The burden of proof

I find it fascinating that so much time is wasted trying to disprove the existence of god, trying to rename god, making god everything unknown.

if this were a trial the burden of proof would be on the person making the most extraordinary claims. (borrowing from the pages of Sam Harris)

If I were to make the claim that a tiny squirzel lived on my shoulder, and he was my protector, you would ask me to prove it.

How ridiculous would it be for me to ask you to disprove the existence of the squirzel on my shoulder? Really god and faith should be subject to the same burden of proof. If we are to survive in this new age where we are all brought closer together we need to change the way we tolerate religion by not tolerating ludicrous claims of “godly” books that are a dime a dozen, (and which promote everything from slavery to killing yourself for 72 virgins.)

It’s time for those who make the most ludicrous claims of god to step forward and bring logic into the debate. If I say I see no reasonable evidence to believe that the torah, quran, new testament, the resurrection of christ, etc, you’ve got to prove that there is substantial evidence to believe so. But really you can’t, and you won’t because those of you in this crowd believe the point of faith is not knowing logic or reasonable things about god just believing them on a whim.

Just something to provocate the crowd.

In India, it is stated that there is a means of knowing which is superior to logic.

An insight into Ultimate Reality gained by meditation. It does not amount to blind faith, it is something that one can “see”, though in an altered state of consciousness.

 Only if I have a vested interest in convincing you.  The burden of proof is on one [i]making a claim[/i].  A person who wants the world to know there is no God needs to provide arguments and evidence to that extent, simply stepping forward and demanding everybody to present contrary evidence to him, so that he can say "I'm not convinced" doesn't accomplish anything.  You've got two hurdles:

1.) Your initial post in this thread was inflammatory and jeering. Nobody who believes in these things has any reason to think you’ll give their evidences or arguments a fair shake.
2.) The evidences and arguments aren’t ‘secrets’. If you really wanted to know the answers to these questions, and not just to get into a fight with people who disagree with you, there are books you could have read. Heck, there are websites you could have read. Many people aren’t interested in going over what they feel to be the basics. I could just say, “For evidence on why I consider The Ressurection and other events of the NT reliable, see Craig Blomberg’s “The Historical Reliability of the New Testament”.”

Ludicrous: the word of the day. :smiley:

Even if you don’t speak to others, you make a claim all the same, in some sense. You believe in something while you could have not believed. Therefore the burden of proof is on you. It’s a matter of respect for your own reason.

In what context? Burden of proof for whom? Must I get a tee-shirt with all my best theistic arguments printed on it, so that I may confront this burden with anybody I meet? What is it about atheists that feel the have this power and authority to ‘call people out’?

I would like to see you wear that t-shirt. :laughing:

Hey MB,

Would it work if the ‘argument’ was shifted from beliefs to how we act out our beliefs? The is/isn’t, nature of nature, blah blah blah, doesn’t take us anywhere. The “God” issue is both personal and perspectival. The real issue as I understand it, is how the beliefs play out in the interpersonal world. I could care less if you believe in Santa Claus until you demand that I have a fireplace, clean chimney, and a socking hanging on the mantle. If I remember correctly, Harris’ concern wasn’t beliefs, but how beliefs are acted out. Believing non-rationally is everyone’s perogative. Acting out that non-rationality can and should be confronted.


The burden of proof always lies with the claim of the afirmative, and the reason why is rather simple. Proving a negative is impossible, and thus is a waste of time an energy. Only an afirmative CAN be proven, so to put the burden of proof anywhere else is counterproductive and downright stupid.

Proving a negative is feasible, if some testable consequence follows from this “negative”. An atheist writes gives the example of the elephant in the fridge. I can prove that there is no elephant (or, say, some smaller animal) in my fridge by looking inside and by finding nothing. If the animal existed, I should have found it.

Proving a negative is also feasible is the corresponding “positive” is self-contradictory.

A negative can only be proven with a modifier which is useless.
You can prove there is no elephants in your fridge, but you cannot prove there is no elephants
You can only prove there IS an elephant through rational interpretation of evidence. This is the only useful (an hence scientific) way to think.

I would not say that a “qualified” negative proof is useless.

Any belief requires justification.

To say God’s is impossible requires justification.
To say God’s is nessesary requires justification.
To say that God’s is contingent and true requires justification.
To say that God’s is contingent and false requires justification.
To say that humans are cognitively closed to knowledge about God requires justification.

So the only position that requires no justification is not beliving in God.

