18 arguments that won't work on one atheist - Jay Maynard

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Friday, 24 February 2006

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2004 - 18 arguments that won't work on one atheist

Tomorrow's Minneapolis Star-Tribune has an article on an atheist who talks to classes at religious universities: The Atheist and the Christians. In it, they mention 18 arguments that Christians try to use to convince him. A separate article lists those, along with his answers:

1. The holy books say so: "Stories written by humans."

2. People have had revelations of God: "Subjective. Hearsay. Could be delusions."

3. Many people have a personal sense of God: "You're sincere, but it's not proof."

4. If you open your heart, God will enter: "Emotion."

5. Miracles and resurrection stories: "Unverifiable."

6. Fear of death, hope for heaven: "Wishing won't make it so."

7. Fear of hell: "An attempt to get you to believe through fear what you won't believe through reason."

8. Pascal's wager (briefly stated, it's a good bet to believe in God): "You can't just pretend God exists."

9. It's your choice not to believe: "I can't help it that I don't believe. Why blame the victim?"

10. The end of the world is coming: "A scare tactic."

11. Faith gives life meaning: "Atheists find plenty of meaning without faith."

12. God, like love, is intangible: "Love is tangible. It's a feeling defined by actions."

13. Morality depends on faith: "A moral code can exist independent of belief in God. ... Christians don't even agree among themselves what's moral."

14. Faith inspires altruism: "I could argue there's no such thing as altruism, that people do heroic things because it advances themselves, their family, society or the species."

15. Without God, there's no free will: "Atheists have no problem admitting that free will might be an illusion."

16. People suffer for religion, an indication it's real: "Belief motivates them. That doesn't mean God exists."

17. False dichotomies, which is what he calls statements such as "No one would die for a lie" or "Either Jesus was insane or he was God": "Not necessarily true. There are many other possibilities."

18. Many things aren't explained except by God: "That's the 'God of the gaps' argument: 'We don't know where the universe came from, so God must have made it.' Atheists are content to say we just don't know."

I'll add my own comment to the one about resurrection stories: I used to work for a guy who had a near-death experience. His recounting of the story has all of the usual features: the tunnel, the great white light, the Voice, which told him "No, it's not your time yet. You're going back." He says that that experience was what gave him the strong faith he feels. I do not for a moment doubt his account, nor do I doubt that he has every reason to believe in God because of it. I simply cannot share that belief based on his experience.

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(9 comments | Leave a comment)


Date: - 0000
hi...well..i'd have to say, these are some arguments used by those weak in the ability to argue.....I don't know if they represent the cream of the crop in Christian apologetics........

If you have an open enough mind, I'd recommend reading a book called the case for christ, by lee strobel. it's a pretty easy reada. After reading it, you might conclude that Christianity is at least plausible. I don't think one can read that book without at least thinking, "Hmmmm, there is more to this than a bunch of subjective, experiences by people who need meaninng in their life.

Here are some facts that most scholars, both liberal and conservatives agree on...

1. Jesus existed
2. He was crucified
3. He was placed in a tomb.
4. That tomb was found empty
5. Many, claimed to have seen him after the resurrection..
6. 11 apostles, risked their very life, spreading a belief in a resurrected Jesus. (Would people do this if they hadn't experienced something? If it was a hallucination, is it plausible to conclude the same exact hallucination occured to 11 people the same way? Some think it takes more faith to believe that, than in a actual resurrection.

Now how you interpret these facts, basically dictates how you view Christianity. But either way, these six things have to be taken into consideration, and to me, they have to at least show, that Christianity is more than some emotional, subjective, psychological experience.

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Date: - 0000
I must say I found number 17 sufficiently convincing to convert me, but different people are convinced by different things, I guess.
Date: - 0000
Pascal's Wager is fucking asinine. If that's the best argument someone has I say we slap them upside the head.
Date: - 0000
Just some more thoughts. I agree, using God as an explaination for things currently beyond our understand, is just weak thinking. We used to think God caused earthquakes, now we know it's because of plates moving in the earth. And I'm sure someday other non explainables, will be explainable.

