It’s been some time since I’ve run across anyone on the internet who, taking a cue from the milk campaign, ended an anti-theistic polemic with the refrain “Got Evidence”, but the spirit of this concept is alive and well.
On some levels, I completely agree with it. Certainly, it is rational, upon hearing a claim, to ask for reasons to believe it. I don’t imagine that any but the most ardent fundamentalist would disagree with such a concept. Of course, I complained for years that the standards of evidence being used were both wildly and arbitrarily exacting (which they were), and that equal standards were not being applied to the alternatives.
That last statement is what made the conversation interesting.
It seems to come as news to many secular individuals that they have a position at all. Many seem to think that, as a Christian, I accept everything they do, then add belief in God to that. To be clear, I completely agree that this would be unparsimonious at best and wildly inconsistent at worst.
But, then, if the anti-theist wants me to accept this idea – that all of his or her answers to the questions of life are more valid than those presented by Christianity – I’m going to ask for reasons to believe that.
I am strongly of the position that there are atheists who would be happy to take a stab at providing those reasons. I’m open to the idea that some may even have them. But, as an autobiographical point, I’ve never encountered such people. Every atheist to whom I’ve made this request (and it has been quite a few), has declined the offer.
I really don’t think this says much about atheists in general. Rather, I think it says something about self-selecting. Those who are on blogging sites, arguing that Christianity is stupid and evil (two of the less colorful adjectives I’ve encountered), seem to have a particular mindset that cannot be assumed to hold for the group. Still, it seems more than a little problematic that people who loudly declare that one should believe nothing without evidence are not remotely prepared to give any in support of their beliefs.
For this reason, among others, I’m inclined to think that all this talk of “evidence” is rhetoric, rather than a serious request. Whatever I may think of the ethics of that (and I don’t think much of it), I’m left feeling that I’m under no obligation to impress such people. Increasingly, I’m disinclined to share the reasons I do have for my beliefs until they can offer reasons for their own position.
This may leave me open to the accusation that I’ve become somewhat less than charitable (though I try to be kind). What it is not, however, is unreasonable. To insist on that one’s view, for which one has no evidence, is correct on the grounds of demanding evidence for other views is clearly something less than rational. Certainly, the self-proclaimed champions of reason should avoid such an obviously fallacious approach.
November 11th, 2012 at 6:44 am
I think the reason for that is that theists seem to almost universally think that atheism is some bizarre religion or belief system, which it is not. But I’m sure you’re aware of that and have had that debate a time or two.
November 12th, 2012 at 8:36 pm
Yes, I’ve had many debates, and I’d defend the notion that atheism is not itself a belief system.
I don’t, however, think that this is a terribly important point. Atheists have belief systems (about ethics, meaning in life, etc.) as much as theists. While that in no way exempts theists from the need to give reasons for our beliefs (as many theists seem to think), nothing here exempts atheists from the same, as many (though definitely not all) atheists seem to think.
January 3rd, 2013 at 12:17 am
[…] is to refuse to discuss the topic. Any comments about a lack of evidence (beyond the points in another post) are simply not driving toward any relevant […]