Tuesday, August 25, 2015

50 reasons to not believe in God? Are there really that many – or maybe none at all?

          In my book The Vast Wastelands of Unbelief I briefly mentioned the web site http://godisimaginary.com  but did not take a serious look at it. Since the book’s publication, I have taken the opportunity to peruse it more closely. Actually, the scholarship on this site is typical of  atheist writings.

 The author of this site (who I will refer to as “he”) appears to think that God is obligated to do everything one asks him. He presents this Biblical quotation on the web site as evidence:

Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. (Mark 11:24)

          This same type of reasoning leads him to suggest Jesus must, if God exists, appear to everybody who asks Him. By that logic, if I’m sitting on my couch watching the Green Bay Packers (as I currently am right now as I type this), and I ask Jesus to appear and sit on the couch next to me, He must do so. If He doesn’t, God is not real. This reasoning, however is preposterous.
As always, we must understand each Biblical statement within its context. As J. P. Holding explains[1], in at least one instance God’s actions are qualified by the phrase “according to his will.” [2] The Lord’s Prayer instructs us to pray for our daily needs. It doesn’t instruct us to pray for whatever we want, like a new car. The phrase “move mountains” in Luke 14:26 is typical of Jewish hyperbole and doesn’t suggest we can actually pray for uprooting rock.
This author must, of course, criticize Jesus’ resurrection because of its importance to the Christian faith. He suggests that the apostle Paul had reason to lie or could have dreamt or hallucinated Jesus’ appearance to him. This suggestion, however, doesn’t work because Paul had an interaction with Jesus’ disciples who could have either confirmed or denied his experience. Paul later, in his letter to the Corinthians, confirms that he spoke to them. It would be difficult for a supposed myth of that appearance to survive if there had been others who denied that the resurrection had happened.
          This sloppiness also shows up in his tendency to accept evolution with no critical thought about it. He claims “There is no ‘supreme being’ in heaven who reached down to create life on Earth or human beings. Nor is that being answering prayers. There is no soul. There is no everlasting life. Science tells us all of these things with complete clarity. God is imaginary.” Similarly, the author claims DNA is not evidence of design as it could have been made by evolution. 
However, I have seen that evolution is incoherent as an idea and unfalsifiable because evolutionists have at times claimed that one piece of evidence confirms evolution, but yet its opposite does as well. I wrote an article for LSI suggesting evolution is not even science.[3] For instance, evolutionists have at times claimed that evolution predicts the existence of intermediate fossils, but also predicts their non-existence. Evolution succeeds because its advocates are on both sides of the issue, and this author appears incapable of seeing that fact.
Another sloppy argument is that because the divorce rate is as high among Christians as it is among unbelievers, God is imaginary. However, this reasoning doesn’t hold up. This reasoning can only work if a high divorce rate among Christians is evidence against Christianity. It is true that you should expect Christians to abide by their tenets, and the inability of them to do so can suggest Christianity is faulty. However, the Bible clearly suggests that some people cannot live by their tenets. The apostle Paul chastised the Corinthians for sexual immorality that doesn’t even occur among the pagans,[4] and he clearly never thought this was evidence against God’s existence. Neither should we.
This author could have consulted Guenter Lewy’s book Why America Needs Religion which has a more exhaustive look into behavior statistics. What he reveals is that there is a positive connection between religious belief and behavior, but the environment a person is in affects that behavior.
Lastly, I was somewhat disappointed that he featured a section on Biblical contradictions but only managed to mine the wealth of atheist criticisms for only two – one of which the Bible’s supposed approval of slavery.  However, I have found slavery was quite different in the ancient world. Paul Copan points out that critics make a mistake of equating servanthood in the Old Testament with pre-civil-war antebellum slavery in the South. Actually, Hebrew servanthood was closer to conditions in colonial America where people who could not afford getting into America would sell themselves to households to pay off their debt. Copan summarizes:

Is God a Moral Monster? : Making Sense of the Old Testament God by Paul Copan (2011, Paperback) Image

When we compare Israel’s servant system with the ancient Near East in general, what we  have is a fairly tame and, in many ways, very attractive arrangement for impoverished  Israelites. The servant laws aimed to benefit and protect the poor – that is, those most likely to enter indentured service. Servanthood was voluntary: a person who (for whatever reason) doesn’t have any land “sells himself” . . .  Someone might also sell a family member as an indentured servant in another’s  household to work until a debt is paid off. Once a person was freed from his servant obligations, he had the “status of full and unencumbered citizenship.”[5]

[1] J. P. Holding, “What is the Purpose of Prayer,” http://www.tektonics.org/lp/prayfor.html.
[2] 1 John 5:14-15
[3] http://www.lutheranscience.org/home/180015283/180015283/180153808/Journal%202014-Why%20Evolution%20Is%20Not%20Science.pdf
[4] 1 Corinthians 5:1
[5] Paul Copan, Is God a Moral Monster: Making Sense of the Old Testament God (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2011), 127.