So, it has come to my attention that someone has responded to my article on what would convince me to believe in God. On several points, he seemed to agree with me; many Christians often fail to relate to their audience in ministering to them. However, he also disagreed with me on some of these points, and I will now address his arguments.
His first criticism is the fact that I argued that the evidence for God should be undeniable. He responded by pointing out that people can deny whatever they want. This is most certainly true, people can and do deny anything for any reason. There is even a website out there dedicated to the belief in a flat earth. However, what I meant in my original article was that it should be undeniable to any reasonable person. I would argue that belief in God, when approached from a position of agnostic atheism, is not reasonable.
A problem with his proposition, however, was that he included an article and a video which are both relatively controversial to me. First, he posted this video from Stand to Reason, which basically pulled a Romans 1 about how God has revealed himself through nature, and tried to point out that just because God does not reveal himself in a way I am comfortable with, does not mean he does not exist.
First of all, I do not accept the Bible’s claims that God revealed himself through nature,our current undeniable frame of reference. I look at the universe, and what I see is a bunch of stuff happening with no rhyme or reason to it. We have a harsh process of evolution that led to life being compatible with its environment, because if it were not compatible with its environment, we would die, like 99.9% of species that have ever lived have. If the earth were not compatible with life, it would look like every other planet we know of: dead and barren. I do not think the argument from design, which is essentially the reason for invoking Romans 1, is a good argument.
I also want to remind this person that while yes, God not revealing himself says nothing about his existence, it is not up to me to seek out every potential being that may exist, but for the person who is making the claim to back up his conclusions. If one does not do this, then they should not expect me to believe. It is that simple. The other source linked on the subject of willful disbelief discusses the Bible and how people would not believe Paul even as he reasoned with him. I just want to point out that if we take the Bible at its face value, it may appear that yes, the people he was preaching to were unreasonable. However, one must also keep in mind that the Bible is almost certainly biased in favor of a certain perspective, and may not have explained the situations objectively. If Paul was about the same caliber of a debater as most Christians I deal with today, it’s not necessarily a case of his listeners being obstinate, but him not making his case very well. There are often two sides to every story after all. We do not know what Paul’s opponents actually thought about his arguments here. Therefore, I take the Bible story with a grain of salt.
The next point of contention comes from his comments on the Bible. In my original article, I pointed out that we cannot use the Bible to prove the Bible, and he responded by saying that we can test the Bible against itself. This is missing the point. If one wants to know, I was specifically referring to Christians citing 2 Timothy 3:16-17, which some use as some sort of end all argument confirming the trustworthiness of the Bible. However, this is pretty shaky because in order to take that verse seriously, one has to actually believe the Bible to begin with, which leads to circular logic.
I will still contend with his point though. He attempted to make an argument referring to the internal consistency of the Bible here. I’m happy I already wrote an article of my own on this, and do not have to write a full fledged response to Bible contradictions in real time. To summarize the article, what I will say is that believers in the Bible see what they want to see. They believe there are no contradictions, because their worldview does not allow for contradictions, which forces them to resolve any alleged contradictions at all cost. Now, it is easy to tell me that I believe contradictions because I want to find them, in order to establish some false equivalency, and what I will say to this is that while this sounds true in theory, we can ultimately research any contradiction in their historical and literary context to resolve them. In some cases, yes, contradictions arise because people take them out of context, and I actually have a Christian friend who runs a blog attempting to debunk low effort attempts at contradictions made in the Skeptic’s Annotated Bible. However, to say that there are no contradictions in a book as large and diverse in authorship as the Bible is patently absurd in my opinion and an example of the same willful ignorance the author of this article sometimes appears to accuse nonbelievers of.
Next, the author, in response to my point that I want scientific evidence, attempts to make the tired old claim that science cannot tell us everything there is to know, and that science studies the natural, not the supernatural. He uses the case of consciousness to make this point. While yes, there are many things we do not know yet about how the brain works, this does not mean we are ignorant of the phenomenon known as consciousness and whether or not it exists. We have an entire field of psychology, which could actually be a summed up as a field of study analyzing how human consciousness works. It is a social science, and has developed many theories about consciousness. While I will concede we are ignorant of how the whole thing works, this does not mean we are ignorant ofthe phenomenon itself. The same cannot be said about God. Quite frankly, pointing to something that I find cannot be observed even in indirect ways adequately and comparing it to something we can observe, albeit second-handedly, is openly farcical. Appealing to the supernatural, in my opinion, is nothing but a massive argument from ignorance. Sure, it could exist, but so could invisible interdimensional unicorns. It does not mean I am going to believe that it does. Once again, the burden of proof is on the one making the claim.
