The Atheist's Burden of Proof

I was in a discussion today with an atheist, and the subject turned to the idea of burden of proof. It is a common claim that Christians own a burden of proof to prove that God exists, but that atheists do not own any burden at all.  Here’s my response, that outlines the reason I disagree with this:

Many (and probably most) atheists will say they have nothing to prove at all, because atheism (a-theism) is merely being without a belief in the existence of any gods. Therefore, the only *positive* explicit assertion they are making is about their belief, and not about the actual existence of any god. That is, they aren’t necessarily saying “God does not exist” (although some do), but rather “I don’t believe there are any gods because I have not seen sufficient evidence to lead me to believe any exist.”

This position of not having a burden of proof is fine until one considers that holding any position whatsoever – even one of skepticism – implies a lot of things about reality, knowledge, possibly ethics, etc. That is, everyone (including the atheist) has certain assumptions (let’s call them “basic beliefs”) that they are leaning on in order to make any sort of claim, including the claim “I don’t believe in God.” Stated differently – nobody is neutral. We all have a network of basic beliefs we rely upon.

So, the challenge for the atheist comes when they are presented with the question “Do you believe *the God of the Bible* exists?” Notice the question isn’t simply “do you believe in any gods?” Instead, the question is about a specific type of God – the Christian God of the Bible.

Now, if the God of the Bible was like any other god, they could get away with saying “no” and leave it at that – no burden of proof. However, the God of the Bible isn’t like any other God. He claims that everyone knows he exists. He claims that he created the world. He claims that his existence is necessary for knowledge, ethics, aesthetics, etc. In short, he makes a bold claim about everyone’s ability to reason, weigh evidence, draw conclusions, etc. He claims that none of those actions that we all do on a daily basis would be possible unless he existed as described in the Bible.

So that opens up an interesting challenge to the atheist. They aren’t explicitly denying the existence of God when they say “I don’t believe he exists”, but they most definitely are *implicitly* denying his existence. Why is this? Well, it is because they are doing all these things that the God of the Bible claims ownership to, while at the same time they are saying “I don’t believe he exists.” They are relying upon all these basic beliefs that the God of the Bible claims *only* make sense if he exists.

To say they don’t believe he exists is to say that it is *possible* to do these things (reason, weigh evidence, etc.) without him existing. But God says it is not possible to do them without him existing. Therefore (by implication) they are saying “This kind of God *does not* exist”.

It isn’t an explicitly positive claim that God does not exist, but is rather an implicitly positive claim. Either way, it is a positive claim, and therefore they own a burden of proof.

143 thoughts on “The Atheist's Burden of Proof

  1. Chris A. Baird

    This becomes even more visible when they quickly realize that they have no reason for believing in reason. Then, they are quick to attack reason itself as just some sort of neurological phenomenon. I am always amazed at the first attack often being that the Christian God is irrational and then when asked for the basis of rationality, they quickly attack it’s transcendent/constant nature which then undermines their very basis that they are stating a truth and not a preference. The level of faith necessary to hold this unstable position is quite amazing.

  2. Chris – that’s an excellent point. In fact, in the discussion I was having, the atheist did something very similar to that – she attacked belief systems in general as nothing more than a neurological phenomenon. I asked her if that included her belief system. There was no reply.

    BK

  3. Whenever I hear the statement, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence,” I usually respond, “Dismissal of extraordinary evidence requires an extraordinary reason for doing so.” Of course, that’s granting the definition of “extraordinary” from the former statement (whether this concedes too much or not, I am not sure). The point being the atheist needs to account for more than knowledge of reality ascertainable via the 5 senses, etc., the essence of which atheism ultimately reduces to. I believe the word is “Autonomy”?

    What the challenge is for the atheist, if I’m understanding correctly, is that since CT is so robust as to includes truth claims about the very reasoning utilized by the atheist, he must then be able to explain how he can think the way he does, but independently of the claims made by CT regarding his thought process, if his argument is to stand. Of course, even this is futility of the absurdist type, as the precondition of the atheist’s use of reason is his existence, which is itself subject to claims made by CT.

    Also, the point you made regarding claims such as “no belief in any god” assuming many things about the nature of reality further clarifies some things for me.

    Thanks for the post!

    • Apparently you delete comments to this effect, but here goes again, in the perhaps forlorn hope that you’ve discovered a modicum of honesty:

      Atheism is nothing more than acceptance that there is no evidential reason to be anything else.

      Since theists such as yourself are making the positive claim that there is indeed a reason to believe in whatever god you are advocating, the onus of poof is firmly with you. It is the height of intellectual dishonesty to make an unsubstantiated claim of fact and then challenge other people to disprove your claim with the implication that otherwise it’s true.

      Besides, aren’t Christians forbidden from bearing false witness or is this permitted if you don’t have any evidence you can use?

      • claiming that there is no evidence or reason to be anything else is a universal negative claim so Rosa has a burden of proof just like the theist.

        • This is an invalid argument for two reasons.

          Firstly, there is a hidden contention here. The hidden assumption is that all the properties assigned to the rationality-defining God are exclusive to Yahweh. This is untrue, and I could create a God right now, name him “Steve”, and define him as a universe creator, the definer of logic, and so on, and use the same arguments as you made above. You are making an argument for deism, not theism, just to get things straight.

          Secondly, and more importantly, the argument is invalid anyway. What has been done here is that circular reasoning has been hidden within lengthy paragraphs. The contentions are as follows:

          * Atheists use reason, rationality and logic to reach conclusions.
          * Entity A claims that reason, logic and rationality come from, or are defined by himself.

          The conclusion is as follows:

          *Entity A is immune from rebuttal from reason, logic or rationality. The atheist must find other means to disprove Entity A’s existence.

          Are you seeing the problem yet? One of the premises is used in the conclusion.

          I suggest you google search “Descartes’ Demon” for further reading on other entities that are just as likely to exist under the above argument.

          And if you want to argue that I cannot claim a circular logic fallacy for the same reason I cannot claim to have no burden of proof, then I shall simply head-desk and cry myself to sleep. At that moment attempting to argue with you has as much point as giving medicine to a dead person. You have defined your argument as untouchable, and to try and reason with you would be pointless. See my first point about the God Steve as to why Steve is equally untouchable.

          And if this goes to comment review and doesn’t get posted, then to the person who moderates this website and reads this comment: shame on you. I challenge you to find one popular secular humanist website that goes around deleting theist comments rather than providing rebuttals to their arguments.

          • Jon,

            Concerning your first “reason” that the argument is “invalid”:

            First, if two entities share the same properties and no dissimilar properties then the two entities are indistinguishable. The two entities are the same. So in the case of Steve, Steve is the same as Yahweh, and you are calling Yahweh by a different name.

            Second, if Steve possesses dissimilar properties such that Steve is a different entity than Yahweh then Steve may be rendered disanalogous such that the same things may not be said of Steve.

            Third, the Christian God is *theistic*, rather than *deistic*. So you did not, “get things straight.”

            Fourth, the argument is not *for* deism or theism. Rather, the argument concerns the burden of proof.

            Fifth, in admitting that Steve is created you render Steve disanalogous since the Christian does not admit that God is created.

            Sixth, the Christian in this case would not ascribe properties to God anyway, since God is simple, and hence Steve is disanalogous.

            Seventh, neither the existence nor the concept of Steve has actually been set forth as satisfying the preconditions of intelligibility.

            Eighth, even if the Steve analogy is successful, it would only follow that the a-Steveist likewise carries the burden of proof. This would not mean that the atheist does not also carry the burden of proof.

            Ninth, the assertions you have made assume the intelligibility of human experience apart from the Christian God. Hence you imply that the Christian God, who claims ownership of intelligible human experience, does not exist, and you own a burden of proof in showing that this is the case (conceding one point of the post).

            Tenth, the assertions you have made assume the intelligibility of human experience apart from the Christian God. Hence you imply that the necessary preconditions of intelligibility highlighted, for example, in the post, are able to be accounted for within the context of a non-Christian worldview, and you own a burden of proof in showing that this is the case (conceding another point of the post).

            Eleventh, note that the “reasons” you give for why this argument is “invalid” differ from the “reasons” offered from the host of other atheists who have commented on this post. It would be one thing if the atheists were pointing out the same alleged difficulty, but as it is, they are not, and one suspects it is because there is not really a problem with the argument and the atheists are attempting to make one up.

            Concerning your second “reason” that the argument is “invalid”:

            First, you state, “more importantly, the argument is invalid anyway” as a “reason” that the argument is “invalid.” That is, ‘A reason that the argument is invalid, is because the argument is invalid anyway.’ So your argument is, ‘The argument is invalid, therefore the argument is invalid.’ But this takes the form A therefore A, which is *petitio principii*, a logical fallacy.

            Second, you pack a lot of other alleged counter-arguments into your second “reason” that the argument is “invalid” instead of writing them out separately, but I will address them as your second “reason” anyway.

            Third, you have not defined what you mean by “circular reasoning” (vicious circularity, logical circularity, virtuous circularity, epistemic circularity, etc.).

            Fourth, you did not write the argument out in syllogistic form in attempting to demonstrate that the argument is circular even though that is apparently what you were attempting to do.

            Fifth, the conclusion of your attempted syllogism does not even represent the content of the conclusion informally stated in the post. Notice that the argument in the post does not say that, “Entity A is immune from rebuttal from reason, logic or rationality” or that “The atheist must find other means to disprove Entity A’s existence.” The post has nothing to do with either of these claims. You have misunderstood the argument, which concerns the issue of the burden of proof, not the alleged immunity of God or an atheist’s need to find other means to disprove God’s existence. I do not know where you got that at all.

            Sixth, I prefer to get my knowledge concerning the Cartesian mal genie and the anachronistic deus deceptor from more reliable sources than a Google search, like, the original sources. Please point me toward the passage in Descartes you have in mind and explain what either of the two aforementioned concepts has to do with the post. You have not been clear.

            Seventh, the argument of the post above is not an argument for the existence of the Christian God, but rather an argument concerning the issue of the burden of proof, so your statement about, “other entities that are just as likely to exist under the above argument” shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the post on your part. It is not an argument that the existence of God is likely; it is not even an argument for the existence of God. It is an argument concerning the burden of proof.

            Eighth, the assertions you have made assume the intelligibility of human experience apart from the Christian God. Hence you imply that the Christian God, who claims ownership of intelligible human experience, does not exist, and you own a burden of proof in showing that this is the case (conceding one point of the post).

            Ninth, the assertions you have made assume the intelligibility of human experience apart from the Christian God. Hence you imply that the necessary preconditions of intelligibility highlighted, for example, in the post, are able to be accounted for within the context of a non-Christian worldview, and you own a burden of proof in showing that this is the case (conceding another point of the post).

            Tenth, indeed you, “cannot claim a circular logic fallacy” without taking on a burden of proof and, “cannot claim to have no burden of proof.” Your response is, “then I shall simply head-desk and cry myself to sleep,” which obviously is not an argument. If you want to engage in rational discourse then great, but you are only betraying your anti-intellectualism by making this sort of assertion.

            Eleventh, when I state in the point above that you, “cannot claim a circular logic fallacy” without taking on a burden of proof and, “cannot claim to have no burden of proof” without making an argument, I do not define the, “argument as untouchable.” Rather, I am pointing out two means of response on your part that do not satisfactorily rebut the argument in question. It does not follow that there are not other ways you might rebut the argument, you just have not offered any.

            Twelfth, note that the “reasons” you give for why this argument is “invalid” differ from the “reasons” offered from the host of other atheists who have commented on this post. It would be one thing if the atheists were pointing out the same alleged difficulty, but as it is, they are not, and one suspects it is because there is not really a problem with the argument and the atheists are attempting to make one up.

            This site belongs to the contributors of Choosing Hats and the comments here are moderated. Neither of these facts is kept secret. Not only has your comment been let through, but your comment has been thoroughly rebutted. I did not have to take the time to do either. Please respond in kind by addressing each of my points.

            In my experience, when atheists on the Internet are shown why their reasoning is flawed, they respond by making sweeping, vague claims about the alleged problem of the demonstration without explaining the specifics, resort to attacking the one who provided the demonstration, or dismiss the demonstration altogether, usually with a condescending remark intended to save face. Be forewarned that I do not have a lot of time on my hands. If you resort to any of the responses mentioned above then I will not hesitate to mark your comment as Spam.

            You do not have to have your comment marked as Spam. I look forward to your detailed and thoughtful response to the twenty-three points above or else a concession that the atheist does, in fact, carry a burden of proof. Thanks!

          • Hi, sorry only just seen this reply. You raise some interesting rebuttals (and some bad ones) and I shall attempt to reply to each one soonish. There’s no reply button under your post for some reason so I’m replying to this one.

            Hopefully I’ll have a reply for you by the end of the week. For now I just want to reply to your claim that I didn’t understand the argument.

            How is this:

            “To say they don’t believe he exists is to say that it is *possible* to do these things (reason, weigh evidence, etc.) without him existing. But God says it is not possible to do them without him existing. Therefore (by implication) they are saying “This kind of God *does not* exist”.”

            different from what I outlined in my bullet points?

          • ==SECTION 1: STEVEISM==

            1) Yahweh is a very specific deity with some very specific doctrines. I could define Steve as *similar* to Yahweh, but then claim some differences, for example I could deny the divinity of Christ, or I could claim that Steve requires that you *don’t* worship Jesus Christ in order to be saved. Or it could be a minor difference, e.g. Steve requires that you wear yellow when worshipping him. The important thing to note here is that it is possible to have a god that is dissimilar to Yahweh but is similar with respect to all the claims that Yahweh is used in the original argument.

            2) Steve now possesses dissimilar properties than Yahweh. However the properties that are different are irrelevant to both Yahweh’s and Steve’s claims that they created the world, that their existence is necessary for knowledge, ethics, aesthetics, etc. They both make the same bold claim about everyone’s ability to reason, weigh evidence, draw conclusions, etc. They claim that none of those actions that we all do on a daily basis would be possible unless they existed as described in their respective holy books.

            3) I will concede this point for now. I think the fact that you are trying to use this as proof that there is a burden of proof on the atheist against a personal God further weakens your argument, since it cannot differentiate between Yahweh and Steve. If you were arguing for a vaguer deist creator god then it would be more difficult to construct a similar yet different being, since the deist god is a simple god. See 6.

            4) Point taken, sorry for taking the argument out of context.

            5) Again you are missing the larger picture that it is possible to define a god that fits all the necessary characteristics for the same argument to be used, but that is not Yahweh. If it helps, Steve was begotten not created.

            6) Claiming that God is simple seems to contradict your earlier claim; you said that this is an argument to do with theism rather than deism, indeed a specific form of theism, i.e. Christianity. Christianity has several doctrines and specific beliefs, the most core of these being the divinity of Christ and the idea of the Trinity.

            7) Please clarify what you mean here. In any case you are attacking this specific manifestation of Steve, missing the point of the argument (see 5).

            8) Agreed. However I was using this to show that this is not an argument that the atheist has a burden of proof with regards to Yahweh, but rather an argument that the atheist (and any non-Steveist) has a burden of proof to any of the infinite possible manifestations of Steve. While this doesn’t on its own disprove the argument, it shows how useless it is since you have now said that everyone has a burden of proof to disprove infinite other possible gods with the same qualities as described in 2.

            9) You’ve just made the same argument again, and so here we start the infinite circular logic of your argument. See SECTION 2. If it helps illustrate this, your point assumes the intelligibility of human experience apart from Steve. Hence you imply that Steve, who claims ownership of intelligible human experience, does not exist, and you own a burden of proof in showing that this is the case.

            10) Substitute Christian God for Steve (or infinite other possible gods) in the same way that 9 does. Every single one of these Gods contradicts all the others in the same way.

            11) I am thankful to Steve that logic does not work in this way. Due to the amazing power of Steve, the way that rationality works is that if there is one valid rebuttal to an argument, then that argument has been successfully falsified. Also I could, if you desire, link you to a discussion of this post on a different website where there have been several posts, all saying basically the same things I have in these two sections.

            ==SECTION 2: CIRCULAR LOGIC==

            1) This was simply me putting the conclusion of section 2 at the start, and this was not intended to be interpreted as a conjecture.

            2) This is not a rebuttal but merely a statement.

            3) Petitio Principii, the same fallacy with which you were trying to attack my supposed first conjecture. See 10. One hidden original claim is “Until there is proof that God does not exist we will assume he exists” (without existing he could not make any claims or have any claims made about him) and the conclusion is “you must prove that God does not exist”.

            4) It would help if the original argument was in syllogistic form, since at the moment I’m having to try and do that for you.

            5) See 11.

