By Dave Armstrong (7-10-15)
This came about as a result of an atheist responding to my paper, Why Atheists Are Far More Religious Than we Think
. It occurred on a public Facebook page. His name will remain anonymous (unless he requests otherwise), but all the words are his, and will be in blue
* * * * * It really is just kind of semantic. The atheist, at least the scientifically minded one, would not starkly claim that there is no possible way that a god created the universe. We are simply saying that there is no more reason to believe a god created it than to believe it was created by the tooth fairy or a dragon.
Exactly my point in reverse. Thanks for verifying my reasoning. I was arguing that there is no more reason -- and that it requires as much
faith [which might be defined very broadly as a belief in unproven axioms] -- to believe that atoms and cells can do the remarkable things they do by their own self-generated power (which came from . . . ?) than to believe that there is a spiritual entity called God that put it into them in creating them.There is some reason to believe that there is a completely natural explanation as every single scientific inquiry that has ever been solved has been solve through a natural explanation, not a supernatural one, so that is where we are going to focus our efforts of explanation.
There is plenty that is unexplained at the presuppositional level, as my post gets into. No one really knows by what conceivable process life came from non-life. There are several theories bandied about, of course, but by no means any definitive answers. So it requires "faith." You guys don't know why life is here or how the big Bang could start a process that led to it (by what laws and mechanisms?), and so you know no more than we do. You have to believe in faith that the processes that brought about these remarkable things were completely
natural , whereas we agree that they are largely natural but that the missing ingredient that explains origins is indeed God. You have faith in the remarkable inherent qualities of atoms. We have faith in God. One is no more plausible than the other in this basic "brass tacks" sense.
Many great philosophers and other thinkers have believed in God, based on various arguments, as well as internal experience or intuition, so the belief can't be dismissed with a wave of the hand as mere fairy tales or on the level of a belief in unicorns, etc.Might we be wrong in the end? Um... sure I guess. But most atheists would then put it to the theist: why your God and not another religion? Why not a tooth fairy? Why not a dragon?
And we say: "why atoms
, that supposedly developed the power to create the entire universe by themselves?" Is that not an incredible blind faith? I would say that is more of a blind faith even than belief in tooth fairies or dragons as alleged possible agents of creation.
Bottom line: Jesus Christ. He revealed that God exists and what He is like. As an apologist I can give a host of reasons why I believe in God, Christianity, and Catholicism in particular. It's like asking someone "why do you love
?" There are a host of reasons, and the usual immediate response is to hesitate, precisely because there are so many
; you don't know where to start in describing your feelings of love.
These are not questions (whatever
one's view is) that are given to short, sound-byte answers. It just doesn't work that way. As I said, many great minds (arguably the vast majority of the best, most original ones) believed in God. Certainly atheists would have a hard time arguing that they were all gullible fools and anti-rational simpletons?. . . There is no more reason for me to believe in that god than any of the hundreds upon hundreds of other gods that have made sense to their followers throughout time.
There certainly is
. Christianity is based on historical argument. We can point to concrete things in history that happened, that confirm the existence of God. That's already very different off the bat from the eastern religions. But most secularists / atheists / agnostics today are ignorant of the huge differences between religions, and tend to collapse them all into an irrational box.So atheism being a religion is really just a word game.
Not at all, as I carefully explained in the paper. To believe what you guys do about mere material atoms requires an extraordinary, quite childlike, non-rational faith.Atheists believe that the origin of the universe most probably has a natural explanation simply because nothing... nothing else ever has had an explanation otherwise.
Sheer nonsense. What you have in effect done is worship matter rather than spirit (that we worship). Why one rather than the other? It's completely arbitrary. You put all your faith in science, which is a variant of philosophy, that starts with unproven axioms just as every imaginable belief-system does. You have to believe that 1) the universe exists; 2) that matter follows discernible predictable laws (uniformitarianism); 3) that our senses can be trusted to accurately convey these laws and observations to us.
This is why modern science began in a thoroughly Christian culture (Europe in the Middle Ages) and why the founders and developers of virtually all scientific sub-fields were Christians or at least some sort of theist: because Christianity offered these necessary presuppositions, to start doing science. Hence, the Lutheran Kepler's famous statement that the scientist was "thinking God's thoughts after Him."
