“BUT DO YOU HAVE PROOF?” my atheist friend screamed in my face for the 10th time as we were debating a spiritual topic – one that HE had brought up. I almost felt like throwing my plate at his smug mug but resisted. I still wanted to eat the cupcake that was on it.
Why do atheists like engaging in spiritual discussions if they keep interrupting them with rabid demands for proof? If you’ve ever come across a fanatical Atheist, and made it through without peeing your pants, you’ll be familiar with their loud and agitated denouncements of any type of theory or belief that cannot be studied in a lab or through science.
I understand their demands because in some ways I am a skeptic as well – my friends think I’m wishy-washing but my official term for myself is Agnostic. I constantly swing from theism to atheism depending on my mood, the day, and how much caffeine I’ve chugged. Similar to Atheists, I cannot accept theories based simply on blind faith and man-made dogma. And I do have Atheistic tendencies at times, especially when I see the latest news and get disgusted at all the suffering and evil that always seems to be surrounding us. Nevertheless, I can’t help but feel that there is something planned out there of which we are a part.
Overall I lean towards the feeling that there IS a planned design to the universe, and there IS a higher power, or at least a better place we can go when we pass on (one where chocolate has negative calories). In general I believe that there is free will and a reason for our existence.
And when questioned, here is how I try to explain my theistic leanings to my scary Atheist friends:
We might not have proof, but we may have circumstantial evidence.
Circumstantial evidence is defined as indirect evidence that establishes a conclusion by inference or reasoning. It is generally considered weaker and less valid than direct proof, though in many cases, it is still enough to convict someone of a crime. For example, you may not have witnessed me eating your cupcake too, but the frosting on my lips would be a strong indicator of guilt. Circumstantial evidence plays a big role in our justice system. In the case of Casey Anthony and OJ Simpson, there was not enough circumstantial evidence to prove a crime, but it was strong enough to lead many to believe that they were guilty. It is not always possible to find the smoking gun, but there may be a sufficient number of indirect clues that add up to a specific conclusion.
In the case of my spiritual inclinations, I may not have conclusive evidence to support them, but they have been formed due to the cosmic circumstantial clues that seem to surround us. I am referring to child prodigies, ghost sightings, NDE (near death experiences), past life memories, small miracles, ESP, and more.
Normally I am not a superstitious person. In addition, I am not ruling out the possibility that all of these phenomena are simply fake stories or concepts and that none of the above exists. That could be so.
However, it’s hard to dismiss the statistical significance of SO many stories existing of supernatural phenomena. Can they ALL be false? It seems highly unlikely. Perhaps. But unlikely. Maybe the idea of vampires or zombies or levitation or seances don’t resonate with me. And I’m pretty sure the Easter Bunny isn’t real. But I can’t dismiss everything. Even if one idea is fake, and the next, and the next, surely one of the numerous supernatural stories we’ve heard is true? After all there are hundreds of thousands of them over the centuries, from exorcisms to haunted houses to past life memories to child prodigies to mind reading to fortune telling. I am sure there is a way to discount and ignore each story on its own – and indeed, none of them have ever been provable or measurable through repeatable, scientific measures. But taken as a whole, and looked at from a macro perspective, surely there must be SOME FIRE with this much smoke?
Besides the sheer QUANTITY of supernatural stories in circulation, the QUALITY of some of those stories, as well as the storytellers, also seems to influence my beliefs. The fact that so many NDEs exist with similar variables – a bright light, an intense feeling of love, a knowledge of one’s surrounding events even while the brain was supposedly dead – all these stories seem to match one another across time, geography, cultures, and people. NDE stories seem consistent and believable.
Child prodigies like Mozart did and do exist, and though we might argue that their upbringing and genetic makeup created their genius, it’s hard to ignore the possibility that a wise, talented old soul has been reborn into a new body.
Storytellers such as surgeons and doctors who swear they’ve seen unexplained miracles at play in the operating room, and former atheists turning deists due to some personal experience, also seem to budge my needle from skepticism to belief. I’ll admit to being a little spooked when a friend of mine who was a scientist and hard-core atheist, swore that her last house was haunted and is now open to the possibility of the supernatural. I now try to talk nicely to the monster under my bed, just in case it exists.
As an agnostic, my needle will never be at 0 (atheism) or 100 (theism). But it does seem to waver between 50 and 80 depending on the latest I’ve heard or experienced.
It is hard to explain all this to a thundering, red-faced atheist who is understandably angry at organized religion for all it might have done to create wars, persecution, and suffering. To them the burden of proof is on a theist, not themselves. And when concrete, indisputable proof is not forthcoming, it is not surprising that many turn away from any kind of belief in a planned design or higher power.
But for many of us Agnostics, we are open-minded and unable to dismiss the copious, cosmic circumstantial clues that surround us daily. There are too many stories and storytellers who have described time and time again, supernatural phenomenon that cannot be explained. For many of us, this is enough circumstantial evidence to point to the likely conclusion that there is, indeed, a higher power. And for this reason I will never sleep in a haunted house on my own, no matter how much you dare me.