ATHEIST. That’s a good-old-fashioned polytheistic PAGAN statement.

    • Korou

      Is it? How so?

      • Thomas R

        I think it could be a pagan statement if the point is you must believe in all gods or none. Because this would not be a statement of atheism which, I don’t think, is about saying “The Gods either exist or none of them exist.” So it’s a kind of agnostic polytheistic statement, perhaps. Also pagan criticism of Christianity did at times claim it was “atheist to all our gods.”

        Also it’s kind of goofy anyway. Let’s say you have three people. One believes there is no inhabited planet in the Universe and that the planet Earth has no living things. A second believes that Earth is the only home for life in the Universe. The third believes there are billions of worlds with life. The first says to the second “Why is my position weird, I just believe in one less abode for living things than you?” In a multiplication/division sense the difference between 1 and 0 is far greater/stranger than the difference between one and a billion.

  • Jerry

    “This is very, very simple, Mr. Longenecker. You claim there exists a particular god. ”
    and,
    “I’d suggest you work to obtain a better grounding in basic reasoning and philosophy, because this is pretty basic stuff.”

    Honey, he’s Reverend (or Father) Longenecker. Not merely a Mister.

    That “particular god” apparently gives a bit of intellectual indigestion.

    As to your suggestion, here’s one from an actual philosopher: ” The heart o the true believer understands everything.” – Ludwig Wittgenstein

    As an aside, I have a B.A. and an M.A. in philosphy. – Care to rumble, Ashley?

  • http://thoughtfulatheist.blogspot.com/ Jake

    It would obviously be impossible to enumerate a comprehensive list of all the types of evidence that would convince someone of a statements truth- the problem space of “reality” is just too large. To Ashley’s point, if you have something you think is good evidence, it would be a lot easier to call that out rather than ask atheists what kind of evidence they’re looking for.

    That said, there’s a lot of different kinds of evidence that could convince me of the existence of God, or even towards a particular conception of God (no offense intended here, this is actually my list):
    -If evolution was clearly disproven by the geological and fossil record, and we had no other explanation for how life got here.
    -If I had consistent and direct communication with God/gods/spirits/etc.
    -If there was a single religion that everyone converted too and no one converted away from (with reasonable caveats around threatening members who leave, etc. )
    -If religious belief didn’t appear to be roughly 90% dependent on when and where you were born and what you were taught as a child (i.e. if more people born in the middle east became Christian, or more people born in North America became Muslim, etc.)
    -If a religion was clearly unique (i.e. if Islam didn’t claim basically the same evidence as Christianity, Christianity didn’t appear to draw archetypes from earlier mythology, etc.)
    -If a religion’s holy book contained clear scientific, historical, geographical, or other types of information that its authors would not have been able to discover by any means other than divine revelation.
    -If a religion’s holy book really didn’t contain a single contradiction, inaccuracy, or false statement.
    -If a religion’s holy book contained clear prophecy, the intent of which was specific enough to not happen by chance, and the time, place, and content of which was known in advance.
    -If a religion from its inception had spoken out against a culturally accepted practice that we today deem immoral (slavery, the oppression of women, curtailing freedom of religion, etc.)
    -If a religion made concrete, testable claims about reality that differed from the claims made in the hypothetical-reality-without-God, and those claims came true.
    -If a particular religion’s adherents were demonstrably better people than the adherents of all other religions.
    -If a religion advocated for believing through evidence and against believing through faith.
    -If a religion’s administrative body (i.e. the Church) clearly demonstrated its ideals throughout its history (speaking specifically of historical corruption in the Catholic Church, Islam spreading by the sword, etc).

    Ultimately, for me it comes down to a religion making testable (falsifiable) predictions and those predictions coming true. That’s certainly the standard we use in science, and as much as we can talk about “separate magisterium”, reality is in fact a single magisterium. My goal in all of my world views, religion included, is to understand and interact with reality-as-it-is, rather than reality-as-it-is-not. I want my map to be the best approximation for the territory possible, and the only way to do that consistently is by falsifying and discarding incorrect beliefs. And the only way to do that is by having our theories make predictions that are falsifiable.

    Some believers might object to the fact that most of the evidence I’ve requested are things that are already known not to exist/known to be false/etc. This is precisely why I don’t believe in God. If the question were instead to be phrased “what predictions about reality, the results of which are currently unknown, does atheism make?”, that’s a much harder question, and not one I’m sure I have a good answer for, because atheism is my null hypothesis. Also, replace “atheism” with “Christianity” in that question, and I think Christians will have an equally difficult time answering.

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      We’re talking about evidence for God. You’ve given me a list of why you think religion is faulty. Could you try to think more clearly please? I’ll ask again. What sort of ‘evidence’ for the existence of God do you require? The only one on your list is that he didn’t talk to you. I contend that he did talk to you plenty of times but you weren’t listening, and if he did appear to you and talk to you in some mystical or supernatural way you would explain it away.

      • Korou

        Jake, I hope I’m right about what you mean here. Apologies if I’m not.

        Dwight, I think I do see what you mean when you say that he didn’t provide any evidences you could give for God. It is true that it’s very unlikely that any of the things Jake said could happen so, in a sense, what’s the point of asking for them?
        But in another sense, these would indeed be evidences for God. I think that what Jake is doing is saying, “Let’s imagine what a world would be like in which God really did exist. If he did, then we would see X, Y and Z.” And I think he’s right – if God really did exist, we would see some of these things, and any atheist who denied that God existed would have a lot more work ahead of them than they do.

        So in a sense, Jake was offering examples of evidence. I think that it’s worth thinking about what it means that these don’t exist.

        • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

          Fair enough. Let’s suppose that we are counting the things Jake asked for–which were mostly examples from religious life and teaching. I could list endless examples of the lives of saints who really did live out their beliefs in an amazing way. I could list the miracles that have occurred down through the ages. I could explain how God speaks through creation, through the Scriptures and through daily life. I could use all the examples from the human experience of religion in many ways showing how God answers prayers, angels save people etc etc.

          They would all be rejected as not good enough.

          The bottom line here is that a certain type of atheist simply looks at the world and does not see God. He does not believe in the possibility of God, nohow, no way and never. This is why I use the analogy of the tone deaf person at a music concert or a color blind person in an art gallery. This is not to insult anyone, but just to acknowledge that atheists simply don’t ‘get it’, and that’s okay. We all have our blind spots. I don’t ‘get’ athletics for instance.

          I am a believer, on the other hand, and I see God at work everywhere and in most everything. I consider myself blessed in this condition of mind, but not necessarily better than anyone else. My earlier post saying that atheists were therefore ‘sub human’ was a jest remarking on their ‘blind spot’ when it comes to religion and God. I am similarly sub human because I don’t “get” athletics. There’s clearly something great there, otherwise why would millions get so passionate about sports? I am clearly the one missing out, but I still don’t get it.

          This is why I’m happy to talk with atheists, but not argue with them.

          • http://thoughtfulatheist.blogspot.com/ Jake

            Korou is spot on.

            “God exists” is a precondition to “religion X is true”. Based on the evidence I’ve seen to this point in my life, I assign a low but non-zero probability that God exists. The probability I assign to a particular religion being true is bounded by the probability I assign to God existing- i.e. I can’t be 90% sure Christianity is true but only 80% sure that God is real. Thus, if you can convince me that a particular religion is more likely to be true, I’m forced to raise my estimate that God exists. This really is the best way to convince me that God exists- evidence that a particular religion is actually true.

            If your question is really just “what evidence would convert you to Deism”, then yeah, pretty much all I’ve got for you is “God shows up, says ‘I’m real, but I’m not telling you anything else about myself’, then leaves”. Other than that, its hard for me to wrap my head around buying into the existence of God without the backing of a likely-to-be-true religion.

            They would all be rejected as not good enough.

            I think more accurate would be to say “they already have been rejected as not good enough”. In that, you would be correct. I have looked at a great deal of evidence, and have yet to find any of it compelling. But that limitation is built into your question. You’ve asked “What sort of evidence would someone be looking for if they wanted evidence for God?” If atheists had found such evidence, they would already be theists. If your expectation is that atheists will answer this question and then suddenly realize that the evidence they’re requesting has been right there in front of them the whole time, then you’re going to be disappointed.

