Theism & Atheism – A Discussion on Evidence

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 millions 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 substantial 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.]

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12 thoughts on “Theism & Atheism – A Discussion on Evidence

  1. ” 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?”

    Because God didn’t just create the universe and walk away. He revealed Himself to man and we being the image of God have a conscience discerning right from wrong. Without a good God there is no objective basis for making moral claims as objective fact.

    ” If a creator truly exists who expects to be blindly worshipped and glorified, is that not an egotistical creator?”

    He doesn’t expect to be blindly worshiped, He reveals enough for men to know Him (Romans 1:18-24)

    “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?”

    Atrocities? What basis is there for making such moral claims in a universe without a superior Law Giver? And God didn’t create a universe with “pedophiles” He created a perfectly good universe until humans in their wickedness changed everything.

    “What motivated god to create lives and afterlives? What could god possibly gain from creating humans and spending millions of years watching and judging them, just to assign afterlives? What is the end goal of a creator who is doing all of this?”

    No one as a mortal man can truly pontificate on this, but I would say this question in and of itself is not indicative of the atheistic worldview. Just because there are things about God’s actions we do not know for certain, doesn’t mean there is no God. As to why God created us, can the clay say the potter, what makest thou?

    ” There are hundreds of thousands of starving people, why expect god to choose to answer your prayers over theirs?”

    That depends. Those in a covenant with God can expect His mercies. Those within His mercies should pray for those who are not.

    ” 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?)”

    Based on these solid claims, what do you have as a foundation for even believing any given action to be moral or otherwise? Matter and chemical reactions are not moral or immoral.

    “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?

    The point is is that there is a consciousness now…and the brain dying being the end of consciousness only works if one presupposes that the brain and the consciousness are the same.

    “Someone who has the power to create existence and who also has ethical intentions surely would have avoided allowing rapists to exist. ”

    Why stop at rapists? Why not have avoided any person who has done wrong to exist? I strongly suspect if this were the standard you would change your mind.

    Why is rape wrong when the very act can from an atheistic perspective further the species?

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    1. Because God didn’t just create the universe and walk away. He revealed Himself to man and we being the image of God have a conscience discerning right from wrong. Without a good God there is no objective basis for making moral claims as objective fact.
      He doesn’t expect to be blindly worshiped, He reveals enough for men to know Him (Romans 1:18-24)

      – Do you have evidence to support these biblical claims?

      Atrocities? What basis is there for making such moral claims in a universe without a superior Law Giver? And God didn’t create a universe with “pedophiles” He created a perfectly good universe until humans in their wickedness changed everything.

      – Needless suffering is an atrocity. And again, do you have evidence of that claim? The Bible is not evidence of the bible.

      No one as a mortal man can truly pontificate on this, but I would say this question in and of itself is not indicative of the atheistic worldview. Just because there are things about God’s actions we do not know for certain, doesn’t mean there is no God. As to why God created us, can the clay say the potter, what makest thou?
      Those in a covenant with God can expect His mercies. Those within His mercies should pray for those who are not.

      – Again, evidence?

      The point is is that there is a consciousness now…and the brain dying being the end of consciousness only works if one presupposes that the brain and the consciousness are the same.

      – Consciousness relies on a living brain. It is a function of the brain.

      Why stop at rapists? Why not have avoided any person who has done wrong to exist? I strongly suspect if this were the standard you would change your mind.
      Why is rape wrong when the very act can from an atheistic perspective further the species?

      – My point was an all powerful creator should have the ability to avoid needless suffering, but this hypothetical creator chose to create an existence full of it.

      – I ‘m not sure anyone in their right mind would agree to your last statement. My atheism has nothing to do with my views on “furthering the species”, and I also don’t believe we have a responsibility to do so. Even if we did, it still wouldn’t justify causing the needless suffering of rape.

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      1. “Again, evidence?”

