Arian Foster: Answers to Atheists

So I’m not sure if any of you have heard, but Houston Texans football player Arian Foster recently declared that he didn’t believe in God. This is not what bothered me. What bothered me was reading the story online, and the comment thread attached to it. I am not a member to the site so I couldn’t reply, but it just broke my heart seeing all the atheists attacking Christians. However, they were asking very good and tough questions. I tried to answer them myself, but I was wondering if you could let me know if these answers are acceptable.

  1. If God exists, then why does He allow evil?
    Well I would say that God allows evil because He wants us to choose Him. God could get rid of all evil, but if he did, wouldn’t we just be perfect human beings? What would differentiate us from God? How would we know which one of us truly loved God?

  2. Where is your proof that God exists?
    I can’t really give them any physical proof that they would understand. My best answer would be that the physical proof I could show them would be Jesus Christ. There is no denying that Jesus was a real person, that the works he performed were real, and that those who followed him were real people. If Jesus said that there is a God, and he is God, I am going to believe him.

  3. The God you worship will be forgotten, just as the greek gods and other gods long ago were forgotten.
    Since I am not a history buff, I really don’t know how to answer this question. But one thing that I like to point out is that before Christ, there was no Catholic Church. How is it, that out of all the prophets and false gods out there, that after the Resurrection of Jesus, Christianity flourished and became the most popular religion today? Something great must have happened, and I think God is the only explanation for that.

I just want to know if these answers are Catholic based. To be honest, I really enjoyed the questioning of my faith, because it caused me to do some research and come to know God a little better. Please keep in mind that I am just trying to learn.

The greek gods are not dead. There have been quite a few attempts at a pagan revival over the centuries. If Christianity were to die out (which no Christian believes, but just for the sake of argument), people would get nostalgic, and attempt to restart it. Heck, just wait for some nationalist to get in charge, and you would get something like the Nazi attempts at reviving the old gods of Germania.

  1. Correct. God allows evil, because he allows us freedom of choice.
  2. Refer them to St. Anselm, St. Thomas, other scholastic authors. Also, remind them of No.1 - if there had been absolute and irrefutable proofs of God’s existence, everyone would have believed, so there would have been no freedom of choice.
  3. I should remind, that Greek gods were not “forgotten” voluntarily - at some point the remaining pagan minority of Byzantine Empire was suppressed, so they were forced to forget them. And even now there are lots of neo-pagans in Greece and elsewhere.
    Christians do not abandon their beliefs even under suppression and persecution. Remember Japanese secret Christians, who were able to survive for three centuries in complete isolation from the Church, despite heavy persecution.

But Christianity will not die out, because “You are Peter…”, etc.

I was merely “playing along” with the argument.

  1. The Problem of Evil/Pain is a big problem for Christians (there have been entire books written about it), so it probably won’t be possible to answer it satisfactorily on an online comment. I would remind the atheists that they suffer a similar problem - if Atheism is true, then things like love, self-sacrifice, truth, etc. don’t really exist in any meaningful way. Also, even if God doesn’t exist, then there still is a problem of pain. Things like death, disease, violence, etc. don’t go away if you’re an atheist. Under the Christian view, these things will eventually be set right. It’s not so for atheism. You get one life, and if things like disease or war mess it up, well than tough luck.

  2. Again, there are lots of good arguments for God’s existence. The Kalam Cosmological Argument, the Argument from Contingency, The Fine Tuning Argument, The Argument from Morality, the Argument from Reason are just a few. If you’re not familiar with them, then I suggest you get the book “Answering Atheism” by Trent Horn. It’s a really good start to natural theology.

  3. Trent actually addresses this topic in his book. In a nutshell, Trent argues that since it’s possible to use reason to argue the existence of an infinite, omnipotent, necessary, completely good being, then they need to provide a counter-argument. The burden of proof is on them to show that this type of God belongs in the ‘graveyard of the gods’.

