The level of ignorance in my generation when it comes to belief in god is incredible. I am consistently disappointed in my generation when it comes to participation and debate in the political and social realm. Here are my common arguments that consistently cannot be answered (and that get labeled "hateful" for a reason unbeknownst to me):
1. The burden of proof is essential, yet no one seems to understand the importance of this aspect. The burden lies with he or she who makes the first positive claim. The believer must be required to show proof of god's existence before anyone else can deny his existence or even inquire into what the characteristics of the divine may entail. For those that don't accept this proposition, I simply assert to them that there is an invisible teapot on the other side of the moon with a dwarf in it that shoots glitter out of its boobs -- and I ask them if they believe in this teapot. When they say no, I say "Why not?" and they seem to be puzzled (and this is where they claim I am "pushing my beliefs on others"). This brings me to the idea that since neither believers nor non-believers can prove their position, that they are somehow of equal weight and significance. This statement is in gross contradiction with the burden of proof. If neither stance can be empirically proven, then the rational stance is that which adheres to the principle of the burden of proof.
2. The emergence of process theology has posed a particular problem for secular philosophy. The best way of going about this conflict is the issue of predictability. Process theologians claim that god is simply polar in his or her characteristics. They claim that god is not compassionate, but our experience of him or her is compassionate. To me, this is simple word play and almost places theists into a Taoist/Confucian realm. The idea of predictability comes to be of great importance in the conversation between process theologians and secularists. These theologians will claim that god is omniscient, but that he or she only knows what is possible. The best way to confront this statement is pointing out that while the world is in fact unknowable, it is in no way, shape, or form unpredictable. Predictability relies not on knowing but predicting, which is something that our species has undoubtedly come very far in. We can predict, for example, how this world will end (either by the explosion of our sun or the collision of our galaxy with the Andromeda galaxy). This also raises quite a bit of questions when it comes to prophecies. If god cannot know the future because of our inherent capability of free will, where do the prophecies fit in that claim to know what future individuals will do? This is of great importance considering the discovery of the Gospel of Judas. If process theologians claim that god does not know what we will decide, then it makes perfect sense when the GOJ says that Jesus (if he even existed) told Judas to betray him. Process theology has essentially made the point that Jesus was a complete and utter fraud.
"I'm sick and tired of being told to prove that there is no god."
"1. The burden of proof is essential, yet no one seems to understand the importance of this aspect. The burden lies with he or she who makes the first positive claim."
I find it difficult to understand why my fellow atheists continue to think about any of this in terms of "proof", or "knowledge".
When someone asserts the existence of god as knowable, or provable, we instinctually recognize the absurdity of the assertion that god is empirically “knowable”, or that there exists some sort of “proof”. Their belief in god, expressed as a function of knowledge or a proven reality is to deny the very essence of their religion: FAITH.
If you have “knowledge” or “proof”, what is faith for?
And this is where atheists wander away from the REAL subject.
Neither you nor I, Andrew, “know” that god doesn't exist any more than we would accept the theist’s idea that god does exist. What we as atheists do know is that we don’t share the theist’s faith in the existence of god.
And that’s all we should offer up to the argument: “I’m sorry sir/ma’am, but I don’t share your faith in the existence of a supreme being”.
If the conversation is then to continue, it will be a conversation about faith, specifically, their faith, since you admit to having none.
Now you are talking about the REAL subject.
Very good, Asa. I have given up using Andrew's no. 1. argument with xtians because proving and knowing, unlike faith, require that you believe in a RATIONAL process to arrive at a conclusion, NOT a faith based process. A xtian, by definition, does not have to use a rational process to "know" God. Therefore, as you say, the argument (if any) has to be about faith, cuz that's the only thing they'll "rationally" argue about.
“I’m sorry sir/ma’am, but I don’t share your faith in the existence of a supreme being”, almost sounds like saying "I agree to disagree." I don't think that's what you mean, but I would prefer to say "Why should I believe in your god?" which gets back to them having the burden of proof, and allows you to show them the many weaknesses in the reasons for their faith.
Simply because no proof can be had does not mean the burden of proof is obsolete. The philosophical element of the burden of proof holds firm even if there is no proof. The burden is not to be used by atheists to prove their point, but to arrange the hierarchy of belief/non-belief on what is the most rational stance.
