How to falsify a religion using scientific or historical evidence

I notice that a lot of new atheists seem to think that “I don’t like it” can refute a religion. What I often see among atheists is this tendency to set up expectations of how God would have acted and then complain that he doesn’t met those expectations. I don’t think that this is a good way to argue against a religion, because it’s subjective. God isn’t obligated to comport with atheist expectations.

So in this post, I wanted to show how a reasonable person can evaluate and reject different worldviews using evidence.

Falsifying a religion using science

Consider this argument:

  1. Hindu cosmology teaches that the universe cycles between creation and destruction, through infinite time.
  2. The closest cosmological model conforming to Hindu Scriptures is the eternally “oscillating” model of the universe.
  3. The “oscillating” model requires that the universe exist eternally into the past.
  4. But the evidence today shows the the universe, and time itself, had a beginning at the big bang.
  5. The “oscillating” model requires that the expansion of the universe reverse into a collapse, (= crunch).
  6. In 1998, the discovery of the year was that the universe would expand forever. There will be no crunch.
  7. Therefore, the oscillating model is disconfirmed by observations.
  8. The oscillating model also faces theoretical problems with the “bounce” mechanism.

Notice how I falsified the oscillating model with theoretical and experimental reasons.

The absolute origin of the universe out of nothing is also incompatible with atheism, Buddhism, Mormonism, etc. because they also require an eternally existing universe.

Falsifying a religion using history

Consider this argument:

  1. To be a Muslim, you must believe that the Koran is without error.
  2. The Koran claims that Jesus did not die on a cross. (Qur’an, 4: 157-158)
  3. The crucifixion of Jesus is undisputed among non-Muslim historians, including atheist historians.
  4. Therefore, it is not rational for me to become a Muslim.

I’m going to support the premise that Jesus was crucified by citing historians from all backgrounds.

Consider some quotes from the (mostly) non-Christian scholars below:

“Jesus’ death as a consequence of crucifixion is indisputable.” Gert Lüdemann

“That he was crucified is as sure as anything historical can ever be.”  J.D. Crossan

“The passion of Jesus is part of history.” Geza Vermes

Jesus’ death by crucifixion is “historically certain”. Pinchas Lapide

“The single most solid fact about Jesus’ life is his death: he was executed by the Roman prefect Pilate, on or around Passover, in the manner Rome reserved particularly for political insurrectionists, namely, crucifixion.” Paula Fredriksen

“The support for the mode of his death, its agents, and perhaps its co-agents, is overwhelming: Jesus faced a trial before his death, was condemned, and was executed by crucifixion.” L.T. Johnson

“One of the most certain facts of history is that Jesus was crucified on orders of the Roman prefect of Judea, Ponitus Pilate.” Bart Ehrman

That’s 7 famous historians: 3 atheists, 3 Jews and 1 moderate Catholic. The atheists, Ludemann, Crossan and Ehrman, have all debated against the resurrection of Jesus with William Lane Craig. Johnson is the moderate Catholic, the rest are Jewish historians. The Koran was written in the 7th century. That is why no professional historian accepts the Koran as more authoritative than the many earlier Christian and non-Christian sources for the crucifixion story. Many of the sources for the crucifixion are dated to the 1st century. It’s not faith. It’s history.

I have seen debates with Muslim scholars, and I have never once heard them cite a non-Muslim historian to the effect that Jesus was not crucified. To my knowledge, there is no historian who denies the crucifixion of Jesus in his published work.

Can Christianity be falsified by science or history?

Yes. If you prove that the universe is eternal than would falsify the Bible’s claim that God created the universe out of nothing. That would be a scientific disproof. If you could find the body of Jesus still inside a tomb, that would falsify the Bible’s claim about a resurrection. That would be a historical disproof. The nice thing about Christianity is that we make lots of testable claims. Christianity is about forming beliefs that are in line with the available evidence.

14 thoughts on “How to falsify a religion using scientific or historical evidence”

  1. That is a dangerous game. Ultimately Christianity cannot be proved. It is beyond scientific testability. Furthermore, as scientific theories have changed throughout the years Christianity has been ‘proved’/’disproved’ numerous times. That is building on sand, not on a rock. Our faith is not based upon scientific theories and evidence, but upon the Word of God (cf. Hebrews 11).

