Is asking “Am I going to Hell?” a good response to scientific arguments for theism?

I want to use this woman’s story to show how sensible atheists reach a belief in God.

Excerpt:

I don’t know when I first became a skeptic. It must have been around age 4, when my mother found me arguing with another child at a birthday party: “But how do you know what the Bible says is true?” By age 11, my atheism was so widely known in my middle school that a Christian boy threatened to come to my house and “shoot all the atheists.” My Christian friends in high school avoided talking to me about religion because they anticipated that I would tear down their poorly constructed arguments. And I did.

As I set off in 2008 to begin my freshman year studying government at Harvard (whose motto is Veritas, “Truth”), I could never have expected the change that awaited me.

It was a brisk November when I met John Joseph Porter. Our conversations initially revolved around conservative politics, but soon gravitated toward religion. He wrote an essay for the Ichthus, Harvard’s Christian journal, defending God’s existence. I critiqued it. On campus, we’d argue into the wee hours; when apart, we’d take our arguments to e-mail. Never before had I met a Christian who could respond to my most basic philosophical questions: How does one understand the Bible’s contradictions? Could an omnipotent God make a stone he could not lift? What about the Euthyphro dilemma: Is something good because God declared it so, or does God merely identify the good? To someone like me, with no Christian background, resorting to an answer like “It takes faith” could only be intellectual cowardice. Joseph didn’t do that.

And he did something else: He prodded me on how inconsistent I was as an atheist who nonetheless believed in right and wrong as objective, universal categories. Defenseless, I decided to take a seminar on meta-ethics. After all, atheists had been developing ethical systems for 200-some years. In what I now see as providential, my atheist professor assigned a paper by C. S. Lewis that resolved the Euthyphro dilemma, declaring, “God is not merely good, but goodness; goodness is not merely divine, but God.”

Joseph also pushed me on the origins of the universe. I had always believed in the Big Bang. But I was blissfully unaware that the man who first proposed it, Georges Lemaître, was a Catholic priest. And I’d happily ignored the rabbit trail of a problem of what caused the Big Bang, and what caused that cause, and so on.

By Valentine’s Day, I began to believe in God. There was no intellectual shame in being a deist, after all, as I joined the respectable ranks of Thomas Jefferson and other Founding Fathers.

I wouldn’t stay a deist for long. A Catholic friend gave me J. Budziszewski’s book Ask Me Anything, which included the Christian teaching that “love is a commitment of the will to the true good of the other person.” This theme—of love as sacrifice for true good—struck me. The Cross no longer seemed a grotesque symbol of divine sadism, but a remarkable act of love. And Christianity began to look less strangely mythical and more cosmically beautiful.

So, I want to point out the progression of her beliefs from atheist to deist to Christian. First, she listened to the scientific arguments for God’s existence, which took her to deism, which is a variety of theism where God just creates the universe and then doesn’t interfere with it after. Those arguments, the Big Bang and the cosmic fine-tuning, were enough for her to falsify atheism and prove some sort of theism. After that, she remained open to the evidence for Christian theism, and finally got there after looking at other evidence.

But this makes me think of how some of the atheists that I talk to do the exact opposite of what she did. I start off by explaining to them scientific evidence for a Creator and Designer. I explain the mainstream discoveries that confirm an origin of the universe (e.g. – light element abundance predictions and observations), and I cite specific examples of fine-tuning, (e.g. – the gravitational constant). I explain protein sequencing and folding, and calculate the probabilities of getting a protein by chance. I explain the sudden origin of the phyla in the Cambrian explosion, and show why naturalistic explanations fail. I talk about the fine-tuning needed to get galaxies, solar systems and planets to support life. But many of these atheists don’t become deists like the honest atheist in the story. Why not?

Well, the reason why not is because they interrupt the stream of scientific evidence coming out of my mouth and they start to ask me questions that have nothing to do with what we can know through science. See, evangelism is like building a house. You have to start with the foundation, the walls, the plumbing, the electricity, etc., but you can’t know all the specific details about furniture and decorations at the beginning. But militant atheists don’t care that you are able to establish the foundations of Christian theism – they want to jump right to the very fine-grained details, and use that to justify not not building anything at all. Just as you are proving all the main planks of a theistic worldview with science, they start asking “am I going to Hell?” and telling you “God is immoral for killing Canaanite children”, etc. They want to stop the construction of the house by demanding that you build everything at once. But, it is much easier to accept miracles like the virgin birth if you have a God who created the universe first. The foundation comes first, it makes the later stuff easier to do.

