Friday, June 27, 2014

Five ways to stump an atheist?

I ran across an article on Therefore, God Exists that claims to provide five ways to stump an atheist. But how effective are their five suggestions?
There are certainly more than 5 ways to stump an atheist. I saw Stephen Colbert stump Richard Dawkins, and Colbert was just giving satirical answers, attempting to mock common answers that fundamentalists offer. Dawkins asked his signature question, “who created God?” Colbert replied, “Well, God is beyond time.” Dawkins really had no answer to this. He said, “Well, that is so easy to say.” Indeed, it is easy. It is an easily refuted argument.
I don't think the author of this article understood what Dawkins said. The point that it is easy to claim that God is 'beyond time'. One can also just as easily claim that a great cosmic sandwich, Godzilla, or the great Goddamnly Cat is beyond time. The point Dawkins was making is that people can casually claim whatever they want, it's the backing it up that's the hard part. So people can claim that God is beyond time, but it is a meaningless claim since it can't be backed up. Furthermore, what if the claim that God is older than time is countered by saying that the energy of which the universe is comprised is older than time? You are then left with a stalemate, but certainly not a stumped atheist.
But it is very easy to stump them. In this article, I will lay out 5 ways to stump an atheist.
This hasn't been my experience, so we'll see about that...
1 – Ask how they know that God has no reasons for allowing evil. 
Atheists like to say that if God did not exist, there would be no evil and suffering. But how do they know that? They suggest that since God is omnipotent and loving, he would stop evil. But what if he has perfectly good reasons to allow it? If I am clipping a dogs nails, they may think I am torturing them, from their limited perspective. But I have perfectly good reasons for allowing them to go through pain and suffering. The same when a child gets a shot. The parent knows that they are going through pain and suffering, but allows it for a greater good. I suggest that it is possible that God has reasons for allowing pain and suffering. How do you know that he does not? STUMPED.
Since when do atheists claim that? Sure, many atheists (myself included) feel that religion is a huge source of hurt and conflict in the world. But this certainly isn't a claim that there would be no suffering in the world at all. Just look at nature for one example. Nature is cruel and doesn't pull punches. In this survival of the fittest, there is plenty of beauty, but plenty of suffering as well.

Also, the claim that God allows suffering because he has a reason is lacking. This god is supposed to be all-powerful, as well as all-loving. If that is the case, he doesn't need to allow suffering to make a point. He would be able to make his will know without subjecting his people to suffering. And if he needlessly allows suffering that he is able to prevent and instead just watches by, that makes him sadistic.

2 – Ask what they would accept as evidence for God’s existence. 
Atheists usually say that they are just sitting around waiting for evidence for God’s existence. When evidence is provided, they will believe. Since there is no evidence, they refuse to believe. But David Silverman seemed to suggest that there is no evidence that he would accept. I asked him, “what is the difference between a God of the Gaps argument, and a deductive argument leading to the conclusion that God exists?” He said that they were the same thing. Silverman does not accept deductive arguments leading to the conclusion that God exists. He sweeps them under the rug, hastily labeling them ‘God of the Gaps.’ Christopher Hitchens similarly said that there is nothing that would change his mind. But, how can you ask me to provide evidence, if you do not even know what you are asking for? So, what would you accept as evidence? STUMPED.
I can't speak for others, but there is certainly a type of evidence that could change my mind. One type I can guarantee would work would be evidence of the scientifically testable and verifiable variety.  Are there other types that could work? Perhaps. It would likely depend on the details and strength of the case. But if God is really all-knowing as it is claimed, he already knows exactly what would change my mind.

Oh, and one semantic point... I do not refuse to believe. Belief is not something we choose. It's not that I actively refuse to believe. That's impossible. Rather, I just don't believe because I am not convinced by the case made for God.

3 – Ask if they would believe in miracles if they saw one.

