I'm open to the possibility that god or some other manifestation of the supernatural exists. I just don't see any convincing evidence of this. Being open-minded isn't the same as being gullible, as Greta Christina says in a great blog post, "Are Atheists Open-Minded?"
For starters: "You have to have an open mind" is not the same as "Here's some good evidence for why my idea is right."
Yes, it's good to have an open mind. How is that an argument for religion or spirituality being correct? I mean, if someone insisted that they had a three- inch- tall pink pony behind their sofa who teleported to Guam every time anyone looked back there -- and, when faced with people who were skeptical about this hypothesis and asked for some evidence in support of it, merely said, "You have to keep an open mind"... would you consider that a good argument for the pink pony hypothesis?
And if not -- then why is it a good argument for religion or spirituality?
The fact that a hypothesis can't absolutely be disproven with 100% certainty doesn't make it likely or plausible. And not all hypotheses are equally likely to be true. To persuade me to accept an idea -- heck, to persuade me to seriously consider it, or even to respect it as a reasonable possibility -- you have to do more than show me that it hasn't been absolutely disproven, and then scold me about having an open mind. You have to show me some good, solid, positive evidence supporting your idea. And you have to use good logic to show why this evidence supports your idea better than any other idea.
Absolutely. I urge you to read the whole thing.
Like Christina, I frequently get comments on this blog accusing me of being closed-minded, of not embracing religious, spiritual, metaphysical, and mystical possibilities. And also like her, I find that people like me who know that they don't know for certain are a lot more humbly open to all kinds of possibilities than religious believers are.
Ask most atheists, "What would convince you that you were mistaken? What evidence would make you change your mind about God or the supernatural world?" Most of us can answer that question. (Or, if we're too busy/lazy to answer it ourselves, we'll point you to someone else who answered that question really thoroughly, and whose answers pretty closely dovetail with our own.)
Ask most believers the same question... and they'll say, "Nothing could persuade me that I'm mistaken about my God. That's what it means to have faith." Either that -- or they'll dither. They'll say that their beliefs are too complicated and subtle to summarize. They'll say that they don't want to proselytize... even though they've been directly asked to explain what they believe and why.
Back in 2006 I wrote a post with a title that still really appeals to me: "If a religion can't be wrong, it surely is." I readily admit that I could be wrong about god. And my actions testify to this.
Every morning I meditate for a while. I sit down on my cushion, close my eyes, and wordlessly utter an invitation to whoever/whatever to have a visit. Gods. Angels. Alien beings. Ascended masters. Gurus. Buddha-nature. Even demonic forces (so long as they're nice).
I wonder how many religious true believers do the same -- pray to Secular Reality to enlighten them from their ignorance, to take away their blind faith, to open their eyes to the supremacy of natural laws and forces.
An interesting piece, "The Theist's Guide to Converting Atheists," (linked to above) describes what it would take to convince the atheist author that theism is true. So far I haven't come across a corresponding guide from a religious believer that lays out how he or she could be deconverted.
I'll let Christina have the last word, because her words make so much sense.
Atheism doesn't mean we've absolutely made up our minds, without the possibility of ever reconsidering. Atheism means we've provisionally made up our minds. That doesn't make us close-minded. Being close-minded doesn't mean reaching a conclusion; it means being unwilling to reconsider that conclusion even when new evidence contradicts it. And that doesn't describe most atheists. Atheists understand that we're not perfect and that we might be mistaken. If you give us some good evidence showing that we're mistaken, we'll reconsider.
But -- to repeat my first argument -- you have to actually show us some freaking evidence already. Just repeating "Have an open mind" -- that does not qualify as evidence. That just qualifies as annoying.