Because I’ve been lurking around medical clinics and hospitals for the past few weeks, their protocol required I be tested twice for Coronavirus. Both times the results emailed to me said, None Detected. Then they cautioned me with, “A negative test does not exclude an active SARS-CoV-2 infection…. Documentation of infection may be possible by retesting or testing of other specimen sources.” In other words, there is no proof that I am not infected. They just have no evidence that I am. Only a positive finding is proof.
A couple years ago, virtually everyone (doctors, family, me, and at least one surgeon) identified a lump on my forearm as a cyst. There was no discomfort or symptoms to indicate otherwise. I had it removed for the sake of my vanity. The operating surgeon removed the tissue, showed it to me, and said, see, it is just a cyst.
Later, pathology determined the specimen was cancerous. Following months of treatment, I’m now periodically monitored by medical science for recurrence. So far so good. While some may say that I am cancer free, I don’t use that term. I, and other cancer patients, prefer use of the initialism, NED, which means no evidence of disease. Medical science, without evidence to the contrary, was unable to claim that I positively had cancer at the time of the test. I’ll take it. Unless they prove otherwise, it isn’t there.
When I confessed atheism to a friend, she asked me if I could prove there is no god. I told her that while I couldn’t, I didn’t have to prove it. The requirement, at least for me, is that if I am to accept or believe the existence of something (COVID, cancer, or a god), there must be sufficient convincing evidence of existence. I don’t know what that evidence or proof might be, especially regarding something like a god, a black hole in space, or an exploding star.
It gets complicated. Which god am I to have evidence for? Do you claim only one?
How do I know that such evidence supports that specific god and not some other?
If there is “something” out there because someone (not me) can just feel it to be so, or because all this exists, or because there are stars in the sky, what does any of that prove? We perceive and experience many things, like bizarre nightmares, emotional trauma, or mental euphoria. It rains, plants grow, life continues, and there is a Universe.
If someone asks me why I do not believe in any god, especially theirs, I simply say I know of no proof that such an entity exists at all, much less one that is of a supreme being or god status. I may ask why that person chooses to believe in a god. They are usually much more committed and convinced of existence than I am in doubt. However…
In every case I can think of, the discussion about belief ends with what is called faith. Faith is seldom defined in the same way by believers and skeptics. Simply put, some folks prefer to believe a god exits than to admit ultimate agnosticism. No one knows if there is a god. In that case, NED is for no evidence of deity.
When I sneeze or blow my nose, my wife asks if I am catching a cold. Or, it could be the flu. Or it could be allergies. Or it could be nothing, just dust particles in the air or pepper in my nose. I never know. Only by testing to prove a positive can any hypothesis be supported.
I strongly doubt the existence of what most people claim as god. I make no serious claim that some sort of intelligence or deity absolutely does not exist, although I have said as much to counter the claim that there is a god.
It is possible that I have COVID-19, cancer, a cold, or that I am insane, but I’m simply unaware because no positive evidence indicates otherwise (although the latter diagnosis has been offered).
For me, religion is another matter. Religion exists, immaterial of a god’s existence. Either there is a god or there’s not, regardless of anyone’s beliefs. I try to write about the existence of god and the efficacy of religion separately, even though they should be closely related.