Five Empirical Tests of Theism

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One of the points I’ve been trying to make in my Reasoned Conversation is that my belief in God is a hypothesis that is supported by empirical evidence. My hypothesis isn’t perfect, and is constantly evolving, but I still find it to have superior explanatory power than the alternative “null hypothesis” of atheism.

[Read more] for some proposed experiments that you — yes, you — could (at least in principle 🙂 carry out to measure the difference in effectiveness between “strong atheism” and Christian assumptions.

I think some of these have actually been tried, so I’d be interested in the results. I myself don’t know how well these specific theistic variants would fare, but if nothing else I think it would give atheists a much deeper appreciation of the scope of the task Christianity attempts to tackle.

1. Eleven Steps
Develop an alternative to the 12-step program that omits any reference to or dependence on a higher power. Administer it to alcoholics and drug addicts. Measure the results.

2. Mission: Rehabilitation
Go to your local rescue mission, and recruit a collection of homeless, unemployed drug or alcohol. addicts. Create an alternative to their rehabilitation program that replaces prayer and bible study with indoctrination into a secular, rationalist worldview. Track the relative success of graduates.

3. Community Formation
Find a group of like-minded atheists who share a belief in the superiority of a religion-free society. Move into the same geographical area, then develop and implement governance, an educational system, legal practices, and cultural traditions that are entirely consistent with your common beliefs and borrow nothing from Christianity. In ten years, would your community still be viable?

4. Cultural Transformation
Identify a region consisting of warring tribes who celebrated attacking and pillaging their neighbors. Get captured and sold as a slave. From that position, demonstrate to them the superiority of your belief system. Use that to unify the warring tribes into a nation know more for public service rather than violent expansionism.

5. Persistent Followers
Go to an oppressed group of people. Teach the people there to love their enemies with sufficient authority that you attract a large following. Confront the existing political and leadership with their hypocrisy. Get yourself killed after a brief time. Have your followers develop a worldwide movement despite being regularly persecuted and killed by those in authority.

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