Sunday, April 1, 2012

Never seen proof of the existence of God

When Atheists are asked why they don't believe in God, it is somewhat common that the answer they give is that they have never seen good proof of God's existence, or that they have never heard a good argument for the existence of God. I have been thinking about this answer and while I think it is a good answer it feels quite incomplete. For someone like myself who is an atheist but was born religious, I think it makes sense to split the question into 2 parts, why are you an atheist now, and why did you become an atheist in the first place. The answer to why I became an atheist in the first place is the story of a long journey. For me it was a long process (which I have talked a little bit about in this series of posts) in which I basically questioned the ideas I grew up with and found them lacking.

The answer to why I am still an atheist can be fairly summed up by saying that I have never seen sufficient proof to believe in a god. In my mind, there is a long back story of struggle and thought that spanned a decade leading up to me deciding that there is no good evidence for God. Somehow I think that is lost when the simple answer is given to the question. Just saying "there is no evidence" can make it sound like it was a snap decision based on almost nothing. It could sound like "meh, never came across any evidence, never really looked, never really cared, whatever". Hell, for some people this is surely the case, if you weren't born into it I could imagine this being exactly your attitude (now that I think about it I have friends in this situation, I envy their childhood). But for me, when I say there is no evidence I mean something more like "I looked, a lot, I wanted God to be real and I tried to believe, but the more I looked around the more my belief felt hollow until it fell away completely."

I think when we give the succinct answer we need to keep in mind that there is more behind it that is probably not coming through. When appropriate, we need to make it clear that even though our answer is short, it does not mean that we are not taking the question seriously.


  1. I think this is a very important thing to point out. Great post. When I say the same thing since I used to be really religious, I tend to forget that someone might assume that I just never wanted to look at the evidence.

  2. When you say "evidence" do you mean physical or perhaps mathematical proof or do you mean a philosophical argument leading to a conclusion that God exists? I think most theists would argue the latter but not the former. Perhaps there are physical facts which contribute to a premise of a philosophical argument that God exists, but by definition one cannot measure a metaphysical entity by quantitative means. I might also suggest that you may have some hidden premises such as "if God existed I would expect to see x, y and z, I don't, therefore God does not exist", this needs untangling as there may be no good reason to expect x-y-z on closer analysis.

    Also, you seem like a quite sincere pursuer of truth which is very admirable. So often in the world of the internet one gets very coarse discourse that is really no better than name calling. I also like the approach of reading a work and systematically going through it, thinking it through. If you think CS Lewis is interesting and thought provoking might I also recommend Mere Christianity by him or anything by GK Chesterton. I have also appreciated the works of Edward Feser for a Thomistic approach ( or William Lane Craig for an analytic approach ( to God's existence but to be honest I think taking a book and really digging deep with a an author can be more interesting rather than going scatter brained.

  3. Thanks for the compliment. I'm glad I come off well. My main goal is to have conversations with other people and hopefully we can better understand what each other thinks and why. One thing I try to do (and I think I have been getting better at it since I started this blog) is to really put myself in someone else's shoes before forming my opinion. Before critiquing an argument I try to understand it without judgement from their point of view. Sometimes this is very hard, especially when I strongly disagree with it, but I think it is important to do.

    As to what evidence I would accept? Any kind really. I agree with you that philosophical arguments are probably going to be most common, so far the ones I have looked at have been pretty poor and full of fallacies. That was one of the big reasons I was interested in doing the book review of the CS lewis book text. And why I (perhaps foolishly) decided to jump on board the book reading from another blog and do a second book at the same time. Thanks for the recommendations, I probably won't want to do another CS Lewis book right away just for variety, but maybe in the future. Thanks for the blog links as well, I'll go ahead and throw them on my feed, they look good at first glance.


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