By Lloyd H. Whitling

I have been challenged, time and again, to prove the god named God does not exist. When I respond, “That’s not my claim to prove,” challengers quickly snap back with, “You say that because you can’t prove your claim.”

“My claim is only that I don’t believe you. You can take my word for that.”

He stands there, staring at me. Then, “Why?”

“Why, what?” I stare at him. We have a staring contest going. I get bored and let him win.

He looks disappointed. “Why don’t you believe me?”

“Because you say a lot of things, but never show how you gained your evidence.”

I can see that dazed look in his eyes. “What evidence? I have faith.”

I can’t make myself not grin at his apparent innocence. “That’s what I’m talking about. You expect me to prove everything, yet you never produce even a hint of evidence to support what sounds like wild tales. You expect me to take on faith in the messenger accounts of what nobody— not even you— would believe in any other situation.”

Responses to that statement vary, often with an emotional display attached that can run the gamut from anger to sadness, or to a look of cunning, as in a game of one-upmanship. I may hear, “Are you calling me a liar?” to, “I am sorry to hear you say that,” to a repeat of, “But, that’s only because you can’t demonstrate that God does not exist. You can’t prove it in any way.”

I know I never called anyone a liar, and that I feel as sorry for the others as they feel for me. They just don’t know how things work. I have a feeling they don’t want to know, that their misunderstanding borders on intentional. This last guy, though, the one with the gleam in his eyes— He’s certain as ice in Alaska’s winter, his ears are deafened, and either we are going to have it out, or I’m going to have to walk away. I’m tired of walking away. It feels like defeat, or like I gave up and conceded even with the taste of victory on my tongue. This one-sided war is theirs, not mine, but still goes on whether or not I participate.

Not this time. I have learned that nonparticipation does not make it go away, that people believe the accusations lodged against such folks as me, and that not telling my side of the story becomes dangerous for that reason. I am made by circumstance to defend myself or else suffer the consequences.

  Science is about experiments, right? Maybe an experiment will get his attention enough to pry his ears open. I reach for my ‘What If’ chart and tell him, “There’s no way to prove a negative claim. That’s why, in law, your innocence gets taken for granted if no one can prove your guilt. So, in our case, the positive claim is that a god named God exists. That is what we’ll have to try to prove, or forget it.”

His eyes widen to the size of two small bowls popped out on his forehead. “YOU are going to prove for me God DOES exist?”

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Feigning the onset of a cardiac episode, he staggers backward. I grin at his prone body on my couch, racked with exaggerated death spasms. “I am going to attempt it, but I am not a trained scientist. You know that.”

He grabs for the chart. I hold it beyond his reach and pin it to the corkboard I use for my project notes. “I do now,” he says, his eyes fastened on the chart like a hungry dog after a steak on the table.

“So, get out your crayons and let’s have at it. We have to answer the request in the yellow oval at the top to begin, so write, ‘Does God exist?’ on your blank sheet of paper.”

“I already know the answer.” He grinned up at me, saw that I actually wanted him to do that, and held the tip of his tongue in his lips while he bent to the task. “Okay, what’s next?”

“That’s the question we have to answer. ‘How do we find that out?’ sounds like it should be what we have to solve. I’m open to any suggestions.”

He thought for a long time while I waited in silence. “How about Intelligent Design? That should show that God exists.”

“It won’t work.”

He huffed a deep breath. “Why not?”

“Logical fallacies prevent us from using it.” I ramped myself up into explainer mode and continued. “First, there’s a circle of logic to deal with, where we have to prove God exists in order to have a designer, but also that it was designed by somebody, and then that God did it. We can’t prove God’s existence by some unsigned works unless we first prove God existed to create them. That’s what makes it circular, and forces us to go outside that circle to find evidence we can validate. Personally, being a person raised in close quarters with nature, I see an abundance of signs that signify to me a crudeness more attributable to accident than intention, let alone an absence of intelligence. What is more, proponents of ID failed to convince the judges in a major trial, so it has already failed to pass an important test. You have anything else to say about that?”

I could see he had not understood a word of what I had told him. “We’re stuck in the logical part of playing ‘What If?’, unless you have some good ideas about how we can get past it.”

Suspicion showed in his eyes, and in the way he leaned away and shrugged when he next looked up at me. “It’s your show. What do you suggest?”