If anyone can claim credit for historic, foundational science, it is Christianity
, not atheism. I wrote a whole book
about it.I have never met an atheist who didn't say that if you showed them any actual evidence to the contrary that they wouldn't change their mind. But no religion has yet done so. Not one. And that is the difference between atheism and a religion.
These are merely empty (and rather sweeping, dogmatic) claims. How do you know no religion has ever offered a rational answer to the sort of garden variety questions that atheists bring up? How much of religion have you studied? If you were once a Christian, what books of apologetics and philosophy of religion have you read? Have you read debates between Christian philosophers and atheists, etc.?
It's always easy to make sweeping, dramatic claims (such as you have done) without backing them up.My
argument is of a different nature. I'm not saying that atheists are dummies or immoral, just because
they are atheists, but rather, that the faith they claim that Christians exercise and they supposedly don't, is a Grand Myth: that they
, exercise faith, just as anyone does who believes in any worldview (including science, which is a form of philosophy called empiricism). It's impossible not to start with some unproven axioms, and they are, well, unproven
. That means they weren't arrived at through observation or empirical evidence or even reason. They can't be absolutely proven.
So there is no reason for atheists to look down their noses at the supposedly "gullible" or "childish" Christians on this score. There is equally no reason to claim that Christianity is allegedly inexorably opposed to scientific inquiry. It's all atheist fairy tales and talking points, exhibiting a huge ignorance of the history of both science and philosophy.
Atheists (in my experience) are ready to change their mind for evidence.
And in my 34-year experience discussing things with atheists it is just the opposite
: they are largely impervious to reason and fact if they go against their views already held in faith
, without reason at the axiomatic level.
But there are atheists who have converted and become Christians by means of reason. I know several of them. I just haven't seen it happen in my own experience. I've had several atheists tell me, though, that my books were key in convincing them to become theists and eventually Catholics.If one changes their mind without evidence, what is to stop them from drifting from one religion to another to another every time someone presents them with a new perspective?
I fully agree. Reason has to be exercised in any rational, plausible worldview, or it ain't worth much.What each religion is asking the atheist to do, is to take their un-evidenced word for it, but not the next person's un-evidenced word for it.
That's what an unsophisticated Christian might do: "just accept our beliefs with a blind faith" -- but that is not the view of either the Bible or the Christians who devote themselves to rational defense of the faith (apologists like myself) or those who are philosophers of religion or theistic philosophers.I literally have no reason to choose one religion over the next besides my own comfort with its message.
This clearly exhibits your non-acquaintance with the competing truth claims of various religions. Again, I ask you: what have you read of Christian apologetics? How much did you even understand the theology if you were once a Christian? Neither can a person cannot reject what they never understood, or fully understood, either. They are, instead, rejecting a caricature or straw man, which they proceed to pillory the rest of their lives if they are atheists.
I have shown this again and again in analyzing atheist "deconversion stories." Soon I will be compiling a book about that, too, and how so many atheists vainly fancy themselves as such experts on the Bible, whereas they are in fact profoundly ignorant and don't know the first thing about proper biblical hermeneutics or exegesis or the various literary genres in the Bible, etc., or the ancient Near Eastern (i.e., Mesopotamian) cultural background that is a crucial component of both Judaism and Christianity.
Moreover, I would point out that no message is more appealing (in one big sense) to human beings than atheism. You're accountable to no higher being. You can do whatever you want or desire to do, including the usual sexual desires and freedoms that people so often seek after. You can go the hedonist route and live merely for pleasure, or have fun deriding Christians and having a sense of self-importance and superiority in so doing (I've met many atheists of that sort; but many are not).
In other words, it's a wash. Human beings of whatever belief-system tend to follow what personally appeals to them. If you want to claim that this is the exclusive characteristic of Christians or all religious folk, it works the same way in criticizing atheism, so this "argument" proves nothing one way or the other.
The more honest atheists, such as Aldous Huxley, even freely admitted that they ditched religion precisely for the purpose of sexual freedom.. . . which honestly Christianity's message in the end comforts me in no way.
