Steve Greene wrote a web article entitled How to validate atheism in one easy step and gives us the most common defense of atheism that is out there:
So this is how you validate atheism in one easy step: Ask the god-believer to produce actual, credible, real world evidence of this god. He will never do it. He will always engage in word games employed to try to conjure up his god – while never even attempting to produce actual, relevant, empirical evidence of any god. He will talk about everything else under the sun, engage in rhetorical trickery, misdirection (red herring), misrepresentation (i.e., straw man criticism of atheism), all based on denying obvious facts about reality (like the problematic nature of “eyewitness testimony,” and the subjective nature of subjective beliefs about imaginary things making you feel good), while never getting around to producing any actual evidence of any god – oh, and then, a lot of times you even get the religious apologist who specifically employs some sort of “Divine Hiddenness” argument to try to pretend that his god arranged things deliberately that we would not have any actual evidence of its existence because religious faith (i.e., believing in the god based on faith, not evidence) is a virtue, believing without evidence is a virtue, and doubt (i.e., critical thinking and being skeptical about bogus claims that don’t have good evidence to back them up) is the influence of Satan or some other evil spirit.
Once again, we see how atheism is built on the Demand For Evidence. But we also know that such a demand is more of a rhetorical trick than a sincere expression of intellectual curiosity.
First of all, Greene is working with a shallow, superficial understanding of evidence. He seems to think that if certain data were indeed evidence for X, then these data would be universally perceived and acknowledged as evidence for X. But that is not how evidence works. Evidence is not objective reality that is detected by the senses; evidence is perceived by the mind. The mind converts data from objective reality into the subjective perception of evidence. Because the perception of evidence depends on interpretation from the mind, evidence itself is something that has a distinct subjective element to it. In fact, it would not be too far from the truth to note that evidence is in the eye of the beholder. So the fact that Greene is not convinced by “evidence” from religious people (appeals to eyewitness testimony, appeals to personal experience, and variants of the fine-tuning argument) means only that Greene finds such evidence to be unconvincing. But since the world does not revolve around Greene, the failure to convince him does not mean the evidence does not exist.
What Greene is doing to “validate” atheism is simply trying to posture and set the stage so he can act as Judge and Jury. The religious person is supposed to come before him and “plead their case” with their “evidence.” Greene will then decide the outcome of that case. Amazingly, many Christians fall for this tactic and play right into the hands of people like Greene.
When someone like Greene comes to you demanding “actual, credible, real world evidence of this god,” there are three simple questions you can ask to expose the sham nature of the inquiry and thus defeat the backdoor attempt to “validate atheism.”
Question 1: What would you count as “actual, credible, real world evidence for God?” If the atheist refuses to answer, he/she will be exposed as Hiding the Goalpost, demonstrating the inherent intellectual dishonesty in such a demand. If the atheist finally answers, there is a very, very high likelihood he/she will cite some dramatic, miraculous, sensational demonstration of God’s power. And that leads to the second question.
Question 2: Why would that dramatic, miraculous, sensational event count as evidence for God? At this point, the atheist will likely try to change the topic. But persist with the question. What you will find is that the reason why the atheist would count such an event as evidence for God is because it could not possibly be explained by natural causes and science. In other words, because it was a Gap. Modern day atheism is built on God of the Gaps logic.
At this point, you can ask the third question.
Question 3: Is the God of the Gaps reasoning a valid way of determining the existence of God? If the atheist has not bailed on you yet, he/she will likely run now. For if he/she answers NO, then it will become clear that nothing can count as evidence for the existence of God. Why? Because if the only “evidence” the atheist “Judge/Jury” will allow in his/her kangaroo court is a Gap (something that cannot be explained by science/natural law), and God-of-the-Gaps reasoning is also not allowed by the atheist, then it is clear the atheist demand for evidence is a sneaky, dishonest game of “heads I win, tails you lose.”
Of course, if the atheist answers YES to question 3, then the theist is free to raise Gaps as evidence for God (origin of Life, origin of the Consciousness, etc.). This is why the atheist will run or change the topic – his/her demand for evidence puts the atheist in the position of having to a) acknowledge the deceitful nature of their demand or b) acknowledge there is evidence because of certain existing gaps.
Finally, there is a Bonus question that can be used to supplement or replace the above approach. Since the atheist wants to judge and proclaim whether or not I have evidence for God’s existence, I need evidence this “judge” is open and fair-minded. What rational person would willingly put himself in a position of being judged by a hostile, biased, prejudiced judge? So you can ask the following question.
Bonus question: I’ll provide evidence for God’s existence, but can you first provide evidence that you are capable of considering my evidence in an open- and fair-minded manner?
Given that so many New Atheists are pompous, closed-minded verbal bullies, expect such a question to be ignored. And then you can simply point out that the atheist is simply not qualified to pass meaningful judgment on your beliefs. For prejudgment is not meaningful judgment.