So rather than adjust their worldview to the strong scientific evidence, and then leave the puzzling about Hell and Old Testament history for later, they want to refute the good scientific arguments with “Am I going to Hell?”. How does complaining about Hell and unanswered prayer a response to scientific evidence? It’s not! But I think that this does explain why atheists remain atheists in the face of all the scientific evidence against naturalism. They insulate their worldview from the progress of science by focusing on their emotional disappointment that they are not God and that God isn’t doing what they want him to do. That’s the real issue. Authority and autonomy. In my experience, they are usually not accountable to science, although there are, thank God, exceptions to that rule.

31 thoughts on “Is asking “Am I going to Hell?” a good response to scientific arguments for theism?”

  1. I get thrown the “Canaanite curve” every now and then. My favorite retort is, “Okay, why was it wrong?” Worm on a hook with all the twisting and turning. Then take them through the holiness and justice of God and how this world works to display not only those features, but God’s grace through Christ’s sacrifice.

    Like

  2. I have experienced this very things many times. In my experience, the commitment to an atheist position seldom has to do with evidence, but about not liking the idea of God.

    I am puzzled somewhat by non-theists who get upset about the idea of hell and go on to say that it’s not real. Why get upset about something that’s not real? If someone told me that the werewolves were going to abduct me in my sleep if I didn’t wear a tin-foil hat, I might laugh, but I wouldn’t get upset. The threat of the werewolves would not concern me. I certainly wouldn’t wear a tin-foil hat to protect myself from them, nor would I start a podcast to tell people not to believe in the werewolves or write a book about how stupid it is to believe in werewolves.

    I would probably feel pity for the ones who believe in werewolves, but I wouldn’t hate them or expend the bile that atheists seem to exhibit towards Christians.

    Just a whole lot of effort against something that doesn’t exist.

    Like

    1. Because they know how they came to their belief. They became atheists when they were children, long before the evidence (especially scientific evidence) was presented to them, and they are now involved in certain sins that they refuse to back out of. That’s the normal case in my opinion. It’s just easier to rationalize it than have to walk their whole life back, even it it means embracing obvious moral crimes like abortion.

      Like

  3. Gents, the ‘ok, why was it wrong?’ statement does work well rhetorically against atheists since they cannot ground their morality, but given that the vast majority of people we witness to nowadays are not atheist, but ‘spiritual, but not religious’ how might we respond to them? Specifically, how do we respond to the far more numerous group of people who think ‘God’ exists but disbelieve that ‘She’ is anything other than non-judgmental Love who would never do anything so cruel as to mandate the slaughter of anyone?

    Like

    1. She? God is a he is he not?

      The reason why God is a “he” is explained here:
      http://www.ewtn.com/library/Theology/NOTMOTHR.HTM

      Its something to do with preserving his transcendence. And the fact that God came in a male body of Jesus(Who is the image and icon of his father) and referred to God his Father rather than Mother. And the unanimous male pronoun to refer to God in the bible. Makes it quite obvious.

      Like

  4. They suffer from ABGS and any barrier (no matter how flimsy) so long as it is a natural explanation is sufficient to allow them to avoid the God that they know actually exists.

    Like

  5. I have found exactly the same thing when talking to atheists. When you start to pin them down and give solid evidence for the basics like theism, they suddenly go ballistic and start asking off the wall questions that have nothing to do with the topic you’re discussing or they start making wild and off topic comments in an attempt to derail the conversation.

    It goes something like this (not even exaggerated, although this is a condensed form):

    Them: “There’s no evidence for a God.”
    Me: “Actually, there is good evidence for a first cause of the universe.” Proceeds to explain the cosmological argument and associated evidence, with links to sources.
    Them: “Yeah, but the God of the Bible is a horrible monster who had the Jews kill people and allows slavery.”
    Me: “We can talk about that later. Do you see how there’s evidence for a God? How do you answer this evidence I presented?”
    Them: “There’s all kinds of contradictions in the Bible. It was written by ignorant people. Jesus never existed. You’re an idiot.”

    Yep, that’s very typical.

    Like

    1. They treat it like a game. There is a transparent lack of interest in arriving at true beliefs – no curiosity about science at all, and no humility to let science, e.g. – the origin of life, bound what we can rationally affirm. I like letting science boss around my worldview. I guess atheists don’t have the same view.

