We have seen in Part 1 and Part 2 that atheism is a belief and a truth claim. We saw in Part 3, the belief of atheism is inherently illogical as a truth claim. Now, as promised, we turn to the issue of evidence.
So far we have not touched on the favorite argument of the atheists, the main plank of their platform: the claim that there is no evidence for God and therefore there is no God, and belief in God is wrong and delusional. Certainly, that argument is fallacious–the classic argumentum ad ignorantiam fallacy. So, even if we grant atheists their claim that there is no evidence for God they are still illogical to argue from that there is no God. Once again, atheism is completely illogical. But are the atheists correct in their assertion that there is no evidence for God?
What is Evidence?
This is one of those questions that everyone thinks they know the answer but if they thought about it they find it is not so simple. We want to think that what counts as evidence is something clear cut, but the reality is that it is not. Like most of human culture, what counts as evidence is a matter of subjective opinion. Some might object that this thing called “science” can determine what objectively counts as evidence. The trouble with that is that “science” is not a divine force but a human activity created and continued by human beings with all the inherent frailties that come with that. C.S. Pierce argued that “science” is superior to other methods of fixing “truth” in that, unlike individual or authoritative methods, it takes into account multiple perspectives to reach a consensus. It’s the old “two heads are better than one” idea and it works. But science, though the best method for answering many questions, is still subject to human subjectivity and all human limits in perception and thinking. All scientific perspectives are still relative to a human observer. And, of course, we can only think about what we can perceive, so the limits of human perception is a very important issue for all human inquiry and especially science. Science has been very good at attempting to overcome the limits of human perception though inventing and using instruments to extend our ability to perceive. When Robert Hooke published Micrographia in 1665, it fundamentally changed the way we viewed our world, showing us what we, including scientists, could not see before. So what counts as evidence is dependent on human limitations and human subjectivity.
So the atheist demands evidence of God. That’s fair. So what would constitute evidence of God? The atheist usually gives a simplistic response of demanding God show himself or herself as though the way divinity should behave is through columns of fire or booming voices. True, some religious types do believe God manifests in that way (or used to anyway) but the majority recognize the atheist demand for the cartoon silliness that it is. Obviously, a deity, or messenger thereof, popping up like the Metatron in Bethany’s bedroom would constitute evidence but demanding that evidence be of a particular character is irrational not to mention unscientific. Let us look at an analogy that will clarify the issue.
The Atheist’s Headache
At this moment, you either do or do not have a headache. Please tell us which. Oh, and with your yes or no answer (there are no other possible options), please provide proof of your answer. No, saying you have a headache or not is not proof. What, you can’t provide any proof? Any evidence at all besides your claim? No? So we have to take your word on it for what you are experiencing? Why, yes, that is right, we would. We would, in fact, be irrational not to mention unscientific and unfair, to demand you supply evidence of whether you do or do not have a headache. Yet, the fact that we cannot prove whether anyone does or does not have a headache is not a disproof of the existence of headaches or proof that anyone who claims to have one had no such experience.
And any honest person at this point sees the relevance of this to atheism’s argument. God could be like a headache, not in that God is a pain (though that is possible) but that God could be something that is experienced such that the reality of the experience is impossible to prove to another–like such realities no rational person denies like love, loyalty, and so on. The atheist will almost certainly respond that “a headache is something inside a person’s head and so is God, ha, ha, ha.” However, that juvenile red herring would not address the fact that all experiences are like that. Did you see the sunrise this morning? No, a photograph doesn’t prove it because that doesn’t prove that you saw it. How about this: did you notice the bird singing while the sun was rising? You could perhaps prove there was a bird singing at sunrise but you cannot prove that you noticed it at the time. And let’s take that another direction: if you did not notice the bird singing at sunrise that in no way is evidence that there was no bird singing at sunrise. That is obvious to any rational person and yet it is the same argument that atheists insist on: they don’t notice any evidence for god therefore there is no evidence there is a god. The atheist fallacy is they want to turn human limitation and subjectivity into a universal objective proof.
So the list of what the atheist cannot prove is identical to the list of atheist beliefs: god does not exist, there is no evidence for god, belief in god is irrational, belief in god is delusional, and so on. The atheist is left with no evidence whatsoever, no rational argument, no position to stand on. Ironically, the theist at least has an out unavailable to the atheist in that the theist can stand on the premise that his or her experience of a divine being is ineffable and thus impeachable. That is a possibility. The atheist can only counter that he or she has no such experience, but that does not entitle them to their next step which is that god does not exist. Can a blind person rationally argue that because they cannot see there is no evidence for the existence of light and therefore belief in light is irrational and delusional? Of course not, but that is identical to what the atheist argues. So while theists have something to talk about in their alleged experiences of god the atheist can contribute nothing to that conversation. That may explain why so many atheists actively try to sabotage and silence discussion about religious experience and belief (and don’t deny it atheists you know you do).
This discussion leaves the atheist with only one possible response: accepting that atheism is not a rational rejection of a proposition but an emotional expression of a lifestyle choice–a life without engaging in the discourse about the nature of the absolute. Here finally the atheist is on at least some kind of solid ground, staking a position outside of the discourse, living a life where the discourse does not matter to the atheist. But here still we see a lack of logic of the atheists: they seek to be outside the discourse but still claim the right to critique those engaging in the discourse. If atheism is this removal of self from the discourse then they have rendered themselves irrelevant to the discourse. One of my colleagues responds that it sounds like I am telling the atheist to be quiet and stand in the corner. My response is that if I and a friend are talking about baseball and you jumped into the middle of that discourse saying baseball is a stupid game and no rational person should discuss it, everyone would agree that you are being rude and boorish. You need not stand in the corner but if you have nothing to contribute to the discourse, why speak? For example, I have zero interest in NASCAR, it more or less does not exist for me, but I do not inflict my belief onto NASCAR fans, do not promulgate anti-NASCAR sentiments, and certainly do not say things like NASCAR fans are irrational and deluded and should be quiet about their beliefs. The atheist should ask himself, why bother speaking if you have nothing to contribute to the conversation? Anyone openly brandishing the label atheist is showing not disinterest in the conversation but active intent to antagonize others. As mentioned in Part 1, living without belief in god requires no label, it is simply living. Adopting the label “atheist” is adopting an antagonistic stance against religion and religious people. We see such behavior on any other topic to be immature and so should we see the atheist in that way. If that thought offends them then it is a sign of something deeper bothering them and they should deal with their personal issues in a more constructive way.