I have been debating with myself one specific point which essentially stems from the fallacy that a lack of evidence is not an evidence of lack. (Note that this a purely a thought experiment, not a claim, and that, on balance, the whole set of arguments against theism outweigh one possible philosophical issue which only relates to intellectual decency.)
Essentially, the fact that there is a lack of evidence to support theistic views does not mean that it's evidence of a lack of God. Imagine God to be something similar to our 21st century minds and technology like the continent of America was to 15th century Europe.
(Side note: To avoid potential nitpicking about this specific premise, I know that America was discovered and rediscovered, but the "official" discovery was an accident as the goal of the expedition was to find India. That some in the 15th century Europe might even have been aware that America existed is a bit irrelevant as society as a whole certainly did not believe it was there, and it's the mindset of those who did not believe which is interesting.)
Now, try to enter this mindset and think that God is in a similar situation. Just like the 15th century mindset and technology could not comprehend the continent of America, the mindsets and technology today is not capable of providing the evidence required to detect or understand a divinity.
Therefore, a God may exist (but it doesn't matter).
Edit: The title was erroneous in it's use of the word "for". This is not an argument for theisim, it's an argument not against theism. Thanks to Kasu for this insight.
The problem is that this argument is flawed from the beginning. No one* says that God doesn't exist because there is no evidence for his existence. They say that because there is no evidence there is no reason to believe that God exists. The argument relies on asserting that the dissenting opinion is something which it is not, i.e. not that until proof is discovered the question of God is a null state with regard to this argument but rather that he cannot exist outright.
The argument that God does not/cannot exist comes from much stronger philosophical points than this one such as the logically self-refuting concept of omnipotence, causality, theodicy and a loving God, conflicting moral objectivism, and the plurality of religious belief, etc.
*by no one I mean no one who is experienced in dealing with these questions. As such the term is much more subjective and open than literal.
Unfortunately, such arguments are generally employed by the people who fall outside your 'no one' category, i.e. the religious ignorant (defined here as those who do not question it, generally it's followers).
I am not personally making this claim and I agree with you fully, I would just like an easy as possible (akin to substituting of God for the IPU) interjection to show the faulty argumentation employed. Luckily, when I reached the end of my own wits, I can come here and use yours. :)
it's about burden of proof. it's about the standard people usually use to justify a belief.
people (usually theists and uninformed agnostics) love to say "absence of evidence is not evidence of absence". but it's just not true. we all know that absence of evidence for little green men on Mars IS evidence that little green men on Mars don't exist.
now, sure, this can never be evidence that little green men on Mars absolutely positively 100% do not exist- they may exist underground or something- but it absolutely means that no one should be going around living life as if they do, and even as if the probability is 50:50.
no one believes in something until there is absolute positive 100% evidence that that something doesn't exist. just imagine that resulting absurdity if we did that!
but, hardly any atheists maintain this about gods. the vast majority merely say that the evidence doesn't justify belief, but that they allow, strictly speaking, for the possibility a could exist. so even if it were true that absence of evidence isn't evidence of absence, it still wouldn't have much effect against the vast majority of atheists and atheism because all they say is that absence of evidence indicates a very strong likelihood of absence.
There is a mistaken train of thought in the theist community that it's up to atheists to disprove the existence of God. NOT TRUE! Just as Big Foot and the Loch Ness Monster must be proven (and many are trying), the EXISTENCE of God must be proven by the theists and not the other way around. If I claim something exists, I have to prove it.
In reference to the above quote, "the mindsets and technology today is not capable of providing the evidence required to detect or understand a divinity," the fact is, we don't have to.
I got a funny reply on Youtube today, let me sketch the conversation:
christian says: I have visited atheist sites and on none of them there's any proof that atheism is right
I say: then where have you found proof that christianity is right?
christian says: I know what I believe and I know why I believe it, I don't feel the need to prove anything.
it made me laugh =p
Yes, in other words, that Christian is saying "I have an emotion or a "feeling" that what I believe is correct." That is all he feels he needs; but just before he said that - he accuses atheists of not offering acceptable proof that they are right. Why is he looking for proof from atheists when he does not even require it from himself? An emotion or a feeling that something is true does not make it true.
