I was going to write a single post called “Why I Don’t Believe In God,” but then I realized the post would be far too long and that I would probably have to keep coming back and adding additional reasons. So instead I’m going to tackle one issue at a time. The first issue I’m going to write about is the burden of proof. This concept is so clear and obvious to me that I’m amazed so many theists don’t understand it (or have the gall to deny it).
Let’s say you have a friend named Marty who tells you he bought a new car. Even though you haven’t seen any evidence of this car, it’s reasonable for you to believe it’s real. People buy new cars all the time, Marty needs a car to get to and from his job, and as far as you know he’s not a chronic liar.
Now let’s say he tells you he bought a flying car like the one in the Back To The Future movies. Would you believe him? Of course not. But why? Well, as far as you know that type of car doesn’t exist, and even if it did Marty could never afford one. Before you can believe him, not only are you going to have to see this flying car with your own eyes, you’re going to have to see him take it for a spin. As Carl Sagan put it, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.
So you tell Marty, “I don’t believe you.” How would you feel if he replied, “Why not? Don’t you trust me? I know in my heart that I have a flying car. Besides, you can’t prove I don’t.” You’d probably be insulted. I’m sure everyone who reads this will agree that Marty is in the wrong, yet when it comes to religious claims people use this sort of flawed reasoning all the time.
In this story, Marty has the burden of proof because he’s the one making a claim. Likewise, theists have the burden of proof when it comes to the existence of god because they’re the ones making a claim. It’s not up to atheists to prove this claim is false. That’s impossible. We can’t prove there isn’t a teapot orbiting Jupiter, either. That doesn’t make it true.
This is why I facepalm when people say things like, “I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist” or “Prove to me that atheism is true.” These statements are completely nonsensical because atheism does not claim there is no god. It is simply the lack of belief in god. You don’t need faith to not make a claim, and you can’t prove a non-claim is true. These ideas are incoherent. Atheists are simply waiting for proof that god exists. Until they see that proof, they don’t believe in god by default.
If you’re still having trouble with this concept, think of it this way: You probably don’t believe in fairies, leprechauns, mermaids, unicorns, or any other fantastical creatures. But technically you can’t prove they don’t exist. Does that mean they do exist? Of course not! Maybe someday someone will discover a fairy or a mermaid, but in the meantime you still don’t believe in them because there’s no evidence (making you an “a-fairyist” and an “a-mermaidist”). It’s for the exact same reason that I don’t believe in god.
Of course, theists are convinced god is different from fairy tale creatures. They say god is the only possible explanation for the existence of the universe and that because this is “obvious,” the burden is on atheists to prove there is no god. But it’s not obvious. Some people believe a universe from nothing is more plausible. Others think the universe has always existed. But maybe even they are wrong. Maybe there’s some explanation no one has thought of yet. Maybe the true explanation is beyond our ability to comprehend. The point is, there’s no reason to assume god is the only explanation when there’s absolutely no evidential support for that hypothesis.
So what sort of evidence would it take for me to believe in god? Honestly, I don’t know. Even if he manifested himself to me, an hallucination would be a more likely explanation since that sort of thing has happened to so many people before. As Matt Dillahunty said, if a god exists, it must know what evidence would convince me and has apparently decided not to show me that evidence.
I want to close by pointing out that I am open to the idea that god exists. Seriously. It would be fascinating if it turned out the universe has a creator (just so long as this creator has a good explanation for the problem of evil). But until theists meet the burden of proof by providing incontrovertible evidence for a god, I see no reason to believe one exists.