An atheist might say: “I can’t believe unless I find at least one absolutely airtight proof for God.” This is known as strong rationalism, a view that entails a particularly unreasonable standard of proof. William Davis explains:
“Critics of belief in God’s existence can insist that even if Christians think they have experienced God’s presence they can’t know that God exists unless they can prove it. But do these critics apply this prohibition to their own beliefs? If they did, then they would have to admit that they don’t know that tables and chairs exist, or that the world is more than five minutes old. These beliefs can’t be proven either, but it seems strange to insist that these are not things that we know” (1).
In essence, a believer in God could ask the atheist to provide proof that other minds exist other than his own, knowing full well that such is not possible. Could an atheist prove that the external world exists, or that it wasn’t created with an appearance of age a mere five minutes ago? What about consciousness, and the laws of logic, mathematical and ethical truths – does he have absolute proof for such things? Of course not, none of us do, but we all accept that our senses are reliable. We take this for granted as many things do not fall into the hard proof.
A believer would be in his right to ask an atheist why he applies strong rationalism to the existence of God and not to the other realities he experiences in his life.
However, it comes down to the nature of evidence. We must remember that even if the Christian grants the atheist his argument, namely that there is no “absolute proof” for God’s existence, it doesn’t follow that atheism is true, a point the atheist philosopher Kai Nielsen captures “All the proofs of God’s existence may fail, but it still may be the case that God exists. In short, to show that the proofs do not work is not enough by itself. It may still be the case that God exists” (2). Thus the atheist has to have evidence for his atheism. And that is the nature of evidence. Atheist & Christian alike need to weigh evidence and arguments to see where it points to.
1. William Davis quoted by Michael Murray in the Reason for the Hope Within (1999). p. 43.
2. Kai Nielsen in a debate with Willian Craig: Does God Exist? Available.