Responses to atheists - add your own


#1

On another thread, someone mentioned that the hardest part in answering atheists is that they have such a wide variety questions - science, philosophy, logic, history, other religions, etc. To help familiarize others with atheist tactics, please list an atheist attack and your favorite response to it. Here’s a couple of my favorites . . .

Attack: Science has proven that the universe started with the Big Bang nearly 14 billion years ago - how could the Biblical account of creation possibly correspond to this?

Response: Assuming the Big Bang theory is correct, physicists classify the Big Bang as a “singularity.” By definition, a singularity is an event at which it is impossible to know anything for certain about what caused it or what occurred on the other side of it. So it is impossible with purely natural logic to know anything about what happened before the Big Bang. The BB theory also describes how all energy and matter now found in the universe was contained in an infinitely small space prior to the beginning of the time. Put all this together and you come up with this formula: “At the beginning of time, some infinite source of energy (about which it is impossible to know anything about without the aid of supernatural knowledge) caused all things to come into being out of nothing.” In other words, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” In addition to the BB theory, we know from experience that all things deteriorate over time. It’s called entropy. Given the high level of organization seen in the universe now, we can only say that it was even more greatly organized in the past. Logically, then, it is impossible for the universe to be any more organized than it was at the moment of formation. When something is organized in such a way that it is impossible to be any better, that something is described as being “perfect.” In other words, “and God saw that it was good (perfect).”

Attack: Darwin’s theory of evolution has proven that man descended from ape-like beings over millions of years - how could the Biblical account of creation possibly correspond to this?

[font=Arial]Response: First of all, modern experiments with genetic engineering have not proven the theory of evolution. Scientists take a kernel of corn, manipulate the DNA and get . . . a different kind of corn. They don’t get a bean or a fish or a mouse. Things like survival of the fittest, natural selection, and environmental adaptation may be pretty well accepted, but the idea that some kind of freak mutation led to the evolution from single-cell organisms to the modern man is absurd. The comic-book generation has led us to believe that mutations make us better: great strength, x-ray vision, etc. But, when was the last time you heard of a nuclear fallout victim getting the power of invisibility for their troubles? Mutations make us worse - they cause cancer, brain defects, etc. The idea that an infinite number of highly unlikely beneficial mutations were coincidentally strung together to create our modern world requires a much greater leap of faith than believing that all this was actually designed. [/font]


#2

errr
I think it might be a good idea to try and familiarize yourself a bit more with real science otherwise your (presumedly well intentioned) attempts might only elicit a hearty chuckle from a non-believer who is technically savvy.

Just a charitable suggestion


#3

[quote=steveandersen]errr
I think it might be a good idea to try and familiarize yourself a bit more with real science otherwise your (presumedly well intentioned) attempts might only elicit a hearty chuckle from a non-believer who is technically savvy.

Just a charitable suggestion
[/quote]

First of all, the Big Bang argument is entirely valid. Anyone who can’t see that is trying so hard to be the objective scientists that he can no longer use simple reason.

As far as evolution, I have to agree with the OP that there seems to be a difference between micro and macroevolution. Also, it seems to go against the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Yes, I know that a system receiving energy can grow in complexity, but that energy also has to be directed towards an end. I imagine that DNA has some built-in understanding of efficiency. After all, we develop throughout our lives in response to our common activities. That our bodies can understand what makes us more efficient is hardly a difficult claim after realizing that. If evolution is guided by some kind of intelligence, then there is no problem with it.


#4

Ok, this won’t help when talking with a scientist. Most will dismiss this without a second thought. A better response would be to say that evolution is compatible with creation, as all creation says is that God created man (note - it doesn’t say HOW he created him). Evolution seems to be a good explanation of how.

You could also point out that the Biblical account of creation is not literal in scientific truth, therefore, as long as you believe God created the universe from nothing and us out of the matter in the universe (whether that be dust, apes or flying purple people eaters) you in line with the Bible.

But trying to “debunk” evolution in order to prove your theological point will lead to failure. Please don’t, it causes far more harm than you know :frowning:


#5

I thought I would present the following approach to dealing with atheism. It is the only way that makes sense to me.

Atheists say “God doesn’t exist.” I think agnostics say “We aren’t sure if God exists.”

I say “God is the name I give to existence.”

None of the old testament and virtually none of the new present “proofs” of God’s existence. There is to be found arguements and exhortation to choose God over the many other gods that can be worshipped. Those who ask the question “Does God exist?” are making assumptions that people in the scripture never made.

