A light-hearted response to Tony Sharp and his ESSAY.
Tony Sharp is an atheist who has composed a short but well-written essay on his reasons for atheism on the Ethical Atheist web site. This article is not intended to attack Mr. Sharp, but to offer him some reasons why I believe his atheism is unfounded. It is clear to me that Tony is an unbeliever who deserves some answers to his questions.
Why would a God insist that we rely solely on our intuition, our fallible minds, and on faith alone to believe in Him? Is it really asking too much for a kind of physical touch or audible voice? Instead of playing “Hide –n– Go Seek”, is there not a more productive way, especially for a devout critical thinker such as myself, to test one’s allegiance?
God does not expect us to believe based on “blind faith” He has provided good evidence for His existence so that those who disbelieve are “without excuse”. In any case, is there any way for you to know how you would react if God did provide irrefutable evidence for His existence? Perhaps you would reject him anyway, perhaps you would hate Him, perhaps you would accept Salvation for purely selfish interests. I am not claiming that you have some sort of malady, but I am claiming that there is a possibility that your reaction to the existence of God would be even worse than your current rejection of His existence.
Why are these interactions between man and the supernatural not as obvious today as they were in the past as stated in biblical writings?
First I must mention that, in the past, miraculous events were not all that common. But I would regard the current lack of miracles as a natural consequence of humanities rejection of God. In addition, since the resurrection of Christ there has not been much need for miraculous events.
Above all, why is there absolutely no realistic evidence for the supernatural?
Au Contraire, there are quite a few compelling reasons to believe in the existence of God. The Cosmological and Teleological Arguments are both excellent reasons, as well as the origin of life. These reasons alone are excellent justification for the existence of God.
Chapter 1: Reasoned Faith and Religious Faith
In this section, you claim that there are two types of faith:
• A notion based on a sustained experience supported by naturalistic evidence
• A notion based on a brief “divine” experience that is without naturalistic evidence
How you have gotten this impression is unknown to me, but I certainly feel that these definitions are not entirely accurate. In fact, Religious Faith can and does include naturalistic evidence. This is why you have Christians that offer evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ or for the existence of God. It is true, however, that Religious Faith usually includes a “divine” experience of some sort. This is generally referred to as a Personal Experience.
However, it is altogether untrue that a Personal Experience cannot be an objective and valuable evidence of the existence of God to oneself. After all, as human beings we have at our disposal little more than our senses and our intellect. If both our senses and our intellect confirm belief in God, it would be quite irrational to ignore the evidence. Personal Experiences are actually a rational way to know that God exists.
Belief in a heaven, a supernatural place that exists outside of our world, requires religious faith. The concept of a heaven is without both naturalistic evidence and reason. Why should there be a heaven? Aside from the religious writings that we can only believe were inspired by a divine force, there is no naturalistic evidence or reason to support the notion of a heaven, or hell.
Here an important observation must be made. It is quite true that, technically speaking, there is no evidence that heaven or hell exist. In fact, it would seem quite impossible for us to obtain such evidence, as both heaven and hell exist ‘outside this world’ and it is impossible to investigate these regions.
However, the doctrines of heaven and hell are well imbedded into the Bible. More specifically, Jesus Christ mentions them and seems to support their existence. If Jesus was actually God, then He knew what He was talking about. Therefore, evidence for the resurrection of Jesus is indirect evidence for the existence of heaven and hell.
In any case, it is entirely unclear that there is no “reason” for heaven (or hell) to exist. If God is a loving being, it makes perfect sense that He would like for us to join him in eternal happiness. Also, if God is a just being, it makes perfect sense that He would send sinful and rebellious people to a place that is in separation from Him.
Religious faith took me nowhere, and I was still without a philosophical foundation.
Perhaps, I will suggest, the reason that you got nowhere with Religious Faith is because you were operating under a false assumption of what it really means to have such a Faith. In reality, Religious Faith is based upon the senses, intellect, and objective evidence.
Chapter 2: It’s a Miracle!
In this section, you bring doubt upon the claimed Personal Experiences of theists.
How do they know that their continual belief in a God is not psychologically disturbing their rational judgment, and mentally creating what they feel to be God’s presence?
The big problem with this claim is that it works both ways. I could ask you the same question- “How do you know that your continual lack of belief in God is not psychologically disturbing your rational judgment, and causing you to ignore God’s presence?”
In any case, it is up to the individual with the experience to decide whether or not the event that occurred in their life is sufficient for belief in God. It is neither reasonable nor fair for you to claim that millions of Christians are having delusional fantasies, and to expect them to believe you and give up on religion.
Some may ask me, “But, how do you know that their divine experiences aren’t real?” My answer, “I don’t know, and neither do they. But without any evidence for the supernatural their claim lacks credibility.
Not so. It may be true that their Personal Experiences are not evidence for you, but it is false that they are not evidence for the individual. You claim that there is no evidence for the supernatural (which is, I think, a false statement), but why cannot a Personal Experience be the evidence you claim is lacking? There is nothing irrational about humans using their senses and their intellect to come to a conclusion about the existence of God.
The next issue you deal with has to do with prophecy fulfillment. You claim that there are no good examples. I must admit that my specialty is not Biblical Prophecy. I will just mention that I don’t think prophecy fulfillment is needed in order to come to the conclusion that Christianity is true. If it does turn out that there are non-trivial prophecy fulfillments, then I would consider such mere icing on the cake.