            6) Taken from wikipedia: In his 1641 Meditations on First Philosophy, René Descartes hypothesises the existence of an evil demon, a personification who is “as clever and deceitful as he is powerful, who has directed his entire effort to misleading me.” The evil demon presents a complete illusion of an external world, including other people, to Descartes’ senses, where in fact there is no such external world in existence. The evil genius also presents to Descartes’ senses a complete illusion of his own body, including all bodily sensations, when in fact Descartes has no body. Most Cartesian scholars opine that the evil demon is also omnipotent, and thus capable of altering mathematics and the fundamentals of logic.

            This is the being I wished you to consider. It uses very similar logic: the demon has ownership over your intelligibility and the fundamentals of logic themselves. Therefore you cannot use logic or rationality to disprove it. Moreover the burden of proof is on you to disprove it – without the demon it would not be possible for you to think rationally.

            (Even if this isn’t the exact being the Descartes hypothesises, it is one I would like you to consider. Really this belongs in section 1.)

            7) Again apologies. To clarify, other entities also demand the same level of proof as the Christian God under this argument. Again this belongs in section 1.

            8 and 9) Okay here we go. See point 11.

            10)
            a) You, if I am not mistaken, have now put forward the claim that it is impossible to use logic without first disproving the Christian God, and respond to any rebuttal with the exact same claim. Is this true? Assuming it is, as I said in my first post, you have defined a being as necessary, and/or immune to logic. At that point it ceases to be worth discussing.

            b) It is worth noting at this point that I don’t even need a god such as Steve to refute your argument; I can *myself* claim to have created the world, and that my existence is necessary for knowledge, ethics, aesthetics, etc. I claim that your ability to reason, weigh evidence, draw conclusions, etc. would not be possible unless I existed exactly as I do. If you attempt to refute this claim using rationality, I shall question how you can assume the intelligibility of human experience apart from me. Remember under my claim, Yahweh does not exist. To use Yahweh to assume the intelligibility of human experience is to first use human intelligibility, which you cannot yet do.

            c) I hope you can agree with me that Yahweh’s claim of human intelligibility is built upon the assumption of Yahweh’s existence. Unless he exists he cannot make any claim. The same goes for any Creator God. In the same way, I am making the assumption that I am omnipotent (which as we both know is not true) and the rest of the argument follows from that.

            11) My point was that you cannot define an argument as immune from logic or rationality, which appears to be what you are trying to do. You keep saying that it is not, but then every time there is an argument against it, you say “you must first prove that God does not exist” and any attempt to prove that God does not exist must of course use rationality and logic, or at the very least human intelligibility.

            12) See SECTION 1 reply 11.

            A final point and conclusion: “I don’t believe a God exists” isn’t an assertion of fact, yet you insist it be backed up. You will find very few gnostic atheists (those who claim it is possible to disprove a God), and even fewer who claim knowledge of objective moral truth and wish to influence politics, law, education and foreign policy based on these morals. The point of view of the secular humanist is that morals should be the subject of debate and that nobody can claim knowledge of objective moral truth until they prove their source of objective moral truth to be true. If there was a burden of proof on everyone to prove that somebody else’s claim of knowledge of objective moral truth was incorrect, as suggested by the original argument, we would get nowhere as a species as we would never be able to disprove that knowledge. I would encourage all people who think they do have a basis of claiming objective moral truth to realise that until they can prove these claims, they must be backed up through other means.

            Feel free to reply to as many or as few points as you see fit. The only points I would really request you reply to are:

            * The main idea of Section 1, that is similar creator entities that also make claims directly contradictory to other claims of Yahweh and are therefore not the same.
            * Section 2 points 3 &10 (claim of circular logic)
            * Section 2 point 11 (claim that you have defined your argument as untouchable)
            * Comment on the claim of objective moral truth of theism versus the lack of claim of objective moral truth of atheism in the last paragraph.

            Finally I must apologise for assuming that my comment would not be shown, I have had bad experiences with Christian websites in the past. And trust me I have had a similar problem with theists as you have had with atheists.

          • Steve possesses properties that are similar to Yahweh’s ‘properties’ and properties that are dissimilar to Yahweh’s ‘properties.’ That will do, except that you still wrote, “The important thing to note here is that it is possible to have a god that is dissimilar to Yahweh but is similar with respect to all the claims that Yahweh is used in the original argument.” The claims that Yahweh makes includes *all* of the claims of Yahweh. Again, it is the God of Christian Scripture in particular that the covenant apologist starts out with. If you are lost here, just disregard, and we will focus upon the clarification of Steve that I restated above.

            I understand your claim that it is, “possible to define a god that fits all the necessary characteristics for the same argument to be used, but that is not Yahweh,” but I strongly disagree. I will give you at least two reasons that I disagree. The first is that in the context of my worldview it is *not* possible to define another god that provides for intelligibility. Possibility is not a neutral concept. The second is that in the context of your hypothetical worldview it is not possible to do so. You are suggesting that we stipulate a concept to make stipulation possible, which is a contradiction. This is the difficulty with admitting that you are stipulating the concept of Steve, something the Christian does not admit with respect to the Christian God. As far as trying to posit another entity to put that entity’s unbelievers on the defensive with a burden of proof, that’s fine. It just has nothing to do with the argument of the post, because it does not change the atheist’s burden of proof.

            When I say that God is ‘simple’ I am referring to the Christian doctrine of simplicity, but it is an aside anyway.

            When I stated that neither the existence nor the concept of Steve has actually been set forth as satisfying the preconditions of intelligibility, I meant that no arguments or explanations as to how exactly Steve supposedly satisfies the preconditions of intelligibility have been made. This is not true with regard to the Christian God, for such arguments and explanations have been offered for thousands of years. I realize that these arguments were not made in the original post, but that post could be read as a part of the tradition and method discussed on this site and elsewhere. Steve does not have any bite in comparison.

            You concede that Steve does not disprove the argument of the post, but claim that it shows the argument is useless. But the argument is not useless, because not only is it successful, but it would apply in the situation where the atheist is interacting with the Christian. I agree that any other gods we implicitly or explicitly deny would likewise require some work to be done with respect to their dismissal. This is one reason why three of my debate opponents in the past have found their positions of atheism untenable and changed to agnosticism.

            You object that the argument of the post exhibits “infinite circular logic,” but this is incorrect. I might just as easily say of your response that, again, you assume the intelligibility of human experience apart from the Christian God in calling the argument of the post circular, and hence you engage in “infinite circular logic” as well! You attempt to turn the rhetoric back on me here with Steve, but I have explained above why Steve cannot account for intelligible experience (see my comments on stipulation above).

            Sure, post your link to the site discussing this thread. In any event, my point stands concerning the atheist confusion with this post. I understand that you can only control what you do though, and not what others do.

            I am a bit surprised by your claim that, “without existing he could not make any claims or have any claims made about him.” As I mentioned in another comment, the people commenting here need to understand arguendo.

            Regarding the syllogism…don’t you think it is a bit much to ask me to make a perfectly clear informal argument into a formal syllogism in order to help you refute it?

            I am still puzzled by your quotes from Wikipedia on the alleged Cartesian demon. It seems you want to posit a deceptive omnipotent being that undermines rationality because it exists, but then you turn around and claim that rationality is only possible because it exists. Since you are struggling to coherently state the objection on your own, I would much prefer to go to the text of Descartes itself and discuss your concerns, whatever those are. What section do you have in mind? Or have you not read Descartes?

            No, I have not put forward the claim that, “it is impossible to use logic without first disproving the Christian God.” That has nothing to do with the post. The post is merely addressing the atheist’s burden of proof. I have to confess my utter amazement at how many people commenting here want the post to be about everything else but what it actually says! Nobody is defining the argument as immune from logic or rationality. I think you are trying to jump ahead to something that the argument over burden of proof is not saying.

            “I don’t believe God exists” is an assertion of fact. What else do you think it is? That assertion carries with it a burden of proof that the atheist seems unwilling to bear.

            You wanted me to comment on your claims about objective moral truth. I’m not sure what that has to do with anything here, but maybe you could explain your statements and concerns a bit more.

            I appreciate that you are here, that you are reading, that you are responding, and that you are thinking. That is much more than other atheists whose blogs you frequent can say.

          • “The first is that in the context of my worldview it is *not* possible to define another god that provides for intelligibility. Possibility is not a neutral concept.”

            If you can say this, why can I not simply say that in my “worldview,” it is not possible for your god to exist?

            You don’t have to defend your lack of belief in other gods because their existence is nonsensical to you. Why should others have to defend their failure to believe in a god who makes no sense to them?

          • Of course I can say that it is not possible to define another god that provides for intelligibility in my worldview. That is just one of the tenets of my worldview. You may posit the same sort of claim from within your worldview, as you suggest above, but that does not have any relevance to what I was saying in the comment above. You seem to think I was saying something that I was not.

            So let’s go with your suggestion that within your worldview it is not possible for my God to exist. That’s fine. But when you make a claim to the effect, “It is not possible for your God to exist” or something else similar to that, you bear the burden of proof with respect to such a bold claim. This is just a basic fact that the unbeliever should acknowledge.

            I never claimed that I do not have to defend my “lack of belief in other gods.” I’m not sure where you’re getting that from. As to the question of your very last line, I’d encourage you to reread the post, and perhaps all of the many responses here as well. The question has been answered over and over again now.

        • noun (dictionary.com)
          1.
          the doctrine or belief that there is no God.
          OR THIS (and this is more correct in atheists I’ve met): 2.
          disbelief in the existence of a supreme being or beings.

      • Rosa: “Atheism is nothing more than acceptance that there is no evidential reason to be anything else.”

        Well, I’ve show in the post above that this is not the case at all. To wit:

        “To say they don’t believe he exists is to say that it is *possible* to do these things (reason, weigh evidence, etc.) without him existing. But God says it is not possible to do them without him existing. Therefore (by implication) they are saying “This kind of God *does not* exist”.”

        Rosa: “Since theists such as yourself are making the positive claim that there is indeed a reason to believe in whatever god you are advocating, the onus of poof is firmly with you.”

        Yes, we do indeed share the burden of proof. Nowhere in my post do I say otherwise.

        Rosa: “It is the height of intellectual dishonesty to make an unsubstantiated claim of fact and then challenge other people to disprove your claim with the implication that otherwise it’s true.”

        I’m not asking the atheist to disprove anything – I’m asking them to own up to their burden of proof.

        “Besides, aren’t Christians forbidden from bearing false witness or is this permitted if you don’t have any evidence you can use?”

        For a Christian to bear false witness is only a problem if Christianity is true. Do you think it is true?

        BK

    • “Dismissal of extraordinary evidence requires an extraordinary reason for doing so”

      The cornerstone of Christianity is faith. Faith has many definitions, but the one we’re using here is Hebrews 11. If there was good evidence then there is no faith, but sight.

      You cannot have it both ways. You cannot claim to have extraordinary evidence for he existence of Yahweh and then claim you walk by faith.

      “I believe Yahweh is the one true God, I mean, just look at the trees!” Is not extraordinary evidence.

      • This is more a Kierkegaardian view of faith than it is a biblical one.

        The passage you reference is not talking about Yahweh. You are misunderstanding what the author means when he speaks of the things hoped for and things unseen, because you are divorcing the verse you have in mind from its context and reading a popular understanding back into it.

      • jvlp,

        I was playing on the meaning of “extraordinary” used in the former statement, and very loosely at that. What the atheist has to do is come up with a reason all of reality does *not* point to God. Or else points to *not* God. There is no piece of evidence found in reality that points to anything other than its Creator. If there were no Creator of evidence, there would be no evidence, period. “The only proof for the existence of God is that without Him you couldn’t prove anything.” Or, as I like to put it, “there would be nothing to prove.”

        Matthias

      • except no one has brought evidence so far. That’s the problem. it’s not about dismissing evidence, atheists are dismissing evidence-free claims. (I’ve been catholic for a long time and there has been not one piece of evidence.)
        Claiming the bible says so is a circular argument
        I agree, dismissing extraordinary evidence would require serious counter evidence but since there hasn’t been any evidence in the first place, it’s a claim not evidence.

  4. Atheists shoulder the burden of proof on account of the belief they do have. It is not that atheists believe or affirm that God does not exist. Not only do most atheists deny affirming anything of the sort but that also would contradict the Christian worldview (as argued presuppositionally in Reformed theology). What atheists believe and affirm is that God is unnecessary. Ponder this thoughtfully. Atheists are usually quick to tell others that atheism is the absence of belief in God, that they simply have no such belief. The Christian apologist can demonstrate that the reason why atheists have no such belief (and thus insist that the burden rests on the theist to show that God exists) is because of their presupposed ‘atheos’ starting point. In other words, the belief that an atheist does NOT have is a product of the belief he DOES have; that is to say, when an atheist tells you that he merely does not have any belief in God, he is putting on a smoke-and-mirrors show, trying to hide the belief he does have (God is unnecessary) behind the belief he does not have (God exists).

    Note: Atheists might object to the use of the singular “God” and insist that atheism is not a position on one God but rather any gods. I have two points in response to such an objection. First, the existence of just a single God is sufficient to shipwreck atheism against the rocks of delusion; thus plurality is superfluous. Second, the Greek atheos consists of the privative alpha negating theos (God, singular). In other words, their objection would be grammatically incorrect, as the plural of theos is theoi (and the word atheism does not come from the Greek atheoi).

    • AnotherPasserby

      “the belief that an atheist does NOT have is a product of the belief he DOES have; that is to say, when an atheist tells you that he merely does not have any belief in God, he is putting on a smoke-and-mirrors show, trying to hide the belief he does have (God is unnecessary) behind the belief he does not have (God exists).”

      So let me get this straight: are you attempting to say that having no beliefs is a belief in itself? So therefore the burden of proof goes on Atheists?…

      Atheists are simply denying the existence of a God, and theists are the ones proposing otherwise. Therefore the burden shifts on the theist until a rational reasoning can be made.

      As Austin Cline once pointed out,
      “some burden of proof always lies with the person who is making a claim, not the person who is hearing the claim and who may not initially believe it. In practice, then, this means that the initial burden of proof lies with the theist, not with the atheist. Both the atheist and the theist probably agree on a great many things, but it is the theist who asserts the further belief in the existence of a god.”

      • Matthias McMahon

        Perhaps David would like to respond to you himself, but I would like to point out that he didn’t say “having no beliefs” is a belief. “Having no beliefs” is not the same as the belief, “I have no beliefs.” Your “belief” is “I have no beliefs.” If you think that’s contradictory, you would be right, and that’s our point. However, where this is brought to bear is in your belief: “God’s existence is unnecessary in order for me to deny belief in him.” However, to affirm that (either explicitly or implicitly) entails a positive claim which itself bears a burden of proof. To deny God exists is to affirm His existence is unnecessary for your own existence.

        Furthermore, we affirm, not only that God exists, but that you *know* this. To deny that you know that God exists is to say, once again, that this God (who exists such that you know he does) *does not exist.* Even in your denial you are making a positive claim, since your denial requires the positive claim, “It is possible, contrary to the Christian God, that I do not know God exists.”

        I’ve only restated what BK said in the original post, which is:

        “To say they don’t believe he exists is to say that it is *possible* to do these things (reason, weigh evidence, etc.) without him existing. But God says it is not possible to do them without him existing. Therefore (by implication) they are saying “This kind of God *does not* exist”. It isn’t an explicitly positive claim that God does not exist, but is rather an implicitly positive claim. Either way, it is a positive claim, and therefore they own a burden of proof.”

  5. So, you start with the question “Do you believe that the Christian god exists?” To which an atheist will respond “No.” as they lack belief in all gods. You then say “Ah, but He claims that everyone knows he exists. He claims that he created the world. He claims that his existence is necessary for knowledge, ethics, aesthetics, etc. In short, he makes a bold claim about everyone’s ability to reason, weigh evidence, draw conclusions, etc. He claims that none of those actions that we all do on a daily basis would be possible unless he existed as described in the Bible.”

    From this you then go on to claim that “They are relying upon all these basic beliefs that the God of the Bible claims *only* make sense if he exists.”

    Huge problem here.
    P: You disbelieve the existence of the Christian god.
    P: The Christian god says that existence (and what not) is only possible with him.
    P: The atheist is implicitly claiming that the Christian god is not necessary.
    C: Burden of proof lies on the atheist.

    Look at the second premise. “The Christian god says that existence (and what not) is only possible with him” notice anything funny? That is implying that the Christian god exists, as it is the only way that the premise is correct. So right back to the burden of proof being on the theist in order to prove that their god, and thus his claims, are true.

    [expletive removed]

    • MrImmoli – the short of it is this. The atheist believes they are able to exist (and what not) apart from the existence of the Christian God. Each time they proceed to draw a conclusion, they imply that such a conclusion-drawing exercise is at least *possible* without the existence of God. This is clear from the fact that they perform these conclusion-drawing exercises while lacking a belief in God. Whether God exists is not is irrelevant (in a sense) to this argument. That is, his actual existence is not required (in a sense) to give the argument its force. So, there is no implication (in the sense you think there is) that God exists. We are arguing from a hypothetical here, and nothing more.

