Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Atheist Rhetoric Tends to Suck

I was on Youtube and ended up watching some atheist videos. It was very interesting to listen to their arguments and I was debating whether or not I should post responses. In the end, I decided not to because I don't have a good track record of convincing atheists that the premises they start out with in their arguments are baseless. Perhaps I'm wrong, but I have yet for anyone to convince me that my reasoning is unsound either. I'm going to list some standard arguments I see from atheists, my responses to them, and perhaps somebody can explain to me where I'm wrong (if I am wrong).

1. There's no use reading a book that's thousands of years old with outdated statements and morals.

Personally, I don't see what the issue is here. If something has been around for thousands of years, and continues to be around, it would seem to me that's because it has staying power. If it has staying power, how can it be outdated? I always ask atheists that use this argument to explain why time is a disqualifier. I've yet to receive an answer to that request. Usually, they ignore my request for a sound argument on time being a disqualifier. On the rare occasion, they respond to it by saying, "Well, it just is!" Sorry, not good enough for me.

2. If God created the universe, then who created God?

Why should there be any reason to believe that something created God? If God is truly what he says he is, then his existence stretches from negative infinity to positive infinity in time. Actually, time is simply just another dimension in our existence anyway, and God is not constrained to that dimension. Rather, he's outside of it; if he created it, he created anything. I liken it to a pencil-drawn stick man being constrained to two dimensions. Let's say that stick man is alive, conscious, self-aware, and active. It's able to go all over the place on the x and y planes, but it's not even able to conceive what it would be like to move around on the z plane. Likewise, we're constrained to four dimensions. We can go all over the place on the x, y, and z planes, and only forward in the time plane, but we have no idea how we'd move around in any dimensions beyond that. But just like we're not constrained to just two dimensions, God is not constrained to time. He's outside of time. Why does he need to have a beginning or be created to be explained? That would by definition contradict who God claims to be. Atheists shouldn't be asking who created God, they should be trying to prove that God had a creator (which some try to do in saying that humanity made him up). I fail to see why this is an issue.

3. If God is omniscient, then there is no free will.

Just because God knows what someone will do, how does that imply there is no free will? Free will is being able to make choices of your own regard. Now, first of all, the existence of free will is an age-old philosophical debate where many scientists and philosophers are divided. But for the sake of this atheist argument, let's assume that it exists, and that there's a possibility that God's omniscience contradicts that thought. We should first note that free will is not completely available. For example, I cannot make myself stay alive underwater without an oxygen tank. However, in the context of feasible free will, the fact that God knows what I am going to do tomorrow does not affect my free will to choose to do that thing and actually do it. God's omniscience only interferes with my free will if it impacts my ability to choose and execute those actions. I fail to see why this is also an issue. Especially considering that the secular community themselves are divided on the issue of free will. By the way, the existence of God is compatible with both free will and the nonexistence of free will. The Christian world debates on the existence of free will as well (Calvinism vs Arminianism), but we all agree that either way, it doesn't disprove God.

4. Evolution is real, and evolution disproves God.

Perhaps the most commonly cited one I've run into. First off, I'll note that I don't know enough about evolution to be able to say whether or not I think it's true. However, I do know that it's the most accepted explanation in the scientific community for how life works in our world. So let's say that evolution is real, because I don't have any reasons to doubt it. If we have concluded that we figured out how life works on our planet, how does that show that God does not exist? Yay, you could have figured out how God designed the mechanisms for life. The smarter atheists will immediately point out that our understanding of evolution does not match up with the Biblical story of creation in seven days. Maybe not, when you read the English. But the word "day" in Genesis is simply the safest way of translating the Hebrew word yome. Yome can mean day as in the warm hours, as in the time from sunrise to sunset, time for the sun's cycle, age, end, season, space, process of time, or year. Taken from the Strong's Concordance, which cross-references words in the Bible with their original Hebrew or Greek meanings. The days noted in the creation story could easily have meant a long period of time. It's also interesting to note that the pattern of life in the creation story match up with the order of what types of life appeared on earth according to the scientific community. Unless you can prove that God claims to not have used evolution to create the world's current status quo, it is quite possible that he did use evolution. And that's still assuming that evolution is true (which I will again say is possible, given how much weight the scientific community puts behind it). Mind you, there are many Christians that will adamantly attack evolution. I think this is kind of stupid. Here, I'll quote what I wrote on the HCW forums before:
The reason why this argument has become so big is because people started arguing about things that don't make sense!

