Responses to "Prove there is no god

I ran across this post on Facebook from Ben Andrews on May 6, 2016. It offers a good, solid response to those who want proof there is no god!

"Proof there is no god?
"How often have we encountered the Theists, when you ask for proof that god exists demanding that you 'prove' that God does not exist, and then get in a discussion who has the burden of proof instead of answering the question directly. Very frustrating. 

"Here is the answer to that dilemma. Take the agnostic approach and begin the discussion with an 'I don’t know', an answer they can not ask you to 'prove' so they are still stuck with the burden of proof, before any other discussion takes place. Do not let them divert the debate, as they often do. Tell them repeatedly that no further discussion is possible until they prove their original claim. They will then quit or come up with some easily to defeat answers, such as 'look out the window', 'I had a vision' or 'I feel it in my heart'"

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Comment by Michael Penn on July 18, 2016 at 4:30pm

Over the weekend I found out that my stepfather is in very bad shape mentally and he needs counseling. Unfortunately, all he will get here is the preacher kind of talk if he reaches out to anybody. He told me he sees my dead mother and sister all the time. He grieves for them daily and knows these "visions" are not real, but he directs his anger at me when he says "what if you are wrong?" Then he tells me I'm not that smart.

I'm sorry. I came out to him as atheist last year and it wasn't me who told him there was pie in the sky by and by, and when you die you get yours. He thinks that someday he will blink and there my mother and sister will be. Together again at last, and together forever.

Now some people might tell me I should humor this 84 year old man. Does that mean I should lie to him all over again? It isn't my fault that he is in grief now, and I know no way of helping him unless I lie to him. He will probably go to his preacher with it.

Comment by Joan Denoo on July 18, 2016 at 3:35pm

Thais, I found Dr. Peter Boghossian's 'A Manual for Creating Atheists'a useful source of ideas when dealing with family. We have a somewhat tight family with the usual problems of alcoholism, multiple marriages, unwanted and unplanned pregnancies, some mental and physical problems, and some shady business deals. However, they are christians and have the voice of god guiding them in their choices. It was my intent to be clear about how I thought. Whenever I hear something like, "God told me" or "Leave it (whatever) to god" I have a whole mind full of Boghossianisms. It is not a manual of responses, but a book of principles, i.e. 

we need to teach people how to think like scientists and not just have them memorize science facts (Shermer, Michael, personal correspondence, August 16, 2012).

Boghossian, Peter (2013-10-26). A Manual for Creating Atheists (p. 53). Pitchstone Publishing. Kindle Edition.

 (Shermer, Michael,

Both Boghossian and Shermer offer valid ideas. 

For a while, some family members were angry when I responded to their god-talk. Over time, some welcome me to family functions; one likes to debate and so do I, and some remain aloof. The major change is that most of my relatives don't bring up the subject of religion and neither do I, until and unless that person who likes to debate wants another round.

Our discussions move fast, with back and forth rounds that are interesting for others to observe. When we finish, my Debater gives me a fancy birdhouse. I'm not kidding. This photo is just one of his treasures; he gave me about six, each one different than the others. 

Comment by Thais Gomes on July 18, 2016 at 4:10am
I think it's funny when you can actually doubt the existence of God. In my family they talk about it non-stop. "In church God said..." "God said I shouldn't sell this house "... It makes me want to throw up really. There's nothing I can say to change their minds. The fact that I reject its existence makes them think I need it even more. Even though we're logical they shame us and makes us feel like an abdomination.
Comment by Michael Penn on May 11, 2016 at 9:35am

I find that the theists get emotional and yell. "My god, are you crazy? Everybody knows there is a god. Just look at the sunset." (OK, now we have proof of a sunset.)

The strange thing here is that this way of thinking comes right out of their holy book and it proves nothing. There is nothing to back it up.

As for feeling something in your heart, what if you felt it in your big toe? People think then that I'm getting silly but your heart feels nothing. It just pumps blood.

Comment by Jennifer W on May 11, 2016 at 8:52am

It's funny when people say I feel it in my heart. My heart has been wrong plenty of times.

The thing is with arguing with some people is that in the end they're going to believe what they want to believe. It's when you get that open window of opportunity is when you can truly educate people. It's not that I'm defeatist about debating, just sometimes with people who are not as good at it, like me, tend to start to get emotional and yell. Which makes me look foolish.

Comment by Michael Penn on May 10, 2016 at 9:28pm

The idea of a god being simply does not fit objective reality. This is why science does not tackle the question. In fact, to a scientist asking if a god exists is a bad question. What if doesn't do anything or is not a true factor in the equation.

I don't debate people because they talk nonsense. In Google recently again a woman wanted to chide me as "being an intellectual" and making all these claims against a godmyth, and I took her to task immediately. I am not intellectual, and I do not know. What I point out is that nobody else knows either and believers just make stuff up. You have to understand that we cannot possibly know everything, and that is is OK to admit that you do not know.

Comment by Loren Miller on May 10, 2016 at 9:06pm

The one making the positive claim – that a god exists – bears the burden of proof for that claim.  Until that claim is substantiated, the Null Hypothesis holds ... or in other words:

What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.
-- Hitch's Razor

Comment by Grinning Cat on May 10, 2016 at 8:28pm

You don't have to "know." Many people, strong atheists or not, find that it simply makes sense to live with the assumption that we can't depend on any supernatural "authority" or intervention in our lives.

(Lots of religious believers behave similarly! I'm sure you'll find quite a few theistic Christians, Muslims, Jews, Pagans, etc., using their seat belts, seeing their doctors, and so forth.)



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