The atheist’s extraordinary evidence

A theist has written the following address to us

Many of these people have had experiences which they have assessed to have been caused by a super-natural agent or force. Many have come to believe in the super-natural on the basis of arguments and evidence that their rational faculties have told them are sound. And yet you tell us that all these people—billions and billions of people in all sorts of different settings, cultures, and social groups—are wrong. Only your comparatively tiny group—the “bright” luminaries of humanity—are right. But that, my friends, is an extraordinary claim.

and then asked

Where is your extraordinary evidence for the extraordinary claim that everyone else is wrong but you?

And I as an atheist, I will attempt to answer him. First, I want to tell him the claim by the atheist isn’t extraordinary. And doesn’t need extraordinary evidence.

To say more, the atheist doesn’t deny the experiences people have had across the ages. What we are saying is they have been attributed erroneously to divine or not so divine agency. As far as we can tell, humans have no faculty for detecting the supernatural. All our experiences involve natural stuff, they could be inexplicable but they are still natural.

It is the theist who is making an extraordinary claim when he claims his very natural inexplicable experience is the working of a supernatural agency. It is the theist who must tell us how they know that the experience is supernatural and which supernatural agency caused it.

And I hate to destroy the believer’s bubble but I must end his party abruptly by telling him that whereas he has written

And please note, since you are the ones making the positive claim that the rest of us are all mistaken, the burden of proof is on you to prove that claim….have fun!

the burden is on him to demonstrate that the experiences are supernatural. The believer has to tell us how they know a particular event is supernatural. So we will have fun, yes, but we will be doing so waiting for you to demonstrate that the experience is not natural or not caused by some natural agency.