While testing a new social media platform, I encountered a woman who called herself “Baby Christian”. She felt God call her into an open forum to discuss all things in the Bible. The first few minutes were rather uneventful. I sat with her and made small talk: What’s your favorite Bible book? John. What’s your favorite Bible verse? John 3:16. How long have you been a Christian? About a year. Then, from what seemed like out of nowhere, the chat room exploded from three to 15. Wolves. Before I could jump in to help, the chat room was a plunder with anti-Christian rhetoric: How could a good God….?, Where was your god when…? What evidence do you have to support…?

Calmly, this baby Christian answered only what she knew, and answered with confidence, “I don’t know what you’re looking for but Jesus loves you”. The dialog continued for about half an hour and is certainly filled with stories concerning patience, morality, fallen saints, and a wealth of topics exposed as these predators preyed on a young lamb cub. But one comment hit me harder than most, and it led to some interesting reflection.

One atheist asked our heroin, “What made you choose to be a Christian?” Following a personal summary of Truth reflection, she turned the question back on her adversary: “What made you choose to be an atheist?” The rest of this post is my reflection on his response.

Does one “choose” to be an atheist? In a post here at ACL, Nate walks through atheism as a belief system. Nate, eloquently and purposefully, establishes atheism as a belief system. Rather than re-invent the wheel (an impressive wheel at that), this post will examine the antithesis. For the sake of this post, the assumption is atheism is not a belief and the statement, “I did not choose to be an atheist”, is the crux that will draw a pretty pointed conclusion.

As we begin, I want to draw on an interesting aspect of the story that started me on this intellectual pilgrimage. In my encounter, the protagonist referred to herself as “Baby Christian”, implying she was new to the Christian faith. I’ve heard this term a lot, and even went through the baby phase myself. Everything about the Christian experience was new: new Scripture to unlock, new feelings and emotions that start pouring out, new joy never experienced before, and a new sense of the splendor of everything around just to name a few. However, I have never heard the term “baby atheist”. In fact, when I looked it up on Google, the only thing I found of any relevance was a blog discussing Richard Dawkins’ stance that babies aren’t born into atheism. Dawkins’ comment is,

“When you say X is the fastest growing religion, all you mean is that X people have babies at the fastest rate. But babies have no religion.”[i]

In other words, because atheists like Dawkins insist that atheism is not a choice, all babies in the world are indeed born atheist and require external influence to induce a response.

So, following the assumption of the post, every baby is born with no belief system. Is it really fair, though, to say that some people never develop a belief? I think that is where the real problem with atheism as a non-belief falls apart. Even if one grows up in an impoverish, desolate, atheist, home, at some point existence becomes inner-reflection. At the heart of every human rests some desire to understand the meaning of life. One comedic science-fiction movie (actually a radio show and several novels which morphed into a cinematic rework), “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”, spends 7.5 million years wrestling with this question:

“O Deep Thought computer, the task we have designed you to perform is this. We want you to tell us…’The Answer’..to life!…The Universe!…Everything!”

In essence, what we are really asking is: Does life have meaning? Where did life come from? Where is it going? Hard questions, to be sure, that may not be able to be answered in full. But, that only identifies the necessity to continue asking the question. In fact, its commonplace to sit down every so often and ask, “Where do I see myself in 5/10/20 years?”; “Am I in the job that will get me there?” These intrinsic questions beg the individual to contemplate deep physical and psychological questions that deserve far more reflection than, “I have no idea”; “I didn’t choose this”.

Some will argue that career choice and the meaning of life do not bear the same intellectual responsibility as theos v. a-theos, and to that I agree. Determining whether God (the Christian God or otherwise) exists or not is far more significant. C. S. Lewis once wrote, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” This notably Christian view is really quite universal; remove ‘Christianity’ and substitute atheism/scientism/relativism/etc. and the outcome is all the same: by it I see everything else. Are you willing to look at the splendor, and majesty, and intricacy of the world around you? Are you willing to step outside of your insignificant perspective and ask the hard questions about origins and purpose and meaning of life…the universe…everything? Or will you withdraw from the question, hide in your own little world and refuse to participate in open and honest inquiry?

“For His invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen since the creation of the world, being understood through what He has made. As a result, people are without excuse” – Rom 1:20, HCSB

Therefore, if an atheist is going to fail to take up the intellectual responsibility to form a conclusion, their position should hold the same merits in the public domain—intellectually void. All atheist, those who claim “there is no god”, who claim their title by asserting the negative and passing all responsibility and ‘burdens of proof’ with comments like: “I did not choose to be an atheist”, have no business spewing their ignorant filth in a beautiful world drenched in possibilities.

[i] Brown, Andrew. “There’s no such thing as an atheist baby”. Theguardian. June 12, 2014. From: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jun/12/atheist-baby-richard-dawkins-babies-atheism

19 COMMENTS

  1. I’m confused. Early in the article, you seem to say that (at least, for the sake of argument) you’re going to discuss atheism as a lack of belief in the existence of deity. However, your concluding paragraph seems to revert to a wholly different definition of atheism, saying that atheists are “those who claim ‘there is no god.'” Because of this equivocation, it is unclear to me what you are attempting to illustrate in this article.

