The Book of Haggai

 

Having friends means always avoiding religion if you can help it. If you're ever trying to enjoy yourself at a mixed party of the devout and non-devout and you hear someone say the words "burden of proof", trust me — just head out onto the porch for a bit. The burden of proof is a sticky issue, since it states in an impressively authoritative scientific way that it's up to the devout to either prove the existence of God or, I don't know, throw away all their Bibles or something. Logically sound or not, it's always struck me as such a prickish thing for atheists to bring up — the equivelent to asking to borrow someone's Bible and then snickering in front of them while you read it.

The problem with the burden of proof from the Christian perspective, I'm told, is that it's one-sided: because atheists can't prove God exists, they conclude He must not, making their own beliefs the default fallback. Typically Christians will follow this up with an appeal to the fact that since belief in the divine dates back thousands of years and involves the majority of the populace, it's ludicrous to assume the majority of humanity since recorded time is wrong. As mentioned before, I tend to stay out of these discussions, usually because I'm not sober enough to effectively debate the existence of my pants. All the same, I've never really understood the defense — and since it's relevant to the Book of Haggai, please forgive me for wading in tits-deep.

If you're taking 'We are surrounded by uncertainty' and arriving at 'This omnipotent guy in a cloud city told me He hates fags as much as I do,' I'm afraid you're going to have to show your work.

First off, a lot of people believing something doesn't constitute proof. Up until a few hundred years ago, the majority of the populace thought draining most of the blood from your body was the best way to cure a cold. That doesn't mean you should get a spigot and a sharp knife if your nose starts running. It just means we're all willing to believe some pretty preposterous shit if it promises to make our lives better. The defense also glosses over the fact that while humanity on the whole may believe in a higher power, and has for thousands of years, it's not exactly unanimous where you should be directing your prayers to. If we support the logic of the defense, then every deity worshipped for a longish span of time must be the Real McCoy. This leaves you with something like three thousand different gods. Getting a decent apartment at Mount Olympus must be pricier than Manhattan.

Still, the Christian defense does make an extremely strong point. A universe created by a superior being is, and let's be honest, really no less ridiculous than a universe that slipped on a comet and accidentally created itself. A superior entity might well exist, most likely in a way we'll never get close to comprehending. What if the Big Bang had consciousness? Is consciousness even a pre-requisite for omnipotence? Arguing about who has to prove what seems to miss the point, which is that if anyone could actually prove anything, we wouldn't have anything to squabble about in the first place.

It's that next logical leap where the Christian defense loses me — that since neither side knows whether a superior being exists or not, it's defensible to assume He published a novel two thousand years ago. I'm all for faith, but at some point, I'm sorry: if you're taking 'We are surrounded by uncertainty' and arriving at 'This omnipotent guy in a cloud city told me He hates fags as much as I do,' you don't get to pull out the Atheism is as Much a Belief System as Christianity trump card. I'm afraid you're going to have to show your work.

 

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