Challenge: Provide evidence which reasonably justifies believing in Christian theology, or at least theism in general (read OP before posting)

I was raised Catholic. I’m in my senior year at a passionately Catholic college, on pace to graduate with theology as one of my majors. When I was a teen, my older brother and I got our family to start to go to daily Mass. For several years, I served as an altar boy at Mass every day.

I an now an atheist. The primary reason for such a huge transition was a general lack of evidence to justify believing in God. Another major reason is problems with the Bible (contradictions, moral problems such as Psalm 137:9 saying dashing babies against rocks is a source of joy, etc.). I largely went down this path because I was trying to fulfill the obligation that 1 Peter 3:15 mentioned, which was to always be ready to give an answer.

My atheism is a lack of a believing in a God, rather than an affirmative creed. Of course, I cannot be absolutely certain that there’s no God (just like I cannot be absolutely certain that Russel’s teapot isn’t revolving around the sun), but I can be reasonably certain there’s no God. Just like a claim about the existence of a teapot orbiting the sun, unicorns, dragons, when debating about the existence of God, the burden of proof rests on the person making the affirmative claim that there is a God, not the person expressing the lack of conviction.

No one knows or understand everything. The best we can do is hold the most reasonable explanation there is to the degree that that explanation is validated by evidence. When there is a gap in knowledge about something, say the origins of the universe, saying “I don’t know” is ok.

It is tempting to fill gaps in knowledge with God. It is a quick and easy way to explain a phenomenon. For example, for a long time people thought that the cause of diseases were demons (some people think Matt 17:14-20 and Matt 10:5-8 back this up), while today we know that diseases are caused by microscopic viruses and bacteria.

Overall, I do not accept arguments from ignorance. In other words, I don’t accept “we don’t know (X), thus it must be because there’s a God”. One reason why I don’t accept arguments from ignorance is because those arguments could just as well prove the existence of Zeus as they can Yahweh. Also, it can be dangerous to make assumptions and jump to conclusions without proper evidence, which is exemplified by the example I gave of people thinking sickness is cause by demons.

I think the very fact that we exist is mind boggling. Any explanation for the universe existing, whether that explanation is God or cosmological theories, is mind boggling. Thus, I don’t consider “mind-bogglingness” to prove God’s existence (since God would be at least as mind-boggling as other explanations).

My purpose in starting this thread is to see the best evidence that anyone on this thread can find to justify Christian theology, or even theism in general. I’m doing this here, as opposed to buying books by a Christian apologists or asking one of my theology professors, mainly because it seems like all the arguments for theism that they tend to be a few arguments packaged in few different ways, which do not reasonably justify theism. I’ve heard all the typical arguments for God, so in posting this thread, I’m looking for something out of the ordinary which in solid. In other words, I’m looking to be impressed and convinced. If you don’t have anything that isn’t reasonably convincing, I would request that you avoid the urge to post on this thread. I figure that with all the devoutly Christian persons here on CAF, if God exists, at least one person will be able to present something that would reasonably justify belief in Him.

By starting this challenge, I’m not making an affirmative claim, but rather asking you to justify yours (if you’re a theist). I’ll probably challenge a lot of the things presented in this thread, because if something falls when under scrutiny, it’s not reasonable.

Here are a few things I generally won’t accept as a reasonable arguments to justify believing in the existence of God:

argument from ignorance (mentioned above)
“mind-bogglingness” (mentioned above)
the Bible (because saying “God exists because the Bible says so” and “the Bible is accurate because it’s inspired by God” is a circular argument, and because the Bible has many problems)
the holy book for a religion other than Christianity (for much the same reasons mentioned for the Bible)
faith
“it would be preferable if there is a God”
personal experiences, including near death experiences and demonic attacks (reasons go beyond what is mentioned here, but there are reasonable explanations for most of these phenomenon, and most people will have experiences related to their own religion)
claims of miracles which haven’t been properly documented

Regarding miracles, most of these alleged occurrences happen in areas where people are more prone to superstition. The rate of alleged miracles is much lower in ages and locations where they would be more verifiable if they occurred. Sometimes, a spectacular event, for which there is no obvious explanation, occurs. For many of these events, the explanation may seem obvious to the believer, but this is largely due to psychological reasons. I would recommend that you avoid using miracles as arguments for God unless you think you found a properly documented and verified miracle.

I would be unlikely to be convinced by someone mentioning a miracle because almost every miracle that I’ve decided to research was either not properly verified, or there was a very reasonable natural explanation. I will probably not research every alleged miracle that people post here. Instead, I’d encourage people to do considerable research into the alleged miracle first, post it, then I might research it if it is potentially a genuine miracle.

