write very little in the area of Christian vs. atheist
apologetics, and for good reason.
It was in atheist chat-rooms and blogs
that I first cut my teeth in theology many years ago.
Since those days I have not heard anything new from
that many atheists today (some like to use the title
‘New Atheists’ to distinguish them from the more
profound philosophical atheists of yesteryear) have very
little to add to the discussion. To be fair, the same
goes with most Christian apologists.
I thought it would be fun to comment on the ten
arguments I hear the most. My hope is that it will help
expose some of the more obvious problems with them and
maybe help both sides—atheists and Christians alike—to
move on to more interesting debate material.
additional note: another reason I do not enter into the
atheist-Christian debate world much anymore is because
of the sheer discourtesy that both sides tend to show
the other. I will not delete any comments, no matter how
uncivil or juvenile they become, because, for me, it is
an important part of the article. The responses (if
there are any) will demonstrate the current state of
atheist vs. Christian banter. Also, I will not respond
to rude posts. This is advanced warning so please don’t
think me rude as well if I ignore them.
Okay, here we go:
is no evidence for God’s existence.
There are a couple of problems with this line. Starting
with the idea of ‘evidence,’ what exactly does one mean
by evidence? What is sufficient evidence for one person
is often not sufficient evidence for another. A court of
law provides innumerable examples of how two parties can
possess the same collection of data, the same power of
logic and reasoning, yet argue for completely different
interpretations of the data. The old saying is true: the
facts do not determine the argument, the argument
determines the facts.
When confronted with the charge that there is no
evidence for God the Christian often does not know where
to start with a rebuttal. It’s as G.K. Chesterton once
said, asking a Christian to prove God’s existence is
like asking someone to prove the existence of
civilization. What is one to do but point and say,
“look, there’s a chair, and there’s a building,” etc.
How can one prove civilization by merely selecting a
piece here and a piece there as sufficient proofs rather
than having an experience of civilization as a whole?
Nearly everything the Christian lays eyes on is proof of
God’s existence because he sees the ‘handiwork’ of God
all around him in creation. But this is hardly
sufficient evidence in the court of atheist opinion, a
court which presupposes that only what can be
apprehended by the senses rightly qualifies as evidence.
For the Christian who believes in a transcendent God, he
can offer no such evidence; to produce material evidence
for God is, ironically, to disprove a transcendent God
and cast out faith.
The second part of the line is equally short-sighted.
What does one mean by ‘existence’? If one means, ‘that
which has come into existence,’ then surely God does not
exist because God never came into existence. He always
was; He is eternal. This was a famous assessment of the
matter by Soren Kierkegaard (dealing with the
incarnation of Christ). The argument is a bit involved,
so for times sakes I’ll just have to state it and leave
God created the universe, who created God?
This is one of the more peculiar arguments I’ve ever
come across. Those who use this charge as some sort of
intellectual checkmate have simply failed to grasp what
Christians understand as ‘eternal.’ It is an argument
usually levied once a theist posits that a ‘first cause’
or an ‘unmoved mover’ is required for the existence of
the universe (a ‘necessary’ Being upon which all other
things exist by way of contingency). Some atheists then
shift the weight over to the theist saying, “Well then
who created God?” What is a Christian to do but smile at
such a question? God is the antecedent of all things in
creation and is eternal. If God had a Creator then His
Creator would be God. God is God precisely because He
does not have a creator.
is not all-powerful if there is
something He cannot do. God cannot lie,
therefore God is not all-powerful.
Not so fast. This argument would be
fantastic—devastating maybe—if God was more of the
ancient Greek god persuasion, where the gods themselves
were subject to fate and limited to their specific roles
in the cosmos. The Orthodox doctrine of God is much
different. Christians (at least Orthodox Christians)
view God’s ontology as subject to His perfect free-will.
Why is He good? Because He wills to be good. Why does He
not lie? Because He wills to be honest. Why does God
exist as Trinity? Because He wills it. He could just as
easily will to not exist. And yes, He could just as
easily will to lie. The fact that He doesn’t is no
commentary on whether He could.
(Note: Due to the immense amount of discussion that this
point has raised, one clarifying statement is worth
noting. An argument based on strict logical word games
can render the idea ‘all-powerful,’ or ‘omnipotent’
self-defeating. When one considers the juvenile
question, “Can God create a rock so big that He can’t
lift it?” this point becomes clear. But in reality, such
an argument winds up further solidifying what
Christianity means by calling God all-powerful. For the
Christian it simply means that all power and authority
are God’s. Following the logical word game above forces
the believer to make a redundant proclamation in order
to remain consistent: “God cannot overpower Himself.”
