On the Burden of Proof

When people find out that someone is an atheist, they usually have a lot of questions. I’ve seen, in my experience, that most of these questions take the offensive stance and are often accusatory. Atheists are used to hearing things like, “Where do you get your morals from?” and “Why do you hate God?” One of the most common of these quips is “How do you know for sure that there is no god?” which also takes the form of “Well, you can’t prove that God doesn’t exist, so disbelief is illogical.” These statements are the embodiment of the theist’s attempt to flip the burden of proof.

I’ll make a disclaimer before I go on. Many times here on this blog, people tell me that they identify as gnostic atheists, and personally, they are sure that there is no god. They say, “I believe that there is no god.” (So they are making a claim that there is no god.) I, on the other hand, identify as an agnostic atheist, and I assume this negative, agnostic atheism as the default atheist position. Therefore, I always say “I don’t believe there is a god.” (So I am not accepting the claim made by the theist that there is a god.)

I’ve always thought of these as linguistic technicalities, but depending on what you’re talking about, like here where I’m going to dive into the burden of proof, it’s good to be clear on whether you’re doing it on a basis of positive or negative atheism. Here, I assume negative atheism. Even if you identify as a gnostic atheist, keep this in mind as you follow along. By the way, shout out to Antony Flew for introducing the idea of negative atheism in his book The Presumption of Atheism.

Simply put, the idea of the burden of proof is that if Person A makes a claim, they must defend their claim. If Person B doesn’t believe them, it is up to Person A to try to persuade Person B that their claim is true. It has its roots in the court of law, and it can be summed up in the concept that someone is considered innocent until proven guilty. In the case of the existence of god, it is sometimes said that he is innocent (of existence) until proven guilty (of existence), so you can assume that he does not exist until it has been proven that he does.

I don’t think that this completely works, because it’s pretty much impossible to absolutely prove anything beyond a shadow of a doubt, especially the existence of a supernatural being, but I do think that it’s fair that you can’t expect me to believe in god until you have at least some evidence. Or good arguments. Neither of which I have yet to encounter. But I digress.

I’ve always thought that the burden of proof is more easily understood with examples rather than definitions. Popular concepts within the burden-of-proof discussion are the idea that we can’t prove that there’s not a teapot orbiting around the Sun, and we can’t prove that there isn’t a Flying Spaghetti Monster out there, blessing people with his Noodly Appendage. I’ll add that you also can’t prove that your pet cat doesn’t transform into a rainbow lizard every time he’s our of your sight, morphing back into a cat whenever you’re around.

Most people, when they hear these “You can’t prove…” examples, they say “Well, of course that would be ridiculous to believe” and go on to say that their belief in their religion is different. I guess I can’t prove that donkeys and snakes can’t talk.

But occasionally you’ll run into a smart-ass who says “You’re right. There is that tiny possibility that there’s a teapot orbiting around the Sun. I don’t have a way to disprove that, technically.” It’s fine to technically be an agnostic about fantastical and un-disprovable claims like this, but I think that if you really think this way, it easily borderlines on absurd.

I was only able to come with one example of my own, but there is basically an infinite amount of crazy things you could claim that you can’t prove or disprove. And if you say you have to be open to anything because it’s un-disprovable, then I imagine that you must have a constant headache from the absurdity. After all, Ockham’s Razor really makes me second guess any concept that something should exist when there is no reason to think it does.

In the comments below, feel free to help me out with any other absurd ideas that you could potentially believe because you can’t disprove its existence!


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atheism vs agnosticism

44 Replies to “On the Burden of Proof”

  1. I am agnostic. I was raised in a Christian household. I don’t think Christians think often about proof. They start with the assumption that the bible is true and then just read it. I fell out when I looked hard at where the bible came from and Christianities origins. The belief in the bible as absolute truth, while simultaneously divorcing it from it’s cultural and historical roots is something I and all practicing Christians are guilty of. As an example: It’s absurd to say the bible is truth and God is truth while ignoring that historically Jewish people thought the world was flat (Most verses support the flat-earth view.) It’s important because Traditional Jewish thought was that the sky was solid and covered with water. There was supposed to be a hole in the top that lead to heaven. That’s why Jesus ascended into the sky. It’s also why God had to destroy the tower of Babel. Jesus and the men from Babel were going to live on-top of “snow-globe” in heaven. (Hope that made sense.)
    I lost a lot of years studying the bible.
    I like Pastafarianism now and Blog about raising kids with science and honesty.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. I am a Christian, and I am not afraid to go where the truth leads. No person, Christian or otherwise should ever be afraid of the truth. Truth Matters. Even the apostle Paul said, that if Christ did not rise from the dead, then we are most of all to be pitied.

