If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving around 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 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 the Inquisitor in an earlier time.Russell’s objection has been parroted by many atheists (including Dawkins) ever since, culminating in the concept of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. But there are a few rather pronounced problems with the analogy Russell (and, by extension, Dawkins and the new anti-theists) have brought up.
(quoted in Dawkins, Richard. 2006. The God Delusion. New York: Houghton Mifflin Co. p. 52)
First is the fact that the analogy is impossible to take seriously. What I mean by this is that the only reason the analogy works as an attack against faith is because nobody (granted the exception of a few kooks) would affirm the existence of a teapot orbiting between Earth and Mars on the basis of it being in "ancient books." Such a hypothesis would not be taught "as the sacred truth every Sunday" because reasonable people would never submit to such a stupid idea. Russell’s analogy works because what no one accepts as reasonable (a teapot in orbit between Earth and Mars) is supposedly linked to what the vast majority of people accept as reasonable (the existence of some form of deity). Dawkins uses the analogy to show that simply because we are agnostic about something (after all, we cannot disprove the existence of the teapot without having omniscience), that does not mean we have to give equal odds to both sides of the question of existence of the teapot (i.e. there’s a 50/50 shot it actually exists). Says Dawkins:
The point of all these way-out examples is that they are undisprovable, yet nobody thinks the hypothesis of their existence is on an even footing with the hypothesis of their non-existence. Russell’s point is that the burden of proof rests with the believers, not the non-believers. Mine is the related pointed that the odds in favor of the teapot…are not equal to the odds against.But this brings up an immediate question. Why are these "way-out examples" to be taken seriously in the first place? If "nobody thinks the hypothesis of their existence is on an even footing with the hypothesis of their non-existence" then in what way do these examples cohere to the concept of the existence of God?
(ibid, p. 53)
Such counter questions are far from trivial. Consider for a moment why no one believes in the teapot orbiting between Earth and Mars. First, a teapot is a man-made object. Very few men have ever been to space, and the odds are that exactly none of them brought a teapot up when they made the trip. Further, even if we stipulated that someone now threw a teapot into orbit, Russell’s analogy requires that it be an ancient belief.
If you do not think the man-made feature of the teapot matters, consider what would happen if I changed the hypothesis slightly. What if instead I said: "There is a rock the size of a teapot that orbits between the Earth and Mars." Suddenly, the analogy (as used by Dawkins) breaks down. The odds that there is a teapot-sized rock in solar system are so high as to be certain. The odds that this rock could be between the Earth and Mars are only slightly diminished—after all, we know of many asteroids between Mars and Jupiter, and it would not be illogical to assume that some of these asteroids meander and could get trapped in orbit between the Earth and Mars.
Thus, if we simply switch from viewing a man-made object to viewing a natural object, the analogy immediately breaks down. While we still cannot prove the existence of said rock, it very well may be "intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it." This is why the analogy must rely on the use of a man-made object. But in this case, we know that no man has ever been between Earth and Mars (except perhaps fleetingly while in orbit around the Earth—a situation that would not be the case for the "ancient books" used in the analogy), and that no one has ever lost their teapot there. The existence of the teapot becomes irrational because the origin of teapots is Earth-bound and likewise bound to humans.
But while this deals with Dawkins’ use of the analogy, there is another point we need to address regarding the original use of it by Russell. Russell claims that the burden of proof is on the believer of the teapot, which is true so far as that goes. After all, there is simply no phenomenon that needs to be explained by the existence of a teapot between Earth and Mars. The teapot’s existence is completely gratuitous; it serves no purpose other than for the analogy. This is why stipulating the existence of a teapot would be so ridiculous—there is no reason for us to believe in the existence of a teapot because there is nothing that needs to be explained by the existence of a teapot.
So we see that we are justified in ridiculing the existence of a teapot between Earth and Mars. The problem is that Russell and Dawkins then want to transfer the ridicule on the teapot analogy toward belief in the existence of God. This immediately fails, however.
God is not a man-made object (note for the atheists: this is not saying that God is not a man-made belief, for indeed all false beliefs of God would be man-made beliefs of God). If God exists, His existence is not due to the existence of man; He exists apart from man. Thus, Dawkins’ use of the analogy immediately shows discontinuity between the teapot and God. We are not speaking of the existence of an object that we know would not normally appear between the Earth and Mars. We are speaking of the existence of an object that would transcend the universe. This is hardly analogous.
Further, there are phenomena that are explained by the existence of God. Most obviously, He fits as the answer to the question: Why is there something instead of nothing? The very existence of the universe screams out for a reason for being. Why does the universe exist at all? While a teapot floating between Earth and Mars answers no questions, the belief in a God does answer questions.
This is why the analogy does not work at all. The (admittedly) bogus analogies are not even in the same ballpark as the question about the existence or non-existence of God. While it is certainly the case that atheists will dispute the necessity of God as an answer to the question of why existence exists, the odds question that Dawkins brings up with his use of the teapot analogy is immediately thrown into disrepute. As for Russell, if God does answer the question of why we exist (as the vast majority of people believe He does) then we have a reason for stipulating the existence of God. This does not even touch the subjective experiences that many people claim to have, which would provide personal reasons for those people to believe. Further, it ignores other evidences (such as classical Christian evidences, like the missing body from Jesus’ tomb, etc.). None of these extra evidences are much relevant to the point that Russell’s analogy and Dawkins’ rehashing of it are in no way coherent to the question of the existence of God.