            Your job, if your goal is to convert people, is to present them with new evidence that they would find convincing. Asking “what kind of evidence would convince you?” and immediately resigning yourself to “well that would never work anyway” as soon as you get an answer is not an effective apologetic.

            The bottom line here is that a certain type of atheist simply looks at the world and does not see God. He does not believe in the possibility of God, nohow, no way and never.

            Such atheists do exist. I am not one of them. Most atheists are not of this type. Most have simply looked at the evidence you present and found it to be unconvincing.

    • flyingvic

      Jake, it seems to me that what you’re really asking for is certainty: you have no wish to cross a divide without being assured that there is a solid concrete bridge to the other side. Faith, by contrast, is a willingness to accept that there are sufficient indications for the individual believer to say that it makes sense to him to proceed in a particular direction. Of course those indications may be incorrectly perceived or interpreted, and my sense may make no sense to you; but unless you are prepared, in at least some areas of your life, to proceed on the basis of perception and interpretation rather than certainty, how on earth do you manage with personal relationships, with love and friendship, or, for that matter, with political creeds?

      • http://thoughtfulatheist.blogspot.com/ Jake

        I would say I’m asking for truth. “Certainty” isn’t a word I throw around lightly. 0 and 1 are not probabilities, and I’m not really “certain” of anything.

        There are things, however, that I’m very confident about. There is some threshold of confidence that I require before taking a belief to be “true”. The more outlandish the belief, and the more action such a belief requires me to take, the higher that bar is going to be. So it’s true, I would have a fairly high bar for a religion to convince me it is true. But that’s not the same thing as saying I need an ironclad proof. What I do require, and have yet to find, is convincing evidence that indicates that a God exits, or that a particular religion is true (c.f. my original list)

        It is also not the case that I have no wish to cross the divide. I have had ample incentive in my life to pursue faith, Christianity in particular, but have concluded that such beliefs do not pass the bar of evidence I require. In point of fact, I have crossed the divide- I just crossed it in the other direction. It is a fact about reality (though it is difficult for many believers to understand) that there are people who legitimately seek the truth, and end up rejecting religion because of it.

    • Ted Seeber

      “It would obviously be impossible to enumerate a comprehensive list of all the types of evidence that would convince someone of a statements truth- the problem space of “reality” is just too large. To Ashley’s point, if you have something you think is good evidence, it would be a lot easier to call that out rather than ask atheists what kind of evidence they’re looking for.”

      You are a part of the way there. Here’s what I think you are missing:
      Natural Reality is a subset of the supernatural.

      Since you’ve already limited the evidence you will accept to *ONLY* evidence of Natural Reality, you are automatically eliminating, without consideration, any evidence outside of that subset.

      Therefore, your proper answer to Fr. Longnecker is this: You can present no evidence because any evidence you will present, I will determine to be supernatural and thus outside of my reality.

      • http://thoughtfulatheist.blogspot.com/ Jake

        I think we’re back to you having to define what exactly you mean by evidence. I honestly have no idea what “evidence outside the subset of natural reality” would even look like.

        My answer is most certainly not “you can present no evidence that will convince me.” Rather, my answer is “you have yet to present any evidence that is convincing to me.” I’ve listed all kinds of natural evidence that would cause me to drastically update my priors. It just turns out that I don’t think reality supports your conclusion.

        If you think I’m ignoring evidence, then show me the evidence I’m ignoring, don’t tell me that there’s some mysterious evidence out there that you know of but I’m unwilling or unable to detect. If your evidence is simply declaring victory because I don’t know all the rules to the game, I’m unlikely to be convinced.

        • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

          Proving the existence of God is like trying to prove to me that your mind exists.

          • http://thoughtfulatheist.blogspot.com/ Jake

            I require about the same level of evidence for the existence of God as I do for the existence of another mind. I don’t doubt that you exist because Ican freely interact with you, because you respond to external stimuli, because you manifest yourself into my observable reality in a real and tangible way. If God exhibied the same characteristics, I would certainly be a theist.

            It’s true there’s not really a proof against me being a Boltzman brain, but even though I’m not certain, I am really really confident I’m not a Boltzman brain. I’m not saying you need 100% proof- such a thing does not exist. I am saying you need evidence. If you can’t or won’t give any, then asking us what we would consider good evidence and then ridiculing us for demanding evidence seems like arguing in bad faith.

          • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

            What I am suggesting is that the same sort of ‘evidence’ that one accepts for the existence of the human mind is the same sort of evidence one offers for the existence of God.

          • http://thoughtfulatheist.blogspot.com/ Jake

            Again- I cannot freely interact with God. God does not respond in any observable way to external stimuli. God does not manifest himself into my observable reality in any way to make it clear that he it is in fact God, rather than psychology/magic/physics/etc. I can go outside and shout “Hey God, what time is it?” and God will never answer me. I can speak to him and never hear an audible voice in return. I can ask another human about their nationality, and they will tell me; I can ask God about his, and get no answer as to whether he is Allah, Yahwey, Elohim, Brahma, etc. I can look for God, but I will never see any physical manifestation of him. I can ask God for things, but I see that I get them only with the statistical frequency one would expect if God was not there.

            In short, I think it is a very different type of evidence you proffer for God than the kind I would proffer for the existence of another human mind.

          • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

            So people talk back to you and you think that means they have a mind? All that means is that they can use language. That’s not proof that there’s such a thing as a human mind. C’mon where’s your evidence for the human mind? Where’s the scientific proof? All you have is an imaginative construct which someone told you about. Do you take everything on hearsay? You believe in this thing called a human mind just because other people say it exists? Where’s the hard scientific evidence? Look, this thing called ‘mind’ people have come up with is a sort of ‘idea of the gaps’. You didn’t have an answer for some of the things you observed so you came up with this thing called ‘human mind’. It simply doesn’t exist. There’s no evidence for it.

            Do you want to keep going?

          • http://thoughtfulatheist.blogspot.com/ Jake

            So people talk back to you and you think that means they have a mind? All that means is that they can use language.

            So, this is called the Turing Test, and it’s an interesting question: what happens when we get to the point where we can simulate a human mind in a computer well enough to fool other humans? Have we negated the concept of the human mind? And would this call into question our fundamental assumption that other human minds exist? I contend no, for a few reasons.

            First, it takes a lot of work to be that good at faking humanity. In fact, it takes a backstop of human intelligence doing the actual programming to fake humanity well.

            Second, the world is empirically chalk-full of patterns. That’s the only reason science works at all- because recognizing patterns allows us to make accurate predictions of future behavior. Positing that you and only you are a self-aware moral agent is both a violation of Occam’s Razor and a dismisal of observable reality. Science is not limited to things that can derived in formulae- that discipline is called Math. Science is limited to what we can observe in the world and codify into laws that make good predictions about future events. The “other human minds exist” theory makes a ton of great predictions about the world, and those predictions all come true.

            Third, we can actually throw someone into an FMRI machine and see their brains working. Certain emotions trigger bloodflow to certain parts of the brain. Brain damage drastically changes other people’s personalities. We’re getting to the point where we can plug electrodes into the brain and allow users to control machinary- we can literally read someone elses thoughts, which is an excellent indication that they have thoughts to read in the first place.

            Equating belief in other humans to belief in God actually fails at a very basic level- nobody reasonable doesn’t believe in other humans. Whether you agree with atheists or not, I doubt that you think all of them are complete nuts. And even if you did, you’d still need an explanation as to why they’re nuts in the particular way that causes them to reject the obviously-true conclusion of God’s existence but not reject the obviously-true conclusion of other people’s existence.

          • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

            I ask you for evidence that the human mind exists and you come back with scientific gobbledegook language which is all just your wriggling out of the argument and trying to make your hypothesis that there is such a thing as a human mind sound legitimate. In fact, all those ‘experiments’ were done by people who already believed in the existence of a human mind so they were all biased. Of course they were going to come up with ‘proof’. Then you say that these experiments can produce ‘predictions that come true’. This is absurd! They make predictions about things they knew were going to happen anyway, and when their predictions don’t come true they’re dishonest about it and go back to change the predictions and re-work the whole thing and do another ‘experiment’ to make sure it comes true the next time! Then you say you put people into some kind of machine which measures blood flow and brain activity. So what? That a brain works and people who have brain damage have personality shifts doesn’t prove anything except that the brain works and people who have brain damage have personality shifts. How does this amount to evidence for the mind? You hint that I should believe in the human mind because everyone else does. Since when does the majority believing something make it true? Years ago everyone thought the world was flat. That didn’t make it so. And another thing–what about all the people who make a living on this ‘human mind’ thing? Psychologists and psychiatrists and so forth–why they’re not much better than hypnotists and fortune tellers and dream interpreters and tarot card readers. There they are taking mega bucks from innocent people to ‘interpret their dreams’ and offer them ‘psychotherapy’. Then it turns out they are quacks just taking money from people. And what about all the harm that has been done to millions of people who end up being locked up in insane asylums and given medication and frontal lobotomies just because some ‘psychiatrist’ said they should have half their brain cut out?

            Have I made my point yet? I hope you’ll see that the arguments against the existence of God in this combox have been just as blind and weird and biased as my pretend arguments against the existence of the human mind. My point is that a certain type of atheist will never be convinced of anything. A case in point was when I was asked about supernatural experiences I had had. I told a very remarkable story that can be easily verified by eyewitness accounts and the atheist simply said, “That’s impossible. They must have lied.”

          • http://thoughtfulatheist.blogspot.com/ Jake

            Well, it’s not hard to replace the word “God” with the word “Science”, flip the arguments around and call it absurd. In fact, that only works because science and God are fundamentally different things. If this was actually the way your standard of belief worked- that any argument must hold up when you substitute the subject with any other noun- you wouldn’t be able to believe anything at all.

            Ultimately, your example fails because we have really good scientific evidence of the human mind and we don’t have good scientific evidence of God. If you’d like to say the existence of God is not a scientific question, that’s fine, but then you should stop conflating scientific questions with non-scientific ones. If you don’t think any evidence could ever possibly confirm or deny the existence of God, then what are you doing posting a blog entry with questions like “what kind of evidence would convince you atheists?”

            I’m sorry you had that experience with an atheist discounting your supernatural experience. As an atheist, I know it’s very disheartening when people on the other side of the aisle try to dictate to you what your experiences have been. That said, I’m legitimately curious how you would respond to a Mormon conversion story based on a miraculous or supernatural event? Would you discount the miracle itself as having not happened? Or would you try to convince them that the miracle actually pointed to Catholicism rather than Mormonism? Or would you update your priors and consider Mormonism slightly more likely to be true than you previously did?

          • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

            Now we are beginning to have a serious conversation because I feel you have asked a question and you would seriously like to know my views. Quite a change from those who come here with their guns loaded and make bald and uninformed statements about God, religion etc. without any real intention of listening or discussing.

            First, I don’t believe one can have scientific evidence for God’s existence. The supernatural is, by definition beyond the scope of scientific experimentation. It is a realm of human experience (and there are many such realms) that science simply does not have the tools to deal with. That is not to denigrate science–it’s simply a matter of proper tools for proper jobs. The tools with which we explore the idea of God and the supernatural are rightly the tools of intuition, observation, experience, tradition and reason. We grapple with a great unknown realm of human experience and from this draw some conclusions and propose some theories and acknowledge a great amount that is still unknown.

            In my post today I explained the Christian understanding of God as “ipsum esse substantens” which I believe gives a good philosophical explanation for the existence of God which I would not propose to be a “proof” per se, but it does (along with the other “proofs”) show that belief in God is not unreasonable.

            Now what would I do about a miracle that “proves” Mormonism or Hinduism? First of all one has to ask what a miracle is, and whether it proves anything. The informed Catholic understanding is that miracles are possible, but that we look for every natural explanation first. If we none of the natural explanations work, then we propose the possibility of a miracle, but we do so cautiously–leaving open the possibility of a natural explanation that we have not yet discovered. The third formal step that Catholics take is to leave the whole question of the miraculous open. In other words, when presented with a miracle and none of the natural explanations work we leave it open ended. Only after further investigations might we formally declare something to be a miracle.

            Therefore, we would treat a “miracle” that seems to confirm Mormonism or Hinduism with the same critical eye and caution that we would treat our own ‘miracles’. Usually this means we would go no further than stage three and simply leave it open as an unexplained phenomenon. If a statue of the Hindu god inexplicably drinks milk and there is no sign of fraud and no natural explanation works we simply shrug our shoulders and say, “weird things happen!’. This, it seems to me, is far more open minded an approach than that of the atheist who declares, in the face of evidence, that miracles simply can’t happen.

            We admit, therefore, that weird things happen and that they happen in many religions and in many ways. The last thing is this: Catholics don’t base their faith on these miracles. They happen. They’re odd. They confirm that there is more to this world and the next than we understand and that things in this natural world do not always run along the conventional and expected tracks, but we don’t believe our own religion or any other because of the existence or absence of miracles. Strange things happen. “Miracles” don’t really prove anything because the strange and unexplained occur not only within religious contexts but also in many other cultural and historical settings.

            It would, no doubt, be surprising to many atheists to find that while Catholics believe that miracles are possible we don’t believe they’re essential for belief. I’m intrigued by miracles, and I have experienced some things I can only explain as miraculous, but I would still believe in God and the Catholic faith had I never experienced them.

            In saying that, we do base our faith in certain miracles which are outlined in our creeds, but we our faith is not based on them as miracles “per se” i.e. because they were impressive divine magic tricks, but because these miraculous events were the events that we believe were necessary for the ultimate divine interaction with humanity.

            I accept that many will disagree with the Catholic beliefs, but it is only fair to ask people to disagree with what we really believe rather than what they think we believe, and rather than the often mistaken popular understanding.

          • http://thoughtfulatheist.blogspot.com/ Jake

            Would it be fair to say that as a Catholic, you don’t expect the world to always make sense?

            It is certainly an implicit assumption of science that reality fundamentally make sense. If we don’t understand something, we assume it’s because our theory isn’t complete enough, not because reality is inherently nonsensical. From what you’re saying, it sounds like you’re totally fine with saying (on occasion) “yup, we don’t really have an explanation for that. And we’re ok with it.” Am I understanding that correctly?

            Given your apparent skepticism of miracles (in a good way- not assuming every miracle is actually a miracle without lots of investigation) do you think the atheist who brushed aside your supernatural experience was warranted? I guess my question is, is your problem that he didn’t believe your account, or that he wasn’t open to the possibility of your account being true? I ask because it sounds like you don’t find miracles very compelling reasons for belief either- more confirmations of a truth you already know than convincing arguments. If that’s the case, it seems like an atheist not believing a miraculous account is expected behavior rather than a bug in the atheist’s mental code.

          • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

            I understand and sympathize with any atheist’s critique of miracles, and as I have written– the proper Catholic reaction is also one of skepticism. The difference is that we do not rule miracles out completely. There is, as you observe, an open endedness to our worldview. I contend therefore, that our view is actually more open minded than the atheists. We can allow for miracles. He cannot. We are open to the possible existence of an invisible realm, angels, demons–you name it as bizarre as that may sound. The atheist, on the other hand, has no room for them for he must have a totally materialistic and empirical worldview.

            There is much that we cannot explain and we allow for that. I have written elsewhere that ‘reality is rubbery’. There are many unexpected and unexplained things. The patterns of existence–in this life and the whole of nature and beyond is far, far more complex and mysterious and inscrutable than most people even begin to comprehend. Within these unexplained things we also allow the for the possibility of the classic explanation of miracles that “God did it.” That may be one of the ways to explain what does not seem to have a natural explanation, but the direct intervention of God is not always the explanation. More often than not we do not have a complete explanation. This is part of what it means for a religious person to say they “walk by faith, not by sight.” or in the terms of the philosopher, “Faith seeks understanding.”

            I am the first to admit that there are many religious people who do not exercise such an open ended and open minded view, but their’s is not the fullest religious experience. Religion is supposed to ask questions more than answer them. It is supposed to be a bridge into the unknown and discovery–not a clamping down on questions and discovery.

