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Introduction: How to reason
Section 7: No way
Some negatives can be proved - so perhaps we can prove that God does not exist.
There's a common fallacy, often used by believers, that you can't prove a negative.
a. you can't prove something doesn't exist
from there they move to:
b. so you can't prove God doesn't exist.
Most believers stop there. A few move on to
c. therefore God exists.
Unfortunately for believers all these statements are untrue.
0.7a False logic
The easiest of these three statements to disprove is difficult of c, so we will start there before moving to the central question - whether we can prove that God doesn't exist.
Statements b and c taken together assert that if you can't prove something doesn't exist, then it must exist. This is, of course, false logic. It means, for example, that if you can't prove that former President Ronald Reagan didn't have prawn curry for breakfast on 31st May 1996 then he did have prawn curry for breakfast that day.
Expressed differently, the fact that something might happen, or might have happened, does not mean it will happen, or did happen.
Now let us apply that argument to God. If we - temporarily - assume that statements a and b are unproven, that means that God might exist. But without other evidence, we cannot immediately conclude that God does exist. Statement c is untrue and therefore irrelevant.
0.7b Drinking tea on the sun
What about statements a. and b? Can you prove something doesn't exist?
And if you can, can you prove that God doesn't exist?
Let's focus on a. Can we prove something doesn't exist? Compare these two examples:
1. No man called George Maria Washington
How good is your reasoning?
Can you distinguish lies from truth? Or a good
argument from a false one? Can you when tell someone is trying to pull
the wool over your eyes?
We keep physically fit by exercising regularly and eating healthy
food. The same is true of our minds - we need regular mental exercise and a good diet of
solid facts and logic.
This chapter offers basic reasoning skills to help you understand the contradictions
that lie at the heart of all religion.
Does God exist? Before we try to answer that question we
need to have a clear idea of who or what God is. How do we
describe God? What versions of God are on offer?
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is spending half an hour sitting naked
drinking tea on the top of Mount Everest.
2. No man called George Maria Washington is spending half an hour sitting naked
drinking tea on the surface of the sun.
0.7c We can't disprove the possible
These are both negative statements. Can we prove they are both true? No.
Take statement 1. It looks very unlikely, but it is not impossible, that at some point in time a man with this name has climbed or will climb the world's highest mountain and sit there clothesless in the freezing cold and drink tea.
The statement is probably true, but that is as far as we can go. It is a negative statement that cannot be proved.
So, if we can't prove this simple negative, does that mean we can't prove any negative at all?
Does it mean we cannot prove God does not exist?
0.7d We can disprove the impossible
Look at statement 2 and envisage this man drinking tea on the surface of the sun.
This has never happened; it will never happen. It is impossible for a human
being to sit there naked doing anything except burn to a crisp within half a second.
This means that you can prove a negative if it applies to something impossible. There is no giraffe having a conversation
in mediaeval Dutch with a group of geraniums as they sit around a swimming-pool in orbit around Mars.
There is no Santa Claus flying around the world bringing presents to millions of children
every Christmas Eve. No man or woman is capable of flying like Superman. Impossible phenomena by definition cannot exist.
0.7e What about God?
Statement a - you cannot prove something doesn't exist - was wrong. It should be amended to:
you can prove some things don't exist, or some negatives can be proved.
This means that statement b - you cannot prove God doesn't exist - is not automatically true. It may be true, but because we are no longer able to rely on statement a for our proof, we are forced to examine the statement on its own merits - and that is what we do on this website. At the end of the day, perhaps we can prove that God does not exist.
Can we prove it? If you
want a quick answer to that question, skip forward to
Section 10. But if you'd rather go more
slowly, continue reading this introduction and move to Section 8:
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If God existed, he would...
admire the beauty of a universe that he did not create
recognize that eternity is meaningless
deny both heaven and hell
disown all men and women who speak in his name
denounce the harm caused by religious "morality"
help the human race to thrive without him
If God existed, he would be an atheist.
What is the difference between science and faith?
science is certain of nothing and requires proof of everything
faith is certain of everything and requires proof of nothing
Which do you trust?
"I know there is no God"
"I believe there is no God"
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