I recently hosted an interaction on Twitter between myself and about a dozen people who claimed to be atheists, in which I asked the following question, “What do you think are the strongest and the weakest arguments for the existence of God?” Many of the comments that I got back were pretty mean-spirited and insulting, and I could tell that some people just wanted to argue with me. Here are some of the more mild responses that I received from those who were gracious enough to offer one. Most of the comments were along the same line:
- “There is no argument for the existence for god other than a knee jerk reaction to the unknown. Weakest argument is, any.”
- “At best, the strongest argument for God’s existence is weak, but I can give you tens of thousands of pages proving he doesn’t.”
- “There are no good arguments for the existence of gods…zero objective evidence and no logical proof.”
- “Strongest=weakest: the claims made in the Bible.”
I then got a little more specific and asked about their reactions to the philosophical arguments for the existence of God – the cosmological, ontological, teleological, and moral arguments – and I got the following responses:
- “I don’t see any argument whether it be cosmological, moral etc to be any stronger or convincing than blind faith. All fail equally.”
- “Ahh ok well in that case my reaction to any person trying to argue that God exists would be pity.”
- “I do not feel as such: I have concluded that such arguments display a lack of critical thinking skills by the proponents.”
All-in-all, it was a rather frustrating exchange for me. Other than the gentleman that stated that the claims made in the Bible were both the strongest and weakest arguments (a logical contradiction), I could not get anyone to give an actual example of a claim for Gods existence that they felt either had or lacked merit. All I was offered were sweeping generalizations.
I really expected more. Responses were coming back from people who had the words “atheist” and “agnostic” and “secular” right in their profiles. These were people who not only didn’t believe in God, but they were proud of the fact! Their identities (on Twitter at least) were wrapped up in the fact of their unbelief. One would expect that they would have given a lot of thought to the question that I had posed, and were better equipped to give a more precise answer to my inquiry.
This makes me wonder if people who claim to be atheists and agnostics have any familiarity at all with the classical arguments for Gods existence. I suspect that most of them do not. I suspect that most of them have made their decision to be an atheist based not on any sincere and thoughtful examination of the evidence, but simply because they do not want God to exist because they do not want to be accountable to him. It is not so much that they are “a-theist” (without God), but that they are “anti-theist” (against God).
The following chart illustrates the four positions possible with regard to our personal theology. I believe that everyone falls into one of these four groups. Future articles will take a closer look at each of these groups to see what the Bible has to say about them, as well as looking at the classical arguments for Gods existence.
So, what’s in a name? A rose by any other name may smell as sweet, but no disrespect to William Shakespeare, an atheist is not an agnostic is not an anti-theist is not a theist! Being able to recognize the difference when we are talking to people will better enable us to communicate to them the truths about God.
Soli Deo Gloria