Why I Secretly Root For the Atheists in Debates…

In 2008, after my book The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Bible came out, I was asked to fly to Ireland to participate in a debate on the existence of God at University College Cork. I had been doing radio interviews for my book and was very comfortable discussing some of the sillier arguments atheists use to attack Christianity or the Bible – for example, that the Bible is full of scientific “errors” and therefore is obviously complete nonsense. Attacks such as these are basic category errors – a comparison of apples and oranges – that are easily refuted.

But despite studying philosophy as an undergraduate, I didn’t really feel qualified to debate the existence of God. Plus, I was super busy with other things and with business projects, about to go on a trip to Rome, and so I politely declined the offer in Ireland.

At the time, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins were supposedly going around doing debates, taking on people like author Dinesh D’Souza and the Oxford theologian and former scientist Alister McGrath. The impression I got was that Hitchens was simply demolishing the theists with his rapier-like wit and vast erudition. Also, I have always looked with awe on Oxbridge philosophy – home of such luminaries as Bertrand Russell, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Elisabeth Anscombe and so on – and so I assumed that the UK philosophers would trot out their superior logical skills, decades of logical analysis, and easily smash the dusty old arguments of theism. (Truth be told, however, Fr. Coppleston more than held his own against Lord Russell in their famous 1948 debate on the BBC.)

It turns out that I was utterly deluded. Recently, I’ve begun to systematically record all of the debates on the Existence of God that I can lay my hands on and listen to them at my leisure, usually while driving.

In the process, I made a shocking discovery. It turns out that the atheists are really, really good at insults but are actually quite poor debaters. The atheists insult Christianity, Judaism and religion generally with a nastiness that is almost breathtaking. They belittle. They demean. They insinuate. But the one thing they don’t do is offer intelligent arguments that disprove the existence of God.

In fact, they don’t actually reason at all.

Reasoning, after all, is a systematic questioning of assumptions… a marshaling of evidence… a critical examination of arguments. It is not, primarily, name-calling. When I first started watching these debates, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I assumed the atheists would eventually put forward logical arguments that the Theists would be hard pressed to answer. What I wasn’t prepared for was that the atheists didn’t really marshal salient arguments at all: they merely sneered. The New Atheists are plainly accustomed to standing up in front of large groups of college students, making snide put-downs that get a lot of laughs and applause; and they are quite good at demolishing arguments made by young earth Creationists and snake-handling fundamentalists. But when faced with genuine Christian intellectuals – such as the philosopher William Lane Craig – they fail utterly even to engage the principal arguments being made.

For example, when Craig debated Sam Harris on the topic of moral values – whether you can establish the existence of objective moral values without recourse to God – Craig offered three extremely precise reasons why Harris failed to prove the existence of objective moral values in his then-latest book, The Moral Landscape. He offered a detailed, step by step critique for why Harris’s argument in his book is, at bottom, logically incoherent.

When it came time for Harris to respond, he didn’t. He didn’t respond to a single one of Craig’s logical arguments. Instead, he simply changed the subject – and fell back on his snide one-liner attacks on the Bible and how stupid Christians are. (go to Page 2)

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Robert Hutchinson

By

Robert Hutchinson studied philosophy as an undergraduate, moved to Israel to study Hebrew and earned an M.A. degree in Biblical studies. He is the author, most recently, of The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Bible. He blogs at RobertHutchinson.com.

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  • Morrie

    Thanks for the article and I look forward to reading more. Another failure of our education system to teach logic and fallacious argumentation. However with a little effort the arguments against the athiest attacks can be refuted.

  • Br. Daniel

    An interesting article, so thank you! A word of caution regarding one example you gave (i.e., A. All men who love their wives give them presents.B. I give you presents.C. Therefore, I love you.): don’t try that argument with your wife because it is a classic fallacy–affirmation of the consequent. It is the antecedent of the B proposition that has to be affirmed in that syllogism. Using the same logic you could say: A. All Catholic priests are male. B. I am male. C. Therefore I am a Catholic priest.

    Regarding the provability of God’s existence: I know that proofs can often feel dry and sterile, but they *are* in fact an inextricable part of our faith–in fact, it is even a revealed truth that God’s existence can be known only using reason, beginning with created things. Consider Romans 1:19-20:

    “What can be known about God is plain to them [i.e., pagans], because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse…”

  • Justin Kolodziej

    Then go ahead, if you think it only takes a little effort. Start refuting, using actual logic.

  • Cole Viscichini

    I have had an autistic sensitivity to hypocracy, ie. logical inconsistancy, since my youth. I have also, since my conversion from atheism, had the persuassion of Hutchinson to be skeptical about logical arguments for God’s existence. When confronted by the Church’s clear teaching that God can be known by reason alone, I don’t think I can even concede as much as Aristotle did. I think God is revealed by reason alone merely because God is not disprovable by reason alone. What I encounter at the very edge of reason is mystery and nothing more. The mystery is provable logically. The definition of that mystery can proceed only by faith. My journey in apologetics has been to bring people into confrontation with mystery. After mystery is embraced again, the power of Christ becomes lucid. Once the intellect bows down before Reality, God’s hand will lift him up.

