You Can’t See My Balls

There are two men standing in front of you. One is holding a basketball and the other with just open, outstretched arms. The man with the basketball shows you the ball, describes its color and its size and how its shape and hardness change if you add or remove air using a pump (which he also shows you). He dribbles the ball, takes a couple of shots, and then sits down.

The other guy stands up and tells you he also has a basketball but you can’t sense it in any way and no tests you perform will ever reveal the kind of ball that the other man is showing you. He insists, however, that he has one and that it is, in fact, a basketball. He “dribbles” the ball and makes a couple of “shots” which he insists swished – nothing but net! Then he sits down.


As a theist/creationist you are choosing to believe the guy with empty hands. Sure, he can’t prove he has a ball but he is really nice, seems really skilled with his basketball, and he said it will make you feel happy if you believe him. Further, he promises that if you continue to believe him you’ll have a basketball just like his someday – but he can’t tell you when.

Let’s think about this for a second. In what area of your life, outside of religion, would you willingly accept this kind of scenario? Under what other circumstances could a person convince you to go completely against your senses and your experience of reality like this? You’re probably finding it difficult to come up with something and I don’t blame you. It’s typical for a believer to compartmentalize and show an unusually high degree of skepticism toward everything except their beliefs. Maybe that’s something on which we should work, yes?

I don’t know about you, but I chose to play basketball with real basketballs and it’s been a more enjoyable game.

Credit for concept goes to “speedjunkie13” from Used with permission.

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  1. I like the concept, even though it is a tad simplified. For some reason I see the theist in this argument as that kid at the rave pretending to have the ball that he spins in his hands. Maybe that image just comes up because today’s 420.

  2. I’m sorry….but this is just a really really really bad analogy and argument. Surely you can see the difference between the two. Belief in an invisible and immaterial basketball is necessarily irrational….while a belief in God is not. Even a below average philosopher wouldn’t be able to take this argument seriously.

    @GodlessLiberal – This belongs in your “Bad Arguments for Atheism” post.

  3. @wizexel22 – Aside from the obvious “god is not a basketball” objection I think the analogy stands. We are being sold something intangible whose only evidence is personal anecdote and a warm, fuzzy feeling. It’s being sold with promise of a future reward. Further, it’s being sold in the same market stall as actual, tangible merchandise and we’re being asked to view them on equal terms.

    The meat of the point I’m making here is that theists can often be the biggest skeptics in the world until you start questioning their faith. Their skepticism then goes right out the window and they argue on the side of irrationality. Can you debate that?

    Can my post at least be filed under “amusing comparisons?”

  4. @CoderHead – “Aside from the obvious “god is not a basketball” objection I think the analogy stands.” ….sorry but….isn’t that a HUUUGE “Aside”? I mean, this is like you saying something like ..” I don’t believe in murder. I can’t stand to see someone stomp on a spider.” And I say “is killing a spider murder?” and you reply “aside from the fact that a spider is not a human, yes, I still believe it is murder”. Except, the comparison of a basketball and God is literally an infinitely more absurd comparison. I mean, isn’t the purpose of an analogy to draw a parallel case? And while it might seem this is so, by definition it couldn’t be less analagous.

    The simple problem is, there are no analogies for God. All comparisons, whether it be a basketball or a Flying Spaghetti Monster fail because by definition and “immaterial object” is nonsensical and since the term itself is absurd, belief in such a thing is completely irrational. The reason I do not believe the guy with the invisible and immaterial basketball, is that (in addition to the inherent absurdity of such a term itself) is that I have good, rational, and scientific reasons to believe that the basketball does NOT exist….not just the mere absense of evidence itself. By definition, this cannot be the case for God.

    I don’t think Christians …..ok lemme insert here, the Chrstians that I KNOW PERSONALLY……are irrational for their belief in God. I think people define rational as “scientific”. But there are many things in the world and human experience that are rational but outside the realm of science. Things like morality (even subjective morality) or the idea of beauty “exist” outside the realm of science and yet are rational thoughts/beliefs.

    From my experience on Xanga, I feel like there is a disconnect in the Christians that I know….and the Christians (and also the Virgin gangs that go around terrorizing the sexually active) that the Atheist Xanga crew knows. There is this pervasive belief that atheists are more intelligent, rational, and objective than Christians….and from my experience, that isn’t the case at all….and I find it odd that such “intellectuals” would believe such a broad and unfounded generalization like that.

    “Can my post at least be filed under “amusing comparisons?””

    Yeah sure. I just object to it being filed under “101 Great Arguments against the Existence of God.”

  5. @wizexel22 – An immaterial being that gives no evidence of its existence isn’t really that different from an invisible basketball…or teapot…or anything else that would be irrational to believe. You and I differ in that I absolutely do think it’s irrational to believe in a god, no matter which one you choose.

    The gist of this post is that there are humans trying to sell this idea to other humans who, in any other aspect of their lives, would never accept the kind of chicanery to which religion is prone. It doesn’t even matter that the definition of “god” is so ambiguous as to be meaningless — it only matters that people reach for the invisible [whatever] instead of reality.

    I never intended this to win awards for greatest philosophical argument. It simply amused me enough to write it out.