I believe Moses heard the voice of Reality speaking from the burning bush.

I believe Jesus came to know Reality the way an only and most beloved son knows his own Father.

To those who would say, “Does God exist?”, In terms of the assumptions made by the people in the old and new testaments, they might as well be asking “Does existence exist?”

People can only communicate if they make the same assumptions about the meaning of words. A person who says “God doesn’t exist.” is defining “God” to mean something different than believers define it to be. Communication under such circumstances will generally be futile.

Anyway, it is a bit rambling but I hope it makes some sense.

peace

-Jim


#6

[quote=steveandersen]errr
I think it might be a good idea to try and familiarize yourself a bit more with real science otherwise your (presumedly well intentioned) attempts might only elicit a hearty chuckle from a non-believer who is technically savvy.

Just a charitable suggestion
[/quote]

Thanks for the suggestion, and those from others, as well. I don’t intend to say that my responses are perfect or all encompassing.

As for getting anything more than a hearty chuckle out of an atheist, I wouldn’t expect anything more - that’s the standard response. The true skeptic laughs at any response that includes God.

Steve - may I request 2 things from you? I ask this seriously and without confrontation, as I am always interested being able to present a clearer picture. First, let me know what about my responses wasn’t “real science.” If I am holding obviously erroneous opinions, then I’d like to know and correct them. Second, what would your response be to these questions? The attacks from atheism is a serious problem on college campuses where atheism is often viewed as the intelligent choice and religion viewed as the path for those who prefer not to think for themselves.


#7

I think you’re rambling is brilliant. I’m agnostic (maybe an atheist, I haven’t decided yet) but I can’t find any fault with anything you said. I’ve just got a different word for existence.

Maybe it would be wrong to define me as an atheist, because I don’t think the real issue is whether god(s) exist or don’t exist, but whether any particular concept of God exists. For instance, Muslims, Catholics, and Jews all believe in God. (Allah means “The God”, after all.) But they don’t see I to eye on what that means, or how they should live to please God.

Sorry, I’m getting really off topic. I just wanted to say that I liked what you said. It’s interesting.:tiphat:


#8

[quote=forthright]……… The true skeptic laughs at any response that includes God.
[/quote]

The cynic perhaps, but not the true skeptic.

[quote=forthright]Steve - may I request 2 things from you?.. First, let me know what about my responses wasn’t “real science.” If I am holding obviously erroneous opinions, then I’d like to know and correct them.
[/quote]

OK, I always like to help.

General: The thrust of most of your arguments is that since science doesn’t have an explanation for X then the answer must be God. Now that might be obvious for you or me but to a non believer it would simply amount to substituting one unknowable thing for another. In addition to that is the assumption that not only is it God but the Christian God rather than Vishnu or Jupiter.

You shouldn’t try to couch your arguments in natural terms. Because if you say “we don’t know how X occurs so it must be a proof of God” you’re going to be in trouble when someone comes along with an explanation X. That is called the “God of the Gaps problem”

Specific:

Assuming the Big Bang theory is correct<<<
the physical evidence for the big bang is quite overwhelming

By definition, a singularity is an event at which it is impossible to know anything for certain about what caused it or what occurred on the other side of it. So it is impossible with purely natural logic to know anything about what happened before the Big Bang.<<<

Yet. And many would argue that the whole notion of “before” has no meaning when applied to the Big Bang since it is when time-space started. It is really not something I’ve studied but there are several hypothesis regarding the origin of the Big Bang using natural explanations

In addition to the BB theory, we know from experience that all things deteriorate over time. It’s called entropy.<<<
That’s not quite right. The average entropy of the universe will always increase but that does not preclude localized decreases in entropy. A nebula becomes a star, an acorn becomes a tree, the spaghetti I ate for dinner becomes part of me.

Given the high level of organization seen in the universe now, we can only say that it was even more greatly organized in the past.<<<

Don’t confuse organization with entropy. A planet is at a much lower energy state than a cloud of space dust and that is really the only thing that thermo tells us is that things will go to a lower energy state in the absence of work being done. So the universe now is at a much lower energy state than at the time of the big bang not any more or less “perfect”

modern experiments with genetic engineering have not proven the theory of evolution.<<<

this is problematic for several reasons (1) outside of mathematics, science doesn’t “prove” anything. The only thing they can say is that they know something with a high degree of certainty or that a theory fits the preponderance of the evidence (2) there is both the fact of evolution (observable data related to common origin) and the theory of evolution which supplies a mechanism for the observed data and which is supported by the preponderance of the evidence. Starting off your arguments stating that “it’s not proven” will loose them right there and you’ll be faced with an hour long lecture on biology rather then discussing God

Scientists take a kernel of corn, manipulate the DNA and get . . . a different kind of corn. They don’t get a bean or a fish or a mouse.<<<
I’m not sure how this helps your argument. Evolution in no way suggests that corn could turn into a mouse.