David Hume suggested that if a wise man is to see a miracle, he ought not believe in it. That seems to be the stance of the modern atheists. Thinking themselves intellectual elitists, they will ask questions like, ‘why cannot God heal amputees?’ The suggestion is that the miracle-workers roaming around are just playing magic tricks. But real miracles, like the healing of an amputee, cannot happen. So if the atheist saw a miracle, they would not believe it. If there was cold, hard evidence of the supernatural right before their eyes, they would still find a way to a deny it. A friend of mine told me that if the clouds randomly formed the sentence, ‘The Bible is God’s word,’ he still would not believe it. This is not rational skepticism. It is outright denialism. That is what atheism is. Yet they do not want to admit that. So ask them, would you believe in miracles if you saw one? STUMPED.
This is a bit of a meaningless question if the term 'miracle' isn't properly defined. Are we talking about statistically unlikely events, or happenings that should be impossible? This is a valid question, as all claimed miracles that have ever been tested were either just unlikely events or explainable scientifically. If a deity was not required for these supposed miracles to take place, are they really deserving of the title? I'd say not. But back to the question at hand... What if I was faced with a miracle? A 100% verified miracle... Would I believe in miracles? Yes. Next question!

4 – Ask them if the cause of nature could be natural.
The atheist will usually want to say that everything in the universe can be explained in natural terms. But what about nature itself? A man cannot be his own father. Nature cannot cause itself. It did not exist prior to its’ existence. Before nature existed, it had no causal properties. Therefore, there must have been cause beyond nature to bring it into existence. The cause of nature, therefore, must be supernatural. Nature could not have caused itself to exist any more than a man could be his own father. So ask the atheist if the cause of nature could be natural. STUMPED.
This one displays a gross misunderstanding of terms and a drawing of false equivalency. When something is described as 'natural', it abides by the natural laws. We aren't talking about a man creating himself, but the universe and it's creation following the laws of nature. This isn't a case of a person being their own father at all. We do not know what (if anything) preceded the Big Bang. Perhaps there was previous universe. Maybe vacuum fluctuation got the ball rolling. Maybe it was something else. Natural, in the sense we are speaking here, is what we can understand and explain. It is a product of our own knowledge and understanding. God is considered supernatural, because he would violate natural law. But if we were to one day verify and understand God, he would become part of a natural model. So yes, since I believe that we can figure out the answers to these hard questions, I feel that 'nature' can be and is natural.

5 – Ask if they believe that people who do bad things deserve to be punished.
This is something that everybody acknowledges. People who do bad things deserve to be punished. Yet this is also the foundation for the doctrine of Hell. People who do bad things come under God’s condemnation. If a court judge were to just free man, he would be a corrupt and an immoral judge. God is not a corrupt or immoral judge. He must punish people for doing bad things. In answering this question in the affirmative, they are conceding the rationale for the doctrine of Hell. So ask them if they believe that people who do bad things deserve to be punished. STUMPED
What are we considering 'bad things'? If someone tells a lie and no one is harmed in any way, does that mean they should be legally punished? What if they read a dirty magazine or lusted after a person other than their spouse? Should they go to jail? What if they lusted, but decided to remain true? The Bible would punish them eternally, but should we lock up someone who didn't actually do anything? I would consider it rather extreme to legally punish someone for these 'doings'.

For those reasons, lets equate 'doing bad things' to breaking the law. If someone breaks the law, do I feel that they should be punished? Yes. But that's where the similarity with Hell ends. I do not feel that finite crimes should be punishable eternally, and with torture no less. Let us not forget that the Christian Hell is not the first underworld of it's sort that was dreamed up.

Oh, and I agree with the author's assertion that a judge that just lets the known guilty walk without punishment would be a corrupt and immoral judge. In the same way, God is just as corrupt and immoral. Remember, Christianity teaches that every single sin (except for blaspheming the Holy Ghost) will be overlooked if you except Jesus. Doing so will earn you a place in Heaven in avoidance of Hell. Just like the judge, God is letting people guilty of sin (breaking the law/doing wrong) just go free instead of punishing them. Even worse, God would punish those that didn't do anything wrong (the innocent) just because they didn't believe or believer in the wrong god.

So yes, I feel that those that do wrong should be held accountable. But once more, I am NOT STUMPED!
Atheists are afraid to comment on this article because they are stumped by all of these questions.
Really? I take it that the author didn't bother to take a look at the many comments at the bottom of this article. Also, I wasn't afraid to take on this list at all. The arguments were quite pedestrian and easily answered. I wasn't remotely close to being stumped on this end. For the author's sake, I certainly hope these weren't his top five...

-Brain Hulk

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