Atheism and burden of proof

Christina here…

I stumbled upon this blog, Choosing Hats.  On said blog, the author, BK, wrote about atheism and burden of proof. I shall quote it somewhat liberally, but you can read the whole post if you like:

This position of not having a burden of proof is fine until one considers that holding any position whatsoever – even one of skepticism – implies a lot of things about reality, knowledge, possibly ethics, etc.

So, the challenge for the atheist comes when they are presented with the question “Do you believe *the God of the Bible* exists?”

The God of the Bible isn’t like any other God. He claims that everyone knows he exists. He claims that he created the world. He claims that his existence is necessary for knowledge, ethics, aesthetics, etc. In short, he makes a bold claim about everyone’s ability to reason, weigh evidence, draw conclusions, etc. He claims that none of those actions that we all do on a daily basis would be possible unless he existed as described in the Bible.

So that opens up an interesting challenge to the atheist. They aren’t explicitly denying the existence of God when they say “I don’t believe he exists”, but they most definitely are *implicitly* denying his existence. Why is this? Well, it is because they are doing all these things that the God of the Bible claims ownership to, while at the same time they are saying “I don’t believe he exists.” They are relying upon all these basic beliefs that the God of the Bible claims *only* make sense if he exists.

To say they don’t believe he exists is to say that it is *possible* to do these things (reason, weigh evidence, etc.) without him existing. But God says it is not possible to do them without him existing. Therefore (by implication) they are saying “This kind of God *does not* exist”.

It isn’t an explicitly positive claim that God does not exist, but is rather an implicitly positive claim. Either way, it is a positive claim, and therefore they own a burden of proof.

In other words:

Someone Like Me: I don’t believe in This Thing.

Dude: But This Thing does exist.

Someone Like Me: Well, prove it.

Dude: I don’t have to. You have to prove The Thing does not exist.

Someone like me: Come again?

Dude: The Thing claims that The Thing is the reason that people can even reason about The Thing, because The Thing actually created reason and critical thinking, so you can’t even reason or think about The Thing without using tools that The Thing gave you. So, the burden of proof is on you to prove you can do reason without The Thing. Therefore The Thing is real, so there.

Someone like me:

Christina, looking confused.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dude: Oh by the way, Jesus.

Someone like me: Wait, what?

What if I told you that the Ultimate Chili exists, and that the Ultimate Chili must exist because among other things, The Ultimate Chili claims that no chili can exist without the Ultimate Chili, because Chiliness is not possible without the Ultimate Chili giving chili its chiliness? We know chili exists, so now the burden of proof is on the a-ultimate-chilieist to prove that there is no Ultimate Chili. That makes just about as much sense.

Let me know when your god can prove that we are unable to reason without him. That’s a pretty powerful positive claim. He’s got to prove he exists first though…

Learn more about Christina and follow her @ziztur.

 

About christinastephens
  • doctorburger

    I wish to know more of this Ultimate Chili….

    • unbound

      Me too.

      • http://twitter.com/#!/VeritasKnight VeritasKnight

        I’m making some tonight. You’re both invited over to enjoy.

        • http://curiousmusing-curiousmind.blogspot.com Leila

          Can I get some on airmail takeout?

  • unbound

    Please. Everyone knows the Invisible Pink Unicorn is the source of everything in this universe…including reason.

    Christians don’t think so? The burden of disproof lies with them.

    • http://www.anonopotamus.com A3Kr0n

      I have a Pink Unicorn drawn on a t-shirt, so that proves it exists.

  • Aquaria

    So that opens up an interesting challenge to the atheist.

    Only to a fucking moron like you, bub.

    They aren’t explicitly denying the existence of God when they say “I don’t believe he exists”, but they most definitely are *implicitly* denying his existence.

    They’re saying they lack belief. Provide some evidence, and maybe they’ll start believing, asshat.

    Why is this? Well, it is because they are doing all these things that God Vishnu claims ownership to while at the same time they are saying “I don’t believe God Vishnu exists.”