Next, the author of the article claims that faith is actually some sort of scientific process, with which I disagree vehemently. Hebrews 11:1 defines faith as “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” This seems to contradict a pattern of observations made over the course of one’s life. I also want to point out that Jesus once said, in John 20:29, “blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” This is clearly a denial of scientific processes, which are based in observation. To further drive my point home that faith is not a scientific process see Luke 4:12, in which Jesus cites Deuteronomy by stating “Do not put the Lord your God to the test” when he was tempted by Satan.
The evidence is quite clear that there are strong traditions throughout Christianity, in particular, against belief based on evidence and testing. I will also point out that any attempt to provide contradictory evidence to this using the Bible – as has been done – will be a concession to my point that the Bible has contradictions in it. I am aware of the contradictory evidence within scripture on this position, such as 1 Kings 18, which is the story of Elijah demonstrating God to the prophets of Baal. However, despite this, one cannot deny a strong position to be drawn from the Bible, particularly in the New Testament, that one should believe without evidence and without testing certain claims. This is what I was arguing against in my original article.
The next point the author makes is that we cannot use science to test the Bible. In some cases, no, we cannot. However, we have many disciplines related to history to test the Bible’s veracity, and quite frankly, I am unconvinced. I used to be a devout Christian myself, and I have studied the Bible in an academic context for some classes I have taken to satisfy the general studies requirements for my degree. As a matter of fact, I will bestow the same information I was taught by linking an online course which essentially teaches just that. I think one will find the Bible’s account, after a proper, objective examination of the evidence, to be unreliable and very biased.
For a final point of contention, I would like to address the point I made that even if I observed God, I would like to be verified by a psychologist. This is not because of some willful ignorance on my part, but because hallucinations are a real thing, and people sometimes claim to see God or the divine in these hallucinations, whether they be near-death experiences or some sort of mental disorder. The key to knowing the supernatural phenomenon I am trying to observe is actually being observed is to eliminate all other explanations. The first thing I would want to know after a supposed experience is that all my marbles are there, because I’ve tricked myself mentally before with cognitive biases and the like as a Christian.
That being said, I understand that it may be impossible for most theists to convince me to believe. I have sought the evidence myself, and have found it unsatisfactory. However, it is not impossible to convince me, it is just very difficult because I am looking for specific things. If one does not present specific evidence but instead relies on arguments from ignorance and accusations of willful ignorance, then I will just say that’s tough. I have specific criteria, and if one cannot meet it, then they should not expect me to believe- end of story.
To give some advice to the author who wrote this article, I understand you are trying to be aware of your biases and how certain methods of communication are wasted on me, but I would like to point out that I had trouble determining whether your article was actually intended to be a response to me, or just some commentary on my article for your Christian readers to read. If it is the former, I would like to point out that despite your awareness that some methods of communication are not effective, you still missed the point of my article.
Most of your arguments read like apologetics, meaning they are both by and for Christians. The reason I am unconvinced by common Christian arguments is not that I am willfully ignorant, but that they are generally unconvincing. I want to point out that while the argument that I cannot disprove God and that he might exist outside of my perception is valid, it is also unverifiable, and therefore, a moot point. Pushing such an argument is an argument from ignorance, and is unconvincing to nonbelievers. I also want to point out that the Bible can be observed in many ways, and it is common for believers to attempt to defend it from their perspectives, which is also unconvincing, because once again, I do not accept your perspective. You cannot convince me of your point of view, by presenting evidence that only makes sense if looked at through your eyes. In the end this becomes circular, and is why I said that one cannot prove the Bible by believing the Bible.
I hope you do not take these criticisms personally, as they are something many Christians struggle with in discussing such topics with nonbelievers, and I am trying to bring them to your attention. It is great that you recognize the fact Christians often make arguments that are unconvincing to nonbelievers, because one must be a believer to accept them. However, many of your points of contention with my original post end up doing the same thing I predicted they would do.