Are many atheists really people of reason? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
Normally if you encounter an atheist, the reigning battle cry is that of evidence. I’m not at all denouncing that request. That’s a fine request to make. What I am skeptical about is the fact that evidence is really wanted.
My problem with this is that there is many times a double-standard. Consider some statements that you can see. Richard Dawkins was interviewed by Peter Boghossian and said he had become convinced that most anything that could be seen as done by God could also be done by aliens so when asked what would convince him God exists, the answer is now nothing.
Boghossian doesn’t fare much better. In his book A Manual for Creating Atheists, he says that if he went outside and all the stars at night spelled out “I am God. Believe in me”, well, that might be suggestive. Of course, we could all be experiencing a mass delusion.
Or consider this golden piece from Jerry Coyne.
“The following (and admittedly contorted) scenario would give me tentative evidence for Christianity. Suppose that a bright light appeared in the heavens, and, supported by winged angels, a being clad in a white robe and sandals descended onto my campus from the sky, accompanied by a pack of apostles bearing the names given in the Bible. Loud heavenly music, with the blaring of trumpets, is heard everywhere. The robed being, who identifies himself as Jesus, repairs to the nearby university hospital and instantly heals many severely afflicted people, including amputees. After a while Jesus and his minions, supported by angels ascend back into the sky with another chorus of music. The heavens swiftly darken, there are flashes of lightning and peals of thunder, and in an instant the sky is clear.
If this were all witnessed by others and documented by video, and if the healings were unexplainable but supported by testimony from multiple doctors, and if all the apparitions and events conformed to Christian theology—then I’d have to start thinking seriously about the truth of Christianity.” Faith vs. Fact p. 118-119
Note that he says that this is contorted and tentative. This could just begin to suggest something. Note also that these requests are for an experience. That means that you can present all the objective evidence you want and it doesn’t matter. If you talked about your experience, it would be invalid, and yet experience is all that will convince them. Thus, unless you can command God, which you cannot, you will not convince them.
Now let’s see how they handle other situations.
Remember a few years ago when this manuscript was found claiming that Jesus had a wife? Did we know who wrote it? No. Did we know when? What we had was a few centuries after the event. Did we have any context? No. None of this stopped atheists everywhere from proclaiming that a cover-up had taken place and the truth was now out there.
Now go to the Gospels and what do we get? “They’re anonymous!” even though we have better sources on who wrote them than we did on this other finding. They’re decades later, even though that’s not much in the ancient world and it beats centuries later. We also have the entire works themselves. I haven’t even got to the positive evidence for the Gospels. At this point, there’s a double-standard going on.
A few days ago I saw someone share in a group a story that was first published years ago. It was about Joseph Atwill and his book Caesar’s Messiah. For those who don’t know, this is the guy that even Richard Carrier calls a crank with his hypothesis that Christianity was invented by the Romans to control the poor and so Jesus never existed. This atheist who shared it was so happy a Bible scholar was finally showing the truth.
Except that not even atheist Bible scholars took Atwill seriously. These are the same atheists that will commit ritual suicide before they dare read anything by a Christian scholar, but when someone they don’t even know agrees with them, he’s a scholar. For many atheists, it seems like the reasoning goes like this.
Does the claim make Christianity look bad or argue that it is false?
Then the claim is entirely true!
Does the claim defend Christianity or leave it looking good or at least neutral?
Then the claim is entirely false!
No research is needed.
Jesus mythicism is a fine example of this. The people who decry creationists for going against the reigning opinion of biologists and other scientists will happily embrace this fringe movement and base all their hope on Richard Carrier. If anything, when I see atheists argue like this, it really convinces me they don’t know what they’re talking about.
Memes are one of the biggest culprits in this area. Atheists will often post memes meant to be one-liners or something close to show Christianity is nonsense. Normally, these are laden with hideously bad argumentation and a lack of understanding of the claims of Christianity. Memes can be fine illustrations if you have been establishing a point, but please don’t make them the centerpiece of your argument.
Please note I am not saying we Christians can never be just as bad on our own end. What I am claiming is that the party of evidence drops the idea of evidence when it suits them. I know a number of atheists that are not like this, but there are too many that are and if atheists want to be taken seriously, they should try to silence those that are like this. I think of Tim O’Neill who runs the website, History for Atheists, who is doing great work in this regard as an atheist.
And also, I don’t really try to persuade these people that Christianity is true. They’re not really listening. My debate is for the audience who is watching.