I Am [not] An Atheist

Bashing atheists isn’t really my thing, and it’s not what this post will be about.

The thing is, I write a blog for young Catholics (and then I guess for anyone else who wants to read it), and I talk a lot about how much I love the Catholic faith and how great Jesus is and all that…and all along this “God” character is sort of just accepted as a given in my world.  Yes, I was raised by parents that believe in God, and no, I’ve never seriously doubted His existence.

See, to me, Romans 1:20 has always summed up all the proof I’ve ever needed for God’s existence:

Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made.

Translation: Look around!  This place is stunning!  Human beings are amazing!  Look at all the tiny intricacies of even the smallest organism on the planet!  Believing that this all happened by mere coincidence is a heck of a lot harder to swallow than believing in God.  At least that’s the way I look at things.

Big shock: the author of the Catholic blog believes in God.

But that doesn’t mean that I’ve never had questions; nor does it mean that I can’t recognize faulty logic when I see it, which brings me to this:

By now you have hopefully realized that I did not create the above meme.  Truth be told, I actually find the list of reasons given at the beginning of the picture for why this person is NOT an atheist to be far better reasons to say there’s no god than the one they seem to think packs the most punch (but those can be the topic of another day’s post).  Today we discuss “the burden of proof” and the “scientific method” (which, FYI, was developed by people in the Catholic Church).

Let’s start by acknowledging where the meme is right.  It’s impossible to prove the non-existence of something.  Science will never be able to prove that anything, let alone God, does not exist.

Now, I’m not a scientist and I won’t pretend to be.  But I’m 100% certain that science has no business outside of the natural realm.  If a god exists, then by definition, it’s not a natural being; it’s supernatural.  Since science can only tell us about the natural realm, it’s entirely possible for a supernatural being to exist without natural, empirical evidence (sight, sound, taste, touch, smell) for it.  Science cannot disprove god; but asking science to prove the existence of god misunderstands both science and the question of a god.

I know what you’re thinking.  Why not only believe in things that science can prove, then?  Things that we can see with our own eyes, things that we can hear or taste or smell or touch.  These are the only real and verifiable things, according to the logic of the above meme.

Sounds simple enough… but nobody actually lives in that world.  There are tons of things we believe in but cannot prove with the scientific method.  The most striking of these is love.  Love isn’t something we can smell or touch, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t believe in it simply because we can’t examine it under a microscope.  We experience love.  We know the pain of when love is lacking.  Try as we might, we can’t deny the existence of, or the need for, love.  Yet science will never be able to prove that love exists, and it would be silly to ask that of science.

If your only reason for not believing in God is because you can’t prove His existence with the scientific method, not only are you missing the point of science, you’re [presumably] missing out on some of the most beautiful aspects of this life.  Come into the real world, where “real” isn’t limited to only those things which we can smell, taste, see, hear, or touch.

 

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  • Martin T.

    Burden of proof in the sense used here is mythical, however. The basic idea here is that ‘claim-making’ gives an automatic obligation to give supporting arguments. This is not, in fact, something that anyone accepts as a matter of practice, . . . Siris: The Fiction of Burden of Proof

    http://branemrys.blogspot.com/2012/05/fiction-of-burden-of-proof.html?m=1

  • http://www.facebook.com/elisabeth.cervantes1 Elisabeth Cervantes

    I’d also add that in the study of natural science, it is inevitable that eventually one comes to inexplicable phenomena that occur in the world. For instance, the fact that nature does not act randomly, but always (or for the most part, to be Aristotelian) acts for a certain end, and always achieves this end unless impeded. Also, the fact that philosophically, motion MUST be traced back to a single first mover. It’s been scientifically (and I mean by this, it is necessary) proven. So the physical indications are out there….people just don’t want to see them. ;)
    Great article!

  • Alexandra Richards

    Great article. I might add that scientists can explain natural phenomena using physical laws of nature but they can’t explain the physical laws of nature themselves by using the physical laws of nature.

  • James H, London

    “Sounds simple enough… but nobody actually lives in that world”

    Bingo.

    I had a flirtation with atheism at age 11 (when I was at a Catholic school, funnily enough), under Carl Sagan’s influence – his Cosmos series was epic, I was allowed to stay up late just to watch it!

    As I went through my teens however, I realised that no-one actually lived as if there was no natural law. If life was really nothing but survival of the fittest, all our morality is arbitrary and disposable. The fact that even atheists have a sense of right and wrong, shows that it isn’t. Granted, we can rationalise ourselves in ever-decreasing circles (postnatal abortion, anyone?), but we can’t escape the fact of wrong-ness.

    Of course, I was 11 during the Cold War, when Earth’s premier atheist society was still going strong. Since then, it’s collapsed, showing that atheist societies are an evolutionary dead-end.

  • karlf

    So, because atheists have a sense of right and wrong there must be a God? Then, if I have a circle of toadstools on my lawn there must be fairies about? You really should read more – try Sam Harris.
    If you have ever had a dog you’ll know that animals can empathise like we do. We empathise and recognise the suffering of others as a wrong, and our morality is based on that.

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