The burden of proof is on believers to prove God exists (according to atheist philosphers)

This is an article from Psychology Today written by Dr. David Kyle Johnson

It is basically saying “Since theists demand the Big Bang needs an explanation, God would need an explanation as well. Saying he doesn’t need one is a double standard. Since he can’t be explained, there is no evidence that He exists, thus there is not logical reason to believe”

Here is a paragraph from the actual article:

**Of course, theists will likely reply that they are not just saying God doesn’t need an explanation, but that by definition he doesn’t because by definition he is the greatest being, and the greatest being can’t have an explanation. (Anything that explains God would be greater.) It’s not clear to me that this is the case; but even so, the basic rule of logic that, in debates on existential matters, the burden of proof lies on the one making the positive existential claim is true regardless of whether the entity in question is unexplained or self-explained. For example, if someone suggested the existence of an alien race that created itself through time travel (by traveling back in time and seeding its own race), I would still demand they provided evidence for such beings before I believed. In addition, I could maintain that there is an infinite number of universes, each of which exists inexplicably—without cause or explanation. Yet to rationally believe that any other such universe exists, I would demand evidence.

All in all, atheists are not being irrational by justifying their atheism simply in a lack of evidence for God’s existence, any more than I am being irrational in justifying “a-bigfootism” in a lack of evidence for Bigfoot.**

What is the rebuttal?

There isn’t one.

If you want to claim that something exists, then there is a requirement on you, should you wish to excercise it, to offer some proof.

An atheist, or at least this one, doesn’t make any claim. He just asserts that the evidence for your particular claim in regard to God’s existence, is not sufficient to assert a personal belief.

There is no requirement on me to prove that God doesn’t exist, because, quite simply, I am not making that claim in the first instance.

Then you’re agnostic not atheist. As far as believers having to provide proof, we take it on Faith that God exists. No proof required.

I really don’t want to get into a discussion about atheism, agnosticism, strong and weak atheism etc. I simply don’t believe in the supernatural. You can call that what you will.

And if you feel no obligation to enter into a discussion as to whether God does exist or not, then we’re all good. However, should you do so, then the burden of proof would be on you.

If I claimed that God did not exist, and you were, in your terms, agnostic, then in any discussion regarding the veracity of my claim, the burden of proof would be on me.

Bradski, do you deny any inherent “burden of proof” when no claim is made? If we were to all have reserved opinions that were not advanced, would a burden of proof even exist?

I think there’s a nuanced difference between saying “I don’t believe God exists” and saying “God does not exist.”

The former might require some reasons why one doesn’t believe, if pressed. But it’s really difficult to say that the first is untrue. I mean, unless you think the utterer is lying about their belief.

The latter means to assert an ontological fact about how the world really is. And I think that assertion has the same burden of proof as the positive assertion of God’s existence.

The same way, if you say you believe in God you don’t owe me a proof. I might ask for reasons that move me to share the belief or not. It’s when we make hard assertions that an interlocutor is justified in saying " show me how."

No, it wouldn’t. The burden of proof is only on a person making a claim.

Not sure.

One could claim that it isn’t irrational to be an atheist. One could also claim it is irrational to believe. But that depends on the definition of rational.

Consider the time we live in. This psychologist is symptomatic of it. The burden of proof does not weigh on us, however. The burden of proof weighs on a deeper philosophical problem: the wager, the gamble. Atheism to me is irrational in that it is so sure of itself, against so much historical divine intervention and the fact that one is able to believe in SOMETHING other than oneself. Pascal would tell you to gamble on the side of belief, because what harm is there in believing in God if he doesn’t exist? Just believe. If you choose not to, then you might condemn yourself. God has loved you, yet you said “no, I do not know you.” Salvation in this strict theological sense is achievable if you simply take the leap of faith to say “I believe.”

You cannot choose to believe. You either accept or reject evidence which then determines, automatically, whether you believe or not.

Have you ever believed something when you had rejected the evidence? Have you ever disbelieved something when you did accept the evidence? Don’t you think that either would be extraordinarily bizzare?

Specifically? And outside of whatever is mentioned in the Bible, or Lives of the Saints. In other words, [sup][citation needed][/sup].

…and the fact that one is able to believe in SOMETHING other than oneself. Pascal would tell you to gamble on the side of belief, because what harm is there in believing in God if he doesn’t exist?[Just believe. **If you choose not to, then you might condemn yourself.

God has loved you, yet you said “no, I do not know you.” Salvation in this strict theological sense is achievable if you simply take the leap of faith to say “I believe.”

