Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Reply to an Atheist About Jesus' Death on the Cross, the Nature of Forgiveness, Apostasy and Deconversion, and Other "Christian vs. Atheist" Issues

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I am having this discussion with a woman on an atheist discussion board (who is asking lots of questions), but I don't have permission to post her words (or any from this venue that are not mine), so I have to post only my words. This accounts for a certain "jerkiness" of the text.

But I think that my comments pretty much logically stand on their own, without the interjections of an interlocutor. The following may possibly serve as sort of an "introduction to common atheist objections and thoughts on constructive atheist-Christian dialogue".

* * * * *

Why Atheists and Christians Should Talk to Each Other and Debate the Issues

I think a large part of the problem on both sides of the atheist-Christian discussion (to the extent that there actually is any at all) is that we too often call each other names and misrepresent each others' positions. Atheists think Christians are dumbbells and that the Bible is filled with absurdities and makes no sense. Christians, on the other hand, too often regard atheists as utterly rebellious, wicked folks who have no ethical principle. So it's "'stupid' vs. 'wicked.'" Political debates usually amount to largely the same dynamic. It gets very wearisome.

Both are ridiculous stereotypes, and if we try to get along together in this world and seek any common ground whatever, both sides need to get past that. I'm trying to do what little I can as one person to change the poisoned atmosphere. People talking to each other and trying to understand each other as human beings is where it's at. We have far more in common than I think most on either side realize.

Atheists will have to be with lots of Christians; especially in America, so it is in their interest to better understand them. Likewise, atheism is a growing movement, and Christians would do well to truly understand what makes atheists tick and what motivates them. Talk, talk, talk (and read the other guys' stuff), is the only way to do that.

I respect anyone who makes an attempt to grapple with important issues that face all of us, and who use reason to do so. That includes atheists. I have far more intellectual respect for an honest atheist (and I think most are that) than I do for an anti-Catholic Protestant who says I (as a Catholic) am not a Christian or a liberal Christian who plays around with Christianity and hardly believes what he purports to believe in the first place, or a raving fundamentalist who thinks that Christianity and reason and common sense and higher culture are almost mutually exclusive.

Respect for thinking and for ethics is what we have in common, so sure, I can respect an atheist insofar as those things are concerned. I don't have to take a position that they are all raving lunatics and simpletons (or wicked, etc.). There are people like that in both camps, to be sure, but to put everyone in one box is absurd and profoundly intolerant as well. We don't have to agree with a person to have a measure of respect for that person's overall view and his or her person.

With atheists I always try to stick to one particular subject at a time, because they love to "argue" 100 things at once, in an illusory appearance of "intellectual-superiority-by-10 million objections". When things get narrowed down, it is quite another story, and atheism becomes like the proverbial onion that is peeled down, revealing nothing at its core.

It takes a lot of patience on both sides to have the Christian-atheist discussion, and it can get very frustrating dealing with people who look at things very differently from the way we do. That works the same way whatever we believe. I have my moments when I get fed up, too, believe me. But I think it's a discussion worth having (i.e., the whole Christianity vs. atheism thing) as long as there is an atheist around who wants to keep talking and to keep it on a friendly level.

Some things bind most atheists together (as with any group). In other ways, they are different. Same thing with Christians. Atheists generalize about Christians every bit as much as Christians do about them. I have condemned lousy stereotypes on both sides.

The Dawkins / Hitchens mentality doesn't do anyone any good (not even atheists, I would submit): anymore than the "angry feminist" or "angry Marxist" or "angry black man" or "[materialistic] evolutionists fighting the ID folks to the death" impress anyone who is truly interested in the world of ideas and actual dialogue. There has to be a certain rudimentary calmness, charity, and tolerance.

Both sides gotta chill out and talk to each other and establish friendships if possible. And we can learn from each other about various issues. The approach to discussion and tolerance for opposing views and respect for reasoning and science and dialogue in general is the common ground that we have. It's becoming a lost art in our society (assuming if it was ever "found"), and I am frequently disturbed by that, myself. Civil discussion and seeking greater understanding of other viewpoints is what it's about. I like to be stimulated by opposition. I've made a whole apologetic career out of that. cool

People (of all stripes of belief) are so often reluctant to make any effort to understand a different viewpoint. That has to stop. Someone has to try to make an effort to change that in some fashion. Otherwise we are left with shouting matches, back-patting clubs, and mocking and belittling. I argue my positions passionately, but I fully agree, it doesn't have to be personal, and there is no need to demonize the other person and consider them a "bad" person just because of what they may believe.

