so how do you sway the unbelievers?
Periodically, Jerry Coyne likes to revisit the question of what it will take for noted atheists to change their mind about the existence of a deity, saying that this would show that they’re actually open-minded in contrast to a frequent accusation by believers that atheists are just being obstinate for no good reason. Show them some of the specific things they say will make them believe, the argument seems to imply, and these atheists would turn on a dime. But not everybody’s buying it and PZ quite persuasively argues that it’s impossible to prove a concept which relies of subjective opinions and constantly shifting goalposts, while Ophelia Benson finds the whole idea of a deity as so often presented to us incoherent at best. Basically, everybody has their own ideas of what a deity is like, what it does, how it interacts with the universe, and there’s always the “mysterious ways beyond mortal minds” clause which renders any paradox into a piece of negative evidence which proves that the deity’s level of abstract thought is merely beyond your comprehension rather than a real paradox.
On the one hand, I have to agree with PZ and Benson because every time I tried to discuss a deity with one of the many believers who take issue with my posts, I’ve ended up discussing their personal, ever-shifting views on how the deity operates and absolutely everything was asserted to be evidence for this deity. Not presented mind you, but simply asserted. You can see the sunset, ergo God. You’re alive, ergo God. You can write, ergo the mysterious powers of God are obvious. No, no they’re not! With this level of proof I can just as successfully argue for the existence of the Flying Spaghetti Monster based on the arrangement of our intestines. But I could be swayed if say, there were angels suddenly flying in swarms around major cities, blowing trumpets as they pass by, or circle long enough to be seen and captured on video. And I’m talking about literal angels with halos, wings, and magical powers, not just the metaphorical ones believers assign every other day. Show me a real manifestation of an immensely powerful being and I’ll be all ears. We could decide on what exactly that being is or isn’t when we actually get a manifestation of his powers that can’t be attributed to natural causes.