The evolution guys fired the first shot when some of them started claiming that since we understand evolution and evolution theoretically proves that it's possible that life was started and developed without the help of a divine being, we should automatically conclude that a divine being doesn't exist. Now given the historical data we have (which has become an entirely different but like-minded debate), this wasn't necessarily a wise conclusion. In fact, there is a large number of scientists who support evolution and firmly believe that it is quite compatible with the existence of a divine being, which I didn't know (but should have guessed) until I ended up listening to this guy. Not that I agreed with everything he said, mind you.

So in the counterattack, the faith people fire back with creationism, which has been slowly come to incorporate more and more scientific knowledge and theory to create what can be now considered a good hypothesis. The problem with this hypothesis would be that it cannot be tested to be false (mind you, the same complaint is easily made against evolution, so we have a tie in this category). But the basic argument was the same throughout history: life very complex, life cannot have started through evolution. The latest creationism stuff takes scientific theory to argue that evolution doesn't make sense. One potential fallacy is that it perhaps commits the same error as the original evolution shot: obviously since we've disproven this thing and rejected it, there can be only one explanation of what really happened! The truly scientific aspect of creationism is not its conclusion, but rather, its attack on evolution.

The existence of a divine being is not dependent on the truth or falsity of evolution, nor creationism. The existence of a divine being is quite compatible with both of the concepts. In creationism's case, because the existence of a divine being is the conclusion; and if creationism were false, it still doesn't necessarily disprove the existence of a divine being because of the leap of logic within creationism itself. In evolution's case, because evolution concludes nothing about who or what created life, only how it was created; to conclude something about the existence of a divine being is once again a leap of logic. The argument is only so acrimonious today because the two sides drew conclusions that they had no right to draw.
5. The Bible contradicts itself!

Show me where, please. I study the Bible. You don't. I might know it a tad better than you. There are rare cases where atheists will bring up some fairly compelling examples. But even in these cases, I see them making the same mistakes as more ignorant atheists. Usually, it's one of the following:
  1. They don't know the context. I'll give an simple extreme example to demonstrate what I'm saying here. Did you know that the Bible says "there is no God"? Did you know that the verse (Psalm 53:1) actually says "The fool says in his heart, there is no God"? I see things taken out of context all the time. But this is not the atheist's fault. Sometimes, the context for something in the New Testament is found in the Old Testament. Etcetera. With context so completely far away from the passage being discussed, how is the atheist supposed to know, unless they study the Bible extensively? They're at a severe disadvantage when it comes to discussing Biblical contradictions. Likewise, atheists are usually unable to consider the context of the time's culture, nor the passage's intended audience.
  2. They don't understand the original meaning. The original word can mean something other than what the atheist thinks. For example, it's quite possible that the word "day" in Genesis 1 doesn't mean a 24-hour period.
  3. They actually have a fallacy in their logic. Sometimes it's just a mistake. But other times, they are actually unable to understand how what they're saying is a fallacy. For people who are supposed to be very rational, I find a large number of fallacies in some atheists' arguments when making the case for a Biblical contradiction.
  4. They turn a blind eye. I've heard people acknowledge that they're wrong in their logic when presenting a Biblical contradiction, but still argue that the so-called contradiction is valid anyway. Yes, it's actually happened.
6. The Bible supports slavery, therefore it cannot be believed

I don't think that people understand what slavery meant during that time. The Bible states that it's wrong to steal someone from their family, uproot them to a foreign place, and force them to become your slave. That's what happened with the African slave trade. What the Bible did allow was for people to become lifelong bondservants to pay off their debts to someone, to be provided for and taken care of in return for labour, or after conquering. But the meaning that is given is never that of what happened in the African slave trade. It is much much closer to feudalism as an economic system. And there were clear laws on how to take care of one's servants; they were not to be mistreated. But atheists will respond, "so what, slavery is bad, doesn't matter what it is." People need to be able to get past the lexeme and into the semantics. I find atheists in general are unwilling to do that though. It would certainly resolve some of the other atheist arguments I've already discussed.

And those are the top arguments that I consistently see atheists bring up. Are my responses invalid? Why? Don't just dismiss me lightly, explain yourself. Otherwise, don't dare bring up these arguments in a discussion with me, please.

1 comment:

  1. Nice! seems like you were on my campus last week. I deal with this every week.

    True. I've seen these cases first hand. Just last week someone told me they can't believe the bible because it's too old. haha.haha.haha.