Conversation in our society (and above all, on the Internet) has become so intolerant, trivial, or insubstantial, and often literally an insult to anyone with any intelligence or wits, that it's like finding a needle in a haystack to stumble upon some solid challenging dialogue and people actually using their heads for a change.

* * *

"Former Christian" Atheists and What They Knew and Didn't Know About Theology

The knowledge that any given atheist has of Christianity (and many claim to be former Christians) always has to be demonstrated. I don't simply accept one's word for it. I know far better than that. I've rarely met an atheist who truly understands Christianity to the extent that is often made out. Knowledge about theology and being a Christian are two entirely different things.

Instead I see lots of basic category and factual mistakes in atheist polemics against Christians. Occasionally a few truly understand what they rejected before they did so. Mind you, that is only my own experience as a Christian apologist and debater, but I highly suspect that it reflects the overall reality of the situation.

Most Christians are even more ignorant of atheism than vice versa. And many many Christians have a dim understanding of their own theological traditions, within Christianity (which is why they do such a lousy job of defending them or persuading others). Theological ignorance and "biblical illiteracy" is as common as dust. I think that is largely because we aren't usually taught religion in school (certainly not public schools), so people have to learn on their own and they choose not to do so, for the most part (unless they go to seminary or Bible school, etc.).

Just for the record, I have never been a Calvinist at any time, and have always believed that one can be a true Christian and later fall away from it (whereas their system requires them to assert that you have never been one because you aren't now). So I take your report at face value. But whether you had adequate reasons for rejecting Christianity and what in fact you thought you were rejecting is a whole 'nother ballgame.

I was simply reserving judgment as to what you understood and what you did not understand about Christianity (in terms of doctrines and apologetics). Lots of folks make lots of claims. I used to be a Protestant and was an apologist as a Protestant. I believe I had a very good grasp of that belief-system before I moved on to Catholicism. But of course, some of my Protestant friends deny that I did (some even saying that I was never a true Protestant or a Christian at all). It's only natural to suspect that.

One must exercise a healthy skepticism, while avoiding cynicism. I am going by my experience of looking over many atheist deconversion stories and noticing that very often what was rejected was not truly what Christians believe, but rather, a straw man or at best a misconception.

I can't say that is true in your case unless I see your rationale and what you believed when you were a Christian, and how much you truly understood. But I suspect that there are some straw men there because that has been my universal experience in analyzing deconversion stories.

On the other hand, it is always possible that one does truly understand Christianity and rejects it with that full knowledge. Those are the ones that we would say are in distinct, serious danger of quite possibly being damned, because their culpability is greatly magnified. But God makes that determination in the end, not any human being.

If you read a bunch of atheist books and don't read Christian counterparts, where would you expect to end up? We are what we eat. Loss of faith is a complex process. What did you read during your deconversion process? I'm curious. Did you read defenses of traditional beliefs or just atheist and liberal Christian stuff? If the latter is all you read, then it is no surprise that you turned out to be a "product" of those ideas.

I can understand many atheist objections and rationales for their loss of faith on an emotional plane, but I don't think that is a legitimate reason to abandon Christianity (but you would expect me to say that, right?!).

Most Christians don't know why they believe what they believe. Oftentimes, they don't even know what they believe. It's easy to then become dissuaded, if things happen, or various arguments come up, and influences send us in another direction. It all comes down to "what is truth?" and how we can determine that. Pontius Pilate asked the right question, but unfortunately he didn't do the right thing.

I would think that atheists would want to read the best treatments on both sides before deciding the question against Christianity.

Are you saying you knew very little about the Bible most of your life? If so, why, then, did you give me such a hard time when I questioned how much you knew as a Christian?

Atheists in discussion often ignore questions asked of them, such, for example, what books they read during their deconversion process from Christianity, or how much of the Bible they were familiar with. Yet they will expect us to relentlessly answer everything in the finest detail. I get impatient with ring-around-the-rosey after a while. Serious discussion involves both parties answering questions, and not utterly ignoring them because they may reveal too much about what one knows or knew about something. It's a two-way thing.

