Two simple ideas work together to illuminate the hole the Christian apologist must climb out of when arguing for God. The first is the problem of God’s hiddenness (which I’ve discussed here and here) seen from a slightly different angle. The second compounds the difficulty.
1. God is a no-show every chance he gets
God ignores every opportunity to make his existence obvious. He’s never there to redirect the flood or reduce the earthquake or stop the tornado. The Lone Ranger occasionally rides into town to save the day, but God never does.
The curious skeptic following up on miracle claims always gets some variant of “You just missed him.” Someone beat cancer due God’s loving hand (and modern medicine), or a baby survived a plane crash (that killed everyone else), or there’s a vague appearance of Jesus or Mary (on burned toast), but these are easily explained without God.
Christian apologists defending God are like gnats defending Superman, and yet these gnats are the only evidence for God we have. They can handwave about Superman all they want, but the only tangible thing we have is the gnats. God apparently can’t get his message out himself but needs people to do it for him. He can’t even collect the money that his ministers say he so desperately needs. The message must be spread, but we humans have to (clumsily) do it, never God the expert.
The apologist always has an excuse for why God can’t get off the couch to make a personal appearance. Regardless of the need, from an individual hardship to a global pandemic, God is a no-show. Every claim that God did something is pareidolia, like seeing a face in a cloud or hearing a voice in radio static. The Christian claims to sense something, but this isn’t obvious to the objective observer. Sometimes the pareidolia is literal, such as seeing Mary on a grilled cheese sandwich or Jesus in the flames of Notre Dame cathedral, but usually it’s injecting God into a situation with no evidence of God, like Jesus supporting you through a difficult time.
You’d think that the combination of grand claims for God supported by paltry evidence would embarrass Christian apologists into scaling back those claims, but they insulate their belief from the facts and just rationalize excuses. Why does the pope need a bulletproof Popemobile, and why do churches need lightning rods (more)? Why is God’s perfect message so ambiguous that we now have 45,000 denominations of Christianity? Why are there no simple and foolproof tests that winnow the true stories from the myths and reveal Christianity as the only religion that’s true? Why isn’t God’s existence obvious since he (reportedly) desires a relationship with each of us? And why have I been able to find 27 (and counting) silver-bullet arguments against God’s existence?
God is like a drunk wearing nothing but an unbuttoned raincoat, stumbling down the sidewalk with the Christian apologist holding a newspaper over the unpleasant bits. They have to protect his honor because he certainly won’t. Or can’t.
“It’s turtles all the way down”
For Christianity, it’s not turtles but people all the way down. Christians today believe because they were taught Christian dogma by other people. Those people might have been parents or pastors or university scholars. And they in turn were taught from people as well. Back through the centuries, it’s only people. Back to scribes making parchment copies, back to the original authors of the books of the Bible, back to the oral legends. The naturalistic explanation is sufficient, and at no stage is anything left unexplained by the “people all the way down” hypothesis.
While people cause a great deal of harm (Stalin, Hitler, Genghis Kahn), they also create a great deal of good. Raising money for people in need, creating vaccines and antibiotics, developing Green Revolution technologies that have largely eliminated famine—it’s all people. There’s no evidence for God being behind any improvement in society, and “God” is just a reflection of the primitive people who first wrote about him.
2. What good is God?
And it gets worse with the second point. Getting past the lack of evidence, the God hypothesis doesn’t even explain anything—it just replaces a question with more questions. God is a solution looking for a problem.
God created the universe, you say? Or designed life on earth? Or caused (or prevented) a disaster? Explain how God did this. What laws of nature did he use? Which ones did he break? Where did God come from (or why does God exist in our reality)? The Christian has no answer.
“God just spoke the universe into existence” or “God is causeless by definition” are meaningless. Scientists won’t abandon their research, thinking that whatever scientific question they were working on has now been resolved by “God did it.” It’s just another way of saying, “I don’t know,” and it advances the conversation not at all. Worse, it wants to turn areas of active scientific research into closed and unquestionable dogma.
First, God might as well be nonexistent given his impact in the world. Second, “God did it” explains nothing. These are two Achilles’ heels that together incapacitate the Christian position.
has looked at science and concluded,
“This is better than we thought!
The Universe is much bigger than our prophets said,
grander, more subtle, more elegant”?
Instead they say, “No, no, no! My god is a little god,
and I want him to stay that way.”
— Carl Sagan
Image from Muhammad Faiz Zulkeflee, CC license