    1. But the Word of God is what gives order to everything. God designed quantum theory, classical physics, thermodynamics, history, sociology etc. Those things should always point to God and prove that “in Him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17). If they don’t, I would seriously doubt Christianity, not that that is the only metric for Christianity’s success, but everything we observe should always point to Christ.

    2. If you’re talking about physics or biology, then yes. But regarding the science of history, Christianity is actually the most well-attested anything in antiquity. Reducing Christianity to a ‘blind leap’, similar to Mormonism or Santa, et. al., flies in the face of Christianity’s foundation (2 Pe 1:16-18; 1 Jn 1:1-4; Ac 26:26; 1 Cor 15:3-8; Rom 8:16; Gal 3:1-5). It’s true that our “faith” is not based upon scientific theories, but it is based solidly upon, and grounded in, historical evidence. This is the way Paul started his discourse on the resurrection (1 Cor 15) and it’s the way the other apostles presented their gospel (see Acts).

      There are eight historical facts, agreed upon by the vast majority of even critical and skeptical scholars, which undergird a historical inference to Jesus’ resurrection: (1) Jesus’ death by crucifixion, (2) his disciples having experiences that they believed were appearances of the resurrected Jesus (both group and individual appearances), (3) a few years later Saul of Tarsus also experienced what he thought was a post-resurrection appearance of the risen Jesus, (4) the conversion of James, the skeptical half-brother of Jesus, when he experienced what he thought was a post-resurrection appearance of the risen Jesus, (5) the empty tomb, (6) Jesus’ predictions of his violent, imminent death as well as his resurrection afterward, (7) the earliest apostles held that Jesus appeared in a bodily form, and (8) the original disciples suddenly and sincerely came to believe that Jesus was risen from the dead despite their having every predisposition to the contrary (the origin of the disciples’ belief in his resurrection—not the rise of the disciples’ *faith but the cause of the *Easter faith).

      These facts constitute inductive evidence for the resurrection of Jesus, and every person and historian has to deal with and explain these. Gary Habermas writes, “…the accepted facts, and the minimal facts in particular, are not only established historically but are recognized by virtually all critical scholars as well. The advantages are that these facts provide a strong basis for belief in the death and resurrection of Jesus and, at the same time, should not be rejected since they are recognized on strictly historical grounds. The facts that almost all scholars accept provide a strong basis for belief in Jesus’ literal resurrection from the dead, especially in the absence of viable naturalistic theories.”

      I would challenge the assertion, as lacking provability or evidence, that “throughout the years Christianity has been proven/disproven numerous times.” And there are certainly things in Christianity that we take by faith (like a talking snake and donkey, floating axe heads, the trinity, Jesus’ walking on water, etc.), but Hebrews 11 is not about the historical Jesus, the foundation of Christianity, or the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus.

  2. This is outstanding – thank you. I always ask Climate Changers what evidence would refute their theory. If it’s too hot, it’s climate change. If it’s too cold, it’s climate change. If the weather changes, it’s climate change. Thus far, the only answer I have ever received was “if the weather NEVER changes, it would be refuted.” :-) Then, I point to the fact that Christianity has refutation criteria and I explain to Climate Changers that their “religious” theory isn’t even good brainwashing.

  3. Hmmmm…a couple holes in your theories to disprove other religions, and to prove Christianity…many, in fact. The point is not that shaky logic is used, but that no religion can be comprehended with the head (logic and reason). They need to be accessed through the heart to make any sense.

  4. Hi,
    I think your attempt to falsify Islam was not very successful. Yes, Muslims do believe the Quran is without error.However,
    the Quran claims a person was made to look like Jesus and was crucified in his place. So according to Islam, it APPEARED as though Jesus had been crucified when in fact someone else had been. It cannot be proven that this could not have occurred. So there is no historical error. Sorry, but you’ll have to use something else in your attempt to disprove Islam.

    1. Jack, no historian believes that theory. That was my point. It comes 600 years after the event, and there is no historical record of that theory between the event and the time that it was written in the Quran. In order for a report to be historical, there should be a chain of custody going from the time it is written down to the time the eyewitnesses saw it. And that’s why no historian accept the Quran’s view on this issue.

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