"Evidence"

What is evidence for the existence of God?

Abrahamic religion, you know, the one with the cross...

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"Evidence"

#1  Postby Rek Init » Jul 01, 2020 4:58 pm

I have been watching The Atheist Experience and other shows like it such as Talk Heathen and Truth Wanted, and other shows outside of the ACA such as Non Sequitur and The Empathetic Atheist, The Atheist Round Table, etc. and I've noticed a common theme in these shows. Often when they invite theists on, they will request or demand that the theist produce evidence for their claims. Isn't this the wrong approach? Now, I mean that within a theological context. I realize that we often hear atheists on these shows say that the scientific method is the most reliable pathway to truth. However, when "direct evidence for God" is spoken of in a Christian theological model, for instance, you will often hear things like "the direct revelation of the Holy Spirit" or the "Beatific vision" or what I even hear come up often on these live streams as "The Damascus Road experience." How would one gain empirical evidence of such a thing? Now, I'm skeptical that such experiences exists as I've never encountered one myself, so I suppose I'm in agreement with Michael Ruse who argues very similarly that atheists who "demand/request evidence" from theists are essentially straw manning theists, since they're not claiming they can evidence the existence of God. They're simply claiming they believe in God, and will insist that scripture says the only direct evidence is the first-hand revelation, one's own direct experience of the Holy Spirit. I've meditated, I've engaged in other spiritual disciplines at church such as singing in choir and so forth, and I can't say that I've ever had what people might call the Beatific vision. Now, I know a theist might argue perhaps I wasn't sincere enough or that I gave it all up too quickly, etc. I've heard these arguments before. Perhaps, but of these theists who tell me this, none of them seem as though they can speak on it themselves, nor are they saints who possess infinite patience and unconditional love, etc. They usually seem like regular human beings who just happen to believe in all of this. I continue doubt and remain skeptical that such things exist, but if it is the case, then it does seem like the wrong approach to ask a theist to demonstrate evidence as is so often done on these atheist streams. If that is the wrong approach, then what is a right or better approach? I haven't been able to come up with an answer for that except to go back into "spiritual seeking" of which I already have given up hope for, and now consider a complete waste of time. So, I thought I might bring this topic to others in a forum like this to hear other people's thoughts. I'm genuinely interested in what anyone would have to contribute to this topic, even if they'd like to agree in a brief response that spirituality is a waste of time. Meditation seems like the perfect waste of time. I mean, c'mon! Sittin' around and clearing your mind and thinking about nothing. What could be more of a waste of time than that?

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Re: "Evidence"

#2  Postby mindhack » Jul 01, 2020 9:14 pm

There’s no waste in doing what benefits you in some way while not hurting others.

About the strawnanning. I don’t think the religious are being strawmanned when asked for evidence. I think the religious position has been crafted specifically to avoid scrutiny and accountability, while also demanding privileges and respect from that position. “Watery tarts throwing swords at you” is no basis for governance!
(Ignorance --> Mystery) < (Knowledge --> Awe)
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Re: "Evidence"

#3  Postby aban57 » Jul 01, 2020 9:51 pm

Rek Init wrote:Now, I'm skeptical that such experiences exists as I've never encountered one myself, so I suppose I'm in agreement with Michael Ruse who argues very similarly that atheists who "demand/request evidence" from theists are essentially straw manning theists, since they're not claiming they can evidence the existence of God. They're simply claiming they believe in God, and will insist that scripture says the only direct evidence is the first-hand revelation, one's own direct experience of the Holy Spirit.


Meditation has very clear benefits proven by science. So it's not a waste of time.
Regarding the quote, Many, many theists don't just say that they "believe" in a god, but that it actually exists, and intervenes in our life. That's a positive claim, which needs to be demonstrated. In the same way, some of them believe that the Bible is the word of God, which also has to be demonstrated.
Of course no one can prove if you believe in something or not. I regularly watch the shows you mentioned earlier, and I've never seen a case where they do the mistake you talk about.
The only thing one can say is that there is no evidence that people are "linked" to God, as so many claim, in very different ways : God talks to me, I feel him all the time, He blessed me, etc. In these cases, Matt Dillahunty usually says something like this : "I agree that you have an experience, but I don't believe the explanation you give for it." And that's an important dstinction here. People who claim they've been abducted by aliens did have an experience, but it's their interpretation that is questionable, and needs evidence.
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Re: "Evidence"

