This is part 1 of a two, or possibly three, part series.
1. On Getting Everything from Nothing.
Persuasive scientific evidence, coupled with philosophical reasoning, tells us that the universe began to exist in the finite past some billions of years ago. This has been troublesome for the atheist since on atheism God, nor any supernatural entity, exists. So, any possibility that a powerful transcendent being could bring the universe into existence is immediately rejected. Now, the problem arises for how does the atheist explain the beginning of the universe?
Atheists have traditionally believed that the universe never actually had a beginning and that it is eternal. According to contemporary religious humanists: “[We] religious humanists regard the universe as self-existing and not created” (1). I would speculate that most atheists would disagree with this manifesto simply because such overwhelming scientific evidence contradicts an eternal universe. Other atheists such as Lewis Wolpert admit that “there’s the whole problem of where the universe itself came from,” and then asks “How did that all happen? I haven’t got a clue” (2). Many atheists are content to admit that they do not know probably because, as atheist scientist Stephen Hawking concedes, “Many people do not like the idea that time has a beginning, probably because it smacks of divine intervention” (3). I’d argue that claimed ignorance can be intellectual laziness since it merely refuses to adopt a position (that either the universe began to exist or it did not). It is far easier to settle on the fence that have to explain how a universe with a beginning sits with one’s atheism.
Moreover, atheist philosopher Daniel Dennett agrees that the universe has a cause and that it began to exist a finite time ago, but he then argues that the cause of the universe is itself (18). This is an example of irrational reasoning. Dennett is essentially saying that the universe had to have already existed in order to bring itself into existence; it would have to exist before it existed! Clearly the reasonable reader would determine such a view to be logically incoherent since it defies the laws of logic.
The underlying fact is that we all know that something cannot come from nothing, the universe included. But that is literally what the atheist has to believe. Philosopher William Lane Craig thus explains, “suppose something could come into being from nothing. If that were the case then it is inexplicable why just anything and everything doesn’t pop into being out of nothing. But no-one here tonight is worried that while you’re listening to debate a horse may have popped into being uncaused out of nothing in your living room, and is there defiling the carpet right now as we speak” (4). Craig concludes that “To suggest that things could just pop into being uncaused out of nothing is literally worse than magic. It is to quit doing serious philosophy and appeal to magic… when the magician pulls a rabbit out of the hat, at least you have the magician” (19).
2. On the Question of Morality.
I am confident that the overwhelming majority of human beings, both today and in history, would view rape as being morally abominable. Sure, you might get cultures/sects/religions/people that would deny this but the majority would agree that it is evil. In other words, the overwhelming human view is that many acts are objectively evil. To rape is to commit an objectively evil act. The holocaust, the Columbine massacre, and the Rwandan Genocide would all be classified as objectively evil acts. Now, the alternative to this would be moral subjectivism. Namely, that morality is merely personal taste because there is no such thing as objective evil. So, person A might find that raping as many victims as he can would do well to advance the human race and enhance survival (or he could justify why rape is good in any way he wants), whereas person B finds that forcing oneself onto another against her will is always objectively evil. But if moral subjectivism is correct then who gets to say whose right? It is merely opinion versus opinion in an indifferent universe that cares nothing for our existence. We really can just pick and choose what morals sound good to us.
In all this, however, atheists present not only a massive inconsistency but also a denial of human experience. On the one hand the atheist denies the objective nature good and evil, as in the words of Richard Dawkins, “if the universe were just electrons and selfish genes, meaningless tragedies… are exactly what we should expect, along with equally meaningless good fortune. Such a universe would be neither evil nor good in intention …. The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference… DNA neither knows nor cares. DNA just is. And we dance to its music” (5).
So, if followed through to its logical end, raping a helpless child is really no different to kicking a football at the park, as Ravi Zacharias aptly poses, “How, then, may we know what is good for us? Thinking atoms discussing morality is absurd” (6). It might be my opinion that there is a massive difference between raping someone and kicking a football at the park, but that is just an illusion that has been fobbed off onto me from the physical forces of nature. Now, I would strongly challenge that this is profoundly antithetical to human experience. Every fibre of our being screams that rape, murder, and torturing puppies are objectively evil acts. However, the philosophy of atheism asks that we reject that and define it as an illusion. According to the former atheist turned Christian, Philip Vander Elst, our moral intuitions “have, on this view, no more validity or significance than the sound of the wind in the trees” (7).
Finally, not even atheists can live consistently with their philosophy. Subsequent to Dawkins making that grandiose claim we have him defining faith as one of the “world’s great evils” (8), terrorism as “evil” (9), explaining that science can be used for evil ends (10), that religion is a conduit for unparalleled evil (11), and that Islam is the “greatest force for evil today” (12). Dawkins also tackles subjects that contain hefty moral baggage such as the topics of abortion (13), feminism (14), eugenics (15), paedophilia (16), and sexual abuse (17).
I think we’re all in good company if we are confused by this. Out of one side of his mouth the atheist denies there being objective evil but then lives and acts, on a daily basis, as if certain things are objectively evil!
