Thursday, September 18, 2008

Reasonable Atheism (26): Evidence for God's existence

One often reads comments like this one: "...there is no convincing evidence that God exists."

The first problem with this is that it assumes that the existence of God is something that is open to empirical investigation (which is normally the only admissible form of evidence), and that rather begs the question as to the nature of God. It assumes that God is some sort of fact about the world, in the same way that there are other facts about the world, and this is a simple theological error. That is not the correct way to think about God's existence.

So what is the correct way to think about God's existence? Well, it's not about any fact in the world - it's about how all such facts are understood. Consider the famous duck-rabbit:

Is there a rabbit in this picture? For someone who only sees the duck, no amount of pointing out particular lines or dots in the picture will make the slightest difference. You have to 'see' that there is also a rabbit.

Similarly, to try and explain God's existence in terms of 'evidence' is to mistake the nature of what is at stake. Belief in God is about an interpretation of the whole; it is the claim that the whole is meaningful, and purposeful, and that our existence can share in that meaning and purpose. There is no possible empirical evidence to sway the matter.

All we have is the language of saying 'look at it like this'. Look at it like a rabbit. But if the notion of rabbits is completely alien; if the notion of rabbits is bracketed off with 'fairies at the bottom of the garden'; then progress is impossible. We just have to wait until something in a person's life - often the experience of suffering - convinces them that life is meaningful, and they are then compelled to seek a language to explore it with. Then we can discuss religion.
"Life can educate one to a belief in God. And also experiences can do this; but not visions and other forms of sense experience which show us the 'existence of this being' - but, e.g. Sufferings of various kinds. These neither show us God in the way a sense impression shows us an object, nor do they give rise to conjectures about him. Experiences, thoughts, - life can force this concept on us." (that man again)

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.