Friday, February 8, 2013

Show Me The Money

Doug claims he has a one hundred dollar bill in his pocket. What is my reaction? It may be a number of things, but if we characterize it along the “interest axis”, then I might be anywhere from wholly disinterested to obsessively interested. If I sincerely don’t care, then the fact of Doug having or not having a $100 bill in his pocket means nothing to me, although it may mean quite a lot to Doug. You might characterize me as apathetic with regards to Doug’s claim. I believe it can be known whether Doug has $100 in his pocket, but I don’t care.

You can see the parallel to religious belief shaping up here, can’t you?

At the one end of the “interest axis”, I do not want nor need to know the answer of whether Doug has that bill in his pocket. No problem exists for me here, but it may be that Doug expected me to express some interest. I won't go into what Doug’s motivations are for this expectation - because I cannot know without some honest and heart-felt conversation with Doug. My absence of interest does not present a problem for me, with regards to Doug’s potential ownership of a $100 bill. But if Doug had a motive in claiming ownership of this bill, he might have some disappointment that I don't have the same interest as he does in sharing the view that Doug has $100 dollars in his pocket.

If I _am_ interested, then I might ask that Doug show the $100 bill to me. If he can show me the bill, then I know that he indeed has what he claims to have. However, if he doesn’t show me the bill, then what am I to think?


This is where people who believe in God are. They do not show the $100 bill to me, consequently, I am unable to be sure that the claimed $100 bill exists. As far as Doug and the money goes, I am equally justified in believing that there is no bill in Doug's pocket, as I am believing that there is, given that I have no bias towards Doug’s veracity. One major difference between Doug and a God-believer is that I know for a fact that $100 bills exist, and it is possible for Doug to obtain one. The God-believer, however, can make the claim that God exists, but they will not produce this God for my inspection. It may be possible for a person to demonstrate God’s existence in the way that Doug can produce a $100 bill for my inspection, but it has never been done. That implies that the probability that a God - in the sense that Christians claim - can be physically demonstrated to exist is very low. It may be possible that a deist conception of God exists, but the underlying assumption of deism is that the deist God does not interact with the world, thus a physical demonstration of its existence is highly unlikely. Similarly, the pantheist conception of God - that we and all of reality are part of God, is unlikely to be demonstrable, although it might be more likely than the other two conceptions.

Where does this all lead?

It leads us to demand that the God-believer show us the money. If Doug can show us the money, then so should they. If the God-believer claims that God can interact with the world, then it’s reasonable to expect that they can physically demonstrate it's existence.


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