There are ongoing threads about God’s existence, one of them having the title: “Why do you believe in God”? One can see assertions like: “There is a ton of evidence for… ”. Rather then to derail those threads, I would like to explore the problem of “evidence” on its own right.
The question is: “what counts as evidence”? The fact is that all the “evidence” offered by the believers is the same kind: “hearsay evidence”. There is no direct, verifiable evidence that would be offered.
The believers say that God cannot be put in a Petri-dish, so the non-believers are unreasonable to request physical evidence. Sounds good at first glance, but then the believers also say that God actively maintains this physical existence. Not just set the whole “shebang” in motion, fabricated some laws of nature, and then laid back and – apart from very rare miracles – only observes the scenery. There is no event (be it a Holocaust, an act of charity, throwing an infant into a furnace or making love to someone, etc…) in which God is not an active participant. As such it would be very reasonable that God’s constant interaction with the physical reality could be observed.
But the believers deny it. This whole interaction is just considered “invisible magic”, which cannot be detected. So what “evidence” do they offer?
Also the believers assert that God grants some supplicative prayers. Now that could be tested. The person uttering the request is in this reality, the prayer – if granted – can be examined in this reality, so it is definitely subject to scientific analysis. We could conduct a regression analysis. And the result? There is no statistical correlation between the prayers and their alleged “fulfillment”. When this discrepancy is pointed out to the believers, they will invariably say, that God cannot be “tested”. God may grant some requests, but only if the requests are not part of a “testing” process.
So, what remains?
The only “evidence” being offered by the catholics is the 1) Bible, and 2) the so-called “sacred” tradition. The trouble is that catholics assert that New Testament was put together by the catholic church, and, of course the “sacred” tradition is the tradition of the same church. So we deal with the convenient setup where the church created the “evidence” and then it says that the “evidence” supports what the church teaches. And then to add insult to injury it also claims that the church is infallible in the case of faith and morals. That is not something that is convincing for the skeptics.
So, the next argument is offered: “almost 100% of what we know comes indirectly, from some kind of testimonials”. We almost never take the time and effort to personally verify the claims of others, especially the claims of experts. (Not to mention that we are not even qualified to conduct most of the experiments – they need specialized knowledge that we lack.) Again, at first glance it sounds reasonable. However, the reliance on testimonials is not “absolute”.
Why do we trust the scientists? Because they can substantiate what they claim. You do not need “faith” that the scientist is right. You can demand that he proves what he states. Moreover he must be able to tell you how to conduct the experiment, so you need not rely on his word at all. With the scientific claims the “chain” of experts is finite. At the end there is the actual experiment. That is the difference between the claims of science and the claims of religion. There is no religious authority which could substantiate the existence of an “immortal soul”, or the “bliss” is heaven, or the suffering in “hell” or the “existence of angels and demons”. The “chain” of experts does not end, they all point to another “expert”. It is “turtles all the way down”, supported only by “faith”. And “faith” without evidence is called “blind faith”.
The funny thing that in real life no one would accept such an “evidence”. Imagine that you are accused of raping and murdering a dozen children, and the prosecution would offer this “evidence”: “I have a few witnesses (Joe and Mary and some more), who are about to testify that they heard from Jim, or Kay, or others, who all read somewhere about the accused having performed such an act. No, there are no bodies found. But Jim (and Kay etc…) are very honest and reliable persons, so you should take their testimony seriously”. What would be your reaction if you were actually convicted on such flimsy and ridiculous “evidence”?
Hearsay evidence is sometimes accepted in certain, un-important cases. But never in important ones. So the conclusion is that there is no evidence for the claims of religion. They all must be accepted on faith – blind faith. Can anyone refute this?