But this fact is anything but confounding, it merely
stresses the point that there is no power greater than
God, so much so that one is forced to pit God against
Himself in order to find His equal.)
in God is the same as believing in the Tooth
Fairy, Santa Claus, and the Flying Spaghetti
What I love about this well-worn atheist ‘argument’ is
that it actually serves to demonstrate how vastly
different a belief in God is to these myths and
imaginations. When one honestly assesses the
Judeo-Christian doctrine of God he will find multiple
thousands of years of human testimony and religious
development; he will find martyrs enduring the most
horrific trauma in defense of the faith; he will find
accounts in religious texts with historical and
geographical corroboration; etc (these fact are of
course not ‘proofs,’ but rather ‘evidences’ that elicit
strong consideration). Pit this against tales of the
Tooth Fairy, Santa, and Spaghetti Monsters and one finds
the exact opposite: no testimony or religious
refinement, no martyrs, no historical and geographical
corroboration, etc. Instead, one finds myths created
intentionally for children, for point making, or for
whatever. It’s strawman argumentation at its worst.
arose from an ancient and ignorant
people who didn’t have science.
Indeed, those ancient, ignorant people who believed in
the virgin birth of Christ must have believed it because
they did not possess the knowledge of how babies were
born. Goodness. The virgin birth of Christ was profound
and of paramount concern to the ancients precisely
because they understood that conception was impossible
without intercourse. Ancient man considered the virgin
birth miraculous, i.e., impossible without divine action
(and at the time most people scorned the idea), and the
same could be said with every miraculous story in
Indeed ancient people did not have the Hubble telescope,
but they were able to see the night sky in full array,
something almost no modern person can claim (thanks to
modern lighting which distorts our ability to see the
full night sky). On average, ancient people lived much
closer to nature and to the realities of life and death
than many of us moderners.
In terms of a living relationship with these things the
ancients were far more advanced than we are today, and
this relationship is essentially the nature of religious
inquiry. If people lack religious speculation today,
maybe it is because they spend more time with their
iphones and Macs then with nature. Maybe.
But the claim that Christianity was viable in the
ancient world because it was endorsed by wide spread
ignorance is a profoundly ignorant idea. Christianity
arose in one of the most highly advanced civilizations
in human history. The Roman Empire was not known for its
stupidity. It was the epicenter of innovation and
philosophical giants. I would wager that if a common
person of today found himself in a philosophical debate
with a common person of first century Alexandria, the
moderner would be utterly humiliated in the exchange.
only believe in Christianity because they were
born in a Christian culture. If they’d been born
in India they would have been Hindu instead.
This argument is appealing because it pretends to wholly
dismiss people’s reasoning capabilities based on their
environmental influences in childhood. The idea is that
people in general are so intellectually near-sighted
that they can’t see past their own upbringing, which, it
would follow, would be an equally condemning commentary
on atheism. But, this is a spurious claim.
Take the history of the Jewish people for example. Let
us say that to ‘be’ Jewish, in the religious sense, is
much more than a matter of cultural adherence. To be a
Jewish believer is to have Judaism permeate one’s
thinking and believing and interaction with the world.
But is this the state of affairs with the majority of
the Jewish people, whether in America, Europe, Israel,
or wherever? One would have to be seriously out of touch
to believe so. The same phenomenon is found within
so-called Christian communities. Indeed, being born in a
Jewish or Christian centric home today is more often a
precursor that the child will grow up to abandon the
faith of his or her family.
gospel doesn’t make sense: God was mad at
mankind because of sin so he decided to
torture and kill his own Son so that he
could appease his own pathological anger.
God is the weirdo, not me.
This is actually a really good argument against certain
Protestant sects (I’ve used it myself on numerous
occasions), but it has no traction with the Orthodox
Christian faith. The Orthodox have no concept of a God
who needed appeasement in order to love His creation.
The Father sacrificed His own Son in order to destroy
death with His life; not to assuage His wrath, but to
heal; not to protect mankind from His fury, but to unite
mankind to His love. If the reader is interested to hear
more on this topic follow this link for
a fuller discussion.
is full of mother-child messiah cults,
trinity godheads, and the like. Thus the
Christian story is a myth like the rest.
This argument seems insurmountable on the surface, but
is really a slow-pitch across the plate (if you don’t
mind a baseball analogy). There is no arguing the fact
that history is full of similar stories found in the
Bible, and I won’t take the time to recount them here.
But this fact should not be surprising in the least,
indeed if history had no similar stories it would be
reason for concern. Anything beautiful always has
replicas. A counterfeit coin does not prove the
non-existence of the authentic coin, it proves the exact
opposite. A thousand U2 cover bands is not evidence that
U2 is a myth.