    I am the kind of non-believer who does not believe in the existence of deity, but who does not make the claim that “there is no god.” I tend to self-identify as an atheist, but if you do not want to apply that label to my position, it’s not really of much consequence to me. So, are you asserting that I must have actively chosen to adopt my non-belief?

  2. Thanks for your observation. The reason you see the switch is because, I believe, there really is no way to make the point atheism is not a belief. Even your response contains the false dichotomy-you believe their is no god but don’t claim their is no god. And that’s the interesting line I see taking place in social media. There is an outcry of (Internet) atheist shoving all burdon of proof on the Christian while bearing no intellectual weight of their own. This post is an effort to shift claim back. It is no longer enough to say their is no god (which is the meaning of a-theism) without offering some degree of reasoning. If we are all going to learn and grow together on this playing field of life, we owe it to our fellow man to participate intellectually and failing to so is not sufficient.
    Anyway, I hope that at least help’s clarify things. I also don’t want to walk away throwing stones so I want to say this last point – I’m not writing this to say anyone is undeserving of their opinion or their beliefs. I totally want to and do respect the large diversity that God has created and believe we should all love first debate second. I wrote this because I believe that God is up to the challenge of investigation. It is my hope that you, and everyone reading this, is spurred on to investigate God and find that He is loving. And I just don’t see how that’s possible if anyone claims they have no belief – because we all do in some way or another.
    Would you like to know more?

    • Thank you for your response! Unfortunately, I think I might not have been very clear, so I think you have misunderstood my meaning in that first comment.

      Even your response contains the false dichotomy-you believe their is no god but don’t claim their is no god.

      I actually do not “believe there is no god.” What I said is that I do not believe in the existence of deity. This does not imply that I therefore believe deity does not or cannot exist. That would be largely dependent upon how one wants to define “deity.” As I am a non-believer, I make no attempts, myself, at defining this concept. Instead, I allow those who claim that deity does exist to define what they mean by that concept. This helps me to avoid committing Straw Man fallacies.

      It is no longer enough to say their is no god (which is the meaning of a-theism) without offering some degree of reasoning.

      I completely agree that if someone is to claim “there is no God,” then that person adopts the burden of proving his claim. However, my initial question was about those non-believers, like myself, who do not make any such claim. Are you claiming that I must have actively chosen to adopt my non-belief?

      • Much clearer now. Thanks for helping out. And, I think I can better clarify my post in regards to your position.
        First, my post was firmly written for the atheists who shrug off the burden of proof. Atheism is most assuredly a belief system and requires it. Anyone who says otherwise is making up definitions of atheism because the word literally means no(a) god (theos). Have you read “Atheist is the New ‘Literally'” also available here at ACL? That may clear up the wording issue. As for your last question: Are you claiming that I must have actively chosen to adopt my non-belief? Yes & No.
        I’m saying everyone has a belief. Whether that belief is theism, atheism, naturalism, materialism, individualism, pantheism, or make-believism, everyone has a belief. While I understand that belief can be something one grows up with, it affects how one lives their life. Further, at some point the choice is made to identify that worldview. At the moment the worldview is identified, the choice is made to either stay or investigate that belief. In that way, yes, the choice is made.
        The message I want to be clear, there are a lot of reasons to believe in a deity (non-life doesn’t produce life), there are significant reasons to believe that deity is the Christian God (He is personal and relational–more that just a book), and there still more reasons to believe in Jesus of Nazareth (historicity). I believe these reasons, even if not completely understood, give more justification for belief in God than belief in no-god. Even if one were to choose to not believe in my God, I think they should have better reasons to reject my belief than simply “I have no belief”.
        I hope that makes sense, and I hope I can motivate you to be active in investigate God (not investigating Christians). Thanks again for your engagement.
        Would you like to know more?

        • Thanks again, Roger, for continuing to converse with me!

          Atheism is most assuredly a belief system and requires it. Anyone who says otherwise is making up definitions of atheism because the word literally means no(a) god (theos).

          This is why I was initially confused. You had made it appear, early in the article, that you were going to address atheism as defined by myself and others who simply do not believe that deity exists. However, you instead addressed the classical definition of atheism.

          As for the charge of “making up definitions,” language is a fluid and dynamic thing. The meanings of words change very often. So long as one is clear in defining what they mean by a particular term, and so long as that person is consistent in the usage of that term, there should not be any problem. Whether a person refers to himself as an “atheist” or a “non-theist” or a “non-believer” or what-have-you has absolutely no bearing on why that person doesn’t believe that deity exists. Incidentally, I have discussed this topic previously on my own blog, if you are interested, in an article entitled ‘WLC insists that I am not an Atheist.’

          http://boxingpythagoras.com/2014/04/07/wlc-insists-that-i-am-not-an-atheist/

          At the moment the worldview is identified, the choice is made to either stay or investigate that belief. In that way, yes, the choice is made.

