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  • Hey Religious Believers, Where's Your Evidence?
    In the marketplace of ideas, only religion gets a free ride in an armored tank.
    What evidence do religious believers have for their beliefs?

    And when they're asked what evidence they have, how do believers respond?

    In my conversations with religious believers, I'll often ask, "Why do you think God or the supernatural exists? What makes you think this is true? What evidence do you have for this belief?" Partly I'm just curious; I want to know why people believe what they do. Plus, I think it's a valid question: it's certainly one I'd ask about any other claim or opinion. And if I'm wrong about my atheism -- if there's good evidence for religion that I haven't seen yet -- I want to know. I'm game. Show me the money.

    But when I ask these questions, I almost never get a straight answer.

    What I typically get is a startling assortment of conversational gambits deflecting the question.

    I get excuses for why believers shouldn't have to provide evidence. Vague references to other people who supposedly have evidence, without actually pointing to said evidence. Irrelevant tirades about mean atheists. Venomous anger at how disrespectful and intolerant I am to even ask the question.

    Today, I want to chronicle some of these conversational gambits and point out their logical flaws. I want to point out the fiendishly clever ways that they armor religion against the expectation -- a completely reasonable expectation, an expectation we have about every other kind of claim -- that it back itself up with evidence.

    And I want to talk about why believers resort to them.

  • The Now Show
  • The first 10 minutes or so is quite good (thanks to Pedantsareus)



Curious... how many people here believe that UFOs (actual flying objects that are not made by man) exist.

They've been seen by hundreds of military personnel (on record). Trained aircraft observers, captured on radar and that info presented to the president in person...

but if you talk about it, you get rounded up with the religious kooks.

hell, more people saw UFOs in this decade than ever saw 'jesus' (the real guy).

So, who thinks there is the possibility of truth to these things?

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.

hell, more people saw UFOs in this decade than ever saw 'jesus' (the real guy).

The mentally ill and users of psychoactive drugs see both UFOs and religious visions.

That said, I do find it likely that sometimes lights or objects appear in the sky that (sane and sober) observers have no explanation for. But I have no reason to draw any conclusions beyond that, fun as it might be to speculate.

The quality of the "evidence" is the same. The quantity is debatable, I wouldn't say with such certainty that more people see UFOs (like alien craft), than Jesus. It's ambiguous anyway, cause the great majority of both groups are just gullible numbnuts who see a light in the sky or Jesus in a toast and automatically assume it's the real thing.


"gullible numbnuts."

Actually qualified, trained observers have in groups (at a military base in england, for example)seen UFOs from less than a hundred yards. And yet, if you discuss it (as I stated) you get lumped in with drug taking insane people.

Yes, even here.

My point is proven.

I didn't say you were one of them. I said the majority. I do understand that there are pilots and such that have seen them, but who are the "trained experts"? Experts in seeing alien craft? They're just like everybody else, see something they don't understand, and jump to conclusions.

Oh and one last thing...

Can anyone tell me what ONE thing that Roswell NM had at that point in human history (1947)?

What made it distinct and of potential interest?


It was the only place in the whole world that had nuclear weapons.

source? i think the ussr had 'em by then. and you make it sound like roswell was an independant country. what do you mean by "had"? do you mean gov't spooks in roswell had the independant decision making power to launch nukes? are you talking about silos, what?

how crazy are we?

i loves me some aliens.

Russia first detonated a nucelar weapon in 1949. In 1947, all US Miltary nuclear weapons were stored near Roswell, at Walter Air Force Base which is also where the bombers trained to deliver the weapons were stationed and where in-air refueling was invented. The decision to bomb was still with the government.

If I were interested in studying humans, it would be a 'location of interest'.

Now, go check out the Huble Ultra Deep Field image. It is of 1/13,000 of the sky and contains ~9000 galaxies which each contain ~40 billion stars. The universe appears to be symetrical, meaning there are ~117 million galaxies within 'sight'.

We are not alone. The question is simply if they are alive at the same time we are, anywhere near us in our galaxy, and if they can get off thier rock. Certainly getting off thier rock would increase thier odds of long term survival.