  • JMC

    Even when I was in high school, I found that arguments by atheists and/or liberals tended to leave my head spinning with their sheer illogic. In my very first year of college – and here I must admit, to make my own point, that as a college freshman, I was about as socially developed as a 13-year-old for reasons too complicated to go into here – I took a class in sociology, taught by the most extreme left-wing liberal I had ever encountered so far – this was in the late 1960s/early 1970s, so he was pretty outspoken, compared to today’s “politial correctness.”. I dropped that class after two weeks, simply because I could make absolutely no sense out of anything he said, and the textbook wasn’t much better. I would read an entire chapter and come out it with a big batch of…NOTHING. It frustrated the daylights out of me that I would listen to this guy for an entire hour, waiting for him to get to the point…AND HE NEVER DID. How on earth could someone talk for an entire hour and essentially not really say anything? I came to abhor the hours I was forced to spend in classes from the “core curriculum,” which were always taught by liberals. Even more frustrating was the fact that you could turn in a perfect term paper, with faultlessly logical premises, backed up by dozens of sources, and if you disagreed with the instructor’s opinion, you got an automatic F. (Considering that I was a straight-A student in high school, you can imagine how frustrating that was.) I know this situation is why I constantly bemoaned the fact that I had to take classes that had nothing to do with my science major. I understood the “rounded education” concept; I’d been pretty thoroughly rounded throughout grade school and high school. Maybe too rounded to “understand” college level topics.
    I ended up withdrawing from college entirely in my second year due to a serious illness. I recovered and could have gone back a year later, but I never bothered. It wasn’t worth the aggravation – and I did quite well for myself without that sheepskin, thank you very much. I did recently – finally! – go back to complete my degree and found that a college education had changed drastically from my first college days. While first-time college students still had to take English writing classes and math classes, the required core corriculum had pretty much disappeared, except as electives that you could skip if you wanted to. You didn’t have to be a genius to complete a degree in two to three years instead of four, especially if you attended summer classes. Of course, seeing what the background education of most of those newly graduated from high school was, I could see WHY things had changed so drastically, but it pleased me no end that I didn’t have to sit through hours of senseless liberal…I won’t dignify it with the name “rhetoric.” Yammering is closer to it.

  • Guest

    You say “God is revealed by reason alone merely because God is not disprovable by reason alone.” So A) Our reason cannot disprove the existence of God. B) If reason cannot disprove the nonexistence of an entity, then that entity exists. C) Therefore, reason can conclude that God exists. I think that’s the same fallacy that Br. Daniel illustrates above. But you also say that eventually, the intellect must “bow down before Reality,” so this would imply that reason alone is not sufficient to prove the existence of God, but eventually has to submit to faith. So I’m not with you there.

    I like your discussion of the mystery of the divine, though. There’s always something unknowable or unspeakable about God, and this ineffability is part of how He is defined. I.e., we know what He is by knowing what He is not. It’s a central tenet of apophatic (negative) theology. Neat stuff.

  • Gail Finke

    Excellent piece. Anyone interested in further exploration of this would enjoy Edward Feser’s book “The Last Superstition,” in which the philosopher demolishes atheists’ arguments using something of their polemical style. It’s very clear and helpful when it comes to making arguments and understanding reality.

    The big problem as I see it is two-fold: Most atheists and secularists don’t realize that they are being illogical, and actually distrust logic. If you make a logical argument, they have the sneaking suspicion that you are “pulling one over on them” and somehow tricking them with your fancy philosophy talk. This is partly because they confuse feelings with thinking and partly because they don’t know how to be consistent. If you find fault with an argument, for instance, they don’t try to prove it further — they make a different argument. They don’t seem to realize that this is a problem or that this says anything about their original argument. They really seem to think that saying something loudly enough, and often enough, and with enough emotion makes it true. As they also don’t believe in objective truth, this sort of makes sense. If they are outraged by something, their outrage trumps your “opinion,” because things are only relatively true anyway.

  • Robert Hutchinson

    A clarification: As Br. Daniel points
    out, Vatican I defined as an article of faith that God can be “known with
    certainty from the created world by the natural light of human reason” but it
    doesn’t follow from that definition that all arguments from reason are equally
    valid. Some arguments may be
    unpersuasive. Others simply
    fallacious. The Church has never defined
    how God is “known with certainty,” only that he is known with certainty. What’s more, the Catechism points out that
    there are psychological impediments to such knowledge. Quoting Pope Pius XII in Humani Generis, it
    says: “Though human reason is, strictly
    speaking, truly capable by its own natural power and light of attaining to a
    true and certain knowledge of the one personal God, who watches over and
    controls the world by his providence, and of the natural law written in our
    hearts by the Creator; yet there are many obstacles which prevent reason from
    the effective and fruitful use of this inborn faculty. For the truths that
    concern the relations between God and man wholly transcend the visible order of
    things, and, if they are translated into human action and influence it, they
    call for self-surrender and abnegation. The human mind, in its turn, is
    hampered in the attaining of such truths, not only by the impact of the senses
    and the imagination, but also by disordered appetites which are the
    consequences of original sin. So it happens that men in such matters easily
    persuade themselves that what they would not like to be true is false or at
    least doubtful.” (CCC 37)

    Finally, I got a B in Logic… as Br. Daniel so aptly
    demonstrated!

