July 19, 2019

Prove There's Not a Dragon Living in My Garage

flying dragon

When I proudly announce that there is a green fire-breathing dragon with an 8-foot wingspan that resembles the dragons featured on Game of Thrones living in my garage, most people would be skeptical. When I describe how I let it out every night to feed and that it flies around the town where I live eating some combination of wild animals and my neighbors' pets, the skepticism likely grows. I always respond the same way whenever anybody questions my dragon story. I get in their face and loudly demand that they prove my dragon doesn't exist. If they do not immediately do so (and they never do), I declare victory.

It is difficult to imagine anybody agreeing that this approach is reasonable. It is equally difficult to imagine anybody letting me get away with it. You know there isn't a dragon anything like what I have described living in my garage (or anywhere else). The fact that I claim there is and provide zero evidence to support my claim is not persuasive. My angry demands that it is up to you to prove that my dragon does not exist are absurd, and I think they would be almost universally recognized as such. Everybody will recognize that the burden of proof is mine and that I have failed to meet it.

So here's the question to consider: why are so many people unable to recognize that what I have described here is no different from the religious believer demanding that atheists disprove their gods? They claim that their gods exist and that we should share their belief. Since they have no evidence, we are told to believe based on faith. When we exercise some healthy skepticism, they demand that we prove their gods don't exist. And unlike the dragon example, far too many people seem to have difficulty recognizing the absurdity here.

If I am the one claiming to have a dragon, it is up to me to prove that it is real. If I can't do so, the only reasonable response is to doubt my claim. The people who are skeptical of my claim have no responsibility to prove or disprove anything. They can sit back and wait for me to provide evidence in support of my claim. If I do, they can critically evaluate it and determine whether my evidence is sufficient to support my claim. If it is, the reasonable people among them will change their minds and believe in my dragon.

Similarly, it is up to religious believers to prove that their gods exist. If they cannot, the only reasonable response is to doubt their claim (i.e., atheism). Those who are skeptical of their claim have no responsibility to prove or disprove anything. They can sit back and wait for religious believers to provide evidence to support their claim. If they do, this evidence can be critically evaluated to determine whether it is sufficient to support the claim. And if it is, those who are reasonable will change their minds and believe in gods.

Not a day goes by where I don't see at least one Christian on social media who fails to understand this. Most will readily agree with everything I said about the dragon example, but few will recognize that it applies to their god(s). The burden of proof is theirs. Until they meet it, no angry demands for atheists to disprove their gods are going to help.