Don’t Try to Prove a Negative

It’s interesting how many anti-Mormons try to prove a negative, but then react angrily when called out on it. If you’re going to make a claim be prepared to back it up, and since negative claims are incredibly difficult to prove, it’s best not to use them. Here are a few examples:

  • There is no God
  • Mormons are not Christians
  • The Book of Mormon is not true
  • Joseph Smith was not a prophet
  • No one can know the future
  • No one knows what happens after we die

Can you see why these statements only lead to fruitless, never-ending arguments? Let’s take the first one, there is no God. How does one go about proving such a thing? Generally people attempt it by making assumptions, such as “If there were a God, he wouldn’t let bad things happen to good people.” But what if the assumption is false? The rejoinder might be “What if by not allowing bad things to happen to good people, God would create a worse consequences?” Thus, there is a logical possibility for why God might allow bad things to happen to good people.

Another tactic is to show how everything we experience could have come about without God, that is, that the creation of our planet and everything on it could have happened without there being a God involved. But this is proof that there is no God, but merely evidence that there might not be a God, or that God might be different than what one had previously believed.

Or take the “Mormons are not Christians” argument. Mormons respond “Yes, we are, we believe in Christ.” The argument then devolves into one of what it means to believe in Christ or be a Christian. But there is no convincing Mormons that they aren’t Christians, so why try?

In the former case, there is, perhaps, no good way to go about things. If the goal is to turn a Mormon into an atheist, it can only be done if an atheistic life already appeals to that Mormon. It will be virtually impossible to turn someone who wants to be a Mormon into an atheist.

In the latter case, the key is to prove the positive. That is, that Mormons have different beliefs about Christ and Christianity than Catholics, Protestants, Evangelicals, etc. Mormons won’t disagree with this, although they might make the case that there is more that unites us than what divides us, but if there were no difference then of course we’d all be members of the same religion.

The point is that trying to prove a negative is a frustrating exercise that only convinces the weak-minded or already-convinced. The better tack is to focus on the positive by pointing our verifiable differences. Since everyone is free to make their own choices about what to believe and how to live, the best one can really do, unless one wants to resort to lying, is to present the facts as accurately as possible, and then allow people to make their choice. Trying to prove a negative will only get in the way, intelligent people will see through it, and you may end up pushing people towards Mormonism by using this illogical reasoning as opposed to talking them out of it.

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