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Evidence and the Burden of Proof

16 July 2014, 15:13

I died last week, was dead for a day and came back to life. That is the claim I made yesterday on Don’t worry it did not happen I only made the claim to illustrate a point I was making about evidence. I’ve decided to illustrate my point here because that thread is basically done and dusted.  

If I had said that last week I went to the pub to watch the SWC no one would have a problem accepting that on face value, unless or until there is evidence to the contrary, because going to the pub could be taken as ordinary.

Saying I died and came back to life on the other hand is extraordinary. It is not a claim that you hear everyday, if it was then it would be ordinary. It would be right and proper not to take the claim at face value and to ask for evidence of such an event. No matter how stringent I am in repeating my claim you would not believe it until you have some form of evidence that it happened.

It should also be obvious that I can’t shift the burden of responsibility onto you and ask you to supply evidence to the contrary; in other words I can’t turn around and say that you must provide evidence that I did not die. The reason for this is because I’m the one trying to convince you that something happened.

This is not hard to understand and something that you, dear reader, do all the time in life. If someone in your daily life makes extraordinary claims you will question them. Depending on their answers (evidence given) you will either accept what they say or not. Your acceptance of their claim is not contingent on you proving them wrong but of them showing you that what they say is correct.

So to sum up what I’ve said so far, and this is something that is said often on this site, extraordinary claims need evidence and the one making the claim must supply the evidence.  

Now moving on to one of the types of evidence offered a lot in the religious debates by the religious, their holy book. I’m saying holy book to cover all religions that have some form of writing, in whatever medium, concerning that religion.

A holy book is not evidence of a deity. All a holy book is evidence for is that there is/was a religion that believed in certain things. Now you, dear reader, might have a holy book that you believe to be true and correct but what you have done is taken an extraordinary claim at face value. I’m not saying that the whole book is incorrect, there could be some truth sprinkled here and there, but that on the main claim, that there is god/s, there is no evidence given.

Now if you are religious you are probably thinking to yourself that I’ve made an extraordinary claim and I must provide the evidence to substantiate my claim. In this you would be wrong as all I am doing is not accepting holy books at face value, something that you also do all the time except for your religion. Ask yourself why don’t you accept the holy writings of other religions, could it be because you find no truth in them (lack of evidence)?

I’ll leave you with one last thought. If a religious person expects us to take their holy book at face value then we would have to take all holy books a face value and where would that leave us?     

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