As a Christian as well as a student of philosophy, I am simply dismayed at the lack of apologetics amongst fellow brethren. I remember when I was myself an atheist confronting religious believers and demanding – not just asking – for evidence and good reason to believe that God exists. I wanted good answers there and then but I was never given any. I was always answered with vague notions of Christ’s love for me as a person and God Of The Gaps style arguments. However, we need not worry. There have been plenty of rigorous philosophical arguments for the existence of God since the medieval cleric St. Anselm first published the first formulated argument for existence of God in 11th century, known today as the Ontological Argument.
Given that I was an atheist and spoke with plenty of them regularly, as I still do today, I am aware of the common objections and I wish to list the top five of them here. I will respond to these objections with what will hopefully be brief and ready answers for anyone to remember and use when they next come up against such objections.
1) “What is the empirical evidence for God?!”
Why must there be empirical evidence for God? What is the empirical evidence that empiricism is the only path to knowledge? There is none and to think so would be to argue in a circle. It just happens to be the case that there is in empirical evidence for God. Here I would refer to the Cosmological Arguments; the fact that the universe (space and time) unequivocally had a beginning in the finite-past demonstrates the need for a spaceless, timeless and necessary being outside of it who could will the universe into existence. This is just one of the pieces of evidence but it is by far one of the strongest.
If you need a quick list, this is what you should recite as evidence/reasons:
- The beginning of the universe.
- The universe exists rather than nothing.
- The universe could not exist without indescribable fine-tuning.
- The existence of objective moral values.
- Life is objectively meaningful with God.
- Only God can explain the historical facts surrounding Jesus of Nazareth.
- God can ultimately explain the existence of consciousness since he is essentially a mind.
If you are met with this phrase, “Those are not evidence!”, then there isn’t much else you can say to someone who is being irrational and unwilling to debate these points. Unless the sceptic is willing to explain why these points are not in fact evidence then the conversation is more or less dead. Find another sceptic who is willing to engage.
2) “But what about all this evil that exists?!”
Whilst it is difficult to summarise all answers to the problem of evil in a terse manner, this is what you should do.
Find out what line of argument the sceptic is using. Is he referring to the intellectual problem of evil (the compatibility of existence of God and Evil) or the emotional problem of evil (the inability to reconcile these two things due to psychological reasons)? Often it is the latter, but if it is the former then I would respond by saying the following.
What does one mean by ‘evil’? Rather than the existence of evil – regardless of its origin or nature – disproving the existence of God, it affirms a key premise in the Moral Argument for the existence of God because it is affirming that evil is an objective moral value. And if objective moral values exist then it follows that God exists since there is no necessary ontological foundation to serve as the basis in realty for objective moral values other than God. Some have labelled this as the ‘Problem Of Atheism’. It is quite an apt name, be sure to use it against sceptics.
3) “Jesus was just part of a fairy tale from times where people were superstitious and loved miracles!”
This objection simply won’t wash. Not only does this commit the genetic fallacy (attempting to show a belief to be false by revealing how that belief originated) but it is also false. The are dozens of ancient sources for the existence of Jesus and his life but the earliest and most reliable are St. Paul’s letters (e.g. 1 Corinthians) and the gospels themselves. The gospels are written as historical biographies, they’re not making up a story, they’re recording the life and teachings of this radical character from 1st Century Palestine named Jesus who claimed to be the Son of God.
4) “Yeah well why should I believe in God and not flying spaghetti monsters?!”
This objection is embarrassingly common and it is a sorry state of affairs that I have address this but if you are faced with it, here is what you should say.
Leaving aside what a spaghetti monster would be like, let’s swap it for something more tangible like a super-computer. Why believe in God as the creator of the universe rather than a computer? Well, because a computer is a contingent, finite, physical, material object that can’t possibly serve as the cause for the universe. Why not? Because the universe is all space, all time, all matter and all energy and so the cause of the universe which is prior to the universe cannot possess any of those qualities. It has to be spaceless, timeless, immaterial, necessary and personal (conscious). A computer by definition is a functioning physical object made up of matter and for a computer to function it requires time. Therefore, a computer couldn’t possibly be cause the beginning of the universe.
You might then hear, “Ah, but my super-computer does not posses any of those typical qualities, it’s a different type of computer that is super-special! It’s a timeless, spaceless, immaterial, eternal computer that can will the universe into being!” This is a comment to relish. For what the sceptic is calling a super-computer or indeed a flying spaghetti monster (if he attributes to it the same description) is by definition… God.
5) “Religion is responsible for all the wars in history!”
This is flatly untrue, sceptics forever churn out this slogan without an ounce of evidence to support it. The only known comprehensive study on the matter was written in Philip and Axelrod’s three-volume Encyclopedia of Wars, which chronicles 1,763 wars that have been waged over the course of human history from 8000BC to 2000AD. Of those wars, only 123 have been religious in nature, which works out to less than 7% of all wars. It is important for us Christians to further note that if we deduct the wars committed in the name of Islam (66), the percentage is cut by more than half to 3.23% for the few remaining religious wars.
Do not allow these fashionable ill-informed slogans put your faith down or render you mute. The amount of literature and arguments for existence of God is gargantuan and runs incredibly deep. There are tonnes of ways we can refute the claims of atheism and we ought to if we are taking faith seriously and reasonably. Starting with these five would be a good way to go.
“Casting down imaginations, and every high
thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge
of God, and bringing into captivity every
thought to the obedience of Christ;” (2 Corinthians 10:5)