      Like

  6. Things like divine prerogative to judge creation, likelihood of miracles, Problem of Evil etc, are not [per se] evidence for or against God, but more fittingly, questions that can be explored after questions about Divine existence are settled.

    Why argue about specific Divine Characteristics before you’ve agreed that you are truly discussing Someone who could say “I Am”?

    Like

  7. I find it curious how christians are constantly showing off the big bang and fine-tuning as evidence for god because the bible predicted it and yet fail to realize how the creation account got everything else wrong. There are about seven things I can point to that shows what genesis got wrong. It’s gotten to a point where christians have no choice but to view it as metaphor becuse science has discredited it so badly. If the big bang is evidence that god exists then surely birds coming before land animals must be evidence that he doesn’t exist.

    Like

    1. First, before we even look at the Bible, can we agree that atheism is false? Because that’s what the science shows. Atheism requires that the entire physical universe NOT HAVE A SUPERNATURAL CAUSE. Can you admit atheism is false because that’s what science has shown us? After we get that settled, then we can talk about the resurrection of Jesus. After we get that settled we can talk about the specifics of Genesis.

      Like

  8. Please show me a peer-reviewed scientific paper that shows the physical universe had a supernatural cause. The whole reason why atheism exists is because we have found that the universe likely had a natural cause and everything in it has a physical, natural cause. Even if you dispute that, a supernatural cause to the universe isn’t conclusive either. I’m surprised you went so far as to say that. Also, I think this is just side stepping my initial challenge anyway. I don’t have to establish the resurrection of jesus first to show that genesis is wrong. I can show that the bible is not the word of god if the creation account is wrong. Population genetics shows that Adam and Eve never existed so there was no fall or original sin. Therefore, no need for a saviour. Jesus couldn’t be the son of god if he referenced someone who doesn’t even exist. All this gets ignored just because of the big bang.

    And no, atheism isn’t false until theism is proven true.

    Like

    1. Right, so then there is no point about talking about Bible verses until we get the question of whether God created the universe settled.

      Here is the peer-reviewed article you asked for, which appeared in the journal “Astrophysics and Space Science”:
      http://link.springer.com/article/10.1023%2FA%3A1017083700096

      Notice how it flatly contradicts your assertion that the universe had a “natural cause”. That’s what you have to believe as an atheist, the trouble is that you don’t have the science, any more than a flat-Earther or a Santa Claus believer has the science. That’s the point. You don’t have any scientific evidence for your view. And you won’t let the scientific evidence update your view, because science is garbage to you.

      Like

  9. First, this is not a scientific paper that I can see. It’s an article written by a philospher which very few take seriously. Second, I do have the science that shows the bible is wrong. I mentioned one part of it in the previous post. I have tons of science that shows I’m right and genesis is wrong. If science was garbage to me, I would believe in a 6000 year old earth and a global flood. You still avoid the issue.

    I agree that the bible was right about the beginning of the universe so stop using that argument. My broken clock is right twice a day. That’s one more than the creation account. Does that mean it’s the clock of god? Please address the issue that genesis was wrong about everything else otherwise we won’t get anywhere.

    Like

    1. OK, I think you get the last word here, I am done. You want to talk about the Bible, and I want to talk about science. We are at a stalemate.

      I will say that I think there is more scientific evidence for a Young Earth Creationism view than there is for atheism, and YEC is a position I don’t hold. Atheism is lower than YEC when it comes to scientific evidence, in my opinion.

      Like

  10. I’m pretty sure I’m writing english here. I want to talk about the science too. I want to talk about the science in the bible just like you do. You bring the science of the big bang as evidence for the bible and I bring other science as evidence against the bible. I agree with your point and you ignore mine. You accuse me of being anti-science but I have been anything but that.

    I have brought this issue to many christians before and none can refute or deal with it. It looks like you are the latest one. Heck, I would be a christian if someone could anwer this issue.

    Like

    1. WK isn’t trying to convince you that the entire Bible is literally true. He’s trying to start with evidence for the existence of a God. IF there’s a God, then we can talk about what He might be like and whether or not the God of the Bible is the real God and whether or not the Biblical account of creation is true and details like that. But if you’re starting from a position of atheism and wanting every bit of the Bible to be explained to your satisfaction before you’ll even consider the theistic position, you’re 1) being unreasonable and illogical and 2) not addressing the argument being made here.

