What would it take to change an athiest's mind?

Pretty straightforward OP. Some people have said on this board that they would find it easier to believe in a super-advanced alien race or that they were suffering from mental illness than to believe in god/gods/etc.

So I want to know if you are an atheist, what would it take to convince you that there is a God/gods/supreme being/creator/FSM? I am referring to a final and ultimate being or pantheon of beings that created existence, whether or not they are currently actively involved in the running of the known universe. Would it take a talking pillar of fire? A walking taco that craps ice cream? What if they take you on a whirlwind tour of the history of the universe from cradle to grave and show you how they did everything? What level of proof would convince you Doubting Thomas’ that the creator exists?

If nothing that they did could ever convince you that they are god, please explain your reasons.


A miracle. A really, really, really good one, not card tricks or an unverifyable folk tale about turning water into wine.

Or finding a good parking spot in Manhattan.

At least for starters.

God teleporting in and stopping time would be nice. I’d accept a booming voice issuing from a burning bush in a pinch.

Although I suspect I’d be waiting a long time.

It’s funny how Abraham wasn’t expected to have faith… he got proof.

Can’t answer directly. I’ve never been an atheist. However, a very close friend of mine was for years, and he completed his conversion to the Catholic Church a while back.

I never pressed him for details, but the fact that he married my cousin who is a devout Catholic likely had much to do with this. Plus, he never was the kind of atheist who was hostile to faith.

He has a PhD in entomology, so we’re talking about someone reasonably intelligent with scientific training. Just more proof that we all have to find our own path in life.

I can’t really think of anything that would convince me. Note that this isn’t the same as saying it’s impossible for me to ever be convinced, merely that I can’t think of a way.

The reasons are:

  1. In your basic, communicating with God scenario, it’s far more likely that I’m hallucinating.

  2. Say God were to spell out some advice on the moon, and everyone else sees it too, and a long enough period has transpired for me to be reasonably sure I’m not hallucinating. Well, all that proves is that a being capable of performing that action exists. It doesn’t prove it’s the infinite, eternal creator etc.

  3. Frankly, many of the properties that people define for their Gods seem illogical to me. Are we capable of believing something that seems irrational to us? If every time I put 2 of a given object with another 2 of the same object, I could then count 5 objects, would I eventually accept that 2+2=5?

Difficult. I suppose if a number of events occurred that completely defied any other possible explanation it would be a start.

Angels and demons fighting in the streets and rivers turning to real, honest to gosh blood would definitely make me wonder.

Peace on Earth, Goodwill towards men?

Seriously, if I was god and finally decided to make my presence known in no uncertain terms. I’d start acting like a god. I’d smite the evil, reward the just. I’d make damn skippy that the young, the weak, the infirm would be treated well. Hunger would go away. I’d cowboy up and make this a world a much nicer place to be. I’d for once and for all get rid of all the religious interpretations and say what I wanted, in nice clear terms, no parables.

And I’d rid the world of mosquitos, love bugs and fleas.

I suppose if I could witness a life long friend die after he claimed to be the son of God, then witness him alive a few days later, that would be a start.

I guess I’m with Musicat, I would have to personally see a miracle. Jesus was handing them out left and right a few thousand years ago, couldn’t he stop by and throw down a couple more?

I’m what I like to describe as a “fideist atheist”, meaning one who feels that religious beliefs or non-beliefs of any kind are ultimately determined by non-rational causes. I did not arrive at the state of disbelieving in God via any rational process (although I agree that from a rationalist perspective, the rationalist arguments in favor of that position are compelling), and I don’t envision changing that belief via any rational process.

So you can keep your verifiable miracles and your rivers of blood and your manifestations of angels and demons. If I did ever change my mind about atheism, I don’t think I’d require anything that could be described as objective “proof” of God’s existence. And if I don’t change my mind, I don’t see how anything that could be described as objective “proof” of God’s existence would convince me. There could always be some other explanation.

If god existed, he could just tweak my brain to make me believe. If he does exist, then he’s the one responsible for me having my existing brain that finds the whole idea of his existence as just another sometimes interesting mythology.

A couple of conservatively dressed people with pamphlets at my door on a weekend morning.
Or a bumper sticker… Yeah, a bumper sticker would do it.

I suppose if there was a god, it shouldn’t have any trouble changing my mind (it being a god and all). So, the existence of a powerful supernatural entity would be all it’d take.

I assume you meant that partly in jest, as I did, but to nitpick: the only record we have of such past events is unverifyable to the max, and strongly resemble tricks performed by stage magicians today. They were reported (or created) by the credulous in the pre-scientific era.

So if someone poked a stick at a rock and it burst into flame – a trick which sufficed to amaze years ago – I don’t think it would be considered much of a miracle today, just a Vegas magician’s publicity stunt.

That might have worked 2000 years ago, but If I saw writing on the moon today, I’d think the Chinese did it, not God.

What would it take to change an athiest’s mind?

Compelling evidence for the existence of a diety, I expect.

If god in the shape of Burt Lancaster were to appear to me and give me tomorrows Powerball numbers, which I would then play and win megamillions, heck I’d wash his feet or whatever. Assuming I didn’t have to split the jackpot.

What would God need money for? :slight_smile:

I ain’t no athiest or nothing, but put me down for one of them walkin’ tacos crappin’ ice cream, I ain’t had lunch yet.

Miracles for me also, but high quality ones described in advance. Parting the Red Sea would be cool. But don’t go looking around for miraculous events and tell me about them after they’ve happened. Coincidences and low probability events are not miracles.

Just your standard 10%, off the top. :wink:

By “split the jackpot” I meant with other players. I wouldn’t like it if god/Burt used this opportunity to give the winning numbers out to multiple atheist players, don’tchknow! :wink:

I would need to see first hand, compelling evidence. And I would need to see it with several other equally skeptical people (so I could rule out my own mental state), be able to compare notes, and then repeat the evidence.

In short, ‘God’ would have to work for it if he wanted to bring me on board. I think it could be done (I can think of several examples of evidence I’d buy under the above criteria)…but I seriously doubt any all powerful, all seeing, all knowing, blah blah blah entity would bother just to bring one aging skeptic on board.