* * *

Theistic "Proofs" For God's Existence

I haven't tried to actively prove God's existence around here because it is usually of no effect with an atheist anyway. The task for the apologist is usually to remove 10 billion roadblocks that atheists throw up: problem of evil, miracles, Bible so-called difficulties (I recently compiling a big list of resources on those), etc. So I concentrate on these things with atheists. First things first. The objection always has to be dealt with before moving on to positive reasons and evidences for a belief-system.

If you want to see the arguments I find most convincing, myself, I would recommend reading Alvin Plantinga (regarded as the premier living Christian philosopher), William Lane Craig (particularly on the Kalam cosmological argument), and John Henry Cardinal Newman (An Essay on the Grammar of Assent -- available online). Read Michael Behe on Intelligent Design for an updated version of the classic Teleological / Argument. Peter Kreeft is a superb Catholic and General Christian apologist (he is a philosopher by trade). I would especially recommend his commentary on Pascal's Pensees.

My own arguments of various sorts (including theistic ones) are available to read on my Atheism & Agnosticism and Philosophy & Science web pages. They are too involved to briefly present.

Generally speaking, folks aren't argued into Christianity (or Catholicism). Change of mind or conversion is an extraordinarily complex process. I have experienced it several times myself (to secularist practical atheism, to evangelicalism, and to Catholicism). Many of you have as well, into or out of Christianity. It's far from just a matter of argument. Things appear plausible for many many reasons. I think I can achieve a lot more here by simply trying to show that Christianity is a reasonable worldview than in making particular arguments that usually accomplish nothing, anyway. The big hurdles gotta be cleared away long before that (Christians are infantile, gullible dolts, against reason and science, and so forth).

The notion of an eternal concept is not confined to God. Things like logic and mathematics could also be regarded as things that simply are: that cannot not be. The philosophical assumption of what "God" means is more like a deist notion, not the full-fledged biblical Yahweh (which requires another set of evidences entirely).

I don't claim that I can absolutely prove anything. I am saying that the theist knows (in faith, but not irrationally) that there is a God by many ways, including internal knowledge that -- so we would argue -- is innate in human beings. You wanna know why we think that? I recommended reading Alvin Plantinga and John Henry Cardinal Newman. You're either interested in that discussion or not. If you are, then I would hope you want to read the best that Christianity has to offer. If not, then this very discussion is meaningless and a waste of time for you.

It's not a waste of time for me because I believe I am conveying true ideas and a positive message.

For an excellent overview, see: "Two Dozen (or so) Theistic Arguments" (Alvin Plantinga, the greatest living Christian philosopher).

I think the Cosmological Argument is a good, solid theistic argument, but it is not the final reason I believe in God. I do first and foremost because it is innate knowledge: a "properly basic belief," as Alvin Plantinga puts it. As I ponder various theistic arguments, I discover that they are reasonable and plausible, too, but they weren't the initial reason why I (or most people, I submit) believe in God. Plantinga made a famous argument that we believe in God on the same basis that we believe in other minds (a thing that can't be absolutely proven, either). He's a brilliant thinker and writer. Anyone would enjoy reading his stuff.

My goal is to suggest to the atheist the best sources I know of for major things like theistic arguments. If you are truly interested in seeking that out, you will go read them. Your choice. They do far better than I do (philosophers, archaeologists, and other academics). I haven't had the time to fully delve into the theistic arguments in the depth I would like to. I have too many other things to do: like defending the Catholic Church and the Bible.

As I have said repeatedly, I'm not here to try to prove the existence of God. I think that is a very complex question and there are many many reasons for it. These are not given to short presentation. Atheists rarely if ever respond to such arguments, anyway, so I generally don't pursue that with them. It's a futile effort. I decided to spend time (in what I argue with atheists about) mostly dealing with garden-variety objections and with analysis of deconversion stories. Those involve particulars and facts that can rationally be dealt with, and one can stay on a subject.

* * *

Axioms and Unprovable Presuppositions in Science / Scientific "Faith"

There is a great deal of acceptance of axioms within science or any philosophy. And that is not all that unlike having "faith." It's a matter of definition. You and everyone else must accept many things that you can't prove.

