Don Exodus made a series of videos detailing why he left Christianity. The Blog for WhyWon’tGodHealAmputees touted that his reasons were eminently logical. In the previous post, I made short work of that myth. Don’s reasons were emotional, not at all based in pure logic.
The second part doesn’t start off any better. He spends some time reviewing material from the first video about how the null hypothesis is applied in every area of life except religious belief. Then he makes the claim that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Since religion makes the most extraordinary claim of all–that an omniscient, omnipotent God cares for each individual person, then that should require the most extraordinary evidence of all.
Image via WikipediaLet’s spend some time there for just a moment. To my knowledge, it isn’t claimed that all supernatural claims should be rejected a priori. Yet, when it comes to claims relating to the existence of God, it seems that all atheistic skeptics reject that a priori, on the claim that there is no evidence to suggest that God exists.
The apostle Paul would disagree strongly. Central to his argument that all are under the law, and thus the condemnation and wrath of God, is that men (and women, I would think) are without excuse for knowing about God’s existence. Without excuse. That’s pretty forceful!
Additionally, as Mariano Grinbank suggests, to merely assert that a claim is extraordinary and therefore requires extraordinary evidence is dodgy. No matter what evidence that the theist provides, the atheist could simply say, “Not extraordinary enough for me!”
I previously discussed what would be considered “supernatural.” God exists outside of nature, but he ordered nature and decreed its movements in a way that serves his purpose. What that means is that the category of “supernatural” is meaningless–it isn’t a violation of the law of gravity for me to pick up a box and hold it in my hand, suspended over a table; so why would it be considered a violation for God to hold that same box suspended over the table? It isn’t.
So if God is ordering nature and influencing its movements to achieve of a particular end, how is that going to look any different than a natural explanation behind everything?
Image via WikipediaDon makes the claim that it is extraordinary to posit the existence of God. I think, however, it is far more extraordinary to posit that the universe expanded from a singularity with exactly the right speed, gravitational pull, force, mass, and energy which set in motion a series of unbreakable chain reactions leading to the emergence of life on a small, insignificant planet. That life eventually became smart enough to deny the existence of a creator and make a YouTube video about it. The sheer odds against that happening anywhere in this universe, or that the universe could have even supported it to begin with, are at odds with any naturalistic explanation. With a naturalistic explanation, it all would have had to happen by complete accident.
Unfortunately, retreating to the theory of large numbers–in other words, that it had to happen somewhere given the enormity of the universe and the myriad of planets therein–is nothing but a convenient dodge. That would only work if each planet that emerged was a dependent trial, much in the same way that you eventually have to draw an ace of spades from a deck of cards given enough draw-and-discards. Fact is, that each planet is an independent trial. That means that each planet that emerges has the same odds of supporting life, regardless of the success or failure of a previous planet to support said life. And that is granting that the universe itself could support life; there are literally hundreds of variables that had to be in place prior to thinking that any planet could support life! Large numbers doesn’t get you out of either of these problems.
Of course, no “I Reject Christianity Video” would be complete without a total misunderstanding of faith. True Christian faith is a reasoned trust based on past performance. Don fails to define “faith” in his video, but I’ll be willing to bet that it is similar to how Richard Dawkins et. al. define it: “Belief without (or in the teeth of) evidence.” That is not how a Christian thinks of faith, and we apologists hate when pastors, elders, or other senior leaders tell a seeker with an honest question about God’s existence to “have more faith.” That’s such a cop-out, and many of the anti-testimonies I’ve read contain that story: “My pastor ignored my question about God and told me I needed to have more faith.”
Next comes the argument that the Bible contains nothing that illiterate goat-herders of the day wouldn’t have already known. Don thinks that God should have had them write something about antibiotics, a scientific equation, or something similar to prove that it was written by an omniscient God.
That’s fallacious for a really good reason. If the Bible contained a recipe for antibiotics or a scientific equation, then textual critics of today would have assumed that the ancient Israelites had worked antibiotics out on their own. Don spends quite a bit of time in his video declaring naturalistic explanations are superior to supernatural ones (stating at the end of part I that supernatural explanations have an explanatory track record of 0). So, if the Bible did contain advanced knowledge, then moderns would simply assume that the Israelites already knew of it somehow.
Prophecy is explained in much the same way. The primary reason that the book of Isaiah is split into two (or sometimes three) separate books is because so-called “Second Isaiah” contains exact descriptions and names of post-Exile personalities and events. The a priori assumption is that it can’t be this way because of fulfilled prophecy, so therefore the second part of the book must have been pseudopigrapha written post-Exile under the name of the pre-Exile prophet Isaiah.
