3 Questions That Defeat Modern Day Atheism?

3 Questions That Defeat Modern Day Atheism? October 15, 2018
My magical, gaytheist truck.
My magical, gaytheist truck.

What if I told you my truck runs on wishes? When I hopped in the cab this morning, I closed my eyes really tight and muttered, “I wish this truck could get my kids to school” and when I turned the key, sure enough, it started. I successfully drove my kids to their respective schools and made it back home on one wish. Later, I have to take my little boy to the orthodontist in town, which is 20 minutes away, and again, I’ll sit behind the steering wheel, hope out loud, and we’ll get there and back no problem all on a single, solitary wish.

What if I told you that so far, this year, I’ve saved close to five grand running my truck on wishes instead of gas?

With any luck, I have religious people reading this. People who put their faith in the existence of a god or even a self-sacrificing prophet. I would like to know, specifically of believers like this, what would it take for you to believe my truck runs on wishes? Is it enough for you that I have insisted this is my personal experience? What if I told you I could feel it, deep within me, that my truck does not require petrol? What if I said you’ve just got to have faith, would you believe me?

Giving you the benefit of the doubt, knowing you’re probably a decently clever person, especially if you’re here reading the thought-provoking content on Patheos, your answer is probably no. You wouldn’t believe me at all. You’d think that either there was something wrong in my mind and I might need psychiatric attention, or I’m just pulling your leg.

What would it take, though, for you to believe that my little 2005 Ford Explorer Sport Trac actually did run on wishes? What would you require in order for you to finally accept that I was telling the truth?

You’d probably need some sort of demonstration. An inspection, perhaps, by a trusted mechanic or maybe even a team of trusted mechanics from totally different, unaffiliated auto shops just to make sure they weren’t in on the joke. Maybe they could take out the gas tank and confirm there is no other fuel source on board my vehicle before I make my wish and set it in motion. Maybe then you would believe.

In other words, you’d need some form of evidence, right? Demonstrable, repeatable evidence that can be confirmed by totally unaffiliated parties who know a thing or two about how vehicles work. Right? And until such evidence surfaces, you’re just going to go on thinking I’m either a total nutbar or a practical joker and you’re not going to take my wish-wagon claims seriously.

This, my believing friends, is how atheists feel about your god claims. No amount of you asserting your own personal experience is going to get us to believe in god. It doesn’t matter how deeply you believe. It holds no weight when it comes to how much I believe.

People have had delusions.

People have lied.

People have stretched the truth.

People have been mistaken.

So, when you assert that something wildly out of this world is true, we need something beyond your simple say-so to believe it, just like you need something beyond my say-so to believe my Sport Trac runs on hopes and dreams.

Now, if you tell me you don’t believe me when I insist my truck is magical, would you be saying that to hurt me? Would you refuse to believe me because you want me to feel stupid? Is your lack of belief in my mystical motorcar meant as a slight against me?

No. Likely not. In fact, you might even find yourself genuinely concerned for my well-being. Likewise, when you assert there is a god and I say I don’t believe you, it’s not because I’m trying to hurt you. It’s not because I believe you are lying to me or trying to trick me. It’s certainly not because I think you’re stupid. It’s simply that I require evidence to believe in a claim that is that extraordinary, in just the same way you’d want evidence before you conclude that my buggy is indeed bewitched.

With that said, yesterday I got to reading this post by James Bishop. The post is called How To Defeat Modern Day Atheism With Three Easy Questions and without picking apart this post line by line, I thought I would simply answer these three questions for James.

Question 1: What would you count as “actual, credible, real-world evidence for God?”

For me, this evidence would have to be verifiable when repeated for anyone, believers or non. It should be demonstrable. For instance, if I claim that pizza is hot, I can demonstrate the validity of that claim by having you touch the pizza and experience the same heat that I did. We can rule out bias by having a multitude of people take the pizza’s temperature with a thermometer to determine that indeed, the pie is piping.

Of course, this situation is silly. No one out there is having to prove that their pizza is hot. If someone tells me their slice is steamy, I just believe them because it’s just not the sort of claim that changes anything beyond how soon I might take a bite. A god claim is different, though, because a belief in god requires me to change my worldview. Depending on which god, it can require me to tithe to an organization. It could also result in my drumming the fear of hell into my children. A belief in god could change who I vote for, what I do for a living, where I live, who I love and how I speak to my loved ones. It could change so, so much to accept that a god exists, and so in order for me to accept that such a thing is, in fact, real, I would need more evidence than I would for the claim that a pizza pie is sizzling.

