I’m not sure if the notion of proof through personal revelation is coherent, but even if it is, your admitting that such a ‘proof’ is possible requires admitting the possibility of an omnipotent entity, which I think brings us back to the original problem. It seems to me you purposely avoided the empirical/supernatural distinction, but that is exactly where I think an inconsistency on your part lies. The theistic God is supernatural, and I hope you would agree that any entity that could be called Creator would have to be supernatural. When you say it is possible that God exists, you are admitting the whole supernatural magical realm into possible existence. Your claim for rejecting it then is that there is not enough evidence, but how do you qualify evidence for something that is not empirical? How can you argue against the claim that God exists, or any supernatural entity, pink unicorn or spaghetti monster or whatever, unless you deny the supernatural a priori? I could say to you, as my friend once said to me, that everything is evidence for the existence of God, and if you accept the possibility of the supernatural you would have no logical or empirical recourse for denying that claim, only intuition. Occam’s razor would not help in this situation either, unless you are willing to argue the simplicity and complexity of the real versus the supernatural realms and causes (just thinking of that makes me cringe).
Your challenge in 2) is, in my view, fallacious. You are demanding of the “strong” atheist that they provide you with proof for the nonexistence of a supernatural, non-empirical entity, but why should that atheist accept the possibility of such a thing in the first place, and why do you?
I do indeed admit the possibility of an omnipotent entity, but only because I see no way to rule out the possibility of such an entity.
I did not mean to avoid the empirical/supernatural distinction, so I’m sorry that I gave that impression. I agree that any deity would be supernatural, and I believe that it is possible that the supernatural exists (for what it’s worth, I also believe the possibility exists that I will only get heads every time I flip a coin even if I flip coins constantly for the rest of my life). You are absolutely right that it is difficult (if even possible) to qualify evidence for the supernatural. If evidence for something seeming to be supernatural appeared (such as evidence for psychic abilities), it might just be evidence for something non-supernatural that we do not yet understand.
So, how do I argue against the claim that God exists? I don’t. I argue against evidence that God exists. That is why I don’t say that I am an atheist because God doesn’t exist and instead say that I am an atheist because I see no reason to believe that God exists.
I actually have a problem with denying the supernatural a priori. Doing so can lead one into certain intellectual traps — for example, not testing something scientifically because the only explanation you can think of is supernatural.
Or look at it this way — I can’t think of any way that we could test for universes outside of our universe. If such universes exist, they are likely completely inaccessible to us. But would I therefore say that such things definitely do not exist? No, I would not.
I also don’t think you should cringe at real and supernatural things in the discussion of complexity. Since I am not convinced that the supernatural exists, invoking it multiplies entities beyond necessity. Any supernatural explanation therefore fails Occam’s razor (at least for me) because it includes the supernatural.
You ask why I should require a strong atheist to prove that there is no god when a strong atheist wouldn’t accept the possibility of such a thing in the first place. I feel like this just pushes the “prove a negative” problem back a step: instead of proving that there is no possibility of god, the atheist must prove that there is no possibility of the supernatural. I don’t know how one could do that.
By the way, there are a whole lot of non-supernatural explanations for the universe that I can’t prove aren’t correct: aliens created our universe, we all live in the Matrix, solipsism, I’m having an epic dream, etc. I rank the likelihood of these down there with the likelihood of the supernatural, but I’d be hard pressed to prove that any of them are not true.
Finally, regarding “everything is evidence for the existence of God.” Okay, but it is not sufficient evidence. There are much more reasonable explanations.
This is a very interesting discussion. I look forward to your response.
In: Agnosticism, Defining god, Discussion