  • Peter Nyikos

    Hutchinson’s strong point is his demonstration of how one atheist after another has abandoned all pretense to rational discussion of arguments. I have experienced this in my own debates with atheists on the internet. They pay lip service to reason a great deal, and yet some of them rely even more on mere insult than in the cases Hutchinson writes about.

    I must take issue, however, with Hutchinson on his assessment of the modern argument from design. He even misspells Behe’s name, and gets one key term wrong: it is “irreducible complexity,” not “irremediable complexity,” and while its usefulness as part of the Design Argument is limited, it is a coherent concept and for that reason, cannot be refuted. It is only by misrepresenting it that “scientists and philosophers” can claim to have refuted it or its applicability to the Argument from Design. I have corrected an avalanche of misrepresentations of Behe on various forums for years now, and the end is nowhere in sight.

    The modern argument from design is many-faceted, and Behe and Dembski are only a small part of it. The arguments that proceed from the fine-tuning of physical constants, without which life would be impossible, are at least as strong and have never been seriously undermined.

    In fact, they have rendered all but untenable the classical, reflexive atheist position that our physical universe, a mere 13.5 or so billion years old, is all there is. The only convincing alternative to belief in a divine creator is the belief that there is a mind-bogglingly large number of universes, most of them pure garbage, and almost all of them completely unknowable by us. This is the view to which Martin Rees, the Astronomer Royal of England, has gravitated in his book, Just Six Numbers. See the introduction here:
    http://www.ichthus.info/BigBang/Docs/Just6num.pdf

  • Cole Viscichini

    It’s more like an ontological argument, some like it some don’t. The fact that the intellect should humble itself is the extent of what reason can conclude, I think, but that itself is a kind of proof of God. Not the same as the fallacy Br. Daniel pointed out because it’s in reference to a complete Absolute.

  • Cole Viscichini

    It’s more a matter of how the intellect participates in the Divine Mind; it is not so clear how the bridge between man and God works, but what does seem clear is that humility is the disposition for enlightenment.

  • Chris

    “These remarks sometimes get a laugh – even I chuckle at some of them – but what they don’t do is make any sort of rational case.”

    It would seem that based on your own remarks that all real religions rely on a principal “bigger” than reason (faith). While the word “bigger” is a loaded term, all you clearly mean to say is that religion lies outside of the realm of the rational. I doubt you would get much argument from atheists in this regard. I’m also not sure why you would look for rational arguments from atheists. You’ve already made it clear that rational arguments are incomplete to your understanding of God.

  • Kenneth Regan

    I’d be interested to have your evaluation of this debate between William Lane Craig and an actual chess master (almost—well, he was my team captain for Oxford), Peter Millican: http://winteryknight.wordpress.com/2012/06/19/video-william-lane-craig-and-peter-millican-debate-does-god-exist-2/

  • Brian

    I agree with Hutchinson on the primacy of faith in theological discourse, but his position skirts a bit too close to fideism. St. Anselm defined theology as, “Faith seeking understanding of itself through reason.” We are made in the image and likeness of God. from which we derive free will and a rational intellect. Therefore, using these powers to clear away misunderstandings about God and to remove intellectual obstacles to faith is not inherently presumptive and does no violence to God’s transcendent majesty. However, faith itself can only be granted by God.

  • Don

    “home of such luminaries as Bertrand Russell, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Elisabeth Anscombe and so on – and so I assumed that the UK philosophers would trot out their superior logical skills, decades of logical analysis, and easily smash the dusty old arguments of theism.”
    Elizabeth Anscombe was a Theist lol

  • Wm L Craig

    The problem is that the argument for why you love your wife is logically invalid! (A) would have to be “All men who give their wives presents love them.” Then (C) follows.–WmLC

  • http://secularoutpost.infidels.org/ Jeffery Jay Lowder

    Robert — Most atheists who participate in debates on God’s existence don’t take the debates seriously and are usually unprepared. The fact that most atheists don’t take their debates on God’s existence seriously doesn’t mean that well-prepared atheist debaters can’t address theistic arguments without resorting to insults. For a list of some of the best debate performances by nontheists, see here:

    http://secularoutpost.infidels.org/p/prominent-theistatheist-debates.html

  • tz1

    http://voxday.blogspot.com Have you read “The Irrational Atheist”? followups at this blog (may be NSFW) chronicle a similar experience, or at least the unwillingness to debate. He also put together a series of demotivators with the new atheists.

