I am not a fan of language games. I consider them things to be solved or fixed; I consider them tricks and deceit. However, in the religious debate language games abound. One of the biggest ones is about definitions. The one I want to discuss now is the claim that “there is no proof that atheism is true”. This classes as a language game to me because proof is an unobtainable level of confidence; you can’t even get it in mathematics (blame Kurt Gödel). The second reason is that atheism is not a truth claim. Atheism is the position of being unconvinced by the claims that at least one god exists. The last part of this language game is a philosophical error. The assumption is that is atheism were a truth claim and had no evidence for it then theism must be true. But the correct philosophical method is “no data; no conclusion”.
Each time I meet this I am not sure whether the theist that says it genuinely doesn’t understand or if said theist has a counter ready if they can convince an atheist to argue under these assumptions or it, perhaps, they are preaching to an audience they don’t need to convince. However, I am knowingly going to accept the assumptions and I’m going to make my case for atheism. There is evidence.
For the sake of my case, I shall assume that the universe is a crime scene.
Not a single fingerprint
There is a lot of evidence for a lot of things. Fossils are evidence of dead animals. Silt soils are evidence of former river beds or floods. Certain erosion patterns are evidence of sand and wind, where others are evidence of water (those following the Mars Rover will recognise that!). However, a Being supposed to be the most powerful thing conceivable, which created the universe, didn’t leave behind any identifying evidence; not a single fingerprint.
We see scuffled leaves and the religious are quick to try to rationalise why the only possible scuffler of said leaves is God. But the truth is it could equally be physics, nature or Chuck Norris.
“Examples?” you ask. Okay, the Cosmological argument is exactly that. There was nothing (possibly) and now there is something (arguably). This is our pile of scuffled leave. The religious would tell us that the only scuffler of said leaves must be God. Cosmologists have a number of other suspects.
Not His modus operandi
God, real or not, has a modus operandi (MO). He has a way that He operates. It is, as I’m sure the religious know, perfect. And so God’s actions should be perfect. So is the obscured and smeared foot-print-in-the-mud that is biology the sign of a Mastermind with an MO of perfection? Is my might-suddenly-kill-me appendix the perfect fingerprint of God? Or is the undirected process of evolution a better suspect.
Love and omniscience and omnipotence are also part of His MO. The evidential problem of suffering does not conform to His MO either. According to our documentation on Him, it is also His MO to hang around the scenes of His crimes and loudly and proudly announce Himself—“I am the LORD thy God”—but in our experience this isn’t happening.
Marks on the murder weapon
All of our scientific study on the weapon of creation has told us one thing: it is entirely consistent with natural understandings in physics. There are no signs of the blemishes or fingerprints of intervention.
On this evidence, any jury would have to judge God not guilty. Because I can’t gather what theists allege the positive claims of atheism are, I shall leave this as it is now. As soon as I can figure out (or someone tells me) what the positive claims of atheism are I shall put up my case for atheism’s guilt. But for now, I think we can rest assured that God is not guilty.