Thursday, June 27, 2013

Nothing to prove

On another forum (Thethinkingatheist podcast/website's forum,) we had a(nother) "drive by theisting." Pretty much just arguing "You have no argument!"

There for debate? No. But they started off with this line:
"Why is it that atheists always say that they do not have to prove anything?"

As an atheist, you'll hear this a fair bit. The answer is fairly simple, but seems hard for some people to understand. The short form of this is that the atheist does not start from a position that makes an assertion.

"But wait," the religious person says, "you say there's no god!"

That's... kind of a short-form answer. The atheist position is that of the skeptic. The atheist is saying that the universe as is runs as it has without the apparent need for a deity. That testing reality gives us a high confidence that there's no deity involved - and when we get to individual "gods," we tend to get an even higher confidence in that result, since their properties can be disproved.

Basically, we have nothing TO prove. The atheist starts from the point where they have to be convinced. The theist, on the other hand, has a LOT to prove:
- The need for a diety.
- The interest of that deity in humanity.
- That deity's requirement for worship.
- Humanity's need to worship that deity (with appropriate rewards/punishments.)
- The specific properties of that deity (interest in humanity, or a specific group, or 'they cause storms' or the like.)

Just for a few examples. All of these are assertions. And just saying "I say so" doesn't make them correct - which tends to be why we're told they need to be taken "on faith."

"Take it on faith" means exactly what it sounds like - don't ask for evidence, even if it contradicts evidence, just believe me that it's true. That, to me, doesn't sound like something to put much trust in.

Why do atheists say they have nothing to prove? Because we're not the ones trying to make a case for something's existence.

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