  • bbruno

    Due clarification, perfect! To remember
    too S. Augustin’s: “credo ut intelligam , intelligo ut
    credam…” After all, the love for one’s wife, is not on the same
    ground as to believe ( and to love ) God! ( With a faith as
    fideism, we couldn’ t have that supreme and unique Poem that is the
    Divine Comedy – try to read : The metaphisics of Dante’s Comedy, by
    Christian Moevs- phantastic!)-

  • Steven Carr

    CRAIG on how Nazis found salvation..

    God loves Heinrich just as much as He loves you and so accords him sufficient grace for salvation and seeks to draw him to Himself.

    Indeed, God may have known that through the guilt and shame of what Heinrich did under the Third Reich, he would eventually come to repent and find salvation and eternal life.

    Paradoxically, being a Nazi may have been the best thing that happened to Heinrich, since it led to his salvation.

    Of course, one may wonder about those poor people who suffered in the death camps because of Heinrich.

    But God has a plan for their lives, too…,

    CARR
    Yes, Craig really did say that his god planned the lives of people sent to death camps, and that becoming a Nazi was the way to salvation.

  • Steven Carr

    ‘Instead, he simply changed the subject – and fell back on his snide one-liner attacks on the Bible and how stupid Christians are. ‘

    Isn’t this called ‘lying’?

    Yes, it is.

    We have another liar for Christ , folks!

  • Robert Hutchinson

    Yes, no wonder she wasn’t persuaded! And as I said, I barely passed logic in college and it shows.

  • Robert Hutchinson

    Good points all around. However, the concept of “irreducible complexity” (my apologies! that is the problem with blogging on the fly) has received quite a drubbing from theistic proponents of evolution, such as Denis Alexander and John Haught, who insist it is a tad deus ex machina for them and seems an awful lot like the “God of the gaps.” That is, if we don’t understand something, God must have done it. What’s more, Alexander argues that some of the examples Behe gives are not as “irreducible” as he thinks they are — e.g., the bacterial flagellum. For more info, I refer everyone to Alexander’s wonderful book, CREATION OR EVOLUTION: Do We Have to Choose?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Willam-Nat/100002715381777 Willam Nat

    I found your article interesting. I went to college about the same time. I took an Introduction to Logic course. I was doing “A” work until the last paper when the instructor gave me an “F” on it with the note that I was more right wing “than a Catholic priest.” Well, that left me with a “C” in the course. Not much of a problem, except that if you got less than a “C” average in the semester you were kicked out of college and, if you were a male, sent to fight in Vietnam.

  • Sue Korlan

    On page 4 your statement about your wife is a logical fallacy unless only men who love their wives give them presents. Another example should suffice to persuade you. All living dogs breath. You breath. You are therefore a dog. Really?

    In an if-then argument you can either demonstrate that the first part of the proposition is true, and therefore the second part will follow, or you can show that the second part is NOT true, in which case you know that the first part isn’t true either.

  • Peter Nyikos

    The “deus ex machina / God of the Gaps” put-down is traditionally used against all forms of the Design Argument, including that of Thomas Aquinas. Behe just codifies certain aspects of the design he sees in the world. He certainly does not claim “God must have done it” to anything.

    I haven’t seen Alexander’s book. Did he take into account the testimony of Scott Minnich in the 2005 Dover trial? Minnich said that he experimentally found all the parts of the flagellum to be essential to its working, and that is what irreducible complexity is all about. Here are his climactic words:

    “One mutation, one part knock out, it can’t swim.
    Put that single gene back in we restore motility. Same thing over
    here. We put, knock out one part, put a good copy of the gene
    back in, and they can swim. By definition the system is
    irreducibly complex. We’ve done that with all 35 components of
    the flagellum, and we get the same effect.”
    http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/dover/day20pm2.html

  • Peter Nyikos

    Are you suggesting that Hutchinson is lying? In the part quoted, Harris certainly did change the subject, and while the quoted part does not completely match the descriptions, it seems to me that he isn’t quoting the whole of what Harris said.

  • Peter Nyikos

    Millican does a fine job, never descending into insults, and trying to argue rationally, at least in the summary. [I didn't watch the video due to lack of time for at least another day.]

    Nevertheless, overall I think Craig got the better of the argument. Millican’s response to the BGV theorem in A1) is very feeble, and his response to the fine-tuning argument A2) is amateurish. It is very ably handled by Craig, and Millican has nothing to say in response. Millican’s other arguments are on other topics where neither side seems to have a decisive advantage.

    So, unless the summary leaves something essential out, Craig emerges as the overall winner.

  • GabrielAustin

    I remain bewildered that people continue to take Dawkins seriously. A decade or so ago, he attempter to cross swords with Mary Midgeley, She demolished him. After his whine that she was not courteous to a fellow academic, she abandoned the effort. “I see no point in crushing a butterfly on the wheel”.

  • Alex

    Demolished him in the sense that she utterly failed to understand the simple idea explained thoroughly by Dawkins in his book. He wrote the book for beginners, so she never really had an excuse for failing to grasp the ideas. As a wannabe-philosopher he’s pretty dismal, but let’s not confuse theistic philosophy with evolutionary biology.