      Look at it this way. I don’t believe the FSM exists. However, let’s say for the sake of argument that the FSM were defined such that existence apart from the FSM was not possible. Now I might say on the one hand that I am merely “without” a belief in the existence of the FSM. However, once this particular attribute about the FSM is brought up, I can no longer say in truth that I am merely without belief; in fact, I do believe existence without the FSM is possible (and therefore that the FSM does not exist, in the way it is defined) due to the fact that I a) believe I exist and b) lack belief in the existence of the FSM. It is a conclusion that is implied by two prior beliefs I hold.

      The same is true with respect to the God of the Bible – whether or not he actually exists (which he does).

      BK

  6. I don’t remember in the Bible the passage where Jesus says, “Go out unto the world and have ye inane arguments concerning the existence of my Father.” He had a few other things to say and had simplified his thoughts on God’s commands into two basic ideas. Both contained the idea of Love. Atheists should be shown Love, not arguments over why they are wrong to be atheists.

    • I don’t remember in the Bible the passage where Jesus says, “Go out unto the world and make ye inane blog comments concerning the inanity of apologetics.” He had a few other things to say and had simplified his thoughts on God’s commands into two basic ideas. Both contained the idea of Love. However, we are also told to preach the word – in season, and out of season. We are told to tell the truth, in love. Atheists should be told the truth with love. Instead of making arguments about why it’s wrong to make arguments, do what the Bible says, and destroy speculations, and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God. That is, apologetics.

  7. Your argument is hugely fallacious because it assumes that your god exists, and then demands that the atheist prove it (because your bible says your god says he does) … this is circular reasoning.

    Next …

    • The argument is not fallacious at all. It is not circular reasoning. Why? It does not assume that God exists, but rather notes that the atheist must take into account what type of God it is we are talking about. Just as we can describe unicorns without claiming that they exist, so also we can describe the God of the Bible without claiming He exists. Now go back and read the post again and it should make more sense.

    • Rant – the argument doesn’t demand that the atheist prove that God exists. It argues that when it comes to the God of the Bible, even the atheist has a burden of proof; not to prove that God exists, but to demonstrate how it is they can do the things they do (argue, communicate, induce, etc) while assuming this God does *not* exist.

      If you still think the argument assumes that God exists, please point out what in the post leads you to this conclusion.

      Thanks in advance …

      • Premise 1. Atheists use logic and reasoning to argue against the Christian God.
        “This position of not having a burden of proof is fine until one considers that holding any position whatsoever – even one of skepticism – implies a lot of things about reality, knowledge, possibly ethics, etc. That is, everyone (including the atheist) has certain assumptions (let’s call them “basic beliefs”) that they are leaning on in order to make any sort of claim, including the claim “I don’t believe in God.””

        2. The Christian God claims to be the source of logic and reasoning.
        “He claims that his existence is necessary for knowledge, ethics, aesthetics, etc. In short, he makes a bold claim about everyone’s ability to reason, weigh evidence, draw conclusions, etc.”

        3. Therefore, the burden is on the atheist to prove their logic does not stem from God.
        “To say they don’t believe he exists is to say that it is possible to do these things (reason, weigh evidence, etc.) without him existing.”

        Premise 2 assume the existence of God. You cannot use God as a proof for God that is the definition of circular reasoning using a premise as the conclusion.

        The burden still lies with the theist to prove that God is the source of knowledge, reason, morality, et all.

        • “Premise 2 assume the existence of God. You cannot use God as a proof for God that is the definition of circular reasoning using a premise as the conclusion.”

          As I have stated elsewhere, this argument works just fine even if we take the words of God as hypothetical, which we can do for the sake of argument, unless you know he does not exist. Do you claim to know he does not exist?

          “The burden still lies with the theist to prove that God is the source of knowledge, reason, morality, et all.”

          The burden lies with both parties, Nick, by virtue of what they both assume upon entering into the discussion.

          BK

          • > The burden lies with both parties, Nick, by virtue of what they both assume upon entering into the discussion.

            I disagree, I believe both parties have a burden of support and must support their side with arguments and whatever evidence can be presented. However, only theists hold actual burden of proof.

            Theists like to claim atheists have some sort of burden of proof because it helps to even the playing field by shifting the burden off of the theist side. The reason for doing this is simple, when asked to provide proof the theist cannot do so, therefore, it is easiest to shift focus to the atheist side. The best strategy for an un-winnable debate is to put the opposition on the defensive. So I understand why you want atheists to share burden of proof but it doesn’t change anything. Atheists are not making a positive claim and therefore have no burden of proof.

            I hate bringing up cliché arguments but I feel it’s apt: The Greek pantheon of Gods was never empirically disproved, they simply fell out of popular favour… Would you claim that there is a burden of proof on yourself to disprove the existence of Zeus? Or using a still active belief system: do you hold a burden of proof to disprove the existence of Krishna? (Keeping in mind that Hinduism is older than Christianity so it’s not some fly by night belief system…)

            If you believe that the Christian God deserves special consideration above and beyond what should be paid to Krishna or Zeus then you admit to holding a presupposed notion of the Christian God and prove my initial point. If you believe your logic to be sound then you must be willing to lend it to debates about other gods.

          • BK: “The burden lies with both parties, Nick, by virtue of what they both assume upon entering into the discussion.”

            Nick: “I disagree, I believe both parties have a burden of support and must support their side with arguments and whatever evidence can be presented. However, only theists hold actual burden of proof.”

            How would you distinguish a “burden of support” from a “burden of proof”? I’m not sure I’m tracking.

            Nick: “Theists like to claim atheists have some sort of burden of proof because it helps to even the playing field by shifting the burden off of the theist side.”

            Atheists like to claim they don’t have any burden of proof, because it helps their case by placing all the focus on the theist side.

            Nick: “The reason for doing this is simple, when asked to provide proof the theist cannot do so, therefore, it is easiest to shift focus to the atheist side.”

            You might have a point, except I stated above that both parties have a burden of proof. Obviously if the theist has a burden of proof and doesn’t meet it, then they have failed – just like the atheist.

            Nick: “The best strategy for an un-winnable debate is to put the opposition on the defensive.”

            Wow, how ironic is that?

            Nick: “So I understand why you want atheists to share burden of proof but it doesn’t change anything. Atheists are not making a positive claim and therefore have no burden of proof.”

            Did you actually read the post above? Atheists are *implicitly* making all sorts of positive claims every time they think, reason, speak, etc. If you disagree with this, then offer your reasons why. At this point it doesn’t seem like you even understand the argument.

            BK

          • Let me try to approach this from a different angle…

            If both sides simultaneously held the burden of proof throughout the discussion, then the whole notion of burden of proof would be both meaningless and unnecessary. The Latin origination of burden of proof (maxim semper necessitas prabandi icumbit ei qui agit) roughly translates to “the necessity of proof always lies with the person who layes charges”. Burden of proof does not mean that holding beliefs about the world are not the equivilant of making assertions.

            The discussion always must be started by one side and as such the burden of proof is always held in the beginning by one side. This is simply inevitable. When you attempt to argue that atheists hold an equal burden of proof, you have yourself accepted a burden of proof and attempted to support your claim that atheists must hold an equal burden of proof. Likewise, if an atheist were to begin a discussion by asserting that God does not exist, the burden of proof would lie with the atheist.

            So, the burden of proof always begins with one side. Otherwise, why have a “burden of proof” to begin with?

          • “…the burden of proof would lie with the atheist.”

            Great! I am glad you finally conceded this.

            It’s unfortunate that prior to doing so you accused us of “specious reasoning” and “intellectual dishonesty.” You also called this post and comments a “burden shifting exercise” and a “desperate move.” You even asked, “why does the burden of proof even matter?”

            Kind of looks bad now that you agree with us that a burden of proof rests with the atheist, don’t you think?

          • If the positive atheist begins a discussion with the assertion that God does not exist, then they would hold the burden of proof and need to provide some sort of justification in support of this claim. Typically they do try to provide some sort of justification, whether the justification be lack of evidence for God or an actual argument for God’s non-existence.

            What I see happening quite frequently though is the theist starting their argument by stating the atheist has an “equal burden of proof” because everyone holds beliefs, i.e. presuppositions when they enter the discussion. This is simply incorrect. The theist starts the discussion by making the assertion that God exists and therefore initially holds the burden of proof.

          • Edit to my last comment:

            I stated: Burden of proof does not mean that holding beliefs about the world are not the equivilant of making assertions.”

            It should just read “People don’t hold a burden of proof by mere virtue of the fact that they hold beliefs. Holding beliefs about the world is not the equivilant of making assertions.”

          • Holding beliefs about the world is the equivalent of holding positions regarding particular propositions which when given expression are equivalent to assertions.

          • So if an atheist or agnostic does not express their beliefs, and a theist claims that God exists, then who holds the burden of proof?

        • Actually, Nick, you’re missing a tactical point here, which I actually find most useful.

          You see, step 3 provides what is rare in these sorts of debates, especially coming from the theistic side — a falsifiable claim.

          If you can prove to your own satisfaction (and whoever is listening to the debate) that one can reason, weigh evidence, etc., then you have disproven the Christian God, by the theist’s own argument. ;)

          Now, getting anyone you’re debating with to accept that you have proven you can know things is a difficult matter. ;)

          (Though one line of attack might be to argue that it is possible to know things within any given axiomatic system, therefore it is possible to know *something*, given the infinite space of axiomatic systems, therefore God is not required for knowledge. Hm. Have to contemplate that one, as it presents amusing comparisons with the sort of logic Plantinga uses, say.)

          • I agree with you Chris, I don’t know how you guys do it but keep up the good work. It’s as if they didn’t read the whole thing but just jumped the gun naively without recognizing the shared burden of proof.

  8. balderdash disingenuous drivel. we all have the same senses. if you want to believe something beyond those senses, go ahead, but the rest of us don’t have to prove anything

    • Actually the claim that, “we all have the same senses” is something that is believed, “beyond those senses.” You have not sensed that we all have the same senses. There are many other things you believe apart from sensory experience as well, such as identity, uniformity of nature, logical principles, and the scientific method, assuming that you care about those things.

      You merely asserted that, “the rest of us don’t have to prove anything,” but the post makes an *argument* for the opposite claim. Where is your counter-argument? Please note that a mere assertion is not an argument.

    • “if you want to believe something beyond those senses”

      Is it ok with you if we believe that you have something to prove?

      BK

  9. nonsense and drivel. your assertion that my “assertion is not an argument” is correct. it is not meant to be an argument. it is not required to be an argument. only logic is required. [contents edited to remove offensive material]

  10. So first you call my comment, “nonsense and drivel,” like any unthinking three-year-old can, and then you say that my comment is, “correct.” Which is it?

    At least you see that you are merely making assertions, but then, you should also see that you are just irrationally preaching atheism. Not only is that terribly anti-intellectual, it is unpersuasive, and against the rules for commenting on the site. If you’re just going to dismiss actual arguments and pay lip service to “logic” without using any then you will only hurt yourself. That type of empty, childish rhetoric may work on fundy atheist websites where atheistic fantasy is uncritically accepted and encouraged amongst wanna-be insta-scientists and insta-philosophers, but the Christians here, who care about actual rational discourse and argument, are not going to fall for it.

    Seriously, you fundamentalist atheists have a lot of growing up to do.

  11. …spoken like a true believer – afraid to look the truth in the face. no argument is necessary, or even possible, when faced with mythology.

    • chris – there is a “reply” button after each comment. It would be better to use that so that we all know which comment you are replying to.

      As to your comment, let’s embark on a little exercise here. You say “spoken like a true believer – afraid to look the truth in the face. no argument is necessary, or even possible, when faced with mythology.” Now, what if I say in response “spoken like a true atheist – afraid to look the truth in the face.”?

      See the problem with making bare assertions and not backing them up? They can be turned around against you so easily. You need to offer *reasons* why people should believe what you say, otherwise they aren’t likely to change their opinion.

      BK

    • Good grief chris, I am saddened by how far removed from reality you actually are.

      Recall that you just admitted you are making assertions without argument. It is not that I am, “afraid to look the truth in the face” then, or that, “no argument is necessary, or even possible, when faced with mythology,” but rather that *you are not making any argument* for me to look into. You just said that.

      Not only are your initial and subsequent comments not relevant to the post, but you have not said anything substantial. You have admitted as much. So if you cannot read, understand, or comment upon the actual post and will not make any argument, what are you doing here? Fundamentalist atheists like yourself appear to be masters at saying a whole lot without saying anything at all.

      Now are you going to actually try to take on the content of the post and subsequent comments or just keep making silly assertions that anyone could make?

  12. Let me see if I understand this:

    The specific claim “I do not believe God X exists” requires a higher burden of proof than “I do not believe gods exist”?

    This does, indeed, seem counter-intuitive.

    From what I am reading, the argument is that because GotB insists on a unique claim to that which atheists assert other causes/reasons/etc, the burden is now on the atheists to disprove those unique claims?

    Again, I fail to see the logic in this position.

    Now, it is possible (reading from the comments) that what is being argued here is essentially “Atheists must prove an acceptable basis for a world without God” because “GotB insists that existence could not be without GotB.” In which case, the naturalist arguments come back full force, do they not? The level of knowledge that is sufficient to assert “I do not believe in God(1…n)” is sufficient to assert “I do not believe in GotB.”

  13. Intuition is not rational argument. There are many counter-intuitive claims that are nevertheless true, however I am not granting that you have understood the point you cite.

    The burden of proof is upon the atheist not only because the atheist implicitly affirms that the God of the Bible does not exist, but also because the atheist implicitly affirms intelligible experience apart from the God of the Bible. Both of these were clear in the post. You appear to misunderstand the argument in thinking that it is saying the atheist is required to rebut the claim that the God of the Bible is responsible for intelligibility. To parse the argument out, the argument is saying the atheist has a burden of proof with respect to his or her implicit assumptions that the God of the Bible does not exist and/or that intelligibility is possible without reference to God. Perhaps this is what you meant, but in that case I do not know why you are confused regarding the logic of the argument.

    I do not understand your last paragraph or what you mean by “naturalist arguments.”

  14. From the perspective of someone who does not believe in the God of the Bible, I can only take this burden shifting exercise to be indicative of the fact that presuppositionalists are not in possession of actual evidence for the existence of God. And attempting such desperate moves as defining God such that existence is impossible without God, does not get one around the burden of proof.

    The question I have for presuppositionalists though is, why does the burden of proof even matter? What meaning does “burden of proof” have in a worldview where neutrality is a myth?”

    • From the perspective of someone who believes in the God of the Bible, I can only take this burden shifting exercise to be indicative of the fact that unbelievers are not in possession of actual evidence that their worldview is, in fact, true. Attempting such desperate moves as defining the world such that God cannot exist does not get one around the burden of proof.

      The question I have for unbelievers is this; why does the burden of proof even matter? If it is said that there *ought* to be a burden of proof (on either side), where does one get an “ought” from a worldview which does not seem to justify any such “oughts”?

      • Attempting such desperate moves as defining the world such that God cannot exist does not get one around the burden of proof.

        You know, I’ve been dealing with “proofs of God by the unaided reason”* for a long time, and I have yet to see a single atheist make that claim.

        Not required? Sure. Doesn’t exist? Sure. *Cannot* exist? No.
        (Though I have, I admit, seen “This specific divinity can’t exist because these attributes claimed for it are incompatible”)

        A simple search-and-replace is insufficient to make a reasonable point.

        And to answer your question for unbelievers (regardless of whether or not I am one): The burden of proof “matters” to people for rhetorical purposes; it sets up the question of “which side gets to judge whether the other’s argument is convincing.” Since both sides have a vested interest (at least, when committed to their point) in maintaining it, the position of judge is one of massive power. ;)

        And to answer your second question: One can get an “ought” from constructed ethical or logical systems, provided they are consistent. Which one you choose may depend, but there are plenty of ways to get an “ought” based on what system one is arguing from. ;)

        *I blame Aquinas.

      • “unbelievers are not in possession of actual evidence that their worldview is, in fact, true”

        And neither are believers.

        Thank you

        • Terry -

          In response to “unbelievers are not in possession of actual evidence that their worldview is, in fact, true” you said “And neither are believers.”

          Does this mean you agree with the statement that unbelievers are not in possession of actual evidence that their worldview is true?

          Thank you.

          BK

  15. Intuition is not rational argument.

    No, but it does suggest where the weight of proof might need to come from. ;)

    but also because the atheist implicitly affirms intelligible experience apart from the God of the Bible.

