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You Don’t Believe in God – Disprove Him!

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I recently got into a debate with someone over the existence of God. Growing up in an atheist household and a generally non-religious community, I never had much of an opportunity to develop an argument against the existence of God, so it took me some time to formulate my thoughts. I will write here the focal point of the debate, and my thoughts on the subject. I hope I can get some pointers.



 



Part 1


My opponent – “God exists.You think he logically does not? You are making a positive assertion, therefore you must prove it logically.”


 

Me – Reason is the means by which man navigates the world around him. The construct of reason originates with empirical evidence gathered by our senses. Man uses his senses to see the world around him and construct patterns based on what he sees. Through such observation, we have formulated logic through the law of identity (or non-contradiction), and its corollary, the law of causality.

 

When one makes a logical assertion, he must necessarily rely on positive evidence. There is no other way to make an assertion. If I am standing in the middle of an open field and someone asks me if there is a wall in front of me, I can only logically respond by pointing out that there is a lack of positive evidence of the wall. I can use my eyes and reach out my hand to deduce that there is no wall in front of me. The only reason I would be wrong is if I were under some sort of extremely heavy mind altering substances.

 

The religious argument fundamentally rejects this very basic notion of logic. It instead posits, “something is held to be true, or at least possible, until it has been proven false.” But the entire concept of “proving something false” is technically invalid. The term is often used colloquially, but you cannot actually use empirical evidence to prove something is false. After all, how can anything really be “shown” to be false? (Someone could use conceptual logic to prove something false with a syllogism, but any concrete application would necessarily require empirical evidence which is validated through positive assertion).

 

Going back to the wall example: despite the fact that I sense no wall, a person could suggest that maybe the wall is there, but it is beyond my capacity to sense it. Even if I possessed the most advanced cognition tools on earth, I could never actually demonstrate that the wall does not exist. Nor can I disprove that the wall is beyond my cognition. The justification for the wall’s existence doesn’t even have to be supernatural; perhaps the wall was built by super advanced alien technology which I cannot perceive.


But this is all irrelevant. Logic does not work this way. If one were to consistently apply this method of logic, no decisions could ever be made and all action would be chaos. After all, can you disprove the notion that there is an invisible bomb strapped to your chest right now? Can you disprove that I am God just messing around with your head. Well, no, no one can technically disprove these things.


 

 

 

Part 2


My opponent – “But even if what you say is true, you cannot be certain. It is not impossible that the wall is there and was built by aliens. Even if you use the best evidence available, you are only guessing and hoping your senses are accurate.”


Me - The concept of “certainty” is entirely epistemological. When I say, “I am certain that George Washington was the first president of the United States,” I am not saying that I am a God-like being who knows everything about everything with infinite omniscience
and therefore I must be correct. Rather, I am saying that given the full context of my knowledge, there is reason to believe George Washington was the first president.

 

Essentially you are getting at the concept of “agnosticism.” If what you say is true, then not only should we be agnostic about God, but we should be agnostic about literally every potential assertion in all of conceivable existence. This is because you are using metaphysics as a standard of truth, rather than epistemology.

 

 

 

Part 3

 

My Opponent – So what? You could still be wrong about George Washington. Maybe history was misrecorded?

 

Me – Maybe history was misrecorded. I have no way of proving that it wasn’t. All I can use is the best evidence available to me. Why would I base my judgment on unproven hypotheticals rather than empirical assertions?



 

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Just a small point.  In existence argument,  he who asserts the existence of X,  has the burden to produce evidence for X.  

 

He who disbelieves the existence of X or is not convinced of the existence of X  is in the clear.  No one is required to believe anything if there is no evidence to support the "anything"  in question.  Skepticism of the mild,  careful variety is always permitted, until evidence indicates otherwise.

 

ruveyn1

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You just expressed a profound truth.

 

No one is required to believe anything if there is no evidence to support the "anything"  in question.

This is intentional.

 

There will never be conclusive proof either way. This gives everyone total freedom to choose either to affirm or deny God. Anything less would rob everyone of that free choice.

 

There is a quality to love... in that it can only be given by our own free choice.

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You just expressed a profound truth.

 

This is intentional.

 

There will never be conclusive proof either way. This gives everyone total freedom to choose either to affirm or deny God. Anything less would rob everyone of that free choice.

 

There is a quality to love... in that it can only be given by our own free choice.

 

 

What would have to happen for God to be disproven to you?

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What would have to happen for God to be disproven to you?

If I could to do something morally wrong and not set into motion any just and deserved consequences... that would disprove God, because it would prove that there is no such thing as the law of moral causality.

 

Hasn't happened yet.

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Me – Reason is the means by which man navigates the world around him. The construct of reason originates with empirical evidence gathered by our senses. Man uses his senses to see the world around him and construct patterns based on what he sees. Through such observation, we have formulated logic through the law of identity (or non-contradiction), and its corollary, the law of causality.