I can only assume he feels his "feeling of knowing" is more valid than scientific methodology and pure common sense and simple logic. As an analogy, in his mind you could say he thinks that the statement B + Tree = Mailbox because it "feels" true to him. Okay, fine, but I hope he never gets a job in the postal service.
"Mathmatics tells us that it is impossible for life to of began out of non-life,"
No. Nowhere in the field of mathematics is any such claim made.
"much less the universe."
It would be physics, not mathematics, which would make that claim. It doesn't. Only religion claims something came from nothing, not science.
"The Big Bang happens, ok. What started it?"
This is where I generally let people hide their god. We don't really know. Yet.
"Where does the first atom come from?"
From the first sub-atomic particles. Which came from the even tinier ones. Which came from what I believe is called the gluon soup or something which is the hypothesised state of the universe right after the particles and anti-particles were done annhialating eachother. I'm a bit iffy on the specifics, but everything is tracable pretty much back to time 0. plus infinite decimal places 1.
"Even Richard Dawkins himself said intelligent design was possible, just maybe from some sort of alien life form that evolved."
I believe he was using it as an equally unlikely scenario as religion puts forth and deserving the same level of reverence. Either that or that life came on a comet. This just means some initial processes potentially started somewhere else, but they just as well have started on earth. Even the DNA molecules are now being found in the intersection of chemistry and biology. We already know how organic chemistry evolved, it is a highly respected field.
"But where did they come from?"
Somewhere else or on earth, doesn't matter, the processes are the same. All planets are round, isn't that also a fascinating fact? But is it an act of a deity or gravity?
The rest i fully agree with and hope I have done to the best extent of my knowledge. I also search for the meaning of life, we all do (or at least we should), but I just don't see how a deity is necessary. The power to live my life rests solely inside myself. I physically occupy a tiny space in this vast and interesting universe, but mentally I dominate it as I am a collection of particles which can actually understand anything about it.
I find it hard to believe (as do many scientist I might add) that a world so full of wonder and that people came from nothing. When I sit and think about the beginning of the earth without a creator, I have a hard time imagining how it happens. In fact, I think it impossible.
and the beat goes on...
argument from ignorance.
argument from personal incredulity.
just because you don't know or you find it hard to believe how something could happen doesn't validate "goddidit!" as an explanation.
God is supposed to be mysterious. I'm not supposed to know everything about an omnipotent God.
no one, to my understanding, is saying that you should know absolutely everything- or even most things- about any god, or, certainly, your god.
but anyone, not just someone who already believes in him, should be able to examine the evidence for his existence and come away saying, "you know what, yeah, that belief is justified."
and when you can't even begin to offer evidence to make the case- relying all arguments from ignorance- this says something very powerful about whether or not your belief is justified.
There should be no mysteries in science.
what in the world?? why not? science doesn't know everything. science may not ever know everything. but it's the only method we've ever found for being able to justifiably say we know anything. science thrives on mystery. scientists see a mystery and they rub their hands together with delighted glee. there's no such thing as science without mystery.
A God that is outside of time doesn't need to be "created". A world that is inside of time does.
If we are in fact evolved without any image of God on us, there would be no room for self sacrifice.
false. evolution does just this. self-sacrifice is often a very powerful strategy when trying to ensure the survival of one's genes. since my child shares half my genes evolution compels a self-sacrificial strategy in order to ensure the survival of my child and, therefore, of my genes. and this is still true for my child's child which has one-quarter of my genes.
this is just pure ignorance of evolution. the good news is that there's nothing wrong with ignorance... until you're aware of your ignorance and you refuse to do anything about it, insisting instead on remaining ignorant.
If we are all evolved, then we are no more than animals.
false. modo hoc fallacy. that something is this, doesn't mean that it is only this.
yes. sure. we are animals. but we're human animals. we aren't no more than animals.
I'm sure no one here actually denies the existence of Jesus.
don't be so sure.
