The word evidence is triggering to some, perhaps because it implies challenge to their faith (or highlights their lack thereof). This piece will discuss evidence as it relates to the theistic claims of Abrahamic religions (Christianity, Islam, and Judaism).
Many people get confused expecting there to be “evidence of atheism”, when actually the side who is making the claim has the burden of proof. If there were no theists, there would be no atheists. But because at some point recently in evolution civilization began adopting theistic ideology, there also became a default category of non-believers, known in modern day as atheists.
An important question to ask when questioning a belief is: If the most valid claim one has is based on blind faith, is it intellectually honest for them to support, promote, and spread that message? As with any socially accepted system in society, the future generations will always be somehow impacted by their predecessor’s false beliefs, which is why it’s important to acknowledge that our traditions and beliefs may not always be ethical or applicable, despite being socially accepted.
This piece isn’t so much about proving which side is more true but rather about emphasizing the step that should be taken before one decides what they believe, which is the very important step of deliberation. There’s a reason courts deliberate on decisions and I think more people should take what they choose to believe into careful consideration.
Evidence & Critical Thinking
Not only do bold claims need solid factual support (or at the least some sort of verifiable evidence) to be valid, they also need to be probable. It’s fair to say that one can’t technically disprove the existence of flying unicorns; however, based on the absence of evidence of their existence, it’s also fair to say there is no need to disprove it because there is no reason to believe it exists to begin with. It’s simply improbable that flying unicorns exist or ever did based on the fact that there is no evidence of their existence.
Because theism is the claim (and atheism is the rejection of that claim), theism is the argument which requires evidence. Because there is no direct evidence supporting theism, logically the most probable between theism and atheism is the latter. However, some will say there is indirect evidence of a creator, which is the reason I began this discussion.
A common question from theists is, “If there’s no god, then where did the universe come from?” My answer to this question is usually the question, “What makes you think a creator is the only way the universe began?” The thing is, energy can’t be created or destroyed; therefore, a creator’s existence must be a result of something else besides itself.
(It should be noted that as I take into account theistic ideas in this piece I am also taking into account what science has to say. I think it’s fair enough to at least consider the work of the professionals who are spending their lives providing us evidence of their theories and proof of their claims.)
My biggest questions regarding theism & afterlives are as follows:
– Why people feel the need to worship the creator? Even if a god created the universe, what makes people think the god is inherently good or just?
– If a creator truly exists who expects to be blindly worshipped and glorified, is that not an egotistical creator?
– What do we really owe the creator when the existence they have created is full of atrocities like pedophiles? Should we not expect more from an all-powerful creator?
– What motivated god to create lives and afterlives? What could god possibly gain from creating humans and spending billions and billions of years watching and judging them, just to assign afterlives? What is the end goal of a creator who is doing all of this?
– There are hundreds of thousands of starving people, why expect god to choose to answer your prayers over theirs?
– Why would god create the entire universe as well as what’s beyond just to be obsessed with humans who exist on one small planet?
– Archeologists have shown through overwhelming evidence that our planet is about four and a half billion years old, and that our species began evolving into existence an estimated two and a half million years ago; Based on these solid claims, at what point in our evolution did we become responsible for our actions and therefore able to be assigned afterlives? (Surely our creator didn’t expect us to have moral compass when we were cognitively-undeveloped cavemen?)
– If consciousness doesn’t begin until the brain is alive to power it, how then could consciousness continue to exist upon death of the brain?
These important questions and many more clearly raise a need for substantial evidence.
Dissociative Thinking and Will-full Ignorance
To be dissociated from reality, even in the slightest, can be counterproductive to one’s mental growth. Disregard for logical consistency is the essence of cognitive dissonance and the very core of ignorance. What I find theists often emphasizing when on the topic of spirituality is the word faith, usually coupled with an explanation about how trying to apply logic to faith is useless because the creator is “mysterious” in their intentions for us. Essentially, we only know what god wants us to know. But let me make a comparison to this mentality. Very recently in our society black people had no legal access to an education. This was because they were considered as less than (much like people are considered as less than god). Yes, white people viewed themselves as better, but that made no difference to black people. Is it possible that a creator who expects to be worshipped while at the same time depriving us evidence of it’s existence, is an immoral creator?
Perhaps theistic ideas came about at a time when our ancestors had no explanation for the planets or cosmos, and their self-centered ideas developed into religions so engrained in culture that it became socially unacceptable and in some cases shameful not to adhere to religious doctrine. It’s human nature to engage in culturally accepted tradition, particularly when we’re considered social outcasts for rejecting said tradition. But there is always a tipping point at which society agrees that enough is enough (most people believe in a creator but not in witchcraft, for example), and the tipping point alters ever so slightly as eras go by and our awareness and cognitive functions evolve.
Dilemmas in Theism
Theists generally thank the creator when good things happen, but don’t blame the creator when bad things happen. They seem to attribute negative occurrences to being part of the creator’s plan; But consider this, is it possible that a hypothetical creator has a plan that’s not in our best interest? What makes some people so sure that the creator cares about our well-being?
Even if there is a creator, why trust their intentions? Someone who has the power to create existence and who also has ethical intentions surely would have avoided allowing rapists to exist. However, plenty of rapists do exist. This means that the creator must be either impotent or evil. Either they are flawed, or they have bad intentions. There is no other option.
A common attempt at an argument for a creator is “There must be a reason we exist”, and it often strangely ends there without a deeper explanation.
What most people have in common is the need for a meaningful existence, which is why the idea that there “must be a reason” for our existence is held by so many. People are egocentric by nature and the thought of our lives being meaningless and our consciousness ending upon death is frankly too intimidating for most to even consider.
What most aren’t willing to entertain is the idea that the only reason we exist is because nature has allowed us to. Most people expect more than that; which is unfortunate, because the majority are spending their entire lives looking forward to continued consciousness in a theoretical place for which we have no evidence.
I think considering the possibility of a creator would be easier for atheists if the general connotation around the idea of god wasn’t so inherently positive. If most theists were indifferent in their opinions of the creator then I think more logically sound conversations could be had regarding the possibility & probability of a creator; but because the perspective is clouded with bias (most believers would agree that the creator is “loving”, “flawless”, “all-powerful”, etc.), it can be difficult to keep the debate completely logical.
[DISCLAIMER: I realize that spiritual faith is not hinged upon logic for many people. This makes no difference to the people who rely on logic. “I don’t care about your logic” is not an argument against a point of view, it’s simply a dismissal of it. The debate continues with or without the people who choose to invalidate logical consistency.]