Assertions

Don likes to take me to task for what he says are assertions in my arguments. I do make assertions, as do we all, because not all points in an argument need to be demonstrated every time they’re used. Indeed, not all assertions can be.

There are assertions that we all accept are likely to be true: the sun will ‘rise’ tomorrow; the Earth is a sphere; evidence is better than no evidence and so on. There are those who dispute these assertions but the onus is then on them to provide the evidence or argument that their counter-assertion is true. Yes, there may come a day when the sun doesn’t rise but it is statistically improbable; the Earth is demonstrably not flat; faith is not an reliable substitute for evidence. There is abundant evidence and sound argument why these things are not the case. But – and this is my point – this evidence does not have to be trotted out every time an argument relies on such probabilities; they can be asserted.

I write, and indeed live my life, on the basis of the fact (‘assertion’) that the supernatural does not exist. Over the last ten years, I’ve posted several arguments why this is the case. I frequently provide a link to these arguments when asserting that, outside of the human imagination, gods, spirits, angels, devils, demons, powers, principalities, ghosts, avatars, heaven and hell do not exist. These arguments form the backbone of any subsequent assertion that the supernatural is not real.

Nonetheless, the onus to ‘prove’ that this is the case does not rest with me. First, because it is impossible to prove a negative. Consider, for example, the Christians challenge to prove their God doesn’t exist. While there is plenty of circumstantial evidence that this is the case, there is no absolute ‘proof’ of God’s non-existence (as I’ve argued before, it all comes down to probability, or, in God’s case, improbability.) Absence of evidence is invariably evidence of absence.

The onus instead lies with the one making the incredible claim. Those who take it as fact that the supernatural and God are real need to demonstrate to the rest of us that this is the case. They have, in my long experience, failed to do this. The best they can do are the various arguments (the ontological, Kalam cosmological, teleological, fine-tuning and the argument from design) that suggest the possibility of the supernatural but fall far short of convincing evidence that the supernatural is real, and further still that the Christian God exists. They depend in the end on the feelings they have in their heads and the Bible (or some other holy book.) This is wholly inadequate

Consequently, I’ll continue to operate from and make my assertion that the supernatural does not exist until such time as Don or any other of his co-religionists demonstrate the probability that it does.

From my assertion, backed up, remember, by earlier arguments, a number of other facts follow:

With no supernatural, there are no gods; YHWH in all his incarnations is a God, therefore YHWH does not exist.

Much follows from this:

If YHWH does not exist, Jesus cannot have been either his avatar, Son or incarnation;

Jesus cannot have been raised from the dead by a being who doesn’t exist;

Stories that he did so must therefore be merely that: stories;

The celestial, eternal Jesus who sits at the right hand of God in heaven is not real;

Any experience people have of this being is entirely within their own imaginations;

The Bible is based on such imagined encounters with these imagined characters;

There is no after-life or judgment;

The Christian faith, including my own, cannot be explained in terms of the supernatural;

Only explanations that are rooted in naturalism, as in science, have any validity.

There are more implications that can be drawn from the premise that there is no supernatural, including the fact that the world makes much more sense (if it makes any sense at all) without drawing gods and demons into it.

Consequently, I shall continue to make my assertions, like those above, supported as always by previous argument. Any religious believer who wants to challenge them is welcome to do so, but must do more than point out the obvious, that they are assertions. They must provide the evidence for the supernatural, and all that follows from it, independent of the goings on in their heads and without reference to holy books written by those with similar subjective feelings.

Christians’ Favourite Delusions 14: You can’t prove God doesn’t exist

Santa-JehovahThere’s a difference between ‘proving’ something – technically this can only be done in mathematics and, arguably, the law – and ‘demonstrating’ it. Atheists can’t ‘prove’ God doesn’t exist, any more than believers can prove he does. But it is relatively easy to demonstrate how unlikely it is that there’s a God. We can apply the scientific method. Science doesn’t ‘prove’ either – it demonstrates the likelihood of something being the case by looking at the evidence and determining from it whether a phenomenon is probable or improbable.

This is in fact what Christians (and Muslims and Hindus and Jews) do when they decide whether the tooth fairy, Santa Claus and Zeus exist; from the evidence they conclude, quite rightly, that it’s highly improbable.

What believers don’t do, though atheists do, is apply the same test to their own god. They say, ‘well of course these other supernatural beings don’t exist. There’s no evidence for them whatsoever. But as for my God, well, I’m not going to apply the same rigour. I know he exists because, erm, I believe in him, I have faith.’

But faith and belief are not evidence. Warm fuzzy feelings are not evidence of God. Books written by ancient tribesmen and other superstitious people aren’t either. Even the universe itself is not evidence, when its existence can be explained without recourse to him. Similarly the development of life on Earth and human beings themselves; all are better explained by other means, none of which require God.

It is fairly safe to conclude as a result that the reason they don’t require him is because he wasn’t involved. And he wasn’t involved because he doesn’t exist, in just the same way Santa Claus wasn’t involved when you received your Christmas presents this week. This may not be the ‘proof’ Christians and others would like, but it does demonstrate, more than adequately, the improbability of God’s existence.