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Reasoning with an Atheist

10 December 2013, 15:54

Dear Readers,

I present to you a conversation that I had with an atheist. I thought it was quite interesting to share and out of respect for the atheist, I sought permission to quote him and thankfully, he said yes.

I must state that on the onset, he was quite respectful and I acknowledge that he is a good person. I am certain that we may even become friends. I am sure that many of you would agree that a friendship is not limited to sharing a common worldview.

Okay moving on to the actual dialogue, here is a brief context to the conversation. Hanjo posted an article entitled “Our God is a Petty God” and I responded with an article called “Is our GOD really petty”. During this discussion, I picked up a few points that keeps surfacing. However, the comment that really made me ponder about what the real agenda is has prompted me to write this article. Again out of respect for the person, I decided to give it a lot of thought before I can write this article. I understand that the responses from other atheists may either justify my questioning of the agenda or it could result in a departure from this atheists reasoning.

As the objective reader (emphasis on the word “objective), I ask you to either fault the logic of my reasoning by showing why it is faulty and then offering one that is logically sound. Alternatively you can agree with my reasoning. Off-course you can also refrain from responding or you can make comments about my sanity, my delusional state etc. While I encourage good explanations, I also expect one-liners too.

I structured this article by pulling out some of the comments that really needed to be set apart and treated accordingly. Please note that these comments are not new and neither are the responses. The last comment is the one that really needs thinking about. This one speaks directly to a “worldview” restricted response. What this means that even if it does not make sense to accept a position, the position has to be accepted in order to achieve agreement with a worldview. In short - coherence and/or credibility is not necessary.

The bold type font emphasis has been added so that it makes it easier for the reader to distinguish and if there is any dispute as to whether this comment was made or not – I am willing to point you to the link where this happened.

no god is not really petty. God/s don't exist. Religion, now that is petty

I am sure that we can all agree that the above comment is a comment that really makes a knowledge claim. This is an old argument that theists have with atheists. For an individual to say that God/s do not exist, the individual is claiming that he/ she has knowledge of everything that exists. The response that this claim is possible because there is no evidence to back it up fails in that “ the absence of evidence does not mean that the evidence is absent” it just mean that the evidence is not available as yet. However, the Christian has produced a collective of evidence that is more compelling than any other available alternative. In fact the test is to compare evidence and see which provides a stronger explanation. The atheist will simply say we don’t know now but will still challenge an available explanation that is rational. This is for another time though. The intention of this response is ask the question – “does it make sense to make a knowledge claim about what does not exist when we do not know of everything that exists.

how on earth could I know that? Do I know that the god of abraham is as real as Thor, do I know that the god of Isaac is as real as satan, do I know that the god of david is as real as harry potter - well yes - they're all works of fiction written by people.

Do I know everything that exists, no.

Do I know if there is a god that created this universe, no I don't, but I do know that if there is a god it ain't yours bud.

Notice another knowledge claim. They are all a work of fiction. So I am guessing that based on this response, this atheist knows of all the events that has happened in the past. Okay, let’s be reasonable here. Maybe this atheist has studied history or the ancient documents or archaeology etc. Although I must admit that there are historians and archaeologists and others in the field who are sceptical about the bible. However, as sceptical as these people are, they would not claim that the work is false. On the contrary, there is huge evidence that proves aspects of the bible and that evidence is increasing with new finds. By the way, did I mention that there are more historians and archaeologists that accept the bible as a historical document? However, I must admit that many historians will stop short of acknowledging a supernatural event. This does not mean that the event did not happen but it simply mean that history does not know how to explain it. This is a good debate for another time.

This response did leave me puzzled and I must admit that I should have responded with a follow-up question as to what this god would be like but I did not. I guess it’s not too late to ask that question now.

The other think I would like to point out in the comment is that the writer asks some very valid questions like “how can I know whether this god is real or that god is real?” I fully respect this question if it stopped with the enquiry but when a question like this can make the asker to come to a conclusion based on him/ her not knowing makes one to ask the question “ Does not knowing about something gives one the right to come to a conclusion and state it like a fact.

Now notice this – the comment goes further to state that even though there may be a lack of knowledge on the issue in that if it is possible that a god could create the universe, the comment demonstrates that there is certainty that the creator GOD is not the GOD of the bible. So how did we come to this conclusion?

Then again, I am guessing that the next response has some indication as what that god would be like.

Bobby - well, yes I do. Lets look at our glorious universe - which runs on rational, physical laws that we are able to use on our little insignificant planet. We have figured out that our universe is over 14 billion years old. Wow - a long time.

We've also figured out that our own planet is about 4 and half billion years old using rational premises and logic. So if there was a creator god it follows that it too would be logical and rational, no?

Humanity as a social animal has existed for close to 150 000 years, evidence of settlements go back to about 25 000 years. Major civilisations have been found roughly 8 000 years ago. Biggest in asia and south america. So you are a logical, rational incredibly smart god.

Why then pitch up in a desert to tell the world which you created of your existence? Not logical or rational - not the same god that created a logical rational universe? Why wait another 5000 years to again pitch up in an area with a low population and show your love by having yourself killed by the people you are claiming to save? Again not logical or rational... do you see where I'm going with this?

Your 'god' displays none of the characteristics of the universe 'he' created - therefore it is not 'his' universe nor is 'he' it's creator. Logical deduction.

I hope that helps, there are no gods...

At this point, I used the analogy of a table and a table-maker. I argued that the table-maker does not have to conform to the properties/ nature of the table. i quoted some simple examples like the table has four legs – this does not mean that the table-maker must have the same number of legs.

What the above response is doing is that it implies that in order for us claim that GOD created the universe, then GOD must conform to the laws/ properties of the very thing HE created. This is fallacious because the cause/ creator is not subject to the effect/ created.

Based on the above comment, the conclusion “there are no gods…..” is finding itself attempting an impossibility of standing up when the legs have disintegrated.

My Appeal to all readers – especially those that settle for nothing less than reasonable – Please confirm if you can support the comments from my atheist colleague. 

However, the final shocker comes when this atheist colleague’s reason for not accepting the GOD of the bible as the Creator because HE does not display the characteristics of the universe. So my question to him was –  "What are the chances that chance can result in something so ordered and logical" – here is the killer response - slim, very, very slim, but any chance is better than none. One stone can cause a rockslide, one sound can cause an avalanche. Why do we need to be important - what is it with our ego - that we think this is all set for us? Why can't we just be a happy accident?

With all the accuracy and precision of a universe that is so ordered and logical – accepting this to happen by chance is as good as saying that there once was a heap of alphabets in some room at Oxford University and next to it was a huge pile of paper. Suddenly a gush of wind blew all the alphabets and the paper so hard that the alphabets and the paper were mixed up. When the wind stopped the paper and alphabets settled down into a book called the Oxford Dictionary. It does not stop there but gets miraculously better in that when the Dictionary was opened – the alphabets organised themselves into words and the words were also arranged into alphabetical order but it gets even better – the words now have meanings to it. Question – what are the chances that this can happen by a gust of wind? – slim very, very slim but any chance is better is better than none.

The best part of this example is that in fact this is more probable than the universe coming about by chance because at least in this example the paper and alphabets were already in existence but in the case of the universe………….. nothing.

NB: spelling and lower case for pronouns has not been changed with the bold statements. This was done to keep the comments as they were made. All other spelling and grammar issues are purely mine and I apologise in advance for it.

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