Tuesday, 28 August 2012

"Prove God doesn't exist" - Really?

Honestly surprised that I feel the need to write a post on this subject. I would have thought this kind of argument would have been taught out of people during the early stages of primary school. 

However, it is something that comes up quite often. A theist will make a claim that I question and their retort is '[you can't] prove god doesn't exist'. Through the twitterverse you can almost hear them sticking their tongue out and saying something like "ner nerny ner ner". 

The 'argument' is, of course, ridiculous and I'm sure the vast majority of people that follow my MrOzAtheist account on twitter will see the flaws with it immediately. So if you feel no need to continue reading, please be my guest and move on to something else. Perhaps one of my earlier blog entries may do? :) The purpose of this post is more to point theists to in the event that this argument comes at me again. 

"Prove God doesn't exist" (Always with the unnecessary capitalisation of god). My usual response, once I've stopped sighing and shaking my head, is to wonder if this person applies this 'argument' to anything other than their god. Are they saying that they will believe in anything that can't be disproved? It should seem obvious what kind of trouble this could lead to but perhaps that doesn't occur to people. I could claim to be the personification of the god they happen to believe in and tell them that they need to give me all their money. Would they comply? Of course not. Because despite them not being able prove my claim is false, I have given them absolutely no reason to think I am, in fact, their god. So if 'you can't prove I'm not your god' doesn't work on them, why would they think 'you can't prove god doesn't exist' would work on me? 

The argument also fails to consider that it can be applied to any of the numerous gods and goddesses that the person does NOT believe in. If someone believes that the inability to disprove one god justifies belief, they must admit that they should believe in ALL gods - based on that premise. Sure, I can't prove that Yahweh doesn't exist but I also can't prove Apollo doesn't exist. Wouldn't this mean the person using the argument must now believe in all Greco-Roman mythology? It does, but they wouldn't. Why? Do they actually understand that an inability to disprove the existence of a being, is NOT sufficient reason to believe that it does exist? I think they do understand this. I think the 'Well you can't prove God doesn't exist' line is a last minute, desperate attempt by someone that realises all their other arguments have failed and they've got nothing left. It is infantile. 

The phrase also ignores the burden of proof issue. When someone tells me I should believe that the god they happen to believe in is real and I'm grilling them about why, I have no burden of proof. We all know that they have made the claim and I'm simply trying to get them to justify it. To resort to telling me that I can't prove that god doesn't exist is completely nonsensical. Sure, if I was to make the claim that their god does not exist, I would expect to be asked to defend that position, however, when I'm simply de-constructing the argument they're putting forward, and not making a claim of my own: that I can't prove their god doesn't exist, is irrelevant. 

To finalize, if we ever have a discussion about the existence of the god you believe in and you resort to 'prove god doesn't exist', you have failed. 


  1. I just found your blog. Will follow your posts. Cheers.

  2. Para 5, first "prove" should be "disprove".