You have heard the questions. When a theist learns you are atheist, they invariably show surprise and start asking questions. “Surely you must believe in something?” they ask with worry. “Do you believe in Satan?” some will ask with a sense of terror. The common response to the theist is, “A god does not exist.” To wit, the theist responds, “Can you prove there is no god?” An unprepared atheist may respond with a set of logical reasons against accepting a god is real that conflict with the theist’s emotional reasons to believe in a god. No argument of logic against emotion will resolve conflict because emotion belies logic. Theists often ask atheists to prove there is no god when the atheist challenges the theist’s claim of a god. So, what is an atheist to do when confronted with the question of proving there is no god?
A question of proof
The question of proof arises from the atheist proposition that one cannot believe in a god without proof of a god and that for the theist proposition that there is a god to be true, there must be proof. In logic, the person making an argument has the burden of proving the argument, so the person claiming there is a god, has the burden of proving there is a god. Proof in logic is not to say that something is proven true; it is set of rational premises supported by facts that lead to a logical conclusion and no other conclusion. Proofs are defeated when the premises can lead to a different conclusion, when the argument is not valid, when a valid argument is fallacious, or when any of the premises in the argument are contradicted, are proven false, or otherwise defeated.
Theists have attempted to reverse the burden of proof by asking atheists to prove there is no god. Atheists have not laid out premises to an argument that there is no god. Atheists have said that the premises in the argument for a god to not lead to a logical conclusion of a god, therefore there is no god. Theists often counter that argument by saying nature leaves unanswered questions that can only be answered with a god. Atheists retort that nature does not provide evidence of a god and that unanswered questions in nature can be answered in nature, even when we do not yet know the answers. The agnostic, sometimes a theological intermeddler, may interject that a question of nature could be answered by a god if there are facts to support the existence of a god. This interjection lacks utility in that facts that support the existence of anything should not be denied if proven to be true.
Again, the burden of proof lies with the person making the claim and not with the person rejecting the claim. Theists attempt logic acrobatics to get around their need to prove their god by trying to shift the burden of proof on the person rejecting their claim. The theists then use fallacious reasoning to attempt to justify that proof there is no god is not possible; therefore, one must believe in a god. Theists fail to justify why they need to believe in a god or why everyone should believe in their god as well. The atheist has no need to believe in a god and, therefore, has no need to prove there is not a god.
Logical proof, proof of faith, and ontology
The first response to the question, “Can you prove there is no god?” is, “Why?” Atheist means, “Without a god.” No proof is necessary to be without a god; “Atheist” is an affirmative statement that rejects theories of gods and it is not an argument or theory that requires any proof. A theist is one who believes there is a god or gods. The assertion, “There is a god” is an argument and theory that requires proof. Until there is proof of a god, there is nothing to disprove of a god, so the claims of a god or gods can be freely rejected.
There is no logical operation of proving something does not exist, so the question is flawed. A “proof” is a philosophical exercise of laying out logical or factual premises that rational reasoning will lead to a logical conclusion that is then accepted as truth until the proof is disproven. The disproof of a proof is to find contradictions within any of the premises of the proof or to find a logical fallacy in the reasoning used to reach the conclusion, thereby invalidating the claim.
The basic “proof” of a god is always reduced to, “Faith, therefore, a god.” Faith is a necessary premise for every proof of a god. Faith is defined in the King James Bible, Hebrews chapter 11 verse 1, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” The first part of that compound sentence describes the nature of faith and the second part describes the function of faith. The nature of faith has multiple interpretations that include substance, assurance, confidence, reality, and conviction of “things hoped for.”
The function of faith in the Hebrews definition is to provide a basis to believe an idea is true without any evidence to show why the idea should be true. The theist needs to believe in a god, so the theist uses faith to believe there is a god. The atheist has no need to believe in a god and therefore no need for faith. This means that atheists do not have a god in their ontology. Ontology is a set of ideas of things a person accepts as real. Without a god in one’s ontology, there is no need to prove that there is no god.
The question, “Can you prove there is no god?” assumes that there must be a god that must be disproven to not be accepted as real. This is a circular assumption. It asks the person questioned to accept a god in one’s ontology, thereby accept that there is a god, and then disprove that same god. Atheists do not accept a god as real and therefore have nothing to disprove about it. “God” for the atheist is a means to identify a thing when the thing is unknown. It is not a consciousness or intelligence that can be identified and defined as a being or a thing in existence. It is a variable or placeholder for something not yet known but not a real thing by itself. As an ontological object used as a placeholder in reasoning and not a tangible “being” or thing, a god cannot be a “he” or a “she” or an “it.”
Over 4,000 gods in 200,000 years of mankind
There have been over 4,000 gods in the 200,000 years history of mankind each with various magical powers, many, if not all, with superstitions, and most with a bizarre set of arbitrary, capricious, and hateful rules. The Abrahamic, or theist, god is one of the world’s most popular gods today and has been followed for about 3,500 years in the Middle East beginning with Judaism. Some Jews have written the Abrahamic god as, “G-d” in an attempt to avoid naming their god and thereby offending that god. Christians have historically called the god, “Yahweh,” “Jehovah,” or refer to it as, “God,” with a capital “G” and relying on the presumption that there is only one god. Muslims have named their god, “Allah.” For the atheist, a god is not a thing and nothing comes from a god. For the atheist, there is no difference between the Abrahamic god, the Viking gods, the Greek gods, the Roman gods, the Hindu gods, or any other magical being or superstition. Atheists hold that accepting a god as a real thing is irrational.
Therefore, the question, “Can you prove there is no god?” is nonsensical, irrational, and a logical fallacy on its own. No such question can be answered because there is no substance in the question to answer.
Learn about other questions in Questions Theists ask Atheists.