 

You are asserting that all beliefs must be supported by sensory evidence, and rejecting the belief that God exists on that basis. So, why can't I do the reverse, and reject your assertion that all beliefs must be supported by sensory evidence on the basis of my belief that God exists? One man's modus ponens is another man's modus tollens, as they say.

 

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If I could to do something morally wrong and not set into motion any just and deserved consequences... that would disprove God, because it would prove that there is no such thing as the law of moral causality.

 

Hasn't happened yet.

 

That's a non-sequitor. Who is to say it is God who punishes the immoral (or built the system which punishes them)?

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You are asserting that all beliefs must be supported by sensory evidence, and rejecting the belief that God exists on that basis. So, why can't I do the reverse, and reject your assertion that all beliefs must be supported by sensory evidence on the basis of my belief that God exists? One man's modus ponens is another man's modus tollens, as they say.

 

Stolen Concept Fallacy. Where did you get the concept of God or belief from? You only know of these concepts by using your senses in the world. That is unless you claim your knowlege of these concepts came a priori, in which case the burden of proof is on you.

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Stolen Concept Fallacy. Where did you get the concept of God or belief from? You only know of these concepts by using your senses in the world. That is unless you claim your knowlege of these concepts came a priori, in which case the burden of proof is on you.

Okay, I acquired the concepts of "God" and "belief" by using my senses in the world. How do you get from there to the conclusion that a belief in God's existence has to be supported by sensory evidence?

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Okay, I acquired the concepts of "God" and "belief" by using my senses in the world. How do you get from there to the conclusion that a belief in God's existence has to be supported by sensory evidence?

 

How do you get to the conclusion that God exists without sensory evidence? All valid concepts are derived from sensory evidence and logical inference. Where else could they come from? Faith? Revalation?

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How do you get to the conclusion that God exists without sensory evidence? All valid concepts are derived from sensory evidence and logical inference. Where else could they come from? Faith? Revalation?

It's not a "conclusion" properly speaking, but it comes from what Calvin called the sensus divinitatus. When Bob looks at, say, a mountain range or the night sky, Bob might spontaneously form a belief that God exists. There is neither sufficient sensory evidence nor a chain of inference supporting Bob's belief in God, so formed, but nevertheless he is rational to hold it.

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When I look at a majestic landscape, I feel what Sam Harris calls, "a sense of the numinous." I'd call it a mix wonder and benevolence when it's pleasant, and simple awe when it's not. Neither of these feelings imply a creator intelligence or divine will. Confusing the human capacity for this type of experience with a functional sensus divinitatus is a mistake. Bob can be rational and make simple mistakes, but it is a gross rationalization to conclude that there is a deity because mountains are pretty; that's not rational.

Edited by FeatherFall
clarity

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When I look at a majestic landscape, I feel what Sam Harris calls, "a sense of the numinous." I'd call it a mix wonder and benevolence when it's pleasant, and simple awe when it's not. Neither of these feelings imply a creator intelligence or divine will. Confusing the human capacity for this type of experience with a functional sensus divinitatus is a mistake. Bob can be rational and make simple mistakes, but it is a gross rationalization to conclude that there is a deity because mountains are pretty; that's not rational.

If God doesn't exist, then they are probably just feelings. That can be reversed, though: If God exists, then what you're calling "feelings" are probably the stirrings of the sensus divinitatis. Classifying it as a mere emotion with no deeper significance is what Paul called suppressing the truth in unrighteousness. That may not be what's going on in your particular case, of course.

 

Anyway, I agree that Bob's belief in God will not be rational according to the atheist's set of rules of inference. I am saying that to impose those rules of inference on the theist, without some justification that is binding on the theist, is arbitrary intellectual imperialism. A theist will say that Bob's belief in God is not only rational, but one of the paradigm cases of rationality which any satisfactory set of inference rules must take into account. (And you should be able to see why a theist would think this - it is quite plausible to think that someone awestruck by the night sky could form a rational belief in a creator.)

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If God doesn't exist, then they are probably just feelings. That can be reversed, though: If God exists, then what you're calling "feelings" are probably the stirrings of the sensus divinitatis. Classifying it as a mere emotion with no deeper significance is what Paul called suppressing the truth in unrighteousness. That may not be what's going on in your particular case, of course.

 

Anyway, I agree that Bob's belief in God will not be rational according to the atheist's set of rules of inference. I am saying that to impose those rules of inference on the theist, without some justification that is binding on the theist, is arbitrary intellectual imperialism. A theist will say that Bob's belief in God is not only rational, but one of the paradigm cases of rationality which any satisfactory set of inference rules must take into account. (And you should be able to see why a theist would think this - it is quite plausible to think that someone awestruck by the night sky could form a rational belief in a creator.)

