Robert Meyer
'There's not a shred of evidence that God exists': Motivations for unbelief
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By Robert Meyer
July 24, 2022

"There’s not a shred of evidence that God exists." Wouldn’t it be great if you had a dollar for every time you've heard someone make that pronouncement? Whenever anyone says “there’s not a shred of evidence” regarding any topic at all, you must understand that such a person is making an ideological or philosophical claim and not a factual assertion. What they are really saying is that there isn’t any evidence or line of reasoning that will persuade them or that they will accept. As Thomas Paine once put it, “a man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.”

When someone argues that there is no evidence for something, the first question that must be asked of them is what counts as evidence? You will discover that this approach has unlikely been considered, and it quickly unmasks how vague and imprecise the “not a shred of evidence” claims actually are. Frankly, it would require omniscience to seriously make such a claim, because how would anyone know whether all relevant evidence had been considered, or an argument or evidence previously unknown would emerge? Facts and evidences, while seeming to be neutral, are always reinterpreted inside of a predisposed narrative That is why an argument very convincing to one person is completely disregarded by another.

The nature of the evidence one would accept depends largely on the metaphysical character of the entity under investigation. For instance, if we asked the question as to whether there was a carton of milk in the refrigerator, it would be easy to settle that question. We could simply look and see. However, when we ask whether abstract concepts, such as love, justice and the laws of logic exist, a different methodology must be undertaken. We observe people who are in love, we evaluate whether a certain outcome is just or unjust, and we use laws of logic in everyday reasoning and conversation. And yet can we offer proof of their existence?

It would be a serious cognitive error to assume that someone more intelligent than you is equally more objective than you are. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. For over 20 years, I have dealt with numerous people who are skeptical, and in some cases hostile toward theistic belief. You come to discover that unbelief is seldom based exclusively on intellectual objections. I’ve learned more from honest skeptics about their own motivations than I have from Christian apologists.

Listen to the candor of NYU philosophy professor Thomas Nagel…

“I speak from experience, being strongly subject to this fear myself: I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that. My guess is that this cosmic authority problem is not a rare condition and that it is responsible for much of the scientism and reductionism of our time. One of the tendencies it supports is the ludicrous overuse of evolutionary biology to explain everything about human life, including everything about the human mind …. This is a somewhat ridiculous situation …. [I]t is just as irrational to be influenced in one’s beliefs by the hope that God does not exist as by the hope that God does exist.”

The luminary Aldous Huxley makes his profession…

    I had motive for not wanting the world to have a meaning; consequently, assumed that it had none, and was able without any difficulty to find satisfying reasons for this assumption. The philosopher who finds no meaning in the world is not concerned exclusively with a problem in pure metaphysics, he is also concerned to prove that there is no valid reason why he personally should not do as he wants to do, or why his friends should not seize political power and govern in the way that they find most advantageous to themselves. . . . For myself, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation, sexual and political.

I would submit that these two quotes supply the predominant motivates for unbelief A resentment of an ultimate authority and a craving for the personal autonomy that allows one to run in the trackless fields of their own imagination.

In the next piece we shall examine the internal coherence of theistic skepticism

© Robert Meyer

 

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Robert Meyer

Robert Meyer is a hardy soul who hails from the Cheesehead country of the upper midwest... (more)

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