            Mindless and closed minded atheism is just as narrow and negative and defeating therefore as mindless and close minded fundamentalism. It seems to me that the truly wise person–wherever he is on his search for truth–is truly open minded to the possibility that religion enables human beings to explore a vast realm of experience and emotion and philosophy and to ask questions and seek answers in an area of human life that is worth developing. It’s a part of the whole human experience–like art and science and literature and history and music and everything else worthwhile. To close it down completely seems to me therefore, to be less than fully human–and I guess that sentiment is what got this particular thread going in the first place.

            Along with this open mindedness is the proper understanding of, and critique of ignorant, abusive or perverted religion. By all means let us criticize the stupidity of some religious views, the ignorance and violence of some religious people and the clearly ridiculous views and actions of some believers. But in the interests of fairness we must also seriously observe those who live their religion consistently and courageously, those who explain their faith intelligently and knowledgeably and those who are humble enough to admit that they don’t know everything and are still on the journey. If one is examining any human endeavor it is only fair to balance the evil and foolish with the good and wise.

  • http://www.marcdraco.co.uk Marc Draco

    Fr. Longenecker.
    Give us some hard evidence for your god that does not have any naturalistic explanation. If God could appear to us and give us hard evidence, we would have to accept that – the point is, it never has.

    Everything you state continues to be conjecture and faith without anything substantive.

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      You’re making my point. What sort of ‘hard evidence’ do you require?

      • Korou

        Also, I have a sneaking suspicion that you’re not asking this question sincerely – that you’re doing it so that when specific requests for proof do come up you can find fault with each one.

        If you did have good evidence for God’s existence, all you’d need to do is present it.

        • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

          What sort of evidence do you require?

      • Gordon

        Define your god clearly and the evience should be obvious. Does god answer prayer? Well we can test that. Of course we know that nothing fails like prayer. But the bible says it works and mocks the priests of Baal because their god only answers prayers as you’d expect from random chance.

        The irony and barefaced gall is impressive if nothing else.

        If there is a god what effect does it have? We can test for that unless you have a prankster god who likes to hide.

        • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

          A ‘test’ for the efficacy of prayer would be like a ‘test’ for whether ‘love’ is effective or not.

          • Korou

            Elijah didn’t think so. He challenged the priests of Baal to a competition. They prayed to Baal, and Elijah taunted them because their prayers could not light a fire. then he built a stack of wood, tipped water over it and prayed to God, and God burned it.
            So yes, prayer can be tested. And if prayers could be seen to be answered, that would be good evidence for God’s existence.

            But we all know that they won’t. The only way prayers are ever answered is by coincidence.
            Showing that that’s not true would be good evidence.

      • william

        Simple. Heal an amputee.

        • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

          If an amputee were healed it would be explained as a fluke and the atheist would demand that all amputees be healed.

          • Korou

            Get a video of a priest praying to God and an amputee’s limb failing to grow back, unless the amputee converts to Christianity, upon which it does grow back.

            I promise you we’ll be impressed

          • Nick Gotts

            Your request has been answered, and you simply refuse to accept the answer. The dishonesty of the request is therefore quite plain.

          • Ted Seeber

            Korou, that happened, and nobody was impressed. In other words, I think you are a liar, and you need to prove me wrong.

          • Gordon

            I’m sure the priests of Baal could have made the same defense. The fact is that prayer never does anything.

        • flyingvic

          Did you see any of the Paralympics? Specifically, any of those competitions involving athletes with limbs missing either from birth or through amputation? Many wore prostheses that were triumphs of design and function; and these, when allied to the supreme dedication, determination and strength of the human spirit, present in such huge quantities in those athletes, allowed performances that were surely little short of miraculous. If you cannot see God at work in all of that, and demand instead that a collection of flesh and bone and sinew should somehow grow back having once been destroyed, then your God is too small.

    • Thomas R

      I do think it’s interesting many atheists seem to feel a belief must be compelled or forced, be as inarguable as “ice is water in solid form or 2+2=4″ or it’s not worth having. What evidence do you have for the existence of justice, beauty, or empathy? Or even for the existence of Pythagoras, the lost plays of Sophocles, the early Inca Emperors, Powhatan’s father, etc?

      • Korou

        I think Sam Harris said something along these lines – it’s not that belief is a choice; is you present me with good evidence to believe in something that evidence will force me to believe in it; I may or may ot like it, but I don’t get a choice about what I believe.

        That’s a reasonable atttitude, isn’t it?

        • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

          No, not really because one’s attitude to the evidence is already decided by what one considers to be admissible evidence.

    • Bernard

      So, where is your evidence that there is no God?

      • Korou

        Where is your evidence that we have a burden of proof?

        • Thomas R

          That there is no God, of any kind, is the newer claim. The earliest incident of atheism I’m aware of is ancient Greece, Wang Chung of Han China being later I think, but a belief in a transcendent God predates those by many centuries. It’s also still the minority claim.

          And claiming a lack can be a claim. Claiming that a hypothetical particle, say the gluino, doesn’t exist is a claim. And I imagine a physicist would take it as such.

    • Ted Seeber

      What does “Hard Evidence” mean? Define it please.

  • Björn Carlsten

    In the scientific sense, “God” is too amorphous a concept to generate any testable hypotheses. Accordingly, most of the proposed evidences do not actually confirm the existence of “God.” For example, had the Scriptures actually clearly predicted a fact of nature later rediscovered by modern sciance, that would not necessarily constitute evidence for “God,” only that the authors of the text were privy to greater knowledge about the cosmos than bronze age shepherds would’ve been expected to possess. Such evidence would be consistent with several naturalistic explanations, for instance scientifically advanced aliens.

    Were “God” a scientific hypothesis, we would be able to derive testable predictions from it. Obviously, this isn’t possible, for if it were, atheists would not be called on to say what evidence would convince them that “God” exists, theists would be able to list confirmable predictions that would follow from their model. Where there have been attempts to do just this (e.g. the argument from design), the arguments have failed, because the facts have been shown to be consistent with naturalism. But even had those arguments been successful, they wouldn’t have exclusively indicated “God.”

    If I heard “God” speak to me, how would I distinguish that experience from a delusion? Certainly there have been many claims of individuals communing with the divine, but surely not even theists can claim that they’re all genuine? For if they were all genuine, then we would have evidence for all manner of deities; in fact, we would have evidence that several individuals (many alive today) are reincarnate gods.

    I can’t say what evidence would convince me of the existence of “God,” because I don’t see how “God” is even a coherent concept. It’s not my obligation as an atheist to explain to theists what evidence would convince me that “God” exists; rather, it’s the theist’s job to define the concept of “God” as clearly as they can, and then explain how the facts of the universe are more consistent with with their explanation than with any competing hypotheses.

  • Korou

    Why should we have to say anything about it?
    Making your point for you? I’m not sure why this point is supposed to be a good one.

    Either you have good evidence or you don’t. If you do, it will be convincing. If not, then it won’t.
    That’s the way it works with everything else; why not here?

    Still, I have tried to answer you twice now with an article on the kinds of proofs atheists would accept. Is there a problem with that?

  • Jordan

    This is absolute nonsense. If the replies you claim to receive from atheists are not to your satisfaction, than simply push harder. Seriously, it’s not at all difficult to assess the question when in fact everyone is an atheist when it comes to other gods. So if a theist can fully support the existence of his god and the non existence of other claimed gods, that’s all the evidence an atheist needs and will likely accept. I’m not biased or bigoted. If you have the evidence, let’s see it. I’m tired of the cop out excuses of “open your eyes” or “you won’t accept the evidence” that we see here and else where. All this article is, is another example of moving the goal post. And a last resort of comparing an all powerful deity that can create everything, control everything and yet can’t use that power to show itself against the principles of known science is just another way of changing the subject and not addressing the topic. With all do respects (and do mean that), try again theists.

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      Again I ask you what sort of evidence you require. Why is this such a difficult question for atheists to answer?

      • Korou

        Maybe because it’s not an honest one?

    • Ted Seeber

      except here’s the problem with that reasoning:

      I am not an atheist when it comes to the existence of other gods. I just claim that they aren’t God.

      I am absolutely sure lightning exists, therefore I believe that Thor exists. I just think the myth evidence for him is off the mark, and I’m not about to pray to a static electric discharge between clouds and earth. BUT I am certain that Thor exists.