Thank you for the help. I am actually about to start college, so I am sure I will be faced with these situations there. I was really just trying to make sure I had an understanding of what I was talking about

Hey Rbaker,

When I talk to atheists or ‘anti-theists’ online sometimes I try to keep in mind two goals: giving clear, reasonable answers to their questions is important–these answers do exist, and more than a few atheists really are looking for honest answers to the above questions–and being friendly and happy is important. Being argumentative and testy make the discussion a loss even if you’re right.

This was my answer when an atheist online asked me about why God allows evil:

“Well, carry out that thought. What if God didn’t tolerate any evil at all? All His creation is forced to love Him, has no choice but to be in perfect communion with Him–absolutely, unceasingly and eternally?
We’d be robots, filling out a pre-programmed, eternal instruction.
Love is a matter of will; neither can exist without the other (in God’s perfection the two are really one and the same). If God takes our will, he takes away our ability to love.
In short our free will, which is intended to be oriented at love, is important enough to God that he allows us the option of choosing lack of God, aka evil.”

Pretty similar to yours actually. :slight_smile: Really, the problem of evil is a flaw in a simplistic idea of a straw-god, but not in Christian theology.

For the second question, I think this quote from Peter Kreeft is just plain great:

“If I were an atheist, I think I would save my money to buy a plane ticket to Italy to see whether the blood of Saint Januarius really did liquefy and congeal miraculously, as it is supposed to do annually. I would go to Medjugorge. I would study all published interviews of any of the seventy thousand who saw the miracle of the sun at Fatima. I would ransack hospital records for documented “impossible”, miraculous cures. Yet, strangely, almost all atheists argue against miracles philosophically rather than historically. They are convinced a priori, by argument, that miracles can’t happen. So they don’t waste their time or money on such an empirical investigation. Those who do soon cease to be atheists — like the sceptical scientists who investigated the Shroud of Turin, or like Frank Morrison, who investigated the evidence for the “myth” of Christ’s Resurrection with the careful scientific eye of the historian — and became a believer. (His book Who Moved the Stone? is still a classic and still in print after more than sixty years.)”

I eventually used it in a talk with an atheist, but then I said:

Keep in mind miracles are not intended to be the whole foundation for one’s Christianity. Now, this is only possible epistemologically if there is another kind of evidence, which there is: what I call personal evidence… Which is also the “other way” I mentioned as well as the key to understanding the Christian worldview–and how it differs from your worldview.

In a way your worldview is correct. Attempting to understand reality on one’s own, through purely rational objective material study, only by one’s own epistemical efforts, does not and should not lead many to theism. There are curiosities, yes, in Kreeft’s quote above and especially in the fact that pure naturalism must eventually involve an infinite regress of causes. But the truth is, epistemically, these are dead ends. The above link undoubtedly merits exploration, but inherently cannot be explored. Speaking purely objectively, Christianity does not even follow absolutely from many of the miracles mentioned above for which there is still evidence today.

The fact is that 0% of Christians became Christian by their own epistemical efforts alone. …I’m telling you nothing new when I say your worldview as it is is incompatible with Christianity.

No Christian came to believe in God through their efforts alone, each and every one of us can tell you about how we were pursued, or called, or wooed. It’s not at all like studying evidence and choosing the most probable hypothesis, it’s like gradually giving in to a persistent admirer. Christian faith isn’t something I do at all; it’s something I receive. If I was alone in this, I would be called a lunatic… but the fact that a third of the world’s population makes a similar claim suddenly makes the whole thing dead serious. At the very least, this claim merits honest exploration.

I have really and truly known God’s love–this is inarguable; it’s my own experience. But this is immaterial to non-Christians until, who could have known, it happens to them too.

