When Atheists Say “There’s No Evidence for God’s Existence”

Anyone involved in Christian Apologetics is bound to come in contact with the phrase “There’s no evidence for God’s existence.” In his debate on the topic “Does God Exist?” famed atheist Peter Atkins was adamant, “There is no evidence whatsoever for any assertion that Dr. Craig has made this evening. You have to accept that everything you have heard him say can be accepted on faith, and cannot be demonstrated by evidence.” I’ve argued elsewhere that faith is compatible with apologetics (I’ve also commented on what faith is). I won’t spend time clearing that up. Instead, I want to look closely at this peculiar atheistic phrase and see if it holds any water.

What is Evidence?

The first thing on our to-do list is to define what is meant by evidence. People use the term all sorts of ways. Google provides the following usage:

Evidence: The available body of facts or information indicating whether a belief or proposition is true or valid. [1]

It is often the case that a body of facts can be interpreted more than one way (more on this below). For instance, finding DNA evidence at the scene of the crime doesn’t prove the accused guilty. The DNA could have been fabricated (and sometimes is). Evidence doesn’t always lead, logically, to only one conclusion.

Direct vs Circumstantial Evidence

Given what has been revealed by Natural Theology, a thriving branch of theology that provides rational arguments for God’s existence, it seems abundantly obvious that we’ve got some kind of evidence for God [2]. That is to say, there are bodies of facts (e.g.: the existence of contingent beings, the beginning of the universe, the fine-tuning of the universe, moral facts, etc.) that support belief in God. Natural Theology provides evidence for God in the same way that DNA provides evidence the accused is guilty. There can be disagreement how all of the evidence ought to be interpreted, but that doesn’t mean there is literally no evidence.

In his book Cold-Case Christianity, homicide detective J. Warner Wallace distinguishes between two kinds of evidence. The first kind is direct evidence. Direct evidence can prove something all by itself. If a person has witnessed it raining outside, their testimony (assuming it is reliable) can prove that it is raining. The second kind of evidence is circumstantial evidence. Circumstantial evidence doesn’t prove anything on its own (it can go either way), but could be used to prove something related. Going back to the rain analogy, if instead of someone’s direct testimony, we instead saw a person inside with water droplets on their jacket, that would constitute circumstantial evidence that it was raining. The drops of water on their coat don’t prove that it’s raining, but it provides pretty good evidence. Combined with other evidence (like the testimony of witnesses), we could reasonably conclude that it’s raining.

Warner says, “Judges tell jurors, “Both direct and circumstantial evidence are acceptable types of evidence to prove or disprove the elements of a charge, including intent and mental state and acts necessary to a conviction, and neither is necessarily more reliable than the other. Neither is entitled to any greater weight than the other.”” He goes on to note that in murder cases we rarely are privy to evidence that gives us certainty about the conviction. We aren’t looking for what’s certain, but what is most reasonable given the evidence.

Going back to the atheistic slogan, it’s one thing to say that a certain piece of evidence doesn’t prove that Christianity is true by itself, but another thing entirely to claim “there’s no evidence whatsoever.” Wallace’s distinction above shows the latter claim utterly indefensible; even if we don’t have direct, irrefutable evidence of God’s existence, there is at least good circumstantial evidence in support of Theism (again, note the evidence revealed by Natural Theology).

The “Need” for Empirical Evidence

At this point the atheist might retort that, sure, there are philosophical arguments for God, but there’s no empirical evidence for God, and we require “empirical evidence” if we are to rationally believe something is true (empirical in this context just means grounded in observation or experience). However, this view is self-defeating–if it’s true, it’s false. Simply ask the atheist what “empirical evidence” lead them to believe that. What empirical evidence supports the belief that “empirical evidence is required to rationally believe something is true”? The fact is, there is none! So if this view is true, we have no reason to believe it and should therefore reject it.

The best option for the atheist is to abandon both the slogan and hard-line empiricism. Given Natural Theology, there is at least good circumstantial evidence for God, even if it doesn’t prove by itself that God exists. Requiring empirical evidence turns out to be self-defeating. There’s no empirical evidence that empirical evidence is required to rationally believe something. That view is self-defeating and no one should adopt it.