So it would be were the Bible to contain scientific knowledge that wouldn’t be “discovered” until Einstein. The skeptics would try to find a naturalistic explanation for that bit of data to be there rather than bow automatically to God.
Next comes the idea that we reject every historical God except Yahweh, so why not just go one step further? Well, that is really the subject for another post entirely, but briefly: rejecting all possibility of God is tantamount to admitting that, by accident, everything developed the way it did by accident and there is no higher purpose or reason for existence. I might be okay if that didn’t imply that morality is an illusion, free will doesn’t exist, and there is no inherent difference between being born a human or being born a tree. I think that even atheists agree there is a vast difference between being human and being a plant, or even between being human and being a close primate relative.
Two obvious objections arise. First, that I only believe in God because I’m experiencing a visceral reaction to the implications of something I don’t like. In other words, I believe for the same reasons I’m accusing him of rejecting his faith. Second, that I’m appealing to consequences of belief, which is a logical fallacy.
It is fair, in both instances, to point out that the logical consequences of this belief are not accepted as true by either side. That removes the charge of hypocrisy on my part, and the logical fallacy. Evolutionists argue that life didn’t arise by chance, nor did it evolve purely by chance either. They fail to explain the guiding force, but believe that it exists and can be explained.
Don wraps things up by saying that it will take evidence to prove to him that God exists. Again, as with any unbeliever, what sort of evidence will make him believe is left vague and I much doubt that he will be forthcoming with specific evidence. As I’ve detailed above, Don is asking for extraordinary evidence to prove the claim that God exists. But, no matter what evidence is presented to him, he is able to say, “Not extraordinary enough!” This is the cop-out.
Then he asks for God to personally prove his own existence, which I’ve already explained why that line of thinking is futile.
So, Don really has nothing new here. Another emotional rejection of theism disguised in the thinnest veneer of logic.
With this, I have now answered the last of the short videos from GII Video.
This one may have been the easiest, since the arguments were even more fallacious than usual. I loved how the narrator switched Dobson’s words from “spanking” to “beating” without warning at the midpoint of the video, while still maintaining it was a direct quote. That was classic.
On to the (hopefully) more challenging longer videos.
The Blog for WhyWon’tGodHealAmputees featured a video that it touted as giving “logical” reasons for leaving Christianity. So I thought I’d take a look at it.
There are numerous problems with this video, not the least of which being that these arguments have been handled before. This guy, who goes by Don Exodus, show no realization that all of his arguments are old, tired, and refuted. In other words, he is looking only at the atheist side of things and not interacting with theist arguments. Confirmation bias at work.
Let’s see what we’ve got here. First, he claims to have gone to Christian school up until college, and he studied theology. But then he claims never to have been very religious. I don’t know what do with this comment. I’m not sure how much theology he has studied (it couldn’t have been very deep, if he is now an atheist using the types of arguments that he is). But, I don’t know many people who are, as he says, “not very religious” that have studied theology. Maybe he hasn’t studied it in detail, and only knows the basics. That will be my working theory with his theological knowledge.
Next, he says that he disagrees with the fact that in America, a person is considered a Christian until something happens otherwise. He thinks that Americans should remain atheists and allowed to choose a religion after examining the necessary evidence. After all, he reasons, that’s how everything else is done. This, of course, assumes that there is no good evidence for God or for religion, as does some additional statements he makes below. I’ll return to this idea in a minute.
After studying evolution extensively, he wanted to find out how the creationist mind thinks. So he spent some time arguing on creationist websites, and testifies to being “horrified” at the arguments that they use. Clearly, they don’t understand evolution. The fact that he was appalled by this led him to distance himself from creationism and re-examine his religious beliefs.
This is where I think that the crux of the problem lies, and this is where the confirmation bias comes in. He wants to jettison everything about creationism, and this includes (for him, at least) his religious beliefs. We have a visceral reaction to something, and that is what starts the dominoes falling toward atheism. Again, we have confirmation of my personal theory that atheism is not a logical conclusion, but an emotional one. To that end, he stresses that, were it not for his interaction with creationists, he would never have thought about his religious beliefs in this way.
He then discusses the null hypothesis. As applied to religion, it means that we should default to atheism and require the religious person to provide evidence for God. The standard conception of God is that he exists outside of nature and influences natural phenomena (i.e. nature is his servant). What sort of evidence are we looking for here? If God exists completely apart from nature, then we couldn’t find evidence of him within the system.
