Tag Archives: Argument

Can anyone prove God’s existence? Is there any evidence?

The Pugnacious Irishman considers the general objection:

No one can prove God’s existence (or Jesus’ existence, or that the Bible is God’s word, etc, etc…just toss in any number of Christian staples).  There is no evidence whatsoever.  It’s all belief and faith.

This is called hard agnosticism. Atheism is the claim “There is no God”. Soft agnosticism is the claim “I don’t know if there is a God”. Hard agnosticism is the claim “No one can know whether there is a God or not”.

Now take a moment and think about how you would respond in a general way, without plunging into the arguments and counter-arguments.

Rich begins by teaching us about the notion of burden of proof:

It is important that when someone says that to you, that you never let them off the hook.  It is just too easy to throw it out there without backing it up.  It is a particularly convenient one liner for those who aren’t really interested in God and for those who have not thought deeply about God.  That’s not to say that everyone who says that hasn’t thought deeply about God, it’s just that it’s easy for folks like that to resort to it.  Rather than launching into disproving the “no proof” belief, force your conversation partner to shoulder his responsibility: he made a claim, now he must back it up.  No reason for you to launch into Kalam mode.

This actually happened to me when I was working for a software company in Chicago. We were waiting for a meeting room to empty. I was browsing a William Lane Craig debate transcript on one of the lab machines, when one of the engineers said, “Why do you read that stuff? No one can know whether God exists or not!” So I said, “Why do you think that?” And he said, “Because God is non-physical and that means that we can never have evidence of a non-physical entity”. And we went from there, straight to the Kalam argument.

Rich documents FIVE responses here, and breaks them down. My favorites are the last two, but they are all useful, depending on the person who is asking.

By the way, here is the evidence for Christian theism and responses to objections, if evidence is really required. But the point of this post is that if anyone makes a claim to know that there is no proof that God exists, the first questions you need to ask before you go to the data is: what do you mean by “God”? what would count as proof for you? who have you read? what is wrong with the arguments that you’ve read? Etc.

Why won’t Christians defend their faith in public?

UPDATE: The Pugnacious Irishman has linked to me! Thank you for the link Rich! EVERYONE: GO READ HIS POST RIGHT NOW!

UPDATE: Neil Simpson has a debate going on about whether faith is opposed to reason. 50+ comments so far.

Shout out: Brian Auten of Apologetics 315 helped me to make this post nicer. He’s much nicer than I am.

I would like to describe a situation that arises frequently that concerns me. The situation I describe below brings out a flaw I see in the way that rank-and-file Christians respond to criticisms of Christianity in the public square.

Here is the situation

Eve is busy programming away at her desk, rushing to check in her unit tests so she can spend her lunch hour reading the latest Stephenie Meyer horror novel, or looking through an Avon catalog. Suddenly Eve hears Alice talking to Bob on the other side of her cube. She stops typing to listen to the following unencrypted conversation.

Alice: I was watching a documentary on the Discovery Channel last night that said that the universe has always existed, so there is no God!

Bob: I was watching a documentary on PBS last night showing simulations of how the first life started on Earth! God didn’t do it!

Alice: I saw “Inherit the Spin” on the weekend! The only reason people oppose evolution is because of the Bible! Not because of science!

Bob: I’m going to see “The Va Dinci Code” this weekend! It says that the Gospels are unreliable and that Jesus didn’t even die on the cross!

Alice: I just bought the latest Dichard Rawkins book “Christians Should Be Fed to Lions and the Bible Should Be Burned”!

Bob: I will read that as soon as I finish Histopher Chritchens’ book “Why God is the Evilest, Stupidest Person in the World”!

Eve double-majored in business and computer science at the Indian Institute of Technology, and has an MBA from the London School of Economics. She has spent a ton of time, effort and money studying very difficult subjects for her job, and she even publishes research. She works full-time and runs her own business part-time, and earns about 200K per year. She lives in a huge house, drives a huge car, and goes on vacation abroad to all the best vacation spots.

Eve thinks she is a Christian. She has attended church since childhood, her husband is a church elder and she sings in the church choir. She reads the Bible and prays. She gives money to the poor. She teaches Sunday school to children.  She has even read all of the Narnia novels three times!

But even though God is being maligned in Alice and Bob’s conversation, Eve is not going to stand up to defend God’s reputation to them, (or even to her own children, who are both committed atheists).