Exactly! But atheism does
, and makes you feel good, which is what you accuse Christians of doing. You do the same thing that you have just derided. You choose it because it suits
you. We believe, on the other hand, that we choose Christianity, not because it makes us feel wonderful and warm fuzzy happy, but because it's true
The great apologist G. K. Chesterton stated, "Christianity has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and left untried."
It's a difficult life, but I wouldn't trade it and its joy and peace with anything. I've tried to seriously live the Christian life for now 38 years. It has never let me down. But it is not without suffering. Joy is deeper than suffering. This is why Christians have been willing to die as martyrs through the centuries. They weren't trying to avoid suffering, but rather, hell.
This is what you have just revealed to us is how you approached the matter: based on your desires and the comfort-factor, not based on an objective, dispassionate search for metaphysical and/or moral truth. At least that is how it appears or sounds at first glance. I'm just going by your own words . . .As for the different faiths, theists (of the Abrahamic vein) are fully convinced that there are no gods at all... except for their one god. Why is it completely rational for Christians, Muslims, Jews to discount every other god that people follow except for this one, but the atheist who believes in just one fewer gods is absolutely wrong?
Yes; that is the nature of monotheism, because we believe that this one God has revealed Himself. We do for various reasons, that can't be briefly summarized, because there are so many of 'em.
It's not that you believe in "just one fewer god" but that in so doing you have to explain the universe according to pure naturalism or materialism, and it just doesn't make any sense and comes off sounding rather fantastic and irrational, when closely scrutinized, as I did in this paper.
You're welcome to explain to all of us how these atoms managed to do all that they have supposedly done, by themselves, with no outside or spiritual or supernatural aid, as a result of an explosion 15 billion years ago (or however long ago it is believed to be now).
We're waiting with baited breath. But no atheist has done so thus far, and I would bet good money that you will not be the first one. It's such a mystery that atheists are now fond of postulating "multiverses" so that they can simply ignore their huge problem of explaining origins, and push it back to earlier universes that they are equally ignorant of, as to process and origin. Very convenient, isn't it? If you can't explain something, invent a completely arbitrary fairy tale, with no rational or empirical evidence whatsoever to back it up . . .
And we Christians get accused of "God of the gaps" with this sort of desperate avoidance analysis going on among materialist scientists? It's a joke!We are effectively living the same process with one minor tweak further. All religions have equal amounts of evidence (zero) so why one non-evident religion over the next?
You are merely assuming what you are trying to prove here, which is circular reasoning. You have not provided any actual reasons for believing these things. You simply make bald assertions. And I can tell you from my own long study in apologetics that they are not true statements. I do
have the papers and books that already contain my
reasonings.There may very well be a god/goddess/gods/goddesses,
If you truly believe that, you should assume an agnostic stance, rather than an atheist one (but it sounds like you self-identify with the latter).but since he/she/it/they have elected to give no evidence to the empirical senses with which they created us,
Once again, you assume what you think you prove. There is all kinds of empirical evidence for Christianity. Jesus was an actual human person, identifiable in history. He performed miracles, which were witnessed. He rose from the dead and was seen by more than 500 eyewitnesses. There is an empty tomb that hasn't been adequately expained. It was guarded by Roman soldiers, under the pain of death if they failed to guard it. We know that the tomb was empty, from hostile reports and theories that the body was stolen, etc. People were willing to die for this faith, etc. There is all sorts of hard evidence that has to be grappled with. There is no way to know who it is without relying solely on personal subjective interpretation and heresay
[sic] from supposed eyewitnesses from centuries ago in books which no one has any reason to believe other than faith in certain groups of human being who have supposedly preserve the integrity of these first hand accounts hundreds of years ago.
This is incredible "reasoning." We rely on eyewitness and firsthand testimony for all historical accounts whatsoever. You don't doubt those when it comes to the existence of Socrates or Alexander the Great or even Abraham Lincoln. But all of a sudden when religious faith
is involved, all these people were gullible idiots, who made up a bunch of fairy tales, and then were willing to die
for the fairy tales.
It makes no sense at all. What this amounts to is a huge double standard, where you accept history, except
when anyone religious is the testifier or witness of what happened at a particular point. Then
you dismiss it. That's irrationally arbitrary, self-defeating, and bigoted.