  • http://www.facebook.com/eriknmanning Erik Manning

    I thought Peter Millican did the best job from the atheist side against Craig to this point, and he was not at all snide but conducted himself like a real gentleman and dealt with the arguments in question. Best theist-atheist debate I’ve listened to this point, or at the very least the most enjoyable.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Franck-Peter/100000181151109 Franck Peter

    I completely agree with the article, though it is very long in saying the obvious, that Atheists are anti-intellectuals, and by nature anti-reason.

    Indeed, it is very rare that an Atheist even TRIES to prove Theism false with evidence or logical necessity, more so, when they ACTUALLY do it, they fail miserably.
    The pasts arguments against God’s omnipotence, omniscience, and so forth, have failed miserably, although many Atheists still affirm to the validity of them.

    Christopher Hitchens is known for his straw-manning of the opponent, more accurately, his rethorical assesment of the current evidence for Theism.
    Most of his ‘argumentation’ — being nice and calling it that — seems to be based on emotions, and emotions alone.

    Richard Dawkins isn’t different at all from the other “horsemen” of Atheism.
    He tends to use his illogical assertion, which is false, that God as a creator must be caused as well. Of course, in doing so, asserting this, if this were true then he’d have proven God’s existence; since, if Richard Dawkins created the God Delusion, then who created Richard Dawkins? Checkmate, Atheists.

    Sam Harris thinks he’s a free-thinker, though, as a neurologist he dismisses any possibility of free-will; he asserts, thus, that his own position is the cause of his upbringing, and so forth. The ironic thing is that his position, in some sense, REQUIRES a form of free-will, or at least the possibility of his self actually playing a role in the decision making.
    If his position is the cause of his upbringing, then why on Earth would he think it’s true. If his human faculties could be playing games with him, then why assert that Atheism is a logical position – when it’s possible that he’s neurologically diseased. thus believing something which is false — i.e., being delusional.

  • Frey

    “In fact, they don’t actually reason at all.” Well thats really not true. They cant disprove god because the definition of god, not just changes, but changed into something that is impossible to disprove(or prove). I know that a lots of skeptic debaters can be a bit rough and not so friendly to the touch but to say that they don’t reason is a lie. I am interested in the debate and i’m sorry to say that this was disappointing, i was hoping the debate was about finding a solution (or the truth if you will) but right now it seems like a win-the-argument fight instead of finding out whats really true. You don’t have to agree with the other side but please at least try not to say stuff that you know is not true.

  • http://www.facebook.com/scott.pantalone Scott Pantalone

    If we shouldn’t get theistic philosophy and evolutionary biology wrapped together does Dawkins even have an outspoken view? Seems like he is the one jumping between sides.

  • khris

    I cannot prove God does not exist and you cannot prove he does. Is this really a 6 page scorecard of debates that no one can determine the outcome? Are there really people that have multiple degrees that make them experts on arguing in debates that have no answer?

    No wonder there are atheist!

  • khris

    the existence of God is not determined by the result of a debate, You are all foolish. Believe what you believe and be happy.

  • Truth

    My friend, you say to believe what you believe and be happy. Yet everyone believes something, and there are still many unhappy people. You could claim this to be some fault of the individual, but in reality, there are belief systems that lead more to truth and true happiness than others. And for these beliefs, there are logical and reasonable arguments. There must be: if there is no foundation for something you believe, or things that contradict it with nothing to refute that contradiction, wouldn’t that belief be wrong? It sounds as though you may be a little confused yourself on what you believe, as your statement makes little sense.

    There are many people who question belief in God. They want reasons for their belief, and reason and logic do NOT contradict God. They only help us further understand our faith. What, pray tell, is so ‘foolish’ about providing logical arguments to supplement faith? After all, God is logical (beyond our understanding). Why not be ready to defend him with something other than ‘I believe it?’

  • Obviously

    Would ‘they use ad hominem and non sequiter attacks more readily than actual reason in reply to logical and reasonable theological and philosophical arguments’ be more satisfactory to you?

    God the Father was never claimed to be something tangible. He was always claimed to be above all, beyond all. In fact, he is I AM. How else could you describe God? To imply He is something we can wrap our minds around is foolish.

    As for finding ‘the truth’, we already have it: God. We have logical arguments for the existence of God. We also (more importantly) have Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition, the Magisterium, and the deposit of Faith. After all this, we cannot prove the existence of God the Father in the way Atheists want us to. If you expect the debate to be definitive, you will ALWAYS be sorely disappointed. To look for God in some specific argument is to make God into something less than He is. If you want to see signs of God, look all around you at the physical world. There is no other answer. And despite all the atheist smoke and mirrors, there never will be.

  • Stand by the Bible.

    “they are quite good at demolishing arguments made by young earth Creationists” – young earth creationisits – including God, of course. God’s word has to be taken in totality – sin came before anything died. No scientist existed prior to 10,000 years ago. (I am not Catholic by the way. Hope it is still o.k. to post here).