        Philosophical propositions are not subject to the same standards of evidence as historical or scientific claims. They are shown to be true as axiomatic or through the impossibility of the contrary. Nevertheles, your original question is valid, how do we know God is good? And what evidence is there that God upholds creation rather than having walked away.

        The question poses a problem only if I was positing a deistic creator. In other words, I’m not arguing for the existence of any god (one that might not be good or active in sustaining the universe), but specifically the God that has revealed Himself through Scripture. I am saying taking these revelations as axiomatic (i.e. that God is good and upholds nature) makes sense of human experience and is the only way to make sense of human experience.

        We see nature operates in a uniform way, thus we are capable of carrying out induction and experimentation. And we see there exist absolute moral standards, as you seem to agree.

        What worldview provides justification for these things? A Good God that upholds nature. ( Genesis 8:22, Psalm 18:30 ) Nature is uniform because God is upholding it. Lying is wrong because God is the ultimate truth. etc

        Take away God as your axiomatic starting point and suddenly we are left with the question of what axioms can provide the pre-conditions of intelligibility? In other words, if atheism were true, why does nature operate in a uniform way and what basis do we claim it will in the future? And by what standard of morality do we say any given behavior to be “wrong”? So the “evidence” is that if God wasn’t good or sustaining the universe, we wouldn’t have a solid justification for induction or morality.

        And as far as morality goes, you have simply restated that “needless suffering” is morally wrong. Well, we need to go back. In the atheist worldview WHY is suffering wrong?

        For example, if one puts a human being in a furnace, why is the chemical reaction going on in the furnace any less moral than vinegar reacting with baking soda? At the end of the day, in the atheist worldview we have matter acting on matter. Chemical reactions are morally neutral. There must be something else to account for the concept of human dignity.

        And putting that aside, we must also ask, by who’s moral standard do you say anything is “wrong”?

        Which leads us to the rape question, while I find it interesting that you say you do not believe we have a responsibility to further the species, the human sex drive says otherwise, and one may easily claim their prime objective is to pass on their genes. As much as I don’t approve of or advocate rape, raping is one way to do this, so we would think that it was morally justifiable unless a Transcendent Law Giver tells us otherwise.

        Basically, I’m saying you believe in absolute moral standards, but the question is how these can exist in the atheist worldview.

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  2. Philosophical propositions are not subject to the same standards of evidence as historical or scientific claims. They are shown to be true as axiomatic or through the impossibility of the contrary. Nevertheles, your original question is valid, how do we know God is good? And what evidence is there that God upholds creation rather than having walked away.
    – I disagree that we’re talking simply about philosophical propositions though. I think deciding what makes the most sense in 2017 regarding the beginning of the universe requires more than an imagination
    The question poses a problem only if I was positing a deistic creator. In other words, I’m not arguing for the existence of any god (one that might not be good or active in sustaining the universe), but specifically the God that has revealed Himself through Scripture. I am saying taking these revelations as axiomatic (i.e. that God is good and upholds nature) makes sense of human experience and is the only way to make sense of human experience.
    – I disagree that people aren’t more intelligent than that. It’s definitely not the only way to make sense of human experience because of the scientific research available.
    We see nature operates in a uniform way, thus we are capable of carrying out induction and experimentation. And we see there exist absolute moral standards, as you seem to agree.
    – I’d say the moral standards exist in the same space that bad intentions exist.
    What worldview provides justification for these things? A Good God that upholds nature. ( Genesis 8:22, Psalm 18:30 ) Nature is uniform because God is upholding it. Lying is wrong because God is the ultimate truth.
    – Surely those simple explanations aren’t enough for a progressive minded individual
    Take away God as your axiomatic starting point and suddenly we are left with the question of what axioms can provide the pre-conditions of intelligibility? In other words, if atheism were true, why does nature operate in a uniform way and what basis do we claim it will in the future? And by what standard of morality do we say any given behavior to be “wrong”? So the “evidence” is that if God wasn’t good or sustaining the universe, we wouldn’t have a solid justification for induction or morality.
    – Just because we haven’t figured out all of the details of the laws of nature yet is not an argument for a creator.
    And as far as morality goes, you have simply restated that “needless suffering” is morally wrong. Well, we need to go back. In the atheist worldview WHY is suffering wrong?
    – Suffering in the context of a creator having created it in access, is wrong by theistic logic because a creator designed it’s existence out of choice; meaning they are either flawed or have bad intentions.
    For example, if one puts a human being in a furnace, why is the chemical reaction going on in the furnace any less moral than vinegar reacting with baking soda? At the end of the day, in the atheist worldview we have matter acting on matter. Chemical reactions are morally neutral. There must be something else to account for the concept of human dignity.
    – Agreed upon morals exist within each society and are often legally regulated to uphold and progress civilization. Morality is not a cosmic or existential thing, it’s purely a result of evolution.

