Apologetics.org: What Would It Take For An Atheist to Believe?January 30, 2008 — Deacon Duncan
I’ve added a new apologetics blog to my list, and in this post, the author raises a question we’ve seen before.
I therefore put to my former fellow-atheists the simple central question: “What would have to occur or to have occured to constitute for you a reason to least consider the existence of a superior Mind?”
The context is a discussion of Anthony Flew and Roy Varghese’s book I Believe in God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed his Mind. (Or more precisely, lost it: since when does an accomplished, articulate and incisive author like Flew suddenly need a hack ghost-writer like Varghese in order to express himself on paper?) However the question above is near and dear to my heart, so let’s consider it.
I’m going to approach this from a slightly different perspective this time, and answer the question this way: What would need to occur, or to have occurred, for me to consider a “Superior Mind” as an actual possibility is for there to be some reliable, objective, and verifiable means of distinguishing this conclusion from naive, subjective superstition. Having been a fervent Christian for a good few decades, I came reluctantly to the conclusion that God is the product of human fantasy, intuition, superstition and hearsay, and that objective reality is not consistent with the claims men make about Him, in particular as concerns the Gospel. However, I remain open to the possibility that I might learn something new someday, and if God wants to show up and tell me in person that He actually does exist, I for one would be delighted to see Him.
Of course, if we take the Intelligent Design approach that claims the “creator” may have been an alien race with advanced technological capabilities, I have to admit that it is also possible that I could be deceived by, say, a really good computer-simulated holographic projection of “God,” from a cloaked and indetectable flying saucer. But then again, I could also be lying in a pod somewhere, with sensations of a simulated “reality” being fed directly into my brain via a neuro-implant, as in The Matrix. So I could be deceived.
That’s actually of surprisingly little importance to me, though. The only tool any of us really has from distinguishing between fact and fancy is consistency. Truth is consistent with itself, and when we see things that are inconsistent with the truth (i.e. real-world fact), then we know that the thing is not true. And that’s the only way we can know it’s not true. And even then, we can rationalize the inconsistencies, and pretend to have resolved them, and thus deprive ourselves of the ability to recognize when something is not true.
So if you want me to believe in your God (or your “Superior Mind,” if you prefer), the first thing I want from you is some means of making an objective and verifiable distinction between your conclusions about God, and mere subjective superstitions and speculations about God. Show me some source of information about this God that does not depend on human fantasy, intuition, superstition and hearsay, and let me verify independently that (a) it does indeed not stem from human inventions and misperceptions, and (b) that it corresponds to what we actually find in objective reality.
And then let’s talk.