The problem with Pascal’s wager is that it could just as easily apply to, say, Allah as the Muslims view Him: Worshipping Jesus as God makes me an idolater bound for hell. So, whose condemnation should I risk? Allah’s or Jesus’s?

Does this include people who continue to believe Toronto can win the Stanley Cup? :hmmm:

I suppose what the atheist wants is absolute physical proof of God’s existence…which is of course an impossible request since God is immaterial. Of course there are philosophical reasons to believe in God. A great example is Aristotle’s “uncaused cause” proposition which essentially states that it is illogical to believe that the entire universe can be explained by an infinite regression of caused causes, just as the movement of a train can not be explained by simply believing each unpowered car is pulling the one behind it. It is much more logical to believe that the train is being pulled by a powered locomotive. Aristotle by pure reason concluded there must exist an infinite, immaterial, omnipotent, and intelligent being that has as its nature necessary existence…an uncaused cause…what we call God.

I don’t feel any burden of proof. There is perhaps more a burden to share everything I have received. And, this is everything I have, because I do not cause myself to exist. All stems from the reality of God, transcendent, everywhere and in everything. This here is what it is, and our individually being in relation to everything else is part of it, mirroring what lies at the Ground of its being - Existence, perfectly relational as Love (Caritas). I don’t think it is possible for humanity to arrive at the truth without God. Outside of the Body of Christ, humanity united in love, there is no “we” that understands, just individuals, weaving the words of others into the fabric of their particular world-view. The proof lies in the reality of Jesus Christ, the perfection of the self through love, available to all in their own fashion.

Philosophy today is a joke. A philosopher who makes an argument for atheism being rational is, by virtue of his own argument, also asserting that he knows enough about the world to make a definitive judgement about such a profound notion as to wether God exists. Wow, gotta like that hubris. Maybe the ‘philosopher’ in question should read a history book. Or, better yet, read Don Quixote.

If you accept that all things must have a reason for being, then you end up with a rational proof for God by metaphysical necessity (and the Dr. Johnson obviously doesn’t understand that classical theists do say God must have a reason). If you reject that all things have a reason for being, then it’s rather absurd to say you don’t believe in something because there’s no reason to believe in it – the being of at least some things without sufficient reason for their existence is inherent to your position.

Anyway, any atheist is making a positive statement about the nature of reality in rejecting God, and trying to lump himself in with agnostics about not having a belief is just disingenuous and anti-intellectual.

I am not sure that an atheist would accept that. There may be other reasons that we have not yet discovered.

It’s not a matter of waiting for another empirical discovery and trying to fill in the gaps until then. The only way to avoid an infinite regress, an impossibility in an essentially ordered series (in contrast to accidentally ordered), is to end up with some type of first that exists necessarily – that is, it’s its own reason for existence and relies on no external cause. Such a thing could not be subject to change and it could not be composed or extended (and therefore could not be material). That is, it could not possess qualities which require external causes to be, because otherwise the regress continues until you encounter such a thing.

I suppose one could grant a type of extreme necessitarianism, say that every quark and every quantum fluctuation at every moment of all time could not have been different. Not even just that given the big bang as it happened (or other such event, and therefore setting that apart from everything else being necessarily as it is) things could not have been different, but that any other arrangement of the universe is not just a physical impossibility but a metaphysical impossibility, and that the universe is not subject to change at all, but that’s an extremely bold claim in itself.

Anyway. That’s my last post on that tangent, if anyone else wants the final word. The more important thing at issue here is whether atheists have any responsibility to justify their position. Ultimately, yes, because any such statement is positive, and certainly any metaphysical underpinnings about the nature of reality that lead them to such a belief require a defense.

The burden of proof in any debate is on the one making the positive claim. “God does not exist” is a positive claim which atheists and agnostics who are experienced studiously avoid for obvious reasons: it is impossible to prove the negative claim. Atheists who insist that God does not exist are simply expressing their own opinions - their animosity, really - toward God in general and Christianity more specifically.

In response to the quote you posted, I would point out that evidence for the existence of God does exist, and it is evaluated in great detail by those atheists who are honestly (though perhaps reluctantly) on the road to conversion to faith in God. J. Warner Wallace and Lee Strobel are two of the many examples that I could cite of former atheists who exhaustively examined the evidence and concluded that God does exist.

Of course, atheists who don’t want to make the effort or simply don’t want God to exist for any number of reasons (generally related to moral issues) find it much easier to assert that there is no evidence for God’s existence. Hence the rise of the modern Jesus Mythicist movement.

It’s just so much easier to assert that Jesus simply never existed. :rolleyes:

Christians all make claims about whether God exists. By your reasoning you’re pretty heavily mired in hubris as well. Since we’re recommending books, Moby Dick is fantastic.

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