Todd Pitner is a Christian who has posted his questions to atheists over at his website.
I answer those questions now.
Questions For Atheists (*) REGARDING:
*…and seekers, agnostics, fence-sitters, non-Christians and lapsed Christians
1. What or whom do you consider to be YOUR chosen intellectual starting point, your supreme authority for knowledge, your final standard for truth? Why?
I accept empiricism. The idea that knowledge only comes to us through one or more of our five physical senses makes perfect sense. The only way to show empiricism faulty is to provide empirical evidence of such, and as soon as you do that, you are biting the hand that feeds you. If empirical evidence is not the best way to discover truth, then how do you know empirical evidence of empiricism’s limitations is reliable?
2. Would you consider turning skepticism on itself and examine your own assumptions?
3. If God exists, could Christianity be exclusively true?
no, because without further definition, “Christianity” constitutes nothing but a mess of conflicting groups and splintered denominations all pointing the finger at each other and crying “heretic”, often using the same bible to do so. Apparently then, the meaning of biblical words is no more definite than the words of the 2nd Amendement, upon which higher courts disagree. In 2002 the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in Silveira v. Lockyer, 312 F.3d 1052 (9th Cir.2002) conducted a scholarly examination of the second amendment and concluded that individuals do not have the right to keep and bear arms. In 2008 the US Supreme Court in District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008) conducted its own scholarly examination of the Second Amendment and concluded that individuals do have the right to keep and bear arms. The idea that words can always successfully convey their true meaning, is false. Hence, just because something is written in the bible does not mean it is possible to recover the original meaning intended by the author.
MATTER IN MOTION
1. Is the material reality the only reality (are we just material creatures in a material world and nothing more)?
It would appear so, but even if non-material reality existed, all that would matter is how convincing the evidence for it was. When carefully read, all scientific discussion about non-material reality is highly theoretical, nobody pretends they can demonstrate any such thing.
2. Is reductive materialism synonymous with reason and science? Why?
Yes, because science by definition requires repeated experimentation, tabulation of repeated results, and then hypothesis based on the pattern of repeated results. So by definition, science cannot pretend to prove anything that is non-material. How indeed would you investigate a non-material thing? As far as “reason”, this is more ambiguous, since a case could be made that belief in non-material things is rationally justified even if false. For example, the only thing holding a family together is Christian faith.
1. What happens after we die?
The same thing we see happening to other people after they die.
2. Do you KNOW there is nothing more beyond death? How?
Yes, because there is good evidence that human beings are solely physical, brain damage causing mind–malfunction destroys mind/body dualism, and in that case, there is no more reason to believe there life after death for humans, than there is life after death for bugs. If mind/body dualist arguments are convincing regarding humans, why don’t these also prove that bugs have a spiritual side?
3. Isn’t the Christian’s hope for heaven a better bet than the atheist’s hope there is no hell?
“better” is a subjective value judgment, and in my judgment, the question is loaded since it assumes atheists “hope” there is no hell, when in fact we regard the teaching of a literal hell to be akin to fairy tales. We no more “hope” hell isn’t real, than we “hope” that Cinderella never divorced.
4. If God does exist as Biblically revealed, would hindsight on Judgment Day render Christians inappropriately prejudiced or gullible?
yes. If the bible god is real, it certainly isn’t because of the evidence. You might as well ask whether the guy who won a single hand of blackjack, was stupid to have bet the family farm on that one hand, seeing now that he ended up winning. Yes, he was stupid in spite of getting lucky.
1. Is there a supernatural realm, a reality that lies outside sense perception and outside the reach of modern science? If not, how do you know?
Yes, a reality that is not subject to human sense perception could exist, but there’s no reason to worry about it if the arguments in favor of it are plagued by unsupported assumptions and hasty generalizations.
2. Is God a byproduct of wishful thinking? Why?
Yes, because the evidence indicates that god’s utility does not lie in what he can demonstrably do, but in the comfort the idea of god gives to people.
1. Can bona fide miracles happen? If not, why not?
The word “miracles” is left undefined, when in fact that is a major problem for Christians. If by “miracle” you mean some unexplained thing, then yes, because unexplained things happen all the time. If by “miracle” you mean “act of god”, now the question is requiring the atheist to presume the existence of god. That’s the dilemma for miracles. If you define it without mentioning god, you get nowhere in your apologetics. If you define it to include or imply god, then it is a loaded question requiring the atheist to part with her denial of god, in which case the parties cannot agree on how to define a term critical to their disagreement.