, but the idea that some kind of freak mutation led to the evolution from single-cell organisms to the modern man is absurd. …… Mutations make us worse - they cause cancer, brain defects, etc.<<
I don’t know where this notion of freak mutations comes from. All evolution says is that if two populations are isolated from each other that they will diverge from each other genetically. These differences can be due to simple genetic drift or a number of different mechanisms (including mutations). Some of these differences are better than others, most are neutral. Eventually these differences will be great enough to make the two populations into different species.

The idea that an infinite number of highly unlikely beneficial mutations were coincidentally strung together to create our modern world requires a much greater leap of faith than believing that all this was actually designed.<<

Well…since we have both laboratory and field evidence that speciation does occur (not to mention al the data from geology, paleontology, microbiology etc) it isn’t that much of a leap. And even if it were a leap I’m not sure if your argument makes one leap more appealing than another.


#9

Continued

[quote=forthright]Second, what would your response be to these questions? The attacks from atheism is a serious problem on college campuses where atheism is often viewed as the intelligent choice and religion viewed as the path for those who prefer not to think for themselves.
[/quote]

Odd, when I was in school (back in the Bronze Age) Religion really wasn’t a topic of conversation. A benefit of a lower drinking age I suppose. Of course I was in an engineering school…not really a hot bed for theological discussions :wink:

and who cares what others think? The rule is that opinions are fine but if they aren’t paying your rent then bump 'em. If you worry too much about what others think then you are not thinking for yourself. :wink:

Your basic dilemma is that you are letting them ask the questions. This lets them set the tone of the debate. They are going to ask or naturalistic evidence and if you’re not careful you’ll wind up talking about carbon dating or thermodynamics or anything else but God.

The easy way out is simply to state that God created man and evolution is how He did it.
Now it is true that there are some doctrinal difficulties that need to be smoothed out regarding descent from a single pair but an atheist wouldn’t know or care about those so just don’t mention it.

Now they’ll ask why you believe that and that is when I would mention meaning and purpose. Evolution is a wonderful theory; it answers many technical questions and demonstrates the subtle beauty of Creation. However, taken by itself it leaves me cold. It provides no purpose or meaning in life other than living long enough to reproduce.

At this point they may disagree but now you’re on firmer ground. They may accuse you of being irrational but that is ok; we’re told that it is not possible to come to God through purely rational means. Besides, there’s room in the healthy mind for the uncanny. :wink:

And don’t go off on a side track of morality because (A) there are viable atheistic theories of morality and (B) you catch more flies with honey. Save that debate for later.

The beauty of Christianity is that it affirms the evolutionary principal that we are all related, but adds to it that beyond the physical connection there is a spiritual connection


#10

Attack: Science has proven that the universe started with the Big Bang nearly 14 billion years ago - how could the Biblical account of creation possibly correspond to this?

Suggested response: “Apparently you are not aware that the Big Bang theory was first proposed by a CATHOLIC PRIEST, Father Lemaitre, in the 1920s; and that for several decades, it was savagely condemned by atheists (who then maintained that the universe was in a “steady state” which always has and always will exist). But the scientific evidence for the Big Bang steadily mounted, until by the 1960s it was overwhelming and the atheists had to admit that it appears that Fr Lemaitre was right. The fact that the universe had a definite beginning is a powerful argument for its creation by God. How absurd that you try to use it as an argument AGAINST this.”