      I seriously doubt that you are really hung up on the details of the creation account in Genesis and that’s the only reason you’re not a Christian. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but I am saying you would be the first among many, many atheists I’ve talked to. If that is the case, I’m willing to talk about scientific evidence for a young earth. However, you’ll need to convince me that you understand the more basic arguments for the existence of God and the resurrection of Jesus and agree that they make at least a good case first. If you haven’t addressed those arguments, you haven’t even started evaluating the Christian position yet.

      Like

      1. Hello, Lindsay. I used to be a christian of the old earth persuasion actually so I do know a thing or two about the bible. My doubst about the bible started when I saw the enormous amount of evidence for evolution. Eventually, other things cemented my decision to leave. I would like it to be true but there are too many things, like the creation account, that I can’t reconcile. I would like to discuss this evidence however I am reluctant to because of the overwheliming critiques against a young earth.

        I also don’t think that a start to the universe is evidence that a god exists. It could be possible, I suppose, but so could a multiverse. We don’t have conclusive evidence either way.

        “However, you’ll need to convince me that you understand the more basic arguments for the existence of God and the resurrection of Jesus and agree that they make at least a good case first. If you haven’t addressed those arguments, you haven’t even started evaluating the Christian position yet.”

        I have seen the arguments for Jesus and their counter arguments as well. There are good ones on either side. You can’t ask me to believe or accept the bible before you offer evidence to it’s reality. You need to provide the evidence first.

        Like

        1. Before we provide evidence for the bible we start with the existence of God got it?

          ”I would like to discuss this evidence however I am reluctant to because of the overwheliming critiques against a young earth.”

          YEC has not bearing on either the historicity and reliability of the gospels nor the resurrection of Jesus.

          Like

        2. “I also don’t think that a start to the universe is evidence that a god exists. It could be possible, I suppose, but so could a multiverse. We don’t have conclusive evidence either way.”

          You’re right that simply showing that the universe had a beginning is not sufficient to show that there is a God. It could be that there is a multiverse with its own physical laws that govern how universes come to exist and that our universe was created by this multiverse completely without any God. We can’t tell whether it was God or a multiverse mechanism that started our universe based only on evidence that our universe began.

          However, it is worth pointing out that the scientific evidence for God and for a multiverse are exactly equal. Zero. Neither a multiverse nor a supernatural being can be investigated scientifically. Both are beyond the realm of what we can study. Neither is science. So which one you choose (assuming that’s all the evidence you had) would depend entirely on which one you like better or find more compelling. If you’re determined to avoid the idea of God because you think “natural” things are better, you’ll like the multiverse idea better. If you don’t mind the idea of a supernatural being who might be in charge of you, you might be okay with the God hypothesis.

          Of course, that’s just speaking strictly of the evidence for a beginning to the universe. We’re already down to either God or a multiverse just on that fact. The eternal universe or a self-creating universe are out because they don’t match the evidence.

          So is there evidence for or against either of our two remaining options? Yes. The argument from fine tuning makes it extremely unlikely that we would be in a multiverse. Even in a multiverse of nearly infinite possibilities, the number of physical constants and other factors that make this universe, not only capable of sustaining intelligent life, but place our planet in an ideal position to see and study our universe, is enormously unlikely. It is much more likely that our universe and planet were designed for life rather then having all of the many factors in place that we have. So that should lean people toward the God hypothesis over the multiverse unless they have some bias away from the supernatural.

          Of course, there’s more. The teleological argument argues that signs of design and purpose in nature, and specifically in living things, argues for a purposeful designer. Since a multiverse is not a person and cannot be purposeful, any evidence for purposeful design is evidence for God and against the multiverse. There are many such evidences. I shall leave it to you to search them out for yourself. I can’t do everything for you. Much more has been written on this topic elsewhere and is not hard to find if you take even a brief time to look.

