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Atheism 101: Response to 'can’t prove God doesn’t exist'

Burden of Proof
Burden of Proof

Whenever I ask a religious believer to provide valid evidence for their deity of choice, they often ask me to provide evidence that God doesn’t exist. As a point of fact, I cannot provide any scientific evidence that the God of the Bible doesn’t exist. I also cannot provide any scientific evidence that the Norse God Oden doesn’t exist and yet no one seems compelled to believe he does.

This is why the burden of proof lies with the person making the claim. When someone asserts the claim that God exists, it is on them to provide valid evidence to support that claim. If they cannot provide valid evidence to support that claim, then the logical position would be to reject that claim until such evidence is presented. This does not mean that the claim is necessarily false, but it does mean that there is no logical reason to believe that the claim is true.

As an atheist, I am not asserting that God doesn’t exist in the scientific sense, just in the practical sense. I am merely asserting that I lack a belief that God exists because the religious believer has failed to provide any valid evidence for their claim. However, in the practical sense, I can feel pretty comfortable stating with reasonable certainty that God doesn’t exist as long as I am open to the possibility that new evidence might be provided that might change my position. While the existence of God is possible, it is not probable.

Again, I turn to the Norse god Oden. Surely, we can all feel pretty comfortable rejecting the existence of Oden on practicality. Oden is almost certainly a fictional deity. However, we can’t say that with certainty because then the burden of proof would be on us. We can however state that because no one has presented any valid evidence in support of Oden’s existence, there is no logical reason to accept that claim as true. As such, we are justified in not accepting the claim and therefore not believing that Oden is real. However, if new evidence were to be presented, we should all be open that that evidence and yet I doubt anyone is losing any sleep with uncertainty about the existence of Oden.

Just as with the biblical God, arguments can be made in support of Oden too. The question would be whether or not those arguments are valid and even so, do they provide a predictable and testable model in support of the claim. For example, one argument might be that it has been written that Oden defeated all the Frost Giants and you don’t see any Frost Giants around, do you? Therefore Oden did what he said he would do and must actually be real.

When a believer in the biblical God presents valid evidence that Oden doesn’t in fact exist, then I will no doubt use that same evidence to show that their God doesn’t exist. The reason why the burden of proof is on the person making the claim is precisely for this reason. If one had to actively disprove everything one doesn’t believe, then we would be forced to believe in pretty much everything and anything. Why stop at Oden? Can a religious believer disprove Zeus, The Flying Spaghetti Monster, Leprechauns, Goblins, Dragons, and Unicorns? Where does it end?

Either the religious believer must concede that without actively disproving each and every absurdity, they must accept such absurdity as real and true or they must accept that the burden of proof does indeed lie with the person making the claim. In this case, the person making the claim is the religious believer who claims that their deity of choice exists.

I don’t have to provide evidence that God doesn’t exist in order to reject belief in such a deity. I merely have to point out that there is no valid evidence to support such a deity and until such evidence has come forward, the logical position to hold would be to lack belief. This is why atheism is the logical position to hold.

Please check out the Atheism 101 Series for frequently asked topics.

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