One comment and one piece of advice:

  1. It strikes me as very odd how you could possibly have been a “passionate” Catholic but not have considered and resolved these simple issues during that time. I mean, that you think the Bible has contradictions or other “problems” is a pretty basic issue, and it surprise me that you fell for this and other atheistic canards. :shrug:

  2. Atheists tend to over-generalize and make very absurd statements - e.g. “most of these alleged occurrences happen in areas where people are more prone to superstition” Really, now? Well, how about that! It’s such an absurd generalization that cannot possibly be verified and reflects more your snobbery than anything in reality. So my advice is this: maybe a more neutral and humble attitude might help.

Hi, there are three reasons that I think are good, (actually more, but I don’t want the post to get too long). I will mention the first two in brief and then focus more on the third since I am a history grad student and am most comfortable explaining it. But if another intrigues you more, let me know and I will go into it more.

First, thought, I would like to point out that you say you are an atheist because 1). no good evidence for God, 2). problems with the bible. This would actually be a reason to be agnostic. To be an antheist you would have to have a reason that you find convincing that God does not exist.
Second, you say you would rather not read books, so I will mention only one, “On Guard” by William Lane Craig is very accessible and is by a major philosopher, so if you read him and reject him, you will at least know that you have considered and rejected some of the best arguments out there. The problem is internet posts and online stuff, if it’s hard to put out a sophisticated arguement in a short post.

I). Kalam Cosmological Argeument:
Everything that beings to exist has a cause. This seems a simple matter of common sense, and is continually affirmed in out experience. The argument tries to show that the universe began to exist, and therefore has a cause, God. (The cause must be God, because the universe includes all space, time, and matter etc; so the cause cannot be material and must be outside of time. It must then either be an abstract object (a number) or a mind. a number cannot cause anything, so the cause must be a mind.
There are 4 reasons listed in support of the idea that the universe has a beginning, I’ll mention 2.
1). The series of events is a collection formed by successive addition (like counting).
2). A series so formed cannot be actually infinite. (Because you can’t count to infinity- same principle)
3). Therefore the series of events in time cannot be actually infinite. If this is the case, then the universe has a beginning.
–Next reason: The big bang cosmology actually supports the idea that the universe had a beginning. It holds everything was created, out of nothing ca. 13 billion years ago.

II). Moral Argument
1). If objective moral values and duties exist, the God exists. This seems obvious, if God does not exist, then morality is simply the result of socio-biological conditioning, and is not objective.
2).Objective moral values and duties do exist. I think this is evidently the case. It is simple objectively wrong to kill and rape someone, not simple a matter of opinion or socio-biological conditioning.
3). Therefore God exists. (note: people often react by accusing the proponent of this argument of holding that atheists are bad people. That is not true. The argument concerns the objective existence of moral values and duties, it does not say you have to belive in God to be a nice person.

III. Argument from miralces: the resurrection
I. There are three facts that can be established on the basis of historical evidence
1). Jesus was buried and left behind an empty tomb. There are many reasons for thinking this. Gary habermas found that in the last 35 years 75% of scholars who publish on the subject, even the skeptics, admit to the empty tomb.
2). Jesus disciples experienced appearance of the risen Christ. Even the famous German skeptic admits this, he just claims those can be explained as hallucinations.
3). The apostles came to believe that Jesus rose from the dead.
II. The most probable explanation of these 3 facts, is that Jesus really did rise from the dead, leaving behind an empty tomb.

That’s enough to start with, you can tell me if anything specific interests you. But I really do advise reading Craig’s book, “On Guard.” You will get a much better case from it than from any internet message board.
Best wishes.

I believe there is a temporary ban on atheist and evolution threads that is still in place. Not sure if that applies here or not?

Chuck

ps. here are links to fuller explanations of the arguments I summarize:

1). the moral argument: reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5344

2). The resurrection: reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5344

3). kalam: reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5174

Craig is an Evangelical, and I’m Catholic, but I find his stuff pretty good.

The point of this thread is to present things which reasonably justify Christian theology, or at least theism.

Here’s a video which presents some of the problems with the Bible.

I agree that it is a pretty basic issue.

I think that very few Catholics have fully understood and resolved alleged basic problems with their religion. I didn’t until after my junior year of college, being on path to major in theology. Based off what you said, I’m sure you aren’t aware of many of the issues. I got grades of “A-” and “A” in my Bible class before that, yet didn’t see any problems with the Bible because those portions of the Bible weren’t read as part of the course. Problems with the Bible weren’t addressed in my theology classes (or the few that were were easy ones to shoot down), and any argument for the existence of God didn’t hold up.