  • Here we go…

    “Know this first of all, that there is no prophecy of scripture that is a matter of personal interpretation, for no prophecy ever came through human will; but rather human beings moved by the holy Spirit spoke under the influence of God. (2 Peter 1:20-21)”

    Here we go again. My brother, you don’t seem to realize that the Bible, the very Word of God, is sometimes difficult to understand. Are we to believe everything in literal terms? Or is there context to be given by the Church God gave us? Of course there is, but non Catholic Christians would rather interpret the Bible and Faith and Morals 30,000 different ways. True science (the understanding of nature, both to simply understand and to aid nature and life, not destroy or twist it) will NEVER contradict God. If evolution is real, it does not destroy God. It only gives us a mere glimpse of His greatness!

    “… there are some things hard to understand that the ignorant and unstable distort to their own destruction, just as they do the other scriptures.” (2 Peter 3:16)

  • Stand by the BIble

    To Here we go..

    True science does not contradict God. There is no evidence for (macro) evolution only changes in creatures. That is why so many species continue to live in so many spheres of the world today. Beginning with one species and having survival of the fittest, how many species would you end up with?

    God makes things very plain but our sin is the problem.

    From your sister, standing by the BIble.

  • Kent

    Misleading title and an article that mostly “strawmans” the atheist position.

  • Kent

    There doesn’t need to be arguments against God or any deity. Atheism is a negative claim i.e it’s a rejection of the positive claim of religions.

    The burden of proof is on the believers, until then the default position is to disbelieve. Disbelief does not mean that an atheist is saying believers are absolutely wrong, it means that atheist do not accept the claims of God, Allah, Zeus, or any other deity.

    It’s the same with anything else that’s supernatural. I don’t have to disprove the Loch Ness monster to confidently say “I don’t believe in the Loch Ness monster” in a casual conversation. Why should anything else get special treatment?

  • Lion_IRC

    “…He began to remind me of Chess Masters who…”
    LOL
    Yes, its a bit like the chess anecdote about a visiting Grand Master who was playing an amateur old-timer at a local chess club who always dreamed of one day playing against an actual Grand Master.

    It was the old timer’s birthday and the GM thought he would graciously let the birthday boy – who wasn’t really a very strong player, win. (Something to tell the grandkids.)

    The game went on for ages and ages and in spite of the GM’s best efforts to lose, the old boy refused to cooperate and finally resigned, (conceding that no matter how good a player he was, he could never hope to beat a Grand Master of chess.)

  • andHarry

    >>”they are quite good at demolishing arguments made by young earth
    Creationists” – young earth creationisits – including God, of course.
    God’s word has to be taken in totality – sin came before anything died.
    No scientist existed prior to 10,000 years ago. (I am not Catholic by
    the way. Hope it is still o.k. to post here).<<

    You are
    quite right to highlight this passing remark by Hutchinson. I have
    listened to a few debates between creationists and scientists promoting
    evolution, and the creationists have always acquitted themselves well.
    They have given reasons for their belief to the extent that Dawkins will
    not debate them; and also advises others against debate with them.

    Surely commonsense would inform Dawkins that failure to confront this
    'erroneous interpretation' will only be counter-productive. Dawkins had a
    bad experience a few years ago when he was totally stumped by a request
    for experimental evidence for an increase in complexity of evolving
    life. Now he dismisses creationists as if they are beneath him; he has
    evolved beyond that; he is the example of evidence of an increase in
    complexity.
    I studied anthropology at uni. and became a Christian
    some time after. It was years before I abandoned the seductive, but
    unfulfilling, theistic evolution twist for a faith grounded in a
    childlike reception of Christ's teaching – 'Unless you repent and become
    like a little child… 'Unless you receive it like a little child.. '
    So if ultimately I am rebuked by Christ, for holding such a childlike
    (note: not childish) interpretation, what response am I to make? Better
    surely on that Day to be with the church of the little ones who stood around him than with
    the church of the wise and learned. Matt.11:25.

  • http://www.facebook.com/johan.mathiesen Johan Mathiesen

    “If God exists, then we clearly have a sound foundation for objective moral values and moral duties. But if God does not exist, that is, if atheism is true, then there is no basis for the affirmation of objective moral values; and there is no ground for objective moral duties because there is no moral lawgiver and there is no freedom of the will.”

    Oops. It doesn’t logically follow that, simply because there might be a god, that there would also be a concomitant moral law. Morality doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with whether or not there is a god. Even if there is a god, there’s no way of knowing what its moral will might be, or if it has a moral will. That may be a purely human level concept.

    Conversely, natural law concepts such as the Golden Rule and doing what’s best for the species have no requirement for a god. The problem atheists have with believers is that they find believers to be immoral. We believe that each person is responsible for their own acts, not an imaginary and unknowable creature. Again, even if there is a god, there’s no way of knowing what that god thinks about anything, so we all have to come to our own moral judgements, anyway. The existence of a god doesn’t remove ones personal responsibility.