The third argument isn’t really an argument, it’s just pointing out a historical trend. In fact, how long a philosophy exists or how many people believe in it doesn’t have anything to do with how true it is. That being said, from a historical standpoint, the Christian’s position is far stronger. :slight_smile: Comparatively, no other religion or philosophy has come even close to being close to how prosperous Christianity has been for so long. Certainly not secularism. There’s nothing new about new atheism–you can find very good refutations of ‘God of the gaps’ and similar pseudo-arguments of Hitchens and the like from 1700’s secular France. You could say to the atheist: your arguments have already been tried and failed. People didn’t buy into them for very long then and they won’t now. Here’s a link to a speech by Fr. Robert Barron for examples.

Hope this helped,
Greg

Thanks Greg. This really helped

Hey guys, I came across this post and thought I might be able to offer a unique perception of this. So I’d like to try respond to the things said in here as best as I can. So first my response to the original post
1.) Well first off God is omniscient he should be able to know who loves him and who doesn’t because he is God and if he knows when we have lust in our hearts then he would also know if you love him. Also won’t there be no evil in heaven, so does that mean people are equal to God in heaven? What would then differentiate people from God in heaven?

2.) While yes there is strong evidence that Jesus was a real historical figure(Personally I believe that there was a person like Jesus) There isn’t evidence that he preformed miracles and came back to life outside of the bible. So I wouldn’t call that evidence for God.

3.) I agree that this isn’t really an argument while I think it’s possible that this could happen no one knows if that will or won’t so it isn’t even relevant to bring up and the people talking to you should have stopped at point 2.

  In regards to another post I saw by SPBlitz In regards to the problem of evil that actually isn't a problem for atheists, because (while I can't speak for all I personally just say) yes there is evil. That sucks but oh well. In my view there is no ultimate justice if you are not punished for your crimes while you are alive then you got away with it if you are punished while you are alive then that is good enough you don't an eternity of punishment just however long your sentencing is should suffice. While the thought of there not being eternal justice where good people are rewarded and bad people punished might not be pleasant to some people it is not a serious problem of disbelief. While I also disagree with your evidences for God(the fine tuning in particular) this doesn't seem like the time or place to do so(if you want you can pm me or just ignore me).

  And to Juris Prudence when you say God did not provide evidence because that would override free will that is completely and utterly ridiculous. I am sorry if I sound mean right now but evidence does not override free will it simply means people are well informed. If I said that I had definite evidence that all the gold in fort Knox had been stolen but did not provide because I did not want to override the free will of others but still expected people to believe me(and then punished them eternally if they did not believe my un-evidenced claim) I would be acting not only unfairly but also irrationally. after all why would I want people to believe me if they had no evidence that just means they are willing to believe anything I tell them given proper motivation.

Dear Helpful Atheist,

Thank you for you insight. However, I really disagree with you point on question number one.

God did not create the world with one strict plan, with unchangeable factors. We see this in our own lives through prayer. God is willing to change His plan in some instances. So, since God was aware of His own mercy, He allowed us to obtain free will. With this free will, He originally desired our free will to coincide with His will. And once again, we see God’s ability to change his plan, as we all know that sin causes us to ignore God’s will at times. God desired us to choose Him, and I think that He realizes that some people can convert or fall away from Him, but that all comes with our own free will.

Also, it is not possible for anyone that enters the gates of Heaven to become equal to God. Just because there is no evil in Heaven, doesn’t mean that everyone in Heaven has God-like powers. I think this may be confusing to some because of how we pray to those in heaven. We speak in generalities like “Oh Saint Jude please help me with…” We do not believe that it is Saint Jude who is the one that can help us, but that through their prayers God can help us. Basically what we are really asking for is for Saint Jude or the person in Heaven to intercede for us. This makes sense, because why wouldn’t we want those in Heaven to pray for us? They are obviously much closer to God than we are, as they have been completely absolved from sin.

Those in Heaven have completely made their own will to do the will of God. They are not like God, they just want to serve God and help God in a perfect manner. They are not equal to God, as they can’t answer prayers, create things, destroy things, or do other things that God can do. They are basically just serving God, except in the most perfect manner possible.