          This statement seems curious, to me, since “to stay [with a worldview]” is not mutually exclusive with “investigating that belief.” I am constantly investigating the things which I believe, inquiring as to the things others believe, and generally attempting to weed falsehoods from the things which I believe. I have yet to find anything which has convinced me to believe that deity exists.

          …there are a lot of reasons to believe in a deity (non-life doesn’t produce life)

          I’ve been presented with quite a number, but I do not find them to be at all convincing. The example you give here, for example, strikes me as being an argumentum ad ignorantiam— the fact that we do not know of a manner in which abiogenesis could occur does not imply that abiogenesis cannot occur.

          …and there still more reasons to believe in Jesus of Nazareth (historicity)

          Incidentally, I do believe that a historical Jesus of Nazareth existed. I tend to argue fairly vehemently against the mythicists who attempt to claim otherwise. You may be interested in an article I wrote, ‘On Carrier’s Pre-Christian Jesus Myth.’

          http://boxingpythagoras.com/2014/10/13/on-carriers-pre-christian-jesus-myth/

          I hope I can motivate you to be active in investigate God (not investigating Christians).

          I am actually quite motivated to investigate God. I have a very active interest in both philosophy and theology, and I quite frequently discuss these topics with apologists from a number of other faiths. I hope I have not given any impression that I would reject theism on the basis of my view of its proponents rather than on the strength of arguments for it. I strive to avoid such ad hominem argumentation, as it is quite obviously fallacious.

          Again, thank you for taking the time to converse with me. I very much enjoy this sort of dialogue, and I find that it helps us to understand those with differing viewpoints much more thoroughly.

          • First, I read your articles and you present clear, well articulated, messages. Very helpful for this response. You made two points I want to address directly and leave you with a final question as we grow in wisdom and knowledge together.

            1) I like your idea of language being fluid. I actually see (the term) atheism in a slightly different light because of it, but I wonder if you take on extra grief by redefining a word incidentally. To use the line of thought from your first post, you state (I think we all agree) theism is a belief in god or gods. Then, by applying the negative, ad the “a-“, to come up with a-theism to get the opposite “you do not believe in god or gods” (if I am reading this right). However, by applying the negative distributive principle, not believing in god or gods is exactly the same as believing no god or gods. A clearer way may be -b(g + gs) = b(-g) + b(-gs). So, while (after 3 chats) I understand your atheism to be more skeptical, the classical definition bears an unavoidable weight by changing the definition.
            I submit this example. When I was 18 months from my end time of service date (ETS) in the Army, to help me stay positive about the freedom of civilian life, I (and a buddy) redefined the definition of “month” to be “the exact amount of time remaining until ETS”. When people would ask, “How long until you ETS?” We pleasantly, always, responded, “1 month”. While language is fluid, and we could do that, eventually the original definition triumphed over our imaginary one. So, while I don’t think your definition is as far off as my “month” I think you will continually be stuck with your definition AND the classical definition as long as you continue to use it. In that regard, I can only say, “if the shoe fits…”

            2) I know you did not actually say my point was an argument from ignorance (you said it ‘seemed’ like). I only address this point here because it will serve to address my question for you next. The statement non-life does not produce life is not ignorant; there is quite a lot packed in this idea. “Produce” or production is a purposeful (even if unintentional) consequence of action. If I want to produce a thingamajig, I gather thingas and majigs and fuse them together in a purposeful action. Non-life has no ability to acquire, fuse, act (or even re-act), with any sort of purpose or intent. I am not saying that water, wind, debris, and lightning can’t chance their way into some random Frankenstein microbial life, I’m saying that life would also have to come with the ability to multiply, reproduce, hunt and gather food (though obviously not in the caveman sense of the term)—food by the way which cannot include plants or animals as this is the first and only life, but I digress. Asserting that is not possible is not ignorant because we haven’t seen it, it is educated in that even if we do, the ability does not prove the probability which is far to low to be taken seriously (IMO). Which brings me to my final question.

            3) Quickly, I want to say thank you for several things: your reasonable and intellegent dialog (no ad hominems :D), your willingness to take on the “big dogs” (not me! Dr. Craig & Carrier specifically), and your continued investigation of your worldview. The last one alone is commendable and one I, quite frankly, wish more Christians would do the same. So, in the name of investigating worldview: what would be evidence of, or enough evidence for, you to consider theism?
            Part of the non-life/life portion earlier was to draw on the point that there is a significant difference between ability and probability. I, personally, don’t see how even billions and billions of years can produce the intricacies and complexities of life abundant from mere chance, especially chance repeated considering chance has just as much (but realistically far more) chance of producing regression than progression. It seems to me the unlikely ability for abiogenesis would require multiple abiogenesises (?) until it was happenstanced capable of continuing life. It really isn’t ability as much as it is probability.

            As a quick follow up question, considering you do indeed argue for a historical Jesus, how do you reconcile the point above (3) with a historical Jesus and the C. S. Lewis quote, “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

            Thank you for the discussion. 🙂

          • Thank you for taking the time to read my articles! I am quite proud of my work, and it always blesses me when someone appreciates the fruits of my effort (whether or not that person agrees with my ultimate points).