Why won’t Eve stand?

I am wondering if anyone can explain to me why it is that most church Christians are not able or not willing to make a public defense when God’s reputation is called into question. It seems to me that there are two bad effects that follow from Eve’s unwillingness to stand up and invite Alice and Bob to lunch so that she can address their questions and concerns.

1) God’s reputation is being trashed by Alice and Bob on the basis of lies they’ve swallowed from pop culture. These lies about God’s existence and character could be easily corrected with a minimal amount of study, which Eve is capable of.  If someone said similar lies about her husband or children, she would speak up, but she won’t speak up for God.

2) Alice and Bob are bound for Hell unless someone cares enough to correct their mistaken beliefs, which, along with their sinfulness, is what is keeping them from a relationship with God that would go on in Heaven. If Eve’s husband or children were mistakenly about to drink poison thinking it was Aspirin, then Eve would speak up. But to save her co-workers from Hell, she won’t speak up.

Eve is capable of studying to defend the faith, because of her great success in other areas where so much time and effort were required to master difficult material. So why has she not applied herself to answering public challenges to her Christian faith from her professors, teachers, actors, the media, politicians, scientists, historians, etc.?

It seems to me that if she did spend some time studying, and then made her defense to her co-workers, then two things would follow:

D1) Eve would be demonstrating her love for God and her friendship with God by protecting his reputation when it is called into question by unbelievers in public settings. That’s what friends do – if Eve wanted to be God’s friend, she would care that no one believed lies about him and told lies about him in public settings.

D2) Eve would be demonstrating her love for her neighbor if she was able to correct some of these false beliefs, such as that the universe is eternal, or that a historical case cannot be made for the resurrection, or that evil is not compatible with theism. It’s important for Alice and Bob to know that Christianity is not stupid.

So why is it that Eve is able to go to church for 20 years, sing in the choir, read the Bible, read the Narnia stories, pray on her knees, and yet still be unwilling to do the best thing for God and the best thing for her neighbor?

Questions for my readers

Can anyone help me to understand why Christians are willing to accept this? Why is this not being addressed by churches?

Do you have an experience where a Christian group stifled apologetics? Tell me about that, and why do you think they would do that, in view of the situation I outlined above? My experience is that atheists (as much as I tease them) are FAR more interested in apologetics than church Christians. Why is that?

My answers

My answers to these problems are given in the following previous posts.

In general:

Also, this debate I blogged about before talks about postmodernism and relativism, which has infected the church and has an impact on this question of whether we will study and defend our beliefs in public. I highly recommend giving it a listen – you will learn something about how we got to this point.

Disclaimer:

I want to clear that this is a problem for male and female Christians. I have seen it manifested by equal numbers of men and women in leadership roles. I picked these names because there is a running gag in computer network security where these names are used to describe the actors. Eve is the eavesdropping hacker, get it?

Has the university become intolerant and close-minded?

This article by prestigious McGill University ethicist Margaret Somerville is worth reading. (H/T Commenter ECM) She is one of the leading defenders of traditional marriage in Canada. She is a moderate social conservative. Here is a brief summary of her case against same-sex marriage. Her short article in the journal Academic Matters is about the intolerance of the leftist university elites against their opponents.

Here is the abstract:

In this edited excerpt from her Research and Society Lecture to the 2008 Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, ethicist Margaret Somerville argues that universities are becoming forums of intolerance. Keeping the university as an intellectually open and respectful place is critical, she says, to finding the “shared ethics” essential to maintaining healthy, pluralistic democracies.

And here is an excerpt in which she discusses the impact of moral relativism on moral disagreements:

That is where political correctness enters the picture. It excludes politically incorrect values from the “all values are equal” stable. The intense moral relativists will tolerate all values except those they deem to be politically incorrect—which just happen to be the ones that conflict with their values.

Political correctness operates by shutting down non-politically correct people’s freedom of speech. Anyone who challenges the politically correct stance is, thereby, automatically labeled as intolerant, a bigot, or hatemonger. The substance of their arguments against a politically correct stance is not addressed; rather people labeled as politically incorrect are, themselves, attacked as being intolerant and hateful simply for making those arguments. This derogatorily -label-the-person-and-dismiss-them-on-the-basis-of-that-label approach is intentionally used as a strategy to suppress strong arguments against any politically correct stance and, also, to avoid dealing with the substance of these arguments.