Since I am 18 I am not really familiar with all the facts of the Church, but I believe that the Eucharist is perfect evidence for God. However, that is probably difficult for you to understand. I fully believe that all the accounts and testimonies in the Bible about Jesus’ life are true. Sometimes you just gotta have a little bit of faith.

God Bless you

Well to be clear I actually don’t think people in heaven are equal to God in Christianity I was referring to a point that you originally made how if there was no evil on earth then we would be perfect beings and “What would differentiate us from God?”. Also if you want to have faith that is fine but faith is belief in lack of evidence, which again if that is how you live your life than, do you, but having faith does not equal evidence. Also since I think I am familiar with Eucharist(the cracker like things at church?) would you mind elaborating how that is evidence because I am genuinely curious because I can’t think of a way in which it is.(Not being sarcastic or condescending here I just really am curious).

Of course with the problem of evil I have one last thought. So often I hear people say how God brought someone into their life or God brought them into someone else’s(like say someone was planning on killing themselves but before they did they met a new friend who really helped them out of a dark place and they say God brought you into my life) well if that is the case how come God doesn’t bring police into the lives of people being mugged/raped/ killed or bring crashing planes to a safe landing or feed people. Now sure you may say that isn’t God’s responsibility but can you think of any reason as to why God would not do that?

The second point must be acknowledged as true, but only because it does not properly differentiate between proof and evidence. Very little in life is ever proven. Even in science, we operate more by theory than fact. Yet the evidence for God is substantial. The evidence against God is singular, but very good, that is the first point, the problem of evil. Dr. Peter Kreeft has taught me to look at minds greater than mine for such thorny problems, particularly Aquinas. So I will look to Peter Kreeft who can word this better than me…

peterkreeft.com/topics/evil.htm

I have read his book on suffering as well and would recommend it as a good defense of one’s soul that one can read when there is little suffering, so as to weather the time of trial that comes to all. I put it in the same league as Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning, and the book of Job.

There would be plenty to differentiate us from God. But some version of the “free will defense” is, I think, the best response.

  1. Where is your proof that God exists?
    I can’t really give them any physical proof that they would understand. My best answer would be that the physical proof I could show them would be Jesus Christ. There is no denying that Jesus was a real person, that the works he performed were real, and that those who followed him were real people. If Jesus said that there is a God, and he is God, I am going to believe him.

There are some who deny that Jesus was a real person, but they’re a small “fundamentalist atheist” minority. There’s much more room for doubt about how accurate the NT accounts are. That being said, there are good arguments for their essential accuracy (Craig Blomberg has written about this) and for the resurrection of Jesus being a real event (N. T. Wright is my favorite author on this subject, though I know Gary Habermas has also been convincing to a lot of people).

There’s also the traditional “cosmological” approach to proving the existence of God, most famously identified with Thomas Aquinas and his five ways. The basic argument is that the universe we observe must have an ultimate cause, and that this cause must have certain qualities that describe “what all call God.” (For instance, it must have intelligence and must contain all perfections observable in the created universe.)

Anselm’s “ontological argument” is a bit iffier, but has some merit. C. S. Lewis popularized an argument from moral intuition, which as I see it is really a variant of the cosmological argument. Lewis also makes an argument from “desire,” which again, can be subsumed under the Five Ways (the fifth way, or maybe the fourth, is about final causality, which is really about the desire or tendency of all created things to seek for an ultimate goal).

  1. The God you worship will be forgotten, just as the greek gods and other gods long ago were forgotten.

That’s a really silly argument. When people start making arguments from things that haven’t happened yet, they are just bluffing.

But as others have pointed out, the Greek gods haven’t been forgotten.

I find paganism a lot more convincing than atheism, and Buddhism more than either. If I weren’t a Christian, I would probably be some sort of Buddhist/pagan.