            However, by applying the negative distributive principle, not believing in god or gods is exactly the same as believing no god or gods.

            I attempted to address this concern with my analogy to the Jar of Sand, from the article. If I do not believe a claim that the jar contains an even number of grains of sand, that does not imply that I therefore believe the jar contains an odd number of grains of sand. In exactly the same way, the fact that I do not believe the claim “deity exists” does not imply that I believe the claim “deity does not exist.” In general, the truth value of either of these claims seems entirely indeterminable. On some specific definitions of “deity,” it becomes possible to evaluate such claims (for example, I have a panentheist friend who defines “deity” as being the whole of the cosmos, in which case I would agree that deity exists, though I would disagree with the implications he draws from that notion). However, most of the theists with whom I have conversed have presented such vague definitions of “deity” to me that it becomes impossible to truly investigate them.

            “Produce” or production is a purposeful (even if unintentional) consequence of action.

            I would have to disagree with this assertion. When two hydrogen atoms bond with an atom of oxygen, the interaction produces a water molecule. This is not a “purposeful consequence of action.” The individual atoms did not purpose to bond with one another. They did not make any living or intelligent choice to commit such actions. These atoms have no intentionality, at all, in their actions. And yet, there is a production occurring. I do not see any reason to think that it would be impossible for living matter to be produced from a chain originating in unliving matter.

            So, in the name of investigating worldview: what would be evidence of, or enough evidence for, you to consider theism?

            That depends entirely upon how one defines or describes the concept of “deity.” Unfortunately, with the exception of a very few (such as my panentheist friend), the concept of “deity” most often presented to me seems entirely unfalsifiable. There can be no evidence for a thing which is entirely unfalsifiable. However, if a person presented me with an investigable, falsifiable proposition regarding the concept of “deity,” I would evaluate that proposition rationally. If that proposition proved true, it would certainly force me to reevaluate my worldview.

            I, personally, don’t see how even billions and billions of years can produce the intricacies and complexities of life abundant from mere chance

            Thankfully, I have never made the assertion that the complexities of life were produced from mere chance, nor do I find that to be a logically necessary conclusion in the absence of deity.

            As a quick follow up question, considering you do indeed argue for a historical Jesus, how do you reconcile the point above (3) with a historical Jesus and the C. S. Lewis [Liar-Lunatic-Lord Trilemma]

            It seems to me that Mr. Lewis omitted another “L” which seems quite a bit more likely: Legendary. While I do believe that there existed a historical Jesus of Nazareth, I do not believe that all of the information recounted about this man in the New Testament texts is necessarily historically accurate. Quite a bit of it seems to be very consistent with the manner in which legendary information accrues around historical figures.

            All too often, people on both sides of the argument tend to view the New Testament’s historicity as a binary proposition: either it is wholly true, or else it is entirely false. This is, of course, a false dilemma and passes right over the far more likely scenario. Just as with almost any other historical document from antiquity, some of the related data is quite likely true, and some of it is not. For example, the historian Tacitus is rightly praised as being one of the most important sources of reliable historical information on 1st Century Rome. However, this does not mean that everything Tacitus tells us should be believed. When he tells us that the Emperor Vespasian restored a blind man to sight by spitting in the man’s eyes, and that Vespasian healed the paralytic limb of another man by stomping on it, it is reasonable to disbelieve such claims. This is entirely reasonable despite the fact that Vespasian assures us that the event was witnessed by many people who would attest to it, and despite the fact that Vespasian elsewhere describes things which are quite likely to be true.

            I treat the documents of the New Testament in exactly the same manner as I would treat any other historical document. As such, it seems to me that there is enough evidence to warrant belief that Jesus of Nazareth existed, that he was likely from Galilee, that he began his own ministry after the death of John the Baptist, that he was executed by Roman authorities in Jerusalem, and a number of other interesting points about the man’s life. I do not think that there is enough evidence to warrant belief that Jesus of Nazareth was born of a virgin, or that he performed miracles, or that he was Resurrected, or that he was divine.

