On the blog Loving Christ with Your Mind there was a post called “Doubting Atheism: Fifteen Questions for Atheists.” What follows are the questions and my answers.
1. Why are atheists so obsessed with religion?
If life were meaningless and ends at the grave, why even bother. If life is just a monopoly game that’s going to be put up, why even try to take the property and money of others (in a metaphoric sense, of course)? It doesn’t make much sense. Given atheism, nothing really matters since it’s not going to last. So, again I ask you, why bother with religion and its negative effects?
Life is supremely valuable in part because it will come to an end. People take for granted things that are constants (when’s the last time you thought about how thankful you are for running water?) but value and appreciate things that are fleeting. Our lives are worth protecting because they are the only ones we have.
As to atheists’ “obsession” with religion, the amount of interest that most atheists have in religion is not nearly enough to be called an “obsession.” At best, writing about religion might be like a hobby. The reason we spend any time on religion at all is because we have usually thought about and read about it to figure out the truth of the matter, and now that we have an informed opinion, it’s only natural to want to express. It’s like how someone who spends twenty years studying Ancient Greece will want to express their opinions about Greek history.
2. Why are atheists so obsessed with monotheistic religions?
Why only the big three? If all religions are equally false, why only bother with Christianity, Judaism, and Islam? What about Hinduism or deism? Again, it doesn’t make much sense. Perhaps there’s a reason that atheists are so amazingly obsessed with Christianity?
I’m glad you recognize that atheists attack Islam and Judaism as well. Often, we atheists are accused of being sympathetic to the muslims! That said, Deists believe in only one god, as well. There are probably several reasons atheists spend more time on Christianity and other religions, here are a couple:
1. You don’t see deists trying to scrub evolution out of high school textbooks, rallying against abortion, oppressing women (as muslims do, and to a lesser extent Christians).
2. Christianity is more widely known about and more culturally relevant than Deism or Hinduism. Most atheists in the English-speaking world know a good deal about Christianity, and they were raised in it. It only makes more sense to speak about what we know rather than what we don’t.
3. How do atheists explain the beginning of the universe?
Often atheists have pointed to the Big Bang to justify their worldview, but the Big Bang actually proves theism. Here’s a simple syllogism:
1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause
2. The universe began to exist
3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.
There is great evidence for the Big Bang. We can be led to it by first stating this fact: The universe is either eternal, or it is not. If it’s not, than my argument is scientifically supported. The universe cannot be eternal because of the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which states that energy is running out. If the universe is eternal, it should’ve run out a long time ago. The Big Bang proves God because it proves the universe came into being from nothing, and nothing cannot create nothing, for it is nothing. Therefore, Something must have caused the Big Bang. So how do you explain away this evidence for the existence of God?
The big bang does not prove that the universe came from nothing. The big bang is equally compatible with the view that matter and energy have existed for as long as time has existed (whether time is eternal or not). On this view, there was no time “before” the universe, just like there is no “north” of the north pole. For the universe to “come into being out of nothing” there would have had to have been a moment before its existence when no matter, energy, or space was present. But no one has ever proven that such a “moment of nothingness.” The big bang does not show this, and I’d challenge you to cite a peer-reviewed physics publication stating otherwise.
4. How do atheists explain away objective moral values?
Objective moral values are ones that are independent of human thought. If God doesn’t exist, they wouldn’t exist either. There’d be no one in charge to make a universal standard of right and wrong. It’d simply be a matter or opinion. But moral relativism fails. For one, it says that moral claims are only a matter of opinion but it asserts that as a fact. Also, we know things such as rape, murder, and child abuse are wrong, and if everyone agreed that they were right, they’d still be wrong. We know things are objectively wrong because we feel guilt when we do what is wrong; If morality was just our opinion, we wouldn’t feel guilty, for we would be doing what is right for us. So how do atheists justify the fact of objective morality?
If morals are merely God’s commands, then they aren’t really objective, they’re subjective, part of God’s mind. That said, words like “wrong” is probably a label describing the fact that someone is treating someone else in a way that they would not like to be treated. This seems to be the way this label is used, and so that is it’s proper definition. Actions that are “wrong” are not determined by opinion but by whether they fit such a definition or not.
5. How do materialists justify immaterial realities?
Logic, math, morality, and other things such as free will, human dignity, and time exist. These things are all immaterial. We can’t put the number 7 or the Law of Noncontradiction in a test tube. But if God doesn’t exist, matter would be all there is, since there’d be nothing to be the foundation of immaterial things. Everything would come through by matter, and thus, be matter. How can atheists give an answer to this argument?
I don’t think the argument here follows; if there are immaterial things, why couldn’t they exist without a “foundation”? That said, I view numbers not as “immaterial things” but as names for patterns that exist within space and time. This is known as Nominalism.
6. How do atheists explain the existence of the universe?
If atheism is true, there isn’t a reason for anything. It’s all an accident. There isn’t any purpose. But if there weren’t a purpose for anything, how do things exist? If God does not exist, the universe would have no meaning for its existence, and would, thus, not exist. So how can we living in a universe that both exists and has no reason for its existence?
The best answer I’ve heard to this question is that something is more likely than nothing. There are infinite number of ways for there to be something (a universe with one atom, or two, or three, all the way up to infinity) and only one way for there to be nothing.
