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How Much Faith to Be an Atheist? (A Response to Geisler and Turek)

How Much Faith to Be an Atheist? (A Response to Geisler and Turek) August 25, 2015

I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist Norm Geisler Frank TurekI’d like to respond to the Christian apologetics book I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist by Norm Geisler and Frank Turek. It continues to be popular and needs a rebuttal.

What does “faith” mean?

Let’s pause for a moment to consider the word “faith” in the title. Atheists will charge that it means belief poorly grounded in evidence or even in contradiction to the evidence. To rehabilitate their poor relationship with evidence, many Christian apologists today argue the opposite. For example, Christian podcaster Jim Wallace says it’s “trusting the best inference from the evidence.” Presbyterian leader A. A. Hodge said, “Faith must have adequate evidence, else it is mere superstition.”

But the very title of Geisler and Turek’s book admits the opposite. They “don’t have enough faith to be an atheist,” and they’re not apologetic about it. “Faith” here has returned to our old, familiar definition: belief poorly grounded on evidence. In the Introduction, the authors make this clear: “The less evidence you have for your position, the more faith you need to believe it (and vice versa). Faith covers a gap in knowledge” (p. 26).

Characteristics of atheists (it’s not pretty)

I’ll refer to the book as GT (Geisler and Turek). Page numbers refer to the 2004 Crossway edition.

GT is certain that many or most atheists are really theists. Atheists already have enough evidence—they just willfully refuse to accept it.

[For many nonbelievers] it’s not that they don’t have evidence to believe, it’s that they don’t want to believe. (page 30)

Many non-Christians … take a “blind leap of faith” that their non-Christian beliefs are true simply because they want them to be true. (p. 30)

What we have here is a will problem—some people, despite the evidence, simply don’t want to admit there’s a Designer. (p. 112)

They have the evidence but refuse to believe it? Then what you’re describing is not an atheist.

He argues that even scientists have an agenda:

By admitting God, Darwinists would be admitting that they are not the highest authority when it comes to truth. Currently, in this technologically advanced world, scientists are viewed by the public as the revered authority figures—the new priests who make a better life possible and who comprise the sole source of objective truth. (p. 162)

So biologists can’t admit that God exists, not because of evidence, but because they’d be forced give up their authority? Religion has never taught us anything new about reality. Even if all scientists became Christian, science rather than theology would still be how we’d understand the world.

GT drops a final turd as it wrestles with the evidence necessary to believe:

God has provided enough evidence in this life to convince anyone willing to believe, yet he has also left some ambiguity so as not to compel the unwilling. (p. 31)

But Romans 1:20 says there’s no ambiguity: “God’s invisible qualities … have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” You’d better confer with your Bible to get your story straight.

GT imagines that God plays games about evidence for his existence. Maybe God doesn’t want it too easy so that everyone gets it, and heaven gets crowded. He wants to keep out the riff-raff so heaven remains an exclusive gated community.

This becomes the free-will argument: God won’t force you to believe, because that would be an imposition. Of course, being forced to accept the existence of the stranger in the car ahead of you is not an imposition worth mentioning, but being forced to know the existence of the coolest guy in the universe would be a burden, so it’d be unfair to impose that on you. Or something.

GT provides no evidence but simply makes a sweeping claim, a claim that could be made by any believer. He could just as easily say that Allah or Zeus or the Flying Spaghetti Monster has given you plenty of evidence, so don’t tell me otherwise.

Hedonism

But why would atheists reject clear evidence for God? GT has uncovered the selfish reasons:

By ruling out the supernatural, Darwinists can avoid the possibility that anything is morally prohibited. (p. 163)

So atheists are just hedonists with no concern about the consequences of their actions?

If the atheists are right, then we might as well lie, cheat, and steal to get what we want because this life is all there is, and there are no consequences in eternity. (p. 68)

Wow—what planet are these guys from? How many atheists think that it’s fine to lie, cheat, and steal? Are the prisons filled with atheists? Do atheists not care about their reputations with their family and friends? Do atheists not have consciences?

Since you’ll agree, after a moment’s reflection, that atheists are indeed moral, maybe you should drop the “atheists have no morals” claim and wonder where they get their morals from. I predict it’s the same place where you do.

Atheism does indeed mean that “there are no consequence in eternity,” but (dang it!) there are consequences right here and now, so I’d better cancel my Saturday night orgy ’n bacchanalia.

[Instead of teaching Islam] wouldn’t it be better to teach [kids] the religious truth that God wants them to love their neighbors? (p. 68)

GT is probably thinking of verses like Leviticus 19:18, “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself,” but “neighbor” meant fellow Jew in this case. In a few cases, neighborly affection was demanded for non-Jews living in Israel. But we can’t twist either interpretation to mean everyone in the world, which is the modern interpretation that GT would like to impose.

When it comes to non-Jewish neighbors, God thinks of slavery or genocide more often than love.

GT talks about biology a lot (more later), but here is the connection between what atheists think and morality.

By means of a one-sided biology curriculum, we teach kids that there’s really no difference between any human being and a pig. After all, if we’re merely the product of blind naturalistic forces—if no deity created us with any special significance—then we are nothing more than pigs with big brains. (p. 68)

Being scientifically accurate is such a pain. Who’s got time for the research? But since you won’t do it, I will: pigs and humans share a common ancestor from 95 million years ago. No, humans aren’t pigs with big brains.

If the clumsily made point is that evolution explains everything with no need for a designer to grant some sort of transcendental moral value, then yes, that’s true. Humans are no more special in a nonexistent god’s mind than pigs are.

I see no problem with that. Morality works just fine with no god—look up the word and tell me what part assumes a god. (But while we’re going off on tangents, I do see a problem with your moral equivalence between a single fertilized human egg cell and a newborn baby. In fact, there’s a spectrum of personhood.)

Frank Turek’s next train wreck

I’ll be following up with more posts rebutting the statements in this book, but let me touch on Turek’s most recent book, Stealing from God. It’s an expanded version of his CRIMES argument, an acronym for Cosmos, Reason, Information, Morality, Evil, and Science. He attempts to argue that these categories are strong evidence for the Christian position. I disagree.

Continued in part 2.

People almost invariably arrive at their beliefs not on the basis of proof
but on the basis of what they find attractive.
— Blaise Pascal
(ironically, quoted by GT on p. 51)

Image credit: mamabishop


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