That particular idea (uniformitarianism) cannot possibly be proven. It is unfalsifiable precisely because it is not science per se. It is required in order to do science, however. This is the point. As I have shown in my recent papers, in order to do science, folks must accept several unprovable axioms. This is one, and so is mathematics. Your argument is epistemologically naive, in the sense that you don't realize or recognize what is entailed in doing science in the first place. All systems of belief are built upon unproven axioms at some point.

One fundamental question is the existence of everything in the universe and how it all got here. It's here now. Christians and other theists say that God created it, and created the potentialities in matter that allowed it to be as it is (including possibly evolution). You guys say there is no God, but the stuff is still here, so it had to get here somehow. You make the creative process atoms (initially helium and hydrogen, according to the accepted Big Bang cosmology). Helium and hydrogen had the potentiality to create all there is. Therefore, the atom is, in effect, regarded as omnipotent in a fashion quite similar to how Christians view God.

There are all kinds of atheists who say that God is not necessary at all in order for science to explain everything. The older Darwin said the same thing. So they see that God is irrelevant to science, and that, for working purposes, materialist atheism is true. But of course there are all kinds of unproven axioms that lie behind that approach and science itself, as I have been writing about.

The atheist is (generally) a materialist; therefore, he has to explain the universe and everything in it by materialist principles. He cannot do so. He has to exercise at least as much faith (I say, a lot more) to believe what he does, than the Christians does.

A spherical earth was posited by the medieval scholastics without incident. Heliocentrism was introduced by a Catholic canonist (Copernicus) with the blessing of the pope. Even the Galileo incident is vastly misunderstood. I have written about it. In fact, in some ways, St. Robert Bellarmine got things more accurate in terms of present-day science, than Galileo did.

* * *

Alleged "Bible Difficulties"

I believe the Bible is the inspired revelation of God. There are some difficult passages to understand, as we would fully expect (many have to do with literary forms, that atheists habitually confuse or are ignorant of). Why should that cause anyone pause? Any field of thought has difficulties to work through and mysteries. There are also many explanations and hypotheses about all these. The explanations for all the supposedly "horrible" things atheists talk about have made perfect sense to me. I don't struggle with it. Whatever difficulties remain to be solved in Christianity pale next to what one must believe in a consistently thought-out atheism.

Various explanations have been given for that [the two biblical accounts of Jesus' birth]. I haven't studied it myself, personally. In the alleged "biblical difficulties" that I have dealt with, myself (and I've done a good twenty or so, maybe more), I've never found one that was insuperable. Quite the contrary. I believe that is most likely the case here, too: once it is examined closely. One doesn't have to solve every conceivable difficulty (real or imagined) in order to rationally espouse a belief. Scientists certainly don't know everything, either, yet they believe things without knowing every jot and tittle. So why is it that Christians are always judged by a different standard: as if any individual person has to personally resolve every single proposed "Bible difficulty" or else be required to give up their faith, since it is supposedly hopelessly irrational??

* * *

God and Suffering

God didn't give us evil and sufferings. We brought them on ourselves by rebelling against Him. The devil and his angels rebelled before mankind did. That is the origin of evil (and suffering). This is what Christians believe. You don't believe it, but please at least try to understand what we believe before setting out to knock it down.

Most people have endured plenty of suffering. Much of it we bring on ourselves; other sufferings have little or nothing to do with our actions. It is pointless to blame God for either, I would argue. They simply aren't His fault. God didn't, e.g., cause the Nazi Holocaust. That was the stupidity (and evil) of people. World War II could have been completely prevented if the powers that be in England in the 1930s had heeded Churchill's persistent warnings. But they didn't. They wanted to play games and pretend that Hitler could be reasoned and bargained with. So we got what we did because of human stupidity and fantasies. It could happen again if we aren't careful, with stuff going on like the Iranian and North Korea nuclear programs, etc.

And the atheist wants to use that as an example to blame God for, when we human beings had the perfect ability to prevent it if we hadn't had our heads up in the clouds (or in the dirt) in self-delusion?

* * *

God's Forgiveness and How it is Given and Received

Any sinner who has done anything whatever is able to be forgiven if only they repent of their sin. In Catholicism, they need only make a good confession. If a sinner doesn't repent of his sins, then obviously he won't be forgiven, will he? The one thing follows logically from the other:

Repentance ----> Forgiveness

No Repentance ----> No Forgiveness

You don't have to forgive a person who hasn't repented; indeed, I would say it is impossible to do so because one requires the other by nature. What we have to do (in the Christian worldview) is be willing to forgive should a person repent; no matter how grave his or her sin was.

