(Cross-posted from a Disqus Forum discussion. This has been touched upon here earlier, but might legitimately bear repeating:)
Atheist Gore Vidal:
“God or what have you, is not to be found at the far end of a syllogism, no matter how brilliantly phrased.”
Philosophy, therefore, can’t disclose God (except perhaps intellectually, but then we are only left with the God or the non-God of the intellect, which is not “the real God”).
Science cannot disclose God because science only deals with matter whereas God by most standard definitions and connotations (except perhaps pantheism) is non material spirit.
This leaves personal experience, the direct apprehension of the divine or the Spirit, as happens in “gnosis”, intuition, and/or the specialized perception that occurs in mystical states and/or as a result of contemplation, prayer, and meditation.
Note that all of these latter things are private, non material, and completely subjective. Neither science, doctrine, the “rational intellect” nor philosophy can enter into this most intimate experiential field. Its contents, like the qualia, are not communicable and cannot be brought out into the external material world. For that reason, it is simply erroneous to think that they can be externalized or publicly shared and quantified.
“Prove to me that God is real!” is one of those inept questions. It’s like asking, “Prove that you love the pursuit of the good/the true/the beautiful”. At most, such things can only be suggested or hinted at. They cannot be shared. However, they are “invitational” and hinge on attainment of personal experience.
There are three steps in knowledge-acquisition:
1. The Injunction: If you want to know “X”, then DO “Y”.
If you want to know if it’s raining, then look out a window. If you want to find God, then look through the “windows” and “lenses” designed for that purpose.
2. The Experiment: Apply the Injunction; proceed along established lines; take notes.
3. The Conclusion and Peer Review: share the process and your conclusion with those who have previously, adequately performed steps 1. thru 3. This happens, for example, in the Zendo, where students submit their experiments and conclusions with those (the senseis) who have previously, adequately performed the process.
God-experience is open to all for confirmation or disconfirmation. It is not a matter of someone else being capable of, or obligated to, “prove God”.
THAT is only up to the individual who is willing to perform the three steps of knowledge-acquisition – and with the awareness that the knowledge so acquired is private, and can only be publicly “circumambulated”, not “proved”, with those who have already done the three step process.
Which makes the Conclusion in one sense open to being shared, but not to public confirmation, as with scientific/material quantification. The confirmation only comes individually, privately, and subjectively.
Thus is disclosed the folly of asking someone or anyone to “prove God”. The “proof” either comes spontaneously, or it comes at the Conclusion of the three step process. It cannot come from some other person, or from any other external source. “Only YOU can do it for yourself alone.”
Best to stop asking the question altogether.
A short coda from the Jodo Shinshu point of view:
For Shin Buddhists, Amida Buddha has saved us from the three step process as surely as He has saved us from our samsaric plight. The three step process is perhaps important to those who are still seeking. But Shin people are no longer on the seeking path. Amida has found them.