The Bible has, time and again, been backed up, as to its extraordinary historical accuracy, whether through manuscripts (e.g., the Dead Sea Scrolls) or archaeology or textual analysis. It's accurate. It reports history. But someone who denies the existence of miracles beforehand simply dismisses any miraculous account.
That's not a strictly "rational" analysis. It's not rational to arbitrarily choose to disbelieve that a miraculous event can ever happen, and so dismiss any such account because it doesn't fit the arbitrary axiom already accepted for no good reason.
Many things in science would have been thought totally impossible or implausible before they were proven (e.g., quantum physics or black holes or relativity). Yet what was "impossible" because possible and even "proven" in the usual scientific fashion.
Why could not miracles be the same sort of thing? How can you or anyone else say in a blanket way that they could not ever possibly have happened? You cannot . . .
Unless someone has a "Damascus road" experience, personally, their faith isn't in god anyway,
At some point, experience must enter in, yes. We Christians claim to have various spiritual experiences that confirm our faith and beliefs. I have had several, myself. My life changed.it's in people: the person who wrote the Scripture they believe, the person who they passed it onto; the person they passed it on to; the person who passed it on to you.
Every belief-system has an internal tradition and a heritage which has been passed on. There's nothing new under the sun. You as an atheist argue the same way that atheists did 3,000 years ago. And that is because you all start from the implausible axiom that I have discussed in my paper. Because you have so little reason to back yourself up, you have to content yourselves with bashing Christianity, to make yourselves feel so intellectually superior to us. It just won't fly.
It may with some construction worker in a bar or an old lady with purple tennis shoes, who don't know apologetics or philosophy from a hole in the ground, but not with someone who is acquainted with those things, and how the atheist / secular mind works. I used to think in largely the same terms, and I was spoon-fed secularism in school.If people want to say atheism is a religion, I guess thats fine if one wants define what one means by religion.
My argument in my paper was that it was not a whit more reasonable, nor does it require any less faith (defined as acceptance of unproven and unprovable axioms). You have not really overcome my actual argument at all. You're just preaching . . . That's usually what atheists do. Not always (I've had some extremely interesting and constructive dialogues with several atheists), but usually. Just note the the faith in atheism is in a logical system, that has heretofore been the only system that has ever offered a correct answer to the way anything works.
Where to begin? It's not logical at all, as I think I have shown: not at the presuppositional, axiomatic level. It's a profoundly faith-filled, arbitrary, implausible view. Secondly, atheism doesn't own science. Quite the contrary: it was begun by Christians and completely dominated by them for hundreds of years. Even now, some 40-45% of scientists would identify as some sort of theist (as well as a probably lesser, but significant number of philosophers: many among the best ones). Yet atheists routinely assume that they are the reasonable ones and own science. It's a lie.
What we Christians say is that science (or matter) is not all
that there is. There are other forms of knowledge, and religious faith is real, and rational, and can be defended as such.I don't consider logic my "god" because I don't believe in a god.
I can see that, because from where I sit, you are not arguing very logically at all. Your belief-system is arbitrary and meaningless irrationality (which I would argue is what all atheism always logically reduces to).I believe it's a system through which we have found answers and has thus far been the only such system.
That's simply not true. Science (begun and dominated by Christians), philosophy, and religion have all given us plenty of answers and solutions.
Is that faith? Sure? I guess? Sort of? But in a very different way. Semantics.
I think there are lots of word games that atheists play. I have offered what I believe is a solid, logical critique.
Nothing personal! Thanks for the dialogue.
* * * I don't have time to argue all of these points you've laid out. But I will get to the meat of it. If you have actual evidence, feel free to share.
I have evidence all over m
y website. The most applicable to an atheist would be my web page on atheism. Then there is my book, Christian Worldview vs. Postmodernism
. And my basic run-through of Christian apologetics, Mere Christian Apologetics
If you don't want to purchase any of those, or my book on science, linked above (available as low as $1.99), I'll send you a PDF file of any of them for free.And I repeat my original point. Yes... atheism is faith in the same way that your disbelief in the tooth fairy is faith. in the same way that your disbelief in the tooth fairy is a religion.
That makes no sense. I don't spend my time proving that the tooth fairy doesn't exist, as atheists do with God. My faith / religious belief isn't merely a reactionary
denial of what is believed not
to exist at all, but rather, a positive, proactive
assertion of something.