    So he believes in Vishnu, I take it, even though he says he doesn’t?

    They are relying upon all these basic beliefs that the God of the Bible claims *only* make sense if he exists.

    That’s an amazing pile of straw you have there, dufus.

  • http://www.atheist-faq.com JT (Generic)

    The First Law of Apologetics – No apologetic for theism can be made without employing at least one logical fallacy.

    Glad to see it’s holding up fine, about as consistently as the law of gravitation.

  • julian

    Be nice if these guys noticed when they’ve argued for every religion except their own.

    As contradictory as the Bible is, Jesus does (in one Gospel at least) perform miracles explicitly to show we should believe in him. Big G-d frequently causes calamities and other divine works (works on a grand scale) to push his followers where he wants them.

    This vague, must just gotta believe god, isn’t all that common through out the Bible. He’s the opposite of what we see through out the Old Testament and much of the new.

  • Kevin

    How Platonic of him.

    Happily, Plato was wrong.

    • http://www.facebook.com/ziztur Christina

      Ha, I was just talking to JT about how my chili example is more or less a variant of Plato’s Theory of Forms. =D

  • sinned34

    This is just another version of presuppositional Christian apologetics.

    I recall encountering that circular argument from Sye Tennbruggate (I think that’s how his name was spelled) on Ray Comfort’s blog a few years ago.

    It must work as a method of protecting the faith of those that already believe in YHWH, because it sure doesn’t seem very convincing to me. But what do I know – apparently I realize God exists but really don’t want to acknowledge it. I’m complex – layered like an onion. Or a cake. Or a parfait.

  • fnorgby

    When I say “I don’t believe god exists”, I *am* making a truth claim, and I do incur a burden of proof.

    The proof that my statement is true? The fact that I said it is true. “I don’t believe god exists” is an opinion. The only proof that can exist is that it is, in fact, my opinion. The only way I have of expressing that opinion and delivering the proof is by saying “It’s my opinion”.

    I incur no other burdens. I am not trying to establish any truth other than “I don’t believe it”.

  • Mark

    There is always a top of the food chain. Whether you call it “ultimate chili,” “god,” or “reason,” it is the ideal against which you measure everything else.

  • Zugswang

    I’m reminded of an old Mac Hall comic:

    Applied theology is delicious.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lezkimo suzysalaksartok

    Oh shit, the Bible says God is real? Why didn’t anybody tell me?!
    On the other hand, why should I trust what the Bible says…wait, God said the Bible is 100% accurate?, holy crap, does Richard Dawkins know about this? Someone should tell him, atheism is crap, I see that now.

  • http://cubiksrube.wordpress.com writerJames

    Huh. I guess I see his point – if the theistic claim in question is “There exists a God whose existence is known to everybody”, then saying “I don’t believe in God” is an implicitly positive claim that God does not exist. Unfortunately, this does nothing whatsoever to the burden of proof, which still rests on whoever’s making unsupported assertions. While the God of the Bible (or any other god) is so unsupported, it can be dismissed without evidence.

    And actually, I’ve said for some time that atheism does make some positive claims, and that’s not something we need to shy away from. Ockham’s Razor is still doing a fine job of rendering the God of the Bible irrelevant and superfluous, however special and unique some of his fans insist on seeing him as.

  • random

    So, the challenge for the atheist comes when they are presented with the question “Do you believe *the God of the Bible* exists?”

    Therefore (by implication) they are saying “This kind of God *does not* exist”.

    Hey, no problem. I believe the God of the Bible does not exist. The burden of proof is quite easy. The God of the Bible says you can breed animals with stripes by putting sticks near their watering trough. The God of the Bible says that bats are a type of bird, that rabbits chew their cud, that insects have four legs, that the Earth is immobile and flat, that the universe is about 6000 years old, that there was a global flood, etc. He also believes that human sacrifice is essential to fulfill some rules that he set up and applies to all humans. He believes that the actions of a couple of people have tarnished the entire species, and that punishing one person can redeem the “sins” of a bunch of other people. This specific god, Yahweh of the Bible (whose name is Jealous Exodus 34:14) is especially easy to disprove.
    .
    The only difficulty comes when some lying ass-hat apologist tries the old bait and switch between this primitive bronze age tribal god and the vague, slippery, Deist god of the philosophers who prefers to remain hidden. That god cannot be formally disproven, but is also quite useless and irrelevant.

