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Skeptics and God – Where do we stand?

Posted in Religion, Skepdude, Skepticism by Skepdude on October 24, 2008

Skepticism is about evaluating the veracity of a claim based on the evidence for or against said claim. There are many skeptics that are atheists, and there are many that are deists. I’ve yet to run across a skeptic that is a theist. There are various schools of thought on the relationship between skepticism and atheism. Some skeptics think that skepticism must not necessarily lead to atheism. Others believe that skepticism should be applied equally to every area in life including religious belief and as such skepticism should, but it doesn’t always, lead one to atheism, or agnosticism. I generally tend to prescribe to the latter school of thought. But that is besides the point I am interested in making here.

James Randi, uber-skeptic of our times, many times tells how he asks believers in woo the following question : ” What evidence would make you change your mind about your belief?”. Many times he gets an answer in the lines of : “None, I know this is true”. Needless to say that is not a very bright or enlightened answer, and this person seriously needs some remedial classes in critical thinking and logic.

I think we can view the question of God, at least the theistic God, with a skeptical eye. The God of the major monotheistic religions is well within the realm of science and skepticism. Which means that we, the skeptics, should be able to answer our own question:

What sort of evidence will convince you of the existence of the theistic God as described in the 3 major monotheistic religions?

Part of being a skeptic, is the ability to be skeptical about your own beliefs and what you hold dear. It is dangerously easy to become dogmatic in your skepticism, to become dogmatic in your lack of belief in the theistic God. As such any good skeptic must be able to offer an answer to the above question. Here is what I offer.

The great Carl Sagan said that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. God is probably the most extraordinary claim humans have come up with, as such the kind and amount of evidence must be on par with this claim. The sort of evidence that would convince me would have to be huge in scope and magnitude to the point that all living human beings experience it. Every  single one of them, so that to avoid frauds, hallucinations and delusions. It must be predicted and announced before it happens to the smallest details, none of the crappy retrofitting or vague psychic claims that we are used to. It must be so spectacular that a hoax would simply be out of the question.  That is the basic theoretical underpinning on what such evidence should look like. Practically it could go something like this:

On November 1st 2008, at exactly 3:00 PM Eastern Standard Time, every human being will gain the ability to teleport themselves anywhere in the world. Such ability will last for 1 hour until 4:00 PM Eastern Standard Time, at which time it will go away. Please make sure to teleport back before 4:00 PM.

Or something like :

On November 1st 2008, at exactly 3:00 PM Eastern Standard Time, all water in the world, inlcuding oceans, seas, rivers, streams, tap water, bottled water, rain etc etc will turn into chocolate milk. This will last for one full hour until 4:00 PM Eastern Standard Time at which time the chocolate milk will go back to being whatever it was before the transformation.

So there you have it. It would take something of that magnitude and specificity to happen in order for me as a skeptic to say that yes, the evidence presented supports the claim that the theistic God exists. Until this happens, I have no other choice but to conclude that the evidence presented so far does  not support the hypothesis of the theistic God’s existence.

3 Responses

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  1. John said, on October 24, 2008 at 6:22 PM

    Skepdude:

    Just a note. The main problem with the existence of a God is that the claim is simply not falsifiable. There’s no evidence of that, answers to “God must want it that way.”

    You can’t prove a claim that isn’t falsifiable in the first place, and you can’t disprove it.

  2. Skepdude said, on October 24, 2008 at 6:28 PM

    True, nevertheless as I point out a good skeptic must always be aware of what kind of evidence would make him change his mind. This is only meant to be an exercise in that area.

    Also keep in mind that if a religion did make the claim that one of my two requested pieces of evidence will come true, that claim is falsifiable in itself.

  3. Olly said, on June 28, 2009 at 2:35 PM

    surely that only proves that a genuine phenominon occured? For it to be the God of the scriptures wouldn’t such an occurence be only the start. At best it could be evidence for the existence of a superpowerful being/advanced aliens. The existence of Advanced technology seems to me to always be a more rational explanation that invoking the supernatural. A better example, which wouldn’t prove God’s existence but rather be evidence for such, would be the sucess of something like faith healing where something from the scriptures (prayer) is reproducable.


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