          • A couple thoughts while I’m thinking this over. First, I’m on my phone so please excuse any weird autocorrections that seem out of place–I love technology lol.
            My thought on your sand analogy–it’s wrong. I’m not usually this blunt but a jar full of sand either has an odd number of grains or an even number. If I believe there are an even number I absolutely must believe there is not an odd number – they are mutually exclusive beliefs. There are not both an even number and an odd number. That does not mean I don’t believe there can’t be an odd number but if there is an odd number than my belief there is an even number is wrong. This carries through to your definition of atheism. Right now your playing your chips on the no God side because you believe it has the greatest odds (there isn’t enough proof for you to switch your bed) but if God (deity) does exist your belief is wrong. I’m open to hearing your response but you will have to do it without using mutually exclusive claims otherwise I’m not sure I will understand.
            The chemical reaction I addressed in my last response. Two hydrogenated and one oxygen always produce water. To produce life means to produce something different, something with purpose (the need to procreate, ex). Life isn’t just a string of consequences it’s fluid and progressive and that’s not chance…I believe you even agree with that.
            Last counter point: legend is inappropriate. Here’s why. When I think legend I think Braveheart. The legend William Wallace was 10 ft tall and shot fireballs from his eyes and lightning out of hit arse. But that wasn’t the real Wallace. Even in your example it was the “big” stuff that made him legend. That’s not true of Jesus. While he did perform miracles, his greatness was in his smallness. He washed the feet of his followers, he died on a cross, there was absolutely nothing special about his looks, nothing to attract him any attention but his pure love. That’s not legendary material, that’s true–unembelished–courtship. The overarching message is not the miracles or his ability as a man to become God, the message is Gods ability to step off his thrown and lower himself to eat with sinners.
            Follow up question: Do you believe everyone who follows Christianity (all of them not just the ones who seem crazy) are not investigating their claims? Or at least not adequately? You said if presented with an idea about a deity you’d investigate it reasonably, but from my perspective you seem more critical of deistic evidence than of your own worldview. What specific evidence are you looking for?
            Respectfully,
            Roger

          • A couple thoughts while I’m thinking this over. First, I’m on my phone so please excuse any weird autocorrections that seem out of place–I love technology lol.
            My thought on your sand analogy–it’s wrong. I’m not usually this blunt but a jar full of sand either has an odd number of grains or an even number. If I believe there are an even number I absolutely must believe there is not an odd number – they are mutually exclusive beliefs. There are not both an even number and an odd number. That does not mean I don’t believe there can’t be an odd number but if there is an odd number than my belief there is an even number is wrong. This carries through to your definition of atheism. Right now your playing your chips on the no God side because you believe it has the greatest odds (there isn’t enough proof for you to switch your bed) but if God (deity) does exist your belief is wrong. I’m open to hearing your response but you will have to do it without using mutually exclusive claims otherwise I’m not sure I will understand.
            The chemical reaction I addressed in my last response. Two hydrogenated and one oxygen always produce water. To produce life means to produce something different, something with purpose (the need to procreate, ex). Life isn’t just a string of consequences it’s fluid and progressive and that’s not chance…I believe you even agree with that.
            Last counter point: legend is inappropriate. Here’s why. When I think legend I think Braveheart. The legend William Wallace was 10 ft tall and shot fireballs from his eyes and lightning out of hit arse. But that wasn’t the real Wallace. Even in your example it was the “big” stuff that made him legend. That’s not true of Jesus. While he did perform miracles, his greatness was in his smallness. He washed the feet of his followers, he died on a cross, there was absolutely nothing special about his looks, nothing to attract him any attention but his pure love. That’s not legendary material, that’s true–unembelished–courtship. The overarching message is not the miracles or his ability as a man to become God, the message is Gods ability to step off his thrown and lower himself to eat with sinners.
            Follow up question: Do you believe everyone who follows Christianity (all of them not just the ones who seem crazy) are not investigating their claims? Or at least not adequately? You said if presented with an idea about a deity you’d investigate it reasonably, but from my perspective you seem more critical of deistic evidence than of your own worldview. What specific evidence are you looking for?
            Respectfully,
            Roger

          • Thanks for another reply, Roger!

            My thought on your sand analogy–it’s wrong. I’m not usually this blunt but a jar full of sand either has an odd number of grains or an even number. If I believe there are an even number I absolutely must believe there is not an odd number

            I think you’ve misunderstood the analogy. I never said that “I believe there are an even number.” Quite the contrary, I explicitly stated that I do not believe that there are an even number of grains, nor do I believe the claim that there are an odd number of grains. I do believe that the jar contains some finite number of grains, and that this number must be either even or odd. That does not imply that I must believe one of those cases to be true, however.

            In exactly the same way, I believe that deity must either exist or else not exist. However, this does not imply that I believe deity exists, nor does it imply that I believe deity does not exist. Acknowledging that there exist two mutually exclusive possibilities does not require that a person believes one of those possibilities to necessarily reflect reality.

            To produce life means to produce something different, something with purpose (the need to procreate, ex). Life isn’t just a string of consequences it’s fluid and progressive and that’s not chance…I believe you even agree with that.

            I’m not sure I see what you mean by “purpose,” here. Procreation is a function of life, not a logical necessity of life– which is readily apparent by the fact that there exist things which are alive despite the fact that they do not procreate. Nor do I see anything mutually exclusive between the phrases “a string of consequences” and “fluid and progressive.” Indeed, it seems rather impossible for something to be fluid and progressive without such a string of consequences. Progression implies change. Change implies ordered states which differ from one another. A “consequence” is a state which has resulted directly from the influence of previous states.

            The legend William Wallace was 10 ft tall and shot fireballs from his eyes and lightning out of hit arse. But that wasn’t the real Wallace. Even in your example it was the “big” stuff that made him legend. That’s not true of Jesus. While he did perform miracles, his greatness was in his smallness.