The tooth fairy (like Santa Claus or unicorns or the man in the moon or the Easter Bunny and all the other silly atheist "analogies" to God) has no historical or philosophical evidence in favor of it, as God does. No great philosophers or scientists or other great thinkers hold to belief in it. It truly is a mere fairy tale fit for small children only.
To compare that to the Judaeo-Christian God, or even the "philosopher's God" (of say, someone like David Hume, who was not
an atheist, as commonly believed) is instantly silly and a farce. But it's garden-variety atheism, and used all the time for its mocking "value."
Atheism is faith in precisely the way that I have argued that it is in my paper that you replied to: you (like anyone else who attempts to think seriously about reality) must accept unproven axioms. These cannot be argued for according to reason or evidence (empirical or otherwise).
The atheist has the special and extraordinary burden of being forced to believe that somehow something came from nothing, of its own power, and then exploded and produced all that is in the universe.
Present science tells us that the universe isn't eternal (laws of thermodynamics). It's running down. It began in an instant, in the Big Bang. That original "egg" somehow came from nothing whatsoever and came to possess the properties of reproduction, evolution, and creation of everything else.
For those of us who think that belief in God is a far better and more plausible explanation than that
, it is (with all due respect) utterly absurd to accept such a ludicrous scenario. Any three-year-old knows that you can't get something from nothing.
But every atheist must believe exactly that. They do it based on sheer blind faith and unwillingness to accept the rational alternative that an eternal creative spirit exists; an eternal intelligence.
Even those who aren't theists know that something
is out there; some kind of primal intelligence or organizing principle, to explain the wonders of the universe. Hence, Albert Einstein (a type of pantheist) wrote:
[T]he belief in the existence of basic all-embracing laws in Nature also rests on a sort of faith. All the same this faith has been largely justified so far by the success of scientific research. But, on the other hand, everyone who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the universe -- a spirit vastly superior to that of man, and one in the face of which we with our modest powers must feel humble. In this way the pursuit of science leads to a religious feeling of a special sort, which is indeed quite different from the religiosity of someone more naive.
(To student Phyllis Right, who asked if scientists pray, January 24, 1936. Einstein Archive 42-601, 52-337; from Helen Dukas and Banesh Hoffmann, Albert Einstein, the Human Side [Princeton Univ. Press, 1981], pp. 32-33)
It's always fascinating to me to see how atheists attempt to respond to this particular argument, which I believe is of considerable force. Usually what we see is exactly the replies that my opponent gave above: little of substance: lots of bald assertions, contra-Christian or contra-theist "preaching" and studiously avoiding the central issue: how did something come from nothing
and how did mere matter obtain all these remarkable powers
that it now has?
It's pretty much a blank at that point and a clear example of completely blind faith in the unprovable, non-rational (arguably anti-rational) starting premises of atheism.
Atheists in effect worship trillions of atom-gods and cell-gods: exactly as I contended in my paper. Virtually every power that the Christian attributes to God, the atheist applies to atoms and cells. It's a profound faith indeed, based on no evidence whatsoever.
I think atheists are intelligent and thoughtful people. I am not claiming that they are generally irrational
types of people. But I do say that with regard to the questions I bring up, the starting premises of atheism are quite irrational
and unworthy of allegiance.
It's also good for atheists to recognize that we Christians have some serious thinkers among us, too, and that we have "good arguments" on our side as well.
Again, you are misrepresenting me. Atheists do not claim that there is absolutely no way a deity could have done it. We claim that there is no more reason to believe it than any other extraordinary claim. If you listen to any talk by prominent atheists like Dawkins or Tyson, you will hear them repeatedly say they cannot disprove god. The reason you will not hear us taking apart tooth fairy theories is because no one is making them or trying to get them into scientific discussions. And no one said science is unique to atheists. It is unique to scientist[s], which happen to be theists and atheists. The problem is when either group gets to something they don't understand and slaps creative answer to it rather than an observed one. In the theists' case: god did it. And your assessment of my scrutiny of historical documenta is erroneous. if you think religious texts are the only ones atheistic historians scrutinize, then you aren't accounting for the very first thing liberal universities teach when analyzing historical documents. The goal in any such analysis is to determine biases, limitations, and personal perspective rather than taking it at face value. Apologists however, have no other goal than to make the document/data/observations fit into a predesigned paradigm.