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        1. That is encouraging to read
          On that note … and as you have mentioned him, would you mind providing concrete evidence that the character, Saul of Tarsus was a genuine historical figure?

          And while you are at it … could you also provide archaeological evidence for the supposed tomb the biblical character, Jesus of Nazareth was buried in?
          Thanks.

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          1. Arkenaten, will mentions in extra-biblical texts written by Roman officials suffice for “concrete” proof as you say for Paul. If so then yes I can provide. I will look for sure, but I believe there are no certainties on the tomb. If we can have any assurance of the activities of Alexander the Great, then we should be very certain about Saul of Tarsus. He was the student of Gamaliel , prior to his conversion who was a well known, and who we find many ancient non biblical texts about.

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            1. Tacitus? Pliny? Forgive me if I smile a little, won’t you?
              I might help if you take it as a given that I am familar with all the popular sources, names and ”claims”.
              I never use the word proof in any theological/biblical context.
              Proofs are usually the domain of mathematics.

              Evidence is all I am interested in.

              So, no evidence for any tomb.

              He was the student of Gamaliel

              There is no evidence outside of the bible for the character Saul of Tarsus/Paul.
              You are merely feeding off of popularized myth, I am afraid.

              Likewise there is no evidence for the biblical character Jesus of Nazareth.

              I am not afraid to go where the truth leads

              Maybe not afraid but you really ought to be feeling a little uncertain regarding your ”faith” if you are being totally honest about going where the truth leads.

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            2. Since none of us were there, we all have our sources of “truth”. I will not engage in any disrespectful conversation, so I am truly asking this with an open mind. What is it, that makes you sure, that the pages of the new testament are not historical narratives? You are right, I get my information from sources such as the Discovery Institute, and guys like Lee Strobel, and J. Warner Wallace. At least as it relates to scientific, and historical evidences, but I have had much more direct evidence in my life. Not evidence, that would probably convince you, but enough to make me comfortable, that there is a Creator God, and enough common sense to understand that DNA did not come about without intelligent design. To your point, none of which I can prove in such a way as to satisfy you.

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            3. What is it, that makes you sure, that the pages of the new testament are not historical narratives?

              Evidence that proves these stories run contrary to acknowledged history for one thing, and the expert views of scholars, historians, archaeologists etc and even some of the more enlightened theologians who acknowledge this.

              I get my information from sources such as the Discovery Institute, and guys like Lee Strobel, and J. Warner Wallace

              Creationists? Really?
              Then you are not that interested in truth as none of these are reliable sources at all.
              If you reject evolution then little I can write will alter your view, which is, sad to sad, simply the product of poor information and probably religious indoctrination.

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            4. Arkenaten, it looks like we are going to have to agree to disagree. On another note, have you seen the debate link I posted between Bart Ehrman and Robert Price.

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            5. As the sciences are involved in these questions it really isn’t a case of agreeing to disagree , I’m afraid to say. Far from it, in fact.
              And ”we weren’t there” is a truly deplorable and ignorant response, so please donpt use it.
              On the face of it , it seems you accept a Young Earth Creationist perspective and, yet, every relevant science has demonstrated that these views are false/ wrong.
              Therefore, unless you can provide verified evidence I reiterate, you are merely espousing Christian fundamentalist apologetics.

              However, I am curious to know if you also adhere to the belief that humans and dinosaurs co-existed?
              And if your reply is, ‘Maybe’ or ‘Yes’, please could you provide the evidence you feel supports this belief.

              Thanks

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            6. And , yes, I watched this rather weak debate when it first appeared.
              Again, I am not arguing the historicity of some itinerant rabbi – but rather the miracle working biblical character. This character is simply a narrative construct.

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            1. That there may have been an itinerant rabbi wandering around 1st century Palestine is open to debate and, quite frankly , neither here nor there.
              And maybe this bloke was called Yeshua? It was a common name, after all – and Josephus mentions a few called this name.
              However ….
              the born of a virgin, miracle working, walk- on-water, person who presented a new take on viticulture, ruined a pig farmer’s livelihood, and as per the story, was later crucified for sedition,only to come back from the dead, and was supposedly divine – as described in the gospels – this character is simply a narrative construct.
              There is no evidence whatsoever for this character.
              I hope I have clarified myself this time and apologise for any confusion.

