If you’re reading this article, you’ve probably been in the situation where you heard a smart-sounding atheist making a point with such suave delivery that you find yourself with questions like: Does God exist or is He just a too-good-to-be-true fantasy? Is my faith real? Do I even believe what I say I do? Can someone with a British accent be wrong?
And that’s okay. Many saints have struggled with these sorts of questions, and they seem to have done alright living out their faith.
And let’s be real, some of the objections non-Christians are valid and raised by intelligent people: if God is all-good and all-powerful, why is there evil in the world? That is a fair question that us Christians have to grapple with.
But it seems today that there are many more bad objections than good ones. With the rise of the “New Atheists” (Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, some fourth guy I can never remember) in the mid-2000s, never before have edgy middle schoolers been so armed with vacuous talking points designed to crumble the faith of those who have never put in a moment’s thought to their own beliefs.
It is these sorts of arguments I would like to focus on in this article. The sort of arguments that need a good salesman because otherwise nobody but children would buy them.
1. I just believe in one fewer God than you do.
Ricky Gervais, I love you. But a deep thinker you are not.
If there is an atheist reading this article right now, I am sure he will point out the technical truth of the statement: after all, it is true that I only believe in one God. The math of this argument is sound, but the conclusion we are meant to draw from it is not.
When we speak about God, we are not talking about one being among many. We are talking about the ultimate and necessary Being for the creating and sustaining of everything. We’re not talking about some super-powered playboys on Mount Olympus or Valhalla.
When Ricky states that he believes in one fewer god than us, it seems to be more of a tactic meant to sow irrational uncertainty in listeners rather than to drive towards truth as it does not address any of the positive claims theists put forth.
2. A miracle is definitionally the least likely explanation for anything.
If you are familiar with Bart Ehrman, he drops this line in just about every debate of the Resurrection. The problem is that this is a made-up definition.
A miracle is simply an event that defies the laws of science and nature.
Nothing about that definition means that it is automatically the last explanation for any event.
In one debate, Ehrman even said “what are the chances of a miracle? One in ten billion?”
First off, we believe that a miracle is a chosen action by God, not a random occurrence.
Secondly, we have lots of instances of miracles. I know many firsthand and secondhand testimonies of miracles from people I know, and you will find many more looking through history.
For instance: I have a friend who told me he had an injury prayed over one time, and then he felt a warmth in the person’s hand and his injury has been gone since.
If we were to take the Bart Ehrman approach, I guess first I would have to assume my friend was lying to me. If not, then he must have imagined his injury in the first place. If not, then his injury must have healed naturally the moment someone put his hand onto him. If not, then the person praying with him must have had some sort of unknown medication secretly injected into my friend that healed a rotator cuff. If we keep going this route, maybe we would argue that the person praying over my friend was really a space alien whose species has healing properties.
By Ehrman’s convenient definition, these are all more likely than a miracle.
And then we come across another reported miracle, and we must begin this process all over again.
Ehrman’s proposition that a miracle is the least likely explanation of everything is simply incorrect unless he is arguing from a premise of 100% certainty of God’s non-existence/inaction.
3. If everybody in the entire world told me they witnessed a resurrection, it would be unreasonable to believe them.
This is a statement made by famous atheist, Matt Dillahunty, who was doubling down on his assertion that “claims are not evidence.” With this mentality, it is difficult to imagine how Matt believes anything at all.
The argument assumes a knowledge of all that is possible. I’d be curious to ask Matt where he accumulated such a knowledge if not from the testimony of other people. Every science experiment you did not witness take place is called into question. All you can trust is your own senses and understanding and no one else’s.
If we shared the mentality that claims are not evidence, then criminals prosecuted on witness testimony would have to be set free, conveying new discoveries would have been impossible before the invention of the camera and we would know almost nothing about history.
These are only a few of the logical consequences of living out the mentality of “Claims are not evidence.”
4. Jesus doesn’t have to be either liar, lunatic, or Lord. He may have just been mistaken.
Ah, the most famous atheist apologist of the last century takes on the most famous Christian apologist of the last century: Richard Dawkins versus C.S Lewis.
Reading Richard Dawkins is like listening to someone who is incredulous that you don’t believe the world is flat. It’s bad argument after bad argument made so condescendingly, you can hardly believe that someone can be so incorrect and yet so confident.
In his chapter in The God Delusion where Richard Dawkins tries to refute arguments for God’s existence (or rather, strawmen stand-ins for those arguments), he implies that C.S Lewis was disingenuous in presenting the liar, lunatic, or Lord trilemma. Dawkins says that if Jesus claimed to be God, then there’s a fourth option: Jesus was just mistaking.
In fairness, we’ve all been there, right? What sane person hasn’t been so convinced that he was God and that he died making that claim?
Wait, that’s not something sane people do? I might need to get myself some help.
As does Richard Dawkins for arguing such a stupid idea in the first place.
5. The reason why so many smart people believed in God is because the times they lived in forced that belief upon them.
I’ve heard this argument so many times. It’s a convenient argument for atheists, but not one the intelligent ones make.
Put yourself in the shoes of a non-believer in a theocratic culture: you may falsely profess belief, but you don’t write groundbreaking theological works furthering the idea of God.
This also fails to take into account the many geniuses who died for their faith from Justin Martyr to Edith Stein.
To me, this argument rings of insecurity in their own atheist beliefs. They have to believe that anyone who opposes them is either stupid or brainwashed, or else, maybe, just maybe, they will have to consider the possibility that they’re wrong.
Rest assured, this article is not meant to be a takedown of all of Atheism. As I stated in the beginning, there are compelling arguments against Christianity and Theism that this article does not address.
I intend this article to be fruitful to both theists and atheists in that I hope that it sharpens both sides to improve our conversations.
Atheists: stop using these arguments. They’re terrible.
Theists: stop being tripped up by these arguments. They’re terrible.