It’s like asking for wet evidence of a dry being. It can’t be done.
Instead, we can logically argue that, since the universe exists, and life within that universe, that something actually set this in motion, and ordered it to create intelligent life. Nowhere in nature do we see order built out of chaos. Nowhere in nature do we see intelligence emerging where there previously was none. Therefore, whatever caused the universe to appear and life to emerge on earth must be outside of nature. What sort of evidence are we expecting to find within nature?
This also partially covers his next objection to the ability to find a natural explanation of mysterious phenomena. In almost every case, humans have been able to ascertain a natural explanation for things through the use of science. Again, considering that God has ordered nature and decreed its movements to his own ends and purpose, one has to wonder what sort of supernatural explanation would even exist.
It’s probably worth mentioning that some Christians don’t believe in the category of “supernatural.” God is outside of nature, but uses nature as his servant to achieve his desired outcomes. He seldom reaches a divine hand into the machine and just does something ex nihilio. There are only a very few times in the Bible where God actually does that: the creation event itself, the protection of the three loyal Israelites in the book of Daniel, the abundant miracles of Christ, the signs and wonders that accompanied his apostles.
Even supposedly “supernatural” events are described by the Bible as natural. Many suspect that an impending volcanic eruption caused all of the plagues described in the book of Exodus–perhaps the only plague defying explanation was the death of all the first born sons. The Flood was described as natural, with erupting volcanoes, earthquakes, water bubbling up out of springs and caves below the earth, and heavy rains. “Supernatural” is a category that doesn’t exist. Therefore, we can expect to find natural explanations behind alleged miracles without diminishing the need for God.
Then Don outlines the Kalaam cosmological argument for God’s existence. His predictable objection is to simply ask, “What created God?” The fact that God exists eternally is the answer: he has no need of a creator since there was never a time when he didn’t exist. So Don says to just “be consistent.” Why couldn’t the universe have always existed, by that model?
Fair question. If the singularity that resulted in the Big Bang did simply always exist, then is there a reason that the universe could have become what it is without a creator? Nope. If the singularity exists with nothing external to it–not time, nor space, nor other matter, nor even energy–what, then, caused the Big Bang? Nothing material exists without a cause. Even if you back up to the precise moment of the Big Bang, and nothing exists apart from that singularity, then nothing could have caused it to explode and thus begin the universe as we understand it to exist. Here, you fall prey to natural law again. Inertia is a b****. That means that the cause of the universe is external to the universe itself–back to God.
Next, Don quotes Christopher Hitchens. The fact that Don is in agreement with calling Jesus a “human sacrifice” is proof enough that he hasn’t studied his theology very effectively when he was younger. Also, who says that heaven sat around for 98,000 years and took no action? The Bible doesn’t back that theory, as there are numerous accounts of what God has done for his people, listed in the introductory chapters of Deuteronomy and narrated to us in Genesis, Exodus, and Numbers.
That’s just the first few books of the Bible. The case for God interacting in human history becomes even stronger as one reads further.
After that, Don tips his hand and reveals that his reasons for de-converting are emotional. He starts talking about how many infants that God has killed. I would like to believe that infants are automatically going to heaven, but I know that the biblical basis for that is lacking. It seems that infants join the damned in hell, by virtue of original sin alone. However, let’s remember that God is a righteous judge who shows no partiality, so whatever the fate of the infant, we can rest assured that it is perfectly fair and just. So this is nothing more than a visceral reaction to something in religion that Don finds unpleasant.
Next, Don details how he doesn’t believe that an omniscient God would have ever sent the Flood, or be grieved to have made humanity. An omniscient God would have gotten this right the first time, he reasons. Whenever I hear something like this, I always wonder, given that humans are not omniscient, what is the basis for making this claim? Don isn’t omniscient, and therefore unable to say, “If I were omniscient, I’d do this” authoritatively. He could easily change his mind upon getting more information–e.g., if he actually became omniscient.
Finally, Don asks the hypothetical question: “If you were dressed in a flame resistant suit (up to 3000 degrees) and armed with the latest model fire extinguisher, and you come home to find your neighbor’s house on fire, and you stand by and watch the family perish, which of the following describes your behavior: (a) All-powerful; (b) All-knowing; (c) All-loving; or (d) Mysterious.”