The author of this question, of course, has his own ideas about what an atheist might say. He says,

“If the atheist finally answers, there is a very, very high likelihood he/she will cite some dramatic, miraculous, sensational demonstration of God’s power. And that leads to the second question.”

The problem here is that the question asker has erected a straw man in place of how an atheist might answer. I don’t need a dramatic, miraculous, sensational demonstration of God’s power. I just need demonstrable and verifiable evidence of his existence.

I don’t think it’s dramatic to ask that a god who demands worship shows himself to us in a way that we can verify it. This is not miraculous. It’s not sensational. He is omnipotent. This should be child’s play for him.

Question 2: Why would that dramatic, miraculous, sensational event count as evidence for God?

It wouldn’t. If a dramatic, miraculous, sensational event occurred before my very eyes, and it was being attributed to god, I would still require demonstrable evidence that a) god was indeed the source b) all other explanations have been ruled out c) evidence that what appeared to be miraculous actually was.

Question 3: Is the God of the Gaps reasoning a valid way of determining the existence of God?

Mr. Bishop follows this question up with,

“For if he/she answers NO, then it will become clear that nothing can count as evidence for the existence of God. Why? Because if the only “evidence” the atheist “Judge/Jury” will allow in his/her kangaroo court is a Gap (something that cannot be explained by science/natural law), and God-of-the-Gaps reasoning is also not allowed by the atheist, then it is clear the atheist demand for evidence is a sneaky, dishonest game of “heads I win, tails you lose.”

The problem is, asking for demonstrable, verifiable evidence of a god’s existence is not a “gap”. In fact, it’s the precise opposite. It’s a very scientific way of determining the truth behind a claim. It’s a way of discovering what actually fills that gap.

If you accept a gap as evidence of god, you must accept it as evidence of any wild claim I feel like coming up with.

Let’s go back to my wild wagon of wizardry. Let’s say you hop into my truck and you see the fuel gauge is firmly pointing at empty. Then I tell you to wish that the truck starts, and you do and sure enough when you turn the key my truck starts and the fuel gauge still reads empty.

You do not know why my truck starts on empty. If you keep investigating, you might discover more and be able to explain it, but for now, you don’t know. There is a gap in your knowledge. This does not mean what I claim (that my truck runs on wishes) is true. It just means you don’t know something. A gap is not evidence for anything except that we don’t know.

The truth is, my truck’s fuel gauge is broken. It always reads empty even with a fresh tank of gas. I use my odometer to determine when to refuel. That’s what further investigation would have uncovered. That’s why we don’t just accept whatever unproven explanation comes our way and we, instead, continue to search for the answers that fill those gaps in our knowledge. Who knows, maybe one day, while trying to fill those gaps in our knowledge, we’ll discover evidence that demonstrably proves god’s existence. But for now, we haven’t.

Until we do, though, I cannot bring myself to believe in the claims that a god exists. Just like you couldn’t bring yourself to believe my truck runs on wishes based solely on my claim that it does and a gap in your knowledge. You’d need more than that to believe in the enchantment of my teeny weeny pickup and I need more than that to believe in the existence of god.

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How would you answer Mr. Bishop’s questions? Let me know in the comments!

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Cozmo the Magician

    “Quick! To the Wishmobile. Conboy!” “Rightaway Hopehman!”

  • Fundie time: after wishing to be raptured, wondering if they’ll already not have been snatched, one insufferable asshole has commented that “You do not have rights before God” (replace “God” with His self-styled middlemen. At least that preacher is honest.

  • Raging Bee

    Question 1: What would you count as “actual, credible, real-world evidence for God?”

    Answer 1: Whatever you have. Put up or shut up.

  • ephemerol

    Setting aside the fact that his piece isn’t an attempt to establish anything one way or the other, but is merely a debate trick intended to rehabilitate the ol’ god-of-the-gaps argument…

    …as though the christian god were the only one possible so that god-of-the-gaps arguments could establish christianity.

    Since it isn’t and they don’t, those arguments he wants to be “free” to use really don’t help him out, even if they weren’t so bad on their face, so even if he could score a victory, it would be a Pyrrhic one. Even if he could defeat my “atheism,” he would simply turn me into a deist, and his arguments would have no force to combat my deism. He talks likes he doesn’t realize that. At all.

