Saturday, January 18, 2014
The Burden of Proof
Something I have learned over the years is not to get into an argument with a fundamentalist Christian. What kind of argument can one have with someone who says: ‘Of course God exists. The Bible says so’; or ‘If God doesn’t exist, who wrote the Bible?’ I could have more useful conversations with my dog or goldfish (if I had either) than with a fundamentalist Christian. Actually, I could have more useful conversations with my imaginary goldfish. A little harsh? Hmmm… No, not really.
Those who believe in God (and not just those of a fundamentalist persuasion) apparently see the burden of proof as lying with those who don’t believe. ‘Prove God doesn’t exist!’ I don’t have to; any more than I have to prove that fairies don’t exist. After all, I'm not the one claiming there is some kind of superior being out there, who created the world and me, who tells me how I should be living my life, and to whom I owe allegiance and worship. (There are Oprah and Dr Phil [and maybe Justin Bieber], of course, but I digress.) The burden of proof is clearly with those who hold such a belief.
I don’t think those who believe in God even begin to understand the magnitude of the task before them. Let’s be clear. Even if it could be demonstrated that there was a being who created the world and me, it would take much more than this fact alone before I would give my allegiance and worship to such a being. Or to accept that such a being cared about me, or had the right to tell me how to live my life. Proving that God existed would be only one small step. Proving that God existed would not demonstrate that the Bible or Qur’an or any other sacred text had anything useful to say about him, her or it. Let alone that he, she or it wrote it. Demonstrating the existence of God would not prove that Jesus or Mohammed or any particular prophet or religious leader had anything of importance to say about God. It would not prove that any (let alone every) word uttered by them or written in any religious text was true. Even proving that every word of the Bible was true would still not induce me to worship God. You would have much more work to do after that, believers!
I don’t believe in God, but the question is scarcely of more than academic interest to me anyway. If God exists, so what?