Is there evidence for God’s existence? The answer is, “Of course there’s evidence! Now get your head out of the sand and deal with it.”


Notes:

[1] Should be noted that the term “evidence” is used in a number of ways. The Google definition isn’t meant to solve anything, it’s only meant to show that the usage given is common enough to make it into Google (and is therefore on the table). A Bayesian definition of evidence, for instance, will require a different kind of treatment.

[2] See the The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology for the most sophisticated arguments for God.

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Гусейн ГурбановEJ DoyleDavidParacleteNicholas David Recent comment authors
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Brittany
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Brittany

Not worth it.

Butch Cranton
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Butch Cranton

The argument here amounts to “there are people who spend time on something called ‘natural theology’, therefore there is evidence for god.” There are people who spend time on defending that 9/11 was an inside job or that the moon landings were fake, or on homeopathy. That doesn’t mean there actually is any evidence for any of those things. That people allege or believe something is evidence don’t make it so. You need actually to present and defend the point that a certain set of things constitute evidence. Punting to the fact that other people say it’s evidence is clear… Read more »

EJ Doyle
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EJ Doyle

There is quite a bit of evidence of the nefarious behavior and lies that the government has put forth if indeed you choose to look. Those conspiracy investigators are social heroes who have not drunk the koolaid of what has been put forth as “truth” by the evil controllers of our world. There is plenty of hard evidence of the lies about JFK, the Moon landing, 9/11, Sandy Hook, the Boston ‘bombing,’ the Federal Reserve, VietNam, flouride, childhood injections, etc. You might start with Dr. Jim Fetzer’s work on the false flags of our recent times. My “Zebra” analogy below… Read more »

Butch Cranton
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Butch Cranton

I suppose you could mean “bad evidence” in two senses:
1) Something presented as evidence that turns out not to be genuine evidence.
2) Evidence that doesn’t support the conclusion very much. I.e. P(H|E)/P(H) is not much above 1.
But (1) only has the name “evidence” historically, in the sense that it was once alleged or thought to be evidence but actually isn’t.

EJ Doyle
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EJ Doyle

Evidence leads to proof which is then a fact. There is NO evidence of god, jesus, or satan. They are all man made myths to steal sovereign spiritual expression to control humans out of fear. Therefore there can be no anti christ or satanists. Just because psychotic, sociopaths choose to hide their evil ways in religious mythology does not validate the myth. They are simply cowards playing malevolent games of hate and harm. It is the 21st century, wake up. For instance: I say there are Zebras. Here’s a photo, here’s a skin, here’s one of the horse-like looking animals… Read more »

J.D. Heard
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J.D. Heard

EJ – just for a moment, let’s say I agree with you. That God is a myth. Then how – exactly – do you personally reconcile the primary Christian claim that Jesus came back to life after being dead?

EJ Doyle
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EJ Doyle

Simple, there is no evidence of the mythical Jesus of Nazareth. From the fact that Nazareth was not even a town until the 4th century or the Romans who were incredible historians make no mention of this myth or modern religious scholars find no trace. Having been brought up an Irish/Italian Catholic alter boy, etc. I had a deep desire for all those myths to be true. However with a high IQ and hunger for truth my decades of research and pragmatic attendance at a wide variety of faith and tribal ceremonies the myths were all destroyed with fact. Faith… Read more »

Barry
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Barry

EJ, what caused the zebra to exist? What caused that to exist? Keep going…

EJ Doyle
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EJ Doyle

Unable to reply via gmail?? Many people feel that everyone has to buy into their belief systems, agendas, etc. I don’t care what caused ANYTHING to exist. It is far too big a metaphysical puzzle. Most “believers” want to use various forms of conversational fallacies to appear to be somehow more intelligent or in control. The question is always about what is provable as I attempted to show you in my Zebra analogy and that you somehow missed. Just try to offer some rational reply to what I offered Barry. Should be pretty simple if you in deed have any… Read more »