The point of this thread is for theists to justify their own claims, rather than to say, “I have evidence against your religion”. If you want to discuss problems with the Bible that you said I “fell for”, we can discuss this in a new thread, or by PM. For now, I’ll provide a link that shows some of the alleged contradictions in the Bible, and another that shows moral problems with Yahweh.

youtube.com/watch?v=RB3g6mXLEKk
youtube.com/watch?v=Pt66kbYmXXk

If you think I’m over-generalizing and making absurd statements about alleged cases of miracles, show me a clear and undeniable case of a verifiable miracle.

BTW, I changed from a daily Mass-going Catholic to atheist because I was neutral and humble. Doing so was very painful for me, and it would have been easiest for me to have not investigated alleged problems with religion or tacitly excuse them.

“I think the very fact that we exist is mind boggling.”

Prove to me that you exist.

No one can be an atheist in an absolute sense, like no one can not believe in unicorns in an absolute sense. There can be degrees of certainty though.

Those were two of the biggest reasons why I no longer believe in God, but certainly not all. There are many philosophical arguments against God’s existence. Scott Hahn has said that when he has doctoral students at his house once a year, they complain about this. It wasn’t my intention to go into them, but it seems like I’ll eventually be prompted to go in that direction.

Perhaps you could present what you think is the best argument he has made, a “highlight”.

This argument is problematic for many reasons. For one, why must it be either an abstract number or a mind? Can you eliminate all other alternatives?

The idea of a God wouldn’t really explain anything. What created God? Assuming that you think God is uncreated, how’s that any better than the conclusions that cosmologists have been moving towards?

Here’s what cosmologists think:

youtube.com/watch?v=7ImvlS8PLIo

Why can’t what we call morality come from people collectively deciding what is mutually best for society? There’s no reason why absolute morality has to exist. It can be wrong to rape and usually to kill because society has decided that it’s best that rape is wrong and that killing is usually wrong.

BTW, where does absolute morality come from? Deuteronomy 22:28-29 says that if a virgin is raped, she shall marry the rapist!

For reasons that would go beyond this thread, the gospels aren’t a reliable source for historical information. Even my Catholic history professor admitted when prompted that there are historical problems with the gospels and they weren’t backed up by other sources (very little evidence for their claims outside of the gospels). If Jesus and thousands of others did rise from the dead (Matt 27:52), why didn’t anyone write about it outside the gospels?

Why?

I could theoretically be living like Neo in the Matrix, but what’s your point?

If that’s so, I wasn’t aware.

You could contact the mods if you think it’s in place.

Are you saying that those two videos proved to you that were contradictions in the Bible? I mean, I watched both of them, quickly looked them up, read the larger context, and there were was no conflict at all - in fact, some of the examples are very strained.

EDIT: You’re killing me, here, man! Lawrence Krauss at the atheist convention?!?! Clearly, I am sorry to say, you didn’t think this through.

I don’t know why you are even posting this question. Is there some other place you can troll, maybe CL or AOL? You are not here to convince yourself of anything, you are here to waste time.

Yeah, It’s still there in the stickies at the top of thread list.

Some aethist related threads seem to be allowed, so I’m not real sure what exactly is banned.

But I wouldn’t get too vested in the tread.

Probably at good chance it’ll get closed.

Just an FYI.

Chuck

This argument is problematic for many reasons. For one, why must it be either an abstract number or a mind? Can you eliminate all other alternatives?

**Yes. The cause must be immaterial and temporal. (Because the universe includes time and matter). The only options for immaterial, atemporal (outside time) objects are abstract objects and minds (soul, self etc.). Numbers cannot cause anything. Therefore a mind. An atemporal immaterial unembodied mind is how Christian conceive God. **

The idea of a God wouldn’t really explain anything. What created God? Assuming that you think God is uncreated, how’s that any better than the conclusions that cosmologists have been moving towards?
**
God is uncreated. This is a logical neecessity for the reasons I give above on the nature of the cause of the universe. Because he is immaterial and atemporal, it makes sense he can be without beginning. My arguement shows why a temporal, material universe must have a beginning. **

Here’s what cosmologists think:

youtube.com/watch?v=7ImvlS8PLIo

**The majority of cosmologists admit to the big band. Be careful about you tube videos, which anyone can post. This is why I advise readinga book so much. There are other theories, besides the big bang. But all have problems associated with them, and the Big bang is regarded as the one that best fit the evidence. **

Why can’t what we call morality come from people collectively deciding what is mutually best for society? There’s no reason why absolute morality has to exist. It can be wrong to rape and usually to kill because society has decided that it’s best that rape is wrong and that killing is usually wrong.
**
What if society decided rape is ok? What if we evolved to think that? If morality is only subjective, then that is akin man man preferring light beer to dark, and is non-binding. **

BTW, where does absolute morality come from? Deuteronomy 22:28-29 says that if a virgin is raped, she shall marry the rapist!

