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Atheism

What proof would it take to
make an Atheist believe in God?

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Convincing Atheists (or Agnostics, Humanists, etc.) to believe in God:

Amazon.com, which contains the world's largest bookstore, lists Christopher Hitchens' book: "God is Not Great: How religion poisons everything"  1 The title reverses the Arabic phrase "Allahu Akbar" which means "God is great." Attached to Amazon's product page is a Customer Discussion forum titled: "Atheists, what would it take to make you reconsider?"2 That is, what would comprise an event so powerfully convincing that it would convert an Atheist into a believer in some type of God.

The question is not what it would take to convert an Atheist to believe specifically in the fundamentalist Christian concept of God, or in a progressive Christian's view of God, or the diverse views of God expressed by the full range of Baha'is, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, Wiccans, Deism, etc. The question was what it would take for an Atheist to believe in some sort of supernatural entity with a group of supernatural attributes perhaps including some of the following: omnipotence, omnipresence, omniscience, and omnibeneficience.

The forum was started up on 2007-JUN-21 with the initial posting by "MadDog:"

"First, let me lay my cards on the table: I am a an atheist - a *hard* atheist. I find the Christian/Jewish/Muslim concept of God to be inherently illogical and I consider the "Holy Books" of these religions to be a naive collection of myths cobbled together from preexisting ideas and texts."

"However, I also maintain, as do most atheists, that my position is a rational one based on evidence or the lack of it. Thus my beliefs are hostage to the data and, at least in principle, there is the possibility that they will be falsified by some new evidence."

"For example, suppose it were discovered that encoded in the bible are the detailed instructions for building a series of useful machines - machines that have not yet been invented. I do not mean the sort of silly notion like the "Bible Code" that went by a few years ago but something that stood up to rigorous statistical analysis and whose likelihood of being accidental was astronomically improbable. In such a case, I do not know what conclusion I would reach, but I would seriously reconsider my opinion of the bible."

"Another possibility suggested by [Carl] Sagan in [the movie] Contact: Suppose that we found similar information encoded in the binary sequence representing PI - perhaps starting far beyond the digits that we have already calculated. I do not expect any such discovery nor am I even hoping for one, but if it were found, I would reconsider my ideas about the possibility of intelligent design."

"So, fellow infidels, what say you all?"

Within its first month, it had received 84 postings. Not all were serious. Some suggestions were:

bullet G.P.: "There isn't any possible evidence that can make factually inaccurate claims true, or make the illogical logical. There isn't any possible new evidence that can come along and make 2 plus 2 equal 5."

bullet Jay Vogelsong: "At this point, I can think of nothing which would make me reconsider. I have already wasted a big part of my life trying to find the truth in religious and mystical concepts. I found the exact reverse of what I intended, but in such excruciating detail that I can't conceive of going back. Even if someone revised the concept of God in such a way as to make it seem valid (given whatever real-world facts you choose), its common usage would still prevent me from acknowledging that such a revision would merit acceptance under the word "God." Such stretching of the term would only lend support to the already delusional. "God" simply cannot qualify as a possible scientific theory to explain anything, due to its wide-ranging supernatural, superstitious, and other absurd connotations."

bullet ABK: "I suppose if God knocked on my door one day and said, 'Come with me. I will beam us to Darfur and save all those starving people with a real live miracle.' That might do it. It wouldn't even have to be my door. What I'd really love is if he'd round up the so-called 'holy' people (Pope, Dalai Lama, Pat Robertson, Al Sadr, Bin Laden, Bill O'Reilly, Shrub) and beam them all to Darfur. Then, having waved his hand to stop the genocide, turned to them and said, 'OK, you twits, who told you I said it was OK to kill in my name?' That'd be very cool. I'd join His church!"

"Or if my nephew's severed spinal cord reconnected following prayer and he got up and went water-skiing, that would be pretty convincing. Or if a mosque, synagogue, ashram or church got together and prayed up the regrowth of a severed limb or a missing eye for one of those soldiers in the VA hospital. That might just do it."
bullet Dave: "If Jesus were to appear to me in person, and allow me to *videotape* him walking through a wall or levitating an automobile (so that I could later prove to myself and to others that I hadn't been hallucinating), then I suppose I might believe. (But I'd have a lot of pointed questions for him.)"

