No evidence? Hardly.June 2, 2008 — Deacon Duncan
I may have blogged about this before, but Vox Day’s recent question got me thinking about it again. What should an atheist say when a Christian asks why they don’t believe in God? My response, of course, is that I do believe in God, and in fact I’ve got a better God (or Goddess) than they do. But for the truly die-hard atheist, probably the most common answer is “Because there is no evidence. Show me the evidence for God, and then I’ll believe He exists.”
I gotta tell you, and apologies if this offends anyone, but that’s just about the worst answer you could give.
The problem with the “no evidence for God” argument is twofold: First, as many a “former atheist” will testify, telling someone you don’t know of any evidence for God merely opens the door for a number of targeted, well-oiled evangelistic techniques designed to convince you that the Christian knows something you don’t. Sure, you are too intelligent and well-educated to fall for that stuff, but a lot of people aren’t. The “no evidence for God” argument functions much the same as an appeal to ignorance: all it takes to refute it (or to create the appearance of having refuted it) is to cite some fact (or something that sounds like a fact) that fills in the knowledge gap. And Christians have 19+ centuries of experience in appealing to people’s superstitions, foibles, and psychological weaknesses in order to create that impression.
But the second and more significant reason why the “no evidence” argument is a bad idea is because it is untrue, or at least incomplete. It’s not true that there is no evidence. There’s tons of evidence, and it’s uniformly and universally inconsistent with the Christian idea of God. Christianity thrives on ignorance, and by saying “there is no evidence,” you create an assumption that there’s no evidence against God either. Or to put it another way, if your best argument against God is that you have no argument for Him, you’re simply creating a context in which the believer can assume that they do have the evidence you lack. The atheistic argument can and should be stronger: not that the evidence is lacking, but that it is abundantly present, and consistently contrary to Christian claims.
For example, take the fact that God does not show up in real life. This is not just a lack of evidence for God’s existence, it’s a piece of evidence which is inconsistent with the Gospel. If you say, “I do not see God in real life,” the Christian can assume you’re just not looking in the right place, that you haven’t found evidence of God because you didn’t want to find it. But the evidence against the Gospel is that God does not show up in real life for anybody, believer or skeptic, even though He ought to be both willing and able to show up all the time if the Gospel were true and self-consistent.
Or take miraculous healings and rescues: it’s not just that we have no evidence that God played any tangible role in the outcome, it’s that giving God credit for saving someone creates an inconsistency. If He can save a few, He could save more. More importantly, if He were able to work a genuine, supernatural miracle, that would prove there was no compelling reason why He could not provide us with other tangible manifestations. He need not merely do a magic trick that some might attribute to the wrong idea of God. He could actually show up and tell us what the correct interpretation of the Gospel was. Would a loving heavenly Father really care more about our brief mortal existence than about the eternal salvation of our souls? If saving a few shows that God loves those few, then His failure to save the many (from Hell!) shows at least a corresponding lack of love for them. Yet the Gospel claims God has a self-sacrificial love for all men—another contradiction.
Real life gives us almost unlimited opportunities to examine the real-world evidence, to see if it is consistent with the Gospel claims men make about God. Once you filter out the superstitions, the fantasies, the autosuggestion and subjective intuitions, you are left with a body of objective evidence which does not merely fail to show God’s existence, but which is frankly inconsistent with the possibility. The real God, if God there is, must be a God more like Alethea than Jehovah. And that’s how we can reasonably and reliably conclude that the Christian Gospel is not the truth.