Thanks for your further thoughts. Now why don't you also provide some solid, plausible answers to the basic questions that are your burden as an atheist?:
1) How did something come from nothing?
2) What caused this something from nothing, of its own power, to explode and produce all that is in the universe?
3) How did the original "egg" come to possess the remarkable properties of reproduction, evolution, and creation of everything else?
4) How did life (not to mention intelligence and rational self-consciousness) come from non-life, by purely materialistic processes, all inherent in the potentiality of the original "egg" that somehow came from nothing whatever?
We say "God" and that gets immediately dismissed as supposedly "unscientific" and/or good ol' "God of the gaps."
Fine. Having dismissed our proposed explanation, what is your alternate
) one? You haven't told us. If you say you have no explanation or speculation at all, this strongly confirms my entire contention
: you are operating in blind irrational faith: every bit as much as you say ours is, and arguably much more so.
After all, the universe is here (as all agree) and it had to be caused by something or Someone. Again, I reiterate my original argument, which stands unrefuted: we worship one Spirit-God, while you in effect worship trillions of atom-gods and cell-gods and the goddess Time: all of which can and do produce anything and everything in the universe (just like we say our God does!).I don't need to provide solid claims as I am not making the assertions you are claiming I am making. I am not saying something came from nothing. I'm saying with the evidence currently in our grasp, it would appear that the big bang happened, and that there is absolutely no reason to assume jesus christ or yahweh... or odin was responsible for it. Your arguments necessitate you to constantly build straw men. Is it possible a god did it? Maybe idk. But why without evidence assume it was god? Why believe god can always exist but not matter? My answer AGAIN to you is I don't know. And thats where my atheist's "faith" comes in. Since every other answered query in the history of humankind has been answered by science and reason, I'm thinking that this too will probably be answered by science and reason. Since every "proof" you have given so far for god is completely inconclusive, and exemplary of the very kind of non-science that make atheists skeptical of christian science, that reinforces my leanings that the answers will be natural rather than supernatural. I think most likely, if these questions are ever answered, it will increase our understanding of what is natural, rather than convince me of something supernatural. But who knows? And your claim that atheists "worship" atoms/cells/time is the ultimate straw man.
Well, it's as good of a non-answer as I have ever gotten from an atheist. What else is new . . . ?
I haven't given any "proofs" for God in this discussion. And that is because I'm challenging you
to establish a rational basis for the presuppositions of your
belief (per my paper that you replied to), and the present existence of the universe. You have not done so. But at least you are honest enough with yourself to not try to make a futile effort which would not bode well for your worldview. it's best to refrain in that case.
As I have said repeatedly, the evidences, arguments, and reasons I can give for theism and Christianity are in my 49 books and 2,300+ papers on my blog. They can't be summarized quickly. That is mere child's play. Thoughtful worldviews must necessarily be scrutinized at length and with fairness and an open mind. I have offered to give you any of my books for free.
But you have to be willing to read
them. "You can lead the horse to water, but you can't make him drink" . . .I think I'm done here. You have absolutely no interest in what I'm saying, provable by the fact that you cannot even describe my position. You are clearly set in your intellectual superiority as you have demonstrated by your assertion of yourself as a "sophisticated christian" as opposed to the thousands of other christians who don't have the fluency with apologetics that you do. Your condescension and repeated misrepresentation of my arguments are going to be the bane of your apologetics, even before your confusion of reason with things that make sense to you.
One last thing, I just noticed:
"why believe god can always exist but not matter?"
The laws of thermodynamics tell us that the universe is running down; therefore very few believe anymore that it is eternal. It's not eternal; it began with the Big Bang, as far as present science can determine. If it were eternal, it couldn't have "begun."
Belief in an eternal God is distinct from that, since God is spirit and not subject to the laws of physical nature.
May God bless you with all good things. I bear you no ill will; nor do I judge your motivations, as you have now judged mine.
I bear you no ill will either. And you can claim non-judgement all you want. But when you say things like "any three year old knows..." Or calling my responses "non-answers" show your true feelings.
* * * * *