On another thread of mine Little David left a lengthy comment that I thought was such a perfect example of the special pleading religion gets, and is demanded on its behalf, in our society, that it deserved its own post and fisking. It is also a perfect example of the kind of intellectually dishonest shilling we've come to expect from right-wing pundits, which guarantees to bely attempts at rational discourse. Ever the optimist, I will try anyway.
"Sorry, I think I am starting to see evidence of an almost unreasonable hysteria against anything that hints of religious beliefs. Evidence of this is the statement: 'They may occasionally reach the same conclusions, but they are, at their core, opposed, and they always will be.'"
Here right away we see the standard Coulterish tactic of using baseless inflammatory rhetoric in lieu of sound reasoning. A simple factual claim that science, being driven by evidence, and religion, being driven by faith, are at their core opposed, is "hysterical"? By what standards? None, it is just a good example of the fallacy of poisoning the well: after all, why should the arguments of "hysterical" people be dealt with logically?
To be clear, this atheist has no trouble whatsoever with other people holding religious beliefs, or basing their personal life decisions on them. What I, and many in the reality-based community object to is the use of these faith-based beliefs to make decisions in the public sphere, or the facade that these beliefs are compatible or comparable to science.
"Some atheists are starting to sound as unreasonable in insisting of the 'facts' being something they can NOT prove (God does not exist) as those who insist that every syllable uttered in the Bible is infallible."
Ah, right off the Fox News script: "some people say". What atheists sound this way? Name them. What exactly did they say? Quote them, IN CONTEXT. There is a good reason the right-wing apologists, be they Little David or Dinesh D'Souza, rarely do so: their claims can't stand up to the facts, so all they have to rely on is baseless generalizations. Any why the scare quotes around the word "facts"? It's just another rhetorical trick this crowd loves. Instead of attacking a claim with which they differ head on with logic and evidence, they simply put scare quotes around it. This allows them to treat it as refuted without having to do the hard work of actually doing so.
Once one examines this claim logically one can easily see why all those distractions would be in there. That the Bible is not infallible can be verified, in multiple independent instances, by any person with a sound mind and a dictionary. Anyone claiming otherwise is acting in defiance of the facts. Little David wishes to compare this to the claim that the evidence supports the notion that there are no gods? As Dawkins has illustrated so deftly, all one need do to see the absurdity of such claims is to restate them in terms of other gods, or other, unproven entities:
Some athorists are starting to sound as unreasonable in insisting of the 'facts' being something they can NOT prove (Thor does not exist) as those who insist that every syllable uttered in the Hárbarðsljóð is infallible.
Some aunicornists are starting to sound as unreasonable in insisting of the 'facts' being something they can NOT prove (unicorns do not exist) as those who insist that every syllable uttered in the Holy Book of Unicornism is infallible.
Are these statements any more absurd than the original? The evidence for Thor and unicorns is identical to that for the Christian gods - zero, nada. So why would anyone insist that somehow his gods deserve what others are denied? Simple: it is what he was raised with, as most of us were, and it seems more comfortable and familiar. But to a Hindu, the story that a man was nailed to a tree to save everyone from the crimes of his great-great-great...great-grandfather sounds just as absurd as the story of 1,000 gods and the wheel of life sounds to those of us raised in a Christian society. Thus, when someone says something like this:
"While the infallible Bible crowd might be described as being at one end of the spectrum, atheists who attempt to prove that the evidence already proves God does not exist are at the other end of the spectrum and just as unreasonable to many of us who sit somewhere in the center."
We can see that he is not in the center at all. He is decidedly biased towards the notion that there is some credibility to the claims of Christianity. Thus, anyone who simply recognizes the complete lack of evidence for his gods (be they atheist, Hindu, or Buddhist) will look biased to him, and he will claim they need to give special consideration to his gods that he does not claim for equally evidence-free notions such as Thor and unicorns:
"I think that someone who describes himself as an agnostic (rather then an atheist) is being more then reasonable as long as they will 'reasonably' continue to appraise reality if God seeks to prove that He does exist to them."
