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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. They argue:

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.

0.1: Basic principles
Start at the beginning

0.2: What do we know?
Separate fact from fiction

0.3: Start with the question ...
... not with the answer

0.4: All the evidence ...
... not just some of it

0.5: Cause, correlation and no connection
What's the difference?

0.6: Don't jump to conclusions ...
... or you could land in the ...

0.7: No way
Proving a negative

0.8: Occam's Razor
The simplest solution

0.9: Facts, knowledge and science
What we know and how we know it

0.10: Know or believe?
The impossibility of God

0.11: Reason and faith
Understanding the difference

0.12: Summary

Finished the introduction? Move on to

Chapter 1
Defining God

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: Occam's Razor

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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"

Check the answer

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