**Absolute morality comes from a morally perfect God. The passages you cite do not contradict that. The Israelites may simply have been wrong in attributing such commands to God. That would hardly phase an orthodox Catholic like me. Remember the Old Testament is the history of the jewish people. **

For reasons that would go beyond this thread, the gospels aren’t a reliable source for historical information. Even my Catholic history professor admitted when prompted that there are historical problems with the gospels and they weren’t backed up by other sources (very little evidence for their claims outside of the gospels). If Jesus and thousands of others did rise from the dead (Matt 27:52), why didn’t anyone write about it outside the gospels?

**I disagree that the Gospels are not a reliable source of info, but that is irrelevant for this point. I was deliberate to make sure of that. No source is perfect, but even from the so-so ones you can pull nuggets of info that can tell you about the past. That is all I do. The vast majority of scholars accept the 3 facts I cite. I argue that the best explanation of those facts is that the Resurrection really happened.

I very much advise reading “On Guard.” You need to consider fully developed reasons for Theism, and this is simply not possible in a short message board post.**

As long as you set yourself as your sole authority and use your own reason as your guide, then anything that your reason cannot understand cannot be accepted.

You cannot prove that you exist, but your reason cannot understand how you cannot exist. Therefore, your reason says that you exist without proof and your will accepts this.

One of them showed some contradictions in the Bible, the other showed that Yahweh allowed human sacrifice to himself from a man who was considered a man of great faith.

I don’t think all the things presented in the video about Bible contradictions were irreconcilable, but I cannot see how, even after looking at context, you cannot consider some of them contradictions.

I’m glad you watched them though.

Why do I have to think this 100% through? I believe in the OP I said I don’t claim to know everything. However, I don’t see enough evidence to justify belief in God, which is what this thread is about. I gave a link to the video because I think it shows where modern cosmology is in what it can/cannot tell us about the origins of the universe. Why would the idea of God be any better? Why would should God fill holes in knowledge, such as what the origin of the big bang is?

Remember, the point of this thread is for theists to justify their own claims.

Why should someone have to** justify **their reasoning for what they believe to you?

What authority do you have over me?

JM3,

TS60 feels he’s is so highly intelligent that he is in control.

It makes him believe that he is also all powerful.

Kinda like a god.

Aethists are a hoot.

How do you know the cause must be be outside this physical existence (which I assume is what you mean by “immaterial and temporal”)? How do you know that theories which Krauss, who is the only physicist ever to have been awarded the highest awards of all three major US Physics Societies: the American Physical Socienty the American Association of Physics Teachers, and the American Institute of Physics, is wrong?

What I’m saying this that part of this argument seems to be an argument from ignorance.

How do you know that there cannot be anything outside the realm of the categories of “objects” and “minds”?

How do you know that the only things that are atemporal and immaterial are minds? What about the “laws” of physics (which I admit I don’t understand)?

It seems you are defining God by the role He needs to pray to fit this proof. In other words, it seems like your saying “an immaterial and atemporal thing is needed to have created the cosmos, and that think is called God”. The premise “an immaterial and atemporal thing is needed have created the cosmos” is an argument from ignorance.

Lawrence Krauss does not, to my knowledge, dispute that the big bang happened. Scientists are working on further understanding the big bang and discovering what caused it.

In the following video, Lawrence Krauss says the big bang happened.

youtube.com/watch?v=TQ4Ofvh7FL4

It’s interesting that empty space weighs something. So even where there is no matter, there is no really nothing.

It’s extremely unlikly that that would happen. However, if people decided rape was ok, that would probably cause lots of people to be violated and hurt. However, that doesn’t mean one need a God to get absolute morality from.

So you’re saying a morally perfect God created a rule that a woman has to marry the person who raped her? How would the OT being a history of the Jewish people make that moral? It would be more appropriate for the death penalty to be given to rapists than to unruly children (Exodus 21:15) or to people who work on the Sabbath, perhaps forgetfully (Exodus 31:12-15).

If your daughter were raped, how would you feel to have your daughter forced to marry him? Would you support such a law if it were proposed in Congress?

Can you provide a source that indicates that a majority of scholars agree with those facts?

I submit that the gospels are no better than the sources for the works of Apollonius of Tyana (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apollonius_of_Tyana#Sources ), who was very similar to Jesus, and allegedly performed many of the same miracles, including walking on water. The gospels were at best second hand accounts, and mostly third hand accounts, of Jesus. That’s why I don’t take it as a credible source by itself.

Because it’s a truth claim being made in public. Also because it is used as justification for social policy.

People can privately believe whatever they want, but if it is being proclaimed in public, and used to cause social change, it aught to be justified.

I started this thread to further the process that I started (that of discerning what is true). They don’t have to participate in this thread.

I never said I had authority over you.

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