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6 (Unlikely) Developments That Could Convince This Atheist To Believe in God

Atheists often point out that religious faith is closed off to evidence that contradicts it. What evidence would persuade atheists that their atheism was mistaken?

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(And for the record: Yes, it's possible that this could happen without God. It could hypothetically, for instance, be accomplished by a highly technologically advanced alien species. But I don't think that would be the simplest explanation. If this phenomenon happened, "God" would, in my opinion, be a simpler explanation than "aliens" -- and unless I saw good evidence that the writing was done by aliens, God would be the provisional conclusion I would come to.)

What would not convince me: I would not, however, be persuaded by ambiguous messages. I would not be persuaded by religious texts or teachings that contradict themselves, and that are easily interpreted in wildly different and even completely contradictory ways by different believers in that faith. Like, oh, say, every religious text I've ever read.

I would also not be persuaded by people saying, "The evidence is all around you! Look at the magnificence of life and the universe! It had to be created and shaped by something, because... well, it had to be! Isn't it obvious?" Human minds are wired by evolution to see intention, even where no intention exists. Given this cognitive error; given that so much about life and the universe has already been explained by physical cause and effect; given the thorough consistency with which natural explanations for phenomena have replaced supernatural ones, thousands upon thousands of times over the course of history, when it has never once happened the other way around... given all this, I see no reason to interpret the existence of the physical universe as an unambiguous message from God.

Similarly, I would not be persuaded by the "first cause" argument, the argument from design, or the argument from fine tuning. Same reasons, basically.

And I would not be persuaded by a message that only I saw or heard. (At least... I hope I wouldn't be. It's possible that I could get hit by lightning or something and get my brain re-arranged in a way that made me think God existed. But I would be wrong to do so. If I ever get hit by lightning and decide that God exists, you all have my permission to print out this article and smack me over the head with it.)

"I feel it in my heart" is one of the worst pieces of evidence for God that I've seen. Our personal intuitions are important and valuable -- but they're far too flawed, far too subject to confirmation bias and other cognitive errors, to be the sole piece of evidence for anything in the external, non-subjective world. Especially when it comes to things that we really, really want to believe -- like God and Heaven and immortality. If we care whether the things we believe about the world are true, we need to test our personal experiences and intuitions, using rigorous methods designed to filter these cognitive biases out.

Accurate Prophecies in Sacred Texts

What would convince me: If any sacred text in any religion made clear, unambiguous, accurate prophecies about the future -- and did so consistently -- I would be persuaded that this religion was divinely inspired. If there were a passage in Isaiah or Revelation, the Pyramid Texts or the Bhagavad Gita, that read, "And verily I say unto you, that 1,987 years after the death of Augustus Caesar, on the date of September 11, some followers of an Abrahamic religion that has not yet been founded will attack a city called New York that does not yet exist, by steering flying machines that have not yet been invented into two skyscrapers, whatever the hell those are" -- and if that same sacred text made several other clear, accurate prophecies -- I'd be convinced that God or some other divine being existed, and had inspired the text in question. (With the same "highly technologically advanced aliens" caveat noted above.)

 
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