2. If a Supernatural Transcendent Causal Agent does exist, with or without our acknowledgment, and if He (let’s say) was so powerful that He could think all Universal matter, space, time and energy into existence from nothing, wouldn’t creating life, parting the Red Sea, turning water into wine, healing the sick, revealing His nature through Divinely inspired Biblical authors and raising a Loved One from the dead be child’s play? (Yes or No)
1. Is science the only means of gaining reliable knowledge? Why?
Yes. Nobody has demonstrated that they can discover truth without using some sort of scientific method, and those who claim non-scientific access to knowledge either end up giving the world information already known, or information that turns out to be false.
2. Is belief in God a byproduct of ignoring science? Why?
No, because belief in God brings a comfort to a person regarding things that science cannot answer, such as whether there is ultimate purpose to life. The fact that many scientists believe in god means not much more than that many Catholic priests have sexually molested children.
3. Does faith in God mean one has to relinquish science and reason?
No, Christianity comes in various shapes and sizes, and if you still respect science and logic, you can be a liberal Christian who affirms faith in Christ without bible inerrancy.
4. Can scientific claims be faith-based?
Yes. Faith inheres in all scientific claims since all theories of knowledge (epistemologies) ultimately start from axioms. But the common denominator of faith doesn’t constitute an admission that the faith required to believe in the existence of trees is just as blind as the faith required to believe Jesus rose from the dead. There is no such thing as absolute proof, but there is such a thing as people believing things that are most likely nonsense.
ORIGINS 1. Do you believe that the Universe expanded from a primordial hot and dense initial condition at some finite time in the past and continues to expand to this day?
2. Rewinding back to the origin of the Universe, how much matter can be put into zero spatial volume?
3. If a Supernatural Transcendent Causal Agent does NOT exist, what brought the Universe into existence?
4. Can you provide EMPIRICAL evidence for ANYTHING spontaneously appearing out of nowhere?
5. What is your best explanation for the origins of intelligent life? Why?
DESIGN & ORDER
1. If there is no God, how do you explain the high degree of design and order in the Universe?
1. Is the theory of evolution THE refutation to divine creation? Why?
2. Is the theory of macro-evolution a scientific fact? How do you know?
3. Aren’t our genetic components exactly the same as mice, not apes?
Wouldn’t that make our common ancestor more likely to be a mouse based on evolutionary theory?
4. In relation to all other ‘descendents’, why are the following ‘Cultural Big Bangs’ unique only to the human species?
a. Creating and wearing clothing
b. Creating and wearing jewelery
c. Creating and using advanced tools
d. Creating and dancing to music
e. Creating and cherishing art
f. Linguistic evolution
g. Creating symbols and writing languages
h. Writing about the future
i. Succeeding agriculturally
j. Celebrating birth
k. Burying the dead
l. Worshiping God(s)
1. How do you account for the Cambrian Explosion? What is your evidence?
2. Can you provide specific evidence for species-to-species transitional forms in the fossil record?
1. How do you account for the vast archaeological documentation of Biblical stories, places, and people?
1. Regarding the information encoded in DNA, if a supernatural transcendent Almighty God did not author it, what did? How do you know?
2. Do you object to the notion of Intelligent Design because of your lack of religious values?
1. Are there subjective or immaterial experiences and entities? How do you know?
2. In an all-material Universe, how do YOU account for the immaterial Laws of Logic, Science, Math, Morality and Uniformity of Nature?
3. What or whom is your final reference point required to make facts and laws intelligible?
4. Is love material?
Beauty? Consciousness? Logic? Reason? How are they empirically measured? How much does the number nine weigh?
5. Where does thought come from?
Is there a non-material mind that transcends the physical brain? How do you empirically know?
6. Can you empirically observe your mind (not your brain)? If not, does it exist?
1. Do you acknowledge the existence of evil (at least in your practice if not in your beliefs)?
2. When you complain about the problem of evil, aren’t you presupposing God?
3. If God does NOT exist, can ‘good’ and ‘evil’ exist? If yes, by whose ultimate authority and how is each empirically measured?