Edwin

Well I have a few disagreements with you. If you are referring to the original point 2 I do not see how it “must be acknowledged as true”. While I agree that very little is proven 100% there certain points of evidence to where we can say ok for practical purposes as in just day to day living and not hard science that something is proven. I would disagree that the evidence of God is substantial because I personally have not come across any good evidence for the God of the bible(not meaning there is none but if it was clearly abundant then certainly I would have seen it by now).

In regards to the article I also have problems with that

1.) Yes evil is not an entity is is a concept. So what?(He isn’t wrong but this wasn’t relevant)

2.)Well since he brings up the fall I would also like to point out that the whole don’t eat the apple test was not a good thing to do ex. If you tell a kid not to eat a poisoned candy bar you left in their reach because they will die and someone else shows up and says nah that other guy was lying to you, in fact if you eat the candy you will grow up to be big and strong like him and they eat it and then you come back and say aha! I knew you would eat it now get out of my house. Well that isn’t very fair they didn’t know any better and they were tricked by someone else but it doesn’t matter because they didn’t obey.

4.)
A.)Whose to say we are bad people? Yeah I know any form of sin is punishable by eternal torture but most sin in reality isn’t harmful. For example any sin about what you think, sure thinking mean thoughts about someone isn’t nice but it’s also not important if you help that person, sure thinking it would be nice to have your neighbor’s car isn’t great but you aren’t stealing his car so what’s the harm? While everyone sins that’s just because of how sins are defined most people are good people even if they aren’t perfect because they care about others and genuinely want to help the people around them. In my book that makes you a good person.

B.) Now I agree a little bit on this point not all suffering is bad, there is a line in House of Cards that sums this up perfectly; there are two kinds of suffering, the kind that you learn from and makes you stronger and needles suffering. But I also disagree that it has to be all or nothing God could remove suffering by playing within the system. Magically give food to all the starving people in the world, you could stop violent crimes by returning rapists/mugger/killers to their homes right before they commit the act. Sure there would still be hardships but that doesn’t need to be dealt with.

C.) And about Hell if you want to say that Hell is simply being without God in darkness than fine no big deal but if you want to say that hell necessarily has to be the most painful torment you can ever imagine for all eternity than that is a problem if God needs a place to keep people who refused him in life away from those who accepted him than just put them somewhere or relieve them of consciousness don't let them live forever. And people don't send themselves to hell God does because once someone dies God could give them one final choice love him in heaven or burn in hell but so far as I've been told that doesn't happen.

How would you define evil? How would you distinguish it from other things that you happen not to like, or other behaviors that you believe to be a bad idea?

Edwin

Well I’m assuming(and feel free to stop me if I’m wrong) but you are getting at that without God to base my morality on how can I say anything is good or evil without an absolute otherwise it is just opinion?

Well the best way to speak on how I can call something evil I should start by basing on what I define good an evil by. There are certain things we know about humanity. generally life is preferable to death, pain preferable to pleasure good health preferable to bad health since we know these things combined with human empathy we can determine that which acts are “better” than others. We can say needless suffering is bad, murder is generally bad and it is best to solve a problem another way, hurting people is generally bad both on a social level and a more personal level because we know we would not want to be hurt. And when something bad is done on a large scale or to someone particularly vulnerable, like the elderly or children we call it evil.(ie. punching a 30 year old man is wrong punching a 12 year old girl is evil.) I hope that was able to answer your question. Please feel free to ask me to elaborate on any points you think I didn’t make clear or didn’t make at all

Essentially.

Well the best way to speak on how I can call something evil I should start by basing on what I define good an evil by. There are certain things we know about humanity. generally life is preferable to death, pain preferable to pleasure good health preferable to bad health since we know these things combined with human empathy we can determine that which acts are “better” than others.

So this is basically the Golden Rule–through empathy we know what we would like and we should will that for others as well?

But, of course, this still doesn’t explain why empathy should matter so much as a guide for our actions.