This is touching close to the atheist mindset I frequently encounter. If God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenovolent, then he should take care of all of our problems: there should be no starving children in Africa, there should be no crime, etc.
These problems, however, are generally caused by human beings exercising their free will, which is thoroughly tainted by sin. Why should God clean up our problems? What is wrong with expecting us to keep our own house in order?
I have two kids, and I have certain expectations of both of them. Obviously, I can do everything for them with no problem. I can clean up the mess that Ashleigh makes in the living room, I can read her books, and in the future, I can do her math homework. But why would I do that? How is she ever going to learn to do the right thing if I’m constantly cleaning up her messes and doing her homework assignments?
The crises that occur here on earth are God’s design and they are meant to teach us important lessons. Some of them we learn, and others we fail miserably. Each evil is an opportunity to do good, and sometimes we exercise that ability, while other times we do not. There is enough food to feed the hungry, but it never gets to the hungry. I’ve worked food service for a number of years, and I can attest to the amount of food that Americans just throw away, sometimes for no other reason than the customer doesn’t like the way the food looks and wants the restaurant to make it over again. What a waste. Why is that God’s problem? It isn’t–it’s our problem! We should fix it rather than rely on God to do everything for us.
Looking forward to part 2.
I’ve resolved to do at least one proof or video per week. It looks as if I’ve outdone myself this week, as I’ve put up three videos in the last two days!
First, I took on “Why Does Every Intelligent Christian Disobey Jesus?” The video lists five commands that Jesus gives Christians but that allegedly no Christian obeys. Only one of the commands is a legitimate command, which is to love everyone. Another was given to a single person in a special circumstance and not meant to be a general command. The other three were never given by Jesus anywhere in the Bible. Verses have to be ripped grossly out of context to make them into commands. Read the answer here.
Second, I took on the short video “Proving God’s Plan is Impossible.” Even though it was one of the shorter videos, the refutation took quite a bit of work. The video pokes at God’s eternal decree, twisting it to mean that murders shouldn’t be punished and rapists should be rewarded since they are only following God’s will. It fails on many levels, primarily when one realizes that there are twin purposes in each action. God has an overarching good purpose for all he decrees, but the intent of the moral agent who performed the action cannot be overlooked. God’s purpose is always accomplished, but the rapist or murder still committed a heinous sin and God won’t overlook that.
Third and finally, I took on another short video, “Proving the Pope has Never Read the Bible.” Even though this video is half the length of the usual 10 minute videos that GII puts out, it still required a lengthy answer. To suggest that the Pope has never read the Bible is just ludicrous. Just to become a parish priest requires a master’s level degree in theology, and most bishops have the equivalent of one or more doctorates. The life of the presbyter is centered on the teachings of the Bible, and how much more central the Bible must become to at the episcopal level.
Further, the examples of gratuitous violence given by the video to suggest that God is repulsive are taken out of context. “Violence” is unwarranted force against someone who doesn’t deserve it. By reading the context of the stories, one realizes that God is punishing humans for their sin in each one, he is not simply committing an act of capricious murder for the fun of it. God is not a serial killer.
Well, that’s been my night. The short videos have produced unexpectedly lengthy answers. I can hardly wait to see the length of answer that I have to develop when tackling the full-length 10 minute videos!
I’m late to the party. This video was posted June 27, 2010, and was featured on The Blog for WhyWon’tGodHealAmputees on June 30. I’m just now getting around to my planned answer to the video. Nothing like moving quickly to respond!
This video, titled “Hitchslap13: Christianity is a Sick Death Cult,” features four excerpted statements from a debate between Christopher Hitchens and Allister McGrath. I’m not sure of the date this took place. I would love to see McGrath’s responses, but I doubt that the atheist who posted this video even listened to what McGrath had to say. Let’s examine each of Hitchens’s claims.
First, is the doctrine of vicarious atonement moral? Hitchens says that there are two implications. The first implication is that vicarious atonement erases the notion of personal responsibility for one’s own sins. Secondly, all people share responsibility for the death of Christ, which confirms original sin.
Vicarious atonement is a complex doctrine, and J.P. Holding offers a definition and defense of it here. Briefly, Jesus has taken the punishment meant for us, and acts as a broker for those who wish to enter into a covenant with God. Bearing that in mind, a person should behave accordingly (see Eph 4:1-3; 1 The 2:9-12; and 2 The 1:11-12). Those that don’t probably haven’t really accepted the gift.
As to its morality, Glenn Miller discusses that here.
