"Pigs can fly"
Let's call people who believe this "Porkists" and their beliefs "Porkism".
Is Porkism any more than a belief that pigs can fly? What can we tell about Porkists from their belief that pigs can fly?
Do Porkists claim that there is any evidence for their belief?
Well, yes, they do.
They claim that in 1384, two young girls, Mariana and Valeria, returned home from the fields outside the village of El Morell north of Tarragona in Spain to report that they had seen several pigs flying south towards the city. Since the girls were known for their truthfulness, their parents, Sebastian and Isobella Borrero, believed them and told their friends about what had been seen.
Word of mouth spread rapidly and, within months, pilgrims were making their way to El Morell to visit the shrine set up in the fields where the "milagro de los cerdos" ("miracle of the pigs") had taken place.
Sebastian and Isobella borrowed money from their extended family and opened an albergue which remained in the family for the next 350 years. The building is now the Casal dels Montoliu, the ajuntament d'aquest municipi.
So, perhaps Porkists are not so silly as we may have assumed..
In fact, most people in the 21st century are "a-porkists" - they do not believe that pigs can fly. Most people are astonished that in the 14th century people were willing to base their beliefs on hearsay: "someone claims to have seen it - so it must be true."
"The earth is flat"
Let's call people who believe this "Flatists" and their beliefs "Flatism".
Is Flatism any more than a belief that the earth is flat? What can we tell about Flatists from their belief that the earth is flat?
Flatists claim that no evidence is necessary to prove their beliefs,. it is self-evident from using your eyes.
Most people in the 21st century are "a-flatists" - they do not believe that the earth is flat. In a post-Newton world our knowledge of science and mathematics, as well as our views of the earth from space, make it very clear that the earth is not flat.
"The sun goes round the earth"
Let's call people who believe this "Terracentrists" and their beliefs "Terracentrism".
Is Terracentrism any more than a belief that the sun goes round the earth? What can we tell about Terracentrists from their belief that the sun goes round the earth?
As evidence Terracentrists cite their holy books in which it states that their god created the earth as centre of the universe.
Terracentrists were willing to kill anyone who denied what it said in their holy book - they even threatened Galileo with death and put him under house arrest for the rest of his life after he said they were wrong.
Today Heliocentrism has replaced Terracentrism but, at the time, they were making best use of what they had - the revelations of their god.
Most people in the 21st century are "a-terracentrists" - they do not believe that the sun goes round the earth. Most people are astonished that up until the 17th century people were willing to believe that the sun went round the earth simply because it said so in a holy book.
"There is a god"
Let's call people who believe this "Theists" and their beliefs "Theism".
Is Theism any more than a belief that there is a god? What can we tell about Theists from their belief that there is a god?
Most Theists claim that their god is omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent so we can assume that this god has revealed herself in the same way to all Theists and that they all believe the same things.
On inspection this appears not to be the case. The god revealed to some Theists is benevolent, caring, kind and peaceful. The god revealed to others is jealous, violent, vengeful, dictatorial and genocidal.
Why would a god reveal herself in such diametrically opposed ways?
Theists have created thousands of gods, split into thousands of religions and sects, written hundreds of holy books and made claims about hundreds of prophets.
Most Theists claim that their god "created" everything in the universe - except herself who they claim has always existed - though she was probably very lonely before she did indeed create everything else in the universe - for whatever reason.
Most theists base their beliefs on what it says in holy books, what other people claim to have happened (hearsay revelations from their god to their prophet) and what they have been told by their parents, peers and community. Most of them do not make a free and informed choice about belief - they investigate no further and they simply accept the first set of beliefs that comes along.
What exactly is this god beyond a "creator" and "rule-giver?"
Most Theists either don't know or they are reluctant to say - even though not so long ago Theists of the Abrahamic religions were quite happy with the vision of god expressed in the Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo and others: the bearded old white man living on a cloud in the sky.
Most Theists still refer to their god as "he" as if a god would be a reproductive sexual human being. This is probably because their holy books were written by men and have been used to justify a male dominated society for thousands of years. It would certainly be more accurate for them to refer to their god as "it" but perhaps sticking to "she" for the next 2,000 years would partially redress the balance.
Many people in the 21st century are "a-theists", they don't believe in gods. Most people in the UK do not label themselves "atheists" but they are very much "a-religionists" because gods and religion have no meaning in their day-to-day lives so they don't think about them much - though they get very upset and angry about some of terrible things that Theists do in the name of their gods. Theism can be pretty nasty at times.
Since the enlightenment most people seek impartial evidence for something before they are willing to believe it - they adopt a healthy sceptical view. They don't believe that pigs can fly simply because two young girls claimed to have seen it, they don't believe the earth is flat or the sun goes round the earth and they don't believe in gods simply because it says so in holy books. To them there is neither need nor impartial evidence for the god idea.
There would be no atheists if there were no theists - we are defined by what we are not, not by what we are - so we have nothing to prove.
There is no such thing as "atheism" because there is no set of beliefs shared by atheists - other than not being theists.
"The Pink Hippo is the one true god"
We are not going to argue with The Pink Hippo or the boiling lard awaits!