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What would count as absolute proof that God exists?

This is a hypothetical question. What would prove to you that any God exists? I am thinking about this from a Christian perspective, just to throw my bias out there for you.

Would something as simple as a court record of Jesus’ execution and reasons lining up with the gospels be sufficient? Maybe the unveiling of a new source about Jesus that comes from his time period, or a document believed to be written by Jesus himself?

Or would there have to be something more concrete than that? Perhaps some proof that we were created, or God speaking to you personally? (while you are sober and unaffected by any drugs)

Posted: May 24th 2009

George Locke

I just wanted to take up an issue that hasn’t yet been addressed: what if God speaks to me personally?

How would I know it was really God? Unless the message contained information I could not possibly know, there would be no way to know that it didn’t come from my own brain. If I did receive some paranormal insight, this isn’t enough to determine whether the insight was due to aliens, clairvoyance, or what have you. If I received some paranormal insight that had some sort of wisdom attached to it, then I’d probably believe that there is some sort of force out there looking out for me. If this happened on a regular basis, then I could maybe infer something about the source of these messages.

I would also like to address the issue of drugs, since you mention it. A great many religions use psychoactive substances for divine communion. Some religions achieve ecstatic states without the use of drugs through meditation or even just spinning around in circles (whirling dervishes, aka semazen). More importantly, sobriety doesn’t stop people from seeing aliens and ghosts, etc., so I personally wouldn’t weigh a divine message received while sober any higher than messages that come while under the influence.

Posted: May 28th 2009

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George Ricker www

Even though you are writing from a religious perspective and, presumably, speaking about a god as defined from that perspective, we still come up against a definitional problem. Religions have a variety of definitions and descriptions of the nature of the god(s) they worship.

When it comes to evidence of the historicity of Jesus, that really does not touch on whether or not a god exists at all.

I have always thought that if the deity claimed by most religions could exist, it’s existence would be apparent and obvious to all.

Yet, somehow, the universe looks exactly as I would expect it to look if there were no god in it.

Finally, if a god exists that is concerned about my ultimate welfare and if there are penalties for not believing in the reality of that god, then I would expect that the god in question (a) would know what evidence would convince me of its existence and (b) would be required by its own nature to provide the evidence I need in a manner that I would find convincing.

Posted: May 25th 2009

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Eric_PK

It’s a problematic question, because there is a definitional issue.

Nobody really defines what god is, so talking about the existence of god is fraught with issues.

Arthur C. Clarke wrote, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, and I think the corrolary is that any entity practicing sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a god. So, if you see something inexplainable, is it a god or is it a highly advanced race?

Or is there a meaningful difference between the two?

Having said all that, I think some good old-fashioned biblical miracles would certainly be a good start.

If somebody can walk on water, raise the dead, multiple loaves and fishes, or part a sea, I think that would be a pretty good indication of something extraordinary happening.

For some reason, you don’t see contemporary accounts of such occurences…

Posted: May 24th 2009

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logicel

You do realize that if absolute proof was available, substantial enough for atheists, as well for religious believers in competing gods, to accept the existence of the Christian god – not necessarily to worship it or to refrain from asking who made it – the need for religious faith, that is, your very own, would go poof? It may turn out to be a case that you would be sorry for what you wished.

What would be required in order for me to accept the existence of the Christian god would be an interlocking body of evidence on the superlative level that proves evolution to be a fact and that buttresses its ability to be a potent explanatory and predicting tool. Present such evidence, and I will decide if it passes the requirements.

Posted: May 24th 2009

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SmartLX www

A lot of atheists accept Jesus’ existence and even his crucifixion anyway, so I’d need more than that. The resurrection’s the important bit of the story, from the standpoint of divine evidence. Jesus simply having lived doesn’t mean much.

A personal experience of the right sort would convince anyone, but it wouldn’t be proof. Proof would be either a proper miracle or solid evidence thereof, or direct, obvious and public contact by a god or lesser divine being (e.g. angel), preferably recorded.

