Friday, May 4, 2007

Different Premises

When considering religion, atheists begin with a blank slate – in effect, the ‘default’ position – and consider the question of whether religious ideas make any sense. There are some ancient writings and a couple of thousand years of theological accretion, a lot of present day “authorities” doing a lot of (often smug) insisting, but there is no actual evidence to even suggest these fanciful explanations; much less any concrete support for them. Irrespective of the thousands of years of tradition, the proposition to be tested is the notion of the existence of a god or gods and the presumption that these mythical and mystical characters are somehow responsible for absolutely everything in the universe, and, moreover, at least in some versions of the story, are able and willing to take a personal interest in every living creature at least on our little world and presumably anywhere else life exists.

The burden of proof is clearly on the religious.

When considering atheists, religious people start with a whole bunch of preconceptions – the ideas promulgated by whatever religion they’re aligned with. They don’t even grasp that the burden of proof is on them.

Religious people expect atheists to justify the position that there are no gods.

It’s not hard to understand, given these two very different premises, why intelligent debate between these parties is difficult if not impossible.