Hemant Mehta the Friendly Atheist was asked a very interesting question. It’s in this video of him with a friendly Christian pastor.
The moment is at 24:15.
Pastor: Is there anything — anything — that might change your mind?
Mehta: I don’t think at this point anything that anyone tells me, because they usually tell me stories about how they came to God, how they came to Christ. It’s like, “Well, that’s nice for you. Unless I have that same experience myself, unless I experience a miracle that I can’t explain, unless something happens to me, I really don’t think I’m going to hear anything that will change my mind.
Pastor: That’s interesting, right? He’s saying if a miracle happens.
You can almost hear the pastor thinking:
This isn’t a great answer for me. Just because there’s something I can’t explain, that wouldn’t be enough for me. I can’t explain lots of things. I’m not good at that sometimes. And a lack of explanation doesn’t automatically mean “theism” — that’s the Argument from Ignorance.
If you’re an atheist, how would you answer this question? It wouldn’t be very open-minded of you if you said “no”, now, would it? You want to seem convincible. On the other hand, as Mehta points out in the video, you haven’t been convinced by the same 49 arguments that you’ve heard year-in, year-out, so what new thing are believers going to come up with?
It’s all a bit moot for me; even if I were convinced that the god of the Bible existed, I’d still never worship him because he’d be a homophobic, misogynistic dickbag.
But if it were that pastor asking me, I’d say “Sure. Something could convince me.” And here it is.
- there were some occurrence, happenstance, or phenomenon for which the only explanation were a theistic one, and
- that explanation were well-studied, and
- this were well-accepted by the scientific community,
then, yes, I would probably believe it.
And this is never going to happen. Theists haven’t done the work of defining their god in a way that makes him testable. They have no interest in doing so. Like naturopaths and chiropractors, they have enough customers to keep going without doing all that work to establish real credibility.
Which really means, no, nothing as it stands could convince me. But that’s not my problem.
I did all this thinking, only to realise that I’m echoing something PZ Myers was writing about years ago. But that’s okay — if believers can come back with the same arguments time after time, then the answers will have to come back around, too.