    This isn’t a rational argument either, this is a negotiating tactic. Adding more claims to one side of the table does *not* shift the burden of proof to the side not making claims, and yet that’s what’s going on here.

    (I’ll also note that and/or appearing in the middle of a logical statement is a rather bad sign. Either a) and b) or a) or b), but they’re very different statements.)

    “You appear to misunderstand the argument in thinking that it is saying the atheist is required to rebut the claim that the God of the Bible is responsible for intelligibility.”

    Well, from the original article:

    “To say they don’t believe he exists is to say that it is *possible* to do these things (reason, weigh evidence, etc.) without him existing. But God says it is not possible to do them without him existing. Therefore (by implication) they are saying “This kind of God *does not* exist”.”

    “There is no intelligbility w/out GotB” is the claim being made, and the atheist is somehow expected to rebut this because it is being rejected “implicitly” by asserting a disbelief in gods.

    I do find it interesting that this particular argument actually opens up a way to logically *disprove* the existence of, if not gods, the specific GotB — an acceptably-constructed explanation of knowledge that doesn’t involve GotB, by his own argument, proves him either a) non-existent, or b) a liar — which, I suspect, would violate one of the omni-s.

    (This argument is also amusingly similar to the Babel Fish argument, now that I look at it.)

    As to “naturalist arguments”:

    We have an omnipresent environment, in which all things (above certain radii and outside certain others ;)) can be knowable. The fact that no individual knows them all does not eliminate the fact that they are, to some extent, “knowable”.

    All of the arguments regarding the possible fallaciousness of sensory perception, of individual reasoning, etc., when dealing with “the material universe” fit equally well in terms of determining the truth-claims of a divine being; “How do you know?” is no better answered by “Divine revelation” than it is by “I carried out this experiment 1,000 times, and within experimental error, all the tests proved my point.” Both rely on human faculties.

    (This brings us back to the burden of proof; when one side proposes a system that requires no outside entities, and another side does, Occam’s ever-familiar razor suggests the burden of proof is on the one that requires the additional entities/complications. Arguing that “My entities raise questions that your worldview doesn’t answer, because they’re not in your worldview, so you have to prove how you can answer those questions” is not a valid argument for shifting the burden of proof.)

    • Burden of proof is ascribed to the individual(s) making a claim. It has nothing to do with intuition. There is no, “Adding more claims to one side of the table” going in here, nor is there a shift of the burden of proof to, “the side not making claims.” Here you are assuming that the atheist is making no claims, one of the very issues in question, and hence begging the question. I’ve known a lot of atheists in my life, and believe me, they make claims all the time. Some of their claims entail that God does not exist, and some of their claims assume the possibility of an atheistic epistemology. As for opening up a way of logically disproving the existence of God, that is your assertion, and I would be interested in seeing your argument. You are generally correct, however, that it is the entire Christian worldview that is on the table here, not merely one vacuous concept of a god. I see no similarity to the Babel Fish argument.

      What is an, “omnipresent environment”? (Where are you getting these odd terms from anyway? Are you just making them up?) What do you mean by, “know”?

      The temporal, practical use of human faculties is not necessarily called into question by the skeptical arguments you allude to in your comment. It certainly is not in the case of the way people here might argue. So, for example, the question becomes how the human faculties, unaided by divine revelation, are identifiable as successful epistemic tools in principle. Occam’s razor is completely irrelevant in the context of transcendental arguments, but you will probably make me run through why it’s not going to work the way you think it does in this context. I suppose that is alright.

      Again, assuming that the burden of proof is being “shifted” here merely begs the question. Also, do you have something in your eye?

      • There is no, “Adding more claims to one side of the table” going in here,

        But there is; from the original article:

        “He claims that everyone knows he exists. He claims that he created the world. He claims that his existence is necessary for knowledge, ethics, aesthetics, etc. In short, he makes a bold claim about everyone’s ability to reason, weigh evidence, draw conclusions, etc. He claims that none of those actions that we all do on a daily basis would be possible unless he existed as described in the Bible.”

        These are the claims I am referring to as “being added to the other side of the table”. The original article implies that their addition leads to a *greater* burden of proof on the *atheist* side.

        Some of their claims entail that God does not exist, and some of their claims assume the possibility of an atheistic epistemology.

        The reason I ventured into this discussion was the statement above that the nature of GotB requires a higher level of proof from the atheist who chooses not to believe in them for their own reasons. This is what I, admittedly unclearly, described as “Not making claims” — they are not making any *additional* claim that GotB does not exist that they do not feel is subsumed within “I do not believe in the existence of gods.”.

        What is an, “omnipresent environment”? (Where are you getting these odd terms from anyway? Are you just making them up?) What do you mean by, “know”?

        Omnipresent environment was, I believe, originally a Buckminster Fuller term, but I would have to check; I am using it here solely in the sense of “There is an environment — a material world — and it exists everywhere.” That’s the material world in which I am grounding epistemological claims.

        It has been a long time since I last studied epistemology in detail — I believe that I’d be arguing from a combination of a Piercian fallibilist position combined with what Wikipedia politely informs me is nowadays called by the rather unfortunate neologism of “foundherentism”. ;) The argument, roughly stated, is that insofar as we can know anything, we can only know it to a given level of certainty — and that knowledge is based upon repeated comparisons of sense-data to structures chosen for their combination of internal coherence and correlation to the outside world.

        To go beyond that level of knowledge is not something I’m certain (so to speak) it’s possible to do — however that level of knowledge has proven amazingly powerful in the advancement of humanity, and so I’m satisfied with it.

        Occam’s razor is completely irrelevant in the context of transcendental arguments, but you will probably make me run through why it’s not going to work the way you think it does in this context. I suppose that is alright.

        Let me see if I know why, and save you the trouble: A transcendental argument operates on the basis of “Presume thing X exists — what are the conditions {a,b,c} required for X to be true?” Occam’s Razor would only apply if there were multiple things fulfilling the conditions {a,b,c} and provided there were no other conditions that could be used to differentiate them, correct?

        Again, assuming that the burden of proof is being “shifted” here merely begs the question. Also, do you have something in your eye?

        Well, it’s not a contact lens, because I wear glasses. ;)

        I believe that if the existence of GotB can be proven or disproven by the unaided reason, the question of burden of proof becomes, well, irrelevant; we’ll find said proof or we won’t. And I strongly suspect that what people find acceptable in a proof will depend very much upon their presumptions about the world which, at some point, become immune to logical argument.

        What I was originally referring to, as I said above, was the claim that somehow GotB required an additional level of proof, beyond the general non-existence of gods.

        • The covenantal apologist’s concept of God is the one in question, and that concept already includes the items you noted. Hence, there is no “adding” here, for the covenantal apologist is not beginning with a generic philosophical concept of “god.” Certainly the concept to be debated does have implications for matters concerning the issue of the burden of proof, regardless of what that concept might be. Even atheists grant something similar in their rhetoric about “extraordinary” claims.

          How do you know whether or not there is a material world?

          • The covenantal apologist’s concept of God is the one in question, and that concept already includes the items you noted. Hence there is no “adding” here, for the covenantal apologist is not beginning with a generic philosophical concept of “god.”

            You know, I’m not going to keep going around on this particular point; whether or not something was “added” temporally, logically, or conceptually is not really the primary issue here — at least to my lights. If it is to yours, I can revisit it.

            How do you know whether or not there is a material world?

            I have no reliable evidence to the contrary, and, much as it sometimes pains me, the world continues to act in the manner I would predict it would do so if it actually existed.

            Like I said, I’m a Piercian fallibilist, with a healthy dose of coherentist thrown in.

            I’d quote Phil Dick’s line at you: “Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.” Stop believing in Santa, and you will no longer see evidence for Santa. Stop believing in the cars as you cross the street, and after enough experiments (probably, sadly, very few), you will receive evidence of your errors.

            Now, this doesn’t provide an air-tight philosophical certainty; but as far as I am concerned, such a thing is impossible. There are true statements of number theory that cannot be proven in a formal system of any power; if a compleat truth cannot be nailed down in even that rarefied realm, I refuse to pursue it in more complicated endeavours.

            You may ask, then, why I am trying to disprove the existence of God — in which case I will answer that I’m not, nor have I ever been; I’m arguing against a specific set of proofs *for* the existence thereof. I argue as a logician and contact-sport theologian, not as a seeker for certainty.

  16. If one does not have evidence of X, then that is not the equivilant of defining the world such that X cannot exist. Whether you are capable or not of deriving oughts from godless worldviews is irrelevant to the discussion. You are putting forth the claim that God exists and rather than backing up this claim, you are stating the burden of proof lies with the atheist to disprove God’s existence because of the way you have defined God. This is basically using circular reasoning to justify the fallacy of shifting the burden of proof.

    Apparently, you believe there are good ways to argue for the existence of the Biblical God without having to provide evidence. Shifting the burden of proof is not a very good way to pursue this endeavor.

    • Agreus,
      It’s your worldview, by its presuppositional commitments, that defines God out of existence. In short, the commitment to methodological naturalism and/or the application of human limitations to God is what does it. If you *cannot provide a reason for “ought” in saying what I “ought” to do, you cannot say what I “ought” to do.* I’m not merely claiming that God exists. I know God exists. I’m in no doubt on this score. My proof, regardless of your persuasion concerning it, is that without Him, you’re unable to prove anything. We’re stating that the atheist *also* has a burden of proof. Not that he alone has the burden of proof. As the post stated, numerous times, the unbeliever also has *a* burden of proof. Over and over and over and over in this discussion, I’m seeing a fundamental ability to _read_ from our atheist visitors. This is unacceptable, should our visitors wish to converse in any sort of meaningful fashion. This shouldn’t be difficult, but apparently it seems to be. So I’ll say it again. The atheist has *a burden of proof in this discussion*. Not the only – a burden of proof. Further, this is not a neutral burden of proof – this is a burden which has to be consonant with your own worldview’s demands – and the same goes for us. Please read what is written, instead of what you want to read. Thank you.

      • Razorkiss,

        “It’s your worldview, by its presuppositional commitments, that defines God out of existence.”

        Again, my worldview does not define anything out of existence. I simply lack evidence for God’s existence. If a person lacks evidence for X, that does not entail a presuppositional commitment to a worldview that defines X out of existence. It simply means they lack evidence for X. I have not defined God out of existence.

        “In short, the commitment to methodological naturalism and/or the application of human limitations to God is what does it.”

        You are making irrelevant and erroneous assumptions about my worldview.

        “If you *cannot provide a reason for “ought” in saying what I “ought” to do, you cannot say what I “ought” to do.*”

        Again, this is irrelevant to the discussion. The is-ought problem is an altogether different topic as I see it and has nothing to do with the burden of proof.

        “My proof, regardless of your persuasion concerning it, is that without Him, you’re unable to prove anything.”

        This amounts to nothing more than a bare assertion on your part. You may as well just be stating “God exists.” It has no bearing on the fact that the burden of proof lies with you.

        “We’re stating that the atheist *also* has a burden of proof. Not that he alone has the burden of proof. ”

        I understand what you are stating, but merely stating it doesn’t make it the case. Only one side has the burden of proof in debates over the existence of God, and that is the side making the affirmative claim. This is Logic 101.

        If you don’t want to play by the rules of logic, then that’s fine. Other presuppositionalists might find your proofs quite convincing. However, if it’s your goal to convince non-Christians the truth of your claims, then I would suggest a method other than shifting the burden of proof.

        • Please see “What is antithesis” on the FAQ page. Additionally, note that by denying the Christian worldview, you deny the God who describes Himself therein. Whether you are persuaded that this is the case or not is irrelevant. It remains the case that by your denial, you deny the possibility of the existence of the God we are speaking of – the one true God, who necessarily exists. In fact, by merely saying that you lack the evidence for God’s existence, you deny the Christian worldview, since the Bible plainly says that all men know God exists. See my paper in the last Journal.

          You are making irrelevant and erroneous assumptions about my worldview.

          How do you know?

          Again, this is irrelevant to the discussion. The is-ought problem is an altogether different topic as I see it and has nothing to do with the burden of proof.

          Should I believe this? If so, why?

          This amounts to nothing more than a bare assertion on your part.’ You may as well just be stating “God exists.

          Prove it. Also, see the FAQ page, under “Is there an argument made by Presuppositionalism?”

          It has no bearing on the fact that the burden of proof lies with you.

          Prove it. For someone who says “this amounts to nothing more than a bare assertion”, you sure seem to indulge in a lot of bare assertion.

          I understand what you are stating, but merely stating it doesn’t make it the case.

          Which of course, is merely stated. Convenient for you, it seems.

          Only one side has the burden of proof in debates over the existence of God, and that is the side making the affirmative claim. This is Logic 101.

          Can you show me in your Logic 101 text (I assume you took Logic 101?) where this is stated (since you asserted the preceding so confidently)? In any case, again, I point you to the entry for “antithesis”, and note that there is, in fact, an affirmative claim being made by each side. I also refer you to the old, old principle of dialectics. (Which, I would be so bold as to suggest is typically taught in Philosophy 101.) Specifically, the part where it is understood that both the thesis and antithesis are, in fact, propositions and counter-propositions. It’s a fairly modernistic (and thoroughly illogical) stance which insists that only one side has any burden of proof whatsoever, while they have none at all. You have made claims in this very discussion. Those claims, therefore, have a burden of proof. This isn’t all that difficult.

          • “It remains the case that by your denial, you deny the possibility of the existence of the God we are speaking of – the one true God, who necessarily exists.”

            What does “necessarily exists” mean? I am not so sure that you understand the ramifications of what you are saying. Is your god nothing more than an analytic proposition, such that the denial of your god involves some kind of logical contradiction? Where is the contradiction here?

            “In fact, by merely saying that you lack the evidence for God’s existence, you deny the Christian worldview, since the Bible plainly says that all men know God exists.”

            I do not *deny* the Christian worldview. I may not agree with the Christian worldview, but deny is a poor choice of words. According to you, everyone has *evidence* of God’s existence. If that is the case, then surely you would have no problem accepting the burden of proof and producing evidence of God’s existence. Yet you insist that atheists share the burden of proof and somehow produce evidence of God’s non-existence, a task that is impossible in practice.

            Again, if you are going to propose the existence of X, then I would suggest presenting evidence for X. That is the starting point. Not defining God into existence and committing a shifting the burden of proof fallacy.

  17. I’d also like to note that Agreus, after having 3 posts (to my knowledge) directly addressed to him, and having made over 100 comments on this blog – still cannot seem to grasp the simplest things about what we are saying, and makes the same straw men he made when he started. This is most unfortunate.

  18. I am always willing to expose specious reasoning and intellectual dishonesty whenever I come across it, and if it takes 100 comments to do so, then so be it.

    • “I am always willing to expose specious reasoning and intellectual dishonesty whenever I come across it, and if it takes 100 comments to do so, then so be it.”

      Then I look forward to reading many comments from you at various atheist websites.

      “What does ‘necessarily exists’ mean?”

      God is not a contingent entity, God exists in every possible world, God is the precondition for intelligible experience, etc. This is a rather common term that you can go look up if you want to learn more about it.

      “Is your god nothing more than an analytic proposition, such that the denial of your god involves some kind of logical contradiction?”

      God is much more than an “analytic proposition” and there is nothing in anything anyone has said here that should make you think otherwise. There are statements which may be predicated of God that you would probably call “analytic,” but that is not the same thing as saying that God is an analytic proposition. The denial of the existence of God does result in logical contradictions of many sorts.

      “Where is the contradiction here?”

      A performative inconsistency between some discursive act and the performer’s denial of its preconditional factor.

      When you disagree with the truth of the Christian worldview, you deny its truth. You are trying to play with semantics.

      No one with Choosing Hats has a problem accepting that we have a burden of proof or producing evidence of God’s existence. I have done exactly that in a number of debates that you can find here. However, it does not follow from the fact that the Christian has a burden of proof that the atheist does not have one. In fact the atheist does have one, as demonstrated in this post. The post does not define God into existence or shift the burden of proof. You need to reread it especially in light of my comment.

      • Chris,

        To say God is a necessary being is to define God into existence. It is also to state that there is a logical contradiction entailed in the non-existence of God, i.e. God’s non-existence is inconceivable. However, God’s non-existence is conceivable and therefore God’s existence is not necessary. It follows that God actually does not exist.

        You state you have produced evidence of God in past debates, which would suggest you believe God is more than just some abstract object floating around in your head. Could you point me to these debates where you have produced this evidence? Thank you.

        • I’m pretty sure we’ve been through all of this in the past Agreus. I get that you’ve read a little Hume and Kant and think that qualifies you to comment on some topics you have some pretty serious misunderstandings about, but it doesn’t.