1. What is the basis for the common moral values Christians and non-Christians, as a whole, seem to share?
2. Per the atheist worldview, is society ‘really’ evolving for the better? Why?
3. Would you agree with this statement: “Child pornography is immoral even though morality cannot be proven scientifically in a laboratory experiment?”
If so, what is the genetic source of morality if humans have descended from apes?
4. HYPOTHETICAL SCENARIO: Immediately after marrying, you and your wife attempted pregnancy. You tried conceiving for two years with no success. Requiring surgery, your wife was put under anesthesia nine months before your first child was born. While unconscious, the doctor decided to have his way with your wife. His male staff assistant watched, waiting his turn. Each unleashed their gift of procreation in her prior to completing the minor surgical procedure. That night, the two of you took full advantage of the fact she was ovulating. Unbeknownst to either of you, the doctor’s sperm out swam yours. Your wife never knew she was raped while unconscious, nor did you, and no other human being ever found out – there were no consequences to this act except the celebrated arrival of a beautiful, baby boy named after his Father. QUESTION: Was it absolutely wrong for the doctor and his assistant to gang-rape your wife? Why?
5. Where does the non-believer’s conscience get its authority from?
6. In an all-natural, all-material world, how did ‘oughts’ evolve from physical matter? When, and how do you know?
1. If you ARE God’s creation, isn’t it true your present attitude is unfair to Him?
Insulting, actually? And you thus have very good reason to deny His existence because you deserve punishment for your utter disregard?
2. Are you willing to follow the evidence where it leads, and consider the “cumulative case” for God’s existence? If not, why?
3. Are you right about God? How do you know?
4. If you are not right about God, do you know how to GET right with God?
DISBELIEF IN GOD
1. What do you consider to be the single most compelling reason to believe God does NOT exist? Why?
2. If God does exist, do you have a subjective desire that He not exist? Why?
3. Are there any practical benefits to atheism? If so, what are they and why?
4. What would it take for you to believe in God’s existence?
5. If you found the Biblical God does indeed exist, would your life change for the better or worse? Why?
1. Have you ever actually read the Bible?
2. If the Biblical God DOES exist, could a lack of Biblical knowledge explain good atheism?
3. Would you be willing to read the Gospel of John, just once, as if it were true and Jesus was smart?
1. Since absolutely no Bible prophecy has ever failed (and there are hundreds), how can one realistically remain unconvinced that the Bible is of Divine origin?
2. How do you explain David’s graphic portrayal of Jesus’ death by crucifixion (Psalm 22) 1000 years before Christ lived?
3. How do you explain that the prophet Daniel prophesied the exact YEAR when the Christ would be presented as Messiah and also prophesied that the temple would be destroyed afterwards over 500 years in advance (Daniel 9:24-27)?
4. How could any mere human pinpoint the precise birth town of the Messiah seven full centuries before the fact, as did the prophet Micah?
1. Are there any practical benefits to Christianity? If so, what are they and why? If not, why?
2. Is there a difference between “Christianity” and “Religion”? If so, what is it? If not, why?
3. Do you fully understand WHAT Christians believe?
4. Do you know what the Gospel is?
1. Who do YOU say Jesus Christ is? Why?
2. If you do not believe in Jesus Christ was raised from the dead, why?
3. What are the implications for YOU if Jesus Christ was raised from the dead?
4. Are you fully familiar with the body of historical evidence relating to the life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ?
1. If caterpillars could talk, would they argue against the cocoon-of-the-gaps with their butterfly friends?
2. If there was a Big Bang, where did the bullets come from? Who pulled the trigger and who manufactured the gun?
3. How does science weigh morality?
Does ‘goodness’ expand when frozen or rise when heated?
4. If man is just an evolved animal, why have we never observed another species thrilling in the beauty of a sunset or a picturesque mountain view?
5. While you’ve most likely heard, “Forever’s a long time to be wrong,” have you ever considered it’s also a “long time to be right?”
Do you know The Gospel (Good News)?
As reflected in the questions above, non-believers are not immune from accountability.
We invite you to, at minimum, read through these challenges and think, “What is The Gospel According to Me?” Can you answer all these questions and maintain your disbelief with full intellectual integrity?
We pray that many of these inquiries might nag at your atheism. If you feel so bold, we invite you to submit a full answer-set to todd(at)iLoveAtheists.com. Please note, if in your response you deem it necessary to swear or be verbally offensive, all your submission will be deleted and access to site content denied thereafter. Thank you for respecting this request.