This is a companion piece to Poor arguments to make with atheists. I deliberately used theists instead of Christians to keep things simple, though I did use some Christian examples below. I accumulated these from various atheist web sites or comments made here.
I enjoy questions with people who are willing to have a charitable dialogue. I don’t waste time with people who come by with poorly reasoned sound bites they picked up from their Dawkins/Hitchens/Harris trinity or the Big Book O’ Atheist Sound Bites. My hope is that people will reflect on at least one of these and realize how they’ve been repeating things without thinking about them carefully. And if they were misinformed on these simple things, then where else have their instructors misled them?
It is also written to encourage believers when they hear these things in the secular world — and in some churches! We live in the world that the one true God created, so there will always be reasonable explanations to the nothing-made-everything fantasy sound bites of atheism.
1. There are lots of denominations within Christianity and lots of religions with differing truth claims. There must be a solid majority with complete agreement for God to be real, so this is evidence that there is no God.
And where did they arrive at this piece of spiritual truth? But if the truth is determined by a majority vote, then there must be a God. There are far more religious people than atheists. But the truth is the truth no matter how few agree, and a lie is a lie no matter how many agree. And if the majority rules with respect to truth claims then atheism is false, because most people believe there is a God.
That is an actual quote. I got this a lot from the Dawkins’ blog “raiding party.” I call this the fallacy-within-a-fallacy argument. They make a straw man argument about us making a circular argument.
I never made that claim about the Bible other than noting that the Bible does claim 3,000 times to speak for God and that it is a sort of necessary condition to be considered the word of God. We have lots of reasons to believe it is the word of God, but we don’t need circular reasoning for it.
He also uses a non-Biblical definition of faith. We have faith in something, and it isn’t a “blind faith” or a faith in spite of the evidence.
3. Arguing from incredulity: You just have a made-up invisible friend in the sky, etc., etc. Do you probably believe in santa Claus and the Easter Bunny?
A. The universe was created from nothing without a cause and organized itself into the spectacular level of complexity we see today, including life being created from non-life, and it evolved to create the “fictions” of morality and consciousness.
B. The universe was created by an eternally existent God.
We have lots of evidence for the existence of God: Cosmological (”first cause”), teleological (design), morality, logic, the physical resurrection of Jesus, etc. If atheists don’t find that compelling, then so be it. I’m on the Great Commission, not the paid commission. But to insist that we have no evidence is uncharitable in the extreme and makes reasoned dialogue virtually impossible.
4. Arguments from ridicule (also see #3). You can sprinkle in some ridicule to make an argument more entertaining, but using it as your primary argument is weak and fallacious. Having visited quite a few atheist websites this seems to be their main line of reasoning.
5. As a Christian, you deny all gods but one. As an atheist, I deny all gods. We’re practically the same.
This is a cute but horribly illogical argument. Saying there is no God isn’t a little different than saying there is one God, it is the opposite. That’s like saying, “You deny all other women as your wives except one, so you’re practically the same as a single person.”
6. You don’t have empirical evidence for ____ (God, the resurrection, etc.).
To quote Bubba: “Can one prove that only empirical evidence is trustworthy? Better yet, can one prove this by using only empirical evidence?”
The answers, of course, are no and no.
The argument is a “heads we win, tails you lose” trick. They say that you can only consider natural causes for the creation of the universe, and since they have nothing to test then there could not have been any supernatural cause, right?
And we do have lots of evidence for the resurrection. Lots more evidence for God’s existence and for Christianity here and here.
7. Parents shouldn’t be allowed to indoctrinate / brainwash their children with religious beliefs.
The brainwashing must not be working, because so many people leave the church. And why isn’t it brainwashing when the schools do it with evolution and their sickening strategies to take away the innocence of young children? These freaks are telling 5 year old children that they can pick their gender! That’s child abuse.
I find it interesting that with such low church attendance, general Biblical illiteracy and the monopoly that materialism has in public education that most people still don’t buy the macro-evolution lie. No wonder evolutionists are so frustrated!
Some parents may go overboard with the fear of Hell thing. But parents have rights, and more importantly, strong warnings are only inappropriate if the consequence in question is not true.
8. The Bible teaches _____ [fill in hopelessly (and deliberately?) wrong interpretation].
Please learn more about the Bible and the faith you are trying to criticize. Straw-man arguments are unproductive. This is perhaps the most common error I come across. It seems like a week rarely goes by without someone using the “shrimp/shellfish argument,” which is full of holes but is appealing to many because so few bother to study the passages. I address five serious problems with it in flaws of the shellfish argument.