You can’t really prove or disprove the existence of God…

LostGuy, isn’t that last one a belief too? If “Any belief requires justification,” needent you justify it as well?

mrn :confused:


I see this kind of fuzzy logic a lot, perhaps you could explain it to me.
How is it that the absense of belief constitutes a belief?
One would think what you are talking about is a paradox, and violates the law of non contradiction.
Are you , in fact, claiming atheism to be a belief?

Yeah, a lack of a beleif is clearly not a beleif.

Don’t get me wrong. Many atheist have many unjustified beliefs. If an atheist claims that God is impossible (or even just contingent and false) then you have full right to ask for an argument.

Let’s do another example. Let’s say someone, Art, claims there is a complex civilisation in andromida. And then Biff claims there is definately no such civilisation. Cathy doesn’t beleive either of them.

Art has some argueing to do. So does Biff. But Cathy can just listen and wait for someone to be convinceing. Let me segway this into an interesting point that should get some people to yell at me:

Let’s say Art spends some considerable resources trying to communicate with andromida. Biff never ever attempts such communication and considers all attempts silly. These behaviors are obviously consistent with there beliefs. But what about Cathy. Well, if Cathy has a spare moment on the radio telescope and is kinda bored, she may well point it at andromida. Afterall, with no belief she is open to evidence. She however will not contribute many resorces to this.

So, simillary. One does not lose their little atheist badge if they in an idle moment do a little, “God if you are out there, let my disertation commitie be in a good mood.” Only doing something like wakeing up on sunday morning and leaveing a hot girl in bed is gona lose you your badge.

Hi everyone,

I believe that Tentative has hit the nail on the head here. The attempts to prove that there is a “Being” that is known as God is what Mystics are trying to circumvent, because there is no empirical proof - except the people who believe. Generally it has been said that the Jews are proof of the God of the covenant.

In Judaism it is the covenant that is central, following the Torah is the expression of that covenant and the invisible God who forbids images being made of him is the source of the Torah. Israel’s development and understanding of that source is portrayed in the prophecies and (as we Christians believe) culminated in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, who carried the idea of the Christ in him - the redemptive attribute of God.

This is a long way off from proof of some “Being” - in fact, such attempts at proof bring us very near to idolatry, which the Torah is clearly against. Christ looked for the trust and faith that gave his people moral fibre, and seems to have been convinced that such faith is capable of a non-violent victory over Israel’s enemies. Paul’s Christ is the basis of a life that grows out of redemption, that gives impetus for a life of charity and hope, revolutionising the interpersonal relationships that were normal in his day.

If this “Church” were alive and thriving today, the personification of the redemption of the cross, strong in all weakness, loving although hated, giving despite having everything taken - and not the epitome of hypocrisy and moral extortion which longs for (cosmic) power, then that would be the proof of God.

As it is we are stuck in a situation that the Bible often portrays. The flame is failing, there is only a glimmering wick where light should brighten the world, and the “rest” of God’s Israel is in the dispersal. Sad that the “New” Testament is so very much like the “Old” - but perhaps it should just dampen our arrogance a little, lest we fall from our high pedestal and shatter.


(looks down page to see 17 responses) holy crap!

<I wasn’t expecting this kind of response.>

yes I think it comes down to how people “act out their beliefs”, but that is only a small portion of it.

What the belief is intertwined with is what affects how it’s acted out…

For instance if you believe that when you die you’ll get 72 virgins that’s one thing, but when you connect that to a suicidal belief, that’s where it gets tantamountly dangerous.

I think god is the key to the whole thing though (from what I got from harris) God is tantamount irrationality, akin to praying to Zeus.

(see my tagline ucc)

I’m not an atheist, but as a firm believer in god and one that lives to the will of god, you’ve got all the dice in your corner thus have got to roll 7’s and 11’s to justify your belief.


I’m (or someone else atheist/agnostic/lost faith guy) sitting over here questioning the validity of belief in something beyond belief.

God, resurrection, angels talking to us and helping us write books.

The whole nine yards. Why should a believer get a special pass, when they present a ludicrous statement about god? Why should an atheist have to prove the non-existance of god?

That’s akin to proving the non-existance of unicorns.

the other problem is that I (we) don’t base my (our) faith on an intangible being that can only be sensed with “faith”.

That’s my point. but if anyone should have to prove or disprove god, it should be the ones with the most riding on it.

For example lets say timmy believes in UFO’s. You tell him he’s got an over active imagination, and UFO’s are swamp gas.

who has the higher burden of proof you (if you don’t believe in UFO’s) or timmy?

another example is let’s say someone believes that unicorns are still alive… aren’t you gonna ask for something logical to prove it, and not just take the guys’ word for it?



I can agree with this, while at the same time going back to what I said before… believing non-rationally, leads to acting out non-rationally.