    He also talks like he figures there’s no such thing as an atheist who is a former christian, who, after having given christianity every benefit of every workable doubt, nevertheless found that christianity in practice fails every which way. I’m sure he thinks I don’t exist. Arguments for atheism literally had nothing whatsoever to do with my deconversion. I’ll freely admit that although I’ve demonstrated to my own satisfaction the complete unworkability of christianity and the christian god, I’ve not done the same for all the other possible gods, so my atheism merely probablistic. I wouldn’t a any problem being a deist instead. For all those other gods, the ball is in their court. Any time they want to return it…but I’m not holding my breath for it…wasted half my life trying to prove the first god, and I’m not game to waste any more on a second one…

  • Martin Penwald

    There are christian billboards claiming that the mere fact that babies are born is a proof of THEIR deity’s existence. And they expect we have such a low bar too.
    In the new testament, the Jeez explicitely mentions that the proof of his godliness is that the Church he established through Peter will be Unique.
    Curiously, orthodoxes, catholics and protestants don’t seem to agree.

  • adhoc

    “Question 1: What would you count as “actual, credible, real-world evidence for God?” “

    Would have to be something obvious and easily noticeable, like gravity or electromagnetism. The god that cares about what someone does with their naughty bits and helps find parking spots doesn’t do gravity or electromagnetism. So far, none of the god claims live up to reality.

    “Question 2: Why would that dramatic, miraculous, sensational event count as evidence for God?”

    It wouldn’t be dramatic, miraculous, sensational, or an event. It would be mundane and ordinary, like gravity. Gravity isn’t an event. I would expect a god would be more than an event. I wonder why he thinks his god is an event.

    “Question 3: Is the God of the Gaps reasoning a valid way of determining the existence of God?”

    No.

    ““For if he/she answers NO, then it will become clear that nothing can count as evidence for the existence of God.”

    An omnibashful deity is NOT what is claimed by most believers.

  • Anthrotheist

    I can’t help but feel like theists and atheists are coming from two very different perspectives, and don’t seem to realize that it all comes down to time.

    Atheists approach the question from a perspective that currently existing entities don’t need “evidence of their existence”, since their very presence is irrefutable evidence that they exist: “I don’t need any greater proof for God’s existence than I would ask for any person’s existence. They just have to show up, in person.”

    Theists on the other hand treat evidence of God’s existence the same way that we might consider whether King Arthur ever really existed. Regardless of what evidences and arguments that are presented, they all point to an entity that may have existed at some point in the past. More recent purported “evidences” are invariably indirect and obscure, which is absurd for an entity that exists right now, and who is capable of fulfilling that basic proof of existence: showing up, in person.

  • Larry

    Question 1 – not original with me, but my answer is I don’t know, but if your god is as smart, powerful and all knowing as claimed he must know what would convince me. He has not done so. It is not my problem that he can’t seem to get his act together.

    Question 2 – now irrelevant to the discussion.

    Question 3 – god of the gaps – you want me to take you seriously and then suggest that as a viable argument? It is the old you don’t know therefore you have to accept my claim argument. Well if the theist can’t explain how my phone works they must accept my claim that there are purple pixies running around inside it doing everything.

  • TheBookOfDavid

    Thou shalt not put the Ford thy God to the test!

  • From the article:

    Bonus question: I’ll provide evidence for God’s existence, but can you first provide evidence that you are capable of considering my evidence in an open- and fair-minded manner?

    There’s a kernel of truth there. This is a debate, after all, and we atheists are predisposed toward nonbelief.

    I don’t think there’s any data or reasoning that a believer could provide that would magically turn me into a believer, and I think the vast majority of atheists here are of the same mind. I just can’t make sense of the universe except from a perspective that doesn’t include gods or the supernatural. “Evidence” could change my mind when it comes to a jury trial or a science experiment, but there’s no way it’s going to change the very foundation of the way I experience and interpret phenomena.

    That’s how open-minded I’m not, and I’m fine with that.

  • Grimlock

    Quick question. One of my posts got tagged as spam (not sure why – length or use of HTML?) in another topic here at GM ( http://www.patheos.com/blogs/godlessmom/2018/10/12-times-i-felt-the-christian-love/ ). Anyone knows how I could get it unmarked? (Or know why it got tagged as spam in the first place.)

    As to the questions posed by this person…

    Question 1: What would you count as “actual, credible, real-world evidence for God?”

    It’s a fun question. What would I count as evidence for an omnipotent and omniscient being, who happens to also be metaphysically necessary and ontologically non-contingent?

    Gosh, I don’t know.