    “Traditionally, atheists have claimed that the co-existence of God and evil is logically impossible.”

    Oops again. Huh? That’s hardly an atheistic argument. Sure it’s easy to knock down an argument no one uses. Who says that? Where? Show me? Why would they? Au contraire, nothing says god can’t be evil. You can make god up to be whatever you want.

    My first caution would be to rein in your self-assurance. It doesn’t become your arguments.

    In the end, you resorted to the usual defense of a believers—which is, in the end, the only defense—“Faith, to me, is bigger than logic, bigger than reason. Proving the existence of God from logical arguments seems to me a lot like proving that I love my wife from logical arguments: the very exercise seems a bit inappropriate or even somewhat demeaning.” You aptly said that faith was a personal experience unaffected by the dictates of reason. Fair enough. Yet you went on to denounce the New Atheists’ deconstruction of religious reasoning, as if you were arguing from a point of reason; while you’ve already declared that you aren’t. Indeed, sir, you should hold to the unassailable position that faith is a personal revelation and not subject to logical scrutiny; other than, say, a neurological analysis. (By the way, doctorates of divinity don’t hold much water.)

    I will note that you confuse belief in a god with a belief in a particular god. Your god. Beliefs in particular gods are easy to knock down because gods are, indeed, unknowable. Anyone claiming to know the will of god is, by definition, a charlatan. That’s where the necessity of proof comes in, and that’s what simply can’t be. The unknowable can be neither proved nor denied; hence it can’t be used in an argument. Do you want to argue about god, or do you want to argue about Christianity? There’s a big difference.

    In any case, if you want to sit down at a table with me, I’ll take you on. Ought be a knock-out, right? After all, you’re the heavy-weight, I’m just a pipsqueak. One logical punch, that’s all it should take; I’ll be flat on my back.

    You wanna piece of me? Come on.

  • http://www.facebook.com/johan.mathiesen Johan Mathiesen

    Well said.

  • http://www.facebook.com/johan.mathiesen Johan Mathiesen

    All I can say is that everyone here seems to be talking about a Christian god and not god per se. Christian gods are so anthropomorphic. From the outside it’s a “you can’t be real” situation. Have you ever looked at how small and petty your view of the universe is, how anthropocentric? One wants to scream at you, “Stop being so self obsessed!” Wake up from the dream, join the universe. Be not afraid, the future awaits you. Here. Now. Awake! Awake!

  • http://www.facebook.com/johan.mathiesen Johan Mathiesen

    Just to be fair, I watched the first round of the God Debate II. If these were debaters, they would be wiped out by high school students.

    My observations:

    William Lane Craig vs. Sam Harris
    The God Debate II
    U of Notre Dame

    Sorry Sam, you blew it (first 40 min of debate). You didn’t engage Craig on the points he presented. His argument was, “If there is a god, there is an objective basis for morality; and conversely, if there is no god, there is no objective basis.” You let him slide on that where you could have whipped the rug from under his feet.

    The fault is in the logic. He hasn’t presented the case that, if there is a god, that it has any interest in morality; or, if that it has an interest in morality, that we have any way of objectively knowing what that would be. Just having a god doesn’t satisfy his contention that it would be an interested, much less a benevolent, god. He hasn’t establish the premise on which he builds his argument and you didn’t call him on it. How are you going to win debates that way?

    As to the second part, because of the unknowability of god, even if there is one, morality has to be a subjective agreement between all people. Because no one can establish that there god is any truer than anyone else’s god, we can’t use any god’s commandments as to how we should behave. We have to work out how to behave as an agreement between the members of the species as to how best to promote and maintain the species. The Golden Rule, which no one mentioned in the first forty minutes of the debate, is a pretty good objective/subjective way of basing morality without any god. You forgot to bring that up.

    Follow up:

    Craig: on flourishing as objective good. That depends, of course, on the definition of “flourishing,” but if we can assume in broad strokes it means the promotion and benefit of the species, then “objective good” encompasses “flourishing.” I think indices could be developed that could measure aspects of that in the same way we measure health of individuals and societies. We can develop scientific measurements of “good” and “bad.” It’s too bad that Harris didn’t demolish your argument, because you continue on with the assumptions about god being knowably good, which is demonstrably false. You can’t know anything about god; there is no mechanism for that knowledge to be transmitted.

    I’ve got to stop watching now; too many errors have been made and left uncorrected to want to continue watching.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Franck-Peter/100000181151109 Franck Peter

    Kent. You’re clearly not an atheist. An atheist is someone who maintains the invalidity of theism. I could, however, be as destructive of philosophy as yourself, and say, “Well, theism is the rejection of atheism.” Checkmate, Kent. Once again, self-refuting reasoning.
    For the record, you’re an agnostic, at the very top. Perhaps, an agnostic atheist – but that’s being nice to you.

