Why Do I Have to Prove a Negative?


Lately, I’ve been in a few discussions with people I know in real life about atheists and atheism in general. These don’t happen very often, not because I hide my atheism, but because the subject just doesn;t come up and I’m not one of those people that stand on the street corner shouting about my non-belief.

One of the more frequent questions I a posed is how I know that God doesn’t exist. My response is simple: I don’t know that for a fact. That’s where  see others lean back and think they have me because they don;t know what atheism actually expounds. I have no way of knowing whether the is a God, or any gods at all, but I have found no evidence to believe their are any gods at all.

Now there are some atheists that will tell others that there is definitely no  God, but how would they know? Lack of evidence only suggests there aren’t any gods, but it’s not definitive.  We’ve all been there, as atheists, when someone demands that we prove our non-belief. I can’t in the same way that they cannot prove there is a God.  Referring to some ancient text is not proof, and belief is not fact.

As I’ve discovered, none of this seems to matter to any believers I’ve ever known,  Unless I, an atheist, can prove there is no God, then there has to be one. That’s similar thinking to those Ancient Alien theorists we all see on television (well, at least I do, it’s a really funny show). I can’t say how the pyramids were built (and archologists only have theories about it) so there must have been aliens to help them move all those 2 ton limestone blocks into place.

I don’t believe aliens had anything to do with any construction of  ancient monuments, but I cannot prove they didn’t.  I just don’t see any evidence that affirms that “theory”. That’s the same with gods. I, as many, think that humans invented gods to explain what for them was unexplainable at the time.

The other question asked is that if there were proof of God, would I then believe? Of course, if the evidence was demonstrable. Why would anyone hold onto something that could actually be proven to be incorrect?  There may be some, as there is with believers with evolution,  that no matter the evidence may not believe,  but I don’t think I could.  If we say we believe in evidence, then no matter how inconvenient that evidence may be to what we currently think (or believe), we can’t just dismiss it out of hand. That would make atheism a religion, wouldn’t it? As we all know, that’s what believers think of us anyway – we’re just another religion.

I have turned that question around though and asked if there were absolute proof of no God existing, would that mean that they would give up their belief? I sometimes rceive a strange look then but the answer always comes back – and yes always in my experience – that there’s no way I can prove there is no God.

That wry smile comes across my face.



8 thoughts on “Why Do I Have to Prove a Negative?

  1. I like to say, “there are no gods.” The funny thing is that it is either agnostics or atheists who what to challenge me. Yet, when a believer says “there is A god,” there is seldom a word of challenge. Not even a “which one?” If I say, “there are no unicorns” I am not challenged. Yet they do exist. Unicorn is the mascot of the New Braunfels High School, in Texas. They are the unicorns. So, ya see. I’d be wrong. I may be just an old Texas Aggie, but I am fully aware that proof of deities exiting or not can’t be found. We are, essentially, ALL agnostic. But, for now, I hope I am entitled to what I think, and to say what I think. And that is: There are no gods. (Remember, all those ‘friends’ of yours agree with me for every god but one.)


  2. I have found that the question may be turned around, but the devout cannot fathom such a possibility and would still have faith.

    The closest I get to accepting the existence of a Creator Deity is to admit that there is a tiny, tiny possibility, but that such an entity is so far removed from human imagination and our existence that it would not make any difference to such an entity whether we believed in it or not. Possible but not probable.

    Once I referred to the whole of existence as nothing more than the droppings of such an entity.

    I do not accept that it is possible that anything such as the Abrahamic Deity exists.

    I have always managed to make my online Christian friends insulted when I wrote that except for one deity, they are atheists. The devout have big trouble with such nuance. Then I have to move the discussion into different territory, hoping they might understand, but they just can’t.

    To them, despite our friendship, atheism is too alien a concept. They just know that one day I will realize that God has been with me all along, which is why I am the person that I am and not Joseph Stalin.


    • What believers refuse to accept is that we atheists are kind, compassionate, loving people – we just don;t accept the existence of any gods. Faith to us is wishful thinking – okay I won’t speak for everyone, maybe just for me.


  3. Well, the win-win situation again for Christians is that God is working in our lives, we just don’t know it…but someday we will.

    That aside, the Christians I know online and in real life do accept that I am a kind, compassionate and loving person.

    They also accept that many Christians are fake and wear masks and they know who they are by their deeds.

    And…if God judges by deeds and not just words, then a few of them expect to meet me in heaven, while the rest hope I will find God before it is too late for me, because they know that I will burn in hell forever, etc.

    Then, there are those who believe that what Jesus did was to die for all humanities sins, forever, and that all humans are saved by his sacrifice, so then God does judge by deeds and not just words and those who he judges less worthy of heaven, simply die and are forever removed from seeing him in the afterlife. Hell is to never see the face of God, not an eternal torture for punishment.


  4. That sucks. I know from my online interactions that other atheists have had similar issues, as well as, severe familial issues, including divorce and loss of children, after revealing their atheism. I did not have that experience.

    I am truly sorry that you experienced that sort of unique pain and disappointment, Jim.


    • I’m sorry it happened as well, but I got over it quickly, even for a friendship nearly 50 yrs old ( next month would actyally constitute 50 years).. I decided it wasn’t worth anything to me, if it wasn’t to him.


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