    The thing is, I might list a bunch of supernatural events. If many of those were plausible, I might accept the existence of the supernatural.

    But then you get to an interesting challenge. Suppose a supernatural being performs a great miracle. It can call the thunder, and create storms. That’s quite impressive. But it only demonstrates the existence of a being capable of manipulating weather conditions here on Earth. So suppose the being also rearranges the planets. That’s pretty impressive, but it still doesn’t get you to an omnipotent being.

    Omnipotence is, I think, basically impossible to demonstrate, because a sufficiently powerful being could fake it good enough to fool any test we could come up with. And don’t get me started on metaphysical necessity – I’ve no idea how one would go about demonstrating that.

    So, is this a vital flaw with the atheist position? I think not. Rather, I think the fault lies with the theists who wants their God to have all these amazing properties. It’s not the atheist’s problem that the theist claims something exists, when they don’t provide a conceivable way to demonstrate it’s existence.

    I don’t think there’s much point in answering the other questions.

  • Grim Beard

    I’ve experienced a “dramatic, miraculous, sensational event”. Penn and Teller put on a great show.

  • Guestie

    This guy seems to be saying that atheists don’t have faith.

    Well, duh.

  • Flint8ball

    This is a typical theist puff piece by Bishop to energize his audience. Goal: His peeps will be like “Yeah, that’s right Mr/Mrs atheist. Take that!”…. Ugh. Yawn.

  • ephemerol

    So, if there ever was a god, he’s gone/dead now…

  • Jim Jones

    (Your comment is awaiting moderation.)

    >> Question 1: What would you count as “actual, credible, real world evidence for God?”

    I have no idea. What is your definition of ‘God’?

  • Illithid

    My go-to response for #1 is: have your god tell you what books are on my bookshelf. In order. That wouldn’t be incontrovertible evidence, but it would be a start. Theists can’t ever manage even that littte parlor trick.

    The god-claimant could then describe a well-remembered event in my past that I never shared with anyone, including what I was thinking at the time. Then fix my eyes and my wife’s pelvis. Again, not absolute proof, but a great opener to a conversation… and a helluva lot more than the hot air I invariably get from believers.

  • John Gills

    As Aldous Huxley wrote in Brave New World, “Orgy-porgy, Ford and fun,. Kiss the girls and make them One. Boys at one with girls at peace;. Orgy-porgy gives release.”

  • John Gills

    Consumer Reports’ testing reveals that your 2005 Ford Explorer Sport Trac gets 27.5 miles per wish highway and 18.3 city, using the Tinkerbelle scale.

  • Snagglefritz Sagenschnitter

    Hey God, what is the PIN to my bank account?

    Follow-up question: What is the solution to the Riemann Hypothesis?

  • Snagglefritz Sagenschnitter

    I love the last paragraph of Bishop’s blog, where atheists are described as “pompous, closed-minded verbal bullies” who are “simply not qualified to pass meaningful judgment on your beliefs.

    (Christian love and tolerance – more honoured in the breach than in the observance.)

  • We hate others because we recognize their faults, but others hate us because they resent our virtues.

  • TinnyWhistler

    Disqus is allergic to working properly. That’s why it lets the copybots through and flags normal comments all the time.

  • MadScientist1023

    Question 1: What would you count as “actual, credible, real-world evidence for God?”
    1. Evidence prayer actually improved health outcomes in those prayed for
    2. A statistically significant correlation between religiosity and prosperity/health/likelihood of being a victim of an accident or disaster
    3. A statistically significant inverse correlation between sinfulness and prosperity/health/likelihood of being a victim of an accident or disaster
    4. Photographic/video documentation of heaven and/or hell
    5. A geologic or archeological record largely consistent with stories found in the Bible
    6. Him actually showing up and saying so in a manner that bystanders could see, not just in a dream or some other such nonsense.

  • Good answer!

  • Fixed!

  • Grimlock

    Thanks!

  • It does get annoying. Like my husband’s comments get marked spam no matter how many times I whitelist him.

  • Hah, perfect!

  • Yep, I’m afraid you’re right.

  • Jim Jones

    He approved it – but didn’t answer.

  • I felt quite warm and fuzzy reading that, myself.

  • ephemerol

    Answer 1: Spent several decades in a fundamentalist sect that prized strict self-discipline testing this truth claim through faith and obedience to his command. Meeting all Enlightenment criteria of evidence based causation and definitive proof, the efficacy of this truth claim failed conspicuously.

    Can we agree to count that as “actual, credible, real-world evidence against God?”