    The burden of proof is on the propounder of the assertion. Not all theists say that there exists a world beyond (normal theism), or that there exists a creator(s) in this world beyond. Those who do, I agree would have the burden of proof. The issue, here, is that none of us actually do.. with the exception of fundamentalist Christians and whatnot.

    The burden of proof is on atheism, and in this very case, it’s on you. By stating, “There doesn’t need to be arguments against God or any deity.” you are prescribing the invalidity of theism. In doing this, you are maintaining your atheism (ironically, not aware), and hence it is YOUR job to prove that this is true – that there needn’t be an argument against any form of theism.

    I really love to read comments, like your own, where the so called “non-believer” is preaching his “non-position”, and giving it attributes – which a non-position can’t have…. because it’s nothing.
    Really goes to show your ability to reason, and most of all how you atheists do maintain good philosophy.. don’t get me started on the destruction of science. That’ll be for another comment.

  • Todd

    Robert,

    Quite simply, we begin in the natural world, not supernatural. Theists say that there is an all powerful, invisible sky dad. This is an extraordinary claim. The burden of proof is not on the atheist to disprove extraordinary claims but on the theist to prove them. If I tell you I have a dragon in my garage it is not be up to you to disprove it. The burden of proof of this extraordinary claim is on me to prove it to you. So long as you default to a dusty old book written by ignorant ancestors about an imaginary friend, what is history, cosmology, biology and paleontology, you will see as insults.

  • Coolvan

    Johan, execpt that Craig is basing his argument on the Catholic Christian concept of God, not some random undefined “god”. For Craig “God” is very specific concept with certain attributes which must always be considered. As you should know, among these attributes is the thought that God IS concerned with and involved with His creation and the morality of the creatures to which He has given the gift of Free Will.. If God as defined in Christianity exists then so does objective morality. If you cannot see this, then you do not understand ( or chose to ignore) how Christianity defines God.

    So your arguement here demonstrates what many others above have posted about skeptics, in that you are not consistent in using christian concepts, and fallatious in your reasoning when you do argue against a proper concept.

  • T Merton

    Dr Arif Ahmed (Philo Prof at Cambridge) would easily destroy each argument. Pretending to know things you don’t know is so 14th Century…

  • secular

    This is a very interesting article but I deeply disagree with the idea that atheists don’t present good arguments. The difference that I have noticed is the atheist are more willing to admit ignorance than theist (an example of this is the concession made when discussing the basis of morality-although we have a good scientific idea we don’t yet have all of the answers.) This sometimes makes the argument of the atheist appear incomplete as they can only in good conscience point out inconsistencies in the argument of the theist rather than pretend to have revealed knowledge that they could not possibly have.

  • seculat

    I wrote a comment on here earlier opposing your point of view somewhat. Has it been deleted? If so, why?

  • The Whyman

    It seems that Robert Hutchinson, while making some good observations, is blinded by his own prejudices as evidenced by his gross misrepresentations in regards to creationism (which would leave the informed reader wondering how much serious study he has put into it)

    Knocking down strawmen many be fun and easy, but it’s still fallacious, Robert.
    Try going to http://www.creation.com and see how easily the arguments *actually* are to demolish.

  • seculat

    jesus

  • check before you post…
  • Robert Oram

    Perhaps a little ‘fideistic’ near the end for me, but otherwise a marvellous piece! I laughed out loud a couple of times & also thought, ‘I wish I’d written this!’ And you’re the first person to suggest Craig is as close to a modern day Aquinas as there has been since he existed. Craig’s foundational syllogistic arguments are as well-researched, reasoned & defended as anything there has been since Aquinas’ ‘proofs’.

  • tim

    boom kent destroyed. Another idiot bites the dust

  • catholicexchange

    What are you applauding? Kent does nothing more than make the kind of logical errors that we’ve all become accustomed to hearing in atheistic arguments.
    For instance, what support is there to the statement “the default position is to disbelieve”? Whose position? If anything, the history of humankind shows overwhelmingly that the “default position”, if there is one, is to believe in a deity or deities. Also, the Loch Ness monster, whether it’s real or not, is not “supernatural.” To lump it in the same category with a divine spiritual creator shows a sad misunderstanding of the word “supernatural.”

  • Sunshine1011

    Religion has 0.0% proof in a god yet they cry because atheists can’t “prove” that something does not exist. Yet no religion has ever proved that unicorns don’t exist…..

  • catholicexchange

    It shows a serious lack of research and an absence of healthy objectivity when atheists simply state, “religion has no proof of God.” My Oxford dictionary defines proof as “evidence sufficient to establish a thing as true, or to produce belief in its truth.” Can we do that with the concept of God? Absolutely. St. Thomas Aquinas offered five proofs of God in his Summa Theologica, based on reason alone. Have you refuted those? Dr. Peter Kreeft and Fr. Tacelli include those 5 in a list of 20 Arguments for the Existence of God in their book, “Handbook of Christian Apologetics.” These represent good, solid reasonable proofs for God. So, you can understand our frustration when shallow, snarky comments like the ones left here by you and others are all you have to offer in defense of atheism.

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