Do you remember the series of posts titled, “25 Reasons We Don’t Live in a World with a God”? I had been challenged by a Christian to characterize the evidence he would need to provide to show that God existed. After the typical unfruitful conversation, I realized that I had underestimated what I would need.
For starters, I would need a crowdsourced revelation of God. This is orders of magnitude more than any religious apologist can provide, but it’s still not enough. Non-God explanations for this apparent revelation are still more plausible—for example, that aliens are tricking us. (Imagine taking our technology just 200 years into the past to overawe the populace, rather like Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. Now imagine aliens a thousand years more advanced than us. Or a million years.)
I realized that I couldn’t accept that God exists given certain facts in our world. Our world looks like a world without the supernatural, and I’d need the apologist to first change those fundamental facts about our world. That is, show me that I don’t live in the world I’m living in. Only then I could consider his arguments.
For example, some Christians want the government to help support their religion with Creationism in science class or prayers before the city council meeting. If God existed, Christians wouldn’t do this, because God and his demands/needs would be obvious.
For example, there are natural disasters. If God existed, the actions of his world wouldn’t be so destructive.
For example, the Bible story keeps rebooting. If God existed, the Bible would be unambiguous, noncontradictory, and simple.
Thirteen posts later, I realized a couple of things. First, that getting to 25 reasons wasn’t that hard. I have notes for dozens more. And second, I realized that the category I was exploring was a little confusing.
I want to relabel these arguments “silver-bullet arguments.”* Silver bullets were thought to have magical powers and be able to kill supernatural creatures like werewolves that were invulnerable to other weapons. The idea is that a single one of these arguments should be enough to defeat Christianity’s supernatural claims.
End of story, game over, mic drop.
How this works in practice
The way debates often work is that the Christian apologist offers a Christian argument they find compelling. Then the atheist points out flaws in that argument, and the Christian responds as best they can (often confusing a rebuttal with an effective rebuttal) and then offers another. The Christian is typically trying to make a cumulative case. They don’t claim that any of their arguments by itself will be enough. Rather, they hope that each provokes a “Hmm, I hadn’t thought of that” reaction that will eventually create enough evidence to tip the scale in their favor.
The atheist’s position is different. We do have single arguments that should shut down the debate, lots of them. The Christian might want to return to their game plan of gradually adding weight to their side of the balance (in their mind, anyway), but by cooperating, the atheist lets them off the hook. The atheist is entitled to continue hammering on just the one argument, which can’t be left standing if the Christian is to claim any reasonable victory.
It’s these silver-bullet arguments that I want to highlight. I think recasting these arguments this way will have several benefits.
- “Silver-bullet arguments” is easier to understand that the God World argument.
- There will be just one argument per post, with the argument name in the title (instead of “Part 14,” for example), which will make it more obvious to readers what the post is about.
- The Dark Lord to whom I pledge allegiance (I speak of Google, of course) will more clearly understand what each post is about if each sticks to just one argument.
What’s not a silver-bullet argument
Lots of topics that I like to talk about won’t be silver-bullet arguments: a rebuttal to a Christian apologetic argument, commentary on social or civil issues (same-sex marriage, abortion, church/state separation), stupid things Christian leaders say, how the brain works (or doesn’t), and so on.
Silver-bullet arguments must be (1) pro-atheism arguments that (2) are broad enough that Christianity as it is understood by most Christians can’t coexist with it.
I’m certain that pretty much zero Christians will agree that any of these are indeed silver-bullet arguments, but I can’t be constrained by them. I think I’m much closer to being an objective observer than they are. I’ll do my best to be fair as I invite Christians to point out errors in the arguments or loopholes in which the Christian god could still exist. Of course, I encourage the same of atheist readers.
Are there silver-bullet Christian arguments as well? Bring those up as well.
I apologize for the long introduction, but with that in place, we can continue our list of arguments.
they love religious liberty so much
that they want to keep it all to themselves.
— Freedom From Religion Foundation
Appendix: Silver-bullet arguments so far
- Because we’ve seen what Christian society looks like
- Because religious beliefs reflect culture
- Because God needs praise and worship
- Because there’s a map of world religions
- Because nothing distinguishes those who follow god from everyone else
- Because televangelists make clear that prayer doesn’t work
- Because Christians want help from the government
- Because of unnecessary physical pain
- Because God gets credit for good things, but he’s never blamed for bad things
- Because the universe doesn’t look like it exists with mankind in mind
- Because God is absent from where we’d expect him
- Because physics rules out the soul or the afterlife
- Because “Christianity answers life’s Big Questions!” is irrelevant
- Because not even Christians take their religion seriously
- Because there’s a book called The Big Book of Bible Difficulties
- Because Christianity can’t be derived from first principles
- Because theism has no method to decide truth
- Because there are natural disasters
- Because the “best” Christian arguments are deist arguments
- Because the Bible story keeps rebooting
- Because doctrinal statements exist
- Because prayer doesn’t work
- Because of Shermer’s Law
- Because Christianity evolves
- Because God is hidden
Image from Mitya Ivanov, CC license