This is the idea behind Catholic confession. One has to truly repent and be sorry for their sin; otherwise absolution cannot be given. It's in some Protestant circles that this notion is distorted: as if we give a blanket forgiveness to everyone regardless of whether they are sorry. No. We have to be willing, but we can't do it till the person truly repents (and that means not only ceasing the sin but changing their ways). God doesn't forgive, either, if a person doesn't repent, or spurns His grace. That's what judgment and hell are about. God honors the free will of men, even to reject Him.

If a person repents, we forgive him or her. Have you not done anything bad in your life? It's only a matter of degree. We all have faults and sins and bad things that we have done. If we hadn't been forgiven (by people and by God) we would be in bad shape indeed. We need only look into our own hearts. It's always difficult to forgive, but if we don't, we are the ones who suffer, in bitterness.

We are forgiven if we repent and accept God's free gift of mercy and grace. I always compare this to a prisoner who receives a pardon from the governor. He is free in one sense when the pardon is given. But he has to cooperate with it and walk out of the prison; then it is appropriated. It's the same with God and us. The grace for salvation is there, but many folks will reject it. It's their choice. The choice has consequences. It doesn't have to be as it is, but if a person goes down that path, then it leads ultimately to eternal separation from God, which is a horrific thing. In any event, God doesn't force us to follow Him. That has to be our choice: made in cooperation with God's enabling grace (which is Christian theology, so that it is by grace, not works, that we are saved).

We bow before God, as our Creator (especially in receiving His forgiveness), just as we show deference to the President or a king or an otherwise great person. Everything has an analogy. If there is a God, obviously He is far greater than we are, and so we honor Him, because He is a wonderfully good, merciful, just God.

* * *

Jesus' Death on the Cross: Required of a Capricious, "Bloodthirsty" God, or Sublime Voluntary, Redeeming Sacrifice Out of Love?

Jesus' death makes perfect sense, even from our human perspective. Sin and rebellion against God cause great damage to the cosmos: a disruption. God has set things up so that suffering (as a result of man's general rebellion against God: what Christians call the Fall of Man) can help others and can be turned into ultimate good. When we willingly suffer, it helps other souls (just as Christians believe prayer also does). It is put to good use. This is made plain in the Bible in many passages.

[for those -- particularly Christians -- interested, I outlined the biblical data on this sort of thing (especially regarding the Apostle Paul's life and suffering) in my paper: Lenten Meditation: The New Testament on Suffering With Christ . On the larger notion of suffering in the Bible, see: Reasons for Suffering and Encouragement and Hope in the Midst of It: A Biblical Compendium.]

The idea, then, is that when God becomes a Man and decides to voluntarily suffer and die on behalf of mankind, this has infinite value, and can potentially save all of mankind (each person has to freely accept the free gift of grace). We often hear complaints that God is distant and doesn't care for us, so why should we care about Him, since we can't "relate" to such a Being? He doesn't even have or show any sympathy, let alone empathy (so atheists will tell us).

So that is one objection to Christianity. Yet when God takes on our own suffering and experiences it in the worst way (all voluntarily), that is also mocked as meaningless. As usual, nothing can please the atheist. God always has to be wrong. We know better than God.

What Jesus did for us is not all that different - in one sense - from the notion of self-sacrificing heroism in war or catastrophes or epidemics, etc.: some person is willing to take a risk of life and limb to help others. Sometimes they die in the process (e.g., the firefighters during 9-11). Everyone recognizes the valor in that, and respects such actions. They can sometimes help hundreds or even thousands of other people.

Well, then, if God decides to become a man and suffer and die for us, it has all the more value, and by acknowledging and accepting this, it is sufficient unto not just continued physical life, but eternal life and salvation.

[footnote for Christians: God had revealed the notion, all through the OT, that sin brings about suffering and a cost. Lambs had to be sacrificed in order to atone for sin. People had to sacrifice and pay some sort of cost. So Jesus continued that Jewish tradition. He was the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world (book of John). For much more depth on this topic, see: Catholic Encyclopedia: "Doctrine of the Atonement"]

We say a great deal of the sublimity and magnificence of Jesus' atoning death is that it reveals to us a God Who shares our sufferings and understands what it is like to be human. What is so difficult to understand about that? Would you think it was absurd and ridiculous if I jumped in front of a speeding car to save you and was killed in so doing? Would you regard that as a meaningless act or would you be appreciative and thankful that I had done it? If the latter, why all these negative observations about Jesus' sacrifice? You have taken some of the most beautiful aspects of the faith and made them somehow ugly and absurd. I don't see it at all. It's all in how you look at it.

