Atheists: What would it take for you to believe?

Sorry if this has been posted before, just show me the link if it has.

Suppose one day you have a vision, and it goes something like, “My child, I am real. What would you have me do for you to believe?”

Demonstration that defies the laws of science?
Coherent theory about how the world works and where God fits into it?
Explanation about what God’s been doing and why there’s suffering in the world?

I would still have to die and see all the heaven, pearly gates, St. Peter and all that other stuff promised. Otherwise, I would think I was having a flashback from my misspent youth.

SFC Schwartz

To believe in a benevolent, loving god I’d need a really, REALLY good explanation for the lack of thunderbolts. Seriously, if there is such a god, why do people like Jerry Falwell and Jack Chick not get struck on a regular basis? Why does the food that’s bad for us taste so good, and why is supposedly healthy food either not interesting or downright disgusting? Why are there conflicting religious texts (again, I note a serious lack of thunderbolts here)? For that matter, why did this god give us a brain, give us proof of evolution, and then allow humans to write religious texts which contradict the facts?

Why are there chiggers? Why is that I, who never wanted kids, kept getting knocked up despite being on birth control, while I know many people who wanted kids and would be better parents than I was, who couldn’t manage to get pregnant ONCE?

Why do we get too soon old, and too late smart?

I don’t do faith. I require proof.

There is a sort of explanation in *Grass, *by Sheri S. Tepper, which I could get behind. I’m not going to go into it here. But for the most part, believing in a benevolent deity would require the deity to be not really all that power.

No. I might start believing in wizards, but defying the laws of science doesn’t mean you’re a deity.

It would have to be a theory that fits the facts better than the null hypothesis, and be scientifically verifiable as such.


Which God? There have been many.

I guess I’d have to unknowingly lose my critical and logical thinking ability. I think I could easily be swayed to believe in a god then.

Hmm I can’t think of any reasons your answer might depend on which God, so how about you pick the most interesting/easy to believe one?

I would need to meet the Being or have some concrete evidence of awesome powers well beyond human possibilities.

And then I’d need a decent answer to why He/She allows so much suffering and misery.

I would seriously question my mental faculties if this occurred. If the so called God was doing super power demos, I would ask for a look at future technology and some good stock picks.

I thought of asking as this guy on the street saying the same thing, but that seemed less convincing. Maybe I should have posed the question as someone on an Internet forum? :smiley:

The reasoning behind it would simply have to make sense and in some way be provable. Honestly, that is about it.

Edit: I might even skip the whole making sense bit…

The ‘God’ would need to engage the scientific community who could perform tests that would validate its claims (ala James Randi). Specific things like changing the speed of light within a beaker, and let scientists go to town studying it, or really obvious things like changing the strength of gravity on the earth or temporarily removing the moon. It would be pretty easy, with some clever tests (or obvious ones), to prove beyond any reasonable doubt, that some kind of ‘God’ is capable of changing the laws of physics, and is therefore capable of dominion over nature. The next important thing to establish is whether the God is benevolent/rational/emotionally-mature. Certainly this evaluation is somewhat subjective, but in any case a lot of evidence would be required to even possibly evaluate such claims. Ostensibly the God is passive, jealous, vain, sadistic… like a child thinking it is playing with toys… but it would be interesting at least to hear its rationalizations for its sociopathic behavior and the vast scourge of random, unnecessary, unjust pain in the world, without clear positive ultimate purpose.

Believe in what, exactly? I can see how there are some definitions of god (“really powerful being with superpowers”, “energy being that exists in a higher dimension” etc) that I could be persuaded, with ample physical evidence, to believe existed. But you’ll never get me to believe in the standard monotheist god, because that concept is completely nebulous and incoherent. I would have to not be myself to believe in that. I’d have to be severely brain-damaged, actually.

And even if you did get me to believe in the existence of the “really powerful being etc” version, you’d never get me to worship (without torture or mind control), so there’s that…

Actually, that’s a pretty important detail. Not all god share the same attributes. The Abrahamic “omnimax” diety (all knowing, all powerful, all benevolent creator of the universe) is a much harder sell than, say, Thor, who’s basically a violent drunk with some superhuman qualities. The existence of an actual Thor who matches all of the qualities ascribed to him by Norse myth is within the realm of possibility - he’s essentially an alien with access to a form of technology (“magic”) unknown to humans.

The Jewish/Christian/Muslim conception of God is a logical impossibility - I’ve never seen an adequate solution to the problem of evil, given the qualities ascribed to God in those religions. An entity claiming to be the Biblical God could demonstrate all manner of miraculous ability, but I don’t see any possible test for his most important claim: the source of an absolute and unimpeachable morality. He could personally demonstrate the creation of a universe to me. That doesn’t mean I’m going to worship him.

OK, I’ve been down this road (at Eve’s expense) before, and I think I have something now:

Naturalism is a Hypothesis

By ‘naturalism’ I mean the hypothesis “Everything that occurs can be explained without recourse to ‘God did it’ or equivalent.” It is what the entire enterprise of science is based on. Refuting this would be very difficult. You’d need to reliably demonstrate that what happens is not only random, but arbitrary: The behavior of particles at the quantum level is fundamentally random, but fundamentally constrained by probability functions. You’d need to reliably demonstrate phenomena that aren’t even that predictable. In short, you’d have to reliably show the Universe has begun fucking with us, and wait a long time to verify that nobody can come up with any better explanation. (This would also mean that math is no longer ‘useful’ to the extent that the Universe does not obey logical rules. Just imagine Porky going to Wackyland and you’ll have it.)

How long? Probably longer than my lifetime to be very sure, but I might become reasonably sure while I’m still alive. It would have to be some damn good evidence. Spontaneous entropy reduction without a concomitant energy input would do. (Think ‘Ashes spontaneously turning into an apple tree just because someone waved his hands’ or similar.)

Would that be ‘faith’? No, not if you define ‘faith’ as “Believing because it is absurd.” I’m fairly sure my brain doesn’t work that way.

I’d believe if presented with a reasonable amount of evidence. Something extensive enough that it would be more irrational for me to disbelieve in the existence of God then to accept that the evidence of his existence is true.

I’d also be willing to accept the premise of God being likely if somebody were to frame an argument that made God’s existence the most reasonable conclusion.

I need to die, and then met god on the other side. Anything that happens on this side of death is just as likely to be a hallucination or a delusion.

Even then meeting god after death might just be the dying spasms of an oxygen starve brain.

The best that can be done is I can be convinced that my consciousness can be manipulated fully, which is at least conceivably possible to be done by an advanced civilisation or the like.

Once that is possible, I can trust nothing that is claimed to be beyond that, as this alternative will always be a possible explanation for anything Im shown or that I experience.


This goes for me too.

The question in the OP comes up fairly often. Believers ask what evidence it would take for us atheists to believe their god exists. They seem to think that if you acknowledge that their god exists worship will follow.

To me at least the proven existence of a deity would not mean that I would fall down on my knees and fellate said deity.

OK, Ebisu. He has beer and fish.