    And putting that aside, we must also ask, by who’s moral standard do you say anything is “wrong”?
    – A combination of the society in which I live, my own critical thinking, and empathy for sentient beings in general.

    Which leads us to the rape question, while I find it interesting that you say you do not believe we have a responsibility to further the species, the human sex drive says otherwise, and one may easily claim their prime objective is to pass on their genes. As much as I don’t approve of or advocate rape, raping is one way to do this, so we would think that it was morally justifiable unless a Transcendent Law Giver tells us otherwise.
    – Yes the sex drive wants us to reproduce, but ultimately reproduction is a conscious choice of the individual.
    Basically, I’m saying you believe in absolute moral standards, but the question is how these can exist in the atheist worldview.
    – Moral standards exist in an atheistic world because one has nothing to do with the other.

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    1. Agreed upon morals exist within each society and are often legally regulated to uphold and progress civilization. Morality is not a cosmic or existential thing, it’s purely a result of evolution.

      A combination of the society in which I live, my own critical thinking, and empathy for sentient beings in general.

      I’m not sure if I understand completely, would you say society is what determines morality?

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      1. The NAZI society determined it was moral to exterminate the Jews… Our society went over there and stopped them. If society determines morality was our morality better or just different? What made theirs less valid?

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    1. Ah yes I see, perhaps tomorrow morality will have changed and rape will be acceptable, making our conversation moot.

      Thanks for the discussion, I find your blog interesting, I used to be a staunch vegan myself.

      One last question if you don’t mind, what do you make of Jesus Christ?

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      1. I can’t imagine what makes you think rape will go back to being acceptable, especially in Western society? If anything our laws have made rape more punishable over time.
        I appreciate that; You should read up on current research on plant based diets, it’s worth knowing about if you value health at the very least.
        Jesus Christ may or may not have existed, and if so then he must have helped quite a few people while he was alive. If he did exist, I don’t think he was really much more than a man with charisma and passion to help & lead (maybe a bit of a prophet mentality but leaders of civilizations do generally see themselves as godly).

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      2. Oh yes I’m very aware of the research, as well as the reality of factory farming. That was probably the biggest factor in my becoming a vegan. Now ironically I eat meat and work as a butcher. Imagine that lol. I guess one could say I’m a vegan apostate.

        I don’t really know why I gave up veganism but I think a lot of things started slipping in my life at the time. I was unfortunate enough to watch my mother die of a long battle with cancer and when you see that type of suffering all day you kind of stop caring.

        I became a Christian shortly before she passed.

        I guess in reference to your answer about Jesus, I would say while there’s certainly enough historical evidence to establish His existence, as to Him being a mere man we know His disciples went around the world telling people He rose from the dead.

        The question is why? Mere men don’t rise from the dead and the disciples were certain that He did. I know the only possible explanation is He did, validating who He said He was.

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  3. Well that’s unfortunate, I hope you’re able to change your ways!
    I’d say there’s a good chance that Jesus wasn’t all the way dead in the first place; In my opinion coming back to life after death is quite a kindergarten thing to believe in

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