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            2. @Brent.
              I have no idea if there are gods – yours or anyone else’s.
              However, the evidence , or lack thereof, presented so far strongly indicates there aren’t.
              And there is certainly no evidence whatsoever to support the gospel character, Jesus of Nazareth being the creator god you worship.

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            3. What books or resources would you recommend for my reading? Actually that “weak” debate was the first time I had heard that there were serious historians who reject that Jesus ever existed as a significant religious figure.

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            4. I really am not a minder and if you are serious then I am sure you can find the relevant information.
              After all, we live in the age of the internet, so how hard can it be?
              But you won’t find it reading disingenuous garbage by people like Wallace and Strobel or Creationist nonsense.
              If you listen to any of Ehrman’s videos or debates you will soon see why the gospel narratives are simply fiction/myth.
              If you want archaeology/Exodus try Finkelstein.

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            5. Thanks Arkenaten. Are there any of Bart Ehrmans books you think would be better than others? I have listened to a fair amount of Bart Ehrman’s stuff on YouTube, I will also check out Exodus by Finkelstein.

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            6. I have not read any of Ehrman’s books, only watched his videos.
              I used the word Exodus, Finkelstein relevant book is titled The bible unearthed.
              There are also a number of excellent videos featuring Finkelstein discussing this subject.

              Search: The Bible Unearthed.

              Also, you may have missed my other question:
              Do you currently believe that humans and dinosaurs co -existed?

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  2. Interestingly, coming from a culture where atheists are the mainstream, I’ve heard the reverse questions going to the people who are religious. One of the reasons that I identify as a pure agnostic is that I truly don’t know enough to hypothesize (until I do some extensive study) and I’m fine living without the knowledge right now. Thank you for introducing me to “the burden of proof”.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Hello all. I’m probably going to repeat things that others have said, but here we go. I think it’s logical and rational for the person who says they believe in God to bear the burden of proof. Person who says that they don’t believe in God really has nothing to prove. I’m a pretty simple person, but to me, it’s that simple. But I do think everyone had some good comments. I grew up as a Christian. Believed in God and the basic inerrancy of the Bible, heaven, hell, etc. I went to college then to Bible school and then went into the ministry. After several years, I went through a season of questioning why I believe what I believe. After long, in-depth study of the Bible, the history of the Bible and the church, and examining my own experience as a believer in the Christian God, I decided to walk away from it all. I had many feel good experiences in my Christian life, but I couldn’t find any solid proof that God exists. At least not the way I was taught that God exists. And if there is a God, I have serious doubts that he/she/it is like the Christian God that I learned about. I have to admit, I’m much happier and less worried in general since my beliefs have shifted to where they are now. I’m glad I went through my experiences in Christianity, but I think I’m more glad I’m where I am now. Just my two cents from my life experience thus far.

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  4. A response to the, “Where do you get your morals from, if you don’t believe in God?” that I’ve never been able to use – If they’re correct…. (I don’t think they are but, if they’re correct) I get my morals from the God that they believe exists.
    The question itself seems to be some kind of admission that God may not exist. 😛

    Liked by 1 person

  5. “but I do think that it’s fair that you can’t expect me to believe in god until you have at least some evidence. Or good arguments. ”

    I agree wholeheartedly with you here CA. I think that both sides of this “is there a god” debate have some evidence for their side as well as good arguments. In the end, whether you are a theist of some kind or agnostic /atheist comes down to how you view those arguments, and which you find more compelling.

    As someone who is not an atheist, I completely get and understand why others are not theists of some persuasion.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. “They say, “I believe that there is no god.” (So they are making a claim that there is no god.)”
    No they are not, they are making a claim that they do not believe there is a god. The difference is important.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Simply put, the idea of the burden of proof is that if Person A makes a claim, they must defend their claim.

    People talk a lot about claims and burden of proof. But I think those concepts are only appropriate in situations such as a court hearing and a formal debate.

    In ordinary life, people mostly express opinions rather than making claims. And in ordinary life, the burden of proof is on the person who wants to convince others.

    … it’s pretty much impossible to absolutely prove anything beyond a shadow of a doubt, …

    We are all human. I might be convinced of something beyond a shadow of doubt, yet still be wrong.