          In addition to the arguments from fine tuning and design, the moral argument provides evidence for a God as well. If there is any sort of universal absolute in terms of morality – any principle on which we SHOULD act – it must come from a moral lawgiver. No multiverse and no pure physical reality can produce a SHOULD. Not only do most people inherently sense this moral absolute, but societies all over the world and throughout time have held many of the same moral boundaries, giving evidence that these things are moral absolutes and come from a moral authority. Murder, rape, theft, incest, harming one’s family, betrayal – most societies have considered these things to be wrong. And while many societies have exceptions where they don’t consider them wrong, they rarely remove the principle all together. So while an ancient Native American tribe might not consider it wrong to murder or rape someone from another tribe, for example, they do consider it wrong within their own group. These universal shoulds (and accompanying should nots) are good evidence of a moral authority, which is inconsistent with any sort of multiverse origin of the universe.

          That’s just a brief introduction to some of the main arguments. As you can see, it’s far more than just arguing that a beginning of the universe means there is a God.

          Like

          1. If you’re interested in talking about creation, you can take a look at this post on my blog: http://www.lindsays-logic.blogspot.com/2014/11/creation-vs-evolution-frameworks.html

            The main reason that many people reject the Biblical account of creation is that they evaluate the data with an incorrect view of the creation framework. For those who don’t understand the creation framework correctly, it can look like evolution has mountains of evidence to support it. When you understand what the real creation models actually predict, you realize that it’s more complicated than that.

            Like

  11. //The whole reason why atheism exists is because we have found that the universe likely had a natural cause and everything in it has a physical, natural cause.//

    “Likely,” as in probable, but not certain? Sounds like faith.

    Like

  12. “We see things in the world that can exist and can also not exist. Now everything that can exist has a cause. But one cannot go on ad infinitum in causes… Therefore one must posit something the existence of which is necessary.”
    T. Aquinas.

    1) What we observe and experience in the universe is contingent. (Where “contingent” means, something owes its existence to something else).

    2) A network of causally dependent contingent things cannot be infinite

    3) A network of causally dependent contingent things must be finite

    Conclusion: there must be a first cause in the network of contingent causes.

    –David Beck
    http://works.bepress.com/david_beck/2/

    Like

  13. “I find it curious how christians are constantly showing off the big bang and fine-tuning as evidence for god because the bible predicted it and yet fail to realize how the creation account got everything else wrong. There are about seven things I can point to that shows what genesis got wrong.”

    Hello Luis! :) May I ask you something? What do you believe in and why? Everyone is jumping to defend Christianity without asking what you believe in first. I would like to understand your perspective and how you have come to your conclusion without automatically assuming you’re a troll or having no interest in wanting to understand.

    “I used to be a christian of the old earth persuasion actually so I do know a thing or two about the bible. My doubst about the bible started when I saw the enormous amount of evidence for evolution.”

    Was it just doubts on evolution that caused you to not become a chrsitian or was there more to it? Can you please explain how you ended up not being a Christian? Thank you :) Your answer to these questions is appreciated.

    Like

    1. I currently gravitate towards agnosticisism/nihilisim. You may ask if I’m happy about that and my answer is it’s not about being happy but finding reality. Evidence for evolution is what first caused me to doubt christianity but aftre I explored further, other things came up eg no evidence for the exodus or world wide flood, errors in the bible, different religions, differing NDE accounts, false miracle claims, split personalty disorders. I compiled a list of things that would be too numerous to mention on this post. The genesis creation account was another example, which no one has answered adequately. I eventually had to walk away. The reason why I first posted was to make people aware that the cosmological and fine tuning arguments don’t work when you factor in the bible being incorrect about the creation account.

      Like

      1. Even IF the Bible is incorrect about the creation account, that does not in any way falsify the cosmological and fine tuning arguments. Those arguments stand on their own and would apply even if there was no such thing as a Bible. Even if you don’t believe Christianity is true, the cosmological, teleological, and fine-tuning arguments show that there must be a God of some sort – a supernatural being who started and designed the universe. You’re creating a false dichotomy between either the Bible is entirely true in every word OR there is no God at all. There are many other options you’re ignoring.

        Of course, your objections to the Biblical account of creation can be answered, but you have to have a foundation for them. How can we talk about how God created the earth and its creatures and when He did so if we haven’t even established whether there is a God? It’s like arguing over the hair color of Zeus to talk about the details of Genesis if there is no God. It’s totally pointless. If Zeus doesn’t exist, he has no hair color and if the God of the Bible doesn’t exist, then he didn’t create at any time.

        If you do have evidence that there must be a God, however, then you can build on that foundation to study what he is like, whether or not the Bible is true, and so on.

        So, my question is, do you agree that there is a God of some sort? If not, then Genesis isn’t your problem.

        Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s