As a history senior in college, I have taken classes on the history of Christianity from athiest professors. Even they note how ignorant it would be to deny the existence of Jesus.
oh. well then. if it was just any professor that was ignorant of the latest critiques of the historical critical methodology of historical Jesus scholars (such as those by Stanley Porterand Richard Carrier [pdf]) then that would be one thing but an atheist professor??? let's give it a pass! lol
but seriously, leaving aside the fact that the soundness of the historical-critical criteria is being questioned at a fundamental level, even on the assumption that the criteria work they produce a picture of Jesus that has nothing to do with the Christ of your faith. the picture of Jesus favored by scholars (up until recently) since Schweitzer published The Quest of the Historical Jesus in 1906 is that of a failed apocalyptic prophet, one among many, and nothing special. (see Bart Ehrman's Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet, E.P. Sanders' The Historical Figure of Jesus, or Paula Frederickson's Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews, or John Loftus' short treatment on the subject in his edited anthology The Christian Delusion) more recent views don't bode well for you either. a cynic sage. a peasant revolutionary. etc. no one but the most ardent Evangelicals (and absurd from the standpoint of historians) argues that the Christ of Christian faith and the Jesus of history (if there is such a thing) are the same thing.
So what you have to do is look at the evidence.
by all means. let's do so.
It is from people who lived and ate and talked with Jesus Christ
thought you were going to look at the evidence? paleographic evidence marks the authors of the gospels as living decades after Jesus' death, writing in a different language (Greek) than he spoke (Aramaic), using expressions that don't make sense in Aramaic, and making (sometimes veiled and sometimes overt) references to things that just didn't exist in 1st century Palestine during Jesus' supposed life.
the gospels absolutely are not "from people who lived and ate and talked with Jesus Christ".
indeed, the gospels weren't even referred to as "the gospel of Matthew/Mark/Luke" until well until the 2nd century. it seems, despite the early church fathers quoting from the books before then, no one before that time even thought that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John had even authored the books. and this when they were debating the truth of the gospel message with Pagan opponents, a circumstance under which if they thought the books had been authored by the apostles themselves they surely would have said so!
and considered historical writings
lots of things are considered historical writings. what we're interested in is whether they're reliable historical documents in any sense. you haven't established that. no one has. in fact. textual, literary, form, and redaction criticism have shown the exact opposite. to say nothing of what comparing the gospel narratives to the Homeric epics has shown.
The Gospels were written anywhere from 30-60 years after the death of Jesus (Mark being written around 35ish years after Jesus' death and John's gospel around 90 CE, or about 60 years later). So, naturally, there are going to be minor discrepancies.
minor discrepancies compared to what? we don't have the original books. we don't have copies of the originals. we don't have copies of copies of copies of the books.
of the copies that we do have we only have a few scraps dating to the 2nd century, some no larger than a credit card and representing only a few verses, and not much more until we get to the 5th century or so.
when we talk of discrepancies we should be clear, modern scholars know that there are approximately 400,000 variations between the extant manuscripts-- more variations, even, than there are words in the entire New Testament.
minor discrepancies indeed...
You try hanging out for a guy for 3 years then writing about him 50 years later.
there's a larger point here that needs to be made. you're admitting that there are discrepancies but, seemingly then, ignoring the trouble this causes anyone trying to decide what material is original to Jesus and what isn't. what if a critical point of dogma based on the text is a discrepancy? how would you even know? who decides what is steady ground for the basis of dogma and what isn't?
but the theology is consistent
false. no it's not. not even a little bit. the books each portray a different Jesus, a different message, a different christology. i mean, c'mon, the New Testament isn't even clear on what it takes to be saved. how can you seriously claim the theology is consistent?
There is also no doubt that Jesus was crucified.
unless there's reason to doubt the accounts..... oh. uh-oh.
Even non-Christian historians such as Tacitus and Josephus note this.
Tacitus and Josephus wrote many decades later. they can't be called as witnesses. the best we can say is that they relayed the belief on the part of Christians at the time that Jesus had been crucified. but no one disputes that Christians at the end of the 1st, beginning of the 2nd century believed that Jesus had been crucified.
furthermore, Josephus' mentions of Jesus are known to be outright forgeries or, at best, extensive interpolations. as such, even they were contemporaneous (which, of course, they're not) they would be useless as witnesses.