Ah, but that doesn’t address the fact that some of these
stories were told before the Biblical accounts. True.
But imagine if the only story of a messianic virgin
birth, death, and resurrection were contained in the New
Testament. That, to me, would be odd. It would be odd
because if all people everywhere had God as their
Creator, yet the central event of human history—the game
changing event of all the ages—the incarnation, death,
and resurrection of Christ had never occurred to them,
in at least some hazy form, they would have been
completely cut off from the prime mysteries of human
existence. It seems only natural that if the advent of
Christ was real it would permeate through the
consciousness of mankind on some level regardless of
their place in history. One should expect to find
mankind replicating these stories, found in their own
visions and dreams, again and again throughout history.
And indeed, that is what we find.
God of the Bible is evil. A God who allows
so much suffering and death can be nothing
This criticism is voice in many different ways. For me,
this is one of the most legitimate arguments against the
existence of a good God. The fact that there is
suffering and death is the strongest argument against
the belief in an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving
God. If suffering and death exist it seems to suggest
one of two things: (1) either God is love, but He is not
all-powerful and cannot stop suffering and death, or (2)
God is all-powerful, but He does not care for us.
I devoted a separate article addressing
this problem, but let me deal here with the problem
inherent in the criticism itself. The argument takes as
its presupposition that good and evil are real; that
there is an ultimate standard of good and evil that
supersedes mere fanciful ‘ideas’ about what is good and
evil at a given time in our ethical evolution, as it
were. If there is not a real existence—an ontological
reality—of good and evil, then the charge that God is
evil because of this or that is really to say nothing
more than, “I personally don’t like what I see in the
world and therefore a good God cannot exist.” I like
what C.S. Lewis said on a similar matter: “There is no
sense in talking of ‘becoming better’ if better means
simply ‘what we are becoming’—it is like congratulating
yourself on reaching your destination and defining
destination as ‘the place you have reached.’”
What is tricky for the atheist in these sorts of debates
is to steer clear of words loaded with religious
overtones. It’s weird for someone who does not believe
in ultimate good and evil to condemn God as evil because
He did not achieve their personal vision of good. So,
the initial criticism is sound, but it is subversive to
the atheist’s staging ground. If one is going to accept
good and evil as realities, he is not in a position to
fully reject God. Instead, he is more in a position to
wrestle with the idea that God is good. This struggle is
applauded in the Orthodox Church. After all, the very
word God used for his people in the Old Testament—“Israel”—means
to struggle with God.
has answered the question of where we came
from. There is no need for ignorant ancient
This might be the most popular attempted smack-downs of
religion in general today. It is found in many
variations but the concept is fairly consistent and goes
something like this: Science has brought us to a point
where we no longer need mythology to understand the
world, and any questions which remain will eventually be
answered through future scientific breakthroughs. The
main battle-ground where this criticism is seen today is
in evolution vs. creationism debates.
Let me say upfront that there is perhaps no other
subject that bores me more than evolution vs.
creationism debates. I would rather watch paint dry. And
when I’m not falling asleep through such debates I’m
frustrated because usually both sides of the debate use
large amounts of dishonesty in order to gain points
rather than to gain the truth. The evolutionist has no
commentary whatsoever on the existence of God, and the
creationist usually suffers from profound confusion in
their understanding of the first few chapters of Genesis.
So, without entering into the most pathetic debate of
the ages, bereft of all intellectual profundity, I’ll
only comment on the underlining idea that science has
put Christianity out of the answer business. Science is
fantastic if you want to know what gauge wire is
compatible with a 20 amp electric charge, how
agriculture works, what causes disease and how to cure
it, and a million other things. But where the physical
sciences are completely lacking is in those issues most
important to human beings—the truly existential issues:
what does it mean to be human, why are we here, what is
valuable, what does it mean to love, to hate, what am I
to do with guilt, grief, sorrow, what does it mean to
succeed, is there any meaning and what does ‘meaning’
mean, and, of course, is there a God? etc, ad infinitum.
As far as where we come from, evolution has barely
scratched the purely scientific surface of the matter.
Even if the whole project of evolution as an account of
our history was without serious objection, it would
still not answer the problem of the origin of life,
since the option of natural selection as an explanation
is not available when considering how dead or inorganic
matter becomes organic. Even more complicated is the
matter of where matter came from. The ‘Big Bang’ is not
an answer to origins but rather a description of the
event by which everything came into being; i.e., it’s
the description of a smoking gun, not the shooter.
That’s it… my top 10 list. Thanks for reading. Cheers.