Friday, February 1, 2013

Stories of my Life

Everywhere I go it seems someone has a story they want to share. A nice little tale that proves their point and makes them feel all warm and cozy inside. While the story about the racist woman on the plane being told off or the soldier who survived a terminal illness might make you feel good when you read it or hear about it, what are the odds of it being real?

"Doesn't this story prove my god exists?"

I'm sure you've seen stories online, probably on Facebook, that tell a tale of a student proving an Atheist teacher wrong, or a soldier who drives a jeep without an engine after praying. While these are nice stories, do they actually have any merit on whether or not gods exist? Unfortunately, the short answer is "No."

While stories tend to have an element of truth to them, not all stories are true. Take the first example of a racist woman on a plane. In the story there is a racist woman who doesn't want to be seated next to a black man. Upon hearing this, the stewardess apologizes to the black man and moves him into a vacant seat in first class, basically telling off the racist in the process. A simple search on Google can tell you that this is an old story that actually started off on a bus. It's been passed around and upgraded and localized so often, there's no telling how much of the original tale exists, or if there ever was any event such as this one when the story was originally written.

This is why websites like exist. They look up facts about stories and scams to help those who don't have the resources needed to confirm a story. Even they will tell you that 99 out of 100 stories spread around are not true. So, if they are false, why do they spread so much? Because people want them to be real. Everyone knows someone like one of the people in the story. By bringing the story home, it sits in their mind, especially if the story ends in victory. So, they pass it around to have others feel the same way. For a similar, yet opposite reason, stories about hardships and vengeance are also spread around the internet, usually faster than the truth that follows it. Strong emotions move faster than facts.

So, what if the story is true? If you can't prove that it never happened, why not assume it did? And if it did happen, wouldn't that be proof of a god?

Not exactly. Assuming the story is real and did happen exactly as stated, it is still just a story. Even assuming the events all took place as described, that doesn't automatically mean a deity had to be involved. It simply means the people in the story could not explain what happened or counter the argument given. Even if it does turn out to be a deity at work, why does it have to be the one you worship? Why can't it be a deity from another religion, or one that we are not at all aware of?

The bottom line is, there are far too many unknowns with these stories to be considered evidence, let alone proof. In order to allow them to be evidence of anything, you have to assume or provide evidence that they are real. Afterward, you have to assume or provide evidence that the events really happened as described and were not a product of human imagination. Then you have to assume or provide evidence that something outside of nature (supernatural) was involved. After that, you have to assume or provide evidence that this supernatural force was caused by a deity. Finally, you have to assume or provide evidence that it is the deity that you believe exists. Only after all of that can you call it evidence for your deity of choice.

So, go ahead and feel good about the stories you read on Facebook and other such websites, but don't use them as your arguments for your god. It just doesn't work.