Modern day atheism is built on a simple claim – There is no evidence that God exists. But how does the atheist know this? It’s one thing to claim, “I don’t see any evidence for God” or “What you consider evidence for God is not what I consider evidence for God.” But to proclaim “There is no evidence for God” is to make a truth claim about all of objective reality – wherever you look, whoever you are, how ever hard you look, you will not find any evidence for God. Because “there is no evidence” to be found. And that’s supposed to be true for all of us.
Yet this is nothing more than empty posturing. We’ve seen how easy it to completely neuter this claim – simply ask the atheist what would count as evidence for God. After all, when the atheist insists “There is no evidence for God,” this question is a perfectly legitimate way to get the atheist to clarify what he is saying.
And what have we found? First, many atheists will point to some miraculous event, perhaps writing in the stars. In other words, some event that could not possibly be explained by natural causes; something that would present itself as a Gap in our current understanding by natural causes. But if that is the case, those events could only be evidence if we agreed that the God of the Gaps approach is a valid and legitimate way of determining whether God exists. If we are to count a Gap as evidence, we necessarily assume the validity of the God of the Gaps logic. Yet atheists everywhere have insisted that the God of the Gaps approach is NOT a valid approach. Thus, all these examples of miracles that would supposedly count as evidence for God truly would not count as evidence for God as far as the atheist is concerned. The atheist is engaged in deceptive hand-waving.
The honest approach is for the atheist to admit that nothing would count as evidence for the existence of God. But then the atheist is simply admitting his/her closed mind and the pronouncement that “There is no evidence for God” becomes vacuous. If nothing can count as evidence for the existence of God, then of course the atheist is going to believe there is no evidence for God. How could it be otherwise?
Not wanting to be seen as closed-minded dogmatists, some atheists have been looking for an escape hatch. Atheist activist Matt Dillahunty offers up one such attempt that I have seen elsewhere. Since he takes over 27 minutes to make a two minute point, I’ll focus you to 26:16 in the video:
What would change my mind? Evidence and argument. I can’t give you specifics. But if there is a God, that God should know exactly what would change my mind. Should be capable of doing so. And hasn’t. Which means either that God doesn’t exist or doesn’t want me to know He exists. Yet. Either way, it’s not my problem.
First, don’t lose sight that Dillahunty is addressing a similar, yet different point. For “what would change my mind?” is not the same as “What would count as evidence?” In the future, we need to explore the variants of this question. But for now, let’s deal with the way Dillahunty frames it.
Okay, so Dillahunty can’t think of anything that would change his mind about God’s existence. Sounds like a closed minded atheist. But then he punts and tries to make his inability to contemplate what it would take for him to admit being wrong into some type of argument against the existence of God. In essence:
- God, being omniscient, would know what would change Matt Dillahunty’s mind.
- God, being omnipotent, would be able to do this.
- Matt, still being an atheist, means such an omniscient and omnipotent God does not exist.
There are lots of ways to deal with this, but I’ll make it simple and quickly neutralize the escape hatch argument by cutting away the key premise – “But if there is a God, that God should know exactly what would change my mind” – and replace it with one that is just as plausible – “But if there is a God, that God should know that nothing would change Matt Dillahunty’s mind.” And since nothing would change Matt’s mind, why bother?
In fact, my premise is actually supported by evidence – Matt Dillahunty can’t think of any possibility that would change his mind. This is to be expected from someone whose mind is so closed that nothing would change his mind. That’s why he can’t give specifics.
Or look at it this way. Clever little attempts to turn this into “God’s problem” don’t work once we recognize the “evidence and arguments” either build on an event that was supernaturally caused or one that was naturally caused. One or the other. And omniscience or omnipotence doesn’t change that. So, if the event-to-be-evidence was supernaturally caused, you’d have to invoke the God of the Gaps argument to turn the supernatural cause into evidence. But Dillahunty explains why that is not allowed in the earlier part of his video. On the other hand, if the event-to-be-evidence was naturally caused, why invoke a supernatural being when the natural cause itself will suffice? In other words, nothing can count as evidence for God. It’s either a Gap or a natural cause, and, we are told, neither one purchases evidence for God.
Now that his reframe has been knocked to the ground, let’s get back to the focusing just how serious this problem is for the atheist. I don’t care what would change Matt Dillahunty’s mind. His beliefs and reasons for believing are simply not important to me. But if someone like Dillahunty insists there is no evidence for God, and that I am to agree if I want to remain rational, then that person must explain what would count as evidence for God. Not what would change his/her mind. What would count. Otherwise, he/she is propping up a truth claim by Hiding the Goalposts.
Because if the atheist cannot think of anything that would count as evidence for God, the “no evidence” claim collapses in a dramatic and sudden implosion. For if the atheist cannot think of anything that would count as evidence for God, how do they even know there is none? If they admit they have no idea what it looks like, not the slightest clue what it might be, then how can they know it does not exist? It could be sitting right next to them and they would not notice. Even worse, if they have no idea what would count as evidence for God, they have effectively admitted they are not intellectually qualified to have a respectable opinion about the existence of God.