      The God of Catholicism permeates all of reality and transcends it. Reality cannot exist without this God, so therefore evidence of this God exists in reality- in every atom everywhere, even in the way natural law *does not change*. So while you disagree with our explanation, atheism is nonsense, a ridiculous position.

      • http://www.thecatholicbeat.com Gail Finke

        ??? What in the world are you saying?

        • Ted Seeber

          That God is rational- and without him the best you can come up with is an arational universe in which even the laws of physics change from second to second, minute to minute.

  • Eric

    Before you can reasonably ask what kind of evidence we require, you need to _define_ the god that you want us to believe in. Otherwise, there’s no way for anyone else to know what kind of evidence could be a valid way of proving its existence.

    For example, imagine I asked you, “What sort of “hard evidence” do you require to believe I own an interstallar spacecraft?”

    You might respond by asking to see it, at which point I could answer, “It’s invisible.” You could then ask to see where I keep it, but I tell you that it just materializes instantly when I need it. You might then ask to take a ride in it, at which point I could say, “I already did, but it has a neuro-dampening field that keeps you from remembering it.” Etc, etc. Until I tell you exactly what my spacecraft does that _can_ be detected, you have no way of knowing what evidence to ask for.

    It is quite possible to define a god that is so abstract that there is actually no evidence for its existence. However, an abstract god that does not interact with reality in any way is indestinguishable from one that does not exist at all.

    So if you’re serious about wondering what kind of evidence atheists would accept, you have to describe the ways in which you believe your god interacts with reality. Do you believe he answers prayers? If so, a study could be set up to test this. Do you believe he gives his followers the ability to predict the future? If so, that can be tested. Would the failure of those tests mean that there is no god at all? No. There could always be gods that are completely beyond any kind of detection, for which no evidence could ever be provided, and which could never be disproved. Just like I might really have an intangible interstellar spacecraft. But without any evidence at all, why would you believe in the first place?

  • Jordan

    Bernard, you’re missing the point. There is no “evidence” that a god(s) do not exist. However, if we are going by the standards in which we use for evidence on an everyday basis, then there is no evidence that you could use conventionally. And then for someone to claim that the evidence is outside our standards of reasoning is equal to me claiming that a purple dragon lives in my garage, you can’t prove I am wrong. The bottom line is this; if you are going to claim the existence or nonexistence of something, you must use the scientific method do so, other wise, I have no reason to listen to you and no that not excuse to not look at any evidence that one can provide.

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      We’re making a little bit of headway here. Jordan asks that theists use the ‘scientific method’ to provide evidence for God’s existence. Religion, like art and music and poetry, is not a scientific discipline. The scientific method is very good for the establishment of scientific knowledge, but there are many other kinds of knowledge, and using the scientific method to do theology is as silly as trying to use a telescope to find light or using a stethoscope to understand the hearts on a valentine card.

      Saying you want to use the scientific method to find God makes you sound like the boy who took apart a clock to find Time.

      • Korou

        Whether God exists or not is a scientific fact. If He exists he has an effect on the universe and is, in principal at least, scientifically detectable. It doesn’t have to be in a laboratory; scientific thinking is about having hypotheses, testing them and creating theories from them – as I understand it.

        • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

          Impossible to set up an experiment to prove God’s existence. Too many variables and unknowns.

          • Korou

            But if God interacts with the universe, as He is said to, it should be possible to find signs of that interaction. Particularly if God has an interest in persuading us that He exists.

        • Ted Seeber

          I disagree with Fr. Longnecker here- and agree with Korou. But here’s where I disagree with both:
          -The main effect of the existence of God is scientific laws that are rational and that we can depend upon. Every time we discover another scientific law, we prove God exists- because without his existence, there is no reason for the mass of the planet Earth to stay the same, let alone anything else.

          • Nick Gotts

            Yes there is: conservation of energy. Now of course you’ll say there’s no reason for energy to be conserved, and so ad infinitum. But of course, “God” does not provide any halt to this regress, since there is no reason “God” should maintain natural laws as they are, nor any account of how it would do so.

  • Jordan

    Longenecker, I would require the same evidence that you would the gods of Polytheism exist. Fair enough?

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      Thank you for your comment, and what sort of evidence would that be?

  • Jordan

    And yes you are moving the goal posts. It’s not our responsibility to set one ether, we are not making a claim.

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      I would like to ask the question again. What sort of evidence for God’s existence do you require?

      • Bernard

        No one ever seems to be able to answer you Father.

        • Korou

          He only wants the answers so he doesn’t have to present any evidence himself.

          Dwight, I’ve already told you what evidence would convince me. If you’re not interested in that, then what is your best evidence for God?

        • Nick Gotts

          That’s simply false. The question has already been answered: healing of an amputee. Longenecker simply refused to accept it, showing conclusively that the question is not an honest one.

          • Paul H

            If one amputee were miraculously healed (i.e., his arm or leg was restored), most atheists would probably explain it away. Perhaps a few who actually witnessed the event would be convinced, but those who did not witness it would dismiss it as some kind of trickery. They would question the evidence; they would say that the eyewitnesses and doctors were lying. If confronted in person by the amputee and his restored limb, they would conclude that he must not really have been an amputee before, and that any evidence showing that he was at one time an amputee must have been faked.

            However, if *many* amputees were miraculously healed, so that it became difficult to deny that such healings occur, then most atheists would likely attribute the healings to some natural phenomenon that we don’t yet understand. They would say that the human body evidently has some natural capacity to re-grow lost limbs, and that we just don’t yet understand why this capacity sometimes manifests itself and sometimes doesn’t. But they would be confident that science would one day provide the answer.

  • http://nateduffy.blogspot.com Nathan Duffy

    This is an important point. I recently asked a group of atheists what would be a minimal level of evidence sufficient to convince them of the existence of the supernatural generally, a personal God, or the God of Christianity specifically. There were no sorts of theoretical evidence they could even imagine.. to help them, I posited this hypothetical: suppose the double-slit experiment revealed (rather than the pattern which the particles actually do array on the screen behind the slit), that instead the pattern formed the words “YAHWEH WAS HERE”, and this finding was repeated and confirmed and peer-reviewed etc. In the face of monumental paradigm-shifting evidence, none of the atheists I encountered even contemplated belief, instead theorizing that it was perhaps mass delusion, or science just didn’t yet understand its data, or aliens etc.

    Of course, this is only anecdotal. Perhaps this would be convincing evidence to some atheists. But the point seems to hold in general: having achieved epistemic closure, there is literally no sort of evidence that would disabuse many of them of their unbelief.

    • Nick Gotts

      I would most certainly accept the existence of the supernatural in such a case – or in the case of healing of an amputee (other than simply by medical techniques we do not yet possess, of course). I would also accept it if the stars were to rearrange themselves to spell out a similar message, or if the digits of pi from the quadrillionth onward turned out to spell out the Quran or the Bhagavad Gita under a simple substitution code, or if the skies were to roll up like a scroll, or if magic spells started working in a reliably documented fashion. At least those cases involving messages being spelled out would seem to be good evidence of intention, and hence of something both supernatural and in some sense personal. In other words, there is an indefinite range of evidence that would lead me to accept the existence of the supernatural, and of a personal god. The god of orthodox Christianity has the distinction of being logically impossible, as it was allegedly “true God” and “true man” at the same time, but “God” and “man” have incompatible attributes, so nothing can possibly be both.

      • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

        It could be that the stars spell out messages but you do not have the capacity to read it. The ancients believed they could, but should I suggest you embark on a detailed study of ancient cosmology and astrology you would dismiss it as outdated superstitious nonsense.

        It could also be that the amputee was healed because he became a more whole person through his accident and how he learned to cope with it you would dismiss it as wriggling out of the debate and not see the healing because you were too focussed on his lack of an arm.

        This is what I mean about atheists being color blind in an art gallery. It’s there but they just can’t see it. I don’t even blame atheists for this disability. There are usually all sorts of reasons why it’s so–some good and some not so good. Thanks for visiting this blog and all the best to you!

        • Nick Gotts

          More dishonesty: I give clear answers to your question, and you simply indulge in diversionary tactics. If you provide me with evidence that “the ancients” not only believed they could read messages in the stars, but that the messages were really there, I will certainly consider it, and if it is convincing, I will accept the existence of a supernatural power. With regard to amputation, you are indeed wriggling: if someone becomes a “more whole person” through an accident, there is nothing in the least suggestive of the supernatural.

          • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

            Seek and you shall find my friend. I don’t argue with atheists.

          • Nick Gotts

            No indeed, you simply resort either to insult or to condescension, because you know you don’t have a leg to stand on when it comes to rational argument.

      • Ted Seeber

        Amputees are “healed” all the time, the problem is in the definition of the word “heal”.

  • Jordan

    “like art and music and poetry, is not a scientific discipline.” Now you’re starting to understand our position. You can however, trace the origins of those things and examples can be tangibly demonstrated and observed. Now, take your example, apply it to the question and rethink your question as to what evidence would you yourself require.

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      I think perhaps you are chasing your tail on this one. It is the atheists who were demanding evidence. In an attempt to answer their question I simply asked (and am still asking) what sort of evidence they require. Why is this so difficult to answer? If I were a prosecuting attorney in a criminal court and someone was on trial and the defense wanted evidence for the crime I would ask what sort of evidence they require. They might say, “Forensic evidence, witness testimonies, expert witness, police reports, confession of the criminal etc.” I would then attempt to gather that evidence. So why is there such a problem when I ask what sort of evidence your require?

      • Korou

        If you were a prosecuting attorney you would examine the circumstances and see what they pointed to. You would then present those circumstances to the jury if you felt they pointed towards guilt.
        Why is this a problem?

        Why do you believe in God? That is the evidence. If your reasons for believing in God are not good enough to convince someone else, then maybe you’re mistaken about God’s existence.

        Supposing you, the prosecuting attorney, asked the defence attorneys what sort of evidence they wanted and they asked you for a form of evidence you didn’t have. What would you do?

        Presumably since you’ve decided to prosecute the criminal you already have reason to think he’s guilty.
        Presumably since yoou’re a Christian you have reasons to think that God exists.

        Is it asking too much for you to share them with us before we believe as you do?

  • Korou

    We don’t need to answer this question. As has been said, it’s not our responsibility to. If you believe something is true then in order to convince someone else it is true you must share your reasons.

    If it turns out your reasons for believing something is true are uncompelling, maybe you’re wrong to believe that it is true.

    Still, since you do ask, how about the article I posted? “The theist’s Guide to Converting Atheists” on the Ebon Musings website. The types of evidence it says would be convincing are:

    - Verified, specific prophecies that couldn’t be contrived.
    - Scientific knowledge in holy books that wasn’t available at the time.
    - Miraculous occurences, especially if brought about by prayer.
    - Any direct manifestation of the divine.

    Those are the top ones. How do they sound?

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      Is that really the best you can do? “C’mon God. I’ll believe you if you do a magic trick for me?”

      If I did produce stories and experiences of prophecies being fulfilled, miracles occurring and direct experiences of God atheists would explain them away.

      The bottom line is that the convinced atheist not only doesn’t want to see God. He can’t see God. He’s like David Hume who said basically, “Miracles can’t happen because miracles can’t happen.”

      If this sort of atheist had a burning bush experience and God spoke directly to him he would say. “It’s hot out here in this desert and I’m hungry. I must be hallucinating.”

      • Korou

        See what I mean?

        All you’re interested in is getting people to point to specifics so that you can misrepresent them and claim to have dismissed them.

        Meantime I notice you still haven’t presented any evidence for the existence of God. Well played, sir!

        Excerpt from the article quoted:
        “If cities condemned as sinful by preachers tended to explode in flames for no apparent reason, if glowing auras of holy light sometimes appeared around believers to protect them from harm, or if atheists and only atheists were regularly struck by lightning, this would be compelling proof. But it wouldn’t have to be so dramatic; even minor but objectively verifiable miracles would do, especially if they could be invoked by prayer. If a hospital did a double-blind study to determine if intercessory prayer helps the sick, and it was discovered that only the patients prayed for by members of a certain religion experienced a dramatic, statistically significant increase in recovery rate, and this result could be repeated and confirmed, I would convert.”

        What’s unreasonable about that?
        What’s unreasonable about having a high standard for the kind of evidence you will accept? Should you have low standards that will allow you to be fooled by the other things which would be accepted along with genuine signs of God?

        • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

          the hospital prayer experiment thing would be impossible. Too many variables and unknowns. Any decent scientist wouldn’t even try such an experiment and should the experiment be done any decent scientist wouldn’t accept the results.

          • Korou

            Hmmm. So funny that we hear all these stories about answered prayers, help through prayers, and especially medical miracles because of prayers – and never a crumb of evidence for them.

            I’m reminded of something I read on Slacktivist’s website:
            “I threw myself into it. I prayed holding hands and cradling heads. I prayed with children and old men. I prayed with a man who lost his tongue to cancer. I lent him mine. I prayed my ___ off. I had 50 variations of every prayer you could imagine, one hell of a repertoire.

            I started noticing something. When the doctors said someone was going to die, they did. When they said 10 percent chance of survival, about 9 out of 10 died. The odds ran pretty much as predicted by the doctors. I mean, is this praying doing ANYTHING?”

            Now I’ve heard that sometimes God always answers prayers (sometimes yes, sometimes no, sometimes later) – but the problem is that God answering prayers in this way is indistinguishable from there being no God to answer them at all.

            So why should I believe in God?

            What’s your evidence? I told you what evidence I wanted, and you ridiculed it. Okay, your turn. So, what’s the best piece of evidence you have?

          • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

            You would explain away any evidence I gave you.

      • Korou

        I can imagine prophecies that couldn’t be explained away, if God really existed. I’ve never heard of any, though.
        But that is your problem, not mine.
        You seem to think that I don’t want to believe in God. I want to know what the truth is. I just think that what you believe to be the truth is not.
        But I could be convinced otherwise. I’m sure most of us could.
        I don’t think we will, though, because we – sorry if this sounds pompous – have a standard of truth that can only be met if God actually does exist.

        • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

          A prophecy that was fulfilled would be explained as a co-incidence.

          • Korou

            That depends on what kind of prophecy it was. Of course, we should be skeptical of prophecies, because if the bar is set too low then it could indeed be a coincidence. But if the evidence that you have is indistinguishable from evidence for a universe in which there is no God, then what should we believe?

          • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

            If you really want an answer then go and look for it. Seek and you shall find…

      • Korou

        Of course, God doesn’t have to do a magic trick for me. But if he doesn’t, how am I supposed to know that he exists?
        If you show me two bushes, and tell me there’s a man hiding behind one of them, what’s the difference – to me – between the bush which makes no sound because there’s nobody behind it, and the bush which makes no sound because the man hiding behind it is being silent?

        How am I expected to tell the difference between a universe in which God won’t show Himself, and a universe in which God doesn’t exist?

        Under the circumstances, the most reasonable option is to assume that he doesn’t exist, unless there is evidence otherwise. Do you behave any differently when someone makes a strange an unproven claim?

  • Sus

    My parents are atheists so that’s how I grew up. As an adult I’ve been trying to find my own way with religion and what I believe.
    I don’t think there is tangible “evidence” of God. I believe it all comes down to “faith”. You just have to believe it. It’s really hard for people that don’t have faith to believe.
    I have a hard time when people say that bad things happen because God wants us to pay for bad like homosexuality and abortions. I don’t want to believe that God is vindictive against all.
    I find it all so confusing.
    Fr. Longenecker, I really enjoy your blogs. Your entries really make me think.

  • Patrick M

    I’ll make it REALLY easy.

    If God is as powerful as you claim he is, he knows what evidence would be necessary. We are talking about something that can create light, without a light source. (created light THEN the sun)

    Don’t ask us what is sufficient. Ask your God. He should know, he created us, the tree that only 2 people apparently ate from, etc. He would know what it would take to convince us. I dare say if you function on faith there’s no way to rule out other Golds. Why are you the religion you are and not a different religion despite so many other people being on a different religion using the same faith based evidence.

    I say 1 world religion would be sufficient. Or maybe everyone of a specific denomination believing the same things despite there being 10s of thousands of them or millions. The fact that they have different opinions and get different answers despite reading the same book and praying to the same God demonstrates how unlikely he is to exist or care.

