I have been an atheist for some years now. It was a sudden but not a major shift. Not having grown up in a religious home, it wasn’t very difficult for me to give up the idea of an all-powerful entity controlling the world. I was always at the edge, but it never occurred to me to question the idea of god to the extent that I could see that it was an improbable idea. I have thought of any number of reasons to deny the existence of god, and there truly are innumerable reasons. Entire books have been written about them. Once you start to think about it, atheism is not only a logical doctrine, but an easy one to reach ( it was for me, anyway) and despite some moral struggles, an exhilarating one in its way.
Going through some blogs a couple of days back though, I came across one by John Barron. He is asking atheists to answer three questions. What kind of evidence they needed to start believing in god, what evidence they required to believe in christian doctrine and why the evidence they wanted would convince them. This got me thinking. I am an atheist and have enough reason in my mind to be so, but what really would change my belief? Or have I become as steadfast and unbending disbelief as the theists are in theirs? I took a long, hard look at myself and realized that I had in a sense closed my mind to the possibility. I never thought of whether there could be proof of god’s existence. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe in him nor do I believe that his existence had a decent probability of turning out to be true, nor for that matter that any evidence to that end has been found or is likely to be found. But just like Sagan had a ready-made list of questions to ask people who claimed to be in touch with aliens (Fermat’s Last Theorem, among others), such questions as couldn’t be answered by us at present but surely would have been solved by a superior, more advanced race, I should have such a list of events/miracles that could make me believe in the existence of god. I noticed some of the people who had responded to John’s questions had done so extempore, right there and then. I could see them typing out a reply as soon as they read the questions. It was as if they could not believe someone was asking them such puerile (to them) questions. I could make out a kind of impatience and almost an anger at not having thought of this before.
I don’t blame them of course. This debate between theists and atheists has become so acrimonious and long drawn out that both sides have dug in their heels and lost sight of the ultimate aim, the discovery of truth and the propagation of it. I gave the matter some thought. Now I don’t claim to have come up with better answers than others who have replied to John’s questions. I haven’t myself replied, mostly since I felt this merited a full entry in my blog, and not just a footnote. But here are some of the things that I am reasonably certain would make me believe in god. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but only a few examples of the kind of things that would make me believe in god.
First, being an ophthalmologist, I would become a believer if I saw an eye grow out of an optic nerve stump in a blind person. A person whose eyes had to be removed for any reason and they just re-grew. There would be no evidence of any experimental genetic technology being used (there is none at present anywhere near that level of sophistication) and no evidence of some primeval regenerative gene sequence being re-activated either (salamanders do regenerate lost limbs, though to my knowledge not their eyes). If I could see the growth right before me or if it was captured on cameras and verified to be true and not a trick. Here would be a miracle worthy of god. Something beyond our natural experience and unexplainable by science.
Second, and I’m going to stop the list here or it will be an unending one, I would believe in god if the Sun were to suddenly and verifiably condense into a neutron star, without affecting the earth’s orbit or exerting any gravitational effect on any planet. Within a few minutes, it would reverse to its original form. Again, this occurrence would be globally noticed and measured and verified. Here would be another even unexplained and unexplainable by natural laws.
I imagine if I put my mind to it, I could come up with any number of such happenings that would make me a believer in the existence of god. My purpose, though, was to try and keep my mind open and not dismiss theists claims out of hand. Even if I don’t believe them, I think there may be instances when even trying to disprove them broadens my perspective towards life.