Whenever my wife and I have an argument – which, given our confrontational natures and unpleasant personalities, is fairly often – one of us usually winds up saying, “I’m not convinced.”
Ex: You know I can’t mow the lawn. I’ve got allergies.
Mrs. Ex: How come your allergies only kick in when there’s yard work to do?
Ex: It must be something about disturbing the greenery. All the crap flies up my nose.
Mrs. Ex: I’m not convinced.
Ex: Well, I’m not convinced you’re not convinced. I’ve told you hundreds of times that I’m allergic. How many more times do I have to say it before you’ll get it through your head?
Mrs. Ex: You’ll never convince me. I think you’re making it up.
Mrs. Ex: I wish you wouldn’t spend so much time on your stupid blog.
Ex: It’s not stupid. I’m changing the world through humor.
Mrs. Ex: I’m not convinced.
Ex: You’re not convinced that I’m changing the world?
Mrs. Ex: Yeah. And I’m also not convinced that there’s any humor.
Ex: What if I could offer you evidence?
Mrs. Ex: I wouldn’t believe it.
Ex: I’m not eating those French-cut canned stringbeans.So there you have it. You couldn’t convince me, because I know ... whatever.
Mrs. Ex: OK.
Ex: You’re not gonna get all pissed off if I don’t enjoy the vegetables you’re trying to push?
Mrs. Ex: I just opened the can. Why would I care if you eat them or not?
Ex: I’m not convinced.
Mrs. Ex: OK, if you care so much, I don’t see why you couldn’t open a can yourself. It’s a well-known fact: Everybody needs vegetables. What do you have to offer?
Ex: I wasn’t able to find any canned vegetables I like.
Mrs. Ex: I’m not convinced. Did you look?
Ex: I know what we have.
Mrs. Ex: I’m not convinced. Did you know we have creamed corn?
Ex: Really? I’m not convinced.
Mrs. Ex: It’s in the cupboard, under the fruit cocktail.
Ex: I didn’t notice it.
Mrs. Ex: I’m not convinced. You didn’t look, did you?
Ex: Well, I looked but I didn’t dig around.
Mrs. Ex: I’m not convinced.
Ex: What would it take to convince you that I looked?
Mrs. Ex: You couldn’t convince me, because I know you didn’t.
Change a few details in the dialogues above, and you’ve got three so-called debates between an atheist and a religionist. (Note: In real life, neither my wife nor I is a believer; we just play one on this blog. Don’t struggle to figure out which one of us represents whom in what scene. In our fictional personae, we’re not consistent. I have the authority to write that way because I’ve just renewed my literary license. For any Christians interested in obtaining one: You will be tested in spelling, punctuation, and grammar. So if I was yourself, Id practiss, pracktis, PRACITCE!!!!!!!!!)
A few weeks ago, a quintet of atheists discussed what evidence we’d need to believe in a god. The stars spelling out “Jesus says ‘howdy’”? The sun turning into a big, sad bunny face? A burning bush suddenly singing back-up for Johnny Evo? Our conclusion: It’s not entirely out of the question that there’s some evidence for a god somewhere, but we’d be skeptical. Really skeptical. All other possible explanations would have to be absolutely disposed of. Most atheists are open to accepting irrefutable evidence for the existence of a god, even though we’re 99.9999999999...% confident that no such evidence exists.
On the other hand, lots of us here in the Atheosphere waste our time laying out our case for freedom from faith. We debate, discuss, and argue — often civilly, but sometimes sarcastically or in a broadly comic way — with theists. We point out inconsistencies in the bible. We cite similarities of biblical stories with other ancient myths that preceded them. We offer science and explain the scientific method. We discuss historical events, as recorded by reliable sources. We attack flawed logic and bogus philosophical reasoning. We appeal to the common laws and moral traditions of many cultures and societies. Most of all, we insist on evidence. The religionists, ultimately, dismiss our rants with a mere I’m not convinced.
Now, there may be the odd Christian/Jew/Muslim/Hindu/tree-worshipper who waters his or her seed of doubt with the spray from our scattershot hose of reason. But for the most part, the great majority of theists try to sell their beliefs with: How many more times do I have to say it before you’ll get it through your head? When atheists ask What if I could offer you evidence?, religionists respond— without having heard that evidence — I wouldn’t believe it.
You couldn’t convince me, because I know ...
Many Christians, claim to be “open-minded,” even though they’ve got the most tightly shut brains in the universe. Some won’t accept evolution, despite a century’s worth of biological discoveries and data. Why? Because the science conflicts with the ideas of a tribe of primitive, ignorant desert-dwellers living more than three millennia ago. That’s like rejecting the advice of a good lawyer for the counsel of your neighbor’s five-year-old. Other Christians accept evolution, but only if they can add the extraneous hypothesis: “God started it.” Those people don’t have open minds; at best, their minds are slightly ajar. Their ideas make no more sense than the premise that Jamie Leigh Curtis controls your bowel movements.
Is America a Christian nation? The evidence, in the form of our Constitution, cries out a resounding NO. There’s not a word about any gods or Jesi in it. It doesn’t even refer to the Twelve Commandments. The Founding Fathers left that stuff out because they specifically did not want the new country to be established on religious principles; they wanted it to be a governmental embodiment of the Enlightenment. The most ignorant Christians respond, “Yes, but we know what those men believed; we understand what was in their hearts.” With such an assertion, I might be able to prove that the words to “God Bless America” are secretly buried somewhere in King Lear; I understand what was in Shakespeare’s heart. And besides, he told me so himself.
Hurricane? God did it? Deaths of innocents? God didn’t do it. Survival of some people? God did it. Destroyed churches and Christian businesses? God didn’t do it. Economic benefits reaped by exploitive but prayerful construction companies? God did it. Financial ruin for the local citizenry? God didn’t do it. Or else: Man cannot understand or explain God’s mysterious ways. But everything happens for a reason. The storm was part of his plan. How many more times do I have to say it before you’ll get it through your head? And anyway, everyone secretly believes in a god, particularly in extreme situations. I’m not convinced you’re not convinced.
All of which leads me to wonder: Despite the continuing lack of evidence for the existence of god, as well as the implied evidence against his existence, why do religionists continue to believe? Are they actually faithful, as they claim? Or are they merely smug, stubborn, and stupid?
Quazy Quistian Question #7
What arguments might convince you to even question the existence of your god? What evidence would you need to decide that your god’s existence is highly unlikely? Explain your response.