"An incredible and undeniable medical miracle such as ABK describes (except more impressive than a reconnected spine--I'm talking about the regrowth of a long-lost limb, or the resurrection of someone who has already been embalmed) might cause me to reconsider the idea of a personal god, but it wouldn't validate any one religion. Just because people were praying to Jesus doesn't mean he's the one who answered the prayer."

bullet A confident Atheist: "if there were any sort of proof that prayers to the Christian god or any other god are answered at any rate better than 50/50 chance (in other words, if it were shown that prayer made any difference in real events whatsoever) then I would reconsider."

bullet S. Henkels: "If a voice and image came to me, probably from the sky, and looked like an Old Man with a white beard (but NOT Santa Claus and his reindeer) ... and offered me monumental words of wisdom, perhaps even the secret to eternal life, I would possibly believe that this being was the Bible God. Trouble is, the chances are that if this actually did happen (very slim indeed), it would be pure delusion and hallucination, and if I told enough people, I'd be put into a loony bin!"

bullet Brian Corll: "It would require God showing his face and explaining just what the hell this has all been about, and why the world is the way it is."

bullet Old man: "Peace on earth, good will towards all mankind, and no more man's inhumanity towards mankind would make me believe in god."

bullet Sara Rother: "I am tempted to say that nothing would make me believe in god, but then I am a scientist, so MAYBE if there was undisputbale proof (which is almost impossible to get over anything abstract) that would get me to change my mind."

bullet B. Niece: "... I would need the burning bushes and the archangels to visit me from time to time."

bullet R. Lee: "If he appeared to me, not in a dream or a drunken state, but face to face. If he wants me to follow him its that simple."

bullet B.A. Robinson (coordinator of this web site): "I would hold out for a demonstration of some sort that would be clearly impossible for anyone but a God to perform. Further, it would be helpful if it were a display that could be recorded."

"I would suggest that, say, 1000 stars that are visible to the naked eye be relocated within a few hours so that they form the message 'I AM.' That should be easy for God to do; it doesn't even involve characters with curved lines."

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"S.K.," a visitor to this website responded to Robinson's posting:

The "believers on non-believing" really got this backwards: God has nothing to prove to you. And your faulty ideas of life and religion does not force God in any way to reveal him/her/itself to you.

Imagine an ant farm: One of the ants says he belives in Gods, he calls them humans. The other says that he doesn't belive that these humans exist, unless they arranged the trees in the neighborhood to look like 'I AM' in ant language.

Would you do it?

Would you -- as a human -- care about what the ants think? And would you care about the group of ants that say you don't exist? Would you care about one particular ant?

Would you really care about ant language, as how the bloody hell they spell 'I AM' in ant language in the first place?

I think your answer is: no.

So? What does God needs to prove to YOU before you kneel/bow down before God?

Nothing

"I believe..."

This is the sentence used by a lot of people but rarely understood by anyone. Because it is an intensely personal thing, and intensely personal choice. And it's a decision everyone has to make for themselves.

If you choose not to belive in God then why are you waiting for him to reveal himself in front of you? It seems to me you are not an atheist, but someone who really needs faith but is afraid to have a 'leap of faith.'

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To which I might respond:

I feel that you misunderstand the nature of the original question, which is: what would it take to convince me of God's existence. I fully recognize that God is free to act in any way that she/he/they/it wishes. God can remain in secret or can choose to reach out.

And which of the thousands of male, female and gender-free deities who have been worshipped by many hundreds of generations of humans should I believe in. On what grounds could I chose one over the rest? To make an intelligent choice, I would need more information about the nature, gender, and number of God(s). Until God takes the initiative, I remain at a loss.

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References used:

  1. Christopher Hitchens, "God is Not Great: How religion poisons everything," Twelve Books, Hachette Book Group, (2007). Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store.
  2. "Atheists, what would it take to make you reconsider?," Amazon.com forum, at: http://www.amazon.com/

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Site navigation:

 Home > Religions of the world > Atheism > here

or Home > Christianity > Christian personalities > God > Atheism > here

or Home > Religious information > God > Atheism > here

or Home > Spirituality > God > Atheism > here

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Copyright © 2007 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2007-JUL-19
Latest update: 2011-AUG-20
Author: B.A. Robinson

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