And think: we first had powered flight one human lifetime ago. We are infants.

listen, i just found out today that arlo guthrie got bar mitzvah lessons from meir kahana. so i'm all up for a good conspiracy theory right now.

I've been in a conversation with a Buddhist who claimed Buddhism can be supported by science and logic, however when asked to demonstrate scientifically reincarnation I get the same tactics as I do from fundy Christians. All religious people are the same. It's nothing but delays, excuses, dodging, attempts to change the subject and attempts to switch the burden of proof. Then they always get angry because we are so "hateful" and "fundamentalist" for asking them to support their absurd claims.

Along these lines, I received a semi-spam e-mail from a professional scientific illustrator who this among his examples.

I find the same thing when asking believers, but I also have done a variation on this 'experiment,' with a completely different result. NOtice that the author asks in a pleasing but slightly confrontational way. A reasonable person (I know it's odd to call these people reasonable, but in some ordinary sense they are) can easily infer that the questioner knows something, can evaluate evidence, etc. This isn't a criticism--I'm not saying the author is overly confrontational, but try asking in a different manner. I've asked hundreds of believers, pretending (though early on I wasn't pretending) that I was just going through some horrible period of doubt, that I really wanted to join their church or organization, if only I had some evidence. Lo and behold, in EVERY CASE, the person gives you reasons! It's typically the design argument or some variant, but sometimes they'll throw in the cosmological argument, too.

My conclusion, after years of doing this, is that NO ONE really believes on the basis of faith! Those 'evasions' that the author gets when presenting the question in the way she does are artifacts of the desire to avoid confrontation!

The cynical view of this is that when your money is on the line, as in to add to collection plate, reasons can always be found! Faith, it seems, is a way of avoiding confrontations!


I've had a couple of Jehova's Witnesses tell me how Catholicism doesn't make sense (cause the 3-in-1 doesn't), and then explaining me all about Noah's ark.

When I was in 9th grade I wanted to get into religion. I went to a Lutheran school, all my friends had "accepted Christ into their hearts," and there was a really cute guy that was part of that. I was having trouble reconciling what the Bible said and what made sense so I talked to a pastor about it. He kept telling me I had to make a leap of faith. I told him I wouldn't mind doing that if everything pointed in that direction and I would just have to make a leap over the unknown to reach what I was being taught but --- things seemed to point in a completely different direction and the leap of faith I would have to make was huge and against everything else I believed and reasoned. Still, he stuck to his leap of faith advice, knowing, I think, that, at 14, all I really wanted to do was to join in with everyone else. It's funny but I've thought - for me, at that time, having doubts was like being gay. It would've been so much easier to just have fit in and, given the choice, that's what you would do - especially at that age know gay people really don't have a choice - and neither do atheists. How can you make yourself believe something that just makes no sense?

How can you make yourself believe something that just makes no sense?

you can't. more importantly, why would you want to?

this is different from believing that there are things in life that just make no sense. this just seems obvious to me.

"you can't. more importantly, why would you want to?" Well - in my example, I wanted to believe in order to belong, to sit beside everyone else at church, (where we went every Tuesday in class and went every Sunday because that's where we'd hang out - talk about Saturday night, show off new dresses, and flirt with some very cute guys), and to not feel like a total fraud as I was doing these things.
"this is different from believing that there are things in life that just make no sense. this just seems obvious to me." So, the things that didn't make sense were just the mysteries of life? Just don't question them? From my experience, organized religion is pretty specific. It's asking for active belief in some really strange, often contradictory concepts.

I had very much the same feelings about "Young Life" when I was in high school. The idea of going to this religiously-oriented organization's meetings turned my stomach. Then I found out that there were a lot of cute girls there and that that was the reason a lot of guys went. That was the only reason I ever regretted not enduring the tiresome religious rituals in which I had zero interest.

Ohmigosh - Young Life...yes :) That innocuous sounding organized attempt to indoctrinate by offering up the opposite sex (would anyone have gone if it wasn't co-ed? Not likely....)


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