    Proof is for logic and mathematics. In ordinary life, we construct logical models and then prove things within those logical models. But there’s still the possibility that our logical model doesn’t actually work very well, so the conclusions might be wrong even though they have been proved.

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  8. “…if a person makes a claim, they should be able to defend it…” And, right off the bat, faith is not a defense. Believe all they want, so what? Gods? Everyone has some, I suppose. The kicker for me is resurrection. A most improbable, unlikely, and I believe impossible trick to pull off. People don’t want to say good bye to their memories, so they dream up an immortal soul and an afterlife. We have to get real folks! GROG

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  9. “…if Person A makes a claim, they must defend their claim…”

    Basically, yes. But I think there’s also a factor of “how important is the claim?” If my neighbor claims he played baseball in high school, I don’t care if he can prove it or not; it’s not an important claim to me, nor is it a fantastical one. Even if he claims he won the State Championship and the MVP trophy, which is much more of a fantastical claim (it would require proof before I believed it), it still isn’t that important to my personal life.

    But a religious person’s claim typically involves Heaven/Hell scenarios (at least in my life in the U.S.), which — if true — would be the single most important thing ever. So yeah, they’re going to need to provide some outstanding evidence/proof of that.

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  10. While I can’t help with examples (I use obvious ones in discussions), I enjoy this topic (a lot). I commend your choice. However, ‘proof’ is not why I identify as atheist, nor was it ever why I claimed to believe. Things have changed because today I ask for proof for me to acknowledge any god’s existence. Imagine that: life with proof. The word atheist would die out.
    I read a Pew religious landscape study thingy the other day (data was only for Texas) wherein they report that 69% responded that they believe in god and are absolutely certain. Only 6% reported they did not believe and certainty was not mentioned for them. I contend that any burden of proof is on the 69%, and not any of the other 31% due to their lack of certainty either way. Disclosure: I am fond of saying ‘there are not gods.’ Of course I can’t prove it, but am I addressing the 69%?

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  11. For my entire life I’ve been told and believed I have a soul. That statement is weird. Who or what is the ‘I’ that possesses the soul? Maybe better put is that there is a body, the brain/mind and the soul, which exists simultaneously in symbiosis. The Trinity? Father, Son, Holy Ghost? I can easily prove two of the three as I sit here in this chair. The third, which I’ve read about, been told exists by priests-Zen masters-gurus and my parents, I can neither prove nor disprove. Strange that people put so much emphasis on this soul thing. Hmm..??

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    1. There is one talk I’ve heard by Sean Carroll, theoretical physicist, that’s come the closest to debunking the idea of a soul. If I understand him correctly he says that they have now discovered every molecule, atom, particle, quark, up quark, down quark, protons etc that make up this world including humans. There is no unanswered question, no missing theory and they’ve not discovered energy or particle that could be classified as a soul. No entity that hovers within us driving us around like a soccer mom. If there is a soul-energy then it must be so weak that it doesn’t interact with any particles that make us.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Or, they do not have the right kind of energy in mind to look for. I don’t believe in a soul, as you know, but I do beludve in a non-physical spirit. Many years ago in Russia, experiments were done on dying people, where they said the body lost a few ounces soon after death. They also said they detected some kind of energy leaving the body at the same time. I remember discussing this in high school, circa 1965. Cannot say more, my memory is not precise.

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        1. I think the whole point Sean Carroll is making is that in their discoveries and experimentation and theories there is no ‘energy’ missing that needs to be found to explain this world or humans. If there is a missing energy it’s too weak to interact with what is known.

          For instance, physicists knew the Higgs Boson particle existed before they actually found it by using the Large Hadron Collider. Physicists know dark matter or dark energy exists, but they haven’t actually found it. Here’s a definition. : a theoretical repulsive force that counteracts gravity and causes the universe to expand at an accelerating rate: “Einstein’s theories allow for the possible existence of dark energy”
          Sooo..it’s a possible and theoretical well tested theory that stands up to scientific scrutiny, but they haven’t found it yet.

          With the existence of ‘soul’ or ‘spirit’ there is no missing energy or particle that NEEDS to be found so that the make up of a human or any other thing on earth makes sense. So ‘they’ say.

