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Why is "God exists" a positive claim?

Lack of evidence for God is often claimed as a justification for atheism. Why is it unreasonable to claim that lack of evidence against God justifies theism?

Posted: March 22nd 2011

Mike the Infidel www

Why is it a positive claim? Because you’re positing something.

Lack of evidence against something is meaningless. You don’t have evidence for it. If you were to think that it’s reasonable to claim that lack of evidence against anything justifies belief in it, you could believe in literally anything for which there is no contradictory evidence. Unless you care about confirmatory evidence, you have no way to determine what does and doesn’t exist.

Posted: March 25th 2011

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SmartLX www

Because a god who created and/or controls the universe, and wants everyone to believe in it, is the kind of thing for which we would expect to see unambiguous evidence. If such a god exists it’s not getting what it wants, and that’s a ridiculous situation for an all-powerful being to be in.

Believing in a theistic god is like standing in the kitchen of a restaurant believing that there are customers being served despite the fact that no meal orders are coming in. Absence of expected evidence is in this case real evidence of absence. It’s not proof (there could be another kitchen), but it strongly supports the idea that there are no customers.

Likewise, if there were a god we would expect to hear about it, either directly or indirectly, but unambiguously, from the god itself. That we don’t is a significant fact.

Posted: March 25th 2011

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Blaise www

For the same reason that “Invisible flying turtles exist.” is a positive claim. If you understand why you reject my turtles, you understand why I reject a god.

Posted: March 24th 2011

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Reed Braden www

Why is “Leprechauns exists” a positive claim?

Lack of evidence for leprechauns is often claimed as a justification for a lack of belief in leprechauns. Why is it unreasonable to claim that lack of evidence against leprechauns justifies belief in them?

Surely the fact that the ancients believed and wrote about leprechauns, and the first-person accounts of people who have felt the presence of leprechauns—What? No. Of course no one has ever seen one, but you can feel them watching you, can’t you? I can!—is enough evidence.

Sure, I can’t prove they exist, but that doesn’t mean you’re justified in saying that they don’t! How disrespectful to the ancient Irish and to myself! Apologize or burn, heretic!

Posted: March 24th 2011

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donsevers www

This is easy to see with other examples:

“The lack of evidence against unicorns justifies believing in them.”

“The lack of evidence against elephants living today in Yellowstone justifies believing they are there.”

“The lack of evidence against a teapot orbiting Mars justifies believing in it.”

We just don’t form beliefs this way. There is an infinite set of possible things, like flying pigs and black swans. You could have a yo-yo in your abdomen right now. There is nothing impossible about it. There’s just no reason to think you do have a yo-yo in your abdomen without evidence.

Religious believers love to frame the issue as if God had always been there. To most of us, the God concept appears like water does to a fish; it is so pervasive as to be assumed. This places us in the odd position of having to justify ‘removing’ something simply because it has been around so long. But there was a time when humans didn’t conceive of gods. Infants are atheists. The real issue should be justifying the (now ancient) addition of God in the first place.

The burden of proof lies with those making claims. Finally, even if you reject all this, you still have all the hard work ahead of you: How do you home in on a particular god? Even if believing in gods were reasonable, there is no way to settle what his traits are or whether he is one of the gods of one of the current religions.

Believers generally have things backwards. They know what they want to believe and they set out to defend it. Science works in the opposite manner. We believe that which is well-defended, even if that requires us to update our beliefs.

Posted: March 24th 2011

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