It's not "bloodthirsty" at all for God to willingly take suffering upon Himself. We don't say the firefighters of 9-11 were some kind of oddballs or nuts because many sacrificed themselves in saving others. So why does the Christian God (believe in Him or no) have to be mocked at the very point where He is shown to be the most beautiful and compassionate? I find it very strange thinking. One can disbelieve the fact of this (Jesus' atoning death) if they wish, but you go beyond that and despise the very notion that Christians believe, as if it is a wicked thing, rather than a sublime one.

It's true that God could have forgiven us without the cross. The cross was not intrinsically necessary. He didn't have to "circumvent" anything. But that is how God chose to do it, to identify with us, and to show that all sin has a cost. Jesus Himself was killed because of sin. He had done nothing wrong.

The question is what "such a God" you are talking about. I don't see that any of this would be something that would turn me against God. I serve Him because He loved me and died so that I could have joy in this life and eternal life after I die. I seek to share the joyous Good News with others, so that they can experience the joy and peace from God that I have found. Somehow you feel exactly the opposite. I'm very curious as to why that is, as long as you're willing to share. I like to hear people's stories.

I think you don't want to believe in God, because you have defined Him as this arbitrary, capricious, irrational tyrant. If I thought God was that I wouldn't want to, either. The question is whether He has revealed Himself to be that. You misinterpret even what the Bible teaches (apart from the fact of whether you accept it or not).

6 comments:

Christopher said...

Dave, this another epic post of yours. I gotta say, I really can relate to your points made especially in the "Why Atheists and Christians Should Talk to Each Other and Debate the Issues". When talking to atheists I generally run into the "love to "argue" 100 things at once, in an illusory appearance of "intellectual-superiority-by-10 million objections" problem with them. Then when you start defending one point slowly and carefully they want to move onto the next one without acknowledging you are starting to make sense.

I've generally found that common (non-professional atheists) generally have issues with the following (in order of popularity):

1) The problem of pain: Why does God allow pain?

2) Why doesn't God just give us a miracle or two like he did when Jesus was around to show everyone He exists?

3) Why is the Christian religion the one true religion?

4) Christians are evil indoctrinators worse than secular people. Christians have made mistakes hating homosexuals, crusades, and molesting little boys and girls to name some examples.

5) Evolution proves God didn't create man


These are the issues I typically find myself defending against. It is a struggle but I enjoy it for the most part. I have listened to a lot of those Dinesh D'Souza debates and some of the Peter Kreeft talks (in my car when commuting) at:
http://www.bringyou.to/apologetics/audio.htm

They've helped me learn a lot on the road in cases where I can't pick up one of your books. It would be great if you could record some of your thoughts as well especially on the 5 points above which seem to be the most common for me at least.

Dave Armstrong said...

Hi Christopher,

Thanks for the great comment.

Dave, this another epic post of yours. I gotta say, I really can relate to your points made especially in the "Why Atheists and Christians Should Talk to Each Other and Debate the Issues". When talking to atheists I generally run into the "love to "argue" 100 things at once, in an illusory appearance of "intellectual-superiority-by-10 million objections" problem with them. Then when you start defending one point slowly and carefully they want to move onto the next one without acknowledging you are starting to make sense.

Yep, yep, yep. These are extremely common techniques of evasion used by anyone who is more interested in "winning" and "gotcha" moments than in true dialogue with a willingness to modify opinions where warranted. But take heart insofar as the very fact this is done, shows that they realize a solid point has indeed been made -- which is why they are now avoiding it.

I've generally found that common (non-professional atheists) generally have issues with the following (in order of popularity):

1) The problem of pain: Why does God allow pain?


Absolutely. I consider this the most serious objection to Christianity. My own treatments are found on my Philosophy, Science, and Christianity web page.

We can hardly blame them, as most Christians don't have a very good grasp of this issue, either, and our Protestant friends don't understand redemptive suffering.