          Stating that God is a necessary being does not “define God into existence.” You merely assert that as if you’ve made your point, but you haven’t. Suppose that someone proposes concept X, where X is allegedly necessary N, which is to say that X exists in every possible world. But also suppose that X exemplifies properties Y and Z, where Y and Z are logically incompatible. X cannot be N because it follows from Y and Z that X cannot exist in any possible world.

          “It is also to state that there is a logical contradiction entailed in the non-existence of God, i.e. God’s non-existence is inconceivable.”

          Conceivability is not necessarily a guide to logical possibility, but more than that, there are many logical contradictions entailed by the non-existence of God. Consider the claim, “God exists.” The claim, “God does not exist” contradicts the former claim. Or, see the answer I already gave you concerning performative inconsistencies instead of, you know, pretending like it isn’t there.

          Your attempt at an argument that since God’s non-existence is conceivable, God’s existence is not necessary, and therefore God actually does not exist, is somewhat painful to try and follow. First, conceivability is something that begs to be unpacked. Second, it does not necessarily follow that since God does not necessarily exist, He does not actually exist. Third, you would need the premise that God is, conceptually speaking, a necessary being in order for it to follow from His less than necessary nature that He does not actually exist, but you have already said this is not the case. Fourth, you are merely assuming that the non-existence of God is conceivable, and I have called that into question in my previous comment.

          Um, yeah, I believe God is more than just some abstract object floating around in my head. You act as though you’ve never been here before and have no idea what we believe. A good place to find those debates might be the tab at the top of site that says, “Debates,” but that’s just a guess.

          • “I’m pretty sure we’ve been through all of this in the past Agreus. I get that you’ve read a little Hume and Kant and think that qualifies you to comment on some topics you have some pretty serious misunderstandings about, but it doesn’t.”

            Actually, we haven’t been through this and your condescending remark has been noted. I think this will be my last comment.

            “Suppose that someone proposes concept X, where X is allegedly necessary N, which is to say that X exists in every possible world. But also suppose that X exemplifies properties Y and Z, where Y and Z are logically incompatible. X cannot be N because it follows from Y and Z that X cannot exist in any possible world.”

            What in the world are you going on about? This has absolutely nothing to do with the point that I made, which was that defining God as a necessarily existing being is the same as defining God to exist.

            “Conceivability is not necessarily a guide to logical possibility, but more than that, there are many logical contradictions entailed by the non-existence of God. Consider the claim, “God exists.” The claim, “God does not exist” contradicts the former claim.”

            I never said conceivability is a guide to logical possibility. If you find the term “conceivable” to be confusing, then you can simply replace it with “possible”. The very fact that we can imagine the possibility of God not existing means that it is possible that God does not exist. Therefore, a necessarily existing God does not exist. The logic isn’t that difficult to follow.

          • I was given a good long term memory. I am confident we have had a similar discussion in the past, but I don’t have time to go back and find it. And yes, you do have some serious misunderstandings about what you are attempting to comment on. For example, I explained in my last comment why stating that including necessity in a concept (like God, or anything else) does not “define” that entity into existence, and your response was, “What in the world are you going on about?” If you are too intellectually lazy to figure it out, then stop commenting on what you do not understand. If you need help, then ask. But you are not doing either of those. What you are calling a “point” that you made (“that defining God as a necessarily existing being is the same as defining God to exist”) is not a point at all, it’s just an assertion that you keep repeating over, and over again. It’s getting rather old, and it shows that you are not familiar with the literature on this topic. Another example of the misunderstanding I mentioned above is your response to my comment that conceivability is not necessarily a guide to logical possibility. In that response, you deny that you ever said such a thing, assume that I am confused about conceivability, and then claim it is synonymous with possibility! How you missed that this was exactly my problem with what you said I do not know, but repeating yourself does not really help. I’ve already addressed the remainder of your comment in my previous comments to you. Instead of assuming I am confused and waving your hand, try thinking through the things I write.

  19. In response to my twenty-three point comment John Humphries wrote,

    “For now I just want to reply to your claim that I didn’t understand the argument.”

    This refers to the fifth point of my comment. It is as follows:

    “…the conclusion of your attempted syllogism does not even represent the content of the conclusion informally stated in the post. Notice that the argument in the post does not say that, ‘Entity A is immune from rebuttal from reason, logic or rationality’or that ‘The atheist must find other means to disprove Entity A’s existence.’ The post has nothing to do with either of these claims. You have misunderstood the argument, which concerns the issue of the burden of proof, not the alleged immunity of God or an atheist’s need to find other means to disprove God’s existence. I do not know where you got that at all.”

    John Humphries responds:

    “How is this:
    ‘To say they don’t believe he exists is to say that it is *possible* to do these things (reason, weigh evidence, etc.) without him existing. But God says it is not possible to do them without him existing. Therefore (by implication) they are saying ‘This kind of God *does not* exist’.’
    different from what I outlined in my bullet points?”

    First, John was not offering “bullet points,” but what he thought was a syllogism suitable for the purposes of demonstrating a fallacy. Unfortunately it was not.
    Second, there still appear to be differences between the attempted syllogistic argument and the portion of the post John quotes.
    Third, for whatever reason, John still thinks that the post pertains to the alleged immunity of God from atheist critique (see what is quoted from me above), but that is not the argument. Again, the argument of the post pertains to the atheist’s burden of proof. It is strange that people continue to read it as an argument for the existence or “immunity” of God. It is neither (again, see my point quoted above).

    John, I am not just claiming that you “misunderstand” for convenience sake, but rather because your attempt at reformulating the argument of the post in fact has nothing to do with the content of the post. The conclusions are vastly different. I would suggest rereading the post and my initial response to your concerns.

    Also, if your comments take a little while to appear, do not be alarmed. I have been very busy, and the guys generally do not approve comments for others. Thanks.

  20. In response to the comment from Steven S. found here – http://www.choosinghats.org/2011/07/the-athiests-burden-of-proof/#comment-2985

    I had asked, “How do you know whether or not there is a material world?” Steven S. responded:

    “I have no reliable evidence to the contrary”

    There are those who would disagree, but setting their arguments aside, what evidence do you have for thinking that there is a material world? The lack of evidence to the contrary is not evidence *for* thinking that there is a material world.

    “the world continues to act in the manner I would predict it would do so if it actually existed”

    Or at any rate it has in your past experience, which is no guarantee that it will continue to do so in your future experience, but that aside, I do not see how this equates to evidence or knowledge that the material world exists anymore than the previous observation.

    Concerning Phil Dick’s line, I was not asking about reality. I was asking about the material world, but if you want to conflate the two that is fine, just note that it may not be beneficial to do so. I agree, of course, that *given* that a material world exists, it will continue to exist whether or not one believes that there is a material world or not, but that does not tell me whether or not there *is* a material world, it just assumes that there is one. But why think that? That’s what you have not explained to me yet. I could care less about philosophical certainty. I am wondering why one should think a material world exists. I have my own answers to this question of course, but I am interested in yours.

    I fully understand that you are not trying to disprove the existence of God, however you are mistaken to think that you are arguing against a specific set of proofs for the existence of God if you are referring to your comments on this post, since this post does not present any arguments for the existence of God, but rather for the atheists burden of proof.

    • what evidence do you have for thinking that there is a material world? The lack of evidence to the contrary is not evidence *for* thinking that there is a material world.

      Well, let’s see (I should go dig out my Dewey and James): Things appear to me to happen in ways that are beyond my control; however, they do so in a reliable and reproducible fashion. These appearances come from sense-data.

      So, either I am making up these sense-data, some outside entity is imputing all these sense-data into me (and into everyone else with whom I interact, if, indeed, you do exist at all) in a near-perfect (indeed, as far as I can tell, perfect) simulacrum of what a material world *would* be like if one existed, or there is a material world.

      For reasons of motivation and simplicty, I choose #3.

      Or at any rate it has in your past experience,

      And continues to do so with every breath I take, every sense-experience I receive, etc.

      which is no guarantee that it will continue to do so in your future experience, but that aside, I do not see how this equates to evidence or knowledge that the material world exists anymore than the previous observation.

      See above regarding the alternatives to the material world. While I am aware that this is not capable of formal, disprovable defense against a solipsistic attack, I do not believe that ‘s one you’re particularly interested in making either. ;)

      I could care less about philosophical certainty. I am wondering why one should think a material world exists. I have my own answers to this question of course, but I am interested in yours.

      Then you have above my answers. They are sufficient, at least to me, well within any bounds of sufficient certainty.

      One way to look at this, interestingly enough, is that to me, all the arguments against the perceived existence of a material world lead to the question “Why?” — “Why is someone trying to give me this false impression?” (It also runs into the Omphalos problem, but that’s a side-issue I merely bookmark here for future reference if required.)

      however you are mistaken to think that you are arguing against a specific set of proofs for the existence of God if you are referring to your comments on this post, since this post does not present any arguments for the existence of God, but rather for the atheists burden of proof.

      This set of comments has rather diverged, if not before than most definitively with your question regarding the material world, from its beginning.

      However, I’ll also add that the way this burden of proof question was presented is embedded, as you pointed out above: “The covenantal apologist’s concept of God is the one in question,” — in a certain set of apologetics, as exemplified further by the questions asked and presumptions made in this discussion. Hence, as pointed out above, in the original post, I am *implicitly* arguing against a specific set of proofs or proof-modes. ;)

      • If you give me the references in Dewey and James I will likewise dig them out. Whether or not appearances come from “sense-data,” and what is meant by that term, are questionable, but I can grant this for the sake of argument.

        Now you take it that 1) you are making up these sense-data, 2) some outside entity is imputing all these sense-data (this need not be a personal agent), or 3) there is a material world. The reasons you present for accepting 3 as opposed to 1 and 2 are “motivation” and “simplicity.” But unless you are speaking of some form of rational motivation, which you have not yet indicated is the case, then mere “motivation” is insufficient for the rational acceptance of the proposition that a material world exists. Now your second reason is “simplicity,” and this may be worth a closer evaluation, however you neither explain what you mean by this term, how it applies in this instance, or why we should accept it with respect to any epistemological decision. Insofar as you base the entirety of your knowledge upon your alleged knowledge of the material world as I believe you either stated or alluded to earlier, you thus far have displayed a rather arbitrary basis for said knowledge. Am I pressing solipsism? Methodological solipsism, yes, though not on my part, but according to your apparent view.

        How do you know that it, “continues to do so with every breath I take, every sense-experience I receive, etc.”? I realize that you may claim these as regards past experience, but I do not know upon what basis you claim them with respect to any future experience.

        The comments have gone off topic, however, you will note that I have pressed you concerning your claims, whether explicit or implicit, to knowledge, and you have been attempting to answer my questions. I am happy that you have attempted to satisfy the atheist’s burden of proof, whether or not you hold that position, and glad that you have remained civil and thoughtful while doing so. ;)

  21. Whether or not appearances come from “sense-data,” and what is meant by that term, are questionable, but I can grant this for the sake of argument.

    For sense-data, I refer you to Bertrand Russell, actually, after doing a bit of digging. ;)

    The reasons you present for accepting 3 as opposed to 1 and 2 are “motivation” and “simplicity.” But unless you are speaking of some form of rational motivation, which you have not yet indicated is the case, then mere “motivation” is insufficient for the rational acceptance of the proposition that a material world exists.

    Actually, I was speaking of the requirement for 1 and 2 to possess some sort of outside entity with a motive for deceiving me, and for this entity to not be part of the “material world”. I addressed this towards the end of my comment.

    Now your second reason is “simplicity,” and this may be worth a closer evaluation, however you neither explain what you mean by this term, how it applies in this instance, or why we should accept it with respect to any epistemological decision.

    “Simplicity” in this case refers to Occam’s Razor; what it means in this case is that both options #1 and #2 require a more complicated superstructure to explain themselves than #3 does, especially since #1 and #2 require constructing a simulacrum of #3.

    Insofar as you base the entirety of your knowledge upon your alleged knowledge of the material world as I believe you either stated or alluded to earlier, you thus far have displayed a rather arbitrary basis for said knowledge.

    I find it far from arbitrary; it is about as basic as it is possible for me, as a person, to get. While I may have come by more fundamental logical principles, it was only through the information I received through the senses (say, for example, reading.) that I was able to get these.

    It is possible that I am being deliberately misled by some Great Outside Entity. It is possible that I am the only thing in the universe (though I suspect you’ll disagree with me for personal reasons, if no other.) But in both of those cases, there’s no way I could determine otherwise. Given that fact, there is no reason for me to hold either of those views — indeed, holding either view is tantamount to denying what the world is telling me, in the sensory inputs I receive, and undercuts my ability to believe anything else.

    Why should I do this, when there is no reason to?

    How do you know that it, “continues to do so with every breath I take, every sense-experience I receive, etc.”? I realize that you may claim these as regards past experience, but I do not know upon what basis you claim them with respect to any future experience.

    Well, if they stop holding true with future sense-experience, I’ll have to change my views on natural laws, etc. ;) I was speaking in the present tense; each new breath that I take has so far confirmed my experience, etc. Obviously, future breaths I have not taken cannot yet serve that purpose; but when I have run an experiment N times, where N is sufficiently large, the odds that, barring some clear outside factor (e.g. heart failure, etc.) N+1 is likely to produce the same result.

    The comments have gone off topic

    I’ve forgotten who it was, but I’ve seen discussions of an equation for predicting topic drift in comments threads. The result, IIRC, was that after some number N (which I’m sure is someone’s constant or another) thread drift was inevitable. ;)

    I am happy that you have attempted to satisfy the atheist’s burden of proof, whether or not you hold that position, and glad that you have remained civil and thoughtful while doing so.

    I’ve discovered it’s far more pleasant and productive, at least for me, to engage and to engage politely.

    It’s been a pleasure discussing these matters.

    • Oh I disagree that 1 and/or 2 are “more complicated” in such an obvious way. Indeed, 1 is perhaps the most parsimonious of them all! You multiply entities beyond necessity in 3, making new assumptions about material existence when you need not do so to explain your experience. But there is another difficulty I alluded to here as well, namely, I see no reason you should accept Ockham’s story anyway.

      Now it is unfortunate you mention coming upon fundamental logical principles through the senses, because I still doubt that you have shown there is any good reason for holding that a material world exists, much less that your senses are reliable!

      You note a series of possibilities and dismiss them because, “there is no reason for me to hold either of those views.” That may be, but I still do not believe you have offered a satisfactory reason for holding the view you in fact do hold anymore than you could do so with respect to the former hypothetical views you mention.

      Running an experiment N times, and setting aside difficulties with sample size (as you do), there is still no reason that I can see for supposing that N+1 is likely to produce the same result. You appear to be assuming that nature exhibits some sort of regularity such that we can extrapolate based upon the present testimony of our senses what will probably be the case, and I do not know why you would do so.

      • Indeed, 1 is perhaps the most parsimonious of them all!

        Indeed true — I misspoke. ;) It is also, however, the most useless of them in terms of making any judgment about the rest of the world. Anything can be explained by it, and therefore, it’s useless.

        You multiply entities beyond necessity in 3, making new assumptions about material existence when you need not do so to explain your experience.

        In the sense that it requires something other than me to exist, you have a point. On the other hand, it requires something significantly more complicated than any of the basic entities in #3 — essentially, if you want to presume a giant *thing* that can contain within it, and manipulate, all the individual objects of #3, and does so in such a way as to deliberately deceive me into believing #3, as I said above, I can’t disprove it. It’s rather in the nature of an object capable of operating #2. On the other hand, it also makes no difference in terms of what I do, or how I act, since the simulacrum in which I exist is so perfect. It is an irrelevant difference, in terms of what I do or don’t know.

        Now it is unfortunate you mention coming upon fundamental logical principles through the senses, because I still doubt that you have shown there is any good reason for holding that a material world exists, much less that your senses are reliable!

        You’ve repeated this point over and over again, so I’ll be as clear as I can:

        If there is no way to tell the difference between a material world and some simulacrum thereof, and its existence fits the data I perceive, then there *is* no realistic difference, and no amount of logic-chopping can find one.

        I never claimed that my senses were perfectly reliable. Heck, I’ve had migraine headaches with visual distortions. I know they’re not perfect. On the other hand, they’re what I’ve got.

        Running an experiment N times, and setting aside difficulties with sample size (as you do), there is still no reason that I can see for supposing that N+1 is likely to produce the same result

        1) My sample size is at *least* in the millions of observations, and that only counting direct experience and a not-particularly-fine granularity. That’s sample size enough.

        2) If you can’t see the reason for supposing that if you’ve done something N times, and it has always worked, N+1 is likely to turn out the same way, or have a clear explicable reason for it not to do so, then there’s no point in continuing this discussion; the principles of learning, induction, and reasoning you’re denying are sufficiently ingrained in my worldview that no, you’re right, if you don’t get them, you never will.