No way would these men be willing to die something that they knew was a lie.
right, 'cause, 9/11, therefore Islam. makes sense. er. does it?
the Heaven's Gate cultists committed suicide for what they believed. so. a space ship WAS trailing the comet Hale-Bopp??
no one alleges that these people died for something they knew was a lie. i'm absolutely certain they believed it to the souls of their feet. the question is whether or not their beliefs were true.
and there's no reason to think it was/is.
At the empty tomb, women discover Jesus' body
how many women? would you like to go with John 20:1 that says 1, Matthew 28:1 that says 2, Mark 16:1 that says 3, or Luke 24:1, 10 that says 5 or more?
oh that's right. minor descrepancies.
Why would they paint themselves as the ones who were frightened? Even if they were willing to do that, they certainly would not have used women as the ones who discover the empty tomb and then tell the world about it.
THEY didn't. the author of Mark did. the gospel of Mark is full of irony, of the unexpected. this is just one more example on the theme. instead of the disciples who were supposed to be the direct heirs to the kingdom there at Jesus' resurrection, they flee and it's the women (though Jesus never actually appears to the women. our oldest and best manuscripts of Mark don't have an appearance narrative. Mark ends at 16:8 and the women never tell anyone or see Jesus risen. 16:9-20 was just tacked on later. but. again. minor discrepancies.)
the other gospel authors, copying from Mark (more evidence that the disciples didn't write the books in their name: why would they have needed to copy Mark's gospel of they were there?), just went with it.
Women had no legitimacy at this time. You certainly wouldn't use them unless that is what happened.
false. this is a common enough trope. it just isn't true. it rests in a confusion between that it was uncommon for women to be called to the witness stand to give testimony and that they weren't trusted at all or ever allowed to give testimony.
none other than the Josephus you cite as a credible witness to history bases his entire account of the sacrifices at Gamala and Masada on the testimony of two women. (Carrier 2009: 300).
in addition, quoting Carrier now,"We even have actual court documents from the time of Jesus and Paul that include summaries of female testimony given at trial. For example, a papyrus from 49 A.D., copied from an official government archive, shows that a woman’s testimony was entered into the court record, a sworn affidavit with her signature was accepted, and a ruling was made that relied on both, while a papyrus from 10 B.C. shows a woman was able to testify in a suit for divorce against her own husband, on a charge of wife-beating and squandering her dowry. Actual examples aside, Roman law was quite explicit in permitting women to swear oaths and testify in court, declaring in no uncertain terms that “women have the right to give evidence at trial.”" (Carrier 2009: 303)
what's more, you're very own gospel of John refutes you:
"Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, 'He told me everything I ever did.'" (4:39)
I guess I would say the proof is there if you're willing to look.
and i'd guess i'd say that there's "proof" if you're willing to ignore physics, ignore biblical criticism, mangle history, and just generally engage in mental acrobatics. with of course a few informal logical fallacies thrown in for good measure.
Aside from the fact that we have one of the best historical documents from the time
always end with a joke eh? :)
we have things like the our origins and morality that are unexplained unless there is a God.
as above, argument from ignorance. "i can't explain this, therefore god" just doesn't work.
Not to mention millions of people who have a relationship with this God.
ad populum. an idea doesn't gain truth as it gains followers. (-Amanda Bloom)
Think of [The Invisible Pink Unicorn] as the author of a play. Or even the architect of a house. If you look at the house or read the play, you will see evidence of the archiect and the playwright all over. However, you will not explictly find the architect or the author IN the play or IN the house. They are the designers. They leave clues of themselves all over. But you will not have blatant evidence of the playwright or the architect in the house or the play. That doesn't mean he isn't there. And why should you expect to see him?
sound convincing still? why not? the IPU leaves clues Derek. you won't find blatant evidence for the IPU, but that doesn't matter, she's still there! so why should you expect to see her???
Its amazing you guys are writing your responses at 3 and 5 AM.
Just FYI, members of Think Atheist live all around the world. So while it may be 3 AM where you are at, it may be 10 AM where the responder lives.