 

It all goes back to what you can prove and how you prove it. You start out with the arbitrary assertion that God exists (as opposed to a Flying Spagetti Monster, or some other diety) and then you make inferences from there. I start with what I can directly sense and go from there. Why do you base your beleifs around what there is no evidence for (beyond sheer, raw feeling) instead of what there is evidence for?

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That's a non-sequitor.

You asked what would have to happen, and I answered what would have to happen.

Who is to say it is God who punishes the immoral (or built the system which punishes them)?

Well, that is totally up to you to answer for yourself. There is no proof either way so as not to violate everyone's free choice to either affirm or deny God.

 

As to moral law, that you can empirically prove for yourself. Just do something you know is wrong and see if you can escape the just and deserved consequences of your own actions. Lots of luck trying to do that.

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If I could eat a bowl of spaghetti without joyfully singing the Yummy Song, that would disprove the existence of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Hasn't happened yet. And it makes perfect sense: why else would spaghetti be so yummy except because His Noodliness is firmly in control of the Universe? It's incontrovertible. Can't use logic any more perfectly than this.

Fixed.

If I could to do something morally wrong and not set into motion any just and deserved consequences... that would disprove God, because it would prove that there is no such thing as the law of moral causality.

 

Hasn't happened yet.

Time for a little science. Please, sit back and observe as I put this little hypothesis of yours to the test:

God Damn Jehovah Jesus God Damn Bloody Christ Virgin Mother Damn. I also worship the false Hindu Goddess Lakshmi, and I'm as we speak coveting my neighbor's wife, manservant and ass, all three at the same time. And, four days ago, I photo-shopped an erect penis into Jesus's right hand. Wasn't his, either, it was a different color. And yes, your math is correct, four days ago does in fact fall on, oh noes, the holy day of the Sabbath.

That's gotta be at least a dozen violations of your imaginary God's imaginary moral laws. So where are all the consequences I supposedly set in motion? Anything? Anyone? Bolt of lightning? Satan with a pitchfork behind me? Nope, nothing's happening. My neighbor's ass has a worried look on his face, but other than that, everything is exactly the way it was before the experiment begun.

Edited by Nicky

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It all goes back to what you can prove and how you prove it. You start out with the arbitrary assertion that God exists (as opposed to a Flying Spagetti Monster, or some other diety) and then you make inferences from there. I start with what I can directly sense and go from there. Why do you base your beleifs around what there is no evidence for (beyond sheer, raw feeling) instead of what there is evidence for?

So, is your skepticism applied consistently? Are you as skeptical about, say, the existence of the external world, as you are about the existence of God? The non-question-begging evidence for the existence of the external world is rather lacking. You know, Richard Rorty has compared the idea of an objective reality to the idea that God exists, and suggested that we should reject both as unsupportable superstitions.

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So, is your skepticism applied consistently? Are you as skeptical about, say, the existence of the external world, as you are about the existence of God? The non-question-begging evidence for the existence of the external world is rather lacking. You know, Richard Rorty has compared the idea of an objective reality to the idea that God exists, and suggested that we should reject both as unsupportable superstitions.

To anyone who claims the plain evidence of the senses is bogus present the following challenge.  Go to the top of the nearest tall building and jump off without a parachute.  If the person is serious about what he says, then he will have no excuse for not accepting the challenge.  If he is not serious and does not accept you can stop arguing it with him right there.  

 

ruveyn1

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So, is your skepticism applied consistently? Are you as skeptical about, say, the existence of the external world, as you are about the existence of God?

There's a minor difference between God and the external world. You can't see God every time you open your eyes.

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You are asserting that all beliefs must be supported by sensory evidence, and rejecting the belief that God exists on that basis. So, why can't I do the reverse, and reject your assertion that all beliefs must be supported by sensory evidence on the basis of my belief that God exists? One man's modus ponens is another man's modus tollens, as they say.

On what basis could sensory evidence be negated?

 

 

Just in a practical sense, if I get the whole internet,laptop,visual display, text thingy, then ultimately that view(sensory evidence is negatable) would have to mean that everything I 'see' is a projection(whatever the source) and that I am commenting to myself

Edited by tadmjones

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What would have to happen for God to be disproven to you?

Considered the nature of evidence.

There can be no evidence for something which in fact does not exist.

If something, in fact, does not exist, there is no evidence to provide.

This lies near the foundation of the onus of proof principle.

To prove something exists, one need only provide evidence. Proof is the step by step presentation of the evidence to support a conclusion which exists.

Attempting to prove something does not exist, is attempting to provide evidence which does not exist.

To unravel God as an invalid concept, is to become familiar with the uses and misuses of the concepts that God is supposedly anchored on. Valid concepts are those which are properly abstracted, i.e. makes proper use of the evidence available to integrate without contradiction into the sum of one's own knowledge. This can be challenging enough to do for one's own self, and more so to guide someone else through the process.

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