            This certainly seems like a curious position to hold, for a Christian. I assume that you are not attempting to say that Jesus’ washing the feet of his followers is more important to his greatness than was his purported divinity. Similarly, I assume you are not saying that his death on the cross is more important to his greatness than was his purported Resurrection.

            If the things which made Jesus truly great really were those little things, as opposed to the claims of the miraculous and to his divinity, then C.S. Lewis would not have had any reason to respond to those who said Jesus was just a good man. There are plenty of good people who love and serve others and who are willing to go to their deaths for others. Presumably, there is something which is supposed to set Jesus apart from these others. C.S. Lewis thought that “something” was Jesus’ claimed divinity.

            If Jesus had not performed miracles, was not Resurrected, and was not divine, I presume that you would not worship him. On the contrary, if Jesus’ miracles, Resurrection, and divinity were assured, but he had never washed the feet of his followers or died on a cross (as opposed to some other means of death), I presume that you would still worship him.

            Do you believe everyone who follows Christianity (all of them not just the ones who seem crazy) are not investigating their claims? Or at least not adequately?

            I certainly believe that there are quite a number of Christians– not to mention other theists, in general– who are investigating their own claims. Similarly, it’s entirely possible that there are those out there who have adequately investigated and justified their beliefs. That’s the entire purpose of my seeking out conversations with philosophers and theologians and apologists. If the beliefs which I hold are false, I want to rid myself of them in order to cleave to that which is true.

          • Aha! I like starting that way but it really bears no significance here lol. You are fun to talk to because you have solid thoughts but I wonder: what is your motivation? I make no claim that I completely understand every aspect of God (He’s far bigger than me!) so there -in one way or another- will always be more to learn, more to understand, something confusing to be clarified. With that said, I also believe He is very simple to grasp. The bible says his invisible attributes have been clearly seen since the beginning of the world, and it says he says he lives in our hearts and is available to all who seek him. I don’t just say that because a book told me, but because I’ve personally experienced this “awakening” (not a great term but applicable), and I experienced it before reading that book. But without believing in a deity, what are you here to learn? You make a lot of points to justify your claim (challenge Dr Craig on the literal definition of atheist, challenge my claim about choosing atheism, examples only) but I’m not seeing a stance you stand for. I’m only seeing a defense against other views. That’s ok, I like learning. But what’s in it for you? Just curious.
            To address the deity of Jesus. You are absolutely right, the fact that Jesus is God is very significant. The fact that Jesus paid the price on the cross, HUGE! And, the fact that Jesus rose from the dead was absolutely central to Christianity. The Bible says, if Jesus didn’t raise from the dead there is no point to following Jesus. In those “big” things, they make up most of the doctrines. My point about Jesus’ smallness was in contrast to what makes legend. Before the resurrection, Jesus asked his closest followers, “Who do you say I am?” Most said some significant human (prophet, reincarnation of past prophet), but after the resurrection that all changed. Not only did it change, it changed for lots of people, in different areas, at the same time. In other words, those who wrote about Jesus didn’t justify his God-ness by how great he was thus elevating his stature. Rather, Jesus justified his human-ness by lowering himself to those who needed him. In the classic story of saving the woman caught in adulatory we read “Jesus stooped”; he literally came down to her level. To put it in modern terms, Charles Spurgeon once wrote, the more we realize how messed up we really are, the more we are faced with the idea that only a perfect love would care enough to save us. I hope that clarifies a little better. Would you like to know more?

          • You are fun to talk to because you have solid thoughts but I wonder: what is your motivation? …without believing in a deity, what are you here to learn? …I’m not seeing a stance you stand for. I’m only seeing a defense against other views. That’s ok, I like learning. But what’s in it for you? Just curious.

            My motivation is a search for truth. If I hold or reject a belief, but do so wrongly, I want to correct that error. So I attempt to engage in dialectic with others who seem similarly disposed, but who hold to differing positions. If I am wrong, that is the most likely way for me to realize and revise my view.

            In those “big” things, they make up most of the doctrines. My point about Jesus’ smallness was in contrast to what makes legend.

            It is the big things which seem most legendary. The smaller points may or may not be legendary, and require further study and discourse. That is, in fact, the entire purpose of Historical Jesus scholarship and research.

            In the classic story of saving the woman caught in adulatory we read “Jesus stooped”; he literally came down to her level.

            It’s quite interesting that you should mention the Pericope Adulterae, since that particular passage is one of the strongest pieces of evidence FOR legendary emendation to the historical accounts of Jesus. It has been well-known for centuries, in New Testament scholarship, that John 7:53-8:11 is not very likely to be original to that gospel, and was probably emended hundreds of years after the document’s original circulation.

