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Evidence and religion

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6 minutes to read A reposted exchange with an anonymous atheist.

This is a continuation of an email exchange with an atheist. It’s instructive to see how skeptics keep shifting the goalposts—and how careful argumentation tends to erode their veneer of rationality as the discussion moves forward.

Thing is, it’s all based on layers upon layers of, admittedly well reasoned, but essentially assumption or “this feels like a reasonable explanation” explanation. Which isn’t an explanation at all.

How is that different from any worldview—including yours?

Because there remains the fact that there isn’t any evidence of a God.

But that’s just grossly untrue. I’ve given plenty of evidence, and you’ve even acknowledged that it is plausible that there is a God. But it isn’t plausible to believe things that have no evidence for them. It sounds like you are using “evidence” in a very strange way. You seem to mean something like “logical proof”.

Of course, by that standard there’s no evidence for atheism either. So your stringent requirements refute themselves. Indeed, what evidence is there for your idiosyncratic definition of evidence?! If you can’t provide evidence for how you define evidence, your position self-destructs before it can even launch.

That’s why you have faith.

In Christianity, faith is trust based on evidence. It’s not blind belief. But if you want to talk about faith, let’s look at some of the things you have faith in…

  • The existence of a physical world outside your mind
  • The existence of other people
  • The reliability of your senses
  • The regularity of nature
  • The comprehensibility of nature

You can’t provide any evidence for these beliefs that don’t assume them. You simply take them on faith.

If such power truly existed it wouldn’t be questioned. It would be clear.

Agreed. It is clear. But when that power means we don’t own ourselves, that we have to submit, and that we are already under judgment, we have an uncanny knack for denying the obvious. I can speak to this from my own experience, as well as from the Bible (Psalm 19; 14; Romans 1 etc). I was an atheist for several years. I wasn’t merely skeptical of God’s existence; I denied it vehemently. Yet looking back, I am uncomfortably conscious that I had a deep-seated awareness of God’s existence throughout that entire period of my life.

So I’m not particularly impressed by atheists who profess to have no such awareness. I myself would have professed the same—yet looking back I know I would have been deceiving myself.

Right now, the fact that it is debated endlessly is because there isn’t any meat to it. Just assumptions and clever wordage and, no denying, intelligent reasoning.

Even if this were true, what’s the difference between that and atheism? There’s no meat to atheism either. Just assumptions and intelligent reasoning, right?

Mind you, I deny that parity. There’s a great deal of meat to Christianity, from philosophical arguments to historical evidence.

And it all comes from people who lived a long, long time ago … from old, old books, which I would think alarming.

That just begs the question. Suppose those people actually received revelation from God and recorded it accurately? Then why should the fact that it happened long ago be alarming? You can’t make an objection to the Bible that presupposes the falsehood of the Bible! What kind of logic is that?

It’s like God invented the universe some 14 billion years ago, waited for around 10 billion years, then got busy to set up Earth and life on it, came back a few billion years later and did some miracles to raise awareness, and then had enough and vanished ever since!

Suppose this were true. I don’t think it is, but suppose it were. Your reasoning, if I’m summing up correctly, is:

  1. If I wouldn’t do it that way, then God wouldn’t do it that way
  2. I wouldn’t do it that way
  3. Therefore God wouldn’t do it that way
  4. But it was done that way
  5. Therefore God doesn’t exist

Uh…huh. Can you see why no one should find that argument remotely compelling?

If God was real, there wouldn’t be religion..

That literally makes no sense.

Think of this. Imagine if all traces of religion were suddenly erased in all its forms, including memory. Not a trace. Would Christianity be re “discovered” over time?

If you include revelation as a kind of “memory”, then obviously not, since Christianity is a revealed religion. What do you think that proves about its truth though, and why?

Moreover, while Christianity would not be rediscovered if all revelation were lost, the arguments for God’s existence certainly would be. Even if we never got another Aristotle, the basic reasoning would inevitably get hashed out again over time. And once you have something like a cosmological argument, it’s inevitable that you will infer attributes of the creator from it; viz aseity, intelligence, purpose, immateriality, benevolence etc.

none of the religions we know today would be rediscovered. They’re not discoverable for the same reason we can debate this in the first place: no evidence.

So your argument is:

  1. Suppose all the evidence for the distinctives of every purportedly revealed religion were destroyed (ie, purported revelation)
  2. The distinctives of those religions would never be rediscovered
  3. Therefore there is no evidence for the distinctives of those religions

I’m afraid at this rate you’re not going to get an A in Logic 101!

The world would become actually, tangibly better if religion vanished. If only because the people who ruin it all would lose a powerful weapon that is used to brain wash other people to carry out dumb horrible acts in the name of said religion.

…said the regime that caused 100 million deaths in the twentieth century. You don’t seem to be basing your views on reality at all. You’re not evaluating the evidence and coming to sound conclusions. You’re just saying whatever feels right to you, regardless of what kind of evidence there is that shows it to be grossly misinformed.

For example, not only did the communists manage to kill 100 million people without requiring the use of religion (indeed, they did it quite largely in the pursuit of eradicating religion), but Christianity itself is directly and indirectly responsible for much of the affluence, knowledge, and peace of Western civilization. Christian beliefs were the fuel for the scientific era; the only reason anyone did science to begin with was because they believed God had created an orderly universe for us to discover and rule over, and that learning about it was essentially an act of worship. Christian beliefs in equality before God were responsible for the basic ideas we take for granted whereby all people have a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

You can’t ground scientific enterprise, or free market capitalism, or basic human equality, on something like evolution. Indeed, evolution was a key principle in the rise of Nazi eugenics. These are all documented historical facts. You can’t just make up a new narrative and believe it because it suits you! See for example:

Everything we know about the universe we know through science.

Okay, this is a position called scientism. But have you actually stopped to think about how silly it is? I mean, take a few simple questions…

  1. Did you come to know scientism through science? Have you empirically verified that everything we know about the universe we know through science? If not, how can you know that? It’s comically self-refuting.
  2. Did you come to know about the existence of electrons through science? Have you personally performed the experiments and worked through the equations that demonstrate the existence of electrons? No? Have you actually come to any knowledge of science through empirical verification of your own? If not, how can you possibly claim that everything you know about the universe you know through science? In fact, you know it through testimony.
  3. Do you know that the universe exists? Do you know that the past actually happened and that your memory is reliable? Do you know that science is actually studying real things? If so, how do you intend to empirically verify that knowledge?

Again, you seem to be making claims because they feel good—you haven’t even bothered to think them through, let alone check them against the actual evidence. Yet it is religion that is supposedly unscientific and unsubstantiated? Don’t you think that’s kind of ironic?

 1 comment

Kirk Skeptic

The atheist is as much a metaphysician as Eddington’s ichthyologist.