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News

October 2018

Saudi Arabia has been named the worst country in the world to be an atheist in a new report monitoring the rights and treatment of the non-religious. On Monday the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) published the latest Freedom of Thought Report, which ranks the best and worst countries to be an atheist.
NATIONAL SECULAR SOCIETY

September 2018

The number of Britons who say they have no religion has hit a record high, new data has revealed. More than half of the British public (53 per cent) say they are not at all religious - a figure that has increased by five percentage points since 2015 and by 19 percentage points since 1983, when just three in 10 people deemed themselves non-religious. The news has prompted fresh calls for the Government to cut the amount of public money going to the church and reduce its influence in society.
THE INDEPENDENT

Does God Exist?

Creationists & fundamentalists often make a number of claims about or attributed to a deity yet fail to provide any evidence in support of it. This article attempts to deal with such claims of deity.

Despite the fact that there is no evidence to support their existence many that make the claim that a god or gods exist ... for the remainder of this article such phenomena will all be referred to as God or god. In the case of Christianity, Judaism (Jehovah) or Islam (Allah) and, indeed, many other religions the god in question is an all-powerful, divine force or entity that "created" or "is" or "contains" the universe and/or watches over it and/or permeates every aspect of our lives.

Does God Exist?

Discussion

To my knowledge there are no reliable instances of God being seen, heard, touched or smelt nor is it possible to design an experiment to test for its existence or non-existence. Available evidence at least implies that men wrote whatever religious scriptures currently exist and there is no evidence to indicate that a god or gods were involved in any way. In other words there is no physical or naturalistic evidence to support the existence of God/deity.

The accepted method of investigation (science) is to propose a clearly stated hypothesis and to support that hypothesis with evidence and reasoned logical deductions based upon the same. That is how science works and is the method by which humans have discovered things about our surroundings since we were able to reason. It is also understood that if a hypothesis does not "fit" in any way with other knowledge already accepted about our universe, if it cannot be supported by evidence and it cannot provide information about our universe previously unknown then it is assumed to have no value and is dismissed.

Given the above (and my statement in the second paragraph) I can draw the following assumptions to test or discuss:

  1. God is claimed to be an all powerful, divine entity, force or effect that watches over us and permeates every aspect of our lives.
  2. There exists no empirical (measurable physical or naturalistic) evidence to support the claimed existence of God that cannot be interpreted (or potentially so) in a different fashion.
  3. There are no reliable or verifiable instances of God being seen, heard, touched, smelt, tasted or otherwise observed.
  4. It is not possible to design an experiment to prove or disprove God's existence.
  5. Humans (it would seem) physically wrote whatever scriptures or other written material supporting the claimed actuality of God and there is no evidence to indicate the direct or indirect involvement of God.

On the basis that it is the supporters of the existence of a god or gods that are proposing the hypothesis that such a creator deity exists and that the natural human method of investigation results in the dismissal of untenable hypotheses then it is not unreasonable to request that the following be provided.

  1. Hard scientific evidence to support the claimed existence of whatever god or gods are being claimed to exist.
  2. Given that such evidence can, potentially at least, be provided an experiment designed to prove the existence of whatever god or gods are being claimed to exist and an indication of what kind of data would be required to disprove the existence of the same.
  3. Demonstrable evidence that whatever scriptures support the existence of the claimed god or gods were not (as is reasonably assumed) written and designed purely by men or women without divine involvement.

The universe may be defined as "the sum of all that exists" or "the physical system that is potentially observable" and, for the purpose of this discussion at least, can be considered fully interchangeable with the term "natural universe". Science is an ongoing attempt to explain the universe and in this respect has explained or is attempting to explain all that is observable. Whilst individual scientists are not always above reproach science, as a global force, is tentative in nature, cannot always consider its knowledge to be absolute & correct but is self-correcting in nature and therefore represents our best current understanding of the universe.

  • God exists.
  • God does not exist.
  • God existed once but does not anymore (dead).