It is obvious to any atheist worth his or her salt that their position cannot be proven. At the same time, however, when a philosophically minded individual who is familiar with the burden is questioning whether or not non-belief is a more rational position, the burden gives a very good reason to claim that non-belief is the rational claim (rationality being defined as that characteristic of a belief or idea which makes it necessary).
I find the use of the irrationality of faith to be a useless argument when dealing with Christians. It is easy for us to devalue the "virtue" of faith but when speaking with someone who holds faith as an admirable virtue, we must appeal to their reason and rationality that is concurrent with their faith instead of simply discounting their faith as irrational. We must use their faith to our advantage, not by denying the existence or appropriateness of their faith, but to challenge their conceptions of god and his or her characteristics.
I will continue using the burden as one of the best arguments against Christians, even though it is only useful to a philosophically minded individual. The burden is best used in conversation with, perhaps, a theologian, such as my philosophy of religion professor. These are the people we need to be debating with -- the ignoramuses of the world and of various fraudulent congregations is hopeless unless we can change the source of their belief -- those that posit unknowable characteristics of the divine.
It was easy for people like Hitchens to claim the irrationality of faith and claim that any scientific approaches to faith are fundamentally fraudulent. This is to discount the countless Xians and theologians that already know that their faith is not "provable." The argument against faith is a desperate plea to make idiots our of ordinary, uneducated Christians instead of debating with the real scholars of religion and theology. To make this mistake is to do exactly what Christians do -- claim within their ranks that their hierarchy of values is supreme over others. The best arguments for non-belief must come from an objective (or objective as one can be in a linguistic, interpretive world) standpoint.
Wow. You're passionate about this particular argument. If I already know that the burden of proof falls on the other person making the positive claim, and I know that proof is NOT forthcoming from them, I can no longer waste my time. The truth is, a belief system (or faith) is not a prerequisite for living, so I can just drop it, based on its lack of utility alone. Of course, this will cause the xtian to appeal to the danger of an afterlife in hell, but then we'll be right back to a positive claim with no rational basis...
Belief systems cannot just be dropped, no matter how irrelevant or, frankly, stupid. I reference Victoria Woodhull and Belva Lockwood, the first women to run for President. They knew they were fighting a losing battle, but they knew that the very essence of running would change minds.
Simply giving up an argument because the opponent refuses to put forth proof is a philosophical failure and contrary to the basis or constructive argumentation and conversation.
Atheists would do a great service to their cause by considering the philosophy of Hillel. The rule of Kal Vahomer (what applies in a less important case will certainly apply in a more important case) could be of great use to atheists in their debates not only with Jewish philosophers & practitioners, but theists in general.
Thank you, Asa. I am going to use this.
The problem with the whole faith vs knowledge argument is that the believers are frequently on both sides of it. If someone doesn't want to sign up for "the belief in things unseen," they'll pull out every dumb piece of ersatz "evidence" they can to supposedly "prove" their faith. This is also part of the reason why outfits like The Discovery Institute exist, along with the intention to subvert American science education in favor of their skewed view of reality.
Asa makes a great point about pinning your opponent down, regarding the nature of the argument. If they want to insist on their faith, then fine. The second they stray into the field of verifiable knowledge, it's a whole different ballgame.
I always use: "The onus of proof is upon the claimant". Very simple, yet confounds most xtians.
Andrew, as you well know, god can't be proven. This is a small exchange I had with a mormon about "knowing", but I think it is somewhat appropriate here:
To me, this begs the question: what justifies a "leap of faith?" Indeed, why should a leap of faith be necessary at all?
The shame is that it isn't faith they're talking about; it's gullibility, a willingness to swallow a lie whole because it's a pretty lie, or because of fear of death or uncertainty about life or an unwillingness to do the hard, introspective work necessary to understand oneself.
I would infinitely rather KNOW something, see it verified for myself and be certain in that verification than to believe something purely on someone else's say so, especially when that "something" is so outlandish as to be beyond any reasonable credibility. We've all heard the phrase: "Look before you leap." It seems to me that if people were to look and look hard and critically before they indulged in a "leap of faith" that a considerable number would see the nature of that leap ... and walk away, rather than take it.
I actually agree with this. I very well know there's no proof, but sharing the assumption of faith as knowledge may give atheists a heads up, in my opinion.