Bertrand Russell and Richard Dawkins: Brilliant vindication of Why People Are Hostile Toward Religion (from Wikipedia):
Russell’s Original Proposition
In an unpublished article entitled “Is There a God?”, commissioned in 1952 by Illustrated magazine, Russell suggested the following thought experiment to illustrate the burden of proof and falsifiability:
If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes.
But if I were to go on to say that, since my assertion cannot be disproved, it is an intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it, I should rightly be thought to be talking nonsense.
If, however, the existence of such a teapot were affirmed in ancient books, taught as the sacred truth every Sunday, and instilled into the minds of children at school, hesitation to believe in its existence would become a mark of eccentricity and entitle the doubter to the attentions of the psychiatrist in an enlightened age or of the Inquisitor in an earlier time.
The existence of this teapot cannot be disproved. We can look and scan the skies almost for eternity, and it may always just be the case that it wasn’t in the place we looked; there may be another spot we’ve overlooked, or it may have moved while we were looking. However, given the absurd nature of the specific example, the teapot, we would rightly infer that absence of evidence is evidence of absence. Russell’s audacity in the thought experiment was to question why people don’t like to apply the same, sound, logic (remembering that formal logic is independent of the actual content of an argument) to the existence of any particular deity; there is no difference in the evidence base provided, therefore there is no reason to assume a God and not a celestial teapot.
Extension and use by Dawkins:
The Richard Dawkins Foundation professes its belief in the Almighty Celestial Teapot.
Richard Dawkins also used Russell’s teapot argument extensively in The God Delusion and A Devil’s Chaplain. He developed the argument further, to include many attitudes associated with the bad side of religion including fear, oppression and persecution.
The reason organized religion merits outright hostility is that, unlike belief in Russell’s teapot, religion is powerful, influential, tax-exempt and systematically passed on to children too young to defend themselves. Children are not compelled to spend their formative years memorizing loony books about teapots. Government-subsidized schools don’t exclude children whose parents prefer the wrong shape of teapot. Teapot-believers don’t stone teapot-unbelievers, teapot-apostates, teapot-heretics and teapot-blasphemers to death. Mothers don’t warn their sons off marrying teapot-shiksas whose parents believe in three teapots rather than one. People who put the milk in first don’t kneecap those who put the tea in first.