  • Jordan

    You further prove the point in retrospect of any evidence is your evidence and when pressed for that evidence, you want to shift that burden of proof and ignore the obvious. When people like Bernard do the typical drive by “no one can answer you” it sums up the position of the theist that only evidence of any ideology is that the evidence means very little and that “everything” is the evidence.

  • Niemand

    It’s unoriginal, but here’s what I’d like to see as evidence for a God or Gods: Tangible effects of said deity or deities on the universe. Not just the “God of the gaps” as gaps can be filled at any time. Maybe God is what is what “dark energy” really is and the reason that the universe is flying apart at increasing velocity, but it would be nice to have some positive evidence of that, beyond simply “we have no other explanation at this time”. Another explanation may be advanced tomorrow. So, an effect, any effect at all, of a God or Gods on the universe. It’s a pretty low bar, met by neutrinos, electrons, photons, and dark matter. But not, as far as I know, by any God.

    For a “personal God”, that is, one with an interest in H sapiens, I’d like to see some sign of interaction with said species. I’m willing to consider a lot of different possibilities. For example, I just sat here for a moment and prayed, “Dear God, if You would like me to believe in You, please send a sign. Any sign that I can recognize.” Not much happened. So I must conclude that either there is no God or that any God that might exist has no interest in my worship. Or, probably, me in general. I would take a credible counterargument as some evidence of a possible God or at least disposal of a claim of non-evidence.

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      This is an interesting comment. If you really did ask for a sign from God how do you know that you would be in a psychological and spiritually adept state of being to perceive the sign if it were given? There is ample evidence to suggest that people are only able to see what they expect to see, or have the mental capabilities of seeing. It is very possible that God answered your prayer and gave you a sign, but you were not able (for complex reasons) to perceive it. If you ask the wrong questions you will get the wrong answers.

      • Evan Kolk

        If your god is all-knowing and all powerful, and more importantly all-loving, would he not be able to give you a sign that he knew you would be able to understand? Why would an omnipotent being who simply wants his creations to know and love him be unable to give them a sign that they could understand without a doubt? Furthermore, why would a sign of such a being’s existence be necessary in the first place? Why would a creator being with an apparent interest in it’s creations’ adoration create them with out the inborn and complete knowledge of their creator?

        • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

          You would not understand or accept the answer I provided

          • Evan Kolk

            So what you’re saying is that you cannot give an answer that holds up logically? That you cannot be internally consistent? Either your deity is omnipotent or it isn’t. If it is and it is all loving then why can’t your god simply make us believe in him? If we are asking the wrong questions why does he not simply give us the right answers ?

          • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

            You would not understand or accept the answer I gave you.

          • Nick Gotts

            Again with the cop-out – and the most transparently feeble yet.

      • Korou

        But surely God would have known that the answer He gave wouldn’t have been noticed or understood, and would have known what kind of answer would have. So why didn’t He use that instead?

        • flyingvic

          If indeed there is a God it is apparent that he/she/it chooses not to be as in-your-face as you seem to demand a deity should be. Christians believe that God loves us enough to allow us to make our own minds up about whether or not we want to believe in him and, if we do, whether or not we want to worship and serve him. Jesus himself often emphasised the importance of a person’s faith, we are told. If God trumpeted his own existence so loudly that no-one could possibly be in any doubt about his existence then only a fool would fail to take account of that existence as he made his life-style choices. And where would the possibility of love be in that? Would you prefer to choose your own life-partner or would you be content with an arranged marriage?

      • Niemand

        Couldn’t He have just called my cell? Or sent an email? Yes, I know that’s a snarky response, but if my 7 year old second cousin and a friend from high school that I haven’t heard from in 20 years can contact me in ways I can understand, why not God?

        • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

          If God did communicate with you, you would not be able to recognize it or understand it. Example: Let’s say you had an experience like Moses at the burning bush. You’d say, “Geesh, it’s hot here in the desert, I’m hungry and I’m hallucinating.”

          • Niemand

            Likely. But if the burning bush kept following me around, even after I was full, well hydrated and comfortable, was heard by other people, and maybe (this is God and all) started telling me things that no one else would know or accurately predicting the future, I’d probably start to think that something was up. But so far I haven’t even had a mildly warm shrub clear its throat at me.

          • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

            If the voice followed you around and pestered you, you’d say, “I’m hearing things. I must be going crazy and go see a shrink who would give you medicine to make the voices go away.”

          • Evan Kolk

            Why would an omnipotent being choose to communicate in such a way that is easily explainable by other phenomenon?

          • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

            So as not to scare you.

          • Niemand

            If the voice followed you around and pestered you, you’d say, “I’m hearing things. I must be going crazy and go see a shrink who would give you medicine to make the voices go away.”

            Can medication make God go away? Besides which, if everyone else also hears the same voice and starts asking me things like, “How come you never talk to the burning bush that’s been addressing you persistently for the past 5 years?” I’d have to start reconsidering the idea that I was hearing things…or, at least, hearing things that weren’t there.

        • http://www.thecatholicbeat.com Gail Finke

          Lots of people have done exactly that and you can read and/or listen their accounts and go hear them speak if you like. But I take it that this happening to other people is not something you are prepared to accept, although all of us accept things all the time that happen to other people and not to us — advice on how to live life, or scientific discoveries by others, etc. I am not a painter and the burst of creative genius to paint a masterpiece has never come upon me, but I know painters and they tell me this sometimes hits them. Am I to conclude that there is no such thing as artistic talent and/or artistic inspiration just because I don’t have it? Evidence from other people IS evidence.

  • veritas

    I once got into a discussion with my cousin about whether God existed.
    I had been a staunch atheist all my life and my conversion to Christianity puzzled him.

    As the in depth discussion proceeded I realised I was getting increasingly frustrated.
    The reason was because my cousin wasn’t getting upset, angry or moved by anything I said, he was simply repeating questions and when I answered them, in some strange way, he wasn’t hearing the answer, it was as though I hadn’t said anything.
    I deliberately mentally stepped back from the conversation as watched this strange phenomenon occurring!
    I then realised – my cousin did not WANT to believe. He had already decided his present course of life was all he needed.
    Further discussion was absolutely pointless so I gently let the conversation come to an end.

  • FW Ken

    Funny that about amputees being made whole. My best friend lost a leg in the second grade and has lived a rich and full life of service to others and praise to God. He served his wife sacrificially, raised two godly sons, cared for his parents till they died, was a good neighbor and pillar of his parish, sometimes keeping the place going almost single-handedly. He had a good career making prostheses and provided some professional leadership to the field. It has been a very full – whole – life. I should have lived such a godly life, with all my limbs.

    I’m struck at the demand of atheists for material proofs which are nothing more than magic tricks. God is a lover, loathe to force himself on you. He’s certainly not a magician, any more than an indulgent grandfather. Perhaps that’s the source of the rage: perhaps you are angry that somehow you are unloved, somehow we have something you want but can’t find. Several intellectual resources have been listed above, and numerous documented miracles have occurred for you to explain away. But if you seek, you will find. It’s a truism that in the end we get what we really want. My priest is fond of saying that we are wanted in heaven. My own hope is that at the end, I want to be there.

    • Nick Gotts

      I’m not “angry with God” any more than I’m angry with Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy; this is a particularly silly theist trope. Of course, the evidence that if there is a god, it is either not omnipotent or not benevolent is overwhelming.

      There are no miracles documented to any reasonable standard. Reference to “intellectual resources” elsewhere is only too typical of the theist style of argument: the convincing evidence or argument is never provided, only a pointer to somewhere else where it allegedly exists – but it never does.

  • http://www.thecatholicbeat.com Gail Finke

    I find this demand for evidence really fascinating. Atheists have the burden of proof. All people in the known history of the world have believed in some sort of God, no matter what culture or race or time period or degree of cultural sophistication. Understanding and obeying God has been a driving force throughout all of human history, often outweighing all sorts of practical things. It would seem to indicate that there is a God or gods or at least some dull George Lucas-esque “force.” The atheists would have us believe that they are somehow special and enlightened and they alone see the truth while everyone else, everywhere, ever has been a poor deluded sap! The preponderance of evidence would seem to indicate that they are the deluded ones, and that they are also elitists who delight in thinking how much better they are than everyone in the whole wide world. But there’s a lot of that going around these days.