#4  Postby Hermit » Jul 01, 2020 9:52 pm

It's well and good to build an empirically unencumbered Christian theological model, provided it remains within the confines of one's own mind. In that case I have zero interest in challenging them about their faith. Unfortunately the model, whatever it happens to be, does not stay in its holder's mind, especially, but not only if that mind is of an evangelising bent. Christian theological models have impacts on the real world, usually based on interpretations of the Bible. Holders of Christian faiths have views about abortion, homosexuality, war, capital punishment and every other social issue under the sun, and many of them act to have those views implemented in the societies they live in. At this point their views about their gods need to be challenged on empirical grounds. Belief that the Bible is the Word of God, or inspired by God, goes well beyond having faith in the existence of god.
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Re: "Evidence"

#5  Postby Calilasseia » Jul 01, 2020 10:17 pm

Quite simply ... what counts as evidence for a postulate:

[1] A properly constituted, error-free proof within a properly constituted formal system, with strict adherence to all the rules thereof (usually restricted to abstract postulates);

[2] Correspondence with a relevant body of observational data (pretty much all concrete postulates require this).

If you don't have either of the above, then your work is cut out for you, demonstrating that you have a reliable alternative methodology for testing postulates, and that said methodology reliably informs you of the truth value of the postulate(s) that you are interested in. Failure to provide this means your postulate is merely an unsupported assertion, and condemned to the requisite epistemological limbo on that basis.

Meanwhile, if you want examples of what does not constitute evidence for a postulate, then you can run through this list:

[1] "My favourite mythology says so, therefore it's true";

[2] Unverifiable anecdote;

[3] Abuse of the appeal to consequences fallacy;

[4] Failed appeals to dictionaries of colloquial definitions, when rigorous alternative definitions exist in relevant disciplines;

[5] Argumentum ad populum (another well known fallacy);

[6] "The television in my head says so";

[7] "My pastor/rabbi/imam said so, so it must be true";

[8] Apologetics from discredited sources known to have peddled outright lies in the past (which rules out every creationist outlet straight out of the gate);

[9] Apologetic fabrications manifestly pulled out of the author's rectal passage (I can provide examples if required).

This should cover the bases.
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Re: "Evidence"

#6  Postby Gila Guerilla » Jul 02, 2020 1:24 am

Believing something to be true without evidence is epistemologically unsound. Some might say that they are taking the truth of the matter on faith. But such faith could be used to accept many things which are in fact untrue. Even accepting something as true without evidence, even if it is true, is epistemologically unsound.

(A) Believing that something is true without evidence, when it is in fact true . . . is indistinguishable from (B) believing that something is true without evidence, when it is in fact false . . . you don't have any way to know the difference. It could be (B) just as easily as it could be (A) . . . you can't tell which it is . . . TRUE or FALSE.

There may be evidence cited for something, but that evidence may not be good evidence. For example, in historical Europe, one might confidently have said that a swan is a bird with white feathers, after all, every swan encountered was white. There's the evidence. But once Australia was explored by Europeans, swans with black feathers were encountered. There's some more evidence . . . swans can be black or white, (at the very least).

Maybe theists claim to have evidence for a god . . . miracles, prayers, healings, revelations etc. But are those claims justified? If they aren't justified, then they aren't good evidence, and don't justify the god claim.
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Re: "Evidence"

#7  Postby SafeAsMilk » Jul 02, 2020 2:42 am

Rek Init wrote:I have been watching The Atheist Experience and other shows like it such as Talk Heathen and Truth Wanted, and other shows outside of the ACA such as Non Sequitur and The Empathetic Atheist, The Atheist Round Table, etc. and I've noticed a common theme in these shows. Often when they invite theists on, they will request or demand that the theist produce evidence for their claims. Isn't this the wrong approach? Now, I mean that within a theological context. I realize that we often hear atheists on these shows say that the scientific method is the most reliable pathway to truth. However, when "direct evidence for God" is spoken of in a Christian theological model, for instance, you will often hear things like "the direct revelation of the Holy Spirit" or the "Beatific vision" or what I even hear come up often on these live streams as "The Damascus Road experience." How would one gain empirical evidence of such a thing?