          • I remember learning early on in my theology classes that God is bigger than me. Seems like a pretty obvious thing to learn in college to be sure, but let me tell you how I came to understand it. I was a road to Damascus convert; I was heading one way and completely changed courses. When I dropped out of secular school, I anticipated attending Christian schooling to be full of great knowledge and wisdom. I thought I was going to a place that would fill in the proverbial gaps–make all things clear. I’m sure you won’t be surprised to learn that was not the case. If the professor asked, “Does God change His mind?”, a well written report for God’s change could (and often would) receive the same grade as a well written report from the negative stance. As it turns out, God is bigger than we can fully understand.
            I share that with you in my dismissal of the Pericope Adulterae problem you address. What concerns me is not the textual criticism, but the depiction of Jesus. Whether or not the event happened (there is still good reason to assume it did, even if it wasn’t original text) is not the point, the point is that Jesus was (and is) pure love; a love that surpasses all understanding. Seeking Christianity will not leave you full of answers. In some ways it will always be subject to questions–God is bigger than we can imagine!
            But that doesn’t make it wrong or false. It doesn’t even make the Bible wrong or false. This is where the idea of faith fits best. Faith in God is not blind faith, rather faith in God is “I understand X and Y and Z but I don’t know how they fit; I will go forward knowing that you can do immeasurably more than I can hope or imagine.”
            In short, I’d like to offer this: life is too big to be answered by one person (even if that person has the sum of all knowledge at their desk). But some basic principles can be well grounded–either there is enough reason to believe that everything within the confines of the universe is enough to answer everything we see (why there is life, why there is thought, why life seems so fine-tuned, the existence of miracles, etc.) or you must look beyond our universe.
            In my most recent post, “Pluto’s Problems” I argue that every new discovery brings with it a new level of complexity not anticipated. I think you will find the same as you investigate and come to realize your own worldview.
            1 John 4:16 says, “…God is love.” This, I believe, is the sum of the whole Bible–God lovingly created with perilous detail (Genesis), God guided and cared for a lost people (Exod-Deut), God interacted with his rebellious followers (Josh – Esther), His people felt that love and expressed it (Job – Song of Sol), God reaching out and providing a way for his lost children (Hosea-Malachi) until, in an act of pure love, God came himself, to pay the price the beloved could not pay.
            My final point, if Jesus was indeed legendary; if his legacy was bigger than his work on Earth, then he was certainly a liar while he was here because there is far more to the textual criticism than a miracle here and there. His entire life on Earth was speaking with authority, commanding the dead to rise and the storms to calm, testifying before the Sanhedrin of his divinity, and speaking to the heart–identifying not just superficially, but emotionally, spiritually, and physically with those he interacted with.
            I hope this portrays the heart and soul of the Christian message, but more importantly I hope it illustrates a deity you can come to believe in. I am more than happy to answer any questions, but as I said in the beginning–God is bigger than anyone can truly understand. I’m not perfect, my words don’t carry absolute authority, but maybe it will resonate with you in grandeur. Would you like to know more?

  3. Roger, I think you misunderstood Boxing’s comment. They carefully wrote:

    “I am the kind of non-believer who does not believe in the existence of deity, but who does not make the claim that “there is no god.””

    And you reply with:

    “Even your response contains the false dichotomy-you believe their is no god but don’t claim their is no god.”

    Which shows me that you didn’t understand the point.

    We use the term “believe” in two forms. One is casual, and largely interchangeable with “think”. For example: “I believe the capital of Japan is Tokyo”. The other is more formal, representing a deeply held view that is not easily changed.

    When Boxing said “I do not believe in the existence of a deity”, what they were saying is that they do not have a deeply held view that a deity exists. That doesn’t mean they assert the opposite. One can lack belief for any number of reasons. Perhaps the question was never considered, or the argument wasn’t compelling. That doesn’t mean the person is a believer in the negative, but simply a non-believer. I’ve noticed believers tend to label those people “agnostics”, but I don’t think that’s always accurate.

    I consider myself an atheist, because I don’t believe in God. But like Boxing I don’t have a deep and unshakeable conviction (ie: belief) that God does not exist. I’m a skeptic on that topic, having found the arguments in favor of God’s existence unconvincing. But I don’t describe myself as an agnostic because that imply I have no position on the subject, whereas I actually think it is extremely unlikely that God exists; and for some definitions of God I am completely convinced that no such being exists, so for those narrow definitions of God I am certainly an atheist.

    You imply in your article that somehow all atheists are dodging the burden of proof if they say they didn’t choose to be atheists. I disagree. I didn’t choose to become an atheist. My childhood faith fell away from me as I encountered more of the world, asked the hard questions about origins and purpose and meaning of life…the universe…everything, and saw the splendor, beauty, and majesty of the world around us.

    Your declaration that the statement “I didn’t choose to become an atheist” is ignorant filth completely undermines your attempts to sound thoughtful and rational. Instead, it shows your own ignorance.

    I’m not an atheist because I’ve skipped over investigating what religion had to offer. Quite to the contrary, I delved deeply into it, and found it insufficient to explain the world around us. As you said, we all have beliefs (things we assume as true without question), but in my case they aren’t in the realm of religion or God.

