Over at the Christian Post there is a blog posting that went up yesterday by a chap called Robin Schumacher entitled “A Look at Two Common Atheist Arguments”. Will this be a cut above the usual? Perhaps yes, he is billed as, “A Theologian and apologist” and “has a Ph.D. in New Testament and Master’s in Christian apologetics” so we should perhaps set our expectations quite high.
It’s not a great start, the opening claim is “I’m a really clever bloke, I know it all” …
Behind my desk is a huge binder containing essays and meaty book excerpts of atheist literature. The likes of Russell, Hume, Nietzsche, Sartre, and many more scientists and philosophers make up this hefty collection of anti-Christian thought.
Part of my Master’s requirement was that I read the binder in its entirety and write summaries of every argument so that each was thoroughly impressed upon me. Needless to say, that took some time, but it was time well spent.
Indeed yes, “Binders full of … “, oh wait, that was an election GOP claim. The problem here is that it is an appeal to authority with himself as the authority. The essential flaw there is that something is never true because somebody says so, but rather because there is independent verifiable evidence. Anyway, our expectations have been set high, so hopefully we will not face the usual daft claims … lets see.
The first argument he reviews is this one.
“Everyone is an Atheist; We Just Deny One More God Than You…”
So what is his counter argument?
He redefines the word “Atheist” and then proceeds to claim “This is not just a semantics game” … but that is exactly the game being played here by him. Apparently he is not an disbeliever in Islam, because that is a rival theism, and then proceeds to tie himself up in knots with claims such as …
This contention implies that no good reasons exist to be a Christian vs. other faiths, which is certainly not the case.
And of course he cites the good compelling reasons that make Christianity the exception? Nope, not one jot. The problem here is that from the viewpoint of every belief system, every single other variation of belief is “obviously” false due to all the daft ideas they embrace, but that their specific belief is different and special because it has good compelling evidence to verify it. Talk to any variation of belief, for example one of the many different versions of Islam, and they will make this exact argument, Christianity will be sliced and diced, “Ah but Islam is special because …”. All this really tells us is that he truly believes, and that puts him on par with believers in almost every variation of belief going.
Like many other people, I have examined the claims and evidence of rival faiths and used the law of non-contradiction to rule out, for example, Islam in favor of Christianity
… and the one true belief just happens to be the one that aligns with the faith of his parents and his culture … what an amazing coincidence, and of course he makes this claim, but does not in any way offer us any evidence for it, nor does he even explain what this law is or how it verifies anything at all.
Just to ensure we know he is right, he then proceeds to sugar coat another claim with an ad hominem …
Internet hatetheists (not atheists; there is a difference..!) can use the cut-and-paste function of their computer all they like to constantly say, “there is no evidence for Christianity”, but such assertions are nothing more than examples of either intellectual dishonesty or willing refusals to truly examine the claims of something that threatens their worldview.
If he wishes to dismiss the observation that this is no evidence for his belief, then all he needs to do is to cite some “evidence”, and yet as usual, it is mysteriously missing. Meanwhile back in reality, many have given very serious thought to such claims and have dismissed them because of a preference to embrace the things that are actually true, sometimes even abandoning many decades of Christian belief because a more rational throught process has prevailed.
So here we are right now, not dismissing his arguments, but reading them … looking … thinking that perhaps something subtle has been missed? In this case so far … no. If there was indeed compelling verifiable evidence I’d be interested and would also be open to changing my mind because I’d far rather embrace the things that are actually true.
His last attempt to refute the observation is as follows:
the many faces of religion demonstrate that there is a potentially infinite number of answers to the God/deity question. The Christian blindly clings to one answer, while the atheist wisely rejects them all.
But this line of reasoning fails to understand that there are also a seemingly infinite number of possible answers to the problem of 1 + 1. When I answer “2” to this simple math problem, by default, I exclude the myriad of other possibilities. In the same way that “2” is the correct answer to the math problem, one answer affirming the existence of a supernatural deity via the use of a systematic theological and philosophical methodology could also be correct.
The things that are true, can be demonstrated to be true with “evidence”, and the evidence he presents to verify that his answer is the correct one is … nothing at all.
When presented with a solution to a complex maths problem, a right answer is an answer that has been demonstrated to be correct. If there is no compelling reason for any answer, then all answers are rejected. In the end the burden to deploy a proof rests with the solution provider.
Moving on, the second argument he examines is the following.
“Science Flies You to the Moon; Religion Flies You into Buildings…”
He starts out with …
It’s tough to know where to even begin with such a deliberately crafted misrepresentation.