Responding to the second allegation is tough, because Hitchens is vague about it. He seems to be saying that all of mankind played a role in the crucifixion. He may be misunderstanding what the apostle Paul is writing in the book of Galatians: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:20). Paul isn’t saying that all of mankind is responsible for the crucifixion of Christ; rather, he is saying that his sins have been put on the cross with Christ, and Paul has died to those sins. If Hithcens meant something else, someone please enlighten me in the comments.
Second, the former Bishop of Carlisle, Graham Dow, said in 2007 that the floods in Yorkshire, England were God’s punishment for homosexuality. While I agree in spirit with Hitchens’s assessment that connecting meteorology and morality is idiotic, I think that Hitchens (like most atheists) have no idea as to just how serious sin really is.
Based on Jesus’ response to critics regarding the fall of the Tower of Siloam (Lk 13:1-5), I don’t think it is for us to try to understand why tragedy occurs. Instead, I think that we should follow Jesus’ instructions and realize that all of us are sinners, none worse than any other, and repent. Trying to assign transcendental meaning to mere accidents (like flash flooding from bad weather), while it might be somewhat comforting, all we end up doing is judging the sin of others and fail to look at ourselves.
What Hitchens (like most atheists) is completely glossing over is the notion of sin in the first place. Francis Schaeffer notes, “I have come to the conclusion that none of us in our generation feels as guilty about sin as we should or as our forefathers did.” This is especially true of atheists, who fervently deny the existence of sin. Many, even Christians, think of sin as merely an annoyance. Sin, however, represents not only disobedience to God, but the corruption of our own formerly good natures as well as all of creation itself.
The nature of sin is summed up in this brief article. John MacArthur exhorts us to understand the Fall of man described in Genesis 3, for:
All the problems in the universe…physical problems, spiritual problems, moral problems, social problems, economic problems, political problems…all the problems in the universe have their origin in the events of this historic account. This Chapter, then, is the foundation of any true and accurate world view. And without this foundation, every and any world view is utterly wrong. If you do not understand the origin of sin and its impact based on Genesis Chapter 3, then your understanding of the world is wrong. Everything then is misunderstood; everything is misevaluated; everything is misread; everything is misdiagnosed, and hopelessly incurable.
This article is in two parts, beginning here. It is foundational to any worldview to understand sin. Generically, sin separates us from the good. Instinctively, humans know that we aren’t morally perfect. We have this conception of the good, and we would like to strive for it. But, we don’t. None of us do. We all know this.
The solution of many is to trivialize the idea of sin. Everyone does it, right? But that isn’t the correct solution to the problem.
Third, Geoffery Fisher (Archbishop of Canterbury from 1945 to 1961) said that nuclear war would hasten our transition into a more blessed state. Hitchens, somewhat correctly, then elucidates that all religions wish for the end of this life and to transition into the next one. But, Christianity isn’t a passive faith. Rather, according to James, it is an active faith:
Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. (Jms 1:21-25)
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. (Jms 2:14-17)
These are all things that we have to do in this life. Now, I’m not suggesting that there has never been a Christian that hasn’t put more stock in the next life while completely ignoring this one. Hitchens just cited a great example. Followers of Baptist pastor William Miller quit their jobs and generally gave up on life in response to his prediction that the end of the world would occur on October 22, 1844. This stuff happens. My point is that it isn’t biblical, and therefore these aberrant beliefs shouldn’t be heaped on to the mainline Christians.
Finally, Hitchens wants to know what it’s like to be a cleric and lie to children for a living. He says that clerics teach that we must love God (a compulsory love) and fear him at the same time. Fear of God (the beginning of knowledge, Prv 1:7; and of wisdom, Prv 9:10) refers more to respect and awe than it does to being terrified of God. Of course, the book of Proverbs is also instructional in refuting the notion that love (or fear) of God is in anyway compulsory:
Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the LORD, would have none of my counsel and despised all my reproof, therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way, and have their fill of their own devices. For the simple are killed by their turning away, and the complacency of fools destroys them; but whoever listens to me will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of disaster. (Prv 1:29-33, emphasis added)
Of course, we’re always free to choose whether we love God or not. Hitchens is living proof; does he love God? NO. And these verses in Proverbs make the dire consequences of turning away from the Lord clear.
Now, some may further argue that the threat of destruction for not loving God itself takes away our free will. Proponents of this view, however, have no love of the Lord, so I fail to see their complaint. Knowing the consequences if they are wrong, they persist in their unbelief. Sounds like free will is maintained.