    • http://cubiksrube.wordpress.com writerJames

      Totally agree – to clarify, I’m not saying this is any kind of problem for atheism, and I do actively deny the existence of just about every god I’ve ever heard described. It’s generally feasible to conclude how they’ve been created by man in his own image.

    • http://cubiksrube.wordpress.com writerJames

      Sorry, ignore my above comment in reply to this. For some weird brainfart reason, I thought it was a reply to my original comment above.

  • R Johnston

    Let S be the set of all objects that exist.

    For each subset of S one can imagine that the object consisting of each member of S stacked one atop another exists. Call the set of all such imaginable objects I.

    Since the objects can be stacked in any order and the set of all subsets of S has size 2^|S|, the set of all such imaginable objects has size (2^|S|)!. Even in tiny, finite universes I is vastly bigger than the set of all objects that exist. In an infinite universe it is a couple of orders of infinity bigger. I is just an infinitesimal subset of the set of all objects that can be imagined to exist–objects can be imagined with components arranged in any orientation, and they can be imagined composed of components that themselves do not exist.

    In other words, something that someone imagines to exist has an a priori probability of existing that’s so close to zero as to make no difference at all. A claim that something exists without any evidence for existence, a claim that is consistent with being imaginary, can and should always be dismissed out of hand, and the positive claim that a random imagined object does not exist is, absent some sort of evidence, always warranted.

    Of course the god concept isn’t well enough defined to even get to the point where burden of proof to show that it’s not imaginary comes into play, but that’s another story.

  • http://www.anonopotamus.com A3Kr0n

    I went to a restaurant yesterday and had their chili with a burger. It wasn’t too bad, but it got me thinking “who has the ultimate chili?”. Of course, everyone thinks their chili is the best chili, and all others are false chili.
    The chili I had yesterday was a little watered down, didn’t have enough meat, and had way too much sugar in it.
    Why does chili need sugar?

    • Parse

      Adding sugar to chili helps cut down on the spiciness.

      • Joshua Fisher

        And why would anyone want to do that?

  • http://florilegia.wordpress.com Ibis3, denizen of a spiteful ghetto

    According to Greek religion, the Goddess Athena is responsible for knowledge, ethics, aesthetics, etc. Everyone’s ability to reason, weigh evidence, draw conclusions, etc. would not be possible unless she existed as described in classical thealogy.

    So that opens up an interesting challenge to the Christian theologist. They aren’t explicitly denying the existence of Athena when they say “I don’t believe she exists”, but they most definitely are *implicitly* denying her existence. Why is this? Well, it is because they are doing all these things that Athena claims ownership to, while at the same time they are saying “I don’t believe she exists.” They are relying upon all these basic beliefs that the thealogists of Athena claim *only* make sense if she exists.


    This pre-suppositional crap is easy.

  • https://twitter.com/#!/Erulora Erulóra Maikalambe

    To say they don’t believe he exists is to say that it is *possible* to do these things (reason, weigh evidence, etc.) without him existing.

    Seems reasonable, given that it is possible to do these things, and there’s no evidence of him existing.

    But God says it is not possible to do them without him existing.

    Fine. Let God prove it.
    *crickets*

  • Kevin W

    “To say they don’t believe he exists is to say that it is *possible* to do these things (reason, weigh evidence, etc.) without him existing. But God says it is not possible to do them without him existing. Therefore (by implication) they are saying “This kind of God *does not* exist”.”

    …God didn’t say anything. Men wrote the Bible.

  • https://twitter.com/#!/Erulora Erulóra Maikalambe

    I shall found my own philosophy. It will be dedicated to finding the Ultimate Beer, which gives beer its beeriness (something Natural Light completely lacks).


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