So I know I’ve been picking on our atheist buddies lately, but I think it might be time that we sit down and have a little chat about the arguments we use. For the non-Christians reading this, it might be a little bit of interesting “inside baseball” for you, and it might give you some responses to these doofus arguments that many Christians tend to use.
Fellow Christians, lend me your ears! Stop using these embarrassingly stupid arguments, please. You’re not doing anyone any favors when you promote this kind of thinking.
Terrible Christian Argument #1
“You can only be an atheist if you’re omniscient!”
For those of you who’ve never heard this one, the line of thinking goes a little like this:
An atheist is someone who claims to know that God does not exist. In order to claim that something does not exist, you have to have full knowledge of all of reality. In order to have full knowledge of reality, you’d have to be omniscient. The only person that is omniscient would be God, and God cannot deny his own existence!
I will have to admit…when I first heard this (early on in my apologetics endeavors), I thought “hahaha! Yes! Stupid atheists! I’m going to get them so good with this one.” But, oh was I mistaken. For several reasons.
Right off the bat, many atheists will claim that atheism is not a claim about God’s non-existence. They’ll just say that they haven’t been convinced that God exists or that atheism is merely a lack of belief in God. So you’ll lose a significant number of atheists with the claim that atheism is the claim that God does not exist. If that’s not what your opponent is claiming, then attacking that claim is attacking a straw man. And that’s bad. Fallacies are bad.
The second error here is that you don’t actually have to be omniscient to claim to know that something does not exist. You can actually “prove a negative” by showing it to be logically incoherent. For example, it is logically incoherent for a married bachelor to exist. A bachelor is an unmarried man, and this logically entails that he cannot be married. So an unmarried married man is necessarily non-existent. In similar fashion, if it were possible to show that some characteristic about God is necessarily incoherent, then you could prove that God does not exist. Some atheists attempt this by showing a contradiction between a loving God and the existence of pain and suffering, for example.
(I’ll be writing on that topic very soon!)
The worst part about this argument, in my opinion, is that it advances a horrendously ignorant approach to knowledge (or epistemology). It is tacitly assuming that the only way to know something is to be 100% certain of it. But there is virtually nothing we can be 100% certain of, other than metaphysically necessary truths, or that I exist (I as in me, I can’t prove that you exist. You might be a figment of my imagination!) If you think that having knowledge requires having 100% proof, you’re going to have a bad time.
I wrote on that a little bit on my personal blog!
If you’re still using this argument, please stop. Thanks!
Terrible Christian Argument #2
“You just gotta have faith!”
There are a handful of Christians who seem to think that this is an appropriate response to someone when they have questions. And I have no doubt that many atheists who think faith is “belief without evidence” have come from this kind of church background. I hate to break it to you all, but as I explained here, faith is not some kind of random shot-in-the-dark belief without any evidence. And when Christians say that doubters need to just “have more faith”, it doesn’t actually really answer anything. True faith in something is not blind, and it is important for Christians to recognize that faith in God is not blind.
This is why I do not like when people say that they “don’t have enough faith to be an atheist.” This is promoting some kind of weird misunderstanding of faith that no one should hold to because it is unreasonable. As Christians, we have been called to examine things, test things, and be intellectually honest.
Terrible Christian Argument #3
“If evolution is true, Christianity is false!”
I’m genuinely unsure as to where this idea came from. Perhaps from some anti-intellectual creationist organization? Maybe from some kind of anti-science conspiracy group? I don’t really know.
But let’s examine this briefly, shall we?
Evolution is a scientific theory of biological origins.
Christianity is the claim that Jesus, the Son of God, came to earth as a man, died on the cross, and rose again in order to defeat sin and save us from our sinfulness so that we can be in eternal relationship with God. Great news, right?
Now which part of evolution contradicts the resurrection of Christ? Nothing is obviously contradictory to me, and I’ve been studying this issue for quite some time. I’ve written a bit on this when Ray Comfort came out with his “Evolution vs. God” movie a few years back, and who knows…perhaps, evolution might come up again? If you’re interested in something quite a bit more academic, I wrote a paper during my final semester of my undergrad entitled “Rethinking Aristotle: The Unwarranted Rejection of ‘Final Causation’ in Modern Evolutionary Biology.”
Would it bring up some interesting questions about Genesis? Sure! But these questions are not off-limits to the Christian. And they certainly don’t prove Christianity to be false. This is a non-sequitur of massive proportions, and I’d love for it to just…fizzle away into oblivion.
There are so many more that I could talk about, but (like the terrible atheist arguments series), I will undoubtedly be adding to this list as time goes on. If you have any particular arguments made by Christians that you can’t stand, toss it down in the comments!
Thanks for reading!
Photo by poolski via Flickr