It is important to understand the strategy employed: speaking against same-sex marriage, for example, is not characterized as speech; rather, it is characterized as a discriminatory act against homosexuals and, therefore, a breach of human rights or even a hate crime. Consequently, it is argued that protections of freedom of speech do not apply.

She illustrates with some examples:

We need to look at what “pure” moral relativism and intense tolerance, as modified by political correctness, mean in practice. So let ‘s look at the suppression of pro-life groups and pro-life speech on Canadian university campuses. Whatever one’s views on abortion, we should all be worried about such developments. Pro-choice students are trying to stop pro-life students from participating in the collective conversation on abortion that should take place. In fact, they don’t want any conversation, alleging that to question whether we should have any law on abortion is, in itself, unacceptable.

In some instances some people are going even further: they want to force physicians to act against their conscience under threat of being in breach of human rights or subject to professional disciplinary procedures for refusing to do so. The Ontario Human Rights Commission recently advised the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario to this effect.

Political correctness is being used to try to impose certain views and even actions that breach rights to freedom of conscience; to shut down free speech; and to contravene academic freedom. I do not need to emphasize the dangers of this in universities. The most fundamental precept on which a university is founded is openness to ideas and knowledge from all sources.

She spends the rest of the paper arguing for a system of “shared ethics” that grounds open, respectful debate between disagreeing parties. I hope this catches on before secular-left moves from censorship to outright violence, against those who would dare to disagree with them.

A short bio of Margaret Somerville

Margaret Somerville is Samuel Gale Professor in the Faculty of Law and a professor in the Faculty of Medicine at McGill University and is the founding director of the McGill Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law. In 2004, she received the UNESCO Avicenna Prize for Ethics in Science and in 2006 delivered the prestigious Massey Lectures.

How to engage pro-abortion commenters and win

Neil from 4Simpsons posted a MUST-READ exchange with a pro-abortion commenter here. It’s entertaining and informative. I’ll just paste in a few excerpts below, so you can get the flavor of the exchange.

Here’s an effective exchange: (the challenger is in italics)

Then I suppose you’re equating an aborted fetus with a conscious, adult human? Something doesn’t seem quite right there; unless, you are actually thinking of the adult human beings the unborn will grow into when you say abortion kills the same kind of human beings genocide and the other transgressions do.

What kind of fetus are you speaking of? If it is a human fetus then she is a human being at a particular stage of development deserving of having her life protected. She isn’t an adult, but neither are toddlers. Your rationale could plug in human toddler instead of human fetus and claim that the “toddler will grow into” being an adult, but it would still involve killing an innocent human being.

This is kind of what I was getting at earlier when I mentioned something about equating an unborn human being with one outside the womb. If you’re saying the fertilized egg is a human being are you saying there’s no difference between us and that egg?

Of course there are differences: Size, level of development, environment and dependency. My claim is that none of those differences gives rise to the right to destroy those human beings.

And here are couple more funny parts:

I suppose it depends on how you define “me,” or “I,” or “you.” I’m pretty sure when we say those things, we are talking about the present us. If you really want to get philosophical, the “me” you will respond to after I post this will technically not be the same “me” as the one who wrote this because some time has elapsed and we are all in a constant state of change/growth.

Try committing a crime then sharing that philosophy with the judge. I’ll come visit you when I’m doing prison ministry ;-) .

I’ll spell it out for you: There is a 1:1 correlation between the human fetus and the subsequent human being. If you arm had been ripped off in utero, you’d only have one arm now. That was you in your mother’s womb, not a potential you. It was you at that particular stage of development.

And the last one before you click over to read the whole thing!

Honestly, Neil, I think abortion is a sad state of affairs for any society; that circumstances permit individuals to find themselves in the process of bringing about human life they did not intend to is sad.

That is a bad argument. These people had sex. Pregnancy is a potential outcome of sex. They didn’t wake up one day and realize they’d had an accidental in vitro fertilization or an immaculate conception.

Do you find it sad that actions have consequences? Boo-hoo. But don’t kill an innocent human being over actions you regret.

The pro-life issue is such a fun issue to debate, because it’s like the big-bang, fine-tuning and habitability arguments from the progress of science. The facts are all on our side, the delusions are solely theirs. And the more science progresses, the worse it gets for them. All you need to do is prepare and study like Neil has, and one day you’ll be as effective as he is in this exchange.