Any who claims “science has proven God does not exist” or “science has proven the Bible is wrong”, or “science and religion are in conflict” merely shows that he does not know what God, science, religion and the Bible are. The Bible is not and was never intended to be a science textbook. It is an ancient Christian principle that, as St Augustine (writing in the 300s AD) put it, where the literal meaning of a Biblical text APPEARS to contradict what is known from “natural philosophy” * the text must be understood metaphorically, not literally.*


#11

[quote=trogiah]I say “God is the name I give to existence.”
[/quote]

Good call, Jim. When Moses asked for God’s name, he replied, “I AM WHO AM.” This is where “Yahweh” comes from (YHWH in Hebrew; IAWA would be the English acronym). To me YHWH is exactly what you say: the existence of the universe. This also corresponds to Christ being the Word (logos), a term that basically meant knowledge itself in the ancient world. The concept of God being existence itself is logically sound; so sound in fact that some Greeks came to this conclusion purely through philosophy. What they could not understand without revelation, though, was the personal nature of God. The concept of God as a rational being who intimately cares for us is amazing but true.

I really think that explaining God as existence itself is a good way to start dialogue with atheists/agnostics. Unless they are so gung-ho about science that they deny philosophy, but at that point you can’t do anything anyways.


#12

[quote=steveandersen]Don’t confuse organization with entropy. A planet is at a much lower energy state than a cloud of space dust and that is really the only thing that thermo tells us is that things will go to a lower energy state in the absence of work being done. So the universe now is at a much lower energy state than at the time of the big bang not any more or less “perfect”. . . . .

Well…since we have both laboratory and field evidence that speciation does occur (not to mention al the data from geology, paleontology, microbiology etc) it isn’t that much of a leap. And even if it were a leap I’m not sure if your argument makes one leap more appealing than another.
[/quote]

Thanks for the feedback - specifically the two paragraphs above really helped clarify some things. Most of the other things you mentioned are things that I am aware of and just didn’t include for lack of time/space. After all, people write entire books on these subjects.

Here’s another example. . .

Attack: The resurrection was staged. Jesus’ disciples had put so much stock into him being the Messiah that they stole the body in order to perpetuate the myth.

Response: Given the fact that all of his closest followers (and a large number of his not-so-close followers) were imprisoned, tortured, and/or executed for their belief in Jesus as the resurrected king, it doesn’t make sense that it would have all started as a deception. If I had stole Jesus’ body and was then faced with torture and execution for teaching that he was the new king, I would have been the first to stand up and say, “It was all a hoax, we made up the whole thing.” Instead, these people stood up fearlessly and accepted martyrdom rather than deny Jesus. That unanimity can only be explained by the empty tomb in combination with the appearance of the resurrected Jesus to his followers.


#13

[quote=Petergee]Suggested response: “Apparently you are not aware that the Big Bang theory was first proposed by a CATHOLIC PRIEST, Father Lemaitre, in the 1920s; and that for several decades, it was savagely condemned by atheists (who then maintained that the universe was in a “steady state” which always has and always will exist). But the scientific evidence for the Big Bang steadily mounted, until by the 1960s it was overwhelming and the atheists had to admit that it appears that Fr Lemaitre was right. The fact that the universe had a definite beginning is a powerful argument for its creation by God. How absurd that you try to use it as an argument AGAINST this.”
[/quote]

The problem is, of course, that it rather strongly disagrees with the particulars found in Genesis. The Big Bang poses no problem for someone who doesn’t believe in a literal interpretation – since we have no idea what caused the Big Bang, it’s anyone’s game – but it certainly does leave the Young Earth literal interpretation of scripture rather banged up.

I think it’s worth making a distinction between Biblical literalism and theism. Science has very little to say one way or the other on the existence of deities, but it certainly has some pretty specific things to say about things like the physical creation of the planet, and that does sometimes contradict with a literal Biblical accounting.


#14

[quote=SamCA]The problem is, of course, that it rather strongly disagrees with the particulars found in Genesis. The Big Bang poses no problem for someone who doesn’t believe in a literal interpretation – since we have no idea what caused the Big Bang, it’s anyone’s game – but it certainly does leave the Young Earth literal interpretation of scripture rather banged up.

I think it’s worth making a distinction between Biblical literalism and theism. Science has very little to say one way or the other on the existence of deities, but it certainly has some pretty specific things to say about things like the physical creation of the planet, and that does sometimes contradict with a literal Biblical accounting.
[/quote]

That’s why I don’t believe in a liberal Biblical accounting. Also it is why I’m a Catholic (or at least one of the reasons), because the Chruch doesn’t require us to believe that the Bible is a science textbook or that the Pope has an infalibility in genetics and cosmology. :thumbsup:


#15

[quote=Everstruggling]I think you’re rambling is brilliant. I’m agnostic (maybe an atheist, I haven’t decided yet) but I can’t find any fault with anything you said. I’ve just got a different word for existence.