[sigh] Once again we see the intellectually dishonest use of scare quotes to poison the well. Never mind demonstrating logically that atheistic views are unreasonable. Just put scare quotes around "reasonably" and run.
On no other subject are people told that reasonableness demands they remain undecided concerning the existence of that with no evidence supporting it. No one says we must be agnostics with regard to unicorns or Thor. Yet with the Christian gods we are supposed to make a special case. Why? Social familiarity, and nothing else.
No, sorry, I am an atheist, as are many others, because we have examined the evidence and it implies quite strongly that the Christian gods do not exist, the same as unicorns and Thor. Show us some evidence, and we'll examine it. Until then, we will follow the evidence where it leads, and conclude there are no gods. In some cases, absence of evidence is indeed evidence of absence, and whether it is a supposed elephant in my living room, or a supposed infinite god that supposedly created the universe, the complete lack of evidence is solid evidence they do not exist.
"Would you accept this 'statement of scientific truth'? If God does not exist, it is impossible to scientifically prove this lack of existence."
Here we see another tactic of semantic games, equivocation with the term "prove". Strictly speaking, nothing in science is ever proven. It is always conceivable that we might one day find evidence for a mermaid, or a god. Nonetheless, as the evidence piles up and the probability of error approaches zero, in the layman's sense, they are proven to not exist. When someone claims, as apologists for gods often do, that they have logical reasons A, B, C, D, and E for their views, and those arguments are all subsequently shown to be either logically or factually flawed as knowledge progresses, it becomes formidable evidence for the nonexistence of those entities.
So my answer to the question is this: the gods are, in principle, no more, and no less, scientifically provable, than any other concept (depending of course on how they are defined). Further, the level of proof for the nonexistence of gods is comparable to that of the proof for the nonexistence of mermaids.
"If God does exist He should be able to prove His existence so that it would be unreasonable for a person who is not delusional to continue to insist there is no God?"
Everyone put on your irony SCUBA gear for this one, for this is precisely the point we atheists make. Yes, exactly, a god as the one depicted by the old testament should be able to prove himself to me easily. Oh yes, I could be swayed. Bring my great grandmother back from the grave. Make the stars in the sky line up and say "I am the Lord thy god". Tell me exactly where the Dow will close on 12/2/2008. Have one of my gifts under the tree turn out to be Jessica Alba wearing nothing but a bow on her head. Have the world spontaneously ban soccer. I'm not unreasonable, and god could accomplish these and even more wondrous things.
But that isn't what we experience is it? God has done NOTHING whatever to reveal himself, not to anyone with a modicum of intelligence and knowledge. No clear-cut prophecies, no futuristic knowledge, no verifiable miracles, nothing. Just a bunch of vague, question-begging nonsense in the Bible, and lots of creative after-the-fact rationalizing, just like every other fraud. Uri Geller could lay claim to being a god with comparable evidence.
That is nothing at all like what we should expect. The old testament god makes himself known to a level that only the delusional could deny. Why can't the one you claim exists do so? Simple: he doesn't exist.
"If you would accept such an above 'statement of scientific truth' I guess that would make you an agnostic and not an unreasonable atheist."
Ah, how appropriate to end with more well-poisoning. Atheists are unreasonable are they? Why? Are aunicornists unreasonable? Are athorists unreasonable? This is such a Bill O'Reillyism: agree with me or you're unreasonable. Sorry, it doesn't work that way. Atheists aren't unreasonable or hysterical. We simply don't extend the special pleading to the gods of Christianity the way some people do. We treat all concepts, all gods, the same way: Unicorns do not exist. Yahweh does not exist. Thor does not exist. Yoda does not exist. There are no evidenciary differences that make any difference. The only difference is that one claim offends many Americans far more than the others, and thus is resisted by them arbitrarily.