2) Why doesn't God just give us a miracle or two like he did when Jesus was around to show everyone He exists?

Yep, that is a standard, stock argument. I always say, "He already did that, and there is much eyewitness evidence, but you simply reject it out of hand." Secondly, it's not required because God is already known to everyone internally, by the knowledge He has put into us, and by the evidence of His creation (Romans 1). Thirdly, as Jesus said, if someone wants to be skeptical, they won't believe even if someone rises from the dead.

3) Why is the Christian religion the one true religion?

Because Jesus is God in the flesh, and because we have an abundance of evidences for our religious view that no other religion has.

Dave Armstrong said...

4) Christians are evil indoctrinators worse than secular people. Christians have made mistakes hating homosexuals, crusades, and molesting little boys and girls to name some examples.

Some individual Christians have been guilty of hatred towards homosexuals, but I have found this very rare, myself. Atheists typically confuse the distinction between hating the sinner and opposing the sin. To be against any particular behavior or viewpoint is obviously not the same as personal hatred.

So, e.g., Professor Ken Howell, a man I know a little bit,. was fired from a university simply because he explained the Catholic position on homosexuality in an e-mail. This was accused of being "hate speech" by an anonymous student, and he lost his job. There was no "hate" at all in it. It simply explained our position. But for some folks, that is the equivalent of "hatred." This is a nutso opinion.

The Crusades and Inquisition things is extremely common. I've written about it on my web page of the same name. They are very poorly understood in the first place, the civil governments of the same period had far worse records (not to mention Stalin, Mao, and Hitler, who were infinitely worse). I also note that there is a certain logic in thinking that transgressions against the soul are at least as bad and punishable as against the body, because they involved eternal life. Therefore, in the Middle Ages, heresy was punishable.

I also ask them why they are dwelling in the period of 500-800 years ago when right in our own time the Catholic Church was responsible for saving 800,000 Jews during World War II? Why do we get no credit whatever for that (not even much from Jews themselves)?

5) Evolution proves God didn't create man

It simply doesn't. Catholics are completely free to believe in evolution as long as we don't deny that there was a primal pair and that each soul is a special creation.

Science has to do with matter, not spirit, and has nothing to say about God. But of course the atheists in the scientific community do so all the time in the name of science. It's a glaring double standard. We can't talk about God in a positive way, having anything to do with creation or science whatsoever, but they are allowed to falsely claim that science has somehow disproven God, or made Him "unnecessary," etc.

Dave Armstrong said...

On the priest molestation scandal, I point out that it was a very tiny minority and that it is being strongly dealt with now.

Secondly, it was precisely because of homosexual infiltration of the priesthood (usually in liberal Catholic circles). This is shown by the fact that the overwhelming number of cases involve young boys, not girls. I think if this were not the case, the coverage would be far louder than it is now. But they know where it leads, and that goes against one of the fashionable liberal agendas, so . . .

Thirdly, the percentage of cases is no higher (and often lower) than is the case with any other group, religious or otherwise. I've documented this twice now. It is a societal problem that, sadly, got into the Church as well, to our shame.

Fourth, a related point: it is only the Catholic cases that are trumpeted all over the media, as if no other ones exist, precisely because it is an orchestrated smear campaign to broadcast our scandal a lot louder than anyone else's, so as to discredit the Church. And, of course, a lot of the coverage involves outright lies about the Holy Father, as of late.

It is a tremendous tragedy and scandal, and we have to admit that in shame, but on the other hand, that doesn't require us to put up with lies, exaggerations, double standards, and false insinuations, in an effort to make it worse than it is, or to cast the Church in an evil light, or to cast aspersions upon the 98-99% of priests who selflessly serve God. They don't deserve to be dragged through the mus, and we must defend their integrity.

Every man's sin is ultimately his own. If we don't blame every Marxist for Mao's and Stalin's mass murders, we shouldn't blame every priest (let alone the entire Catholic Church) for the wicked, heinous sins that a tiny number of priests have committed.

Dave Armstrong said...

I've added a few new sections and several paragraphs, from the same discussion, as of 4:30 PM EST on Thursday.

Christopher said...

Dave, several of your websites link to your "longer paper on the problem of evil" found what appears to be at http://ic.net/~erasmus/RAZ124.HTM

This link is busted I'm afraid. Just letting you know