Maybe it would be wrong to define me as an atheist, because I don’t think the real issue is whether god(s) exist or don’t exist, but whether any particular concept of God exists. For instance, Muslims, Catholics, and Jews all believe in God. (Allah means “The God”, after all.) But they don’t see I to eye on what that means, or how they should live to please God.

Sorry, I’m getting really off topic. I just wanted to say that I liked what you said. It’s interesting.:tiphat:
[/quote]

Since this thread is about how to respond to what atheists say and you (maybe) are and atheist then technically, anything you say is on topic and any response I make is also on topic,

but seriously,

I think you are close to identifying the real issue. To me the issue is how to be at peace with God. How to live on good terms with existence.

This Voice that Moses heard in the burning bush also told the Jewish people to listen to his voice and keep his commandments and “I will be your God and you will be my people.”

It sounds like a relationship of some kind.

Jesus taught us to call this Voice “Father” and showed us how to live to actually be worthy of being one of Reality’s children.

Sounds like a very close relationship.

I think the issue is, how close a relationship can a person have with Reality? And what would such a person look like, what would they do?

I believe the answer to the first question is “as close as a beloved child is to their parent.” The answer to the second one is not quite so obvious to me, except that the example if Jesus stands out as a good place to start.

peace,

-Jim


#16

What created the stuff that came from the BB? I mean, how was that energy created? LOgically, everything has a cause, so the BB should too. BUT eventually you get to an uncaused cause, which is God. Ask enough questions and you’ll stump anyone but Catholics.


#17

[quote=trogiah]Since this thread is about how to respond to what atheists say and you (maybe) are and atheist then technically, anything you say is on topic and any response I make is also on topic,
[/quote]

So I can’t possibly go off topic unless I convert?:rotfl:

I agree that a person** can **have a close relationship to reality. I just think it’s a little tricky. For me, I feel like I’m in a portable aquarium, there is a thick wall between me and everything else. Of course, I am a part of reality (you’re not just imagining me as far as I know), but I don’t feel much connection to it.

So do you feel a close relationship?


#18

[quote=Everstruggling]So I can’t possibly go off topic unless I convert?:rotfl:

[/quote]

I take it my sense of humor was appreciated

Boy, there is a question that goes to the heart of the matter.

I would say that I have a real relationship with same Voice that Moses and the prophets heard and that Jesus heard come from the clouds that said “This is my beloved son on whom my favor rests.”

Real does not necessarily mean close. Once in a while I would say I am close, like the man who told Jesus “You are right to say that we should Love God with all our heart and loving our neighbor as ourself is worth more than any burnt offering.” An ongoing goal of mine is to get closer, consistently. The heat of everyday living often draws a person away from that relationship.

I have determined that our relationships with people around us have tremendous power, though not absolute power, to shape how we see Reality. When people around us encourage us to live in truth we find it much easier to live in truth. When people around us lead us away from truth, it is very hard to maintain a relationship with truth.

As perhaps you can tell, I do find scriptures very helpful in maintaining a relationship with Reality as Moses, Jesus, and others saw it.

Hope you can find some of it. I don’t believe there is nothing to be gained from the ideas of Mohammed, Buddha, and other religious leaders throughout history, but I do believe that noone (at least not in any recorded history) knew reality as closely as Jesus did.

peace

-Jim


#19

[quote=Aaron I.]Good call, Jim. When Moses asked for God’s name, he replied, “I AM WHO AM.” This is where “Yahweh” comes from (YHWH in Hebrew; IAWA would be the English acronym).

.
[/quote]

Thanks for putting in that scripture. I had it in mind but didn’t put it in with the rest. It is a very key verse in my opinion also.

I think that is the question right there. How do you have a relationship with existence and how do you show that to someone else? (So maybe its two questions)

My gut tells me that it takes more than intellectual gymnastics and arguements. It is a thing to be lived.

peace

Jim


#20

[quote=migurl]What created the stuff that came from the BB? I mean, how was that energy created? LOgically, everything has a cause, so the BB should too. BUT eventually you get to an uncaused cause, which is God. Ask enough questions and you’ll stump anyone but Catholics.
[/quote]

Be careful about saying "since they don’t explain X it must mean God” because what are you going to do when they find and explanation for X?

Besides, it can be argued that since space time started with the Big Bang, there technically was no "before"
I won’t pretend to understand all the physics but some funky things happen in quantum mechanics and I know there are some viable hypotheses regarding the “something from nothing” question


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