    One final comment. I’m not sure why so many Christians in this country feel so compelled to criticize atheists. Sure, there are a few outspoken atheists like Dawkins who say outrageous things, but he doesn’t speak for all atheists anymore than the Pope does for all Christians. Considerably less, in fact, since atheists don’t belong to any particular group or organization. If you focus your complaints to him and his comments, rather than broader attacks on all atheists, then people like me won’t feel compelled to defend ourselves. That seems to be the best way to respect the diversity of opinion you claim to cherish.

  4. Okay, as you made some points in this post, let me see, if as an atheist, I can respond to those points.

    For the sake of the argument, let’s accept that I believe that ‘there is no God’, but I don’t claim that my belief is true, and I am open to corrections. The thing is that beliefs don’t require evidences or justifications, claims do. If I believe that ‘there is no God’, in the same sense, I believe that ‘there is no Zeus’ or ‘there is no Apollo’, which, if you follow your own chain of reasoning, you too hold. But those ‘beliefs’ are not justified, are they? And quite obviously, they don’t need to be justified. The same is, as it appears, true for the belief that ‘there is no God’, my negative beliefs aren’t invalid or illogical until or unless any justification is provided by the positive side, as for Zeus, Apollo and God.
    You also raised a question that whether or not in some point of our life, we care enough to ask the ‘deep’ questions about the universe? Well, I will argue that most of those questions are the products of human psychology and most of them are loaded questions. Except the questions like ‘How the universe began?’ or ‘Where did we come from?’, the questions like ‘What is the purpose of life?’ or ”Who’ created this universe?’ have no logical bases. There can be infinite possible questions, not all of them are valid.

    I ultimately come to the conclusion that your attempt for shifting the burden of proof is an weak one.

    • Hi! Thanks for the reply. I don’t believe any of us can grow in our beliefs without being challenged. For example, many atheists I’ve met have a background in the church and find some challenges to the God-claim that left them lacking and subsequently opted to no longer believe in God. This is one reason I love what I get to do here because it is my hope we can all sit at the same table and recognize that God isn’t as lacking as maybe once believed.
      With that said I hope these answers help identify why I wrote this post in the first place. First, you said beliefs don’t require evidence of justification. I think your 1/2 right. If I said I believe in the flying spaghetti monster you have a right to ask me why. Ultimately, anything I believe in will have some sort of justification (i can’t think of anything anyone would believe in without a reason- can you?) in that sense there is always justification at least to the person. My justification in God probably doesn’t concern you but I’m justified in my belief (just as you are justified in not believing me). Similarly, believes all have a degree of evidence. “I saw a flying spaghetti monster, therefore I believe it ” contains both justification and evidence. The question is really how much justification and how much evidence do you have? That’s what supports others believing the same claim. For example, at some point in history someone said “I belive there are tiny invisible things all around us which fills our lungs”. I bet this sounded crazy to a lot of people. As it was studied, more justification (you all are breathing) and more evidence (air has mass and can be weighed) convinced more and more people.
      This is kinda what happened with christianity – lots of people saw miracles Jesus performed (Jesus’ divinity became justified) and eventually over 500 people saw and touched the resurrected Christ (evidence) and Christianity began to grow rapidly. While I’m not arguing historicity of Jesus here, I do need to establish this justification and evidence of my faith to explain the misconception of your other point.
      You also claim negative beliefs in Zeus and Apollo have the same weight but that is illogical because one of the tenets of my faith is that Jesus is the only way. I, therefore, cannot believe in Zeus/Apollo because it’s not supported by the justification and evidence I’ve accepted.
      This is the heart of my post, which you agree, everyone has some beliefs and they have (many times) good reasons for those beliefs. To claim “I’m an atheist” but have no beliefs about God is intellectually destructive…it’s not fair for growing in humanities understanding. That’s why I referenced asking the big questions. If they have been asked, then a conclusion was drawn. If that conclusion was that God was lacking in someway, perhaps there is someway to fill the void. Perhaps there is something missed in an individual perspective. We are a communal species and I honestly think our ability to grow together is absolutely dependant on being honest. The stance that rests on the platform of non-belief isn’t being honest.
      Would you like to know more?

  5. Nice post, Roger, although perhaps debatable here and there. .

    –“In other words, because atheists like Dawkins insist that atheism is not a choice, all babies in the world are indeed born atheist and require external influence to induce a response.”

    Dawkins is such an blinking idiot that I would rather ignore him.

    Atheism then, according to its proponents here, is the belief that God might exist. In this case there’s nothing to argue about. But I wonder if folks like Dawkins would see it this way. I rather think his atheism is the well-entrenched temperamental dogma that this existential possibility does not exist.

    Roger – You say “I don’t believe any of us can grow in our beliefs without being challenged”.

    And rightly so. I doubt anyone can grow in their beliefs without continually challenging them. Best of all is to work to establish the facts and not to worry about beliefs.

    Atheists also tend to miss the fact that many religious people do not believe in the God that atheists do not believe in, and often for similar reasons. They miss the fact that the best arguments against this sort of God come from within religion.

    For a Buddhist it would be unrigorous to say the God does or does not exist, and I find this tends to confuse atheists in a wonderful way.

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