9. Christians disagree on what the Bible teaches (or Muslims disagree on the Koran, etc.) so there can’t be one right answer.
Just because a book is capable of being misunderstood doesn’t mean it is incapable of being understood. Disagreements in science don’t mean everyone must be wrong.
If you have actually studied the Bible you’ll note that it addresses many false teachings and warns that there will always be false teachers. So the concept that people disagree on what the Bible says isn’t exactly newsworthy. It is Biblical, in fact.
10. Why do religious people keep quoting bits out of a book written long ago by stone aged (or bronze aged) and ignorant men?
The men who wrote the Bible were quite intelligent. The Apostle Paul, for example, was well educated, articulate and a clear thinker. Go read the book of Romans and see what I mean.
The age of the book is completely irrelevant, of course. If God wrote it the message would be timeless. And of course, if it were written last week they’d complain that it was too late.
The complaint that our responses are old is also invalid. The objections are old as well. The funny thing is that over the last 2,000 years brilliant theists have wrestled with the same questions the New Atheists have, except with more clarity and thoughtfulness.
11. Why do religious people not understand the scientific and philosophical arguments against the existence of god which clearly refute its existence?
This commenter didn’t share any of those arguments or refer to any sources, so it is difficult to answer even if the objection didn’t have a flawed premise (it is basically a “have you stopped beating your wife” type of question that anyone on any side of an issues could use). Many of us know and understand the arguments and how to respond to them.
12. I can’t understand or conceive of why God would set things up this way, so He must not exist.
We call this “creating God in your own image.” See the 2nd Commandment. The atheists making claims like that paraphrase are actually making ironic theological statements, because they claim to know what God should “really” be like.
If you create your own universe with working DNA and such, you can make your own rules. But whether you like it or not you play by God’s rules in this universe and you’ll have to give an account for your life. Ignorance is not an excuse. If you suppress the truth in unrighteousness you will experience God’s wrath for eternity. You will be judged by God for all your sins, including your darkest, most shameful secret thoughts and deeds. And the standard won’t be some other sinner like me, it will be the perfect righteousness of Jesus.
Romans 1:18–20 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.
Romans 2:15-16 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.
13. Some people who call themselves Christians do and/or say stupid things, so Christianity is false.
That doesn’t disprove Christianity any more than atheists doing and saying stupid things proves that there is a God.
In fact, Christians saying and doing stupid things probably bothers us more than it does atheists. Believe it or not, we have some common ground there.
14. Religion poisons everything! What about the Crusades, the Inquisition, etc.?!
That is unproductive hyperbole. Religion has done many great things – helping the poor, advancing education for the masses, helping women, building hospitals and schools, great art, etc.
You don’t judge an ideology based on the actions of those who violate its tenets. Click the link above for more.
The Salem Witch trials killed 18 people. The Inquisition killed about 2,000. That is 2,018 too many, to be sure, but keep in mind two things: The perpetrators did the opposite of what Jesus commanded and 2,018 murders was a slow afternoon for atheists like Stalin and Mao.
Here’s a quote from a guy trying to rally atheists to their cause by raiding theist blogs like this one – to rescue the world from this religious poison, I suppose. Messiah complex, anyone?
In a very real (but perhaps overly dramatic sense) the fate of the planet is at stake.
Uh, yes, “perhaps.” But if atheism is true then who cares if the planet dies? You must use empirical evidence to prove why it would be a bad thing :-).
I have noted that these critics focus almost exclusively on Christianity. When you point this out to them they squirm and say it is the one they are most familiar with. But with the growth of radical Islam and the perversions of the caste system in India you’d think they’d spread their evangelical atheism out a bit.
15. Religion gets in the way of scientific progress.
That is simply untrue. The Galileo story that people usually refer to has many mythical elements. And how many people can cite an example besides Galileo? And who knows, maybe Einstein’s presupposition of a static universe caused his error with the cosmological constant. After all, an expanding universe certainly gives more support to a theist model than a static one.
Darwinistic philosophy caused errors like assuming that “Junk DNA” was really junk.
16. You don’t use reason and we do.
That is just patently false. Atheists just don’t like the reasons. Christianity in particular encourages and applauds the use of reason. Countless great thinkers and scientists were Bible-believing Christians. Darwinistic philosophy can’t even account for reason, because macro-evolution would select for survivability, not truth.