We can say needless suffering is bad,

But it might be OK to inflict suffering on others if we think it’s “needed”? Needed for whom? how badly?

murder is generally bad

Only “generally”? What are the exceptions? How are you defining murder?

and it is best to solve a problem another way, hurting people is generally bad both on a social level and a more personal level because we know we would not want to be hurt.

But of course, precisely for that reason we often hurt others, out of revenge or self-protection.

And when something bad is done on a large scale or to someone particularly vulnerable, like the elderly or children we call it evil.(ie. punching a 30 year old man is wrong punching a 12 year old girl is evil.) I hope that was able to answer your question. Please feel free to ask me to elaborate on any points you think I didn’t make clear or didn’t make at all

I appreciate your answer very much. This is one of those issues where either you see a need for a more “ultimate” explanation or you don’t.

And I should be clear that I’m not claiming either that atheists aren’t moral or that you need divine commands to determine what is moral.

Something like Plato’s “Form of the Good” would do the job fine–we certainly don’t need a personal God to be the basis of morality.

But if we are purely material beings, the products of chance and evolution and nothing more (I’m not questioning the reality of evolution), then it’s hard to see why a word like “evil” should be as significant as we both think it is.

In other words, I think our reaction to evil testifies to something in us that goes beyond the material, something that reflects the divine goodness from which all reality derives.

But I am not going to try to convince you of that here. I’m trying to collect as many atheist answers to this question as I can so that I can avoid caricaturing atheist opinions on this point. And thanks for helping out with that!

I should also say that I recognize how serious the problem of evil is for theists. I see the problem of explaining morality as a comparable problem for atheists–that is to say, I don’t think it’s a knock-down refutation by any means.

Edwin

Well thanks for appreciating my answers and hopefully I can address your points, however this time I will be going in order of importance instead of chronologically

1.) you said why should evil be so significant if we are just matter and just are products of chance. Well it matters because we say it does. Just because the universe wasn’t created for us and in fact human life is in no way significant to the universe doesn’t mean that humanity is not significant to us. Humans are social creatures and we survive better in groups than alone so for out ancestors stealing from the group and hiding food for yourself was no good and could/would get other people killed at which point the whole group is weaker, meaning you are weaker so wanting to help other people is an important trait for people to have. So because of this it would make sense for emotions to develop to strengthen our ties to other people including love. It is because I care about other people that injustice has a reaction for me not because I subconsciously think that humanity is special because God made it.
So to sum that paragraph up, humanity doesn’t have to be important to the universe because it is important to me

2.) Yes it is the Golden Rule, and yes it does give us reason to assume how others would want to be treated. People should act on their empathy because it is better for society and when society is better of the individuals in that society are better off.

3.) In regards to suffering yes sometimes suffering is needed for example Jail. That suffering is needed to keep dangerous people away from the general populous or to keep people playing by the rules.

4.) I say only generally because there are almost always exceptions to a rule and sometimes killing someone is needed for self defense. I use murder and killing pretty interchangeably if I’m not talking about a specific case so in the example from above I just mean ending someone’s life.

I hope that was able to answer you questions if not feel free to keep questioning me. I also really appreciate your genuine search for atheists answers to these questions I have my own little search regarding why people believe what they believe.

Well, I think that there are two atheistic ‘Problems of Evil’ which I probably should have specified.
The first usually comes from the emotional problem of evil that is usually used as proof against God. In a nutshell, the argument is that it is too horrible to think that a good God would allow as much evil/suffering as we see in the world. My response to that is that if it is too horrible for God to allow evil in this life (with at least the promise of ultimate justice), the idea that there is no ultimate justice and that any good or evil in this world is ultimately luck is even worse. Thus, if we are choosing specifically based on which is the ‘better’ option, I think that the God is the better choice.

The other problem of evil that atheists face is the ontological problem of evil. No atheist I’ve talked to has ever been able to give me a solid ontological basis for good and evil that doesn’t ultimately reduce them to either personal preference or meaninglessness.

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