Look at it this way. A story by a homeless man of how Jesus told him to blow up his house is not decent proof. God appearing bodily to every person on Earth at the same time is decent proof. Somewhere between those two has to be a threshold of evidence quality, beyond which a given atheist would accept that there is a god. We probably wouldn’t know what it is until it happens.

Posted: May 24th 2009

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Paula Kirby www

What would a court record of Jesus’s execution prove, beyond that someone called Jesus, believed by his followers to be the son of God, was executed? We already know that his followers believed him to be the son of God. A court record of the execution would confirm that he existed, but not the existence of a god for him to be the son of. So no, that wouldn’t do it.

Again, a new contemporary source referring to Jesus would only support his existence, not his identity nor the existence of a god. So that wouldn’t do it either.

Same goes for a document written by Jesus himself, EVEN IF it could ever be shown to be genuinely by him, which it almost certainly couldn’t.

As for your other examples. Proof that we were created, for instance. Well, for starters, what might such proof possibly look like? It is certainly conceivable that we would find something that would challenge our current understanding, but how would that prove a creator rather than simply flag up another question to which we don’t currently have an answer? The lack of an answer for something doesn’t have to mean that Goddidit!

In any case, even if there WERE something that pointed incontrovertibly towards a creator, why should that mean it was a god who did the creating? Why couldn’t it be a super-intelligent alien civilisation that did it? For the record, I am not for one moment suggesting the existence of a super-intelligent alien civilisation, merely pointing out that God is not the default explanation!

God speaking to me personally? Well, we already know that the brain is very suggestible and that it can create very powerful illusions, even when not under the influence of drugs. So no, that wouldn’t be reliable evidence either. Besides, who’s to say that, if there WERE a real voice, it would have to be a god and not that super-intelligent alien again?

What might be evidence? Well, if prayer were consistently shown to work, that would get me thinking. Especially if, say, Christian prayers were always answered but Islamic/Hindu/Jain prayers were not. (Though even so, it could still just be a super-intelligent alien civilisation having some fun at our expense.) In reality, every properly conducted study has shown that prayer does NOT work – there is no correlation between prayer and outcomes.

Perhaps if this supposed God were to tell us something that we did not already know and which we could then test for ourselves and see that it was true: a cure for some currently totally incurable disease, for instance. (Carl Sagan wrote amusingly of the way alleged messages from God or aliens are invariably of the banal variety: ‘Be kind to one another’, ‘War is bad’; and never anything IMPRESSIVE, such as how to cure cancer or a comprehensible explanation of quantum mechanics or proof of Goedel’s Theorem.) But this, too, would only be evidence of a superior intelligence, and it could just as easily be those super-intelligent aliens again.

Actually, that isn’t true. It would be FAR MORE LIKELY to be super-intelligent aliens than God. Why? Because we know of natural processes by which intelligence forms on Earth (i.e. as a result of evolution by natural selection), and it therefore wouldn’t be unreasonable to assume that something either identical or very similar to evolution by natural selection had been at work on another planet in this vast universe, and had been so for longer than here on Earth and had therefore resulted in super-intelligence that might appear truly god-like to us inferior beings. It would still have been an entirely natural process.

But there is NO mechanism we know of which could possibly give rise to a god. The Christian claim that God was simply always there just won’t wash: there’s no reason to believe it, it’s simply special pleading, dreamed up, invented, imagined, as a way of trying to prevent the rest of the story simply falling apart. It has nothing whatsoever to support it beyond the wishful thinking of those who want to believe the rest of the story.

So I find it impossible to imagine what proof there might be for God, because it would always be possible to imagine a far more plausible naturalistic explanation (and, for the reason given above, even the most outlandish naturalistic explanation will always be more plausible than an uncreated god).

I can’t prove that there isn’t a god either, of course; but there is absolutely no good reason to believe in one, and that’s why I don’t. I don’t believe in a super-intelligent alien civilisation either, by the way: it’s just a less preposterous hypothesis than an uncreated god.

Posted: May 24th 2009

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