I thought about that a minute. “You’re right, I did start this going. Okay, so what we’re doing is playing ‘What If?, so let’s ask the question, ‘What if God is real?’ and see what kinds of ideas come out of that. We need you to not only show me how I can feel convinced that God is real, you have to show me something I can use to convince others. A tall order, maybe, but it’s the least that will suffice.”

“Our preacher says that God wrote the Bible.” Having the backing of an authority showed in the ‘gotcha’ expression he wore as he looked down his nose at me.

“That’s still the same logical circle that Intelligent Design violates. All the same reasoning applies, so we can’t take it past the logical circle unless you have something to add to it that can also be verified.” I waited while his frown deepened.

Something I did not expect was for him to give serious consideration to this exercise. Almost to a man, his predecessors had treated any discussion with disdain, as something to exercise all their little tricky ploys against and steer me away from actually dealing with whatever might be the real topic. After all these years, I found this episode harder to advance than any of that. This boy had absolute absence of evidence. Of that I felt certain, but knew better than to let it show.

I saw his features brighten after a while, just as I seated myself on the stuffed chair across from him. “I once heard one of the elders tell how God inspired the Bible’s writers.”

“Well, that makes it different, but adds to our problems instead of solving them. We still have to demonstrate God’s existence to show there was somebody to do the inspiring, and now we have to know who all wrote the book, have the absolute originals at hand with certifications of authenticity, and statements by several witnesses that describe God’s appearance and exactly how It went about the doing of all that inspiring.”

He gasped. “That’s all?”

“It would be great to have all that, I think. Don’t you? Still, the witness’s statements all by themselves, if they agreed on major points and didn’t look like copied notes, might not only be enough in themselves to verify God’s existence, but could also help settle several other issues that raise doubts about the Bible’s authenticity.” His percolating display of sudden interest alerted me to his intention to argue. I put my hand up to stop him. “That’s a matter for a different time, as it belongs to a different topic. Do we have any of those documents?”

His face reddened as he fought to quell his anger. “I believe you realize how conditions of the time rendered that not at all possible. The systems of today didn’t exist then, of record keeping, of education, or a legal system that recognized such a need. It seems unfair to make that demand, knowing that.”

Sparks from his eyes as he glared at me would have singed my hide, had it been bared. We studied each other for several minutes until I could no longer endure the suspense. “Fair has nothing to do with it, it’s a system that science and the law developed to protect us from scams, to assure fair trials for ideas and innocent people accused of crimes.”

The red blush deepened as it increased its spread across his face. “Are you accusing me of scamming you, or of committing a crime?”

“Not necessarily either one.” I had actually considered it, but decided to let his own mind reach that kind of conclusion on its own, if it could dare that, along with getting past its internal barriers. “Although I doubt it, your religion may simply be a victim of bad timing, although even that does not speak well for the wisdom and foresight displayed by your god. What else do you have?”

“Nothing.” He looked glum and worried, but still feisty. “It appears that your science has designed a way with which it intends to conquer religion by ending our trust in parental and institutional guidance. For me, it’s a matter of choices, such as between good and evil, doubt and belief, or faith and rejection. I don’t need science to tell me what is right. I have only to ask God.” That said, he wore that ‘I dare you’ look on his face.

I felt too elated to care, and had to suppress an urge to jump and down in my excitement. “Now, we’re getting somewhere! How do you propose we should describe what we want to resolve of that?”

He rose out of his seat so suddenly I thought a bee had stung him. “I believe I’ve seen enough of your ‘What If’ chart to know that I thoroughly disapprove of it, and have no further interest in it.”

I am sorry he left so suddenly. I truly wanted to see where we could have gone by following what we had started as far as we could go with it. Maybe you could make that happen by suggesting what the next step could or should be, using the comment section at the bottom of this page. Keep in mind the results already obtained and try to avoid more instances of circular reasoning. If you’re not sure, fire away. I will answer your comments by attributing them in the bottom of this page along with my response. We have little to lose and both might learn something new.

Copyright ©2014 by Lloyd H. Whitling. Permission to excerpt is granted if accompanied with credit to the author. Permission to reuse unchanged is granted only if accompanied with this notice and proper credit. All other rights reserved.

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