Tuesday, December 17, 2013

How to filet an atheist

Dominic Bnonn Tennant recently responded to an atheist. It's a good illustration of what can happen when an overconfident atheist tries to play some cue card objections on a smart Christian. It's also a good example of how a sophisticated Christian can quickly disarm facile atheistic arguments. 
There are lots of ways to respond, but it's hard to know which to pick without knowing why you think Norse mythology is a good candidate for true religion. I mean, I know you don't think that, so it's sort of a pointless exercise. But if you really did think that, I'd want to know if Norse mythology adequately and coherently explains the major aspects of existence -- with respect to the universe and with respect to man specifically:

P - What is the purpose of the universe, if any? Why does it exist? Similarly, is there meaning to life? Should we be following certain rules (and if so, where do they come from?)

O - What is the origin of the universe? What explains its existence? And where does man come from?

R - What is the fundamental nature of reality? What exists, and what does not? Similarly, what is man's constitution? Is he just matter, or is there a spiritual element?

T - How do we know this is all true? (And how can we know that anything is true?) What evidence is there for it, both in the world, and in our own intuitions? Is it coherent, or does it entail contradictions that make it fall apart?

Now, I think Christianity answers these questions extremely well. Far better than any competing worldview. Atheism falls completely apart on every point. But so, I think, does Norse mythology. For example, from what little I know, it doesn't give an adequate account of the origin of contingent objects because it doesn't have any sort of ultimate necessary being with the sorts of attributes required to generate contingent objects. (In fact, iirc it postulates an eternal universe, which leads to various mathematical absurdities as well as very hard questions with respect to the principle of sufficient reason.) Moreover, without such an ultimate being, purpose falls apart -- life has no meaning, nor can there be any moral rules "out there" rather than just in our heads. And explaining reality in general becomes impossible. And knowing how it is all true becomes difficult to explain since you can't account for the existence of propositions in the first place, nor how they coincide with our minds. (Atheism has the same problem.)

> Or Judaism is the true religion because it as> the first one and Jesus and Mohamed were just> crazies seeking to corrupt the one true faith.

That's fairly trivial to assess, although it does take time. Assuming Judaism is true for the sake of argument, the Old Testament will be the inspired word of God, who is completely sovereign over the affairs of men, and who prophesies the coming of a Messiah. His word also institutes a covenant -- which is said will pass away -- requiring blood sacrifices. Well, the temple in which the blood sacrifices were made was destroyed in 70 AD, which we know was within God's control, thus making it impossible to keep the old covenant of blood sacrifices any more. Simultaneously (well, within 40 years), a man who claimed to fulfill the messianic prophecies inaugurated what his followers believed was a new covenant which exactly matches the predictions in the Old Testament. Furthermore, this man seemed to fulfill numerous prophesies with improbable accuracy (including Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53). And there is strong independent historical evidence that he must have risen from the dead as proof of his claims.

By contrast, Islam claims numerous doctrines which contradict the Bible in various ways, and which are also self-contradictory. I won't go into that here since this will get very long, but suffice to say the evidence is strong for Jesus being the fulfillment of the OT covenant, but equally strong against Muhammad being a genuine prophet of God.

> You see you are an atheist with regard to every> religion, except one.

It's funny that atheists say this sort of thing, as if my reasons for not accepting other religions are identical to their reasons for not accepting Christianity. As you can see, that is patently false. There is a strong asymmetry between our respective positions.

> Do you support slavery? Probably not.

I take it that you think the Bible supports slavery. Perhaps you could make an argument to that effect, rather than assuming it as if it's obvious. You realize that the people who fought to abolish slavery were Christians, right? And that they fought as hard as they did precisely because of their conviction that the Bible condemned slavery and that God would sovereignly grant them success in what seemed like an impossible battle against political forces far greater than they? You've heard of William Wilberforce, haven't you?

> Just based on its support of slavery, I would> discard the bible as being the ultimate provider> of morality.

Well, firstly, as I've said, the Bible does not support slavery. But secondly, how do you know that slavery is wrong? I mean, imagine that the Bible did support it. What standard would you appeal to in order to show that it is wrong? And how would that not just beg the question against it?

> As I have said morality is something that developed> in order to aid our social species in survival

But that just concedes my argument that morality is superstitious nonsense. When you talk about morality, you are just referring to an instinct we have. But instincts are not necessarily right or wrong, and they certainly don't have to point to truth or falsity. You want to eat your cake and still have it too. You're borrowing the notion of real moral rules from Christianity. They don't exist under atheism.

1 comment:

  1. "(In fact, iirc it postulates an eternal universe, which leads to various mathematical absurdities as well as very hard questions with respect to the principle of sufficient reason"

    I'm curious what mathematical absurdities an eternal universe would lead to, other than an infinite regress?