    • Nick Gotts

      Argumentum ad populum is a well-recognized fallacy: there was a time when everyone believed the earth was flat – that didn’t make it any flatter.

      In fact, atheism was held by some among both ancient Greeks and ancient Indians. There are, for that matter, atheistic religions such as at least some forms of Buddhism, and Jainism, both older than Christianity – but even if this were not the case, the fact that everyone believes something does not in the general case imply that it is true, or even probable.

      • flyingvic

        I rather think you’ve missed the point. The writer to whom you responded was using the almost universal belief down the ages in some kind of deity not as evidence for that deity but as reason why non-believers should carry the burden of proof. The world had to wait for someone to prove it was round before the age-old idea that it was flat could be laid to rest. So it’s not a fallacy we’re dealing with here, but quite a sensible point.

  • Dennis Goos

    An atheist does not believe there is a god because he has never acquired any reliable grounds or data or measurable fact on which to base a belief there is a god. Beauty, goodness, love and such qualities are directly observed by every atheist but god is not. If god were experienced directly by all atheists then atheists would immediately become theists. Direct experience can be understood by putting ones hand into a fire. Everyone (with healthy nerves) find pain is a direct experience. The reason pain occurs can be explained by science. So to with the idea of god. If you have an experience of god, explain the experience with scientific explanation based on observable data. One cannot simply say god exists and utter mumbo jumbo. If there can be no scientific explanation for god, there can be no god. Direct experience does not apply because everyone does not have the experience and those who claim such describe wide variations. Evidence means data as determined through direct observation and measurement. Surely, believers have the same requirement of evidence in their daily experience of life. Why not demand the same evidence when asked to belive in the unbelievable?

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      Asking for scientific evidence for God is like trying to understand the heart on a Valentine with a stethoscope.

      • Evan Kolk

        So then you admit that you can’t give scientific evidence for your god? If that’s the case then why bother with this entire line of inquiry, asking us what sort of evidence we will accept, when you know the only sort of evidence is the type that you yourself have just admitted you cannot give.

        • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

          Why bother with this entire line of inquiry? That’s what I was going to ask you!

          • Evan Kolk

            Because you asked what evidence we would accept, as though it wasn’t perfectly clear. Philosophical and emotional arguments as well as claims of authority based on past cultural traditions are not valid proofs of your god, and you know it. Atheists say “give us scientific proof of your god, and we will believe.” because we know that you simply cannot do so. If you could have you would have already.

          • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

            Of course we can’t give scientific proof for God. That’s a nonsensical question–like asking how round is yellow or asking for scientific proof that you have a mind.

          • Niemand

            I can get a picture of my mind or at least my brain with an MRI or CT and watch it work with an EEG for functional MRI. So why can’t God manifest in a way that can be detected?

            Oh, well, maybe I’ll go talk to the azaleas for a while. If they answer, I’ll probably believe something. What I’m not sure.

          • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

            You brain function is not the same thing as your mind. We could have a very interesting debate with me arguing that your mind does not exist…

          • Niemand

            Can you argue with someone whose mind does not exist? At least, have an ongoing, two way debate with someone whose mind does not exist? Interesting concept, but I’m not sure where to go with it.

          • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

            This is my point: Let’s say I was “mind denier” and I proposed that such a thing as the human mind did not exist. I demanded evidence that the human mind existed to all those people who said it was axiomatic that there was such a thing as ‘mind’. How would you seek to prove the existence of your mind?

      • Nick Gotts

        Exactly: the heart on the Valentine is not a real heart, and God is not a real person.

      • Evan Kolk

        The idea of a human mind is a philosophical construct that combines the varieties of human behavior with demonstrable personality differences among members of the populace. The mind is, for lack of a better word, human consciousness or perhaps self awareness. These are things that can be tested in a lab and can be measured through experiments. There is a scientific study of the human mind, and it is called psychology.

        • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

          You’ve already said that the human mind is merely an idea. It’s a “philosophical construct”. In other words it’s a figment of someone’s imagination. It doesn’t really exist. Prove it. Where’s your scientific evidence for the existence of the human mind? You call it “human consciousness”. This is just a vague term you made up for something you can’t explain and for which there is no evidence at all. Where’s your evidence? You say these things can be tested in a lab and measured by experiments. Nonsense. You might test the way a person thinks or responds, but this doesn’t prove they have a mind. It just shows they can think and have feelings. You say there is a ‘scientific’ study of the human mind called psychology. How can there be such a thing when you can’t even prove the existence of the human mind to start with? A human mind? Prove it. Where’s your evidence?

          You see? I could sit here all night having a most amusing time showing that there’s no such thing as the human mind. I’d use all the ‘arguments’ the atheists use agains the existence of God and the enterprise would be just as absurd.

          • Nick Gotts

            Pitiful rubbish. We can, and have, hypothesise and test specific qualities of the human mind: short-term memory capacity, biases in judgements of probability, ability to distinguish colours, changes with age, cross-cultural similarities and differences… We cannot do anything of the kind with your imaginary friend – as you yourself have stated.

          • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

            You say you can test specific qualities of the human mind?? How can you test something that you haven’t first proved exists? Short term memory? That just shows that people have memory. It doesn’t prove there is such a thing as ‘mind’. Where’s your evidence? Changes with age? That just shows that people grow. So what? Color recognition? That’s not mind. It’s just the ordinary working of the brain. cross cultural similarities and differences? Anybody can observe that. It’s just a cultural thing. When are you going to produce evidence for the existence of the human ‘mind’. The mind is this invisible theory you’ve invented to fill in the gaps in your knowledge…

            You don’t really seem to understand my point here. I’m not being silly to compare the arguments for mind to the arguments for God. I’m doing this charade to show that whatever a theist says an atheist will come up with a kind of blind denial ad infinitum.

  • Darrell Milton

    It would seem Fr. Longenecker has an answer for everything except the actual question…

    God doesn’t exist and that’s final.

    Saying God exists is an insult to those who died in the 2001 terrorist attacks.The terrorists killed in the name of God. Yes the very God you believe in as there can only be one god, right? And if that god did actually exist He would not have let that happen.

    • flyingvic

      At last there is posted explicitly that which has been implicit in many responses before: “And if that god did actually exist He would not have let that happen.” In other words, if there is a God then he/she/it would be like . . . If I were to draw up a job description for God then it would contain these requirements . . . If I were God . . .

      And there is the crux, if you’ll pardon the expression. Christians carry that name because they believe that Jesus the Christ came to show us what God is really like; and the picture he drew for us on his journeyings through Galilee and Judea to the Cross was of a God that contemporary society did not want to hear about because it didn’t fit in with their own pre-conceived ideas of what that God should be like. They wanted a God of power who would show that power when and where they desired; they relished the miracles of healing and wanted to see more; they had no interest in a God that did not show himself in the way that they demanded; in a God who would wait like the father of the Prodigal Son for his children to come their senses and return of their own free will. In a world that worshipped strength they had no use for a God who showed himself in weakness, who could be seen, apparently, by those with eyes of faith but not by those without; a God who would force nobody but welcome everybody.

      Some looked on Jesus, the clearest evidence there has ever been, and saw the Son of God. Others looked on Jesus and demanded from him a sign. Some things just never change, do they?

  • Darrell Milton

    Why has my comment been ignored?

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      The only comments I don’t publish are ones that are very long (this is a combox not a soapbox) or ones that are personally crude or rude or ones that are simply stupid. I don’t remember which one yours was.

  • SelfAwarePatterns

    So, yesterday I posted a comment with a good faith answer to your question about what evidence would be acceptable. It now seems clear you have no intention of ever letting that comment out of the moderati0n queue. If there were a God, and he valued intellectual honesty, I wonder what he’d think of your cherry picking of opponents. In any case, I now know to ignore anything else you write and focus my attention on the bloggers who answer your challenges, where you can’t censor the answers you don’t like.

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      There are only a couple of reasons why I don’t publish some posts–either they are too long (this is a combox not a soapbox) or they are crude and rude in the extreme or they are simply stupid. I think I remember that yours was too long.

  • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    Comments on this post are now closed

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