          I”ve heard the idea that the body loses weight upon dying. I have no idea what that is, but I’ve also heard that we lose control of our bodily functions, such as peeing or pooping!! LOL I’m sure they took that into account. I’ll have to google it.
          So, my quest to find “spirit’ continues. I know if I sit around googling and youtubing I’m sure to find it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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          1. Good luck.
            Yes, I understood what Carroll was saying, and he is probably right for everything we understand within our universe. But two things, we do not know everything. We do not understand anything that might be outside our physical reality. All I am doing is trying to point out that there is a box called science, and science cannot think outside that box. Science cannot explain metaphysics, yet there are people throughout the ages, including myself, that have been able to use metaphysical means to get around the roadblocks of life, or to create roadblocks in life. I cannot control what I sometimes do, and often I don’t even realize the metaphysics involved till after the fact, but I cannot deny my own experience.

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            1. Interesting. Want to share an experience where you used metaphysics to move forward in life?
              I’ve tried a few metaphysical techniques and always come back to science. I’d be curious what your experiences were.

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            2. Telepathy was one. There were certain people I ran into in life that I could carry on conversations with even though we were not physically in the same room. It was like having a telephone inside my head in the days before cellphones. I am not going to say there were many, less than 10, but I would be thinking of someone I really needed to tell something, and suddenly we would be in contact. Like other things I screwed it up by contacting someone I had never met, someone I had learned something about and wanted to give them a piece of my mind. When they suddenly contacted me back with a string of invectives and a feeling of utter hatred I had to block it off, and I have never been able to use telepathy again.
              I still have bouts of knowing something is going to happen, a kind of foreknowledge of events. Sometimes they are bad, like the time I was on a train in Communist Poland, and I knew I was about to have something stolen from me. I was busy shifting things in my pocket around, starting with my visa papers, when I got bumped by a passenger running through the train car. I never felt a thing, but the only thing I had left after the runner was halfway through the car was my papers in one hand, and my American money in the other. Everything, and I mean everything I had in my pockets was gone, including my other ID and wallet and addresses of people I had met and liked. The warning came with just seconds to spare. I barely made it out of the country.
              Another time was much better, I got a phone call one day saying I had passed the first level of a radio contest for an all-expeses paid trip to Cuba. There were still a number of levels to go but I thanked the person on the phone for the trip. She was a radio announcer, and mentioned on the radio that she talked to a guy who said he was psychic, and that he knew he was going to win the trip. As I passed each level she would call me to tell me, and each time her voice would betray her disbelief. When I got to the last round she was pretty much shaking. All the 30 remaining contestants had their names put in a hat, a restaurant owner drew the winning name, and handed it to her. I was already halfway out of my chair before she even read my name. By the time I reached the stage she was white as a ghost. in her 30 years of running contests she had never met anyone as sure of winning as I was, and she mentioned it on the radio later that night. I and my girlfriend had lots of fun in Cuba. She had not believed me either, though she was there with me when I got the first call. I told her to pack her bags for Cuba, and she just laughed. Now she wants me to do it again. But I cannot control it.
              Those are some of the things that stand out. I have already told you about my spiritual experiences, again I knew those were going to happen, I just didn’t know when or where. Or what I would learn!

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            3. That’s very interesting. You explain these events as spiritual. Remember, The Amazing Randy? He offered a million dollars to anyone who could prove telepathy or the paranormal. But I guess you don’t have control over your experiences, so, to set up a set time and place and conditions for telepathy to happen wouldn’t work. That’s cool.

              I’ve had strong intuitions about people, but I’ve never attributed it to paranormal. Well, I don’t know what to say. I can see how your belief is strong. How do you account that some people are ‘tuned in’ and some aren’t.

              I read a book by Nanci Danison who had an NDE. One of the things she was told when she visited ‘the other side’ is that some people are infused with a soul and some aren’t. Some of us are just humans without a soul. According to her there’s no difference between the haves and the have-nots it’s just the spirit residing within??. Maybe that’s me!!

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            4. Ms Danison may see people as tuned in or turned out, I certainly do not. Paranormal things are spiritual to me because they use the connections I see between all living beings, and those connections are the pathways of the spirit. They are there for the use of all, but probably you need to believe the connections are real to use them. The mind is a very powerful tool, but it can also be very stubborn. The Amazing Randy was, as far as I could tell, highly psychic in a reverse way, he could block paranormal events around him. I remember watching him on TV, and I could feel his power through the television. I said to whomever I was watching with that he was the most powerful person I had ever seen. They all laughed at me…
              The contention some people have souls while others do not tears me to my core, but maybe she sees souls as different from spirit. Sometime I do too, depending on who I am talking to, but mostly the word soul is meaningless to me, while spirit is everything. They are not eas9y concepts to discuss because they can mean so many things. However in 69 years now I have not found a better word that others will undrstand AND accept. I hate the English language…

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            5. In defense of Nanci Danison she is only reporting what she was shown in her NDE. So, it’s not her opinion. Before her NDE she was an atheist with no beliefs in spirit or soul.