Though it is of academic interest if there once was a god but it exists no more it is beyond the scope of this discussion and typically theists do not claim this to be so. With that in mind I move on to the first two possibilities i.e. that God either exists or does not.

If God exists within the universe then it either is/will be observable, either directly or indirectly, by science or it exists outside of the universe. If all observable aspects of God exist outside of the universe then it is, by definition, supernatural and can have no impact on the universe or anything within it and, as such, science can safely discard it. If God is not supernatural then it, some part of it or something directly attributable to it must be observable in which case it is not supernatural but entirely or partially explainable.

If God is (in principle) entirely or partially explainable then it is not, by definition, supernatural but natural i.e. a part of the universe. If God exists wholly outside of the universe then there can be no observable evidence to support it's existence and no one has any reason to believe in it let alone try to convince others that God exists. If God exists within some gap in our scientific understanding of the universe then it is not only due to one day to be explained (such gaps will not remain open forever) but is also shrinking in size as our knowledge increases.

Logically therefore God must be one of the following:

  • Everywhere.
  • Part of the explained universe.
  • Part of the unexplained universe.
  • Non-existent.

God cannot exist within the parts of the universe we have explained ... if so God would have been explained (partially or wholly) and would therefore already be a part of the natural and explained universe. For the same reason God cannot be everywhere, for if it were it would be possible to observe and test some parts of it. If it is a part of the universe that we have not explained then it must be a "god of the gaps" i.e. it exists somewhere in the gaps of knowledge we have so far failed to explain. If, as pointed out above, that is true then every time we discover something new this "god of the gaps" gets a little smaller.

The final option is that God does not exist ... this needs no justification, no proof, no evidence.

Conclusion

It is evident that, if God exists and affects us, God must exist within the confines of our universe; by definition the universe is everything that is observable and can be considered a boundary across which information does not flow. If God does exist in our universe then God must be observable. Also if God was not observable then God cannot observe us. If God is not observable then it is impossible for anyone to have experienced the presence of God, so if God is unobservable then God cannot exist and anyone who ever claimed to have experienced god (personally or otherwise) has merely experienced a delusion.

There is no validatable evidence (that cannot be more reasonably interpreted) to support the existence of God so it is hard to see why any reasoning human being should consider that one should exist since our entire investment in knowledge (by which I refer to those things we "know" or have discovered about our universe) is based on empirical data. With that in mind and with specific (& somewhat cynical) reference to claims of a "god/gods of the gaps (which presumably is where God must exist in the absence of any other evidence) it must follow that at one point that god was potentially huge but nowadays is getting somewhat smaller ... indeed one imagines that the sceptic should be careful lest he tread on the apologetic's "god of the gaps" without realising it.

Richard Dawkins wrote "It is often said that although there is no positive evidence for the existence of God, nor is there evidence against his existence. So it is best to keep an open mind and be agnostic. At first sight that seems an unassailable position, at least in the weak sense of Pascal's wager. But on second thoughts it seems a cop-out, because the same could be said of Father Christmas and tooth fairies. There may be fairies at the bottom of the garden. There is no evidence for it, but you can't prove that there aren't any, so shouldn't we be agnostic with respect to fairies?"

References

  • E-mail discussions with a friend.

About UK Atheist's Founder

As an author, socialist and atheist, I've been debating fundamentalists and theists for nearly thirty years.
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Growing up Catholic, I began to question the existence of "God" around the age of thirteen in parallel with an "addiction" to science fiction which taught me the basics of science. I graduated with an honours degree in Applied Biology moving into science and then science computing and it was there that I was exposed to creationism. It struck me that science had not only take its eye off the ball, creationists were a well-funded and organised body determined subvert science. Like many others, I took up the fight to defend science building communities and supporting websites with my greatest success being a government response to the "Science, Just Science" campaign assuring us that creationism could not be taught as science in any state-run UK science classroom. Modern social networking is not ideal for debate but it today's format and it is why I co-founded the Facebook group:
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Voltaire Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.