Let’s start by noting that science didn’t fly anyone to the moon. Quite a few God-believing scientists, engineers, and astronauts participated with others in bringing about that event.
I’m truly beginning to appreciate what the his Ph.D. qualification relates to, because right here it is indeed piled high and deep, he claims that this argument is a misrepresentation, yet that is exactly what his rebuttal is. So what are we supposed to think … that perhaps these God-believing scientists deployed prayer and the only reason the moon mission was a success was due to this magic? Can we seriously consider that science had nothing to do with the moon mission at all?
The blindingly obvious truth here is that these God-believing scientists, engineers, and astronauts deployed science alone to get to the moon, no magic was involved. The fact that they happened to believe is irrelevant, there is no such thing as “Christian” science or “Islamic” science … just “science”, a methodology practised by humans, many of whom hold a wide variation of beliefs and non-beliefs.
He then proceeds to make a daft and false claim that biologist Eric Pianka recommended wiping out 90% of the earth’s population with the Ebola virus. What is quite appalling here is that this claim has been robustly debunked. Sadly Christians at the best of times have never permitted facts to intrude on a good myth, so what is the real story there?
- Forrest Mims, vice-chair of the Academy’s section on environmental science, claimed in the Society for Amateur Scientists e-journal The Citizen Scientist that Pianka had “endorsed the elimination of 90 percent of the human population” through a disease such as an airborne strain of the Ebola virus
- Pianka has stated that Mims took his statements out of context and that he was simply describing what would happen from biological principles alone if present human population trends continue, and that he was not in any way advocating for it to happen. The Texas Academy, which hosted of the speech, released a statement asserting that “Many of Dr. Pianka’s statements have been severely misconstrued and sensationalized.”
In essence, his second point, like his entire belief-system, is founded upon complete fiction.
Here is what comes next …
Did the crusades, the inquisitions, and 9/11 take place and were they motivated by religion? Absolutely. But we must understand: (1) the events involving Christianity were carried out by people who acted in direct opposition to the teachings of Christ;
Well, it is good to see him acknowledge that embracing irrational beliefs has had dire consequences. I also note that he side steps this with a “No true Scotsman” fallacy. “Oh but they were not true Christians”, the observation is that if they were around to ask, they would not agree, in fact they would probably attempt to murder him for daring to suggest that.
None of this in any way rebuts the argument, so I can only wonder what comes next … Stalin perhaps? … actually yes …
From 1917 to 1969 the atheist Soviet Union destroyed 41,000 churches. In Communist China Tibet, secular humanists tore down 7,000 monasteries. In North Korea, all but 60 Buddhist temples have been demolished. So let us not pretend atheism has always been friendly to religion.
Ever so slight flaw here, none of that was driven by non-belief, but rather by political fanatics led down that road by psychopaths. Once again this is evidence of what can happen when you embrace irrational beliefs, in this case political.
We then move on to all the wonderful things that Christianity has given us such as … “charity, hospitals and health care, education, labor and economics, human government – and yes – the spheres of slavery, women’s freedom/dignity, and science“, yet when you honestly examine that claim it rapidly falls apart. Mother Teresa is hailed has a religious charity icon, yet as has been well-documented by Christopher Hitchens in his book, “The Missionary Position”, she was a complete fraud. The promotion of charity and education is a side-effect of the religious prime motivation for involvement in such activities, the promotion of irrational beliefs, that has always been the real end-game when the religious operate within such spheres. The Bible itself is a pro-slavery book from cover to cover, and the history of that struggle is one in which many religious thinkers needed to be dragged kicking and screaming into a more rational position. It is true that many famous religious individuals in the past made great contributions to science and human liberty, but that is simply a correlation, not a causation. They did what they did, because of their human empathy towards their fellow humans, not because they embraced crazy beliefs, but despite them. As for science, humans are curious and the story of the advancement of science is one in which the religious promptly embraced the output of science when clear evidence was presented … right? Actually no, it has been a constant struggle against a preference for superstitious nonsense. That struggle still prevails today with the rejection of well-proven facts such as evolution or the age of the earth by many religious people.
His final argument is one in what he deploys the strawman claim that the atheist argument assumes that all religious are the same. It does no such thing, it simply contrasts rationality with superstition and highlights the consequences of each.
His final parting shot is that he has read all the atheist arguments and his faith remains. Given that this was in a seminary, he would have had too much invested to do anything but retain an irrational belief for no good reason, to do anything else would have cost him too much.
So did we find any compelling counter arguments at all? In one word … “No”.
You might also enjoy the comments to his posting where he gets robustly thrashed, and rightly so.