7. How do you explain away circumstantial evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus?
Here are just two facts that help lead up to the conclusion that Christ is risen: 1. The early Christians died for their belief that He rose from the dead. You don’t die for what you know is a lie. No one does, and no one ever could. 2. Christianity started in Jerusalem. If the tomb weren’t empty, the Jewish pharisees could’ve proved it and ended the Christian movement. But they didn’t. How can an atheistic worldview explain this?
I’ve written an entire book addressing the so-called “evidence” Jesus’ resurrection. In a nutshell, there isn’t any good historical evidence that the original disciples died for their belief. Further, other people have died for things that they had clear evidence were false. As to the empty tomb, we don’t have much historical evidence that Jesus was buried in a tomb per se, and we have plenty of reason to think, based on the behavior of religious movements today, that a full tomb probably would not have made any difference to the early Christians. All of the claims I’ve made here are documented and referenced extensively in my book.
8. If the gospels are just pieces of historical fiction, why are there embarrassing details in there?
Jesus being accused of being a demon. A prostitute wiping Jesus’ feet, which was seen as a sexual approach. Peter being called “Satan” and denying Jesus three times. Jews being told to pay taxes to the Roman empire. One criteria of finding a historical truth is to see if the text is embarrassing to the writer. If it is, they probably didn’t make it up. Could you clear this up for me?
No atheist has to maintain that the gospels are “historical fiction.” They could very easily be based on real events with some embellished details. That said, the “embarrassing details” have reasonable explanations. Here’s just one: Many stories that are certainly false could be viewed as embarrassing, such as the story of the god Attis being castrated or the story of the god Romulus killing his brother Remus. Historian Richard Carrier has documented a number of other problems with applying the criterion of embarrassment to the gospel stories, and he details a much greater number of severe problems than I do. See Proving History, chapter 5.
9. If we are just matter, and not souls, why would some atheists support life-sentences?
The matter in our body is totally changed out every seven years. If Cartesian dualism—a view I embrace—is false, and we are just matter, that means I am not the same person as I was seven years ago. And this is also true for a criminal. The justice system is completely futile if atheism is true. If matter is who we are, why don’t we change as our matter changes?
I’m not sure that “the matter in our body is totally changed out every seven years.” Nonetheless, I’ll proceed as if it is true because my position on the issue doesn’t change whether it is true or false. The thing is, what “you” are does not boil down to any exact atom or even collection of atoms. Rather, what “you” are is some general configuration of atoms. Example: If a take a computer and chop it, melt it, and use the metals and plastics to create other stuff, is the new stuff still a computer? Of course not. Likewise, if someone built a computer made up of tiny individual “cells” that changed out every so often, it would not be incorrect to refer to such a computer as being the same entity over a long period of time, even after all of its original cells had been replaced, as long as there was some continuity in the computer’s stored memory, function, etc. throughout that time.
10. Why do so many atheists deny historical facts?
The common view today that most atheists hold is that Jesus didn’t exist. But Jesus did exist. How do I know this? Historically reliable sources such as Josephus, Tacitus, Lucian, the Jewish Talmud, and Pliny the Younger wrote about Jesus. So why do atheists hold to the Christ-myth hypothesis in spite of what we know through historical facts?
I don’t know whether “most atheists” believe Jesus did not exist, although certainly a very large number do. Atheists may adopt this view for a variety of reasons. Maybe they want another good stick to beat Christianity with. A lot of people are fascinated with theories that are shocking, that cause us to see a thing in a way we have never seen it before. Some may believe, rightly or wrongly, that they have good historical reasons for thinking Jesus did not exist. Historian Richard Carrier seems to be an example of the latter, as he is a bona fide historian and a very bright guy who thinks Jesus may not have existed.
Personally, I think Jesus did exist, though the evidence is not as strong as you think.
11. Why do most atheists, such as Richard Dawkins and Daniel Denette, equivocate evolution with atheism?
Evolution does not prove God exists, nor does it prove God doesn’t exist. Darwin did not kill God. Most Christians accept evolution. Why, then, do so many atheists point to evolution as if it disproves Christianity?
Some atheists, Dennett and Dawkins especially, say things that imply evolution is the death of God. Why do they say this? I don’t have a good answer for that. I do, however, that evolution qualifies as good evidence against the existence of God, though it doesn’t “prove” with absolute certainty that there’s no God. It just strengthens the probability that atheism is true. For why, see here.
12. Why don’t atheists actually question everything?
They’re always advocating skepticism, but fail to question their own views, including that of skepticism. If we should doubt everything, why not doubt atheism?
I can’t speak for all atheists, but I personally advocate questioning everything, including my own viewpoints.
13. Where do rights come from?
Most atheists are supporters of the gay rights movement, and are furious when someone denies a homosexual of his or her rights just because of their sexual orientation. So it’s pretty clear that atheists believe inalienable rights exist. But where do they come from? How can they be explained naturally?
“Rights” are choices people are allowed to make for themselves. The reason people can make those choices are because the law allows it. The reason the law allows it is because it was chosen to be so by the people. The reason the people chose it is because they would want the ability to determine the choice in question if they were that person.
14. How can there be no objective evil, but religion causes it?
There is objective evil, anything that demonstrably fits the definition of “wrong” is evil, see above.
15. Why are there no good reasons to believe atheism is true?
There are lots of arguments for atheism. See here.