Belief and Beliefs: Can the existence of a god be proven or disproven?

It certainly cannot be proven.

My thoughts:

  1. Prayer does not seem to work – Every religion touts worship and making offerings as being the most effective method of contacting its particular deity. However, it's clear even to children, that prayer rarely works if it indeed works at all. The handicapped are never cured; the blind never regain sight and loved ones aren't prevented from experiencing gruesome and painful deaths. If a core tenet of religion does not work as advertised, why believe in the rest of it?
  2. Moving goalposts – Every time religion conflicts the changes in a society, religion is simply altered to encompass those change. Even though religion claims to be a "fixed" source of morals and ethics, it has managed to ditch its former approvals of slavery, the divine right to rule held by kings/emperors, the infallibility of its clerics, its advocating of violent warfare to spread the faith and a host other positions it formerly. Since religion is an invention of human beings, it simply reflects the current attitudes and mores of the people who believe in it.
  3. Various religions – Presuming a god or gods to be omniscient beings, it's odd how he/she/it/they consistently fails to foresee how various individual beliefs will (and do ) simply cause confusion, anger and strife. If there were truly omnipotent gods, wouldn't their making humans worship a single deity be more efficient and certainly cause far less of the strife and warfare that can attribute their origins directly to religious beliefs?
  4. Miracles – Although far more people are alive now than in the past, the numerous “miraculous” events which are commonplace in religious texts do not appear to happen today. This is particularly troubling as today methods exist to document these acts with more than rumor, apocrypha and vague written accounts. If there are indeed divine beings why don’t they do today what their followers profess that they did in the past?

Sooo,,,in short…the existence of a god or gods, cannot be PROVEN even by its disciples meaning that there is no real need to DISPROVE it. If or when the devout can prove that their beliefs are indeed anything other than a philosophical outlook on life, then a debate can begin. Until then, there is nothing for myself and others who don’t share their beliefs to disprove.

3 Replies to “Belief and Beliefs: Can the existence of a god be proven or disproven?”

  1. I will answer the question, but first I want to bring attention to the fact that this isn't a question which necessitates an answer. I don't need convincing proof that God does not exist. I can simply note that nobody seems to have any good evidence that he does exist, and I can leave it right there.
    So I'll be an atheist regardless of whether I find positive evidence for God's non-existence; one could say it's just a bonus question.

    According to most definitions, God is some kind of conscious entity that exists independently of the physical universe. He's also often alleged to (i) have created the universe and (ii) positively "cares" about the universe and intervenes in it in some way. Those who simply believe in (i) are called deists, those who believe in (i) and (ii) are theists.

    There's no real argument against the existence of a deistic God. One can only say that we don't know for sure how the universe came into being at this point, and it's not clear how positing a creature totally contrary to everything we understand, is going to help that problem.

    The arguments against a theistic God are a bit more interesting. They basically come down to parsimony. Put simply: if one assumes there's no God, a lot of things in the world cease being mysterious. It's no longer a mystery why there are hundreds of mututally contradictory religions on the planet even though there's only one God. It's no longer a mystery why the laws of nature have zero regard for us. It's no longer a mystery why we are such poorly evolved creatures.
    All these questions pose great problems for theists and many books have been written to address them; yet these questions instantly disappear when one looks at the other side.

    The most famous of these arguments is probaby the problem of evil, or more specifically Paul Draper's rephrasing of it. You should look up his essay on it, but it essentially argues that, given how suffering is built in to the foundations of our ecosystem, whether through its structure or the poor design of its inhabitants, it necessarily leads to a great amount of unnecessary suffering. And the God hypothesis has no good way of addressing this issue, whether naturalism does.

  2. [I originally wrote this answer to this question. The question was, wrongly in my view, redirected to Can atheists disprove the Abrahamic God? and my answer was moved there. I don't seem to be able to move it back. So I'm just reproducing the answer here.]

    I'll actually answer the question.

    Harrumphing, however justifiably, that atheists lack a burden to disprove the existence of God does not answer this quite interesting question. After all, some atheists do argue that God doesn't exist, and the question asks how they do so, when they do. In merely reporting their arguments, I'm not asserting that atheists must accept a burden of proof.

    Also, while mathematical proofs might not be available–since when do we expect them in philosophy, anyway?–arguments might be. To infer from the general observation that we cannot prove a negative to the conclusion that no arguments for God's nonexistence are possible is just invalid. Here are three such arguments.

    The argument from evil. One way to argue against the existence of God is to point out that God is supposed to be all-loving. This seems prima facie incompatible with the existence of God-preventable pain and suffering inflicted on the innocent. Yes, we all know about the project of theodicy, but every theodicy I've ever heard of seems to be grasping at straws. And to the extent that there is no good explanation of God's permitting evil, or of how an all-powerful God can't prevent it, then to that extent we have an argument that nothing could answer to the description of God, at least not in this imperfect, painful world.

    The argument from parsimony. The principle of parsimony, also called Occam's Razor, says that the best explanation of something is simplest–Occam specifically says that we should not multiply entities unnecessarily. According to the principle, we have a positive reason to deny (if that makes sense) an entity if the entity is not needed in scientific explanations. Well, then, we simply make the familiar arguments that God is not needed for any gaps, and frankly has embarrassingly little role to play in a mature science…none, in fact. If that's correct, then parsimony would say we have a positive reason to deny that God exists.

    The argument from incoherence. Let's suppose that God is a "spirit" that created the universe from nothing directly, without the use of a body. The case can be made that nothing could answer to that description. The only sense we can give to the notion of "spirit" is by making some analogy to our own minds; and minds and their activities, such as thoughts, desires, and decisions, are not the sort of things that can have any effect on the world without a body. Moreover, the case can be made that creation ex nihilo is either incoherent, or inconsistent with science, or both. In any case, the idea of a mind creating anything ex nihilo is not just something that we have no experience of. It is, rather, literally incoherent. We simply don't know what it means to say. Most people (including me) wouldn't conclude "God doesn't exist" based on the premises here, but instead "God talk is meaningless"; still, it seems the case could be made for the conclusion that God doesn't exist. To wit, in the same way that we can maintain that square circles don't exist (this is how to "prove a negative," by the way), we might want to maintain that ex nihilo universe-creating minds don't exist. Anything that creates universes ex nihilo ain't a mind, or anything like one.

    There's the first three that come to mind. There are probably others.

  3. This is a complicated question, depending on what you accept as proof (confirmation). For God, I would only accept proof obtainable via the Scientific Method. And I suspect that ruins my chances of every getting confirmation.

    There's no sort of "knowing in my heart" proof I'd accept. I've "known" all sorts of things in my heart that have turned out to be false. I think that sort of profound emotional "knowing" is extremely important. It's a key part of being human. But I don't think it's a reliable guide to what exists. It can be a reliable guide to ones hopes, desires and fears. But those things, while important, are not external entities.

    This question is meaningless without a definition of God. So I'll assume He's omnipotent (all-powerful) and omniscient (all-knowing).

    It would be easy for me to confirm that a VERY powerful, VERY knowing being existed. He'd just have to present himself for tests and, say, show that he could turn mountains into goldfish and tell what was in people's wallets without looking. These powers would be pretty easy to confirm in the lab.

    But "all" that would prove is that a powerful being existed. It wouldn't prove He was ALL powerful. I'm not sure what could prove that. The closest you could get would be some kind of inductive proof where you gave Him 1000 tasks (that only a very powerful being could achieve) to complete and saw that He completed all of them. But that doesn't seem very satisfying.

    Another cop-out answer: "You say you're all powerful. Okay, use your powers to prove you're all-powerful."

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