17. But the Bible condones slavery! It is ironic that this is one of the most common excerpts from the Big Book O’ Atheist Sound bites. Why? Because on atheism there is no grounding to say that slavery is wrong. Survival of the fittest rules, baby. So for starters, they shouldn’t be so judgmental about what their worldview couldn’t rightly judge.
Also, this doesn’t sound like condoning to me: Exodus 21:16 Whoever steals a man and sells him, and anyone found in possession of him, shall be put to death.
Please read that again, then realize that the critics of God use the logical fallacy of equivocation to make their point — that is, they assume that all forms of slavery are the same.
Oh, and don’t forget to praise the Christians who ended slavery.
And don’t forget to fight the Muslim and other slavery that goes on today and please stop using p*rn, which is directly tied to sex slavery. That is, if you really care about slavery.
More background on the Bible and slavery here, or just search on the Bible and slavery. There are lots of thorough articles for those with sincere interest in the topic.
18. But the God of the Bible committed genocide! First, if you create a universe from scratch you are welcome to deal with any of your creatures who rebel against your authority as you see fit. He is sovereign over life and death for everyone and makes no apology for it.
But the clearing out of the Promised Land involved a one-time cleansing of a group of people who had committed the atrocities listed in Leviticus 18 for over 400 years. If you want to judge God, a more logical question would be why He waited so long!
And that was it. No wars of conquest. No hints in the New Testament that Christianity should use any coercion to get people to believe.
19. If it aligned with facts and logic, it would not be religion. It would be science. Logical fallacy: Category error. Science deals with the material. Religion deals with the immaterial and the material. Both use facts and logic.
20. You are only a Christian because of where you were born! If you were born in Saudi Arabia you’d be a Muslim. Short version: So what? The motivation for a belief is irrelevant to whether the belief is true. We have many solid reasons to believe Christianity is true. From there you can talk about Christian apologetics and why we have logic and facts supporting our belief that Jesus rose from the dead.
Also, using their logic, they are only skeptics (or whatever) because of where they were born. And lots of people convert to Christianity from other religions, so their point of origin can’t be the only reason.
Closing thoughts: As frequent commenter Edgar has pointed out so well, even if every religion is completely false and atheism is true, then naturalism is to blame. So it is irrational to get mad at religion or religious people. We’re just doing what our genes tell us to.
And, of course, you would have absolutely nothing to be proud about. You haven’t accomplished anything and haven’t generated any brilliant or meaningful ideas. You are just a bag of chemicals that thinks you have. Congratulations! You have no reason for bitterness or grandstanding.
All fun aside, those who can stay away from time-wasting arguments and who want to engage in an actual dialogue are welcome.
I hope that atheists reconsider their views. Eternity is a mighty long time. The true God of the universe delights to show forgiveness and mercy, but you must come to him on his terms: Repenting and trusting in Jesus.
You can’t dictate the terms and conditions to parents, bosses, teachers, police, or even a McDonald’s cashier, so don’t be foolish and think you can do that with God. The rich young ruler walked away sadly when he didn’t like God’s terms and conditions but Jesus didn’t chase after him to negotiate.
10 thoughts on “Poor arguments to make with theists”
Great List – hey, what is the ‘Dawkin’s raiding party’ you were referring to?
One guy on Dawkins’ blog thought they should raid a bunch of theistic sites to take over the comments and such. Somehow they picked my blog and I was flooded with comments. To the instigator’s credit he conceded that they had indeed chosen 5 Christian sites and conveniently ignored Muslim sites — as if we are the ones they need to be afraid of!
P.S. I updated the post with this link — http://4simpsons.wordpress.com/2008/01/07/more-on-raiding-parties/
Well now I feel bad I never got raided…
I will be glad to redirect them to your site!
And why not? Why is it not the parents’ prerogative to teach their kids anything that is not totally unreasonable, like it’s okay to murder?
If you want to raise kids a certain way, have them yourself. You don’t have a right to other people’s kids. There is a basic human right to raise your children as you see fit, and the children also have a human right to be raised by the people who know them the best and love them the most.
Self deception is a strong self defense mechanism. Let’s face it, most “atheists” will admit to being agnostic. They like to set themselves apart, but truth be told, they have their own faith into which they have staked everything. Their salvation is found in their being no God to hold them accountable for what their conscience is convicting them of, so they suppress the truth for their own sanity.
Wow, just saw this.
Good post; the last link on Edgar’s comment didn’t work by the way
Thanks, I’ll fix that.