        I admit I had not, originally, understood the assertion I’ve heard many times that “Everyone knows God, but some people choose willfully to deny his existence.” I could not see how someone could hold that jaundiced a view. However, now seeing you not only willfully deny, but express a complete lack of understanding of basic principles of induction and, as I said, motor-skills *learning*, I can understand the observation, even if I do not agree with it.

  22. There is no “rest of the world” on 1, at least no material world, and I see nothing that can be explained on the basis of 1 that is not also explained on the basis of 3. Citing explanatory power is a strange way to attempt to refute a view. There is no reason on 1 to assume any “giant *thing*,” and indeed dreams and video games alert us to our ability to create exceedingly complex immaterial worlds. You may claim that 1, 2, or 3 make no difference in terms of what you do, but there is a relevant difference in that my point of contention regards your earlier claim to know 3 as opposed to 1 or 2. You have not demonstrated any such knowledge, and to make things worse you claim that the remainder of your knowledge is based upon 3.

    Nowhere did I ask anything concerning the perfect reliability of your senses. Rather, I inquired as to their reliability. They may be what you’ve got, but that does not answer the question of how one knows they are reliable.

    I granted your qualification concerning sample size already. It is not relevant to my inquiry concerning your previous claim. Let’s grant that you’ve had not only millions, but billions of observations or direct experience that something you’ve done has always worked. Let’s even assume that your memory and senses are reliable with respect to this claim. What relevance does that have beyond the present testimony of the senses? None that I can see.

    Now, you retort, “If you can’t see the reason for supposing that if you’ve done something N times, and it has always worked, N+1 is likely to turn out the same way, or have a clear explicable reason for it not to do so, then there’s no point in continuing this discussion.” Or, you do not actually know what the reason is, and in order to divert attention away from the difficulty in your position, you insinuate that it is so obvious that if I do not see it I am not worth talking to. But the child who was accused of asking a stupid question replied, “Just give me a stupid answer.”

    Nowhere have I denied, “the principles of learning, induction, and reasoning.” I thought that I had been clear that I have answers to these questions. However, I have called these alleged principles into question within the context of your understanding of them. Now you may claim that the aforementioned principles are “sufficiently ingrained” in your “worldview,” but I have no idea what that claim really means, and suspect that it is a way of sweeping your epistemological dust bunnies under the rhetorical rug.

    So yes, I do hold that everyone knows God. But no, I do not, “willfully deny” or, “express a complete lack of understanding of basic principles of induction.” On the contrary, it is you who have stated that you are unwilling to speak anymore on behalf of your seemingly uncritical, arbitrary acceptance of said principles.

  23. “express a complete lack of understanding of basic principles of induction.”

    You repeatedly deny the validity of inductive reasoning.

    To quote:

    Running an experiment N times, and setting aside difficulties with sample size (as you do), there is still no reason that I can see for supposing that N+1 is likely to produce the same result

    What is that, if not dismissing the validity of inductive reasoning?

    Indeed, by saying “There is no reason I can see” — that’s an expression of ignorance.

    At most, I might be willing to grant it’s questioning *why* one would accept the validity of inductive reasoning, but at that point, you are headed into “turtles all the way down” territory.

    uncritical, arbitrary acceptance of said principles.

    Failing to prove to your satisfaction that my acceptance is not arbitrary is not the same as it *being* arbitrary. ;) And I would think that politeness and acknowledgement of the length of our dialogue would lead you to withdraw the world “uncritical”.

    There is no “rest of the world” on 1, at least no material world, and I see nothing that can be explained on the basis of 1 that is not also explained on the basis of 3.

    That is indeed, precisely my point. Read a bit more closely, please.

    Citing explanatory power is a strange way to attempt to refute a view.

    On the contrary. When the question is that of “What do we know”, what a worldview can or cannot explain is a rather crucial question, don’t you think?

    What relevance does that have beyond the present testimony of the senses? None that I can see.

    You can look in the thread on the recent debate for my thoughts on induction into the future from the past.

  24. Let me just say at the beginning that you refer to the alleged “validity” of induction throughout your comment, but induction is by definition invalid. Validity applies to deduction, not induction. This is not to say that I reject induction, it is simply to recognize induction for what it is; a non-deductive method.

    I’m afraid you are confused regarding my position on induction. I do not reject induction. I am asking you about your reasoning behind accepting inductive reasoning in the manner you have. As I’ve said, I have my own answers to these questions, but I am asking about yours.

    What is that, if not dismissing the validity of inductive reasoning? It was a question as to your reasoning behind the claims you are making. That does not mean that I reject inductive reasoning. That means that I am asking you about your reason for accepting it. There is a very big difference between the two. As for my ignorance, yes, I confess you have given me no knowledge regarding why you accept induction on your view. It does appear you are accepting the inductive principle uncritically and arbitrarily. You have not given me any reason to think otherwise, anyway.

    I read your previous comment quite closely, and went back and reread it. You were positing an explanatory value to 1 that so far exceeded the explanatory value of 3 as to render 1 “useless.” Now my response again was first that I see nothing that can be explained on the basis of 1 that is not also explained on the basis of 3, and further that citing explanatory power is a strange way to attempt to refute a view. By that I did not mean citing explanatory value in general, or citing explanatory value that an alternative view lacks, but rather citing that a view possesses *too much* explanatory value is a strange way of thinking.

    I read through your comments on the other thread, and it is clear that you do not actually understand the problem of induction. So, I apologize that I may be moving too quickly. If you review your pragmatists you will see that they generally concede to the problem, and move on in a different way.

  25. I do not reject induction. I am asking you about your reasoning behind accepting inductive reasoning in the manner you have.

    And I have told you. It has worked for me in the past, and it provides a method for me to correct my understanding into the future. It allows for the accretion of new knowledge and new understanding.

    I confess you have given me no knowledge regarding why you accept induction on your view. It does appear you are accepting the inductive principle uncritically and arbitrarily. You have not given me any reason to think otherwise, anyway.

    I have given you several explanations — well, oftne the same explanation, several times. That you fail to understand the explanations (and I use the term fail to *understand* because you are accusing me of giving you *no* reason, as opposed to “insufficient reason”) that is beyond my power, at this point, to assist you with.

    You were positing an explanatory value to 1 that so far exceeded the explanatory value of 3 as to render 1 “useless.”

    Ah. Here’s where your confusion lies. In a solipsistic world, *anything* is explicable; there is no requirement of consistency, non-contradictions, etc. Therefore, a solipsistic worldview is unfalsifiable. Therefore, using #1 as an explanation for anything is pointless, because it could explain anything, whether or not it was “true”, or any other such word you wish to use.

    Are you familiar with the Omphalos hypothesis of Philip Gosse? If not, I recommend looking it up, as it will be rather informative on this point, and some of the others I raise above.

    I read through your comments on the other thread, and it is clear that you do not actually understand the problem of induction.

    Actually, I understand the formal problem of philosophical induction; I am not, however, prepared to abandon the field to purely deductive means of reasoning that invoke external entities to attempt to justify their own inductions, as that is, quite simply, cheating. ;)

    (Also, it is worth noting that the form of induction I am using in both threads (as I will explicate more thoroughly over there) is much more akin to the mathematical than the category-oriented; n+1 rather than black swans.)

    • “It has worked for me in the past…”

      You really should update your philosophy. David Hume addressed why this response does not work a long time ago. Even assuming that your memory is correct in this instance, you have not provided anything whereby we may move on from the memory. I’m afraid you have taken a leap into the dark and left me a flashlight with no batteries.

      You forgot your line of argumentation with respect to 1, 2, and 3 and I pointed that out. So I am not “confused.” Rather, you forgot what you were after. Now, you write that in a solipsistic world, anything is explicable, and there is no requirement of consistency, non-contradictions, etc., but I see nothing in the nature of 1 that would entail these conclusions anymore than 3 would. Indeed, many have suggested as much with respect to 3.

  26. I’m an agnostic atheist, as most on here seem to be, and so yes, I lack belief in any gods. I do understand the content of your argument: stating it is *definitely possible* to do that laundry list of things if our world is godless *does* de facto claim that the universe definitely is not one where such things are only possible due to a god, and thus any such god is implicitly argued to not exist, exactly as you said.

    However, your argument rests on someone making the claim that it is *definitely possible* to do these things in the absence of a god. If you don’t have that person though, you have nothing. If we wrap [the possibility of doing those things in a godless world] up with the god hypothesis itself though (which seems necessary as you are correctly pointing out), then one need simply be agnostic about *that* to dismantle your entire argument. So here you go: just as I am agnostic about the existence of a god, I am also agnostic toward to the question of whether these activities are possible in a godless world. It truly may not be possible to exist without your god, but I am agnostic because I haven’t seen proof of that claim. I certainly do not claim that it is definitely possible. That just follows logically though from my agnostic stance on the Christian hypothesis…if I claim no definite position on your god’s existence, *of course* I don’t claim a definite stance on one of the specifics claims about his nature, that wouldn’t even make sense.

    There’s no burden of proof for this neutral position though.

    • ThePantsParty,

      Agnosticism with respect to the possibility of those activities apart from God is logically equivalent to thinking that it is possible to carry out those activities apart from God.

      • No, I just explained that I don’t claim it is possible. I very clearly conceded that it may be completely impossible. If I say that you may be correct that it’s not possible, then it’s basically tautological that that statement is not equivalent to claiming that it is *is* possible.

        • You wrote, “it *may* be completely impossible,” which is to say that it *may* also be completely possible.

          You wrote, “you *may* be correct that it’s not possible,” which is to say that we *may* also be incorrect that it’s not possible.

          So yes, agnosticism with respect to the existence of God or allegedly corresponding truths concerning epistemic success amounts to possibility claims with respect to His existence and allegedly corresponding truths concerning epistemic success. You are not neutral. To even say so is to disagree with what Scripture (and hence God) says about you, and you are back to defending a positive position like the strong atheist.

          • Okay, it’s clear that you’ve become desensitized to real disagreement because you’ve been so inundated with softballs from people who haven’t read/have no clue what the post even says, because the things you’re saying clearly don’t say what you think they do. We’re talking about second-level possibility here, and you’re clearly operating from the assumption that we’re still on the first level that the post was written about. I mean no condescension, but please, consider for a second that I may actually have something relevant to say, and don’t just assume that I’m wrong and jump in with the first thing that comes to mind, because like I said, I *do* understand the initial argument, and my response *does* address it.

            First of all, to reiterate more concisely what I was trying to get at in my last response, your initial reply to me literally said that the proposition M: “Configuration X may be impossible” is *equivalent to* proposition N: “Configuration X definitely is *not* impossible.” That’s just about the closest you can get to saying that X = not-X without explicitly stating it. You literally said that two completely contradictory statements are *equivalent*, so that should be the first hint that you didn’t actually take my response seriously enough to really even think about it before responding to it.

            Now onto what you’ve said in this latest reply… Everything you said in those first two paragraphs is correct, you just don’t seem to be aware of the nuance involved in talking about something being possibly possible.

            I’m going to try to make the observation more explicit though, because the strange wording of the initial proposition is what’s leading to the misunderstanding. Normally, we have a proposition…something like “I ate a sandwich today”, and it’s rather trivial to say that Proposition P is possibly true or possibly false. We’re very used to this wording. However, the proposition itself that you have brought out *contains* the word “possible”, so when we speak of the proposition being possible or not, there will actually be two “possibles”, and that leads to losing track of what is under discussion unless we are very rigorous in the wording. This is the misunderstanding which led to your objection being self-contradictory as I mentioned above, because you weren’t paying close enough attention to which “possible” I was talking about.

            Your proposition P is “X is impossible”, where “X” is “performing this list of things in a godless world”. Okay, fine. The proposition is understandable enough. Now, just as in the case above, P is possibly true or possibly false. Now putting this into words explicitly: A. [It is possibly true that in reality [X is impossible]] or B. [It is possibly false that in reality [X is impossible]].

            To say that “it is possibly the case that X is possible in reality” is *nothing even remotely similar* to saying “X *is* possible in reality”. This is the distinction you need to understand to prevent self-contradiction.

            So back to what I said in the initial post, I am agnostic to the correct choice between the following two possibilities:

            1. [Christianity as you understand it is true, and X is impossible in reality]

            2. [Christianity as you understand it is false, and X is possible in reality]

            Now once again, I said it’s possible that X is possible, not that X *is* possible. The former is on an entirely different level than the latter, and only the latter is relevant to the content of this article. I do not claim that X is possible, so please understand that before responding. To disagree with that would be to say that “X might be impossible” = “X is not impossible” as you did above, which is obviously completely nonsensical.

          • Okay, it’s clear that you’ve become desensitized to real disagreement because you’ve been so inundated with softballs from people who haven’t read/have no clue what the post even says

            Mayyybe ;)

            because the things you’re saying clearly don’t say what you think they do.

            Well, at risk of being redundant; I’m not sure if you’re seeing the larger context of what he’s saying. I’ll explain later. It does strike me as “interesting” that you’re telling someone that he doesn’t know what he’s saying, however ;)

            We’re talking about second-level possibility here, and you’re clearly operating from the assumption that we’re still on the first level that the post was written about.

            I think we all get that you’re talking about “possible that x is possible” – but I think that is also risking a bit of redundancy, if you aren’t careful, especially without defining your terms.

            I mean no condescension, but please, consider for a second that I may actually have something relevant to say, and don’t just assume that I’m wrong and jump in with the first thing that comes to mind, because like I said, I *do* understand the initial argument, and my response *does* address it.

            Well, keep in mind that we’re writing in a larger context that you might not be aware of. First, in the larger context of Christian doctrine, and second, in the context of Presuppositional literature, and third, in the context of our own body of work. When you enter “the ring” on certain topics, there is a context for them on this site, in the literature, and in historical theology. I think where you’re missing his point is a collection of the three.

            First of all, to reiterate more concisely what I was trying to get at in my last response, your initial reply to me literally said that the proposition M: “Configuration X may be impossible” is *equivalent to* proposition N: “Configuration X definitely is *not* impossible.” That’s just about the closest you can get to saying that X = not-X without explicitly stating it. You literally said that two completely contradictory statements are *equivalent*, so that should be the first hint that you didn’t actually take my response seriously enough to really even think about it before responding to it.

            First, he didn’t “literally” say what you ascribe to him. You’re simply summarizing. While you are earnestly asking us to consider your responses, please do us the courtesy of returning the favor. What he “literally” said was that the two were “logically equivalent” – and please note that there is no “literal equivalence” in your statement in comparison to what he said. Further, Chris explained what he meant in later exchange. Whether you recognized the reference is something else, again. What he is trying to tell you is that even though you *seem* to grant the “possibility” on one point, you are, in fact, denying CT at another point, and the logical equivalence thereby obtained results in the functional equivalent of denying the possibility of CT outright. The only “contradiction” is in statements you yourself wrote – these are not quotes of Chris, hence not “literally” something he said.

            Let me give you the context for why he says the above. Elsewhere on this site, you can find this quote by Van Til:

            If I assert that there is a black cat in the closet, and you assert that nobody knows what is in the closet, you have virtually told me that I am wrong in my hypothesis. So when I tell Mr. Black that God exists, and he responds very graciously by saying that perhaps I am right since nobody knows what is in the “Beyond,” he is virtually saying that I am wrong in my hypothesis. He is obviously thinking of such a god as could comfortably live in the realm of chance. But the God of Scripture cannot live in the realm of chance.

            This quote itself has quite a bit of context to surround it, but I’ll leave you to peruse it. However, there are a couple points to make from it.

            Yes, we understand that you are not explicitly making this universal negative assertion that nobody can know – in this case, what is possible. However, you are saying that you don’t know whether (your listed propositions) 1 or 2 is possible. You claim to be agnostic to it. However, there is a problem with that. Christianity says that only selection 1 is possibly true. To deny that this is the case by saying it’s possible to be agnostic to 1/2 is itself a denial of CT. Further, there is a denial of CT in that whether or not you claim to know whether 1 or 2 is true, CT claims that you do know; so agnosticism itself is a denial of CT. Functionally, to claim agnosticism of 1/2 is to deny 1, and assert 2. This is what Chris was trying to tell you. This is not a contradiction – it is a doctrinal statement with logical consequences; namely, that by claiming agnosticism, you are actually making a positive claim which denies CT. This has also been discussed previously on the site, and in debates (complete with their surrounding discussions) listed above. You may not have known this; but there is a context in which it might be readily found, which is why I’m letting you know now. There is a paper in our last journal outlining the scriptural case that all men do, in fact, know God, and are morally without excuse in suppressing that truth in unrighteousness. So there is that further context. There is also the context of Van Til, who writes extensively on the topics we’re speaking of.