3. On the Denial of Miracles and Eyewitness Testimony.
I’ve pointed out why I am confident that miracles of healing occur. I interacted with some evidence and will forward readers to a separate article. In fact, the argument from miracles is my favourite one. It provides for me persuasive evidence of an entity, one not part of the natural, that intervenes within the natural order in such a way as to bring about an intended purpose.
However, when it comes to the hard evidence, no-one would deny that much of it derives from human testimony. Some of this testimony is quite excellent whereas some clearly isn’t. On the good side I’ve seen studies where atheists and atheist families have witnessed and converted to belief after witnessing a miracle. Entire villages have converted after a miracle, as well as actors, sports players and so on. Beyond some of the persuasive medical evidence and corroboration we still very much rely on human testimony. This is where, as I’ve routinely encountered, atheists generally try to undermine the argument. Their claim is that “testimony” is too unreliable and that it can’t be used as evidence for these claims. They will then link one to sites and studies that show that under certain conditions eyewitness testimony is unreliable. This challenge is quite weak considering many, if not most, claimants and witnesses to miracles aren’t susceptible to certain “states” as identified in certain studies, or when there are dozens of corroborating eyewitness accounts of an event, and so on. They might then go on about alien encounters (as if such encounters are even remotely analogues to the miracle evidence that academics have written on), or the oft repeated claim that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” (which is really nothing short of one outright rejecting evidence one can’t fit into their worldview, and besides that “extraordinary” sounds very subjective) and so on. On other occasions the atheist will throw in David Hume’s antique, and mostly rejected by philosophers, argument that miracles are the least likely explanation of an event and that it is far more likely that an eyewitness is wrong than that a miracle actually occurred (which is a way of simply defining a miracle out of existence before even considering the evidence, also known as beginning the question and circular reasoning). The main contention, however, is the atheist’s challenge that human testimony isn’t enough. This is where I counter that there is another obvious inconsistency.
The atheist has to undermine eyewitness testimony to a miracle because it threatens his worldview. If one eyewitness is actually correct in that a miracle really occurred then atheism is outright false. Miracles are persuasive evidence for the supernatural of which cannot exist on atheism. Of course the atheist is aware of this and has to explain it away. However, I challenge him that it is fully impossible not to rely on human testimony, and that undermining such testimony in relation to miracles is unwarranted. We rely on such testimony every day. We do it when we go to the doctor and take our prescribed medicines, when we talk to our managers, friends, spouses, relatives, lecturers and so on. The entire faculties and disciplines of science, history, and law are constructed upon human eyewitness testimony. Take such testimony away and we can close the doors to pretty much all our educational institutions, law courts, and so on. Thus, in order to deny the reliability of human eyewitness testimony the atheist denies far more than he actually realizes. This is not only inconsistent with our daily experience but is also inconsistent in the way the atheist himself functions. The atheist who denies eyewitness testimony himself relies on it daily. He even expects others to trust his own eyewitness testimony to certain events. It is so ingrained into him and his world that if everyone doubted his eyewitness testimony he would probably lapse into depression. Moreover, he, as I’ve mentioned, will bring up Hume’s argument and expect us to trust Hume’s testimony! Besides this inconsistency the atheist’s argument just doesn’t follow that because some eyewitness testimony is mistaken that all, if not most, eyewitness testimonies are incorrect. It’s analogous to sense perception. Sense perception, the very thing that helps us navigate the world, has been shown to be unreliable on occasion. But is that warrant for outright rejecting perception as a totality for understanding and functioning within the world? Of course not. Neither does it when it comes to eyewitness testimony.
Again, this denial is not only at odds with our everyday experience but is also clearly inconsistent.
1. Humanist Manifesto I. Available.
2. Wolpert, L. 2007. The Hard Cell. p. 18.
3. Hawking, S. 1988. Brief History of Time. p. 46.
4. YouTube. The Wit of Dr. Craig – Part 7 “A random horse from nowhere defiling your carpet.” Available.
5. Dawkins, R. 1995. River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life. p. 132—33.
6. Zacharias, R. 2004. The Real Face of Atheism. p. 128.
7. Vander Elst, P. From Atheism to Christianity: a Personal Journey. Available.
8. Dawkins, R. 1997. “Is Science a Religion?” in The Humanist.
9. Quoted by Gordy Slack in “The Atheist” (2005).
10. The Richard Dimbleby Lecture: Science, Delusion and the Appetite for Wonder (1996).
11. Documentary: The Root of All Evil? (2006) Part 2, 00:35:01.
12. Twitter tweet. Available.
13. Twitter tweet. Available.
14. Twitter tweet. Available.
15. Twitter tweet. Available.
16. Dearden, L. 2014. Richard Dawkins tweets: ‘Date rape is bad, stranger rape is worse. Available.
17. Twitter tweet. Available.
18. Dennett, D. 2006. Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon. p. 244.
19. Craig, W. 2010. The Best of the Kalaam Cosmological Argument. Available.