“There’s not a shred of evidence for the existence of God.”
This statement is commonly found on forums, online comment sections, and anywhere else religious-type debates take place. Of course, this no-evidence claim can be made about any type of topic, but it especially seems to appear in discussions about the existence of God.
A primary reason this claim is made so often involves the common usage of the word “evidence”. It seems that typically, the word evidence is meant to describe scientific data – acquired through repeatable, testable events – that help to confirm a hypothesis.
In a previous post, I explained the definition of evidence involves more than the usage of scientific tests. More broadly, evidence involves anything that helps to determine if a claim is true, where a claim about reality actually matches reality.
So, for sake of discussion, I am going to leave out science for the rest of this post. This move is not a downplay on science. Instead, it is a way to talk about the flaws of the statement that opens this post, without diving into the complications of a heavily debated topic (scientific evidence for the existence of God).
Moving on, there is one important distinction to point out regarding the claim that there is no evidence for the existence of God, as this claim can mean different things. It could mean that there is no evidence available that can be used to confirm or deny the existence of God. Or it could mean that there is evidence about the topic, but that evidence in no way points to the potential that the claim is true.
Notice that the second meaning is essentially a judgment call, and can vary based on the individual’s interpretation of the available evidence. A claim could have a massive amount of evidence supporting it, but that does not mean everyone will accept that the evidence does in fact support the truth of the claim.
I think there are multiple examples of evidence that points to the reality of the existence of God. However, with the understanding that someone could say the same evidence leads us in the other direction, I will not focus on the interpretation of evidence in this post. Instead, I will focus on the availability of evidence applicable to the question of the existence of God.
I will give two examples of this evidence that are conceptually similar to the examples given in my last post. The first example relates to the area of history. In 1st century Israel, there were multiple documents written describing a man who claimed to be God, performed miracles, predicted his death and rise from the dead, and did die and rise as he predicted. These documents now form what we call the New Testament, and the man described is Jesus Christ.
The New Testament can be used as evidence towards the claim that God exists. It describes someone who claimed to be God, and appeared to back up that claim through his actions. You can debate the reliability and historical accuracy of the New Testament, or say that the words and actions of Jesus do not conclusively confirm the claim of God’s existence. However, for the purpose of this post, the point is that the New Testament can be used as evidence that the claim “God exists” does match reality.
Another example of potential evidence involves personal experience, which we often use as evidence to verify that a claim matches reality. If someone would have a personal experience of God, that would also be an indication that God does exist.
Many people have in fact claimed to have personal experiences involving God. You can deny the truthfulness of all of these claims, ascribe them all to a psychological effect, or question the legitimacy of this sort of evidence. But once again, the point is that there is potential to use this type of evidence to help answer the question of God’s existence.
At the least, these two examples describe things that help determine if the claim that God exists actually matches reality. Those things fit precisely into the definition of evidence I gave above. Even if someone would say that these things actually invalidate the claim that God exists, the things would still be considered evidence of some sort. You can call it bad evidence, but it is inaccurate to say that there is no evidence.
Thus, for someone expressing disagreement about the truth of God’s existence, I think a more helpful phrase than “There’s not a shred of evidence for the existence of God” would be “There’s not sufficient evidence to adequately support the claim that God exists.” However, since the first phrase attracts more attention than the second, I suspect it will continue to be used often in discussions about this important topic.