The closest one could get would be experiencing it. The word on the street is, you know it when you see it. Which begs the question: if God exists and wants to have a relationship with us, then why doesn't he give these experiences to everyone? I was a theist for the first half of my life and I never had one. I had to tell myself that much more mundane things were revelations from God, like coincidences or anything to which I could attach some sort of meaning where it wasn't obvious that any existed. Thankfully, it did eventually become clear that I was fooling myself.

Many theists do claim there is empirical evidence for the things they believe in, and they usually find themselves retreating to the personal revelation angle when these claims don't stand up to scrutiny. One can, of course, claim to have a personal revelation. But how is that of any real value to anyone who either hasn't experienced it or isn't already primed to believe? It's a bluff.
Last edited by SafeAsMilk on Jul 02, 2020 12:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: "Evidence"

#8  Postby Cito di Pense » Jul 02, 2020 4:49 am

Gathering empirical evidence systematically is hard work. Claiming to have had a 'religious experience' is not.

Facing skepticism for making claims entirely free of contact with facts and which one cannot substantiate is not brave; it's stupid. It's often said that misery loves company; you can decide for yourself whether or not you think that's really the case.

Rek Init wrote:I continue doubt and remain skeptical that such things exist, but if it is the case, then it does seem like the wrong approach to ask a theist to demonstrate evidence as is so often done on these atheist streams. If that is the wrong approach, then what is a right or better approach? I haven't been able to come up with an answer for that except to go back into "spiritual seeking" of which I already have given up hope for, and now consider a complete waste of time.


So why are you asking? If the aim is to induce people to reject religious faith, asking for evidence doesn't bear much fruit. If the aim is just not to give them a free pass, then if you don't like the question, it's on you to come up with a better one.
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Re: "Evidence"

#9  Postby Blackadder » Jul 02, 2020 6:55 am

Rek Init wrote: so I suppose I'm in agreement with Michael Ruse who argues very similarly that atheists who "demand/request evidence" from theists are essentially straw manning theists, since they're not claiming they can evidence the existence of God. They're simply claiming they believe in God, and will insist that scripture says the only direct evidence is the first-hand revelation, one's own direct experience of the Holy Spirit.


If theists stopped at "I believe in God and I don't need evidence for it." that would not be a problem, although your use of "straw-manning" is incorrect here.

But theists don't stop there. Most of them want others to share their beliefs, so they organise themselves and are are constantly proselytising and preaching to subvert the emotions of those who may be weak or vulnerable. Many of them happily relieve the poor and the gullible of what little money they have. Many get generous tax breaks that are denied to others. Many of them want to bring their beliefs into science education, the law, government, other people's personal lives. At which point those other people are entitled to ask, "where's your evidence?" You don't get to enjoy monetary advantages or tell me what I am allowed or not allowed to do without being challenged to substantiate the beliefs inside your head.
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Re: "Evidence"

#10  Postby Ironclad » Jul 02, 2020 7:56 am

It’s called Faith for good reason.
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Re: "Evidence"

#11  Postby Fenrir » Jul 02, 2020 9:19 am

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Religion: it only fails when you test it.-Thunderf00t.
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Re: "Evidence"

#12  Postby laklak » Jul 02, 2020 2:46 pm

The correct response to the above is "Go fuck yourself".

Works for me, anyway.
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Re: "Evidence"

#13  Postby Svartalf » Jul 02, 2020 2:49 pm

Actually, I think I may have found evidence of sock puppetry, anybody agree?
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Re: "Evidence"

#14  Postby dogsgod » Aug 24, 2020 10:12 pm

Cito di Pense wrote:So why are you asking? If the aim is to induce people to reject religious faith, asking for evidence doesn't bear much fruit. If the aim is just not to give them a free pass, then if you don't like the question, it's on you to come up with a better one.

One could ask the theist and the atheist what difference it makes, and why we should care either way?
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