You also bring up the issue of Intelligent Design Theory (known commonly as “ID”) Intelligent Design Theory supports the hypothesis that a Designer had a critical role in the creation of life and full naturalism/evolution is not sufficient to explain the complexity of all forms of life. I don’t see how this could be considered “circular reasoning”. It is simply following the data where it leads.
This kind of reasoning is nothing more than personal, religious-faith based, interpretation.
Not true. In actuality, Intelligent Design Theorists have developed arguments to support the aforementioned hypothesis. For example, Michael Behe has introduced the concept of Irreducible Complexity and William Dembski has supported the concept of specified complexity. The ID community has developed good arguments that support the hypothesis. It is hardly fair to brush off their work as “religious-faith based interpretation,” whether or not their arguments are actually valid.
You also seem to make the claim that religious believers quickly jump to unfounded conclusions. However, there is nothing wrong with postulating the existence of God in order to understand the solution to a problem. If God explains the phenomenon better than all other alternatives, it would be downright irrational to reject Him as an explanation immediately.
Chapter 3: The Moment of Creation
In this short chapter, you argue that humans could have created the concept of God. You also bring to attention the mystical tendencies of the ancients and their fondness for attributing all sorts of things to God.
I will only mention that there is a possibility that the concept of God was created by humans. However, I don’t think that is the case, because there is way too much evidence for His existence. While it is true that weather phenomenon and other things that were in the past considered to be supernatural are now known to be natural, it is altogether untrue that there is no good evidence for God’s existence. Perhaps the ancients could have been more careful in attributing supernatural causes, but their philosophical ineptness in the past does not damage modern arguments for the existence of God.
In addition, we did not understand quantum mechanics, the physics that gives explanation to how something could—in fact—come from what we consider “nothing.
Actually, I must suggest that quantum mechanics does no such thing. Quantum vacuum fluctuations involve the transfer of pre-existing energy into material form. Therefore, something doesn’t come from nothing unless you define ‘nothing’ as meaning ‘something’! Of course, this refutes the whole atheistic idea of the creation of the universe from nothing for no reason. We still have excellent reasons to believe in the existence of God merely based on the fact that the universe exists.
Chapter 4: A Journey’s End
In this chapter, you claim that there is no evidence for any religion or for the existence of God. I must simply counter that it seems to me you are mistaken. There are wonderful reasons to believe in God, such as the existence of the universe and the existence of life. You can peruse my site or the sites I link to for some reasons why I think this is so.
Instead of answering each question about the world with “God did it,” I am now able to give insightful and original responses when asked about the Earth, universe, or myself.
There is nothing wrong with claiming that God is responsible for a given phenomenon if there are no other rationally compelling explanations. But who ever said that Christians have to answer every question with “God-did-it”? It is simply untrue that most Christians are like this. On the other hand, your atheism causes you to accept all sorts of ridiculous ideas, such as the universe coming from nothing and the first cell coming from a pre-biotic soup. Atheism is simply not a rationally compelling worldview.
Religion would not have allowed me to be myself; it would have turned me into something that I was not.
How do you know that religion would not have turned you into the person you were truly meant to be? If religion is true, then there are only positive consequences of accepting that truth when it comes to being who you truly are. In any case, Christianity does not require huge leaps of unjustified faith or over-emotionalism. Christianity allows you to gain a rational look at the world while at the same time providing a reason to continue living.
There is nothing about religion that says you would have to reject your favored scientific theories. There is no need to be a fundamentalist Christian. There are all sorts of Christians, ranging from conservative to liberal, but all true forms of Christianity carry the same simple message- that Jesus Christ died (and was resurrected) for our sins. This is basically the only belief that one must accept to be a Christian. So, I don’t think accepting Jesus Christ as your Savior will necessitate the rejection of any and all science. In actuality, the acceptance of God’s existence will lead to a much more rational worldview.
Chapter 5: Science
You claim that many religious believers never critically examine the existence of God. This may be true for some, but certainly not for all. However, for quite a few theists, there really is no good reason not to believe in God. Personal Experiences, coupled with arguments for the existence of God, coupled with the failure of atheists to develop good arguments why He does not exist, leaves many with little reason to give up belief in God.
You claim that religion is causing society to ignore rational thought. This is simply untrue, as many theists accept evolution and Big Bang Cosmology, which are two theories you apparently think it is ridiculous to reject. In any case, it could also be true that atheism leads to irrational thinking, such as abiogenesis and something coming from nothing for no reason.
Truth was, essentially, the essence of my journey, and through science, I have found more truth than anywhere.
Truth led me to belief in God, so it is unfair to insinuate that atheism has a monopoly on “truth”. Actually, science confirms belief in God, which is one reason why I am such a proponent of it.
The burden of proof is not on the person who denies a claim. The burden of proof is on the person who is making the claim.
This much is true, and I gladly accept the burden of proof. Fortunately, this burden is easily lifted with the many good arguments for God’s existence, such as those I mentioned earlier.
Tony, you say that, as atheists, we should work towards a better world. But I simply don’t see why atheism is a prerequisite for such action. Christianity offers a good foundation for moral behavior and bettering the world. Worship of God does not hinder, but actually enhances, progress in this regard.
In your introduction, you claim the following:
To believe in a universe that is under the guidance of a divine power, in my opinion, is far more reassuring than believing in a random universe that is without divine guidance.
Luckily for humankind, this comfort does not come at the expense of the rational mind. Rather, Christianity is confirmed by the evidence. It is unfortunate that you have not embraced it.