            Don’t be too quick to jump the gun and assume that we don’t understand what you’re saying. We’ve had a fairly lengthy bout with the subject of “possibility” on the site. There is a great amount of discussion by Van Til of this particular subject as well. It isn’t a matter of “nuance”, but of context. Since you’re coming in on a single post, you’re most likely unaware of the greater context for the discussion.

            So, let me sum this up: When your claim is that it is *possible* that X is possible – you are functionally saying that the statement “Christianity as you understand it is true” is possibly false. Since “Christianity as I understand it” says that X is impossible, there is a denial of 1 inherent in your claim. Also, Christianity as I understand it says that it is impossible for Christianity as I understand it to be false. You may be agnostic to 1/2 – you may consider it to be possible that X is possible, per 2 – or that it is possible that Christianity as I understand it is false, per 2 – yet it remains a denial of 1, due to the definition of 1. Since this is the case, there is a logical equivalency to saying X is possible, due to the denial of 1, by granting possibility to 2. In short, by granting possibility to 2, you deny the possibility of 1, and grant that X is possible in reality, since to grant possibility to 2 is to deny the possibility of 1. 1 does not grant that “either 1 or 2 is possible”. 1 says that only 1 is possible.

            By saying that 2 might be possible, you say that 1 is impossible, and 2 is possible. That’s how it breaks down, contextually. Plus, just as a bonus; 1 claims that God determines possibility. By granting that 2 might be possible, you again deny the possibility of 1 by doing so, on those grounds. Clear as mud?

  27. From your own blog:
    “. He claims that everyone knows he exists. ”
    Then:

    If such a god exists, I would know he exists.

    I do not know of such a god.

    Therefor, such a god does not exist.

  28. BK,

    I’m honestly trying to understand the burden of proof argument, but am just not seeing it. If I understand your response to others comments you agree that the burden of proof is on the party making the positive assertion. Correct me if I am wrong but isn’t your argument:

    1 the christian god exists.

    2. he says it is not possible to have reason, weigh evidence, etc without him

    The way I understand it,
    1 is a positive assertion by argument presenter (that would have burden of proof, but you seem to say is not important to the argument)

    2 is a positive assertion by god (that would have the burden of proof)

    Why do atheists have the burden of proof on god’s positive claim? I simply do not see any evidence of the claims made in point one or two. Why is it if I say I see no evidence to support gods positive claim suddenly I’m making a positive claim I need to support?

    Thank you for your time.

    • The argument is about the burden all people have when entering into these discussions. Please take the time to read the post with more care.

    • Hey Rob -

      What I was saying is that both the atheist and Christian have a burden of proof. The Christian by virtue of their explicit claim God exists. The atheist by virtue of the fact that their very act of arguing/communicating/whatever presupposes certain things that must be accounted for if one is to accept any argumentation which relies upon them. Those things – those “foundational beliefs” – are things the atheist (generally) assumes and argues *from* but never *for*.

      The introduction of the Biblical God into the picture is simply one illustration of how to point out the fact that these presuppositions cannot simply be taken for granted. The (Biblical) Christian is not going to simply give this ground to the atheist and argue from there. Instead, they will point out the fact that the mere act of arguing against God presupposes that God exists. The atheist won’t agree with this, of course, but what they *should* agree with is that they have a burden to support their foundational beliefs first and foremost, before ever getting to the point of arguing about things which are based upon them – for instance, the intelligibility of statements such as “I don’t believe any gods exist”.

      BK

  29. Theists are the ones claiming there IS a god, hence the burden of proof lies on YOU to prove god’s existence. You have not done so, and cannot do so. Until you do, expect us to snicker under our collective breath at you, you silly things. The burden of proof lies on YOU.

    • Kelly -

      “You have not done so, and cannot do so. Until you do …”

      Well, if we “cannot do so” it makes no sense to say “until you do”, now does it?

      Regardless, first realize that we gladly accept the burden of proof. Second, realize that the author never claimed otherwise, but rather stated that the atheist (also) has a burden of proof. The burden of proof lies on BOTH sides of the debate.

      BK

  30. Robert Bumbalough

    There is so very much wrong with the blog authors assertions and so little time, so I’ll only point some of the most egregious nonsense. In the fifth paragraph, the author makes several bold claims related to the delusion that his god exists. The Abrahamis god, YHWH, aka Jehovah, aka Allah cannot exist. Its alleged qualities and characteristics are either self or mutually contradictory. Self contradictions can’t exist. See “The Impossibility of God” http://www.amazon.com/Impossibility-God-Michael-Martin/dp/1591021200/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1329340637&sr=8-1 and The Non-Existence of God http://www.amazon.com/Non-Existence-God-Nicholas-Everitt/dp/0415301076/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1329340685&sr=1-1

    Regarding the authors silly presuppositions, also found in his fifth paragaraph, all that sort of clap-trap has been thoroughly debunked and refuted. See Michael Martins debate with Butler and Zens. TANG kicks TAG’s butt. http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/michael_martin/#presup and just for fun see Why Presuppositionalism Is Wrong by Francois Tremblay at http://www.strongatheism.net/library/against/why_presuppositionalism_is_wrong/

    As for burdens of proof, since there is no reason to think any god actually exists and plentiful reasons to think supernaturalism nothing more than silly imaginings of delusional people, then clearly any burden falls on those making positive claims. Since there can be no evidence of the Abrahamic deity, such burden cannot, in principle, be hoisted.

    • Apart from exhibiting the usual atheist arrogance and overconfidence in bad arguments like the misguided (and repeatedly refuted) TANG and Francois Tremblay’s old, poorly written, and exceedingly confused philosophical thought (BTW, the first line is amusing, to say the least: “Presuppositionalism, also called the TAG in its more specific form, is the most popular form of Christian apologetics today.”), you made the rather serious mistake of asserting, contrary to the post, that there is no burden of proof for the atheist while simultaneously seeking to satisfy it by appealing to alleged contradiction in God. Nicely done.

      For those who are interested, Greg Bahnsen’s Michael Martin Under the Microscope exposes Martin’s argumentation for the failure that it is. Oliphint, Frame, Butler, Knapp, myself, and others have addressed TANG at length, and Tremblay merely parrots the concerns expressed by Martin while evidencing a fair amount of misunderstanding with respect to Van Til and Plantinga.

      • Robert Bumbalough

        Bolt: I’m certain you’re overstating your ad hoc, special pleading and question begging non-case. Sadly, I have no time to play, so I’ll leave you to your delusions and psychosis. Although the rather thorough spanking delivered unto you by Dawson Bethrick on his Incinerating Presuppositionalism blog will amply demonstrate the vacuity of your thinking for interested readers.

        http://bahnsenburner.blogspot.com/2010/03/bolts-pile-of-knapp-pt-1.html

        • Bumbalough: I’m certain you’re not. You are also either clueless about what ad hoc, special pleading, and question begging actually mean, or else your delusion and psychosis have rendered you incapable or unwilling to even care about the meanings of words and fallacies. Spitting out a list of names of fallacies doesn’t accomplish anything by itself. Sadly, I have no time to correct the misinformation you are throwing around. Unfortunately for Dawson, writing a whole lot does not a sound argument make. I have no time to wade through his careless mistakes – http://www.choosinghats.org/2012/01/another-atheist-inaccuracy-on-choosing-hats-contributors – either.

          I suspect you’re just sore that it became apparent you criticized the post that says the atheist carries a burden of proof while hypocritically attempting to satisfy that burden by citing alleged contradictions in God and a host of outdated atheist material already answered by presuppositionalists. Go write out your answers to that material and then we’ll talk.

  31. A duty placed upon a civil or criminal defendant to prove or disprove a disputed fact.

    The obligation, in criminal cases resting initially on the prosecution, to provide evidence that will convince the court or jury of the truth of one’s contention .

    – These are simple examples of the meaning of “the burden of proof”.

    – From those two simple examples we can see that “the burden of proof” is a shifting mechanism within an argument with such words as “initially” and “or”. If [the burden of proof] was given solely to one party, then only one party would have representation. And if only one party had representation, that representation must be true because the adversary has no [not minimal, but none] representation.

    – So from the intial post, I conclude that there is no “burden of proof”. Only concession. In turn absolving the initial argument of, whom the burden of proof lies with.

    – so what was the argument again?

    • Thank you for enlightening us with a definition from an online legal dictionary. That is not what we are talking about.

      • - The burden of proof as an agent or a mechanism?

        – Based on the initial sentence; “I was in a discussion today with an atheist, and the subject turned to the idea of burden of proof.” [idea - the conception of a general notion]

        – I would say, the subject is the ownership of the burden of proof. Not the proof itself. [The burden of proof IS A SHIFTING MECHANISM WITHIN AN ARGUMENT - and if taken on as an AGENT then it has now become the proof of the argument]

        – The MECHANISM and AGENT must occur for an argument to continue. But neither can be considered the foundation of the argument, unless the argument is changed. Which is what has happened, the argument has changed to become the foundation of that argument.

        – And yet this foundation has not been given definition. And by the condescending comment, I must conclude; the law [and anything online] is obsolete as a definition. So we must have an empicial one, which again has not been established or agreed upon by any party.

        – Must Atheists conceed to a burden of proof? Yes. It is an agent of the founding stance and a mechanism used to challenge that founding stance. If an Athiest cannot or will not submit to a burden of proof, than the founding stance has no agent or mechanism for representation and must stand alone.

        – Oh how I love Thy law. (Psalm 119:97)

  32. - The topic is without definition.

    – The subject is the idea of the burden of proof. [this concept must established]

    – If this concept is to be an empirical one, and is what is being discussed, then it is the topic. And should be neutral in stance.

    – Instead [the topic] says the Atheist must stand in the definition which hasn’t been decided yet.

    – And by logic I must reject the topic of debate, not because I agree or disagree. But because it is without definition.

    • - The burden of proof is a postition by defintition and/or a concept by definition. In relation to an argument, both are seperate and yet they occur because of their relationship to each other.

      – [In this case]If the burden of proof is a position by definition, then it is in direct relationship to the original discussion. This is important, however we are given a hypothetical and a common claim in its’ place.

      – If this is true, then everyone who as asserted a position based on the initial question [Atheist or Not Atheist] is correct in asserting their opinion and position. They know what they are talking about and that opinion and position is conclusive to them.

      – I believe the purpose should be to destory the blanket statement, burden of proof as a position of superiority or infeiriorty based on subjective opinion and bring the words burden of proof into true context within an argument. Also to un-demonize the words burden of proof by establishing them not as an argument to themselves but a rather a simple piece of a larger argument as both a position and concept by definition.

      – In order to do this, the words burden of proof must be given equal ground to which they can operate to both parties and that both may take claim and use them.

      – eg: “An atheist claims she is an Atheist because she has neither seen nor heard enough or any evidence that suggests that their is a god. Her opinion and position are conclusive. The burden of proof is now upon anyone to challenge that opinion and position”

      – eg: “A non Atheist claims that he has seen and heard enough evidence to suggest that their is a god with which to belive in. His opinion and position is conclusive. The burden of proof is now upon anyone to challenge that opinion and position”

      – eg: “On the side of the road there is a man with a deak of three cards and table. He shows eveyone the Queen of Hearts and then places it back within his deck of three cards. After shuffling his deck of cards he places three cards on the table and says. “The burden of proof is now upon someone to show me where the Queen of Hearts is” A man steps forward and accepts the challenge and picks up a card, it is the wrong card and he places it back on the table. And says” The burden of proof is now upon you to produce the Queen of Hearts” The man with the deck of cards, after much suspense produces the Queen of Hearts”

      – There is only three reasonable repsonses to this, dismisal, affirmation or elaboration.

      – If affiramtion, i can continue. Which will bring me back to the original discussion, where i must assume was not about the colour of cherries on Thurdays after 4pm, but rather the question of God or no God? And i can affirm my own position.

      – If it dismissal, then i must confess a opinion and postion of confusion and it is conclusive. Therefore the burden of proof is upon you to change that opinion and position.

      [i have added this simply to elaborate where my opinion is coming from]

  33. - After five days of hurting my head with this blog.

    – I believe the burden of proof is upon the one wanting to change the opinion and position of another.

    – or the one wanting to assert a claim as true to both/all parties.

    – In regards to the inital post, unless the Atheist is wanting to change the opinion and position of God in relation to someone else other than themselves, I cannot see them having the burden of proof. [except in reasoning and understanding pertaining to themself - Can their be proof of these things which they can present, other than actions defined by conclusion?]

    – it comes down to, is the Atheist making a claim of definition about him/herself or about God. [both could be considered indivisible] – [and my head is hurting again.]

  34. - The conflict lies with the Atheist’s disbelief in multiple gods. And the Christian’s belief in [only] one God.

    – Because the Judean/Christian God claims to be the only God and all others are false, this cancels out the FSM argument and forces the Athiest to direct any and all arguments to the Judean/Christian God.

    – in order for the burden of proof to be upon the Atheist, they must accept the confrontation, pertaining to a position of an Atheist, is with God [Judean/Christain] and not with the position or definition of god(s).

    – until this acceptance by the Atheist [that the argument is with The [singular/only] God] then the burden of proof is upon the Christian to bring this position of acceptance into the argument. [a Christian might argue that this position is one of default, simply because the argument is with a Christian. But the burden of proof is upon the Christain to assert this position and defintion of/as a Christian and in turn God]

    [My multiple posts are not representative of a desire for attention. i'm using my previous posts as a workthrough of my thinking. - My opinion is obsolete, but the conundrum is important and I need a conclusion to it, wheather absolute or simply with myself]

  35. meanie,

    Cannot a burden of proof be fulfilled while the opponent still has not accepted the proof? Or are you saying burden of proof depends upon that person’s acceptance? I think what’s in view here is “[claim], because [substantiation of claim].” Not “[claim], now please please please accept it.” The first can be fulfilled, and one’s responsibility to substantiate a claim can be met. The second speaks more to a psychological satisfaction, which ultimately plays no part in the “truth” quality of the claim in question. It’s a simple distinction between “proof” and “persuasion.” People can be persuaded to accept incorrect or unproven things, after all.

    Now, the reason atheists have a burden is because the Christian God cannot be “written off” as if He’s just like all the other gods. As was stated in the post, the Christian God makes claims about even the cognitive abilities of person denying Him. It might be said that, “When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours,” but the reason Christians dismiss other gods is because God claims there is only one God, and that He is Him. So, surely that’s not the reason atheists dismiss the Christian God.

    What the atheist must do is give a consistent reason that they can think like they do, hold the values they do, all the while maintaining that their effort spent in explaining it is justified! In a universe where chance “governs,” and where values belong to individuals as mere conventions, what precedent is there for conforming someone outside one’s self to one’s own values, when by nature all values are equally valid? How does one arbitrate? In such a meaningless world, it’s altogether too acceptable for those in that world who may go by the name “Christian” to say, “Hmph. Whatever.”

    Essentially, the atheist needs to explain his existence in the absence of the Christian God. Indeed, the moment he utters the first syllable, or perhaps even before that, when he has in the previous few seconds formed the thoughts in his mind that he is about to articulate, he has refuted himself. His effort betrays what he is trying to prove. He is opposing himself.

    So maybe this little speech wasn’t very helpful, but it sure was fun.

    McFormtist

  36. The theist absurdly demands that we have absolute certainty that a god does not exist before we disbelieve in that particular god. That is a binary choice that belongs only in the realm of syllogistic logic. Intellectual honesty requires that our degree of belief (and, yes, belief is not binary) map to the belief of the available evidence. Absolute certainty of the non-existence of some god is not required to rationally dismiss that god as improbable, and therefore deserving of disbelief to a degree of doubt that maps to the degree of improbability.

    The sub-category of theists called Christians, however, have a larger problem, for their god CAN be shown to be logically impossible. Simply google “the impossible god” for more on this.

    • I wonder sometimes whether anyone commenting on this post has bothered to read it. The theist in this case is arguing that the atheist has a burden of proof. You have either not read or not understood the post, as your comment is irrelevant.

      And ‘lol’ at “the impossible god.” Ignorance of theology does not constitute an objection to the Christian faith.

      • Let be clear about theology.

        Among bible lovers, there are as many theological positions as there are hair styles. You know this. This is inevitable when you start with a semantically fuzzy book with that was not supplied with a standard of hermeneutics at its inception. The bible is a sorry excuse for a book that an almight god would write.

        If I don’t get your theology right, don’t simply tell me I’m wrong; tell me what you DO believe…unless you’d prefer to keep that out of the light of rational scrutiny.

        You seem to have completely missed that I accept the burden of proof for disproving the god of the bible. I have all my arguments on the wordpress site you can find by googling “the impossible god”. If you think the premises don’t reflect the god of the bible, attempt a correction.

        However, do not absurdly claim as you have previously that I have no argument.

        And how about this. You and I will have a debate on the logical coherent of the concept of redemption. It will follow the format of the debate found by googling “snake oil jesus”. Surely you can do better than my previous opponent.