I also agree on the whole, Jesus was insane or he was God argument. We're assuming that stuff is actually what Jesus said. Jesus never wrote a book, so for all we know, what those folks say in the gospels, could just be them, putting words in HIS mouth.

Still, all that taken into consideration, you're still left with those six facts to wrestle with. For one to remain unconvinced of Christianity after dealing with those six facts, well for some to remain unconvinced still, that may take more blind faith, than it would take to simply buy the story of the death and resurrection of Christ!

All thosse people,who claimed to see him, and were willing to die for it, they all had the same mass hallucination?

These people weren't like the terrorists of today who go and kill themselves in the name of God. These people in the past would of known they were lying! Where as terrorists of today are simply going on what's written in a book. Terrorists have to read the Koran, then convince themselves it's real! The first Christians didn't have that task! They either died, knowing their claims were false, or they died, knowing it was real! They weren't like us, they didnt have to make a leap in the dark by reading a book and wondering if it was real. Now if they knew deep down that it was false, could they still die for it? Sure, they could. But it takes more faith to believe that, than it does to believe in the resurrection itself.
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Date: - 0000
I was raised a Christian but thats not why I believe - I have had many personal experiences that I choose to believe are god working in my life. Its my personal choice and I respect those that do not make the same choice - if they want to know why I believe what I believe I'll be happy to tell them =)
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Date: - 0000
I should point out here that I have more than a few good friends (you're certainly among them) that are believers. Just as I cannot tell my former boss that his near-death experience was anything but what he believed it to be, so I cannot tell you or anyone else that you should not believe. I have not had your experiences.

It is entirely possible that, one day, I will have the same sort of experience that I cannot explain in any other way, and should that happen, I will certainly reexamine my stand.

By the same token, just as I respect others' right to believe as they choose, so I demand the same right. It's no coincidence that those who I consider friends respect my right to believe (or not) as I choose, and the rights of others as well.
Date: - 0000
You keep assuming it has to be this big mystical, personal, subjective experience, before you can believe.

Frankly, I've had a lot of subjective experiences, but those don't convince me of squat! I've studied how the brain works, and many of those feelings can just be chemicals in the brain going off.

What has made the faith more plausible to me, is the more, external "facts" I pointed out in the replies above. The first Christians didn't simply have a weird, emotional experience. If what they claimed is true, they had a faith built on solid, external, concrete facts!

Maybe that's how faith will come to you. Assuming there is a desire for it to be there.

Just remember, the first Christians faith (assuming they are tellin the truth), their faith was based totally on what they saw. It was more cerebral, than mysical. They had faith, because they saw it, and touched it, and experienced it! So thee is nothing wrong with needing a little intellectual footing to rest ones faith on.

In my humble opinion, I think God gets more peeved with people if they don't have faith, once they've been confronted with facts and good solid reasoning. I don't think he's as peeved with those, who are still searching, and are still looking for something solid to rest their faith on.
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Date: - 0000
You may well be right about the first Christians. Even so, however, I can no more share that faith based on their experiences than I can based on my former boss's experience. If I don't have the experience, it's just hearsay.

When I mention this to some folks, they point out that there are lots of things, especially in the world of science, that I take on hearsay. The difference is that those things are all repeatable, or else widely and independently documented. The story of the Resurrection is not: just because the tomb was empty does not mean that some man did not empty it.

Am I holding Christianity to a higher standard than other things? Perhaps. The nature of the claims, however, demands it - and even if the story of the Resurrection was provably true, that would not automatically make the rest of the Bible the infallible direct word of God.
Date: - 0000
I agree that if the resurrection is true, it doesn't mean the rest of the Bible is God's word. But it does mean that a man existed, was crucified, dead, burried, rose from the dead. Even if the whole Bible isn't validated by this, you still have those truths to deal with. If those truths are true of course:P

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