              I don’t know what to make of NDE’s. There’s evidence towards it being simply a brain function during a traumatic event. I’ve listened to a few people telling their NDE story. I have no idea until I have a personal experience. I guess when I die.

              One thing you said, “They are there for the use of all, but probably you need to believe the connections are real to use them.”
              In my personal world I don’t want to have to ‘believe’ in an unsubstantiated force for it to be real. I need it to be categorically, undeniably, in-my-face real. A bit of a skeptic, I guess.

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            6. No matter, Eric. I guess I stated that wrong, I meant more in be lieving the possibility of it. But that too still doesn’t sound right.
              Was I born with the ability to use the paranormal, or did I just not listen when authorities said these things were impossible?
              The first memory of my life I was still in the crib, so I was less than two years old. Possibly less than one year. How I have the words to tell this story I do not know, I certainly had no language in me yet. My mother was preparing freshly caught fish for supper, chopping them into chunks. I was not far away in my crib. Suddenly the pieces of fish started jumping all over the table. (Nerves firing, it was explained to me years later.) My mother started screaming bloody murder. End of memory, but so much fill-in information added later I don’t know where memory starts and ends, and what was added to it. I’m pretty sure my mother projected her fear so strongly it ovrrwhelmed me, causing me to see with her eyes, and experiencing with her fear-ravaged brain.
              My next real memory is not till I was 4 years old.

              How did this memory influence my own groth and life-understanding? I will probably never know. I hate fish meals, that much I know.

              Liked by 1 person

            7. Good memory. Flying fish. I can see how that would influence your life.

              Maybe humans don’t have the senses needed to experience the non-physical dimension. That’s possible. Like the example of Flat Landers who live in 2 dimensions. They would only see a 3 dimension object as 2 dimensional. We live in a 3 dimensional world with our 3 dimensional senses. I just don’t see the other dimensions, but…there are theories and math that points to the possibility of other dimensions.
              Soooo…for now..I don’t sense the non-physical dimensions and it does me no good or help my life in any way to try to convince myself to believe it or piece together non connected experiences that may or may not make it so.

              Speaking of memories. When I was five or six I woke up at night, turned over and saw a green outline of a man standing over my bed. I wasn’t scared, but I turned the other way, pulled the covers over my head for a while and then turned my head again. He/it was gone. I held that memory for most of my life as proof of spirit. I used this memory to lead me into Zen and other modalities and religions, which turned up nothing. Then I started learning about waking dreams and such things. I had to laugh at myself and how easily I can be convinced.

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  12. The only reason the orbiting teapot sounds fantastical, but talking snakes don’t is because they didn’t grow up hearing that story from birth. Whether you are raised in Christianity or not, if you live in a country where the religion is common, the adam and eve story will be known to you. Even if you don’t believe in Christianity, it is a familiar story and thus takes on an air of normalcy as opposed to a story you’ve never heard before.

    The problem with an orbiting tea pot is that there isn’t a whole lot of story attached to it as there is to the bible. Talking snakes is part of a grander narrative, which also makes accepting the less believable parts more believable.

    Interestingly if you’ve read the book Life of Pi, the author does a very similar thing. I saw the author give a talk about the book and he says that he intentionally pushes the envelope of the story to see how much belief you will accept of the fantastical. And without giving away too much at the end he wants you to consider two versions of a story, one far more enjoyable than the other, and thus which one we’re going to accept and conveniently call the truth. Weirdly I believe the author is religious, but I’ve always felt that the book itself sort of looks at our willingness to accept fantastical claims for the sake of a good story. Personally I don’t find the Christian one particularly great story telling, but I think that’s another reason why counter examples like the FSM or giant teapots don’t carry the same weight in the mind of the theist. Even though in reality the story is just the fluff of an unsubstantiated assertion. and is on the same burden of proof grounds. I think it’s still an argument worth making, because without proving the existence of God there is nothing that differentiates the story of Yahweh and his Son from the Life of Pi or any other work of fiction.

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