        If your notion of redemption fails as logically coherent, all your other arguments collapse into irrelativity. Let me be clear; I’m claiming in no uncertain terms that your biblical god is logically impossible. I take on the burden of proof for that claim. Will you take up the challenge?

        • Literature is at fault because people are terrible readers? I don’t think that really works. What is anymore “semantically fuzzy” about the Bible than any other book? It does come with a hermeneutic, but most other books we can still read and understand do not. So there is not much of value in what you have stated.

          When you tell me to visit a site that allegedly demonstrates that the existence of the Christian God I believe in is impossible I do expect it to properly reflect my theology. At least, it needs to if it is supposed to be at all convincing to me. So I visit the site you tell me to go to, and it badly misunderstands and misrepresents traditional, Reformed, catholic theology. I mention this to you, and you ask me about my theology. lol? If you are going to boast that the God I believe in is impossible, then *you* must make that case, not me!

          I am glad you accept the burden of proof. There was no need for a comment then. You agree with the post. Thanks.

          As much as I would love to have a debate, I do not have time right now. I have been working to plan a debate with an atheist since December, and he comes first. Perhaps in the future.

      • Yes, and people who’ve read your assertion disagree and pointed out how an assertion carries the burden of providing the evidence to support it. It’s not much deeper than that.

        • Jody – yes, and other people who’ve read the assertion agree. *shrug*

          The evidence for why the atheist also has a burden of proof in a discussion over the God of the Bible was presented in the original post. Apparently it is a fairly deep subject, as many people continue to misrepresent or misunderstand what is being said, despite multiple clarifications.

          In summary – actions speak louder than words. You may claim you merely lack belief in God, but the act of making that claim carries with it a host of presuppositions which must be accounted for in order for that claim to be intelligible in the first place.

          BK

  37. So what about all the religious people who don’t believe in a Christian god? They are resonable. They are knowledgable. They are ethical. The implication here is that only people who believe in the christian bible have all those attributes (I thought we left that thought behind along with colonialism but apparently not)
    So in fact by claiming atheist (who believe in one less god than you who presumably doesn’t believe in most gods believed in on earth) have to prove that they are right implies all religions that don’t believe in a christian god have to prove that you are wrong (or they are right, whichever)….

    • Yes, there are non-Christian people who are reasonable, knowledgeable, ethical, and so on and so forth. That is addressed elsewhere on the site.

      The Christian does not believe in other gods because an omniscient being says they do not exist.

  38. J. "Greensage" Aguilar

    The atheist has a burden to prove what, exactly? That he or she does not believe in a god? The poster wrote that “holding any position whatsoever – even one of skepticism – implies a lot of things about reality, knowledge, possibly ethics, etc.” Sure, atheists like anyone else have their assumptions, but the fact that “nobody is neutral” is a trivial observation that does not strengthen the argument. What would strengthen the argument is a demonstration of the existence of his/her or any other god, which is not even attempted here (nor provided anywhere else, for that matter). If such proof existed, then you might reasonably challenge a person’s lack of belief.

    “So, the challenge for the atheist comes when they are presented with the question “Do you believe *the God of the Bible* exists?”

    –This is no special challenge for the athiest. Why is the god of The Bible so special? Oh, THIS is why:

    “Now, if the God of the Bible was like any other god, they could get away with saying “no” and leave it at that – no burden of proof. However, the God of the Bible isn’t like any other God. He claims that everyone knows he exists. He claims that he created the world. He claims that his existence is necessary for knowledge, ethics, aesthetics, etc. In short, he makes a bold claim about everyone’s ability to reason, weigh evidence, draw conclusions, etc. He claims that none of those actions that we all do on a daily basis would be possible unless he existed as described in the Bible.”

    –One could argue that the god of The Bible is like many other gods. Similarities between the narrative of The Bible and its antecendents abound. All the paragraph above states is that this god claims things that other gods do not. Okay, so what? This is also true for those other gods with respect to the god of The Bible. This is special pleading.

    “To say they don’t believe he exists is to say that it is *possible* to do these things (reason, weigh evidence, etc.) without him existing. But God says it is not possible to do them without him existing. Therefore (by implication) they are saying “This kind of God *does not* exist”.”

    –Actually, ‘I don’t believe it exists’ and ‘I think it’s possible to do these things without it’ are NOT logically equivalent. And, no, atheists are not saying, “This kind of God *does not* exist”, only “I don’t believe that a god exists”. There is no shortage of theists putting words in atheists’ mouths. “But God says it is not possible to do them without him existing.” Uh, okay. Again, the poster must first demonstrate the existence of his god for anyone to care about what people claim regarding it. Which is probably why the poster is attempting to shift the burden of proof.

    • Auguilar -

      “The atheist has a burden to prove what, exactly? That he or she does not believe in a god?”

      Interestingly enough, yes, but that’s not the point of the article. What they own a burden of proof for is for the truth of the foundational beliefs they operate on while claiming they don’t believe in any gods (or other beings) which have “ownership” of those things the atheist believes no being has ownership of.

      “The poster wrote that “holding any position whatsoever – even one of skepticism – implies a lot of things about reality, knowledge, possibly ethics, etc.” Sure, atheists like anyone else have their assumptions, but the fact that “nobody is neutral” is a trivial observation that does not strengthen the argument. ”

      Their lack of neutrality is exactly what gives the atheist their burden of proof, so yes, it does strengthen the argument.

      “What would strengthen the argument is a demonstration of the existence of his/her or any other god, which is not even attempted here (nor provided anywhere else, for that matter). If such proof existed, then you might reasonably challenge a person’s lack of belief.”

      Why would the author attempt to prove the existence of God in a post about why the atheist also owns a burden of proof? Furthermore, what makes you say such a proof has never been provided?

      “So, the challenge for the atheist comes when they are presented with the question “Do you believe *the God of the Bible* exists?”

      “–This is no special challenge for the athiest. Why is the god of The Bible so special?”

      The author explains why.

      “Oh, THIS is why:”

      Oh, so you do know why. OK.

      “Now, if the God of the Bible was like any other god, they could get away with saying “no” and leave it at that – no burden of proof. However, the God of the Bible isn’t like any other God. He claims that everyone knows he exists. He claims that he created the world. He claims that his existence is necessary for knowledge, ethics, aesthetics, etc. In short, he makes a bold claim about everyone’s ability to reason, weigh evidence, draw conclusions, etc. He claims that none of those actions that we all do on a daily basis would be possible unless he existed as described in the Bible.”

      “–One could argue that the god of The Bible is like many other gods. Similarities between the narrative of The Bible and its antecendents abound.”

      Sure – but it isn’t the similarities that make the difference, so the author didn’t feel it was relevant to bring up that fact.

      “All the paragraph above states is that this god claims things that other gods do not.”

      Actually, the paragraph gives examples of differences that are relevant to the case the author is making.

      “Okay, so what? This is also true for those other gods with respect to the god of The Bible. This is special pleading.”

      If you are referring to other claims by other gods that are materially relevant to the case the author is making, then the same burden of proof exists in relation to those gods as well. Notice the author never said the God of the Bible was the only god the atheist needs to demonstrate doesn’t exist, therefore no special pleading.

      “To say they don’t believe he exists is to say that it is *possible* to do these things (reason, weigh evidence, etc.) without him existing. But God says it is not possible to do them without him existing. Therefore (by implication) they are saying “This kind of God *does not* exist”.”

      “–Actually, ‘I don’t believe it exists’ and ‘I think it’s possible to do these things without it’ are NOT logically equivalent.”

      Correct, and the author never said they were. What he said is that the former leads to the latter.

      “And, no, atheists are not saying, “This kind of God *does not* exist”, only “I don’t believe that a god exists”.”

      They explicitly say “I don’t believe that a god exists” which implicitly leads to the conclusion “this kind of God *does not* exist”, due to the claims about this type of god.

      “There is no shortage of theists putting words in atheists’ mouths.”

      And vice versa, but this is not such a case. The author is arguing that (mere) *lack of belief* in certain types
      of gods (the God of the Bible, in this case) is essentially the same as *disbelief* in those gods.

      ““But God says it is not possible to do them without him existing.” Uh, okay. Again, the poster must first demonstrate the existence of his god for anyone to care about what people claim regarding it.”

      Actually no. The god in question doesn’t need to exist in order for the atheist to disbelief its existence.

      “Which is probably why the poster is attempting to shift the burden of proof.”

      The author never indicated the Christian has no burden of proof. Notice the final sentence says that “therefore they own *a* burden of proof” and not “*the* burden of proof”. There is a burden on both sides of the debate. Perhaps a closer reading in the future will allow you to avoid these misunderstandings.

      In conclusion, perhaps a simpler claim will make this easier for you to understand. Let’s say that a particular diety – D – claims that all people believe it exists. Is it possible for the atheist to be passive and claim mere unbelief in this diety? Obviously not. The honest atheist would have to say “I believe this particular diety does not exist”. Why? Because the atheist claims a lack of belief in any diety at all, so obviously such a diety as this could not exist (according to the atheist), as if it did, the atheist *would* believe it existed. The thought exercise is designed in such a way as to disallow for any neutrality on the issue.

      BK

      • “In conclusion, perhaps a simpler claim will make this easier for you to understand. Let’s say that a particular diety – D – claims that all people believe it exists. Is it possible for the atheist to be passive and claim mere unbelief in this diety? Obviously not. The honest atheist would have to say “I believe this particular diety does not exist”. Why? Because the atheist claims a lack of belief in any diety at all, so obviously such a diety as this could not exist (according to the atheist), as if it did, the atheist *would* believe it existed. The thought exercise is designed in such a way as to disallow for any neutrality on the issue.”

        The problem is that a particular diety is not claiming that all people believe it exists. Some people are claiming that certains books were authoured directly or indirectly by the diety and that those books claim that all people believe in this diety.
        As a claim the burden of proof lies first upon the people who claim those books are directly or indirectly authoured by the diety to show such, and then upon the the diety itself to show good reason that all people believe it exists.
        Which in itself is falsifiable.

        • If you state that the Christian conception of God does not include His communicating to us that everyone knows He exists, then you are arguing against a straw man, for that is precisely what we as Christians are saying that our conception of God does include.

          If you state that the Christian God does not in actuality communicate to us that everyone knows He exists, then you are making a universal negative claim which, regardless of what Scripture states, requires you to satisfy a burden of proof.

          In other words, you are missing that this argument focuses upon worldviews. We are taking the Christian worldview as a whole and setting it over against its antithetical view, so asking for some proof of every single little thing we say concerning God is just a cop out. A deity with no content is not a concept of deity at all, and a deity with content may be stipulated as such.

  39. I am not stating that “the Christian conception of God does not include His communicating to us that everyone knows He exists”
    I am however stating that it is not shown that “the Christian God does not in actuality communicate to us that everyone knows He exists” except in that “Some people are claiming that certains books were authoured directly or indirectly by the diety and that those books claim that all people believe in this diety.”

    That in itself is not a question of worldview it is a question of satisfying the reality of a premise. A conception of something does not make it real any more that stating a premise makes it so, it still needs to shown – at least to significant degree of probability – that one should have a justified belief in that concept.
    I have made two claims,
    1. “Some people are claiming that certains books were authoured directly or indirectly by the diety and that those books claim that all people believe in this diety.”
    2. It is not shown that: “a particular diety – D – claims that all people believe it exists.” except in that referred to in (1.)

    Neither of which is a universal negative claim. (1.) is an inclusive claim as to who or what claims that all believe in a diety. This can be shown to be true by those claiming such and that they derive their justification from a book. (2.) is a request to for justification of the claim made by yourself, which does have a burden of proof upon you.

    I am not asking for some proof of every little thing you say concerning god, only those things you claim or use as a premise of an argument. In this case it is only the claim that a diety claims that all people believe that it exists. Which is a claim and as such the burden of proof lies upon those making that claim.

  40. I would like to join this group and discussion if for nothing else then to learn. I’m a Christian but have a dear family member who is an ex-Christian turned atheist. I find this discussion very interesting and hopefully helpful. Plus I want to learn how to better give a defense for the hope that I find in the Gospel.

    • Sorry to hear that Lora, Our thoughts and prayers go out to you and your family. Feel free to join us in the channel and someone might be around to answer any questions you have concerning atheism and the like.

  41. i think the only time the burden of proof of anything is required is when one (or many) are trying to push their beliefs onto a society or group of people who do not share those same beliefs. for instance, i believe that we are all humans living in the here and now (god created or not, makes ZERO difference) and should be able to live our truth in peace, harmony and love. OUR truth. not this organization’s truth, or that organization’s truth. if you believe i should NOT be gay, NOT have premarital sex, NOT have abortions, NOT believe in evolution, NOT divorce, NOT masturbate… NOT, NOT NOT do anything that makes me human (sinner to you) then YOU must PROVE why you believe others MUST live YOUR truth! do you know for sure that if i partake of any of the things listed that i will indeed go to hell? do you know of any other “sinner” who is burning in your hell that now regrets their sins?? if you cannot (and i know you cannot because contacting the dead is an abomination; and if there was PROOF of god and hell i’d be first in line at the confessional – that’s my humanness and your fear mongering at work), you must ACCEPT that you CHOOSE to believe, and that others also have the right to CHOOSE their own beliefs. **i do not condone atheists (i am pandeist) who belittle others for their beliefs. nor do i condone christians telling non-believers that they will burn in hell. that is not intelligent at all. and neither side knows. live and let live. that is the greatest thing you can do for all life.

    • the only time the burden of proof of anything is required is when one (or many) are trying to push their beliefs onto a society or group of people who do not share those same beliefs.

      Why are you trying to push your beliefs on me that I do not share since, according to you, that demands that you have a burden of proof?

  42. Hi CLB,
    I’ve been reading through your blog and I can honestly say that your posts are very intelligent and informed.

    I’ve encountered this dilemma before where a couple of atheists badgered me to prove to them that God exists. They told me that the burden of proof is mine since I’m a believer. Thus, I went about enumerating a number of things I hold as “evidence”: The Anthropic Principle, Cosmological Argument, aesthetics/beauty, supernatural phenomena, anecdotal experiences, etc…

    However, the response I get is in the line of “Can’t you present hard scientific facts coz all you’re giving us is philosophy.” What I noticed is that a believer can’t ever seem to present the (scientific?) evidence that the atheist requires. Does this not mean that the believer has lost the debate because we can’t present the kind of evidence required to end the argument? What I realize is that what’s definite evidence/proof for me is not definite at all for some/many atheists. Some atheists have even gone as far as claiming the Big Bang just came about from nothing (a philosophical statement in itself), to discount need for a cause.

    Now that you’ve shifted the burden of proof to the atheist, can the atheist not just say that God certainly does not exist because God is not anywhere in sight? God cannot be detected by any human means. God has not answered any (of their) prayers. No one has seen the afterlife. etc etc…

    Absence of evidence may not be evidence of absence, but I don’t see any winners whether from the believer side of the unbeliever side.

    Am I making sense? haha, thanks in advance.

  43. I haven’t read every post, so I apologize if this has been addressed already.

    The two statements, “I do not believe God exists,” and “God does not exist,” are not equivalent. There is no way to prove that someone making the first statement is not simply lying. It implies “God may or may not exist, but I do not believe he exists.” It is nothing more than a description of the speaker’s internal state. The second statement, on the other hand, is a positive assertion that would require proof, since it concerns a universal reality.

    The same should hold true for the presuppositionalist. If he is stating “The God of the Christian Bible exists, and everyone knows he exists, and even our ability to debate his existence requires that he exist,” this is not a description of the speaker’s internal state, but a universally-applicable assertion, so it requires proof. And if the atheist’s response is, “I don’t believe you,” that is again a description of their internal state, requiring no proof.

    • Matthias McMahon

      Except that by saying, “I do not believe God exists,” that person is saying the Bible is wrong when it says that everyone does. He’s not merely reporting the status of his own belief.

      There is no way to prove that someone making the first statement is not simply lying.

      There’s no way to prove that he’s not lying? I’m not sure that’s what you meant. We possess the means to prove he is lying, whether or not he finds the proof convincing. Since one property of God is that he is known by all his creatures, it follows that to deny knowledge of God is to say, in essence, that that God doesn’t exist. The two statements have the same result. So the non-theist not only has to prove that he actually does not know (a fool’s errand, no pun intended. It’s still a positive claim, however, given the implications.), but that all of reality exists without God. This, of course, makes the non-theist’s job incredibly difficult, aside from impossible.

  44. From studying the ontological argument and talking with atheists, I have found that an atheist needs to hold a certain premise, which subjects this person to the burden of proof: ***”I believe that it is possible that God does not exist.”*** For an atheist to believe this, he is not stating a falsehood but rather is making a claim, which means that he is in the position to defend what he believes.

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