David
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David

Your statement… “That is to say, there are bodies of facts (e.g.: the existence of contingent beings, the beginning of the universe, the fine-tuning of the universe, moral facts, etc.) that support belief in God. ” Is where your argument begins to fail. (Disclaimer… scientist here) First, your argument is based on the “because we don’t know the answer…. therefore god” phrase. This is simply lazy thinking. Science takes time and is constantly refining what it knows. Each new discovery refines past knowledge and opens up new areas. Science is not static – it is dynamic. You are obviously in… Read more »

Michael
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Michael

David, you made an interesting statement, “Science takes time and is constantly refining what it knows. Each new discovery refines past knowledge and opens up new areas. Science is not static – it is dynamic.” This is an interesting epistemological statement. You contend that science has knowledge and through discovery it learns new things. You seem to be arguing that this makes Science a better tool to understand what is true. However, you are also arguing that Science constantly knows things that aren’t true. I am surprised a scientist would make a statement like that. Science is a tool of… Read more »

David
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David

Hi Michael: You state… “However, you are also arguing that Science constantly knows things that aren’t true.” Well, no. While there are certainly times where science gets things wrong… what I was talking about was refinement. Consider the atom – once thought to be indivisible. But once our capabilities and technologies improved (along with our math) we realized that was not the case. That did not mean atoms were wrong – but rather, there was more there to see. As the saying goes… “the devil is in the details” (pun intended). You state… “Scientists have beliefs called theories about how… Read more »

EJ Doyle
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EJ Doyle

You and David should get a room as your game of vocabulary oneupmanship is boring. Real scientific exploration is a tool of simple observation, theory, testing, and conclusion. Hopefully it is done in an honest and factual way but alas, we are living in a time where greed, power, corruption, and control is precident over honesty. Just study how Aspartame came into our culture for example through corporate and governmental partnership. Also, the lies about statin drugs and cholesterol or the dangers of the sun, etc. Our world beliefs and truths have been manipulated for centuries. Prior to the take… Read more »

Paraclete
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Paraclete

“That is to say, there are bodies of facts (e.g.: the existence of contingent beings, the beginning of the universe, the fine-tuning of the universe, moral facts, etc.) that support belief in God. ” . (Disclaimer… who cares?) [First, your argument is based on the “because we don’t know the answer…. therefore god” phrase. This is simply lazy thinking.] You misunderstand and misrepresent the argument. The argument was not we don´t know, or Science doesn´t know therefor God. This is lazy reading. The argument is that these facts provide evidence for the existence of God. [Science takes time and is… Read more »

David
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David

Hi Paraclete: You state… “The argument is that these facts provide evidence for the existence of God. ” Well, that is the argument, but that is not the conclusion. The article in no way proves the existence of any deity. “It´s true Science is Dynamic, but, irrelevant. Unless, your argument is that since Science is dynamic if Science doesn’t know it yet, it will know it , in the future, in which case it´s just a fallacious question begging argument.” It is hardly irrelevant. What I meant is that science is constantly narrowing the field of what is possible and… Read more »

Nicholas David
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Nicholas David

Okay, let us assume that God exists for arguments sake. I will also assume the God is Omnibenevolent. What I do not understand is why didn’t God create Heaven to begin with? I think it should be obvious to anybody in the modern civilized world that the existence of Hell is profoundly immoral. There is also lots of unnecessary suffering on Earth, so why not create Heaven straight away? The empirical evidence around me suggests that we are not living in the best of all possible worlds; the world that an Omnipotent, Omniscient and Omnibenevolent God would create. I think… Read more »

Гусейн Гурбанов
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Гусейн Гурбанов

Cosmological concept which is complete from logical point of view Initial composition of boundless space from the point of view of element: 1.It is suffucient to declare existence of two elements, SIMPLE and COMPLEX, possesing closed systemic appearance in order to imagine different (homogenous) and completed one. 2.It is sufficient to declare existence of Lord and Almighty in other element, possesing non-closed systematic appearance in order to imagine it as different and incomplete as heterogenous (in other words: various type). It is not difficult to presume that simple and complex compression is happened in possible minimal widening from permanent widening… Read more »