??> Bottom line: Why does the theist have to be placed in an unfair
??> position by having to do something that the evidentialist doesn't?
It's not an unfair claim. In closing, I offer part of my thesis
(rough draft) which was, in fact, partly inspired by your persistent
clinging to an inverse burden of proof principle:
Frequently, a case will be made by theists that the burden
of proof has no logical impetus, and that it is merely a way for
the negative atheist to avoid making his case. As I have been
involved in debating such cases quite often, I am quite familiar
with the form they take; typically, such quarrels look something
Theist: I've decided that atheists are the most illogical fellows in
the whole world.
Atheist: How so?
T: Well, to begin with, you don't believe in God, yet you cannot prove
that He doesn't exist.
A: Ignoring the positive atheist for the moment, who believes that
god-belief can be logically disproved, and just concentrating on the
negative atheist, it is not up to me to disprove any god. It is
however, up to the theist to prove his claim. The burden of proof is
upon you, as you make the positive assertion that your god exists.
T: Wait a minute! That's not fair! How come I have to prove my
belief, but you don't have to prove yours?
A: Technically, my position is not a belief so much as an unbelief--
it's a lack of belief. As you make the claim, so you get to
demonstrate why I should consider your claim as logically viable.
T: What if I don't want to? In fact, I won't! I don't have to prove
anything! You don't believe me, so you prove I'm wrong! Unless you
can prove I'm wrong, it's not logical of you to claim that I'm wrong!
I say that the burden of proof is on you to disprove the claim!
A: All right, let's for the sake of argument assume that I cannot
disprove either your specific god or theism in general; let's also
assume that the burden of proof is upon me to disprove your claim.
T: Ha! Now, you must admit that to believe in God is rational, and
that as you don't have any evidence not to believe, you're not being
logical if you're an atheist. Hence, atheism is irrational and
A: Let me see if I understand you properly: a position of unbelief
is irrational, when the subject of that unbelief cannot be disproved?
T: Absolutely! The burden of proof is on you to disprove it -- until
you do, it's not logical to not believe.
A: And if a claim cannot be disproved, it should be assumed to be
A: Very well. Do you believe in Osirus?
T: Osirus? What kind of question is that?
A: He's real you know.
T: Prove it!
A: Sorry. I don't have to prove it. You disprove it. As you said,
the burden of proof is on the person who does not believe: I say
that unless Osirus' existence can be disproved, that he exists.
T: That's silly!
A: Is it? You just made the very same claim about your god. So why
does your "new improved" version of the burden of proof apply to your
god but not to Osirus? Disprove Osirus, or admit that he exists.
T: Ok, if you want to play it that way --
A: I do. After all, they're your rules we're playing by.
T: Does anyone believe in Osirus?
A: I don't know.
T: Hah! If no one believes in him, he doesn't exist!
A: I didn't say no one believes in him -- I said that I don't know
if anyone believes in him. People might believe in him; in any case,
it's irrelevant whether or not people believe in Osirus as that
doesn't make him any more or less real. Before the early 1900s, no one
knew the planet Pluto existed -- yet despite no one believing in
Pluto, it still existed.
T: There are no gods other than God!
A: There are no gods other than Osirus.
T: God is the one true god!
A: Osirus is the one true god. He said so. Prove that he didn't.
T: This is getting nowhere.
A: You're right -- religious language seldom does get anywhere.
Admit that you cannot prove that Osirus is not real.
T: There's no evidence for him like there is for God!
A: I thought things didn't have to be proven? I thought you said
that things only had to be disproved? Sorry, but the burden of proof
is on you to prove that Osirus does not exist.
T: All right. I've changed my mind. Just because something cannot
be disproved does not make it correct, as clearly Osirus does not
exist. However, it still makes it rational to believe in it. The
burden of proof is still on you to disprove what you don't believe.
A: So to believe in Osirus is rational?
A: As rational as it is to believe in God?
A: Very well, we agree on something.
T: We do? I thought you didn't think that believing in God was
A: I don't. I agreed with you when you said that it's as rational
to believe in Osirus as it is to believe in God -- both claims are
equally irrational. Belief in all gods which cannot be disproved
is equally irrational.
T: No, there're both equally rational, because they can't be disproved.
A: This would mean that all claims that cannot be disproved are
A: I can turn invisible, you know.
T: Don't be silly.
A: There! I just turned invisible!
T: No you didn't!
A: Yes I did. I did it while you blinked. Prove that I didn't.
T: People can't turn invisible.
A: I can. Prove that I can't.
T: Ok, how about if I videotape you? And not only video tape you,
but have the tape watched by people who all blink at different times,
just to make sure that at least one of the viewers of the tape is
watching you at all times? There! I can prove that you can't turn
A: Pretty clever. Too bad I won't do it for you when the cameras
T: Why not? Because you know you can't do it?
A: I don't know any such thing. I just don't like cameras. By the
way, I've turned invisible about one-one hundred and fifty times
since we've started this conversation -- you blink a lot.
T: This is stupid!
A: Yes it is. It is also, by your flawed logic, exactly as logical
as believing in your god.
T: You can't prove that God doesn't exist.
A: Do you believe that the world is going to end tomorrow?
A: You should -- a yet-to-be-determined but non-disprovable disaster
is going to occur, and wipe out mankind. Is belief in this rational,
despite the fact that no evidence supports such a claim, merely because
you cannot disprove the claim?
T: How do you know this is going to happen?
A: Osirus told me, if you like. Answer the question: is it rational
to believe in the previously mentioned impending disaster?
T: It won't be rational tomorrow.
A: Perhaps, but it's not tomorrow -- you cannot disprove my claim.
Is it, presently, rational?
A: I have an invisible pink hippopotamus in my backyard, which is
non-corporeal, save for when it chooses to reveal itself to me, and
me alone. Do you believe me? If not, why not? It is a rational
belief, is it not?
A: Osirus just spoke to me: He said that I should tell you that
you're losing this argument -- badly. Prove that he didn't.